Long term inmates don’t belong in hospital: Health Dept.

The Department of Health continues to maintain that the hospital's mental health unit is not meant for long-term inmates.

The Department of Health continues to maintain that the hospital’s mental health unit is not meant for long-term inmates.

Six years ago the Yukon government used plans for the unit as a defence in a high-profile legal case around the use of the old Whitehorse Correctional Centre as a “hospital.”

But that shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning that inmates are able to be housed there, the department says now.

The Veronica Germaine case questioned the use of the old jail as a “hospital” for people who had been found not criminally responsible because of mental illness. As part of defending itself, the government asked that two affidavits be introduced as evidence.

The first described the secure living unit that has since been built at the new jail, while the second detailed the secure medical unit that now exists at Whitehorse General Hospital.

The documents were important because they “outline what the Yukon government’s plan is with respect to facilities for individuals with psychiatric problems who require short term or intermediate care,” according to the court document signed by the government’s lawyer.

This included “accused under the criminal justice system; not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder and unfit to stand trial accused under the Yukon Review Board System, and persons from the general population in the mental health system.”

None of the documents define what “intermediate” means.

Right now in the Yukon, people who are found by a judge not criminally responsible or unfit to stand trial are kept in jail for up to 45 days until they are seen by the Yukon Review Board.

Some are kept in general population. Others are kept segregated from other people in the jail’s unit.

In some cases they’ll have been in jail for lengthy periods of time before the court even makes its decision.

Health spokesperson Pat Living insists the government never said the secure medical unit at the hospital was going to be used as a forensic psychiatric facility.

It is “intended to be used to provide acute medical care for anyone who required it, in the short term,” she said.

That includes inmates or clients of the Yukon Review Board, but “it was never intended as a residential care facility.”

Living uses the example of someone in jail who has had a psychotic break, or is in a mental health crisis, who could be transferred to the hospital for stabilization and then sent back to the jail.

When Germaine was found not criminally responsible, there was talk of sending the Northern Tutchone woman to Ontario for treatment.

She didn’t want to go. She would stay in the old Whitehorse Correctional Centre for three years.

The case would eventually end up in front of the Yukon Court of Appeal to determine if it was constitutionally allowed to house a person found not criminally responsible in a jail.

She would end up losing the case.

When a case is heard by the review board, it might send someone home with conditions to follow, or they might order them to an Outside psychiatric hospital.

In the case of Victoria Elias, heard in November of this year, the woman, like Germaine, was ordered by the review board to stay at the jail as a “hospital” for months and was given day passes.

Lawyers were preparing to argue to get her out of the jail and into the hospital when a spot was found at a group home Outside.

So the issue was put aside, but both sides agreed the question is still “a very live issue in the appropriate case.”

Living said there have been cases where the jail has used the hospital’s facilities if the inmate did not pose a safety risk.

She refused to provide any examples or details, citing privacy concerns.

“Often times this is not the case and people who are under the criminal justice system or the Yukon Review Board System must be in a more secure location to protect both themselves and others from their actions.”

While the Health Department might be secure in what it told the court, the judges’ final decision could provide some hints about the impression the judges were left with.

After discussing both the affidavits – the one about the new jail and the one about the hospital – the judges said:

“While this evidence is not relevant or necessary to the conclusions reached on this appeal, I would simply note that these developments may remove the serious concerns raised about the use of WCC as a ‘hospital.’”

Contact Ashley Joannou at


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks to media at a press conference about COVID-19 in Whitehorse on March 30. The Yukon government announced three new cases of COVID-19 in Watson Lake on Oct. 23. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three new COVID-19 cases identified in Watson Lake

The Yukon government has identified three locations in town where public exposure may have occurred

A pedestrian passes by an offsales sandwich board along Fourth Avenue in Whitehorse on Oct. 22. NDP MLA Liz Hanson raised concerns Oct. 21 in the legislature about increased hospitalizations due to alcohol consumption that correlate with an extension in the hours alcohol can be sold in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Alcohol-related hospitalizations rise after off-sales hours extended

Reduced hours for off-sale liquor establishments likely part of Liquor Act spring reforms

Tourism and Culture Minister Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys) speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. The Yukon government has announced $2.8 million in tourism relief funding aimed at businesses in the accommodation sector that have already maxed out existing funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tourism relief funding offers $2.8 million to hotels and overnight accommodations

$15 million in relief funding is planned for the tourism sector over the next three years

The Whitehorse sewage lagoons photographed in 2011. With new regulations for wastewater anticipated to be introduced by the federal government within the next decade, the City of Whitehorse may soon be doing some prep work by looking at exactly what type of pollutants are making their way into the city’s wastewater. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Pondering pollutants

City could spend $70,000 looking at what contaminents are in waste water

Most of Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 graduates. The former students were welcomed back and honoured by staff at the school on Oct. 14 with a personalized grad ceremony for each graduate. (Submitted)
Individual Learning Centre grads honoured

Members of the Whitehorse Individual Learning Centre’s class of 2020 were welcomed… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

COMMENTARY: Me and systemic racism

The view from a place of privilege

Today’s mailbox: Electricity and air travel

Letters to the editor published Oct. 23, 2020

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Irony versus Climate

Lately it seems like Irony has taken over as Editor-in-Chief at media… Continue reading

Evan Lafreniere races downhill during the U Kon Echelon Halloweeny Cross-Country Race on Oct. 16. (Inara Barker/Submitted)
Costumed bike race marks end of season

The U Kon Echelon Bike Club hosted its final race of the… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Most Read