Child and Family Development Minister Mitzi Dean faced renewed calls for her resignation after a new special audit showed failure to meet safety protocols for Fraser Valley children in foster care.
A ministry audit was launched after two Indigenous children suffered horrific abuses while in foster care near Chilliwack. One, an 11-year-old boy, died in March 2021. But the public did not learn about this until June when the former foster parents were sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter and six for aggravated assault. The trial revealed social workers had not visited the children for seven months, despite policies to visit every three months.
Regular audits had already earned the East Fraser region safety compliance rates among the province’s lowest and the special audit confirmed this picture. It found no evidence that social workers made required visits in at least 14 placements, as first reported by the Tyee following a freedom-of-information request.
These findings re-focused attention on the ministry and Dean herself.
The latest critique came Thursday (Oct. 19) from BC Green Party House Leader Adam Olsen. He called Dean “little more than an apologist for the status quo” in calling for the ministry to “be torn down brick by brick and rebuilt.”
Olsen also accused New Democrats of hypocrisy. When former premier John Horgan was in opposition, he called on then-premier Christy Clark to fire the then-responsible minister Stephanie Cadieux to protect children, Olsen said, pointing to an exchange that took place on Oct. 7, 2015.
“Our current Premier (David Eby) was in the background of that video, nodding in agreement,” Olsen added. “There was a culture in responsible governments where ministers who embarrassed the government resigned in order to protect the honour of the office. It appears from the behaviours of this government, that there is no honour left in this ministry.”
BC United Karin Kirkpatrick started fresh calls for Dean’s resignation Wednesday (Oct. 18), saying the new revelations prove the death of the 11-year-old could have been prevented.
“Surely this must be the final straw for a minister that has repeatedly failed to protect the children in her care, with fatal consequences,” Kirkpatrick said. “Will the Premier do the right thing and fire the Minister of Children and Family Development?”
Dean called the boy’s death and the abuses suffered by his sister a “heartbreaking tragedy”.
“They were failed at every level, including my ministry,” Dean said. “What happened in this particular situation was not acceptable. I told my staff that it was not acceptable and that immediate action had to be taken. All of the children under that team’s care were visited. All of the placement decisions were reviewed and made sure that they were appropriate.”
But the answers did not get Dean off the hook, with Olsen raising the issue again the next day.
Dean responded by saying Olsen has raised a “very, very serious matter” that “is in my head and in my heart every single day” in promising to make on-going improvements. Ministry staff have received instructions to make and fully implement changes, she added.
”We’re also bringing in an independent consultant to review the measures that we have taken to make sure that they are being effective,” she added. “We’re also accelerating the hiring of the Indigenous Director of Child Welfare. We have taken measures. We’ve put extra layers of accountability in to make sure that those measures are effective, because this kind of a tragedy cannot happen again.
“I am absolutely driven to make sure that this does not happen.”