Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The foster woman indicated that the family had attained guardianship status so we also believed that our opinion was void. All contact was initiated strictly between the medical foster placement and natural family home without the involvement of any social-workers’ input. We went on to have 3 additional sons. In 2001, eight years following interaction with ministry, a caseworker emerged and we were encouraged to seek joint-guardianship of our own child because we were viewed as loving parents involved in our child’s life. The Court granted us status. However, we were also lied to by both the foster female and the social-worker: They misinformed that there existed, “a 3-way-guardianship split” in which the caseworker had the final 1% decision-making authority. So any time something went amiss, the visits cancelled at the last minute by the foster placement for instance, we were told to let things be or “risk losing this long-term foster placement.” The caseworker warned, “I can’t find homes for children less disabled than Samantha so I need you to be considerate of their needs.”

From: Julie Ali [mailto:julie.ali@]
Sent: July-31-13 3:35 PM
To: ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Stewart Shields'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''
Cc: ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'AHSB Admin'; 'Simons, Paula (Edm Journal)'; ''; ''; 'Dave Colburn'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Jacquie Hansen (Mobile PDA)'; 'Edmonton Meadowlark'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Jay Ramotar'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Heather Raymond'; 'Joyce Clayton'; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; ''; 'Allan Bolstad'
Subject: That Children’s Services should ensure that those caseworkers who work with a foster child have accurate and up to date information from a reliable medical source about the child’s disability and in particular, the impact, if any, of the disability on the

and what could be more comforting than to fold grief
like a blanket—
to fold anger like a blanket,
with neat corners---
to put them into a box of words?

from “Work” by Mary Oliver in “THE LEAF AND THE CLOUD   a poem”

but are we able to
do this feat
with words?

are we able to take
the crumpled bodies
and the disasters of a war
on our children
and shrug

as if to say
their deaths are past events
and this too
will pass away?

are we to
lock them into the closet
of forgetfulness
behind the door of a room
full of grief
where the darkness still resides?

are we able to turn our faces away
from what has been done to us?
are we able to take each corner of the funeral cloth
holding the child who has died
and like a bag we carry on a stick
over our shoulder
are we able to tramp away
with the burden of her death
as our constant presence?

are we able
to take the memories
and put them
in a box of words?

is the poem
able to hold her
for her mother
so as to be a comfort for her?

or is there nothing
that will replace that singular smile?

who will restore
Samantha Martin
to her mother?

can a poem do this?

can another mother
telling Velvet Martin
to persevere  in her crusade
help her heal?

will her quest for justice
give her
what she needs
to face what was done to her family?

will justice offered to her
do what a box of words
emptied out to make
a poem
fails to do?

I do not believe
anything will comfort Velvet Martin
except the final justice
delivered to her
for Samantha’s neglect
by the government of Alberta

for a poem
can hold joy
like a butterfly within a  net

a poem
can attract love
with the paws of longing in that honey pot

but a poem
cannot leash
the horror

that has been done
to Samantha Martin
by the failures of nearly everyone
in the foster care system in Alberta

a poem
cannot contain
the endless sorrow
of the loss
of a child
who died in this way

and so
each day
I am to do what I can
In my poverty of power
I am to  
open a box of words

and spill them for her

I am to unfold the blanket
that holds her there

I am to show that child
to the people of Alberta

and tell the people of Alberta
that this is not right

a child has died
without reason
because of the negligence
of those good men and women we trusted
in the government of Alberta

why must we pretend we are satisfied by
what the government of Alberta says it is doing now?

we are not willing to keep silent
for this silence is no longer sufficient for us

why must we try to fold
the blanket of grief
and put it away
in a box of words?

instead I tell you

we are to open a  box of words
each day
we are to tell the story
of Samantha Martin
to the world

we are to ask for justice

we are to make a poem each day

in Samantha’s name

so that the people  of Alberta
may hear how she lived
in the foster care system in Alberta

the people of Alberta
may then ask questions
of the government of Alberta
and only when the answers have been given to us
along with the justice that is required

may we make a poem
and fold the blanket
of grief
and anger
around her body
and put her away

only then
will the poem
comfort  Velvet Martin

but for now

we open a box of words
for her
and we let Samantha Martin out

we do not put her away
neatly folded into the past
like a blanket
of grief
and anger
like a memory
we have recovered from
in a box of words

Alberta girl, 13, failed by foster care, inquiry finds

CBC News

Posted: Oct 19, 2012 1:05 PM MT

Last Updated: Oct 19, 2012 7:36 PM MT

Samantha Martin, 13, died of a heart attack in December 2006, five months after being removed from foster care.Samantha Martin, 13, died of a heart attack in December 2006, five months after being removed from foster care. (Courtesy of Velvet Martin)








Related Stories

A disabled 13-year-old girl who died shortly after spending most of her life in foster care was failed by Alberta's foster care system, a fatality inquiry has found.
The report, written by Provincial Court Judge Marilena Carminati, found Samantha Martin was malnourished — weighing only 51 pounds at 12 years of age — and went for prolonged periods without seeing a doctor even though she had a rare genetic abnormality, and should have seen a physician every few months.
"It was totally preventable. She should be with us today," said Samantha's mother Velvet Martin, who received the report this week.
Samantha died in December 2006, five months after she began living full-time with her biological family.
The judge ruled Samantha died of natural causes, likely a seizure, but she pointed out that doctors acknowledge untreated seizures carry a greater risk of death.
While Carminati ruled the cause of death undetermined, she made a number of recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.
  • Children's Services should ensure that those case workers who work with a foster child have accurate and up-to-date information from a reliable medical source about the child's disability
  • Children's Services should look at enhancing policies to ensure children are actually receiving their annual medical checkups as required
  • When a recommendation is made by a reliable source (such as a school assessment), a doctor examine the child for possible medical issues
  • Ensure caseworkers for the child have reasonable case load so they have time need to adequately document and follow-up on medical needs of the child
Velvet Martin said she doubts the recommendations will change anything.
"So many cases of families that have been wronged," she said. "There is a lack of follow through, repercussions and deterrence.
"Until we establish some sort of mechansim to hold people accountable, there will be no change," she said.
Shortly after Samantha was born with the chromosomal abnormality called Tetrasomy 18p, her parents put her in foster care upon the advice of workers from the provincial department of Children’s Services.
The family was told Samantha would have access to better medical treatment, the inquiry heard.
But her life in foster care left her undernourished, suffering unexplained bruises and fractures, and only occasional visits with doctors and social workers.
School staff raised concerns with Alberta Children's Services over Samantha's frequent injuries, the meager contents of Samantha's lunches fractures and her seizures.
A pediatrician testified at the hearing that he ususally sees children with Samantha's condition every three months and noted her medical file was unusually thin.
In fact, her medical records show a gap of three years between doctor visits.
Samantha also went long periods of time between visits with a social worker. Samantha's social worker was supposed to meet with the girl every three months, but documents show gaps between visits of up to 14 months.
The social worker testified there were two visits in that period, but she never found the time to complete her paperwork.
At the hearing, the same social worker testified "she would never have been able to find a placement for Samantha that would have been equal to — let alone better than — the quality of care she was receiving in the foster home."

Share Tools





Comments are closed.

Samantha's Law
now get off your knees

I tell you

...See More

Samantha's Law
Statement by Lorna Huff, caseworker, for Samantha Martin: "never have been able to find a placement for Samantha that would have been equal to let alone better than the quality of care she was receiving in the foster home." (Of Richard & Joanie Himschoot, Morinville, Alberta.)
Tanya Marieposted toSamantha's Law

The Death of 13-year-old Samantha Martin

Like     Dislike0
Published on Mar 26, 2013
The death of 13-year-old Samantha Martin in Alberta sparks major growing concern towards the child "welfare" system in Canada.

·         Category

·         License

Standard YouTube License

Samantha Martin, 1993 – 2006

Foster Care News

Foster Care News, Keeping you informed of children and youth services related matters in Canada, including enforcement issues, legislative updates, public campaigns and more. If you are looking for a good cause to support, consider contacting us. 613-709-3866 Good for MPP, MLA, Ministers, Lawyers, Legal Staff, Advocates, Families, children and youth.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What happened to Samantha? (Foster Neglect and Abuse ... Fatality Inquiry Starts Monday!)

lberta Children and Youth Services... did they turn their eyes away too many times? From January 17th, until February 11th 2011 a Fatality Inquiry into the tragic death of Samantha Martin, a young girl in foster care who appears to have been, and which school records show abused by her foster mother. Samantha suffered multiple broken bones, including leg and arm bones, bruising, and much more horrible neglect. The Ministry, although told, appear to have turned a blind eye.
Alberta Justice Public Fatality Inquiry for S.M.
Monday at 9:30 am - February 11 at 5:00 pm
Location Edmonton Provincial Court, Room 449
Law Courts, 1A Sir Winston Churchill Square, Edmonton, AB T5J 0R2
Samantha's Mother Asks
"Tell me why the foster parents of Samantha Martin would feel the need to require the services of top notch, aggressive CRIMINAL DEFENCE attorney, Tom Engel, at the child's Public Fatality Inquiry? hmmmmm......
The Government has a lawyer, the fosterers have a well-known criminal defence attorney and the child, well, she has only her mommy to defend her interests and try to exact some form of closure through justice!
WHY... at a Public Fatality Inquiry, would the foster home choose to retain the services of a renown CRIMINAL DEFENCE attorney?"
And, what about the CHILD, why are CHILDREN the only souls unrepresented in the courts?

See further details and photos at the following link:
To ensure you read the latest version of this post, please visit as this post may have been modified since being sent out.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Alberta Mom's Efforts to Change Child Welfare In Memory of her deceased daughter, Samantha Martin

An Alberta Mom, Velvet Martin, is advocating for changes to child welfare services in memory of her deceased daughter, Samantha Martin who died shortly after returning home after years of abuse and neglect in foster care.

