Quebec is responding to a call to reform its youth protection services, a decision made all the more relevant following the murder of a seven-year-old girl from Granby in 2019.
Bill 15, passed unanimously Thursday in the National Assembly, promises to put the interests of children before any other consideration, including the interests of parents.
The new law will facilitate the placement of children in foster families, by re-establishing the principle of parental primacy, which promotes the maintenance of children within their biological family, even in the event of neglect and abuse.
The bill, led by Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant, will also relax privacy rules, allowing personal information about children to be shared between authorities and carers.
“That change, for me, was non-negotiable. Too many families have been broken up because of that notion. I don’t want it anymore,” Carmant said.
According to Carmant, the legislation will also focus on streamlining access to government services for foster children approaching adulthood.
CALLS FOR CHANGE
The province’s youth protection system has come under scrutiny following the death of a young girl from Granby, in the Eastern Townships.
Valérie Assouline, the lawyer for the mother of the Granby girl who was killed, said she was happy with parts of the new bill, but said the province should also prioritize efforts to support families so that they don’t need the Director of Youth Protection in the first place.
“The culture is that often the parents are not heard and the concern of the parents or the grandparents is not heard and I remind you that the mother and the grandmother of the little girl from Granby had red flags and nobody was listening to them and it’s a cultural problem,” Assouline said in an interview.
“A lot of families are in the youth protection system because they don’t get the help they need and that’s something that needs to be fixed. We’ve had a national director for two years and how come there hasn’t been a change? was done in the field? This is something that is really a priority for me.
Although known to child protection services, the seven-year-old died following abuse at home. Her 38-year-old stepmother was convicted of second-degree murder and forcible confinement.
The case led to the creation of the Laurent Commission, chaired by the former president of the Nurses’ Union (FIQ) Régine Laurent, which examined the state of youth protection in Quebec.
According to officials, Bill 15 is a direct response to many of the recommendations made in the report.
The death of the young girl also gave rise to the creation of the position of national director of youth protection, currently occupied by Catherine Lemay.
— With files from The Canadian Press and Angela Mackenzie of CTV News Montreal