The mother of a four-year-old girl who died while in care in Alberta five years ago says she wants the charges against her daughter’s former guardians reinstated, or new ones laid.
Last week APTN News reported that the Alberta crown stayed charges against two kinship guardians who were caring for Serenity, who died of head injuries in 2014.
Her guardians were charged in 2017 with failing to provide the necessities of life.
Now, Serenity’s biological mother, who lives in British Columbia, has travelled to Alberta to seek justice for her late daughter.
The mother, who cannot be named because of a publication ban in the case, says the crown’s decision to drop the charges is “not fair.”
“My daughter was malnourished. She was starved. She was 18 pounds when she went into the hospital,” she said. “Coming from somewhere and being 18 pounds at four years old.”
An Alberta child advocate’s report notes that Serenity was significantly underweight and had bruises on multiple parts of her body.
But the lawyer representing the family members who were looking after Serenity says the death was tragic, but not his clients’ fault.
“Serenity had an accidental death. She got injured on the swings,” lawyer Robert Lee told APTN.
Asked about the report of malnourishment, Lee said “there are things I can’t talk about right now,” referring to to the publication ban.
“My clients are very eager to have that publication ban lifted.”
Serenity and two of her siblings were living with the relatives while their mother was dealing with domestic violence and addiction.
Her mother provided APTN with the hospital report that confirms Serenity had a head injury and was malnourished.
“I know that I played a part, and I have to pay for that the rest of my life,” she said.
Lee blames Alberta’s child welfare system, saying if Serenity’s mother had been afforded the proper supports there would have been no need for his clients to have become guardians in the first place.
“How Serenity was handled while in the care of child welfare is not an accident,” he said. “It’s a systemic problem that exists within our system where the rules aren’t followed. Proper supports aren’t provided. Parents aren’t given the necessary supports. Information is not shared. And things are just not done properly.”
Lee said Serenity’s death has destroyed his clients’ lives.
“My clients are very eager for the truth to come out, because there have been many…many false allegations made against my clients — very simple factual allegations that are just purely false,” he said. “My clients and I have been unable to clarify those false statements because of these bans. These gag orders that are on us.”
Serenity’s mother said she will keep fighting for justice.
“I’m hoping to get the best outcome because my daughter deserves justice,” she said. “Not only does my daughter deserve justice, but her siblings do. And all the other Indigenous children who have been swept under the rug.”