September 21, 2013 6:57 pm
Updated: September 23, 2013 8:33 am

Province and Osborne House at odds


WINNIPEG — The head of Osborne House women’s shelter says the province wants her out.

“They want to demonstrate that we are not capable of running Osborne House,” said Barbara Judt, the executive director of the women’s shelter.

In a recent letter to the board of directors of Osborne House, the Manitoba government gives the organization seven days to address these serious concerns stemming from two reviews:

  • Quality and frequency of resident counselling;
  • Failure to address protection planning in a timely manner, resulting in incomplete protection planning for residents leaving Osborne House;
  • Documentation on one file of a resident of possible child abuse, but no evidence of any followup documentation that the abuse had been reported;
  • Storage and distribution of medication to residents;
  • Response to safety concerns identified in recommendation 13 of the workplace assessment;
  • Hostile work environment; and
  • Communication between employees with other employees and management has broken down.

“We have known for a while that people who work there have described it as a hostile work environment,” said Jennifer Howard, the minister responsible for the status of women. “What we have been told by the independent reviews is that has an impact on the service for women and children.”

The letter has nothing to do with trying to remove Judt from her job, Howard said.

“That is not our desire and not within our power,” she said.

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Judt acknowledges the work environment can be difficult at times but told Global News this letter is the Manitoba government retaliating.

“This all goes back to the Eric Robinson thing,” Judt said. “There is a very clearly orchestrated plan to undermine the agency and this government has been at this for some time with us.”

“I understand that perception but that isn’t true,” said Howard.

Comments made by Aboriginal Affairs Minister Eric Robinson were brought to light last month.

In an email about a fundraising event for the shelter, he referred to “ignorant do good white people.”

Judt has since filed a human rights complaint.

The province said the reviews were ordered before the email exchange was made public.

“The issues we have been working on predate any discussion of Minister Robinson,” said Howard. “We ordered these reviews at the beginning of August.”

The reviews were done to protect people who are at risk and those helping them, Howard added.

“The bottom line for us is we need to fund a women’s shelter that is a safe place for women and children who need it and the people who work there,” she said.

Osborne House receives $1.6 million in provincial funding a year.

Judt said the reviews and ongoing debate with the province is taking focus away from the women’s shelter’s work.

“Let’s just work together to resolved these issues,” she said. “The most important thing here are the clients we need to take care of.”

© 2013 Shaw Media

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