It was a subdued tone in the House of Assembly Tuesday afternoon, as Liberal House Leader Andrew Parsons spent the lion’s share of question period to voice the concerns raised in “Sixteen” — a scathing report by the province’s Child and Youth Advocate.
Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis talks to the media Tuesday afternoon. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
In that report it states that just before the fire on Springdale Street, John was brought to the Janeway. He told them that he wanted to harm himself and that he was going to burn his house down,” Parsons said calmly in the House. “He was assessed for 12 minutes. He ended up burning down his house and a man died.
“I ask the minister: how can this happen?”
Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis was fielding the questions in the House Tuesday, but he didn’t offer many answers.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Davis acknowledged the severity of the situation, and that there were failures in the system dealing with this youth.
The early morning fire in November of 2011 came after more than two years of trouble for the 16-year-old, and run-ins with the police, the health care system and the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS).
A man died in the fire.
The youth — who is named “John” for confidentiality purposes in the report — pleaded guilty of arson and manslaughter after the fire.
Child and Youth Advocate Carol Chafe describes a mess of disorganization and struggling front line workers in CYFS.
Davis said in 2011, when the fire happened, CYFS was in transition as it was coming into its own, after it was spun off from the health-care system and social services.
Responding to Parsons in the House, Davis focused on the work done since 2011, and a commitment to talk to Chafe about the 30 recommendations she makes in the report.
“This is a very important topic. This is a very important matter for the people of the province, and I can tell you it is very important for us as a government,” Davis said during question period. “Recommendations from the Child and Youth Advocate and having the relationship with the Child and Youth Advocate is important to us. I have had a meeting with her since I came in the department just a month or so ago and had an opportunity to discuss how she operates and how we operate.”
On Tuesday, Davis would not say whether the government will commit to taking action on all 30 recommendations, and at times he struggled to answer factual questions in the House of Assembly.
The back-and-forth between Parsons and Davis was subdued, without the heckling and theatre that normally comes with question period. For several minutes, Premier Kathy Dunderdale sat in her seat looking down, with her head in her hands.
The Liberals used their entire allotted time in question period — more than 20 minutes — to press the issue.
The NDP didn’t ask any questions about the Child and Youth Advocate’s report, and instead, Leader Lorraine Michael led off her time by asking about anti-replacement worker legislation in relation to the Labatt brewery strike.
Parsons said part of what’s so troubling for him is that the province already went through something similar with the Zachary Turner inquiry.
“They’re still making the same mistakes,” Parsons said. “The recommendations say it all. I mean, this was a colossal failure of government when it comes to this situation.”