Toddler might have been saved if shelter had alerted authorities when mom was kicked out: Quebec coroner

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Audrey Gagnon (left) is serving a life sentence for the murder of her daughter Rosalie, in 2018 (SPVQ - image credit)
Audrey Gagnon (left) is serving a life sentence for the murder of her daughter Rosalie, in 2018 (SPVQ - image credit)

A coroner's report following the death of a toddler in Quebec City nearly three years ago says there might have been a very different outcome if there had been better communication between organizations.

Coroner Géhane Kamel wrote that Quebec's youth protection agency and a local women's shelter should have realized the child was not safe with her mother.

"I believe Rosalie deserves to become a symbol that, more than ever, we will not forget our collective duty to protect," Kamel said.

Two-year-old Rosalie Gagnon's body was found in a garbage bin in Quebec City in April 2018.

Her mother, Audrey Gagnon, was sentenced to life in prison, with no chance of parole for 14 years, after pleading guilty to second-degree murder.

She had stabbed Rosalie 32 times.

Less than a week before Rosalie's death, Audrey had threatened a social worker and repeatedly broken the rules at the Marie-Rollet women's shelter. She was asked to leave.

But shelter staff didn't raise any concerns with youth protection (DPJ) about the child's safety because they said Gagnon appeared to be taking good care of her.

Dozens of stuffed animals were left in front of the home where Rosalie Gagnon's body was found on April 18, 2018.
Dozens of stuffed animals were left in front of the home where Rosalie Gagnon's body was found on April 18, 2018.(Carl Marchand/Radio-Canada)

The coroner says it's reasonable to believe the situation could have ended differently had staff at the shelter called the police and notified the DPJ when Gagnon was evicted.

Kamel recommended that youth protection always be notified when a woman and child are asked to leave a shelter.

The Maison Marie-Rollet issued a statement saying it has already learned from the tragedy.

"Since this sad event, new measures have been put in place, specifically an addition to the reporting policy, which clearly outlines the procedure for staff to follow in a situation of eviction of a woman with a child," the shelter said.

The coroner is also recommending social workers receive better training in order to recognize danger.

Chantal Arsenault, the president of the Regroupement des maisons pour femmes victimes de violence conjugale, said her organization has been pushing for better co-operation between agencies since 2015.

She said she's glad the coroner is making the same recommendations but that it's unfortunate it took a death for it to happen.

Arseneault also said there has been tremendous progress in the last year and that organizations share the responsibility of communicating with each other — and keeping mothers at the centre of those discussions.

A spokesperson for the minister responsible for youth protection, Lionel Carmant, wrote in an email that the department is currently working on an in-depth reform of the DPJ and the laws on youth protection — and all recommendations to improve that reform are appreciated and will be taken into account.