Social worker suits pile up

Yet another Indigenous youth has come forward with allegations against a former social worker in Kelowna.

On Monday, another lawsuit was filed against Robert Riley Saunders, alleging he stole money from a young Indigenous boy in his care beginning in early 2008.

The suit comes after several similar lawsuits were filed in Kelowna last month, along with a class action suit out of Vancouver.

Similar to previous allegations, the most recent suit alleges Saunders moved the plaintiff from a settled foster home into an “unstable residential or independent living arrangement” so the youth would be eligible for government payments. The suit alleges Saunders then opened a joint bank account with the child and stole the funds.

The suit claims Saunders was “verbally and emotionally abusive” to the plaintiff, which led the plaintiff to suffer from severe depression, which spiralled into alcohol dependency and homelessness.

“Saunders engaged in the same and similar unlawful and inexcusable activities in respect of dozens of other children in his care, most of whom are Aboriginal children,” the suit states.

“Saunders sought out and exploited Aboriginal high-risk youth because he knew that his supervisors and managers would not look too closely at their affairs.”

The suit, which also names B.C.'s Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Director of Child Welfare as defendants, claims there were failings through many levels of the ministry.

“Saunders' team lead did not hold the weekly and monthly consultation with Saunders as required by policy and/or failed to ascertain whether the children assigned to Saunders received appropriate care and failed to ascertain their level of well being,” the suit claims.

“Saunders' team lead was not properly supervised by a manager and the manager was not properly supervised by the executive director. The executive director was not properly supervised by his supervisors in Victoria.”

The suit goes on to claim the Director of Child Welfare “failed to move expeditiously to review and restrain Saunders” once his misconduct was detected.

None of the allegations in this recent lawsuit, or in the previously filed suits, has been tested in court. 

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