Changes being made after report on death of Aboriginal teen: Children's Ministry

Paige was only 19 years old when she died in Vancouver's notorious downtown eastside.
Image Credit: contributed

VANCOUVER - British Columbia's Children's Ministry says it has taken steps to help front-line workers understand their roles and responsibilities in the wake of a scathing report on the short, tragic life of a young aboriginal woman.

The change was among a handful announced Monday by the ministry and follows a May report by children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond into the death of a 19-year-old aboriginal woman identified only as Paige.

Paige died of an overdose in a washroom on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside in 2013.

Turpel-Lafond said in her report that Paige endured a "broken system'' characterized by persistent indifference from front-line government workers.

Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux said in a news release her ministry has created a policy map to help front-line workers understand their roles and responsibilities and revised policy around death reviews for children and youth who are or have been under the ministry's care.

She said officials have also created an awareness campaign reminding service providers that they must report any at-risk children or youth to the ministry — something Turpel-Lafond said did not happen in Paige's case.

Cadieux noted that these changes are only the beginning and there is a lot of work to be done to help B.C.'s at-risk children and youth.

"We also recognize that real and meaningful change on a systemic scale will be an ongoing process," she said. "To be successful, we need to examine — from the ground up — the way this province supports our most vulnerable young people."

The news release included changes that have already been announced by the ministry too, such as the creation of a rapid-response team to help at-risk youth on the Downtown Eastside.

Turpel-Lafond made six recommendations in her report, including a call for the ministry to immediately address the "persistent professional indifference'' of police, social workers and educators towards aboriginal youth.

"I am buoyed to see that (the ministry) and government have begun to grapple with these important issues and that progress will be improved outcomes for these youth," said Turpel-Lafond in the news release.

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