The Chilliwack mother of a 15-year-old boy who died in government care confronted the two local BC Liberal incumbents at an all-candidates meeting Tuesday morning focused on addictions, mental health and housing.
Linda TenPas is Nick Lang’s mother, and she sat in the front row at the meeting ready with her questions for John Martin and Laurie Throness. She asked why the former didn’t reach out to her family after her son’s death, and why the latter refused to meet with her ex-husband, Nick’s father.
Nick Lang was addicted to methamphetamine and Linda said she and her husband Peter Lang could find no help for him in or near Chilliwack.
Linda said she had to “criminalize” her 15-year-old to get him into a treatment program paid for by the ministry. Less than a week into his stay with a family on Vancouver Island — who was apparently not made aware of his need for constant supervision — the teenager was dead. That was June 9, 2015.
Linda and Peter blame the Ministry of Children and Family Development under the BC Liberal government watch, and their case is proving a partisan divider in the local election.
Chilliwack-Kent NDP candidate Patti MacAhonic mentioned the case of Nick Lang at two previous all-candidates meetings.
On April 25, Chilliwack Healthier Community (CHC) hosted a candidates meeting addressing “health and social issues through the mental health and addictions lens.”
In attendance were, for the Chilliwack riding, John Martin (BC Liberal), Wayne Froese (Green Party) and Ryan McKinnon (Independent). NDP candidate Tracey O’Hara was unable to attend because of her job, which, ironically, was staffing the front desk at the Neighbourhood Learning Centre where the meeting was held.
For Chilliwack-Kent, it was Laurie Throness (BC Liberal) and Patti MacAhonic (NDP). The Green’s Josie Bleuer is on a firefighter training course.
At the end of the meeting and after much discussion about mental health, addiction, prevention, affordable housing, safe consumption sites and marijuana legalization, the floor opened up for a handful of questions.
Ending it was Linda TenPas and her prepared statement and question for Martin and Throness.
“The Clark government has consistently said the economy needs to be here, the economy needs to be here, before we can provide additional services,” she said. “I’m wondering as to what the value dollar of my child is? How great a B.C. economy has to be? … What was the cost of my son’s life?”
She asked Martin why he hadn’t reached out to her family in his role on the Select Standing Committee on Health, and she asked Throness why he had not met with her husband, Peter, after repeated requests to do so.
Martin said he could not talk about specific cases, but added that he has spoken with many other families in his office facing tragedy and desperate circumstances.
Throness denied any request to meet him ever took place.
“I’ve never met you before and I don’t remember you ever coming to my office,” he said.
When told it was Nick’s father Peter who had contacted his office, Throness responded first that he had no recollection, and then said: “I don’t remember that, and I don’t agree with that.”
Notwithstanding this awkward moment, Linda’s request of Throness parallels what the Chilliwack-Kent incumbent has said is his position all along, namely, that more long-term treatment is needed to free people from drug addiction.
“I have advocated for the past for years for more of it and I will continue to do that on your behalf and on the behalf of so many others,” he said.
For her part, MacAhonic said the case was emblematic of what has happened under the BC Liberal tenure.
“This is the face of what happens, when we are chronically underfunded for 16 years,” MacAhonic said.