The Government of Yukon today appointed six members to the Advisory Committee on the Child and Family Services Act.
The committee will be chaired by Mo Caley-Verdonk from Dawson City. Also sitting on the panel are Doris Anderson, Lori Duncan, Debbie Hoffman, Rosemary Rowlands and Ray Sydney.
Together, these individuals will undertake a broad review of the act. They will be actively engaging with First Nations, stakeholders and communities.
This review is a legislative requirement as per the act. It is independent of the ongoing investigation of Transitional Support Services and the Child and Youth Advocate’s review. The findings of all ongoing work will be considered within the context of the act review.
The five-year review of the Child and Family Services Act is very important and long overdue. Child welfare is a priority for our government and has been identified as such at the Yukon Forum. I know that these six individuals will ensure a broad and thorough review that will result in recommendations to improve the system and, in the end, result in better outcomes for children, families and communities.
I am pleased the six members have accepted this important task on behalf of the children and youth of the territory.
Minister of Health and Social Services Pauline Frost
The Government of Yukon provides child welfare services to all Yukoners, including First Nations children and youth, pursuant to the Child and Family Services Act that was proclaimed in May 2010.
Approximately 70 per cent of children in care are First Nations.
The committee members represent rural Yukon communities as well as Whitehorse. Four members are First Nations.
The six members of the committee are:
- Ray Sydney, councillor, Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief and Council;
- Lori Duncan, director of Health and Wellness, Carcross Tagish First Nation;
- Doris Anderson, president, Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council (co-chair of regional Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls steering committee);
- Rosemary Rowlands, executive director, Help and Hope for Families, Liard First Nation;
- Mo Caley-Verdonk, Inspired Living coach and retired Government of Yukon public servant; and
- Debbie Hoffman, lawyer practicing in the area of collaborative family law, mediation and conflict resolution in Yukon and Ontario.
First elected to Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) Council in 2011 and now serving his second term, Ray understands the impacts the justice and child welfare systems have on families.
Councillor Sydney is a 16-year veteran of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, having served in Teslin, Ross River and Whitehorse, as well as in British Columbia. After leaving the RCMP, Sydney worked at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to help reintegrate inmates back into society upon their release. Later, he became a justice support worker for KDFN before accepting a position as KDFN’s Family & Children Liaison two years later. Between his two terms on Kwanlin Dün Council, he returned to this position.
A father of five with four grandchildren, Councillor Sydney has experienced the realities of the justice and child welfare systems with his own family. He used his experiences to help develop a Memorandum of Agreement between KDFN and the Government of Yukon focused on improving the experiences of Kwanlin Dün families involved in Yukon’s child welfare system. He is excited to have been selected to sit on the Child Welfare Review Committee in order to continue this important work.
Lori is a member of the Ta’an Kwäch’än First Nation and from the crow clan. She was born and raised in Yukon. Lori has been married to her husband Don for almost 33 years. She has two beautiful girls age 26 and 22. After completing her diploma to become a licensed practical nurse, she worked for 20 years in the area of acute care nursing, the majority spent on the pediatric unit at Whitehorse General Hospital. After 20 years as a LPN she decided she wanted to be more involved with her First Nation and her people so she completed a diploma in health administration, and began to work at the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN). She worked there for almost 15 years before deciding that she missed front line work. In 2016 she began her new and exciting role with Carcross Tagish First Nation as the Director of Health and Wellness.
Lori is passionate about First Nations health and wellness. She has been an advocate for First Nations people for many years. Part of this passion may come from her grandmother who was a medicine woman that completely assimilated to the colonization taking place. She spoke many First Nations languages but completely quit speaking her language to Lori’s father and practicing traditional medicine. As a result, Lori has been relearning her culture. Lori’s father was a victim of residential school and as she says, although he made it to the age of 51 he did not survive. Her drive and passion is to reclaim First Nations culture and revitalize what was lost.
Lori is excited to be a member of the Advisory Committee for the review of the Child and Family Services Act. She was involved initially in the consultation on the Act and she sees her new role has a great opportunity to be a change maker that will see improved outcomes for children, youth and their families. Her goal is to be a part of a process that alleviates the need for children to leave their homes and communities.
Doris is currently the President of the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council and has supported the movement of Indigenous women since its formation in 1974. She is a proud citizen of the Champagne Aishihik First Nations Government.
Formerly, Doris sat as 2nd Vice President on Native Women’s Association of Canada Board for one year and is currently an active board member representing Yukon. Doris also sat as a Councillor for the Champagne Aishihik First Nations working for her people for a four-year term. She was recently appointed to Assembly of First Nation Women’s Council in 2017.
Currently, Doris is advocating for Indigenous women and is very supportive of the Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls file by advocating on behalf of the Yukon families. On her downtime, Doris Anderson has a love for sports, supporting community projects and First Nations events. In her free time, she enjoys sewing, beading and reality TV shows.
