British Columbia·New

Death of Alex Gervais sign ministry needs to reorganize, says critic

A former B.C. superintendent for child welfare says the Ministry of Children and Family Development needs to focus on more resources for children instead of finding new ways to assign blame.

'Ministry has a long culture of blaming staff'

Metis teen Alex Gervais died after he jumped from the open window of a hotel in Abbotsford while in xyolhemeylh's care. (Dylan Pelley/Facebook)

A former B.C. superintendent for child welfare says the Ministry of Children and Family Development needs to focus on more resources for children instead of finding new ways to assign blame.

Joyce Rigaux, who worked for the ministry under an NDP government in the early 1990s, says it doesn't have the staff, budget or support needed to care for the children in its care.

"The ministry has a long culture of blaming staff. Those who are in charge pretend that the system is adequately resourced and funded and that really what explains each of these tragedies is some social worker that has not followed policy," she said.

Her comments come two weeks after 18-year-old Alex Gervais died after falling from the window of an Abbotsford Super-8 Motel. He was staying there alone and unsupervised after the group home he was living in was shut down.

Last week, Premier Christy Clark blamed the agency for not reporting Gervais's living situation to the director. But the agency says there should be an investigation before pointing the finger at them.

"I'm deeply disappointed and angered that the premier didn't withhold her judgment," said Doug Kelly, co-founder of the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society.

Minister asked to resign

"Social workers are carrying impossible workloads and there is an expectation that they meet the need," said Rigaux, who says the Ministry and ultimately the Premier are responsible for such tragedies.

"It does land at the feet of senior bureaucrats and the minister and the premier. They are the ones that make the decisions to cut funding. That is where the responsibilities for these tragedies really lies," she said.

Stephanie Cadieux has rejected demands for her resignation and says she is focused on the investigation that is currently under way. (CBC)

This case, along with several others in the last few months, has prompted opposition New Democracy Party leader John Horgan to call on Stephanie Cadieux to resign.

Cadieux has refused to step down saying she is currently focused on the investigation into Gervais's death. Premier Christy Clark has also rejected calls for Cadieux's resignation.


To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled Former MCFD superintendent says not enough resources with the CBC's Rick Cluff on The Early Edition.
 

With files from The Canadian Press

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