Review finds 117 B.C. children in care housed in hotels

Report follows tragic death in Abbotsford of Alex Gervais, who spent 49 straight days in a hotel

A new report shows 117 children and youth in care in B.C. were placed in hotels in a recent 12-month period despite government claims the practice was rare and repeated orders that it happen only in extreme situations.

The joint review of hotel placements by Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and the Ministry of Children and Family Development came in response to a high-profile death last September.

Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old in care, fell or jumped to his death from the fourth floor of an Abbotsford Super 8 hotel, where he had been housed by the ministry after his group home was shut down due to poor conditions.

At that time, Children and Family Minister Stephanie Cadieux suggested just one or two youths were thought to be in hotel placements.

Turpel-Lafond suspected the number was closer to 50 and said the count of 117 children from November 2014 to October 2014 – more than double her estimate – shows how pervasive the problem remains.

Some of those children were placed in hotels multiple times during the year, as a total of 131 placements were recorded.

Most hotel stays are short – just a day or two – and Cadieux said it’s usually because of the need to urgently relocate youth until a conventional placement can be found, often on evenings or weekends.

But Gervais was an extreme case.

He spent 49 consecutive days in the Abbotsford hotel prior to his Sept. 18 death, the most recent of multiple hotel stays.

“The best guess we have is that Mr. Gervais spent close to 100 days in hotels over the period of his time in care,” Turpel-Lafond said.

A further review of his case is underway and the ministry is required to report by March 31 or consent to an investigation by Turpel-Lafond’s office.

“His death is a tragedy,” Cadieux said. “It’s a young life lost well too soon.”

The South Fraser and North Fraser regions of the Lower Mainland recorded the highest use of hotels – 32 and 27 placements respectively – followed by 14 in Vancouver/Richmond and 12 by the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society.

The hotel placements make up two per cent of B.C. children in care, but that rose to six per cent in the North Fraser area.

Turpel-Lafond characterized the recurring use of hotels in those areas as “a stop-gap in lieu of having adequate placements.”

But Cadieux said she believes better coordination of the placement options that exist could go far to reducing hotel use.

Cadieux said hotel stays remain an option of last resort and while she doesn’t believe it’s good practice she would set no target date for ending it.

Manitoba has banned all use of hotels but Cadieux said that comparison isn’t appropriate because that province was using them systemically.

Turpel-Lafond said she would like to see a complete ban because of the harm hotel stays do but agreed it is not realistic.

“The pressures on the staff are such that they are not able to find alternative placements to hotels at this time.”

Ministry staff must now report to the representative’s office when any child is kept in a hotel longer than three days.

Social workers must get approval for hotel placements, which has been granted in all recent requests. Reports on hotel placements are to be made public every six months.

Cadieux said she also intends to bring a budget request to cabinet to provide more residential resources for emergency placements, particularly in the Fraser areas.

She indicated she may also propose increased remuneration or incentives to recruit or retain foster families.

“We want to eliminate hotel placements entirely,” Cadieux said. “But government can’t achieve that alone. We need more people to step up, get trained and work with us to provide kids in care with the stable homes that they need and that they deserve.”

Hotel PlacementsCreate bar charts

Placement in Hotels Report

Just Posted

Desmond (Casey) Peter serves salmon and hamburgers to the waiting crowd at the Cowichan Tribes’ celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Cowichan Tribes celebrates National Indigenous People’s Day

First Nation members gather for day of fun and remembrance

The Crofton Pool will reopen July 2. (File photo by Don Bodger)
Lifeguard services returning to Fuller Lake Park, Crofton Pool

Summer schedule starting after hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic

Sierra Acton, regional district director for Shawnigan Lake. (file photo)
New parkland in Shawnigan creating connections

Used to created parking for the popular Masons Beach Park

By protesting uninvited in First Nations’ territories, conservationists are acting in a neocolonial or paternalistic manner, says Huu-ay-aht Chief Robert Dennis. Photo by Heather Thomson
A closer look: do Vancouver Island First Nations support the war in the woods?

First Nations/environmentalist old growth alliance uneasy, if it exists at all

Chris Wilkinson
Chris Wilkinson column: This could be the worst thing done to you during the pandemic

As a result, all of us will contend with more ‘scarcity’ thinking and mindset.

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews on scene at a boat fire near the boat ramp at Long Lake on Sunday, June 20. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Boat burns up on Nanaimo’s Long Lake, man and child unhurt

Jet skiers attempt to put out fire by circling around to spray water on burning boat

The Somass Sawmill sits idle in early May 2021. While the kilns have been in use occasionally, and the lot has been used to store woodchips this spring, the mill has been curtailed since July 27, 2017. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Port Alberni to expropriate Somass Sawmill from Western Forest Products

Sawmill has been ‘indefinitely’ curtailed since 2017

Robin Sanford and her fiance Simon Park were married in an impromptu ceremony at Abbotsford Regional Hospital on June 16. (Submitted photo)
Mom dies day after witnessing daughter’s hospital wedding in Abbotsford

Nurses help arrange impromptu ceremony in 3 hours for bride and groom

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

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. home owner grant won’t be altered, despite expert advice

Tax break for residences worth up to $1.6 million too popular

B.C. conservation officer Sgt. Todd Hunter said a black bear is believed to have killed local livestock. (THE NEWS/files)
Black bear believed to have killed miniature donkey in Maple Ridge

Trap set for predator that has been killing livestock

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki and Minister of Housing David Eby have been battling over the Victory Church shelter and BC Housing projects in the city. (File photos)
Penticton heads to court over homeless shelter as BC Housing audit begins

The city was not satisfied with the response from Minister David Eby regarding the ongoing situation

People enjoy the sun at Woodbine Beach on June 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Tijana Martin
BC Hydro assures customers it has ‘more than enough’ power to weather the heatwave

Despite an increase of pressure on the Western grid, blackouts are not expected like in some U.S. states

The number of skilled trades workers available is not enough to fill the current construction boom in Greater Victoria. (Black Press Media file photo)
Supply of skilled tradespeople can’t keep up to Vancouver Island construction boom

Thousands of positions will be needed by 2030, despite flow of Camosun trades students

Most Read