First Call response to the Plecas report on child protection and the Ministry of Children and Family Development

January 2016

Adrienne Montani: Kids shouldn’t have to depend on oil revenues to be safe

It was with a profound sense of déjà vu and disappointment that we at First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition read the report authored by Bob Plecas at the request of the Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux.

Its initial warning that too many reports, such as First Call’s recently released BC Child Poverty Report Card, “just make recommendations and expect government to find the money to implement them,” sets the stage for the core message he delivers: while this ministry is responsible for serving some of the most vulnerable children in the province, and has been chronically under-funded and been in disarray for more than a decade, we shouldn’t expect too much improvement because natural gas revenues are down and tough choices have to be made.

The mandate letter from Premier Clark to Minister Cadieux upon her appointment makes it clear that children’s well-being was not to be her first priority. The list of seven expectations for Cadieux to deliver on starts with “Balance your ministerial budget in order to control spending and ensure an overall balanced budget for the province.” Everything else on the list is secondary to this overarching message.

In his report, Mr. Plecas asks us to feel empathy for the difficult jobs government and the ministry have in managing budgets and competing demands, but to accept the deaths and critical injuries of abused children as unavoidable, even expected. This is an appalling view that attempts to lower our expectations for the children and youth who need our help.

Our past failures to keep children safe should drive urgent attempts to prevent another youth in care’s suicide or delay in responding to an abused child, not complacency. Children shouldn’t have to depend on oil revenues to be safe.

Download the full op-ed, published January 5, 2016 in the Province.