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Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost and NDP Leader Liz Hanson

Parties quiz YG about group home report

In the wake of a report confirming a wrongdoing at a Yukon group home in 2016, the territorial government was on the defensive in the legislature late last week.

By Palak Mangat on April 23, 2019

In the wake of a report confirming a wrongdoing at a Yukon group home in 2016, the territorial government was on the defensive in the legislature late last week.

That’s after questions from both the Yukon Party and Yukon NDP, who quizzed Health and Social Services (HSS) Minister Pauline Frost in the House last Thursday.

Frost and the department had publicly apologized last September for causing “unnecessary stress” and for an “institution in crisis” that led to the allegations of mistreatment from both workers and youth living in group homes.

Diane McLeod-McKay is the Yukon’s Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner (PIDC). She released her special investigation report into the allegations last week.

It saw wide-ranging suggestions that detailed both actions the department should take with respect to the allegations as well as her own powers and process carrying out the investigation.

One of those suggested that YG do a review of the act to clarify the commissioner’s role as “there is a significant difference of opinion between my office and the Yukon government as to the powers of the PIDC to obtain records and interview witnesses.”

NDP Leader Liz Hanson echoed this point last Thursday, referencing McLeod-McKay’s point that YG lawyers were in the room when she spoke to some workers.

“I can’t imagine staff feeling at all comfortable reporting their concerns with government lawyers sitting there,” Hanson said, pressing the government to do a review of PIDWA.

Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee responded that YG “will fully consider all of the recommendations and suggestions that she (McLeod-McKay) made in that report to develop a plan and a timeline for areas of improvement.”

Speaking specifically to the idea of legal counsel being involved, McPhee added, “We will review her comments and her recommendations and make a determination going forward as to whether there is the need for any clarification.”

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters shortly after question period last week, Frost referenced her earlier statement that YG “accepted the recommendations presented in the report.

“We want to ensure that every child that comes into care, whether it be through our education streams or through the Child and Family Services stream, is provided the best possible care,” Frost said.

“Was it perfect? It’s never perfect – the most perfect and ideal circumstance is to have the child with their families and their communities.”

The minister pointed out that in efforts to get at this, the department matched the financial supports and services that extended family caregivers can get with the same level of support for foster caregivers, as of November 2018.

Supports for family caregivers include clothing and special needs rate allowance, respite, alternate childcare services, some transportation and school supplies, among others.

Those agreements let kids who need care from outside the home stay with members of their extended family rather than be placed in other types of care, including residential or foster.

A late-2017 release shows caregivers could receive from $1,073 to $1,945 per child every month, whereas before this increase, those rates sat at a base monthly payment of $688 to $838 per child.

Changes like those are having a positive impact, Frost said, adding that there were 158 children in government care in 2016 and 92 as of the past February.

Back in the legislature, the Yukon Party also had some choice words for the government.

Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod reminded it how it handled the allegations when they first came to light, thanks to a CBC North investigation last spring.

McLeod pointed to the 60-day timeframe YG has to lay out what steps it will take or look to take to meet the recommendations put forth.

She added “that doesn’t mean that it has to wait until the last minute to notify the commissioner.”

Frost responded by laying out the progress so far: YG received the PIDWA commissioner's report after an independent advisor did one that prompted the public apology last year.

That was Pamela Costanzo, a B.C.-based labour and employment lawyer, who also made a number of recommendations.

YG is now waiting for the review of the Child and Family Service Act to wrap up, Frost added.

The panel for that was announced last May – when YG said the report from the panel was expected for fall 2018.

An HSS spokesperson confirmed Tuesday the independent panel had received an extension to deliver the report for the end of May 2019 instead, and the goal is to table it in the legislature during the fall of 2019.

Meanwhile, the treatment of those in care is not the only thing that fell short of perfect, the commissioner found; McLeod-McKay also pointed to some struggles she faced while doing her work, coming complete with “numerous legal challenges” from YG lawyers.

That was when she requested records and employee witness interviews, during which the department at times outright refused access to some records and insisted on having a lawyer present during some interviews.

For her part, Frost said the question of appropriateness of lawyers being in the room is one better suited for the legal and justice field.

“I can say that HSS fully co-operated and provided all the information that the PIDWA commissioner required during her comprehensive review of the wrongdoing,” she said.

The government will now have 60 days to respond to McLeod-McKay’s report, which makes other suggestions not strictly around the allegations themselves.

“Those are things we will take under advisement as we evolve as a government,” Frost added.

Comments (14)

Up 0 Down 0

FOB on Apr 29, 2019 at 3:17 pm

@ Groucho d'North
This gongshow did not start with the current government, it has been going on for decades. Including under your beloved YP governments.

Up 1 Down 0

Wes on Apr 28, 2019 at 6:11 am

I do love reading the comments from Wade, Rick and Stephen....
Old Prospectors, NO!

Up 19 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Apr 26, 2019 at 11:23 am

Judging by the similarities between our local herd of Liberals and those in Ottawa and how they deal with controversial issues they are responsible for; it appears to me that there is a guide book they all follow on how to speak publically about these issues. Deny, Deny, Deny is step one, then foist blame on another individual who may be associated in some way. Then make a big production about pretending to go seeking the truth behind the issue all the while creating a new narrative that absolves them of any wrong-doing. If they lied about it once, what’s to say they are not STILL lying in a more coordinated fashion?

