Charges in case of dead Alberta girl ‘should never have been brought:’ lawyer

Serenity remained on life support for about a week before she died

A lawyer for one of two caregivers for a four-year-old Indigenous girl who died says charges should never have been laid against them and a publication ban should be lifted from a report on the child’s death.

The Alberta Crown stayed charges Tuesday against the relatives of the girl known as Serenity, who lived on a reserve in the central Alberta community of Maskwacis, south of Edmonton.

The man and woman were each accused in 2017 of failing to provide the necessaries of life for the girl, although the charges were not related to her death.

“These charges should not have been brought in the first place,” Robert Lee, lawyer for one of the caregivers, said Wednesday.

“They’re false allegations that have been allowed by the government to remain in the public domain when they know it’s false.”

Serenity had a severe brain injury when she was taken to hospital in September 2014. Doctors noticed she was underweight and had multiple bruises.

She remained on life support for about a week before she died.

The Crown said it decided to stay the charges after reassessing evidence from a preliminary hearing and determining that there was no reasonable likelihood of convictions.

Lee said his client’s life has been on hold since Serenity’s death. He said the woman lost her job and has been shunned by many in her community.

“My client has been portrayed in a very misleading way as being criminal, when she was simply trying to take care of three children.”

Lee said he wants a publication ban lifted on a report done on the case. His client may apply to the court for that or wait for a fatality inquiry, he said.

“Once that publication ban is lifted and all of the truth comes out, the focus is not going to be on my client,” he said.

“The focus is going to be on child welfare, the mistake that they made and the false information that has been allowed by the government to be put out in the press.”

When the charges were laid in 2017, the RCMP noted that they were related to the circumstances in which the child lived and that the injury that caused her death was not criminal in nature.

That same year, the United Conservatives, who were in opposition at the time, introduced a private member’s bill dubbed Serenity’s Law. It called for adults to report to police any child who needed intervention. The bill did not pass.

The case also prompted the former NDP government to propose legislation last October that would see First Nations notified if social workers were thinking of removing an Indigenous child from a family’s care. Alberta has about 10,000 children in care; about 60 per cent are from First Nations.

Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer has said the United Conservative government was not involved in the decision to stay the charges.

The Crown has one year to potentially reinstate the charges and there is ongoing related litigation and a pending fatality inquiry.

Bob Weber, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Five km run and walk raises funds for Stettler Hospice Society

Stettler District Ambulance Association encourages community to be active

Ol’ MacDonald’s Resort has a packed line-up of musical performances

Weekend country music festival set for Sept. 6th-8th

Alberta RCMP warns property owners of paving contractor scams

Travelling companies offer paving or roof sealing services typically to seniors in rural communities

Renegade Station is gearing up for a performance at ‘Entertainment in the Park’ on Aug. 28th

It’s been a hectic season in the successful Stettler-based band’s journey

VIDEO: Title of 25th Bond movie is ‘No Time to Die’

The film is set to be released in April 2020

RCMP and fire departments respond to possible drowning on Sylvan Lake

RCMP say they are actively searching for a man in his 20s with boats on the lake

New study suggests autism overdiagnosed: Canadian expert

Laurent Mottron: ‘Autistic people we test now are less and less different than typical people’

Trans Mountain gives contractors 30 days to get workers, supplies ready for pipeline

Crown corporation believes the expansion project could be in service by mid-2022

New ‘Matrix’ film set with Keanu Reeves and Lana Wachowski

Fourth installment to feature Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity

Ethics commissioner ready to testify on Trudeau, SNC-Lavalin: NDP critic

A new poll suggests the report hasn’t so far hurt the Liberals’ chances of re-election this fall

Inflation hits Bank of Canada 2% target for second straight month

Prices showed strength in other areas, including an 18.9 per cent increase in the cost of fresh vegetables

Alberta oil curtailment rules extended to late 2020 as pipeline delays drag on

At issue is ability to export oil in face of regulatory and legal challenges against pipelines

Most Read