The Manitoba government will proclaim The Advocate for Children and Youth Act to come into force March 15, Families Minister Scott Fielding announced. The act expands the mandate of the children’s advocate, an independent officer of the Manitoba legislature.
“This legislation strengthens the advocate’s powers and responsibilities and expands their ability to advocate, review and investigate beyond the child and family services system,” said Fielding. “This will ensure greater public accountability for a range of key public services that protect Manitoba’s most vulnerable children and youth, and aim to make those services more effective and responsive.”
The act responds to 11 key recommendations in a report by commissioner Ted Hughes following the Inquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding the Death of Phoenix Sinclair.
The advocate’s duties and powers currently fall under The Child and Family Services Act. The advocate supports children involved in the Child and Family Services (CFS) system and provides advice on their welfare to the minister.
Under the new act, the advocate will have the added discretion to review or investigate the death of a child when they or their family received any CFS services in the previous year.
The new act will empower the advocate’s office and expand its mandate beyond the CFS system so it can support Manitobans between birth and age 21 who receive or are eligible to receive a broad range of government-funded services, such as:
• disability services,
• mental health services,
• addictions services,
• victim supports,
• youth justice services, and
• an individual education plan.
The act also strengthens the advocate’s public reporting abilities and enables the advocate to write special reports that can be released to the public.
Two areas under the act will be proclaimed in future phases. This includes the jurisdiction to review and investigate serious injuries and deaths of children outside the CFS system who are involved in mental health, addictions and youth justice, and the duty for the Manitoba government and government-funded agencies to report serious injuries of children involved in these systems. The next phases will be announced at a later date to allow the advocate’s office to build capacity and develop appropriate reporting mechanisms for serious injuries.