Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond was re-appointed for a second five-year term on November 16 by BC’s provincial government. As the province’s representative for children and youth, Turpel-Lafond’s position serves as an independent watchdog, bringing to light issues affecting the province’s vulnerable youth.
The position was created after a 2005 report (the Hughes Review) sighted failure of the Ministry of Children and Family Development in protecting young people, such as the death of a 19-month old child in 2002 who had been placed in the care of her uncle by the Ministry. Former Saskatchewan judge Ted Hughes, the author of the report, recommended the position be created to advocate for children and families and to monitor and investigate public agencies involved with children and their care.
Turpel-Lafond was unanimously endorsed by the BC Legislature yesterday, with all-party support. Although her first term is known to have been difficult due to government roadblocks (including flat out ignoring her reports and recommendations), Turpel-Lafond is a highly respected advocate in the province, and on leave form her job as a Saskatchewan provincial court judge.
The new Family Law Act, introduced into the legislature on Monday, November 15, is said to incorporate many of Turpel-Lafond’s recommendations. For example, the Act defines family violence for the first time, and would require that judges take into consideration violence when deciding what is in the best interest of a child. It would also make it a criminal offence to breach a protection order against an abusive spouse. Both changes are a direct result of recommendations made in a report by Turpel-Lafond.
The website of the Representative of Children and Youth, and all of its reports and materials can be found here.