Mother of girl who died in government care wants names published

The mother of the eight-year-old who died of a drug overdose while living an Edmonton group home under government care wants the world to know their names.

Eight-year-old died of a drug overdose while living in an Edmonton group home

The mother still cannot be identified under Alberta law, despite changes that were promised earlier this year. (CBC)

The mother of the eight-year-old who died of a drug overdose while in provincial care wants the world to know their names.

“I should be allowed to speak on behalf of my daughter whenever and wherever I please,” she told CBC News. “I want to raise awareness to the City of Edmonton and let the poor parents of this city know what we’re dealing with here.”

The woman's daughter was living in an Edmonton group home when she died in her sleep. An autopsy report concluded her death was a result of a drug overdose, and said medication was not locked in a drug cabinet as it was supposed to be. 

The woman wants her name and face shown and her daughter's name published — but the government won't allow it. 

Currently, the woman cannot be named under Alberta’s Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act. If she names her daughter, she could go to jail and be fined $10,000.

She believes the legislation gives the government a cloak to hide behind.

“We’re supposed to be allowed to have the freedom of speech but oh, not unless we say you can,” she said. “It’s sick.”

Bill 11, contentious legislation

Shortly after it was revealed that far more children died in government care than the province had reported, Manmeet Bhullar, the Minister of Human Services, said the law had to be changed.

“Every single child in care or not in care deserves to be honoured and respected,” Bhullar said at a news conference in January. “The way to honour and respect them is to make sure their story is learned from and told and we make progress and change based on that.”

In March, Bill 11 was passed. It included an amendment to the Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act that would give parents the right to talk about children who died in government care.

However, the contentious part of the bill that would have allowed children to be named was put on hold.

The legislation is now going to an all-party committee. A spokesperson for Human Services says the new regulations could be in place by the fall.

“The language that was proposed wasn’t going to obtain the objective the government claimed it was seeking,” said MLA Rachel Notley.

Calls for a public inquiry

MLA Raj Sherman says the government appears to have two sets of rules — one for Alberta families who are vulnerable, and one for themselves.

“Here we have a tragedy, we have a cover-up for kids dying in government care, and the government brings in a law that’s going to make it even harder for the parents to publish the name of their children,” he said.

“This Conservative government has spent all their time on giving the parents the idea they are doing the right thing, when they are actually doing the opposite.”

Sherman said there needs to be more than just a legislative amendment passed by the government.

“The government is more focused on putting the political crisis aside so they rushed in a law that was ill-conceived,” said Sherman. “What we need is a real public inquiry into the deaths of children in care.”

Whatever it takes

While she waits for the moment she can put her name on the record, the mother is still thinking about her daughter’s death.

“When she passed away, she was 47 pounds, give or take a little. When she was with me, she was 73 give or take a little,” said the mother. “That is disgusting. An eight-year-old child should not be losing that kind of weight in a year.”

Edmonton Police are now treating the case as a suspicious death and have begun an investigation.

The eight-year-old's mother said she will not give up her fight.

“One way or another, whatever I have to do, I will eventually get my face and my daughter's name shown.”

With files from CBC's James Hees.