Alberta opposition reach agreement with NDP on children in care panel

David Swann, Greg Clark, Brian Jean and Ric McIver at a news conference on Dec. 13, 2016. Tom Vernon, Global News

Alberta opposition parties announced Thursday that they’d come to an agreement with the NDP government on the proposed all-party panel to look at the child intervention system.

Opposition members Wildrose MLA Jason Nixon, PC MLA Ric McIver, Alberta Party MLA Greg Clark and Liberal MLA David Swann will be part of the panel.

In a joint statement, the parties said they were happy with the strengthened language about past recommendations and whistle-blower protection.

READ MORE: Some Alberta MLAs reject proposed panel on children in government care 

“We are relieved to see that our serious concerns raised about the scope of this all-party panel were considered and that some significant changes have been made. In particular, there is strengthened language for the panel about past recommendations and prioritizing their implementation,” the statement reads.

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“We have received assurances that protection for front-line workers who wish to appear before the committee will be in place and full legislative whistle-blower protections will be offered.

“Above all else, we are united in ensuring this panel conducts meaningful work to fix our child intervention system.”

On Dec. 13, leaders of the four opposition parties said they would boycott the panel unless Premier Rachel Notley’s government gives it the tools to get at the root of the problem.

They also said the minister in charge, Irfan Sabir, needs to excuse himself from the panel because some recent problems are tied to him.

READ MORE: Rachel Notley defends Alberta human services minister in child-care death

Sabir and Notley announced the panel on Dec. 1 after it was revealed through media reports and the child and youth advocate that there had been little action for two years on the death of a four-year-old girl named Serenity.

The panel is to meet in the coming weeks to devise rules that can be put into law by the spring on strengthening death reviews for children in care. It is also to look at longer-term problems in child welfare and make recommendations later next year on how to fix them.

With files from Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press