Sunday, November 20, 2011


By Ron Unruh

In a nutshell, we have a Ministry of Children and Family Development that contains a department called child protection. Our Law Enforcement is not local policing but rather the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Our judicial system is commendable but besieged by too many cases and not enough judges and not enough available court time. We have lawyers, oh oh we have lawyers, and many of them have tapped into the lucrative contracts with MCFD. Their interest therefore is not expediency, and they do not give a second thought to extended delays in process and what that may mean to a family in terms of heartache, relational distress or financial crippling. RCMP and MCFD have a working arrangement in child protection cases that when an apprehension must be made, officers will accompany social workers, making the situation so much more intimidating and traumatic.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development operates within the scope of a policy which prescribes its work and guides its process theoretically. In practice MCFD predictably re-interprets the policy with seeming puzzling impunity. At least twice in the past 25 years, there has been a major judicial Inquiry because of the Ministry’s inefficiency and inferior work and scores of recommendations have been made. Many if not most of these have been complied with at least in a cursory fashion. Yet there are so many glaring examples still of case mismanagement or simply poor judgement within a ministry that can throw a cloak of secrecy over all of it. One of our strongest complaints is one which MCFD denies and that is that rather than using the removal of a child as a last resort it is in too many cases the default response to a concern. That begins these lengthy and harmful separations.

B.C. Premier, the Hon. Christy Clark
Derek Hoare lives in Abbotsford, 60 minutes outside of Vancouver. I live in Cloverdale, mid-way on that track. Our provincial seat of government is in our capital city Victoria, located on Vancouver Island, accessible by Ferry boats or plane. The Ministry of Children and Family Development is one of numerous primary ministries approved, operated and funded by the government in power in our province of British Columbia. All funds derive from taxation of BC constituency. Christy Clark is the Liberal Party leader who is the newly elected Premier of our Provincial Government. She selects from among other elected Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA), those who shall lead specific ministries and they are designated Minister of Such and Such. Clark appointed Honourable Mary McNeil as the newly installed Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), as of March 14, 2011.
Hon. Mary McNeil

When I advocated by blogging for the return of four children to Paul and Zabeth Bayne over a two year period, there were over 300,000 hits to the site, many of whom were from government offices. So, responsible people do pay attention once there is a volume of awareness. My own network of key contacts across the provinces also generated public outcry and periodically the Bayne Campaign for Justice as the Blog was dubbed, called for correspondence to key government officials and offices and they were inundated. Moreover, leading news sources and journalists were apprised of this ongoing story of injustice. I am happy to tell you that this past August that family of six was reunited after four years of separation broken only by the weekly visitation. Newspapers and News networks generally withhold comment when a case is before the court. However, if the story is compelling, then network news hounds may feel constrained to air it, as did CBC TV National and provincial, Global national and provincial two years before the children were returned. When the case went to court in 2010, all news agencies stayed away from it – a matter of policy I concluded, while the case was before the court. Some major reporting will yet be done on this case because the case was an horrific miscarriage of justice.

Stephen Brown
Doug Hughes
And that is what Ayn Van Dyke’s case could become if MCFD continues to drag its feet with these unnecessary and malicious delays which have no foundation in fact. I will refer you to my blog post of Tuesday July 5, 2011 entitled, “YOU MAY WANT TO ASK HON. MARY MCNEIL TO HELP US / 562.” It contains links to news articles and all the contact information required to reach the Hon. McNeil, as well as two other key players in related ministries to children and youth.  McNeil selected as her Deputy Minister, Stephen Brown. Brown took over from Leslie Du Toit, an import from South Africa. Throughout the latter’s time in office the MCFD was a beleaguered ministry much under the attack of the press.  has also revived the position of Provincial Director of Child Welfare, and named Doug Hughes to that position.

That blog post and related ones cited there express the hope some of us had that a page might be turned with this new crew. The truth is that in all of these day-to-day cases these individuals have no direct involvement and no knowledge until for one reason or another, attention is brought to them. That’s where letter writing and phone calls come in. When the ministry becomes aware of a tsunami of support for a family and criticism of a ministry action, they at least respond with a standard form letter.

