British Columbia

More civil claims filed against province, former social worker in negligence, fraud case

The four new claims allege the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development was aware of misconduct and negligence from Okanagan social worker Robert Riley Saunders and didn't do enough to prevent it.

4 new claims allege Children's Ministry failed to protect First Nations youth from actions of Robert Saunders

Robert Riley Saunders is named in 10 different legal actions which claim the social worker stole money from vulnerable First Nations teens. (Facebook)

Four new civil claims of fraud against a former provincial social worker — who is already embroiled in five other cases and a class action lawsuit — allege damning details of harm to vulnerable youth.

Similar to the other cases filed in 2018, the four new claims allege Kelowna social worker Robert Riley Saunders manipulated teenagers in his care who were mainly Aboriginal youth. The complainants say he shepherded them into independent living situations, but then pocketed their benefits and left them to fend for themselves.

He was fired in May 2018.

"The Plaintiff was deprived of those funds and benefits and his vulnerability to further predation from other sources increased, and the Plaintiff was exploited due to his vulnerability," said one of the new claims.

The suits also claim that B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development employees were aware of Saunders' misconduct and negligence, but didn't do enough to prevent it.

Credit union named in claims

In addition, the claims accuse Interior Savings Credit Union of assisting Saunders to open accounts with his clients, but failing to advise them that the accounts were in joint name with Saunders.

The four new claims were filed at B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday.

CBC is not naming the four new plaintiffs as the events outlined in their claims are alleged to have happened when they were under 19 years of age.

Sex abuse in foster care

In one of them, plaintiff M.I., was placed in foster care at age seven. She accused her foster parents of verbal, psychological and physical abuse, calling her "vile names and withholding necessities on an ongoing basis."

M.I also accuses her foster father of sexual abuse.

When she was 13, she was moved out of that family's home and into her grandmother's care. The claim says her grandmother was unprepared and not properly trained by the province to adequately care for her and her sisters.  Saunders was assigned to the case at this time.

Failed 'to ensure her well-being '

"Saunders failed to make contact with the Plaintiff, to ascertain her interests, to create or implement annual care plans, to ascertain or meet her need to connect with her cultural heritage, or generally to satisfy his obligations to ensure her well-being and care," reads the claim.

The plaintiffs in the new suits are seeking damages, but also financial, health, therapeutic and educational support.

The defendants named on the claim have three weeks to respond to them. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In December, the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development admitted to fraud and negligence by Saunders.

In November, the province outlined steps it took to protect affected children and youth since discovering Saunders may have been abusing his position.

With files from Jason Proctor.