Okanagan man suing province for alleged physical and sexual abuse while in foster care

March 31, 2021


Warning: Details in this story may be disturbing to some readers.

An Okanagan man has filed a lawsuit over alleged abuse while he was a child in the B.C. foster system in the 1980s.

In a civil claim filed March 29 at the Penticton courthouse, complainant D.P. alleged through his lawyer Michael Patterson that he was sexually, physically, verbally and emotionally abused by his foster parents while in the system.

The suit names the Ministry of Children and Family Development and the Director of Child Welfare as defendants, seeking damages in unspecified amounts for D.P.’s “life-long psychological and emotional trauma,” which resulted in loss of earnings and future earnings.

D.P. alleges that when he came into the custody of the provincial ministry at age 7, he was assigned to a foster home in Surrey, B.C., where he lived until he was 11, from 1981 to 1984.

During that time, he claims his foster parents subjected him to verbal and emotional abuse, which escalated soon to physical abuse. D.P. says he was made to sleep in the bathtub or with the family’s dog, was deprived of food while forcing him to fight his foster siblings for meals, with the loser having to eat dog food or go hungry.

D.P. also recalls being chased up the stairs by his foster father, who then slammed his head into a wall.

The abuse allegedly became sexual, when the foster father would assault the young boy orally and anally almost weekly while threatening to kill him if he told, leaving the boy “terrified.” D.P. also reports that his foster brother was assaulted as well, a boy who he learned later in life had hung himself.

The lawsuit alleges that the provincial Ministry responsible for D.P. “had an obligation to make [D.P.] aware of his rights as a foster child,” adding that Ministry delegates “failed to interview and document any concerns that [D.P.] had regarding his placement [in that foster home].”

D.P. was eventually adopted by an Okanagan family and still lives in the area. He is seeking damages due to what he describes in the claim as the Ministry acting “negligently by failing to take appropriate steps to prevent the assaults and abuses” he endured.

He describes pent-up anger and emotional stress in the years following his time with the foster family, losing all of his hair due to that stress in 1987 and being diagnosed with alopecia.

D.P.’s lawyer Michael Patterson provided brief comment Tuesday, saying his client has nothing to add to what is alleged in the claim and that the Ministry has not yet filed a response to the suit.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Children and Family Development was not immediately available for comment.