Alex Gervais death: family mourns at funeral, vows to bring change
Family speaks publically for the first time about tragic death
The aunt of Alex Gervais says she's struggling with the death of her 18-year-old nephew, who she says she tried — unsuccessfully — to adopt multiple times.
Line Decarie came from Quebec to attend Gervais' funeral in Abbotsford on Saturday. His father, Peter Gervais, was also there.
Gervais died September 18 after he fell from a hotel window while in the care of B.C.'s Ministry of Children & Family Development.
"We were just in shock," said Decarie, the sister of Gervais' mother Lise Decarie. "Immediate shock."
"He loved life, he loved to be loved, he loved attention. He had a smile that just lit up a room."
- Teen in provincial care dies in hotel window fall
- Accountability in teen tragedies
- Children, Family Ministry scrutinized
Decarie says she tried to contact Gervais at least once a year, with the last time being at Christmas when she says he never told her he was alone.
Gervais had been living at a Super-8 Motel in Abbotsford, unsupervised, after the group home he was living in was shut down.
The province says placing foster children in hotels is a temporary measure used in emergency circumstances only, but has admitted policy was not followed in Gervais' case.
The ministry is reviewing the circumstance of his death, but Decarie is devastated that she was not involved earlier.
Flown out and got him
"Why wouldn't they contact me to tell me, 'Line, we have an issue here, a group home is closing?'" she said. "He was 18. I would have flown out and come and got him."
Decarie says her nephew was born in Quebec to parents who struggle with mental illness and because of that she tried to get custody of Gervais more than once, but was denied.
"He did have family that loved him but we were kept out of the loop because of political issues and parental laws and so forth where we could have maybe helped him," she said. "And he died maybe not knowing he was truly loved."
Decarie gets emotional looking at pics of her nephew <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbc?src=hash">#cbc</a> <a href="http://t.co/HSnZ7TI6i1">pic.twitter.com/HSnZ7TI6i1</a>—@KiranCBC
Ashes to Quebec
Decarie says she plans to take her nephew's ashes back to Quebec so his family there hold a memorial for him.
She also says she is going to push for changes to the childcare system in B.C., demanding more resources for social workers, more rights for family members who want to help, and an end to the practise of housing vulnerable youth in hotels.
"These are children, these are not objects that we can just ... leave there. These are children in need."