Liberals Fail to Protect Teenage Abandoned Children

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Liberals Fail to Protect Teenage Abandoned Children



Last December, 17 year old Noelle Wheeler was abandoned by her mother (she never knew her father). But even after six months the BC Liberal government refuses to offer any financial support to her or her grandparents, or a foster home to her. As the following article describes, this is an all too common occurrence in BC. 

The only person going to bat for her against the government is the BC's Representative for Children and Youth, Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond. She point out that the BC Liberals terminated a social program for 4,000 children,  "a program where relatives got financial support to look after children without parents." The Liberals then replaced this program with a new "extended family program, but ... [it funded only] one-tenth the number of kids. ... She suspects that means the rest of them are living with extended family, but not receiving any financial support."

So much for "progressive" Liberals, Debater. However, unlike Debater and other Liberal lovers who never diss their party, I won't let the BC NDP off the hook on this. This is the kind of social issue the NDP should be shouting from the rooftops on. The silence is deafening. 



When a parent gives up responsibility, whose responsibility is it to look after a child? According to provincial law, “if a child has no guardian or if the guardian appointed is dead, refuses or is incompetent at law to act, … a director under the Child, Family and Community Service Act is the personal guardian of the child, (and) … the Public Guardian and Trustee is the property guardian of the child.”

Wheeler has been trying to get placed into government care since her only guardian, her mother, abandoned her and left the country, but she says she is not getting any response.

“The ministry has been contacted several times by myself, and by staff members at my high school who advocated for me, and yet six months later, they have yet to provide any support,” Wheeler said.

The ministry would not comment on this specific case, but said “generally speaking, young people age 16 to 18 who cannot return to their family for safety reasons may be eligible for out-of-care options through the Ministry of Children and Family Development, such as placement with extended family or Youth Agreements. Typically, in-care options would not be considered unless there is a child protection concern and other alternatives have been exhausted.”

Youth agreements are for people aged 16 to 18 who have no parent or other person willing to take care of them and who cannot return to their family home. They provide about $1,000 a month for rent, food and other expenses.

About five per cent of calls to the Office of the Representative for Children and Youth are inquiries about youth agreements, and most often, the inquiries are made by young people who want to be on a youth agreement, but who are hitting stumbling blocks with the ministry. Fifty-six such calls were received in the first six months of this year. ...

 But because Wheeler is able to temporarily live with her grandparents, she hasn’t been given a youth agreement.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.’s representative for children and youth, said Wheeler’s situation is indicative of a larger trend. “She’s basically been abandoned and the degree of action by the ministry just isn’t adequate,” Turpel-Lafond said. “These young people are not getting youth agreements and they’re being basically foisted off onto relatives — relatives who I am sure love them and want to support them, but they are in very senior years and they are in no condition to do this type of thing.”

Wheeler said she had no choice but to live with her grandparents, with whom she has a tenuous relationship. “I really had nowhere else to go,” Wheeler said. “They can’t really afford another mouth to feed. My grandparents have recently asked me to find a new place to stay, and I have no other family, friends or any other type of support out there that would be able to help me.”

Since she moved in with her grandparents, Wheeler says, contact with the social worker has been sporadic at best. ...

“I’m concerned that we’re washing our hands of these young people that need support. The only wedge is my office waging a campaign with them — I’m fine to do it, but that’s not a youth policy,” Turpel-Lafond said. “We’ve got to be smart with this — it is a smart investment and our really lowball youth programs in this province, where we really haven’t funded it or done the active work, will catch up with us.”

Although ministry information on the extended family program shows that extended family can receive $625 per month per child older than 12, Wheeler said her grandparents have never received any financial support from the government, even when at other times they had looked after all three children.

“As soon as money is brought up, it is hard to get a phone call back,” Wheeler said. ...

Earlier this year, The Vancouver Sun reported on a similar case in which a girl aged 17 wanted to be taken into government care, but her mother refused to give up custody. The girl was a straight-A student who said her home life was chaotic and unsafe. She was living in a shelter, terrified she might end up on the street. But her teachers and Vancouver Sun readers stepped up to get her housed, form a trust fund, buy a prom dress and help her find a summer job.

Also earlier this year, The Vancouver Sun wrote a series of stories called From Care to Where, about the plight of foster children who turn 19 and abruptly lose all government support. The series was triggered by the decision of two universities to waive tuition for former foster children, a move that has since spread to at least five post-secondary institutions in B.C. But if young people are not taken into care, they won’t be eligible for these or other support programs, making it even harder to reach their goals. ...

All Wheeler wants is to follow her carefully laid plans and start her university education in September. But so far, she says, she is getting no help from the government.

“Ever since I came to my grandparents, (the ministry) has not called or checked to see if I am all right, they have not offered support and they rarely return phone calls. So I’m reaching out for help. I am desperate,” she said. “All I want is to be able to go to school next year and move on with my life but it is now mid-July and without any support, I fear that I will not only not be able to go to university but also, that I will end up on the streets again.”



alan smithee alan smithee's picture

I must point out that the BC Liberals have nothing to do with the federal Liberals.

