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Cornwall Standard-Freeholder

Group home youths often suffered severe punishments

It was 'unacceptable behaviour', Towndale tells inquiry

The Cornwall Standard-Freeholder, Cornwall, ON, by MICHAEL PEELING

A retired top official from the Children's Aid Society defended the handling of allegations physical abuse took place in a group home during his testimony at the Cornwall Public Inquiry Thursday.

Angelo Towndale, who held a number of positions with the Children's Aid Society (CAS) of S, D & G from 1965 to 1995, including acting executive director for a short period, learned forms of corporal punishment were being used to discipline troubled teenagers living in a group home.

Two group homes, one for girls and one for boys, were opened by the CAS in 1976 for youths who weren't benefitting from foster homes.

But it wasn't long after the homes opened that methods of discipline allowed by the supervisor of the girls' home at a Second Street residence produced complaints that reached Towndale. At the time, he was the acting executive director of CAS while Thomas O'Brien was away on sick leave.

Derry Tenger, a child protection services caseworker, took over the in-house supervision of the home when the original supervisor, Rod Rabey, died suddenly of a heart attack.

Towndale learned Tenger was allowing the home's staff, whom Tenger chose and screened personally, to use the strap on the young female residents, force them to do harsh physical labour such as wash floors with a toothbrush in little more than their bra and panties, kneel on beads, and move snow from pile to pile all night as forms of discipline.

"It was unacceptable behaviour and inappropriate punishment," Towndale told the inquiry Thursday. Before the complaints Towndale said there had been no need for concern over Tenger's views on corporal punishment, but Towndale felt obliged to collect information about the staff's alleged actions through group home supervisor David Devlin.

Tenger admitted the staff had been using forms of corporal punishment on the girls, but argued there was nothing wrong with that and pointed out the CAS had no policy on corporal punishment.

Reports Tenger and his staff all wore completely black outfits while working at the group home were confirmed, a fact Towndale found intimidating and unnecessary.

In the 1970s, Towndale said how a worker disciplined a ward of the Crown was up to the worker and all of them had different views as to how it should done.

Towndale responded by organizing a seminar on the subject of discipline for CAS employees. Dressed completely in black, Tenger allegedly challenged Towndale over the corporal punishment issue at the meeting by demanding, "Show me the policy."

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