Public servants recognized for outstanding achievements

Photos all taken by the YG photographer.

At an awards ceremony yesterday, Premier Sandy Silver presented five public servants and four Government of Yukon teams with the 2022 Premier’s Award for Excellence and Innovation. Premier Silver also presented 11 teams with a special award for outstanding service and accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The individual recipients are Aaron Koss-Young, Cassandra Kelly, Kim Derkatch, Paul Murchison and Wendy McIntire-Cowx.

The team recipients are the Child and Family Services Act Legislative Team, Yukon Green Infrastructure Program Team, Yukon Universal Child Care Research and Development Team and the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter staff and paramedic specialists Team.

The special award for outstanding service and accomplishments during the COVID-19 pandemic recipients are the COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Online Service team, the Executive Council Office Remote Work - Employee Working Group team, the Legislative Counsel Office team, the Rent Assist Program team, the Community Nursing Immunization team, the COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment teams, the Economic Development COVID-19 Relief and Recovery team, the Human Resources Management team, the Whitehorse Motor Vehicles team, the Self-Isolation Facility COVID-19 Response team and the Whitehorse Public Library team. 

Congratulations to the 2022 Premier’s Award recipients as well as all who were nominated for demonstrating excellence and innovation in service. The Yukon government is fortunate to have such a dynamic and committed public service. Yukoners throughout the territory benefit from your ongoing work and dedication, and it is greatly appreciated.

Premier Sandy Silver

Quick facts 
  • The Premier’s Award of Excellence and Innovation was established in 2005 and recognizes Government of Yukon employees’ exceptional accomplishments and celebrates their talent and teamwork.

  • The recipients are chosen by the Premier’s Award of Excellence and Innovation Selection Committee, which includes Government of Yukon employees from several departments and one community representative.

Backgrounder 

Individuals 

Aaron Koss-Young

In 2020, Conservation Officer Aaron Koss-Young formed a Major Investigations Unit in the Conservation Officer Service Branch. Officer Koss-Young has been the senior officer responsible for all major investigations—a role that is normally supported by significant resources in other jurisdictions. Drawing on existing resources, this new one-person unit has significantly stepped up the Conservation Officer Service Branch contributions to successful prosecutions under the Wildlife Act and Environment Act.

As a seasoned conservation officer, Officer Koss-Young recognized the need to reshape the unit to improve enforcement success while harnessing information and technology. He established the Major Investigations Unit in response to new challenges and increasingly complex cases arising from the evolving relationship between technology and enforcement. He did this by working smarter, leveraging existing resources and technologies, harnessing colleagues and meticulously building cases.

Since establishing the unit and instituting the standards and processes for major investigations, Officer Koss-Young has had a profound impact on enforcement capabilities and tools for the Governments of Yukon and Canada. Working with existing resources, he achieved results by capitalizing on his own strengths and skills. Well-respected by his peers, Officer Koss-Young is a patient and diligent officer and his energy and doggedness draws the support of other officers. His commitment and thorough research are responsible for the unit's success. Most of his major files result in a plea bargain conviction based on the strength of facts in his evidentiary findings and Officer Koss-Young has played a key role in several high-profile convictions covered by the news media. Officer Koss-Young's unit has already left its mark regionally and nationally.

Cassandra Kelly

Cassandra Kelly is the Director of Policy, Communications and First Nation Relations at Highways and Public Works. She has worked for the Yukon government for over 25 years and continues to uphold the values of a public servant while always aiming to improve the services that Yukoners rely on.

Cassandra is an excellent role model for new and older staff alike. She understands her role and creates an atmosphere of positivity and teamwork by ensuring people are supported and that expectations are clear and consistent. She inspires an atmosphere of trust whereby employees can make mistakes and learn from them without feeling that they will be punished for failing. She promotes having a solutions-focused approach to the work of the branch and demonstrates flexibility and adaptability as needed. She will always make time to sit down and discuss an issue and provide advice even if it means she will have to come in early the next day or stay late to finish her work. She is the leader who brings cupcakes and baked goods on special occasions, gives Christmas gifts with hand-written cards to everyone, and always remembers to check-in and see how you are doing.

Cassandra encourages her staff to work hard, grow and take on new challenges, but she also makes sure they are supported and take the vacation and days off that are needed. She values a healthy work-life balance and demonstrates genuine empathy for her staff when they need support and time. She always considers the mental wellness of staff and makes efforts to ensure staff know about the mental health resources available. Through these actions and many more Cassandra has created a positive culture of striving for excellence, learning from mistakes and constant improvement throughout the branch.

