By Megan Roth
After receiving allegations regarding two employees of the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge last spring, the public sector integrity commissioner, Joe Friday, conducted an investigation.
Friday addressed Parliment on Thursday, Feb. 4, with his findings.
The investigation, which started last March, found the Healing Lodge to be responsible for the endangerment of the children of 21 staff members from the Healing Lodge.
The investigation found the 21 staff members had brought their children to the penal institution a total of 73 from 2011 to the time of the investigation.
Furthermore, the investigation found those in position of authority at the Healing Lodge to be responsible, and to be held accountable, for the practise.
Friday’s recommendation to the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) was to be “aware and actively monitoring” local practises in federal institutions.
Don Head, commissioner of CSC, said in a statement the CSC takes the presented finding “seriously” and is already moving to put “proper national policies
and guidelines” in place to ensure the safety of everyone.
Friday’s report stated the staff left their children in the care of the inmates at the Healing Lodge, some of those inmates had “specific conditions to not be near children.”
Friday’s report also stated 11 out of the 39 inmates at the Healing Lodge were sentenced or previously sentenced for crimes involving children. This includes sexual abuse, violence and neglect causing harm or death.
“The open environment of OOHL coupled with the inherent dangers present as in other penal institutions, drastically increase the risk of an incident involving children,” he said in the report.
The children were brought to the institution by using a “Child Safety Waiver.” This waiver form is not meant for staff, it is to be used solely by visiting family
members of the inmate.
Previous to the allegations there was no policy or procedure in place that authorized employees to bring their children into any institution.
The report also stated that those in positions of authority knew about the practise, saying they “actually participated and endorsed this practise.”
Friday said that no one at OOHL questioned the practise and went along with it because previous senior members of staff condoned it.
“There is no reason for their (the children’s) presence and no justification for the systemic practise of bringing them to the OOHL,” Friday said.