Alberta United Conservatives introduce bill to help kids needing intervention
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EDMONTON — The mother of a girl who died from injuries while in the care of relatives who had taken over as legal guardians from the government says not enough is being done to keep children safe.
The girl's mother was in the legislature Tuesday watching in the gallery as the opposition United Conservatives introduced a private member's bill.
That bill, dubbed Serenity's Law, would require adults to report to police any child who needs intervention under the threat of six months in jail or a $10,000 fine.
Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee told the house she has misgivings about what she called the "unintended consequences" of such legislation.
"Our law enforcement partners, including the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, have suggested to us that they have some concerns with this proposal," Larivee said. "And we continue to have concerns."
Larivee said she will continue to work with Serenity's mother and with police to keep kids safe.
Children's Services officials say people already have a duty to report when children are in danger.
Serenity was four when she died in kinship care in 2014.
At the time of her death, she had severe bruising, hypothermia, dramatic weight loss and signs of sexual abuse. She died of a catastrophic head injury.
Due to delays and inaction, little was done to find out why or who was responsible until the case made headlines a year ago.
The case galvanized the government to take action, including creating a separate Children's Services department under Larivee and striking an all-party panel to probe and make recommendations on the core issues and problems facing kids in government care.
In October, Mounties announced that a charge of failing to provide for the necessities of life had been laid against Serenity's guardians, her great uncle and great aunt, but said the specific injury that caused Serenity's death was not criminal.
The mother, who can't be identified under privacy rules, said Tuesday she met with Larivee but was not happy with the minister for not promising to back the bill.
"Every time I asked her if she supported Serenity's law and the children in Alberta, she refused to say yes every time," the mother said.
"She basically made up excuses every time."
Mike Ellis, the United Conservative member who introduced the private member's bill, said it's best to err on the side of caution.
"We're talking about kids that are potentially at risk of requiring immediate intervention," said Ellis, a former police officer.
"In other words they might be on the verge of death."