Edmonton Sun

Friday, October 4, 2002

Social worker won't back down

By SHANE HOLLADAY, EDMONTON SUN

Despite threats of legal action from his former employer, Clint Digness says he stands by claims kids under provincial protection suffered abuse.

"I stand by all my allegations, they will be proven," Digness said yesterday, after contacting The Sun.

"I want to make sure that if anything comes out of this investigation, that these kids get their stories heard, that they don't cover it up."

Last week, Digness told The Sun he resigned because serious problems were ignored at the 24-hour staff supervised group home, Winbert Didzena Memorial Children's Centre in High Level. Staff at the home give the kids unsupervised free rein of the building at night, allowing them to "sneak around and have sex," Digness said.

Most were overmedicated to manage their behaviour, and were often injured when restrained by staff, Digness charged.

Ron Henriet, executive director of the North Peace Tribal Council, said Saturday he's considering legal action against Digness in light of the allegations.

Digness became the North Peace Tribal Council's prevention supervisor after six and a half years of social work work under Children's Services, he said.

His job was to intervene in tragic or dangerous situations before kids had to be rescued from their homes, he said.

Doing that kind of work, Digness said he was at first skeptical when kids first told him about conditions at the home.

Then, he claims he saw one child violently restrained outside the centre, and began to doubt the official story.

Frustrated by a lack of action by those running the centre, Digness says he went over his superiors' heads and complained to the province's Children's Advocate.

Ministry officials from Edmonton and a neighbouring Children and Family Services Authority were dispatched to High Level last week to investigate. A preliminary report will be ready today - but it may not only be incomplete, it would also be confidential, said department spokesman Lorelei Fiset-Cassidy She couldn't say if the findings of the investigation would ever be made public.

Copyright © 2002, Canoe, a division of Netgraphe Inc.