Up 11 Down 0

Dan Souza on Apr 26, 2019 at 8:30 am

North60 this is an important point you make about how people can be complicit in wrongdoing by becoming the oppressor themselves. None of us are immune to this if we do not stand firm in our commitment to our personal integrity and ethics. It's simple like they taught us in kindergarten tell the truth, stick up for others, do not put up with bullies, share and stick together. Really simple but seems difficult for those who focus too much on ego because they are easily led astray.

Up 18 Down 0

Katch Childs on Apr 25, 2019 at 6:05 am

On March 22 2018 CBC Nancy Thompson reported that a youth who was kicked out of a group home at -25. "The youth later approached Yukon's child and youth advocate, and also spoke with the director of child protection services, and the social services minister, whom he says he had lunch with last month." Thompson reported.
So I am left to wonder about what happened with this information since we are over a year later and YG has failed to take appropriate action choosing instead to make excuses calling it "myths and inaccuracies", bullying staff into unethical decisions, firing staff who spoke out and battling its own internal investigator. What did the director do with this knowledge she received from this youth? The Director needs to speak publicly on this as it appears she is ultimately responsible for this failure.

Up 14 Down 0

Benjamin on Apr 24, 2019 at 5:40 pm

Well said Mia Silverstein.... well said. The report clearly states that harm was found in three of the 6 allegations. Only one to the threshold of danger to life, health and safety. I would also say that the fact that this report had to be commissioned speaks for itself.

Up 5 Down 15

Just Sayin' on Apr 24, 2019 at 1:54 pm

When they advertise and hold accountable the people who provided the genetic material to make up these children and how they have failed, then I will look and demand YG hold themselves accountable too.

Up 29 Down 1

Mia Silverstein on Apr 24, 2019 at 12:07 pm

The Yukon government and specifically the Director has failed massively in its duty to care for children in its care. The report details some actual criminal code behavior as I read it. Other actions do not meet that bar but do in fact meet the bar of a failure in child and family services to meet its most basic standards set out by themselves and the standards of child protection across Canada.
What else is important is the piece about community standards. I am fairly certain most of us would not want our own children treated this way by government employees. We could in fact have our own children removed from us if we did such things to our own children. The expectation is the Director is appointed I believe by Order in Council to have the expertise and ability to administer such an important program. When lives become at risk (even if it was just one) it is critical to pay attention and effect change to ensure it will not continue to happen . Our youth are depending on it.
Please be mindful that the damages caused were caused to vulnerable youth from our community. I would give the government credit if they admitted to it in the beginning and took action immediately or a public appearance from the Director, anything to show an ounce of proper leadership.

Up 21 Down 0

Connor Cresswell on Apr 24, 2019 at 10:08 am

Let us remember the timely words of Martin Luther King "We are responsible not only for the lies we speak, but for the truth we fail to speak". AMEN!

Up 21 Down 3

Lenny Gordon on Apr 24, 2019 at 8:59 am

Yukon Liberal Government is starting to sound like a rap song where it's all Dolla Dolla Bills YO!

Up 11 Down 10

North60 on Apr 24, 2019 at 7:39 am

Decolonize yourself! Maybe turn on the APTN tonight watch some North of 60 listen to that quote about Albert, the boogie man of Lynx River: "it's not what Albert does to you but what Albert makes you do to yourself". Let's start a revolution and do what's right just because.

Up 3 Down 33

Roy on Apr 23, 2019 at 7:30 pm

I enjoy how everybody is harping on the ONE item out of six that the government got wrong. Where is your praise for the FIVE things they got right? Oh that's right, you're only happy when there's blood in the water, and even then you'd find something to bitch about.

Up 24 Down 1

Ivy on Apr 23, 2019 at 7:23 pm

Minister Frost: "I can say that HSS fully co-operated and provided all the information that the PIDWA commissioner required during her comprehensive review of the wrongdoing,”

Report of Wrong Doing: “numerous legal challenges from YG lawyers." "she requested records and employee witness interviews, during which the department at times outright refused access to some records and insisted on having a lawyer present during some interviews."

How are legal challenges, refusal of records and insisting that a lawyer be present for some interviews full cooperation? What alternate universe is Minister Frost living in? Why were YG Lawyers sitting in on some and not all interviews? I bet the interviews the lawyers sat in on were the Director and Managers TSS and FS. The law was broken, those responsible did not cooperate - If you have nothing to hide why do you need a lawyer - why deny access to records?

It is clear that the Director and Manager of TSS and FS do not have the integrity to resign, the Minister should be taking action. They BROKE the law, they harmed children, they made the Minister and the government look like fools and will do it again. Mind you there is no one with any ethics to blow the whistle !

Up 38 Down 0

Paul K. on Apr 23, 2019 at 2:54 pm

“Was it perfect? It’s never perfect" Frost says. We did our best then there is we broke the law Minister Frost. Your ministry broke the law someone needs to be held accountable.

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