Photo: Wayne Moore
Robert Riley Saunders pleaded guilty to three counts, including breach of trust.
He will have to wait a bit longer to find out his fate, but a former Kelowna social worker finally issued an apology during his sentencing hearing.
Robert Riley Saunders pleaded guilty last year to three of the 13 charges he faced; fraud over $5,000, breach of trust in the context of his duties as a child protection tutor and use of a false document.
On the final day of his sentencing hearing, Saunders took to the podium facing Supreme Court Justice Steve Wilson and delivered his statement in court.
Saunders started by saying that there had been an idea throughout his trial that he had no remorse, but that is not true. He said he had been barred from speaking to those affected for the past four and a half years.
He expressed “sincere remorse” and said he was sorry for his employer, his colleagues and the young people and families affected.
Saunders said he wishes he could go back in time to be the voice of reason to advise his younger self.
“At no time would I hurt anyone emotionally. I’m so sorry,” he concluded.
Saunders, a former social worker with the Department of Children and Family Development, pleaded guilty in September last year to defrauding the department of more than $460,000, depriving vulnerable Aboriginal youth of whom he was responsible. charge.
He had been charged with multiple counts of fraud over $5,000, breach of trust and forgery of a college degree, which he used to get a job at MCFD in 1996.
The Crown is asking for a prison sentence of six to eight years, while defense attorney Brian Fitzpatrick argues his client is remorseful and suggests two years house arrest followed by three years probation.
A large group of Okanagan Nation Alliance members and others rallied outside the Kelowna courthouse last month, calling for tough penalties for Saunders and justice for the Indigenous children he suffered.
During his submissions, Crown Attorney Heather Magnin noted that Saunders was targeting particularly vulnerable Indigenous children who had been removed from their homes by the MCFD because he believed they would be less likely to speak up about their lack of support. .
Magnin said Saunders escalated his fraud for seven years, robbing more young and younger people. At the time he was arrested in 2018 he was stealing funds that were supposed to go to around half of the young people in his care.
The case is expected to be back in court on July 25, when Judge Wilson will hand down the sentence or set a sentencing date. What happens depends on the availability of Crown and defense attorneys who both have other trials scheduled, although the judge has said he wants to give his ruling as soon as possible.