Jarrett Parker, a former regional services manager with the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS), filed a wrongful termination lawsuit to the Yukon Supreme Court April 18. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Whistleblower’s lawyer accuses Yukon government of stalling

The Yukon government says portions of Jarrett Parker’s lawsuit are unclear or should be withdrawn

A lawyer representing the former Yukon government employee who alleges he was fired for whistleblowing on conditions at group homes is accusing the government of using delay tactics to stall legal proceedings.

Yukon government lawyers, meanwhile, are calling the lawsuit an “abuse of process.”

Jarrett Parker, a former regional services manager with the Department of Health and Social Services (HSS), filed a wrongful termination lawsuit to the Yukon Supreme Court April 18. In his statement of claim, Parker alleges he was fired with one day left on his probation because, in part, of his efforts to notify his superiors “that children at risk or in the care and custody of HSS were not in fact receiving the appropriate level of care and services.”

The allegations have not been proven in court.

Documents filed to court since then show tensions rising between Parker’s lawyer, Dan Shier, and the Yukon government’s legal team, with several email back-and-forths centring around the government’s yet-to-be-filed statement of defence.

Responding to an April 20 email from the Yukon government acknowledging receipt of Parker’s statement of claim, Shier asked Yukon government lawyer Karen Wenckebach to let him know when the government plans on filing an appearance and statement of defence.

“We would like to move forward with this matter as quickly as possible,” Shier wrote.

Wenckebach responds with an email dated April 23 that she will “be in a position” to file the statement of defence after she has an opportunity to review Parker’s statement of claim and receive “instructions from my client.”

Another Yukon government lawyer, I.H. Fraser, wrote to Shier on May 9, stating that he doesn’t “think it will be possible to provide an appropriately responsive statement of defence without some amendments” to certain allegations in Parker’s statement of claim.

Fraser specifically pointed to a paragraph that alleges Parker’s termination was a “result of the matters referred to” in earlier paragraphs.

“It is unclear what is meant by this,” Fraser wrote. “For example, (paragraph) 18 alleges that Mr. Parker attended a meeting on March 8, 2018 and discussed certain matters. Is it intended to allege that Mr. Parker was terminated: (i) because he attended the meeting; (ii) because certain matters were discussed at the meeting; or (iii) because of what Mr. Parker said (or did not say) at the meeting?”

Fraser also described other portions of Parker’s statement of claim “ambiguous,” as having “no basis in law,” and calls for several allegations of claims to be withdrawn or deleted.

Shier responds with an email dated May 16, stating that while he’s received Fraser’s email, he has not received a statement of defence, which should have been due May 10.

“Please provide your Statement of Defence without delay,” Shier wrote, adding that, if he doesn’t receive one by May 22, he will be filing for default judgement.

“As you are no doubt aware, Mr. Parker has been deprived of his employment and his income,” he added. “As previously noted to you, we intended to proceed without delay.”

Fraser responds with a letter dated May 18 stating the Yukon Public Interest Commissioner has notified HSS that Parker had filed a “written complaint of reprisal.”

“The Government of Yukon takes the position that it is an abuse of process for Mr. Parker to proceed with both a reprisal complaint to the Commissioner and a civil action for wrongful dismissal,” Fraser wrote, adding that the Yukon government thinks “it would not be appropriate” to proceed on the lawsuit until the complaint to the Commissioner is resolved.

Shier responded with a three-page letter May 22, stating that there’s “nothing” in the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act preventing Parker from proceeding with his lawsuit.

“You have pointed out that the Government of Yukon intends to ‘make submissions to the Commissioner.’ We see this comment as yet another delay tactic,” Shier wrote.

“All we have been asking from you is the simple filing and delivery of a Statement of Defence so that we may proceed.… At bottom, this case is about the little person up against the immense resources of government. He was treated shabbily throughout his employment…. We would have expected a much more conciliatory approach,” he wrote.

Shier continued: “Obstruction causes delay, and delay both costs the plaintiff money and frustrates his ability to achieve a just, speedy and inexpensive determination of this case on its merits. We will be seeking significant costs sanctions should your client remain insistent on raising procedural hurdles to this meritorious claim.”

Both parties have since filed notices of application to the court.

Shier is requesting an order that would require the Yukon government to file a statement of defence within 24 hours or be found in default, with damages and costs payable to Parker.

At the same time, the Yukon government is seeking an order giving it seven days from the final disposition of its application to file its statement of defence, and to be awarded the cost of its application. It’s also requesting one of three alternatives: that Parker’s statement of claim “be struck in its entirety as an abuse of process,” that the lawsuit be stayed until Parker’s complaint to the Commissioner is resolved, or, should the lawsuit proceed, that several paragraphs and phrases from the statement of claim be struck out.

Both applications are scheduled to be heard June 7.

Yukon Department of Justice spokesperson Dan Cable declined to comment because the case is before the courts. Shier did not respond to a request for comment.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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