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

Craft beer hop farm on Seabird territory preparing for first harvest

Founders have plans to become one of Canada’s largest hops suppliers

UPDATE: Man with gunshot wound drives into ditch on Chilliwack River Road

Serious crimes investigators believe early morning shooting to be targeted

No red flags in expense audit, says former Fraser Health boss who fired Murray

Wynne Powell said report showed need for tighter rules, but didn’t suggest abuse of expense claims

Lower Mainland could see spring flurries

Snow expected at higher elevations

News Recap – March 23

Local climber remembered, speculation tax, avalanche risk and more

B.C. umpire has developed thick skin after 30 years listening to insults

Scott McLaren pays no mind to comments from the cheap seats

Musicians Sarah Harmer, Grimes join B.C. anti-pipeline protests

Musicians are in Vancouver for the Juno Awards on Sunday night

Gas prices likely driving Canadians to US pumps

Customs say cost of fuel, nice weather, spring break are contributing factors of uptick of traffic

VIDEO: Hockey tournament remembers young fan

Hundreds take part in annual Jordan Owens memorial in Lower Mainland

Canadian cities hold March for our Lives events in wake of Florida shooting

Hundreds of people support the massive March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C.

Health officials called after acid spill near B.C.-Alberta border leaks into creek

Tanker truck crashed south of Dawson Creek, spilling 17,000 litres of hydrochloric acid

Embattled band Hedley plays last show in B.C. before hiatus

About 3,000 tickets had sold for final performance at Kelowna’s Prospera Place

Trudeau to exonerate B.C. First Nations chiefs hanged in 1860s

Prime Minister to absolve Tsilhqot’in chiefs in relation to deaths of 14 construction workers

Most Read