Minister Bhullar’s Revelation: 741 Children Die in Government Care

Last week Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar made a shocking announcement—741 children died in government foster homes or other forms of government care since 1999.  This is 13 times higher than the 56 reported by the government in its annual reports and five times higher than the 145 uncovered by investigative reporters who pursued the story for years.

Mr Bhullar

The government owes these children and their families an apology.

An apology is a regretful acknowledgment of an offence or failure—and therein lies the problem.  To this day the PC government has not acknowledged that it failed the 741 children and their families.

In fact the PCs are anything but apologetic…they’re defiant.

Premier Redford and Mr Hancock’s “talking points”

Last fall Premier Redford and former Human Services Minister Hancock stood shoulder to shoulder deflecting a joint-Opposition demand for a public inquiry into 145 child welfare deaths (now we know why).

They stuck to three simple talking points:

  • The Redford government came into power in 2012.  Since then it passed the “children first” legislation, created an independent child advocate and ensured that the quality council reviewed every death.  Message:  Kudos to the Redford government.    
  • The majority of the 145 deaths occurred before 2012.  The Redford government was not in power and as such not accountable for the actions of its predecessors.  Message:  It wasn’t me! (a peculiar argument given that both Redford and Hancock were MLAs in these previous governments).
  • “Reportable” deaths are deaths that (1) occur in foster care and (2) are not “natural”.   Message: Two lawyer/MLAs use legalese to define “reportable deaths” narrowly and reduce the number of deaths to the absolute minimum.   

Ms Notley

The only time Mr Hancock came close to revealing the real number of deaths was in response to a question from Ms Notley (NDP).  (Sometimes it takes a lawyer to trap a lawyer).  She asked Mr Hancock to provide the number of children who died while receiving protective services (other than foster care) over the 14 year period.* 

Mr Hancock replied, “That would require a historical review.  I don’t have that information at the tip of my fingers today.  Then he reverted back to the first talking point:  “But I can tell you we publicly disclose, as of 2012, the death of any child in care.”*

When he stated he didn’t have this information at his fingertips “today”, Mr Hancock echoed the “not at this point in time” responses given by John Dean (another lawyer) in the Watergate hearings.  Unfortunately the Legislature is not a court of law and Ms Notley could not force Mr Hancock to go back to his office and get the information she requested.  It turned out not to matter.

Mr Bhullar’s revelations

Mr Bhullar achieved more in a month than Mr Hancock achieved in the years leading up to the media’s disclosure of the 145 child welfare deaths—Mr Bhullar uncovered the truth, convinced the Premier to release the truth and persuaded Cabinet (including his predecessor Mr Hancock) to make a clean breast of it.

Full credit to Minister Bhullar for getting this far.  I sincerely hope he achieves his goal of eradicating the “culture of fear” he says exists within agencies, staff and families.**

Ms Redford

May I suggest that a good place to start would be with an apology to the families of the 741 children who perished under government care?

Given the role that Ms Redford’s government played in fighting the FOIP requests and obscuring the true number of children who died, it is only fitting that the apology should come from Ms Redford herself.

However given Ms Redford’s refusal to acknowledge her government’s role in this tragedy, the chances of getting an apology from Ms Redford are slim to none.   Sad.

*Hansard, Nov 26, 2013, 3101 

**Calgary Herald, Jan 11, 2014, A4

                                                 

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35 Responses to Minister Bhullar’s Revelation: 741 Children Die in Government Care

  1. jillbrowne says:

    Deaths in care. I would like to know how often the police investigate these and how often there are criminal prosecutions. I don’t expect you to know that, Susan, but I think it’s the logical follow-on question. I cannot imagine the sense of betrayal.
    I’m glad the new Minister has stepped up to the plate on this. I hope he will have the resources to make the system work as intended.

    • Jill your reference to “resources” is bang on. A government press release outlined the steps the new Minister is going to take to improve care. These include enhancing education, training and support for child intervention workers to strengthen casework practice and focusing on root causes like poverty, addictions, sexual abuse, mental health and family violence. Addressing these issues will most certainly require additional financial resources. We’ll see whether the government is sincere about fixing this problem when Mr Bhullar presents his budget in the spring.

    • cps says:

      ANSWER: Criminal Prosecutions occur ALMOST NEVER as the system EXISTS to protect itself from any kind of SCRUTINY – especially if said SCRUTINY attempts to DELEGATE BLAME, INVOKE CHANGE or ACTUALLY do what the law says they should be doing – which is to PROTECT CHILDREN.

      In fact, the MODERN DAY Child protective Services – Foster Care NETWORKS existing today are so CORRUPT and RIFE with COVER-UPS, CHANGING/ ALTERING of PROTECTED GOVERNMENT RECORDS, DANGEROUS, HARMFUL and ABUSIVE TACTICS – that it would take a FEDERAL ROYAL COMMISSION TO STRAIGHTEN OUT THE MESS and about 3 – 4 YEARS…….. .

