Youth protection: Bill 15 to prioritize interests of children over parents
Bill 15, adopted unanimously Thursday in the National Assembly, promises to prioritize the interests of children over all other considerations, including the interests of parents.
The new law will facilitate the placement of children into foster care, overhauling the principle of parental primacy, which favours keeping children within their biological families — even in cases of neglect and abuse.
The bill, spearheaded by Social Services Minister Lionel Carmant, will also ease confidentiality rules, allowing personal information to be shared about children to be shared among authorities and caregivers.
"This change, for me, was non-negotiable. Too many families have been broken up because of this notion. I don’t want it anymore," said Carmant.
According to Carmant, the legislation will also focus on streamlining access to government services for children in foster care approaching adulthood.
CALLS FOR CHANGE
The province’s youth protection system was put under the microscope following the death of a young girl from Granby, in the Eastern Townships.
Valérie Assouline, the lawyer for the mother of the young girl in Granby who was killed, said she is pleased with parts of the new bill, but said the province should also prioritize efforts to support families so that they don't end up needing the Director of Youth Protection in the first place.
"The culture is that a lot of times the parents are not heard and the preoccupation of parents or grandparents are not heard and I remind you that the mother and the grandmother of the little girl in Granby had red flags and no one listened to them and that's a problem of culture," 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 is something that will need to be addressed. It's been two years that we've had a national director and how come no change has been done on the ground? That is something that's really a priority for me."
Despite being known to youth protection services, the seven-year-old died as a result of abuse in the home. Her 38-year-old stepmother was found guilty of second-degree murder and forcible confinement.
The case led to the creation of the Laurent Commission, chaired by former nurse’s union (FIQ) president Régine Laurent, which took a hard look at 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 girl’s death also spurred the creation of the National Director of Youth Protection position, currently held by Catherine Lemay.
-- With files from The Canadian Press and CTV News Montreal's Angela Mackenzie