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Quebec rights body says failures in child protection system preceded girl's death

MONTREAL — An investigation by Quebec's human rights commission into the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby, Que., last year has identified failures at all stages of the clinical and legal process designed to protect her.
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MONTREAL — An investigation by Quebec's human rights commission into the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby, Que., last year has identified failures at all stages of the clinical and legal process designed to protect her.

The girl's April 2019 death sparked outrage across the province and raised questions about the effectiveness of Quebec's youth protection system, leading to a number of investigations. Last March, the girl's father and stepmother waived their right to a preliminary inquiry on charges related to the death and opted to proceed directly to trial.

In its recommendations published Tuesday, the rights commission called on the youth protection system to ensure children are regularly met and have a chance to express themselves freely before decisions are made about their future.

It also recommended the government address a high turnover of staff in the system, create a training program on youth protection law for students entering the field and ensure daycare workers are trained on how to report suspected abuse.

Suzanne Arpin, the rights commission's vice-president, said in a statement, "Children should not be victims of breakdowns in services and repeated changes in workers. Children deserve to be known by the people who must protect them."

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's junior health minister welcomed the recommendations.

Lionel Carmant said in a statement he intends to see them implemented, noting youth protection in the Granby area has already changed its way of doing things since the girl's death.

The girl's stepmother, detained since her arrest, is accused of second-degree murder and forcible confinement. The father faces charges of negligence causing death, child abandonment and failure to provide the necessities of life. He was released on bail Sept. 5.

The girl died April 30, 2019, one day after she was found in troubling circumstances at the family home.

Her death triggered multiple investigations, including by the coroner, police, and regional health officials who oversee youth protection in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

The government also ordered hearings into the youth protection system as a whole, which concluded in May. A final report is due by Nov. 30.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2020.

The Canadian Press