The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28. After nearly one year of turbulence, Many Rivers may shutter. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Board of Many Rivers to resign, organization may soon close

‘We’re left with no hope as a board’

After nearly one year of turbulence, Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services may shutter.

The board is trying to determine what the next steps are before making the call, said Paige Galette, acting president.

“For now, our main concentration is to get the proper information to the clients, to the members,” she said. “We’re left with no hope as a board. It’s really deceiving to know we are here today.”

A town hall has been organized this week.

One thing that’s for sure is that the current board of directors is going to resign, leaving the society rudderless, Galette said. The board has been working to reboot Many Rivers’ services for the last four months.

No new funding has been received to date, she said.

This hinges off debt Many Rivers hasn’t paid off, said Patricia Living, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, noting that a plan for dealing with the problem has been requested.

“We clearly stated we would need that plan before we could continue any conversations about funding the organization,” she said in a written statement. “Once we have that plan in place, we are quite prepared to open a dialogue with them around funding.”

Living told the News last week that the organization is currently in compliance with the Societies Act.

It was then that a former board member said that Many Rivers is saddled with more than $170,000 in debt. In an open letter to the government, Skeeter Wright appealed to the department for help. That request has been deferred.

Funding has been provided to two other organizations — All Genders Yukon and the Yukon branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association. The announcement was made via a press release on Aug. 26.

There were three applicants, Many Rivers being one. The status of its funding is pending, Living said.

Galette said no information about where the funding was going was provided to the board directly.

“Prior to the press release, there was no indication that that decision had been made,” she said. “That press release on Friday was really a blow to the board and really deceiving.

“We’ve gone through everything that the Yukon government has asked us and unfortunately we have come to this conclusion that we cannot pursue. We are given no hope to pursue. Without funding, we cannot continue. Of course we accrue debt. This is definitely depending on the Yukon government, in terms of giving funding to the society.”

Living said the department has accepted an opportunity to speak with the board on Sept. 4.

A letter obtained by the News that’s written by deputy minister of heath and social services Stephen Samis says that, in a number of categories, Many Rivers’ previous expenditures were more than 10 per cent over budget. A fourth quarter payment from the government of roughly $519,000 was expected, it states, but the department hasn’t signed off on the money.

Contracts for Blood Ties staffing, cleaning and snow removal, for instance, went over by 436 per cent.

Many Rivers has not been offering services for nearly one year — first because counsellors were on strike, then later when a lack of funding meant those same counsellors were laid off.

The society fell out of sync with the Societies Act when the former board failed to file annual paperwork, causing it to lose its government funding.

The town hall will be hosted at Yukon College on Aug. 29 at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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