Samantha Chalifoux: Mother of Indigenous teen who died in B.C. group home speaks out for first time

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Samantha Chalifoux: Mother of Indigenous teen who died in B.C. group home speaks out for first time
Samantha Chalifoux: Mother of Indigenous teen who died in B.C. group home speaks out for first time

Samantha Chalifoux carries a bouquet of fresh flowers and lays them on a memorial in front of the group home where her son Traevon Chalifoux-Desjarlais died.

“I’m not dealing with it well at all,” she says.

Her 17-year-old Cree son died in a government-run Abbotsford, B.C., group home on Sept. 14, but his body was not found until four days later.

She said she visits the memorial often, to feel closer to him.

Chalifoux says her son was a caring and outgoing high school student who really wanted to get a job.

“He used to always tell me, ‘I’m going to find a really good job that pays a lot of money and I’m going to give you a lot of money,’ and I used to tell him that you don’t have to give me any money because you’re my son,” Chalifoux said through tears.

She says she’d text him every day and when she didn’t hear from him for a couple of days she started to panic, calling his dad, friends and cousins.

The home, which is run by a B.C. government Aboriginal agency called Xyolhemeylh, or the Fraser Valley Aboriginal Children and Family Services Society, filed a missing person’s report on Sept. 14.

Chalifoux said she called the Abbotsford police several times, asking if they could “ping” her son’s phone — or send a signal and use the responding data to determine the phone’s location.

The Abbotsford police corroborated this, saying “a phone number that was provided to the Abbotsford police was pinged; however, the ping was unsuccessful as it was a ‘third party calling service.'”

Four days after the missing person’s report was filed, police searched the bedroom of the group home and Chalifoux-Desjarlais’s body was found in his closet.

‘I trusted them’

Because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, police say they are unable to provide specific details surrounding the teen’s cause of death.

Chalifoux said there were red flags while her son was in the group home. She says he often texted saying he was hungry and was not being allowed food from the group home staff, and he also complained he was not allowed fresh bedding.

“They’re supposed to be there to help support him, to help him feel comfortable, to help [him] feel welcomed but they failed him,” she said standing beside the group home.

“I trusted them with my son, and now I don’t even have my son with me,” she said.

The Abbotsford Police Department’s Major Crime Unit concluded no criminality was suspected.

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