The Government of Alberta is claiming they can't identify the child or the mother under child-welfare confidentiality legislation and that this is done to protect the child, however, the child is deceased and no longer requires this type of protection.

Alberta legislation does not apply in Ontario therefore the publication of the names is ok in Ontario.

The Calgary Sun has the story at the following link:

1 comment:

Demand accountability for the little girl, contact:

Fritz, Yvonne, Honourable
Minister of Children and Youth Services
Member of Executive Council
Executive Branch
228 Legislature Building
10800 - 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6

Phone: 780 415-4890
Fax: 780 415-4859

Angry parents protest against ministry

July 29, 2013

Daily News Staff Reporter
About a dozen individuals with angry claims against the Ministry of Children and Family Development protested on a busy street corner in North Kamloops on Monday.
"They're control freaks. They just hate to lose," said Carey Oryniak, whose grandchildren were taken away.
He and the rest of the protesters from Kamloops and Calgary all claim to have been lied about, lied to, dismissed and ignored over issues pertaining to their children's care.
"I'm the first one to say, we've made mistakes," said Kamloops resident Paula Ciardullo, who founded MCFD Unjustified out of frustration over her grandson's case. "Why can't they?"
Ciardullo said she's taken to recording all interactions with case workers and ministry employees after hearing so many denials and back tracking of previous statements.
"There's no accountability," she said.
The most prominent member of the group was Calgary's Velvet Martin of Protecting Canadian Children. Martin was the force behind Samantha's Law, which was named after her daughter, Samantha Martin, who died of a heart attack while in foster care in December 2006 at the age of 13.
As directed by representatives of the ministry, Samantha was in care strictly as a means to access funding and services for a disability created by her rare chromosome disorder.
The law named after her was enacted in 2008 and amends the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act to challenge archaic laws inhibiting the rights of people with disabilities and their families.
But Alberta is the only province so far to do so.
During her campaign, Martin said she came across so many parents with so many stories of abuse of power at the ministry level that she decided not to stop fighting.
She's been featured in news media reports from Toronto to Vancouver and has no intention of stopping until the law becomes federal.
Protester Blake Newton's two children were also taken away and he says he's appealing the case to the Supreme Court.
"It's (an attempt to) control everything," said Newton in summing up his take on the ministry.
His friend Zygmunt Janiewicz was among protesters out of support. He was incensed by what he's learned about the case - part of which involved him as a court appointed interpreter to Newton's Polish girlfriend.
And he was intent on spreading the word.
"I fought communism (in Poland) I can fight fascism here," said Janiewicz.

I used to believe that only clearly abused and badly neglected children were apprehended by the ministry, and in cases where children were wrongly apprehended without just cause that regulatory oversight and efficient court procedures would move quickly to right these wrongs. I have learned that I was badly mistaken on both counts.
The truth is that the ministry can apprehend kids with the flimsiest of evidence (often subjective and circumstantial) and once in the system, those responsible have an array of tricks and tools at their disposal to delay a fair hearing for months and even years. What often happens is the ministry will come to a resolution with parents at the 11th hour before the hearing is finally set to take place so that those responsible never have to stand before a judge and justify their original decision, to anyone, ever. Or the parents will get their hearing and a plan implemented to reunite the family, but the ministry will keep moving the goalposts, almost as a sport.
Caseworkers are frequently moved, creating disconnect with families, mistrust in the system and further court delays. Once kids are under the care of the ministry they can be needlessly drugged to make them more compliant. Children with disabilities can have their developmental needs ignored to the point of regression.
It's unconscionable the unchecked power this ministry has over some of our most vulnerable citizens and their families. Parents like Velvet Martin and experienced advocates like Ron Unruh and Ray Ferris need to keep speaking out and educating people.

RKR reveals another BC family ripped apart by Ministry of Children & Family

Apr 092011
Just a week after RoadKill Radio’s explosive exposé of how the provincial Ministry of Children and Families damaged the lives of the Bayne family, another BC family ripped apart by the Ministry’s destructive practices came to light Tuesday night on RKR.
Betty-Ann Burnett had been a high school teacher, with a background in family counseling; so it was natural, when she and Allan had their own children that she decided to stay home to raise them. Friends who’d had foster children, after seeing them with their own toddlers, suggested that they should also take foster children into their home.
The Burnett’s first foster-child was the 2-year-old son of a 16-year-old who was pregnant again.
“Then we took a family of four–same mother, four different fathers… In 2001, we were planning to adopt them; the mother of these four was very supportive; she also wanted protection from her brother, who had put her on the street.
“Then she passed away. [One of the children] wrote to her Mom; the social worker found out that the mother had died. We were told not to tell the children. The social worker was going to tell them, because she was ‘a professional’.
“The social worker and the team leader came to our home. ‘I guess you’re wondering why we’re here,’ she said to the children. ‘Your mother passed away.’
“The kids asked, ‘Passed away? What does that mean?’
“She told them, ‘She died.’
“The oldest boy asked, ‘Will there be a funeral? Can we go?’
“The social worker said, ‘No. She’ll be burned.’”
“Very professional!” exclaimed Terry O’Neill. “What tact!”
“[The oldest boy] remembered having his hand burned on a stove; he remembered the pain. He was very upset,” said Mrs. Burnett.
Kari Simpson said, “The Ministry knew she was sick, but they didn’t make any arrangements for the children to see her…”
Mary-Ann Burnett answered, “The children were not allowed to see her. They arranged for the children to be taken to see their grandmother in another province; the children were terrified. They’d never met their grandmother, and they thought they were going to have to stay with her.”
At that point, Kari Simpson, who had by then become involved in the family’s problems, intervened; and instead, the grandmother came to see the children at the Burnett’s home.
“They were talented kids,” Kari recalls. “You had them in a singing group; they used to sing at seniors’ homes… they were also good swimmers and skiers.”
“A new social worker came on the case,” recalled Mary-Ann Burnett. “We had a new one about every six months. The previous one had said because the singing group was called ‘The Burnett Singers’, the foster children, who were part of the group, could use the Burnetts’ name. But the new one said, ‘No. You have to use your legal names.’
“By this time, [the oldest boy, by then 14] was pretty disturbed, and began staying out late. He started smoking marijuana…
“One day, he showed up a school with some marks on his neck. The social worker said, ‘Call the police.’
“Another social worker came on [the case] in December; she hadn’t even met my husband… she spoke to me on two occasions before she took them [the children] and laid charges of assault [against Allan Burnett]…
“The social worker took [T] to the police; she told them he couldn’t write very well [which was not true], so she prepared the police statement for him…
“I was home with the other four children–[V & T] were not there at the time–and the social worker, a child protection officer, and two police came and said, ‘We’re here to arrest your husband for assault.’ The police took the children downstairs. They told me, ‘We’re going to have to remove your husband from the home while we investigate this.’
“I said, ‘No way.’ Then they said, ‘We’re going to have to make emergency accommodation for the children.’ They went to the children and said, ‘We’re going to take you to another place, just for a night or two. Get a change of clothes.’
“[J1] ran away; [J2] went to the police and said, ‘This is wrong. My Dad’s a good man.’
“It was like a circus on our front lawn. [J2] tried to hide behind a tree, but the police found him. Later, I got a call from [J1]: ‘I’m at my friend’s; can I come home?’
“The social worker got a restraining order, saying that [T] can’t stay there. So [when he called] I had to say, ‘I’m sorry; you can’t stay here.’
“My husband was going to court every month. It was always a Ministry delay. After a year, he was acquitted.”
Kari Simpson recalled, “During this time I got a call from [V]–an articulate, concise, brilliant young woman… We had a secret meeting at the school. She said, ‘We want to come home
“We got them home; they escaped from the social workers. And when the social workers and the police came for them, I had the media there. The social workers and the police all disappeared.”
Mary-Ann Burnett told RKR, “After that, the children were afraid to go to school.
“The Ministry sent a letter saying that the children [could go to school; they] would not be apprehended. But the social worker went to the school and took them, one at a time.”
The story of that deception sparked a memory for Terry O’Neill: “We did an exposé of the social work school when I was editor of BC Report. They taught the students, ‘In the interest of your client, break the law. The law can be stupid. Do what you have to do; what you think is right.’”
Kari Simpson recalled, “One boy was on his own; we got him a lawyer. This young man ended up being able to stay in your home.”
Mrs. Burnett said, “He was five when he arrived. He was 17 when the Ministry decided he should try ‘independent living’… He thought this would be good, because he’d be able to get his sisters to live with him. These children have not lived together since 2002.
“[A] would phone and say, ‘Mom, I’m not supposed to talk to you. I’m in Port Moody.’ By this time, she was seriously into crack cocaine. [B] is doing well; she’s out of this province.
“How many social workers do you know who have so much time on their hands that… this social worker has been in touch with her–she’s now 21–and has convinced her that she’s her ‘best friend’.
“The social worker called and asked, ‘Could you talk to [J]? He’s not bathing, and we’re worried about mental health issues. I called him and talked to him. He showered and changed his socks.
“I just talked to [J2] at Christmas and his birthday; [T] is currently in jail. I got a letter from him, addressed ‘To Mom and the rest of the family…’”
Terry O’Neill commented, “It’s amazing that despite the malfeasance of the Ministry–there’s no other word for it–there are still bonds… I congratulate you for the wonderful job you did… You haven’t given up on them.”
Kari Simpson said, “This problem is epidemic… these children don’t have voices. So many families have been destroyed, and the parents have given up because ‘What’s the point? No one cares!’
“Well, we care!

“We need to put affidavits on these kids’ files, so when they grow up they can sue the Ministry. Nothing brings an understanding of reality quicker than financial accountability.
“These stories will not be put aside!
“Bruce McNeil, the same director who figures in the Baynes’ story, figures in this story.
“Madame Minister, are you listening? Madame Premier, are you listening? You said during the leadership campaign that your government would put ‘Families First’. This is a chance to make that true.”
RoadKill Radio’s coverage of State vs Family in BC will continue.
Click here to listen/download this show

Samantha's Law is a Canadian child protection law. The life and circumstances surrounding Samantha Lauren Martin, a child with a rare chromosome disorder, Tetrasomy 18p, led her mother, Velvet Martin, to challenge archaic laws inhibiting the rights of persons with disability and their families. On December 3, 2009 (the same date marks the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities being tabled in the House of Commons of Canada), Velvet Martin's persistence resulted in the establishment of "Samantha's Law." The Amendment to the Alberta Family Support for Children with Disabilities Act, became effective retroactive to December 2006. Section 2-3, Manual Amendments: Policy and Procedures in Family Centred Supports and Services: "The Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program to have separate legislation from that of child protection services." [1]


Samantha Martin resided within a foster care establishment in Alberta, Canada strictly as a means to access funding and services as directed by Representatives of the Ministry. On December 3, 2006, Samantha died at age 13. Samantha's Law is an Amendment to Legislation which requires that participants in the Family Support for Children with Disabilities Program are recognized legally distinct from children in protective services under the intervention model. Weslyn Mather (LIB—Edmonton-Mill Woods) tabled an April 19, 2007, message from Velvet Martin regarding the need for the government to include family involvement when addressing funding for children with special needs.
Mayor Awards Edmontonians Who Support Accessibility
May 23, 2012
Mayor Stephen Mandel honoured Edmontonians who enhance the lives of people with disabilities at the annual Mayor’s Awards on May 23, 2012.
“I am inspired by these individuals and organizations who are building a more inclusive city where all Edmontonians can participate fully and share their gifts with the community,” said Mayor Mandel. “My congratulations and thanks to all the award recipients and nominees.”
Eight individuals, organizations and businesses that have provided opportunities and safe environments for Edmontonians with disabilities were awarded in 4 categories.
The categories and recipients include:
Outstanding Service
•Michelle Hordal for creating the Alberta AdaptAbilities Association, a not-for-profit charity that provides unique programming that helps youth with disabilities adapt to every day experiences. 
•Anna Der for being the driving force behind the Seniors Assisted Transportation Society, a volunteer based non-profit organization that helps seniors access crucial transportation services that allow them to lead independent lives. •Velvet Martin for advocating for the rights of children, youth, vulnerable persons and seniors in her community. Following the death of her daughter, Velvet’s dedication has turned tragedy into a legacy of hope for families of children with developmental conditions. •The Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital for a legacy of providing comprehensive rehabilitation services, for more than 50 years, to people with disabilities, helping them re-enter society with greater independence and skills.
Universal Design in Architecture
•Personal Residence of Terry Tenove 
Accessibility Architect: Ron Wickman
For the use of accessible architecture to transform Terry Tenove’s apartment into a barrier-free living space and example of how design can enhance the quality of life of persons with disabilities.
Paid Employment
Michael Elder – Canadian Safeway Ltd. for championing equal opportunity work environments and offering individuals with mental health concerns positive and equal work opportunities. Canadian Safeway Ltd. offers equal benefits to all employees, including education funding.
Volunteer Position
•Cougar Paint and Collision Ltd. for providing valuable, hands-on mechanic and automotive detailing experience to young people with disabilities for more than 5 years. Volunteers at Cougar Paint & Collision learn that passion and hard work lead to self-confidence.
Ewen Nelson Award for Self-Advocacy
•Kenneth P. Thomas for his frequent involvement in public events and with many disability organizations. Ken is passionate about building a more accessible Edmonton and his optimistic view on life has inspired many other people with disabilities. 
The City of Edmonton Advisory Board on Services for Persons with Disabilities selected this year’s recipients from 17 nominees.
For more information: Leslie Tanzi Community Services Title Events Coordinator, Advisory Board on Services for Persons with Disabilities Telephone: 780-496-1472
2013 United Nations International Women's Day Award VELVET MARTIN (Unsung Heroine, Advocate for Children with Disabilities)
When Velvet’s daughter Samantha was born with severe disabilities, she was taken away by the provincial government and put into foster care. But it was that moment that Velvet began her fight for the rights of disabled children and their parents.
In 2007, the provincial government passed “Samantha’s Law,” which gave parents of a disabled child the right to raise that child themselves and have access to the government services they need. This law has gained the attention of other provinces and countries, who wish to model their own laws after it.
Sadly, Samantha died in 2006 at the age of 13 after suffering cardiac arrest. But Velvet’s fight will continue.

Tetrasomy 18p Canada

Velvet Martin is Administrator for the website, Tetrasomy 18p Canada,[2] dedicated to daughter, Samantha. Tetrasomy 18p Canada was founded by Lorrine Peruzzo to complement and generate awareness of the Chromosome 18 Registry & Research Society[3] which is located in the United States. Mission: "To help individuals with chromosome 18 abnormalities overcome the obstacles they face so they might lead healthy, happy, and productive lives. We do this through: Service, Education and Research."


