EDITORIAL: More than ‘non-threatening’ review needed

This is not about politics. This is about children who need our protection.

This is not about politics. This is about children who need our protection.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux (MLA for Surrey-Cloverdale) says an independent and unbiased review is needed in a case where the ministry left four children in the unsupervised care of a sexually-abusive father.

She’s right – terribly right – but perhaps the word ‘review’ is not nearly strong enough.

Whatever the justifications or excuses offered, her ministry ultimately failed these children. And the ministry’s failure is also, ultimately, our failure as a society.

In 2009, Supreme Court Justice Paul Walker accepted evidence that the father had physically and sexually abused the three eldest children in awarding sole custody to their mother.

In spite of that ruling, ministry staff permitted the father unsupervised access.

The father subsequently went ahead and did what he might have been expected to do – sexually abuse the youngest child.

Just as we have zero tolerance for crimes that outrage our sensibilities, there can be no excuse for bureaucrats ignoring a Supreme Court ruling and turning over four children – children they were supposed to protect – to the hands of an abuser already noted as such in court evidence.

In his second ruling on the case, released last week, Walker took staff to task for “having a closed mind” and concluding – even before the children were interviewed – that there was no merit to the original sexual-abuse allegations, and that the mother had concocted them and coached the children on what to say.

Perhaps, as NDP Leader John Horgan suggests, Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond would be a better choice to compel testimony. Cadieux’s appointment of former children’s ministry deputy Bob Plecas to do the review – given that he has said it will be “non-threatening” and won’t consider individual culpability – smacks less of fact-gathering than is needed.

Whatever comes of this exercise, the fact remains that we – and the system we maintain – were not there when the children needed us.

We – and the ministry – don’t simply need to learn from this; we need to, collectively, hang our heads in shame.

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