Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
He had a name; it's OK to say it
He was killed while under the care of Child and Family Services, "reunited" with a family member he didn't know. His great-aunt is charged in his death.
The issues surrounding his death became a political football Tuesday, dragged out by Manitoba's opposition leader to shame the NDP into taking steps to rehabilitate their chaotic Child and Family Services department. But Gage Guimond's short life was shamefully ignored. PC leader Hugh McFadyen, God bless him, led Tuesday's question period with a challenge to Gary Doer. He spoke of a revolving door of Child and Family Services ministers, of front-line workers confused by the effects of devolution and the fact that "the children are ultimately the ones that pay the price."
He did not name Gage Guimond, a brown-eyed boy with the engaging smile.
The premier acknowledged that whenever a child dies or is injured or is hurt (staggering his way down the list of possible results of being put into the care of people wholly incapable of looking after a child), it causes heartache for all members of the legislative assembly.
I would hope so.
"The best child welfare system is no child welfare system," Doer thundered. Families and safe environments are the best places for children, he said stating the obvious, and the safety of children is paramount.
While he touched briefly on the "alleged murder" of the very dead Phoenix Sinclair, he did not name Gage Guimond, who is also dead and allegedly murdered.
Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard spoke too, talking of the "tragic failures" under the NDP government, linking the child welfare system to an increase in youth crime. He did not name Gage Guimond.
Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh responded. He said that even the death of one child in care is "sickening." He talked about the 289 recommendations for change in the system the government has accepted. He spoke of the need for a "multi-faceted approach."
He did not name Gage Guimond.
It is not as though the names of the dead can't be uttered in the house. Tuesday, all three leaders paid tribute to two Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan. They spoke of their character and the sacrifice they made for our country. A moment of silence was observed, a rare and wonderful thing in a room normally filled with jeers and heckling.
It was moving and entirely appropriate.
I hope I will be forgiven for hoping that a second moment would be dedicated to the memory of a baby who was "allegedly murdered" while under the care of a government agency.
There is a great deal of tiptoeing in any discussion of devolution, the process by which care of thousands of children was handed over to aboriginal agencies. A politician who questions too hard will find himself accused of racism. The government knows this, the opposition knows this and the rest of us certainly know it. This may be why, although McFadyen came out swinging, he ultimately pulled his punches.
He did question the "incoherent and sentimental reasons" for putting kids in care back with their families. He said the safety of children trumps culture. But he needs to go further, to demand to know why the cockeyed policy of putting family with family is allowed to lead to the deaths of children in care.
It's not a hard question.
"The system was broken before the changes were made," the premier said, and the practice of putting culture above all else was begun by the former government.
That's not an answer.
His name was Gage Guimond. He was two years old. He was killed while under the care of a child welfare system sworn to keep him from harm.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 26, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage
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