Canada

Judge appointed as B.C. children's watchdog

B.C. has a new representative for children and youth, following the unanimous approval by both sides of the legislature on Monday.

After a political delay of several days, B.C. has a new representative for children and youth.

Saskatchewan provincial court Judge Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond will leave the bench in February to take up her new duties in B.C. Her appointment was approved unanimously by both sides of the legislature Monday.

The vote to ratify her appointment had been scheduled for last Wednesday, but the NDP refused unanimous consent to pass it in one day.

Turpel-Lafond said she hopes her appointment will take the politics out of child protection in B.C., as she will not be part of any government department.

"My office would not be reporting through a government department, but reporting directly through the legislature, so partisan politics will be out of it.

"I'm not for a moment suggesting there won't be any political issues made in the legislature, but my office will be independent of any of the political parties in the province."

Turpel-Lafond acknowledges it will be a tough job. "There is a sentiment in my mind of do fools rush in where angels fear to tread."

NDP gets in last shot

NDP Leader Carole James said the appointment is a victory for children and an admission of failure by Premier Gordon Campbell.

The NDP blames the Liberals for creating a crisis in child protection when they abolished the position of children's commissioner back in 2002 as a cost-cutting measure.

Earlier this year, retired judge Ted Hughes completed a report for the government that called for the re-establishment of an independent officer of the legislature to act as watchdog for children.

Hughes blamed Liberal budget cuts and internal upheaval for many of the problems in B.C.'s troubled child protection system and called for more stability.

He also complained about four years of deep budget cuts that "took the knife too far."

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