Office Of Representative Of Children & Youth BC

  10. NOTE : Aboriginal Indigenous First Nations Children Across Canada : Living Arrangements : Distribution : ABORIGINAL CHILDREN UNDER PROTECTION 2015 "Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Ruling - The First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the AFN launched a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, alleging that the federal government is discriminating against First Nations by funding child welfare services on-reserve at a lower level than provincial and territorial governments fund services off-reserve. " (UNDERFUNDED RULING) (see GALLOWAY / TGM) (n.b. VIDEO REPORT / STAR)
  12. TABLES
( VICTORIA – B.C.’s Speaker of the Legislature has issued a rare warning to the Representative for Children and Youth, accusing her of contempt of Parliament for publicly releasing a report before it was tabled in the legislature.
But the child watchdog has shot back, insinuating that the non-partisan Speaker’s office leaked confidential information about the report to the Ministry of Children and Family Development prior to its release.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was “highly disrespectful” by releasing a child welfare report on her website last Thursday before the required practice of having the Speaker table it in the legislature, Speaker Linda Reid warned in the house and in a letter Tuesday.
“As an Officer of the Legislature, your decision to proceed with a premature disclosure of this report prior to a formal tabling in the Legislative Assembly was an egregious action, disrespectful and inconsistent with your position’s statutory reporting relationship with the Legislature and a contempt of Parliament,” Reid wrote.
The extraordinary public rebuke didn’t sit well with Turpel-Lafond, who said she tried to get her report – which criticized the ministry’s recent handling of a review by retired deputy Bob Plecas – introduced into the House, only to hear at the last minute it couldn’t be accommodated due to the morning question period schedule.
So Turpel-Lafond consulted a lawyer and decided to post it herself rather than wait. “This was one of those very rare circumstances where I wasn’t sure what was going on and I certainly felt somewhat stymied,” she said in an interview.
“I was also concerned that the report be made public and so I made the move to do that.”
To complicate matters, someone tipped off the Ministry of Children and Family Development about the sensitive report within minutes of the representative’s office first mentioning the document to the Speaker’s office on Tuesday, April, 26, said Turpel-Lafond. She said that leak could only have come from the Speaker’s office.
“Well, the Ministry of Children and Families director of communications called my office within three minutes and said, ‘What is the report?’  So I don’t know who else would have done it. It’s awkward because there are occasions, and this is one of them, when I need to have a report released,” said Turpel-Lafond.
A protocol from the legislature’s clerk asks for at least two day’s notice before tabling a report, but Turpel-Lafond said she never agreed to that protocol and feels her enabling legislation supersedes the requirement.
“I’m not going to enter into a public debate but I can say today this is very frightening and intimidating to me personally to say there is a situation that is in any way contemptuous because that is not the case,” said Turpel-Lafond, a former judge.
“Words like contempt are usually reserved for cases of bribery or treason or serious crimes against the legislature. I’m just trying to do my job and stand up for kids.”
She said she’s felt a “a certain degree of bullying” recently in trying to do her job. And while she hopes there’s a way to sort out the issue with the Speaker, she’s not impressed at how the situation was handled and the threat of contempt.
“It’s strong language and just glad this isn’t 1540 and my head is not on a stake on a tower right now because it seems a rather extreme remedy for a small issue that I’m sure we can correct for the future, and could certainly take a phone call to discuss it.”
Turpel-Lafond’s last term in office ends in November.


