Saskatchewan government sued after child’s death in foster care

A teddy bear on a barren floor. Stock photo by Getty Images.

The parents of a Saskatchewan boy, who died in 2013 while in foster care, are suing the provincial government for negligence.

Lee Bonneau was six years old in 2013 and had been taken away from his parents and put in foster care. He was beaten to death by an older child in a wooded area outside a recreational centre on Kahkewistahaw reserve while the foster mother was playing bingo.

In the lawsuit, Lee’s parents allege the “Employees of the defendant [Saskatchewan government] arbitrarily and without sufficient justification removed a child from the care of his parents and negligently placed him in a place where he was at risk.”

They also allege that during one of the visits, Lee told his father ─ in front of the social workers ─ that other children were beating him up. The parents maintain they tried several times to get their child back with no success.

Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the 10 year old who killed Lee cannot be prosecuted for murder because of his young age. In Canada, the minimum age for criminal prosecution is 12.

It appears the 10 year old had behavioural issues and was a known threat to children on the reserve. Prior to beating Lee to death, he had killed a pregnant dog and her unborn pups after breaking into a home.

A negligence claim is warranted when a party owes a duty of care to another and the care provided falls short of what is reasonable ─ in the circumstances ─ resulting in harm.

Arbitrator finds no vicarious liability for employer for employee’s privacy breach

In less tragic news, the Ontario Grievance Settlement Board has found that a government employer is not vicariously liable for one employee’s breach of privacy of another.

One employee ─ Mr. X ─ looked at the employment insurance file belonging to another employee ─ Ms. M ─ while she was away on sick leave. Mr. X noticed Ms. M had exhausted her entitlement to employment insurance. He said something about it to another employee who went and told the employer. The employer suspended Mr. X for 15 days for accessing Ms. M’s records twice on one day without authorization.

Ms. M brought a grievance against the employer asking for damages under a new privacy tort: intrusion upon seclusion. This tort came out of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision from 2012. In that case, a Bank of Montreal employee received $10,000 in damages because another employee had accessed her bank records more than 150 times without authorization.

The board dismissed Ms. M’s grievance against her employer finding that the employer took privacy seriously and had “clear and sufficient policies regarding the protection of private information.” The board said Ms. M was a victim of intrusion upon seclusion at the hands of a “rogue employee.”

Moral of the story: Don’t be nosey at work!

Yukon government fights First Nations for the right to massive development

Speaking of intrusions, several First Nations and environmental groups  in Yukon must prepare to defend the Peel River Watershed against massive development again this year. Last year, the First Nations groups and their allies obtained a court order that forced the Yukon government to stop its mining and industrial development plans around the watershed. That, however, was not the end of the battle.

The Yukon government appealed the lower court’s decision to the Yukon Court of Appeal in Whitehorse and a new hearing is about to begin.

The watershed covers almost all of Yukon’s northern third and is home to many rivers and species.

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