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This article was published 3/2/2015 (2455 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Less than two days after reportedly being returned to his biological mother by child-welfare authorities, a two-year-old boy was declared dead.
RCMP announced Monday they'd been called in to investigate the toddler's death on the Ojibway Waywayseecappo First Nation, 350 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
The RCMP statement was brief, offering only the fact there had been a death of a two-year-old boy Saturday.
RCMP said they'd been called in by the local Dakota Ojibway Police Service and said no additional information would be released.
Chief Melville Wabash said by phone from Waywayseecappo the RCMP were still conducting an investigation. He declined comment. Without confirming the death involved a child in the system, the chief referred further questions to the West Region Child and Family Services.
Waywayseecappo residents said they believe the child had just been returned to his mother by the child-welfare system.
Residents said the biological mother had lost her children and then successfully fulfilled provincially mandated programs. Child-welfare workers agreed to return the children, including the toddler, late last week.
Then tragedy struck Saturday.
Residents said the mother said the death was accidental, and the toddler fell off a bed and hit his head, fracturing his skull.
Local child-welfare workers are reportedly devastated.
The Waywayseecappo death occurred within days of two major events in the ongoing troubles of the child-welfare system.
Last week, the province announced a major overhaul of its programs and procedures regarding children in care.
That long-awaited announcement was made with much fanfare and, as anticipated, it tracked lockstep with recommendations from the Ted Hughes inquiry into the 2005 death of five-year-old Phoenix Sinclair in Fisher River First Nation. Her mother and stepfather are serving life sentences in her death.
Just before Family Services Minister Kerri Irvin-Ross faced the media with that announcement, RCMP filed criminal charges in yet another child-welfare death.
In that case, the parents and stepsister of a 21-month-old girl from Peguis First Nation, killed last summer, are charged in her death.
Kierra Elektra Williams had also been recently returned home. The province announced it had opened two separate probes within hours of the charges being released to the public.
Kierra's mother, Vanessa Bushie, 36, is charged with second-degree murder and failure to provide the necessities of life. Kierra's father, Daniel Williams, 33, is charged with manslaughter and failure to provide the necessities of life. Kierra's stepsister, Jasmine Bushie, 20, is also charged with manslaughter and failure to provide the necessities of life. All the accused are from Peguis First Nation.
Mid-afternoon Monday, Irvin-Ross's office issued a brief statement about the toddler's death in Waywayseecappo.
"Any time a child dies, it is a tragedy, and our hearts and thoughts are with the community," the statement said.
It said the Child and Family Services Act prevents information from being released regarding a child or family's involvement with a Child and Family Services agency.
Some investigations are automatically launched when children die in care, including a child-abuse investigation, designed in part to determine whether an individual's name should be placed on the Provincial Child Abuse Registry, and another to assess the safety and risk to other children in the home.
The Office of the Children's Advocate may also conduct an investigation if the child was in care or if the family had involvement with a Child and Family Services agency. The child-welfare system typically waits until a criminal investigation is concluded before opening its own probes.
-- with files from Bruce Owen