Coroner’s inquest starts into death of Cree teen who died in B.C. group home

By The Canadian Press and Greg Bowman

A British Columbia coroner’s jury has begun hearing evidence into the death of an Indigenous teenager at a group home in the Fraser Valley two years ago.

The body of 17-year-old Traevon Desjarlais was found on Sept. 18, 2020, in the closet of his Abbotsford, B.C. group home four days after he was reported missing.

Traevon’ mother, Samantha Chalifoux, broke down in tears as she testified at the inquiry Monday, questioning why it had taken so long for her son’s body to be discovered.

“During those four days, I went banging on that door, knocking on those windows, all in that home. No answer, nobody answered. And yet my son was in there hanging,” she said while fighting back tears.

“How is it that he’s hanging for four days in his own group home if the staff had checked in his room? How did they not know that he was in the home?” Chalifoux asked. “How is it that they made the [missing person] report without knowing that he was there? That he was there the whole time?”

Chalifoux said Traevon had told her the staff at the group home yelled at him and restricted when he could eat.

At the time of his death, Abbotsford police said there was no criminality involved, although the cause of his death was not released.

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The teen had been living in the home operated by the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society under contract to the provincial government.

Chalifoux has filed a lawsuit, alleging child protection authorities and the police were negligent in their investigation into the teen’s whereabouts.

The coroner’s jury will hear evidence from witnesses under oath, but the inquest is not a fault-finding inquiry.

The coroner says in a statement that the jury will make recommendations, supported by evidence, on ways to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

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