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^

Free Thinking Voice

My name is Velvet Martin and I am the Spokesperson for Protecting Canadian Children:
My background information which led to advocacy stems from the challenging experiences we faced as a family whose child was born with global developmental delays stemming from a rare genetic disorder, Tetrasomy18p Syndrome. In brief, following Samantha’s diagnosis shortly after birth in 1993, we were benignly directed by hospital to the Ministry as a means of achieving extraordinary medical supports that our child was anticipated to require. However, instead of services being offered, we were informed that as the “natural family” government supports would not be available to our child; that to achieve access, guardianship must be relinquished to the Ministry and Samantha would be required to reside out of home in a medical foster home.
Samantha’s history away from home is horrendous and culminates in loss of life. Suffering various injuries, 7 broken limbs for instance, and refusal to present for intervention for seizures, Samantha suffered a heart attack at the age of 13 and died December 3, 2006. Since Samantha’s death, I have lobbied for change in Legislation and achieved Amendment in the Province of Alberta – which I endeavour to pursue on a National level – SAMANTHA’S LAW.
The Child Welfare Act, Section 2-3, now reads (retroactive to December 2006): The Family Support for Children with Disabilities to have separate legislation from that of child protection services.
A brief video depicting Samantha’s life can be viewed on YouTube, The Samantha Martin Story:
Samantha Lauren Martin was born on June 4, 1993 entering the world 3 weeks early via emergency Caesarean section to save both her and my life as our little girl was found to be in distress. At the time, we were also parents to a beautiful boy, not quite 2 years of age and now had a sweet little daughter to love.
Samantha, like our eldest son, was jaundiced at birth so we were not overly concerned. However, her levels would not recover – indicating the liver could become compromised – so we were moved to a larger city hospital for treatment. Suddenly, my husband, I and the baby were referred for genetic analysis. Our results returned as “normal” while Samantha’s screening determined presence of a “marker”, an extra chromosome. After weeks of waiting, results came in…Tetrasomy 18p Syndrome, a condition so rare that even today no one in our locale has ever been similarly diagnosed. We were informed that Samantha would not walk, talk, nor even know who we were. The horrid terminology used to describe developmental prognosis devastated us, “imbecile.”
The genetic clinic benignly called upon Social Services anticipating that it would offer support and guide us. However, we were informed that as “the natural family”, we would not be eligible to secure the services that Samantha would require to live successfully: “The kindest thing to do would be to relinquish guardianship if you want to give her an opportunity to live.” “Therapists cost $50.00 an hour, you cannot afford that and Samantha needs it.” Time was stressed to be imperative: “You must do this now while she is still young and cute and adoptable.”
There were no options for families but to surrender their child with exceptional needs to government care in order to gain access to help. So, were trusted in these “experts” although it nearly killed me. We signed a voluntary “Permanent Guardianship Agreement” and although I was a married woman of 4 years, the contract was penned under the “Unmarried Mother’s Act of Alberta. “I was forced to give up nursing my baby so that she could be immediately placed with a foster family.
We had our share of issues with the foster home over time. However, we always bit our tongue because we felt that as long as our daughter was being handled well, how we were treated by the placement did not matter. The foster woman indicated that the family had attained guardianship status so we also believed that our opinion was void. All contact was initiated strictly between the medical foster placement and natural family home without the involvement of any social-workers’ input. We went on to have 3 additional sons. In 2001, eight years following interaction with ministry, a caseworker emerged and we were encouraged to seek joint-guardianship of our own child because we were viewed as loving parents involved in our child’s life. The Court granted us status. However, we were also lied to by both the foster female and the social-worker: They misinformed that there existed, “a 3-way-guardianship split” in which the caseworker had the final 1% decision-making authority. So any time something went amiss, the visits cancelled at the last minute by the foster placement for instance, we were told to let things be or “risk losing this long-term foster placement.” The caseworker warned, “I can’t find homes for children less disabled than Samantha so I need you to be considerate of their needs.”
What we did not know at the time was that there were documented ongoing concerns about Samantha’s well-being in the foster home. February 12, 2001 a rehabilitation aid writes: “Came to school with a broken arm and a cold. Two days later: “Not feeling well. Not wanting to eat or drink. Had diarrhea all morning. Slobbering continually, it’s like she is not swallowing. Eyes are teary and glassy. Skin colour is pale. Foster mom was called – no response. Samantha did not eat lunch. When walking Sam to the bus, she started throwing up several times. It was decided by the vice-principal that she not go on the bus due to safety and she must be picked up. (Ms. Himschoot, the foster woman) came to get Sam and was furious she was not on the bus and that she was not sick. When Sam started to vomit again Ms. Himschoot had her hand and shook her and told her to stop it. I asked Ms. Himschoot if (another foster child) had been dropped off earlier around 11:30 from kindergarten at home and she said yes. Someone must have been home to look after her. Why were they not calling back about Samantha?”
- October 4, 2002 I suggested to the foster woman: “I think it is worth asking doctor’s medical opinion on whether or not Samantha may be experiencing any seizure activity.”
- May 20, 2003 the rehabilitation aide writes to the foster woman: “It would be nice to have the pull-ups with the velcro sides. She seems to get very agitated when we have to take her shoes and pants off each time we have to change her.” The next day, Ms. Himschoot replied, “If she doesn’t like it, she should tell you bathroom and use the toilet.”
- October 2003 I had just completed studies and was about to begin a full-time position as a teaching assistant. The foster woman indicated that she was having surgery and requested that we provide respite care for 2 weeks. I suggested we contact the social-worker to initiate a back-up plan for care-giving in case I was scheduled for work. Nonetheless, I made arrangements with my prospective employer to begin work towards the end of the month to accommodate the foster persons. Apparently it had angered Ms. Himschoot to realize that I could not be at her beck and call any longer as she anticipated. On October 23rd, Samantha expected was to arrive for the next couple of weeks, but I was unable to reach the foster woman all day. I was growing concerned, but Ms. Himschoot eventually answered my phone calls. She began to scream at me, “Samantha’s not here!” “Where is she?” I asked. “It’s none of your business, she’s gone!” Now, I began to panic! The phone was hung up and the foster woman refused to respond to the telephone. I placed calls to emergency crisis lines. Eventually a worker responded to me: Samantha was safe; she was placed in a respite hospital setting. The respite home would not normally have been able to take Samantha had she been mobile because they only can provide care to children who cannot walk… Samantha’s femur, the large thigh bone, had been broken and she was placed in a body cast, chest to ankle. For the first time, I stepped forward and requested intervention from the ministry to avert further trauma. I learned during mediation that the surgery Ms. Himschoot cited was an excuse; that in reality, the foster persons vacationed for those past 2 weeks.
- June 4, 2004 Samantha is emaciated, ghostly pale, has a high fever and cannot tolerate liquids, or medicine to combat illness. She is diagnosed with encopresis (bowel obstruction) by local hospital. I caution Ms. Himschoot and the caseworker in a letter: “Samantha cannot be expected to have these violent episodes with bowel movements without adverse effect. This child needs to be seen by a pediatric gastrointestinal consult IMMEDIATELY.” The social-worker minimizes, “Perhaps she had a touch of the flu.” The foster woman states, “She is fine.”
- December 2004 the classroom teacher writes to the foster placement: (Samantha’s) “bread had mold on it so we just made her a sandwich from items we had at school.”
- Christmas Eve Samantha arrives from the foster home with her face swollen and bruised from eye socket to chin.
- January 2005 Samantha signed, “hurt” when she arrived at school from the foster placement.
- January 16, 2006 School incident report indicates that Samantha “came to school unkept, soiled pants and socks. Searches for food after she is finished eating.”
- January 19, 2006 “Came to school with the same pants for 3 days.”
- January 23, 2006 “Came to school smelling very sour.”
- January 25, 2006 “Came to school with scratch on side of neck.” “When she was informed it was time to go home (to the foster placement) she shook her head (no.”)
- January 26, 2006 “Two brown scratch like marks on her nose.”
June 2006 finally, after asking repeatedly, one day we were told Samantha could come home. At the end of the school term, Samantha slept at the foster home for the very last time. Samantha came home to us at 13 years of age, a tiny shell weighing 50 pounds.
Summer 2006 the summer was spent travelling across Canada to visit family and friends, allowing Samantha the opportunity to know that she was home and safe.
September 2006 the first day of school, educators were amazed at the beautiful, happy, healthy, calm little girl. By the close of summer, Samantha was trained for day-time continence and she had gained over 10 pounds; a 20% gain in body mass! Samantha began to play with her dolls, pretending to feed them. And, the greatest gift of all, she began to speak! After years of silence she began to be able to say words! Teachers referred to Samantha as “a butterfly who emerged from her cocoon!”
November 29, 2006 she went to school happy as always. Samantha went bowling with her classmates and won the game! She hopped up and down happily. By lunchtime, they returned to the school, Samantha drank her juice, pushed her lunch aside and turned pale. The teacher brought Samantha home to me and I watched over her as she threw up a couple of times. I consulted with the hospital because, ironically, Samantha was scheduled for an EEG the very next day since we suspected she may be experiencing absence seizures. That night Samantha went into cardiac arrest. Although the hospital was able to revive her, she slowly succumbed and died 4 days later.
We sat there watching over her little body wondering how everything could go so wrong so fast. I turned to the Manager who had come to visit from Child & Youth Services and asked the following question that had just been rumoured to me: Were John and I Samantha’s sole guardians all along? The foster family had never attained guardianship authority? “Yes.” Everything that our daughter went through, every decision, everything from what school she went to, surgery was performed or denied, visits with family all hinged upon the decision of that foster family, yet they had no legal entitlement whatsoever!
When Samantha died, she did not just leave behind a mommy & daddy, but she also left 4 siblings who loved her too.
Following Samantha’s passing, now aware that I was the sole guardian I began to seek medical and educational records. Never in a million years did I expect to find what I did: Seizures had been identified repeatedly throughout Samantha’s life by professionals as far back as her 3rd birthday. Ms. Himschoot was urged to seek medical intervention, but chose not to. The caseworker, too, was aware of the seizures, but failed to ensure the placement followed through with intervention. Documentation revealed that Samantha had suffered 3 broken legs, all the large thigh bone (femur), 2 broken arms, broken foot and a wrist. Initially, the fractures were attributed to her syndrome; however, no one but Samantha has suffered breaks with such frequency. Photographs of suspicious bruises exist. Furthermore, when she was removed from the foster home, no more injuries occurred, nothing, not even a bruise although Samantha’s activity increased.
I asked for a Public Fatality Inquiry and the Justice Minister turned me down. I had to battle to access one, citing legislation directly to the law-makers. My persistence resulted in the establishment of SAMANTHA’S LAW. I can’t do anything else for my daughter, but other children can be saved.
Samantha Lauren Martin: June 4, 1993 – December 3, 2006.
According to AACL (Alberta Association for Community Living) who studied government documents, “70% of children with disabilities are under Ministry direction.” So, Legislative amendment is certainly a step forward, but will not suffice without enforcement. I continue to be inundated by families targeted by circumstance being inappropriately directed. Given opportunity to reword Legislation, I would recommend that parents with disability as well, be protected under Policy. The horrendous case of a mother with Multiple Sclerosis in the Province exemplifies this premise: “Marie”, a pseudonym, is mother to 2 young children and as the disease process worsened, reached out for support. In turn, she was supplied adoption literature to relinquish parental rights. “Marie” publicly told her story and the public was outraged. In turn, the government proclaimed circumstances were misunderstood and that it would offer supports. These were in fact enacted, however, within months, “Marie” was informed by personnel that it was too costly to continue service delivery; so rather than face losing her children, she was forced to flee the Province.
Up until 1972, persons with diversity were being victimized by the sterilization movement. Although 2012 marks the 40th anniversary celebration for Alberta to be free of sterilization practice against individuals considered feeble-minded or undesirable – including a vast population of Native Peoples and those with mental illness - make no mistake, Eugenics is alive and well in Canada! Of the thousands of victims, 2 brave women are speaking out: Leilani Muir and Judy Litton. Thank goodness for the strength of those who refuse to remain silent; I respect these 2 women immensely for raising their intimate struggles publicly so that history is not repeated.
It is certainly no simple task to bring forward truth where wrongs have been committed; particularly when these atrocities have been performed by governing authorities. I am frequently asked what single change I would like to see transpire and that is a challenging request because, frankly, there are simply to so many aspects of the system which require amendment. I often speak against Publication Bans as I find the logic ludicrous. Surviving families of children who have died under ministry direction are even prevented from speaking the name of their loved one outwardly! The entire premise behind a Publication Ban is to protect the interests of the child and their family. Where a child has been failed to the point of death, protection no longer remains an issue and where survivors want to disclose circumstances to prevent similar tragedy they should not be deterred from doing so. At present, if a family discloses the identity of a dead child, under confines of the Child, Youth & Family Act of Alberta, the individual can face incarceration up 6months and a $10,000 financial penalty! The children are being failed in life and subsequently further dishonoured in death.
Opposition Parties in the Province of Alberta have revealed startling and disturbing facts about the deaths of children in care. NDP Rachel Notely discusses the under-reporting of deaths to the public. Liberal Laurie Blakeman revealed that as a cost-effective mechanism, children in care who die are being buried in adult-size coffins rather than appropriately built smaller ones. These children are also dying without the dignity of grave markers!
Police too, have their hands tied by the inability to investigate government documents. No one should be above the law, including government employees! Lack of over-sight has Police, themselves, referring to Canada Law as a “Legal System” rather than one of “justice.”
Policies targeting individuals for circumstance alone, in the absence of abuse, is rampant. Legislation in the Province of Ontario, for example, states: The Ministry can apprehend a baby upon delivery based solely on the following criteria: The mother is single. The mother is teenaged. The mother grew up in the System herself.
Single fathers, too, face numerous obstacles; as is with the British Columbia case of Derek Hoare and his daughter, Ayn van Dyk, a little girl with Autism. Ayn was forcefully apprehended from her school, restrained and medicated. No issues of abuse or neglect exist; in fact, the father is an exemplary figure who is the parent of 2 additional children, one of whom also has Autism and remain in home. The little girl had been doing well in her home environment, but difficult to manage in school and the solution has been to place the child into foster care as if it is somehow perceived that father’s “load will be lightened.” While cases by Policy, are to be examined in a timely manner and in the best interest of the child, no such outcome is achieved. Derek Hoare has been battling strenuously with immense public support for the return of his daughter, yet more than 18 months have elapsed without the Court hearing the case. Justice delayed is justice denied while families are being destroyed.
The tragic case of the death of a 4-month-old baby, Delonna Victoria Sullivan, in the Province of Alberta demonstrates how sorely authority has run amuck: Jamie Sullivan, the baby’s mom – who can be identified like myself are the sole 2 individuals in the Province free of Publication Ban – had been a single mom who shared residence with another single mother to save expenses. Human Services had issues with the roommate and obtained an order to remove the woman’s children. Ministry did not even know Jamie or her baby existed when they entered the home, but upon seeing them, took baby Delonna as well. Within 6 days of apprehension, the baby girl was found dead in a car seat within a foster home. According to the medical examiner’s report, the baby had lain there for hours dead, unnoticed.
As is the case with Samantha’s Public Fatality Inquiry, no arrests have been made to date. Inquests do not transpire for years; Samantha’s Fatality Report was only issued in November of 2012, close to 6 years following her death. Preservation of evidence becomes implausible and is further hindered by the vetting of information. At one point during personal journey to attain answers, I was informed by the Provincial FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) Officer that I was no longer entitled to my daughter’s documents. Apparently, within Legislation, where a child dies, the parent is no longer considered the child’s guardian!
Policies are severely inept and designed as if to purposely fail transparency or accountability. For example, Alberta Policy states: “Under the Act and common law, an organization established for a political purpose cannot be a charity.” “An organization established solely for the purposes of pressuring for change in the welfare of children cannot be registered as a charity.” As per Political Activities, CPS-022 available on the CRA Web site:
These are Canada-wide issues and extend to US and beyond in scope. Together, we each must raise our voices as one: NO MORE SILENCE!

