Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family.
Lindsey Campbell and her husband, also a physician, moved to the community this summer after signing a permanent contract with Health and Social Services. Due to the lack of housing in Watson Lake they were assigned to housing operated by the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Recently the couple were verbally informed that they could face eviction due to the fact that they have two dogs. The current policy, which governs both staff and social housing, allows for a maximum of one pet.
Campbell said because they signed a contract with Health and Social Services, not the Housing Corporation, they weren’t informed of the policy until last week.
“We were told ‘It’s very strict, no exceptions, one dog only or one pet only.’ And so my husband was like, ‘Okay, what does that mean? Like, do we have to find new housing then?’”
“We have been told to try and find someplace new that we like so that we’re independent of Yukon Housing and don’t have this issue. We’re in the process, but there’s nothing available right now,” she said.
Their current housing is a seven-minute walk from the hospital and has a fenced yard.
The couple owns two non-shedding dogs: a mini-golden doodle and a mini-schnoodle named Ginger and Badger. She said in Alberta, where the couple relocated from, the two dogs are trained therapy animals and regularly attended clinic.
“They’re very well trained. They’re not destroying this property. We’re very respectful tenants,” Campbell said.
Answering questions from the Yukon Party about the situation in the legislature on Oct. 20, Health Minister Pauline Frost said the policy was developed by the Yukon Housing Corporation and exemptions cannot be made without risking legal trouble.
Frost said she will work with the Yukon Hospital Corporation and the Yukon Medical Association to find a solution that would keep the professionals in the community.
Frost said the antiquated policies need to be updated.
“It is certainly a priority for us,” she said. “We want to make sure that we maintain stability, but we have a legal obligation as well to not discriminate against individuals whom we provide housing to in our communities.”
Tanis Secerbegovic, a Watson Lake doctor who has practised in the community for close to a decade and has been involved in recruiting more health care professionals for the area, said she’s also aware of two nurses who have been in the same situation.
“It’s very difficult to get professionals of all sorts. That’s the same thing for teachers and social workers,” she said. “Anybody with this kind of job in the community has difficulty finding a home or rental.”
Secerbegovic said at one point, she was the only permanent doctor in the community. Now that the community has six regular doctors and continues to work on attracting nurses for vacant positions, she said she doesn’t want to lose anyone because of a lack of housing.
She said she’s hopeful a solution can be found in this case, but said the root of the situation is a housing shortage in the community.
To solve that, the community needs more lots available and more rentals built.
“I feel like things have gotten a lot better in the last few years. I feel like our quality of care has improved a lot,” she said. “There are years of headaches, heartaches and exhaustion that got us here. I really do not want this to be what derails our efforts.”
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