MANITOBA GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES LEGISLATION THAT WOULD BROADEN, STRENGTHEN MANDATE OF THE CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE
– – – Protecting our Most Vulnerable Children and Youth, Ensuring Greater Public Accountability: Fielding
Legislation has been introduced by the Manitoba government that would expand the mandate of the Office of the Children’s Advocate, as recommended by commissioner Ted Hughes who led the Phoenix Sinclair inquiry, Families Minister Scott Fielding announced today.
“With the introduction of the proposed The Advocate for Children and Youth Act, we are responding to 11 key recommendations made by commissioner Hughes,” said Fielding. “Strengthening the advocate’s powers and responsibilities as an independent officer of the Manitoba legislature would ensure greater accountability of a range of key public services. Our government continues to take action to address the needs of Manitoba’s most vulnerable children and youth.”
The advocate’s duties and powers are currently part of The Child and Family Services Act. The advocate, an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly, advocates for children involved in the child and family services (CFS) system and provides advice to the minister of families on the welfare of these children. The advocate also reviews and investigates the death of any child in the CFS system.
The proposed legislation would empower the advocate by:
Expanding its mandate beyond the CFS system to help other vulnerable children and young adults. This would include those receiving or eligible to receive an individual education plan, disability, mental health, addictions, victim support and criminal justice services.
Strengthening the public reporting abilities of the advocate including the preparation of special reports to increase transparency and improving the effectiveness and responsiveness of services. These special reports, as well as newly required service plans and annual reports, would be released to the public, subject to certain limits on the disclosure of personal information.
Granting the advocate the power to review deaths and serious injuries of vulnerable children involved in the child welfare, mental health, addictions and justice systems, as well as young adults aged 18 to 21 who required CFS services to help them transition to adulthood.
“My office has worked with the Manitoba government in developing this bill and I believe it goes a long way towards implementing the recommendations made by commissioner Hughes,” said Darlene MacDonald, Manitoba’s children’s advocate. “These proposed changes have the potential to tangibly improve public services for children, youth and families in Manitoba.”