VICTORIA — The death of an 18-year-old male in government care is a part of a pattern of tragedies plaguing British Columbia's Ministry of Children and Families, say Opposition New Democrats who made repeated calls Monday for the minister to resign.
Alex Gervais fell from the fourth-floor window of an Abbotsford hotel on Sept. 18, and was one of three deaths and a series of sexual assaults New Democratic Leader John Horgan cited in the legislature before asking Stephanie Cadieux to resign.
Horgan referenced Isabella Wiens, a 21-month-old girl found dead in her foster home crib in March 2013.
He also named Paige, a 19-year-old legally blind aboriginal girl who overdosed on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, a woman who B.C.'s children's representative said was supposed to be protected by social workers.
Horgan's also raised a B.C. Supreme Court ruling by Justice Paul Walker who said in July that the ministry showed "reckless disregard'' when it didn't investigate children's claims that their father had sexually abused them, noting the man even molested his youngest daughter while she was in foster care.
The tragedies are part of a "pattern,'' said Horgan who asked Cadieux how she thought she could still lead the ministry.
"Will she today do the right thing and tender her resignation so that new leadership can be found, new leadership can be found to resolve the issues that have gone wanting on her watch,'' asked Horgan.
The same request was later made by fellow New Democrats Michelle Mungall and Shane Simpson.
Cadieux ignored questions about her resignation and instead replied that she couldn't speak about specific cases, but was committed to her job and an investigation is under way into the situation concerning Gervais.
"The reality is that from time to time we learn about circumstances that don't go according to plan ... and have, in some cases, extremely tragic outcomes,'' she said. "Then it is my job as minister to ensure that all of the necessary reviews and investigations take place so that we can make adjustments, changes, to ensure that it doesn't happen again.''
Doug Donaldson, a NDP member representing Stikine, asked Cadieux how she could let Gervais die alone.
Cadieux said the Child, Family and Community Service Act doesn't allow her to get involved in the day-to-day decisions made on the ground by ministry employees.
"Nor should, in my mind, the political branch of government be involved in the day-to-day decisions regarding the protection of children and youth, madame speaker,'' she said. "If the member thinks differently he should say so.''
Cadieux said 110 more child-protection workers are now employed compared to this time last year and the number of children in care is at its lowest level in more than 19 years.
She said children in care are more likely than ever to remain with their family or extended family and adoptions have risen by 20 per cent over last year.
Children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said last week that she was misled into believing that no children in care were living in hotels and she demanded the ministry assure it doesn't happen again.
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