Monday, May 17, 2010

TURPEL-LAFOND IS A WEE BIT IMPRESSIVE / Part 193 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Linday Kines, Canwest article in the Sun and elsewhere began like this. “B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell's office broke the law by refusing to release cabinet materials to child watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond..."

A brief statement issued by the government stated that it will abide by the judge's decision while continuing to pursue a protocol "that allows appropriate access to cabinet documents so that independent officers of the legislature can do their work." Well isn't that tidy. It means that for the time being the Ministry will supply the documents originally requested by Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, but it will later present a protocol procedure for legal ratification that will effectively strangle attempts at gaining disclosure of articles that allows independent reviewers to cabinet documents.

The B.C. Representative for Children and Youth is not an employee of the provincial government but is an independent office of the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia and does not report through a provincial ministry. The work is based on the United Nations' Convention on the Rights of the Child, and upholds the following values: (1) Children have a right to be protected and kept safe; (2) Families are the best environment for raising a child; (3) Parents and extended family have the primary responsibility for a child; (4) Decisions made about a child should include their own views and input.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's story is a fascinating one. The youngest of four girls born to a Cree father and Scottish mother on a reserve in northern Manitoba, she grew up in poverty, endured harsh physical mistreatment, and was surrounded by domestic violence and alcoholism in her home—a mirror of the upbringing experienced by many of the children she now encounters. She is a member of the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation and at age 35 Turpel-Lafond was the first Treaty Indian to be named to the bench in Saskatchewan. She was already enrolled at Carleton University, Ottawa when she was 16 years of age. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton University, followed by a law degree from Osgoode Hall, a master’s degree in international law from the University of Cambridge and a doctorate of law from Harvard Law School. She also holds a certificate in the international and comparative law of human rights from the University of Strasbourg in Strasbourg, Alsace, France. She is married and has one son and three daughters. Her husband George is a former Vice-Chief and Tribal Chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. In November 2006, Dr. Turpel-Lafond was appointed British Columbia's first Representative for Children and Youth, for a five-year term. Prior to her Saskatchewan judicial appointment, Turpel-Lafond was a lawyer in Nova Scotia and Saskatchewan and a tenured professor of law at Dalhousie University Faculty of Law. She taught law at the University of Toronto, the University of Notre Dame and other universities, and held the position of Aboriginal Scholar at the University of Saskatchewan. She has been a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria law schools.

Her five year term will be up in 2011. Even if she desires to continue, one wonders whether Campbell will renew the contract with her when she is as committed to honesty and fair play as she is. Perhaps by then the Supreme Court of Canada will need another judge and she is under consideration.

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