BILL NO. 39
1st Session, 64th General Assembly
70 Elizabeth II, 2021
Private Member's Bill
Child and Youth Advocate Act
Cape Breton Centre–Whitney Pier
First Reading: October 21, 2021
Be it enacted by the Governor and Assembly as follows:
1 This Act may be cited as the Child and Youth Advocate Act.
2 The purpose of this Act is to provide for an Child and Youth Advocate as an independent officer of the Assembly to
(a) provide an independent voice for children and youth, including First Nations children and youth and children and youth with special needs, by partnering with them to bring issues forward;
(b) encourage communication and understanding between children, their caregivers and those who provide them with services;
(c) educate children, youth and their caregivers regarding the rights of children and youth; and
(d) conduct investigations and make recommendations to improve children's services.
3 In this Act,
(a) "Advocate" means the Child and Youth Advocate, appointed under Section 4;
(b) "child" means a person under 19 years of age;
(c) "designated service" means any of the following services or programs provided or funded by the government:
(i) services and programs for children and their families provided under the Children and Family Services Act,
(ii) disability services for children, as described in the regulations,
(iii) educational programming for children who have, or are eligible to have, an individual education plan under the Education Act,
(iv) mental health services for children provided by or on behalf of a public body or a health care facility,
(v) addiction services for children provided by or on behalf of a public body or a health care facility,
(vi) victim support services provided for children or their families by or on behalf of the government,
(vii) youth justice services,
(viii) the following services for youth:
(A) services provided for former permanent wards to assist them in their transition to independence,
(ix) any additional services or programs prescribed by the regulations;
(B) disability services for youth with a mental disability who were receiving any services immediately before their 19th birthday,
(C) educational programming for youth who were in the care of an agency under the Children and Family Services Act immediately before their 19th birthday and who have, or are eligible to have, an individual education plan under the Education Act,
(d) "youth" means a person between 19 and 25 years of age.
4 (1) Subject to Section 12, there shall be a Child and Youth Advocate appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Assembly for a term of not less than five years and not more than 10 years.
(2) The Advocate must be a person with significant experience in areas such as children's mental health, child welfare, developmental services, youth justice, education and pediatric health services.
(3) The Governor in Council, on the recommendation of the Assembly, may extend the term of the Advocate for a period of not more than six months in order to allow the Advocate to complete an investigation or review.
(4) The Advocate is an officer of the Assembly.
(5) The Legislative Assembly may make general rules for the guidance of the Advocate in the exercise of the Advocate's functions and duties under this Act.
(1) Before beginning to carry out responsibilities or exercise powers under this Act, the Advocate shall take an oath before the Speaker or the Clerk of the Assembly to faithfully and impartially carry out the responsibilities of office and not to disclose any information received under this Act except as provided in this Act.
(2) Every person employed under or acting as a delegate of the Advocate shall, before beginning to carry out the person's responsibilities, take an oath before the Advocate not to disclose any information received under this Act except as provided in this Act.
6 (1) The Advocate shall
(a) support, assist, inform and advise children, youth and their families respecting designated services, including
(i) by providing information and advice to children, youth and their families about how to effectively access designated services and how to become effective self-advocates with respect to those services,
(ii) by representing the rights, interests and viewpoints of children and youth receiving or eligible to receive designated services, including by advocating on their behalf, and
(iii) by supporting, promoting in communities and commenting publicly on advocacy services for children, youth and their families with respect to designated services;
(b) become involved in public education respecting the interests and well-being of children and youth;
(c) investigate any matter that comes to the Advocate's attention from any source concerning
(i) a child or youth who receives services from any department, agency of the Government or publicly funded health entity, or
(ii) services to children or youth provided by any department, agency of the Government and publicly funded health entity;
(d) where appropriate, attempt to resolve a matter referred to in clause (c) by negotiation, conciliation, mediation or other non-adversarial approaches;
(e) where appropriate, make particular or systemic recommendations on any matter referred to in clause (c);
(f) conduct research on the provision of a designated service for the purpose of making recommendations to improve the effectiveness and responsiveness of that service;
(g) review, investigate and report on the serious injuries and deaths of children and youth;
(h) monitor the implementation of recommendations included in reports made under this Act; and
(i) carry out other responsibilities as set out in this Act.
