Premier willing to consider child advocate, but ‘first things first’ – Prince Edward Island

It’s an issue both opposition parties in the P.E.I. legislature have refused to give up on, and Friday the premier signalled his government may yet be willing to consider creating a position for a child advocate for the province.

P.E.I. is the only province in Canada without a child advocate. Creating one was one of the recommendations from the inquest jury following the murder-suicide deaths of four-year-old Nash Campbell and his mother, Patricia Hennessey.

Government responded to the inquest recommendations in the fall of 2015 saying it could protect Island children without creating a position for a child advocate, and since that time opposition parties have adamantly and frequently made the case one is needed.

‘A question of first things first’

In other provinces, child advocates often investigate concerns raised about children living in foster care and group homes, mental-health services for youth and the education system. They also look out for the interests of children in difficult custody cases and similar situations where a child could be at risk.

Addressing the issue Friday, Premier Wade MacLauchlan said: “I don’t think it’s a question of why not or a question of either/or, it’s a question of first things first.”

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan says his government ‘will look at where the priorities are.’ (CBC)

Asked if that meant he was willing to consider creating a position for a child advocate, he replied: “You always have to be willing to consider what more you can do. And that’s our whole approach as government, that’s why we’re happy to have a balanced budget: it enables us take a look at where the priorities are.”

Bills debated

On Thursday night, MacLauchlan brought forward three of the four bills his government needs to pass in order to move forward with its plan to improve protections for Island children. That includes creating a position for a lawyer to represent children in custody hearings, and a co-ordinator to resolve…

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