Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond accuses B.C. government of breach of contract

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      The province's former advocate for children and youth has launched legal action against the provincial government.

      Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond alleges breach of contract, five months after her term ended.

      The former Saskatchewan provincial court judge claims that the province gave an oral promise to pay her 18 months of pension credits for every year of service.

      Turpel-Lafond maintains that this pledge has not been honoured.

      She was an officer of the legislature for 10 years. During this tenure she repeatedly issued damning reports about the government's treatment of children and teenagers in its care.

      In her lawsuit, she alleges that the government has "animosity" toward her.

      Turpel-Lafond claims that Children and Family Development Minister Stephanie Cadieux did not meet with her during Turpel-Lafond's final year in office. 

      None of the former advocate's legal claims have been proven in court.

      Plecas report is a backdrop to lawsuit

      Turpel-Lafond's lawsuit raises an intriguing question: will this case result in politicians having to testify under oath about child welfare policies?

      Nearly a year ago, Turpel-Lafond wrote an 84-page report outlining grave concerns about a previous report by government consultant Bob Plecas.

      He called for an end to independent oversight of child welfare through Turpel-Lafond's office.

      The Plecas report recommended that this authority should instead be transferred to the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

      Turpel-Lafond's follow-up report noted that to her knowledge, "Aboriginal groups, stakeholders, my Office and other communities of interest that could provide valuable information were not consulted or interviewed during the development of the report."

      "It is almost unheard of for any contemporary review not to include the involvement of a wide range of people," Turpel-Lafond wrote at the time. "Extensive public input is considered the current national and international standard for reviews of this nature, even in circumstances in which there is a short reporting timeframe."

      Her allegation that the government has animosity toward her raises a possibility that the Plecas report could become an issue at trial.

      That's because statements in a notice of civil claim are tested in court, unless conceded by the defendants.

      And on the eve of a provincial election, it's highly unlikely that the province will admit in its statement of defence that the premier, the minister of children and family development, or other senior officials had animosity toward Turpel-Lafond.

      If the allegation of animosity is proven in court, Turpel-Lafond could be eligible for a larger financial award.