On the campaign trail in the Surrey South riding, a BC Liberal candidate found herself dealing with tough questions on a routine campaign stop.
Stephanie Cadieux was ambushed in a coffee shop by the former foster father of a teenager who took his own life while in government care.
Allen Hoolaeff was 18-year-old Alex Gervais’ primary caregiver for seven years before the young man took his life, jumping through a fourth-floor window at an Abbotsford hotel while in government care.
Hoolaeff says it’s the first time he’s met in person with Cadieux, who was the minister responsible at the time.
He says their face-to-face meeting, which lasted nearly 40 minutes, was a positive experience overall.
“During our meeting, I spoke up for foster parents not being supported and not getting the services they need. I spoke up for foster kids not having proper services available and being treated basically like welfare recipients.”
He says the experience was cathartic.
“I was satisfied that I was finally able to look her in the eye and state my opinion.”
However, Hoolaeff says ultimately he was looking for an apology, which he did not receive.
“[It was] just an opportunity to vent… I’m not sure I was really listened to.”
LISTEN: Former BC children’s watchdog spoke to Simi Sara about Gervais’ death in 2015
Meanwhile, Cadieux feels that she handled the encounter tactfully.
“He didn’t ask me for an apology,” Cadieux says. “What he asked for was to talk to me about what the death had meant to him and how it had hurt him.”
She calls her meeting with Hoolaeff “productive.”
“The ministry and the work the ministry does with vulnerable people in our province is challenging, and all ideas for how we can make the system better are worth hearing… I was very happy to listen to his suggestions for ways we could do things differently and improve.”
The teen’s untimely death kicked off a series of conversations around the quality of life for youth in ministry care.
In February, the province’s acting children’s watchdog released a report on Gervais’ death, which described the teen’s life as one “none of us would wish on our own children, or any child.”
Over the course of his life, Gervais lived in 17 different locations, with 23 different caregivers.