BCGEU backs investigation into Chilliwack tragedy

Union urges consultation with front-line workers before making changes to child protection system.

Darryl Walker, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE)Vancouver (19 Nov. 2010) - The British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) is supporting an investigation by the province's Representative for Children and Youth into the tragic situation in Chilliwack involving a 15-year-old girl with Down Syndrome found alone with her dead mother.

"BCGEU members, who include front-line social workers, are deeply distressed and upset about this terrible tragedy and, like the public, want answers from both inside and outside government," says Darryl Walker, BCGEU president.

"Clearly, this incident is calling out for a full, impartial and prompt review. We welcome and support representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond's investigation and echo her demand for a full explanation from the ministry of children and family development about its failure to immediately notify her office at the time of the incident."

The independent office of the Representative for Children and Youth was established by the legislature in 2006 in response to a recommendation by the Hughes child welfare inquiry. The representative is required to investigate all events where a child or youth who has been receiving services from the ministry dies or suffers a critical injury, particularly where abuse or neglect are factors.

Doug Kinna, chair of the BCGEU social, information and health component, says the Chilliwack incident and the government's failure to follow mandated reporting steps raise very serious questions about a child welfare system that apparently is not fixed and may not be working in the best interests of children.

Kinna says the ministry should engage in meaningful consultation with front-line workers to address systemic problems in the system. He pointed to a new initiative, Child and Family Support, Assessment, Planning and Practice (CAPP), now being piloted in five locations, as an opportunity to have input from the workers involved.

"CAPP represents a radical shift in child protection in our province that has some of our members concerned," Kinna said. "The ministry needs to do a thorough assessment that includes listening to the workers involved in the pilots before forging ahead with a new model of service delivery."

The ministry has agreed to a request by the BCGEU for a briefing from the deputy minister on CAPP. The date of that briefing is still to be determined.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE