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Family of First Nations teen found dead in group-home closet wants full public inquiry

Click to play video 'Family calls for public inquiry after Indigenous teen’s death in Abbotsford group home' Family calls for public inquiry after Indigenous teen’s death in Abbotsford group home
Family calls for public inquiry after Indigenous teen's death in Abbotsford group home – Oct 15, 2020

The family of a First Nations teen found dead in a group-home closet in mid-September wants a full public inquiry into what happened.

First Nations leaders are also supporting the family in calling for the inquiry.

A public inquiry would be called by the B.C. government.

“The mother has been very, very concerned about what happened leading up to the death of her son and what happened following the death of her son,” Sarah Rauch, counsel for the mother of the teen, said Thursday.

“We’ve decided that’s the only way that Samantha and the family and young Traevon can begin to get justice and understand what happened.”

Read more: First Nations leaders outraged after B.C. teen found dead in group-home closet

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The inquiry would include the BC Coroners Service, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Abbotsford Police Department.

The family’s last name is not being released.

The 17-year-old boy, who was in the care of an Indigenous organization under a government custody agreement, was found dead in his group home in Abbotsford.

His body had reportedly been there for four days before anyone found him.

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Outrage over death of Indigenous youth at group home – Sep 30, 2020

Traevon was laid to rest on Tuesday.

“He was a young Indigenous man who was loved by everyone,” said Theresa Campiou, Samantha’s aunt and a family spokesperson. “It was demonstrated at the funeral by how the young people came up and said what a beautiful young man he was and what a kind young man he was.

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“He was your young man aspiring to find out what the world had to offer and it got shortened.”

Campiou said Traevon loved music, his family and looking forward to the future.

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The family and First Nations leaders want to know how a death such as Traevon’s happens in a group home in B.C. in the year 2020.

“Let’s not have another First Nations youth to go missing or die in this system without taking more steps and investigate what happened,” Kukpi7 Judy Wilson from the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said.

Campiou added that any loss of life is devastating, especially the loss of someone’s own child.

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“But when it comes from a place where we don’t understand how this could be, when it comes from a place where a child is by themselves, alone and we have trusted people both through the agency and the government to help us take care of our child. And when that didn’t happen, we want to know why.”

She said Indigenous people have experienced a lack of trust and a lack of concern from others about First Nations kids in care, not only in B.C. but across Canada, and that needs to change.

“It saddens me that systemic racism exists. It saddens me that the people who are responsible to provide the kind of care that our families need isn’t there.”

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Abbotsford police said in a statement in September that they did conduct an investigation into the missing teen, and that a care worker believed he was with relatives or at a friend’s house.

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“As this is a sensitive investigation involving a minor, AbbyPD is unable to provide specific details surrounding his cause of death,” the department said.

It did say the teen was “familiar” to police as a result of previous missing-person reports, and that at the time, there had been no indication he was suicidal or using drugs or alcohol.

Officers conducted extensive searches interviews in their search for the boy, the statement said. They also pinged a cellphone he was known to use and canvassed homeless camps, shelters and resources centres in Abbotsford and Chilliwack. They also checked with hospitals.

The major crime team took over after the boy’s body was discovered, and found no criminality in his death.

The BC Coroners Service said it was still investigating.