Robert Riley Saunders. —Image: Facebook

3 more Indigenous youth sue B.C. social worker for exploitation

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of taking money from youths in his care

Three more civil suits have been filed against a Kelowna social worker accused of stealing from Aboriginal children who were in his care when he worked for the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The civil suits, filed against Robert Riley Saunders in Kelowna earlier this week, are in addition to a pair of similar civil suits filed against him earlier this month.

Saunders no longer works for the ministry or as a social worker. He now works under contract at Okanagan College in Kelowna in adult special education.

The three new lawsuits allege Saunders took money from joint bank accounts he set up with the youths, some of whom are now adults, when they were in his care as a ministry employee.

RELATED: Lawsuits allege B.C. government social worker stole from foster children

In addition to Saunders, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and his direct supervisor at the time, Siobhan Stymes, a team leader with the ministry, are also named in the new lawsuits.

The suits state Stymes had “direct knowledge of the theft of monies from the plaintiff and had direct knowledge of the emotional and psychological abuse inflicted on the plaintiff by Robert Riley Saunders.”

In addition to alleging Saunders took money from the joint accounts, the lawsuits claim he was “verbally and emotionally abusive” to the three plaintiffs while he worked with them and “succeeded in undermining their self-confidence and self esteem.”

They also claim he undermined their belief that they might be entitled to any form of financial support from the state for their “subsistence level of material well-being, such as food, clothing and shelter.”

The plaintiffs claim they were exposed to periods without food, street homelessness and illicit drug use, using drugs such as methamphetamine and crack cocaine, as a result of Saunders’ and Stymes’ actions. One plaintiff also claimed she was sexually exploited as a result their actions.

Following news of the first civil suits filed against Saunders, B.C.’s Representative of Children and Youth said 14 files had been opened by her office investigating the allegations.

RELATED: Ministry of Children and Family Development issues comment on Kelowna social worker accused of ripping off youth in care

According to the ministry, financial irregularities were brought to its attention in December 2017 and it sent the issue to the office of the comptroller general. In January 2018, the ministry said steps were taken to ensure “the immediate safety and well-being of the children and youth and their families.”

The same month, B.C.’s comptroller general launched an investigation to determine if fraud had been committed and the ministry hired a financial consultant to review the case and suggest changes financial and internal controls. Changes have now been made, it said.

Ministry staff are no longer able to initiate or print cheques without the involvement of a second staff member and the ministry plans to launch a separate review of its contracting and payment process.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A cup of tea can be a great hand-warmer on a cold day. (submitted)
Tea: it picks you up, it does not let you down

A good cup of tea never fails to brighten up the day

A map created by Clear Seas Centre for Responsible Marine Shipping, which assesses the sensitivity of Canada’s Pacific Coast to oil spills. This map highlights the Douglas Channel and other inlets and waterways around Kitimat and out to the coast. (Clear Seas map)
Douglas Channel scores ‘medium’ to high’ on oil spill sensitivity study

The study was done by a not-for-profit group specializing in sustainable marine shipping

Jody Craven of Kitimat has been announced as the BC Libertarian Party’s candidate for North Coast riding MLA on Oct. 5. (Jody Craven photo)
Jody Craven of Kitimat in the running for North Coast MLA

BC Libertarian Party has announced Craven as North Coast candidate for riding

Martin Holzbauer, independent, Nicole Halbauer, BC NDP, and Ellis Ross, BC Liberal Party, are the candidates for the Skeena riding in the upcoming provincial election. (Terrace Standard/BC NDP)
Skeena candidates talk northwest education

Online learning access and early childhood education were common themes

Stikine provincial election candidates (clockwise from top left): Nathan Cullen, NDP; Darcy Repen, Rural BC Party; Rod Taylor, Christian Heritage; and Gordon Sebastian, BC Liberals.
‘Where is Annita McPhee?’: Cullen under fire from opening salvo of all-candidates forum

Four Stikine candidates spar during online debate from Prestige Hudson Bay Lodge in Smithers

In this photo provided by Shannon Kiss, smoke from the CalWood Fire billows, Sunday, Oct. 18, 2020, as seen from Gunbarrel, Colo. (Shannon Kiss via AP)
‘First guys out:’ Western Canadian air tanker fleet busy despite drop in wildfires

CEO believes wildfires have become more dangerous in recent years as people live closer to where they start

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Grant and Barbara Howse, in quarantine in Invermere. Mike Turner photo
Denied entry into U.S., Kootenay couple still forced to quarantine for 2 weeks

The rules around crossing the U.S. border led to a bizarre situation for an Invermere couple

Fort St. John councillor Trevor Bolin (B.C. Conservative Party)
BC Conservatives leader fights back after BC Liberals leak 2018 workplace harassment case

Sexual harassment case was connected to employee being terminated, WorkSafeBC found

Most Read