Doris looks forward to the wonderful opportunity presented by being a member of the Advisory Committee for the review.
Rosemary is a lifelong Yukoner who has dedicated nearly three decades to passionately advocating for social justice movements that draw upon existing community strengths and resources. Rosemary basis her career and values off of the teachings from her Kaska upbringing. Rosemary believes strongly that all people must have a sense of belonging, and she feels that it is vital for a person to know who they are and where they come.
In the 1990’s Rosemary played a pivotal role, alongside other community innovators, in the establishment of the Kwanlin Dun Community Social Justice Program. She held a variety of positions over a seventeen-year span in her mission to improve the health and justice responses for First Nations people of the Yukon. Rosemary was a crime prevention coordinator, then manager, and then executive director. She also worked as a Family and Child Support Liaison; during which time she advocated for reform to the Children’s Act. Rosemary believes that the current Act was a significant improvement over its predecessor; and that the upcoming review is timely to ensure the policy’s practices, intent and culture of the organisation are shifting in accordance with newer Legislation.
Her dedication to social justice has enabled her to become deeply involved in a variety of multidisciplinary areas of justice, health, education, and community development. Rosemary spent twenty years instructing and facilitating conflict resolution, mediation, and peacemaking training at the Yukon College, Justice Institute of British Columbia and across North America. Rosemary’s expertise was highlighted when she was a guest lecturer at the Sixth International Summer School on Legal Anthropology in Moscow, Russia in 2011.
Rosemary is currently the Executive Director at Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake where she works with a dedicated team who work to transform the conditions that threaten women’s safety, dignity and equality.
She brings to the review committee her open and objective mind, exceptional collaboration skills and a recognition that when it comes to children and families we have to work together from a grounded and heart centred approach.
Mo is a Yukoner, born and raised in Dawson City, Yukon. In the course of her career, she has collaborated with a diversity of non-profit agencies—as an employee as well as a board member, consultant, mentor and volunteer. Working and living in a small, remote Yukon community affords the opportunity to participate and connect with the people in her neighbourhoods.
After a significant career with the Government of Yukon, initially with the Child Care Services Unit (HSS) and ultimately as a Victim Services worker for the Department of Justice, she is now focussing her energies as a retiree of the workforce to building a coaching business.
Mo is involved in her community and offers more than 30 years of human services experience in her role on the Advisory Committee. She has been fortunate to have the generosity of experience and inclusion in working with self-governing First Nations, municipal and non-profit agencies in Dawson and throughout the Yukon.
She considers working as part of the team to review the Child and Family Services Act to be a meaningful opportunity - to be part of a process that will improve outcomes for children, youth and their families. This, on her continuum of helping others.
Outside of work, Mo finds pleasure sharing time with her two-legged and four-legged family members. Walking is both a hobby and pursuit, international treks with friends, exploring new cultures and sharing adventures inspires her. Living by example, Mo encourages people to get in touch with what energizes them – it delights her to hear how fulfilling work life is when their personal life is full of what brings them joy.
Proudly, she is her mother’s daughter, a life-long learner who continues to be an active and colourful community enthusiast, seeking opportunities to build relationships while she pursues her artistic abilities and computer literacy.
Debbie has been practicing family law in the Yukon for the past 23 years in the areas of custody, access, separation, child protection, support and asset division. Debbie was the Yukon Chair of the Canadian Bar Association Family Law Division for 10 years. Debbie has worked as a child lawyer, representing children in family law disputes, throughout her career. She sat on the committee that created the current Child Lawyer Guidelines for the Yukon. She also sat on the Civil and Family Law Rules Committees, assisting in the oversight and drafting of the Yukon’s Rules of Court. In addition to practicing family law, Debbie sat on the 3-Person Ratification Committees for the Final and Self Government Agreements of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and Kwanlin Dün First Nation and she was a member of the Territorial Judicial Council.
Debbie recently completed her Certification in Conflict Management and Mediation at the University of Waterloo. She is one of the founding lawyers of HD Collaborative Lawyer in Waterloo, and she continues to be a Partner at and Counsel to Lackowicz & Hoffman in Whitehorse in the areas of family law and conflict resolution. In recent years, Debbie has dedicated her family law practice to Peacemaking, Mediation, Conflict Resolution and Conflict Coaching.
Debbie is a Director of Mediation Yukon and a member of Best4All, the Waterloo Region Collaborative Practice Group. Debbie divides her time between the Yukon and Ontario, actively practicing Collaborative Family Law, Mediation and Conflict Resolution in both jurisdictions.
Debbie is honoured to be appointed to the Child and Family Services Act Review Advisory Committee. She looks forward to serving Yukoners by assisting in this review.