Braid: Even the Serenity case won't crack government cult of secrecy
Published on: December 8, 2016 | Last Updated: December 8, 2016 6:58 PM MST
Finally, somebody got to the crux of little Serenity’s death, shouting, “THIS CASE IS CLEARLY CRIMINAL!” above the legislature waffling and wiggling.
That was Wildrose MLA David Hanson, incandescent with rage, like every other opposition member in the house on Thursday.
The Serenity saga is sickening. The government’s performance has been chaotic, negligent beyond precedent, and either duplicitous or ignorant. The details are now so overlaid with obfuscation that it’s almost impossible to know.
MLA Hanson, from Lac La Biche-St. Paul, brought us back to the ugly reality that a major crime has been committed, so far with no hint of justice.
If a four-year-old child is brutalized and starved, the least of the charges you’d expect is manslaughter, or criminal negligence causing death.
There would even be something as basic as an autopsy report, don’t you think?
For Serenity there are no charges and no information from police, even though she died more than two years ago, on Sept. 27 2014.
The autopsy report was completed only recently. A report from the human services department on her death was given to the RCMP only last week!
The government now implies that the Mounties didn’t get around to downloading the report for another six days. But the force has apparently been talking to human services about it since September.
Why do the police have to ask the government for an internal report on the death of a child, to the point of submitting a formal request? Why doesn’t the government just give it to them?
The answers are buried in the labyrinth of Alberta’s child care system, surely one of the most secretive government operations in Canada. It resists all efforts at deep reform. Right at the time Serenity died, a major study was issued, but very little has been done.
Now the legislature is engulfed with charges and countercharges over who gave what, to whom, over the past months.
That’s entirely beside the point. Nothing happened until Postmedia columnist Paula Simons broke the story on Nov. 18. Everything since has been reaction to that. We’re entitled to conclude that if details of Serenity’s case hadn’t been published, silence and inaction would persist.
The cult of secrecy is supposed to protect siblings of victims, but there’s no evidence it shields anything but government departments that make massive blunders like the ones leading to Serenity’s death. Care workers failed to check in on this family for the crucial months before she died, despite ample signs of trouble.
NDP members were silent and morose on Thursday. One of them — former children’s services worker Nicole Goehring — pointedly said to Human Services Minister Irfan Sabir, “Most autopsy reports take a few days. This took two years. Why?”
Sabir, as usual, had a lot of detailed answers, all of which ignore the two-year lapse since Serenity’s death.
Could any of this happen because she was a First Nations child whose death and identity may be kept secret, by law? Quite possibly.
Would there be such secrecy if a child on your street died after being starved and brutalized? Not a chance.
Serenity had widespread injuries, to her head, anus and genitals. Her hymen was gone. Severely hypothermic, she had dwindled from normal size down to 18 lbs, the weight of a nine-month old baby.
Serenity could have been saved in the months before she died. Failing that, justice might at least have honoured her memory.
Sabir now refuses to resign and promises — guess what? — an all-party committee to investigate and find answers.
Then he says, “we are not here to assign the blame.” Goodness no. That might trouble the bureaucracy.
Don Braid’s column appears regularly in the Herald