Saskatchewan's children's advocate is calling for a review of the circumstances surrounding the freezing deaths of two children on the Yellow Quill aboriginal reserve last month.

Children's advocate Marvin Bernstein told First Nations chiefs in Saskatoon Thursday that he wants to learn more about the adequacy of support services provided by different levels of government at Yellow Quill, which is about 250 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

"What I am saying is that there needs to be some independent systemic review," Bernstein said at a gathering of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations. "How that would take shape, who would conduct it, would it be a partnership, would it be through an inquest process, would it be through a child-death investigation process — we haven't determined that."

On the reserve, 25-year-old Christopher Pauchy is the focus of a criminal investigation. His family has said he had been drinking before he left the house with his two daughters in the middle of the night on Jan. 29. The girls, one-year-old Santana and three-year-old Kaydance, were found frozen to death in a snowy field.

Some people on the reserve have said Yellow Quill has been struggling with substance abuse problems for many years. It has been reported that the home where the children were living didn't have a phone.

"If these had been aboriginal children living off reserve or non-aboriginal children, would the same fate have befallen them?" Bernstein asked.
Federation vice-chief Guy Lonechild said he too supports an independent review.

"For too long, provincial governments have undertaken reviews that have not led to accountability and real solutions back to the general public, and I think this government needs to be held responsible, and other governments across Canada," Lonechild said.

Saskatchewan Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said she would consider such a review.

"We do need to look broad so this situation doesn't happen anywhere else in our province," she said.

At their meeting, the province's First Nations chiefs passed a resolution calling on government to build an addictions treatment centre at Yellow Quill, something the reserve's chief, Robert Whitehead, has been calling for.

The provincial government said last week it will look into the idea.