Let's call it the Turpel-Lafond Ultimatum. She called them on it. They stuck to their arrogant guns as though they are exempt from the law. Well, they are not!
This high-handedness has buried this Government Ministry in thick suspicion and criticism for the past two decades. I thought diplomacy was the way to deal with these bureaucrats but they don't respond to that. The MCFD has too much power. Rein it in.
We should blow a few party horns. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's suit against Premier Gordon Campbell's government, specifically the Ministry of Children and Family Development was upheld by the B.C. Supreme Court Judge on Friday. But party horns are not what this is about nor are they appropriate, and Ms. Turpel-Lafond's own reaction to the decision rendered on Friday speaks to the honourable response by an reputable representative. “... I feel completely vindicated by the court,” she said. “All of this could have been avoided if the documents would have just been provided to me some time ago.”
Turpel-Lafond requested the documents so she could complete an audit of the Child in the Home of a Relative program, which serves about 4,400 children who are unable to live with their parents. The program was suddenly replaced with a new program this year, and Turpel-Lafond wanted to know what led to cabinet’s decision. The government not only refused her request, it brought in legislation that would retroactively limit her access to cabinet materials to March 30, 2007. The government wanted Turpel-Lafond to sign a protocol document in order to have any documents but this would have given the cabinet a veto over her requested reports. She refused to sign any protocols. She routinely deals with sensitive information about children and families without violating anyone’s privacy, she said. “The suggestion that I would obtain any material and use it in an inappropriate way is, I think as the judge said today, completely groundless.”
Justice Susan Griffin sorted this out in short order, no hesitation, no delay. She listened to their cases on Thursday and gave her ruling on Friday. It was a resounding rebuke and we should applaud both Ms. Turpel-Lafond and Justice Griffin. Campbell and his government ministry were rebuked for breaking the law when they refused to release cabinet materials to the public's watchdog on child-welfare. Griffin put it this way. Campbell's and Polak's offices “failed to comply with their statutory duty” when they withheld the necessary documents. Turpel-Lafond was herself a provincial court judge in Saskatchewan and she knew that the judge's ruling that the premier has breached his legal duties was highly unusual.
The way the Judge saw it was that when Turpel-Lafond's position was created, the Representative for Children and Youth was given sweeping powers and that was intentional. “This could not have been an oversight,” Griffin said.
Judge Ted Hughes wrote the 2006 review of the B.C.'s child-welfare system and one of the recommendations was the creation of an independent watch dog position. It will be very interesting to hear on Monday what Judge Ted Hughes says. He indicated he would make some comments on this matter. Interestingly he was in court on Friday to listen to Justice Griffin's decision.
Appreciation for Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist
Story in Times Colonist by Lindsey Kines provides full coverage