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Syl Apps Secure Treatment Centre v BD, 2007 SCC 38, [2007] 3 SCR 83


R.D., at 14 years of age, wrote a story at school about being abused by her parents. Crown intervened and put R.D. in a treatment centre. R.D. attempted to committ suicide and had psychiatry problems; then R.D. became ward of the state. R.D.’s family sued the treatment centre and B for negligence to the family, since R.D. did not reintegrate into the family.


Does a treatment centre and its employee into whose care a child has been placed, owe a (until now unrecognized) legal duty of care to the family of a child they have been ordered to protect?


A treatment centre and its workers do not have a legal duty of care towards the families or associates of their patients.

Government actors only have a duty of care insofar as the statute under which they work specifies such a duty of care.


** Statutory duty for the government actors is towards the child’s interests. A doctor does not owe a duty of care to the parent of his or her patient because that would create a situation of conflicting duties of care.
** Court did not order reintegration

Applying the Test:
** First stage: Was it foreseeable that the actions of the treatment centre and B would harm the family? Hard to say since treatment is unpredictable; but even if yes,
*** Was there adequate proximity between the treatment centre/B and the family? No, the Child and Family Services act indicates a responsibility to the child. “Imposing a duty of care on the relationship between the family of a child in care and that child’s court-ordered service providers creates a genuine potential for “serious and significant” conflict with the service providers’ transcendent statutory duty to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of the children in their care.”

** Second stage: To impose a duty of care on the treatment centre and B towards the family would create a potential conflict with their statutory duties.


Appeal allowed. Action dismissed with costs.

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