EDMONTON, AB (November 25, 2013): Albertans continue to be concerned by the news that the government systematically underreported the deaths of children in the care of the government between 1999 and 2013.
Despite Wildrose’s appeal to hold a public inquiry into this tragic issue, the Redford PCs have so far refused. When asked by the Wildrose Opposition to explain the discrepancy between the official government figures and those uncovered by the media, the Minister of Human Services Dave Hancock attributed the discrepancy to the government’s decision not to report deaths of children in care associated with natural causes. However, it remains unclear if those deaths are really attributable to natural causes, or if those deaths were the result of unsafe practices, preventable illnesses, and other avoidable factors. “Albertans are not simply content to accept the Minister’s word that these deaths are all the result of natural causes, especially given the government’s reluctance to release these figures in the first place,” said Wildrose Official Opposition leader Danielle Smith. “If these deaths could have been avoided through better support, improved resources, or other actions on the part of the government, then they shouldn’t be chalked up to natural causes.” Today, Albertans were also saddened to learn that one-third of all children who died while in the care of the government were babies. In fact, according to a story in the Edmonton Journal, the mortality rate for infants in the care of government is three times that of infants in the general population (4.8 incidents per thousand as compared to 1.6 incidents per thousand). “To lose babies in care of the government is a tragedy, but to lose them at three times the rate of the infant population in general demands a public inquiry,” said Wildrose Human Services Critic Jeff Wilson. “Unsafe sleeping practices, preventable diseases, and injuries due to poor supervision all indicate that the government needs to do a thorough review of their support for children in the care of the government.” There is also concern that the government has failed to understand the magnitude of this issue, and believes it to be of small consequence. When asked about the issue of deaths of children in the care of the government, the Minister for Human Services described the number of deaths as being “not significant.” The Wildrose Opposition respectfully disagrees with the Minister’s assessment of this tragic situation.