Court sides with father required by social workers to supervise his children on transit

Jul 7 2020, 9:35 pm

BC’s Court of Appeal has sided with a Vancouver man who asked for a judicial review when social workers said he was required to supervise his children on public transit.

According to court documents, in 2017, the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) received a report that the man’s four oldest children were riding public transit without adult supervision. The children were 10, nine, eight, and seven at the time.

The court has imposed a publication ban on information that could identify the appellant’s children and for that reason, the man will not be named.

The MCFD social workers determined that any of the children who were age 10 and under should not be unsupervised while riding public transit, and the director “recommended” the man to be present when they took transit.

For his part, the man spent time educating his brood on how to safely use public transit. Notes from social workers included in the decision mention that he did this over two years of “taking the bus with them and slowly stepping back” while also ensuring they had a cell phone on them at all times.

While the danger to the children was assessed to be low, the MCFD said the man “is not meeting the age appropriate needs of his children for supervision.”

“They closed the file on the basis that the appellant agreed to supervise them,” the ruling states.

“[He] disagreed with the social workers and sought judicial review on the basis that the director had no statutory authority to require him to supervise his children.”

On being heard by the courts, the first judge found that the decision by the director needed review but felt that it was “reasonable and correct.” On appeal, however, the man argued that the director had exceeded her authority, and this time, the courts agreed.

The appeal found that this “exercise of a statutory power was not authorized” and thus found it to be “unreasonable.”

“In this case, it appears that the Director assumed that the appellant had agreed to supervise his children on the bus as the social workers had ‘recommended.’ However, the record shows that the appellant’s agreement was only given on an interim, not an ongoing basis,” stated the judge in the ruling from the BC Court of Appeal.

“Despite that, the Director closed the file. Given that the Director did not consider the appellant’s children to be in need of protection and took no further steps, her delegates had no authority to require the appellant to supervise his children on the bus (or elsewhere). It follows that this purported exercise of statutory power was unreasonable.”

Peter SmithPeter Smith

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