Nova Scotia

New committees to review deaths involving domestic violence, children in care

The Nova Scotia government plans to set up committees to examine how and why children in its care die and the circumstances surrounding deaths related to domestic violence, but both committees will work in secret and there's nothing to compel the province to act on any recommendations.

Child Death Review Committee and Domestic Violence Death Review Committee will be established by province

Justice Minister Mark Furey says investigating and addressing domestic violence is a priority for the Nova Scotia government. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Nova Scotia's justice minister introduced a bill Tuesday to create committees that will delve into the death of children in the care of the province and deaths that can be linked back to domestic violence or abuse.

Mark Furey said these committees are important for two reasons.

"The first is to provide a thorough review of the circumstances surrounding a death, what happened, how and why," Furey told reporters.

"The second is to consider those circumstances more broadly and ask the difficult questions — what could have been done better, and how could we prevent these deaths from happening into the future."

Nova Scotia's chief medical examiner, Dr. Matt Bowes, will chair both the Child Death Review Committee and the Domestic Violence Death Review Committee. Each is charged with investigating individual cases, as well as reviewing and analyzing data to uncover trends.

Bowes expects two or three investigations a year for each committee.

Won't meet in public

Both committees will work in secret and there's nothing to compel the province to act on any recommendations.

That worried NDP justice critic Claudia Chender.

"We are pleased that there is movement being made, but I also think we're concerned that that information may never be made public," she told reporters moments before the minister introduced the bill.

Furey said some information might be released.

"I don't see any reason why we wouldn't make the public aware when a committee is sitting, but it would be limited information," he said.

He called the creation of the committees "an enhanced level of transparency."

PC MLA Kim Masland said although she supported the bill in principle, she was worried by how much of the detail is being left to the minister and his department to craft.

"There is so much of this to be left to regulations, so much that we don't know," she said.

Five other provinces conduct similar reviews.

Furey said investigating and addressing domestic violence is a priority for the government.