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BC Government Grilled on Killing of CLBC Client

Opposition and advocate call for independent review after Tyee report.

Andrew MacLeod 3 Jun 2022TheTyee.ca

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria and the author of All Together Healthy (Douglas & McIntyre, 2018). Find him on Twitter or reach him at .

BC Liberal MLAs pressed Nicholas Simons, the minister responsible for Community Living British Columbia, Thursday on why more wasn’t done that might have prevented the homicide of a CLBC client in May.

And outside of the legislature the head of a group representing home-share providers said the death needs an independent investigation, which BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon also said is needed.

During question period, Surrey-White Rock MLA and Liberal mental health critic Trevor Halford cited reporting from The Tyee about the homicide of Jamie Joe, a man in his mid-20s who lived in a home-share in Sooke funded through CLBC.

Under CLBC’s home-share program providers receive a monthly stipend based on the severity of the client’s disabilities to look after them in their home and generally care for them as part of the family.

The Tyee reported that Karin McKenzie, who looked after Joe for the last six years after he’d aged out of foster care, said she had repeatedly sought more support from CLBC and Sooke Family Resource Society in the weeks and months before he was killed.

She knew she needed more help to look after him, she said, but those requests were rebuffed.

Halford asked Simons for answers.

“Can the minister responsible stand up and explain why his ministry failed time and time again to give this individual the supports they needed that could potentially have saved this man's life?”

Simons expressed condolences for everyone impacted by the tragedy, but said he was limited in what he could say.

“The current situation is under active investigation, and it would be absolutely inappropriate of me to make further comment other than to say that every situation that comes across my desk is an opportunity to learn and address issues,” he said.

The RCMP has said the Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit is investigating the homicide, which occurred May 15.

In an interview Simons said that with the investigation in process he shouldn’t comment until it is complete.

“All across my ministry, and all across the social service sector, when incidents of any kind arise that could lead to learning what can be done differently, or what programs need to be looked at more specifically, that happens,” he said.

“I appreciate the issue being raised and I think the appropriate response is to let the process play out,” he said. “My first primary thought was concern for those impacted, because it’s obviously a situation that answers are required. Questions are being raised and answers are required.”

A spokesperson for CLBC, Randy Schmidt, said the Crown corporation is deeply saddened by the incident. “We offer our condolences to members of his family, friends and all those affected by his death. We take this matter extremely seriously.”

Service providers and CLBC staff are required to follow the agency’s critical incident policy when responding to unusual incidents, accidents and deaths, Schmidt said. “Service providers are required to immediately notify appropriate authorities and CLBC when there is an urgent critical incident that results in serious harm. They are also required to act quickly to ensure supported individuals are safe.”

CLBC is conducting an initial assessment and supporting the police investigation, he said.

Schmidt added that in such events CLBC works to make sure affected individuals, families and service providers are supported. “This means staying in regular contact and may include offers of emergency housing support, counselling, maintenance and cleaning support for damage to homes, and support for other extraordinary hardship expenses.”

The president of the BC Home Share Caregivers Association, Selena Martin, said that once the police have done their work an independent investigation is needed.

“There needs to be an investigation and the minister's office should make sure that it is done by someone not affiliated with the ministry or CLBC,” she said.

Falcon said that independent reviews tend to lead to better outcomes, even if they can be uncomfortable for the government.

“It’s a hugely tragic situation for sure,” he said, “and while we don’t have all the details, we have enough details to know the government and the system has failed these individuals.”

There are about 4,000 home-share providers looking after 4,200 people in the province through the program.  [Tyee]

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