      STILL – NOT ONE POLITICIAN IS PUTTING FORTH ANY KIND OF LEGISLATION TO EVEN – IN PART – PROTECT CHILDREN and SHELTER them from the Human Trafficking type METHODS of the social services agencies running these businesses. Out of sight – out if mind. SICKENING and AOSLUTELY “DISTASTEFUL, DANGEROUS and ABUSIVE”.

  2. Ted Woynillowicz says:

    I hope Mr. Bhullar will differ from most of his PC colleagues. That means he will listen, respond appropriately and serve well the people who elected him. That would be a refreshing change.

    • jane walker says:

      Great blog, Susan … and yes, Ted, it will be interesting to watch Mr Bhullar’s progress. One wonders how he got this far with this when it is so different from what we usually get! Is it simply that he is that much more conscientious or has a better research team or did he just manage to wiggle through a crack in the system?? Jill’s question is an interesting one, as well. Hmmmm …. In any other circumstance it would certainly be investigated by out ‘authorities’.
      I am cynical (from experience) and only hope this does not jeopardize Bhullar’s opportunities for further visibility as an advocate for vulnerable, indeed ALL, Albertans. Kudos to this Minister. Thanks to Susan for helping us focus!

      • Jane I too am cynical. I think the 741 number would have come out sooner or later, through leaks or follow up FOIPs. Consequently Redford gave Bhullar permission to proceed for a number of self-serving reasons. When she and Hancock set up the two day Roundtable they invited a number of top level experts. Even Hancock wasn’t brazen enough to try to pull the wool over their eyes, especially not with the Opposition MLAs taking down every word.

        Second, Redford used the cabinet shuffle to shield Hancock from further political damage. Hancock owes her big time. Now it’s Bhullar, not Hancock, who’ll have to answer to the Opposition and the public when the Roundtable finishes its review of the government’s dismal performance.

        Lastly, Redford is using the standard corporate maneuver that new CEOs use when they take over from an old CEO. The new CEO (or Bhullar in this case) bears no accountability for the old CEO’s (Hancock’s) poor performance and in fact will get kudos for trying to fix it.

        It’s a win-win for everybody except the 741 children and their families. However some good will come of this if at the end of the day Bhullar succeeds in changing the culture of fear and improving the system so that children are no long in jeopardy when they come into government care.

  3. Carlos Beca says:

    This issue is horrendous to me but still did not draw much of a reaction in the media or anywhere else other than those immediately affected or directly involved. I wonder if this is because more than 90% of the cases are native kids and just like the 500 women that disappeared in BC, it is just another statistic.
    I wanted to believe that Bhullar is a different minister but after 41 years of experience I prefer to wait and see. It is way more obvious to me that there is already some horse racing for Alison Redford’s job in face of the disaster this government has been.

    • Carlos, you could be right, I would have expected more of a public outcry once the true number was revealed.

      You make a very good point about the impact that this will have on Redford’s chances to continue on as leader. Some opposition party members feel that she’ll be forced out (just like Getty and Stelmach were) in the next year or so. If Bhullar performs well he will be formidable competition for the job. He’s a rookie cabinet minister but has aced everything he’s touched so far. It will be very interesting to see if he can pull it off.

  4. carlosbeca says:

    For those who are, like I am, astounded to find out how far we have come in deceipt, lies and lack of any public morality, just read below link

    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2014/01/13/Harper-CEO-Sleaze/?utm_source=mondayheadlines&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=130114#

    • Carlos, I’m speechless. I need to think about the Tyee article and come back to you with my thoughts.

      • Carlos Beca says:

        Well I am not. I have agreed with this article almost from day one of this silly idea that government should be run like a business. I also agree 100% with the lack of ethics and morality in today’s business world. It is quite obvious and in certain cases it is pure savagery.

      • Carlos, I agree with you that government should not be run as a business for so many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that there is a fundamental difference between activities that serve the private interests of shareholders versus those that serve the public interests of citizens.

        What I was surprised about was the Tyee’s statement that two Chicago law school profs argued that “it was the duty of managers to violate the law if it was profitable to do so.” This is not an accepted (or acceptable) legal principle in Canada. Breaking the law is NOT a fiduciary duty of corporate managers.

        I’ve been in-house counsel for a number of corporations (not the ones I worked at) and can attest to the fact that executives and boards of directors would not knowingly break the law.

        Having said that I’m not denying that some corporations will weigh the “costs” of breaking the law (small regulatory fines) with “benefit” of doing so (profits from activities that would otherwise be prohibited) and may well break the law if there’s enough money in it. I’d be surprised if they see this as a fiduciary duty, I think it’s simple greed and the hope they won’t get caught.

        These executives and directors should be prosecuted and sent to jail, period.

