Review finds 117 B.C. children in care housed in hotels

Report follows tragic death in Abbotsford of Alex Gervais, who spent 49 straight days in a hotel

Alex Gervais died when he fell from the fourth floor of an Abbotsford Super 8 hotel on Sept. 18.

Alex Gervais died when he fell from the fourth floor of an Abbotsford Super 8 hotel on Sept. 18.

A new report shows 117 children and youth in care in B.C. were placed in hotels in a recent 12-month period despite government claims the practice was rare and repeated orders that it happen only in extreme situations.

The joint review of hotel placements by Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond and the Ministry of Children and Family Development came in response to a high-profile death last September.

Alex Gervais, an 18-year-old in care, fell or jumped to his death from the fourth floor of an Abbotsford Super 8 hotel, where he had been housed by the ministry after his group home was shut down due to poor conditions.

At that time, Children and Family Minister Stephanie Cadieux suggested just one or two youths were thought to be in hotel placements.

Turpel-Lafond suspected the number was closer to 50 and said the count of 117 children from November 2014 to October 2014 – more than double her estimate – shows how pervasive the problem remains.

Some of those children were placed in hotels multiple times during the year, as a total of 131 placements were recorded.

Most hotel stays are short – just a day or two – and Cadieux said it’s usually because of the need to urgently relocate youth until a conventional placement can be found, often on evenings or weekends.

But Gervais was an extreme case.

He spent 49 consecutive days in the Abbotsford hotel prior to his Sept. 18 death, the most recent of multiple hotel stays.

“The best guess we have is that Mr. Gervais spent close to 100 days in hotels over the period of his time in care,” Turpel-Lafond said.

A further review of his case is underway and the ministry is required to report by March 31 or consent to an investigation by Turpel-Lafond’s office.

“His death is a tragedy,” Cadieux said. “It’s a young life lost well too soon.”

The South Fraser and North Fraser regions of the Lower Mainland recorded the highest use of hotels – 32 and 27 placements respectively – followed by 14 in Vancouver/Richmond and 12 by the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society.

The hotel placements make up two per cent of B.C. children in care, but that rose to six per cent in the North Fraser area.

Turpel-Lafond characterized the recurring use of hotels in those areas as “a stop-gap in lieu of having adequate placements.”

But Cadieux said she believes better coordination of the placement options that exist could go far to reducing hotel use.

Cadieux said hotel stays remain an option of last resort and while she doesn’t believe it’s good practice she would set no target date for ending it.

Manitoba has banned all use of hotels but Cadieux said that comparison isn’t appropriate because that province was using them systemically.

Turpel-Lafond said she would like to see a complete ban because of the harm hotel stays do but agreed it is not realistic.

“The pressures on the staff are such that they are not able to find alternative placements to hotels at this time.”

Ministry staff must now report to the representative’s office when any child is kept in a hotel longer than three days.

Social workers must get approval for hotel placements, which has been granted in all recent requests. Reports on hotel placements are to be made public every six months.

Cadieux said she also intends to bring a budget request to cabinet to provide more residential resources for emergency placements, particularly in the Fraser areas.

She indicated she may also propose increased remuneration or incentives to recruit or retain foster families.

“We want to eliminate hotel placements entirely,” Cadieux said. “But government can’t achieve that alone. We need more people to step up, get trained and work with us to provide kids in care with the stable homes that they need and that they deserve.”

Hotel PlacementsCreate bar charts

Placement in Hotels Report

Just Posted

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

The City of Victoria is hoping to ring in the summer by celebrating local art and offering some distanced, live music to surprise people in parks, plazas and other public spaces. (Photo courtesy of the City of Victoria)
Live, pop-up concerts and local art being showcased in Victoria this summer

People will see surprise serenades at 16 locations throughout the summer

An example of the forest land in the Port Renfrew and Fairy Creek area of Vancouver Island is shown on May 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne
Old-growth logging opponents launch hunger strike as arrests continue at Fairy Creek

Zain Haq says the hunger strikers will gather today at Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver

Jada Benwell and Connor Larkey are the valedictorians of the 2021 graduating class at Parkland Secondary School. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Pandemic taught lessons in perseverance for North Saanich high schoolers

Parkland Secondary School to release 2021 grad ceremony video on June 25

The 14th annual Oak Bay Young Exceptional Star (YES) awards June 3. (Christine van Reeuwyk/News Staff)
Oak Bay celebrates its Young Exceptional Stars with outdoor award ceremony

Nine young people recognized in 14th annual awards

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read