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Granby girl's death prompts Quebec to appoint commissioner to better protect children

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Quebec says it will appoint a new youth commissioner to better protect the well-being of children in the province.

Lionel Carmant, the province's social services minister, presented Bill 37 Thursday morning at the National Assembly.

The position is just one of many recommendations of the Laurent Commission report following the death of a seven-year-old girl in Granby, Que., about 80 kilometres east of Montreal.

She was found in critical condition in her family home on April 29, 2019, and died one day later in hospital.

She was known to youth protection officials and was left in the custody of her father despite several reports of violence.

Lawyer Valerie Assouline represents some of the girl's family and said having a commissioner whose job it is to listen to their concerns would have helped.

"I think all the red flags that were done by the family would have been heard," she said. "The DYP [youth protection] just did not listen to the grandmother, to the mother, to the school, to everyone."

The young victim, who was abused and malnourished, died of asphyxiation after being wrapped in layers of duct tape.

Due to the abusive nature of the girl's death, Régine Laurent was tasked with looking into the failures of youth protection in the case.

She suggested dedicating a person to both follow and advocate for at-risk children and young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 who were part of youth protection earlier in their lives.

If approved, the youth commissioner would follow child welfare cases in Quebec and release an annual report on the provincial situation.

"We will do whatever is needed to improve the position of children in Quebec," said Carmant.

The commissioner will be able to take complaints and inform children and parents of their rights. Like an ombudsperson, they are independent, but their power is limited and they will not be able to intervene directly. 

"We want the commissioner to bring the person to the proper individual to intervene," said Carmant. 

Though the position would be considered independent of the government, the province's premier would appoint them, requiring approval from two-thirds of the national assembly. Their recommendations would not be binding.

The hope is to appoint someone to this role by 2025.

Earlier this month, the young girl's family said they were suing the provincial youth protection agency and the local school board for $3.7 million, claiming they failed to act despite numerous warning signs.

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