Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Opposition Boycotts Panel on Children in Care; Says Panel Lacks Teeth

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Alberta Opposition Boycotts Panel on Children in Care; Says Panel Lacks Teeth

Article excerpt

Opposition boycotts Alberta child-care panel

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EDMONTON - An Alberta legislature panel looking at ways to keep children safe in government care has morphed into a standoff between parties on both sides of the aisle.

Leaders of the four opposition parties said Tuesday they will boycott the panel unless Premier Rachel Notley's government gives it the tools to get at the root of the problem.

They also said the minister in charge, Irfan Sabir, needs to excuse himself from the panel because some recent problems are tied to him.

"Essentially the minister is on trial here and he's part of the judge and jury the way the government has designed (the panel)," said Progressive Conservative interim leader Ric McIver.

"It's all unacceptable. Why meet if you're not going to do anything?"

Earlier Tuesday, the opposition leaders sent a list of changes they believe are needed for the panel to have the necessary authority and credibility.

The changes include a commitment to an open process and protection for those who come forward from being punished in the workplace for speaking out.

They also want Sabir to testify.

The leaders, and NDP deputy government house leader Deron Bilous, said they haven't closed the door on negotiations.

"We're trying to work with the government here," said Wildrose Leader Brian Jean.

Bilous, however, said the panel will begin its work soon, with or without the opposition.

Sabir and Notley announced the panel on Dec. 1 after it was revealed through media reports and the child and youth advocate that there had been little action for two years on the death of a four-year-old girl named Serenity.

The girl died while in the care of extended family members. She was sent to hospital with severe brain trauma and signs of violent physical and sexual abuse. She was also extremely malnourished and weighed just 18 pounds. …

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