HALIFAX, NS – PC MLA Alfie MacLeod said that two NDP ministers’ failure to answer questions about their handling of the case of an alleged abuser working at a daycare strongly suggests they are trying to cover-up what really happened.
MacLeod and other PC MLAs have asked very specific questions of the Community Services Minister and Justice Minister. Today, in the House of Assembly, both Ministers failed to agree to answer the specific questions put to them about who knew what, when and what they did about it.
“The NDP won’t admit they made a terrible mistake when they didn’t pick up the phone and call the East Preston Daycare to warn them about the risk they may be facing,” said MacLeod. “Instead, the Ministers make excuses and passed the buck. This could all happen again somewhere else because they don’t understand they did something wrong.”
The Minister of Community Services has the responsibility, under the Children and Family Services Act, to protect children, but she failed to contact the daycare.
MacLeod and his PC colleagues have pointed out in the Legislature over the last week that nothing prevented Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse from exercising common sense and informing the daycare’s operators that an alleged abuser was working for them.
Peterson-Rafuse claimed she followed “protocol” but has not provided evidence of what the protocol is.
“There is no protocol for these circumstances, and the Minister needed to act to protect children above all else,” said MacLeod. “She has failed in her duty as a Minister.”
By not answering specific questions, Peterson-Rafuse and the NDP’s Justice Minister raise questions about the level of the government’s concern about harming their chances of defending a lawsuit involving the alleged abuser and his accusers. The allegations in the lawsuits have not been proven in court, but court documents contain particularly serious allegations of sexual abuse.
MacLeod says the Community Services Minister’s scripted answers contain “red herrings” that shouldn’t distract from the facts:
1.The Minister and Department are responsible in law for protecting children under the Children and Family Services Act and investigation in situations where a child might need protection. The police investigate crimes that might have already been committed and it is understood that the police have begun investigating complaints by some of the former residents of the Home for Coloured Children as a result of their own complaints.
2.The daycare might have been warned by a former Director of the Home for Coloured Children 10 years ago, but the board has changed at least six times since then and current parents would have no way of knowing. Besides, the Minister could not have known that when she failed to warn the parents and board, so it would not be an excuse for inaction, and current parents have been reported as being shocked to learn for the first time last summer - from Frank Magazine. The former Director of the Home for Colored Children did not go to the Department with her concerns, just the daycare.
The following are the questions that the PC Caucus has tabled for the Ministers to answer:
From Question Period, April 11, 2012:
COM. SERV. - EAST PRESTON DAY CARE:
ALLEGED PEDOPHILE - DEPT. AWARENESS
HON. CHRISTOPHER D'ENTREMONT « » : Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services, after weeks of silence, finally admitted that she learned on November 15, 2010, that an alleged pedophile worked at the East Preston Day Care, yet she did nothing, nothing, to notify the current board or the parents, and it was left to Frank Magazine - Frank Magazine, Mr. Speaker - to let them know eight months later. Eight months later - that is a complete failure to do her job to protect little children, a sacred duty under the Children and Family Services Act.
She now owes people a full explanation, Mr. Speaker, not just excuses. Did the minister learn the full gravity of the evidence against this alleged pedophile from Justice on November 15th and, if not, when was her department fully apprised of all evidence and allegations against the alleged pedophile?
HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Once again, let's review some of the facts. That fact is that the daycare was aware of the allegations for over 10 years; the fact is that we took immediate action - the very same day we learned of the allegations; the fact is that we contacted the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP; the fact is that we did an internal investigation; the fact is that we checked the Child Abuse Register; the fact is that we followed protocol. And if they can't understand - and it's a real shame that they think that this is something that they want to gain political points on, the emotions of such a serious issue. So shame on them.
MR. D'ENTREMONT « » : Mr. Speaker, in her answer yesterday, and just now, the minister refers to an internal investigation being conducted. Now people just don't do internal investigations unless there is a need to look long and hard at what was done by government itself. So my question is, what precisely was looked at in this internal investigation and did that investigation include interviewing or reviewing material from anyone from the Justice Department?
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, I've answered this question over and over again and if he can't take it in, tell him to sit down and read Hansard.
MR. D'ENTREMONT « » : Mr. Speaker, this is an extremely serious matter and the minister just can't blow it off, and that's exactly what she is trying to do. Justice had to defend lawsuits about the alleged, serious sexual assaults at the Home for Colored Children; they told Community Services.
I am looking for a very short answer from this minister, Mr. Speaker. Were officials in her department briefed about the progress of lawsuits by victims of this alleged pedophile, by officials or lawyers from Justice – yes or no – and was it ever discussed or even considered – yes or no – what the impact of the minister notifying the daycare or taking stronger action might have had on the province's position in the lawsuit?
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, as I've indicated before, we took immediate action. We took the appropriate action. If he can't understand that, that is his problem.
JUSTICE - EAST PRESTON DAY CARE:
ALLEGED PEDOPHILE - MIN. AWARENESS
MR. ALLAN MACMASTER « » : Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Yesterday we learned that on November 15th the Department of Community Services knew that an alleged pedophile was employed as a bus driver for the East Preston Day Care. The Department of Justice was the obvious source for this information. Will the minister tell us what exact date he became aware of the risk to preschoolers at the daycare?
