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Department departs from CASA pledge on school wellness specialists: Yukon NDP

Plan for school wellness specialists to be handy to all schools but not necessarily in every school
Gym equipment seen at Selkirk Elementary School on Oct. 20, 2022. Yukon NDP Leader Kate White isn’t pleased that the Department of Education appears to be moving away from what she had agreed to in the territorial Liberal-NDP confidence and supply agreement. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Yukon NDP Leader Kate White argued the Department of Education is moving away from its commitment around school wellness counsellors, now known as specialists, in the confidence and supply agreement, or CASA, between the Yukon NDP and the governing Yukon Liberal Party.

Implementing wellness counsellors or something similar in all schools is a pledge in CASA, which is keeping the Yukon Liberals governing with NDP assistance.

The Education department is working on hiring school wellness specialists to be deployed over the next two years, according to Yukon government cabinet communications.

The May 6 email from cabinet communications indicates the plan “remains” to make these new positions available to all Yukon schools. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean every school is getting a school wellness specialist or the like.

During the 2023 spring sitting of the legislative assembly, Education Minister Jeanie McLean told the house that the Yukon government is aiming to have wellness counsellors in all schools by the 2023/24 school year. That didn’t happen.

READ MORE: Every Yukon school will have a wellness counsellor by upcoming school year, Education minister says

The wording in CASA calls for the Yukon government to “create dedicated wellness counsellors or similar positions in all schools specifically dedicated to addressing the need for comprehensive mental health and wellness.”

White has already put the governing Yukon Liberal Party on “notice.” She said she is keeping up with her obligations, but the government isn’t holding up its end of the bargain in CASA. She said that if the government doesn’t follow through on certain commitments in CASA (not including this one) by the fall sitting, then there’s no guarantee that CASA will continue.

“We have heard time and time again about this government’s repeated failures to consult with education professionals and their union on issues like educational assistant allocations and training plans,” White told the house on May 2.

“Education stakeholders were equally dismayed with how the government handled the addition of wellness specialists. Most recently, we hear that there appears to be a move away from wellness specialists in every school, and this was not what we agreed to.”

Ted Hupé, head of the Yukon Association of Education Professionals, previously told the News that each school wellness specialist will need to be a “superhero” given the monumental task ahead. He wondered how their success would be measured, particularly in the context of two auditor general’s reports from 2009 and 2019.

READ MORE: Yukon’s school wellness specialists must be superheroes, union head says

The Education department is working with superintendents and school board executive directors to determine how school wellness specialists get rolled out, per cabinet communications.

The school wellness specialists will offer a variety of direct supports to students, families, educators and the community, depending on their needs.

“Depending on how recruitment goes, what schools’ needs are and the distribution of schools in a particular community, this may mean one individual per school, or it could mean one individual working at multiple schools,” cabinet communications wrote.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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