COLUMN: Premier must show children priority

By DALE BASS

This is the story of two men, a woman and many, many children.

First, we have Ted Hughes, a retired judge, a respected law expert, a man the province turned to when it wanted to come up with solutions to its child-protection system.

Next, we have Terry Lake, a member of the provincial legislature, a former city councillor and mayor and a respected veterinarian who genuinely cares about animals.

And then there’s newly elected Premier Christy Clark, who has declared the family to be her main priority.

Let’s take a further look.

Hughes spent months looking into the failures of the child-protection system.

In particular, he looked at all those cases that should still today make us all wonder about our society – the deaths of children whose safety and care were being overseen by that same government Lake now belongs to.

You remember some of them, I’m sure.

The one that continues to break my heart is Sherry Charlie, a 19-month old girl whose life, the inquest into her death heard, was one of constant battering and, eventually, death at the hands of her uncle, the same adult whose home the baby was placed into by the government for her own safety.

Lake spent about the same length of time as the campaign to have him recalled for supporting implementation of the HST looking into the killing of dozens of sled dogs.

Lest you all think I hate animals, the reality these dogs – brought into service to cater to Olympic Winter Games tourists who obviously had way too much disposable income — were not only viewed as surplus once the circus left town but were killed is also heartbreaking.

Not the same level of pain the death of Charlie caused, but, still, a truly tragic reality.

I’m not really sure what Lake did in his inquiry into the deaths of the sled dogs because the study was not only quick but seemed to happen pretty much under the media spotlight — but I certainly know what Hughes did.

He spent months asking questions and learning, most all of this time spent in the media spotlight. He made 62 recommendations, including creation of a representative for children and youth.

The government followed through on this and hired Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond for the job.

She’s spent much of her time fighting with the same government that hired her, accusing it of ignoring her reports and eventually taking the government to court to get documents she needed to do her job.

Which brings us to today.

Lake’s brief review of the death of the sled dogs has led his government to introduce legislation that has been called the toughest animal-cruelty law in the country.

Good on him for getting this done.

We’re still waiting for the government to act on Hughes’ recommendations with anything that vaguely resembles sincerity, however.

Maybe Lake was successful because it was simply easier to change the system to protect dogs – but, if that’s true, it’s a crying shame because, no matter how hard it is, those recommendations were made almost five years ago.

Time to bring in the third main character in this column, the new premier.

The same one who says she’s putting families first as she takes over running the province.

If she’s serious about that – if it really is more than just a warm and fuzzy slogan to her – maybe she could dust off her copy of the Hughes report and do something about the flaws and faults he found in the child-protection system.

The dogs are protected – it’s time to do something about our children.

 

Dale Bass is a reporter with Kamloops This Week, a Black Press newspaper.