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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Boy stunned by RCMP Taser only child living in facility

April 13, 2011
CTV News

VANCOUVER — An 11-year-old boy who was shocked by an RCMP Taser was the only child living in a British Columbia residential facility, with two staff members looking after him 24 hours a day.

Darren Harbord, a spokesman with the Ministry of Children and Families, said Tuesday that the child was not living in a group home outside Prince George, B.C., as originally believed.

"The ministry deals with some troubled and vulnerable children and youth and each child's placement is based on their individual needs," he said.

"We can't get into specifics about this child. It depends on a child's needs, essentially, because a lot of children in care are very vulnerable, obviously, and some of them have very high needs."

The child was jolted by a Taser after Mounties responded to a 911 call about a 37-year-old staff member at the facility being stabbed last Thursday.

RCMP have said officers found the boy, the suspect in the stabbing, at a neighbouring property. The conducted energy weapon was deployed after he emerged, during his arrest.

The West Vancouver Police Department is investigating, and Sgt. Paul Skelton said two detectives who arrived in Prince George on Sunday are expected to complete the initial part of their probe there by Wednesday afternoon.

The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is closely monitoring the case, and Children's watchdog Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond has said she is leaning toward doing a probe of what she called a disturbing case.

Aboriginal leaders say they want an independent investigation into the incident because the boy was First Nations, and RCMP have a sometimes troubled relationship with the aboriginal community.

"Shock waves have reverberated through the aboriginal community," said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

"It's absolutely outrageous that the RCMP would Taser an 11-year-old child, no matter what the circumstance is," he said.

Chief Wayne Christian, co-chairman of the First Nations Child and Family Wellness Council in Prince George, said an independent body, not another police department, should be conducting the investigation into the circumstances that led a Mountie to deploy a Taser on the child.

Christian said the case is a test of Premier Christy Clark's "families first" agenda and that the government needs to adopt recommendations from a report by the province's independent children's advocate if she investigates the incident.

"I hope that when the premier talks about families first in British Columbia, it also includes our families," he said.

Doug Kinna, a spokesman for the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union, said some group homes and facilities for vulnerable children are licensed while others are not.

"We're trying to figure out what happened with this home," he said of the facility where the boy was staying.

"I'm concerned that children could be placed in any setting that does not have the proper checks and balances -- from criminal record checks, to credentialing, to training and supervision," he said.

"Those are all things that are in place in licensed group homes," he said of the homes that hire either BCGEU or Hospital Employees Union workers.

A report released last year by the RCMP public complaints commission suggests that up to now, the youngest person to have been jolted by an RCMP Taser was 13 years old.

Skelton said police are mindful of public criticism.

Turpel-Lafond has said the boy was assessed in hospital and is back in government care.

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