( The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development and the man promoting its transformation have been again broadsided by theRepresentative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
In a scathing 77-page special report delivered to the legislature late Thursday, Turpel-Lafond lambasted the ministry over the handling of a controversial, high-conflict child-custody battle, known only as the J.P. case, and the restructuring plan proposed by retired deputy minister Bob Plecas.
She said that the Plecas Review, Part One: Decision Time, released Dec. 14, did not address the substantive issues of the J.P. case but offered a blueprint for transforming the ministry without consulting “Aboriginal groups, stakeholders, my Office and other communities of interest.”
“I’ve grown tired of having to go to court to do my job, and dealing with a culture in government that believes it is answerable to no one when it comes to child welfare issues,” she fumed Friday.
“I regret having to issue a report such as this but the Plecas review is nothing short of a train wreck.”  
In her report titled, Implementation of the Plecas Review, Part One: Decision Time, she described his document as: “An insider approach to reform in which recommendations are developed and adopted without scrutiny even by the existing oversight entity appears to be short-sighted and perhaps unnecessarily secretive in an area requiring openness and transparency.”
“Somehow, the cart got placed before the horse, and the ‘Part One’ report — setting out sweeping recommendations for policy, program and legal reform — was published before an examination of the J.P. case itself,” Turpel-Lafond wrote.
The stonewalling of requests for information, Turpel-Lafond added, has forced her to consider litigation “to compel the production of documents to help assess the evidentiary foundation the Plecas report and the ministry are relying upon as they proceed with their implementation plan.”
“While I do not doubt that some of the conclusions and recommendations in the Plecas report are meritorious, there are also others that do not appear to be so,” said Turpel-Lafond.
The ministry said it had previously addressed the representative’s criticisms and that it was moving forward with a broad consultation process and further announcements soon on how it planned to improve services.
“Naturally the representative has every right to comment on the Plecas report and I hope she has a chance to discuss it directly with him,” said Minister Stephanie Cadieux.
A close friend of the Liberal administration and an original architect of the ministry, Plecas was appointed in July 2015 after a B.C. Supreme Court ruling in the continuing J.P. case raised concerns about “the egregious response of the director of child protection to reports that infant plaintiffs had been sexually abused by their father.”
Plecas was to scrutinize what happened in the headline-making case and assess the government’s child welfare practices.
But his mandate was modified several times and the family at the heart of the seven-year-old custody war worried deeply personal and confidential information was being provided to a ministry contractor.
In response, Plecas was designated a “director” of the ministry so he could access the private information.
As a result, he is again a government employee and Turpel-Lafond asked how his review could in any way be considered “truly independent”?
The representative, whose second and last five-year term ends in November, complained about “factual inaccuracies” in the Plecas report and included copies of her futile correspondence to have them corrected before it was released among her report’s appendices.
Turpel-Lafond emphasized that she is concerned about the “genesis, empirical basis and substantive validity of at least some of the recommendations … Also troubling is the lack of clarity as to who, precisely, is making implementation decisions in the ministry at this time.
“It is not clear whether these decisions are being made by Mr. Plecas, the deputy minister or other parties.”
She made three recommendations — that the ministry pause implementation of the Plecas report to provide an opportunity for wide consultation, that the government revisit the need for Plecas to review the J.P. case and amend or clarify his terms of reference if needed, and that the ministry identify the materials Plecas has that fall under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, along with what steps it has taken to protect confidential documents.

report into the current state of child protection in B.C. is calling for an immediate overhaul of a system that lacks leadership, accountability and funding, according to the author.
Former deputy minister Bob Plecas's report says that a four-year plan needs to be implemented immediately at the Ministry of Child and Family Development and should contain a funding commitment to turn the system around.
Plecas was tasked with the review following a B.C. Supreme Court judgment in July that ruled the province's child protection service abused its authority in a case involving the physical and sexual abuse of children, which ultimately allowed a father to molest his child while the toddler was in the ministry's care.
Subsequent to that finding, the ministry came under further scrutiny after the death of teenager Alex Gervais, who was living alone in a motel while in government care, and again in October, when B.C. Children's Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a report concluding the child protection service is unsafe and in crisis.

Series of mistakes

"Currently, the child welfare system does not have a rigorous performance appraisal system in place, and does not define what good practice and good performance are in terms of expectations for outputs or outcomes," the report says.
Alex Gervais
Alex Gervais was living alone and unsupervised when he fell to his death. (Dylan Pelley/Facebook)
"On the other hand, the reality of a case manager's public exposure and personal humiliation is a stronger penalty — although clearly not anywhere near the order of magnitude of the child who is impacted by the mistake.
"These cases are isolated but dramatic because it is most often not when one mistake is made, but a cascading phenomenon caused by a series of mistakes," the report says.

Challenges to be faced

Plecas lists the challenges currently facing Ministry of Child and Family Development:
  • A lack of effective training.
  • The gradual erosion of program dollars.
  • Challenges in recruiting and retaining appropriately trained front-line child protection staff.
  • A management model that does not include informing senior leadership about difficult cases until it is too late.
  • Lack of communication about decisions from different levels of court.
  • Inconsistency and lack of direction regarding advice and direction from outside legal counsel.
  • A quality assurance model that does not effectively translate the data it collects into clear direction for staff.
Plecas says that funding, and its appropriate use, have harmed the ministry's ability to operate effectively.
"I find it particularly concerning that, over the past four years, the proportion of [the ministry's] budget that is dedicated to child protection has actually decreased in real terms, leaving alone the impacts of inflation," he says.
The recruitment and retention of front-line staff, Plecas says, need to be addressed as a matter of urgency.
"In the future, we must accept and act on a simple principle: child protection is one of the most difficult jobs in government and it should be recognized and rewarded with higher compensation."

