NDP Leader Liz Hanson speaks to media last year. Hanson called the health department’s update on group homes an example of spin. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

‘Pre-sitting gloss’: NDP Leader on health department’s group home update

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost apologized to mistreated youth on Sept. 6

“Pre-sitting gloss. Full of spin.” That’s what NDP Leader Liz Hanson thinks about the health department’s Sept. 6 update on the group home debacle.

“What we’re seeing here is an attempt to spin this issue to keep the attention away from the fact that there still is serious dysfunction within this department,” she said.

Health and Social Services Minister Pauline Frost issued a public apology to youth who had been mistreated in government group homes, admitting that the government failed them.

A summary report, produced by B.C.-based lawyer-investigator Pamela Costanzo, was also released. She found that, of six allegations of mistreatment, two were substantiated.

“In respect of the five allegations relating to specific youth, I found that one allegation of mistreatment of a youth was supported, in breach of law and HSS policy,” Costanzo wrote. “I also found that director failed to properly investigate one incident.”

Hanson doesn’t buy it, though, because key issues have yet to be addressed, she said.

“It makes no comment about the mishandling of the employees, with respect to whistleblowers,” she said, noting that these people provided brave, factual information that, in the end, got them fired.

Stephen Samis, deputy minister of the department, told the press on Sept. 6 that the “paradigm has shifted,” playing up a 44 per cent deduction of youth and children in care over a two-year period. The focus, he had said, was to avoid placing youth into care by extending family agreements.

“(W)e changed our policy to provide the same level of funding to grandparents, aunties, uncles and other extended family members as we provide to foster parents,” Samis said.

To this, however, Hanson asked: “What professional services are being provided to those caregivers?”

She noted an apparent blind spot, in terms of what ongoing support looks like for caregivers outside the foster home.

And, rather frankly, Hanson, referring to how allegations were denied earlier this year, said the health department didn’t acknowledge it was caught in a lie.

“There’s systemic issues at play here,” she said. “I think people need to be finding out what’s changed on the ground for kids who’re currently in the care of the system, kids who’re falling between the cracks.”

At the conference, Frost said she became aware of an allegation from “a youth” in February.

The Yukon Party weighed in on this point in a written statement, saying “it wasn’t until the CBC was about to break the story several weeks later that the minister took any action to follow up on these reports.”

Spokesperson Madison Pearson said that Frost has “refused to show leadership and accept responsibility” throughout the matter.

“For months the minister and the premier claimed that everything was fine and that no further action was required. The minister owes Yukoners an explanation as to why she did not take action immediately or report these specific allegations to the police after becoming aware of them,” she said.

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

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

Just Posted

YukonU president excited about institutions potential

Mike DeGagné took over as Yukon University president July 2

Getting back to the classroom

Plans outlined to return students to class in the fall

UPDATE: Police accused of using excessive force during Whitehorse arrest

Alberta Serious Incident Response Team to investitage allegations of excessive force by the RCMP

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for July 10, 2020

Whitehorse RCMP seek assistance to ID sexual assault suspect

Whitehorse RCMP are warning the public to be “extra vigilant” after receiving… Continue reading

RCMP investigating forcible confinement and sexual assault case

Whitehorse RCMP announced in a press release on July 8 that three… Continue reading

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Air North grounds Ottawa route for the season

Passengers will be given a 24-month travel credit

COMMENTARY: Yukon’s healthy land and forests are essential services

Joe Copper Jack & Katarzyna Nowak Special to the News As essential… Continue reading

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in schedule byelection for chief

The byelection to select the next Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in chief will happen on… Continue reading

Carcross/Tagish First Nation election recount called off

Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s plans to hold a vote recount in a tight… Continue reading

Today’s mailbox: COVID reopening

Letter to the editor published July 3

Most Read