August 6, 2019.
Justice Penny Jones of the Ontario Court of Justice has found that an Ontario psychologist, Dr. Nicole Walton-Allen, has been misrepresenting her credentials to Ontario courts. For at least 10 years, Dr. Walton-Allen has been providing potentially unreliable expert evidence that may have led to the permanent removal of children from their parents’ care by Ontario courts and children’s aid societies. Dr. Walton-Allen has conducted more than 100 assessments as an expert in child protection cases.
The Ontario Child Protection Lawyers’ Association (“OACPL”) calls for the Attorney General for Ontario to establish an independent review into all previous child protection cases where Dr. Walton-Allen was the assessor. The scope of the review should include a determination of the extent of this miscarriage of justice and an inquiry into systemic problems in how expert parenting capacity assessment evidence is handled in the Ontario child protection justice system.
The OACPL is gravely concerned that children have been permanently removed from their parents’ custody due to Dr. Walton-Allen’s parenting capacity assessments being accepted and relied upon in previous child protection cases. An independent review is required to uncover and, if possible, remedy any previous wrongful removals of children. The review should also identify the systemic issues that contributed to Dr. Walton-Allen’s expertise being accepted so uncritically for so long.
The OACPL notes that this is the second systemic miscarriage of justice identified in the Ontario child protection justice system in only the past 5 years. Similar to the Motherisk scandal, where it was discovered that Ontario children’s aid societies and courts had been relying upon thousands of unreliable alcohol and drug tests performed by the Motherisk Lab at the Hospital for Sick Children, this affair also raises concerns about the lack of attention given to the reliability of expert evidence in child protection cases.
The OACPL is disappointed in the lack of response to this miscarriage of justice by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS), the umbrella organization representing Ontario’s children’s aid societies. The OACAS provided a similar insufficient response to the Motherisk Commission’s Report. The OACPL was profoundly disappointed to learn that even after Dr. Walton-Allen’s misrepresentations were discovered by the mother’s child protection lawyer in that case, the local children’s aid society persisted before Justice Jones in trying to rely on her assessment to assist them in permanently removing that mother’s children from her custody.
The OACPL represents child protection defence counsel throughout Ontario. We are a voice for a fair and just child protection justice system where the rights of parents, families and children are respected and protected.