According to an investigative report tabled in the legislative assembly on April 17 and written by Diane McLeod-McKay, the Yukon Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner, health and social services staff did not have the authority to evict one youth from a group home. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Yukon government was wrong in evicting youth from a group home, commissioner finds

The health department has roughly two months to respond to recommendations

Health and social services staff did not have the authority to evict one youth from a group home, according to a special investigation report by the Yukon Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner (PIDC).

Among six allegations from Yukon government employees that concerned six youth and one child, one case violated the Yukon’s Child and Family Services Act (CSFA).

The allegation involved a youth being evicted from a group “without suitable alternative accommodation,” the report tabled April 17 in the Yukon legislative assembly says.

The department did not immediately return a request for comment.

Wrongdoing was found to have occurred because, based on “decisions, actions or omissions by Department employees involved,” several provisions of the CFSA were contravened.

They include ensuring a child’s safety and health, “emotional ties between the child and significant individuals in the child’s life,” stability and that they are “fed, clothed and nurtured according to community child rearing standards.”

The report, by commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay, points out that, according to the CFSA, the director has “general superintendence over all matters pertaining to the care or custody of children who” come into their care. This, too, was contravened.

Taken together, these “were significant and serious,” the report says.

Wrongdoing is defined under the Public Interest Disclosure of Wrongdoing Act as “act or omission creates substantial and specific danger to the life, health or safety of individuals, other than a danger that is inherent in the performance of the duties or functions of an employee…”

Breanna Taylor, intake officer and registrar, said McLeod-McKay would not be commenting on the report.

Two children were interviewed for the investigation, the report says, “despite numerous efforts to contact others.” It notes that the Child and Youth Advocate and her employees said that media coverage made some reluctant to participate because, “while not naming individuals, (it) identified to them and those who knew them, their stories, which they did not wish to share.”

McLeod-McKay made eight recommendations for the Yukon Department of Health and Social Services (HSS). The department has 60 days from April 10 to submit a response showing what steps it has or will take to implement the recommendations, the report says.

Recommendations include that the department “thoroughly investigate the underlying cause of the wrongdoings and detail its findings in a report,” which would detail the investigation process, steps showing wrongdoings won’t happen again and reviewing transition and discharge policies, the report says.

McLeod-McKay makes several observations where no wrongdoing was found to have occurred.

One of these allegations involved a child being barred from entering a group home. For this, she suggests that the department evaluates its reporting policies and procedures to ensure it is “done properly.” What’s also suggested is training employees so that this occurs and establishing an audit process.

The investigation into this particular allegation was “deficient,” the report says. McLeod-McKay suggests this be fixed by “establishing procedures to guide employees on how to properly conduct investigations where incidents, that may be service quality issues, are alleged.”

Her investigation was “hampered” by poor record keeping, the report says.

“Instead of a succinct and chronological file containing incidents, case plans, reviews, and other relevant documentation about the child, the Department produced a collection of emails and memos from various employees and others involved in the lives of these children,” it says.

To remedy problems with record keeping about children, the report says, the department should expand an electronic management initiative for incident reports.

“In the interim, the Department should take steps to ensure that the child in care files contain proper documentation.”

During the investigation, McLeod-McKay says in the report she observed a practice of employees refusing access to group homes that “Department management may not know about.”

“The Department should identify whether this practice is occurring in group homes. If the practice is occurring and the Department determines that the practice is acceptable, then it should provide guidance to group home employees about when the practice may be utilized and instruction about what group employees are to do once refusal occurs,” the report says.

McLeod-McKay observed that employees are “significantly reluctant to place children in care in private accommodation, such as hotels and bed and breakfasts, even when there are no other placement options available.”

It’s suggested that the department revisit policies governing this to ensure that, in the event nothing else is available, children will be accommodated this way.

The report says there was a “significant difference of opinion” between the office of the PIDC and the Yukon government when it came to obtaining documents and interviewing witnesses, noting “numerous legal challenges.”

“The Department refused access to certain records and insisted on having legal counsel present during interviews with some employees, both of which are problematic. While I understand the importance of the Yukon government protecting its legal rights, the exercise of these rights must not, in my view, be an obstacle to the ability of the PIDC to conduct a thorough investigation under PIDWA.”

As a result of these issues, McLeod-McKay suggests that the authority of her role as covered under the legislation be “reviewed and clarified.”

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

Child welfare

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

Just Posted

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

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

Most Read