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Public inquiry needed to investigate deaths of children in care

By: Rob Anderson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Dec 05, 2013 10:58 am

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‘Children First’ - you hear this phrase thrown around a lot by politicians of every stripe. That’s why the last week at the Legislature has been a disappointing spectacle.

It started with an amazing piece of investigative journalism that involved a four-year court battle worth millions of dollars just to force the PC government to release documents involving children who have died while in government care.

Once the court battle was won, the documents exposed that since 1999, the Alberta Government failed to report 89 deaths of children in provincial care and then barred parents from speaking publicly about them.

This issue is uncomfortable and extremely heartbreaking. Opposition MLAs from all parties have joined forces in the spirit of non-partisanship to request the PC government launch a full, public inquiry into these tragic deaths.

This is not a partisan issue. This is an issue of who we are as people – of honesty, of accountability, of basic human values.

If children are dying in provincial care, we must know why so we can determine how future deaths can best be prevented. A full public inquiry, and nothing less, is how we get to the bottom of this issue.

Unfortunately, opposition calls for an inquiry have been met with insensitivity and inaction from the PC government. At first, Human Services Minister Dave Hancock tried to say the number of unreported deaths in the system was “not significant.” Officials in the Premier’s Office called public outrage over the deaths “dribble.” Their latest tactic has been to attack the media outlets that broke the story.

All the while, they’ve refused to call a public inquiry. They’ve instead announced they will hold roundtable discussions on the matter. However, only a public inquiry with a broad mandate and judicial oversight and powers will be able to get to the bottom of what has happened and how we can improve the system moving forward.

I fear the PC government is putting its own interests in front of the interests of children in care. The fact is the government fought the release of this story for four years. And now that the truth has been uncovered, the government continues its refusal to admit there is a problem worth fixing.

It’s time for the PC government do the right thing, put aside their personal hesitations and call for a full public inquiry into these child deaths immediately.

“Children First” is a nice thought – but that’s all it is in my opinion. Our actions to actually protect and nurture our children speak infinitely louder than compassionate sounding slogans.

I hope you will ask Premier Redford and Minister Hancock to do the right thing, call a public inquiry and get to the bottom of what happened in these cases and identify what we can do to minimize these tragedies in the future.


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