Culture of blame

Plecas says both the media and the ministry need to get past the "culture of blame" that pervades child welfare issues.
He also cites oversight by the representative for children and youth as part of the ministry's problems.
"Sadly, the relationship between the representative and the ministry has become strained," Plecas writes.
"Persistent tension permeates everything that involves the two organizations that, at times, compromises their respective capacities to elevate the quality of service to which they are both committed."
Plecas claims Turpel-Lafond's dual role as both an advocate for children and a body of oversight for the ministry place her in a conflict. He notes that she has made 572 actionable recommendations, and the ministry has implemented about 70 per cent of them with no additional resources.
"The advocacy role sometimes means that the representative is focused on rallying against the very people whom she has just charged with implementing her recommendations," Plecas says.
Plecas says Turpel-Lafond's oversight function should be taken over by the "quality assurance functions" of the ministry itself, and the representative's role should be strictly one of advocacy.
He suggests a timeline for this transition of around 18 months to two years.

Greater scrutiny

Interest from the media in tragic outcomes also leads to greater scrutiny, Plecas says, creating the impression that such tragedies occur more frequently than is the case.
"There seems to be a great appetite for piling on and blaming both individual workers and the system at large for perceived and real failings."
Plecas says that this is understandable, given the issue is child protection, but reaction is at odds with how other sectors are regarded, and may "reflect the ministry's inability to reclaim some level of credibility that it is both a responsible and an accountable organization."
He concludes that though child abuse, deaths and "even murder" cannot be wholly prevented, "we can make our kids safe, safer than they are now."
"It will require a clear message and a long-term commitment from cabinet, indeed from both sides of the legislature."

Rob Shaw / TC

Turpel-Lafond demands retraction from Speaker

B.C.’s children and youth watchdog is demanding that the Speaker of the legislature retract comments alleging contempt of parliament, as an ugly war of words between the two prominent figures continues to escalate.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond blasted Speaker Linda Reid in a letter, demanding the Liberal MLA in charge of the legislative assembly take back criticisms she levied over the early public release of a report from the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth.
Reid had chastised Turpel-Lafond in the legislature on Tuesday, saying the independent children’s officer had been disrespectful by posting a report on her website several days before it could be tabled in the house for MLAs to read, as is the longstanding practice in the province. She accused Turpel-Lafond of contempt of Parliament.
Turpel-Lafond initially responded by insinuating the Speaker’s office leaked confidential information about the report to the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and warning she felt intimidated and bullied. That further escalated Wednesday with a letter in which Turpel-Lafond said the Speaker’s criticisms were unfounded and that Reid lacked the authority to accuse her of contempt.
“I am deeply disturbed by your statements — as an Officer of the Legislature, as a judge [on leave], and as an individual,” wrote Turpel-Lafond. “It is my understanding that it is not the Speaker’s prerogative to determine whether a party is in contempt of the House — rather that only the House can do so. If I am incorrect in that regard I invite you to clarify my understanding for me.”
Turpel-Lafond said nothing in her child watchdog legislation prevents her from publishing a report, not even a legislature policy that she provide two days notice and table her documents publicly in the House before disseminating them publicly.
“In the meanwhile I also respectfully ask that you retract your statements regarding my conduct being egregious, disrespectful and in contempt of Parliament and, if you feel necessary to comment on them at all, to instead describe them in more measured terms that are more reflective of a good faith disagreement rather than language that has the effective of diminishing my reputation as an Officer, as a judge (on leave) and an individual,” Turpel-Lafond wrote.
The report in question slammed the B.C. Liberal government for a planned restructuring and review by retired deputy minister Bob Plecas.
© Copyright Times Colonist
VANCOUVER — British Columbia’s representative for children and youth is calling on the province to urgently consider a law allowing youth to be involuntarily placed in a facility for their own short-term safety.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond made the recommendation Thursday in a special report looking at the case of one youth in the child-welfare system who experienced several incidents of critical injuries and one near-fatal event.
Turpel-Lafond has withheld many of the details about the youth in the public version of the report, an unprecedented step that she says was necessary to protect the vulnerable youth.
“The inability to release a report because a young person’s situation is so tenuous and fraught with danger is itself an indictment of that system,” she said in the document.
In the special report, “Approach with Caution: Why the Story of One Vulnerable B.C. Youth Can’t be Told,” she said she received a total of 21 reportable incidents involving the youth between June 2011 and May 2016. Of multiple critical-injury reports, one in spring 2012 detailed a nearly-fatal episode of high-risk behaviour.
She draws parallels between the youth and Paige, a 19-year-old whose drug overdose death Turpel-Lafond blamed on “professional indifference” by social workers toward aboriginal teens.
In both cases, she said professionals significantly underestimated the risk posed to young children living in volatile households, and ministry intervention only came after each had experienced “enormous trauma” that would go unaddressed.
Unlike Paige, the youth had periods of incarceration, which Turpel-Lafond said was done not as a punishment but to remove the person from risky situations.
“The youth justice system was used as a substitute for social services, something that is prohibited by the Youth Criminal Justice Act, but is nonetheless sometimes still used in practice to prevent life-threatening situations when no services are available.”
She said seven other provinces have so-called secure care laws that allow for the involuntary placement of youth in a facility to address mental-health challenges and substance abuse, while protecting their safety.
Turpel-Lafond also criticized the government for its response to the recommendations of her report on Paige, released a year ago.
After the report, the ministry began a review of the files and safety plans for children and youth in care in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Ultimately, 111 children and youth were identified, of which 48 per cent were aboriginal and 64 per cent were female, she said.
However, Turpel-Lafond said the work done to profile this vulnerable group hasn’t translated into action. A rapid-response team in the Downtown Eastside launched by the ministry largely consists of individuals who were already meeting jointly, she said.
“The ‘team’ appears to be meeting but, with no new resources on the ground, and no new youth approach to help them, progress is minimal at best.”
Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the rapid-response team has developed safety plans for the youth in the Downtown Eastside. A detailed file review of the toughest 110 cases has been completed and analyzed, she said.
“The ministry knows what steps must be taken and will be taken. I will have more to say on enhanced services for high-risk youth on the DTES in the coming days,” she said in a statement.
As for secure care, a ministry spokesman says it is widely agreed that voluntary services, such as detox, residential treatment and mental-health counselling, are the most effective means of addressing addiction issues.

