Advocates for Indigenous kids gathered on the Kelowna, B.C., courthouse steps on Thursday, begging for justice for the victims of a former Kelowna social employee.
Inside, courtroom heard how the actions of Robert Riley Saunders without end modified the futures of the kids that he was alleged to look after.
Saunders embezzled greater than $460,000 from the federal government and foster kids, who have been largely Indigenous.
By means of sufferer influence statements, courtroom heard heartbreaking tales of the empty guarantees Saunders made to youth in his care.
Some former youth in care stated Saunders began out by treating them with kindness and compassion however that it quickly turned to neglect and bullying.
Court docket heard that as Saunders himself lived a lavish way of life, he robbed his victims of their youth.
The teenagers didn’t know that Saunders was opening joint financial institution accounts after which cashing cheques of their identify, stealing cash that was meant to assist them dwell a greater life.
Victims stated they are going to at all times marvel what their lives may need been like had they been given the assist they wanted and deserved.
“I used to be bullied by my very own social employee,” one sufferer instructed courtroom by means of a written assertion.
Additionally they stated the belief that they had within the system that was supposed to guard them has been destroyed.
In the meantime, social employees who took on the teenagers’ circumstances after Saunders’ fraud was found instructed courtroom of their struggles in serving to the youth, whom they name fantastic, stunning souls, as they tried to proper Saunders’ wrongs.
Additionally they talked of how Saunders’ crimes have negatively impacted the social employee career locally as belief has been misplaced.
“We now get painted with the identical brush as him,” a social employee instructed the decide, including that it has impacted relationships with their shoppers.
As folks wiped away tears within the gallery, Saunders at instances appeared to nod off within the prisoner’s field.
Jennifer Lewis, wellness supervisor for the Okanagan Nation Alliance, stated she used to work with Saunders.
“I’m intensely offended about it,” she stated. “I keep in mind working with Saunders years in the past whereas he was doing all of this, and listening to a few of the sufferer influence statements and his personal reactions to these is absolutely deeply disturbing.”
“His conceitedness and his aggression again when these crimes have been being dedicated have been very actual and felt by all people,” she added.
She stated she believes his perspective was left unchecked, which enabled him to get away with the fraud.
“It’s the identical factor in all places with Indigenous folks. They simply dismiss all of our issues on a regular basis after which critical hurt occurs.”
“I need folks to know that this isn’t an remoted incident. It’s a systemic incident. It’s based mostly off of supremacy and racism, and it was allowed,” Lewis stated.
Saunders beforehand pleaded responsible to fraud over $5,000, breach of belief and utilizing a cast doc.
Throughout a earlier listening to, Saunders took the stand, arguing he stole from the federal government, not youth in care as the teenagers wouldn’t have been entitled to the funds meant for hire as a result of they have been largely in foster properties.
Crown prosecutor Heather Magnin is asking for Saunders to spend six to eight years in jail. She argued that Saunders’ fraud scaled up over time, and famous that at one level he was bringing in triple his ministry wage.
“The fact that Mr. Saunders selected to focus on Indigenous kids in care can’t be divorced from Mr. Saunders crime,” Magnin stated. “It is a vital issue demonstrating the general seriousness of those occasions.”
Saunders was opportunistic in extracting the utmost funds in every youth’s identify, the Crown argued.
The defence is predicted to make its arguments on Friday.
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