Too early to tell if child protection services failed murdered sisters, says B.C.'s children's representative

Bernard Richard, the Representative for Children and Youth for British Columbia, said it is too early to tell if child protection services failed the two girls, but his office will be looking into the matter.

B.C. representative for children will consider whether lack of social services contributed to deaths

The bodies of Chloe Berry, 6, and her sister Aubrey, 4, were found in an Oak Bay apartment on Christmas Day. (Submitted)

RCMP continue to investigate the deaths of two young sisters on Vancouver Island whose bodies were found in an Oak Bay apartment on Christmas Day. 

Police say they're treating the deaths of six-year-old Chloe Berry and four-year-old Aubrey Berry as homicide, but no charges have been laid.

The only suspect in the case is an unnamed injured man who was found in the apartment and is now in hospital.

Bernard Richard, the Representative for Children and Youth for British Columbia, said it is too early to tell if child protection services failed the two girls, but his office will be looking into the matter.

If there is a link between an absence of social services and the incident, the independent advocacy office will launch an  investigation, Richard told CBC guest host of The Early Edition Michelle Eliot.

"What we are more interested in is not whether [the suspect] will be charged or not charged, found guilty or not found guilty, but whether services provided to the family or not provided to the family had a role to play in the deaths of these two girls," he said.

Court documents reveal concerns

Court documents from November 2016 reveal a custody battle over the girls and show that their father, Andrew Berry, had twice been investigated by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.  

According to the documents, Berry had displayed several examples of poor judgment in parenting, including allegations of inappropriate touching, threatening to "blow up the house" during an argument with the girls' mother and a period of aggressive behaviour.

The girls' mother, Sarah Cotton, obtained a restraining order that kept Berry from contacting her or their daughters for a couple of months in late 2013.

Despite concerns, a parenting schedule was negotiated granting Berry access to the girls during certain times. He was given the right to have the girls for 24 hours beginning at noon on Dec. 24.  

"There are a number of judgment calls that apparently were made along the way from the court system to the police to the ministry," Richard said. "We don't know at this juncture what kind of information they had or whether it was sufficient to attempt to restrain his access to the girls."

Richard's office must wait a year — or until all coroner and police investigations are complete — before launching its own review.

To hear more, click on the audio link below:

Bernard Richard, the Representative for Children and Youth for British Columbia, on the death of two young sisters on Vancouver Island. 7:25

With files from The Early Edition