Have your say on proposals to reform the Child, Family and Community Service Act


14 October 2020

By Kevin Zakreski

Today the British Columbia Law Institute published its Child Protection Project Committee’s Consultation Paper on Modernizing the Child, Family and Community Service Act. In this consultation paper the committee is asking for public comment on its proposals to government to reform British Columbia’s main child protection law.

The consultation paper contains 38 tentative recommendations for reform. These tentative recommendations address the following subjects.

  • Definitions and terms. Should terms such as custody and domestic violence that are used in the Child, Family and Community Service Act be replaced with terms used in the Family Law Act? What accommodations are necessary to ensure that new terminology introduced into the Child, Family and Community Service Act respects the special features of child protection law?
  • Disclosure. Should a director be required to disclose reasons for seeking an extension to certain orders? Should the Act’s dedicated provision on disclosure be enhanced to incorporate ideas that have grown up in the case law interpreting this provision?
  • Independent legal advice. Should requirements to advise parties of their right to independent legal advice be expanded to embrace agreements under sections 6–8 of the Act? Should the Act provide that a child (if 12 years of age or older) must be offered independent legal advice whenever the child is served with an application for an order under the Act?
  • Court procedures and orders. Should the court be given a power to dispense with the written requirement for a consent order under section 60? Should a court be able to make a continuing custody order after an application under section 54.01? Should the Act be amended to clarify the effect of an order under section 54.01 on parental rights? Should the Act be amended to incorporate provisions modelled on those in the Family Law Act regarding misuse of court process and orders respecting conduct? Should the Act’s section on when a court may order that a person be made a party to a child protection proceeding be amended to incorporate a provision that expressly addresses making a child (if 12 years of age or older) a party to a child protection proceeding?
  • Selected protection issues. Should the ground for protection relating to emotional harm embrace the risk of future emotional harm? Should a separate ground for protection be developed for family violence? Should the Act require regular reassessments before decisions are made on whether a child remains in protective care? Should the Act adopt new provisions promoting contact between children and their parents, siblings, and other extended-family members?
  • Incorporating children’s views in child protection proceedings. Should the Act be amended to incorporate an enabling provision listing the options available to a court for incorporating a child’s views into a child protection proceeding?
  • Legal representation for children in child protection proceedings. Should the Act be amended to adopt an enabling provision for legal representation for a child in a child protection proceeding?

The deadline for responses is 15 January 2021.

Quotes

“The committee has taken a focused review to the Act and found selected areas in need of improvement,” noted committee co-chair, Corinne Feenie. “The committee is proposing changes to the Act’s definitions, disclosure provisions, provisions for independent legal advice, and selected court procedures and orders. The committee is also proposing new provisions to incorporate children’s views into child protection proceedings and for legal representation for children.”

“The committee hopes to receive a wide range of responses to its consultation paper,” said committee co-chair, Katrina Harry, a member of the Esketemc First Nation. “Due to the overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system, it is particularly important that the committee receives feedback from Indigenous communities, representatives, and agencies, and the committee specifically welcomes and will solicit such input. Public response is important and will be taken into account as the committee forms its final recommendations.”

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