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B.C. child welfare official testifies at inquiry into teen's death in Calgary

Alexandru Radita is shown in a photo from his 15th birthday party, three months before his death, in this handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Government of Alberta) Alexandru Radita is shown in a photo from his 15th birthday party, three months before his death, in this handout photo. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Government of Alberta)
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A 15-year-old boy who died in Calgary weighing just 37 pounds was also near death in a British Columbia hospital about a decade earlier, a child welfare official from that province testified at the teen's fatality inquiry.

Alexandru Radita was brought to a hospital in 2003 by ambulance with a bloated stomach, rotten teeth and thinning hair, and he was extremely underweight, the deputy director of Child Welfare in B.C. testified Tuesday at the Calgary inquiry.

“It was about insulin and it was probably the most grave report that we had on this family in British Columbia,” James Wale said. “It was a very concerning report. Alex was near death.”

The teen died of bacterial sepsis in May 2013, which was brought on by complications from untreated diabetes and starvation.

His parents, Emil and Rodica Radita, were found guilty in 2017 of first-degree murder. Court heard they refused to accept the boy had diabetes when he was diagnosed in B.C. with the disease in 2000.

He was hospitalized twice due to malnutrition and taken into foster care before later being returned to his parents who moved to Alberta in 2008.

The inquiry was adjourned in September in an effort to bring in witnesses from British Columbia.

“I need to hear it from the ministry in terms of their responses, their actions and what they were seeing because that is the focal point of this inquiry … state action, not the murder trial,” Alberta Provincial Court Judge Sharon Van de Veen said in September.

“The purpose of this inquiry is to determine if we can prevent similar deaths and I'm looking at the involvement of state agencies who could have or did play a role in regard to the treatment of children generally.”

Wale said Tuesday that his office reviewed all dealings with the Radita family from 2000 to 2009.

Problems came to light in 2000 and 2001, but came to a head in October 2003 when Alex was brought to hospital, he said.

Wale said paramedics at the scene reported the severity of the neglect to the RCMP.

“Without intervention at this time, it is highly likely he would have died within hours,” he said.

Wale said Alex was removed from his home the next day. A year later, a B.C. judge ordered he be given back to his parents.

He said the case was considered closed in 2009, when the department learned the family had moved to Alberta, which meant the department didn't pass on its concerns.

“I will say here that B.C. should have called Alberta. I agree with that, given the facts of the situation,” Wale said.

“We recognize the tragedy of this.”

Van de Veen said if Alberta had been notified about the risk Alex was facing, the inquiry would not be necessary.

“They disappear off the radar and … the only people who had an idea where this boy could have been located was the B.C. ministry,” said Van de Veen, pausing to note how emotional the proceedings have been.

She said there needed to be some sort of alert system in place that should have included social agencies, health officials and even those involved in his home-schooling.

“This is not a question of uncertainty. I am certain if one person had laid eyes on Alex, just laid eyes on him, he'd be alive today,” Van de Veen said.

“They would not have left him there. He was 37 pounds at his death.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2023.

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