EDMONTON, AB (November 27, 2013): Today, Wildrose Health Critic Heather Forsyth, former Minister of Children’s Services, spoke on the need for a public inquiry surrounding the number of children who have died while under the province’s care that have gone unreported.
Forsyth’s comments in the Legislature are below: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The shocking revelations about the state of our children in care have left Albertans heartbroken. They cannot comprehend how senseless tragedies like the deaths of vulnerable children could go unreported for so long. Mr. Speaker, as the Premier rightly pointed out yesterday, I was the Minister of Childrens’ Services at one point in time. I know what comes across the desk. Some of these cases are absolutely stomach churning. They can often involve the worst kinds of neglect and abuse, and each and everyone one of them are full of heartbreak and haunting. I also know that the department counts amongst its staff some of the most caring and compassionate souls that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. However, Mr. Speaker – as the recent media investigation has revealed – there is something seriously wrong with how it responds to the deaths of children in care. In many of the cases, the children passed years ago, but their story is only now being told, for the very first time. But Mr. Speaker, there’s an opportunity that comes from each of these stories. It’s an opportunity that must not be wasted. We must learn why these tragedies keep occurring. Until we do, how can we know what steps to take to prevent them in the future? As a former Minister, I can say with absolute certainty that nothing short of a full public inquiry will fix this. I don’t say that lightly. I know I would be called to testify. And I would do so without hesitation. This isn’t about politics, Mr. Speaker. I know the current Minister works hard in a difficult portfolio, and I know the ministers before him did as well. But we need to set aside our personal hesitations and do what’s right. If there were things that I should have done as Minister, I want to know about them. Albertans deserve to know about them. And the families of the children lost deserve to know about them. I am asking the government, please. Call a public inquiry. It’s the right thing to do.