Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux appoined former deputy minister Bob Plecas.

Child protection failure prompts probe

Minister Stephanie Cadieux appoints former deputy Bob Plecas; NDP leader John Horgan says he's not independent enough

VICTORIA – One of the architects of B.C.’s children’s ministry has been brought back in to review its procedures after a court case revealed four children were left in the care of their abusive father.

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux announced Friday that former deputy minister Bob Plecas will lead the review of the case and recommend changes by October.

In his second ruling on the case, released last week, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Walker found the ministry was negligent in the decision to allow the father unsupervised access to the children. In a 2009 ruling awarding sole custody to the mother, Walker accepted evidence that the father had physically and sexually abused the older three children.

Despite that order, the ministry permitted the father unsupervised access, allowing him to sexually abuse the youngest child. None of the family members is publicly identified.

“A key feature of the Director [of Child Welfare] conduct in this case is that she and many of her agents approached the case in front of them with a closed mind, having concluded at a very early stage, before the children were interviewed, that there was no merit to the sexual abuse allegations and that [the mother] had fabricated them and had coached her children to make their disclosures,” Walker wrote in a 341-page judgment.

Plecas said he will not be considering individual misconduct of ministry staff involved, who have been reassigned while the review is ongoing.

“I think people will speak with me because it’s a non-threatening exercise,” Plecas said.

Cadieux said an independent and unbiased review is needed because of the “many significant and disturbing assertions about staff conduct” in the ruling. The government has not decided whether to appeal.

NDP leader John Horgan said the terms of Plecas’ review do not allow him to look at the conduct of the minister and senior staff, and his report goes to Cadieux. He said Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has the independence and authority to compel testimony of all concerned.

“I think they don’t want to get to the bottom of this,” Horgan said.

Plecas was involved in the creation of the standalone children’s ministry in the late 1990s. He will work with the Child Welfare League of Canada in developing recommendations.