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Many Rivers 'pursuing every option' to keep doors open

Many Rivers management said layoff notices — issued days after staff returned to work following a months-long strike — were necessary because of an 'anticipated stoppage of funding' from the Yukon government.

Layoff notices necessary because of an 'anticipated stoppage of funding,' management says

A press release posted on the door of the Many Rivers office in Whitehorse says layoff notices have been issued to staff. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Yukon's Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services Society confirms that it has "begun to issue layoff notices" to staff, and blames the move on complaints made last fall to the territory's Registrar of Societies.

In a news release posted on the door of Many Rivers' Whitehorse office on Wednesday, the society also said it was "pursuing every option in attempts to keep its doors open" despite the layoff notices.

Many Rivers said the notices — issued days after staff returned to work following a months-long strike — were necessary because of an "anticipated stoppage of funding" from the territorial government.

On Tuesday, the government acknowledged that it was cutting funds to the non-profit, because it was "not in compliance with filing requirements under the Societies Act."

Yukon's Registrar of Societies had ordered an independent investigation into complaints that Many Rivers was not complying with the Act, and according to the government, the Registrar is still reviewing the results of that investigation.

That leaves Many Rivers unfairly in limbo, the society's news release says.

"There is nothing that Many Rivers can do to remedy the situation until the Registrar is satisfied that the matter is at an end," it says.

Many Rivers has employees in Whitehorse, Dawson City, Watson Lake and Haines Junction. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The society also tries to pressure the original complainants to the Registrar, suggesting they could save jobs by withdrawing their complaints.

"Doing so would put an end to the investigation and avoid the possibility of layoffs and reduced services pending the outcome of the Registrar's investigation," the release says.

Complaints made to Registrar

The complaints against Many Rivers were made to the Registrar of Societies last fall. According to an investigation report done for the Registrar, nine complaints were received, all in October — just before the strike began.

The complaints all focus on the Society's handling of membership applications, and the cancellation of its annual general meeting last summer. 

"Compliance by the Society with its bylaws, the Societies Act and the Regulations, is central to these issues, as well as the role of Corporate Affairs in overseeing the Society," says the report by investigator Penelope Gawn.

"At the core of the dispute is the question of who is entitled to be a member of the Society."

It's a real rollercoaster of emotions- YEU president Steve Geick

According to the territorial government, the Registrar is now reviewing the investigation report and asking for any further submissions from the Society or the complainants. They'll be accepted until Mar. 4, and the Registrar will then make a decision about the Society's compliance. 

Steve Geick, president of the Yukon Employees' Union, said Wednesday he believed the layoff notices were "premature," since the Registrar's investigation is still ongoing. The first layoffs take effect on Friday, Geick said.

"They're angry," Geick said of the employees who received notices. The union held a meeting with the workers on Tuesday evening.

"It's a real rollercoaster of emotions, for not only our members, but I can't even imagine what it's like for clients that need the services," Geick said.

'They're angry,' said Yukon Employees Union president Steve Geick, of the employees who received layoff notices. (Wayne Vallevand/CBC)

Geick also walked back comments he made earlier about the Yukon government "stepping in" to take over at Many Rivers.  

"It's not like the precedent hasn't been set," Geick had said Tuesday, referring to the government's recent decision to take over management of the Whitehorse homeless shelter from the Salvation Army. "Somebody needs to step in and do this."

On Wednesday, Geick clarified his remarks. 

"We're not asking the Yukon government to take over Many Rivers. We would like to see them step in, they need to follow up on this investigation and get the Society back into compliance."

With files from Philippe Morin and Sandi Coleman

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