In the news: learning from tragedy

The province announced this week that they plan to amend the Fatality Investigation Act and strike two expert committees to review deaths due to domestic violence and those of children in provincial care.

The proposed child death committee will conduct reviews of unexpected deaths of children under the age of 19 who have died while in provincial care. It has been reported that these reviews will include both individual case analysis—what happened and how—and a trend analysis. The purpose of the committees is to understand the factors that led to the tragedy, to inform lessons learned, and provide recommendations as to how they can be prevented in the future.

What has been reported to date is that the recommendations of such an expert committee would be non-binding and thus left to the discretion of government to implement. Further, there have been concerns voiced about the openness and transparency of the work of these committees, and what of their review and findings will be made public, if anything.

NSCSW has spoken publicly about the urgent need for Nova Scotia to create a Child and Youth Advocate Office (CYAO) that is independent of government. Such an office plays a critical role in the protection and provision of services to vulnerable children and youth.

As part of their role, CYAOs conduct independent investigations and reviews, including child deaths. They make recommendations to government on how to improve programs and services delivered to children, youth and families in Nova Scotia. CYAOs provide rights-based public education, and produce public reports.

Nova Scotia is one of only two provinces in Canada that does not have this crucial organization. Should Nova Scotia create such an office, the CYAO could play an independent, prominent role in the work of this expert committee. They could make their findings and their recommendations to government available to the public, and help Nova Scotia learn how to prevent future tragedies.

Lynn Brogan
Acting Executive Director/Registrar