EDITOR’S NOTE: This story originally indicated Serenity died while in kinship care. However, on Oct. 6, 2017, Alberta’s Ministry of Children’s Services clarified that although it was through the kinship care program that she was put in the care of the man and woman now facing charges, they were later given permanent guardianship, meaning Serenity was no longer in kinship care. It was at some point after this development that Serenity died.
The grandfather of a four-year-old girl who died under suspicious circumstances in government care in 2014 says police have yet to ask the family about it.
The man, who can’t be identified for privacy reasons, says more than two years after Serenity died, they have yet to hear from police.
“No one has reached out to any member of our family,” the man told reporters at the legislature Wednesday.
The grandfather cannot be identified under privacy rules.
A spokesman for the RCMP could not be immediately reached for comment.
The grandfather also called for Premier Rachel Notley to hold a public inquiry to get to the bottom of what happened to Serenity and to prevent similar deaths of children in care.
“This is unacceptable,” he said. “It’s bureaucratic stupidity at its best.”
Earlier Wednesday, the grandfather and other family members sat in the legislature gallery as opposition Progressive Conservative members demanded Children’s Services Minister Danielle Larivee call an inquiry.
PC member Mike Ellis asked the government why it has taken more than two years to investigate the case, with Serenity’s family being kept in the dark on its progress.
“Everyone is working very hard to ensure we do the best to obtain justice for this little girl,” Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley told the house.
“It is true that the process did not occur as quickly as it should have.
“We will ensure that in future we do a better job of moving forward in a more timely manner, but at this time we cannot prejudice any potential prosecution going forward until the investigation is complete.”
Ellis pressed on, demanding Notley explain to the family in the gallery why her government won’t call the inquiry.
“All Albertans are very, very troubled, and have been, about the horrible circumstances that Serenity suffered,” Notley replied.
“(But) it is absolutely important that the police be allowed to proceed so that the matter can be addressed fully in the justice system.”
Serenity’s case has become a symbol of problems with Alberta’s child-care system.
Serenity was put in care through the government’s kinship care program.
She died in 2014 after being taken to hospital with a head injury. According to the Edmonton Journal, hospital staff noted she had bruises all over her body, including her pubic and genital area. Global News has not been able to independently verify these claims. A report by Alberta’s Child and Youth Advocate also said doctors noted Serenity had bruises at various stages of healing and was “significantly underweight.”
No one has been charged.
There have been delays and secrecy over her autopsy and in police and government investigations.
The case has led to political shakeup. Earlier this year, Notley carved out a separate ministry of Children’s Services and assigned Larivee to run it.
She also struck an-all party panel to examine ways to better protect children in care.