Saturday, May 1, 2010

WHAT IS THIS DESTRUCTIVE PHENOMENON? / Part 178 / For Love and For Justice / Zabeth and Paul Bayne/

Ever since I became interested in the Paul and Zabeth Bayne family retrieval, I have been exposed to a phenomenon which I am seeking to understand. The phenomenon is noticeable in the stories people tell me about their experience with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. I personally feel a rising level of the phenomenon myself as I read the history of disappointment with and attempts to revise the MCFD through the years.

I have tried to identify this phenomenon with an appropriate word or a tag. Cynicism and skepticism come to mind. Either one may be suitable but not exact. Cynicism with regard to MCFD is the belief that only selfishness motivates the actions and decisions of those involved in the Ministry and of the wider government that authorizes them. Skepticism maintains doubt about the statements, the promises, the agreements, the plans of MCFD employees and questions the validity of anything the MCFD purports to be factual. Another close kin word may be pessimism. Pessimism is an inclination to emphasize adverse aspects, attitudes, intentions, and outcomes of MCFD involvement. That is not exact enough either.

I believe the proper term is 'distrust.' If the other three terms are disheartening, when associated with a Ministry that we all fund for our mutual benefit, the application of the term 'distrust' to the Ministry with the power to alter lives is demoralizing. Yet 'distrust' is what I hear from people.

Distrust is the confident expectation that Ministry employees' motives, intentions, policies and behaviors are sinister and harmful to one's own interests. That's what I hear from people. This may often entail a sense of fear and anticipation of discomfort or danger. Distrust naturally prompts us to take steps that reduce our vulnerability in an attempt to protect our interests. Distrust is not the exclusive domain of parents who feel wronged. Distrust is experienced by Ministry people toward some parents and supporters as well. Distrust possesses a destructive potential. Up go the adversarial, competitive walls. Cooperation gets lost. Conflict is exacerbated.

Once distrust has been established, it frames subsequent events in the relationship so that even good-faith efforts by the opposing party in the relationship are met with disbelief and suspicion. The result is a "self-fulfilling prophecy," where every move the other person makes is interpreted as additional evidence that justifies an initial decision to distrust him/her. This distrust not only inhibits cooperation in the relationship, but also may result in retaliation that causes the conflict to escalate. When the other person reciprocates this sentiment, there is mutual distrust that further fuels the escalation of conflict.

I cannot express how dismayed I am with the behaviour of Fraser Region Ministry case management. Paul and Zabeth Bayne are not villainous but are wounded parents whose innocence of responsibility for their daughter's injuries has been met with the Ministry's unrelenting insistence on their culpability. When supporters spontaneously appear to encourage their friends at court, the Ministry assumes the Baynes have invited them. When the Baynes request more visitation time with their children in a park setting or at a pre school or kindergarten event, the Ministry assumes there is another agenda behind the request. Folks, these are people who want to be with their children. Time is marching on. The Fraser Region and the Ministry office in Victoria need to give their heads a shake. Of course there is publicity around this case. Publicity is the only instrument helpless parents have in response to a Ministry with absolute power. Ministry! Consider the obligation you have to make this family work again. But then ….oh well, that distrust is kicking in again.

(painting: 'Distrust Too' by Stephen Clarke, Perth Ontario)

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