Social workers in Saskatchewan are under fire for giving two homeless, indigenous men one-way bus tickets to B.C., after the provincial government refused to fund their stay in local shelters.
On Tuesday, Jeremy Roy, 21, and Charles Neil Curly, 23, were sent on their way to Vancouver and Victoria, respectively, after they were denied provincial funding to stay at the The Lighthouse Supported Living homeless shelter in North Battleford, The Saskatoon StarPhoenix reported.
Roy, who's from the small community of Beauval in northern Saskatchewan, told the newspaper that he asked for a bus ticket after learning that the provincial ministry of social services wouldn't pay for him to stay at the shelter overnight.
He got the idea to travel to Vancouver after overhearing that Curly — who couldn't get funding either — was travelling West, according to the newspaper.
Roy has "significant" mental health issues, doesn't know anybody in Vancouver, and has never had a job — but "just made a decision to go" anyway.
Social workers handed tickets to both Roy and Curly upon request.
Caitlin Greencross, manager of North Battleford Lighthouse, said it's not unusual for the government to buy tickets for people who aren't from Saskatchewan.
However, she said it's the first time she's seen people sent out of their home province, according to the StarPhoenix.
Greencross, who said she's "deeply concerned" over the situation, worries that Roy doesn't understand what's really happening and that he won't have access to medication he needs.
"I'm almost speechless," she told CBC News.
"Like, I don't know what to say. We can't start shipping people off when we haven't done our due diligence in our own province. It's just not acceptable."
"We can't start shipping people off when we haven't done our due diligence in our own province."
Social Services Minister Donna Harpauer said in a statement that the deputy minister is reviewing the circumstances under which the men were given tickets.
"I have had a conversation with Social Services Deputy Minister Greg Miller regarding reports that two young men were given bus tickets for out of province destinations by Social Service workers.
"I reaffirmed to the Deputy Minister that regulations require a case plan be established by workers and clients before transportation be provided. The Deputy Minister is also reviewing if case plans were in place for these individuals and he will be reminding front line workers that clients should have a plan in place before they are given bus tickets for destinations away."
Warm welcome in B.C.
On Wednesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said both men will be welcomed on the West Coast once they arrive.
Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang echoed her comments, but told News1130 that he was "disgusted" with the actions of the Saskatchewan government.
"They've essentially put these individuals at risk for death or other types of problems."
"You don't treat people like that," he said. "You don't put them on a bus to somewhere else hoping that they don't fall through the cracks.
"They have no supports here, they have no connections here. They've essentially put these individuals at risk for death or other types of problems."
Roy and Curly's story comes after the Saskatchewan government changed the rules around who would receive provincial funding to stay in shelters, the StarPhoenix reported.
The province isn't giving money to First Nations people because it believes responsibility for that funding lies with the federal government, according to the newspaper.
With files from The Canadian Press
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