Springdale St. fire prompts child advocate investigation

The Child and Youth Advocate is investigating how agencies dealt with a 16-year-old accused of starting a fire that killed a man in a St. John's rooming house.
A Springdale Street fire on Nov. 27 killed Carlos Escobar Medina. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's Child and Youth Advocate will conduct a full investigation into the services government agencies provided to a teenager accused of starting a fire that killed a man in a rooming house in St. John's.

A 16-year-old boy was charged with arson after Carlos Escobar Medina, 54, was found dead in a house was destroyed by fire at 101 Springdale St. on Nov. 27.

The boy had been living in the house without direct adult supervision.

Advocate Carol Chafe said her investigation will consider the role of several arms of the provincial government.

Carol Chafe says her investigation will involve several government departments and agencies. (CBC)

"The main question that I am seeking to answer is, did the services provided by the department of Child Youth and Family Services, the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Community Services and Eastern Health meet the needs of this youth and were his rights to services upheld?" Chafe told reporters in St. John's.

The Springdale Street fire has revived discussion about issues that have been raised publicly in the past, including homelessness, mental health issues, addictions and youth with nowhere to turn.

"I will acknowledge that I am aware of the gap in the services that is there, not only in relation to this situation but of other gaps in services to children and youth in Newfoundland and Labrador," Chafe said.

Gerry Rogers, the NDP representative for St. John's Centre, said she welcomed the investigation, but also said she wants real change that can help others.

"I am becoming increasingly, increasingly angry at the situation that we find ourselves in this province," Rogers told CBC News.

She said the government, which reported a large surplus earlier this fall, can afford to address complicated problems.

"What we have are young folks who may have addictions problems, mental health problems living in absolute dumps with people who are getting out of prison, people with long histories of mental health and addictions," she said.

"This is not appropriate."

The teen was also charged with manslaughter days after the fire.

He is also facing six charges of arson — three related to property damage and three involving a disregard for human life — and seven charges of breaches of court orders.

Apart from the victim, there were four other people in the house at the time of the fire.

Three other people were sent to hospital where they were treated for non-life threatening injuries.