Parents of dead teen Nick Lang decry potential downgrading of B.C.'s child advocate

The parents of a teenager who died while in provincial care are speaking out in support of B.C.'s representative of children and youth, whose position was recently criticised in a government funded report.

A report commissioned by the province suggests the role of B.C.'s child advocate should be reviewed

Linda Tenpas and Peter Lang says ministry worker "didn't care" about their son, Nick Lang, who died June 9, 2015. (CBC)

The parents of a teenager who died while in provincial care are speaking out in support of B.C.'s representative of children and youth, whose position was recently criticised in a report into the current state of child protection in the province.

The report issued by former deputy minister Bob Plecas in mid-December calls for an immediate overhaul of a system that "lacks leadership, accountability and funding,"

Plecas called for oversight to be handled by the ministry itself, rather than by B.C. Representative for Children and Youth, Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

But the parents of Nick Lang, who died just six days after he entered government-funded drug rehab in June, have sent a letter asking the select standing committees on finance and children and youth to reconsider Plecas's recommendation.

"[Turpel-Lafond's] current powers allow her the freedom to speak the truth without fear of discipline or penalty," wrote Peter Lang.

"This is crucial if B.C. taxpayers are going to be able to make informed decisions about the current state of this Ministry."

Tragic death

Parents of Nick Lang say they are relieved the province's advocate for children investigated his death. (Peter Lang)

Peter Lang and Linda Tenpas had put their son in the ministry's care for drug addiction when they noticed the 15-year-old's behaviour and appearance were changing. Tenpas told CBC they thought they discovered his addiction quickly enough to intervene.

While he was in care, the host family found the teenager's body in a closet, in a room where he'd been left unattended for 40 minutes despite the parents' instructions that he required constant supervision to keep him safe from self-harm.

In the letter to the standing committees, Lang lambastes the Ministry of Children and Family Development for what he calls a lack of cultural sensitivity and understanding regarding the review of their Métis son's case. 

"When nearly 60 per cent of your clients are indigenous, one should expect some level of cultural competence by those working for the ministry, particularly those conducting 'reviews,'" he wrote. 

Lang describes a foster child he and Tenpas raised in the past who is now in school and gainfully employed as an example of what can happen when the system works as it should. 

He said cutting Turpel-Lafond's authority or her funding for investigations "will only serve to undermine the rehabilitation of the MCFD."

"I know it is often painful to hear the criticisms of the RCY but taxpayers, including indigenous taxpayers, respect the independent, objective and culturally competent advice from the RCY."