Many in Prince George and across northern B.C. marked the province's first Family Day statutory holiday with fun family activities like skiing, snow shoeing, family dinners, board game nights, etc.
Family is the safe base camp from which we venture out to explore our world from -or it should be.
Unfortunately for many children, their families are a no man's land filled with dangers: violence, abuse, neglect, poverty, addictions, disabilities and mental illness.
That certainly appears how life started for the unnamed 11-year-old boy who was Tasered by RCMP officers on April 7, 2011 in the Tabor Lake area.
On Friday, B.C. Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released her report on the incident and the circumstances which led up to it.
"The sad reality of this report is that the Tasering by the police of this boy at 11 years old is probably one of the least traumatic things that happened to him... Turpel-Lafond said on Friday.
Reading Turpel-Lafond's 84-page report is at turns depressing, infuriating, saddening, gut-wrenching and emotionally exhausting. It's particularly difficult because the point where the boy's life should have seen a dramatic improvement -when the Ministry of Children and Family Development intervened and removed him from his parent's neglectful, abusive care - became another chapter in the ongoing tragedy.
The boy was bounced through a series of six foster homes, seven group homes, twice was at the Child Psychiatric Inpatient Unit at B.C. Children's Hospital, was returned to his mother for several months in 2006-07, before being sent to a specialized residential care program in August, 2012 -over a year after the Tasering incident.
He suffered further abuse at one foster home and later, in group home settings, he was frequently heavily medicated and confined to "safe rooms" -empty, locked rooms only one step away from the padded cells once used in mental health institutions.
Between June 2007 and April 2011, the police were called 17 times to assist care givers deal with his violent and/or inappropriate behaviour.
In her findings, Turpel-Lafond said that despite the efforts of social workers, foster parents, group home workers and even RCMP who cared about the boy -sometimes going outside ministry standards to try to provide appropriate care -the system failed him.
Many of the people left to care for the boy lacked the training and resources to properly manage his highly-challenging behaviour, she reported.
While Alberta -with a population of 3.8 million people - has five facilities to provide care to children with highly-specialized needs and challenging behaviour, B.C. - with a population of 4.6 million people -has none.
On Friday B.C. Children's Minister Stephanie Cadieux said the government is already acting on the report's first recommendation to create such a facility in B.C.
The proposed six-bed facility will be at Maples Adolescent Treatment Centre in Burnaby.
While one small facility is certainly an improvement over none, it is not a coincidence that the boy whose suffering prompted the report came from a small town in Northern B.C.
According to Ministry of Children and Family Development statistics aboriginal children account for 28 per cent of child protection reports and 53 per cent of children in care, while only eight per cent of the children in B.C. are aboriginal.
The North, with its larger aboriginal population, clearly has need for a specialized care facility. Such a facility would help meet the local needs of some of the most vulnerable children in the province, as well as allow those children to be closer to their families and communities.
"Although the child, with his complex needs and history of trauma, is exceptional, he is by no means unique," Turpel-Lafond wrote in her report. "The representative is aware that there are many other children in this province requiring similarly intensive support."
Nowhere in B.C. is that more true than here in the North.
-- Associate news editor Arthur Williams