Recommendations from coroner’s inquest under review, Yukon gov’t says

The Yukon government’s main administration building in Whitehorse. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

Inquest jury made 13 recommendations after examining 2021 death of infant in Watson Lake

The Yukon government says it is reviewing the recommendations from a coroner’s inquest this month that looked into the 2021 death of an infant in Watson Lake.

Seven-month-old Kaiya Stone-Kirk was reported dead on Aug. 1, 2021. Stone-Kirk was found to have suffocated at the home of a babysitter after being put to sleep on an adult bed.

The babysitter for Stone-Kirk and her brother had been arranged by a social worker with Yukon Family and Children Services, after the children’s usual caregiver — their grandmother — became too ill with COVID-19 to look after them.

The jury in the coroner’s inquest held in Whitehorse this month found Stone-Kirk’s death was accidental. The purpose of the inquest was not to determine whether any party was at fault; rather, it set out to find the circumstances of the death and make recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future.

The jury made 13 recommendations, focused on things such as government policy changes, emergency preparation, and better education on safe sleep practices.

“We are working on reviewing the report overall, and setting what kind of an action plan or timelines to go with that is,” said Kaila de Boer, acting deputy minister of social services for the Yukon government.

“Generally I would say that we are working as fast as we can to make sure that we are keeping children as safe as we can.”

Government studying recommendations

Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee was not available for an interview with CBC News, though she issued a written statement last week about the inquest recommendations.

She said the government is “working to respond to each recommendation and improve the safety of children receiving services from Family and Children Services.”

Neither McPhee nor de Boer offered details about how the government might implement some of the recommendations.

Asked about the heavy case load for social workers in rural communities — one of the issues raised in the inquest — de Boer said it’s an ongoing issue.

“Resourcing communities is an ongoing area that we are working on and paying a lot of attention to,” she said.

The inquest jury also recommended the Yukon regulate the social work profession, which is already regulated in all Canadian provinces as well as the Northwest Territories.

De Boer said the government supports that idea.

“There is broad work to increase regulation of health professionals and other professionals in the territory, and social workers are certainly among those that are being talked about as a next profession to focus on,” she said.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Jury issues 13 recommendations following inquest into 2021 death of infant, CBC News

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