Child rep collects documents after sisters’ deaths, no decision on investigation

Ministry of Children and Family Development declined comment on the deaths, citing privacy reasons

British Columbia’s child and youth representative says his office has begun to collect information about two young sisters whose bodies were found in a Victoria-area home on Christmas Day.

Bernard Richard said Friday it is too early to say whether he will launch a formal investigation, but he says his office has contacted the BC Coroners Service and the provincial ministry in charge of child welfare and has started gathering documents.

Richard’s office has the power to investigate when young people who have received child welfare services die or are critically injured.

“Obviously this is a very concerning case,” Richard said in an interview from Cap Pele, N.B.

“We’ll be taking a very close look at the circumstances surrounding the services provided to this family and whether they could have played a role in the events of Christmas Day.”

The Ministry of Children and Family Development declined comment on the deaths, citing privacy reasons. But it said in an emailed statement the ministry always co-operates fully with investigations involving police or the coroner’s office.

“This is a heartbreaking tragedy and our thoughts are with the family and everyone who loves them, as well as the broader community that has been shocked and saddened by this news,” the ministry said.

Police discovered the bodies of the two young girls inside a home in Oak Bay on Monday evening and are investigating the incident as a double homicide.

A friend of the family said the children’s mother, Sarah Cotton, notified the police that her former common-law spouse, Andrew Berry, hadn’t returned them as scheduled.

A family member and friend have identified the girls as Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6.

Police have said an injured man, whose identity and condition have not been disclosed, was found inside the home and taken to hospital.

No charges have been laid and police have said they are not looking for any further suspects.

The Vancouver Island Integrated Major Crime Unit said Wednesday the man remained in hospital and was not in police custody. No further updates on the investigation have been released by police since then.

Richard said his office cannot begin interviewing witnesses or officially investigate until police and the coroner’s service have finished their investigations, which could take months.

He said his own reaction has been to grieve what he describes as a heartbreaking situation.

“I think the dust will settle at some point and we’ll get answers, but for now I think it could be actually damaging to the mom, who is already stricken with grief, and other family members, to be speculating too broadly without knowing the real information,” he said.

Reports produced by the representative for children and youth are publicly released.

The girls’ mother had concerns about their father’s parenting abilities, court documents say.

In a decision released in May, a B.C. Supreme Court judge said Berry displayed poor judgment in dealing with his children, including allegations of inappropriate touching involving one of the girls in October 2015 that led to an investigation by the province’s child welfare agency.

In court, Berry testified he tickled one of the girls but not inappropriately.

The court decision was intended to settle custody of the children and distribution of assets after Berry and Cotton separated in September 2013.

Justice Victoria Gray concluded that Berry’s “displays of poor judgment regarding the children” did not justify depriving his daughters of “significant parenting time” with him.

“The father is a loving father who has much to offer his daughters,” the decision says. “The children appear to be generally happy and healthy, although suffering some stress from the breakdown of their parents’ relationship.”

Erez Aloni, a law professor at the University of British Columbia, said speaking in general about how the courts approach family disputes, they are typically reluctant to intervene in every issue, despite having the authority to do so.

“It’s a more complex and sensitive issue than simply collecting a debt,” Aloni said. “You want to make sure that the parties can continue to work together as parents.”

The District of Oak Bay has organized a candlelight vigil Saturday evening to honour the two girls at Willows Beach. The vigil will include formal remarks and music.

“We have been shaken as a community,” the municipality said in a statement posted on its website. “This event is an opportunity to come together in grief and in love to mourn the tragic loss of two of our young citizens.”

Geordon Omand, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Huge demand for spot prawns, limited supply for Cowichan

Most of the more than 200 boats harvesting spot prawns freeze their catch and ship it away.

Andrea Rondeau column: Positives on the environmental front

Does hearten me so many people concerned about future of environment they’re taking it to the polls.

Bantam B Thunder win a wild one

Cowichan comes home with gold from inaugural Comox tournament

Sarah Simpson Column: Airing out my dirty laundry

Last week I visited Mill Bay resident Judy van der Boom to… Continue reading

Snyder comes up big as Tigers mercy Red Sox

Pitcher clobbers a dinger to lock up mercy win

Kelowna RCMP interrogation video brings home reality in ‘visceral way’: former TRC chairman

Video of Mountie interrogating young Indigenous woman disclosing sexual abuse under fire

B.C. ferry stops to let bear swim past

Queen of Oak Bay brakes for wildlife in Nanaimo’s Departure Bay

Update: Mother dead, child in critical condition after carbon monoxide poisoning at Shuswap campground

The woman was found unresponsive insider her tent and the youth was taken via air ambulance to hospital

Canada’s parole officers say correctional system has reached breaking point

About half of Canada’s federal parole officers work inside penitentiaries and correctional institutions

Montreal researchers create audible hockey puck for visually impaired players

Three years ago, Gilles Ouellet came up with the idea for a puck that makes a continuous sound

Vancouver Island MusicFest: ‘House bands’ from the golden age of rock and R&B

Some of America’s greatest session musicians are coming to the Comox Valley this summer

Former B.C. Greyhound bus drivers head to Penticton for goodbye party

Big bash runs until Sunday, funded by drink cans left behind on busses over the years

Boy, 12, arrested after allegedly pulling a knife on another child at a Surrey park

The child was later released into his parents’ custody as Surrey RCMP continue their investigation

Full-scale search underway for missing kayaker on Okanagan Lake

Kelowna Paddle Centre member Zygmunt Janiewicz, 71, failed to return from his ‘daily kayak’ on the lake

Most Read