Ontario needs ‘Angel’s Cradle’ for unwanted babies, group says

Watch the video above: Group gives dignified burial to two abandoned infants. Cindy Pom reports. 

TORONTO – The bodies of two abandoned infants were buried Tuesday in marked graves beneath a monument that reads “You mattered, we care.”

The Canadian Centre for Abuse Awareness aims to give abandoned babies a respectful burial while raising awareness for services that would allow women to anonymously give up an unwanted infant.

“For us, it’s the earliest stage of abuse when a baby is just discarded and thrown out. And they go to a paupers’ grave and no one even knew they existed,” the burial’s organizer Ellen Campbell said Tuesday. “These two babies are members of the community. The community never even knew the babies existed.”

The two babies, Max and Sun, were buried at the Elgin Mills Cemetery in plots donated by the cemetery owners. The burials will be the first since 2007, when the group buried two abandoned babies small white coffins. Sun was found hidden in a home in 2013 and Max died soon after child birth and was left unclaimed by his mother at a Hamilton hospital.

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The cemetery donated 8 adult grave sites in 2007. Each grave site has room for 12 infant burials but André Arndt, the manager of family services at the cemetery, hopes “we never use them.”

“Children shouldn’t die, not like this. So if we can do something, we’re more than happy to do it for them,” he said.

Children aren’t frequently abandoned in Ontario but it does happen: One in 2013, six in 2012 and four in 2011, according to the Ontario Coroner’s Office.

“Women don’t even understand that they have an option to take,” Campbell said. “There’s many reasons why women do this and so it’s not a big thing to bring in this legislation, it’s not even changing the law, it’s just legislating that the hospitals and the police would allow a women to do this.”

Campbell hopes increased awareness and a law similar to the American “Safe Haven” law will further prevent abandonment. In the United States, women can register anonymously at hospitals under the name “Jane Doe” and leave unwanted children there.

In Ontario, it’s not so easy. Parents can drop off babies at a hospital but not anonymously and risk being charged with abandonment after a mandatory police investigation.

In Vancouver, “Angel’s Cradle” allows parents to anonymously drop off unwanted infants at St. Paul’s hospital. A similar program opened in Edmonton in 2013 and various groups have pushed for Angel’s Cradles to be implemented in Saskatoon and Toronto.

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The government didn’t answer whether they would consider allowing similar programs in Ontario but instead said in an email statement:

“In Ontario, a parent may make arrangements with a private adoption licensee or a children’s aid society to relinquish a child and to consent to an adoption. Children who have been abandoned may be taken into care by a children’s aid society under the province’s Child and Family Services Act.”

For now, the Centre for Abuse Awareness will continue burying abandoned children with the help of the province’s coroners, who’ve been asked to let them know when they come across abandoned babies.

With files from Cindy Pom

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