Saskatchewan policy on busing homeless to B.C. 'ridiculous', says Vancouver councillor

A new report that concluded some Saskatchewan aid workers followed policy when they issued two homeless men one-way bus tickets to B.C., is being slammed by a Vancouver city councillor.

Saskatchewan's Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says she feels "vindicated" by the report

Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says she feels vindicated by the report. (Stefani Langenegger/CBC)

A new report that concluded Saskatchewan aid workers followed policy when they issued two homeless men one-way bus tickets to B.C., is being slammed by a Vancouver city councillor.

Saskatchewan's Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer says she feels "vindicated" by the report, which found nothing wrong with providing "out of province travel benefits" to the ministry's clients.

The report noted that both men requested the bus tickets and that providing transportation aid is within policy.

"The decisions made in this situation were in keeping with the individual's right to make decisions about his or her life," the report said.

The Saskatchewan government report did make recommendations on how it can handle the process better in the future, including having social workers look at cases on an individual basis, rather than at the same time — if that had happened it might have ensured the travel plan was the right one for each of the men.

The men were given bus tickets to B.C. (Stephen Rees/Flickr)

The report added Saskatchewan should have contacted B.C. officials sooner and given the men more information about their options upon arrival.

Yesterday at a news conference Harpauer blamed the media for the controversy, saying news reports about the incident in March overlooked the right people have to move from place to place.

"Mobility is a fundamental right of Canadians," she said. "and that is not taken away from you if you are low income."

The report also noted Alberta and Manitoba have similar rules.

'Their basic policy is wrong'

But Vancouver City Councillor Kerry Jang  calls the report and its conclusions "laughable."

"When I saw the report I couldn't help but laugh. They said they worked within policy but their basic policy is wrong."

"These gentlemen were expected to sleep out in the snow, so they asked for bus tickets to see their relatives in B.C. and they said fine... It's ridiculous."

Charles Neil-Curly and Jeremy Roy hopped on a Greyhound bus from North Battleford to Vancouver after they were unable to secure a spot at a Battlefords -area shelter.

"They have a policy that will actually deny people shelter. They have a policy that will put people on a bus and send them across the country without telling anyone. That's wrong."

Jang also questioned whether the issue was really one of mobility — or the right to proper healthcare and support.

"Freedom of mobility is one thing, but sending people on a bus without any support is another.  In this particular case one had epilepsy, the other had issues with mental health," he notes.

"It is unbelievable this policy is still in place in Canada." he said. "She decided to blame the media for the furore. Actually it's her own fault... it is simply a cover-up for a poor policy."

Housed at UGM on arrival

The two men initially were housed at the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver.

Derek Weiss, manager of community engagement at the mission, said one of the men, who was sick, was referred to another agency for help.

The other man was hired by a construction firm, but vanished in mid-June without any notice, his former employer told CBC News.

Mobile users: View the document
(PDF KB)
(Text KB)
CBC is not responsible for 3rd party content