They are a right wing conservative party that is essentially an arm of the CPC.


alan smithee wrote:

I must point out that the BC Liberals have nothing to do with the federal Liberals.

They are a right wing conservative party that is essentially an arm of the CPC.

ETA: Federal Liberals only celebrate provincial Liberals when they win elections, eh!

Furthermore, you only addressed the political ramifications of the issue, not the actual social impact of the issue on people, a very common approach among our Liberal posters. 


alan smithee wrote:

I must point out that the BC Liberals have nothing to do with the federal Liberals.

They are a right wing conservative party that is essentially an arm of the CPC.

Nice try, Alan. However, the ties between the federal and provincial Liberals run long and, even today, deep. In fact, while the provincial Liberals ended their formal affiiation with the federal Liberals in 1987, both Christy Clark and Justin Trudeau have strong philosophical and family ties to the other branch of the Liberal family. This gives us some idea of where the so-called "progressive" federal Liberals are going. "Since the mid-1970s, most federal Liberals in BC had chosen to support the British Columbia Social Credit party at the provincial level".   Nowadays "Polls often show BC Liberal voters to be fairly evenly split between British Columbians who vote Conservative and Liberal in federal elections. The party is commonly described as a 'free enterprise coalition' ". (

Premier Christy Clark comes from a Liberal family. Her father ran three times for the provincial Liberals in the 1960s while it was still affiliated with the federal Liberals. Her sister was a top Paul Martin fundraiser, and her ex-husband, Mark Marissen, was national youth director of the federal Liberals, Jean Chretien organizer, and campaign manager of both Paul Martin and Stephane Dion's federal Liberal leadership campaigns. He was questioned by the RCMP during the 2003 investigation into the provincial Liberal government sale of BC Rail while Christy Clark was in cabinet, was described this year as a senior strategist for the Liberal Party of Canada by the CBC ( During the recent federal leadership campaign, Marrisen was part of lawyer George Takach's campaign team. Takach withdrew to support Justin Trudeau's leadership bid. He George has announced that he will be seeking the Liberal nomination in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding for 2015 (

Clark has faced conflict of interest accusations (because she shares custody of their child with Marrisen)  over her ex-husband's new job as vice president of the one of the corporations attempting to compete for a LNG plant approval and had to recuse herself from the process.  (

The father of Justin Trudeau's mother was Jim Sinclair, a businessman and right-wing BC federal Liberal while the provincial Liberals were still affiliated with the federal Liberals, who was elected MP five times. Historically, the prairie (such as Saskatchewan's Thatcher Liberal government of the 1960s) and BC Liberals at both the federal and provincial levels have been pretty right-wing, promoting natural resource exploitation, free trade, business-oreinted policies, and limited social policies. Sounds a lot like Justin Trudeau has inherited a significant part of his maternal grandfather's heritage. 

Another canddate for the federal Liberal leadership was Joyce Murray, former BC Liberal MLA for New Westminster (my riding and historically working class riding shifting toward middle class that was NDP for 48 years previously but went Liberal in the NDP 2001 wipeout election)  and Minister of Water, Land and Air Protection. She fully supported Campbell's (another BC Liberal with strong federal Liberal connections - see below) restraint program despite extremely loud protests within her riding over the closing of St Mary's hospital, contributing to her defeat in the next election: "The majority of those in New West want St. Mary’s saved and want a politicians who is a representative of their views…. Unfortunately they have a Liberal lapdog who just says the obvious like a poorly written television character." ( She reemerged in the wealthy federal riding of Quadra, where Liberal support is much stronger (why is also discussed subsequently).

BC had no party system until 1903. However, since 1916, the provincial Liberals have been in power alone, in formal coalitions with the Conservatives, or informal coalitions as party of the right-wing Social Credit party, with the exception of the 1928-1933 period when a majority Conserative government ruled. When the NDP did extemely well in the 1941 election, the Liberals formed a coalition with the Conservatives so that a right-wing free enterprise coalition could stop the CCF "socialist hordes at the gate" from taking power and continued to rule until it lost the 1952 election to the right-wing Social Credit. They continued to rule with the typical Liberal refrain of 'run to the left and rule to the right', which meant the Conservatives were quite willing to go along with this as this meant they stayed in power and followed right wing policies they could easily support.

In fact, as WAC Bennett biographer and provincial Liberal MLA David Mitchell documents in his biography of the Social Credit Premier, W.A.C. Bennett and the rise of British Columbia, WAC Bennett who was previously a Conservative MLA in the Liberal-Conservative Coalition, only made it to power because of the federal Liberals. The Conservatives, as sometimes happens in messy divorces were extremely bitter over Bennett's abandoning of their party, and agreed to support a minority NDP government following the 1952 election. The federal Liberal St. Laurent government, alarmed at the thought of the socialist hordes breaking through the gates, sent word to the Liberal-appointed BC lieutenant governor to quickly swear in a Social Credit government to prevent this. Many Liberals soon joined Social Credit, quite happy to maintain right wing policies if they could stay in power. In education, for example, BC was the last province to establish a community college system even with its history of low postsecondary education rates and only did so when the federal money for establishing such a system was on the verge of running out. 

