B.C. domestic violence strategy lacks money, goals, advocate says

B.C.’s new domestic violence strategy is a “shell of a plan” without sufficient money, detail or clear goals, says the province’s watchdog for children and youth.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond told a legislative committee Wednesday that she was encouraged to see the government finally unveil a plan after repeated delays.

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But she expressed concern that the government committed only $5.5 million over three years to the strategy and that the money doesn’t begin to flow until 2015.

“Besides being short on funding to address this critical need, the plan is short on detail,” she said.

“The plan does not have clear outcomes or concrete time frames or measurements at this point.”

Turpel-Lafond has been calling for a strategy since her 2009 report on the murder of Christian Lee in Oak Bay.

The six-year-old boy was stabbed to death by his father, Peter Lee. Lee also killed his wife, Sunny Park, and her parents before taking his own life in September 2007.

Turpel-Lafond repeated the call in March 2012 in a report on the deaths of 10-year-old Kaitlynne Schoenborn and her brothers Max, 8, and Cordon, 5. The three children died at the hands of their mentally ill father, Allan Schoenborn, in Merritt in April 2008.

Turpel-Lafond concluded that the deaths of all four children could have been prevented if police, justice, child welfare and other government agencies had worked together effectively.

Turpel-Lafond said Wednesday that B.C.’s plan “doesn’t measure up” to those already in place in Alberta and Ontario. For instance, she said, B.C. is still just considering the idea of setting up domestic violence courts, which have been in place for years in other jurisdictions.

“It isn’t, in my opinion, much of a plan at this point,” she said. “It’s a bit of an empty shell. That’s a disappointment after the Schoenborn report and the Christian Lee report.”

Stephanie Cadieux, the minister of children and family development, said the plan reflects extensive discussions with people and agencies that provide services to victims of domestic violence.

“It’s a three-year plan to enhance services where there are gaps, and has been very well received by the community,” she said.

She acknowledged that $5.5 million is a “modest” amount of money. “But it is a significant investment in this area,” she said. “During this economic climate, we’re quite satisfied that it will make a big impact.”

NDP critic Maurine Karagianis said the Liberal government promised repeatedly to act on Turpel-Lafond’s reports.

“But no money and no real action until 2015 means that nothing’s happened,” she said. “Meanwhile, families are at risk. So I think that the government is taking a poor, slow, Band-Aid approach to this.”

The government says that, of the $5.5 million for the plan, $2 million will go to programs for aboriginal people affected by domestic violence, $1 million will help set up more specialized domestic violence units, $1.5 million will be used to support women and children in rural and remote communities, and $1 million will provide support to offenders to help change their behaviour and attitudes.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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