QUEBEC — It’s “revolting” that authorities failed to prevent the death a seven-year-old girl who had a long history with the province’s youth protection system, Premier Francois Legault said Thursday as the Quebec government ordered a public inquiry into her death.
Legault said he asked for the coroner’s inquest and also asked that the head of the regional youth protection office be suspended.
“It’s troubling, revolting that people knew (about the girl’s situation), including the youth protection office,” Legault said in Quebec City.
“I asked for a public inquiry to be 100 per cent transparent, because all of Quebec wants to know what happened to this little girl and what we could have done to avoid it.”
Local police found the girl shortly before noon Monday at a home in Granby, Que., about 80 kilometres east of Montreal. She died a day later in hospital.
Two adults — identified by people close to the family as the girl’s father, 30, and his partner, 35 — appeared in court on Thursday. They both face charges of unlawful confinement, and the woman has been charged with aggravated assault. Both will remain detained at least until their next court appearance on May 23.
One of many investigations
Police and prosecutors are still gathering and analyzing evidence, and more charges could be added at a later date, according to Jean-Pascal Boucher, spokesman for the Crown prosecutor’s office. A publication ban prohibits identification of the accused and the victim.
News of the girl’s death prompted swift reaction from the public and Quebec’s political class, who immediately demanded to know how the girl was seemingly failed by a system designed to protect her.
Public Security Minister Genevieve Guilbault said the public inquiry led by the coroner’s office will determine the causes and circumstances of the death and make recommendations to avoid a similar tragedy.
The investigation ordered Thursday is one of several into the death, added to those previously announced by the regional health authority in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, the province’s human and youth rights commission and the criminal probe led by Quebec provincial police.
Guilbault said the coroner’s inquest differs from the others because of its public nature and its ability to issue broader recommendations.
“It’s held in a courtroom, and the public, interested parties, family members and media representatives will be able to go to this public inquiry to hear the testimony of various people, witnesses and stakeholders who will come give their point of view or testify on the circumstances of this tragic death,” she said.
However, Guilbault said the hearings would not begin until after the conclusion of any criminal proceedings, in order to avoid interfering with the legal process.
Speaking alongside Guilbault, Quebec junior health minister Lionel Carmant announced that the head of the regional youth protection office had been removed from his functions.
Carmant had previously confirmed the girl was known to youth protection workers from a very young age and that their last interaction with the child was just last month.
“A child died under his responsibility,” Carmant said of his decision to suspend Alain Trudel, head of the youth protection office in the Eastern Townships region. “He’s accountable, and this is a sign of his accountability.”
On Wednesday, the executive director of a non-profit organization helping Quebec families said she and family members had tried sounding the alarm about the girl’s case, but their concerns were ignored.
Carmant said there would also be a top-to-bottom review of the youth protection system, including how cases are flagged, evaluated and handled by authorities.