Whitehorse Daily Star

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NDP leader Kate White

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Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost

YEU sees ‘recipe for potential tragedy’ at shelter

The Yukon government will be looking into staff training and working conditions at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter (WES) following a strongly-worded letter from two local labour unions and some pointed questions in the legislature during question period Tuesday.

By Tim Giilck on December 2, 2020

The Yukon government will be looking into staff training and working conditions at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter (WES) following a strongly-worded letter from two local labour unions and some pointed questions in the legislature during question period Tuesday.

The letter from the Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) was released to the media by the Yukon NDP. It was addressed to Pauline Frost, the minister of Health and Social Services.

Kate White, the NDP leader, presented the letter during question period.

In it, the YEU stated “the reports of the situation facing the clients, guests and staff at the shelter are disturbing.

“It appears that the Yukon Government has simply thrown on-call auxiliary staff into the WES without providing the support needed to the front-line staff who must deliver this essential service.”

White referenced several sections of the lengthy letter during the questions she directed to Frost.

“The letter shows that the government isn’t giving front-line workers at the shelter the tools that they need to support the shelter’s residents and users,” she said.

“It lists critical gaps in training, such as mental health first aid, non-violent crisis intervention, and suicide intervention, to name a few.”

Frost bristled at White’s question.

“The hiring practices and what we do at the shelter is a priority. Like everywhere else in our system, we want to ensure that we find the right competency of skills. Where people fall short of those skills, we bring into place practices, and we do that in collaboration with our partners in the Public Service Commission,” the minister said.

“With regard to the letter from the union, we would be happy to work with the union on some of these concerns that have been brought to our attention.

“I do know that, just a few short weeks ago, we announced our approaches with the Public Service Commission around transparency and equity, as well as around Indigenous supports, Indigenous training, and awareness.”

The government took over the operation of the shelter from the Salvation Army two years ago, and is still making adjustments, she added.

“There are certainly opportunities for us to make improvements and I want to acknowledge that here and now,” Frost told the house.

“We have had a short time and a short window in the pandemic to work with the services that we have, and I want to just acknowledge the exceptional support that the staff are giving at the moment.”

That didn’t deter White, who continued to pepper the minister with questions.

“It has been two years since the government took over operations, and I think that, more than thanks, the shelter employees would really like essential training,” White said.

“The gaps in training at the shelter also have an effect on shelter residents. The services offered by the shelter rely entirely on staff being able to deliver them

“If the staff aren’t sure how to respond to a specific situation at the shelter, then what assurances are there that residents are receiving the help that they need?”

Frost continued to stay on message during the exchange.

“We are working with the department to address some of the concerns that have been brought to our attention. Is it perfect? No, it isn’t. Of course, one day, we would like to have a shelter that meets the needs of everyone.”

Now, the minister added, “we have the third party (the NDP) wanting us to do one thing one day and something else the next day — shut it down, protect the businesses, do all kinds of things. Right now, what we are doing is ensuring that the critical needs of the clients who frequent the shelter are there and supported.”

The YEU letter also references the government taking over the operation of the Fourth Avenue shelter.

“However, in the 22 months since then, there has been no consistent effort to provide the training, support or staffing needed to enable the front-line staff to safely meet the needs of clients and guests in this type of facility,” the union stated in the letter.

“While the YEU acknowledges the Yukon government is finally making some moves to regularize the staffing situation at the WES, much more remains to be done.

“It is unacceptable that many front-line staff, working through the pandemic with the most vulnerable population in the Yukon are still without paid sick leave or other medical benefits.

“Unacceptable, and a recipe for a potential tragedy. Two dollars an hour does not make up for this shortcoming.”

Premier Sandy Silver said he could add little comment to the situation when he met with reporters following question period. The government hasn’t had time to properly respond to the letter, he added.

Comments (17)

Up 1 Down 1

Moose on Dec 8, 2020 at 8:15 pm

So was it the NDP or the union which raised these concerns? You'll have to forgive me because these two organizations are basically one big conglomerate..
Everyone knows that the NDP exists solely to advance union ideas and positions. Just look at the overlap. A one trick pony.

Up 15 Down 4

Jake The Bosun on Dec 5, 2020 at 5:07 am

This is not good, this is outrageous and we should be alarmed, but the absurdity just doesn't stop. And I fear it won't stop even with a change of Government (which is overdue).
Indulge me for a second;
If every poor action by this Government was a sheep, and you were standing by the road waiting to cross, watching them go by, you would look back to try and get an idea of how many you could expect were coming. There is no end in sight, the line goes over the hill and shepherd has been known to lie when you ask him. So then naturally we might look forward to see where this is all going, to give us a realistic perspective.
What would you project as an eventual outcome here?
Sheep don't usually die of old age, they are fleeced and then slaughtered for their owners gain.

Up 13 Down 30

In the know on Dec 5, 2020 at 4:34 am

To all you people hailing the Salvation Army, you don't have all the facts. When you pick and choose who you serve, what condition they are in, what time they reach out for shelter, you cannot call yourself a shelter. They weren't doing the job and refused to change. They had to go.

