NEWS
05/09/2017 14:41 EDT | Updated 05/11/2017 19:04 EDT

Alberta government faces renewed questions on safety of kids in care

EDMONTON — Opposition leaders say Alberta's children's services minister should resign over reports that biological children are still living in a home under investigation in the death of a child in kinship care.

Children's Services Minister Danielle Larivee says no children under government care are in the home.

Ongoing monitoring of the biological children has shown they are safe and are not being mistreated, she says.

"If there had been any identification of safety concerns, (the biological children) would have been removed," Larivee said Tuesday.

A suggestion that having children in a home where the adults are being investigated puts the kids at risk prompted Larivee to reply that a criminal investigation is still ongoing. For now, she said, she must rely on reports that the biological children are not in harm's way.

The case involves a four-year-old girl named Serenity. Her death has elicited criticism and concern of the provincial child welfare under Premier Rachel Notley's NDP and the Progressive Conservative government before that.

Serenity died in 2014 from maltreatment and severe brain damage. Since details of her case became public late last year, the minister in charge has been shuffled out of the portfolio, a new Children's Services Ministry was created and Notley struck an all-party panel to come up with how to improve the system.

Ric McIver, who leads the Progressive Conservatives in the house, said no children should be in the home — biological or otherwise.

"What could possibly have been more important that you couldn't be bothered to ensure (the safety of) kids in the same place where the brutal end to Serenity's young life took place?" McIver asked Larivee during question period.

Opposition Wildrose Leader Brian Jean echoed McIver's remarks.

"We need some answers … and we want to make sure that Alberta does whatever it possibly can to take these children that might be in harm's way out of harm," Jean said outside the legislature. 

Both said the minister should resign.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark told reporters: "There's absolutely no way that there should be kids in that home."

Serenity, born to First Nations parents, died in kinship care despite previous concerns from her birth mother that the child was being abused.

Leaked reports to the media revealed that Alberta's child and youth advocate, who investigated the case, was not told that an emaciated and hypothermic Serenity was taken to hospital in September 2014 with dilated pupils and multiple bruises.

She had an extensive brain injury, was put on life support and died soon after.

In the two years following her death, there have been delays and secrecy over her autopsy as well as about police and government investigations.

No one has been charged.