Yukon jailors harass female colleagues

Female employees at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre are being harassed by both inmates and facility supervisors, according to a three-year-old…

Female employees at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre are being harassed by both inmates and facility supervisors, according to a three-year-old report recently leaked to the media.

And while such harassment has lessened, it continues to be a problem today, says the president of the Yukon Employees Union.

“We know there have been some issues up there in the realm of harassment because we did have some harassment complaints going in,” said Laurie Butterworth in an interview Thursday.

“Some of that is still occurring. But, from when I talk to people, it’s a better place to work now than it was two years ago.”

Female corrections officers are being verbally harassed by inmates, and pawed and sexually propositioned by their male coworkers, according to the 16-page government-sponsored report completed in August 2004.

Half of the supervisors who were in charge, not only knew about the harassment, they might have endorsed it, according to the document.

There was a signed agreement between the Yukon Employees Union and the Justice department to handle the problem co-operatively, but personnel changes at Justice led to the situation being handled by the government in-house, said Butterworth.

Southern experts were recruited to teach corrections officers how to be more respectful in the workplace, he said.

“We were sort of pushed back and they started doing things in-house,” said Butterworth. “Now, I haven’t heard lately, but I know there’s still some issues going on up there.”

Recent media reports about the document have prompted union-government discussions, said Butterworth.

The 2004 report, which cost $13,000, was authored by Dr. Patricia M. Fisher, who runs an international employee health and wellness firm.

Officials don’t want the details of the harassment being made public, said Butterworth.

“There’s a bit of angst I think at the government level, and at the department of Justice right now for that report getting out,” said Butterworth.

“I don’t know the reasons for the secrecy of the report because government does that all kinds of times.

“They’ll get out there and then they’ll never release the report.”

According to Fisher’s report, which was anonymously dropped off to at least two local media outlets, the information obtained through interviews with corrections centre staff in 2004 was only meant for the eyes of a select few.

“It is important to note that given the small number of individuals involved in this assessment report, and given their legitimate concerns regarding ongoing vulnerability to workplace harassment, it is critical that circulation of this report be restricted to key decision-making individuals within YTG and the department of Corrections.”

The report states the women working on two of four teams at the jail complained they had found themselves in an uncomfortable work environment.

“Exposure to ongoing sexual harassment, crude remarks and name-calling from male inmates was noted by almost three-quarters of the participants.

“A number of the women believe that they were being set up for this by coworkers and supervisors,” according to the report.

It also details complaints by female guards that while they were being harassed by inmates, their male coworkers would occasionally join in.

The report stated managers were not aware of specific conditions or problems within the jail.

“In terms of senior leadership, there seemed to be consensus that management is unaware of what is happening on the floor,” said Fisher’s report.

“Most participants attributed this to the fact that senior management receives their information from the supervisors — thus receiving an edited version of reality.”

Female guards were looking for greater opportunities in management, more women working at the jail and better programs for inmates, according to the report.

Employees also described the facility as a ‘sick building’ and said they felt a new centre should be built as soon as possible.

“The need for a new jail was prominent, and almost all participants were distressed by the current physical plant as an unhealthy environment with serious limitations and critical shortfalls [e.g. serious overcrowding, poor air quality, no facilities, a sick building environment],” the report states.

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

Just Posted

Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Premier Sandy Silver speaks to media after delivering the budget in the legislature in Whitehorse on March 4. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Territorial budget predicts deficit of $12.7 million, reduced pandemic spending in 2021-2022

If recovery goes well, the territory could end up with a very small surplus.

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read