The priest who presided over the funeral of a seven-year-old girl whose death sparked a provincewide conversation about flaws in Quebec’s youth protection system says he wanted to make sure the service focused on the girl herself.
“It will not be an occasion to point fingers or to criticize, but for the little one,” Rev. Serge Pelletier said prior to Thursday morning’s funeral.
“We will focus on her, knowing full well that questions will continue to be asked.”
The girl died last week, the day after she was found by police in critical condition in her father’s home in Granby, Que., about 80 km east of Montreal.
Her father and stepmother have been charged with forcible confinement.
The stepmother faces an additional charge of aggravated assault. Their identities are subject to a publication ban to protect the child’s identity.
The Quebec government ordered a coroner’s inquest into the death of the girl, who had a long history of involvement with the youth protection system.
Pelletier said he called for a peaceful and subdued atmosphere.
“We’ve agreed with the family to give a particular tone to the ceremony,” Pelletier said. “We’re going to pray together to help with the grieving process and to honour this little girl.”
Family members and people from across the province made their way to Saint-Eugène Church in Granby, which can seat 600 people.
Representatives from the regional health board were also in attendance. Some of those present wiped away tears as the family entered the church along with the tiny casket.
A colourful collection of stuffed animals lined the sills of the church’s stained glass windows. Pink and yellow flowers were placed near the altar.
During the service, which lasted about an hour, the girl’s mother and grandmother read a poem together. The mother struggled to keep going, choking back tears.
Friends of the family and relatives also sang several songs dedicated to the little girl.
Pelletier asked those in attendance to take home one of the stuffed animals and share them with a child in their lives. He said that is how the girl’s memory will live on.
As Pelletier prayed for comfort, and for all those children in the world who are suffering and in need, many wiped away tears.
At one point, a woman had to walk out, overwhelmed by emotion.
This story originally appeared on CBC