Edmonton

Media has Serenity foster home facts wrong, but minister won't correct record

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee says the media is reporting outdated facts about the number and ages of children living with the former foster parents of Serenity, a little girl whose 2014 death shocked people across the province.

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee says privacy laws limit what she can say

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee says she wants to provide more information but she's restricted by legislation. (CBC)

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee says the media is reporting outdated facts about the number and ages of children living with the former foster parents of Serenity, a little girl whose 2014 death shocked people across the province.

But Larivee told reporters at a news conference Wednesday that privacy laws prohibit her from giving out more up-to-date information.

CBC News first reported this week that six children — two infants, two school-aged children and two teenagers under 18 — are living in the home of Serenity's former foster parents, according to residents on the reserve where the family lives.

An active RCMP investigation continues into the little girl's death in September 2014.

Prior to publishing the stories, CBC asked the government for comment but was told that no one would discuss details of the case. 

On Wednesday, Larivee called a news conference but offered no new details.

"That information is years old at this point," she said. "Not reflective of the current situation. I know it's difficult but the laws around this are pretty difficult to manage."

Serenity was four years old when she died of acute head trauma. She weighed only 18 pounds. Her skull was fractured and her body was covered in lacerations and purple contusions. Her body also showed signs of sexual assault.

Prior to her death, the little girl was living in the home under a foster arrangement known as kinship care.

No evidence of abuse 

Larivee said workers with the designated First Nations agency were in contact with the family Wednesday. She repeated her statement that the well-being of the children who remain in the home is regularly monitored but said privacy legislation prevents her from saying how often.

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

The minister said children cannot be removed from homes simply because a criminal investigation is underway. There must first be evidence of abuse.

"We have been in contact with the family," the minister said. "There has not been any evidence of abuse of a child in that house.

"To reiterate once again that, absolutely, if we had specific evidence of abuse of a child that child would be apprehended."

Earlier in the day, Larivee told opposition MLAs during question period not to spread misinformation with their questions about the case. She promised she would have more to say later in the afternoon.
In a news conference Wednesday, Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee says the media is reporting outdated facts about the Serenity case but says she can't release correct facts. 1:22
 Calgary-Hays MLA Ric McIver, leader of the Progressive Conservatives in the legislature, said he was baffled about why Larivee called a news conference only to deliver so little information.

"Why did the minister not choose to say those very same words in the house that she said here, other to avoid accountability on the official record," he said.

Larivee said her ministry's legal team is trying to determine what information can be released under the law. She said she wants to share more information and understands why the media and public are frustrated.

With files from the CBC's Wallis Snowdon