Saskatchewan

Regina's Street Culture Project brings director back before third-party investigation concludes

A Regina non-profit organization took action against three of its members of management this summer pending the results of a third-party investigation after allegations of inappropriate behavior surfaced. Now, it has brought one of the staff members back prior to the conclusion of the investigation.

Director of operations had been told to work remotely and have no contact with youth, staff

Street Culture Project is a Regina based non-profit charitable organization that actively works to empower vulnerable youth within the community. (Matt Howard/CBC)

An employee of a Regina non-profit organization that serves vulnerable youth has raised concerns about the return of another employee who was ordered to work remotely and have no contact with youth or staff, pending the results of a third-party investigation into allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

The third-party investigation will not conclude until November, but earlier this week staff were notified via memo that director of operations Mike Gerrand would be once again resuming his full responsibilities.

Board chair Joey Tremblay said interim CEO Scott Cruickshank and other senior management found Gerrand to be "a low risk to the organization."

"We never intended the independent investigation to be a three-month waiting period where the organization did nothing," Tremblay said Wednesday in an email. "We must continue with our promise to restructure, repair and heal the culture of the organization." 

People with close ties to the organization say the return of Gerrand prior to the investigation's conclusion is a betrayal of trust to employees and youth. 

"How do we get to healing without accountability? I don't think that's possible, it's kind of like asking somebody, 'forgive me' without acknowledging what you've done," said one staff member. CBC has agreed not to name this person because employees have been directed not to talk to the media. 

Mike Gerrand is the Director of Operations for Street Culture Project in Regina. (Submitted by Kim Sutherland)

The employee said it feels impossible to cultivate a sense of safety within the Street Culture community without knowing the scope of the allegations against Gerrand. A report detailing the allegations won't be presented to the board until the end of November.  The employee said some alleged victims are not ready to share their allegations with the investigator, but now feel pressured. 

Earlier this summer, allegations of sexual harassment against executive director Dustin Browne were posted to social media. Browne responded to the comments online with an apology and resigned.

Dustin Browne, the executive director of Street Culture Project, a Regina organization that works directly with vulnerable and homeless youth, resigned after allegations of sexual harassment were posted on a Regina Instagram account. (CBC)

Shortly after, allegations started to surface against founder and CEO Kim Sutherland and two other employees. Sutherland was placed on leave, while Gerrand and shelter manager Burnie Hall were ordered to work remotely and have no contact with youth or staff.

The board declined to publicize what the allegations were that caused actions against the staff members. A CBC News investigation revealed allegations by both youth and staff about a toxic culture that caused lasting mental harm. 

In interviews with CBC, employees who worked with Gerrand accused him of verbal sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour in the workplace. ​A youth who grew up with Street Culture Project said she felt like he exploited her life story for money. Gerrand declined to comment to CBC about these allegations and did not response to CBC's follow-up request for an interview after his return to work. 

The employee who spoke with CBC about Gerrand's return said they were troubled that this information wasn't, at the very least, made public by the organization that relies heavily on community and government funding. 

"It's important that a light gets shone on this for Street Culture to live up to the promises that they've made to the youth, the staff, the government and funders," said the employee CBC spoke with on Thursday. "The youth deserve better. We're really the only agency in all of Regina that does what it does. If this goes away, what happens to them?" 

Street Culture Project board chair Joey Tremblay pictured at a brief news conference in Regina as he announced changes to Kim Sutherland, Mike Gerrand and Burnie Hall's roles with the organization pending the results of an investigation. (Matt Duguid/CBC)

The employee wants the provincial government, one of the organization's key funders, to take leadership because they doubt the new management team's decisions. 

"They have youth in care right now," they said. "I really question why they haven't stepped in." 

Leaders say director 'low-risk'

After the allegations surfaced, Street Culture brought in interim CEO Scott Cruickshank to move it forward. He has not yet responded to CBC's request for an interview.

Cruickshank was tasked with creating a reparation program with senior management. Part of that involved making "a full evaluation of the risk of bringing Mike back to work," according to Tremblay. 

"They discovered that [Gerrand] was a low risk to the organization, that his skills and experience would benefit Street Culture," Tremblay said. "[Cruickshank] and the YWCA determined that Mike can assist with strengthening Street Culture's work."

 

Staff received a memo this week saying Gerrand would be returning from leave to rejoin the Integrated Management Team (IMT). It said he and the IMT would attend Healthy Workplace and Communication training to "further repair and strengthen the team." It said Gerrand would reassume his full responsibilities.

The internal memo also said that in order to achieve a "culture shift" in the youth shelter, Hall would no longer be shelter manager. 

"We would like to thank Burnie for his service and passion for Street Culture and wish him the best," it said. 

A former employee alleged that Hall was often sexually inappropriate at work, talking about his personal sex life with staff or asking sexual questions her "boyfriend doesn't even ask."  They also said allegations of sexual harassment involving other staff members were brought to Hall, but were never escalated to human resources. Hall declined to respond to these allegations.

The board said the third-party investigation is still underway, slated to conclude in early November. Anyone wishing to file complaints can do so at https://www.scpcomplaintsprocess.com/.

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