The government's independent child protection watchdog is insisting she get "full and proper briefing" on an effort to overhaul the way British Columbia's children are protected after top bureaucrat Lesley du Toit refused to ever give her another. The bureaucrat's boss, Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak said earlier this week Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is getting information about that four-year-old effort - just through other channels. But, according to records obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, that arrangement didn't negate the children and youth representative's need for such a briefing.
In an interview on Monday, Ms. Polak said a deal was struck on November 27 to have the representative's deputy Jeremy Berland and the ministry's chief operating officer Mark Sieben discuss Ms. du Toit's so-called "practice change" initiative on an ongoing basis.
But, according to a July 7 letter sent from the representative to the deputy, Ms. Turpel-Lafond's staff had earlier been told "this is an initiative flowing from your office and that only you are able to provide the information."
So, in light of Ms. du Toit's December 4 refusal to give the representative further personal briefings on practice change, Ms. Turpel-Lafond sent a seven-page letter insisting on one.
Writing on December 16, the representative reminded Minister Polak that the deputy had described those plans as resulting in a "fundamental transformation of practice across all program areas of the Ministry of Children and Family Development."
As such, Ms. Turpel-Lafond said she needed to be able to review them to assure the public the ministry "is on a positive, achievable and steady course for improvement in the delivery of designated services to children and youth."
"While I have legal power to compel this information, I would much prefer that you proceed voluntarily in accordance with the intention of the Legislation and a clear understanding of my role," she stated.
"All I am seeking at this point is a full and proper briefing on Practice Change. Should the Deputy Minister be unwilling to do so, I am asking the Minister to require her to do so."
But that hasn't happened.
Speaking to Public Eye on Wednesday, Minister Polak said she wrote back to the representative asking her to give the meeting between Messers. Berland and Sieben "a chance to work before we went back to what I considered - and she did at the time we discussed it - a rather cumbersome and kind of ad hoc process that we were engaged in prior to that."
And that's where the issue presently sits - just two months away from the fourth anniversary of the Hughes Review, the report that recommended the creation of Ms. Turpel-Lafond's office.