Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A former Kelowna social worker facing several criminal charges for stealing from foster children is facing another class-action lawsuit.

The claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, alleges Robert Riley Saunders failed to inform Zackary Alphonse, an Indigenous person who was placed in provincial custody as a child, of resources available to him upon his leaving the system. As a result, Alphonse says Saunders and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, as well as another unnamed social worker, are responsible for Alphonse’s depression and eventual one-month of homelessness after leaving care.

Alphonse claims he was not notified of the Young Adults Program, meant to ease the transition from the care system to adult life, until almost a decade after ageing out of care. The ministry sent him a letter in June 2020 stating he may qualify for certain services, but after a phone call with a ministry representative, he was told he was too old.

When he left the system at 19-years-old, Alphonse “had only completed to Grade 9 of his secondary schooling, and without financial support, he could not afford to work on his graduate equivalency degree,” reads the civil claim. “For a period of approximately one year, (Alphonse) could see no future for himself, felt hopeless and became depressed and unable to advance his interests.”

READ MORE: Former Kelowna social worker arrested for allegedly stealing from foster children

READ MORE: Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Alphonse managed to stabilize his working life over the next eight years, eventually returning to school for an online high school equivalency and a computer repair certification. Now at age 29, he has nearly completed his GED, but the suit claims he would’ve been able to begin his adult education much sooner if he had been informed of the program.

The claim also states the ministry’s failure to inform Alphonse of the program “has a discriminatory effect on Indigenous persons who have aged out of care, which manifests in lower rates of program uptake for Indigenous persons and lower levels of educational attainment for Indigenous persons.”

Alphonse is seeking reparations for several damages including the future cost of his education.

None of the claims made in the suit have been tested in court.

If approved by the courts as a class-action lawsuit, all who were in the ministry’s care and not informed of the program could be eligible for compensation.

Saunders is currently out on bail while facing 13 criminal charges alleging he defrauded and stole from children in his care; however, a previously settled class-action lawsuit — which also named him and the ministry — awarded funds to more than 100 people who were in Saunders’ care, many of whom were Indigenous. Up to $15 million could be handed out as part of that settlement.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Foster care

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The incident occurred at approximately 10 a.m. amid heavy rains on the 29900 Block of the highway, near the Silverdale community. Shane MacKichan photo.
VIDEO: Late-night rollover crash on Lougheed Highway in Mission sends 2 to hospital

Jaws of Life used; patients sustained non-life threatening injuries

Highway 1 eastbound has one lane closed as crews worked to clear up an accident earlier this afternoon.
Accident shuts down one lane eastbound on Highway 1 in Abbotsford

Major congestion between Riverside Road and Sumas exit

Alan Pryor in 2015, during the Agassiz Fire Department’s 70th year. (Greg Laychak/The Observer)
Agassiz fireman celebrates 51 years at the hall

Al Pryor has been a key member in the Agassiz Fire Department since he was 16

Scales of Justice
Court awards woman $167K after vehicle was struck by White Rock taxi in 2016

Plaintiff’s knee injuries and resulting chronic pain disability are genuine, judge rules

Mike Bismeyer of Abbotsford is the recipient of the national Savita Shah Award for his work promoting kindness and anti-bullying initiatives.
Abbotsford man who was bullied as a teen receives national kindness award

Mike Bismeyer is one of two Canadians to earn Savita Shah Award

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled Feb. 26 that the estate of deceased Sooke man and Hells Angels prospect Michael Widner is to be divided between his wife and his secret spouse. (Black Press Media file photo)
Estate of deceased Vancouver Island Hells Angels prospect to be divided between wife and secret spouse

Michael Widner’s 2017 death left a number of unanswered questions

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Most Read