B.C.’s representative for Children and Youth says she is still waiting for an explanation regarding the circumstances that led to a teen in government care being placed in an Abbotsford hotel, where he plummeted to his death on Sept. 18.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said she has demanded answers from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, but has yet to receive any.
“The concerns expressed last week about young people placed in hotels continue to be serious issues for me,” she told The News.
Alex Gervais, 18, had been living in the Super 8 hotel on Sumas Way for about two months after the group home in which he was living was among 23 that the ministry shut down due to health and safety concerns.
Turpel-Lafond said she had been hearing from youth in those homes that they feared for their safety and there were issues such as drug use, aggression and lack of proper nutrition.
She said she was given assurances from the ministry that none of the 33 youth impacted by the closures would be placed in hotels or in single-occupancy living quarters.
Turpel-Lafond said the first time she knew that those commitments had been broken was when she heard of Gervais’ death.
The teen, who friends have said suffered from depression, fell or jumped out of a fourth-floor window of the hotel and plunged to his death.
The Abbotsford Police Department has confirmed that foul play was not involved, and the BC Coroners Service is continuing to investigate.
Turpel-Lafond has since written letters to Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux and deputy minister Mark Sieben asking for an explanation about why Gervais was in a hotel and whether any services had been provided to him during that time.
To date, she has not received a response.
“I’m pretty much in the dark about what happened here,” she said.
The ministry has since confirmed that one other youth was living in a hotel at the same time as Gervais.
Cadieux was not available for comment, but a ministry spokesperson said in a written statement that the youth was provided with “caregiver support” during the hotel stay and has since been moved to “more suitable” accommodations.
The spokesperson said the provincial director of child welfare has launched a review of Gervais’ case.
“That process takes time as the entire case file must be reviewed and interviews conducted. Until the review process is complete and all information gathered, I am not in a position to speculate on consequences.”