Kim Derkatch

Kim has made significant contributions towards the Yukon government’s commitments made in the Putting People First recommendation to implement a by-name list to improve coordination among service providers and reduce homelessness in the territory. Kim worked with various non-governmental organizations to create the first by-name list in the Yukon and has provided significant support and education to its members. Kim's unique experience working with the most marginalized populations and knowledge of the housing crisis was pivotal in the development of the by-name list. She supported the non-governmental organizations with the tools and knowledge of how to successfully match clients with appropriate housing and how to navigate housing loss prevention and landlord retention.

Kim also contributed towards the Housing Action Plan for Yukon commitment to improving rental outcomes for landlords and tenants; Residential Landlord Tenant Act education and support with dispute resolution; understanding their rights and responsibilities and decreasing evictions. Kim has used innovative and creative approaches towards connecting landlords with Community Outreach Service clients who have a history of chronic homelessness and lifestyles that make it difficult for them to find and/or maintain housing. 

Kim operates from an approach to care that housing is a human right and leads to improved quality of life. The housing crisis and opioid directly affect the client population that she supports. Kim provides innovative supports that meets clients where they are at. This involves connecting with clients at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter, on the street, hospital, friends and often can involve some detective work to track them down. She practices harm reduction and offers non-judgemental support. Kim has provided exceptional supports to the clients of Community Outreach Services that has made a significant impact on their lives.  

Paul Murchison

As the executive director of Major Transportation Projects at the Department of Highways and Public Works, Paul has worked to advance a number of large infrastructure projects in the past year. These projects include the $29.6 million Carmacks Bypass - a component of the Yukon Resource Gateway Program, the $21 million Whitehorse Parallel Runway upgrade and the $160 million Nisutlin Bay Bridge replacement. These projects leverage federal funding to stimulate economic growth in the territory and improve daily life for Yukoners. Without investments in our critical infrastructure such as, redundancy for the Whitehorse airport and the Nisutlin Bay Bridge, Yukoners may lose access to essential goods and services.

Paul's performance stands out for his ability to deliver projects in collaboration with key stakeholders. Paul builds strong relationships and works proactively with his counterparts at Yukon First Nations and municipal governments in addition to his work with the federal government. Of particular note is Paul's work to actively involve Yukon First Nations governments in major infrastructure projects early on and meaningfully. He works with governments to have input on projects and to help the community build capacity to participate meaningfully in those projects so they can share in the associated economic benefit. In doing this, he has developed expertise in the fields of First Nation relations, reconciliation and intergovernmental relations. He has become a trusted advisor and implementation expert in the application of the Yukon First Nation Procurement Policy to the work of the Department of Highways and Public Works.

Paul has the unique ability to translate dense technical concepts in ways that his audience can relate to and engage with. Professionally trained as an engineer, his expertise extends far beyond that. Paul is an experienced practitioner in the delivery of major projects, including the elements of contracting and procurement. He is also a practicing expert in the field of climate change and its affect on northern infrastructure. He frequently attends national and international conferences, and is featured on podcasts and in print.

Wendy McIntire-Cowx

Wendy leads by example. This includes open, honest and transparent communication with staff, our program's community partners, and the clients and families we serve. She is open to and considers her staff's suggestions, questions, and feedback. Her positive and upbeat outlook on the variety of challenges brought forward by our clients, the non-governmental organizations we work in partnership with, and the various program areas we collaborate with has contributed to innovative changes to our program's policies and have been the foundation for initiatives which have resulted in outcomes that have improved our clients access to community inclusion and community supports.

When the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in several Emergency public health measures, Wendy recognized how families who care for children, and/or their adult children with disabilities were facing increased social isolation, and limited access to community supports which otherwise helped provide caregivers with much needed opportunities for self-care and respite care. Wendy created and put forward a proposal for a funding initiative to increase respite funding caregivers could access in response to the impact of COVID-19 emergency measures. This resulted in the COVID-19 funding relief which provided $400 per family for three months and $250 per approved home for three months  to help offset the unexpected costs of caring for individuals with disabilities.

Teams:

Child and Family Services Act Legislative Team

This dedicated team of six worked in partnership with all 14 Yukon First Nations and the Council for Yukon First Nations for 18 months to undertake major amendments to the Child and Family Services Act - legislation which governs child welfare in the territory. These legislative amendments represent a significant philosophical shift in the approach to child welfare in the Yukon and were successfully tabled and approved in the Legislative Assembly with extensive in-person and virtual support from Yukon First Nations. This was a necessary next step towards long-term reform of the child welfare system, particularly in addressing the over representation of Indigenous children in care. 

