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Shortcomings ‘at all stages’ led to failure to protect slain Quebec girl: human rights commission

A woman places a stuffed animal in front of the house where lived a 7-year-old girl who was found in critical condition by police on Monday in Granby, Que. on Friday, May 3, 2019. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

There were “breaches at all stages of the clinical and legal process” to protect a seven-year-old girl followed by the youth protection system who died in Granby in spring 2019, according to findings by the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

The investigation by the commission has led to a series of recommendations for the province’s education, health, justice and families ministers. The recommendations, which were released Tuesday, also include suggestions that have been made in the past.

“How many more children will we have to grieve? How many children are we going to allow to be abused, be victims of our tendency to minimize the unacceptable?” said Suzanne Arpin, vice-president of the commission, in a statement.

The case of the slain seven-year-old girl, who had been followed by the province’s youth protection system from birth, sparked investigations and raised questions about the effectiveness of the system. In July 2019, an internal probe by the regional health authority also found cracks in the system failed the child.

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READ MORE: Father, stepmother will head straight to trial in death of slain Granby girl

The girl was found in critical condition in her family home on April 29, 2019, and died the next day. Her father and stepmother have been charged in connection with her death and they waived their rights to preliminary hearings in March. They are facing two lengthy separate trials.

Her death also prompted the creation of the Laurent commission, which is responsible for looking into youth protection services.

In its recommendations Tuesday, the Quebec Human Rights Commission says the minister of health and social services should examine the working conditions of youth protection workers so it can tackle the problem of staff recruitment and retention.

“Children should not be the victims of breakdowns in services and repeated changes in providers,” Alpin said.

READ MORE: Quebec commission on youth protection issues 5 recommendations to strengthen system

It also recommends a mandatory evaluation of the attachment bond formed between youth and guardians be systematically carried out and be included in the province’s Youth Protection Act (YPA) when the maximum placement periods are reached and a change in life is being considered.

The commission also advocates that the child’s point of view must be heard and taken into account. This means the child followed by youth protection would be met regularly and can express themselves freely to the workers responsible for their case.

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The review also recommends Quebec’s minister of higher education create a specific training program in universities relevant to the Youth Protection Act. It also suggests the province review the training programs for early childhood educators so that students learn more about the youth protection system.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission says that it has been shedding light on the flaws within the province’s fragile youth protection system for years and that it is still waiting for some of its previous demands to be implemented.

The commission noted, however, that because of the confidential nature of elements of its investigation, the portions directly concerning the Granby girl’s situation will not be made public.

Quebec Premier François Legault told reporters Tuesday that he will follow up on the commission’s report.

“We will follow the recommendations,” he said.

Lionel Carmant, the province’s junior health minister, said he would ensure the recommendations would be implemented, adding that he was taking the case “very seriously.”

With files from the Canadian Press

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