A trial that began April 8, 2013 – seven months after appointment of Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux – concluded this week when Justice Paul Walker released lengthy Reasons for Judgment. The findings relate a thoroughly dysfunctional ministry but, rather than commenting directly, I’ll let the judge’s final words speak for themselves.
 The Province is liable for misfeasance, breach of the standard of care, and breach of fiduciary duty on the part of the Director and her agents.
 The misfeasance of [ministry supervisor] Mr.Strickland set in motion a series of events, including the Apprehension, which caused various social workers and Ministry employees involved in the file to view [mother] J.P. as manipulative and malicious. The Director failed to assess and investigate reports of sexual abuse as required by the CFCSA and the standard of care. The Director had no reasonable basis to apprehend the children. The Apprehension was wrongful.
 The Director unreasonably and with a closed mind rejected at the outset the veracity of the sexual abuse allegations and took the view they were fabricated by J.P. before the VPD completed its investigation and before the children were interviewed. The Director did not consider whether the children were at risk of harm as a result of the children’s sexual abuse disclosures and other evidence. The Director concluded that the children needed protection from J.P. and not [father] B.G. without conducting any assessment and investigation of her own.
 As J.P. continued to complain about the sexual abuse of her children and to protest the Director’s conduct, social workers’ antipathy towards her increased, and as it did, the Director’s focus turned away from the best interests of the children to J.P. As early as February 2010, the Director encouraged B.G. to apply for custody in order to return the children to him, regardless of information adverse to B.G. and even though she acknowledged the possibility that B.G. had sexually abused his children. In that latter respect, the Director acted in breach of her fiduciary duty to the children while they were in her care.
 The children remained in foster care while the Director provided her ongoing support of B.G., until March 29, 2012 (when the Director withdrew her protection concerns about J.P.). The children could not be immediately returned to their mother’s care because of the need for appropriate reintegration having been kept in foster care for so long.
 The Director rebuffed J.P.’s efforts to ameliorate the Director’s protection concerns and always, and unreasonably, assumed the worst of J.P.’s motives and conduct. In addition to Mr. Strickland’s misfeasance, for which the Director is responsible, social workers, for whom the Director is also responsible, engaged in a wholesale disregard of their statutory mandate and the requisite standard of care expected of them to protect the children from harm.
 Social workers who became involved in the case for the Director sought to further the plan to support B.G. in a manner that overlooked the children’s best interests. The Director’s antipathy towards J.P. diverted her attention from the children’s needs for medical intervention in spite of [psychologist] Mr. Colby’s opinion evidence and reports of the children’s highly disturbing sexualized and aggressive behaviours provided by supervised access workers. That antipathy, coupled with the plan to support B.G., led social workers to rebuff J.P. personally as well as the information she tried to provide in support of her case and to provide services for the children. Based on the evidence available to the Director by mid to late December 2009, it should have been apparent to the Director that the risk of harm to the children from B.G. was very high.
 The Director was put on notice that B.G. had sexually abused the children and would do it again, and she cannot say now that she did not know it was possible or could occur while he was given unsupervised access to his children.
 The Director’s decision to provide B.G. with unsupervised access led to P.G. being sexually abused by her father. Her decision also placed the children in close, regular, and unsupervised proximity with the person who had abused them
 In the course of pursuing custody of the children in favour of B.G., the Director decided that she did not have to abide by orders and directions of this Court about B.G.’s supervised access to the children. No credence can be given to the Director’s current advice to this Court, communicated through counsel, that she will abide by orders of this Court. Her advice is inconsistent with the position she recently took before another judge of this Court.
 The Director provided false and misleading information (in the Form “A”) to the Provincial Court to support the Apprehension and failed to correct or amend even though its social workers (depending on whom and at what point in time), knew or ought to have known it contained false and misleading information. She also relied on the Form “A” and other incorrect affidavit evidence when supporting B.G.’s custody application in this Court, when pursuing her application for an extension of the temporary custody order in the First Trial, and seeking the restraining order against J.P. in the Provincial Court. The Director improperly interfered with Mr. Colby’s investigation because she did not agree with an order made by this Court.
 The Director delayed in delivering documents requested by another branch of government in order to process the plaintiffs’ claims for compensation. Her conduct was either deliberate or the result of gross neglect but in either case the conduct was callously indifferent to the children’s needs.
 In all, I found that the Ministry employees who gave evidence, who were involved with the plaintiffs, lost sight of their duties, professionalism, and their objectivity.
 Even today, many of the social workers involved in the case doggedly stick to their adverse view of J.P., despite the Director’s decision to withdraw her protection concerns, the lack of any expert opinion evidence that J.P. suffers from a mental illness and the findings from the First Trial that the children were sexually and physically abused by their father. Many Ministry employees are unable to comprehend, let alone accept, any reason for the Director to have reversed her position, as she did, during the First Trial.
 Some Ministry witnesses were openly hostile towards J.P. when giving their testimony. Many of them refuse to accept the findings of fact made during the First Trial despite the claim made by some of them that what they wanted all along was to have an independent third party examine all of the evidence and determine if sexual abuse had occurred.
 Immunity afforded by the CFCSA to good faith discretionary decisions is not afforded to the Director and social workers in this case.
 The Director is also required to pay for special costs of the First Trial in an amount that will be determined from further submissions.
 In conclusion, I wish to add that J.P. assumed and carried out the Director’s statutory mandate to protect her children. If it were not for the Herculean efforts of J.P., the children would now, through the fault of the Director, be in the custody of their father who sexually and physically abused them.
Categories: BC Liberals