On Friday, the court ruled against Campbell's Ministry of Children in upholding Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's suit. Campbell and the MCFD broke the law. That's what Judge Griffin ruled.
Turpel-Lafond required and requested materials from the government in order to complete her audit of the Child in the Home of a Relative program. She was within her rights to ask and to have the materials. The government had refused to release these specific documents and had also introduced legislation that would limit future information access retroactively to March 30, 2007. Turpel-Lafond sued the government on grounds with which B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin agreed on Friday. Judge Griffin ruled that the Children's Representative was given access to cabinet documents when her office was created, and that it's clear from the law that Campbell and other politicians at that time placed a higher priority on protecting children than preserving cabinet confidentiality. Griffin ordered Campbell to give Turpel-Lafond the materials she had requested.
Judge Ted Hughes was called upon by Premier Campbell to conduct an independent review of the Child Welfare program of B.C. Ever since former judge Hughes authored the 2006 scathing review, making scores of recommendations upon which the government has acted, Mr. Hughes has appropriately maintained silence on MCFD matters. Hughe's review led to the creation of the office which Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond now occupies. After Friday's ruling it was hinted that Mr. Hughes might have something to say on Monday.
Well on Monday Mr. Hughes spoke - broke his silence today. Clearly he perceives a potential greater conflict down the road if the Government and the Ministry will not allow the Children's rep to do her job.
He underscored that in 2006 Mr. Campbell had supported the sweeping powers granted to this representative so that objectivity and independence could be assured in evaluating the progress and outcomes of the Ministry. Such powers for this office were an “integral and critical part of what both you and I were attempting to achieve,” Hughes expressed to Mr. Campbell. He mentioned that proposed changes to those powers will result in a “substantial impairment” of her ability to carry out her work as well as to “strike a negative blow to the heart” of efforts to repair public confidence in the system.
The government response on Friday was one of compliance with the present ruling but intention to pursue a protocol "that allows appropriate access to cabinet documents so that independent officers of the legislature can do their work." That still reflected control and lack of disclosure. So, Mr. Hughes has suggested that if Mr. Campbell refuses to withdraw the legislation, that the Premier should table the legislation to allow for mediation on a number of issues not least of which is that nonadaptive relationship between Turpel-Lafond and Lesley du Toit, B.C.'s Deputy Children's Minister. Hughes maintains that “this unfortunate and unacceptable relationship is standing in the way of the full repair of the child welfare system of this province which my 2006 report was intended to achieve.” “For obvious reasons I encourage you to take a leadership role in such a (mediation) initiative. We have to remember this is all about our kids — of that we cannot lose sight.”
As Lindsay Kines and Rob Shaw of the Times Colonist noted on Monday, May 17, 2010 1:03 PM, that Hughes suggested that just as Campbell sought Hughes’ help in 2006, the ex-judge would offer his services again, free of charge, “if you believe I could assist again."
The Times Colonist has provided a pdf document of the entire letter which Mr. Hughes sent to premier Campbell.
File photo credit Staff, Times Colonist