|Marion Willis, a child welfare advocate, says Manitoba agencies |
have 'forgotten [they] exist to protect children.'
The director of a Winnipeg-based child welfare agency says it did not get involved in the protection of a girl who was repeatedly raped by her stepfather, and was sent home twice to recover from abortions, because it wasn't notified of the case.
"It should have been an automatic referral, so I am shocked that we did not receive this one," said Sandie Stoker, executive director of the Child and Family All Nations Emergency Coordinated Response Network (ANCR). "That's very dangerous."
ANCR said Friday after the sentencing hearing for the stepfather that the case only came to its attention after he was later arrested for an unrelated attack on the girl's best friend and her mother. At that point, ANCR got involved.
By then, however, he had repeatedly raped his stepdaughter over 26 months.
On Friday, the 35-year-old man, who can't be named to protect the identity of the victim, was sentenced to 16 years in prison in connection with crimes including repeated sexual assault. During the sentencing hearing, court was told the man began sexually assaulting his stepdaughter in 2011, when she was in Grade 6.
16 years is nowhere near enough time for this criminal pedophile. He'll be out in 10 years raping some other little girl. Canadian courts seem no more interested in protecting children than any of the other agencies that are busy pointing their fingers at each other. Someone with more authority than the Office of Children's Advocate has to take responsibility for fixing this problem so this nightmare doesn't repeat itself with other children.
He went on to repeatedly rape her for more than two years. Twice, she got pregnant. Twice, he arranged for her to have an abortion — once in Newfoundland and Labrador, and once in Winnipeg. Despite the fact it is illegal to have sex with someone under 16, and any suspected case of child abuse must legally be reported, the girl was sent home to recover from the abortions, with the man who had abused her.
On Sunday, child welfare advocates told CBC News that something went wrong in the system, but there's little anyone can do about it, because there are not enough protocols in place to investigate who should be held accountable.
Stoker said if medical officials did not notify child welfare authorities, then either the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority or the province should review the case. If a child and family services agency received the information but failed to properly act on it, then Manitoba's Child and Family Services (CFS) or the family services minister should investigate.
System fails to protect
But since no one has been held accountable, no one knows which department should get involved. That, says a longtime critic of the child welfare system, is a dangerous oversight.
"In some ways, it's almost as though the system has forgotten it exists to protect children," said Marion Willis, who spent years working for Manitoba's CFS agencies.
"You want to know how many times I've sat down with the ministers of family services over the years, and they'll just say to me, 'You know what, Marion? We don't involve ourselves in individual cases.'"
A spokesperson for the family services minister also told CBC News that if someone was aware of an abuse of a child and failed to report it, that's a crime; therefore, it is a matter for the Winnipeg Police Service to investigate.
A spokesperson for the Women's Health Clinic — one of two facilities in Winnipeg that perform abortions — told the CBC the child did not receive the abortion there.
A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said it was not conducting an internal review, but it would co-operate with any review called by child welfare officials or police.
Meanwhile a spokesperson for the Office of the Children's Advocate told the CBC that officials they were disturbed by the case, and the family services minister was asked about it. But the office has no authority to investigate the case, order an investigation or disclose whether any other investigation is ongoing.