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Manitoba children's advocate will have new power to monitor kids

WINNIPEG — The Manitoba government is following through on a promise to give the children's advocate more power.

A bill before the legislature proposes that the independent office, for the first time, have the ability to investigate injuries and deaths outside the child-welfare system.

That authority would extend over minors who had been in the justice system or who had received mental health or addictions counselling.

The bill also calls for the watchdog to be given an advocacy role for child-care services and justice programming.

There's also a provision for more special reports from the advocate on government services — not just annual reports

The changes stem from an inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, a five-year-old girl who was beaten to death after social workers decided she could be returned to her mother.

"The proposed expanded mandate would enhance the ability of the children’s advocate to ensure that children are protected and that their rights are respected," Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said in a statement Thursday.

Children's advocate Darlene MacDonald said she is happy with the proposed changes and hopes the bill will become law.

The legislature was scheduled to rise Thursday and not return until Feburary. A provincial election is slated for April 19.

The Canadian Press

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