TORONTO, Jan. 14, 2013 /CNW/ - The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth has standing at the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith that begins today. The Advocate will advance information on youth custody issues and present evidence that will provide a foundation for recommendations for the jury's consideration.
At any given time, there are more than 2,000 young people in penitentiaries across Canada and a sub-population of youth in custody who are more vulnerable and do not cope as well as other inmates.
"We believe that Ashley Smith falls within the category of what is called emerging adulthood (ages 18 to 25) and could have benefited from corrections policies in the adult facilities where she was transferred that recognize this phase in a young person's life," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. "We are interested in exploring whether Ashley's death could have been prevented and if she could have benefited from interventions and management strategies that are more youth-sensitive."
The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (OPACY) has extensive experience in individual and systemic advocacy for youth in custody; expertise in issues related to Ms. Smith's death, and has represented the interests of youth at hearings and other inquests. The Advocate has obtained standing in six inquests into the deaths of children and youth within his mandate since being appointed in 2008.
"At multiple points of her journey, the system failed to adequately protect and support Ashley Smith," said Elman. "She was a young woman with a high level of vulnerability and when combined with the way she was treated, it created a recipe for disaster. We will be joining all of the other parties who have been granted standing to examine the circumstances surrounding her death and to listen, learn and take action."
As an officer of the legislature with a statutory mandate to elevate the voice of youth, the Advocate has convened an internal advisory panel comprised of young women who have had life experiences similar to Ashley's. It is his view that the jury will be able to benefit from this highly unique perspective.
To enhance the inquest process, encourage greater public scrutiny and improve accountability, the Advocate recently launched the first child and youth inquest database in Canada. The database provides Ontarians, including policy maker and service providers, with access to information about inquest recommendations in Ontario since 1995. The provincial inquest database can be found at: http://provincialadvocate.on.ca/inquest/en/home/
About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The Provincial Advocate receives and responds to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools), including youth in custody. The Provincial Advocate identifies systemic problems involving children, conducts reviews and provides education and advice on the issue of advocacy and the rights of children. The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement.
SOURCE: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
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