Question Period: Child Death Review Committee – 15 March 2017

Here is the video and transcript of oral questions, recorded in the language in which it was spoken.

Mr. Coon: The CBC has been writing a series recounting the invisible stories of children who have died in the province and on the work of the Child Death Review Committee. Little is known about the children or about the work of the committee. The committee publishes recommendations, but the circumstances of the children’s deaths and their names are withheld. Bernard Richard, our very first Child and Youth Advocate, has concerns about this secrecy. In fact, 10 years ago, he wrote a report on the circumstances surrounding the death of 28-month-old Juli-Anna, which was entitled Broken Promises, because he was convinced that her death was entirely preventable. He worries now that the recommendations of his report have been left untouched. My question is for the Minister of Families and Children. Will he table in this House a report indicating how his department has implemented the 16 recommendations contained in the report called Broken Promises?

Hon. Mr. Horsman: I appreciate the question from the member of the Green Party. Losing a
child, no matter what age, is devastating to a parent, and we realize that. Our government’s top priority is protecting families and children. The coroner in this province reviews all deaths of children under the age of 19, whether they are unexpected or all of a sudden. All of that has been done. We have reviewed it. The Child Death Review Committee talks about this. This government and the Canadian Paediatric Society have reviewed the child death review committees across Canada and have given New Brunswick an excellent rating, meaning that we look at all of those.

We at Social Development have been working hard. We have hired more social workers—59, to
be exact—in the past few years. We continue to work hard with families. We give them more
training to make sure that they are on the ground and doing . . . For those children who are
vulnerable, we work with those children and we will continue doing that. Our priority is for
families and children, to make this the . . .

Mr. Coon: The report should just be tabled then.

M. Richard n’est pas le seul défenseur des enfants et de la jeunesse préoccupé par les secrets entourant le Comité d’examen des décès d’enfants. D’après notre défenseur actuel, Norman Bossé, si c’est une mort évitable, les gens de cette province ont le droit de savoir comment nous pouvons la prévenir. Le ministre va-t-il s’engager à publier le rapport complet du Comité d’examen des décès d’enfants pour que nous puissions savoir comment prévenir, à l’avenir, des décès semblables?

Hon. Mr. Horsman: I want to make sure that the member opposite and everybody in the House knows that the Department of Social Development has addressed 100%—100%—of the
recommendations of the Child and Youth Advocate, and we continue to do that. There were 16,
if not more, and we have addressed all of them. The members opposite should know. Five years
ago, they revamped the child services Act. So we are continuing to do that. We are continuing to work with you.

We continue to do that, and we are going to keep on doing better, as we have on many other
projects, such as impaired driving. We are making sure that bicycle safety is important with
Ellen’s law. We will continue to work hard with New Brunswickers, and we are open to
suggestions. The doors are always open to our department, and we will continue to work with
New Brunswickers. If they have better ideas, please come see us. I have yet to see any members from across the floor approach the members of Social Development to put in their
recommendations. We will continue working hard with the province. Thank you.

Mr. Coon: This is the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Coon: This is the Legislative Assembly, where we are to hold the Executive Council accountable for its actions. Clearly, we need a mechanism here to hold this department and this minister accountable for implementing the recommendations of the Child Death Review Committee. I want to see this Legislature establish an active standing committee on child and youth that would have the mandate to ensure that the recommendations of the Child Death Review Committee are implemented and to ensure that, in fact, all recommendations the Child and Youth Advocate makes to this Legislature are implemented. The standing committee should have the power to call persons, papers, and records given to it by this Legislature. Let’s have the people’s House serve the youngest people of this province to protect them. Will the minister support the creation of a standing committee of the Legislature on children and youth?

Hon. Mr. Horsman: I want to point out that New Brunswick is one of five provinces in all of Canada to have a Child Death Review Committee. We feel that committee is more suited to answering those recommendations. We will see that it is done. There are privacy laws that we have to abide by.

Every time an unfortunate, tragic accident takes place, the coroner’s office looks at it, the Child Death Review Committee looks at it, and the Child and Youth Advocate looks at it. They make recommendations, and we look at those recommendations. The committee looks at those
recommendations, and, if we can do better, we will certainly do better. We do not want to see
this happen again. For things that happened 13 or 20 years ago, I cannot change the past and it is unfortunate. However, going forward, we will make sure this is the best place to live, work, and raise a family.