Man allegedly abused in Ontario foster care facilities sues youth centres in Brampton, Mississauga


Published April 12, 2024 at 2:22 pm


Ontario’s public service system is full of safeguards that ensure the oversight of the province’s youth. However, as with any mechanism, the more moving parts there, the more likely something can go wrong. This is what happened to Johnathan Stavrou, who between the ages of four and eighteen, was passed through over 40 child treatment facilities across Ontario.

In an official press release distributed by Howie, Sacks & Henry LLP (the firm representing Stavrou), it was revealed that, due to decades of alleged trauma and harm, Stavrou is building a massive legal case to put his alleged abusers in the spotlight. 

The primary defendants are the Toronto branch of the Children’s Aid Society (CAS), the Crown and numerous youth centres and care homes. According to court documentation, each breached their duty of care by not ensuring Stavrou’s safety as he was allegedly abused over a 14-year period.

“It took a long time to put the claim together because it was so complicated, specifically in terms of what documents we had access to. Now after talking to Johnny [Stavrou], it’s clear he doesn’t want this to be kept in the shadows, he wants this out there. He wants to effect change in the system, so no other kid ever has to go through what he’s been through,” Paul Miller, one of Stavrou’s legal representatives, told 

Official court documents state that from the point Stavrou entered the care of Toronto CAS, a downward spiral of mismanagement occurred, which saw Stavrou move through over 40 residential placements throughout Ontario.

Additional defendants during this timeline include, but are not limited to: 

  • Youthdale Treatment Centres (Toronto)
  • Fernie Youth Services (Scarborough)
  • Kid’s First Incorporated (Lindsay) 
  • SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health (Toronto) 
  • Hanrahan Youth Services Inc. (Brampton)
  • Cornerstone Group Homes Inc. (Mississauga)

“We’ve named everybody, and some will have a bigger role than others, but this doesn’t matter. They all participated in these events that affected Johnny’s [Stavrou] life so drastically,” says Miller. 

Satvrou — now 29  — alleges that much of the abuse he endured was well-steeped in prejudice surrounding his sexual orientation, as he identifies as queer.

“He was not treated well. Eighteen years ago was a very different time than today, and the idea of acceptance was vastly different in schools and social settings. I can’t imagine what it was like for a kid — he had no one to talk to,” says Miller. 

Additional allegations surrounding Stavrou’s foster placements indicate a period in which he endured substantial physical and psychological abuse at the hands of one foster family, which included periods of solitary confinement and being forced to stay outside during the night. 

These foster parents would eventually send Stavrou to the Youthdale Treatment Centre. 

It was here that, according to court documents, Stavrou was allegedly held in physical restraints and given psychotropic drugs to sedate him despite not having any mental disorder that warranted such treatment. 

“It is important that I hold the state accountable for my trauma. I want to ensure that no child is forgotten about ever again in Ontario’s child welfare system,” said Stavrou in an official statement earlier this month. 

For Miller and his team, having a client be able to piece together their past is an asset; however, due to the layers of trauma and the passage of time, the task has not been easy. 

“It was days upon days and hours upon hours of trying to get accurate timelines surrounding the events… It was difficult and we’re hoping we got all 100 per cent of it because we’re going off memory. It wasn’t easy, especially for Johnny [Stavrou], who was forced to relive a lot of this,” says Miller. 

Apart from standard common law regulations, many defendants are being examined under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA), a federal legislation ensuring the rights and protections of underaged individuals in childcare facilities. Primary tenants of the CYFSA include non-discrimination clauses concerning a young person’s sexual orientation and gender identity, while also ensuring the nurturing of physical, emotional and developmental needs. 

However, according to Miller, due to the staggering amount of parties involved in the case, the discovery process for further evidence will take a substantial amount of time, as every allegation will need near-microscopic examination.

“No defendant admits anything, so they’ll deny, deny, deny, and through the discovery process, we’ll find out exactly what’s true and what’s not. Hopefully, we’ll get the information we need and carve a path forward,” says Miller. 

At the time of publication, nothing has been revealed so far, and Miller indicates that it will take a long time before anything concrete turns up. However, regardless of the outcome, there is no doubt that by the time the lawsuit concludes, Stavrou’s name will be a major pillar in the discourse surrounding child care in Ontario. 

Or as Miller puts it, “he didn’t want to be anonymized in these pleadings, he wanted his name attached to it. He wants to tell his story.” 

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

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