Some things just need to be said...

Monday, August 08, 2005

Matthew John Vaudreuil - it happened again

On October 3, 1986, Matthew John Vaudreuil was born in the northern British Columbia community of Fort St. John. Five and a half years later, on July 9, 1992, he died in Vancouver.

It happened again... Why did Sherry Charlie die after Gove's compelling report?

November 1995
The Honourable Ujjal Dosanjh
Attorney General
Province of British Columbia
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, British Columbia

Dear Mr. Dosanjh:
I am pleased to enclose my report to you, for delivery to the Lieutenant Governor in Council and to the citizens of the Province of British Columbia. ..

...I then tell Matthew's story, beginning with a description of the family into which he was born. I have included only those facts necessary to tell Matthew's story. Where there is a conflict between witnesses as to what happened, which arose infrequently, I have weighed the evidence and set out the facts as I conclude them to be. I have also named all the people who testified, including some of the professionals who were referred to in the ministry's files.

I raise two cautions. First, I tell the story of Matthew's life from his perspective, as though the services provided to him and his family were for him -- in other words, were child-centred. Regrettably, this was seldom the case. If Matthew's story was told as the evidence unfolded, there would be long passages in which he would not be mentioned at all. Although the ministry's legal and financial authority was to provide services to protect Matthew, services were in fact directed more to the benefit of his mother. The ministry, its employees and contractors lost sight of why a child protection service exists, and who they were supposed to be protecting.

My second caution is that Matthew's Story is very sad and will upset many readers, as it upsets me. The Honourable Judge Thomas J. Gove, Commissioner - Letter transmitting his report

The report was called for by then Minister of Social Services, Joy MacPhail. The report moved the government to make countless changes in the care of children under government care and to improve responses to those children whose circumstances become known to government.

On September 23, 1996 Penny Priddy was made Minister of a brand new Ministry for Children and Families. The new Ministry consolidated the child and family programs from the ministries of Social Services, Health, Attorney General, Education and Women's Equality.

On the same day, Cynthia Morton was appointed to a new position of Children's Commissioner. The Children's Commissioner's mandate included the review of all child deaths in the province and the review and overseeing of all investigative complaint and adjudicative functions provided by government. The commissioner reported to the Legislature, not to a cabinet minister.
The Ministry saw drastic cuts to its budget in 2002. Staff were laid off or moved elsewhere in Government. The Children's Commissioner was fired and office closed down. Sherry Charlie died months later.

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