  5. Julie Ali says:

    Hi Susan,

    I’m pretty sure that the Tories knew that this issue was going to be a public relations disaster from decades ago and so they began damage control as soon as the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald refused to go away and instead persisted in asking for data on child deaths in Alberta.

    I will take a side road here and speak about my difficulties getting data as the failure to get data is a very anti-democratic matter for me and I believe it has resulted in the current mess in child welfare. After all if we had no data, how could we hold our government hires accountable? The reason they did not give us the data, was first they were arrogant and lazy; and secondly, if they have given us the data, they would have had to deal with mummies yapping at them. Tehy did not want to be accountable and so they hid the data or did not even keep written documents at meetings for dead children.

    There are no privacy issues with data about dead kids in my mind. The kids are dead. Their families want the information. The province is merely holding onto this information because it is damaging to them in terms of their non-existent performance in the child welfare system.

    I don’t know why they don’t simply give us the data instead of taking four years to give it to us. Will I have to wait four years to get every piece of data I ask for? It is a really curious thing for this citizen but written data is almost impossible to get. Here is one response to a request I made to Alberta Connects that was referred to Alberta Justice!

    All i requested was the e-mail address for the chair of the fatality review board since I wanted him to answer my questions for a blog post in a written format. The chair apparently does not have an e-mail address or else he –like the Tories does not want a written transcript of his answers on a mummy blog.

    From: AlbertaConnects@gov.ab.ca
    To: jyali@
    Sent: Monday, January 6, 2014 2:05:56 PM
    Subject: RE:Re: fatality review board members(ACR-339314)(ACR-339794)

    Thank you for visiting the Alberta Government feedback web site. Following is the response to your question prepared by Justice and Solicitor General :

    Thank you for using Alberta Connects.

    As to your request for Mr. Don McDermid e-mail address I regret to inform you that all we have been provided with is his telephone number.
    Please contact Mr. Don McDermid, Chair at 403-297-8123 (Within Alberta dial 310-0000 toll-free followed by 403-297-8123.)

    As to your other request for a list of all the board members it has been forwarded to the appropriate program area. You will be receiving a response in the near future.

    On 2014-01-06 13:48:00.0 you wrote:

    Hi,
    Can you provide the e-mail for the board chair?
    I like to have a written trail of correspondence so that there is no confusion about the answers to my question.
    When I write a blog piece, I am pretty anal.
    I like everything to be backed up by facts, and written documentation.
    This is in contrast to the government of Alberta I am afraid.
    But there you go.

    As for the other information you have given me, I appreciate this but this isn’t what I asked for.
    I did not ask for information on each board.
    I asked for the members of each board.
    You have given me a list of boards.
    But this means that there must be work on my part to go look up every board and the members.
    Where is the summary of all board members please?
    I believe there must be a master sheet somewhere.

    I believe that the government of Alberta should publish lists of all current board members.
    I will help them to spread this information on my blog and also try to figure out if they are card carrying Tory members. I know you won’t be giving that information out.

    I do appreciate you are a front line worker.
    You don’t have any power just like this stay at home mummy.
    Please pass this request to your supervisor.
    I am cc’ing all the folks I usually do so as to be as open and transparent to them as they are with me and the other citizens who pay their salaries, benefits, trips abroad and raises that they give themselves before they pretend to a salary freeze.

    Merry Christmas.
    Thanks,
    Julie Ali

    —– Original Message —–

    From: AlbertaConnects@gov.ab.ca
    To: “julie ali”
    Sent: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 11:39:47 AM
    Subject: RE:fatality review board members(ACR-339314)

    Thank you for visiting the Alberta Government feedback web site. Following is the response to your question prepared by Justice and Solicitor General :

    Thank you for using Alberta Connects.

    For information as the members of the Fatality Review Board please contact Mr. Don McDermid, Chair at 403-297-8123 (Within Alberta dial 310-0000 toll-free followed by 403-297-8123.)

    For more information on the Fatality Review Board please visit the following website:
    http://justice.alberta.ca/programs_services/about_us/Pages/fatality_review_board.aspx

    For information on all boards, agencies and association of the the Government of Alberta please visit the following website: http://www.pao.gov.ab.ca/?file=directives/staffing/sign-agencies-brds-comm

    We hope you find this information helpful.

    On 2013-12-23 19:32:00.0 you wrote:

    Can you tell me who the current board members are for the
    fatality review board?

    Where can I get the information for who is on all boards,
    agencies and associations that the government of Alberta decides
    please?

    The Alberta feedback site is constantly updated to provide you with important information about Alberta programs and services. We invite you to visit us soon. Your Alberta, a new e-newsletter from the Government of Alberta, will keep you up-to-date on the province?s latest projects and plans.

