Current Problems

Child Welfare (1-5)

‘He ruined so many lives’: Victim speaks out over release of social worker

October 20, 2023
Robert Riley Saunders

Robert Riley Saunders was a social worker with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. Facebook. 

APTN News: A victim of social worker Robert Riley Saunders is speaking out after the man who was sentenced to prison for stealing money from Indigenous youth was released on parole.

“The reality is that he ruined so many lives,” says Aden Withers. “There were kids who never got to see his day in court because they didn’t survive the homelessness and addictions. He directly fed into that by re-traumatizing traumatized youth.”

On July 25, 2022, Saunders was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud over $5,000. He was also convicted of breach of trust and using a forged degree to get a job as a social worker with the Ministry of Children and Families in B.C.

After serving 14 months, Saunders was given day parole for six months.

Saunders opened 24 bank accounts over a six-and-a-half-year period transferring $460,000 to himself. The money was supposed to go to youth in care for their rent, food and clothing.

Withers said she was given just $30 a week in cash to get by. She said surviving was a struggle. “I know that some youth had to resort to sex work to fill in the gaps of where the funding was lacking,” she said.

According to the Parole Board of Canada, Saunders will be under a number of release conditions. He must avoid contact with his victims, not enter into a position of responsibility, paid or unpaid, for the management of finances or investments for any other individual, charity, business or institution.

He must also reside at a halfway house.

“It’s enraging you know,” said Withers. “I have a friend and who was a victim of him as well and it’s sad to see … she doesn’t get to have her brother back her brother was the one who passed away and you know she will never get justice for that and that angers me. “I don’t feel like they are taking what he did seriously and he can never replace the lives that he ruined.”

Withers isn’t alone in her anger.

“We just find that scandalous we are angry by it,” says Hugh Braker is with the First Nations leadership Council which represents the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations and Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs.

“We have got a long history of the judicial system in Canada treating First Nations people wrongly and poorly they distrust this judicial system now the justice system they don’t trust it in some cases they are scared of it and in some cases, it just confuses them and this is a good example of again a move by the justice system that’s going to make First Nations people even more angry.”

Braker said the council plans to meet with Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc to review the decision.