Opinion

Talk triumphs over protecting kids

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The many damning reports from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond to the B.C. legislature on the issue of child abuse prove that some things never change.

Turpel-Lafond is the Representative for Children and Youth for British Columbia. She is not an employee of any government ministry, but reports independently to the legislature. She has never shied away from carrying out her duties in an intelligent and forthright manner.

I have never met her, but I sense an intelligent, tough, dedicated and knowledgeable person and we are lucky to have her in her current post. Without her, there might not even be a glimmer of hope that there can ever be an end to several decades of ongoing provincial government systemic incompetence in dealing with child abuse.

Turpel-Lafond has investigated and reported on many child abuse cases and the deaths of several children who were wards of the province or various aboriginal agencies. Her findings have usually outlined what she sees as serious shortcomings in the protection of children who are wards of the various systems.

In the mid 1980s, I won an award for a series I wrote on adoption procedures and foster homes in British Columbia. The several cases I investigated led me to the conclusion that many of the people who were then in power and in a position to effect significant changes simply didn’t really care.

It appears that nothing much has changed except the letterheads of the various ministries who have overlapping jurisdictions in child abuse and foster home issues.

Although it was many years ago, during my investigation I found one of the major obstacles to initiating any positive change was the ongoing and constant turf wars between competing ministries and agencies that pervaded the system.

That multi-jurisdictional mess continues to place young lives in jeopardy. It involves aboriginal groups, and various federal and provincial ministries.,

In short, the bureaucrats have shown through their lack of effective action that they couldn’t care less,

As a result, needless child abuse and deaths continue unabated.

In one of her latest reports, Turpel-Lafond referred to a case where provincial child care workers investigating a report of child abuse would not enter a native reserve because they were told they weren’t welcome. They subsequently turned around at the entrance to the reserve and left without taking any action.

Some time later, the 11-year old child in question was Tasered by police in an incident where the child apparently raged out of control.

Turpel-Lafond’s review of the background details revealed that there had been 30 separate occasions over the years  when the ineffective or total lack of action of provincial child care workers resulted in needless chaos and continuing abuse for the child.

She has also reviewed other cases where such bureaucratic failure has led to tragic deaths.

In one report to the legislature, Turpel-Lafond stated that, over a 12-year period, the province had spent $66 million  to supposedly improve the system dealing with child abuse and other related matters, but she could not find a single instance where anything had actually improved over that period of time.

She concluded that talk had triumphed over action in the failing system of child protection in British Columbia.

It would be easy to conclude that the blame for the systemic failure of the province to protect children from unthinkable abuses could be fairly dumped in the lap of Christy Clark’s Liberals, but the terrible wrongs have continued unabated throughout several administrations, including Gordon Campbell, Glen Clark and Mike Harcourt.

There is no point in expecting our local MLAs, Doug Bing and Marc Dalton, to do anything constructive about the government’s abandonment of its responsibilities for the protection of children. They’re both too busy waving flags on the Christy Clark bandwagon as it rolls along the paths of ignorance.

 

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.

 

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