    To sign-up, visit http://www.alberta.ca/contact.cfm

    Toll-Free 310-4455 Internet http://www.Alberta.ca (AC-339314)

    If you need to reply to this message please use this link.
    http://publicaffairs.alberta.ca/AlbertaConnectsForm/reply.cfm?id=339314&usr=julie.ali@

    DATE RECEIVED BY MAIL WAS Tuesday, 24/Dec/2013 14:31:51 DATE ENTERED {ts ‘2013-12-24 14:45:00′}

    ****************************************************************************

    Not only do the people in ABCs (agencies, boards and commissions) not answer our questions in e-mail format but they don’t also often have yearly reports to tell us what they do with our tax payer dollars. The lack of transparency and accountability of the Tory government is compounded by the culture of intimidation, secrecy and control of information. You only have to consider the dumping of Dr. Fanning in the Klein error to understand the true consequences of speaking up for the underdog in the system.

    In the child welfare system the underdog is the First Nation child. And because of poverty, lack of education, lack of power–the families of these children haven’t been able to get their story to us. In addition to these disadvantages there is the little matter of racism that is never yapped about in polite society. I am appalled to hear the way some folks talk about First Nations people and certainly I do believe that it is this racist attitude that prevails in Alberta as in other provinces that has contributed to the indifference then and now — to the genocide of these aboriginal kids. First it was the more than 5,000 aboriginal kids done away with by the residential schools solution of the federal Tories; then there was the sixties scoop; and finally now in Alberta–in 2014— we have learned about 741 dead kids (and I believe this number will go up). We don’t know their names, lives or death reports. All we know are what the government of Alberta gives out to us. And what we are now witnessing is the cover up of how these kids vanished. This cover up began last year with my MLA Mr. Hancock yapping about the Children First Act and going around our Riverbend community showing off his Children First button.

    Instead of telling us all the truth–that the Tories haven’t ever given a darn about the children in the foster care system because they don’t vote, don’t have any power and are of mostly First Nations origin–my MLA spins the story of how he and the Redford have brought us into the child welfare future from the dinosaur era. It’s quite a PR job. Mr. Hancock even tells us that the Child and Youth Advocate apparently represents dead kids in Alberta when only two investigative reviews are complete for 741 dead kids! These two reports on two dead kids came out in 2013 and their recommendations echo the recommendations made at the fatality report on Richard Cardinal who died 30 years ago in the child welfare system in Alberta. The entire renovation of the child welfare system is a sham.

    It was a sham that at least the opposition parties did not accept. When the opposition folks keep yapping at the Hancock in the legislature and began tie him up like a Christmas goose for the bonfire of the wicked, the Hancock goes on his knees before Queen Redford, pleading to be spared (this is my interpretation of the matter–he may have just got his pardon from execution duties without begging for it). That oil monarch granted him all his three wishes for holding off the mummies –and he got his undeserved retirement position as the assistant to the Premier, he got out of jail free, and he now gets to pretend he has been a cape crusader for kids. In reality he is all talk, no action. He hasn’t actually done anything for Riverbend mummies after sitting on his tush for 16 years in the house of corruption. It’s a pretty neat game politics and Mr. Hancock is darn good at getting cherries from the ancient Tory tree of goodies, and avoiding serpents and mummies.

    Why Mr. Bhullar decided to make himself the sacrificial Sikh in this story— is beyond me but at least Redford knew how to play this melodrama. She gets a man of color to be sensitive before the mostly aboriginal families. He is brown. He will know how they feel. He is also young and might represent change just by being young. He is fond of data. Mummies like data. He might represent hope of getting data from the mouth that never opens to this mummy.

    The Redford and the Hancock have played a miserable deck of cards really well.
    1) Get Hancock to handle the first swarm of hornets.
    2) Get Bhullar to give some placebo drugs of the figures of dead kids to shut us up about their secrecy and lies.
    3) Get the roundtable of experts that they will not listen to– and hope that will shut up mummies asking for a public inquiry.
    4) Depend on Albertans who don’t give a baby tooth for the First Nations to ignore the second genocide of First Nations kids.
    5) Depend on the Auditor General of Alberta and the Auditor General of Canada not doing their jobs because they are part of the system of corruption and “we are all in it together”.

    Only problem is that we are not in it together.
    Not any longer.
    I am not going to vote for the Tories ever again.
    I am appalled at the failures to respond to my questions as I request them.
    The only way to learn the entire truth is to keep writing and asking the auditors to do their jobs. The auditors will be able to get e-mail addresses, the money trail and the corrupt files.
    If they don’t do it we will have to become citizen investigative journalists ourselves.

    But if you don’t want to investigate corruption —I encourage all of you to go bug the auditors.
    Why should we accept a round table public relations spin story?
    We need the truth.
    These families lost their babies.
    Some of them lived through the first genocide of their people and were traumatized in that horror.
    Now they lose their babies in a second genocide and are traumatized again.
    The horror ends here.
    Not only do they deserve an apology, they deserve financial compensation via lawsuits if negligence is found and golly gee, they deserve the full and entire story –the truth. With their babies’ names and photographs attached for public consumption.