The law in BC is that anyone with a concern or a suspicion or a vague report about the care of a child must call that in to MCFD. You can appreciate how vulnerable that renders the general public. Anyone without knowledge but merely a perception can make a call and MCFD must and will respond. That response is customarily inquiry at the family residence and one would assume due process before the next step. In Ayn’s and Derek’s case, social workers came to Derek following Ayn’s adventure over the fence, ostensibly to talk with him, BUT they had a custody release form ready in their portfolio. It was a foregone conclusion they would remove Ayn. Since he refused, they surreptitiously apprehended her at her school when Derek was not there. You see, it’s that kind of action that alarms fair-minded people and makes all of us suspicious and cynical and Angry!

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Well then, one of the recommendations of the last Judicial Inquiry was the establishment of an office called Representative of Children and Youth, to be independent from MCFD and in fact MCFD’s Watchdog. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former judge, took on that role. Under the last Ministry and Deputy Minister she met nothing but opposition. Repeatedly, documents that MCFD was obliged to produce for her reports were withheld. In fact she went to court on occasion to get documents released to her. Communication between ministries was minimal and tense. Her reports to the Legislature should have generated demands for MCFD improvement. Her five year term is up in November and in July the decision was to be made to reappoint her to another five year term but it was delayed and confirmed only this week. Liberals took their time because they are tired of taking hits under her watch.

If you want to try a columnist, try Michael Smyth of The Province, There are many others whom some of our friends here might recommend. Social justice in theory is idealistic yet it is grounded even if it is somewhat imperfectly in public policies that have substance and consequence to individuals and families and communities, but because those polices are abused by those who should be administered by them, we lose confidence, maybe hope, and social justice seems empty and meaningless. I agree with the remark that Derek needs the best possible lawyer familiar with Family Case law and MCFD. The Baynes had a pro bono lawyer in Doug Christie without whom the happy resolution could not have occurred. He is unavailable due to personal illness.

Derek's email:
Fundraising email:


  1. I came across an interesting article browsing through Velvet Martin's photo collection on Facebook (an odd place to store a bitmap of such an article, I thought), the original file of which is located at on page 3.

    Readers will recall Velvet Martin's daughter Samantha died in care of Alberta Social Services while receiving disability-related services under the umbrella of "protection."

    Ms. Martin lobbied successfully in the creation of "Samantha's law", resulting in a change that ensures children who require services receive them. This, as opposed to "protection," where services are not needed, just foster care or group home care.

    Consultant and co-author Anne Hughson is a PhD Psychologist, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary. Bruce Uditsky is the CEO of AACL (Alberta Association for Community Living).

    Apparently, 70% of the 12,000 children in care in Alberta (40% of which are aboriginal) are classified as special needs. This includes developmental, learning or physical disabilities, mental health issues, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FAS) among others. These children were shuffled through more foster homes than 'regular' kids.

    It strikes me Ayn falls into this special needs category. Two of the four Baynes children were also so classified. The commonalities are that these are children needlessly embroiled in a legal battle, separated from their parents. Not because they need protection from abusive parents, but in order to delivers services. Services, which are typically a fraction of the cost of foster care rent. " are needed, not protection from parents who cannot be prevented from harming their own children unless there is physical separation.

    AACL appears to be the counterpart to CLBC (Community Living BC), who is being portrayed in the media as being starved of funding, while the Children's Ministry seems to have plenty. Children who age out of the system are are dropped like hot potatoes, left to their own devices, and are ill equipped to acquired services themselves.

    It would appear, the subjecting a remarkable 70% of 12,000 (or 14,000 or so under MCFD's 'protection' umbrella in B.C.) to an overburdened legal system is outside the scope of what CFCSA is intended for.

    Why, one would ask? Well, perhaps because, for marketing purposes, if need a few hundred million dollars, saying this is to protect children likely goes over better with the public and politicians versus giving families tens of thousands of dollars to help parents.

    Consider: Ayn is classified as special needs. Now, not only is she (presumably) receiving services that were not offered to Derek to administer before the removal of Ayn, the additional cost of foster care, supervised visitation, legal costs are on top of that. Add to those costs, attachment disorders and other long term damage that must be addressed by professionals.

    MCFD wears the protection hat when Derek refuses to give in. While in their undocumented meetings, MCFD wears the 'service' hat.

    Armed with these statistics gathered in Alberta, perhaps a different strategy is necessary. That is, not to try to advocate only for Derek and Ayn's case (which is easy for officials to ignore), but ALL the other 70%, or approximately 10,000 children, or 900 million of that overblown 1.3 billion dollar budget that is currently being mis-spent on foster care.

  2. For Anon 3:16 PM Nov 20 --- Interesting stats, astute thoughts, penetrating assessment - thanks.


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