Child rep collects documents after sisters’ deaths, no decision on investigation

Child rep collects documents after sisters’ deaths, no decision on investigation

Ministry of Children and Family Development declined comment on the deaths, citing privacy reasons

British Columbia’s child and youth representative says his office has begun to collect information about two young sisters whose bodies were found in a Victoria-area home on Christmas Day.

Bernard Richard said Friday it is too early to say whether he will launch a formal investigation, but he says his office has contacted the BC Coroners Service and the provincial ministry in charge of child welfare and has started gathering documents.

Richard’s office has the power to investigate when young people who have received child welfare services die or are critically injured.

“Obviously this is a very concerning case,” Richard said in an interview from Cap Pele, N.B.

“We’ll be taking a very close look at the circumstances surrounding the services provided to this family and whether they could have played a role in the events of Christmas Day.”

The Ministry of Children and Family Development declined comment on the deaths, citing privacy reasons. But it said in an emailed statement the ministry always co-operates fully with investigations involving police or the coroner’s office.

“This is a heartbreaking tragedy and our thoughts are with the family and everyone who loves them, as well as the broader community that has been shocked and saddened by this news,” the ministry said.

Police discovered the bodies of the two young girls inside a home in Oak Bay on Monday evening and are investigating the incident as a double homicide.

A friend of the family said the children’s mother, Sarah Cotton, notified the police that her former common-law spouse, Andrew Berry, hadn’t returned them as scheduled.

A family member and friend have identified the girls as Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6.

Police have said an injured man, whose identity and condition have not been disclosed, was found inside the home and taken to hospital.

No charges have been laid and police have said they are not looking for any further suspects.

The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit said Wednesday the man remained in hospital and was not in police custody. No further updates on the investigation have been released by police since then.

Richard said his office cannot begin interviewing witnesses or officially investigate until police and the coroner’s service have finished their investigations, which could take months.

He said his own reaction has been to grieve what he describes as a heartbreaking situation.

“I think the dust will settle at some point and we’ll get answers, but for now I think it could be actually damaging to the mom, who is already stricken with grief, and other family members, to be speculating too broadly without knowing the real information,” he said.

Reports produced by the representative for children and youth are publicly released.

The girls’ mother had concerns about their father’s parenting abilities, court documents say.

In a decision released in May, a B.C. Supreme Court judge said Berry displayed poor judgment in dealing with his children, including allegations of inappropriate touching involving one of the girls in October 2015 that led to an investigation by the province’s child welfare agency.

In court, Berry testified he tickled one of the girls but not inappropriately.

The court decision was intended to settle custody of the children and distribution of assets after Berry and Cotton separated in September 2013.

Justice Victoria Gray concluded that Berry’s “displays of poor judgment regarding the children” did not justify depriving his daughters of “significant parenting time” with him.

“The father is a loving father who has much to offer his daughters,” the decision says. “The children appear to be generally happy and healthy, although suffering some stress from the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.”

Erez Aloni, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, said speaking in general about how the courts approach family disputes, they are typically reluctant to intervene in every issue, despite having the authority to do so.

“It’s a more complex and sensitive issue than simply collecting a debt,” Aloni said. “You want to make sure that the parties can continue to work together as parents.”

The District of Oak Bay has organized a candlelight vigil Saturday evening to honour the two girls at Willows Beach. The vigil will include formal remarks and music.

“We have been shaken as a community,” the municipality said in a statement posted on its website. “This event is an opportunity to come together in grief and in love to mourn the tragic loss of two of our young citizens.”

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo Airport. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo Airport coping with low passenger counts, uncertain recovery

Airport CEO Dave Devana says it will take years to return to pre-pandemic passenger levels

Sophia Seward-Good and Aunalee Boyd-Good of Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum – The Good House of Design are showcasing their latest collection Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun – Eagle Spindle Whorl at Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto. (Photo courtesy Helena Lines)
Nanaimo’s Ay Lelum makes Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto debut

Clothing design company showing new collection, Yuxwule’ Sul’sul’tun – Eagle Spindle Whorl

Police in Nanaimo hope the public can help find Shawn Miller. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo RCMP ask for help finding man missing since last week

Shawn Miller, 52, hasn’t been seen since Friday following days of erratic behaviour, say police

Beef to Halloween, a celebration of death, weapons, blood and murder. Halloween is a mockery of death and our beloved deceased. Why do we celebrate it?
Beefs & Bouquets, Nov. 25

To submit a beef or a bouquet to the Nanaimo News Bulletin, e-mail editor@nanaimobulletin.com

The City of Nanaimo is working on the 2021-25 financial plan, with a series of special finance and audit meetings this week and next week. (News Bulletin file photo)
City of Nanaimo begins budgeting with 3.3% tax increase as a starting point

Special finance and audit meeting being held today, Nov. 25

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Picture of two swans leaving the Cowichan estuary moments before one was shot out of the sky. (Submitted photo)
Petition to stop hunting in Cowichan estuary after swan shot

Hunters blame shooting on illegal poachers

A Nanaimo driver was sentenced Monday for fatally striking a high school student with his vehicle in 2019. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo driver sentenced after motor vehicle incident that killed teen last year

Brandon Geoffrey Murdoch fined and prohibited from driving for two years

B.C. projects targeting the restoration of sockeye salmon stocks in the Fraser and Columbia Watersheds will share in $10.9 million of federal funding to protect species at risk. (Kenny Regan photo)
13 projects protecting B.C. aquatic species at risk receive $11 million in federal funding

Salmon and marine mammals expected to benefit from ecosystem-based approach

Krista Macinnis displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
B.C. mom angry that students asked to list positive stories about residential schools

Daughter’s Grade 6 class asked to write down 5 positive stories or facts

Most Read