P.E.I. MLAs pass bill to create independent child advocate

After several years of advocacy efforts, there will soon be an independent child and youth advocate on P.E.I.

Child and Youth Advocate Act passed second and third readings Wednesday

P.E.I.'s MLAs unanimously passed a bill that will create an independent child and youth advocate for the province. (Legislative Assemble of P.E.I. )

After several years of advocacy efforts, there will soon be an independent child and youth advocate on P.E.I.

The Child and Youth Advocate Act, which will create the independent advocate position, passed second and third readings unanimously on Wednesday.

Cabinet will now decide when the bill becomes law. 

Following the provincial election earlier this year, Premier Dennis King said the implementation of an independent child and youth advocate was a priority of all three parties.

"I believe what is presented here is a great example of collaboration," King said Wednesday. 

Former minister congratulates government 

Discussions around the need for a child advocate have been ongoing on P.E.I. for several years. The initial recommendation came from the jury at the inquest into the 2013 murder-suicide of four-year-old Nash Campbell and his mother Patricia Hennessey. 

The previous Liberal government, under Wade MacLauchlan, resisted calls for an independent child advocate, eventually creating a position that was part of government, in early 2019. 

Liberal MLA Heath MacDonald congratulated the PCs on introducing an independent child and youth advocate, and said it is something the former Liberal government should have done. (Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. )

The new independent advocate will be chosen by the legislative assembly. 

In the legislature Wednesday, former Liberal cabinet minister Heath MacDonald offered congratulations to the PCs.

"Our past government accomplished a lot, but the introduction of a child advocate is one action item that we could have, and should have acted on and implemented," said MacDonald. "It simply should have been done, and it wasn't. And this government deserves our support on their decision to bring this in." 

'Where we need to be'

Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, along with Health Minister James Aylward, advocated for an independent child advocate during the previous administration.

"We would always say, 'P.E.I. is the only province in Canada without a child and youth advocate,' and it will be lovely not to have to say that ever again," said Bevan-Baker. 

The Ontario government closed its child and youth advocate office earlier this year — meaning that province will soon be the only one without an independent advocate. 

After several years of pushing for the position on P.E.I., Aylward said the province is "finally where we need to be."   

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With files from Kerry Campbell