Death of Thomas Audet | “Red flags” were ignored

The two-year-old child had been reported to the DPJ

The young Thomas Audet, who died of a blow to the abdomen inflicted in nebulous circumstances in 2016, should have been the subject of priority treatment by the Department of Youth Protection (DPJ) because of numerous ” red flags” surrounding his case, believes a coroner who recommends the establishment of an “exceptional measure” for any child aged 5 and under.

In his report on this tragedy that occurred on June 18, 2016, in Alma, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, Géhane Kamel also pleads for better funding for the organization whose workers are still struggling with a workload and a excessive administrative burden, despite the recommendations of the Laurent commission.

“The labor shortage situation and attracting workers to an environment like the DYP remain a major challenge. In 2016, it was a starving budget with which the management had to maneuver. Today, there is an exodus of stakeholders, ”she says.

In this context, coroner Géhane Kamel therefore recommends the implementation, at the DYP, of an “exceptional measure” indicating that all children aged 5 and under who are the subject of a report “must subject to an immediate assessment and daily monitoring of the situation”.

Insufficient priority

It is that the case of Thomas Audet had received a priority code 3 following a report received by the DPJ on May 17, 2016, about a month before his death. His case had therefore ended up on a waiting list and the little one died the day before he was assigned to a worker.

“Frequent injuries in such a short time, the fact that the child is not present during the assessment meeting with the DYP, the fact that the father was not contacted by the workers during the assessment , the fact that the care file for the spouse’s child was not taken into account at its fair value during the assessment of the report […] are all factors that should have created a favorable suspicion for the protection of the child”, enumerates Géhane Kamel.

In this context, a priority 1 code, according to which the DYP workers assess the child within 24 to 48 hours, should have been assigned to him, judges the coroner.

“The allocation of the file would not have been an issue and Thomas could have benefited from an evaluation in the required time”, can we read in his report.

The coroner also recommends that the College of Physicians remind its members that they are required by the Youth Protection Actto immediately report to the DYP any suspicion of a possible case of child abuse.

A nebulous wound

Thomas Audet died on June 18, 2016 after suffering several injuries. He had been found unconscious by his stepfather in the apartment he shared with the child’s mother.


The tomb of Thomas Audet

First associated with a fall from a bicycle the day before, a hypothesis swept away during the public inquiry by a pediatric surgeon and the person responsible for the autopsy, the source of the blunt abdominal trauma responsible for the death of Thomas Audet remains at this date unknown.

Characteristically, this lesion is associated with a direct blow (kick, punch) or indirectly by contact during a fall on a blunt object, such as the end of the handlebar of a bicycle or any other object. .

Excerpt from the report of coroner Géhane Kamel

Charges had been filed against Thomas Audet’s stepfather, Maxime Patry. However, these were withdrawn by the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) in September 2021 after the withdrawal of a witness. The DPCP had one year to reactivate the file, but did not do so.

Recommendations welcomed

While the waiting list for the evaluation reaches new heights at the DYP1the union that brings together its stakeholders, the Alliance of Professional and Technical Personnel in Health and Social Services (APTS), says it welcomes the coroner’s recommendations.

“The death of Thomas Audet is a tragic reminder that behind the reports awaiting assessment by the DPJ, there are children living in very dangerous conditions. Particularly for children under 5 years old”, indicates its president, Robert Comeau.

The latter also calls on the Minister responsible for Social Services, Lionel Carmant, to implement the recommendations of the Laurent report, written in the wake of the murder of a 7-year-old girl in Granby in 20192, who are still waiting in the field. “The children of Quebec have waited too long”, says Robert Comeau.

Minister Carmant’s office said Monday evening that it welcomes with “interest” the coroner’s report which it intends to use to “continue the important project of youth protection reform”.

“The situation has changed a lot since these events: major increase in funding for youth protection, addition of workers and modification of the law to put the interests of the child at the heart of decisions. We also want to remember the daily work of the workers who are dedicated to the cause of our children and who intervene daily for their well-being, ”said his press officer Lambert Drainville.

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