Chehala Leonard, Local Journalism Initiative, IndigiNews – February 21, 2021 / 9:32 a.m. | History: 325729
An indigenous youth who had been in government custody for years alerts Seanna McKinley – a former lawyer who manages a housing estate for indigenous youth and elders, despite being disfellowshipped in February 2020 for “deliberately misappropriating client funds” and attempting to mislead Law Society of BC
Kikekyelc: A Place of Belonging is a staffed condominium-style building in Kamloops that opened in November 2020 as a home for indigenous youth who have gone through the child welfare system. The housing project was developed by Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services (LMO) and comprises 31 housing units for indigenous young people between the ages of 16 and 27.
According to BC Housing, the development received $ 4.7 million from the province and the city of Kamloops provided a 60-year lease in support of the project.
McKinley, now by Seanna Proulx, has headed Kikekyelc: A Place of Belonging since its inception in 2019, according to CBC.
Jaye Simpson (intentionally lowercase), Oji Cree Sauteux, says this was the first time they heard about Proulx on the Whisper Network.
“I lived in Kamloops. I have a lot of relationships in Kamloops, ”they say. “I have relatives who are like street kids and all, and word gets around.”
After hearing rumors about Proulx, Simpson says they Googled them.
“I’m usually a Google employee, manager, something like this from time to time when I’m in a mood, especially when I feel bitter about my own experiences,” they say.
Simpson says they spent about 15 years in the care of Métis Family Services – one of two BC children’s charities that the province hired to help Métis children and families. The other agency is Lii Michif Otipemisiwak. Simpson says they have never been in LMO’s care.
Simpson’s online search found McKinley was disfellowshipped for more than $ 330,000 in embezzlement based on a February 14, 2020 ruling by the Law Society of British Columbia.
“[McKinley] demonstrated a wanton disregard for the essential duties a lawyer owed his clients and the justice system as a whole. She deliberately and dishonestly violated a court order and the rules of the Law Society, ”the ruling reads.
“Your repeated misconduct shows gross and fundamental disregard for the public, attorneys, the law society and the entire judiciary.”
McKinley did not participate in the Law Society disciplinary proceedings.
“She was absent from the hearings, has not declared her absence and has not communicated with the Law Society since January 2018,” the decision added.
She also did not pay her society’s membership fees, the decision said.
“It was a feeling of such great betrayal,” says Simpson. “I was just as curious to see how a disbarrassed lawyer caught embezzling funds is now overseeing an indigenous youth housing project. For me it’s just like that [a] huge red flag. “
Colleen Lucier is the managing director of LMO.
“I can confirm that Seanna Proulx is employed by our agency as Housing Manager for Kikekyelc: A Place of Belonging,” Lucier wrote in an email to IndigiNews on January 6th.
“I can also confirm that Ms. Proulx was aware of the Law Society’s involvement process at the time of her appointment,” she writes.
“After careful examination and thorough examination of all facts and information, and with the full support of our Board of Directors, our recruitment committee was confident that it would sign an employment contract with Ms. Proulx,” writes Lucier. “In our view, this matter is closed.”
She adds that LMO has “full confidence” in Proulx’s “ability to carry out its duties as a property manager without risk to tenants”.
IndigiNews also asked Proulx if they would like to respond to Simpson’s concerns. Proulx replied by email: “As an LMO employee, I am not authorized to speak to the media without the consent of our Executive Director, who I know has already given you an answer.”
“I think Seanna just needs to step down,” says Simpson, adding that they would like to see a new recruiting body that includes teens with a living experience of the system.
“If it’s for us, let us design it too. Let’s help decide who will be responsible, ”they say.
“We are talking about one of the most disenfranchised population groups in the country. We are talking about a population that is so racially discriminated against, ”they say. “If we look at the percentage of Indigenous youths being looked after, the number is astronomically high and not representative of the total population.”
Due to the ongoing effects of colonial policies and systemic racism, indigenous children make up just over two-thirds of all children cared for in BC, although indigenous children in BC make up only about 10 percent of the total population of children under the age of 14
In a second email to IndigiNews on February 17th, Lucier questions simpsons’ motives for filing complaints about Proulx.
“I don’t know who Jaye Simpson is and [they have] never contacted me or our office to discuss [their] To care. To the best of my knowledge, I don’t think this person has any connection with our office or our work, ”she writes.
“I find it worrying when individuals make such statements on social media without addressing their concerns directly to management. I question motivation. “
simpson says that in the past they have tried “working in multiple systems to try to get things up and solve things that way”.
“It never works. I’m burned out. I got kicked out. I was ignored, ”they say. “So I just don’t handle it that way. I’d rather march, you know, so see me coming. And I’ll tell them in advance – I don’t like that, ”says Simpson.
Simpson adds that they would like to hear what the indigenous youth living in Kikekyelc have to say.
“I would like to see the young people taking part in this program be asked and interviewed about their experiences with Seanna [have been]”Says Simpson.
“My whole file was full of social workers saying I was fine when in reality I wasn’t. And I kept telling them that it wasn’t me, so I don’t trust them. “
Lucier says she is ready to hire Proulx.
“I am still very proud of the work we are doing and I continue to trust Ms. Proulx and her ability to carry out her duties within our agency.”