Yukon Green Infrastructure Program 

The Yukon Green Infrastructure Program was established by the Department of Highways and Public Works  in early 2020. The program was created to provide focus for the advancement of the Yukon government’s commitments under Our Clean Future and more broadly, to advocate for a shift in decision making related to public infrastructure. In the two years of its existence, amidst the pandemic, the team has met numerous milestones, achieved fundamental shifts in how decisions on green infrastructure are made and, in collaboration with numerous partners, is on track to deliver on its 2030 and 2050 commitments through a diverse range of renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. 

Yukon Universal Child Care Research and Development Team 

The Government of Yukon’s new Universal Early Learning and Child Care Program is certainly an outstanding achievement that has had a significant and positive impact on Yukoners. This initiative was successfully created by a group of collaborative employees with outstanding knowledge, skill, creativity and innovation. Putting People First recommended transferring child care services and early learning from the Department of Health and Social Services to the Department of Education and to work towards a fully funded universal early childhood education program to improve children’s learning outcomes. In November 2020, a mandate was provided to action the move and to implement a universal child care model in the Yukon beginning April 1, 2021. Within a five-month timeline, this interdepartmental team of officials from the Departments of Health and Social Services and Education was quickly created. There were many who thought it was an impossible feat, however, this team not only met all of the established timelines, they knocked it out of the park by creating a locally and nationally recognized Early Learning program focused on accessibility, affordability, quality and inclusivity. 

Whitehorse Emergency Shelter staff and paramedic specialists

The staff of the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter provide critical, accessible, and exceptional public service 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They have implemented the government’s vision, enhanced services and service access, and creatively meet individual’s needs every day. Since the Yukon government assumed operations of the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter, the shelter has provided low-barrier, trauma informed, culturally appropriate, and housing-focused shelter to homeless and street involved individuals. Staff of the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter have been at the forefront of the change to service delivery and bringing this low-barrier emergency shelter into maturity. Every day, the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter staff have a direct positive impact on the lives of homeless and street-involved Yukoners. 

Special Award

COVID-19 Proof of Vaccination Online Service Team

The Yukon was one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to develop a proof of vaccination credential based on the developing Canadian standard. This is due to the proactive work of a small, cross-functional team of highly talented Government of Yukon staff that designed, developed and implemented a complex solution. In total the online service has been used by Yukoners over 50,000 times to download over 30,000 proof of vaccination certificates. This online service not only allowed Yukoners to freely access their own proof of vaccine certificates, but it also alleviated the pressure on our already stressed health care professionals and allowed them to return to providing health care to Yukoners. 

ECO Remote Work - Employee Working Group

The Executive Council Office Employee Working Group demonstrated an innovative approach during the pandemic response. Moving a large portion of your workforce out of the office and into their own homes is exceptionally challenging. This dedicated team helped navigate some of the most challenging elements of working from home and explored innovative solutions that had a lasting and positive impact for the department as a whole. These solutions serve as a guide and example for the rest of the public service.

Legislative Counsel Office

The team at the Legislative Counsel Office have a unique and specialized role, as they draft the laws that govern our territory. These laws provide for the rights and responsibilities of individuals and organizations. Over the past two years, the pandemic created a need to enact laws for the immediate protection of human health and safety. This work required the team to deliver under aggressive timelines and without a clear and tested legal framework from which to formulate law. They always responded with professionalism and provided government with the parameters required to protect the public, vulnerable populations and others. Between March 2020 and November 2021, this small team of ten people within the Legislative Counsel Office prepared 31 bills, 1,188 regulations and 177 ministerial orders. This work included regulations, orders and directions used to govern public safety during the pandemic.

Rent Assist Program Team

The Rent Assist Program in the Yukon Housing Corporation showed exemplary actions during exceptional circumstances through COVID-19. During the pandemic, the Yukon Housing Corporation adapted its operations to support Yukoners with temporary rent reductions and loan deferrals. The corporation also launched Rent Assist, a rent subsidy program for Yukon households who suffered an income loss of more than 30 per cent due to COVID-19. The program helped ensure that landlords would still receive partial income from rental properties between April and September 2020. The team supported more than 170 households through this program.

Community Nursing Immunization Team

The Community Nursing Immunization team provided and administered COVID-19 vaccinations across the territory. As of May 8, 2022, they successfully administered at least one dose of the vaccine to 91.71 per cent of eligible Yukon residents over the age of 18. The Community Nursing Immunization team played a key role in combating the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 has been one of the most significant events in early 21st century human history, creating an emergency situation that has lasted for nearly three years.

