British Columbia

19-year-old found dead in Surrey B.C. tent 'popped up' in Alex Gervais investigation

The name of the 19-year-old found dead in a tent in Surrey B.C. 'popped up' during an intensive investigation into Alex Gervais's tragic death.

'Sadly some of these kids are not ageing out of care, but dying out of care and that’s unacceptable'

A young woman, who had been in the care of the province until early 2016, was found dead in this tent in Surrey, B.C. on Nov. 30, 2016. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

The name of the 19-year-old found dead in a tent in Surrey B.C. "popped up" during an intensive investigation into the death of Alex Gervais.

The young woman, who had been in the care of the province, turned 19 seven months ago, and thus lost most of the supports available to children in care in B.C.

Police said she was found on Nov. 30, describing her case as a "sudden death."

She was discovered in a tent in a rain-soaked bush area near King George Boulevard and 132nd Street.

The young woman was discovered near King George Boulevard and 132nd Street on Nov. 30. (Google Maps)

The area is known to be frequented by homeless people trying to find shelter.

Police said the death is not suspicious, but released no further detail.

There is a connection to another Aboriginal teen, Alex Gervais, who died while in ministry care.

Gervais, 18, plunged to his death from the fourth floor of an Abbotsford B.C. hotel, while in the care of the Ministry for Children and Family Development in B.C. 

It is the practice of the BC Coroners Service to inform the Ministry of Children and Family Development if any child who recently aged out of care at 19 dies.

Bernard Richard says, 'It’s not acceptable. I have 4 boys and they did not age out of care at 19. I can tell you that. '

Bernard Richard, B.C.'s new watchdog for children and youth, said the death is 'unacceptable' and points to a bigger issue with young people in care who hit age 19, and lose supports.

"It raises huge concerns for us. She is part of too many young British Columbians who are being abandoned at age 19."

Richard says the young woman, whose identity is not public, is "a person of interest" whose name came up during inquiries his office was making into the death of Gervais.

More need, not less

Gervais was staying alone in a hotel when he fell from a window. His death sparked furor over the lack of attention to his mental state, his needs and the failure to connect him with family who were eager to help him.

"The ministry is the parent of these young adults. In our view there needs to be a much stronger transition period for those age 19. These are the most vulnerable ones... [and] sadly some of these kids are not ageing out of care, but dying out of care and that's unacceptable," said Richard.

Outreach worker Michelle Clausius of Covenant House says a lot of young people in care who end up sleeping in tents to keep dry are struggling with past trauma, mental health issues or addiction.

Many show up with nothing more than a garbage bag full of stuff, she said.

"They often need more than what somebody who grew up in a healthy, happy family does," she said.

While she does not know the situation with the young woman found dead this week she said there is a need for further support and guidance long after they "age out" of the foster care system.

New Democrat Leader John Horgan slammed Premier Christy Clark upon hearing of the teen's death.

In a statement, Horgan said it has been a year-and-a-half since the Paige report, that was supposed to be a roadmap to prevent the deaths of young women aging out of care.

Paige — another 19-year-old Aboriginal woman — died of a drug overdose soon after aging out of care in 2013.

"I'm profoundly saddened by the death of this girl — but more than that, I am angry. Angry that her life was cut short because of the failures of an uncaring government.

"I'm angry because this was a preventable tragedy. It never should have happened," said Horgan.

B.C.'s new child advocate Bernard Richard says the young woman's name 'popped up' in the Alex Gervais investigation. Gervais died after he jumped from the open window of a hotel in Abbotsford. (Dylan Pelley/Facebook)

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