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

Port Alberni ponders solutions for ‘big city’ problems

Emphasis on partnerships during city council meeting

Tsunami warning prompts Alberni’s Best Western Barclay hotel to evacuate 55 rooms

Guests were evacuated to the Alberni Valley Multiplex early Tuesday morning

Tsunami warning prompts evacuations in Port Alberni

Alaska earthquake prompted warning for coastal BC

UPDATE: Tsunami warning cancelled for coastal British Columbia

Warning issued following 7.9 earthquake off Kodiak, AK

COUNCIL WATCH: Here are some of the stories we’ll be following

Traffic counts, a Nuisance Property Working Group and more at Alberni council meeting

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Andrew Scheer on trade, Trump and Trudeau

Canada’s Conservative leader begins three-day visit to B.C.

Victims restrained, sex toys and cash stolen from B.C. adult store

Armed suspects sought in adult store robbery

Vancouver Islanders ponder need for tsunami siren song

Alarm sounds in Port Alberni but not at the DND base in Esquimalt

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alert prompts RCMP, privacy watchdog to probe data breach

Company spokesman: ‘Fewer than 100,000 customers were affected’

‘The tsunami alarm failed my household’: North Coast residents concerned over sirens, alerts

People living in northern communities share how they learned about Tuesday’s tsunami warning

Snowboarder dies at Vancouver Island ski resort

Death at Mount Washington Alpine Resort

Most Read