Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Youth Representative Criticizes B.C. Government for Aboriginal Teen's Death

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Youth Representative Criticizes B.C. Government for Aboriginal Teen's Death

Article excerpt

B.C. aboriginal teen failed by system: report

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VANCOUVER - She was found unconscious on sidewalks and transit buses. Once, paramedics pulled her from a basement with a 14-year-old friend who was naked and covered in blood. A police officer warned she may be hurt or killed while drunk.

These are just a few of the horrific incidents documented by a report examining the life and death of Paige, a 19-year-old legally blind aboriginal girl who overdosed in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

Social workers who were supposed to protect her did nothing to help, revealing a broken system that casually disregards the needs of aboriginal children, says British Columbia's representative for children and youth.

"Paige's files are rife with examples of situations in which workers seemed to throw up their hands and declare: 'What can we do?' rather than doing everything that was in their power," Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said in the report.

"If a parent in B.C. had treated their child the way the system treated Paige, we may be having a debate over criminal responsibility. Yet there appears to be systemic resistance to naming this problem."

Paige's aunt, Frances Robson, and uncle Lorne shook with tears after Turpel-Lafond finished delivering the scathing report at a news conference Thursday.

Robson said it was painful to hear new details of her niece's troubled life.

"It was just hard seeing her picture up there," said Robson. "When you see her there and you see that she's actually gone, that was the hardest part."

She and her husband tried several times to get custody of their niece, but were rejected when they asked for money to pay for a two-bedroom apartment and groceries, Robson said.

Paige, whose last name is not revealed in the report, died in a washroom in a city park in April 2013.

The report describes her as a bright young girl who loved animals and was eager to learn, despite her chaotic life. …

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