(2) In carrying out responsibilities respecting advocacy under this Act, the Advocate may give priority to children and youth who do not have others who can assist them to advocate for their rights, interests and viewpoints.
(3) In carrying out the role of the Advocate under this Section, the Advocate may
(a) communicate and visit with a child, or with a guardian or other person who represents a child;
(b) on the Advocate's own initiative, or at the request of a child, assist in appealing or reviewing a decision relating to a designated service;
(c) appoint, or cause to be appointed, lawyers to represent children with respect to any matter or proceeding under the Children and Family Services Act or any matter or proceeding prescribed by regulation;
(d) where, in the opinion of the Advocate, the investigation is warranted or in the public interest, investigate systemic issues arising from
(i) a serious injury to a child who at the time of the injury was receiving a designated service,
(ii) a serious injury to or the death of a child who at the time of the injury or death was receiving a designated service, or
(iii) the death of a child who at any time during the two-year period immediately preceding the death received a designated service;
(e) participate in processes in which decisions are made about children;
(f) promote the rights, interests and well-being of children through public education;
(g) undertake or collaborate in research related to improving designated services or addressing the needs of children receiving those services;
(h) provide information and advice to the Government with respect to any matter relating to the rights, interests and well-being of children; and
(i) perform any other function prescribed in the regulations.
7 The Advocate shall
(a) provide advocacy to children and youth who are seeking or receiving services that are provided or funded under the Children and Family Services Act;
(b) promote the rights of children in care;
(c) provide advocacy to children who are pupils of schools established or continued under the Education Act;
(d) provide advocacy to children and youth with respect to matters that arise while held in court holding cells and being transported to and from court holding cells; and
(e) provide any other advocacy that is permitted under the regulations or any other Act.
8 In performing the Advocate's functions under this Act, the Advocate has all the rights, powers and privileges of a commissioner appointed under the Public Inquiries Act.
9 The Advocate may take steps to raise awareness and understanding of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
10 (1) The Advocate shall report annually to the Assembly on the exercise of the Advocate's functions and duties under this Act.
(2) The annual report must include
(a) information on the work of the Advocate during the year;
(b) information on the work of the Advocate during the year with First Nations children, youth and their families;
(c) aggregate non-identifying information relating to the reviews and investigations conducted by the Advocate during the year;
(d) a summary of recommendations included in any special report made during the year; and
(e) information as to whether the goals and the specific objectives and performance measures of the Advocate set out in the service plan prepared for the year have been met.
(3) In addition to the information referred to in clause (2)(e), the report must compare actual results for the fiscal year with the expected results identified in the service plan for the Advocate for that fiscal year.
(4) The annual report may include information as to the level of compliance with previous recommendations the Advocate has made under this Act.
(5) The Advocate shall submit the annual report to the Speaker of the Assembly by November 30th of each year.
(6) The Speaker shall within 10 days of receiving the annual report, table it in the Assembly if the Assembly is then sitting or, where it is not then sitting, file it with the Clerk of the Assembly.
(7) In the interest of children and youth, the public, an authority or any other person, the Advocate may publish a special report relating generally to the exercise and performance of the Advocate's functions and duties under this Act or to a particular case investigated by the Advocate, regardless of whether the matter to be dealt with in the report has been the subject of an annual report made to the Assembly under subsection (1).
(8) In a report made by the Advocate under this Act, the Advocate shall not make any finding or comment that is adverse to any person unless the person has been given an opportunity to be heard.
11 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations
(a) describing disability services for the purpose of subclause 3(c)(ii);
(b) prescribing additional programs and services as designated services;
(c) prescribing proceedings for the purpose of clause 6(3)(c);
(d) respecting other functions the Advocate may perform;
(e) permitting additional areas of advocacy for the purpose of clause 7(e);
(f) defining or further defining any word or expression used in this Act or the Agreement;
(g) respecting any matter or thing the Governor in Council considers necessary or advisable to effectively carry out the intent and purpose of this Act.
(2) The exercise by the Governor in Council of the authority contained in subsection (1) is a regulation within the meaning of the Regulations Act.
12 The money required for the purpose of this Act must be paid out of money appropriated for that purpose by the Legislature.
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