Calls for the resignation of Mitzi Dean as Minister of Children and Family Development are growing louder following horrific abuses that led to the death of an 11-year-old boy in foster care.
While the Ministry of Children and Family Development has fired two staff members who had worked on the case, the opposition says those changes do not go far enough.
BC United MLA Karin Kirkpatrick, Shadow Minister for Housing, Childcare, Autism & Accessibility, Gender Equity & Inclusion, called for Dean’s resignation.
”There needs to be accountability at the highest level for these shocking (and) horrific systemic failures,” Kirkpatrick said on social media. “(Mitzi Dean) needs to resign.”
Just as the ministry fired those two staff members, Premier David Eby needs to fire, she added.
BC Greens House Leader Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, said Dean has to resign because of the “shocking and horrific systemic failures,” which have continued at the ministry under her watch.
“I stand with the First Nations Leadership Council and echo their call for Minister Dean to step down or be fired and for Premier David Eby to empower a new minister to begin the transformation in the British Columbia child welfare system immediately.”
FNLC representing the voices of the three major First Nations organizations Monday (June 25) first called for Dean’s resignation after a Chilliwack court had sentenced two former foster parents to concurrent prison sentences of 10 years for manslaughter and six years for aggravated assault in connection with the death of the 11-year-old. The boy’s sister also suffered abuse by the man and the woman, who cannot be named.
Olsen said the ministry has failed to address its shortcomings despite repeated calls for reform, adding a complete lack of accountability has resulted in lives irreparably altered and lost.
MCFD has acknowledged that the system had failed the two children and B.C.’s representative for children and youth Jennifer Charlesworth has announced an investigation.
Dean promised her ministry’s full support of the review, noting that the children’s experiences had horrified her.
“I extend our deepest apologies and condolences to the family, friends and communities that have been impacted by this tragedy,” she said in her initial statement on the case.
“Children must always be safe and supported by the adults in their lives and it is clear that these children were failed at every level. The provincial director of child welfare has assured me that changes have been fully implemented at the local office involved to ensure that ministry policies and practice for the protection of children are being followed and we will take all steps to prevent such a tragedy happening again.”
But Olsen questioned Eby’s continued support for Dean.
“Minister Dean has proven entirely incapable of delivering the reforms that the BC NDP called for when they were in opposition,” he said. “There was some hope that the legislative reform we passed last fall would begin the transformation but Indigenous leaders I talk to continue to express their deep frustration with the ministry.”
He pointed to a recent report from Charlesworth, whose office received over 500 reports of kids missing from government care, who were critically injured or were at-risk of serious harm. The cases involved 198 individual children with four having died during the nine-month period of the report from May to December 2022. More than half of the children involved were either First Nations or Metis and three of the four children who died were First Nations.
Eby voiced his support for Dean on Monday.
“(Dean) has taken on significant reform work to make sure that every kid in the province gets the care that they deserve,” he said. “She has my confidence and she and I obviously have some serious work to do with First Nations leadership, with First Nations communities, to provide them with the information that they need to have that we are heading in the right direction on these files, given the disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities of our child welfare system, historically and currently.”
But Eby also acknowledged that more work lies ahead.
“We need a high level of trust to get it done, so Minister Dean and I will be working closely with (First Nations) leadership to restore that trust.”
-with files from Eric Welsh