Rankin group home investigated for allegations of client abuse

Health board CEO says contract could be removed if allegations are substantiated.

By JANE GEORGE

MONTREAL — The chief executive officer of the Keewatin Regional Health and Social Services Board, Dr. Keith Best, says he will conduct an investigation into 15 allegations of physical abuse and neglect at a group home for adult handicapped people in Rankin Inlet.

Before he left town, an unhappy former employee at a Rankin Inlet group home filed a complaint with the Keewatin Regional Board of Health and Social Services, citing 15 instances of physical abuse and neglect at the home.

Best, who is a certified health investigator, plans to conduct an investigation into the allegations made by Bob Vibert, a former employee who worked at the home for about three months.

Best said that he will begin interviewing the home’s staff and residents very shortly.

“If these allegations are substantiated, if you’re talking about 15 serious allegations that point to neglect and abuse… the contract could be removed,” Dr. Best said.

Two group homes in Rankin

An Inuit-owned, for-profit company called Kivalliq Consulting, Management and Training Services Ltd. runs two group homes in Rankin Inlet. The company holds a renewable, three-year contract with the health board to run these residences.

One home serves adults, the other children. All residents suffer from a variety of mental and physical handicaps.

The company was founded in the late 1980s by Rankin Inlet North MLA Jack Anawak’s wife, Caroline Anawak, and employs several of their former foster children. Anawak is no longer involved in the business.

The Nunavut corporate registry in Yellowknife lists the names of Gloria Anawak and Mary Autut as directors of the company.

Dr. Best said that while he has “full confidence” in the homes’ personnel and the care they provide, he is still taking Vibert’s complaint seriously.

It’s not the first time that the homes’ performance has been scrutinized. Last year, an evaluation was carried out in response to other allegations that Dr. Best said “weren’t validated”.

The group homes’ general manager, Sheila Milloy, said that Bob Vibert’s recent complaint hit her like “a tomato thrown at your ear.”

Vibert has claimed that he tried to talk to Milloy about his concerns when he was employed by the home, but Milloy maintained that the first she ever heard about them was in a Nov. 3 article in the Kivalliq News.

“He never told me about it,” Milloy said. “I read about it in the paper.”

Local employees

The two residences employ 16 people. Acccording to Milloy, 60 per cent of them come from Rankin Inlet. Their training in special care skills is supplied on the job by staff members from the South who hold diplomas.

Milloy said Vibert was imported from the South as a program manager for the adult home, but that he didn’t work out.

“That was a person who came here from the South for three months and didn’t experience a successful situation and consequently resigned,” Milloy said.

Milloy attributed some of Vibert’s job problems to gender issues and cultural differences.

Milloy said that caregivers are paired in teams at the homes, and any challenging situations that they encounter are discussed afterwards.

If there was any mistreatment of any of the residents, Milloy said that it would “blow me away.”

She did, however, say that Inuit workers are sometimes less willing to act in explosive situations that may require some physical intervention to diffuse.

These actions, she said, can also be misinterpreted.

“Some could call that ‘physical abuse’,” Milloy said. “If a teacher touches a child, it’s an assault.”

Milloy said that workers in health and social services have to expect difficult situations and realize it’s entirely “normal” and “natural” to have their responses closely looked at.

“We work in a high-risk profession and we deal with the issues of this profession every day,” Milloy said. “We should be under scrutiny and we should be accepting of it.”

Milloy has been promoting a “community awareness committee” for the “physically and/or developmentally challenged of Rankin Inlet.”

The committee is an effort to see “how helpers and the community can work and respond to the needs of these special people.”.

This committee held its first meeting last week, at which local elders shared some of their concerns and perspectives on special care.

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