British Columbia

B.C. cabinet document debate heats up

The B.C. government says it's willing to work out a dispute with the representative for children and youth over access to cabinet documents, but it's not apologizing for trying to block that access with legislation. This, on a day when a legal heavyweight who helped create the representative's role came out strongly and publicly in her defence.
Former B.C. judge Ted Hughes helped create the office of the Children and Youth Representative and has written an open letter in defence of the representative's rights. ((CBC))

The B.C. government says it's willing to work out a dispute with the representative for children and youth over access to cabinet documents, but it's not apologizing for trying to block that access with legislation.

During Question Period in Victoria Monday, the B.C. NDP demanded Children's Minister Mary Polak apologize for the legislation, which Children's Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond successfully challenged in court.

Polak ignored the NDP demands, saying the government is open to working with former judge Ted Hughes to settle the dispute.

In a letter to Premier Campbell released Monday, Hughes said the legislation strikes a blow to B.C.'s child protection law and should be withdrawn.

Campbell should take a leadership role in protecting children and Hughes is offering his services in mediating the dispute, he said in the letter.

The opinion of Hughes, the former judge and conflict-of interest-commissioner, still carries a lot of weight in political and legal circles in B.C. It was his 2006 report for the government on the child welfare system led to the creation of the position of the children's representative.

Children and Youth Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says she has already won her dispute with the B.C. government over access to cabinet documents. ((CBC))

While Polak said Hughes might be able to find a solution, Turpel-Lafond said that as far as she's concerned, Friday's court ruling in her favour settled the issue of her having access to cabinet documents.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of B.C. said the government had broken the law by denying Turpel-Lafond access to a set of documents linked to a family care program, and ordered the government to immediately release the documents.

The government handed over the document to Turpel-Lafond, but is still seeking to stop the release of future cabinet documents with a bill it introduced last month to restrict the representative's access.

With files from The Canadian Press

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