The Laurent Commission looking into Quebec’s youth protection system will submit its final report five months later than expected, citing “colossal analytical work” and “organizational challenges” linked to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The request to push the deadline to April 30, 2021, for submitting the report and recommendations to the government has been accepted by Lionel Carmant, Quebec’s junior health minister. In a statement, he said that the commission had “however committed to tabling guidelines no later than Nov. 30, 2020.”
Carmant said that this was work of “great importance” and that the commissioners had “all (his) confidence.”
The special commission was sparked by the death of a girl from Granby, Que. She was found in critical condition in her family home in April 2019 and died shortly afterwards, even though she had been the subject of reports to the youth protection department.
The Laurent Commission said Tuesday afternoon that it had asked the government for a five-month delay.
Hearings began in October 2019 and the commission said it heard from 296 witnesses during the process.
The commission held 42 “regional forums” where it heard from more than 2,000 citizens and other stakeholders from across Quebec. Through a dedicated phone line and mailbox, the commissioners also received and processed nearly 1,590 phone calls and emails over a six-month period. There were also 225 briefs filed.
Yet five weeks of public hearings planned for after March 13 had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission says 18 testimonies were given before the commissioners by videoconference and the signed statements of more than 25 witnesses were entered into evidence.
The commissioners continued to deliberate by video conference each week to analyze the evidence and to develop the structure of their report, the commission said in a statement.
However, the commissioners pointed to “unusual circumstances” which led them “to admit that additional time is necessary.”
They also highlighted the “abundant evidence,” the sensitivity of the information collected, and the scope of the mandate in their reasoning to ask for an extension.
“I am aware of the urgency of the situation and of the importance of the issue of the safety of our children currently in Quebec,” said commissioner Régine Laurent in a statement. “This report is awaited and we must make a document impeccable.”
“We are working to ensure that our report is as clear and as pragmatic as possible. Our recommendations include actions and the actions to be taken will be concrete.”