A Little Grand Rapids man charged in the death of a three-year-old disabled boy — who had been placed in his care — has a long criminal history, including multiple convictions for assault.
RCMP arrested Houston Bushie, 24, as well as his partner, Alayna Flett, 21, on March 10. Both have been charged with failure to provide the child with the necessaries of life.
The charges come more than two years after the boy was taken unresponsive to a nursing station in the remote, fly-in community, located 280 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg. The boy was pronounced dead Aug. 23, 2018 and the RCMP major crimes unit launched an investigation.
At the time of the child's death, Bushie and Flett were the temporary guardians of the boy and his three older siblings, all of whom were under the age of 10. Bushie would have been roughly 21, while Flett would have been a teenager.
Details of the case – including the cause and manner of death – remain a mystery.
The Manitoba government and the Southeast Child and Family Services agency did not respond to requests for comment Monday. The Mounties issued a short press release on the arrests but declined further comment.
Flett and Bushie have been released from custody on a promise to appear in court April 21.
A review of court records shows Bushie has a long criminal history, with four convictions for assault in the three years leading up to the child’s death, as well as a conviction for possessing a weapon contrary to a court order in April 2017.
It remains unclear how the deceased toddler and his siblings ended up in the care of the young couple.
The other children were removed from the home shortly after the boy’s death.
At the time of the child's death, then-families minister Heather Stefanson said the boy had not been in provincial CFS care. She also asked for patience as the department worked to untangle the "complex case."
But Little Grand Rapids leadership disputed Stefanson’s statement and other provincial officials. Local First Nations leadership said CFS had previously apprehended the children and was involved in the file.
To back up those claims, they released a letter on Southeast CFS letterhead dated July 3, 2018, which the agency sent to the community’s welfare office. The letter identified Flett – who was the niece of the kids’ mother – as their primary caregiver and authorized their welfare cheques to be released to her.
The provincial government later said in a written statement that CFS can sign financial letters like the one outlined above, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the agency is involved in the case.
In a past interview with the Free Press, Little Grand Rapids Couns. Wendy Leveque and Nelson Keeper both disputed the provincial government’s contention that CFS was not involved.
"CFS is saying they’re not involved, but they apprehended the kids twice and they put them in (Flett’s) care," Leveque said in 2018.
The local First Nations leadership also revealed the boy needed constant care due to a congenital handicap that left him unable to walk and prone to seizures.
A review of social media posts by the two accused show that in the summer of 2018, on at least one occasion, Flett complained about having a lack of food to feed herself, Bushie and the children.
In a court document, the RCMP listed the offence date for failing to provide the necessaries of life as being from June 22, 2018 to Aug. 23, 2018.
Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.