A Quality of Mercy

“The quality of mercy is not strain’d, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. It is twice bless’d: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes….”

The old quote from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice is one of the master poet’s best known – and least respected. And never more so than when we publicly discuss the quality of the care we provide for the neglected children among us; children so often dismissed these days with the demeaning word “kids”

On December 14 when Bob Plecas released the first chapter of his report on a child welfare case gone sadly wrong, he suggested the constant critical battering of front line social workers was seriously affecting morale. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the government appointed “watch dog” and protector of families and children in care, took exception.

Plecas recommended her “oversight” role be phased out and end once the Ministry Of Children and Family Development is capable of carrying out these functions and the representative’s role should become one focused on advocacy.” Turpel-Lafond, described by Time-Colonist columnist Les Leyne as “a sharp-tongued, fire breathing watchdog who regularly rains hell fire down on the ministry”, responded that Plecas was trying to make out she was “the villain because I make too many recommendations” and that, she is quoted as saying, “is borderline comical.”

Could it be that Turpel-Lafond believes her scathing criticisms over the past few years had no affect on the front line social workers? Could it be that she didn’t realize while appealing for justice for her children and families, she was unaware the incessant volume of her recommendations was creating what Plecas described as a “persistent tension which permeates everything……(and) despite everyone’s best intentions, the constant (flow) of recommendations have become part of the bigger management problem?”

Time I think to consider the possibility that the lady doth protest too much – or maybe just too harshly. Her sharp words may register at the political level, but surely the collateral damage caused among those who handle the “ministry of misery” caseloads should be a factor to consider.

As Shakespeare said: “Though justice be thy plea, consider this, that in the course of justice, none of us should see salvation. We do pray for mercy and that same prayer, does teach us all to render the deeds of mercy.”



  1. One would have expected nothing different from Plecus he is a life time civil servant and and would want to protect others like him. As I remember he made enough mistakes in his time’

  2. Pleas also identified serious understaffing and insufficient funding, I believe. This may be why the workers have low morale.

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