P.E.I. child advocate keeping eye on inquest into mother-daughter deaths
Marvin Bernstein will determine whether to launch a further investigation
P.E.I.'s child and youth advocate, Marvin Bernstein, says a member of his staff will be attending a coroner's inquest looking into what led to the sudden deaths of a Charlottetown woman and her nine-year-old daughter last summer.
On Wednesday, the province announced a coroner's inquest would be convened into the deaths of Danielle White, 47, and her nine-year-old daughter Olivia Rodd.
Bernstein said that after the five-day inquiry in December, he'll make a decision on whether an independent investigation by his office is necessary.
"I think it's important for the public to realize that these processes aren't mutually exclusive, so one doesn't pre-empt the other," he said.
"The fact that there is an inquest doesn't mean that our involvement comes to an end. At the end of the inquest, we will determine the scope of any investigation that we decide to undertake."
The Office of the Child and Youth has already gathered documents and conducted in-person interviews related to the case, Bernstein said.
"It may be that some of those threads are going to be tied up and addressed by virtue of some of those recommendations. So it could mean in some respects our investigation could be more narrow," he said.
"On the other hand, there may be specific recommendations from the jury that cause us to feel that we need to probe more deeply and drill down and examine some of those aspects."
Mandate includes reviewing, reporting
Under the provincial legislation establishing the advocate's office, as well as speaking up for the rights of children and reviewing legislation that might affect them, the advocate can take part in "reviewing, investigating and reporting on the serious injury or death of a child or youth."
The office can look at the role of child protection services and mental health providers, along with government departments such as Health and Wellness, Justice and Public Safety, Bernstein said.
"We will move into investigation if we determine the manner in which one or more reviewable services may have caused or contributed to the child's death," Bernstein said, with a view to trying to prevent future incidents of a similar nature.
White and her daughter were found dead at their Sherwood duplex in July of 2020.
Charlottetown Police suggested carbon monoxide poisoning may have been the cause.
Police also stated there was a previous mental health call involving the same address, and said an investigation was underway to determine whether it was a case of homicide-suicide.