© Copyright Times Colonist
The past few years have witnessed a tremendous increase in awareness among all Canadians of the injustices that indigenous children have experienced over many generations as a result of government laws, policies, and actions. For example, no Canadian can now deny the racist and pernicious legacy of the residential school system, and how it represents one of the darkest and most painful realities of Canadian history.

As we come to terms with these past wrongs, however, it is critically important to recognize that tremendous injustices faced by indigenous children remain with us today.
Last month, the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal pulled the curtain back on a dark fact that Canadian governments have never wanted to acknowledge — that they view the life of an indigenous child as being of less worth than a child of another background. That is why significantly less funding goes to care for an indigenous child in government care than other children.
Somehow, in 2016, we in Canada still measure the value of human life by criteria such as the colour of our skin and the culture and people one comes from.
We are all responsible for this injustice. While we all should be screaming from the rooftops for change, and working endlessly to address it, we too often prevaricate, blame, confuse or remain quiet. The recently issued final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls all governments, including indigenous governments, to work together to address the crisis in child welfare.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, in her role as the B.C. representative for children and youth, does exactly what is needed to overcome the injustice that harms indigenous children. She shines light on it, educates all of us about it, makes it real in our lives, and relentlessly pushes and shames us to act.
This is not an easy job — it takes courage, strength and indomitable spirit, and the representative has fulfilled it with the integrity and passion it demands. We should be applauding, thanking and supporting her for this work every chance we get.
Last week, the representative issued a report that outlined how the province was making sweeping changes to the child-welfare system based on the fundamentally flawed “Plecas Report” without so much as speaking to an indigenous leader, community, family or child — even though more than 50 per cent of the children in care are indigenous. We should all be thanking her for drawing our attention to this.
Instead, the Speaker of the legislative assembly wrote the representative a letter saying she was in contempt of the legislature. The Speaker used harsh language, including upbraiding Turpel-Lafond for an “egregious action, disrespectful and inconsistent with your position’s statutory relationship with the legislature and a contempt of parliament.”
This is so wrong. There is no basis for the letter’s finding of contempt, as the Speaker lacks the power to make such a unilateral decision on a matter over which only the house has authority, and even then, only with the proper process could such a finding be made.
As such, this feels more like a spurious attack on the reputation of an individual who has served well as an officer of the legislature and has tried to do her job under very difficult circumstances that would cause the best of us to wither and run for cover.
But more so, it is so concerning that the vital issue of the injustices faced by indigenous children — and the attempt to leave indigenous peoples on the outside of decisions that affect their lives — is being clouded by attacks on the very person who is drawing our attention to these wrongs in the first place.
Doug White (Kwulasultun) is a lawyer, a Snuneymuxw First Nation councillor, director of the Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation at Vancouver Island University and a member of B.C. Aboriginal Justice Council.

© Copyright Times Colonist


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