Lawsuits against Child Welfare

Child Welfare Lawsuits

If you were injured because of Alberta Child Welfare, you may have a potential lawsuit against the Government. Some different scenarios include:
  • Child Welfare not apprehending you and protecting you from abuse, when they ought to have
  • Child Welfare apprehending you and keeping you from your family when they should not have
  • Child Welfare apprehending you and then allowing you to be abused or neglected
  • Child Welfare failing to protect your legal rights

Because there are thousands of children in Alberta that were injured and have lawsuits against Child Welfare, we started 2 Class Action Lawsuits against Child Welfare

What is a class action?

When people have a common claim, they can group together to fight the same defendant (in this case, Child Welfare). This way, it is easier and less expensive to fight even the most powerful defendants (i.e. the government)

Class Action #1: Failure to protect legal rights class action

The Failure to protect legal rights class action has already been approved to be a class action. Therefore, this lawsuit will apply to everyone who fits into it, unless you specifically decide that you do not want to be in a lawsuit.
The Lawsuit applies to anyone who was injured and had a possible lawsuit, but Child Welfare did not do anything to protect your legal rights to sue. This lawsuit also applies to people who were the victim of a crime, child welfare knew that you were a victim of a crime, but Child Welfare did not do anything to help you to apply for crimes compensation benefits.
Almost everyone who ever was taken into the care of child welfare was a victim of some crime, so almost everyone who ever was in child welfare could be part of this class action.

Class Action Updates:
At what stage is the Class Action Now?
The class action has been approved. We will soon be asking employees of child welfare why they failed to protect the child welfare's childrens legal rights.
How long until we settle the Class Action?
Expect that the class action will take years to complete.
What are the next steps of the Class Action?
After the child welfare employees have been questionned we will obtain expert reports and prepare for trial.

Your Role:

For now, we are only taking names of people who may qualify for the Class Action. Educate yourself about the class action against Child Welfare. If you know anybody that you think may qualify please refer them to our office.

Not sure if you qualify?

Please click here, print and fill out this brief questionnaire and mail into our office. Someone form the office will contact you shortly to let you know if you qualify for the Class Action lawsuit against Child Welfare.
There are 3 law firms that are prosecuting this class action. They are:
  • Robert P. Lee
    Old Strathcona Law Offices
    7904-103 Street
    Edmonton, AB T6E 6C3
    (780) 438-4972
  • David Klein
    Klein Lyons
    Suite 1100 1333 West Broadway
    Vabcouver B.C V6H 4C1
    (604) 874-7171
  • Clint Docken
    Docken & Co.
    900, 800-6th Ave. SW
    Calgary, AB T2P 3G3
    (403) 269-3612

Biography for Honourable Dave Hancock, QC (PC)
Contact Information
MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
Dave Hancock, QC

Minister of Human Services
Government House Leader
Dave Hancock is in his fifth term as the Member of the Legislative Assembly for Edmonton-Whitemud. On May 8, 2012, he was appointed Minister of Human Services and Government House Leader.
In addition, Dave currently serves as a member of the Operations Committee and the Cabinet Policy Committee on Public Health & Safety.
Prior to his current appointment, Dave served as Minister of Education, vice-chair of the Cabinet Policy Committee on Community Services and as a member of the Agenda and Priorities Committee and the Treasury Board.
In his third term, Dave served as Minister of Health and Wellness and as Government House Leader. He was also appointed as a member of the Agenda and Priorities Committee, Treasury Board, the Legislative Review Committee, the Privileges and Elections, Standing Orders and Printing Committee, and the Cabinet Policy Committee on Community Services.
He has previously served as the Minister of Advanced Education, Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs, and vice-chair of the Standing Policy Committee on Education and Employment. During each of his terms in office, Dave has served as a member of Treasury Board and the Agenda and Priorities Committee.
Dave is a lawyer by profession and was a partner with Matheson and Company, Barristers and Solicitors, before entering public service. He received an arts degree in political science and economics, and a law degree from the University of Alberta.
He is a strong believer in giving back to the community. He supports numerous nonprofit and service organizations as time permits, including Success By 6, Meals on Wheels, and Kiwanis Club.
Dave was born in Fort Resolution, N.W.T. He lived in Hazelton, B.C., and the northern Alberta community of Fort Vermilion, graduating from La Crête Public School before moving to Edmonton to attend university.
He and his wife, Janet, have three children: Ian, Janis and Janine.
May 14, 2012

Contact Information for Honourable Dave Hancock, QC (PC)
MLA for Edmonton-Whitemud
Dave Hancock, QC

Legislature Offices

Legislature Office
224 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 643-6210
Fax: (780) 643-6214
Constituency Offices

Constituency Office
#203, 596 Riverbend Square
Edmonton, AB
Canada T6R 2E3
Phone: (780) 413-5970
Fax: (780) 413-5971

If your call to your MLA is long distance, please dial 310-0000 then the area code and the phone number you would like to reach in order to receive toll free access.

Children in provincial care sue Alberta government

Woman abused by murderer Thomas Svekla part of class action lawsuit

CBC News

Posted: Mar 26, 2012 12:28 PM MT

Last Updated: Mar 27, 2012 6:50 AM MT








Related Stories

External Links

Read the Notice of Certification
(Note:CBC does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of external links.)
A massive lawsuit claiming the Alberta government failed to take legal action or seek compensation on behalf of children in its care is moving towards trial.
The suit claims the province failed to apply for victims-of-crime compensation or file personal injury claims for children abused prior to or while in the care of Alberta Child Welfare.
A very preliminary estimate of the unresolved claims has been set as high as $890 million.
'They didn't protect me. So while they're protecting themselves now, they should have protected me.'—Svekla abuse victim
The suit includes children who were placed in provincial care from July 1, 1966 to Feb. 19, 2008.
“They didn't protect me,” said one woman who spoke to CBC News, but cannot be named. “So while they're protecting themselves now, they should have protected me.”
The woman was sexually abused by her foster-mother’s boyfriend, Thomas Svekla, who's now a convicted murderer, when she was five-years-old.
“It hurts,” she said. “It hurts that it's my government that's not doing anything for me and really not caring.”
The woman is now suing Svekla, her former foster mother and the Province of Alberta for $2.5 million in a separate suit.
The province was the woman’s legal guardian and should have taken legal action for her, said Edmonton lawyer Robert Lee.

Pure negligence, says lawyer

They should have applied for crimes compensation for her,” he said. “At a minimum they should have told her grandmother that that needed to be done."
“They didn't do any of those things,” he said. “Pure negligence; pure incompetence.”
Lee believes more than half of all children in care over the last five decades are in the same boat and are eligible to join the class action lawsuit.
Lawyers in Calgary and Edmonton are urging victims to come forward.
"There's been advertisements in the papers now," said Lee. "That's for people to be aware of the class action for this failure to sue for these kids.”
All children who suffered personal injury while in provincial care are automatically included in the lawsuit and must ask to be left out if they do not want to be part of the lawsuit.
“If they don't want to be in the class action, if they don't want to be part of any lawsuit, they can opt out."
The government won't comment while the case is before the courts, where it's expected to be for a number of years yet.
"We just have to keep fighting for something that we know is right," said the woman abused by her mother's boyfriend. "And just keep doing it no matter how long it's taking."
"We just have to keep fighting for something we know we should win and hopefully we will."

Province of Alberta
Report to the Minister of Justice
and Attorney General
Public Fatality Inquiry

Fatality Inquiries Act

WHEREAS a Public Inquiry was held at the
the Law Courts Building
in the
in the Province of Alberta,

(City, Town or Village)
(Name of City, Town, Village)

on the
17th to 21st
27th day of January,
, (and by adjournment


on the
7th and 11th
day of
February, March 18th, and
on the 2nd to
4th day of November, 2011


Marilena Carminati
a Provincial Court Judge,

into the death of

Samantha Lauren Martin

(Name in Full)

Morinville, Alberta
and the following findings were made:


Date and Time of Death:
approximately 6:20 a.m., December 3, 2006

Stollery Children's Hospital

Medical Cause of Death:

(“cause of death” means the medical cause of death according to the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death as last revised by the International Conference assembled for that purpose and published by the World Health Organization – The Fatality Inquiries Act, Section 1(d)).


Manner of Death:

(“manner of death” means the mode or method of death whether natural, homicidal, suicidal, accidental, unclassifiable or undeterminable – The Fatality Inquiries Act, Section 1(h)).

