Standoff in Mayo shows ‘monumental’ social woes: chief

Tuesday’s standoff between RCMP and an armed man in Mayo reveals “monumental” social woes are not being addressed by the Yukon…

Tuesday’s standoff between RCMP and an armed man in Mayo reveals “monumental” social woes are not being addressed by the Yukon territorial government, says a First Nation chief.

Chief Simon Mervyn of

Na-Cho Nyak Dun said in a release following the standoff that social services in the Yukon are “seriously lacking.”

“In the case of Mayo, we would like to target arrangements specifically on safe houses, mental health, drug and alcohol programming and after-care services,” he said.

The man who held off police for 17 hours with a rifle before surrendering peacefully “has a long history of depression and instability,” said Mervyn.

One shortcoming in social services that Mervyn points to is the absence of a full-time social worker in Mayo for the past four years.

Instead, Mayo, which has a population of about 250, is served by a social worker from Dawson City, who visits the community once a week.

The Yukon government has tried to recruit a permanent social worker for Mayo, said Patricia Living, spokesperson for the Health department. But social workers willing to live in small, rural communities are hard to recruit.

Several replacement social workers have been hired in the past four years, said Living, but none stayed for long. The job is presently being advertised once again.

However, even if Mayo had a permanent social worker, he or she would not have a mandate to work with troubled First Nations men and women, such as the one engaged in the standoff with police.

The visiting social worker only works with children and non-status residents, said Living. Social work for Na-Cho Nyak Dun beneficiaries is the responsibility of the First Nation, she said

Na-Cho Nyak Dun plans to use federal government money to hire a wellness co-ordinator, who has a master’s degree in critical disability studies, to start work next month.

In an interview, Mervyn was more upbeat.

The First Nation and territory have yet to hammer out an agreement that spells out specific responsibilities for different wellness programs. But negotiations to adopt a plan “are going quite well,” he said.

And his community will host a wellness conference next week that will be productive in addressing deep-rooted abuse, he said.

Social problems in the community “go right back to residential school and affect generations of people,” said Mervyn.