UPDATE: B.C. child advocate ends term early

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says children's minister Stephanie Cadieux has refused to meet with her, but work continues

Former Saskatchewan judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is leaving her post as B.C.'s first Representative for Children and Youth

With a terse, “I’m done,” Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond left the B.C. legislature Monday with a month still to go on her tumultuous 10-year term as B.C.’s independent Representative for Children and Youth.

Turpel-Lafond gave her final report to an all-party committee of MLAs, highlighting successes and tragedies in the B.C. government’s struggles with children in provincial government care. Her term ends Nov. 27, and staff in B.C.’s first-ever independent child and youth watchdog office are carrying on their investigations until a replacement is appointed by the legislature.

Turpel-Lafond said Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux has refused to meet with her in the past year, and she has had little communication with legislature Speaker Linda Reid on the issue of her replacement.

Turpel-Lafond’s final report shows improvement, with the number of children and youth in care down from more than 9,000 in 2007 to about 7,200 this year. But the number of aboriginal youth in care has come down by only about 100 from 4,551 in 2007.

A key to the dispute between the B.C. Liberal government and Turpel-Lafond was a report by former deputy minister Bob Plecas last year on the ministry’s handling of a child protection case where the father was accused of sexually abusing his children.

Turpel-Lafond told the committee Monday that Plecas not only made errors in his report, he turned it from a case review into a performance review of the independent office. Plecas recommended that the independent office be phased out and replaced by internal “contrarian” to investigate ministry response to deaths and serious injuries.

Turpel-Lafond has issued detailed investigation reports on cases such as that of Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old who fell to his death in September 2015 from a fourth-floor hotel room in Abbotsford. The ministry had moved him there after the group home he was in, run by a delegated aboriginal child welfare agency, was shut down due to inadequate conditions.

Plecas argued that Turpel-Lafond’s continuing focus on high-profile individual tragedies eroded morale in a ministry already struggling to hire and retain child protection workers.

Turpel-Lafond said there are 10 child protection offices that continue to operate with emergency staff, allowing little continuity. She said the waiting time for youth mental health treatment continues to be up to two years, and the delays have meant more severe cases that end in injury or death.

She said she was pleased that the government took Plecas’ advice to increase the ministry budget, adding that child protection workers need to be paid more and youth mental health services must be bolstered.

Cadieux issued a statement thanking Turpel-Lafond for her service and praising her support for the ministry’s program to find more permanent adoptive homes for young people living with foster parents or in group homes.

 

Just Posted

Overworked and understaffed: More than 300 vacancies in Vancouver Island nursing

Tentative deal with province includes ‘working short premium’ to encourage hiring

Victoria city council seeks authority to tax empty homes

Council is asking the province for the authority to invoke a vacancy tax

Backyardigans, Max & Ruby stage shows add to Family Day in Sidney

Bodine Hall shows make room for kids to sing, dance, enjoy Family Day weekend

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes says municipality will re-group after Rowing Canada decision

Haynes said he is “quite disappointed” but also respects choice of North Cowichan as national centre

CRD committee proposes ending livestock payouts to farmers

The bylaw has existed since the creation of the CRD’s animal control service in 1979

VIDEO: Excessive speed on the Malahat captured by dash cam footage

Poster calls driving ‘dangerous, obnoxious and disrespectful’

Condo rental bans may be on way out with B.C. empty home tax

Many exemptions to tax, but annual declarations required

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Should people have to license their cats?

The Victoria Natural History Society has sent letters to 13 municipalities in… Continue reading

Olympian snowboarder Max Parrot diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

Each year in Canada, approximately 900 people are diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma

‘Prince of Pot’ Marc Emery accused of sexual assault, harassment

Emery denied the allegations, but a Toronto woman says she is not the only one speaking out

Vancouver Island photographer makes National Geographic’s 2018 elite

Rare double honour for Marston from the 36 best Your Shots out of nearly 19,000 photos

Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby, B.C., says volunteer wrote controversial post

Karen Wang dropped out following online post singling out NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s ethnicity

Asteroids are smacking Earth twice as often as before

The team counted 29 craters that were no older than 290 million years

Most Read