VANCOUVER — British Columbia Premier Christy Clark says there will be consequences for the tragic death of a teenager in government care.
Clark said the agency in charge of caring for 18-year-old Alex Gervais didn’t inform the Ministry of Children and Family Development that he was staying in a hotel.
The premier brushed off questions about a lack of confidence in Children’s Minister Stephanie Cadieux, saying both she and the minister agree the agency made a “real mistake” and should face repercussions.
“She’s working really hard to make sure that the ministry’s working as it’s supposed to. She and I see eye to eye on this,” Clark said Friday.
“(The agency) did not follow policy. It was wrong. It had tragic, tragic outcomes, and there are going to be consequences for that.”
Clark said the province will take the time to understand what happened, report to citizens and then make sure appropriate steps are taken to prevent a similar occurrence.
She said that while it is sometimes necessary to house a child in a hotel, the ministry wants to ensure that happens as rarely as possible, adding that is why it requires notification from agencies.
“The reason we require that is because we don’t want — as a policy — we don’t want vulnerable kids to end up in hotels,” Clark said. “We want them in homes. Ideally, we want them in their own homes.”
Between November 2014 and September 2015, there were 23 reported instances of children staying in a hotel, said a Children’s Ministry spokesman who asked not to be named.
They stayed an average of about five days, he said.
Children’s representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said Gervais was living in a hotel for about two months.
Jeff Rud, a spokesman for Turpel-Lafond’s office, said they believe that between 30 and 50 kids in government care stay in hotels at some point every year.
Turpel-Lafond has said she believes the boy who fell from a fourth-floor window at an Abbotsford hotel took his own life.
The children’s advocate has said she was misled into believing that no kids in care were being housed in hotels, and has demanded the ministry assure her it won’t happen again.
Currently, the province’s director of child welfare knows of one youth who is staying in a hotel with a caregiver, the ministry spokesman said.
“The director is confident this short-term placement is appropriate given the circumstances, and that the young person will be moved to more suitable accommodations imminently.”
Opposition NDP Leader John Horgan has called for Cadieux’s resignation after yet another controversy to beset the troubled ministry this year.
In one case, a lawyer for a mother identified only as J.P. has filed an application to block the government from holding an internal review of the actions of social workers in her case.
The mom noted that a B.C. Supreme Court judge already determined that social workers behaved inappropriately when they seized her children and violated a court order banning the kids’ father from unsupervised visits, enabling him to molest their daughter in care.
The ministry is appealing Justice Paul Walker’s decision.
Laura Kane, The Canadian Press