Robert Riley Saunders isn’t the only social worker in the Ministry of Family and Children facing serious allegations of abusing the trust of youth in care.
In the last month, multiple notices of civil claim against Saunders were amended and one is highlighting new allegations against a ministry worker with whom he was closely associated.
In the case of an Okanagan-based First Nation youth who was in the care of the province, it’s alleged that Siobhan Stynes failed to care for the needs of a teen in her care. She was named in the claim when it was filed, but wording throughout the document has been changed significantly from when it was initially filed.
Stynes is referred to as a “team leader” with the ministry and she was also the direct supervisor of Saunders.
In the amended court document, the plaintiff claims that Stynes “was verbally and emotionally abusive” with the intent to undermine their confidence and self-esteem.
“In exercising parental control as delegates of the director, Stynes exercised ultimate control over the plaintiff’s life. Stynes had complete control over every aspect of the plaintiff’s life, including where the plaintiff would live, the plaintiff’s access to family members, the plaintiff’s access to services and financial assistance and the plaintiff’s connection to her cultural heritage,” reads the claim.
The plaintiff alleges that complete trust and confidence was placed in Stynes and both Stynes and Saunders knew this. Despite that, they allegedly breached that trust and failed to act in good faith, causing the plaintiff to lose out on funds and benefits that would have helped.
One of the most serious issues to emerge from this document, however, is the harm the plaintiff faced.
She was exposed to a period of hunger, street homelessness and illicit drugs, such as methamphetamine, crack, cocaine and MDMA.
Then the allegations escalate in severity. On March 4, 2012, the plaintiff was the victim of a serious sexual assault that resulted in a police investigation.
“The defendant, Stynes and the plaintiff’s foster parents accused the plaintiff of falsifying the allegation for an excuse for using drugs, however, the plaintiff was not on drugs at the material time,” reads the claim.
“The defendant, arriving at her own conclusion in regards to the allegation, punished the plaintiff by removing extracurricular activities from the plaintiff causing isolation and depression.”
The claim goes on to say that Stynes instructed and caused the plaintiff to write a letter of apology to the perpetrator of the sexual assault. At the time when the instructions were given to the plaintiff to write the letter of apology to the perpetrator, no meaningful investigations were carried out.
“The defendant, Stynes, berated, demeaned, bullied and caused the plaintiff emotional harm,” reads the report.
The process of being asked to write the letter caused the plaintiff extra harm and they felt victimized by the entire process, as well as the attacker.
The claim also alleges that once Saunders and Tyne’s misconduct was detected the director failed to move expeditiously to review and restrain Saunders and Stynes and failed to advise the plaintiff and ameliorate her position in a timely fashion, which exacerbated and prolonged the harms caused.
The plaintiff is seeking damages, a restraining order as well as a return on costs.
A statement of response from the ministry has not been filed and none of the allegations have been proven in court.
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