Superior Morning

Ontario chief coroner forming youth panel into deaths of young people in care

The province's chief coroner wants to hear from young people in both the child protection and mental health systems for his ongoing review of youth who died in the child welfare system.

Dirk Huyer wants team of 10 young people to inform ongoing 'expert review'

Ontario Chief Coroner Dr. Dirk Huyer wants to form a team of 10 young people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who have experiences in the child welfare and mental health systems for his ongoing panel review. (CBC)

Getting advice from the source. Ontario's chief coroner wants to hear from young people with experience in both child protection and mental health systems for his review on group and foster home safety. 7:45

The province's chief coroner wants to hear from young people in both the child protection and mental health systems to inform his ongoing review of youth who died in the child welfare system.

"It's one of the sources of information that we're providing to the expert panel," Ontario Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer told CBC Thunder Bay's Superior Morning.

"The youth that we're hoping to hear from will ... give us a perspective of their own of what they've experienced ... to help us to understand some of the challenges they face."

He said the "expert review," which was struck in November, 2017, was prompted by the recognition that youth were dying when they were placed in homes or facilities away from their communities while receiving help for their mental health.

"There might not have been a consistent approach to how these areas are regulated, the type of services available," he said. "Were there services that they needed potentially available within those facilities?"

Of the 11 young people whose deaths the panel is reviewing, Huyer said seven are Indigenous, with all seven being from northwestern Ontario.  All 11 were placed in care outside their home communities; in some cases, he said, "hundreds and hundreds of kilometres away."

"We really want to make sure that [the facilities] are best situated to provide the care that the youth need, that's the bottom line," Huyer said.

Finding youth for the panel

Collaboration on how best to find 10 young people to share their experiences for the panel has already begun, Huyer said, with the help of the provincial advocate for children and youth, Irwin Elman.

Huyer said he also reached out to Nishnawbe Aski Nation and Grand Council Treaty Three "to provide youth that can help [the] panel understand things." He said he hopes to have the group formed by the end of February.

"The [expert] panel is beginning to meet in March, so we would like to have information to provide to the panel for their consideration [because] the youth panel is just one of the sources of information," Huyer said.

The full report from the panel review is expected to be released by the end of spring or early summer.