Tuesday, October 6, 2015

MLA's Rice and Donaldson raise Robinson inquest results at the Legislature

The new week of the Legislature in Victoria provided North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice with her first opportunity to address the Legislature with some of the findings from the recent Coroner's inquest into the deaths of Angie and Robert Robinson.

In the Monday afternoon Question Period, Ms. Rice outlined for the Legislature some of the background to the testimony of last week, while also addressing her questions to the Honourable Stephanie Cadieux, the Minister responsible for the Ministry of Family and Child Services.

Last week I attended the inquest into the deaths of Angie Robinson and Robert Robinson. Angie was a single mom, struggling with depression. Her son, Robert, had severe autism, and she struggled to give him the care he needed.

Taking care of Robert was a full-time job, so Angie asked the Ministry of Children and Families to help her get child support from her ex-partner. They didn't help. Angie asked the ministry for respite care assistance. It wasn't given.

Angie's cries for help were ignored. My question is to the Minister of Children and Family Development. How many families have to experience tragedy before changes are made in her ministry?

In response to those comments, The Minister noted her personal sadness at the situation that took place in Prince Rupert with the Robinson's, she then outlined the process as to how the Ministry will take the recommendations and add them to their review of the case recently completed by the Ministry staff, with a full response to the recommendations to be provided in due course.

In a follow up  question, MLA Rice reviewed some more of the background to the testimony at the Prince Rupert court house, noting how it is an indication as to some of the issues that many families face and how they need and deserve proper help.

Robert's condition was so severe that he smashed out a truck window with his head. When Robert had an episode in the emergency room, it took three RCMP officers, a doctor, a nurse and his mother, Angie, to help manage him until he calmed down. 

The ministry left a single woman alone, a woman fleeing from an abusive relationship, without the supports she needed to care for Robert. She was deeply depressed, but no help was given. After every tragedy, new recommendations are made, and the children's minister ignores them. 

Again to the minister: when will families in crises get the help they need and they deserve? When?

The Minister observed that at the moment, the Ministry is in the final stages of working with its partners in Justice to the ability to check on such things as no contact and protection orders in real time, adding that they continue to work towards strengthening and reviewing their efforts in the Ministry.

The exchange between MLA Rice and Minister Cadieux can be reviewed below:

Doug Donaldson, the MLA for Stikine followed up on that theme, asking that the director's case review that had been conducted on the Robinson incident be tabled in the House...

In the spirit of collaboration and taking things seriously, I ask that the director's case review be tabled in this House. Angie attempted suicide twice in the lead-up to her final attempt. She reached out to the ministry multiple times, and each time, they pushed her away. This government wasn't there for Angie. If the issue wasn't a lack of resources, why wasn't Angie given the help she needed? 

On that point, Minister Cadieux advised that the Director's review would be made public. Adding some observations on the level of service currently available in Prince Rupert, comments that some in the community might perhaps question further, considering the scope of the testimony heard during last week's inquest.

While I can't speak to the specifics of the case, what I can say is that there are numerous supports and services available in the province, and in Prince Rupert, specifically for children with autism and their families and for families needing support from the ministry on other matters. The case review and the coroner's service work here has led to a number of recommendations. We will be reviewing them and taking them extremely seriously.-- The Honourable Stephanie Cadieux, Minister of Children and Family Services, responding to questions on the Robinson Coroner's inquest in the Monday afternoon session of the Legislature

Donaldson then added his own line of questions related to their case

Robert's mother did the best she could do for her son, even driving two hours to get respite care in Terrace, until that was cut off. When she lost respite services, Angie asked for help and was told to wait till Robert turned 19, a wait of three years.

After hearing that news, four days later, on World Autism Day, she and her son were dead. Everyone knew that Angie was struggling, and nobody knew where to get help. The minister failed this family. She failed the child, she failed the mother, and she continues to fail the extended family.

Does the minister think it's right to tell a family in crisis to wait three years for services, with horrific consequences?

Ms. Cadieux's answer repeated much of her earlier comments related to availability of services, the questions related to the Robinson inquest wrapped up with the Minister noting that the province is always looking to improve the services that they provide.

We do provide support for families with children with autism and young adults with autism, in addition to respite services and in addition to CY extended services and other supports for the family.

  I recognize that at times, finding specialized services in smaller communities is difficult. In many cases, it's similar to the challenges faced by individuals with health challenges that need to travel for specialized services in larger centres. We are always looking to improve the services that we provide. We will continue to do that. -- Minister Stephanie Cadieux on supports provided to families with autism in British Columbia

The full exchange between the two Northern MLA's and the Minister can be found from the Legislature Draft minutes here, while the full Question Period video for the afternoon session of Monday October 5th can be reviewed here.

Ms. Rice introduces the topic and poses her question at just before the 14:10 minute mark.

More background on the Coroner's inquest can be found here.

Further information related to developments at the Legislature can be found on our Legislature Archive page.

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