The Whitehorse Correctional Centre inspection report released Aug. 15 by David Loukidelis mentions that a primary assessment has been done for a possible new secure forensic medical unit at the Whitehorse General Hospital. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

No new forensic unit planned for Whitehorse’s hospital

Justice says hospital may expand services it offers inmates but not enough to qualify as ‘forensic’

Officials with both the Yukon Justice Department and the Whitehorse General Hospital say there are no plans to establish a new secure forensic unit at the hospital despite a recommendation in the inspection report of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that the government “continue” to work towards establishing one.

The inspection report, by David Loukidelis, was released Aug. 15 and mentions a “primary assessment has recently been done for a possible new secure forensic medical unit at the Whitehorse General Hospital.”

Allan Lucier, assistant deputy minister of justice, said his department has been talking to the Yukon Hospital Corporation about expanding the hospital’s current facility to offer more services to inmates, but not enough to qualify as a “forensic” unit to treat inmates who have been found unfit or not criminally responsible.

The conversations are still in the early stages and no actual assessment has been written, he said.

Currently, the hospital’s secure unit offers mental health care for Yukoners “but would be challenged to meet the complex high risk needs of forensic patients,” hospital spokesperson Cam Heke said in a statement.

“Our general acute care hospital isn’t equipped with the security, space or programming to manage a secure forensic unit.”

Inmates do sometimes use the facilities at the hospital in the short term. In other cases inmates would “go into separate confinement or segregation where they could be monitored more closely but still that is not a hospital setting,” Lucier said.

Yukoners who are found unfit or not criminally responsible have to be sent Outside for care in forensic facilities if they need it.

Lucier said the ability to take care of those complex cases “probably just doesn’t exist in our jurisdiction.”

The inspection report also calls on the government to remove the jail’s legal “hospital” status. In 1993, the Yukon’s health minister designated Whitehorse Correctional Centre a hospital for specific purposes under the Criminal Code.

Most recently Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale recommended removing the designation while discussing the case of Michael Nehass whose years at the jail raised significant concerns about the treatment of inmates with mental health concerns and the use of solitary confinement.

Removing the hospital designation is not likely to have much of an impact on the daily lives of inmates with mental health concerns. Inmates are not at the correctional centre in its capacity as a hospital until after the review board has found them unfit or not criminally responsible.

In Nehass’s case, he was only found unfit for a short period of his incarceration before that ruling was overturned.

In some cases inmates who are being cared for by forensic hospitals Outside have to return to the Yukon for hearings. Without a hospital designation those people could not stay at the jail, Lucier said.

“The vast majority of individuals that we deal with are not designated NCR but a large number of them come to us with varying degrees of mental illness manifestation,” Lucier said.

In a statement, Justice spokesperson Megan Foreman said the department agrees that getting rid of the designation is “ultimately the optimal outcome.”

“We have openly acknowledged the challenges associated with WCC being designated a hospital and are reviewing the connected legislative frameworks and policies in order to determine the best course forward,” she wrote.

With files from Jackie Hong

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Law & JusticeWhitehorse Correctional CentreYukon justice department

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

Just Posted

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on April 8. Yukon Energy faced a potential “critical” fuel shortage in January due to an avalanche blocking a shipping route from Skagway to the Yukon, according to an email obtained by the Yukon Party and questioned in the legislature on Oct. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Energy faced ‘critical’ fuel shortage last January due to avalanche

An email obtained by the Yukon Party showed energy officials were concerned

Jeanie McLean (formerly Dendys), the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate speaks during legislative assembly in Whitehorse on Nov. 27, 2017. “Our government is proud to be supporting Yukon’s grassroots organizations and First Nation governments in this critical work,” said McLean of the $175,000 from the Yukon government awarded to four community-based projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government gives $175k to projects aimed at preventing violence against Indigenous women

Four projects were supported via the Prevention of Violence against Aboriginal Women Fund

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: You don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone

When I was a kid, CP Air had a monopoly on flights… Continue reading

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 “probable” case of COVID-19 announced Oct. 10 has been declared a false positive. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Secondary testing rules out presumptive COVID-19 case

Testing in southern labs resulted in a negative final result

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

asdf
Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Alkan Air hangar in Whitehorse. Alkan Air has filed its response to a lawsuit over a 2019 plane crash that killed a Vancouver geologist on board, denying that there was any negligence on its part or the pilot’s. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Alkan Air responds to lawsuit over 2019 crash denying negligence, liability

Airline filed statement of defence Oct. 7 to lawsuit by spouse of geologist killed in crash

Whitehorse city council members voted Oct. 13 to decline an increase to their base salaries that was set to be made on Jan. 1. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Council declines increased wages for 2021

Members will not have wages adjusted for CPI

A vehicle is seen along Mount Sima Road in Whitehorse on May 12. At its Oct. 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved the third reading for two separate bylaws that will allow the land sale and transfer agreements of city-owned land — a 127-square-metre piece next to 75 Ortona Ave. and 1.02 hectares of property behind three lots on Mount Sima Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse properties could soon expand

Land sale agreements approved by council

Most Read