A government-ordered review of a case in which a father who sexually abused his children was allowed unsupervised visits is a flawed attempt to retry the proceedings, says a lawyer representing the mother.
And though the review is supposed to be submitted to government by Oct. 13, B.C. Supreme Court heard on Thursday the deadline likely cannot be met.
Jack Hittrich, the lawyer for the mother, said a judge has already determined the mistakes made by the Ministry of Children and Family Development. He said the province cannot now launch a review to determine if it did anything wrong, and he took particular issue with the first objective mentioned in the terms of reference.
It calls on the man leading the review, former deputy minister Bob Plecas, to assess if the child protection practice and actions taken by ministry staff, supervisors and legal counsel "were consistent with legislation, policies and standards during the Ministry of Children and Family Development's contact with the family during 2009 to 2012."
Mr. Hittrich said that issue was already determined after 239 days at trial and he called the review an attack on the court's findings.
Mr. Hittrich will submit his petition to the court by the middle of next week. A hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 23.
The ministry faced a barrage of criticism after it lost a lawsuit brought by the mother – who cannot be identified – in July. A judge ruled the ministry had violated a court order and allowed the father unsupervised access to his children. The judge said the father had already sexually abused three of the children and would go on to abuse the fourth while the child was in ministry care. The judge found the ministry failed to investigate the reports of sexual abuse and falsely accused the mother of being mentally ill.
The children are back in their mother's care. The father has not been charged. The province is appealing the court decision.
Ludmila Herbst, the lawyer representing Mr. Plecas at Thursday's proceeding, told the court the government has said the review is not intended to retry the case, but to examine policy and practice and provide recommendations as to where there are gaps.
She said Mr. Plecas has communicated to Mr. Hittrich that he's aware of the judgment and will proceed with caution.
Mr. Hittrich said even if Mr. Plecas does not comment on the judgment itself, he's looking at the same areas. "He can very well say, 'We did everything right.'"
The review was announced on July 24. Mr. Plecas was to submit his report by Oct. 13, with the review to be made public by Oct. 21.
However, in addition to Mr. Hittrich's petition and the government's appeal, the mother has filed a complaint with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C., saying she does not want information about herself and her children used in the review.
Ms. Herbst told the court Mr. Plecas has indicated he will likely need another four to six weeks after the privacy issue is determined to deliver his report.
"There may be a decision shortly, in which case I'm thinking that the four to six weeks likely pushes it out into November or so," she said, adding the extension has not been formalized with the ministry.
A ministry spokesperson, when asked about a revised timeline, referred comment to Mr. Plecas.
Mr. Plecas did not return a message.
A spokesperson for the privacy commissioner said Friday is the final day for submissions. She said a decision could be made within two weeks.