2007 Legislative Session: Third Session, 38th Parliament
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN AND YOUTH
MINUTES AND HANSARD
SELECT STANDING COMMITTEE ON CHILDREN AND YOUTH
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Present: Katherine Whittred, MLA (Chair); Leonard Krog, MLA (Deputy Chair); Jagrup Brar, MLA; Ron Cantelon, MLA; Maurine Karagianis, MLA; Dennis MacKay, MLA; Mary Polak, MLA; John Rustad, MLA; Nicholas Simons, MLA
Unavoidably Absent: Bill Bennett, MLA
1. The Chair called the Committee to order at 9:05 a.m.
2. Resolved, that the Committee meet in camera to discuss various matters. (John Rustad, MLA)
3. The Committee met in camera from 9:07 to 10:48 a.m.
4. The following witnesses appeared before the Committee and answered questions.
5. Resolved, that pursuant to its Terms of Reference, the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth refer to the representative for investigation the death of children in the following cases: Amanda Simpson, death occurred 1999, Savannah Hall, death occurred 2001, Rowen Von Niederhausern, death occurred 2002 and Case #4, as discussed earlier today. (Mary Polak, MLA)
6. It was moved by John Rustad, MLA that the Committee strike a sub-committee consisting of the Chair, Deputy Chair and one other member to regularly meet with and receive presentations by the Representative on critical injuries or child death cases which may have occurred during the transition period and that the decision to refer for investigation be considered by the full Committee.
7. By agreement, debate on this motion was adjourned.
8. The Committee adjourned to the call of the Chair at 11:06 a.m.
Katherine Whittred, MLA
The following electronic version is for informational purposes only.
The printed version remains the official version.
THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2007
Issue No. 4
|Investigation of Child Deaths by Representative for Children and Youth||35|
|Chair:||* Katherine Whittred (North Vancouver–Lonsdale L)|
|Deputy Chair:||* Leonard Krog (Nanaimo NDP)|
|Members:|| Bill Bennett (East Kootenay L)
* Ron Cantelon (Nanaimo-Parksville L)
* Dennis MacKay (Bulkley Valley–Stikine L)
* Mary Polak (Langley L)
* John Rustad (Prince George–Omineca L)
* Jagrup Brar (Surrey–Panorama Ridge NDP)
* Maurine Karagianis (Esquimalt-Metchosin NDP)
* Nicholas Simons (Powell River–Sunshine Coast NDP)
* denotes member present
|Committee Staff:||Jonathan Fershau (Committee Research Analyst)|
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THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2007
The committee met at 9:05 a.m.
[K. Whittred in the chair.]
K. Whittred (Chair): Good morning, everyone. I want to welcome Jonathan Fershau to our group. Jonathan is our research analyst, and he replaces Wynne, who has gone on, actually, to work for Mary Ellen in her office. So already the representative is…
M. Turpel-Lafond: Sorry about the poaching.
K. Whittred (Chair): …poaching our committee.
Anyway, welcome Jonathan. I work with Jonathan on the Health Committee, and I think that we're well-served by his services.
To give you a little bit of a preview of what the format is going to look like this morning, the representative is here to discuss with us some important but sensitive information. In a moment I'm going to ask for a motion to go in camera, and we will spend some time in camera while Mary Ellen gives her report.
Following that, we will go back into open session and have what I hope will be a fulsome discussion around the matter that is raised.
Could I have a motion, please, to go in camera.
The committee continued in camera from 9:07 a.m. to 10:48 a.m.
Investigation of Child Deaths by
Representative for Children and Youth
K. Whittred (Chair): We are now on public record. I am calling the committee to order. I remind everyone that there is a transcript and that this is all part of the public purview.
We have, for the last several minutes, been discussing a number of child death issues that have come before us today from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, who is the Representative for Children and Youth. We've given these, certainly, a great deal of thought. I thank the committee members for that.
I will entertain a motion from Mary.
M. Polak: I would move that pursuant to the committee's terms of reference, the Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth refer to the representative for investigation the death of children in the following cases: Amanda Simpson, death occurred 1999; Savannah Hall, death occurred 2001; Rowen Von Niederhausern, death occurred 2002; and [case No. 4 as discussed earlier today].
K. Whittred (Chair): Is there any discussion of this motion?
J. Rustad: I will be supporting this motion, because I do believe it's important that these particular cases be looked at in terms of the representative's work. In terms of trying to improve our system, I think it's very appropriate that this review be undertaken. So I'm happy that this is coming forward.