Up 51 Down 2

Donovan McGlaughlin on Dec 4, 2020 at 2:38 pm

I put my name out publicly because I will not hide behind a computer for what I am about to state.
If Ms. Frost and Mr. Silver do not believe there is a problem with the shelter and surrounding area, I publicly challenge them both to spend one night in and around the shelter. And none of this hour or two nonsense. I mean REALLY spend a full 12 hours there from 8 pm to 8 am. If they still believe there is no problems then they should take a HARD look in the mirror and the voters should remember it come election! But being polititions, I highly doubt they will accept this modest challenge issued by a mere commoner.

Up 52 Down 6

drum on Dec 3, 2020 at 6:19 pm

It should have been left with the Salvation Army with their rules that really worked. Since the YG (Pauline Frost) have taken over is it a disgrace to this town, The folks that have gone to the Salvation Army for years for help, meals and socializing are too scared of the thugs, drug dealers, drug users, users in the washrooms shooting up to feel safe any more for what the Shelter was supposed to represent. It has become a doss house and we the taxpayers of this Territory are paying for it!!!!!!

Up 45 Down 7

My Opinion on Dec 3, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Salvation Army was doing a great job. They didn't let in the trouble makers and kept the seniors and people at risk safe. But NO Government knows best, with all their virtue signalling and endless accommodations to these trouble makers.

I say first step quit referring to residents as "Clients and Guests" they are neither. Lawyers have Clients, and Guests Pay.

Up 54 Down 3

Lost In the Yukon on Dec 3, 2020 at 3:14 pm

The Minister of Health (and her virtually and literally non-existent Deputy Minister) have consistently demonstrated she is totally disconnected from what is actually happening in a department she is responsible and accountable for. When will the Premier grow a pair and do what should have been done two years ago ... or is he so afraid of possibly offending a large voting he is prepared to allow a tragedy to unfold? Shamefull.

Up 39 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Dec 3, 2020 at 2:52 pm

If it takes a union to say the facility has short-comings in maintaining safety for both clients and staff since the Salvation Army got fired by the government. It speaks volumes about the quality of management there.
So either: A) They new the problems were there but did not think it was important to correct them or B) They did not see the scope of troubles the union did. In each case it demonstrates very poor oversight in the management of the facility all the way up to the minister who appears to be in denial about such problems.
I am also curious why WCB is not involved if the staff is at risk of violence as reported.

Up 42 Down 7

James Crowell on Dec 3, 2020 at 8:44 am

The fantasy that some non-governmental agency will come in and want to run the shelter is what has kept the Liberals from investing the time, energy and resources needed to solve shelter problems and regularize the employment status of the staff. Sandy and Pauline need to drop the fantasy and focus on fixing the problems with staffing, training and relationship with the community.

Up 52 Down 6

Matthew on Dec 3, 2020 at 5:24 am

Why is it so hard for people to believe that when a minister has 3 different titles they can NEVER put all their effort into one... guess what, it clearly shows! I demand and immediate resignation of 2/3 positions she holds! Let's be honest, there isn't a person out there who is a registered plumber, a mechanic and a welder... think about that.

Up 57 Down 17

Dave on Dec 3, 2020 at 5:03 am

Bring back the Salvation Army, never in their decades of operating here did they create the type of unbridled mess that YG created when it got involved.

Up 42 Down 16

EJ on Dec 2, 2020 at 8:31 pm

Wait, so this letter was sent to the Minister of Health and was almost immediately made public by the NDP? How is it that the NDP got their hands on a letter from the Union so quick?! Ohhhhh right, the NDP is nothing more than the political arm of the YEU Union and they probably drafted the letter together.

Perhaps members of the YEU should just pay their union dues directly to the NDP instead of funneling them through the union first?

Up 54 Down 4

You Connors are Unfeckingbelievable! on Dec 2, 2020 at 5:11 pm

WTF! The YEU knows very well that training, procedures and policy are irrelevant within the Department of Health and Social Services and YG generally. The YEU is complicit and often turns a willfully blind-eye to the hooliganism that passes for management.

Health & Social has imported corrupt incompetence from the Department of Justice to mismanage the entire fiasco as the upper echelon so directs. None of these people would be employable outside of the Yukon where things like rules, regulations and laws matter.

How in the deck does someone who is on Public Record as having attempted to deceive the court in charge of anything in YG? FFS!
YEU deserves decertification as a labour Union given their tendency to cuckoldry.

Up 25 Down 4

Katie on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:32 pm

The way the politicians handle these situations really take away a whole lot from the actual action that could potentially bring forth some tangible changes to the actual ground. Where health care interventions rest entirely on the shoulders of politics, this talk will be an endless norm - meanwhile, harming more people and the society at large.

Up 69 Down 4

drum on Dec 2, 2020 at 4:26 pm

That place is scary. It has been taken over by young drunken thugs (lots high on drugs) who threaten the vulnerable people who have gone to the Salvation Army Shelter for meals and socializing for years and years. Since the YG has taken it over it has become a dangerous place and a secure place for criminals.

Up 56 Down 11

Sigfried Werner on Dec 2, 2020 at 3:22 pm

The Salvation Army runs a better ship.

Up 96 Down 11

TMYK on Dec 2, 2020 at 2:17 pm

The Liberals take over of the shelter and the bureaucrats who orchestrated it have completely failed. It has become a bane to the community and failed those it was supposed to serve. How many rapes have their been on the premises? How many over doses? These would be some figures to produce in the public interest. Perhaps an interview with SART is in order, but Frost and Health are never going to release that information.

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