Tribunals and tribulations

Earlier this month, the Georgia Straight's Charlie Smith reported on concerns surrounding the future of the BC Human Rights Tribunal after the provincial government didn't reappoint its chair, Heather MacNaughton. So who's now heading up that body? Well, according to an order in council passed last week, Bernd Walter will assume that position on an acting for a six month period effective August 1. Mr. Walter is presently best known for chairing the British Columbia Review Board since 1997.

The board is an independent federal tribunal that reviews orders "where individuals charged with criminal offences have been given verdicts of not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder or unfit to stand trial on account of mental disorder, by a court."

But Mr. Walter made his biggest headlines in the nineties. In November 1993, he resigned as Alberta's child advocate after the government largely ignored a report from his office concluding the province's child welfare system was "fundamentally flawed."

Mr. Walter went on to work as British Columbia's superintendent of child and family services and later chair of its child and family review board. In July 1996, he clashed with Dennis Striefel when the then social services minister suggested Mr. Walter's board wasn't independent enough to review the deaths of 14 children in care. A day later, Mr. Striefel apologized and retracted his statement.

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