A simple phone call

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.

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David Young is quoted as saying:

"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."

I would thoroughly endorse that suggestion. Such a review should examine:

* any impacts related to budget cuts and restructuring on ALL aspects of service under this Ministry's mandate, not just child protection;
* all costs and benefits of restructuring;
* all the various expert reviews/advice provided during the transition process and the extent to which recommendations have been implemented;
* the need for fully independent oversight and client advocacy services for all Ministry operations, not just child protection services.

Additionally, such a review should be conducted by an independent, non-partisan body, with a commitment to publicizing all key findings and implementing key recommendations.

This Ministry has been in trouble for years (and yes, problems go back well before 2001!) and no amount of PR can hide the persistent problems or restore public confidence.

So the truth finally comes out courtesy of the Public Eye. Does anyone else find it strange in todays day and age that ONLY the Public Eye has made any effort to actually talk with this David Young guy ? Every major media source, government and the opposition has been all over this story and yet only Sean Holman actually calls up with a few questions?

So now we all know the truth why the terms of reference were changed and no major political conspiracy at all. In fact some good solid reasons. What we do not know is why this took so long to get out.

More so, why has the Premiers crack issues team been so badly outmaneuvered on this topic? Had they done what Holman just did they would not be digging the graves for Hagen and a rather ill prepared Oppal. And to be sunk by a flake like Dix no less, the king of cover-ups.

Watching question period yesterday as Stan Hagen was trying to blame just about anyone but himself, to the question period of today as both he and Wally Oppel were trying damage control was pretty pathetic. Wally went out to talk to the great unwashed and made a hash of it again. Somebody maybe Wally, maybe Stan wrote some guidelines. Nobody seems too sure. A child died and these two guys keep telling us this shouldn't be a political issue etc ect. If this keeps up they will be able to sell tickets to watch this soap opera. I use to think Oppel was pretty credible as a judge. Looks like he souldn't have made a career change.

The pressure is on to bring back the independent person to check out such things and all reports made public and not controlled by the AG. Wally kept saying hse can study what she wants, and if so why the guidelines?

PW has two recent pieces at
willcocks.blogspot.com
"Government fumbles again in toddler's death"
"Children's ministry fails to counter cover-up charge in girl's death"

So many questions,
so little accountability.

Kevin Larsen: "And to be sunk by a flake like Dix no less, the king of cover-ups."

Your partisan pettiness is a bit predictable. When someone is unable to acknowledge an opponent's success, it says a lot about themselves.

After the further blundering by the Honorable Wally Opal, Attorney General of B.C., I very much appreciated your scrutiny on Nightline BC with talk show host Michael Smythe this evening. I would like to offer a suggestion to any/all parties involved in this horrific death of a baby, Sherry Charlie, please read all three (3) volumes of the Gove Report from November 1995 which includes the 178 Recommendations. Unfortunately, history has repeated itself and it is only too apparent that we have not learned from Matthew Vaudreuil's Story.

After the further blundering by the Honorable Wally Opal, Attorney General of B.C., I very much appreciated your scrutiny on Nightline BC with talk show host Michael Smythe this evening. I would like to offer a suggestion to any/all parties involved in this horrific death of a baby, Sherry Charlie, please read all three (3) volumes of the Gove Report from November 1995 which includes the 178 Recommendations. Unfortunately, history has repeated itself and it is only too apparent that we have not learned from Matthew Vaudreuil's Story.

This story gets weirder by the minute. So if the coroner was supposed to be investigating deaths way back when, did he check on this child? If as Oppel says Ms. Morley can search in all directions, why does the government tell her to do so a few years ago. If she is independent as Oppel seems to believe why does he have to give her terms of reference in this or other cases?

The number of investigations grow by the day.

The AG hasn't broadened the guidelines for almost one day, but then again it's still morning. The man wasn't on the same page as others. Neither was Stan Hagen. I sure hope he read the court decisions he was ruling on back when he had a real job. A. Dix has stated that He respects the man in his past job but has been pretty well uniformed in his new one.

Lucky for us there is a larger better funded opposition to bring up the facts and ask the questions that the present government doesn't seem to be able to answer.

What ever happend to the old idea that if a Minister really screws up he steps down?

Hagen is still looking like he is in a tunnel and sees a big light heading his way. The word incompetent comes to mind, followed by the word"Spin" But thump the desks real hard and clap a lot and maybe everything will go away. It was so easy for four years But this is now so Don't bet on it.

While some may think it important to focus on the party political aspects of this case, surely there are bigger implications that the tarnish on a star candidate's image when the death of an infant, supposedly in the care of the Crown, is at the real centre of the story.

Frankly, the fallout from this case, when coupled with the earlier material in the Gove inquiry, will put the whole area of Aboriginal adoptions, custody and care under intense scrutiny. If Aboriginal agencies have put culture on a higher priority than safety, and the results, even in one case, have been death, then those agencies will need to be reformed with the same thoroughness as any government department. It won't be good enough to hide behind history and unjust treatment of Aboriginals by the Crown. With power comes responsibility to use that power wisely and without doing avoidable harm.

With all due respect to Susan, the Gove Report was two volumes with an Executive Summary. It's recommendations numbered 118. The Report is no longer available in its original format because Gove either didn't read, or didn't understand, the Inquiries Act and therefore was succesfully sued by the former Superintendent of Child Welfare. Consequently, the government was directed by the courts to delete a full chapter.

I mention this because it seems to me syptomatic of the Gove Report more generally. For me, the Report is ill-conceived, illogical, and self-contradictory. His recommendations with respect to First Nations are not only trite - they demonstrate a remarkable ignorance of basic constitutional principles. After an expenditure of almost $18 million and 18 months of work, taxpayers had the right to expect something far better.

If it was just a matter of waste, then I might not care so much. However, much of the turmoil that has dogged child welfare in B.C. stems from Gove, his cultivation of the press, and the political opportunities he presented to the Liberals while in opposition and now in government. The Walls debacle is simply the most obvious example, but the more general confusion surrounding attempts to implement Gove's regional agency model was entirely predictable since the model is incoherent. Moreover, that Gove didn't see the Liberal agenda coming is a testament to his inflated ego.

The last thing B.C.'s protection system needs is interference by yet another bunch of high-minded do-gooders with little conception of how bureaucracies work, how complex and extensive the terrain of child welfare really is, and a naive belief that child welfare can somehow be elevated from politics. Child welfare is politics; far more than whatever goes on in the Legislature and whatever passes for thought in inquiries such as Gove's.

The fact is, children are always treated abysmally by governments because they don't vote. The fact that the Liberals were able to gut the budget with nary a whimper from the press, the public, or - and why not - the business interests presently running B.C. is proof enough of this fact. You don't need yet another inquiry to point out that child welfare is an expensive enterprise; and you certainly don't need another nitwit like Gove claiming a perfect child welfare system can be operationalized by moving deckchairs around.

Frankly, I think the plethora of people purporting to fix B.C.'s child welfare system have wrecked the enterprise beyond redemption. That people continue to work in the system astonishes me. You get more respect and make more money as a stockbroker or political aid - you know, the really important things in life.

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