    Julie

    • Julie, your comment that Minister Bhullar’s revelation is part of a damage control strategy makes perfect sense. And your assessment of how and why this horrific tragedy came about also rings true.

      I was very interested in your comments about transparency. Originally, this post was going to be about the Redford government’s utter lack of transparency in all things, with the 741 being the ultimate example of how far she’d go. When Redford ran for PC leader she positioned herself as an “authentic” leader—one who’s characterized by openness, accountability and transparency. Turns out she’s anything but that. The strange thing is Redford thinks she’s transparent but that’s because she practices situational transparency. Her degree of transparency depends on the situation. In this case she realized the 741 number (which I’m sure Hancock had available if not at his fingertips) would come out sooner or later and she worked with Hancock and her PR folks to figure out the best way to release it. Using Bhullar was brilliant because now the public is focused on Bhullar’s candor and integrity instead of the horror of the number itself.

      Other examples of Redford’s situational transparency are the creation of the Open Data Portal. Redford touts this as the most open disclosure of information by any government in the nation. But it buries us in useless information. I’ve tried to use it to look up a specific MLA’s expenses and guess what, it’s impossible. The “open” data portal punts you to the Public Disclosure of Travel and Expenses website which then lists 9100 pages of expenses for a whack of public servants with 4 expense claims to a page. This means you have to plow through the whole thing to find what you’re looking for. Frankly getting our hands on what someone spent on cab fare is nothing compared to getting access to the information you requested from the chair of the Fatality Review Board. And you’re right, these people have learned that the less they put in writing the safer they will be.

      I think the answer is contained in your comment. Don’t vote PC. That will get rid of the ABCs and the culture of fear. Question the auditors. A friend did that on P3s. She was told that the auditors don’t comment on the merits of government policy but will take the public’s suggestions on areas to investigate. Lastly you talked about the need to go further than an apology. Very good point. Compensation is a start but publishing the names and photos of these children (with their parents’ consent of course) would be make this story real to all Albertans. I lived in the US when 9/11 occurred. The media published the photos of each person who died in the Twin Towers and the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. It was heartbreaking and pulled the nation together to avenge their deaths. No wonder the PC government refuses to let the parents tell their stories to the press. The public would go ballistic!

  6. It has been 5 days since I extended an invitation to Minister Marmeet Bhullar, yet no reply has followed. I feel very strongly that a parental voice is necessary at the Roundtable discussion; particularly that of one who survives the loss of a child failed under ministry direction – particularly, as one of only two mothers in the Province legally able to openly speak of circumstances surrounding the care of their child and subsequent death.

    I think it is time for ALL of us to ask why they are ignoring us, the people, and the 741 dead children of Alberta. (If my request continues to go unanswered, the Public can pretty much sum up the intentions of our government to continue to shroud the failure of our children in secrecy.)

    Sincerely,

    Velvet Martin, mother of angel, Samantha (13 years young)

    Call, write, fax, email here:

    Hon. Marmeet Bhullar

    Legislature Office
    224 Legislature Building
    10800 97 Avenue
    Edmonton, AB
    Canada T5K 2B6
    Phone: (780) 643-6210
    Fax: (780) 643-6214

    Constituency Office
    754, 2220 – 68 Street NE
    Calgary, AB
    Canada T1Y 6Y7
    Phone: (403) 248-4487
    Fax: (403) 273-2898
    calgary.greenway@assembly.ab.ca

    • You’re right Velvet. The only way the Roundtable will represent ALL of the stakeholders is to include the mother of a child who died while in government care. Thank you for bringing us up to date on the fact that you’ve asked to participate in the Roundtable, but have been ignored. I’ve sent a letter to Minister Bhullar (with cc’s to David Swann, Heather Forsyth and Rachel Notley) thanking him for bringing the real numbers to light and urging him to include you in the Roundtable. I pointed out that in his Jan 8, 2013 press release Minister Bhuller set out a 5 point action plan to improve care which includes “focusing on the root causes which affect the well-being of children”. I argued that there is no better way to understand the root causes than hearing from a mother whose child was in care.

      I sincerely hope others will take the time to write to the Minister on your behalf.

