Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A former Kelowna social worker facing several criminal charges for stealing from foster children is facing another class-action lawsuit.

The claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, alleges Robert Riley Saunders failed to inform Zackary Alphonse, an Indigenous person who was placed in provincial custody as a child, of resources available to him upon his leaving the system. As a result, Alphonse says Saunders and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, as well as another unnamed social worker, are responsible for Alphonse’s depression and eventual one-month of homelessness after leaving care.

Alphonse claims he was not notified of the Young Adults Program, meant to ease the transition from the care system to adult life, until almost a decade after ageing out of care. The ministry sent him a letter in June 2020 stating he may qualify for certain services, but after a phone call with a ministry representative, he was told he was too old.

When he left the system at 19-years-old, Alphonse “had only completed to Grade 9 of his secondary schooling, and without financial support, he could not afford to work on his graduate equivalency degree,” reads the civil claim. “For a period of approximately one year, (Alphonse) could see no future for himself, felt hopeless and became depressed and unable to advance his interests.”

READ MORE: Former Kelowna social worker arrested for allegedly stealing from foster children

READ MORE: Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Alphonse managed to stabilize his working life over the next eight years, eventually returning to school for an online high school equivalency and a computer repair certification. Now at age 29, he has nearly completed his GED, but the suit claims he would’ve been able to begin his adult education much sooner if he had been informed of the program.

The claim also states the ministry’s failure to inform Alphonse of the program “has a discriminatory effect on Indigenous persons who have aged out of care, which manifests in lower rates of program uptake for Indigenous persons and lower levels of educational attainment for Indigenous persons.”

Alphonse is seeking reparations for several damages including the future cost of his education.

None of the claims made in the suit have been tested in court.

If approved by the courts as a class-action lawsuit, all who were in the ministry’s care and not informed of the program could be eligible for compensation.

Saunders is currently out on bail while facing 13 criminal charges alleging he defrauded and stole from children in his care; however, a previously settled class-action lawsuit — which also named him and the ministry — awarded funds to more than 100 people who were in Saunders’ care, many of whom were Indigenous. Up to $15 million could be handed out as part of that settlement.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Foster care

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Cowichan Capitals traded defenceman Clark Webster to his hometown Summerside Western Capitals. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Hopeful Cowichan Capitals make flurry of deadline deals

Roster bolstered in case BCHL season gets go-ahead

Neurologist and medical educator Dr. Alexandre Henri-Bhargava, seen here speaking at the 2020 Breakfast to Remember in Victoria, will delve into the latest in dementia research during an interactive research event exclusively for attendees of this year’s virtual Breakfast. Access to the March 10 research event is included with the purchase of a Breakfast to Remember ticket. (Kevin Light Photography)
Blast off with Chris Hadfield at Alzheimer Society’s Breakfast to Remember in March

The Society hopes people in all corners of the province will make the most of this opportunity

The City of Duncan will implement a new pilot project targeting vandalism this spring. (File photo)
Duncan initiates pilot project to deal with graffiti

Project based on a successful one in Port Alberni

The victim of the homicide on Cowichan Lake Road early Monday morning was 17 years old, and was stabbed in the incident. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Duncan homicide victim was 17 years old

RCMP report that teenager was stabbed

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

This was the scene outside North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School after an attempted but unsuccessful break-and-enter into the school torched an ATM inside of it. Sidney/North Saanich RCMP did not make any arrests and currently lack suspects as the investigation continues. Members of the public who may have witnessed something or possess other information can contact police at (250) 656-3931 or to Crimestoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS. (Submitted)
Money to burn: burglars torch North Saanich high school ATM

Police dogs searched the exterior and interior of the school after early morning break-and-enter

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

t
Province invests $2M in three Vancouver Island food hubs

Hub network provides shared-use processing facilities to small agri-businesses

Most Read