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Social inclusion plan long overdue

The Yukon government's much-vaunted social inclusion strategy has been delayed but it's not dead, Department of Health and Social Services officials say.

The Yukon government’s much-vaunted social inclusion strategy has been delayed but it’s not dead, Department of Health and Social Services officials say.

“Work is proceeding with a strategy,” said spokesperson Pat Living this week. “We lost some time over the past year with the change of premiers, then with the election call, then the election, then the transition period. So we are several months behind where we would have expected to have been.”

That’s an understatement. A government website still states the strategy will be released in the summer of 2011.

The strategy’s aim is to better help poor and socially-isolated Yukoners. The push got off to an awkward start in August 2010, when then-health minister Glenn Hart participated in a bizarre promotional campaign, which involved painting messages on sidewalks such as “You don’t belong here.”

Hart got an earful when upset residents didn’t get the campaign’s tongue-in-cheek intent.

Work on the strategy has produced reports on the territory’s housing shortage and other data on the territory’s down-and-outs.

In 2010, the government also hosted a symposium devoted to the subject of social inclusion and held a round of community meetings.

All those meetings resulted in a report, written more than one year ago, but still not released to the public.

That’s because it still hasn’t been shown to cabinet, said Living. “It had been prepared, but it got all caught up in this whole series of events. And we need cabinet permission to release it.”

Doug Graham, the territory’s new health minister, declined an interview on the matter. But he appears genuinely interested in the project, said Ross Findlater, who sits on the strategy’s community advisory committee.

“He sounded quite committed to it, and quite passionate about it,” said Findlater.

A three-person secretariat remains dedicated to working on the strategy, said Living. The end product may be ready this summer, she said.

That would please Findlater, who views the project as a worthwhile endeavor, even if it wraps up a year late.

“Everybody realizes that poverty and the social issues related to it are very complicated. One department can’t just be expected to deal with it all,” he said.

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