The lawyer for the family of an Indigenous teen who died at an Abbotsford group home says a proper investigation and coroner’s inquest is needed to explain why both staff and police didn’t find his body for days.
The body of the 17-year-old was found in his bedroom closet on Sept. 18, four days after staff noticed he was missing and three days after a worker filed a missing person’s report with Abbotsford police.
“That’s a question that screams out,” said Mike McDonald.
“I’ve seen the statements of the police from last night to CBC saying that they had done an investigation. Well, if they had done their job, this precious boy’s body would not be … there for that long.
“And the same could be asked of the agency. If they had done their job, why would they not have looked in the closet?”
A statement from the Abbotsford Police Department said after the boy was reported missing on Sept. 15, “several officers completed multiple searches, day and night, until the youth was located.”
It says the initial investigation involved interviewing “several friends and family members,” pinging a cellphone previously used by the boy, issuing a bulletin to Lower Mainland police agencies and canvassing hospitals and homeless camps and shelters in the area.
‘No criminality suspected’ say police
“Once the youth had been located, the Abby PD Major Crime Unit (MCU) assumed conduct of this investigation,” said Abbotsford police Const. Jody Thomas. “MCU has since concluded their investigation, and no criminality is suspected at this time.”
According to a joint media release from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit, the B.C. Assembly of First Nations and the Indigenous Bar Association of Canada, the boy was under the care of a delegated Aboriginal agency through a consent agreement.
Former B.C. representative for children and youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond says she supports the call from the family and First Nations community for a thorough review.
“Cases like this are deeply disturbing. The fact that he was in that group home, in a closet, possibly for multiple days and not located, these are deeply problematic circumstances,” she said.
‘A lot of suspicious circumstances’
Turpel-Lafond said she would like to see the current representative for children, Dr. Jennifer Charlesworth, conduct a review of the case.
“This has got a lot of suspicious circumstances and I hope Ms. Charlesworth will conduct a full and independent investigation and report to us on what she finds,” said Turpel-Lafond.
In a statement to CBC, Charlesworth said her office was reviewing the situation, but that it would not be appropriate to comment during a provincial election period.
“I have been in contact with the First Nations Leadership Council and my office will proceed according to our mandate,” she said.
McDonald said he would like to see a coroner’s inquest called without delay, “so we can get to the truth and find out what happened.”
“Certainly, the mom is entitled to answers to some of these questions,” he said.
The BC Coroners Service is investigating to determine cause of death and any contributing factors.