There were 23 deaths and 41 critical injuries of children in Saskatchewan last year. In both cases, the number of Aboriginal children involved is highly over-represented.
The statistics were contained in the annual report from Bob Pringle, Saskatchewan’s Advocate for Children and Youth.
The number of deaths is actually down three from the previous year. They include everything from medically-fragile children to murder victims. More than half the children were under the age of six.
The number of critical injuries was up by seven from 2013, and many of them involved suicide attempts, particularly children who had contact with the corrections system.
Pringle says this shows a greater need for mental health services.
“That is critical that good mental health and addictions services be available to youth who are in correctional centres because almost all of these critical injuries are from corrections and the number of deaths related to suicides is alarming again this year, as it was last year.”
There is some good news in his report. Pringle says the provincial government has made progress in a number of areas. He would like to see that sped up, but he is also critical of the provincial Ministry of Corrections. He says his office is being shut out of decisions being made, like the closure of the Yarrow youth facility in Saskatoon.
“We believe there has been a lack of transparency about some of the plans and information sharing is limited. When the ministry says we meet, and we do meet on a quarterly basis, and they tell us what they decided, that is not consultation.”
About 4,600 children were under the care of the Social Services ministry in Saskatchewan last year. That’s up about 100 from 2013. Pringle is also once again calling for the licensing of all foster homes in Saskatchewan.