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'Clean out' Yukon's social services department, says union head

Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is pushing for all investigation findings or recommendations to be made public

Chris Aylward also pushing for all investigation findings and recommendations to be made public

Chris Aylward, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, says if investigations are not made public there may be a need to call for a public inquiry. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

The head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) says Yukon's department of Health and Social Services seems to be mismanaged, and should be "cleaned out."

Chris Aylward, PSAC's national president, is also pushing the territorial government to make public any findings from probes into the department, and Yukon's child protection system.

"Those investigations are going to mean absolutely nothing unless the results of those investigations are made public," said Aylward, in Whitehorse on Thursday.

"And if they're not made public, then we may have to call for a public inquiry around this to get the bottom of what is really going on."

How can anybody have any trust or any confidence in a system where a senior official of the department actually comes out and lies publicly about something?- Chris Aylward, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Several whistleblowers and youth have spoken to CBC in recent months, describing mistreatment of youth within government-run group homes, and also alleging failures and neglect when it comes to the territory's child protection system overall.

The issue prompted the government last spring to ask the territory's child and youth advocate to do a review of the group home system. The government also said in May it would hire an independent investigator to do a "deep review" of the system. 

Aylward said it's essential that any findings or recommendations be made public, or "there's absolutely not going to be any trust into what they're saying afterwards."

'How can anybody have any trust?'

Aylward said he's been following the stories about whistleblowers from the child protection system, and has been concerned by some of the revelations. He said he was especially bothered by an incident last month at a department office.

On June 8, workers at the Integrated Supports for Yukon Youth office in Whitehorse say they were sent home by the assistant deputy minister and the director of family and children's services. The workers were initially told there were plumbing issues.

Workers at the Integrated Supports for Yukon Youth office in Whitehorse were suddenly sent home last month, and told it was because of plumbing issues in the building. Officials later admitted there were no plumbing issues. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Officials later admitted there were in fact no problems with the plumbing.

"The assistant deputy minister actually lied — came out and said that we need to shut the office down because of a plumbing issue, of all things," Aylward said.

"So how can anybody have any trust or any confidence in a system where a senior official of the department actually comes out and lies publicly about something?

"We believe that department needs to be cleaned out."

Aylward also supports opposition calls to invite the auditor general to review the child protection system. 

"It would be in [the government's] best interest right now to say absolutely, yes," Aylward said. "I think it would show at least some interest on the part of the government to get to the bottom of this."

Union representatives were set to meet with government officials on Thursday to talk about their concerns.

With files from Nancy Thomson and Roch Shannon Fraser

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