Friday May 15, 2015

Paige's Story: a 'disposable' life of neglect and abuse

Listen 10:58

The report is entitled "Paige's Story: Abuse, Indifference and a Young Life Discarded." BC's Representative for Children and Youth says it's one of the most troubling investigations her office has ever conducted.

Paige died of a drug overdose in Vancouver in 2013. She was nineteen when she died. Paige was Aboriginal and functionally blind. She first came to the attention of BC's child welfare system when she was just 3 months old.

By the time she was 16, she'd moved 40 times. In the final three years of her life, she moved another 50 times, all around Vancouver's downtown eastside, one of the harshest neighbourhoods in the country.

"Her mom was 16 when she gave birth to [Paige] and was already struggling with addictions and violence," Turpel-Lafond tells As it Happens host, Carol Off. "The Ministry removed her when she was 3 months old because she was locked alone in the apartment, they returned her, and that began a pattern of continually returning and letting her mom to control the situation, as opposed to intervening and protecting her or placing her with willing family members who would have raised her."

Turpel-Lafond says Paige's mother would be overdosing or doing sex work and that her child's life was chaotic. Despite 30 child protection reports Paige continued to be left in the care of her mother.

Paige

Paige, 19, died of a drug overdose after a troubled life on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. (B.C. Children's and Youth Representative)

Paige went to 16 different schools, though her attendance was sporadic. "They let her drift away from school. Of course, she also showed up for school without glasses, she couldn't see, she'd been bullied about having glasses. So no one really took seriously her education. She was very disposable in the education system."

An aunt and uncle had offered to take care of Paige, but, because they needed financial assistance to take her in, Paige was not put in their care.

"This is a known pathway in Canada, and it's one that has to be changed. I mean, we hear a lot about missing and murdered women. Can we help these children before they become abused, missing and living in absolute squalor?"

At a news conference on Thursday, Turpel-Lafond described the treatment of Paige as "institutional racism."

"Well, it has to be that, because why are all of these systems willing to not support her? How could she possible have such a substandard level of care and treatment? In British Columbia, there are 100-150 kids similar to Paige. It's a failure of leadership in government at all levels that we are not addressing this."