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Speech by Ted Hughes, June 5, 2014.

Speech by Ted Hughes, June 5, 2014.

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Published by James Turner
Ted Hughes's speech to to the staff of the Office of the Representative for Children & Youth, Victoria, B.C. on June 5, 2014.
Ted Hughes's speech to to the staff of the Office of the Representative for Children & Youth, Victoria, B.C. on June 5, 2014.

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Published by: James Turner on Jun 06, 2014
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06/09/2014

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Embargo – Not for release until 1:00 p.m. (PDT) Thursday, June 5, 2014 Speech by Ted Hughes, June 5, 2014 to the staff of the Office of the Representative for Children & Youth, Victoria, B.C.
I was pleased to accept the invitation to speak to you today. Specifically it was that I talk about my recent Manitoba report. That has reference to my December 2013 report entitled “The Legacy of Phoenix Sinclair – Achieving the Best for All our Children”. The Report was delivered to the Government of Manitoba on December 16, 2013 and released to the public on January 31, 2014. I have no doubt that I was asked to go to Manitoba because of my involvement in the 2006 BC Children & Youth Review out of which the office for which you all now work was born and was given the major responsibilities that you are fulfilling. My Manitoba assignment was to conduct a public inquiry. That was not the  process followed in BC. On that previous occasion the request came from the Minister of Children & Family Development that I “do an independent review of the child protection system in B.C.”. The method of public consultation that I carried out and the details of the accompanying research are well documented in my 2006 report. It would be reasonable to say that my assignment in Manitoba was also “an independent review of the child protection system” but of that province. Being a  public inquiry it was constituted by an Order in Council passed by cabinet. The discovery of the body of Phoenix Victoria Hope Sinclair on March 18, 2006 in a shallow grave in rural Manitoba gave rise to the Inquiry. Phoenix was a little
 
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Aboriginal girl who was born in April 2000. Twice during her life Phoenix was taken into care by the child welfare authorities in Manitoba and over the 5 years of her life there were 13 occasions when the responsible agency received notices of concern for her safety and well-being and on all of those occasions a file was opened by the agency and soon closed, often without a social worker laying eyes on her. There was a long delay before the inquiry was called, although it was promised at the time of discovery of her body. That was mainly because of the time taken in the prosecution and subsequent unsuccessful appeals by the mother of Phoenix and her then male partner of their convictions for first degree murder. Following confirmation of their convictions by the Manitoba Court of Appeal the  public inquiry was convened in 2011. I was mandated to inquire into: a.
 
the child welfare services provided or not provided to Phoenix Sinclair and her family under
The Child and Family Services Act 
;  b.
 
any other circumstances, apart from the delivery of child welfare services, directly related to the death of Phoenix Sinclair; and c.
 
why the death of Phoenix Sinclair remained undiscovered for several months. and to “make such recommendations” as I consider “appropriate to better protect Manitoba children”. Thirty three months elapsed from the time of commencement until delivery of the report. On two occasions, rulings I made during proceedings were unsuccessfully challenged in the Manitoba Court of Appeal, causing long delays. In all we were in session for 92 days and heard from 126 witnesses. With that background it is my intention today to address three areas.
 
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Firstly, and briefly, the question of why Phoenix was not protected by the child welfare system from the evils of her mother and her boyfriend, given her lifelong involvement with the system. In answering that question I will make brief mention of some of the many recommendations I made to strengthen the system in Manitoba, beyond improvements made by child welfare officials in Manitoba  between 2006 and 2013. Secondly, I will take a few moments to place emphasis on recommendations I made that I believe have equal application to British Columbia. These emphasize that responsibility to protect children is a shared responsibility – shared with the child welfare system itself, and with other arms of government and with the community as a whole. Thirdly, and what I judge to be among the most important of the subjects considered at the Inquiry, namely the “dramatic” over representation of Aboriginal children in the Canadian child welfare system. This is a serious problem that needs to be tackled at a national level. I will discuss what I have done to move that subject forward for discussion and action at that level. I turn to a consideration of the first of the three subject areas. Having already referenced that on 13 occasions referrals relating to the safety and well-being of Phoenix were made to the agency responsible for her safety, I reached the following conclusions: …time and time again the focus was limited to the short term. A worker would determine that there were no immediate protection concerns, the file would be closed, and the agency’s services to the family would stop, until the next referral. Parental motivation, commitment, and capacity were ignored. No consideration was given to the potential long-term

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