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B.C. opposition welcomes reset at children and family development ministry

Grace Lore is replacing Mitzi Dean, who has faced multiple calls for her resignation
Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and a member of the Tsartlip First Nation, welcomes changes to the Ministry of Children and Family Development with Grace Lore replacing Mitzi Dean as minister. (Screencap)

Premier David Eby promises a “significant reset” at the Ministry of Children and Family Development following the appointment of Grace Lore in place of Mitzi Dean as minister in acknowledging “significant challenges” in that ministry.

But members of the political opposition are questioning the timing, while others remain cautious.

Eby Monday (Jan. 15) announced Lore as the new minister through press release alongside a handful of smaller cabinet changes, then expanded on it during an unrelated event in Vancouver.

While Dean has done what Eby called “exceptional work” in leading the ministry responsible for the child welfare system, both came “reluctantly to a shared decision” that the ministry needed a “reset” to accelerate its work.

“Obviously, (the ministry) is not an easy file,” Eby said, adding it is the probably one, if not the most “challenging” files because of what is at stake, namely the safety of children.

“I’m glad that (Lore) is taking it on,” Eby said. “It’s going to be a big challenge, but I know she’s up for it.”

Lore had previously served as minister of state for child care, a role now falling to Dean, who had held her previous file since November 2020.

Changes at the ministry’s bureaucratic level will also accompany changes at the political level with the appointment of a new deputy minister.

Eby acknowledged that Lore has little time to get up to speed.

“It’s not a huge amount of time for her to act in this role as minister,” Eby said. “It’s 10 months before the next election and it’s a challenging file. Everybody wants kids to be safe and that’s not always the case in our province.”

RELATED: Mitzi Dean out as B.C.’s child care, children and family development minister

Various controversies have surrounded the ministry before and during Dean’s tenure around issues such as funding for autism and a perceived reluctance to follow the recommendations of the Office of the Representative of Children and Youth.

But likely none of them were more damning than the 2021 death of an 11-year-old Indigenous boy while in foster care.

The boy’s sister also suffered abuse at the hands of their foster parents, whom a court had sentenced to 10 years behind bars for manslaughter and six for aggravated assault. The trial revealed social workers had not visited the children for seven months, despite policies to visit every three months. A subsequent audit further exposed additional failures in safety protocols for the region where the death had taken place.

RELATED: Dean resignation calls relaunched for B.C. foster care failures

RELATED: First Nations leaders call for immediate resignation of Children’s Minister Mitzi Dean

RELATED: B.C’s Children’s Minister remains ‘committed’ to her work amid resignation calls

RELATED: Calls for resignation of B.C.’s children and family minister continue growing

RELATED: First Nations leaders call for immediate resignation of Children’s Minister Mitzi Dean

The death of the boy and the suffering of his sister prompted calls for Dean’s immediate resignation from not just the political opposition, but also groups close to the governing New Democrats such as the First Nations Leadership Council.

Eby denied any connection between his decision and the appeals from First Nations.

“The changes around (the ministry) are really around my goal, every British Columbian’s goal and Minister Dean’s goal as well to ensure that the child welfare system makes sure that every single child is looked after, when they came into care in British Columbia.”

While Dean has overseen key initiatives, more needs to be done, he added.

BC United Leader Kevin Falcon welcomed the move in a social media post.

“After years of us calling on the NDP to fire (Dean) for continuous failures as Minister of Children and Family Development, it’s a relief to families and vulnerable youth that she has finally been removed for her disastrous performance,” he said.

Falcon then followed his comments about Dean with an appeal to fire health minister Adrian Dix.

BC Green House Leader Adam Olsen, a long-time critic of Dean, who has called for Dean’s resignation on multiple occasions, also welcomed the change, while sounding a note of caution.

“After repeatedly calling for a leadership overhaul in the ministry, we are glad to see the Premier finally take action. The ministry’s chronic accountability issues have long failed children and families,” he said.

Olsen added that the ministry needs fundamental transformation and “rebuilt” from the ground up.

“This change in leadership is the first step to reform,” he said. “We congratulate Minister Lore on her new position and hope that she will be empowered to do the necessary work of shaping a child welfare system that British Columbians can trust.”

Olsen said his party expects to see immediate and substantial improvements at the ministry.

“British Columbians will be watching Minister Lore,” Olsen said. “We remain hopeful yet cautious, ready to support meaningful change while holding the ministry to the highest standards of accountability and effectiveness.”


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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