      • Much-appreciated, Susan. It is my understanding that opposition leaders are supportive of my inclusion within the Roundtable. Letters have also emerged from sources – Alfredine Linda Plourde, Founder of Protecting Canadian Children who resides in Ontario, kindly sent a letter of recommendation in support of my attendance. I feel very strongly that the Public requires a voice at that table and as one intimately aware of circumstances as well, as an activist, whom persons come and disclose experiences with, feel that it is only logical and RIGHT that I be in attendance. Please, everyone, if you truly care about the future of our youth, take a moment to write in support of my inclusion within upcoming meeting.
        Sincerely,
        Velvet Martin,
        Founder of SAMANTHA’S LAW

        Pertinent contact addresses are:

        Bhullar, Manmeet, MLA (PC)

        Constituency Offices
        Legislative Branch
        754, 2220 – 68 Street NE
        Calgary, AB
        T1Y 6Y7

        Phone: 403 248-4487
        Fax: 403 273-2898
        E-mail: calgary.greenway@assembly.ab.ca

        Notley, Rachel, MLA (NDP)

        Constituency Offices
        Legislative Branch
        Main fl Strathcona Professional Centre
        10328 – 81 Avenue
        Edmonton, AB
        T6E 1X2

        Phone: 780 414-0702
        Fax: 780 414-0703
        E-mail: edmonton.strathcona@assembly.ab.ca

        Sherman, Raj, MLA (Liberal)

        Constituency Offices
        Legislative Branch
        220, 8944 – 182 Street
        Edmonton, AB
        T5T 2E3

        Phone: 780 414-0711
        Fax: 780 414-0713
        E-mail: edmonton.meadowlark@asembly.ab.ca

        * In addition, if the Public needs to locate contact information for Alberta government employees, this website page is a valuable tool: http://alberta.ca/albertaFiles/includes/DirectorySearch/search.cfm

      • Christine Bennett says:

        As with most departments involving children they are woefully underfunded. As a teacher I often had foster children in my class. It was difficult to talk to the social workers because they had ridiculous case loads. Conditions that should not have been tolerated went on because foster homes are hard to find. A particular foster mom smoked like a steam shovel and young children should not have had to endure that but she was okay otherwise . Which brings me back to why is so hard to get good families involved in fostering. I believe the cold reality is it is not financially very beneficial. It takes money to have appropriate training for foster parents that often have to deal with very challenging children. It takes money to have enough social workers to provide support to these families. It takes money to help the natural parents rehabilitate their lives etc. Kids don’t vote therefore they don’t get the money needed.

      • While I certainly understand the reasoning reached to surmise that increased monies to the System and staffing are key to future success and once felt the same; however, I have done a significant amount of research on the premise and must disagree. (btw, I have also provided foster care within the Province, thus, have viewed the System from more than one angle.) On the surface, additional funding appears to be a feasible option, however, what actually transpires is monies are not functionally allocated to the children’s care. What in fact takes place, is increased apprehensions, further over-burdening the System and placing greater strains of social-workers. Hiring of more caseworkers becomes next step, however, many of these individuals are poorly-trained and ill-informed in tackling circumstances afflicting families. There is a catch-all existence of families serviced by social-workers who are dealing with true incidents of neglect and abuse also attempting to intervene amongst victims of circumstantial conditions rather than deed. This makes for very poor handling of crises. Workers, for instance, without experience trying to successfully interact with children who have disabilities, yet are unable to communicate effectively due to lack of skills i.e. Training in sign-language and other augmentative devices. Lack of training lends itself to poor outcome. Within the Province, there are those individuals who are hired as social-workers; yet are not eligible to work within other locales! For example, a person coming from BC with a degree in education, may not perform the duties of a social-worker there, but can come to Alberta and transfer attain social-worker status. What must actually happen to re-build and move forward is withdrawal of funding… Immediately, there is a kneejerk reaction of worry that both caseworkers and foster placements will be lost. In reality, that is true. Ability to apprehended will decrease and those employees without true vested interest in children and families will choose to leave the System in favour of monies elsewhere. This, in turn, leaves only the most qualified, dedicated to perform duty. It is a case of less being more. Funding needs to be generated into proactive, preventative faculties, as opposed to reactive situations that have risen to a level of failure that out-of-home intervention is required. IMHO

      • I agree Christine. It would appear that this issue has been studied to death. There are so many recommendations that no one knows how to track them anymore let alone implement them. I think one reason for this is that implementation requires money and as you pointed out, children don’t vote so they fall to the bottom of the priority list.

        Rachel Notley (NDP) pointed this out in spades when she asked Dave Hancock why his government wouldn’t approve more money for the Child Advocate. Hancock made some inane comment that it was up to the Child Advocate to make such as request because he was “independent”. This made no sense because the request for additional funding had been made and went before a Legislative committee who turned it down. Given that this exchange occurred right in the middle of the media’s revelation that 145 children had died Mr Hancock’s reaction was downright callous.

