Mary Polak has described a news release issued by the BC Association of Social Workers as "uninformed and inaccurate," expressing concern the group "did not seek out the facts" before commenting on government legislation that will ensure the children and youth representative doesn't have an unrestricted legal right to cabinet documents. The association sent out the release over the weekend, criticizing that amendment as an attempt to "undermine and diminish" Ms. Turpel-Lafond's power and indicative of the "profound lack of transparency, openness and accountability with which the BC government is operating." But, in a email sent to the social workers, the minister stated, "The amendment before the Legislature in no way impacts the Representative's independence or ability to do her job." The following is a complete copy of that email, which was obtained by Public Eye.
VIA E-MAIL/ FACSIMILE
Tracey Young, MSW, RSW
BC Association of Social Workers
402 - 1755 West Broadway
Vancouver BC V6J 4S5
Facsimile: 604 730-9112
Dear Ms. Young:
I would like to express my concern that your association did not seek out the facts prior to making public comment on amendments to the Representative for Children and Youth Act - as the statements contained in your news release are uninformed and inaccurate.
As you may be aware, Cabinet-related materials are protected by Cabinet privilege and confidentiality - through common law and Legislation (Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act). However, there are occasions when the work of an independent officer requires this level of information. There are also occasions when government will seek advice from an independent officer. In these cases, a protocol agreement or some other similar arrangement allows information-sharing based on that information being used for the purpose intended and on the basis of confidentiality.
Government has explored this option with the Representative for Children and Youth (Representative) - and unfortunately she has declined. The Representative will not agree to a protocol arrangement or agree to confidentiality provisions - suggesting she will merely give government prior notification of plans to release Cabinet-related information.
The perception may be that the Representative utilizes Cabinet documents as part of regular, ongoing practice - that is not the case. No Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD)-related Cabinet documents have been a component of the Representative's published reports since her office was established in 2006. Nor am I aware of any other Cabinet documents that may have contributed to published reports by the Representative.
The amendment before the Legislature in no way impacts the Representative's independence or ability to do her job. It reflects what we have understood as the status quo. The Representative will continue to have broader powers than most other independent officers, will retain access to full and complete information from MCFD and the Representative will continue to have broad discretion to release information. The amendment doesn't preclude the Representative from receiving Cabinet-related documents. It simply means she will have to do so using a process that is similar to those agreed upon with other independent officers.
I hope I have clarified this matter to your satisfaction.