Whitehorse Daily Star

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SEEKING THE TRUTH – The Yukon government is ‘trying to determine why we were given information that was perhaps not accurate,’ says Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost, seen at Wednesday’s news briefing.

YG shifts strategy on group homes allegations

The territory stepped up its response Wednesday

By Palak Mangat on May 10, 2018

The territory stepped up its response Wednesday to allegations of mistreatment at government-run group homes in the wake of what it called “information that has yet to be substantiated,” bringing in an independent external investigator.

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost told reporters a special advisor will also be brought in to report to the deputy minister about whether all policies and procedures are being followed, as well as to ensure they are adhered to in the future.

The special advisor is Kelly McGill, a one-time social worker and lawyer with the Department of Justice.

Pam Costanzo is the external investigator, a labour and employment lawyer from British Columbia. She will focus on investigating the Transitional Support Services.

Frost was unable to say what specific information led the government to announce the two positions.

A spokesperson for the cabinet clarified that while the advisor will look at current and future procedures, the investigator will focus on specific incidents in the past.

The announcement comes after department members refuted allegations in an April 13 press briefing that children have been turned away from group homes or deemed “too high risk.”

A trail of internal emails obtained by the CBC dating back as far as January 2017 showed department officials had indeed kicked out a youth to make a bed available for another person.

Fewer than four weeks later, Frost admitted she is frustrated after new information came to light.

“Some of these steps here indicate a shift in our previous approach and previous statements,” the minister said, adding, “throughout the process, we have worked with the facts available to us.”

The latest moves come after allegations of mistreatment detailed by the CBC from youth who previously lived in group homes.

A government whistleblower also alleged mistreatment. He no longer works with the department, and has gone on to pursue legal action after his dismissal.

Meanwhile, Frost said she could not speak to the specifics of why the government has decided to announce the appointments now.

“At this point, the information we received is that: it’s information that has yet to be substantiated,” Frost said, though she did add the investigator will determine this.

She continued that Costanzo will also recommend any changes after “looking at if there are issues or concern with respect to staffing matters.

“That external investigator could work for us and determine a course of action.”

Also underway is a systemic review by the territory’s Child and Youth Advocate Office.

Annette King is the advocate, and was asked by Premier Sandy Silver to conduct the independent review.

King wrote to the Star today. She said she hopes the appointment of an investigator and advisor “assists with closing the gap between policy and practice.”

She continued that “following their own policies is a good first step.”

Meanwhile, Steve Geick, the president of the Yukon Employees’ Union, which represents staff working in group homes, said he is also hopeful after the announcement.

“You have three different people looking at the same issue from different angles, so chances are you’re going to get fairly close to the bottom of things,” he told the Star today.

Geick had criticized the government last week for not bringing in independent investigators, which he’d been advocating for some time now.

“It’s about time they brought someone in,” he added.

However, he remained concerned that the government changing its story may erode public trust and point to a bigger issue of miscommunication between the department and Frost’s office.

“All of a sudden, they’re hiring someone to come in to do an investigation, so there must be some truth to what was said,” he continued.

Doris Bill, the chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation, has also argued for an Outside investigation.

The opposition, meanwhile, remains critical of the government’s efforts.

“It’s unfortunate that the minister (Frost) didn’t take this action three months ago, right from day one,” said Stacey Hassard, the Yukon Party’s interim leader.

Hassard told the Star Wednesday that “we would be a lot further ahead now if they had.”

He pointed out that NDP Leader Liz Hanson brought forward a motion in the legislature weeks ago asking that the government bring in an independent investigator.

“The Yukon Party agreed and the government used its majority to vote that option down,” Hassard pointed out.

“It’s very weird that they felt compelled to try and hide this issue.”

Hanson said last month department officials may have been purposely keeping important information about the controversy from Frost.

For her part, Frost admitted that the question of why there is a contradiction between what department officials said at the April 13 press briefing and the information her government received throughout the last days is “being asked of me elsewhere as well.”

When asked about the possibility of a coverup, the minister said, “I wouldn’t so as far as to say that.”

Rather, the government is “trying to determine why we were given information that was perhaps not accurate.”

The government confirmed that both the advisor and investigator have already begun their work.

Frost could not provide a timeline under which the investigator is working.

However, the spokesperson later verified that Costanzo will look at incidents dating back to 2015.

Comments (12)

Up 2 Down 0

Lost In the Yukon on May 15, 2018 at 2:54 pm

Dear Sam Smith ... you have hit the nail on the head. This individual has been the source of disruption and chaos since she was brought in from Alberta by the former DM (also from Alberta) who was fired. Notice how they have managed not to be in the public eye since all of this had broke. With their track record you can be sure they have been whispering in the DM's ear trying to shift the blame to others.

The culture in Social Services is rotten to the core, has been since 2007 and this latest drop in has continued the tradition.

