Okanagan Nation Alliance wants public inquiry into fraudulent social worker

Public inquiry demanded

The Okanagan Nation Alliance is calling for a public inquiry into the case of Robert Riley Saunders, an imposter social worker in Kelowna who stole from youth in his care.

Saunders was sentenced in July to five years in prison after admitting to stealing $460,000 over a six and a half year period while he worked as a guardianship social worker with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

He obtained the job with a fraudulent social work degree.

“This is a travesty and other tragic cases where young children and youth have lost their lives proves there is a serious gap and complete lack of oversight of MCFD workers,” said the ONA in a letter to the provincial government last week.

The ONA consists of seven First Nations in the Okanagan and Similkameen.

While Saunders pleaded guilty and was sentenced, court proceedings never fully explained how his fraudulent activity went undetected for so long.

The ONA’s letter says there are decades-old recommendations related to the Ministry of Children and Family Development that have not been followed.

“We are demanding a public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the fraud and theft that Saunders was able to commit, a comprehensive critical review and recommendations for change to ensure undetected MCFD fraud does not continue to harm children and youth,” the letter said.

The ONA says all recommendations from the inquiry should be public and implemented to ensure systematic change to the B.C. child welfare system.

Castanet News has requested comment from MCFD.

More Kelowna News