Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to present a petition supporting the matter of a children's advocate. The petition contains 359 electronic signatures, including 31 electronic signatures of Northwest Territories residents. The petition's request is that the Government of the Northwest Territories create a children's advocate position with the Department of Health and Social Services, providing a voice for the decisions affecting children and giving direction in the best interest of children.
Further, Mr. Speaker, this petition was originated by Mr. Andy Young of Yellowknife, who is a foster parent. Mr. Young's petition is calling for the establishment of a children and youth advocate. The Child and Family Services Act is very clear that decisions regarding children must be made in accordance with the best interests of the children. This petition recognizes that there may be many reasons why decisions need to be made for our children's protection, but emphasizes that decisions need to place the best interests of children first.
As a foster parent, Mr. Young understands the difficult challenges that the department faces regarding children needing protection. Nevertheless, he has seen instances where decisions place the interests of the children second to other considerations. Such instances are confirmed in the 2018 Auditor General's Report on Child and Family Services, which states, in part, that the authorities did not meet key responsibilities for the protection and well-being of children, youth, and their families.
The department has now responded with its Quality Improvement Plan, which is a very detailed and ambitious document. However, the conclusions of the Auditor General report emphasize the need for oversight. To achieve that, this petition calls for the creation of a child and youth advocate for the NWT. The advocate would review departmental decisions affecting children and, if necessary, provide direction, ensuring that decisions reflect the best interests of the children.
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Young is committed to this issue, and I want to thank him for bringing this petition forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.