Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)

Court approves money for B.C. foster children alleging harm from Kelowna social worker

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000

A settlement has been approved by the courts in a class-action lawsuit brought by the alleged victims of a former Okanagan-area social worker.

The B.C. government offered the proposed settlement last July for more than 100 foster children who were alleged victims of Robert Riley Saunders.

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Alan Ross approved the settlement last week and lawyer Jason Gratl, who represented the foster children in the class action, released the decision on his website.

Numerous lawsuits were filed leading up to the settlement, alleging Saunders had moved them from stable homes in order to make them eligible for financial benefits from the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

The statements of claim alleged Saunders stole the funds deposited into their accounts, leaving the foster children homeless, subject to physical and sexual abuse and vulnerable to addiction.

The notice of settlement says each member will get a basic $25,000 payment and those who are Indigenous will get an additional $44,000.

Further damages could be paid to those who experienced homelessness, psychological harm, sexual exploitation, injury, or whose education was delayed, the settlement says.

The maximum combined total award for basic payments and elevated damages for an individual is $250,000, the agreement says.

Victims have until Oct. 23, 2022, to apply for compensation.

ALSO READ: Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Both Saunders and the Ministry of Children and Family Development were named as defendants in the lawsuits.

“The province admits that Saunders harmed children in the director’s care for whom he had responsibility in his capacity as a social worker and that the province is vicariously liable for the harm caused by Saunders,” the settlement agreement filed in July says.

“This harm includes neglect, misappropriation of funds and failure to plan for the children’s welfare and, with respect to Indigenous children, failure to take steps to preserve their cultural identities,”

Saunders has never filed a response to the lawsuit, nor could he be reached for comment.

He worked as a social worker in Kelowna from 2001 until he was fired in 2018.

The B.C. Prosecution Service says in an email statement that a report to Crown counsel was received earlier this year on possible criminal charges.

The statement says it doesn’t have a timeline for completion of the charge assessment.

READ MORE: Journalists launch ‘Spotlight: Child Welfare’ series into B.C.’s foster system

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Court

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

Just Posted

The City of Cranbrook is warning the public that the lake at Idlewild Park is not currently safe to skate on after someone cleared the ice over the weekend. (Submitted file)
Idlewild Lake still not safe for skating: City of Cranbrook

Ice on area waterbodies is currently quite thin, and not yet ready for recreation

Item no 22, De-Kieviet Kindergarten class - Highlands, Starting Bid: $20
Christmas Village 2020 school auction items

The annual Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are the auction items from local schools

A man wearing a face mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Vancouver on Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
212 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health over the weekend

A total of 490 cases remain active; 15 in hospital

Incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka is contesting Kootenay East for the BC Liberals. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Shypitka named opposition critic for Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation

The Kootenay East MLA has held the energy and mines portfolio since 2017

File Photo
Missing hunter found dead in South Country

A hunter was reported as overdue on Nov. 29, and was found deceased on Nov. 30 following an RCMP and SAR operation

The bids for the 2020 Christmas Village are open as of noon on Thursday, November 26. Please scroll through this album to see auction items available for bidding.
Christmas Village 2020 auction items

The Christmas Village has gone virtual, here are all the details

Glacier Gymnastics head coach Sandra Long says she doesn’t understand why her sport is currently shut down while others are allowed to operate. Photo: Tyler Harper
‘It is bewildering’: Nelson sports leaders call out provincial shut down

Indoor group classes for activities such as gymnastics and dance are on hold

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Most Read