British Columbia

B.C. backs down in youth watchdog fight

The B.C. government has backed down in its legal battle with the province's representative for children and youth. A letter today from senior public servant Allan Seckel said the government would withdraw a controversial amendment that would restrict children's rep Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's access to cabinet documents.

The B.C. government has backed down in its legal battle with the province's representative for children and youth.

A letter today from senior public servant Allan Seckel said the government would withdraw a controversial amendment that would restrict children's rep Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's access to cabinet documents.

The letter was addressed to former judge Ted Hughes, whose 2006 report led to the creation of the office of children's representative.

In an open letter released Monday, Hughes urged the government to pull the proposed legislation that had touched off weeks of legal wrangling.

Seckel also accepted Hughes offer to act as mediator in the dispute over the handling of future cabinet documents that Turpel-Lafond might seek.

The Minister for Children and Family Development, Mary Polak, said she was pleased with the outcome.

"We're optimistic that if these meetings take place, that Mr. Hughes can be successful in mediating," Polak said in Victoria. "We've always believed that there was a resolution to this that did not involve legislation."

Turpel-Lafond, has argued the law that created her office gives her unfettered access to cabinet documents.

The government responded by introducing the amendment to the law that ensured cabinet officials controlled that access.

Turpel-Lafond went to B.C. Supreme Court on Thursday to challenge the government's withholding of one batch of documents related to her audit of an aboriginal children and youth program.

The judge in the case scolded the government for its actions and ordered it to release the documents to Turpel-Lafond immediately.

With files from the CBC's Jeff Davies

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