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Mary Ellen Turpel-LaFond, British Columbia’s Representative for Children and Youth, speaks to media at Lansdowne Middle School in Victoria, B.C., June 18, 2015.CHAD HIPOLITO/The Globe and Mail

The death of 18-year-old Alex Gervais has triggered a rare joint review by the B.C. government and its independent child watchdog that will look into how many children in the province's care wind up staying in hotels for days or weeks at a time.

That review – which is already under way – will likely find that the use of hotels as stop-gap placements is more widespread than previously understood and not necessarily restricted to any one agency, said Child and Youth Representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.

"The fact that there is a single placement of a youth in a hotel is a concern," Ms. Turpel-Lafond said on Monday. "But the fact that there are multiple usages of hotels – in some instances not authorized – requires an urgent response and correction."

Mr. Gervais was in government care when he fell from the window of a hotel in Abbotsford, southeast of Vancouver, in September. Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux has said he had been placed there against provincial government policy, which requires senior ministry staff to be notified of hotel placements. Mr. Gervais was also placed in a hotel, despite assurances given to Ms. Turpel-Lafond preceding his death that no children would be placed in hotels as a result of 23 group homes in the region being closed. Mr. Gervais had been one of 33 youths living in those homes before they were closed earlier this year. His death thrust the question of hotel placements – which Ms. Turpel-Lafond had flagged as a serious concern in a May report on the death of another child in care – further into the spotlight.

Hotel placements for children who have been removed from their family home have been a concern in other provinces.

Manitoba announced it would phase out hotel placements following the death of Tina Fontaine, an aboriginal girl who had been placed in a Winnipeg hotel before she was killed in August, 2014.

In British Columbia, however, hotels were not on the public's radar. In response to a query from The Globe and Mail in October, 2014, the ministry said hotels were "only used when a suitable placement for the child is not immediately available" – and that such stays were so rare, and so brief in duration, that they were "not statistically significant."

In the days following Mr. Gervais's death, however, the province said there had been a couple of dozen hotel placements over the preceding year. There are more than 8,000 children in care in the provincial child welfare system.

Ms. Cadieux was not available for an interview Monday.

The joint report is expected to be available to the public by the end of the year. The B.C. Coroners Service is also conducting an investigation of its own.

The outcry over Mr. Gervais's death also resulted in tension between the province and First Nations child-care agencies. Mr. Gervais had been in the care of Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society, one of more than 20 First Nations agencies delegated by the province to provide child-care services.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark spoke of "consequences" that would result from Mr. Gervais's death, which raised concerns that the native agency was being scapegoated. The Sto:Lo Tribal Council, which has a long-standing relationship with the Fraser Valley agency, called for Ms. Turpel-Lafond to investigate his death, saying the provincial review was tainted.

On Monday, Ms. Turpel-Lafond said the province has also agreed to cut short its review into Mr. Gervais's death to enable a broader review by her office.

"I think that is also a recognition by the ministry that there are cases, like that of Mr. Gervais, where a fulsome independent public review needs to be conducted for the purposes of public accountability."