Nova Scotia·CBC Investigates

Nova Scotia has seen at least 11 children die in care since 2004

A 16-year-old girl who died Sunday in Halifax is at least the 11th child since 2004 to die in the care of the province, documents obtained by CBC News show.

A 16-year-old-girl who died suddenly Sunday in Halifax was in provincial care, provincial ombudsman confirms

CBC News has learned that at least 11 children in provincial care have died since 2004. (CBC)

A 16-year-old girl who died in Halifax on Sunday is at least the 11th child since 2004 to die in the care of the province, documents obtained by CBC News show.     
       
Halifax Regional Police they were called Sunday afternoon about a sudden death and went to the scene at a house on the 5000-block of Macara Street in Halifax.

They say the cause of death won't be confirmed until autopsy and toxicology reports are completed which could take weeks.

Neither police nor the Department of Community Services would say the girl was under the government's care, but the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman confirms she was.

Ombudsman Christine Delisle-Brennan says her office will play an "oversight" role in the review that is still "in the early stages.

"At this point, we are satisfied with the mechanisms they are currently enacting but certainly I'm anxious to see how that unfolds over the next few days and several weeks," she said in an interview.

"At that point, if there is further requirement for our office to dig deeper, that is certainly something we would do."

Four deaths result of MVAs

According to documents obtained by CBC News through freedom of information laws, 10 children in care in the province died between 2004 and the end of 2014. 

Halifax police were called Sunday to the 5000-block of Macara Street in Halifax where a 16-year-old girl had died. (CBC)

Four were killed as a result of motor vehicle accidents, two took their own lives, one died from natural causes and two were cases where the children were taken into care as a result of injuries that became fatal. 

In a final case, a cause of death had not yet been determined but is not thought to be suspicious.

From 2007 to 2014, there were also 10 deaths of children living at home but receiving supports from Community Services.

Two were as a result of abuse, two were accidental, three were from natural causes and three were presumed to be deaths from natural causes, although authorities were awaiting toxicology reports.

CBC News was unable to confirm if there were any deaths between the end of 2014 and last weekend's death.

In the latest case, CBC News has learned Community Services has contacted several other arms of the government including the Office of the Ombudsman.

2014 report identified shortcomings   

In a 2014 report, Delisle-Brennan identified several shortcomings in the way the province dealt with the case of a toddler who died four years earlier after authorities were alerted to concerns about his well-being.

CBC News confirmed the review centred around Antonio Ryland Pinch, a two-year-old boy who developed stomach pains and then died at his North Kentville home on May 8, 2010. 
   
Adam William States was charged with manslaughter in the boy's death and was acquitted in 2012.

Among other things, the ombudsman's report recommended the province set up a permanent, inter-agency team to investigate all deaths and serious injuries involving children receiving government services. That has yet to happen.

Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard was unavailable for comment on Wednesday. The acting minister is Kelly Regan.

"If it were a child in care, we would be working with the authorities, and that would be the medical examiner and the police to assist in their investigation, and we would also initiate our own critical incident review to make sure we fully understand what happened," Regan said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Murphy

Reporter

Bob Murphy is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a CBC News reporter in the Maritime provinces for more than two decades. He has investigated everything from workplace deaths to unsolved crimes and government scandals.

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