Osborne House CEO says province has 'racist agenda'
As officials with Osborne House and the Manitoba government continue sparring over how the Winnipeg women's shelter is being run, the shelter's chief executive officer is accusing the province of having a "racist agenda."
Late last week, Family Services Minister Jennifer Howard ordered the shelter's board of directors to meet with provincial officials and develop an action plan by the end of this week.
In a letter, Howard raised concerns regarding safety and the quality of counselling at Osborne House, as well as allegations of a "hostile work environment."
Those concerns were based on two reports that identify numerous issues at the shelter.
In one report, investigators said they found a possible case of child abuse documented in a file, but there was no evidence of follow-up.
Barbara Judt, Osborne House's CEO, is defending the shelter and demanding to see specific examples of the concerns identified in the reports.
Judt added that the province has been calling for more culturally sensitive programming at Osborne House, but she argued that staff do provide some services for aboriginal clients.
"They've got this racist agenda on the go that we're not capable of providing women, providing support to women and children," she told CBC News on Monday.
When asked if she was referring to aboriginal women and children, Judt said yes.
In a statement to CBC News sent late Monday afternoon, a government spokesperson said, "Our concern is for the safety of the women and children that Osborne House serves and the staff who work there.
"Two independent reviews highlight serious safety issues that must be addressed immediately," the spokesperson added. "We're pleased they have agreed to work with us and look forward to receiving their plan."
Ignoring calls for help, says Judt
Judt admitted that there are problems at the shelter, but she accused the provincial government of ignoring her calls for help.
"We want to get these matters resolved so everyone can get back to work," she said.
But a government spokesperson disputed that claim, saying there have been 43 documented in-person meetings between staff with Howard's office and Osborne House since March 2012, as well as 17 phone meetings in which operations or programming issues were discussed.
The current dispute between Osborne House and Howard is the latest snag in the shelter's relationship with the provincial government.
In August, a leaked email from deputy premier Eric Robinson referred to people organizing events for Osborne House as "do-good white people," in response to a government staffer's concerns about a fundraiser that included a burlesque performance.
- Manitoba premier OKs deputy's 'white people' apology
- Organizer of Osborne House fundraiser breaks silence
Robinson has since apologized for the remark but maintained that the fundraiser was inappropriate.