Report – Page 2 of 8 J0338 (2007/03) Circumstances Under Which Death Occurred:
The inquiry into the death of Samantha Martin was held pursuant to the Fatality Inquiries Act. Some delay was occasioned as initially the view taken was that this was not a case which fell within the purview of the Act; ultimately however, the Board decided that an inquiry was appropriate and a Fatality Inquiry was ordered on July 23, 2008.
The inquiry was held over a number of days, and heard from numerous witnesses. A large number of exhibits were filed, including a large binder of medical records, Children’s Services records and other documentation.
Samantha Martin was born to Velvet and John Martin on June 4, 1993. She was diagnosed soon after with Tetrasomy 18p, an extremely rare genetic variation which gives rise to a number of symptoms, including various developmental delays.
Samantha’s parents decided to place her in foster care, for a number of reasons, including their grief at learning of the diagnosis, an unfortunately pessimistic prognosis and an unfortunate impression formed by Mrs. Martin that foster care would offer Samantha greater special services than would be affordable for her if she remained with her biological parents. Samantha was placed into foster care when she was 7 weeks old. She was placed with the Himschoot family near Morinville on August 3, 1993. A Permanent Guardianship Agreement was signed on October 24, 2001. Samantha’s biological parents were in telephone contact with the Himschoots, and reinitiated contact with their daughter, commencing when she was approximately 3 years old. Their contact with Samantha increased over time, and eventually led to joint guardianship of Samantha on October 24, 2001. In April 2006 Samantha increasingly spent time with the Martins, and eventually Samantha returned to live with her biological parents, not long before her death at the age of 13. Samantha appeared to be thriving after returning to her parents full time on June 27, 2006. Samantha gained weight, going from 49 pounds at the time of her return, which was her approximate weight for the previous 3 years, to 60 pounds by the end of July 2006, and looking much healthier in photos taken after her return to her biological parents. Samantha was nonverbal, but after her return home had started to acquire a few more words. In October 2006, Samantha was seen by Drs. Watt and McIvor at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital Physical Medicine Clinic and it was noted that she had gained 6 kg in weight and 2 cm in height since her examination one year earlier. According to the Information Consolidation prepared by Children’s Services, the plan was to rescind the Permanent Guardianship Agreement in December 2006.
The immediate circumstances leading to Samantha’s death
Tragically, Samantha became ill on November 29, 2006. She came home from school retching, and began vomiting. She later experienced diarrhea as noted by Mrs. Martin. Samantha settled in the evening and was left with her older brother while the Martins went to the bank, but unfortunately, Samantha’s condition worsened. Her brother phoned his parents to say Samantha had stopped talking. The Martins returned home, called an ambulance and Samantha was taken to the Sturgeon General Hospital in St. Albert. She was subsequently transferred to the University of Alberta StolleryChildren’s Hospital, where a decision was ultimately made to remove life support. She passed away on December 3, 2006. The fact that Samantha was on life support for a period of time contributed to the difficulty in assigning a cause to Samantha’s death. It is known that her heart stopped; much less clear is why it stopped.
Samantha’s past medical history

Report – Page 3 of 8 J0338 (2007/03) Tetrasomy 18p
The Court heard from Dr. Cody and Dr. Hale, a geneticist and pediatrician respectively, who are leading experts from the University of Texas at San Antonio with respect to this rare genetic condition. They have very extensive knowledge and experience with Tetrasomy 18p. They testified that to the best of their knowledge, it does not appear that Tetrasomy 18p is associated with any indications of reduced life expectancy. The condition is so rare that it is hard for them to give accurate estimates, but they felt it was probably one in 100,000. They have attempted through their research to understand the condition better, and have compiled a list of features common to many of the children who have this genetic variation, in an article which became Exhibit 4 in the inquiry. Based on this analysis, it appears that 21 per cent of the children with Tetrasomy 18p have seizures. Many have gastrointestinal difficulties, but other than feeding difficulties especially in the early years of life, the children with Tetrasomy 18p were not noted to be particularly thin or frail. Dr. Maryanne Thomas, a geneticist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital, also gave evidence in the inquiry that in her opinion there is no evidence of any link between Samantha’s Tetrasomy 18p and her death.
Samantha’s previous fractures and bruises
Mrs. Martin raised concerns at the inquiry about various injuries Samantha suffered while in foster care. Children’s Services does not appear to have sought an expert opinion on the total number of fractures and the plausibility of the various explanations offered for them, or on the plausibility of explanations offered for various bruises which caused school staff working with Samantha to raise concerns with Children’s Services. Samantha herself was nonverbal, and could not be interviewed about these matters. However, although Samantha had a number of bruises on her face and neck and also suffered a number of fractures of her bones while in foster care, including fractures on two separate occasions of her thigh bone, it does not appear from the evidence that there was any causal link between these injuries and her death.
Samantha’s weight
Natasha Dancause [Kowalsky] became involved in Samantha’s case in January and February of 2006. Ms. Dancause was a specialized investigator with Children’s Services who conducted assessments as to level of risk screenings and to decide whether interventionwas warranted. Reports were received from several school staff members of scratches and bruises on Samantha’s head and neck that were increasing in frequency since Christmas 2005, and concerns about the contents of Samantha’s lunch compared to the larger more balanced lunches provided to the biological son of the foster parents. School staff reported to Children’s Services that when this was raised with the foster mother, the response was to tell the school to fill Samantha up with water. There was particular concern because Samantha only weighed approximately 51 pounds at 12 years of age and had gained only 2 pounds in 2 years. The screening conducted by Ms. Dancause involved speaking to caseworkers and support workers involved with the child (Valerie Jensen) and the family (Lynn Bell) and to the people from Samantha’s school. Ms. Dancause also had received a letter forwarded through Mr. Brian Leonard, February 16, 2006 from Samantha’sbiological mother, received in November 2005, which outlined a number of concerns about Samantha’s care in the foster home. Ms. Dancause did not meet with Samantha and did not make any calls to any doctors responsible for Samantha’s care. She relied on case workers and support workers to share information. There were disagreements and issues arising generally between the biological and foster parents. Ms. Dancause decided on February 21, 2006 that the complaints raised about Samantha’s care did not require an investigation. The lack of records of medical checkups noted in a Children’s Servicesfile review from December 2005 seems not to have been on the radar.

Report – Page 4 of 8 J0338 (2007/03) Dr. McGonigle is the pediatrician who saw Samantha from time to time when her foster parents brought her in. He noted it was not a very thick file for someone with Samantha’s condition. He usually sees kids like that once every 3 months, and at least once a year for a complete checkup. In contrast, he saw Samantha for the first time in 2000, with a complete checkup in 2002, one when she was 8, and in June 2004. When she became his patient he was not able to obtain the file from the previous doctor who had cared for her. Her sparse visits might mean that she was relatively well. At age 11 Samantha was below the 5th percentile for weight and gained fairly little after that. Dr. McGonigle testified that low weight would be the result of low caloric intake. It does not appear from the evidence that the low weight was the result of Samantha’s Tetrasomy 18p, and it appears that Children’s Services staff may have erroneously attributed her low weight to her genetic condition. However, Dr. McGonigle felt that Samantha’s underweight status which lasted for some years would not have been a contributing factor in her death, because when Samantha was returned to her biological mother and gained a healthy amount of weight, that would have countered any problems that would otherwise have been caused by the previous low weight. The autopsy report indicates that Samantha weighed 42 kg and was 1.42 m tall at the time of her death. Dr. Dowling,the pathologist, also testified that the fact that Samantha weighed far less than she should have for a considerable length of time was not a factor he could connect to her death in light of the other difficulties establishing a cause of death. Accordingly, it does not appear from the evidence that Samantha’s underweight years were a contributing factor in her death.
Whether Samantha suffered from seizures
Lorna Huff testified at the Inquiry. She was the assigned caseworker for Samantha Martin from September 1998 to August 2005. She does not have a degree in social work, which is not required in the province of Alberta, but did have an education degree and was a registered social worker. Her responsibilities included seeing the child, having contact with the foster home, to be aware of everything that was going on in terms of the care Samantha was receiving, to talk to the doctors, to the foster mother, and to see the child in face to face visits, as well as having contact with the biological mother, to ensure the child’s best interests were met. A case conference was held at Samantha’s school November 21, 2002, where concerns were raised by the school that there was a possibility Samantha might be suffering from seizures, and suggesting that the doctor be consulted with respect to an encephalogram to rule out a seizure disorder. A report was prepared setting out in detail the substance of the meeting and the recommendations (Exhibit 6). Mrs. Huff’s notes from the case conference indicate “E.E.G. to rule out seizure disorder” and the note had a star beside it to indicate to Mrs. Huff that it was important to follow up on. Although Mrs. Himschoot and Mrs. Martin were not at the case conference, Mrs. Huff felt the foster mother was aware of the seizure issue, and testified that “Joanie was very attentive to the child’s medical needs,” “very often” took Samantha to the doctor, and “would have followed up with Dr. McGonigle.” Dr. McGonigle was not advised of seizure activity by Mrs. Himschoot, and never received a copy of the consultation report which referred to the need to assess for possible seizures. Dr. McGonigle testified that if he had seen the report he would have assessed Samantha for seizures. He testified however that not all children with seizures are placed on medication. Dr. DeCaen, another pediatric expert, also testified it is possible seizures might not be treated. Dr. DeCaen indicated that would be a decision that should be made by a physician.
Five days after the November 21 case conference, there was a further meeting (this time an Individual Program Plan meeting to discuss Samantha’s educational goals) at Samantha’s school where many of the same individuals were present, as well as the foster mother and the caseworker. Although the records do not indicate that the issue of possible seizures was addressed at this meeting, it does appear that the foster mother indicated that she planned to take Samantha to Dr. McGonigle for a medication review. On December 3, 2002, the foster mother advised Mrs. Huff that Dr. McGonigle had increased Samantha’s medication and asked that the school document their concerns. It is not clear whether the issue of possible seizures was ever discussed during this phone call, but the contact notes

