Montreal

Circumstances surrounding Granby girl's death 'troubling,' François Legault says

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.

Premier says 'all of Quebec wants to know what happened to this little girl'

Stuffed animals and flowers have been left outside the home where the girl lived in Granby. (Charles Contant/CBC)

The Quebec government has ordered a coroner's inquest into the death of a seven-year-old Granby girl, whose situation was being tracked by the province's youth protection services — making it the fourth investigation into the case.

The director of youth protection in the Eastern Townships, Alain Trudel, has also been suspended.

"It's troubling, revolting that people knew (about the girl's situation), including the youth protection office," Premier François Legault said in Quebec City.

"I asked for a public inquiry to be 100 per cent transparent, because all of Quebec wants to know what happened to this little girl and what we could have done to avoid it."

Local police found the girl in critical condition at her father's home in Granby, 80 kilometres east of Montreal,Monday. She was taken to hospital and remained in a coma until she died Tuesday.

The girl's father, 30, has been charged with forcible confinement, and her stepmother, 35, has been charged with forcible confinement and aggravated assault.

CBC News is not naming them or anyone else related to the girl because of a court-ordered publication ban to protect the child's identity.

The couple facing criminal charges appeared in court again Thursday morning. They are not facing any new charges for now, but they remain detained and are expected back in court later this month.

Apart from the continuing criminal investigation by Quebec provincial police, two other investigations are now underway: one by the local health authority and another by the province's human and youth rights commission, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse.

'How can we protect, in a better way, our children?'

Speaking to the reporters at the National Assembly Thursday, Legault said he will also call another inquiry, stemming from the child's death.

"It may be a commission like we had with [Dying with Dignity] because I think it's more than the DPJ," Legault told reporters at the National Assembly Thursday, referring to the French acronym for Quebec's youth protection directorate.

"We've seen decisions [by the] parents that are questionable. We've seen that the school [administration] was aware of the situation. So, how can we protect, in a better way, our children?"

Lionel Carmant, the Quebec minister responsible youth protection, said the child had a long history on involvement with the youth protection system, which had intervened in her case as recently as last month.

He said there is a problem with employee absenteeism in Quebec's youth protection agencies, and that contributes to the problem of long wait lists.

"That's at the heart of the problem that we have to resolve: it's the functioning of the system," Carmant said.

DPJ director's handling of case 'unsatisfactory': minister

Hours before Carmant told reporters of the youth protection system's involvement in the girl's case Wednesday, Trudel said in a separate news conference that he could not confirm youth protection authorities knew the family.

Speaking generally, he said the agency required several levels of verification before removing a child from its biological family.

When asked how Carmant would qualify Trudel's handling of the situation, the minister said, "It was unsatisfactory, I would say."

The girl's grandmother told Radio-Canada Wednesday she had "fought" to get custody of her granddaughter for years. She called for a public inquiry into the functioning of the entire youth protection system.

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault says she is the one who requested the public coroner's inquest into the girl's death, in the hopes of shedding more light onto what happened. (Radio-Canada)

Guilbault said she ordered the coroner's inquest to look at all the ways the system failed the girl.

The coroner's mandate in a public inquest includes determining the probable causes and circumstances surrounding the death, as well as making recommendations, if they're warranted.

"It's that recommendation part that could be of interest," Guilbault said. "It could shed more light on what happened ... both at the youth protection agency, but also, perhaps, on other aspects of child protection in Quebec."

With files from Cathy Senay, Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

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