It is time to finally tear down the child welfare system in British Columbia and rebuild it brick-by-brick. Minister Mitzi Dean has proven incapable of transforming the ministry as needed. Premier David Eby should replace her and empower a new minister and deputy minister to begin the process of reconstructing a modern, well-regulated system that British Columbians can be proud of.
I do not make this call lightly. However, the latest horror, in the form of revelations of the gruesome details that have emerged of foster parents in the East Fraser region who have been convicted of aggravated assault and manslaughter for torturing and horrifically abusing two Indigenous children in their care, leading to the death of one of the children, has convinced me that Minister Dean is incapable of transforming the culture of our “child welfare” system.
Over the past few years, I have been following this ministry closely. It has a terrible reputation and was as poorly mismanaged by the BC Liberals (now BC United) as the BC NDP is currently doing. There has been an endless stream of news of violence and abuse pouring out of this ministry for decades. The British Columbia child welfare system is a euphemism; the province has proven to be the worst parent and guardian of our most vulnerable children.
Minister Dean, like the ministers of all stripes before her, has become the chief apologist for the ministry. Promising to complete thorough reviews, and to do better next time, she is not making the dramatic changes to the system that are needed.
Whether it is the story of Traevon Chalifoux-Deslarjais, the hundreds of children that are reported missing from the system, the fact that 73% of youth who have died from a toxic drug poisoning were, or continue to be, receiving services from the MCFD, reports showing offices in many regions of the province are a long way from meeting basic regulatory and compliance requirements and the ministry is not even completing the audits, remarkably MCFD social workers remain unregulated, and Premier Eby’s embarrassing policy reversal on the funding model for neurodiverse children, Minister Dean and the senior leadership in the ministry are failing to lead the necessary cultural change within the organization.
Premier Eby claimed he has confidence in Minister Dean. I don’t know how. Also, I don’t know how Minister Dean has not tendered her resignation along with her senior leadership team in the ministry. While they have fired some of the regional staff, they have contained the response proving there continues to be no accountability in the ministry and exposing BC NDP hypocrisy.
I know the BC NDP believe that Minister Dean should go, or at least they did. In September 2015, when John Horgan was the opposition leader, he stood and called for the resignation of former minister Stephanie Cadieux. He demanded the minister protect children, not the institution, he stated clearly that the minister is responsible, and he demanded new leadership. Member after member echoed his call, Premier Eby often nodding in agreement.
It leaves me demanding the same of Premier Eby that his former boss demanded of Christy Clark. Premier Eby needs to accept the resignation of Minister Mitzi Dean, or fire her, because as Horgan said to Clark “the best way to learn these lessons is to bring in new eyes and a new vision for protecting children in British Columbia.”
Adam Olsen is the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.