05 Jun Bill 18: Child Protection and Accountability Act
Mr. Clark: Thank you, Madam Chair. I want to speak briefly on this. As a member of the child intervention panel I want to bring a little perspective. I just want to be very clear that I agree absolutely with the sentiment of the Member for Chestermere-Rocky View and where she’s coming from. I share her emotions and her, I know, legitimate desire to ensure that what happened to Serenity never happens again, that what we in this House do and what we do in that committee spurs real action and real change, and that we never allow that to happen ever again.
That is how we honour Serenity, and that’s absolutely what I certainly intend to do. I hope that we get the facts about Serenity’s case from the minister. I’ve written to her, as I know other members in the opposition have, and I hope at some point we will see those. I’m optimistic that we may in fact yet get a chance to see that information confidentially so we have the full information we need to do our job.
We do need to spur action, but I think we also need to be very careful about knee-jerk reactions. You know, we’ve been debating Bill 17, and one of our criticisms, I think, legitimately, of Bill 17 is that not enough consultation went into what the government did. One of the challenges and risks we take here by acting too quickly on Bill 18 and adding too much in is that we may in fact make changes without proper consultation. There’s some risk there.
While I think that the government certainly should not be given a free pass and there are gaps and additional changes I’d like to see in the bill – and hopefully this evening we’ll see some more amendments coming forward – I think we need to be careful to ensure that what we do does not jump ahead of the process. There is other legislation. The Child and Youth Advocate Act is under review by the Legislative Offices Committee. That’s going to make some recommendations which I know will touch on some of the things that – we want to be careful about anticipating that committee as well.
Of course, there needs to be accountability – of course, there does – in Serenity’s case specifically and in other cases as well. But let’s not fool ourselves into thinking anything other than – the horrible situation that Serenity found herself in and that other children in our province find themselves in is the end of a very long and tragic road that has its roots in colonialization, has its roots in residential schools, has its roots in poverty. Those are things that we as a society, as a community need to grapple with, but no single bill of this Legislature, unfortunately, as much as we’d like it to, can solve those problems overnight. We can take steps to make it better every day.
While I think that Bill 18 certainly has its shortcomings, again I will hope that some of the amendments that we see coming tonight will address the shortcomings, as the one amendment that has passed already this evening has done. I hope we have that opportunity, but let’s be careful that we don’t jump to conclusions. Let’s allow the process to play itself out. I think that, Madam Chair, is how we will honour Serenity and ensure that this never happens again.
Mr. Clark: Madam Chair, as a member of the child intervention panel, as a member who sits on this side of the House, I profoundly and fundamentally disagree with my hon. colleague from Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre. This is an incredibly challenging topic. It’s getting very late at night here. I know emotions are running high, and I will imagine that the member’s intentions only come from a good place.
As I talked about earlier, we’ve heard over and over and over again that consultation has not been adequate on Bill 17 and many other things this government has done, and I agree with that. The process that we’re going through on the child intervention panel is a thorough, methodical consultative process. If we jump ahead by putting things into a bill now, we do exactly the opposite of what the Official Opposition constantly asks the government to do, and that’s consult. Especially in an area that is this complex and this challenging, if we don’t think very hard about ensuring we get things right, then it’s going to make things worse, so I will certainly be voting against this amendment You know, look, I don’t think this bill is perfect. I don’t think the government has done a perfect job of this, but it is an incredibly challenging file that has many and various complexities. I’m also very sensitive and in tune to the role that we play in this Assembly in creating and contributing to a culture of fear, in particular for front-line service providers in areas that are incredibly challenging, that go far beyond anything I have the bravery to do. I could never do that job. I don’t have the guts to do that. There’s no way I do, so I have tremendous respect for the people who do that job.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t work to do, because there clearly is. What happened to Serenity happened, and it shouldn’t have. I know this government doesn’t want that to ever happen again. None of us do. I know they don’t, but I believe the process we’re going through here on the child intervention panel is a good process. I would ask and hope that the Official Opposition commits to allowing the process to play itself out and to trying not to let politics get in the way of that process.
There’ll be plenty of times to have these loud and long debates. This is not the time for that. Let’s let the process play itself out. Let’s pass Bill 18. Let’s make the system a little bit better today than it was yesterday, continue to make it a little bit better tomorrow than it is today, and that’s what we can do. That’s how we’re going to help address and solve this issue. As much as it may make for sexy politics to be very up in arms about this, I don’t think it’s helpful at this stage. I really, genuinely don’t.