First Nations leaders in British Columbia are calling for the resignation of the children’s minister and an overhaul of the foster system after a horrific case involving torture, starvation and other abuse that culminated in the beating death of an 11-year-old boy.
A provincial court judge in Chilliwack, B.C., earlier this month sentenced a man and woman to 10 years in prison after they pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault and manslaughter of the fostered First Nation boy and the aggravated assault of his sister, aged eight.
The name of the First Nation, the location and the names of all parties were banned by the courts to protect the identity of the children involved in the case.
Court documents show the Ministry of Children and Family Development’s last visit to the Indigenous couple’s home took place seven months before the boy was beaten to death in 2021 by the woman, who is related to the children’s biological mother.
The First Nations Leadership Council says there has been an “ongoing lack of accountability” by the ministry in response to the case and is calling for minister Mitzi Dean’s resignation and for the province to work with First Nations to eradicate the mistreatment of Indigenous children in care.
The ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but B.C. Premier David Eby told an unrelated news conference that the impact of the case is being “profoundly” felt.
“This case has shaken all of us,” he said Monday.
Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations said the abuse in this case was the “result of negligence and lack of systemic oversight.”
“I urge minister Dean to recognize this and resign immediately,” he said in the news release Monday.
“The ministry must conduct a thorough systematic review of its child protection and guardianship policies, practices, and procedures pertaining to First Nations children and youth, and all child protection cases and placements involving First Nations families.”
Content warning: material that some may find disturbing follows.
In his ruling on June 16, Judge Peter La Prairie said the children were tortured, starved and forced to eat their own feces, vomit and dog food. They were forced to undertake excessive exercise routines for hours, often with their eyes taped shut, while in diapers or naked.
They were also subject to slapping, punching, kicking and whipping, with much of the abuse captured by video cameras inside the home.
The boy died in February 2021 after sustaining a traumatic brain injury during a beating by the woman, documents say. His sister was later examined and found to have multiple abrasions and bruises all over her body and injuries to her wrists and ankles from zip ties.
Police executed a search warrant and found evidence including a 2×4 piece of wood the couple used to beat the children and 16,000 videos with about 400 hours of playing time, depicting months of abuse from 2020 to 2021.
“The level of violence depicted in the videos is incomprehensible,” La Prairie said in the ruling.
He noted the boy’s appearance in February 2021 was “particularly shocking,” likening it to a child from the Holocaust.
“It is inconceivable to understand how the abuse as depicted on the videos continued over a lengthy period of time, with the children in emaciated conditions and no one did anything,” he said. “These are issues that need to be addressed.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 26, 2023.