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B.C. slammed for responding to damning report on Election Day
The B.C. government is under fire for responding to a scathing report on its Children’s Ministry in the middle of Monday’s election, a move critics are calling cynical and disappointing.
It’s been five months since the province’s Representative for Children and Youth released a report into the overdose death of an aboriginal teenager, identified only as Paige, whose difficult life was met with indifference time and again by government workers.
But it wasn’t until Election Day, while voters were casting ballots and the media was tied up with results coverage, that the Children’s Ministry announced it had accepted the report’s recommendations and acknowledged it required “meaningful change on a systematic scale.”
On Tuesday, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan called the timing of the announcement a “cynical ploy.”
“Releasing their response at 3 o’clock like that on Election Day is just ridiculous,” Horgan said.
“If you want to restore confidence – as the government says they do, as the premier says she does – you certainly don’t release a report like that on a tragic case… on the day the government is going to change.”
At a press conference congratulating Prime Minister Designate Justin Trudeau, Premier Christy Clark defended the release of the report, and insisted the timing had nothing to do with politics.
“The report was ready to be released. The children advocate supported that release so that’s when it went out,” Clark said.
“I think people who care about those issues are paying attention to them, as we are.”
B.C.’s announcement promised a new rapid response team to help address the needs of vulnerable youth in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, where Paige died, and a review of all young people involved with the Ministry of Children and Family Development in the area.
The government also pledged to launch an awareness campaign for front-line workers in the hopes of addressing the issues outlined in the Paige report.
The author of the report, children’s representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, had high-praise for the response on Tuesday.
“It took the government some time to fully accept it and digest it, but I give them full credit for coming to a place where they have completely endorsed the findings,” she said.
“There’s never going to be a bad day to come forward and accept this and start to move forward. It’s been a real uphill battle to get to this point.”
Turpel-Lafond added she’s already seeing meaningful changes in the ministry, and she expects more.
She said at least 10 at-risk youths like Paige already getting help as a result of the report. She estimates at least 100 more are in dire straits in Vancouver, with the ministry’s policies now better enabled to help identify and help them.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Penny Daflos