HON. ROSS LANDRY » : Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for that question. I just want to add to my colleague's position on this. The important fact here is that when there are allegations or alleged actions made in our communities, a report is made to the appropriate police agency and in this case it was done. I have all the respect for the police officers in this province, but a common thread that seems to be coming from the Third Party is that they lack confidence in the qualities and skills of our highly professional police officers. That's a bit disturbing.
MR. MACMASTER « » : Mr. Speaker, we would have confidence in this Minister of Justice if he could provide us a date. We have placed great emphasis on this matter here in Question Period because the allegations of past abuse by this individual are very disturbing. If they are true, we are concerned another young person could suffer the same experience. My next question is, what steps did the minister take to protect the children when he knew they were in the presence of the alleged pedophile?
MR. LANDRY « » : Mr. Speaker, I want to assure all Nova Scotians that I, as the Minister of Justice, take any actions that are aggressive or violent against a child, or abuse of any manner - I take that seriously. The Department of Justice acts promptly on all allegations and issues. As my colleague had mentioned, on the date that her office became aware, they took appropriate action by notifying the police and then allowing the process. She did that immediately as reported in the House, and I stand by my colleague's comments.
MR. MACMASTER « » : Mr. Speaker, parents want to know that their children are protected from alleged pedophiles. Who from the Department of Justice met with whom from the Department of Community Services, on the phone, in person or by e-mail and what information was conveyed to protect these children?
MR. LANDRY « » : Mr. Speaker, another part of this whole process is that our judicial process is well respected, highly professional and does an excellent job. Public Prosecution is an independent body to look at all issues such as this that come forward and look for the substance with regard to allegations. Remember, we must respect allegations while at the same time assuring the rights and safety of all children. I take that job seriously and I act on those matters promptly and I have all the confidence in the steps that were taken to this date.
COM. SERV. - EAST PRESTON DAY CARE:
ALLEGED ABUSE - NOTIFICATION
MR. KEITH BAIN « » : Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Community Services.
The Minister of Community Services has refused to take responsibility for her failure to contact the East Preston Day Care when she was notified about an alleged abuser working there. Mr. Speaker, a mother of a pre-schooler at the daycare told reporters on March 3rd that: "The Community Services Department, having heard even an allegation about the presence of a potential abuser, should have acted immediately."
Mr. Speaker, the same mother also said she was disgusted that no action was taken sooner. So my question to the minister is, what excuse does the minister have for this mother? Does she believe the parents of East Preston did not deserve to know?
HON. DENISE PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, as I said before, and I'll repeat again and again, we took immediate action. We were informed on November 15, 2010, we acted the same day and, to me, that's an immediate action and we also followed protocol, which is protocol that existed when that Party was in government, no difference.
MR. BAIN « » : Mr. Speaker, we're still waiting to see that protocol that exists. Krista Dicks, mother of a two-year-old little girl who goes to the East Preston Day Care, told CTV reporters that she feels terrified, disgusted and failed. Another parent told reporters that, "Community Services needs to step up. This is huge. This is unbelievable. These are children." My question is, why didn't the minister do her job? Will the minister tell these parents why she let a man with allegations of pedophilia against him continue to work with these little girls and boys eight months longer than she had to?
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, I'll be very clear. Yesterday I tabled three articles that indicated that the daycare was aware, for well over 10 years, of these allegations. We also followed protocol. Anything dealing with children is very concerning to us. We look after children every day, so we took every step that we should have taken and they were immediate steps. You know, it's a real shame that any political Party would try to gain political points on the emotions of children and parents. All I can say is, shame on them.
MR. BAIN « » : Mr. Speaker, our job is to ask tough questions. The minister's job is to answer them. If she's not up to that job there's a solution for that as well. Nova Scotians have a right to know that this minister did her job to protect vulnerable children. The more the minister tries to deflect, the more it becomes clear she's not up to the job. The Children and Family Services Act states that children are entitled to protection from abuse and neglect. In this case the minister failed to do her job. She did not provide any protection to those children.
When the board of directors at the daycare heard about the allegations from a reporter last June, they held an emergency meeting and fired the person. When the minister heard, she did absolutely nothing to alert the daycare. The only reason the situation went on so long is because of that minister. She let the media do her job. The media did the right thing. My question is - there are no more excuses, the minister needs to admit today that she is wrong, she failed to do the right thing - will the minister finally admit this to these parents?
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, once again I'll be very clear. The fact is when we were notified of the situation we took immediate action. We contacted the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP Major Crime Unit. We did an internal investigation. We checked the Child Abuse Registry. We also know that the daycare did know about the allegations for over 10 years, I have tabled three articles that state that. We took every action. The Act that they are referring to clearly states that if there's a current issue of concern that we can go and follow the process with that. We took the protocol (Interruptions)
MR. SPEAKER « » : Order. Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. Thank you.
The honourable Minister of Community Services has the floor.
MS. PETERSON-RAFUSE: Mr. Speaker, I can't be any more clear in the fact that we followed the protocol that is set out, there is a protocol. This was an historical allegation that is not covered in the Act. The fact is, again, we took immediate action. Thank you.