Members of Nigerian community in Montreal, Canada, are calling for a public inquiry into the death of a five-year-old boy last month who was in the care of foster services.
The boy and his brother had travelled from Nigeria to Canada with their family last year to seek asylum. However, after several months, Quebec’s department of youth protection intervened and placed the boys in foster care.
CTVNews Canada reports that four weeks ago, the five-year-old boy and his 10-year-old brother left their foster care home at Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, and went into a neighbour’s backyard in the city’s Pierrefonds borough. The younger boy fell into the neighbour’s pool and his older brother jumped in after him to try to rescue him.
The five-year-old boy died and his brother was transported to hospital where he remained in a coma for several weeks.
In the weeks since, members of the city’s Nigerian community have been asking questions about the circumstances of the child’s death on behalf of his family.
The vice-president of the non-profit organization Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), Pius Enihoma, said at a press conference on Thursday “we just want answers.
“This boy was in the custody of the child protection services and he left the house unprotected and wandered away to a neighbour’s pool.”
During the press conference, members from the community said there had been little attention given to this case compared to the outcry that followed the recent death of a seven-year-old white girl in Granby who had a file with youth protection services.
President of the Edo People Association of Montreal, Osa Osifo, said. “Since it happened, it’s like nothing happened. Nobody knew about it. Nobody heard about it. It’s like it’s been swept under the carpet.”
The executive director of CRARR, Fo Niemi, said a public inquiry should be launched into how Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, the organization responsible for the boy’s care, handled the case.
“The issue is can Batshaw be trusted? Can its own internal investigation be credible? Or should it be an independent [investigation]?” Niemi said.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for Batshaw Youth and Family Centres released a statement calling the case a “tragic” and “unfortunate” accident that never should have happened. The spokesperson, citing confidentially laws, wouldn’t provide any further details.
In the meantime, Montreal’s Nigerian community has been caring for the five-year-old boy’s siblings since his death. Osifo said they don’t want the boy’s older brother to go back into foster care.
“We said no,” Osifo recalled. “We want this child. If you don’t trust the natural parents, we have people in the community that can look after this child until this case is finally resolved in youth protection court.”
A funeral for the boy was held on Thursday with Batshaw Youth and Family Centres covering its costs.