Despite asking direct, pointed questions in the House Wednesday, Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons struggled to get any direct answers out of the government on a report it fought to keep secret.
Parsons wanted to know why the government fought in court to block the release of a report done in the case of children who were removed from the care of their parents.
The CBC asked for the 2010 report in a freedom of information request. The government refused to release it, and continued to fight after the information privacy commissioner said portions of the report should be released.
At that point, the CBC went to court, and the government continued to fight against releasing any of the report. Earlier this week, a judge ordered the government to release portions of the document.
“I ask the minister: why were you keeping this report so secret?” Parsons said during question period Wednesday.
Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis provided a response, but did not answer Parsons' question.
“In 2008, there was a report that was sanctioned, invited, ordered and directed by the minister of Child, Youth and Family Services at the time to review a case file,” Davis said. “We review case files on a regular basis. It is a really good way to learn how we have done casework in the past and how we should do it in the future. It helps us reflect on what we have done in the past and it helps us determine new ways to advance and improve the services we provide to children and families throughout Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Parsons tried again: “Why did you make CBC go to Supreme Court? Why did you try to keep it secret for so many years?”
Again, Davis provided a response, saying the government did not keep the report secret, even though it refused to release it in response to an access to information request.
“Contrary to what the member opposite is referring and stating here in this House, the report was not secret. The report that was carried out was well known. I can tell you there is information in that report that must remain confidential,” Davis said. “I will tell this honourable House and I will tell the members opposite, that I will, as the minister of Child, Youth and Family Services, do everything in my power to protect the privacy of children, youth, and families in this province that are involved with Child, Youth and Family Services.”
Parsons tried a different tack, with another question to Davis.
“According to CBC, (the government) set the parameters of the review so narrowly that the family involved was not even interviewed,” he said. “I ask the minister: why did you not want the consultant to hear the family’s side of the story?”
Davis said Parsons needs to know more about the situation involved in the report that the government fought against releasing.
“It is obvious the member opposite is not aware of the circumstances, what unfolded here and what took place,” Davis said. “There was a review conducted that involved how we interact with other agencies, government agencies, and other government departments. This was a very complex case that was handled very well by social workers, front-line workers, and Child, Youth and Family Services — qualified, hard-working social workers in the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services.”