The recent second reading of a private members bill – Ontario Bill 71, Protecting Child Performers Act has just brought to top of mind the responsibility we have to protect our most vulnerable people when we are working with them on a volunteer or professional basis.
Regardless of the outcome of the Bill, it is important that theatre companies and theatre groups, theatre schools, coaches and individuals providing training and volunteer opportunities for children and other vulnerable people take the appropriate measures to ensure their safety and well-being.
With the proliferation of youth training programs and youth theatre organizations (professional and volunteer/community), it is important that we understand who is considered to be “vulnerable”, and the responsibility we have to ensure their safety when they work with us, whether on a volunteer or paid basis, or if they participate in workshops or other training programs.
According to the Ontario Provincial Police, a vulnerable person is defined as:
"All children who are less than 18 years of age,For professional theatre companies with paid child performers, there are comprehensive health and safety guidelines provided under the Child Performers Guidelines from the Ontario Ministry of Labour.
AND/OR persons who, because of their age, a disability or other circumstances, whether temporary or permanent:
(a) are in a position of dependence on others; or
(b) are otherwise at a greater risk than the general population of being harmed by persons in a position of authority or trust relative to them."
For any organization where children and other vulnerable people are members, participants in programs, and volunteers, we strongly recommended reviewing the following advice from the Ontario Provincial Police:
"any organization that hires paid or volunteer individuals who will be in contact with members of the vulnerable sector, such as children, the elderly and persons with disabilities" request a vulnerable sector check.When you are considering policies for your organization, remember that The Vulnerable Sector Check (VSC) is an organization driven request. Your group/organization must provide the individuals that you require to have a VSC with a letter which explains that they need a Vulnerable Sector Check. They will also need to give a detailed description of the specific job they will be hired/ volunteer for, as well as the hiring manager(s), volunteer coordinator(s) names and contact number.
I hope this information will provide some food for thought when discussing and developing policies for your group/organization for working with children and other vulnerable people. You may want to read information about police checks from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.
Theatre Ontario has identified a need to develop theatre-specific resources to assist our members in this area. If you have expertise or enthusiasm for protecting vulnerable persons, please contact Carol Beauchamp, Executive Director, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 416.408.4556 x.11.