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Coroners’ inquest called into death of First Nations teen in Abbotsford group home

Traevon Desjarlais-Chalifoux’s suicide was not discovered for 4 days in September 2020
Traevon Desjarlais-Chalifoux , 17, was found dead in a closet of an Abbotsford group home in September 2020 after being reported missing four days earlier.

The BC Coroners Service has scheduled a public inquest into the death of Traevon Desjarlais-Chalifoux, 17, who was found in a closet of an Abbotsford group home in September 2020.

The inquest is scheduled to begin Nov. 28 at 9:30 a.m. at the Burnaby Coroners’ Court.

Desjarlais-Chalifoux, who was Indigenous, was first reported missing Sept. 14, 2020 by staff at his group home. A missing-person report was filed, but body was not found in his bedroom closet until Sept. 18.

Abbotsford Police and the coroner deemed the death a suicide and determined there were no grounds for further investigation or an autopsy. But the coroner later agreed to an autopsy.

RELATED: Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

The teen’s death resulted in a public outcry from his family and Indigenous organizations, calling for an independent public inquiry for answers to questions such as why it took four days to find Desjarlais-Chalifoux.

B.C.’s chief coroner may direct a coroner to hold an inquest if the chief coroner has reason to believe that the public has an interest in being informed of the circumstances surrounding a death.

A coroner’s inquest is a public inquiry that serves three primary functions:

• to determine the facts related to a death, including the identity of the deceased and how, when, where and by what means the individual came to their death, as well as a classification for the death.

• to make recommendations, where appropriate and supported by evidence, to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

• to ensure public confidence that the circumstances surrounding the death of an individual will not be overlooked, concealed or ignored.

RELATED: Family of Indigenous teen who was found dead in Abbotsford group home pushes for public inquiry

Margaret Janzen, presiding coroner, and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses under oath to determine the facts surrounding this death.

The jury will have the opportunity to make recommendations aimed at preventing deaths under similar circumstances. A jury must not make any finding of legal responsibility or express any conclusion of law.

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Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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