Human Services Minister Dave Hancock is defending his government’s record in the face of revelations this week that far more children have died while in care than had previously been reported.
Earlier this week it was revealed that 145 children have died in government care since 1999 — yet the province only made 56 of those deaths public.
Until 2011 the government’s policy was to only publicly report deaths of children in care that resulted directly from that care, Hancock told the Calgary Eyeopener on Thursday.
“The rest, the ones that were not reported, were children who died of natural causes or in accidents that were not the result of the system. And so, that was the distinction that was made,” he said.
Nonetheless, the death of any child in government care is reported to the Child and Youth Advocate and investigated by the medical examiner, Hancock said.
“The Child and Youth Advocate has the powers of a public commissioner under the Public Inquiries Act and can determine whether an in-depth inquiry needs to be made in that child’s case,” he said.
The medical examiner also has the authority to send cases to the fatality review board, which can also order public inquiries, he said.
“In each of these cases appropriate people with appropriate authority and appropriate ability are making a decision as to whether any further review is needed,” Hancock said.
The minister said every death of a child in care needs to be learned from.
“If we can do better, if there are things that we need to learn — and there are — then we need to learn them from each circumstance and we need to continually strive to improve the system.”
But the system is functioning well overall, he said.
“I believe we are doing a very good job. And it’s not just government, it’s people, it’s the community, it’s foster care givers, it’s social workers. It’s a whole group of people who’ve dedicated their lives to keeping children safe and providing the best care they can,” Hancock said.
The Wildrose and Liberal parties are calling for a public inquiry .
Hancock is proposing a roundtable discussion about the issue instead.