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Soon a watchdog dedicated to the well-being and rights of Quebec children

Photo: Jacques Nadeau Archives Le Devoir Children play in a schoolyard. After months of work, deputies of the National Assembly adopted Bill 37 “on the commissioner for children’s well-being and rights” on Wednesday.

Three years after the submission of the “Laurent report” on the rights of children and youth protection, Quebec is preparing to have its “ombudsman” dedicated to young Quebecers.

After months of work, National Assembly deputies adopted Bill 37 “On the Commissioner for Children’s Welfare and Rights” on Wednesday. Tabled in October last year, the text aimed to respect the first recommendation of the Laurent commission: the establishment of a watchdog reserved for children in Quebec. But what exactly changes ?

What’s there

First, as its title indicates, the law immediately creates the position of commissioner for the well-being and rights of children. The Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, hopes to be able to find his incumbent by the end of the year.

The National Assembly will have to elect him to both third of the votes. The new law requires him to have “significant experience in promoting the well-being and respect for the rights of children”.

In fact, the future commissioner will have the mission to “ensure the protection of the interests of the child”, in particular by analyzing “the state of well-being of children in Quebec” and by supporting “children in the exercise of their rights. To carry out his work, he will be assisted by a deputy commissioner and advisory committees made up of children and young adults “representative of the diversity of Quebec society to the extent possible”.

In addition to reporting at regular intervals, the commissioner will have the obligation to constantly monitor child deaths. He will have to do the same for the deaths of young people aged 18 to 25 who have been analyzed by the Coroner's Office.

The commissioner will have visiting rights in all public bodies that he deems necessary to investigate — a youth center, for example. It will then be able to make recommendations that the said organizations must follow.

“It’s a huge step forward that we are taking today,” said Lionel Carmant on Wednesday. “This is a historic bill. We are in the process of creating a new institution in Quebec,” added Liberal MP Brigitte Garceau.

What is not there pas

Mme Garceau is not fully satisfied. It was she who, during long hours in parliamentary committee and through a series of amendments, attempted to entrust the future commissioner with the current powers of the Commission on Youth Rights and Human Rights ( CDPDJ), without success.

Currently, the CDPDJ has the authority to investigate cases of potential misconduct by the Director of Youth Protection (DPJ). The law also gives him the right to intervene in court. In its final report, the Laurent commission, however, recommended that these powers be taken away from it and given to the Commissioner for Welfare and Children's Rights.

“Since [ …] 1995, the CDPDJ suffered from underfunding which forced it to reduce its regional services and other services such as meetings in schools. These constraints ultimately seem to have reduced its influence and accessibility to children. This reality supports the need to have an institution entirely dedicated to children,” we can read in the document of more than 500 pages, submitted in May 2021.

The law as adopted does not provide for a transfer of powers. Minister Carmant believes that the commissioner already has enough work on his plate. “It is important that the commissioner is the commissioner of all children,” he said in February.

Ms. Garceau is not reassured by this. She fears that the commissioner's mandate, “linked to systemic rights violations”, will not allow him to defend children in individual cases. “Who will be the voice of the children [for whom] the DPJ does not accept the report, and neither does the CDPDJ ?” she wondered out loud.

< p>In its original version, the bill also provided for the establishment of a position of associate commissioner for Inuit youth and First Nations children. In February, the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and the Makivvik Corporation both expressed strong criticism of the minister's intentions.

The associate commissioner was therefore erased from the text of the law, at their request. The commissioner will instead work with communities that wish to do so so that adequate monitoring of the rights of young people is carried out in their communities.

The new law also stipulates that “the First Nations and Inuit are best placed to meet the needs of their children in the most appropriate manner.”

In response to the adoption of Bill 37, Quebec solidaire MP Guillaume Cliche-Rivard, who had requested and obtained an emergency meeting with indigenous pressure groups at the beginning of the month, said he was happy “to adopt a law which finally comes close to the recommendations of the report Laurent.”

His PQ colleague Joël Arseneau is also “generally satisfied”. However, on Wednesday he deplored the absence of a charter of children's rights in the law.

Intrinsically linked to the creation of a commissioner in the Laurent report, this charter should allow a better definition of the fundamental rights of young Quebecers. However, it was not in the bill tabled in October by Mr. Carmant.

“We will see what [the commissioner] will ask us, if was happy to say the elected CAQ member at the time. He will analyze the needs and we will see. »

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116