Added counsellor in Carmacks not much help to traumatized Faro, says Yukon MLA

Faro resident Kara Went says mental health supports are still minimal in her community six months after a shooting that killed two and injured one.

‘Someone in a hub in Carmacks from 9 to 5, five days a week ... two hours away, doesn't cut it'

A sign welcomes people to Faro, Yukon, 'Yukon's best kept secret.' (Vincent Bonnay/Radio-Canada)

Hiring a second counsellor in the Carmacks mental health hub to help residents of Faro, Yukon, deal with the lingering trauma of a shooting that took place six months ago isn't good enough, said the local MLA.

"A hub in Carmacks in reality doesn't do a hell of a lot for the people of Faro," said Stacey Hassard, Yukon Party MLA for Pelly-Nisutlin. "Someone in a hub in Carmacks from 9 to 5, five days a week ... two hours away, doesn't cut it."

Earlier this week, Minister of Health Tracy-Anne McPhee said in the Yukon Legislature that the government had hired the second counsellor so that one could serve the residents of Faro and Ross River while the other served the residents of Carmacks and Pelly Crossing.

Last October, a shooting in which two people were killed and another was injured took place in Faro.

Last week, some residents woke up to fireworks being set off in the middle of the night last week, bringing back the trauma of the shooting.

Yukon Minister of Health Tracy-Anne McPhee. Under questioning in the Yukon Legislature earlier this week, she said the government hired a second counsellor to work out of the mental health hub in Carmacks to support Faro residents. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

It also prompted one resident to ask for more mental health support in the community.

"I woke up thinking there was a shooting," Kara Went told CBC News. "You wake up and you realize very quickly that it is fireworks, but you don't really fall back to sleep after that."

Went went from feeling scared to feeling angry so she shared her feelings on social media.

"I put a post up online just letting whomever had done it know that it was quite inconsiderate and to let them know how it could affect people after an incident such as the shooting that happened in October," she said.

Went added that a lot of the comments she received on her post echoed her feeling about the fireworks.

"It really shows that our community hasn't healed from the incident and it's still affecting us," she said. 

Minimal mental health support in Faro

Went said she and her family undergo counselling to work through the trauma caused by the shooting. She said her son has weekly panic attacks stemming from that day, and the mental health support offered within the community is minimal.

"We are still serviced by the hub of Carmacks," she said. "[There's] a phenomenal counsellor but that counsellor has to cover four communities, which is impossible to do."

Carmacks is a two-hour drive from Faro. Until the hiring of the second counsellor this week, the first counsellor provided services for residents in Carmacks, Faro, Ross River and Pelly Crossing. 

Went said the Yukon government informed residents of Faro that there would be more of a presence from a counsellor in the community but there would not be one based there.

She said that hasn't happened yet.

"Our territory has let the community down with providing any type of mental health support post shooting," she said.

Stacey Hassard, Yukon Party MLA for Pelly-Nisutlin, said hiring another counsellor based in Carmacks 'doesn't do a hell of a lot for the people of Faro.' (CBC)

"We would like to see a position based out of Faro. They could cover Faro, Ross River, and Carmacks. Maybe have two people because having one person covering communities full time — it's a hard job."

Hassard is calling on the government to listen to the needs of Faro residents. 

He said all that is being asked for is a counsellor based directly in the community.

"Look, we're looking for six to 12 months. We're not asking for a permanent position," Hassard said. "We're just asking for someone to be there for when these people need it. Someone in Carmacks is not the answer."

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story that was published by accident included a file photo that has since been removed. CBC regrets the error.