Opposition calls on Sask. Party government to work with community organizations to develop independent oversight measures

REGINA — Four months after initial calls from current and former frontline advocates, the Minister of Social Services has finally agreed to conduct an independent review of Raising Hope, a government-funded program providing housing and supports to women battling addiction. The decision comes months after Meara Conway, Opposition Critic for Social Services and Housing, wrote to the minister demanding this very action. 

“While this is the right call, it should have been made back in December when I first asked Minister Carr to undertake an independent review. Instead, it took four months of full-time community advocacy for the minister to do what was plainly necessary under the circumstances. That is simply unacceptable,” said Conway. “It’s not enough to announce a one-off review to mitigate the political fallout. The minister must put in place mechanisms to trigger independent oversight when credible concerns are raised involving community organizations receiving public funds.”

Back in November, after privately sharing concerns with the Ministry of Social Services and feeling dismissed, 29 current and former staff, residents and community members came forward calling for a formal review of Raising Hope. Concerns were raised regarding a distancing from the program’s founding pillars and the number of firings, resignations and evictions over the last year. 

“Programs like these can be life-changing for women who just need a helping hand. To have the ability to access traditional teachings, elders and ceremonies can be critical elements in rebuilding trust and paving a path forward,” said Nippi-Albright, Official Opposition Critic for Truth and Reconciliation, First Nations and Métis Relations. “To hear that the program may have been distancing itself from its original guiding pillars and potentially punishing staff and residents who raised these issues is concerning. This independent review is months overdue.” 

The NDP’s call comes on the heels of the Regina Police Service launching an investigation following the release of a confidential third-party report that confirmed inappropriate conduct at Street Culture Project. "Many staff members disclosed fearing the repercussions of speaking out and didn't trust that an organization-led review would lead to accountability,” said Conway. “This is precisely why a formal Ministry-led process, developed in consultation with the sector, is necessary. It will ensure quality government-funded services, and protect vulnerable service users and whistleblowers alike."

The Official Opposition is calling on the minister to put in place mechanisms to trigger independent oversight when credible concerns are raised by community organizations in receipt of public funds.