Child rep collects documents after sisters’ deaths, no decision on investigation

Child rep collects documents after sisters’ deaths, no decision on investigation

Ministry of Children and Family Development declined comment on the deaths, citing privacy reasons

British Columbia’s child and youth representative says his office has begun to collect information about two young sisters whose bodies were found in a Victoria-area home on Christmas Day.

Bernard Richard said Friday it is too early to say whether he will launch a formal investigation, but he says his office has contacted the BC Coroners Service and the provincial ministry in charge of child welfare and has started gathering documents.

Richard’s office has the power to investigate when young people who have received child welfare services die or are critically injured.

“Obviously this is a very concerning case,” Richard said in an interview from Cap Pele, N.B.

“We’ll be taking a very close look at the circumstances surrounding the services provided to this family and whether they could have played a role in the events of Christmas Day.”

The Ministry of Children and Family Development declined comment on the deaths, citing privacy reasons. But it said in an emailed statement the ministry always co-operates fully with investigations involving police or the coroner’s office.

“This is a heartbreaking tragedy and our thoughts are with the family and everyone who loves them, as well as the broader community that has been shocked and saddened by this news,” the ministry said.

Police discovered the bodies of the two young girls inside a home in Oak Bay on Monday evening and are investigating the incident as a double homicide.

A friend of the family said the children’s mother, Sarah Cotton, notified the police that her former common-law spouse, Andrew Berry, hadn’t returned them as scheduled.

A family member and friend have identified the girls as Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6.

Police have said an injured man, whose identity and condition have not been disclosed, was found inside the home and taken to hospital.

No charges have been laid and police have said they are not looking for any further suspects.

The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit said Wednesday the man remained in hospital and was not in police custody. No further updates on the investigation have been released by police since then.

Richard said his office cannot begin interviewing witnesses or officially investigate until police and the coroner’s service have finished their investigations, which could take months.

He said his own reaction has been to grieve what he describes as a heartbreaking situation.

“I think the dust will settle at some point and we’ll get answers, but for now I think it could be actually damaging to the mom, who is already stricken with grief, and other family members, to be speculating too broadly without knowing the real information,” he said.

Reports produced by the representative for children and youth are publicly released.

The girls’ mother had concerns about their father’s parenting abilities, court documents say.

In a decision released in May, a B.C. Supreme Court judge said Berry displayed poor judgment in dealing with his children, including allegations of inappropriate touching involving one of the girls in October 2015 that led to an investigation by the province’s child welfare agency.

In court, Berry testified he tickled one of the girls but not inappropriately.

The court decision was intended to settle custody of the children and distribution of assets after Berry and Cotton separated in September 2013.

Justice Victoria Gray concluded that Berry’s “displays of poor judgment regarding the children” did not justify depriving his daughters of “significant parenting time” with him.

“The father is a loving father who has much to offer his daughters,” the decision says. “The children appear to be generally happy and healthy, although suffering some stress from the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.”

Erez Aloni, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, said speaking in general about how the courts approach family disputes, they are typically reluctant to intervene in every issue, despite having the authority to do so.

“It’s a more complex and sensitive issue than simply collecting a debt,” Aloni said. “You want to make sure that the parties can continue to work together as parents.”

The District of Oak Bay has organized a candlelight vigil Saturday evening to honour the two girls at Willows Beach. The vigil will include formal remarks and music.

“We have been shaken as a community,” the municipality said in a statement posted on its website. “This event is an opportunity to come together in grief and in love to mourn the tragic loss of two of our young citizens.”

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Coroners’ inquest into 2016 death of Port Alberni teen rescheduled for June 21

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure after spending time in jail cell

CELEBRATING IN STYLE
Members of the 2021 Alberni District Secondary School graduating class pose for a photo at McLean Mill National Historic Site on June 12. Graduates held their prom on Saturday, although things looked a little different due to COVID-19. See more on page A10. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Port Alberni 2021 grads celebrate prom with car cruise

Special event held at McLean Mill National Historic Site

The Port Alberni Bombers are one of the newest teams in the VIJHL. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Port Alberni Bombers to host first ID camp for roster spots

Roster spots for the Junior B team will be filled at the conclusion of the camp

Douglas Holmes, current Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District chief administrative officer, is set to take on that position at the Regional District of Nanaimo come late August. (Submitted photo)
Regional District of Nanaimo’s next CAO keen to work on building partnerships

Douglas Holmes to take over top administrator role with RDN this summer

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

(Black Press Media file)
Dirty money: Canadian currency the most germ-filled in the world, survey suggests

Canadian plastic currency was found to contain 209 bacterial cultures

(pixabay file shot)
B.C. ombudsperson labels youth confinement in jail ‘unsafe,’ calls for changes

Review states a maximum of 22 hours for youth, aged 12 from to 17, to be placed in solitary

Eleonore Alamillo-Laberge, 6, reads a book in Ottawa on Monday, June 12, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Parents will need to fight ‘COVID learning slump’ over summer: B.C. literacy experts

Parents who play an active role in educating their children this summer can reverse the slump by nearly 80%, says Janet Mort

The border crossing on Highway 11 in Abbotsford heading south (file)
Western premiers call for clarity, timelines on international travel, reopening rules

Trudeau has called Thursday meeting, premiers say they expect to leave that meeting with a plan

The B.C. government’s vaccine booking website is busy processing second-dose appointments, with more than 76 per cent of adults having received a first dose. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations stable for Tuesday

108 new confirmed cases, 139 in hospital, 39 in intensive care

Cowichan Tribes man Adrian Sylvester is worried that he was targetted by a trailer hitch thrown from a vehicle. (Facebook photo)
Cowichan Tribes man worried he was target of trailer hitch

Adrian Sylvester says no one has reported a missing hitch after one nearly hit him

Graeme Roberts, who was mayor of Nanaimo from 1984-86, died this month at age 89. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Community Archives)
City of Nanaimo flags at half-mast as former mayor Graeme Roberts dies at 89

‘Giant-killer’ beat out Frank Ney in mayoral election in 1984

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read