Report – Page 5 of 8 J0338 (2007/03) from the Children’s Services file together with Dr. McGonigle’s records and evidence appear to suggest the issue discussed was Resperidal which was being prescribed for behavioral issues and which had nothing to do with seizures.
Mrs. Huff believed that Mrs. Himschoot had a lot of experience with medically fragile children, as a large number of such children were placed in her care, and Mrs. Huff appears to have been under the impression that Samantha had monthly visits with doctors. However, this does not appear to be an accurate understanding, as an EEG was never sought by the foster mother for Samantha, and although the foster mother did take Samantha to the doctor from time to time for various needs, she did not bring her for regular physical checkups with the pediatrician. The health records disclose a period of 3 years where Samantha was not seen by a pediatrician or family doctor (Exhibit 21shows a gap from 1997 to 2000, viewed in light of Mrs. Himschoot’s evidence that Dr. Berhmann was the pediatrician before Dr. McGonigle, and then briefly Dr. Janika). This was unusual for a child with her complex medical needs, according to Dr. McGonigle and Dr. DeCaen. Mrs. Huff, although she was the caseworker for Samantha, appears to have been ill informed as to the frequency or nature of Samantha’s medical visits, and relied heavily on what the foster mother told her was going on. Mrs. Huff did not notify Dr. McGonigle, the pediatrician, about the suggestion that an encephalogram be done to rule out a possible seizure disorder. She assumed the foster mother, who was not at the case conference, had done it. Mrs. Huff never attempted to confirm with Dr. McGonigle or Mrs. Himschoot that the seizure issue had been assessed by the doctor. Mrs. Himschoot testified she did not convey a concern about seizures to Dr. McGonigle, as she felt she would want to know more before going to a doctor, and testified that she feels the same way now. Mrs. Huff testified that she spent time with Samantha and never saw any seizure activity. Exhibit 6, a ConsultingServices report which discussed the school’s concerns about possible seizures, was shown to Mrs. Huff, who indicated she had received it but did not forward the document to Dr. McGonigle; she did not know if the report was sent to the foster mother or biological mother. The consultation report recommended that the report be forwarded to Dr. McGonigle as well as data collected about Samantha’s performance and behaviour at school so that Dr. McGonigle could assess the information prior to seeing Samantha. The school felt that it required written permission from the foster mother prior to forwarding the report to Dr. McGonigle. Mrs. Huff felt “it did not seem to be a big issue”.
Mrs. Huff was required to have in person visits with Samantha at least once every 3 months, but longer periods went by; 14 months went by with no face to face visits according to Children’s Services’internal review, during the period from July 12, 2001 to September19, 2002, but Mrs. Huff testified she did not document two in-person visits, as paperwork was not her strength. There were also gaps of 7 or 8 months at times, although Mrs. Huff sometimes visited Samantha more than once every 3 months. Mrs. Huff testified that her case load made it difficult to keep up with her paperwork. (A previous worker for Samantha also had had only 3 face to face visits with Samantha during the 26 month period from February 1996 to April 1998 (according to the Children’s’ Services file review), whereas policy would have required at least 8 or 9 visits in that kind of time frame. Mrs. Huff took over in September 1998.
Lorna Huff testified that Samantha’s condition came with difficult behavioral issues and Mrs. Huff felt she would never have been able to find a placement for Samantha that would have been equal to let alone better than the quality of care she was receiving in the foster home.
Valerie Jensen took over from Lorna Huff in 2005 as the Children’s Services case worker for Samantha. On September 15, 2005, a Children’s Services review of the file found no record of annual medical or dental checkups. A further December2, 2005 review of the file was completed by Diane Martin who noted that there had been no face to face meetings with Samantha since February, and also again noted that there was no indication of annual medical/dental checkups in the file.
It appears there were no face to face visits documented with Samantha after February 2005 until

Report – Page 6 of 8 J0338 (2007/03) November 23, 2005, and then again until March 21, 2006 (then June 13, 2006) notwithstanding the December 2, 2005 review.
The comprehensive file review by Children’s Services prepared after Samantha’s death (dated June 4, 2007) notes that the last medical report on Samantha’s file as of June 2006 was from Dr. McGonigle on June 15, 2000. (Alberta Health Services billing records indicate a visit with Dr. McGonigle on June 14, 2000 which is categorized as diagnostic evaluation, limited, not requiring the taking of a complete history/evaluation.) The foster mother provided details to Valerie Jensen about Samantha’s recent medical visits, which the foster mother indicated was with Dr. McGonigle December 29 of 2005. (It appears from AHS billing records that there was also a visit April 19 of 2006.)
Upon her return to the biological parents, the Martins, Samantha was taken to the pediatrician Dr. Roseman, who on November 15, 2006 arranged for an EEG to investigate the issue of seizures, after the biological mother and a teacher of Samantha’s had witnessed what they felt might be seizures; this EEG was to have taken place on November 30, 2006. An earlier EEG that Mrs. Martin had scheduled October 16, 2006 with Dr. Starreveld was inconclusive. Mrs. Martin testified that Dr. Roseman witnessed a seizure in the office on November 14, and her communication log with the school aid Carla for November 14, 2006 certainly appears to bear this out, but the doctor did not recall the incident, although he felt he had been confident they were dealing with seizures. (Mrs. Martin also told Children’s Services in September 2006 that she had told the foster mother in 2002 about her concernabout seizures in children with Testrasomy 18P but nothing was done; this was documented by way of a letter that Mrs. Martin had sent to Mrs. Himschoot. Mrs. Martin had sent a letter to the foster mother dated October 4, 2002 suggesting Samantha be checked for seizures as a result of her research on Tetrasomy 18p disclosing it to be quite common in children with Tetrasomy 18p.)
On Samantha’s November 15, 2006 examination by the pediatrician, Dr. Roseman, Samantha appeared to be doing well and weighed 61 pounds, but Samantha passed away before Dr. Roseman had a chance to complete the investigation into whether she required treatment for seizures.
The issue of possible absence seizures had been raised long before, by the Physical Medicine Clinic at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital, on June 4, 1996, when Samantha was 3 years old. In a composite report prepared by S. Acheson, R.N., the Coordinator for the Physical Medicine team, it was noted that the foster mother was advised to discuss the issue of the possible absence seizures with Dr. Berhmann, who was at that time Samantha’s pediatrician, as the nurse felt she had seen what could be absence seizures during the clinic that day. Dr. Berhmann’sfile was not available to the inquiry, as it was picked up by Mr. Himschoot in 1997 and apparently misplaced or lost. The report does indicate a copy was being sent to Dr. Berhmann. It appears however from Mrs. Himschoot’s evidence that the seizure concern likely was not followed up on. It appears from the Alberta Health Services records that Samantha was last seen by Dr. Berhmann on August 6, 1996 (the only visit with this doctor after the Physical Medicine Clinic referred to above). However the records indicate the August 6thappointment was for “diagnostic interview and evaluation, described as limited (visit not requiring complete history and evaluation)”.
What conclusions if any can be reached about the cause of death
Numerous doctors testified at the inquiry. Dr. Idikio conducted the autopsy on Samantha at the University of Alberta Hospital. He could not determine a cause of death. He indicated that some damage to the lining of the colon leading to sepsis was a possibility, but he had insufficient evidence to determine whether that had in fact occurred.
Dr. Adrian Jones testified. He is a pediatric gastroenterologist. He did not see Samantha as a patient, but reviewed extensive medical records and provided the Court with his opinion. He was of the view

Report – Page 7 of 8 J0338 (2007/03) that a possible cause of death was perhaps a laryngospasm due to a minor reflux of acidic fluid from the stomach which was possibly aspirated onto Samantha’s larynx. Dr. Adrian Jones felt sepsis was not a likely cause of death as there were no indications of abnormalities in Samantha’s liver; however he could not rule it out as a possible cause of death. Dr. Jones could not say definitively that laryngospasm was the cause of death. No food debris was observed by medical staff when Samantha was intubated, but Dr. Jones felt that this could be because Samantha had not eaten for several hours, or that the laryngospasm may have been triggered by acid rather than food particles. He testified that laryngospasm would be very high on the list of possible causes of death; and in cross-examination felt it was the probable cause of death.
This may well be the case, but the absence of evidence on this point means that we cannot know this to be the cause of death. Although Dr. Jones (and Dr. DeCaen, who accepted Dr. Jones’ opinion as a possibility but who is also not a pathologist) clearly has some relevant experience in this area, he is not a trained and qualified forensic pathologist. Dr. Dowling’s training and extensive expertise is specifically with respect to the issue of cause of death. Where Dr. Adrian Jones’ opinion conflicts with Dr. Dowling’s evidence, I prefer the evidence of Dr. Dowling. Dr. Dowling testified as an expert in forensic pathology. For 18 years he was the Chief Medical Examiner for the provinceof Alberta. He has a wealth of experience in identifying cause of death.
I find that the cause of death cannot be determined with any certainty, as indicated by Dr. Dowling. However, Dr. Dowling did testify that some of the more plausible causes that mayhave led to Samantha’s death are a seizure, or septic shock. He testified that if seizures are untreated, that would increase the risk of death.
Dr. Dowling testified that the manner of Samantha Martin’s death was natural; in other words, it is clear that she died of natural causes. However, with respect to the cause of death, he explained the difficulties in drawing a precise conclusion. Although he did not perform the autopsy on Samantha, he reviewed the autopsy report prepared by the pathologist at the University of Alberta Hospital, along with other documentation, and primarily focused on the medical information available. He defined cause of death as a disease or injury that initiates the downhill sequence of events ending in death. He testified that there are really only a couple of things that come to mind as possibilities. From Samantha’s history of absence seizures, he noted that people with seizure disorders can die suddenly and unexpectedly from having a seizure even though it is no different than other seizures they have had previously. It is not known why this happens, but it does occur. He testified it is difficult to say whether Samantha had a seizure, but that it is certainly possible, in which case the cause of death would be seizure disorder due to her underlying Tetrasomy 18p. He testified that this is possible even in the case of absence seizures. Another possibility, although rare, is that the impacted fecal material in Samantha’s large bowel may have rubbed away just the inner lining ofthe bowel, allowing bacteria to seep into the bloodstream, even though there was no perforation, leading to sepsis and death. Dr. Dowling indicated there is insufficient information available to determine whether that in fact occurred. That Samantha was in hospital for a few days after her collapse makes it more difficult to assess as well. These two possibilities were the ones that Dr. Dowling would attach the greatest weight to; he is not aware of any other possibilities that resulted in Samantha’s death, even though he is aware that others have attempted to suggest some other causes. Although Dr. Dowling was quite cautious in drawing conclusions, he was fairly firm in rejecting the hypothesis of Dr. Jones that aspirated stomach contents on the larynx could have caused the death; in Dr. Dowling’s opinion, that is not a cause of sudden death. Aspiration of stomach contents is actually caused by death, rather than the other way around. Dr. Dowling acknowledged he cannot rule out the possibility completely, but testified it makes no sense in his experience. The absence of evidence of aspiration means it cannot be inferred that this is probably what occurred.
Dr. Dowling testified that he simply did not have enough information to say precisely what happened to

Samantha, and therefore in his opinion the cause of death is undetermined.
Dr. Dowling testified that untreated seizures can certainly put a person at greater risk of dying because of their seizure disorder. However, a seizure disorder can result in death even where the individual is being treated and taking appropriate medication. He agreed it was fair to say there would be an increased risk without medication, but stated that it would not be absolute. Dr. Dowling’s evidence about the possibility of seizure disorder playing a role in the cause of death was persuasive in light of his experience and expertise.

