Province, RCMP failed children who died in 2010 Nain fire: advocate

Published on January 12, 2016

Child Advocate for Newfoundland and Labrador Carol Chafe addresses the media at her LeMarchant Road office Tuesday morning. She released her latest report, "A Tragedy Waiting To Happen," on the deaths of two children and an adult in a house fire in Labrador.

©Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

Two small children who died in a house fire in Nain in 2010 were failed by workers with Child, Youth and Family Services (CYFS), police, the Department of Health and Community Services, the Department of Justice and the Labrador-Grenfell Regional Health authority, the province’s child and youth advocate said this morning.

Carol Chafe released an investigative report, “A Tragedy Waiting to Happen,” into the deaths of two children, aged three and four, who died in the Labrador fire, as well as the wellbeing of their brother, who was eight at the time.

The 123-page report goes in-depth into the conditions in which the children lived, and makes 10 recommendations around a lack of documentation, assessments, collaboration and communication among the different organizations.

“Over a period of eight years, these children had numerous encounters with many professionals, yet they continued to live in an unacceptable, unsafe environment detrimental to their health, safety and wellbeing,” Chafe told members of the media. “In that eight-year period, these children received government services, however, continued to live in harmful conditions.”

The children’s lives were wrought with improper hygiene and nutrition, multiple skin, ear, eye and respiratory infections which were not adequately treated, and incidences of physical violence, alcohol abuse and excessive cigarette smoke in the home. The home was deemed unsafe for the children by social workers on numerous occasions.

Issues identified in the report include documentation deficiencies and lack of intervention and follow-up on the part of CYFS; the Department of Health and the Labrador-Grenfell health authority’s failure to report child protection concerns, lack of comprehensive nursing assessment and inappropriate medication prescribing and dispensing; and the RCMP’s failure to report child protection concerns.

“These deficiencies remain today,” Chafe said, adding further tragedies could occur. She said the agencies involved in the report have been accepting and co-operative with her recommendations so far.

The fire happened in July 2010, with the Nain volunteer fire department called to the home at about 7:45 p.m. The fire destroyed the home as well as a home next door.

The children perished in the fire along with their grandfather, 50. A woman was found by police on the front steps of the home and taken to hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation and non-life-threatening injuries.

The eight-year-old was not in the home at the time of the fire, Chafe said. While she declined to say whether or not he has been taken into care by CYFS at this point, she said she is satisfied he is safe.