Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (left) and Grand Chief Doug Kelly of the First Nations Health Council stand in support of Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (left) and Grand Chief Doug Kelly of the First Nations Health Council stand in support of Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond

Phase out independent child advocate: report

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond rejects suggestion an internal team and MLA oversight can replace her role

The B.C. government should immediately put an extra $50 million into the budget of the troubled Ministry of Children and Family Development, and wind down the independent watchdog that highlights the worst cases of young people who die in ministry care.

Those are among the recommendations of a review by former deputy minister Bob Plecas, released Monday. Plecas said the ministry needs a four-year strategic plan to build up resources, starting with hiring 120 additional child protection social workers in the first year and building from there.

Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has issued a string of reports on child protection failures. One recent one looked at an aboriginal teen named Paige, who died of a drug overdose in Vancouver’s downtown east side after 30 child-protection reports and interventions with her alcoholic mother.

Another recent case was Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old who fell to his death in September from a fourth-floor hotel room where he had been housed by the ministry after his Abbotsford group home was shut down due to poor conditions.

Turpel-Lafond rejected Plecas’ suggestion that an internal “contrarian” and a ministry spokesperson similar to those employed by police forces would be trusted by the public to identify and report on issues in the ministry.

Plecas said privacy rules need to be changed so an all-party committee of MLAs can be briefed on child death and serious injury cases, allowing opposition MLAs to provide the oversight and criticism they bring to other ministries of the B.C. government.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux said she can’t commit to specific financial measures until the provincial budget is presented in February, but she has the support of Premier Christy Clark and the cabinet to increase resources for the ministry.

Turpel-Lafond said accumulated cuts and freezes to the ministry budget leave it at least $100 million below what it needs to keep up with its caseload.

She also objected to Plecas’ statement in his report that no system will ever protect all children in government care from death, which he described as rare. There have been 90 deaths so far in the current fiscal year, Turpel-Lafond said.

Just Posted

Harrison Hot Springs country singer Todd Richard poses for a photo with Mission firefighters. (Photo/Sarah Plawutski)
VIDEO: Harrison country artist Todd Richard plans for a busy, rockin’ summer

Richard and his band look to live shows as restrictions start to lift

The theme for this year’s Fraser Valley Regional Library Summer Reading Club is “Crack the Case” and Katie Burns, community librarian at the Chilliwack Library, is encouraging people of all ages to sign up. She is seen here at the Chilliwack Library on Friday, June 18, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Crack the case, read, win prizes with FVRL Summer Reading Club

‘Immerse yourself in other worlds and have a bit of fun while you do it,’ says Chilliwack librarian

Police tape is shown in Toronto Tuesday, May 2, 2017. Statistics Canada says the country's crime rate ticked up again in 2018, for a fourth year in a row, though it was still lower than it was a decade ago. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
CRIME STOPPERS: ‘Most wanted’ for the week of June 20

Crime Stoppers’ weekly list based on information provided by police investigators

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Kalyn Head, seen here on June 4, 2021, will be running 100 kilometres for her “birthday marathon” fundraiser on July 23. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Woman’s 100-km birthday marathon from Chilliwack to Abbotsford will benefit Special Olympics B.C.

Kalyn Head hopes run raises awareness, advocates for inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

FILE – Most lanes remain closed at the Peace Arch border crossing into the U.S. from Canada, where the shared border has been closed for nonessential travel in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Thursday, May 7, 2020, in Blaine, Wash. The restrictions at the border took effect March 21, while allowing trade and other travel deemed essential to continue. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Feds to issue update on border measures for fully vaccinated Canadians, permanent residents

Border with U.S. to remain closed to most until at least July 21

A portion of the George Road wildfire burns near Lytton, B.C. in this Friday, June 18, 2021 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, BC Wildfire Service *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Blaze near Lytton spread across steep terrain, says BC Wildfire Service

Fire began Wednesday and is suspected to be human-caused, but remains under investigation

(Black Press Media files)
Burnaby RCMP look for witnesses in hit-and-run that left motorcyclist dead

Investigators believe that the suspect vehicle rear-ended the motorcycle before fleeing the scene

Blair Lebsack, owner of RGE RD restaurant, poses for a portrait in the dining room, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. Canadian restaurants are having to find ways to deal with the rising cost of food. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Canadian restaurateurs grapple with rising food costs, menu prices expected to rise

Restaurants are a low margin industry, so there’s not a lot of room to work in additional costs

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
Fort St. John man arrested after allegedly inviting sexual touching from children

Two children reported the incident to a trusted adult right away

A police pursuit involving Abbotsford Police ended in Langley Saturday night, June 20. (Black Press Media file)
Abbotsford Police pursuit ends in Langley with guns drawn

One person arrested, witnesses say an officer may have been hurt in collision with suspect vehicle

(file)
Pedestrian hit by police vehicle in Langley

Injuries described as serious, requiring surgery

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

Most Read