Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

First Nations Leadership Council demands justice for victims of B.C. social worker

Union of BC Indian Chiefs calls actions of Robert Saunders ‘nothing short of complete depravity’

The B.C. First Nations Leadership Council is speaking out against the alleged ‘corrupt’ actions of ‘disgraced’ former Kelowna social worker, Robert Saunders.

It’s alleged Saunders stole money from foster children, the majority of which were Indigenous, leaving them homeless and subject to abuse and addiction.

“For over a decade, this man preyed upon and exploited some of the most vulnerable members of our society for personal profit and gain, while acting under the auspices of the Ministry of Children and Family Development – the branch of our government that is tasked with protecting these young people,” said Cheryl Casimer of the First Nations Summit in a statement on Dec. 5.

This comes after news that an Okanagan-area social worker accused of stealing money from foster children is now facing criminal charges, approved Friday (Dec. 4) by the BC Prosecution Service.

The Capital News previously reported that Robert Riley Saunders was arrested in Alberta and will be brought back to B.C. to face charges.

READ MORE: Former Kelowna social worker arrested for allegedly stealing from foster children

Saunders is facing 13 charges including 10 counts of fraud over $5,000, one count of theft over $5,000, one count of breach of trust and one count of uttering a forged document. He is also facing a class-action lawsuit, led by former youth in care in B.C.

It’s alleged he moved children in government care from stable homes in order to make them eligible for financial benefits from the province, before stealing those government funds.

The BC First Nations Leadership Council referenced an internal investigation completed by the Ministry of Children and Family Development found that Robert Saunders had victimized approximately 102 children and youth, over 90 of whom were Indigenous.

“We were outraged to learn of this disgusting situation and that it went undetected for so long. The individuals who were harmed by this man, along with their families, have been left with lifelong traumas as a direct result of his actions. We are grateful to see that charges have finally been laid and he has been arrested. May justice be served for his victims,” said Casimer.

Regional Chief Terry Teegee of the BC Assembly of First Nations the actions of Saunders towards Indigenous youth ‘is demonstrative’ of the broader systemic issues that have placed less value upon their lives, needs and circumstances.

He quoted this as being a time of change and opportunity, and that they hope to see this change reflect in the prosecution of Saunders.

“Let this not be another case where a non-Indigenous man is privileged within the justice system while the Indigenous children and youth he preyed upon are denied the justice they are due.”

READ MORE: 81 new cases of COVID-19 detected in Interior Health Friday

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: phil.mclachlan@kelownacapnews.com


 

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