Saturday, August 15, 2015


Lawyer, Jack Hittrich, J.P. in background; photo:  Mark Yuen/Vancouver Sun     
Her children were being sexually abused by their dad, and the MCFD would not believe her but treated her as unstable and non credible. MCFD botched it. Enter Lawyer Jack Hittrich who represented mom (J.P). The judge ruled in favour of mom against the ministry of children. After the first trial and ruling, MCFD ignored a court order, giving dad unsupervised access. Mom sued MCFD because its misfeasance resulted in her infant child being sexually assaulted by their father. The Judge ruled in mom's favour again, with a damning judgment against to the MCFD. All that remained was payment of a sum yet to be determined. Alarmed by this public whipping, both MCFD Minister and the Provincial Premier made a predictable promise of a Review of the system that allowed this. The government selected Bob Plecas who is capable of objectivity but is hardly an outsider. But here is the most reprehensible recent step. The government is appealing the Judge's ruling. This case has been dissected completely and this family has been dragged through the emotional mess for four years. Instead of doing the right thing, the government is appealing. Mom will wait, perhaps years more. There is almost no end to the money MCFD and the government can pour into its avoidance and denial.

I have been following this story, writing occasionally but I wouldn't be able to write the story with its disgusting details, any better than the acclaimed Vancouver Sun columnist Ian Mulgrew. With deep respect for him and for the Vancouver Sun's determination to tell truth, I will present Mulgrew's August 14th, 2015 in its entirety. It's entitled,  

Mom of abused kids caught in middle of what appears to be an all-out brawl


Jack Hittrich is the lawyer representing a 42-year-old woman known only as J.P. who was in the midst of a nasty divorce when her four children were seized. The province is appealing a decision that found child welfare workers in the case were negligent. File photo.
Photograph by: Mark Yuen/Vancouver Sun , Vancouver Sun

The B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development has all but declared war on the mom at the centre of scathing court rulings hammering social workers.

The provincial government wants to prevent a cost award in the scandalous six-year-old case until it has a chance to impugn the judge’s fact-finding and reasoning.

While Minister Stephanie Cadieux maintains the family isn’t the focus of her damage control, the mom was told in a letter sent Wednesday that pretty well everything Justice Paul Walker said in his blistering decisions will be disputed.

“I expect there will be grounds of appeal that put in issue the factual and legal foundation of Justice Walker’s liability findings, including bad faith, breach of fiduciary duty, special costs, etc.,” wrote government lawyer Karen Horsman in correspondence provided to The Sun.
She added, “the province disagrees with these findings and this will be a subject matter of the appeal.”

Victoria, Horsman said, wants to “defer a further damages trial before Mr. Justice Walker pending the conclusion of the province’s appeal.”

That now looks like it is going to be an all-out-knock-’em-down-and-drag-’em-out brawl.
Justice Walker savaged the ministry’s handling of a high conflict 2009 divorce involving four children and horrendous accusations of sex abuse against the father.

Given her ordeal, the 42-year-old mother known only as J.P. called the government “sadistic” for appealing the finding that child welfare workers ignored and misled the courts, allowing the dad unsupervised access to the kids enabling the abuse.
Initially, Cadieux said only that the judge had raised issues of “general importance for child protection” that required clarification by the Court of Appeal.

The mom’s Surrey lawyer, Jack Hittrich, said the most recent letter makes clear the entire judgment is being attacked.

The mom is devastated the emotionally draining battle will continue and hamper recovery for her children — seized in Dec. 2009 and returned to her only two-and-a-half-years later when the ministry recognized its mistake.

Justice Walker concluded ministry workers tainted a police investigation by inaccurately portraying the mother as mentally ill and “lost sight of their duties, professionalism and their objectivity.”

It was a landmark judgment that stripped them of the legal protection from liability normally enjoyed by social workers making discretionary decisions in good faith.
Although the disturbing findings were made three years ago, Justice Walker’s ruling last month on liability attracted public attention and spurred Cadieux to appoint retired longtime deputy minister Bob Plecas to conduct a review.

But that is turning into as much of a debacle as the controversial 2012 health ministry firings now under investigation by the ombudsman.

The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has launched an investigation into concerns about material the government may disclose to Plecas.
With that issue in mind, Cadieux made Plecas a “director” of child welfare — a position that legally permits him access to sensitive files such as J.P.’s but made her think as a ministry director he was not independent.

In his first contact, a letter also dated Wednesday, Plecas recognized “the strain this must place on the family.”

“The review will look at the case as a way to try to find systemic problems where I can make recommendations,” assured the man who helped design the ministry in the 1990s.
The Representative for Children and Youth, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who has criticized the handling of the case, “cannot proceed” with her own investigation, Plecas said, until his review is complete and “one year has passed after a critical incident.”
She can review and comment on his work “down the road.”

Earlier, Turpel-Lafond, who has followed the case since 2011, rebuffed Plecas’s invitation to meet.

Hittrich, too, said neither he nor the mom will meet with Plecas and that he will reply to the letter by asking Plecas to postpone his review until the appeal is decided.
He is considering seeking an injunction if necessary to quash the review until after the appeal as it looks like a collateral assault on the judgments.

“The Court of Appeal decision by the province complicates this issue, and, of course, I will proceed with caution,” Plecas promised in his letter.

“However, I accepted the appointment believing, that enough time has escaped, and learning and understanding what happened needs to be captured …. If from this tragic situation I can make a few recommendations that saves one child’s life, or prevent another similar case from happening, I will consider my review to be successful.”
Plecas, who provided his home phone number, plans to file a report by Oct 13.
Best intentions aside, this appears to be another gong show — a fortune in costs and legal fees going down the drain to deal with a human resources issue exacerbated by a civil service culture with an aversion to accountability.

The government’s action looks more motivated to protect bureaucrats rather than by a desire to do the right thing: Circling the wagons instead of helping victims become whole again — regardless of the cost to taxpayers, or this mom and her kids.

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