Earlier this week, New Democrat critic Adrian Dix revealed the provincial government altered its investigation into the tragic death of toddler Sherry Charlie. That alteration specifically involved the removal of a term of reference that Mr. Dix says would have looked into the role the ministry of children and family development played in that death. The minister responsible Stan Hagen has said senior civil servant David Young, who left government in January 2004, was responsible for that removal. And today, in an interview with Public Eye, Mr. Young spoke for the first time about that claim, confirming Minister Hagen's statement that there was no political interference involved in that decision.
"What that term of reference would have provided is a mandate for the reviewer to look at the actions of the (ministry) district office involved with the family," as opposed to the entire ministry.
"Now, in this particular case, there was no district office involved with the family. The aboriginal agency delivered (the service). So that term of reference shouldn't have been included in the first place," explained Mr. Young, who added other civil servants were involved in making the removal decision.
"Would that term of reference actually have led to an examination of budget and staffing - and I see (assistant deputy minister) Jeremy Berland is suggesting it would? The answer is no. And he should have known better."
In fact, Mr. Young, who was the ministry's aboriginal agencies child protection director, said these kinds of investigations, in his experience, have never looked into such matters.
Mr. Young, now the executive director of the Ottawa-based Canadian Association of Family Resource Programs, also questions Mr. Berland's claim to have known nothing about the removal of that term of reference until November 2004 - two years after the investigation began.
"Berland was executive director of aboriginal agencies at the time. I worked closely with him and his staff on the development of the terms of reference and anything to do with aboriginal agencies. So I'm shocked that he's saying he didn't know anything about the removal...And if he had an issue with the terms of reference then there was an opportunity to correct it."
And he wonders why it took so long for the government to release the investigation to the public - an investigation he thought would have been completed by fall 2003.
"I have to tell you when this report was released in July, I thought 'Gee. Another child has died in British Columbia.' And then when I pulled it up, I found out this was the one that happened years ago. And I wondered, 'Why is this just coming out now?'"
Mr. Young then went onto say that Mr. Dix was justified in calling on government to review the impact budget cutbacks have had on the care provided by the children's ministry.
"Should one do a review of the impact of all the changes going on in the ministry and the budget reductions we were facing and the impact that had on practice in general? I think that would be an excellent idea."
But Mr. Young added a question specifically focused on the role the ministry may have played in Sherry's death would likely not turn up new information. To date, Mr. Young has yet to be contacted by a government representative about any of these issues.
Sherry was slain in 2002, days after being placed in the care of relatives under a so-called kith and kin agreement. Those agreements usually cost government less money. The man who beat her to death, the father of the home, had a long and violent criminal record that government failed to properly investigate prior to placing the 19-month old in care.