COVID-19 vaccine deployment teams

Health Canada granted final regulatory approval to Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine on December 23, 2020, allowing Yukon government officials to be trained on the use of the vaccine. It requiring quick work to deploy and make it available to all Yukoners. Thanks to the work of many public servants who gave up their Christmas and holiday season to plan and execute the rollout, by January 4, 2021, the first Yukoners had access to the vaccine at continuing care in Whitehorse. On January 7, 2021, it was announced that mobile teams would be travelling to 18 communities to offer clinics and by January 18, 2021, teams were on the move. This quick work to organize, train, plan and mobilize was impressive. In particular, because it required volunteers from within the public service to step forward to execute what was the largest vaccine campaign in Yukon's history.

Economic Development COVID-19 Relief and Recovery team

The Economic Development COVID-19 Relief and Recovery team employees had a significant and positive impact through the rapid design and implementation of an unprecedented number of critical business relief and recovery programs over a two-year period since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid design and roll out of ten urgently needed programs required coordinated action and effort from a large cross-functional team within the department. The necessary coordination and engagement needed to accomplish the mission was not just internal to the department and the Yukon government. Extensive engagement with the private sector in order to fully understand the concerns and needs of the business community, as well as coordination across agency boundaries with the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency were also essential ingredients in the partnership formula for success.

Human Resources Management Team (HRMT)

Human Resources are a fundamental requirement of emergency response. Resources needed to be secured expeditiously and have the right skills. The Human Resources Management Team (HRMT) was responsible for all human resource management related decisions. Implementing decisions effectively and efficiently, making sure they supported Yukon government business continuity and emergency response. This team was established as part of the Yukon Government Pandemic Coordination Plan but also is used to support other emergency responses. The HRMT functions as an interdepartmental team to collaborate and respond to human resource challenges that Yukon government faces during emergency response. It relies on a system of communication and business processes to identify and redeploy human resources across government. It also works to update and develop human resource policy to respond and adapt quickly to unforeseen challenges. At its roots, HRMT is a system where departments assist each other to support the Yukon government emergency response.

Whitehorse Motor Vehicles Team

The Motor Vehicles office in Whitehorse is the busiest public-facing workplace in Yukon government. At times the office will serve more than 300 unique in-person clients per day, in addition to more than 150 transactions and interactions by phone. Throughout the pandemic, the Whitehorse Motor Vehicles office was also the only DMV in the country that never closed its doors. Due to the exceptional efforts of Motor Vehicles staff which went above and beyond the expectations of their positions, Yukoners were able to enjoy continued and uninterrupted services to exceeding any level of service available in the rest of Canada.

Self-Isolation Facility COVID-19 Response Team

The Self Isolation Facility COVID-19 Response Team displayed outstanding achievement during the COVID-19 pandemic. They demonstrated exemplary actions during exceptional circumstances. The team was composed entirely of volunteers from program areas within Health and Social Services, and the paramedic from the shelter. This team courageously went above and beyond, on a 24-hour basis, to work to support the biological, psychological and social needs of a diverse and often times challenging population. In July and August of 2021, COVID-19 became a true community spread outbreak and hit like a tidal wave to the marginalised population of Whitehorse. With the exposures and explosion of symptoms in this population, the self-isolation facility at the High Country Inn suddenly raised a set of new challenges. They developed ingenious and innovative treatment and stabilization options almost out of thin air on a daily basis. They displayed outstanding knowledge, skill, creativity and innovation.

Whitehorse Public Library Team

Beyond just checking out books, the Whitehorse Public Library  library staff foster positive human connection through helping find materials, information or a simple friendly conversation. At the other end of the spectrum, people's struggles manifest in different ways especially in a public space such as a library. During the pandemic, the staff at Whitehorse Public Library did an impeccable job of making library resources and services available, even within the restrictions of public health measures. Whether it was implementing a curbside pick-up process, delivering virtual programming such as the Indigenous Book Club, or introducing online tools so people could use library services from the comfort of their own homes. The flexibility and resourcefulness of the Whitehorse Public Library staff allowed patrons to continue to have access to what they needed.

Contact 

Renée Francoeur
Cabinet Communications
867-334-9194
renee.francoeur@yukon.ca

 

Dana Clark-Moore
Communications, Public Service Commission
867-471-0844
dana.clark@yukon.ca

News release #: 
22-204