When the NDP won the 1972 election, four of the five rump Liberal party MLAs, quickly joined Social Credit, reinvigorating it and bringing it back to power in 1975 with the four Liberal MLAs all occupying major cabinet positions. As Social Credit Minister of Education, Pat McGeer, former Liberal leader, quickly established funding for private schools and religious schools, helping to lead to a decreasing enrolment in the public school system and subsidizing the private education of the province's elite. The Liberals in the new informal coalition went along with the first major restraint program in the 1983, while still affiliated with the federal Liberal government. 

How right-wing were the Liberals? Education provides a good example of their policy approach. 

BC was historically viewed by BC governments since Confederation as a beautiful province with a mild climate and a high wage scale that attracted people from other provinces and other countries. Since they came here as adults and with many of them having already obtained their education, these governments felt that they didn't need to train our own BCers and could therefore save tax dollars for the wealthy. Because there were many jobs that had very high pay levels in mining, forestry, and fishing (in the 1970s fishermen could make as much as $50,000 in two weeks of fishing for herring roe), there was very little pressure for funding postsecondary or even secondary education. The provincial Liberals in whether in power alone or formal or informal coalition followed this approach.

The UBC campus only came inot existence in 1925 (decades after the much more sparsely populated provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan had established universitiy campuses) after students staged an enormous march, thereby embarrassing the provincial Liberal government into fulfulling a provincial government decades old promise. It of course was set up in the wealthiest neighbourhood of Vancouver to make it as easy and cheap as possible for the wealthy to attend university.  

Only one university (UBC) existed in the province until 1965 (somethig not found anywhere else in the country) during the rule of Liberals alone or in formal or informal coalitons, as this meant they saved money. But the Liberals had a university in the best location fort the wealthy and saved tax dollars by not building more. The one trades school in the province was built in the working class eastside of the city, not an accident, of course. Tradespeople were brought from Europe after the Second World War so the Liberals once again saved tax dollars for the wealthy. As a result most professionals and tradespeople of any type were from other provinces or countries. Even in the early 1990s, 95% of MBAs, for example, were trained elsewhere. There were no postsecondary schools outside the Lower Mainland and Victoria until the 1970s, making it harder for Interior residents, including many First Nations, to attend postsecondary institutions. The sense of alienation that this and other Liberal west-side Vancouver oriented policies generated was what fueled the Social Credit victory in 1952. Social Credit at least built a strong highway system in the Interior that served business but also residents interests, whereas roads were previously terrible thanks to Liberal inaction. It is thus not an accident that the strongest Liberal support, whether federal and provincial, was and is the wealthy westside of Vancouver. 

The 1970s Barrett NDP government greatly expanded secondary and postsecondary education. All the earlier BC governments since 1916 were Liberals, or Social Credit or coalitions of these parties with Conservatives thrown in. 

What this historic underfunding has meant is that BC born  (I'm not one of them which is a major part of why I was able to get a postsecondary education) became second-class citizens in their own province. The professions and trades have historically been dominated by people from other provinces and countries. It was only when the high paying jobs associated with the forestry, mining, and fishing jobs disappeared because of the 1980s recession, overfishing, and overcutting in the forests (followed later by the destruction of much of the forests by the pine beetle due to global warming) that the old model of bringing the educated from elsewhere was seen to be no longer working. Even with that history the current Liberal government has closed over 100 elementary and secondary schools during the last decade, while increasing funding to private and religious schools as it also continues to trim postsecondary education funding.

When elected in 2001, 


Campbell, who had been Vancouver Mayor and Liberal MP Art Phillips "friend, protege and executive assistant", introduced a 25% cut in all provincial income taxes (after promising to do it during the election for the two lowest income tax brackets) on the first day he was installed to office. To improve BC's investment climate, the BC Liberals also reduced the corporate income tax and abolished the corporate capital tax for most businesses (a tax on investment and employment that had been introduced by the New Democrats).

Campbell's first term was also noted for fiscal austerity, including reductions in welfare rolls and some social servicesderegulation, the sale of some government assets (in particular the "Fast ferries" built by the previous government, which were sold off for a fraction of their price). Campbell also initiated the privatization of BC Rail, which the Liberals had promised not to sell in order to win northern ridings which had rejected the party in 1996 but reversed this promise after election, with criminal investigations connected with the bidding process resulting in the BC Legislature Raids of 2003 and the ensuing and still-pending court case. There were several significant labour disputes, some of which were settled through government legislation but which included confrontations with the province's doctors. Campbell also downsized the civil service, with staff cutbacks of more than fifty percent in some government departments. ...

After the 2009 election, the introduction of the HST was announced, contrary to promises made during the election campaign, (leading to his downfall). ...

Under Clark the party charted a more centrist outlook while continuing its recent tradition of being a coalition of federal Liberal and federal Conservative supporters.