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Yukon gov't to implement all recommendations made in group home investigation

Minister Pauline Frost issued a statement in response to an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in Yukon group homes, saying that her government will implement all the recommendations made by the territory's Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner.

Minister Pauline Frost says results of investigation into youth's group home eviction will be made public

In a statement Thursday, Yukon Social Services Minister Pauline Frost apologized — for the second time — to the youth evicted from his group home in November 2016. (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

In the aftermath of an investigation into alleged wrongdoing at Yukon group homes that found evidence of child protection legislation violations, the territory's government says it will adopt all eight recommendations made by the Yukon Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner.

Diane McLeod-McKay's report followed an investigation into the alleged wrongdoing, made under the whistleblower legislation.

The investigation confirmed that in one case, government employees contravened the Child and Family Services Act by telling a youth to leave his group home with nowhere else to go. The report noted the act put the youth in danger.

In a statement Thursday, Social Services Minister Pauline Frost apologized — for the second time — to the youth.

"On behalf of the government of Yukon I would like to once again apologize to this youth," Frost's statement reads.

Frost said work has already started on the first recommendation from the report — that government investigate the cause of the wrongdoing.

Frost said those results will be made public, as far as possible. 

Changes already underway, minister says

Her statement also outlined changes that have already taken place within the child and family services division, including increased training, adding supervisors to group homes, hiring two more support workers to assist with youth files and a paralegal position to help social workers with legal processes.

Frost cited changes to policy, including creating a team to review the division, and a directive that all "care plans" for children be up to date. 

Program changes include regular meetings to review case plans and updating the records and file management systems.

Staff must also now take mandatory training to deal with concerns and complaints from clients.

Frost said the government has reduced the number of children in care, from 158 in 2016 to 92 now. The number of children in group homes has also dropped, from 46 in 2016, to 19.

The statement said Frost will provide a public response to McLeod-McKay within 60 days.

Opposition disturbed

Meanwhile, Yukon's opposition parties are calling for accountability over the report's findings.

"Obviously if they broke their own laws, that should be a huge concern for all Yukoners," said MLA Patti McLeod, the social services critic for the Yukon Party. 

"We want to see how and when the minister's going to take some action. At the end of the day, we want to be assured that the children in [government] care are supported by government."

NDP MLA Liz Hanson said she's disturbed by McLeod-McKay's stated concerns about the challenges presented to her investigation by the government, including refusing access to records and having lawyers present when the commissioner interviewed some employees.

Hanson said government's insistence on having its lawyers in the room when employees were speaking to the whistleblower investigation is a huge problem.

"I think that really calls into question the government's ability to accept the fact that this is supposed to be a wholly independent arms-length body, that is not subject to having the government hanging on every word. You can't be fully free if you believe that there's potential for reprisal."

Both the Yukon Party and the NDP say they expect accountability from Richard Mostyn, the minister responsible for the public service commission.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raised in Ross River, Yukon, Nancy Thomson is a graduate of Ryerson University's journalism program. Her first job with CBC Yukon was in 1980, when she spun vinyl on Saturday afternoons. She rejoined CBC Yukon in 1993, and focuses on First Nations issues and politics. You can reach her at nancy.thomson@cbc.ca.

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