In partnership with the Child Welfare League of Canada (CWLC), the Ministry of Children and Family Development has asked Bob Plecas, a highly respected former deputy minister, to lead an independent review into matters arising from Judge Walker’s recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling.
In addition to technical and subject matter expertise, the CWLC will recommend the appropriate qualified individuals, including policy experts and a legal advisor, to help Plecas complete his review by Oct. 13, 2015. It will then be made public by Oct. 21, 2015 to allow for a privacy review. The ministry will also provide administrative support.
The review is not intended to retry the court case, but rather to examine policy, practice and provide recommendations as to where there are gaps. The terms of reference for the review (in background below) include all of the ministry’s interaction with the family that is the subject of the BC Supreme Court ruling between 2009 and 2012, as well as the report of the child-welfare expert retained by the ministry in the litigation. In light of the judgment, it requires re-examination.
In accordance with labour relations practice, any supervisory staff that may be directly impacted by the review will be re-assigned to an area of work that does not involve the same duties as those being reviewed. This is standard and prudent human resource practice, and has been endorsed by the Public Service Agency (PSA). If the outcome of the independent review indicates significant concerns with staff actions, a human-resource review will be conducted through the PSA. Any interim staffing measures taken by the ministry are not disciplinary in nature, as that kind of action will only be contemplated after the completion of any necessary human-resource review.
Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux -
“The vulnerable children who come into contact with our ministry, or who come into our care deserve our best each and every day. The recent judgment made many significant and disturbing assertions about staff conduct. We owe it to children, the public and to staff to seek out the truth in the most balanced and unbiased way possible.”
Bob Plecas -
“I returned to government for two years in 1996 to lead the large re-organization that established the children’s ministry. Government had responded to recommendations from Judge Thomas Gove that arose from a very difficult child-protection case. We learned lessons, and implemented his recommendations. Twenty years later we have a critical judgement from Justice Walker on another child-protection case. The minister asked me to take an independent look at the actions, practices, standards and legislation that formed the backdrop to his highly critical comments. In this intense, short-term review I have been asked to consider that part of the child protection that involve private custody and access issues between parents, particularly where there are applications, proceedings or orders involving the provincial court and the Supreme Court. They believe lessons can be learned, and from critical comment good policy developed. I share that view.”
Gordon Phaneuf, CEO Child Welfare League of Canada -
“The CWLC commends Minister Cadieux for her announcement today of an Independent practice and policy review. This is an important and timely step in ensuring that the ministry meets the imperatives of its child-protection mandate. The CWLC is committed to supporting and advising the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the development and completion of the review.The process and timelines for the practice and policy review underscore the commitment to accountability and transparency."
Child Welfare League of Canada: http://www.cwlc.ca/en/
Two backgrounders follow.