Leyne: Report's findings pretty clear

Les Leyne / Kamloops Daily News
November 12, 2013 01:00 AM

Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux doesn't want the latest rocket from the independent watchdog of her ministry "misinterpreted."

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, representative for children and youth, spent a couple of years working on a report released last week proving pretty conclusively that the government has blown at least $66 million on talks about the governance of aboriginal child-welfare services that accomplished nothing.

But Cadieux said she doesn't want it to sound as if nothing came of it.

She's probably right. All the consultants that Turpel-Lafond fingered as important drivers of this little cottage industry did very well for themselves.

And all the participants got to go to big important meetings. Everybody got to trade social-work buzzwords and get to know each other better.

But Turpel-Lafond couldn't have been clearer on what she thinks of the 12-year exercise in wheel-spinning.

* The money has been spent "without any functional public policy framework, no meaningful financial or performance accountability and without any actual children receiving additional services."

* The policy context and administrative principles "can only be described as chaotic and haphazard."

* The total outlay of at least $66 million "is a colossal failure of public policy to do the right thing for citizens."

* "There could not be a more confused, unstable and bizarre area of public policy than that which guides aboriginal child and family services in B.C."

It's pretty hard to misinterpret those findings. Particularly when they're backed up with pages of documentation and hard findings. Turpel-Lafond collated all the efforts to engage with aboriginal communities and agencies to talk about the governance of child welfare in those communities.

They stretch back 12 years and through two main manifestations of the dreamy notion that the provincial government could hand over the responsibility and bow out of the troubled field.

Nearly $35 million was dropped on discussing regional aboriginal authorities. It paid people to meet, hired facilitators and produced questionable reports that almost never addressed the real issues, said Turpel-Lafond.

Then the government patted itself on the back for the talks, while never evaluating what was really happening on the ground. Which was: Nothing.

That lasted until 2008, when the effort morphed into something different. The ministry
decided First Nations would write their own approaches and it would just fund the initiatives. The "nation-to-nation" approach produced several projects with "staggering" expenditures that were disconnected from the real world. That effort consumed
another $31 million.

Cadieux's ministry produced a response right after Turpel-Lafond blew the whistle, trying to minimize the shocking findings portraying it as an old problem that has already been acted on by government.

Meanwhile, Turpel-Lafond concluded that the whole thing is a "rather shameful debacle."

We wouldn't want to misinterpret that, would we?

Les Leyne writes for the Victoria Times Colonist.

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