A group of around a dozen demonstrators gathered in front of Surrey Museum on Friday afternoon to remember youth that have died while in the care of the B.C. government and to protest actions taken by the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
The group gathered in both remembrance and peaceful protest to commemorate the lives of children that have died in the B.C. government’s care, including Nick Lang, Alex Gervais and Carly Fraser.
The event’s invitation stated that, “In each of these cases there has been a lack of accountability on the part of the government to not only properly respond but to implement actions to prevent future deaths and critical injuries to children in their care.”
The event, “Not Forgotten: How many more children must die?” was organized by Green Party candidate for Surrey-Cloverdale Alexsandra Muniak and Peter Lang, father of Nick Lang, a 15-year-old who died in 2015, six days after being placed in the care of the Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Nick Lang’s parents, Linda Michele and Peter Lang, spoke to the small crowd.
“They think none of us care, that we’ll forget about it,” said Peter Lang. “We’ll keep reminding them.”
“For every Nick, Paige and Carly, there are 100 more that you never hear about,” he said. “This past year, there were 120.”
Viorica Lungu wipes away tears as the group listens to speakers outside of Surrey Museum.
According to the B.C. children’s advocate, of the children who were in care or receiving services from the provincial government last year, 120 died and 741 received critical injuries.
The demonstrators called for additional training to be made available to support youth from different cultural backgrounds and for those with struggling with addiction or mental illness.
“The Ministry has, for far too many years, failed too many,” said Michele.
“They have robbed us of our son,” she said. “The Ministry took him away from us. What they’ve done, I think is criminal.”
Other speakers included Viorica Lungu, whose children were taken in by the ministry eight years ago. She spoke about losing custody of her kids, calling it a “legal kidnapping.”
Donald Smith, who went through the foster care system in Alberta, also spoke, relating his fight to keep ministries across Canada accountable.
“These kids deserve better,” said Muniak, in a closing remark. “We all have an accountability and responsibility to these kids and their families.”
Demonstrators walking down 176 Street towards Minister Cadieux’s office.
After the close of the speeches, the group walked to Minister of Children and Family Development Stephanie Cadieux’s office and laid flowers at the door in remembrance of children who have died while under the provincial government’s care.
The glass of those doors was recently replaced. On Wednesday (March 22), a man smashed both glass doors with a chunk of concrete before fleeing the scene.
Cadieux came out of her office and spoke with demonstrators.
Although she said she could not speak to specific cases, she did comment on the group’s shared concerns.
“[The Ministry] takes care of some of the most vulnerable people,” she said.
“There will always be improvements to be made,” she said, adding that although the Ministry has made important changes in the last few years, “it doesn’t change the tragedy,” of children losing their lives.
Minister Stephanie Cadieux speaking with Linda Michele.