      • Sharing letter written by Founder of Protecting Canadian Children to the Minister:

        Alfredine (Linda) Plourde

        (905) 594-9973 / cell: 905-906-9973

        Website: http://www.protectingcanadianchildren.ca

        E-mail: protectingcanadianchildren@hotmail.com

        http://www.facebook.com – google Alfredine Linda Plourde

        January 15, 2014

        Attention Sherman Raj

        Minister Marneet Bhullar:

        It is no surprise, but it still makes grim reading, that Velvet Martin has not been invited by or had a response from Minister Marmeet Bhullar to Provincial Roundtable discussion. Omission indicates to us, the people, the Ministry have are a separate threatening entity and that’s at the root of all problems. Secrets have diminished in Alberta following the publication in the Edmonton Journal and Calgary Herald on Fatal Care. You are all aware of what is happening in the Child welfare System. If there is one top qualified experienced woman to talk about all the failures and can come up with solutions, it is Velvet Martin. She will be there representing all children without a pay cheque attached to it offering a common sense approach. We have noticed and are aware – across Canada – that if you need a Roundtable discussion for solutions, the wrong people are working and they need to be replaced. A good start will be to hire Velvet Martin. She represents real citizens; who understands the premise that it’s not about what Canada can do for us, it’s about what can be done by us, together, through the hard and frustrating but absolutely necessary work of self-government. Furthermore, Velvet Martin is a driving force for justice has been involved in that process. She is ultimately trained to become a great leadership for humanity and fight against child abuse under any organizations that proclaim to be there “for the best interest of the child”. Velvet Martin always follows her conscience and exposes wrong-doing for the public interest. This trend of ignoring people is accelerating and needs to end. When a child is at risk you stop everything and act immediately. Please, we ask that you extend a special invitation to Velvet Martin.

        Sincerely and with Hope;

        Alfredine (Linda) Plourde

      • Joe Burns says:

        Susan, the question you should be asking, is how much more likely is a child to die or be harmed in “Care” than children in the general population.

        I have done a lot of research on Child “Protection” and you can find a lot of useful information and links on my webpages. http://www.noto42.blogspot.com

        Keep up the pressure in Alberta and hopefully it will spread.

      • It is rather astonishing to know that persons located overseas are waiting and watching alongside Canadians to see whether the Alberta Government will step up. I am grateful for input and to see that people around the globe do care for the future of our youth. Now Ministry needs to “man-up” and offer similar passion if we are to preserve children’s lives.

      • Agreed. It looks like quite a few people have written to the Human Services minister about this. I really hope he pays attention and that his round table is not just another “consultation” intended to give the appearance of taking action without actually improving anything at all. We’ve certainly seen enough of that in the areas of healthcare, elder care, and resource management.
        Velvet let us know whether Minister Bhullar invites you to participate in the roundtable. We’re all interested in how this will come out.

      • Good question Joe. I’ll check it out. Thanks for your interest in this issue and the link to your blog. I’m sure it will be informative.
        All the best.

  7. Carlos Beca says:

    Susan I understand your comment but I ask the question – Is it legal to avoid taxes with magical accounting? You do not think that corporations do this? According to Mel Hurtig’s book way back when, it was estimated that in the 80s that accounting was around 15 billion a year. Furthermore, we just heard recently about the offshore bank accounts to a total of about 7 billion a year. I have to say that as much as I want to believe that many corporations are within the law, I have to confess that I think that the majority is not. This is an opinion based on what I know and what I have read and what I have witnessed throughout the years. In the financial seervices I am quite sure that the law of the jungle prevails. If you have not seen it, make the time to watch ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’. The main character of this real story was out of jail after 3 years, possibly with secret bank accounts everywhere.
    As far as the comment about the Chicago managers it is up to Murray Dobin to prove it but I can tell you that coming from the US I have to say that it is not that hard for me to believe it.

  8. Carlos Beca says:

    I went back to Murray Dobbin’s article and I noticed that he actually names the two lawyers and were he read the comment in his post. So it should not be that difficult to check it especially for you being a lawyer. It is shocking to me as a person not involved in the law world that more and more lawyers seem to be doing what to me is illegal (i.e. The setting of offshore bank accounts and much worse) .
    I particularly liked your sentence ‘These executives and directors should be prosecuted and sent to jail, period’ – what is even more mind boggling to me is ‘Why are they not?’ – the answer to me is simple but never the one that people focus on – because our judicial system has double standards. One for the elites and the powerful and one for the no bodies like myself. This is also the reason why the 741 children that died do not really matter than much to people that run this province and who for the most part belong to the elites. They were mostly native and so what? This is the reality. Denying this is denying what is the real issue. In my books this is called racism which we have a hard time to accept but are very quick on pointing to other countries where the same happens.

    • Carlos, I checked some of the links in the Dobbin article and found another article that said that other law profs from the George Washington University Law School are fighting the “anything goes” creed put forth by Frank Easterbrook and Daniel Fischel, Interestingly Easterbrook and Fischel are both from the Chicago School — the home of the most regressive economic as well as legal theories of our time. One wonders what it is about the Chicago School that inspires such self-interested hogwash.

      Your comment about a judicial double standard is borne out by the stats on who’s incarcerated. The proportion of aboriginals to whites in Canada and blacks to whites in the US is far out of whack with their relative proportions in society. There are a number of reasons for this, but certainly poverty, which in turn means no access to high priced lawyers, is one of them.

      Good discussion, thanks Carlos.

