Montreal

Quebec launches sweeping commission on child protection after death of Granby girl

The Quebec government is launching a commission on child protection, following the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby, whose case was known by social workers for years.

Commission already facing criticism for lack of Indigenous representation

Régine Laurent, the former president of Quebec's largest nurses union, FIQ, will head the province's commission on child protection, following the death of a 7-year-old girl from Granby. (Graham Hughes/CP)

Premier François Legault formally launched Thursday a commission on child protection, following the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby, whose case was known by social workers for years. 

"It's not the first time in Quebec the system that's supposed to protect children abandoned one of them," Legault told a news conference in Quebec city. 

Régine Laurent, the former president of Quebec's largest nurses union, FIQ, will head the special commission.

Laurent said at the launch that she, like all Quebecers, was moved by the death of the girl in Granby.

"For sure I felt sadness and anger, but also shame. I'm ashamed that this could happen in Quebec in 2019," Laurent said.

The commission will examine every aspect of youth protection in Quebec. It will travel the province and interview various stakeholders. 

It includes Laurent, six other experts, and one MNA from each of the four parties in the National Assembly.

The goal is to come up with  recommendations by November 2020 on how to improve youth protection services, which advocates say are plagued by long wait lists and understaffing. 

Girl's death was catalyst

In the wake of the girl's death in late April, several investigations were announced — by provincial police, by the local health authority, and another by the province's human and youth rights commission.

The provincial government also ordered a coroner's inquest. 

Local police had found the girl in critical condition at her father's home in Granby, 80 kilometres east of Montreal. She was taken to hospital where she remained in a coma until she died April 29.

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.

First nations decry lack of representation

The commission is already facing criticism. Indigenous leaders have pointed to a lack of Indigenous representation.

The regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations for Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard, says Indigenous youth are over-represented in the province's youth protection system, yet there is a lack of representation on the commission set to examine it. (Cathy Senay/CBC)

The chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador Ghislain Picard says First Nations youth are over-represented in foster care.

Picard says the commission should have an Indigenous representative as one of its co-chairs.

"We've seen very little progress and we feel this is an opportunity to address these issues and change the system," Picard said in an interview on CBC Montreal's Daybreak Thursday. 

But the Quebec government says the commission must remain independent in choosing its members. 

"First Nations have realities that are unique to them. It will be taken into account," said junior health minister Lionel Carmant in a statement. "However, the commission will be independent and will have to make their own choices in regards to the experts to be selected as commissioners."

With files from Radio-Canada

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