Up 4 Down 0

Sam Smith on May 14, 2018 at 4:45 pm

I think that the Minister and DM are really starting to realize that the ADM Social Services and Director F&CS pulled a fast one by stating all is well in department land. The ADM has no tolerance for critical thought so front-line staff can't question direction or wrong-doing without suffering the wrath of BLD. If you want an interesting read look at: http://elderadvocates.ca/deceptive-government-publication/ guess this isn't the first time BLD the ADM has been seen as deceitful.

Up 1 Down 0

John on May 12, 2018 at 9:12 pm

We are making lots of lemonade with lemons. The actual truth is about to come out not the one that you have been putting forward of "everything is fine, same people complaining, no big deal". The real question now will be when having to actually answer questions Managers, will you lie or tell the truth? You have been allowed to hide at Wann road for too long, time to be accountable. Or will you throw your staff under the bus and try to save yourself?

Up 1 Down 0

Reality Check on May 12, 2018 at 8:27 pm

Newsflash!! If I were some Managers at HSS I would be updating your resumes when you are hiring a Labour lawyer to investigate you know there is trouble. To the front line staff who are probably worried that their butts are on the line, fear not everyone knows where the lies started. The Manager of TSS and Child Protection they are the ones who should be very very worried. Just to be clear, the reason you were not given accurate information is because it was a COVER UP everyone knew it except the DM and Minister. The Managers and Director didn't think anyone would question anything. My question is where has the Manager of TSS been during all of this? Why is he so insulated and protected? Why has he not been held accountable for anything or at least made available to answer questions? Where was he on April 13th when every allegation was about group homes? I hope it all comes out - for the sake of the youth and for the sake of staff who have to work under this cloud of deception.

Up 0 Down 2

Buford T. Justice on May 11, 2018 at 9:17 pm

Nile, as you have been exposed as to the veracity of your posts you lack credibility. Does that not bother you?

Up 2 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on May 11, 2018 at 2:19 pm

Pro tip to the Libs - clean house in the upper ranks of HSS. Toss out the trash, we all know who they are and so do you if you've been 'listening'. Hint- start with the sycophants and over-educated and under-experienced types and really ramp up you're vetting for new hires. Rinse and repeat at a few other departments.

Up 1 Down 0

YukonerAbroad on May 11, 2018 at 1:55 pm

Once the truth comes out, I expect there to be some apologies issued. If only you commoner's knew the truth.

Up 1 Down 0

Captain Obvious on May 11, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Those front-line soldiers are EXACTLY who middle management HSS is supposed to be in direct support of. This is BS.

Yes the RYTS and Group Homes are not in great shape. The people stuck dealing with the day-to-day BS are in a perpetual uphill battle with NO viable solution.
The only thing HSS can do to improve the situation is to have a serious look at the problem (without discounting it), and then provide a better environment to solve the problem.

If the situation is crap for employees (which I think we all can assume is the case), the only way to deal some improved support for the workers, is to SUPPORT THOSE WORKERS. When they bring up a gripe, DON'T dismiss it.

Don't let sh**ty press preclude your high office from knowing that they need to support the front-line workers. Don't think about your KPI, think of the kids, and in result, our society.

If you have good, solid support professionals and get them what they need, we will have the best results in the long run.
I pay too much taxes to see these issues become of issue. It's flat out silly s**t.

Up 5 Down 0

Edie on May 10, 2018 at 8:54 pm

I like how the Health & Social elites are now throwing the social workers under the bus. That’s pathetic! That’s ok though, there’s lot of work in the Yukon for highly trained social workers. Next months story will be how Health & Social lost all their social workers and nobody will work for them.

Up 0 Down 7

Hope on May 10, 2018 at 8:42 pm

I want to commend the Liberal Government and Minister Frost for acknowledging that they were misled and they are coming clean. Now this is a government I can vote for and get behind !! I think those that provided you with inaccurate information should be fired. This is the health and safety of children. I was not a liberal supporter until today, to admit there was wrongdoing to say you will deal with it, you just bought yourself some votes and respect !! There are no words to tell you how much street cred you just earned......I work for HSS and have experienced the "spin" this is amazing. Go Minister Frost doing what is right !! Vote Liberal they have got it going on !!

Up 6 Down 0

Lost In the Yukon on May 10, 2018 at 6:04 pm

This is a witch-hunt to scapegoat and sacrifice some poor front-line service worker in order to protect senior management in Social Services, starting probably with the ADM. It is the culture in HSS and in particular Social Services that is rotten to the core and it all starts from one office and trickles down.

Up 3 Down 0

Nile on May 10, 2018 at 5:45 pm

There are so many layers to this. Frost needs to go. Her complete ineptitude is glaringly obvious. Heads need to roll in the department. Hiding information. Managers covering their asses and caring less about the kids involved.

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