B.C. court finds ‘shocking’ failures in MCFD case of children abused by father

Content warning: The following story deals with sexual assault and may be distressing for some readers. If you or someone you know is in need of support, you can find province-specific centres, crisis lines, and services here.

The Minister of Children and Family Development says she’s deeply upset by a blistering provincial court judgement that found “significant failures” on the part of ministry staff in a case of child sex abuse.

The case was that of two children who were sexually abused by their father first in 2021, and then several times after.

The court heard that the father admitted to touching both his children. However, despite this being reported, the ministry didn’t offer the children any services or support until more than a year later.

Judge Kimberly Arthur-Leung says when the hearing began in June “it became quickly very clear that MCFD had not followed requirements nor put services in place.”

Arthur-Leung found “shocking” and “complete” failures on the ministry’s part, noting it took more than a year for ministry staff to act after the father admitted to sexual behaviour toward the children.

Action only came after the man self-reported several more incidents, the judgement explains, and even then, Arthur-Leung says staff failed to properly make sure the kids received safe supervision and support, and didn’t properly compile reports for the courts.

“Court documents are replete with errors and omissions,” the judgement reads.

“The Form F, Report to Court filed May 10, 2023 in which a judge relied upon, has no file number. It failed to disclose the historical allegation of sexual touching on the part of the Father to a family member outside of the home, and advised the Court on page 3 that both the Mother and the Father ‘have participated in Safety Planning.’ Some 40 safety plans is not what the legislation anticipated to be defined as ‘safety planning’ when services were not put in place. Paying lip service to merely signing repeatedly plan after plan after plan with no services to assist the family is a failure.”

In a statement, Minister for Children and Family Development Mitzi Dean says the court findings were “deeply upsetting.”

“Children, youth and families must have access to the supports, tools and relationships they need to thrive, and those supports were not provided to this family,” she said.

Dean claims the ministry took “immediate action” after it was made aware of concerns around practices.

“A thorough review of the involved office’s practices was undertaken, and additional oversight mechanisms are now in place to ensure children, youth and families are supported and receive the services they need,” the minister continued. “As well, new checks and levels of accountability are in place across B.C. to ensure all policies and procedures are being followed by staff, including that children and youth be seen regularly.”

B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, says she can’t speak to the detail of the case, but explains that Arthur-Leung’s judgement “starkly reveals practice and service-related concerns” that her office is far too familiar with.

“These concerns include lengthy wait lists for mental health and sexual abuse counselling services and lack of clarity and assistance provided to parents to access the services and supports that they need to keep their children safe,” she said in a statement to CityNews.

“It would be my expectation that services and supports – including counselling – would be offered and made available to young people who have experienced trauma, and for whom there is a protection concern, such as what is being reported on in this troubling story.”

In addition to orders around custody for the children going forward, Arthur-Leung said on Friday, Nov. 3, that the court would impose an order “that the Director must undertake a regular review of this file with the Mother and her counsel to ensure that the Director is providing services to both the Mother and to the Children in order to fulfil the best interests of the Children and the timely delivery of services.”

-With files from Cole Schisler

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today