New power for Manitoba children’s advocate after inquiry into 5 year old’s death

Manitoba’s children’s advocate will gain new powers next week to work on behalf of more young people and to make more of her findings public.

The Progressive Conservative government says portions of a law passed last year are to take effect March 15.

The changes expand the role of Daphne Penrose beyond child welfare to examine youth services in areas such as education, health and justice.

Another change will allow her to publicly release findings from her investigations into the deaths of children in government care.

The additional powers were recommended in 2013 by the inquiry into the death of Phoenix Sinclair, a five-year-old girl who was beaten to death by her mother and mother’s boyfriend after social workers closed her file.

The advocate’s office is currently finishing a review into the death of Tina Fontaine, whose body was found in a Winnipeg river in 2014 after she had run away from a hotel where social workers had placed her.

“This (change) 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,” Families Minister Scott Fielding said Tuesday in a written statement.

The children’s advocate is an independent office of the legislature that has been forbidden from publicly releasing reports into child deaths. The advocate releases general findings in annual reports and appears every year before a legislature committee.

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