M. Karagianis: I would like to add that this actually addresses concerns I have had about the interim period between the closure of the Children's Commission in 2002 and the reinstatement of the children's representative in 2006. Any death reviews that were substantial and imperative will be dealt with at this point by this recommendation.
I'm actually very happy to see us be able to give this authorization to the children's representative.
R. Cantelon: I, too, am happy to support this recommendation. I think, as has been indicated to us by the representative, it's important to take a representative view at these cases in order to view the current policies and look at what changes have been made and what improvements have or have not been made.
M. Polak: An observation and comment around the process that has just unfolded. It was significant that Mr. Hughes not only recommended the appointment of a representative, but also a committee to work with the representative. I think it is symbolic of the collaborative nature of the process that Mr. Hughes laid out that we've had the representative come to us and not only discuss in an open and very fulsome way the nature of her role and what she would see it to be in these cases, but also explore the ramifications of the decision of the committee to refer and be able to take a look at that through the lens of what is going to be best for the system and, ultimately, for families and children who will be interacting with the system.
In my view, this is a very welcome first big step of the committee in working with the representative as we go forward. It more or less lays out maybe a path for a different kind of future as we work in child protection — one in which we can do a much more collaborative job, and therefore, hopefully, be much more successful.
N. Simons: I just want to add my comments. I'm pleased that we're finally getting a review that will be a holistic review or a view that will examine every aspect of involvement of agencies in a child's life. I think this is good for the children, and it's also good for every employee. Every person who works for children, I think, should see this occasion as an opportunity for their voice to be heard in how services are delivered and funded — the whole gamut of factors relating to their employment. I'm glad this is occurring, and I wish you luck.
J. Brar: I'm pleased to support the motion and, also, my sincere thanks to Mary Ellen for bringing forward these very, very important cases. I am pleased to see that we are now going to begin the thorough review of these cases, which will at the end of the day, I hope, help us prevent similar cases and also identify if there
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are any systemic barriers for a certain region or for certain communities so that we can improve the system.
I wish you well, and I hope for a very good outcome out of this.
D. MacKay: I also speak in support of the motion. This is a new role for the child representative. In order for this job she is now faced with to be able to benefit the kids in our province who are in care, I think she has to have a good understanding of where we're coming from and look back to see what mistakes have been made in the past, to try to prevent similar deaths from happening in the future. So I support the motion, and I also wish her well. She's going to have a difficult job ahead of her.
N. Simons: I'd just like to bring to the attention of the committee that Clara Robbins, who is working with Mary Ellen, has probably been invaluable in her support, due to her experience working in the child welfare system and in the ministry for the last 20 years. I think it's appropriate to say how much her work has been respected by the people in the committee and likely by all of her colleagues, and to thank Clara for her obvious dedication to the children of the province.
M. Turpel-Lafond: She officially retires tomorrow.
K. Whittred (Chair): We have one more motion to entertain.
J. Rustad: I think what would be appropriate is…. There may be other cases from a historical perspective that need to be raised to the attention of the representative.
As we're going forward, this need would be less and less, of course, but I'm wondering if it would be appropriate — and perhaps I would move a motion — to strike a subcommittee consisting of three members to work with the representative to deal with any of the potential issues that may arise in terms of backlog cases.
R. Cantelon: Just on procedure. The subcommittee would then, I presume, have to report to the full committee before any action would be taken. If we don't anticipate many of them — and I'm speaking from a personal point of view here — I certainly don't mind being informed of what the nature of these cases is, rather than just in effect rubber-stamping them as they come across the full committee's desk.
I won't oppose the striking of a subcommittee, but I would reserve the personal right to attend the subcommittee meetings because I'm not as well-informed as other people, such as Simons, who are very familiar with these processes — just so I have a better feeling of what the committee is doing.
K. Whittred (Chair): I just want to mention to all committee members that certainly one of my goals as Chair is to make sure that the goings and comings of this committee are very open. I think I've certainly endeavoured to do that with myself and the vice-Chair and through communication from the Clerk. Please let me know if you think we're not being informative enough, as that is a goal of the Chair.
Any further discussion?
N. Simons: If we're discussing the motion made by John, I would say that I wouldn't want to create an excessive burden of bureaucracy in terms of striking yet another committee. We don't meet that often as it is. I don't think our meeting schedule will in any way hinder the representative in her work.
