APTN National News
OTTAWA – Staff at Okimaw Ochi Healing Lodge for female Indigenous offenders in southern Saskatchewan were known to bring their kids to work over the last few years and sometimes had inmates watch over them, according to Public Sector Integrity Comm. Joe Friday.
Friday said his office found 73 documented cases of staff bringing children to work since 2011 following an investigation into the lodge, a federal penal institution on Nekaneet First Nation. He said the investigation began last March after a “whistleblower” came forward.
The children ranged from six-months-old to 17-years-old but Friday said there is no record of a child being hurt at the lodge.
“No, there was not a reported incident of harm or danger,” he said in a teleconference with media Thursday.
Friday wouldn’t say why staff brought their kids to work.
“Regardless of the purpose … the fact is they were being brought in through an informal practice without controls, without policies, without approved processes and therein lies the danger,” he said.
He said a third of staff were involved and ranged from a single time to one staff member bringing a child in 13 times.
Those that brought their kids in signed a “child safety waiver”.
The lodge operates at minimal security level with inmates living in a residential style housing.
The services are geared for Indigenous people allowing engagement with traditions, culture and elders.
Throughout the investigation it was learned 11 of the 39 inmates were, or had been, serving sentences for crimes against children, including “sexual abuse, causing harm or death.”
Correctional Services of Canada said the department will speak to the lodge and ensure proper practices are followed.