Recommendations for the Prevention of Similar deaths:

I find that the manner of death was natural, and that the cause of death may well have been a seizure, but due to the absence of evidence, it is not possible to say that this was the probable cause of death. However, given the evidence that seizures were likely an issue for Samantha, and in light of the extensive evidence I have heard, I am of the view that it would be appropriate in this case, to make certain recommendations to aid in the prevention of other deaths bearing in mind the purpose of the legislative provisions for the Fatality Inquiries Act clearly includes the attempt to avoid preventable deaths in the future. The evidence in this case leads me to make the following recommendations:
That Children’s Services should ensure that those caseworkers who work with a foster child have accurate and up to date information from a reliable medical source about the child’s disability and in particular, the impact, if any, of the disability on the health, weight, and fragility of the child. This needs to be well understood in order for the worker to make informed assessments about how the child is doing in care, especially in the case of a nonverbal child who cannot communicate concerns with the child’s worker.
That Children’s Services should look at enhancing current policies to ensure that children are actually receiving their annual medical checkups as required, including a diary system so that the issue is flagged and not inadvertently overlooked.
That where a recommendation comes from a reliable source (such as a school assessment) that a doctor examine the child for a possible medical issue that the child may be experiencing, that processes are in place to ensure the issue is flagged for follow up by Children’s Services in an effective and meaningful way, including required entry by the Children’s Services child care worker or other support staff at Children’s Services into a diary system.
Ensure that caseworkers for the child have a reasonable case load so that they have the time they need to be able to adequately document and follow-up on medical needs of the child.

October 2, 2012

, Alberta.
Original signed
Marilena Carminati A Judge of the Provincial Court of Alberta

Edmonton schools need $750M in repairs

By Andrea Sands, Edmonton Journal February 18, 2013


Edmonton schools need $750M in repairs

John Nicoll, managing director of facility services for Edmonton Public Schools, stands beside a crumbling brick wall at Spruce Avenue School. The school was built in 1928 and is showing its age.

Photograph by: Larry Wong , Edmonton Journal

EDMONTON - Bits of Spruce Avenue School’s brick foundation crumble off the wall and shower the floor with dust as the man in charge of Edmonton’s public school buildings descends the stairs to the basement boiler room.
The foundation will eventually have to be replaced, says John Nicoll, managing director of facilities services, finance and infrastructure with Edmonton Public Schools. Water has repeatedly seeped into the school and degraded the foundation over time, leaving white calcium deposits where exposed red brick peeks out from peeling green walls.
Heat radiates from two massive steam boilers built by the now-defunct Kewanee Boiler Company. Those boilers have warmed Spruce Avenue students for 85 years now..
The junior high school, built in 1929 at 11424 102nd St., is among numerous schools in Edmonton where outdated structures and equipment are stretched well beyond their normal lifespans, says Nicoll.
“We often have a lot of equipment which has an estimated design lifetime of 30 years but we’re operating it for 35, 45, 50 years. We have that situation a lot,” he says. “We look at it and we say, ‘Will that get me through one more year? Will it operate for one more year without failing in February? If the answer to that is no ... we replace it. That’s as much as we can afford to do.”
School districts across Alberta are tallying up their funding requests, hoping to convince the cash-strapped provincial government this spring that their aging schools need to be repaired, upgraded or replaced.
Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson has been traveling around the province since November and has met with about 50 of Alberta’s 62 school boards so far. Money for school buildings is a common priority, Johnson says. During the last provincial election campaign, the Conservatives promised 50 new schools and 70 upgraded schools. There is still “a strong resolve” to deliver on those promises but it will likely take longer because of Alberta’s lower-than-projected resource revenue, Johnson says.
“Ideally we would have delivered them over four years. Maybe it takes five or six but our resolve is still there to deliver them,” Johnson says.
“For the next couple of years, we’re going to be under the gun to work within some cost constraints, and the boards have demonstrated that they’re well-positioned for it. They’re prepared for it. They’re not happy about it but we’re going to work together and get through it.”
The Alberta School Boards Association decided at a strategic meeting last month that school infrastructure will be its top priority for advocacy work, says ASBA vice-president Cheryl Smith.
“I think it’s because so many schools were built at the same time across the province that they all need to be maintained to a greater degree every year, and my sense is that we’re falling farther behind with that,” Smith says.
The provincial government promised school districts sustainable, predictable funding so they could better plan for local needs, Smith says.
“We’ve been recently getting the message that might not be the case, so from a broader perspective that is our biggest concern,” Smith says. “We have three-year, rolling plans and it’s pretty difficult to make a plan if you don’t know if you’re going to be able to execute the next year of it.”
At Edmonton Public Schools, the estimated tab for defered maintenance — work that would be done if the district could afford it — was $528 million for 2012.
Four of the public district’s 199 schools are currently ranked by Alberta Infrastructure as being in “poor” condition, according to school district information. That means the schools need upgrading to comply with current codes or standards and major repairs or replacement is necessary. Public schools in that category are Mee-Yah-Noh Elementary School, Mill Creek Elementary School, Kensington Elementary School and Belgravia Elementary School, according to the school district.
The district’s limited money often goes to “envelope upgrades,” such as doors, windows and roofs, to prevent costly water damage. That means other less urgent repairs such as parking lots riddled with potholes are low priorities, Nicoll says.
“At about the 30-year point you’re looking at having to reinvest in some of the mechancial and electrical equipment, and definitely the roof. Roofs last some time between 25 and 30 years,” Nicoll says.
“One of the biggest challenges we have is keeping the water out of the schools.”Edmonton Catholic Schools has an estimated $227 million in defered maintenance, says that district’s assistant superintendent of educational planning, Boris Radyo.
The Catholic district’s top two priorities are for upgrades are J.H. Picard School, a K-12 school built in 1954, and Archbishop O’Leary high school, built in 1959. The school district has requested provincial funding to fix Archbishop O’Leary school for 11 years now. Both schools need major mechanical overhauls, such as heating, cooling and ventilation systems, as well as repairs to windows, floors and ceilings, Radyo said.
Other common problems in aging schools are old electrical and lighting systems.
The district’s limited money is usually reserved for problems that could pose a health or safety threat to staff or students.
“Those components are always kept in acceptable condition at the least,” Radyo said. “If the majority of our infrastructure, mainenance and renewal money is used to address potential health and safety issues in schools, then there’s very little money left over to address improvements to programming for students in the schools, for example to provide barrier-free access in our schools for our special needs students, to make improvements to career and technology studies programs, to improve science labs and foods labs.”
There’s not enough money to replace failing equipment, so Edmonton’s public and Catholic school districts have staff who fix equipment instead, even when parts are no longer available because the companies that made the equipment no longer exist. The districts have tradespeople who adapt available parts to fit discontinued equipment or make new parts to keep essential systems running, such as boilers.
“Our tradespeople are very talented,” Radyo said.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford has been warning the public to brace for tough choices in the provincial budget coming out next month.
·  Daniel Swaggard Chan · Top Commenter
Crumbling administrative and educational infrastructure is the direct result of Klein's decade of slash and burn budgets. His so called elimination of the Alberta debt was achieved by kicking the can down the road for necessary public expenditures so really all he did was defer the province's problems until he was retired. Albertans will be paying for his legacy for years to come.
Reply · 7 ·
Lorin Yochim · Top Commenter · Works at University of Alberta
More of the Klein Alberta Advantage.
Reply · 7 ·
Have you read Terry Fallis .... The High Road .... Talks about deficit reduction at the expense of infrastructures of .... The CPU try in that case .... Great fictional read that rings true
Reply · 1 ·
· Monday at 9:12pm
Dennis Loughlin · Top Commenter
Well Redford would rather give money to Katz for his arena!
Reply · 5 ·
Rob Bernshaw · Top Commenter
Also the CRL or Community Revitalization Levy takes much needed money from the education part of taxes and applies them to legacy projects such as the Katz\Mandel arena. NO wonder the school boards are having so much troubles and there is no money for schools it is all going towards private arena palaces off the backs of students and taxpayers. The priorities in this province are so misconstrued as to what is rally valuable to the future. Education is a major part of future growth but continually, education, and health care are put on the back burner and at what expense in the long run?
Reply · 2 ·
It's gross how neglected Public Schools are. Education is the future for our children and it's always the first on the funding chopping block. Education is everything - it's beated into your head from the time you are a child, but the schools these kids go to are falling apart around them. Shame on the government for taking ANOTHER raise - PUT THAT MONEY INTO THE SCHOOLS FIRST!
Reply · 1 ·
Remember Greisbach? Elementary school with an entire hallway no one could enter for years because of mold, like really?
Reply · 1 ·
· Tuesday at 9:30am