Teen’s death not government’s fault

Brent StaffordtheQ Leave a Comment

theQuestion: Is the B.C. government responsible for protecting youth from drug overdoses?*

Professional government critics such as Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond — B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth — should acknowledge that government ministries and support services dedicated to caring for youth exist not because government has a problem, but because society has a problem.

I caution to not expect such an admission anytime soon, for misery-mongers like Turpel-Lafond never miss an opportunity to turn tragedy into a political attack.

The responsibility for the tragic death of Coquitlam teenager Gwynevere Staddon should not be laid at the feet of the BC Liberal government — or any government. The 16-year-old was found dead in a Starbucks bathroom from an apparent drug overdose — following a recent battle with heroin use.

In the wake of the teen’s death, Turpel-Lafond, as reported in the Vancouver Sun, claims that Staddon’s family reached out for support services and “was not given the support they needed” and that her death “could have been prevented.”

Turpel-Lafond alludes that Staddon was unable to get into government treatment in a timely manner, and she addresses and absolves the family of “some type of flaw or moral failing” stating, “I really stand with this family to say this family did everything they could. The fact is in British Columbia the support this girl needed was not there and she died.”

It’s a spurious allegation since Turpel-Lafond provides no proof that government inaction or long wait-lists played a role in Staddon’s death. Tasleem Juma, spokeswoman for Fraser Health Authority, says a number of government agencies were providing the teen and family services over a number of years. And, while the average wait-time for a youth to access an addiction treatment bed is six weeks, in a crisis the health authority can get them instant access to a bed in the Vancouver Coastal Health region — there is virtually no wait.

Turpel-Lafond says her office was also working with the family to find the teen treatment. Where? What treatment facility was she wait-listed? For how long? The normally details-oriented Turpel-Lafond fails to provide specifics.

Instead, she delivers a self-serving damnation of the system. If her office was working with the Staddons, does it not share some responsibility in failing the family?

Government should not be expected to protect youth from drug overdoses. To do so would require an ever-more powerful and oppressive government.

*First published in 24hrs Vancouver ‘theDuel’

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