CBC Investigates

Danny Francis takes own life while in ministry care, friend says

Another teen in the care of B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development has died in a suspected suicide, CBC News has learned.

Body of 18-year-old Danny Francis found yesterday in Port Alberni

Danny "Ace" Francis, 18, found dead of apparent suicide in his Port Alberni apartment Dec. 2, 2015 while in the care of the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development. (facebook)

An 18-year-old youth in the care of B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development committed suicide after not being allowed to see his family, says the young man's friend.

"I thought he would just get mad and throw things in his room and calm down," said the 18-year-old girl who discovered her friend's body in his room.

The girl is also in ministry care and cannot be named under B.C.'s Child, Family and Community Service Act but says she and Danny Francis were friends for many years.

The B.C. Coroner's Service confirms it is investigating the death and B.C.'s child advocate has also confirmed she has been informed of the death of an 18-year-old in care.

'He wanted to go home'

"He was drinking again and I ... got mad at him because he'd destroyed the place," said the girl.

The young woman said she called their social worker asking for help for Francis, who goes by the nickname "Ace" on his Facebook page.

"He was holding pictures of his family saying that he wanted to go home," she said, explaining he was crying and  upset before she fled the apartment. 

She was horrified to discover he had taken his own life when she returned Wednesday morning to check on him. 

The young woman says she called ministry-contracted social workers with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council's USMA Family and Child Services who never responded, as well as 911 which did.  

Denied visits with siblings, friend says

The woman says the social workers later told her not to post on Facebook about the death. She says she is angry they didn't offer Francis more support.

"He had a lot of family issues going on," she said. "USMA wouldn't let him see his brother and sister for awhile, like they just hold back visits for no reason."

"We're on independent living. We have to figure things out on our own so [our social worker] was never really there to help us," she said, adding they were given $425 a month for rent and food and $50 for clothing and incidentals.

Two weeks ago Francis posted on Facebook at 3.40 a.m., "Man I don't say this a lot but I need a hug ... I got court tomorrow and I'm wide awake and missing my grandma."

The Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council said in a news release it was "deeply saddened by the recent tragic passing of a
young person in our care."

"Given the positive relationship we had developed with the young man, this event has come as a considerable shock to everyone. He touched a lot of lives in a positive way and we are grieving his loss."  

Father angry

Danny Francis's father, Anthony Dick, says he tried but was never allowed to visit his son. (Anthony Dick)

CBC reached Francis's father Anthony Dick, who had traveled to Port Alberni from his home in Gold River B.C. to make funeral arrangements and to meet with police.

Dick says he hasn't seen his son since he was a baby.

"I was trying to make arrangements to visit with him for years ... we couldn't get anything done. They weren't responding what I wanted from them," he said.  "I have so much anger right now that it hurts. Every time I hear the word USMA, I feel rage."

Dick says he wants to know why USMA, a name which he says means "precious child" in the Nuu-chah-nulth tongue, kept him away from his son for so long.

Francis would have aged out of care

The ministry gave CBC news a statement saying its "deepest sympathy goes out to the family" but that it was unable to comment on the specifics of the case.  

Alex Gervais, Nick Lang, and Carly Fraser, all teens in care who took their lives. (CBC)

It also said a number of processes would be triggered by the death, including an assessment by the Director of Child Welfare that could lead to a formal review and investigation by the Representative for Children and Youth.

Francis is the fourth teen in care to take his own life in recent months.  A review into the death of Alex Gervais is underway, after he jumped from his fourth floor hotel room in September

The ministry is also reviewing the deaths of Nick Lang, 15, who killed himself while in care in June  and Carley Fraser who took her life just hours after she aged out of ministry care.

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  • CBC has made changes to this story to better reflect the relationship among the people involved.
    Dec 04, 2015 3:48 PM PT

With files from Wawmeesh Hamilton