The Alberta government has launched an internal review into the case of a 15-year-old teenager who is accused of stabbing an Edmonton bus driver last week.
After the stabbing, the boy’s family told CBC they had warned authorities for some time that he was a danger to himself and others, and they repeatedly asked Children’s Services to intervene.
“I can confirm we are conducting an internal review of this case,” said Children’s Services ministry press secretary Brent Wittmeier in an email Thursday.
Citing privacy legislation, Wittmeier said he could not provide specifics.
The teen, who has Cree and Iroquois roots, cannot be named so CBC is using his initials V.T.
Family members say when they managed to get V.T. into a detox program or admitted to the Alberta Hospital psychiatric institution, he kept getting quickly released into his grandfather’s care without sufficient support services. His behaviour frequently got them evicted from where they were living.
The Alberta regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations called the incident heartbreaking for both the 65-year-old driver, who has been released from hospital, and the teen.
“These systems failed this Indigenous teen and his family,” said Chief Marlene Poitras. “Here is a family that reached out for assistance to get the help needed for their child and the intervention was not within their reach.”
She said it’s often the case that Indigenous people have to try twice as hard to access public services that should be readily available.
“This incident highlights how broken the mental health and child welfare systems are in Alberta,” said Poitras. “I’m appalled but those types of things happen way too many times to Aboriginal people.”
Action plan underway
In a statement, Children’s Services said it is working with Indigenous leaders and taking dozens of steps “to ensure children don’t fall between the cracks” and to “prevent cases like these.”
An action plan launched in July aims to improve services, transparency and accountability, increase supports and embed Indigenous world views in legislation and programs. The department is also creating a new Indigenous advisory body and amending legislation this fall to better support new Indigenous-led services.
Métis Elder Terry Lusty said many Indigenous people living on the streets are dealing with trauma, violence and poverty that stems from the residential school days “when people weren’t properly raised with parental love and attention.”
He said he hopes the province will address long-wait times for detox programs and provide more funding to Indigenous organizations.
“They’re not equipped financially or professionally to deal with these kinds of matters. So when they try to address them they’re faced with limitations automatically,” said Lusty. “A lot of those youth, they need more direct one-on-one attention, advice, direction, guidance.”
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.