The union representing British Columbia's public school teachers is calling for the resignation of the province's children's minister following the death of another teen who had received help from her ministry.
Jim Iker, outgoing president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation, said the union is "heartbroken and fed up" with the inaction of the Ministry of Children and Family Development, led by Stephanie Cadieux, which he says has put vulnerable youth and young adults at risk.
"It's not something we take lightly when we ask for the resignation of a minister," Mr. Iker said.
Patricia Evoy, a 19-year-old aboriginal woman, died of a suspected overdose in Burnaby last Thursday. She is at least the third teen who had contact with the ministry to die in as many years.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, the province's independent representative for children and youth, said Ms. Evoy had accessed services from the ministry, though she was never in foster care. Neither Ms. Turpel-Lafond nor the ministry could say which services she had accessed.
"When we heard about this, delegates at our annual general meeting were impacted," Mr. Iker said. "What we're seeing is children in care dying. We're seeing children in care having serious injuries. … This government has had a lot of time to act."
Ms. Cadieux said she had no response to the union's call for her resignation.
"I have a job to do and I'm doing it," she told reporters in Victoria. "They have a right to have an opinion, their members have a right to an opinion. That said, the teachers I know certainly don't support their opinion."
Before her death, Ms. Evoy had been living in a social housing complex for at-risk teens and young adults on Broadway. Mike Houliston, an aspiring social worker and friend of the deceased woman, said she was raised by a loving family in East Vancouver, but left home after her mother relapsed into addiction roughly a year ago.
Ms. Evoy had been trying to finish high school through a continuing studies program, Mr. Houliston said. She recently spent almost two months in two Vancouver hospitals recovering from a staph infection and was facing eviction after she was discharged, he said.
Last Thursday morning, Burnaby RCMP went to a residential high-rise building near Metrotown and found Ms. Evoy and an older man dead of a suspected overdose. Police and the coroners' service are still investigating the deaths.
Ms. Turpel-Lafond said this week that she is "gathering information" and is profoundly sad at the death of another young at-risk aboriginal youth, but since Ms. Evoy was never in foster care, her office will not be receiving a detailed report on her case from the ministry.
Last year, Ms. Turpel-Lafond released a scathing report into the 2013 overdose death of a 19-year-old aboriginal woman named Paige, who the children's representative said fell victim to "years of abuse and neglect, persistent inaction from front-line professionals and an indifferent social care system."
The report included six recommendations, on which Mr. Iker said the government has been to slow to act.
Last September, Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old aboriginal youth in government care, died after falling out of the fourth-floor window of a budget hotel, where he had been placed in contravention of B.C. policy. The ministry initially claimed that the practice was a rare last resort, but it was later revealed that more than 117 youths had been placed in such accommodations in 2015.