Lawyer blasts government over child deaths

Published on August 23, 2014
St. John's lawyer Bob Buckingham. — Telegram file photo

A story broken by CBC-TV this week has raised the ire of a well-known St. John’s lawyer.

It was revealed this week that since the 2009 formation of the Newfoundland and Labrador Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) department, 26 children under the province’s care have died. Only six of those deaths was known to the child and youth advocate.

Bob Buckingham has represented individuals in cases involving protective services and CYFS. The revelation of the number of deaths speaks to systematic problems, Buckingham said in a news release on Friday.

“Who advised the Child Advocate’s office of the six cases she was aware of? Was it CYFS? Was it the deceased childrens’ families? Was it the childrens’ lawyers? Was it the medical examiner,” Buckingham wrote in his release.

While it is perplexing the advocate didn’t know about all the deaths, Buckingham also says it’s too late when a child dies or is abused anyway.

“The Child, Youth and Family Services department operates as an unregulated fiefdom, in my opinion,” said Buckingham.

“The problems are systemic. One has but to look at the disturbing historical trends in this province related to child protection including the government turning its back on the horrendous abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage, Pleasantville and Whitbourne facilities, the lack of services provided to young teenagers at the Janeway psychiatric unit and the policies and procedures which failed to prevent the death of Zachary Turner,” said Buckingham.

The responsibility to protect children that come under its care is not being met by government, he continued.

The Telegram contacted the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, but they were not able to respond to the questions raised by Buckingham’s release before the newspapers’ deadline.