Advocate to investigate Springdale Street fire issues

James McLeod
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Child and Youth Advocate Carol Chafe speaks at a news conference Monday announcing her office will conduct an investigation into services provided to a 16-year-old male arrested in connection with a fatal fire last month. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

The province’s child and youth advocate will look into issues around a fatal fire last month on Springdale Street, allegedly set by a 16-year-old.

The mother of the youth said she’s gratified the investigation is happening, but doesn’t believe it will do any good for her son.

“If they come up and admit that they failed, then they failed. But that won’t make any difference to the amount of time my son is going to get in prison,” she said. “If he had to get the help and support that he needed when we begged for it, he wouldn’t have been down there and this whole situation wouldn’t have happened.”

On Nov. 27, a boarding house on Springdale Street burned down, killing a 54-year-old man.

The 16-year-old male has been charged with manslaughter and arson in connection with the fire.

But his mother told The Telegram she tried to get her son help, but the system failed her. She said her son was suicidal, and addicted to drugs and alcohol.

She said twice in two days he was seen by psychiatrists and, despite making suicidal statements, he was deemed not to be a threat to himself.

“My son was in need of protective intervention,” she said. “I was screaming and jumping up and down raising the alarm.”

Carol Chafe, the child and youth advocate, said she will look into all aspects of the 16-year-old’s situation, although she won’t investigate the fire.

Chafe said it’s impossible to put a time frame on this sort of thing, because once you start investigating, you can uncover things that take time to pursue, and you can never be sure what you’ll find.

However, she specifically said she would be looking into the Department of Justice, Department of Health, Department of Child, Youth and Family Services and Eastern Health.

“Naturally, the focus of this investigation is this particular case, but as I’ve said earlier, once you start an investigation, that brings forward a lot more investigation and often we have to seek more documents, more investigation,” Chafe said. “This is a major priority for the office.”

For the mother though, her only consolation is that someone else seems to be taking her seriously.

“I guess I just finally felt that someone else in this world thought there was something wrong, other than me.” she said. “It’s almost like my mouth was open but no one was hearing me.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Department of Justice, Department of Health, Department of Child Youth and Family Services

Geographic location: Springdale Street

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Recent comments

  • Paul
    January 27, 2012 - 11:04

    So if this child had no many problems and, according to the Mother was unstable, then why did she let her son even leave the house? You're letting your 16 year old son, who is clearly unstable, roam the streets of downtown St. John's at close to 4am in the morning. That seams crazy to me.

  • jeffer
    December 14, 2011 - 05:43

    i have to make an assumption here but based on the victim's (ie. the man that was killed, not the murderer) name, he may be an immigrant? if that's the case, is anyone going to do an investigation as to why a newcomer is living in these conditions? or are we only concerned with the murderer and how he was "failed" by the system? someone actually died here. does that mean anything or are we just going to focus on a how a 16 yr old went down the wrong path? disgusting. duffy, at least you have some common sense. CF - look in the mirror if you want to see what an ignorant knob looks like up close.

  • Kristine Hibbs
    December 13, 2011 - 13:42

    Didn't the Turner Inquiry teach lessons? Why was this 16 yr old child ignored when he was in crisis and repetitively crying out for help? do we continue to band-aid obvious systemic problems within the system allowing for tragic outcomes or do we take a good hard look and put measures in place that will safe-guard the children from the moment there is a problem and see it through until a solution is found? passing the buck from one dept to another did not work in the past and it has surely come full circle ending with a person deceased and a child's life ruined.

  • Taylor
    December 13, 2011 - 13:00

    In previous articles, the mother had stated she had asked for help with her son'sbehaviour on more than one occasion, and was unable to get any because he had not committed a crime. The intent of the investigation is to see how this can be prevented in the future. It is not taking blame off of the criminal.

  • Duffy
    December 13, 2011 - 09:09

    Here we go again. Blame everyone except for the "criminal" who set the fires and killed an innocent person. At 16yoa you know the difference between right and wrong BUT no we have to blame others. The Social Worker, the system, the "who knows who". Put the blame where it belongs on the person doing the deed. If you want to blame someone - if you must - where were the parents?

    • CF
      December 13, 2011 - 11:02

      Duffy, you ignorant knob.