Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

A former Kelowna social worker facing several criminal charges for stealing from foster children is facing another class-action lawsuit.

The claim, filed in B.C. Supreme Court last week, alleges Robert Riley Saunders failed to inform Zackary Alphonse, an Indigenous person who was placed in provincial custody as a child, of resources available to him upon his leaving the system. As a result, Alphonse says Saunders and the Ministry of Children and Family Development, as well as another unnamed social worker, are responsible for Alphonse’s depression and eventual one-month of homelessness after leaving care.

Alphonse claims he was not notified of the Young Adults Program, meant to ease the transition from the care system to adult life, until almost a decade after ageing out of care. The ministry sent him a letter in June 2020 stating he may qualify for certain services, but after a phone call with a ministry representative, he was told he was too old.

When he left the system at 19-years-old, Alphonse “had only completed to Grade 9 of his secondary schooling, and without financial support, he could not afford to work on his graduate equivalency degree,” reads the civil claim. “For a period of approximately one year, (Alphonse) could see no future for himself, felt hopeless and became depressed and unable to advance his interests.”

READ MORE: Former Kelowna social worker arrested for allegedly stealing from foster children

READ MORE: Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Alphonse managed to stabilize his working life over the next eight years, eventually returning to school for an online high school equivalency and a computer repair certification. Now at age 29, he has nearly completed his GED, but the suit claims he would’ve been able to begin his adult education much sooner if he had been informed of the program.

The claim also states the ministry’s failure to inform Alphonse of the program “has a discriminatory effect on Indigenous persons who have aged out of care, which manifests in lower rates of program uptake for Indigenous persons and lower levels of educational attainment for Indigenous persons.”

Alphonse is seeking reparations for several damages including the future cost of his education.

None of the claims made in the suit have been tested in court.

If approved by the courts as a class-action lawsuit, all who were in the ministry’s care and not informed of the program could be eligible for compensation.

Saunders is currently out on bail while facing 13 criminal charges alleging he defrauded and stole from children in his care; however, a previously settled class-action lawsuit — which also named him and the ministry — awarded funds to more than 100 people who were in Saunders’ care, many of whom were Indigenous. Up to $15 million could be handed out as part of that settlement.

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Foster care

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

Just Posted

A dose of COVID-19 vaccine is prepared at a vaccination clinic in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
39 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health region

The total number of cases in the region since the pandemic began is now at 7,334

A rainbow shining on Kelowna General Hospital on May 12, 2020 International Nurses Day. (Steve Wensley - Prime Light Media)
New COVID cases trending down in Interior Health

24 new cases reported Thursday, Feb. 25, death at Kelowna General Hospital

From left: Councillor Lucy Taylor, Councillor Barry Banford, Councillor Bill Haring, Mayor Merlin Blackwell, Councillor Lynne Frizzle, Councillor Lyle Mckenzie and Councillor Shelley Sim. (District of Clearwater photo)
Council to consider raising taxes in 2021

The District of Clearwater council is considering a tax increase this year… Continue reading

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson)
30 new COVID-19 cases, five more deaths in Interior Health

This brings the total number of cases to 7,271 since testing began

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

An investigation is underway after a man was shot and killed by Tofino RCMP in Opitsaht. (Black Press Media file photo)
Man shot and killed by RCMP near Tofino, police watchdog investigating

Investigation underway by Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia.

B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver on Tuesday December 11, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s compromise on in-person worship at three churches called ‘absolutely unacceptable’

Would allow outdoor services of 25 or less by Langley, Abbotsford and Chilliwack churches

Baldy Mountain Resort was shut down on Saturday after a fatal workplace accident. (Baldy Mountain picture)
Jasmine and Gwen Donaldson are part of the CAT team working to reduce stigma for marginalized groups in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham, Campbell River Mirror
Jasmine’s story: Stigma can be the hardest hurdle for those overcoming addiction

Recovering B.C. addict says welcome, connection and community key for rebuilding after drug habit

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Most Read