Quebec government launches investigation into Granby girl's death

The girl's father has been charged with forcible confinement, and her stepmother has been charged with forcible confinement and aggravated assault.

'We are going to make every effort to make sure this doesn’t happen again,' says junior health minister

Lionel Carmant, Quebec's minister in charge of youth protection, said Wednesday the province has ordered an investigation into the death of a seven-year-old Granby girl. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

Quebec's minister in charge of youth protection has asked for an investigation into the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby by the local health authority and the province's Human Rights Commission. 

Lionel Carmant said the child had a file with the province's youth protection system (DPJ) and that the last time it intervened in her case was in April. 

Earlier in the day, Carmant said he's outraged by the circumstances surrounding her death. 

"We are going to make every effort to make sure this doesn't happen again," he said.

Carmant said there are "clearly" cracks in the province's youth protection system.

He said he wants to look into whether waiting lists at the agency that serves the area played a role in what he called a tragic story.

Local police found the girl in critical condition at a home in Granby on Monday. She was taken to hospital, where she was in a coma until she died on Tuesday.

Quebec provincial police have taken over the criminal investigation into the girl's death.

Her father, 30, has been charged with forcible confinement, and her stepmother, 35, has been charged with forcible confinement and aggravated assault.

They are expected back in court Thursday and may face more charges now that the girl has died.

CBC News is not naming the two suspects, nor the seven-year-old victim, for legal reasons.

Grandmother calls for public inquiry

The girl's grandmother — who CBC is not naming either to protect the girl's identity — says she fought for custody of the victim for years. 

A Radio-Canada reporter speaks with the grandmother of the seven-year-old girl who died in Granby. CBC is not naming the grandmother to protect the girl's identity. (Radio-Canada)

"We fought tooth and nail, hours upon hours, we built up a file," she said in an interview with Radio-Canada. "It's been years — since 2015 — that we've been fighting against the DPJ to get her out of there."

The woman says the DPJ told her they wouldn't remove the girl from her father's house because she was already under too much stress, and that it would be an extra strain on her.

Following the girl's death, she wants the government to launch a public inquiry into the entire youth protection system in Quebec. 

"It's more than time for a clean-up at the DPJ. There can be no more cases like this; it can't happen again," she said. 

"I hope she didn't die for nothing."

Police sources told Radio-Canada the girl had knocked on a neighbour's door overnight Sunday before she was found in critical condition by police Monday at around noon.

Don't jump to conclusions, agency says

Alain Trudel, the director of youth protection for the Eastern Townships, which covers Granby, said he is not free to say whether his agency is involved in the case.

The agency's privacy policy prohibits it from divulging any details about individual cases.

There are about 400 cases in the region waiting to be evaluated, he said — a number that should be no more than 40 to 50.

The situation is the same across Quebec, Trudel said. However, he cautioned against pointing to the length of the waiting list or the lack of resources for youth protection workers as possible explanations for the girl's death.

He said removing a child from the family home is a last resort and happens only in circumstances where the child faces a real and imminent danger.

Stuffed animals and flowers have been left outside the home where the girl lived in Granby, Que. (Brigitte Marcoux/Radio-Canada)

The pros of removing the child from the home have to be weighed against the impact it may have on that child, he explained.

Trudel said he would co-operate with an inquest if one is called.

Neighbours are dropping off flowers and stuffed animals outside the home where the girl lived.

Radio-Canada learned that the girl attended a Granby elementary school until she was recently pulled out to be home-schooled.

With files from CBC's Cathy Senay and Radio-Canada's Karine Bastien