Premier Eby replaces Minister and Deputy Minister responsible for child welfare system

Jan 17, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

British Columbia has a new Minister of Children and Family Development.

Is the change in leadership a reset for a deeply troubled child welfare system? Or, is it a political reset for Premier David Eby?

The Premier’s language should be noted.

He called the move a “significant reset” and apparently, he and former-Minister Mitzi Dean “reluctantly” arrived at the decision that a new minister and deputy minister were needed together.

The Premier said, “I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone” the system has failed to “ensure every kid is looked after the way that they should be.”

Wait what? The situation isn’t a “surprise to anyone.” Frankly Premier, it is appalling to everyone. It’s unacceptable to everyone.

The fact the Premier expresses a lack of surprise speaks for itself. What has become an acceptable product of this Ministry, by the most senior person in this province, is horrifying.

Premier Eby said, Minister Dean “has done tremendous work in the role,” and that “calls for Dean’s resignation did not impact the decision to re-assign her.”

This summer I was among a number of people, including the First Nations Leadership Council and other opposition parties, in calling for the resignation or replacement of former Minister Mitzi Dean who has now been moved to Minister of State for Child Care.

It was the result of learning the details of a particularly heinous story of the abuse and death of a child in care, and the utter failure of the Ministry to protect the most vulnerable children in our province.

Unfortunately, it was the latest of dozens of such stories, told over decades.

This past fall I continued to pressure the Premier to be accountable for the terrible and tragic results the Ministry continues to produce.

I deliberately used the words of former-Premier John Horgan, when he was the BC NDP leader of the opposition and it was a BC Liberal government. I applied the same standard of accountability to his successor.

Minister Dean’s response to questioning (2:35pm) from BC United critic, Karin Kirkpatrick, the Minister admitted basic social work procedures were not followed. In a response to me, Minister Dean suggested the human rights of a mother and her newborn baby to breastfeed would be accommodated “wherever possible.”

Human rights aren’t to be delivered “wherever possible.” Especially if the Ministry is going to put in little effort to make it possible.

In addition to this story, damning reports and audits continue to be published, one highlighting hundreds of kids in care that go missing each month.

Failed performance audits, excruciatingly slow response to the audits and a general lack of accountability at all levels. Let’s not forget what happened at the Public Accounts Committee at the end of the Fall 2023 session. MLA Peter Milobar, (11:05am) BC United Chair committee reported in question period the provincial governments unwillingness for the Ministry to be held accountable.

And, remember the Ministries ill-informed, ill-timed, and ill-communicated decision to transition support funding from individualized to a hub model, for neurodiverse children and their families.

To the question. Is this a serious attempt at the urgent need for transformation delivering a complete re-build of the child welfare system in British Columbia?

Or, is Premier Eby creating political space heading into a provincial election. He knew we were drafting new questions for this Spring legislative session.

Hon. Grace Lore is now the Minister responsible for the most difficult job in Cabinet.

Having worked with Minister Lore in committees and in her previous role, she will make the best of the time she has. I wish her well.

Realistically, the job is to steer the Ministry to the upcoming election. The project of transforming the child welfare system is the job of the next government.

The decision to replace the deputy minister, the most senior person in the administration, is important. In my questions this past fall I was intentional by calling for changes of both the political and bureaucratic roles.

As much as it matters who is responsible politically, the person leading the administration of the transformation is critical. There is a difference if they promote someone from within, or bring someone in with fresh eyes and ideas.

The Ministry needs someone from completely outside the institution. They need to be empowered to prepare the way for rebuilding the child welfare system.

Whoever is handed the responsibility after the election, they need an administration who is up for the task not an apologist for what is in place.

Premier Eby’s own words tell us the move was political. They also expose the shocking level of acceptance by the Premier’s Office of the results produced by the status quo of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

And that is why they need sharp critics who are prepared to celebrate good work, but equally motivated to demand transparency and accountability, and a higher standard from Premier David Eby.

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