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

Rain ahead for Monday

Plus a look ahead at the week

Guilty verdict for man accused of setting fire to his Esquimalt rental property

Wei Li was arrested at airport with burns to face and hands

North Saanich resident fears for pedestrians near neighbourhood roundabout

Gerald Donaldson also frustrated with driving behaviour in McTavish roundabout

Oak Bay to complete LED switchover of 1,506 street lamps

Electricians to install final 356 steet lamps

Claremont Secondary is plotting the biggest Halloween party in town

School’s Screamfest event marks 11 years in Saanich

VIDEO: Greater Victoria, here’s the news you missed this weekend

Camera licker, wind gusts and rare bird make headlines this weekend

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s mural defaced in Edmonton

The eyes on the portrait were blacked out

LETTER: Middle class better off with Trudeau’s child benefit boost

It’s a transfer, not a tax cut, but it helps families get ahead

App designed to help cut waste and grocery bills

Food security advocates say addressing poverty is ultimate key

Report suggests new BC Ferries terminal near YVR

Metro Vancouver currently has two ferry terminals at northern and southern reaches

B.C. scouting group’s tent destroyed by black bear on Thanksgiving

The Richmond-based Sea Dragon Sea Scouts were camping at Mount Seymour Provincial Park

BC Ferries crew member taken to hospital after getting struck by bow doors

Two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were cancelled

Greta Thunberg meets with First Nations chief in Fort McMurray

Thunberg has turned her protest against climate change into a global movement

Most Read