A commission looking into youth protection services in Quebec has begun nearly six months after a girl in the care of the system died in troubling circumstances.
“We have failed as a society,” said Régine Laurent, a nurse and former labour leader who is heading the commission. “To be here today is a failure.”
As part of its probe into the rights of children and youth protection in Quebec, there will be public hearings over the course of nearly 15 weeks. Adolescents, parents and employees of youth protection services have been invited to appear.
The review was prompted by the tragic death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby. She was found in critical condition in her family home on April 29 and died the next day.
Her death sparked an uproar and questions about Quebec’s youth protection department. An internal probe by the regional health authority found her case had fallen through the cracks and that the system as a whole had failed her.
The girl’s stepmother has since been charged with second-degree murder. Her father has been charged with criminal negligence causing death as well as unlawful confinement, failure to provide the necessities of life and child abandonment. Their cases are currently before the courts.
In her opening statements, Laurent invited those in attendance to keep the girl in their thoughts as the hearings take place.
“It’s sad to be forced to be here today,” said Laurent.
The review will specifically look at the funding and organization of Quebec’s youth protection department. It will also probe the system’s ability to provide timely and responsive services to children and families across the province.
The commission will first hear from young adults who were in the system as children. While some hearings during the review will be public, others will be held behind closed doors.
In addition to Laurent, the commission includes two vice-chairmen, five outside experts and one lawmaker from each of Quebec’s four main political parties. The commissioners have until Nov. 30, 2020, to make their recommendations.
— With files from Global News’ Tim Sargeant and the Canadian Press