Toronto

New bill 'Katelynn's Principle' would give children say in their welfare

Eight years after Katelynn Sampson died at the hands of her legal guardians, a bill has been put forward at Queen's Park that would recognize children as individuals with rights and give them a say in the decisions affecting their welfare.

NDP MPP Monique Taylor introduced bill 8 years after girl died at hands of legal guardians

Eight years after the death of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson at the hands of her guardians, an NDP MPP has put forward a bill dubbed "Katelynn's Principle."

Eight years after Katelynn Sampson died at the hands of her legal guardians, a bill has been put forward at Queen's Park that would recognize children as individuals with rights and give them a say in the decisions affecting their welfare.

The bill, dubbed "Katelynn's Principle," was put forward by the NDP's child and youth advocate on Wednesday, a little over week after what would have been Katelynn's 16th birthday.

Sampson was only seven when her body was found on Aug. 3, 2008. 

One of her guardians called 911 claiming the child had choked while eating. Her legal guardian Donna Irving and Irving's boyfriend Warren Johnson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and were sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 15 years.

"Making Katelynn's Principle law will help keep Katelynn's memory alive and will help other children," a statement on behalf of Sampson's mother, Bernice, said Wednesday.

In the statement, Sampson's mother welcomed the private member's bill and expressed hope that it would be passed quickly. In June, Bernice Sampson wrote to Premier Kathleen Wynne urging her to adopt the principle and the recommendations of the jury in the inquest into the little girl's death.

Recommendation was first on jury's list

Earlier this year, that jury made 173 recommendations to the provincial government.  First among them was adopting the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) to recognize children as individuals with rights and to have their views considered in accordance with their age and maturity.

The bill would apply to all children under the care of Ontario's child welfare, youth justice and education systems.

On Wednesday, the lawyer for Bernice Sampson, Suzan Fraser, told CBC News that in Katelynn's case there were instances in which a child welfare worker visited her home, knew the little girl was home and didn't speak to her directly.

"Katelynn wasn't seen or heard," Fraser said, adding the jury learned when it was too late that the seven-year-old was in a position to convey to her caregivers what was happening to her. 

Fraser says the bill would mean welfare workers, police, school and anyone else involved in caring for children would have to put their concerns first and foremost.

In a release, the provincial advocate for children and youth, Irwin Elman, said he hoped the bill would create a "fundamental shift" in Ontario's child welfare system toward a "more child-centred approach."

"This legislation finally delivers on what the office of the chief coroner and provincial advocate for children and youth recommended following the tragic death of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson in 2008," Taylor said.

"This tragedy occurred because the government systems failed to protect Katelynn."

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