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Quebec taking steps to shorten delays in the province's youth protection system

Quebec's youth protection system, the DPJ, is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of children. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Quebec's youth protection system, the DPJ, is responsible for investigating allegations of abuse and neglect of children. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada - image credit)

Quebec announced today it's setting up a working group that will convene later this month to shorten delays in the province's youth protection system.

Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette said the system needs to work faster and more efficiently.

"We all need to work together to be sure that all the files will be heard quickly in front of the court when it's needed to go in front of the court," said Jolin-Barrette.

The Justice Minister said the idea is to get the different stakeholders at the table, from the Quebec Bar to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, to identify problems and develop solutions to remedy them.

Quebec's justice minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, says presiding justices of the peace will be given the power to oversee criminal court appearances and bail hearings.
Quebec's justice minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, says presiding justices of the peace will be given the power to oversee criminal court appearances and bail hearings.

Quebec's justice minister, Simon Jolin-Barrette, says the idea is to get the different stakeholders at the table, from the Quebec Bar to the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, to identify problems and develop solutions to remedy them. (Sylvain Roy Roussel/CBC)

More resources needed: youth court lawyer 

Youth court lawyer Younes Ameur welcomes what he calls long overdue measures to speed up the youth protection system.

"It is really important that there is real communication between all the services as soon as a child is taken charge of by youth protection," he said, adding that COVID-19 pandemic deepened the backlog.

Many systemic problems plague the youth protection services, he said.

Files that are considered less urgent — not involving physical abuse, for example   — sometimes end up being delayed for months, said Ameur.

He said he would like to see lawyers get involved earlier in cases, as soon as a report is made about a child. That way, he said, more cases could get resolved through voluntary measures — agreements with youth protection services to, for instance, seek services available in the community —  instead of going to court.

At the same time, Ameur said more funding and resources are also a necessary part of the solution.

"We need more social workers, we need more judges, more lawyers that are specialized … We cannot work with the same tools that we had 10 years [ago]," he said, adding the need for innovating the system through more mediation and digitization.

The Justice Minister said eight new judges have been added to the courts in the past two years but admitted more needs to be done in increasing the number of social workers.