Yukon NDP motion questions non-profit’s fitness to operate Whitehorse shelter, other programs

WHITEHORSE, YT – Yukon MLAs are set to debate an NDP motion calling on the government to determine if the Connective Support Society (Connective), which operates Whitehorse’s emergency shelter, is fit to operate any health and social programs in the territory.

Connective took over shelter operations from the Yukon Government (YG) after two Yukon First Nations women died of overdoses at the shelter in 2022. Their deaths, and the substance-use-related deaths of two Yukon First Nations women staying at the shelter in 2023, were the subject of a coroner’s inquest that wrapped up in Whitehorse last week.  

Connective also operates YG’s Housing First and Supervised Housing and Reintegration programs.

A jury panel convened for the inquest heard that Connective dropped basic safety measures YG had implemented at the shelter specifically in response to the first two deaths, including and especially regular bathroom checks by staff.

MLA Annie Blake (Vuntut Gwitchin), who tabled the NDP motion on Monday, was deeply saddened heading into Wednesday’s afternoon debate.

“First Nations women are the backbone of our families; our communities and of our society, and Connective’s leadership has treated them like they’re disposable,” Blake said.
“I hear this constantly from folks who stay at the shelter and at Housing First, and from First Nations Elders who visit their people at both. How many more Yukoners have to die on Connective’s watch before the government launches a review?”

Cassandra Warville, 35, and Myranda Tizya-Charlie, 34, died at the shelter in January 2022 as a result of toxic drugs. Josephine Elizabeth Hager, 38, and Darla Skookum, 52, died at the shelter under very similar circumstances in early 2023, according to the Yukon’s chief coroner, Heather Jones.

The jury panel in last month’s coroner’s inquest called on Connective to review its safety and training policies, among other recommendations.