The family of a woman who was allegedly killed by her estranged common-law husband says the B.C. government has failed her three young children.
Angila Wilson was slain at her home in Clearwater, B.C., last April. Her husband has been charged with first-degree murder.
Frank Wilson, the woman's brother, met with reporters Wednesday to express his frustration that the children – at the ages of 3, 6 and 7 – remain in foster care.
"They have been let down by the system," he said.
Mr. Wilson said his sister had told him that she wanted him and his wife to look after the children if anything happened to her. A letter to that effect, however, was never notarized. Mr. Wilson said he's simply trying to meet his sister's wishes.
He was joined at the downtown Vancouver news conference by his wife and aunt. Leanne Bowcott, the wife, said her family has already undergone a safe-home study and provided respite care for other children in the past. She and Mr. Wilson also have two children of their own.
She accused the ministry of dragging its feet and of making some perplexing decisions. For instance, she said friends of the accused were allowed overnight access to the children before her and her husband.
Ms. Bowcott said there is no end in sight. She said the ministry had said the children would be permanently placed in one home by the end of January, but the family is still being asked to book visits for April.
She said the family believes its aboriginal heritage may be playing a role.
She said a social worker at one point called her father-in-law to ask for more information on the family's Métis background. She said a social worker also told the family that an online fundraising campaign in Ms. Wilson's memory made the family look poor.
"We feel as though there's been some bias against us," Ms. Bowcott said.
She described Ms. Wilson as a loving person, amazing mother and great friend. She said Ms. Wilson worked as a nurse and loved to take care of people. Dey Stewart, the aunt of Mr. Wilson and the deceased, said the family feels as though it's been "bullied."
"We have no faith in this process," she said.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s children's representative, said it's unfortunate the ministry put the family in a position where it had to speak out. She called Mr. Wilson and Ms. Bowcott – high-school sweethearts who have been together for 23 years – a "remarkable couple."
Ms. Turpel-Lafond said her office has been in contact with the ministry about the file but it has not acted. She said the ministry mishandled the file, didn't give it appropriate attention, and the case drifted. She said Mr. Wilson and Ms. Bowcott are correct that they should be given priority placement of the children due to their aboriginal heritage.
"They can maintain that continuity and connection when [the children's] mother has died," Ms. Turpel-Lafond said. "I'm not saying they can only be placed there and that's it, but I'm saying that that has to guide the decision-making."
Ms. Bowcott said the accused's sister has also indicated she'd like to take care of the children.
Wednesday's news conference was arranged by the B.C. NDP. Doug Donaldson, the party's spokesperson for children and family development, said the three kids have experienced a horrific situation with the death of their mother, and it's distressing they remain in the care of strangers.
Stephanie Cadieux, B.C.'s Minister of Children, declined to be interviewed. A written statement sent on her behalf said she cannot speak about the specifics of any case, but a child's safety and well-being are always paramount.