Group of Quebec ministers to review report on youth protection reforms

MONTREAL (CityNews) — The Quebec government is creating a committee of senior ministers that will help determine how to implement recommendations from a report released Monday on the youth protection system.

Junior health minister Lionel Carmant will oversee the group tasked with reviewing the issues raised in the Laurent Commission report, which called on the government to create a charter of children’s rights.

Carmant says various government departments will be involved and will establish short, medium and long-term priorities after closely examining the report.

“The most important thing is we need to put children and youth at the centre of this law,” said Carmant. “But how this will be done? We need to discuss with the other members of this action group to prioritize. As you’ve seen it’s a pretty detailed report that Ms. Laurent gave us. We need to prioritize what needs to be done urgently and what can wait a little.

“I think the justice department will be involved in changes we have to make to the law. What we want to do in our process is decrease the rate of children that need to go in front of the judges. We need more mediation. We need more voluntary actions and this is how we’re going to improve the outcome of our youth in the process of youth protection.”

The commission headed by Regine Laurent issued 65 recommendations, following a two-year investigation that was prompted by the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby, Que., in April 2019. The girl’s father and stepmother were charged in her death.

“The fact that we have to invest in prevention and working among and before, we need to do be in the curative part of the recommendations, is very strong for the organizations of the Collectif. This is where we believe it is very important to invest, acting early in the development of young children,” said Elise Bonneville of the Collectif Petite Enfance.

Carmant told reporters, his priorities are to reform the 40-year-old Youth Protection Act and to implement a proactive approach that would encourage social workers to work with families before children end up in the system.

The report also called for an assistant commissioner specifically for indigenous and Inuit children. But some say it didn’t go far enough for racialized communities

“From the start of the Youth Protection Act 40 years ago, Black children have been overrepresented, and they continue to be overrepresented,” said Dr. Alicia Boatswain-Kyte, assistant professor at McGill School of Social Work. “And I don’t feel the report gave enough attention to the particular context of Black children, oyuth and families with regards to systemic racism.

“I do think the commission report speaks to that need for drastic kind of change, but how is yet to be seen. How do we operationalize that shift and that need for change?”

Carmant says he intends to table a bill in the fall related to the report’s recommendations.

–With files from the Canadian Press

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