If there are no other purposes for a subcommittee, I think it might become more burdensome in the balance of necessities. I, for one, think it's important for the entire committee to hear the cases that are coming before the representative, partly so that we can be reminded of the ongoing issues that our constituents face.
I would also like to be able to attend when the presentation of files or cases comes before us.
J. Rustad: Just in terms of the motion and the intent of the motion, certainly as we're going forward, any cases that may be brought up in terms of the attention will certainly come to the committee. What we're talking about is the transition period prior to the legislative authority of this committee. So we're not talking in terms of the work of the committee, as the committee has been struck and is going forward. We're actually talking about a retrospective consideration.
I've just been handed some wording here. Perhaps I could read that in terms of some clarification on the motion: that we strike a subcommittee consisting of the Chair, Deputy Chair and one other member to regularly meet and receive presentations by the representative on child injuries or child death cases, which may have occurred during the transition period, and that the decision for referral be considered by the full committee.
K. Whittred (Chair): May I point out to the committee that this is only a very brief period of time that we're talking about. We are not, in all likelihood, to have a very large number of cases to review. I think, if there's….
N. Simons: Friendly amendment: "prior to or during the transition."
K. Ryan-Lloyd (Clerk Assistant and Committee Clerk): Okay. Is that acceptable?
D. MacKay: Sorry. What was the amendment?
N. Simons: Adding "prior to or during the transition phase." So the subcommittee would deal with cases that arise, I guess, dealing with….
R. Cantelon: Chair, I just want to indicate that I won't be supporting the motion on a couple of grounds.
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I think we're going to have two meetings, anyway, one with the subcommittee and one with the whole committee. There won't be many of them. We can easily do it at once.
I think we're better informed, as we move through this transitional period, to keep a complete discussion. So I won't be supporting the motion.
L. Krog (Deputy Chair): I think Nanaimo's united on this point. I agree with the opinion of my colleague the member for Nanaimo-Parksville on this particular one. I appreciate the desire to ensure that we don't spend unnecessary time on things that can be handled. But at this stage, I haven't seen that happen yet.
If it becomes an issue, I will certainly jump in and support the recommendation of my friend from Prince George. But at this stage, I'm not prepared to try and limit it.
J. Rustad: If I can, then, I'll just table that motion.
K. Whittred (Chair): Thank you.
M. Karagianis: May I ask that if there are any outstanding issues, then this committee will reconvene at an appropriate time to deal with any other outstanding critical injuries or other situations that may occur during the transition that the children's representative may wish to speak with us about? Will a meeting be convened?
K. Whittred (Chair): That is absolutely correct. If the representative has other cases that she wishes to bring before this committee, there will be a meeting called of this committee, and we will meet to discuss those as they arise. We look forward, of course, to hearing from the representative whenever there is business to be done.
I would like to take this opportunity right now to thank Kate and Jonathan for the very, very useful background paper that they put together prior to today's meeting. I don't know about all of you. I certainly found it useful. This is a complex committee. We deal with complex issues, and I very much appreciated the manner in which the complexities of the legislation and the mandate that has been handed this committee were put together for us to consider.
I would like to thank the committee today for their very, very fruitful discussion. I am pleased that we had in mind all the time, I think, about moving forward in the best interests of children. I was very gratified that the committee today acted, I felt, in the spirit of Hughes, which was one of the goals I mentioned, I think, in the very first meeting that we had. I felt that we collaborated in our discussion to look to the best interests of children, and it was completely in line with the mandate that we've been given.
There are a number of issues that arose today that we are obviously not going to have time to deal with. One of those is the very important issue around developing a criteria framework.
What I'm going to ask be done on that issue is…. I'm going to ask Jonathan, who is our research assistant, to go through today's discussion and to draw from that discussion all of the ideas that came from the comments that all of the committee members made, and to put that into some semblance of order and to circulate that to the committee members.
It is an item that we can put on our next agenda. I do think it's important, as time goes on, that we have some sort of criterion and framework in place on which to make our decisions.
Another item which we did not get around to dealing with today is an administrative process about reporting our information and so on. So we will have to deal with that. I think I will adhere to Kate's advice today. The outcome of today's meeting will be communicated by letter. The actual reporting mechanism — is this correct, Kate? — to the House would be done in a subsequent report. I think that is what we thought would probably be the best solution.
I thank you once again. We are adjourned.
The committee adjourned at 11:06 a.m.
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