Video: MLA Rice Questions Minister Cadieuax on mother and son deaths in Prince Rupert

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J. Rice: Last week, I attended the inquest into the deaths of Angie Robinson and Robert Robinson. Angie was a single mom struggling with depression. Her son, Robert, had severe autism, and she struggled to give him the care he needed. Taking care of Robert was a full-time job, so Angie asked the Ministry of Children and Families to help her get child support from her ex-partner. They didn’t help. Angie asked the ministry for respite care assistance. It wasn’t given. Angie’s cries for help were ignored.

My question is to the Minister of Children and Family Development. How many families have to experience tragedy before changes are made in her ministry?

Hon. S. Cadieux: To the member opposite and all the members opposite: the Coroners Service and the jury had a very difficult job to do, to listen to a great deal of information during their deliberations last week on an event that was incredibly tragic. My heart, at the time and still today, goes out to the family, the friends and the community for the loss.

We will take all of the recommendations of that coroner’s inquest seriously. We will add those recommendations to the practice considerations highlighted by the director’s case review that has been completed on this case. We will fully respond to those recommendations in due course.

J. Rice: Robert’s condition was so severe that he smashed out a truck window with his head. When Robert had an episode in the emergency room, it took three RCMP officers, a doctor, a nurse and his mother, Angie, to help manage him until he calmed down.

The ministry left a single woman alone, a woman fleeing from an abusive relationship, without the supports she needed to care for Robert. She was deeply depressed, but no help was given.

After every tragedy, new recommendations are made, and the children’s minister ignores them. Again to the minister: when will families in crises get the help that they need and they deserve? When?

Hon. S. Cadieux: As I said, there are very fulsome recommendations coming from the coroner’s inquest, and I would thank the coroner and the jurors for their service.

There are a number of issues that have been raised through this — certainly, that the matter of ensuring the status of peace bonds and no-contact orders be known. Actually, we’re in the final stages of working with our justice partners to give social workers the ability in real time to check orders by giving them access to the protection order registry. We think those are incredibly important things.

While we do already have policy on collaboration in the ministry, clearly more needs to be done. We are certainly open to both reviewing and strengthening that work within the ministry.

Those are just two of the recommendations, of course. I can also tell the House that the ministry has provided child protection staff and community partners all with domestic violence training. We amended the child and family service act in June of 2014, as the member will remember, to include domestic violence in the act as a child protection concern and to include support services to children who witness domestic violence.

There is always more to do, and when we receive recommendations, we take them seriously. We look at how that should be integrated or change our practice and our work, and we will continue to do so.

D. Donaldson: In the spirit of collaboration and taking things seriously, I ask that the director’s case review be tabled in this House.

Angie attempted suicide twice in the lead-up to her final attempt. She reached out to the ministry multiple times, and each time, they pushed her away. This government wasn’t there for Angie. If the issue wasn’t a lack of resources, why wasn’t Angie given the help she needed?

Hon. S. Cadieux: I’ll say a number of things in response to the member’s questions. First off, the director’s case review will be made public, as the member knows. We do that consistent with policy, publicly posting the summaries at the end of the year, and that will be done this year as well.

While I can’t speak to the specifics of the case, what I can say is that there are numerous supports and services available in the province — and in Prince Rupert, specifically — for children with autism and their families and for families needing support from the ministry on other matters.

The case review and the coroner’s service work here has led to a number of recommendations. We will be reviewing them and taking them extremely seriously.

D. Donaldson: Robert’s mother did the best she could do for her son, even driving two hours to get respite care in Terrace, until that was cut off. When she lost respite services, Angie asked for help and was told to wait till Robert turned 19, a wait of three years. After hearing that news, four days later, on World Autism Day, she and her son were dead. Everyone knew that Angie was struggling, and nobody knew where to get help.

The minister failed this family. She failed the child, she failed the mother, and she continues to fail the extended family. Does the minister think it’s right to tell a family in crisis to wait three years for services, with horrific consequences?

Hon. S. Cadieux: What I can tell this House, and have on numerous occasions, is that there are a variety of services available, through the ministry, for families. Those services are available wherever people live. When it comes to autism services, we’re the only province in the country to have a no-wait-list policy for autism supports.

We do provide support for families with children with autism and young adults with autism, in addition to res-
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pite services and in addition to CYSN services and other supports to the family.

I recognize that, at times, finding specialized services in smaller communities is difficult. In many cases, it’s similar to the challenges faced by individuals with health challenges that need to travel for specialized services in larger centres. We are always looking to improve the services that we provide. We will continue to do that.