British Columbia

Campbell admits failure in child protection system

Premier Gordon Campbell admits his government's transition plan for the B.C. Children's Commission failed three years ago – and that he's ultimately responsible.

Premier Gordon Campbell admits his government's transition plan for the B.C. Children's Commission failed three years ago – and that he's ultimately responsible.

Earlier this week, the government disclosed that numerous investigations of children's deaths were halted when the commission was shut down by the B.C. Liberal government in 2002.

The children's commissioner had turned over his files to the coroner's office in 2002, with the understanding the child death reviews would continue.

Instead, at least 80 – and perhaps as many as hundreds of files were closed, and the parents were told by letter there would be no review.

"I think clearly there was a systemic breakdown," says the premier. "I think everyone understands that. British Columbian are not happy with it, I'm not happy with it, I'm sure the cabinet's not happy with it."

"Was there a system breakdown in 2002? Yes, there was. Should we have done it better? Can we fix it? Yes, we will fix it."

Not good enough, says NDP

But NDP Leader Carole James says that it's no surprise that child death reviews came to a virtual halt under the coroner.

"This wasn't a systemic breakdown. This was willful negligence by a government that designed a system of child protection designed to fail."

The Opposition Leader says it was designed to fail because the coroner's office was never meant to report publicly in child deaths, a point confirmed by the minister who oversaw the transition.

"The coroner's office doesn't do public reports," says former solicitor general Rich Coleman. "Basically it's a cause of death, it's never a finding of fault issue."

The government says it only learned about the halt in the investigations a month ago. And it was only made public this week when B.C.'s Chief Coroner spoke with reporters in Victoria.

When asked whose decision it was to shelve the investigations, the premier says that while it wasn't his decision, ultimately he is responsible.

"Look, government is responsible, I'm responsible, no question about it," says Campbell.

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