Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

'We won't go' say patients

Andrew Raven
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (July 23/04) - Several NWT residents living in an Alberta group home are taking the territorial government to court in a bid to stay where they are.

The five patients are seeking an order forcing the government to re-instate funding for the Aboriginal Partners and Youth Society, an Edmonton-area facility for the mentally and physically disabled known for its traditional healing methods.

The Department of Health and Social Services withdrew funding from the institution earlier this year amid allegations of patient abuse, financial uncertainty and problems with the facility's accreditation.

But a lawyer for the patients says the abuse allegations are completely unfounded and her clients don't want to leave the group home.

"Many were making excellent progress at (the society)," said Laurie Wood, an Edmonton-based civil lawyer representing five on the facility's nine NWT patients.

"They were enjoying the situation. They simply want peace. They want a home. They want to stop being interfered with," she said.

Despite the fact Health and Social Services signed a contract with another Edmonton facility and is refusing to subsidize patients who remain at the society, several have decided to stay, said Wood.

The group's president and chief executive officer Tracy Stevens is allowing the patients to stay for free, but the facility's financial situation is quickly becoming precarious, said Wood.

"This is not something that can continue forever," she said.

In an effort to appease the Department of Health and Social Services, Wood said Stevens agreed to open up the facility's financial records, but the government did not take her up on the offer.

A branch of the Alberta government also cleared the society of the abuse allegations and the facility is on the verge of gaining accreditation, said Wood.

"I don't understand why the (NWT) government is still withholding funding," she said.

"I think it may have become political. They made a decision and they don't want to say 'oops' and go back on it."

As a result, the patients were compelled to launch the suit, which was filed in Alberta, said Wood.

"We're hoping to move this on fairly quickly because the current (arrangement for patients) can't last forever," said Wood, who is waiting for a legal reply from the NWT government.

Officials with the Department of Health and Social Services declined to comment on the case while it was before the court.

A spokesperson for the department said it was open to funding the program once several issues -- including accreditation -- were ironed out.