Registered sex offenders won't be excluded from special care homes, says minister

New Brunswick will make no policy changes to prevent criminals from living in special care homes among residents with physical, emotional and intellectual disabilities.

Question raised after convicted sex offender Andrew Michael Douglas assaulted special care home resident

Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Lisa Harris recently informed the mother of a man who was assaulted while living in a special care home that the department had concluded its investigation into the incident, in conjunction with the police. (CBC )
New Brunswick will make no policy changes to prevent criminals from living in special care homes among residents with physical, emotional and intellectual disabilities, according to the minister of seniors and long-term care.

Lisa Harris sent an email recently to the mother of a man with cognitive and physical impairments who was sexually assaulted last year by a registered sex offender.

Social development had placed the man, who had two prior convictions, in the same special care home as the woman's son.

Harris told the woman that the department had concluded its investigation into the incident in conjunction with the police. 

"In your son's case, the review did not identify any areas of non-compliance regarding current policies and safeguards and we are not actively working on any new policies in regards to this," she wrote in an email dated March 2.

The mother's identity and any other details that would identify the victim are protected by a publication ban that was ordered by the court when the defendant was charged with sexual assault.

Andrew Michael Douglas pleaded guilty and was sentenced to two years in jail.

At the time of his placement at Joann's Special Care Home on Queen Street in Saint John, Douglas had been on the national sex offender registry since 2011 for trying to get a 10-year-old girl to show him her breasts on Facebook.

He had also been serving an 18-month sentence for sexually assaulting a woman in Saint John in  2016.

In the first instance, prosecutors did not ask for jail time because Douglas was considered developmentally delayed.

Minister defends policy against opposition critic 

Joann's Special Care Home on Queen Street in Saint John, where the assault took place. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Harris faced a barrage of questions Tuesday from Saint John Lancaster PC MLA Dorothy Shephard. 

"We now know that we have a very serious situation," said Shephard. 

"We had a crime committed against a resident in a special care home. An intellectually disabled individual was assaulted and that crime was prosecuted and convicted," she reminded Harris.

"Knowing what we know now, there's no appetite to revisit this and see if there's a better way?"

Harris responded by saying there would be no policy changes. 

She said employees of special care homes are screened for criminal records and must also undergo Social Development record checks. 

That would detect any contraventions under the Family Services Act such as endangering a child's security or development. 

However, residents of special care homes are not subjected to either. 

"...the Department of Social Development does not require a criminal record check or a Social Development Record Check for special care home residents," explained Harris in her email to the mother.

And the minister says it's the same in every other Canadian jurisdiction.

"It's a complicated social and legal question involving human rights and privacy issues," she said Tuesday.

"So we're going to hope and pray that this doesn't happen again?" asked Shephard.

"I don't think that's going to be enough for families who have their loved ones in special care homes, hoping that they are protected … because today we have no assurance that they are."

Victim remains in hospital

A Saint John mother says her son has still not been discharged from the psychiatric ward of the Saint John Regional Hospital. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

The mother told CBC News that her son has not been discharged from the psychiatric ward of the Saint John Regional Hospital since he attempted suicide in early July.  

She says he suffers from severe anxiety and is too afraid to return to any special care home. 

Instead, he will move into an NB Housing apartment later this week and will start to receive support services at home. 

"We can't undo what happened to my son," she said.

"But we don't want another family to go through this."

The mother says she is disappointed by the government's response.

She says it's also unlikely that her son will ever get the apology he wanted. 

About the Author

Rachel Cave

Rachel Cave is a CBC reporter based in Saint John, New Brunswick.