The mother of the two young children killed nearly two years ago in a Huron-Wendat First Nation just outside Quebec City is requesting compensation after denouncing the inaction of youth protection.
Émilie Arsenault is putting the Directeur de la protection de la jeunesse (DPJ) and the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) on notice for a sum of $2 million.
In the formal notice sent last Friday, Arsenault pointed to the youth protection system's willful ignorance and criticized the organization for poorly assessing as well as neglecting the various reports concerning her children's safety.
The bodies of her two young sons — five-year-old Olivier and two-year-old Alex — were found inside a residence in Wendake, Que. in October 2020.
Three reports to Youth protection services
Arsenault wanted sole custody of her children.
According to her, she knew her ex-husband, Michaël Chicoine — who was charged with two counts of second-degree murder — could be a danger to himself and their kids.
In total, she filed three reports to youth protection. CBC News and Radio-Canada are not mentioning the specific reasons for those reports due to the ongoing legal process.
A social worker submitted the first report on May 21, 2018, just before Alex was born, but the DPJ didn't uphold it.
On Oct. 9, 2019, the Sûreté du Québec filed a second report. Sixty days later, Arsenault learned the other report had not been retained.
She then filed a third and final report on Jan. 10, 2020. A month later, she learned youth protection wouldn't uphold her complaint. Eight months later, her children were killed.
$2 million to effect change
According to several lawyers who spoke with Radio-Canada, few formal notices against youth protection have sought such a high amount of compensation.
Arsenault says the amount had to be large to convey the suffering she experiences daily.
She also cites irreparable harm to justify the amount claimed.
"Certainly, there is no amount that is equivalent to the loss of my children," she said. "I've had highs and lows for a year, especially lows and it's not easy. The goal is really to have an impact."
Valérie Assouline, a lawyer who represents several families in cases against youth protection, says the system abandoned her client.
"This mother will live the rest of her life with indescribable pain. We can't accept that," Assouline said.
After the three reports were filed, she said, no one visited the children.
The mother says she wants to make sure the system protects children who are lucky enough to still be alive.
[The system] has to become more human, it's humans we want to help," Arsenault said. "It is not a grid that you have to check off to know if a report should be retained or not. …. The whole mentality that must change."
Blaming the minister
Assouline says she has rarely seen such negligence.
According to her, the government has known for a long time that DPJ workers lacked training and supervision. Also, she says Junior Health Minister Lionel Carmant did not do enough to shorten the long waiting times for families who had reported situations to youth protection.
"It was his duty to ensure that the deadlines were reasonable," she said. "When we have such alarming and recurring reports, how come no one is protecting these children?"
The Ministry received the formal notice on Friday afternoon. Carmant's office refused to comment, saying the legal affairs department must take note of it and analyze it.
If the $2 million isn't paid to Arsenault within the next 10 days following receipt of the formal notice, she and her lawyer intend to bring the case before the courts.
"Certainly, if we don't get an answer [from the government] we will go ahead with a lawsuit," Assouline said.