The social agency responsible for the 10-year-old Saskatchewan boy who police believe killed six-year-old Lee Bonneau in 2013 was warned by his school and the RCMP about his behavioural problems but the response was inadequate, a report says.
Bob Pringle, Saskatchewan's children's advocate, released his report on Wednesday – titled Two Tragedies: Holding Systems Accountable – about the boys and how Lee's killing could have been avoided.
All the warning signs were there to indicate that Canada's youngest accused killer was a victim of child abuse and was on a troubled and violent path, the report says.
Death occurred 150 km east of Regina
Lee's body was discovered Aug. 21, 2013, in an open area behind a recreation centre on the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, a community of 600 people located about 150 kilometres east of Regina.
The boy had severe head injuries and the cause of death was determined to be blunt force trauma, allegedly caused by a boy referred to as "Derek" in the report (his real name hasn't been released due to provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act).
The suspect was too young to be charged with a criminal offence. He remains in the care of Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services.
Pringle said the death was a "double tragedy" that could possibly have been prevented.
He noted a long history of trouble with Derek, who had fetal alcohol syndrome, that should have been a red flag for the agency responsible for his care — Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services.
He also said in future there should be better scrutiny of such agencies by the provincial Social Services Ministry.
Early warning signs
In some ways, Derek was like any other child. He was described as someone who loved to play outside with his siblings, go on adventures with his pet dogs, play video games, draw and play with toy cars.
He was also described as a vulnerable child who wanted to fit in and have friends.
The report notes that when Derek was six, the school he attended was already worried about his behaviour and his safety at home.
Over the next three years, the school wrote three letters to Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services — at one point "pleading for help for Derek."
Case workers barely followed up, according to the report.
When he was eight, RCMP suspected that Derek was involved in a break-in with another boy at a house where a pregnant dog was killed, along with her pups.
"This serious incident of alleged animal abuse was a clear opportunity to ... intervene to help Derek and his family, but it was overlooked," Pringle said.
In 2012, Derek's father was convicted of assaulting the boy.
The RCMP warned child services three more times about about Derek's troubling behaviour. His school had also forced him to stay home.
"This investigation found [Yorkton Tribal Council Child and Family Services] failed to act when Derek required protection and failed to provide services to address his complex needs," Pringle's report said.
Lee also had difficult home life
The report notes that Lee also had a troubled life. There were fights in the home and concerns raised about both his mother's mental health and his father's drinking.
The Ministry of Social Services was brought in but some problems were not properly addressed, Pringle's report said.
At the time of his death, Lee was in foster care.
He had behavioural problems that required the help of professionals.
He was described as a somewhat shy and quiet child, who liked to play with his remote-controlled airplane and go to the park. He enjoyed playing computer games and watching cartoons. Math and art were his favourite subjects in school and he had a stuffed animal that he often carried with him.
He seemed to be happier in what turned out to be his final days living on a farm, the report said. He enjoyed riding on farm equipment with his foster father.
He had accompanied his foster mother to bingo in the hours before his death.
She gave him some money to buy a snack at the canteen, and when he didn't return after 15 minutes, she started searching for him.
A larger search quickly ensued, and some 90 minutes later, the severely injured boy was found. He later died of his injuries.