With Turpel-Lafond gone, who will speak for the children?

Turpel-Lafond has reviewed 17,000 cases and made more than 200 recommendations to government

Dale Bass

It was a sad week in this province — and proof the provincial government isn’t concerned about our most vulnerable.

Last week marked the end of the decade British Columbians have had Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond holding the government to account in her role as the Representative for Children and Youth.

It was her job, along with those who staffed her office, to review results of government involvement with children and youth.

She often reviewed the kind of stories that made headlines and no doubt prompted a lot of tears, not just from the people involved in the individual cases, but from the average British Columbian who wondered how these tragedies could occur.

I’ve certainly been one of them.

In the 10 years since she was appointed to the job — one created in the aftermath of a report by retired judge Ted Hughes, who was hired to conduct an independent review of the province’s child-protection system — Turpel-Lafond has reviewed 17,000 cases and made more than 200 recommendations to government.

In her final report, Turpel-Lafond outlined what has worked and what needs urgent attention.

Among successes, she wrote, was the advocacy her office did on behalf of children and youth, providing them with a voice they might not otherwise have had.

That advocacy led to almost doubling of the number of cases she reviewed, starting her decade with 1,191 in 2007 and finishing this year with 2,096.

That, she wrote, was her greatest success.

The number of children in care has declined during her watch. In 2006, there were 9,097; this year, there are 7,198.

However, the percentage of aboriginal children and youth in care has increased to 61 per cent from 50 per cent.

“This despite the fact that aboriginal children and youth comprise only about nine per cent of B.C.’s total child and youth population,” Turpel-Lafond wrote.

A report that stands out for her involved a former Kamloops teen, a young girl identified only as Paige.

At the time of its release last year, Turpel-Lafond called it one of the most horrific cases she investigated, one that led to Paige dying at the age of 19 in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

Virtually every person and agency involved in Paige’s short life failed her, including the child-protection system, health-care and social-service agencies, the education system and the police.

Areas that need urgent work include helping youth leave foster care, improving indigenous child-welfare services and improving services and supports to children and youth with high needs. Government also needs to figure out a way to help children and youth in a cross-ministerial way, not through ministerial silos that now exist.

Turpel-Lafond’s final urgent call is for government to put children at the centre and be accountable.

That’s an interesting one to end with because, while knowing her term was coming to an end, the government has not appointed anyone to replace Turpel-Lafond as the representative for the province’s most vulnerable. A committee was struck in the spring to hire one, but has not done that.

There is no succession plan, no opportunity for transition from one to the next.

Turpel-Lafond has not been shy in her criticism of government. Even as she leaves, she has said Victoria often worked against her, left her feeling as if it was retaliating for what she was saying and reporting.

Hughes has said Turpel-Lafond proved the need for the position and the value it has in identifying deficiencies in the child-protection system.

It makes one wonder just what the future is for this position.

– Dale Bass is associate editor at Kamloops This Week

 

 

Just Posted

RCMP looking for grain haulers dumping grain on roadside pull-outs

Illegal practice happening on Highway 5 between Valemount and Avola

Personal Development Weekend Retreat coming up

By K.A. Pendergast Have you ever been stressed? I am sure most… Continue reading

MayDay Parade Theme is “Clearwater Life”

Parade takes place May 18 and starts at Capostinsky Park

Back in Time

Historical Perspective

VIDEO: Alberta man creates world’s biggest caricature

Dean Foster is trying to break the world record for a radio show contest

B.C. RCMP receive application for Police Cat Services

RCMP announced the launch of the Police Cat Services unit as an April fools joke

Kirkland Signature veggie burgers recalled due to possible metal fragments

Recalled products came in 1.7 kg packages with a best before date of Apr. 23, 2019

Chaos at the ferry terminal for people heading from Vancouver to the Island

Easter crowds create backlog at Tsawwassen ferry terminal

Parents of 13 who tortured children get life after hearing victims

One of their daughters fled their home and pleaded for help to a 911 operator

Flooding, climate change force Quebecers to rethink relationship with water

Compensation for victims of recurring floods limit to 50% of a home’s value, or a maximum of $100,000

Storms blast South, where tornadoes threaten several states

9.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia at a moderate risk of severe weather

Private cargo ship brings Easter feast to the space station

There are three Americans two Russians and one Canadian living on the space station

Notre Dame rector: “Computer glitch” possible fire culprit

The fire burned through the lattice of oak beams supporting the monument’s vaulted stone ceiling

Most Read