Public hearings on looking into how youth protection services operate across Quebec are set to begin Oct. 22.
A commission on the rights of children and youth protection will hear from dozens of witnesses during the course of about 15 weeks. Adolescents, parents, employees of youth protection services and others are invited to appear.
The people who are heading up the commission admit there are problems within the province’s youth protection system — especially in the regions where there is often a lack of workers and a lack of funding.
“The financing is not the same, the working environment is not the same so we need to see what happens everywhere in the Quebec,” Michel Rivard, one of the commission’s vice-presidents, told reporters from the Montreal headquarters where most of the hearings will be held.
The mandate of the commission is to identify problems and offer recommendations to the government.
The commission was created in the months following the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby who was found in critical condition in her family home on April 29. She died the next day.
The stepmother has since been charged with second-degree murder. The girl’s father has been charged with criminal negligence causing death as well as unlawful confinement, failing to provide the necessities of life and child abandonment.
The girl was being followed by youth protection services in Granby at the time of her death. An internal probe by the regional health authority in the Eastern Townships found the youth protection system as a whole was to blame for lapses in her case.
Rivard says while the mandate is to shed light on the entire youth protection system — he can’t guarantee similar tragedies won’t happen again.
“We’re going to try to have some solutions to avoid those situations but I don’t have crystal balls,” Rivard said.
In Quebec, about two per cent of the children under the age of 18 are under some sort of youth protection services, he added.
Adolescents are among the first who will be invited to appear before the commission when it begins next month.
“Some of them are now adults but they will talk to us about their experience as early child or as adolescent,” André Lebon, vice-president of the commission, told reporters.
Whether the entire system needs to be overhauled is a question that will be left to the commission’s president and two-vice presidents but how the services operate will be put under a microscope.
The commissioners have until Nov. 30, 2020 to make their recommendations.
— With files from The Canadian Press