Redford speaks at roundtable talks about child welfare

Premier Alison Redford sat down with a panel of childcare experts Wednesday morning as part of day two of roundtable discussions about Alberta’s child intervention system.
Journalists and former foster children say a law banning identification must change 2:34

Premier Alison Redford sat down with a panel of childcare experts Wednesday morning as part of day two of roundtable discussions about Alberta’s child intervention system.

The government organized the event in response to outrage over the revelations of a high number of deaths of children while in the province's care.

Many of those deaths were not made public until just weeks ago.

Today, the panel has been discussing a controversial publication ban that prevents the public from knowing the identities of children and youth who died while in government care. 

Representatives for the province say the ban protects the privacy of children but critics say the current system does not serve the public interest.

John Archer, a CBC legislature reporter and president of the legislature press gallery, was part of the expert panel discussing the publication ban. He says secrecy prevents the deaths from getting the type of scrutiny that Albertans expect. 

"The colleagues I represent are resolute on this — disclosure should be the rule, secrecy,  the exception, and in each case when secrecy is believed to be necessary, it must be justified," he told the roundtable.

"Right now the system under which we operate is the exact opposite."

The roundtable also heard from adults who grew up in foster care. 

One young woman named Samantha spoke out against the law which has prohibited her from telling her story. 

"You just can't exist because there's some publication ban saying 'you don't exist. Your story will not be shared. You will be forgotten,'" she said. 

Now a mother, the young woman is now a mother said her baby was almost taken away because the child became allergic to formula. 

"I don't think it's fair, just or right. I also don't think anyone else has the right to decide whether or not my story is shared or her story is shared."

Panel slammed for lack of inclusion

Concerns were raised after day one of the roundtable discussions over the apparent exclusion of several key groups.

NDP human services critic Rachel Notley slammed the roundtable panel Tuesday for failing to include representatives from First Nations communities, front-line care workers and foster families from the discussion.

Liberal leader Raj Sherman also criticized the scope of the discussions, saying more attention should be paid to preventing deaths as well as how to more effectively investigate and disclose information.

Donald Langford is executive director of Metis Child & Family Services Society.

“She expects us to sit on the periphery, and listen to these experts decide what they're going to do with our families, our children and our youth. And we are the people that are in the middle of it and we have not really been given any consideration and this is just another example of the blatant racism that exists within this province.”

Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar said the roundtable is only the beginning of the process and he plans to consult directly with First Nations communities.

Lack of faith in discussions

Marilyn Koren’s granddaughter died in care in 2011. She said she hasn’t been following the roundtable discussions closely, calling them “a complete waste of time.”

"I feel that the roundtable discussions are just to pacify the public, to make it look like they're actually interested and are actually going to be doing something. We don't need a bunch of more dead promises. What we need is action and action now."

The roundtable discussion will wrap up later today.


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