  9. Carlos Beca says:

    Great articles and thoughts but in the end the question is always what is the main objective of the Government of Alberta? It is clearly the interests of corporations and the elites so the results are what they are. Children are even below us and so really 741 is a miracle.
    There are governments that care for their people though but those examples are never ever mentioned in Alberta, so I feel that I have an obligation of at least allow those that read this blog to know about it in case they do not. Here is the greatest example of caring for the people they represent.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2014/01/11/oil-fund-norway-millionaires_n_4576887.html

    I am sure many of you will find an interesting read if not outright upsetting.By the way we produce more oil in Alberta in terms of volume.

  10. I sent a letter to the editor of the Edmonton Journal about this issue. It was published on Jan 16, 2013 under the banner Panel needs mother’s voice. Here’s the link: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/opinion/letters/Thursday+letters+Panel+needs+mother+voice/9392325/story.html

    And here’s the letter in case the link won’t work.

    Re: “Province reveals toll much higher,” Jan. 9.

    I applaud Human Services Minister Manmeet Bhullar for releasing the information regarding the number of children who died in government care.

    Having said that, I urge him to invite someone like Velvet Martin, a child welfare advocate and the mother of a child who died in care, to participate in the upcoming roundtable.

    His plan for improving care includes a focus on the root causes of the issues affecting the well-being of children. Surely there’s no better way to understand root causes than to hear from a mother whose child was put into care.

    Bhullar faces a monumental task in eradicating the culture of fear in the child welfare system. He needs to include all the stakeholders in the roundtable if he’s serious about finding a solution.

    Susan Wright, Calgary

  11. Carol Wodak says:

    Also related – what happens when unexpected deaths are reported? I’ve
    Watch Dying to be heard: Families, safety advocates often frustrated at lack of action on inquest findings (with video) Postmedia News/Edmonton Journal January 18, 2014
    First in a six-part series.
    Scores of recommendations from coroners’ inquests and fatality inquiries across Canada go ignored or unheeded every year despite their potential to prevent future deaths, a Postmedia News investigation has found.
    While provincial governments throw money and time into these public probes of sudden or violent deaths — about 100 inquests or inquiries were held last year alone — they devote few resources to tracking recommendations or sharing inquest findings with the public…
    … Some provinces, including B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, ask for written responses from agencies targeted by inquiry recommendations, typically within a year’s time.
    Copies of responses obtained by Postmedia News show that some agencies do prepare detailed responses and will even provide updated responses without prompting. But in other cases, the only written response on file was a letter saying the recommendations would be taken “under advisement” or were “under consideration.” Sometimes agencies promised to follow up but never did. One response delivered to the chief coroner in Saskatchewan after an inquest simply stated, “This will confirm that these recommendations have been reviewed and appropriate policies and procedures have been implemented to address the recommendations.”…
    … Alberta, meanwhile, doesn’t even bother collecting written responses. Alberta Justice spokeswoman Michelle Davio said the medical examiner’s office used to collect written responses, but the practice was discontinued in 2011 “as it was not required under the Fatality Inquiries Act and is not part of the mandate of the OCME.”
    Dr. Anny Sauvageau, chief medical examiner in Alberta, declined an interview request.
    Asked how a member of the public is supposed to know what becomes of an inquiry’s recommendations, Davio said the person would have to directly contact the responding agency…

  12. Carol Wodak says:

    Sorry about my typos/incomplete editing; still a bit of battle fatigue. Why does it have to be war?
    Delete “I’ve Watch” which started out to be I’ve watched reporting and Inquiries re: harm and death to seniors in care for many years…” Same story as the children in care deaths, ignoring fatality inquiry recommendations (and that’s a POOR substitute for the Ontario jury inquiries)… the Dying to be Heard series, at http://o.canada.com/discussions/dying-for-a-voice/ now has 2 articles about seniors in care, one about the Ontario Casa Verde jury report.
    Carol

    • Carol, you’re forgiven for the typos…it’s the least of our worries given that you were part of the sit-in at health Minister Horne’s office. Good on you and all of the seniors who participated, you’ve renewed my faith in citizen engagement!!! Shame on the minister’s staff for not allowing supporters to bring you guys food and then calling the police to have you removed! What’s next? German sheperds and tear gas? (Sorry a little over the top there).

      In your previous comment you made a number of important points. I’m particularly troubled by the Justice spokeswoman’s comment that unless the law requires the medical examiner to collect written responses it’s not going to be done. Canada prides itself on being a “principals based” society which allows us the discretion to do things because they are the right thing to do. The US is a “rules based” society where something will be done only if there’s a regulation in place requiring it to be done. This lunacy gave birth to the US Tax Code. Whatever is driving this behavior, one thing is clear, the lack of transparency allows the agencies to avoid accountability. It’s impossible to improve when no one is accountable.

  13. Pingback: In the Past 15 Years 741 Children Died in Care of the Canadian Govt

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