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B.C. youth advocate urges probe of mistakes in child abuse case

07/15/2015 10:38 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 05:59 EDT
B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth is calling for the Ministry of Children and Family Development to apologize for egregious mistakes it made in allowing a father unsupervised access to his children, despite allegations he had physically and sexually abused them.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond also wants the flawed Vancouver police investigation, which disbelieved the mother and rebuffed her allegations, to be reopened. 

In a blistering 341-page judgment released Tuesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Paul Walker found that the ministry showed a "reckless disregard for their obligation to protect children." The judge found the ministry ignored a previous court order stating the father, who can only be identified as BG, should not be allowed unsupervised access to his children. BG went on to abuse his child while the toddler was in the ministry's care.

"I think there should be a fresh set of eyes on this case and there should be some sort of internal review within the [Vancouver police] on how the matter was handled," says Turpel-Lafond, who noted there is no limitation period on a sexual abuse investigation. 

The judge found the province is liable for damages — which could be a payout of millions to the mother and her children. It's the first case where a child protection agency has been found to have acted in misfeasance. 

"His findings are pretty damning for the ministry in terms of the fact that they had a closed mind in this case. They essentially turned against a mom," says Turpel-Lafond.

She believes the ministry should issue an apology to the mother and her children.

"When you are in a hole, stop digging," she says. "They should do everything they can to go down a path to making this right."

Lives were 'shattered,' mother says

For the mother, who can only be identified as JP, yesterday's ruling is a vindication after a "horrific nightmare."

"It nearly killed me," she says, wiping away tears.

"My whole life, and my children's whole lives were completely just shattered," she says. "It almost killed me to have my kids kidnapped from me and knowing that every second they could be getting raped and hurt."

JP's nightmare began in late 2009 when physical abuse by her estranged husband, BG, led to suspicions he was abusing their four children. But a child protection supervisor quickly decided the mother was mentally unstable and that her claims were a malicious fabrication due to a bitter custody fight. He spread his view to his staff, social workers and even the Vancouver police, who sided with the father.

JP says she pursued this case against the father to right the wrongs done against her children. 

"Sixty million dollars couldn't replace the damage that they caused to my children and to my life."

Ministry, police reviewing judgment

B.C.'s Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux won't say if the involved staff will be fired. 

"I'm very concerned about it," Cadieux said on Wednesday. "It's a very serious decision and it will be considered very thoroughly."

The Vancouver police have not said if they will conduct a review of the investigation that Turpel-Lafond has called for. 

'We are currently reviewing Justice Walker's judgment as it relates to this case," said media relations officer Randy Fincham. "We will continue to work with community partners to ensure that everything is done to reduce the chance that a child could be victimized in the future."

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