EDITORIAL: What’s next for Many Rivers?

There are plenty of questions to answer before the organization can be up and running again

For people who claim to be experts in mental health, you’d think the folks who run Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services could better spot passive aggression.

And yet, in a statement released earlier this week announcing that the organization would be working to get its doors open after essentially being shuttered for five months, the board takes little responsibility for the mess it is in.

For those not up to speed, Many Rivers counsellors, who offer free mental health services to Yukoners, went on strike last November. Though a deal was eventually reached, those counsellors were quickly laid off. The Yukon’s registrar of societies had launched an investigation into the group’s membership rules and government funding was withheld until the society could get itself back in good standing.

In March, the registrar ruled Many Rivers had no basis to deny nine memberships and ordered that the new members be accepted.

Instead of admitting its mistake, Many Rivers released a statement earlier this week saying it could have overturned the registrar’s decision in court, but is choosing not to for the good of the people.

Despite the registrar’s finding, Many Rivers says it “has always, and continues to welcome members from a wide range of backgrounds and political views.”

Many Rivers says the real issue is over the registrar’s authority and claims that the investigation, which took nearly five months, is forcing the society to “decide between vindicating its rights and keeping the organization alive.”

Many Rivers may claim it wants to repair relationships but the statement contains the kind of language that would be a red flag to any relationship counsellor.

As Many Rivers’ strike, and later closure, dragged on the Yukon government was repeatedly asked to step in.

Community Services Minister John Streicker, whose department is responsible for the Societies Act, insisted there wasn’t anything more the Yukon government could do.

It would be inappropriate, he told the legislative assembly, for the government to interfere with either the labour dispute or the registrar’s investigation.

In most cases Streicker’s points would be sound. It’s not the government’s responsibility to monitor non-profits beyond what is prescribed in the Societies Act.

When Many Rivers failed to follow the law, the organization deserved to have its funding pulled and the government did the only thing it was in the position to do by holding on to that money.

The problem is that Many Rivers is not the same as other groups in the territory. This is an organization that deals with people’s mental health. It can’t be treated the same as most of the others.

If the Yukon is going to rely on societies to provide vital services like mental health care it might be time for the territory to consider whether those groups should be under more strict rules than societies that run music festivals or care for animals, for example.

It’s not obvious what the solution could be. Perhaps a new section of the Societies Act should be created for organizations like Many Rivers with stricter expectations and additional levers that the government could pull if needed.

Maybe the registrar needs to be given additional resources so that investigations can be completed more quickly.

The Yukon government could also choose to fund both Many Rivers and the newly-created group that has recently gone public with its willingness to take over mental health services. This would avoid creating a situation where the failure of one group leads to potential dire consequences for the public.

In most cases reducing redundancy is the right move. But this saga may be proof of the need for an exception.

The Liberals have, in the past, shown their willingness to take over for vital organizations that aren’t performing up to snuff.

The emergency shelter in Whitehorse is now being run by the government after the Salvation Army didn’t meet expectations.

When Many Rivers was on strike, the health department was still offering services.

It would be a mistake to interpret that as a sign that Many Rivers is redundant and could be absorbed by the government.

For services like mental health having options outside of government is a good idea. For some, particularly those dealing with long term trauma, trusting someone connected to the government could be difficult.

Even if Many Rivers is able to complete its record-keeping, hold its AGM, and do everything it needs to get the government money flowing again, it will still need to hire staff.

It will be interesting to see how many employees are willing to come back to work for an organization that seems unwilling to take a close look at itself.

(AJ)

Just Posted

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

The health department has roughly two months to respond to recommendations

Stephanie Dixon ready to dive into new role as chef de mission for 2019 Parapan American Games and 2020 Paralympic Games

“You do it because you believe in yourself and you have people around you that believe in you”

WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World

Whitehorse becomes first community north of 60 to have private pot shop

Triple J’s Canna Space opens its doors to first customers

Whitehorse council news, briefly

Some of the news that came out of Whitehorse city council this week

Snowmobiles and snow bikes descend on Mount Sima for Yukon Yamaha Uphill Challenge

“I think everyone had their eyes opened on what could be done there”

Yukon Orienteering Association starts Coast Mountain Sports Sprint Series off in the right direction

The race on April 11 was the first of five sprint races planned for the spring

Yukon gymnasts stick the landing at inaugural B.C. Junior Olympic Compulsory Championships

Seven Polarettes earned five podium finishes at the two-day event in Langley, B.C.

École Émilie-Tremblay hosts first Yukon elementary school wrestling meet of 2019

“You can grab kids and you can trip and you can do that rough play, but there are rules”

Driving with Jens: Survey says….

If you’re like me, you probably feel inundated with surveys. It seems… Continue reading

Editorial: Promising electoral reform is the easy part

Details of what that would actually look like are much harder to come by

Yukonomist: The centre of the business universe moves 4,000 k.m. northwest

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business named Whitehorse Canada’s top place to start and grow a business

Whitehorse starts getting ready for Japanese students

This summer 13 Japanese students are slated to come north

Most Read