Serenity's Law receives royal assent
Bill 202 requires adults to report suspected child abuse to child welfare or police
Years ago, UCP MLA Mike Ellis made a promise to the mother of a little girl who died of a catastrophic head injury after she was placed in kinship care.
Ellis told Serenity's mother he would get Serenity's Law passed. This week he made good on his promise. His private member's bill received unanimous support from both parties in the legislature and received royal assent Wednesday.
"When the story was first unveiled to the public when I was in opposition...I felt a duty to do something," Ellis told CBC News. "This isn't a solution to the problem, but it's a step in the right direction."
Serenity Law's makes changes to child welfare legislation, prompted by the little girl's story.
Ellis and Premier Jason Kenney both signed a copy of the bill on Wednesday and penned messages to Serenity's mother, who shared a photo of it on social media.
"We hope that this new law named after Serenity will help to keep children safe in the future," Kenney wrote.
The mother, who lives out of province, had someone pick it up for her.
News of her death sparked public outrage and an emergency debate in the legislature. Her death led to the creation of a panel looking into the province's child-intervention system. The provincial government later revamped its system for child intervention, based on recommendations from the panel.
Serenity died at age four in 2014 after she fell from a tire swing at Maskwacis in central Alberta. Her great-aunt and great-uncle had been appointed her legal guardians and were also caring for Serenity's two older siblings at the time.
After years of investigation, the caregivers were charged with one count of failing to provide the necessaries of life. That charge was stayed by the Crown in August, just as the case was about to go to trial.
- Prosecutor stays criminal charge in Serenity case
- Serenity's mother says autopsy report doesn't bring 'clarity'
- 'They just look at us like we're monsters': Serenity's former guardians speak out
Serenity's Law makes two key changes to the existing Child, Youth and Family Enhancement Act.
Previously, adults who knew a child was being abused were supposed to contact a child welfare director in their region. Now the option of reporting it to the police has been added. The previous $2,000 penalty for failure to report has been increased to $10,000 and up to six months in prison.
"Every adult Albertan is now on notice," Ellis told the legislature Tuesday prior to the vote. "No longer will you be able to turn a blind eye to a child who is at risk."
I think everybody put politics aside- UCP MLA Mike Ellis
Ellis noted his private member's bill died under the previous NDP government.
He was grateful for the change of heart across the aisle now that the UCP has formed government.
"I think everybody put politics aside and realized you know what? If we can save even one life, then this is a bill worth having."
Serenity's mother was unavailable for comment. In the past, she has spoken out strongly in favour of Serenity's Law, that she believes would have helped save her daughter's life.