A candlelight vigil was held in downtown Edmonton Monday to remember the Alberta children who died while under government care.
Participants at the rally in Central McDougall Park included people who were in the foster care system themselves.
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“I just want to let those kids know that they're not forgotten,” said one man, who grew up in foster care.
“They're up there, they're watching. They know we're here. They know we care.”
The man — who cannot be named under Alberta law — says he was mistreated.
“I was physically abused, food was withheld,” he said. “A lot of really negative experiences.”
The vigil comes on the eve of the funeral of an eight-year-old girl who died in an Edmonton group home a week ago last Sunday.
The government initially refused to confirm the death, citing privacy legislation — even though the girl could not be named by law.
The next day Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said a death had occurred but he declined to say where or when.
However, Bhullar has signalled he wants more openness in the system, including changes to Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act which prohibits the identification of children who die in government care.
He also released new numbers that revealed the deaths of 741 children between 1999 and 2013 who had some contact with the Alberta child welfare system
Alberta Child and Youth Advocate Del Graff was at the rally, but he wouldn’t discuss what changes may be coming.
“I'm concerned and want to pay my respects to those children who've passed away and the families who are grieving,” he said.
Bhullar has also scheduled a roundtable at the end of January to discuss reforms to the child welfare system.