In my February 23, 2006 editorial on this page I offered my views on the situation regarding the neglect of child care in the province of British Columbia. This followed the inquest of the brutal criminal death of an eighteen month old infant girl, Sherry Charlie, in Port Alberni, at the hands of her uncle entrusted with her care by a government agency.
The government was harshly ctitized by the inquest's findings as a result of this death. The present government under the leadership of premier Gordon Campbell, had previously eliminated the office of Child Commissioner, and as a result, placed the responsibility of child protection under unqualified workers in the community. As a result, there are now in excess of 700 child deaths in the province of British Columbia that have never been investigated. Upon eliminating the office of the Child Commissioner, these files were routinely turned over to the coroner's office for investigation, however, the files mysteriously disappeared or were shelved, with no investigation ever being carried out.
In the last provincial budget, finance minister Carole Taylor stated that she was pouring, in excess of four hundred million dollars into the childrens ministry, when it fact, this figure merely represented what had been taken away, with no new allotment of funds.
Premier Campbell stated that he accepted the responsibility for the shoddy performance of his government, and the danger that children were placed in. He fell short however, of actually agreeing to adhere to the recommendations of the inquest into the death of Sherry Charlie. They were going to do further study.
Last evening I was on the public transit train in Vancouver. There was an announcement on the train from the control centre, requesting that everyone pay attention. The public message was in the form of an "Amber Alert" which is an agressive notification to the public when a child is in jeopardy facing impending danger. In this case the message stated that an infant child had been abducted, and was followed by a detailed description of the person that was being sought, his age, his size, his vehicle and that he may be heading from Vancouver Island to the mainland with this child. As well, when an Amber Alert is issued, all government public address systems carry the alert, as well as electronic highway signs, and all police forces and security personnel are alerted simultaneously.
Fortunately, as a result of this Amber Alert, the police were able to gain information and make an arrest. It was further learned that the child was not necessairly in impending danger, and the person being sought was actually the biological father of the child. It was later announced, that the parents of this child do not have custody of the child, as the child is under the care of the provincial government.
I was immediately curious as to the details of this particular incident. Upon making a couple of phone calls, I learned that this child was indeed in ministry care, and not living with the parents. I also learned something that nauseated me. The parents of this child were on a supervised visit with the child at the government ministry office. This is routine, and I certainly have no issue with parents wanting to visit their children who, for one reason or another, have been placed in government care. I do take issue though, when it is possible to abduct a child from right under the noses of those charged with the child's safety. In this instance, it was possible for the father to simply exit the office with the child. The sickening aspect of this case, is the fact that this incident took place in the city of Port Alberni from the same ministry office that was responsible for little Sherry Charlie's safety in the months before her life was tragically snuffed out.
Heads must roll. The whole affair of child care in British Columbia has eroded beyond repair. Premier Gordon Campbell should be hanging his head in shame. There is no justification for any of this. In my view, every single staff member in that ministry office in Port Alberni connected with child care needs to be immediately fired for dereliction of duty, if in fact, it is proven that they were directly responsible for aspects of this child's safery and protection.
Premier Campbell, it appears that your government has been skirting this issue for a long time. You have allowed your government to carry on in a temerarious fashion for far too long. There is more at stake in British Columbia than the success of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. Down deep, you know what you should do, even though because of greed, you won't. Unfortunately, this is a sad reality of what money and power breeds.