British Columbia

Most children's watchdog recommendations have been implemented, says province

The provincial government has put in place 96 of the recommendations Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond has put forward since she started in 2006.

Over Mary Ellen Turpel Lafond's 10 year career 70% of her recommendations have been adopted

B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says the provincial government moved too slowly to put in place many recommendations. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

The provincial government has implemented 96 of the recommendations Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has put forward since she started as the province's advocate for children in 2006.

According to numbers provided by the Ministry of Children and Family Development, 138 recommendations have been directed towards the department since Turpel-Lafond became the first Representative of Children and Youth ten years ago.

"Following the delivery of a new report, we consider each of the RCY's (Representative of Children and Youth), recommendations and exercise our own judgment – in line with our mandate and guiding legislation – in terms of how we work to improve ministry operations, policy and practice," said a statement provided by the ministry.

"There are undoubtedly instances where the steps we've undertaken to address a given recommendation do not satisfy the RCY's vision for how things should be done. And, in some cases, her recommendations may fail to recognize pre-existing or concurrent ministry work in those areas."

Final month for Turpel-Lafond

Turpel-Lafond's second and final term concludes on Nov. 27, but she is planning on taking owed vacation time that will make her last day on the job at the end of October.

According to numbers provided by the RCY, Turpel-Lafond has released 92 reports since 2007. 

In October, 2014 Turpel-Lafond's office produced a summary report on the implementation of recommendations between 2008 and 2013. It showed that 72 per cent of its suggestions had been substantially or fully implemented. 

One of the recommendations that is still outstanding is the appointment of a minister of state for youth mental health as a single point of accountability to address the needs of transition-age youth with mental health problems.

Premier Christy Clark did however appoint Rich Coleman as the chair of a cabinet committee looking into the issue.

'More would be better'

Turpel-Lafond's position was mainly created out recommendations made by former judge Ted Hughes after a comprehensive review into the province's child protection system.

Hughes said he is surprised that more recommendations have not been implemented, but notes that implementation of 70 per cent of the recommendations is a sign the office has been effective. 

"More would be better, but the fact that the government has stepped up and said here are some deficiencies and we will correct them, that's not bad," said Hughes.

"I think we have to assume that without [Turpel-Lafond] taking office, those 70 per cent would not have been achieved."

Lack of resources

But there are some advocates working in the child welfare system that think the province has done a poor job at implementing recommendations and supporting youth in need. 

"Cutting of resources, privatisation, for profit services taking over. It's pushed the resources further away from those that need it to professional industries that are not accountable back to those people that need it," said  ‎Aboriginal Life In Vancouver Enhancement Executive Director Scott Clark. 

New Democrat MLA Melanie Mark worked in the RCY office for eight years. She got into politics because she believes even though recommendations are being implemented, the well being of children in B.C. has not improved enough. 

"If you change the windows and you change the steering wheel, that's great. But if you don't change the engine, you still have a broken car," she said. 

"We have to look at the facts. There are still over 50 per cent of kids in care that are Aboriginal. There are still more kids in foster care than the height of residential schools."