Alex Gervais's family calling for inquiry into troubled teen's death
Family of teen who died while in provincial care says the system let him down
Friends and family of Alex Gervais, who died while in provincial care, are angry about the circumstances around his death and are calling for an inquiry into the matter.
People close to Gervais say they're upset that the 18-year-old was left alone in an Abbotsford, B.C., hotel for three months, before he fell or jumped from a fourth-floor window on Sept. 18.
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An adult who Gervais often turned to for advice (and has requested anonymity) shared texts with CBC News that Gervais wrote.
In his texts, Gervais said his social workers wouldn't listen to him, wouldn't help him and wouldn't give him money. He also said a friend had robbed him.
"I tell the social workers too (sic) help me and they do nothing, he doesn't feed me he's never around," said Gervais in the text.
"I have been over and over again not acknowledged for what I am trying too (sic) say. I am telling you think hoping you can give me some advice."
The person asked him if he would want to move out on his own and no longer be in government care.
"Honestly not really," Gervais said. "I'm not doing very well."
'Lamb to slaughter'
Gervais's family outlined several of their concerns in an open letter to the premier, which was sent in advance to CBC News.
In the letter, framed as a conversation the family would have with Gervais if he was still alive, the family alleges the province placed Gervais in his father's care, "despite the fact that the court knew about the abuse inflicted upon you."
"That was the turning point. That was when you essentially became a lamb to slaughter," wrote the family.
"From that point until the moment of your death, you remained a pawn in a system that places no true value on the life of a child."
CBC News tried to reach Gervais's father, but he did not respond to requests for comment.
The family said it often lost track of Gervais because he moved homes 16 times.
"Alex, it is important for you to know that we did care, but we often lost track of you in the infamous bureaucratic system," said the family in the letter.
The letter goes on to say that Gervais didn't receive the gifts the family sent to him, and that those he did get were stolen.
"Your short life, Alex, was fraught with physical, sexual and psychological pain, permitted to be inflicted upon you by the same people who were supposed to be protecting you."
CBC News has also learned more about Gervais's troubled childhood from his aunt, Line Decarie, who came to Abbotsford from Quebec to attend his funeral last weekend.
Decarie also said Gervais's father was abusive. She said he threw Gervais down a set of stairs when he was young, and later took him to B.C. Decarie added that Gervais' father lost custody of him several times.
She said her sister, Gervais's mother, suffers from schizophrenia and that his parents met in a mental health facility in Quebec.
She said her family tried to adopt Alex eight years ago, but B.C. social workers wouldn't agree to her one stipulation.
"The condition was because of the danger the father posed to myself and to my son. I didn't want Alex's father to know where he was," said Decarie.
"Unfortunately they couldn't do that because of all these parental rights. They wanted his father to stay in contact and at that point I was too afraid to put my own child at risk."
Gervais's aunt also said she was angry that social workers didn't contact her when his group home was shut down last spring.
Decarie said she visited the group home when she was here and believes officials were too hasty when they closed 23 group homes run by one company.
She and many others who knew Alex say he was doing well there, and he should never have been put in a hotel, alone for months.
The province said it couldn't comment on details of Gervais's files or Decarie's failed adoption attempts due to privacy concerns.
The Ministry of Children and Family Development did say it is B.C. policy to involve extended family in a child's care.
"Ministry policy and practice is to place children and youth in foster homes and residential resources that match their needs and minimize the possibility of further moves," said the ministry in a written statement.
The ministry said the provincial director of child welfare has launched a case review to examine if provincial policy was properly followed when Gervais was placed in a hotel.
Alex Gervais's family's letter to Premier Christy Clark (PDF KB)
Alex Gervais's family's letter to Premier Christy Clark (Text KB)CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content
With files from Natalie Clancy