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The former government-run group home where Traevon Chalifoux-Desjarlais died is seen in Abbotsford, B.C., on Nov. 18, 2020.Rafal Gerszak/The Globe and Mail

British Columbia’s Coroners Service will hold a public inquest into the death of Traevon Desjarlais-Chalifoux, a Cree 17-year-old who died by suicide in an Abbotsford group home in September, 2020.

The inquest, announced on Friday by provincial Public Safety Minister and Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth, is scheduled to begin on Nov. 28, 2022, in Burnaby. Members of the public will be allowed to attend.

Public inquests are held when the Chief Coroner believes that “the public has an interest in being informed of the circumstances surrounding a death,” according to a news release that accompanied the announcement.

In a recent investigation into the circumstances surrounding Traevon’s death, The Globe and Mail found that care workers charged with looking after him were alleged to have been verbally abusive and neglectful. The workers sometimes withheld food as punishment, and locked the teen outside – sometimes for hours. He was left alone in his tiny basement bedroom for days at a time in the early weeks of the pandemic.

After he died in that bedroom, it took four days for his body to be found.

For two years, Traevon’s mother, Samantha Chalifoux, has been calling for an inquest into her son’s death. Ms. Chalifoux’s lawyer, Sarah Rauch, said on Friday that her client is “relieved” that “someone is going to be asking questions.” But, Ms. Rauch added, “everything has taken a long time. And that’s very difficult.”

Ms. Chalifoux hasn’t received answers to basic questions about her son’s death from either the Ministry of Child and Family Development or Xyolhemeylh, the Indigenous child welfare agency charged with Traevon’s care. She doesn’t know when Traevon was last seen alive, who last saw him, whether care workers searched for him or whether anyone was in the home with him when he died.

B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said she, too, is relieved the coroner has chosen to step in. But she added that an inquest will not address a more fundamental problem in this case: “This multibillion-dollar ministry does not have its affairs in order,” she said.

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