If at first you don't succeed

The children and family development ministry refused Public Eye access to controversial correspondence between its top bureaucrat and the province's independent child protection watchdog. That correspondence - which included allegations the government left vulnerable children in homes it judged unsafe - was obtained via a separate request filed with the children and youth representative's office. The ministry denied Public Eye's earlier freedom of information request on the grounds the records were prepared for the representative - an independent officer of the legislature. Under section 3(1)(c) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, that means those records are exempt from disclosure.

But, following that rejection, we filed the same request with the representative's office. In response, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond acknowledged some of those records may be exempt. But "in consideration of the principles of transparency and public accountability that I regularly espouse in relation to the system of supports to vulnerable children and youth, I have decided to release them."

Ms. Turpel-Lafond added "when consulted in the past on quests made to other public bodies, II have taken the view that records originating within a ministry are not records of an independent Office of the Legislature, and therefore are not exempt from disclosure and I support their release."

In an earlier memo, children and family development deputy minister Lesley du Toit stated "transparency" would be of one of her ministry's guiding principles. The correspondence between du Toit and Turpel-Lafond also shows the deputy has had a conflicted relationship with the representative.

7 Comments

Well done, Sean - and thanks for sharing this. It explains a lot.

Ms Turpel Lafond's "higher ethic" on transparency vs. the Deputy's bureaucratic "by-the-book and not a penny more" response explains -- to me at least -- the roots of their conflict and who's most likely at fault and why MCFD remains a mess.

Actually, it explains the proper application of the law.
Documents a ministry prepares for an indpendent officer of the leg. are exempt from FIPPA and the B.C. caselaw says that a ministry "must not" release what they give an officer, as opposed to "may choose not to."
Once ministry documents are in the custody of a leg. officer, their release cannot be compelled under FIPPA, but the officer has the power to determine what to do with them as they see fit,though one would expect they would do so mindful of the safety and privacy of individuals named within them.

I agree with Ms. Steele that this post does, indeed, explain a lot.

In terms of the broader issue at hand, however, the work of Mr. Holman in the last few weeks also explains, in my view, why the current provincial government did away with the independent watchdog in the first place (ie. pre-Hughes report).

Speaking of Mr. Hughes....

Did not he indicate at the time that if his report's recommendations were not instituted in full that he would (and I'm paraphrasing here) hound Mr. Campbell to the ends of the earth until they were?

Perhaps Mr. Holman, when he gets a spare moment or three, could give Mr. Hughes a call and ask him about that.

Thanks.

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LOL!!! This is hilarious! Makes a nice compliment to the raises nonsense.

Du Toit thought the public would never find out about these communications!!!!

HAHA I'm dying here. No wonder she spoke so freely.

Oooh mama, that woman must be frothing at the mouth. I'll wager the poor underlings she barks at are wearing big huge poop eating grins lately.

This says it well: Ms. Turpel-Lafond then stated, "I appreciate you were not pleased" with the representative's November 2007 report criticizing the ministry's progress in meeting the Hughes Review's recommendations. But "it would appear that not having met or discussed this further may have caused you to reach conclusions about information sharing which are erroneous." Hu Hu, eeeyup! Those weren't the only information sharing conclusions that were erroneous. :)

What a fantastic boost for morale all round.

Well done Sean, well done *clapping*.

Hey Sean, can we have a poll here?

I bet the majority of your readers would like to see Du Toit's (spell check typo but it stays) raise go to Turpel-Lafond instead? Seeing as how she actually EARNED it.

If Heaney is correct, then my comments above were undeserved and unfair and I withdraw them with my apologies.

Dawn, do you really think du toit understood the finer points of FIPPA and the relevant caelaw? I don't.

I think she got hoisted on her own petard as it were.

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