Group-home residents get quick apology


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Residents of a former western Manitoba group home suffered emotional harm from its strict militaristic operating style -- as well as the 1977 murder of a woman several of the boys called "mom," a report concluded Thursday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/01/2010 (4882 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Residents of a former western Manitoba group home suffered emotional harm from its strict militaristic operating style — as well as the 1977 murder of a woman several of the boys called “mom,” a report concluded Thursday.

The 63-page report by former provincial ombudsman Barry Tuckett prompted an immediate apology from Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh and a promise to implement all its recommendations, including individual healing plans for former residents, some of whom are now in their mid-40s.

The sad episode in the province’s social services history might never have been fully reviewed if it had not been for the persistent efforts of some former residents, including Sam McGillivary, who camped for 31 days at the Legislative Building in 2008 until Mackintosh agreed to the review.

“The apology is great. It’s something that relieved a lot of tension and hurt in myself,” McGillivary said Thursday. “It haunted me for a great number of years,” he said of his time at Cathedral Valley.

In his report, Tuckett said the group home’s operator, Henry (Red) Blake, provided structure, control and discipline, but his methods were one dimensional. “He ran the home like a military environment and employed fear and corporal punishment as a means of discipline and control, which I believe, based on the many interviews conducted, was at times excessive.”

A traumatic event for former residents, including McGillivary, was the shooting death of Blake’s wife Phyllis in December 1977 by one of the boys planning an escape. The boy “got access to a gun from a gun rack in the home” and shot the woman while attempting to take the keys to the group home vehicle, according to Tuckett’s report. Henry Blake was attending a meeting in Winnipeg at the time.

“There was no counselling then and there has been no counselling to date for some of these former residents who still suffer from the memories of that event,” Tuckett wrote.

Mackintosh said the provincial government has accepted Tuckett’s recommendations, including providing individualized healing plans for former residents and sufficient resources to carry them out. The minister said at least half a dozen former residents would benefit from grief counselling, “cultural healing” and other assistance.

Tuckett was silent about financial compensation to the former residents, and Mackintosh was non-committal Thursday.

McGillivary and Dean Powderhorn, another former Cathedral Valley resident, told reporters they were pleased with the apology and the offer of help to heal their emotional scars, but they will continue to press for financial compensation. A lawsuit is in the works.

Tuckett found that several residents benefited from their stay at the group home and he said there was no “systematic abuse or exploitation” there. His study included file reviews of 21 former residents, personal interviews with nine residents, interviews with 15 teachers, neighbours or other community members and with 28 former probation officers and child-welfare workers.

The full report is available at

What probe found

The Cathedral Valley Group Home was formed by Henry (Red) Blake near Grandview in 1971 and operated until 1983.

Former residents of the home, led by Sam McGillivary, lobbied in 2008 for for an independent review of the operation, claiming they were abused and traumatized by their years there. After a month-long protest by McGillivary outside the Manitoba Legislative Building in 2008, Family Services Minister Gord Mackintosh named a former provincial ombudsman, Barry Tuckett, to conduct an independent review of the group home. His 63-page report was released on Thursday.

Tuckett found that some residents were emotionally harmed by the militaristic behaviour of the operator, and the institution received insufficient monitoring and oversight. He also said some of the kids should never have been placed there in the first place.

Larry Kusch

Larry Kusch
Legislature reporter

Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.

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