10 December 2009

“The overriding and paramount consideration…”

[One of the fundamental changes we have to make, Mr. Speaker, is our legislation. We have to review the legislation; we have to amend it. One thing that is fundamentally flawed with the legislation, Mr. Speaker, is the fact that it does not focus on the best interests of the child.]

Mr. Speaker, the previous government received a report in 1997, and on page 59 of that report it outlined what the focus should be in the legislation. In not one place did it say it should be in the best interests of the child. Do you know what? You took it, you brought it in and now we are left with the problems. [Update:  Paragraph added to give full context to the citation]

That was child, youth and family services minister Joan Burke evidently feeling a bit flustered at having to answer questions in the House of Assembly in her department. 

For some unknown reason, Burke blurted out that claim.

The only problem for Burke is that it isn’t true.

The 1998 Child, Youth and Family Services Act has a clause under a section titled principles.  The clause – number seven – states categorically:

General principles

7. This Act shall be interpreted and administered in accordance with the following principles:

(a) the overriding and paramount consideration in any decision made under this Act shall be the best interests of the child; [Emphasis added]

If there are indeed problems in Burke’s newly minted department it is most definitely not because the 1998 legislation lacked any direction about how the best interests of the child should be factored into departmental decision-making.

Let’s hope that was just a flub under pressure and not symptomatic of Burke’s grasp of her new department’s responsibilities.

How much more wrong can she be? Update:  labradore cites two other sections of the CYFS Act that also mandate the best interest of the child take paramountcy.