Experts named to review panel prompted by Serenity's death

Patti Laboucane-Benson, Peter Choate, and Bruce MacLaurin, will join government and opposition MLAs on the panel to examine Alberta's child death review system.

All members, including the chair, to be released later Wednesday

Serenity was four years old when she died of severe head trauma in an Edmonton hospital in September 2014. (Supplied)

The Alberta government has named the members of a new panel to examine internal problems in the child welfare system.

Three experts will join opposition and government MLAs: Patti Laboucane-Benson, director of research and evaluation at Native Counselling Services of Alberta; Peter Choate, assistant professor of social work at Mount Royal University; and Bruce MacLaurin,a professor of social work at the  University of Calgary,

The panel includes representatives from all parties in the legislature, and experts on child intervention and Indigenous issues: 

  • Chair: Debbie Jabbour, MLA for Peace River
  • Maria Fitzpatrick, MLA for Lethbridge-East
  • Nicole Goehring, MLA for Edmonton-Castle Downs
  • Graham Sucha, MLA for Calgary-Shaw
  • Heather Sweet, MLA for Edmonton-Manning
  • Cameron Westhead, MLA for Banff-Cochrane
  • Jason Nixon, Wildrose caucus, MLA for Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre
  • Ric McIver, interim leader, Progressive Conservative caucus, MLA for Calgary-Hays
  • Dr. David Swann, leader, Alberta Liberal caucus, MLA for Calgary-Mountain View
  • Greg Clark, leader, Alberta Party caucus,  MLA for Calgary-Elbow
  • Dr. Peter Choate, MSW, PhD, Mount Royal University
  • Dr. Patti LaBoucane-Benson, PhD, Native Counselling Services of Alberta
  • Dr. Bruce MacLaurin, MSW, PhD, University of Calgary
  • Irfan Sabir, minister of Human Services and MLA for Calgary-McCall, will sit as an ex-officio member on the panel.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place Feb. 1 at Government House in Edmonton. 

NDP MLAs Sweet and Goehring are social workers by profession. Fitzpatrick worked in corrections for 30 years. Wildrose MLA Nixon is the party's Human Services critic.

The committee was announced Dec.1 after intense pressure mounted on the government over the death of Serenity, a four-year-old girl who died while in kinship care in September 2014. 

Serenity was emaciated and badly bruised when she died from a brain injury in September 2014. Medical records documented trauma to her genitals. 

In an unprecedented show of unity, opposition parties called for the resignation of Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir after it was revealed the government didn't give the RCMP an internal report into her case until the first week of December. 

The government's response to the crisis was to announce the formation of a panel to examine internal systems and suggest where improvements can be made.

Laboucane-Benson, Choate and MacLaurin have extensive backgrounds in child welfare and Indigenous issues. 

LaBoucane-Benson has a PhD in Human Ecology focusing on the resilience of Aboriginal families. She has investigated or co-investigated a number of research projects within the Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. She also led the development and implementation of a healing program curriculum for Aboriginal offenders for Native Counselling Services of Alberta. She is the author of The Outside Circle, a graphic novel about two Indigenous brothers who try to overcome historic trauma is different ways. 

Choate has a PhD in addictions and Master of Social Work. He has been a counsellor in clinical practice where he specializes in domestic violence and child protection issues. Choate has also been qualified as an expert witness for court cases in provinicial court and Court of Queen's Bench. 

MacLaurin has done extensive research on child welfare policies, and foster care. He is currently the lead investigator of a three-year study for the Alberta Centre for Child Family and Community Research looking at service outcomes for children and youth in the care system.