WARNING: This story contains extremely disturbing details about child abuse.
First Nations leaders in British Columbia are calling for the resignation of the children’s minister and an overhaul of the foster system following a horrific case involving torture, starvation and other abuse that culminated in the death of an 11-year-old boy.
A county court judge in Chilliwack, BC, earlier this month sentenced a man and a woman to 10 years in prison after they pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault and manslaughter of the committed First Nations boy and the aggravated assault of his eight-year-old sister .
The name of the First Nation, the location and the names of all parties were banned by the courts to protect the identities of the children involved in the case.
Court documents show that the BC 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 birth mother.
The First Nations Leadership Council says there has been an “ongoing lack of accountability” by the ministry in response to the case and calls for the resignation of Minister Mitzi Dean and calls on the province to work with First Nations to to end the mistreatment of Indigenous children in care.
In a statement, Dean did not immediately respond to the call to resign.
“I extend our deepest apologies and condolences to the family, friends and communities affected by this tragedy, including Indigenous peoples across the province who have experienced and continue to experience the trauma of a broken child welfare system,” said Dean.
“Working with First Nations leaders and Indigenous partners, we are committed to continuing to make the systemic changes necessary to support the nations in exercising their inherent jurisdiction to provide their own services to their children and young people.”
In an unrelated press conference Monday morning, BC Prime Minister David Eby said the matter is “deeply felt”.
“This case has shocked us all,” he said.
Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations said the abuses in this case were the “result of negligence and lack of systemic oversight”.
“I urge Secretary Dean to recognize this and resign immediately,” he said in a press release Monday.
“The Department should conduct a thorough systematic review of its child protection and custody policies, practices and procedures with respect to First Nations children and youth, and all child protection cases and placements involving First Nations families.”
‘The level of violence… is incomprehensible’
In his June 16 ruling, 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 engage in excessive exercise for hours, often with their eyes taped shut, while wearing diapers or naked.
They were also beaten, beaten, kicked and beaten, with much of the abuse captured by home video cameras.
The boy died in February 2021 after suffering 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 zippers.
Police executed a search warrant and found evidence including a two-by-four piece of wood the couple used to beat the children, along with 16,000 videos with about 400 hours of playtime showing months of abuse from 2020 to 2021.
“The level of violence depicted in the videos is beyond comprehension,” La Prairie said in the statement.
He noted that the boy’s appearance in February 2021 was “particularly shocking”, likening it to a child from the Holocaust.
“It is unbelievable how the abuse, as depicted in the videos, continued over a long period of time, with the children in emaciated conditions and no one doing anything,” he said. “These are issues that need to be addressed.” ‘
Support is available for anyone affected by this report. You can talk to a mental health professional at Welfare Together Canada by calling 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 686868 for youth or 741741 for adults. It’s free and confidential.