City organization earns special praise despite damning report from provincial watchdog

Thu. Nov. 28/13

Last week's damning report from the province's watchdog for children and youth exposes a broken system, says Bill Yoachim, executive director of the local Kw'umut Lelum Child and Family Services society.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth, criticized the government over the $66 million spent by the Ministry of Children and Families on Aboriginal service-delivery discussions that did not directly result in better services for children or their families.

"There has been a significant amount of money spent on talking - on endless meetings without any tangible results," said Turpel-Lafond in a Nov. 6 statement.

Snuneymuxw Chief Doug White said, "the discussions were never in a well-structured framework.The provincial government, on their side, never had a clear idea of where they were going with it or how they were going to achieve anything or implement any of the discussions."

The Kw'umut Lelum society, based in Nanaimo, was specifically singled out for praise in the report. "When I looked at this report I was so disturbed at - just knowing how hard Kw'umut Lelum works to make every dollar act as if it's five dollars to try and make sure they're doing everything for the kids - to see all this money going into God knows what, was just so upsetting," White said.

The report also addressed the approximately $90 million allocated annually to 23 delegated Aboriginal agencies. Turpel-Lafond characterized the funding as inconsistent and offering little incentive for good work or clear reporting on outcomes.

With 71 cases currently open, Kw'mut Lelum fared comparatively well in the report, said Yoachim, but that didn't mean other agencies were necessarily failing. "The agencies are doing good work. A handful. .. may have some gaps. They'll get there hopefully, but I don't want this report to paint that there isn't good practices going on in the province," he said.

Despite the challenges laid out by Turpel-Lafond regarding MCFD spending, Yoachim felt there were some improvements being made. "The MCFD, in fairness, in the last year or so has been changing and working with agencies," he said, adding that many of the present-day headaches were the work of former deputy minister Lesley du Toit. "She just had no energy or time for the delegate agencies. We were not on her radar."