Safeguarding the well-being of children is a priority for Chief Bill Blair.
In addition to being a Covenant House board member, which serves homeless youth, the city’s top cop was a devoted advocate for Toronto’s first Child Youth & Advocacy Centre (CYAC) that opened a year ago.
With the creation of the agency, through Blair’s commitment and guidance, abused children in the CYAC catchment area no longer have to travel around the city to get the help and services they require. With the police, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, the Safe-T Program, the Suspected Child Abuse & Neglect Program and Boost Child Abuse Prevention & Intervention agency in the same building, abused youths can speedily get the assistance they need from social services and police.
Since its opening, the CYAC has completed over 800 investigations, interviewed over 1,200 individuals and laid 450 criminal charges.
Blair was recognized for his exemplary leadership and support with a Stand Up for Kids Award presented by Toronto’s four Children’s Aid Societies: Jewish Family & Child, Native Child & Family Services of Toronto, the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto.
The award recognizes individuals in the community who have stood up against child abuse.
“Throughout his career, one thing has remained true,” said Children’s Aid Society of Toronto Chief Executive Officer David Rivard. “Chief Blair is a very staunch advocate for the rights and well-being of children… His actions have specifically linked to the positive outcomes now being experienced by the children who have received services through the CYAC.”
In accepting the award, Blair reiterated that there is no higher calling than the protection of children.
There is something very special in the way we have been able to all come together for this higher calling, and this higher purpose of protecting our most vulnerable people, which are our kids
“I have been blessed and very fortunate, throughout my entire career, to live and work in such a place as the City of Toronto and to have such extraordinary partners,” he pointed out. “Today as I receive acknowledgment for my role in that partnership, I must truly acknowledge theirs… There is something very special in the way we have been able to all come together for this higher calling, and this higher purpose of protecting our most vulnerable people, which are our kids. I think it’s an extraordinary story that needs to be told. The people of Toronto should be extraordinarily proud of all of those who come together and work together to make a difference for our kids.”
Blair shared the spotlight with Dixon Grove Junior Middle School teacher Lisa Felton, who was also presented with an award for supporting a child victim of sexual abuse, eventually becoming her primary caregiver.
The judging panel included David Van Overdijk, the Native Children & Family Services director of children & family well-being.
“This is one of the cornerstone events for the four Children’s Aid Societies in Toronto, as it provides an opportunity for us to celebrate those who have chosen to go above and beyond to protect the most vulnerable members of our society, which is our children,” he added.
Minister of Children & Youth Services Tracy MacCharles hosted the inaugural awards ceremony at Queen’s Park and heaped praise on Blair and Felton.
“Both of you clearly are dedicated, caring and proactive individuals who have shown incredible commitment to children,” noted MacCharles who is also the Minister responsible for Women’s Issues.