Nova Scotia

Halifax LGBTQ youth program suspends executive director as part of investigation

An organization for LGBTQ youth in Halifax has suspended its executive director and cancelled much of its programming.

The Youth Project says Kate Shewan has been suspended from her role but won't say why

Kate Shewan the executive director of the Youth Project in Halifax has been suspended from her duties. (CBC)

Update, Nov. 26, 2018: The Youth Project's executive director has been cleared of any wrongdoing or misconduct. In a news release, the group said an impartial investigation into a Sept. 2018 complaint of workplace harassment against Kate Shewan concluded the complaint was unfounded.

An organization offering support and services to LGBTQ youth in Halifax has suspended its executive director and cancelled much of its programming.

In a statement posted on its website, The Youth Project said it has hired an external investigator to look at the "workplace environment and office culture." 

As a result of that investigation, it said executive director Kate Shewan has been suspended and Kym Sweeny has been appointed to the position on an acting basis.

"We want to sincerely apologize for the abrupt nature of this break from programming," the statement said. 

"We understand that there is a significant lack of spaces in Nova Scotia that offer support to 2SLGBTQIAP+ [two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual, pansexual and others] allies youth, and want to recognize and be accountable to the impact that our temporary closure may have on the youth we serve and our community.

"Our hope is that after this restructuring period we will be able to better serve 2SLGBTQIAP+ youth across the province."

A statement posted on The Youth Project's website. (youthproject.ns.ca)

Sweeny wouldn't go into details about what prompted the investigation last week.                          

But she said following a number of staff departures, the non-profit organization doesn't have the capacity right now to offer its regular programs, such as drop-in or craft nights, at its centre on Brunswick Street. 

She said public education programs have been scaled back. 

2019 relaunch planned

Programs will resume once the investigation has been completed, although Sweeny couldn't say when that might happen.

"We don't have a clear answer for that right now," she said. "We are planning a sort of relaunching in January. But some programming may be able to start up again after the end of the investigation, which we're hoping will be in the next few weeks."

Shewan's biography on The Youth Project's website says she joined the organization in 2015 after years of involvement with the LGBTQ community, including work with the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health and the Nova Scotia Rainbow Action Project. It describes Shewan as a "strong advocate" for LGBTQ rights.

Organization to hold 'extraordinary' general meeting

Sweeny said next summer's camps and a major fundraiser for the camps on Nov.18 will still go ahead.

The Youth Project is holding what it's calling an "extraordinary" general meeting Nov. 24 to plan for next steps and is asking people to fill out a survey.

In its statement, the organization offers a list of other youth groups that may be able to provide support while the investigation and restructuring are underway.

The Youth Project in Cape Breton is not affected by the Halifax restructuring. 

Director Madonna Doucette said Friday some evening support workshops have been suspended because of her workload.

About the Author

Wendy Martin

Reporter

Wendy Martin has been a reporter for nearly 30 years. Her first job in radio was at the age of three, on a show called Wendy's House on CFCB Radio in Corner Brook, N.L. Get in touch at wendy.martin@cbc.ca