Montreal

Inquiry into Quebec youth protection shows system's 'failure,' chair says

Hearings for an inquiry into Quebec's youth protection system began Tuesday with a moment of silence for the seven-year-old child whose death prompted the province to re-examine how it handles at-risk children. 'This is not the first child we have lost,' said Régine Laurent, in her opening remarks.

Death of 7-year-old girl under DPJ supervision caused outcry across province

Commission chair Régine Laurent said the fact that the inquiry was formed shows that there had been a 'failure' in Quebec's youth-protection system. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Hearings for an inquiry into Quebec's youth protection system began Tuesday with a moment of silence for the seven-year-old child whose death prompted the province to re-examine how it handles at-risk children.

The chair of the commission, Régine Laurent, said she would be referring to the child, whose name cannot be made public because of youth protection laws, as Tililly.

"This is not the first child we have lost," said Laurent, a nurse by training and former president of the province's main nurses union, the Fédération interprofessionnelle de la santé, in her opening remarks.

"Tililly, you could have been my granddaughter.… I could not stand for your death to be anonymous."

On April 29, local police found the girl in critical condition at her father's home in Granby, 80 kilometres east of Montreal.

The child was taken to hospital and remained in a coma until her death a day later.

She had been monitored by the youth protection agency, the Direction de la protection de la jeunesse (DPJ), but nevertheless fell through the cracks.

Former wards of 'the system' weigh in

The first to address the commission were young adults who had been in Quebec's youth protection system. They spoke about the difficulties they experienced, notably how hard it was when support abruptly ended when they turned 18.

"The question of self-esteem, trust in ourselves, is something that affects all young people of the DPJ. We do not have any," Jessica Côté-Guimond told the inquiry.

Kevin Champoux-Duquette suggested that Big Brothers Big Sisters could play a role for youth in the system when they are 17 to 21 years old.

He was taken into the DPJ's care at the age of seven, and he said that as a teenager, he ran away 33 times.

Camille Shaink, a transgender woman who says she was forced to live as her gender assigned at birth and was not provided with any psychological support while in the system. Shaink said that "destruction" would be a more apt word than "protection" in the DPJ's name.

As people across the province grieved the Granby girl's death, the Quebec government pledged to hold an independent inquiry to examine how youth protection services operate in the province.

The inquiry will hold hearings until Dec. 5 and submit its report in November 2020.

Marcelle Partouch Gutierrez tells Sabrina Marandola about her testimony at the inquiry into Quebec's youth protection system and about her time in the child welfare system. 16:40

With files from Radio-Canada and The Canadian Press

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