North·Exclusive

Yukon whistleblower suspended after disclosing wrongdoing in government-run group homes

A manager with Yukon’s Department of Health and Social Services has been suspended, just weeks after disclosing wrongdoing within government-run group homes to the deputy minister.

Jane Bates put on extended leave after meeting deputy minister in April

A whistleblower who went to a Yukon deputy minister to disclose problems at youth group homes has been placed on extended leave. (Sunghwan Yoon/Flickr)

A manager with Yukon's Department of Health and Social Services has been suspended, just weeks after disclosing wrongdoing within government-run group homes to the deputy minister.

Jane Bates is the manager of integrated youth support and services. She was placed on extended leave on May 24.

Sources have confirmed to the CBC that Bates was an internal whistleblower who met with Stephen Samis, deputy minister of health and social services, on April 25.

At that meeting, Bates disclosed proof of wrongdoing within government-run group homes.

On May 9, Health Minister Pauline Frost said the information disclosed on April 25 revealed Samis had been "misinformed" about situations within group homes.

Following that meeting, Frost said a labour and employment lawyer from B.C. was hired and an investigation into the government-run group homes launched.

Several people flag youth group home issues

The issue of group homes and alleged mistreatment of vulnerable youth dominated the spring sitting of the Yukon legislature, after several whistleblowers came forward to the CBC.

Both Frost and Richard Mostyn, Minister of the Public Service Commission, have applauded whistleblowers for their "bravery."

They urged workers to go directly to their deputy minister if they have concerns about wrongdoing.

"I understand that people are nervous to come forward with their concerns," said Mostyn, who also vowed workers who come forward will be safe from repercussions from their supervisors. "We do not want our employees, our valued employees … to be fearful in their jobs."

Justice Minister Tracey-Anne McPhee also pledged employees would be safe.

"We're asking them to trust us — we get that," McPhee said. "We're giving you the assurances, publicly, that there won't be retribution. We need to know the information that they have so that we can identify the problems and address them."

'He has some explaining to do'

Yukon Party House leader Scott Kent said Mostyn must now account for this latest development.

"It's now on him to come out and explain what has happened in this case," said Kent. "Words matter when they come from elected officials, whether it's inside the House or outside the House. He has some explaining to do."

Mostyn declined an interview with the CBC. Instead, in a written statement on Monday, Mostyn said he cannot comment on a specific personnel matter. He also referred to the external investigation which is underway now.

He went on to say that he stands by his earlier statements about "protecting civil servants who bring forward information about wrongdoing. Civil servants who wish to disclose a wrongdoing... will be protected from reprisal." 

Bates declined an interview with the CBC.

Meanwhile, Auditor General Michael Ferguson has replied to an April 15 letter from Yukon Party MLA Patti McLeod, which urged Ferguson to conduct an audit of Yukon's family and children's services.

In his written response, Ferguson said his office is "carefully considering" McLeod's request.

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