Nfld. & Labrador

'It is a very damning report': Minister Gerry Byrne reacts to child youth advocate criticism

Liberal MHA Gerry Byrne calls newly released child advocate report about the removal of children from an immigrant family troubling, but informed.

Gerry Byrne says the report about immigrant family is troubling, but informed

Liberal MHA Gerry Bryne says while the newly released child advocate report is damning, there is also a resolve to fix the situation. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

The minister of advanced education, skills and labour says there are lessons to be learned in a recently released report from the province's child and youth advocate about the way children were removed from an immigrant family.

Minister Gerry Byrne, who recently launched a strategy to attract more immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador, says the report is troubling, but informed.

"It is a very damning report. It's very, very, very difficult to read it ... But what also is true is there's a resolve to fix it," Byrne told CBC's Here & Now.

"We recognize that there are some gaps within our system, and we're committed to resolving those gaps ...That's how we make sure that we send the message out that Newfoundland and Labrador is visitor friendly and immigrant friendly, and that's the message that I want out."

The report, released on April 17, describes a specific case that happened more than four years ago when police and social workers forced their way into a home to remove children.

The mother, who was pregnant at the time, spoke very little English and an interpreter was not present to help communicate with the police or social workers.

The children were eventually returned to their parents, who have moved to another province.

Jackie Lake Kavanagh, Newfoundland and Labrador's child and youth advocate, said the removal was very difficult on everyone involved — the children, family and professionals. She also said she doesn't believe it was an isolated case.

Recommendations led to action plan

In her report, she recommends all provincial government departments providing front-line services to people of other cultures should:

  • Cultivate and utilize culturally responsive interpretation services when needed;
  • Ensure mandatory training for designated front-line professionals in the area of cultural competence, diversity and inclusion;
  • Review and evaluate services available to culturally diverse individuals and families to identify any gaps in services and areas for improvement.

Byrne said the government was briefed before report was published and used it to develop the Immigration Action Plan.

"It was very guiding, very instructive to us," he said.

"For example, we call for increased coordination within government for more culturally responsive services. Greater capacity for interpretation."

Lake Kavanagh said if the provincial government wants to reach its immigration targets, it has to be better at providing services to people who come here.

 "She's absolutely right. That's why we produced the action plan, that's why we put in very specific steps, which we are accountable to," Byrne said.

"We have a number of different initiatives ... and those include better services to our new Canadians, to our immigrant, to our refugee community, and we have to do a better job at making sure that those front-line services are widespread across government."

With files from Here & Now