• George Black

People "not safe" at Yukon business centre

WHITEHORSE - Bullying, incompetence, blamed for "unsafe brospace" allegations

Yukonstruct Society Northlight Innovation Yukon

The governments of Canada and Yukon buried a damning report on the treatment of 2SLGBTQ+ and other minorities at the business services centre in Whitehorse (Photo: Yukonstruct)


COMMENT: This story was originally published on June 23, 2022. Following complaints against the Whitewash News, our Facebook page was taken down and we were unable to publish stories. Until now. After providing evidence to verify the facts in the story below, the Whitewash News is delighted to announce that we are back up and running on all platforms. Stay tuned for an upcoming story on who complained the Whitewash News and why.


Members of the Yukon's 2SLGBTQ+ community have told the Whitewash News that they and other minorities are experiencing bullying and discrimination at the Liberal government's Canada-Yukon Business Network (CYBN) centre in Whitehorse.


According to the same members, a large group of people made their concerns known last year in a government-funded 'Diversity & Inclusion' report on the CYBN which was partly facilitated by the Toronto-based diversity consulting firm I&D 101.


The members say the damning report, which was completed in May 2021, has been "buried" by government officials and as a result, minorities continue to feel unsafe using the centre or have stopped frequenting it altogether.


Despite the fact that the report was paid for by the taxpayer and is considered to be in the public interest, it has yet to be announced or made public.


Yukon's Liberal MP Brendan Hanley, whose party financed the report, has made no comment in the 18 months since it was delivered.


What is the Canada-Yukon Business Network (CYBN)?


The CYBN is the Yukon branch of the federal government's business services program called the Canada Business Network.


In the Yukon, employees of the governments of Canada and the Yukon sit on a joint oversight committee for the CYBN.


Historically, the service was managed directly by the Yukon government and housed within the former Department of Economic Development building at 309 Strickland Street in Whitehorse.


Starting in 2016, the Liberal government contracted the service out to one of the territory's biggest commercial landlords Yukonstruct at a cost to the taxpayer of $200,000 per annum.


Yukonstruct now runs it, on behalf of the Liberals, out of the publicly-funded Northlight Innovation centre in downtown Whitehorse.

The Government of Yukon's funding database shows the $200,000 given annually to Yukonstruct to host the Canada Yukon Business Network (Image: Government of Yukon)


Diversity & Inclusion


The government-funded 'Diversity & Inclusion' report was ordered after serious complaints about the mistreatment of people at the CYBN were raised at government level, including through emails and phone calls to former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell and the Yukon's Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pillai.


A member of Yukon's 2SLGBTQ+ community who contributed to the report says that it was scathing in its criticism of the "top down discrimination" within the CYBN as well as the governments' failure to "actively pursue a diversity agenda."


"Unless you're white, straight, male or cisgender" the person said "you're going to feel uncomfortable in what is essentially your classic brospace."


"The atmosphere in there is toxic. The people in charge are passive-aggressive and there's no respect for boundaries. You're made to feel like you have to be part of the 'Yukonstruct community' cult, even if you just want to keep to yourself and get your work done."


"The struggle for me is that like most people who use the space, it's the only place in Whitehorse I can afford to work from."



Diversity committee


The Whitewash News was told that a diversity committee was formed in 2019 to tackle the problems facing minorities in the CYBN.


That same year, Yukon Liberal Party member Lana Selbee was appointed to the position of executive director at Yukonstruct. Selbee ignored an obvious conflict-of-interest and inserted herself into the committee, thereby making it impossible for regular members of the committee to have frank discussions about how management was failing minorities.


After the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, members of the committee approached Selbee and asked her if Yukonstruct could issue a statement in solidarity with the BLM movement. Their request was denied.


The same committee members were asking Selbee "for two years" if the CYBN could have gender-neutral, all-inclusive bathroom signage, in line with other government-funded facilities across Canada.


Selbee finally responded to the request but in a limited fashion. She arranged for the signage to be changed on three public-facing bathrooms in the CYBN's reception area but did nothing with the signage the public could not see inside the actual business services space; the toilets that 2SLGBTQ+ users of the CYBN say they actually use.

Members of the Yukon's 2SLGBTQ+ community spent two years pleading with the Yukon Liberals' Lana Selbee to install all-gender bathrooms in the government's business services centre in Whitehorse (Image: WN)


"Hypocritical" and "disgusting" attitude


One member of the Yukon's 2SLGBTQ+ community told the Whitewash News that "when black people asked for help because they are getting murdered at disproportionate rates, Yukonstruct didn’t care."


"When queer people asked for help because inclusive bathrooms can make the difference between daily panic attacks and no daily panic attacks, Yukonstruct didn’t care."


"But when white people asked for help [during the Yukon floods of 2021], Yukonstruct is there, presumably paying multiple staff and self-congratulating to no end. It’s hypocritical and disgusting."


"Just to be clear, the sandbagging efforts are important. It's the hypocrisy I can't tolerate."


The person was referring to Yukonstruct's response to flooding in Yukon communities last year when - instead of volunteering their own free time - Selbee used taxpayer dollars to pay herself and her staff on a regular workday to fill sandbags for flood relief efforts.


Yukonstruct then promoted the activity on social media* where it was framed as Yukonstruct "showing up for our community in a time of need."

Yukonstruct intimidation minorities Whitehorse Yukon

On July 8, 2021, Yukonstruct posted to Instagram that it was "showing up" for the community but Yukonstruct's executive director had in fact paid herself and her staff to be there instead of volunteering their own time on a day off (Image: Yukonstruct/Instagram)


"Not safe" to speak up


Users of the CYBN say that it's risky to raise complaints because some of the managers and staff, including Lana Selbee and former operations director Torey Hampson, are "conniving" and "backstabbing."


"It's not safe for people to speak up without fear of repercussions," the Whitewash News was told. "They have a direct line to politicians and government financiers and they control a lot of the promotion and support that businesses get. People are afraid of being isolated."


"People think that because Torey [Hampson] comes across as dim-witted that she must be harmless but she can be extremely mean to people behind their backs."


"Lana [Selbee] is just as bad. She does not hold back when she wants to undermine someone she isn't happy with and she can be scarily vicious when she doesn't have her politician face on."


As a member of the Yukon Liberal Party, Selbee has worked as a campaign staffer and cabinet advisor to Liberal politicians.


Like several Liberal MLAs currently serving in cabinet, she has been mired in litigation and controversy since taking over the helm at the CYBN in 2019.


A close associate of disgraced Yukon Education Minister Jeanie McLean, Selbee was previously found to have wasted thousands of taxpayer dollars on luxury items such as food, drinks and even a bouncy castle for herself and her staff.

Lana Selbee Torey Hampson Yukon Yukonstruct

Yukon Liberal Party member Lana Selbee (left) and former Yukonstruct director Torey Hampson are accused of being "conniving" and "backstabbing" towards users of the Canada-Yukon Business Network (Images: Yukonstruct/YouTube)


"Menacing" and "intimidating" conduct


As well as the psychological intimidation, the Whitewash News heard from a user of the CYBN who says they were physically intimidated by two men inside the facility.


The men who allegedly carried out the intimidation are Rick Yorgason, a director at Yukonstruct, and McGarry Selbee, the father of Lana Selbee and acting CEO of Northlight Innovation's largest investor Chief Isaac Incorporated.


"I'm convinced the reason they're angry with me is because I called Yukonstruct out for how they treat certain people" the person said. "They knew how I felt because I didn't hide it."


"The first time it happened, I was focusing on working. I felt someone looking at me and looked up from my laptop. Rick was was walking past me, staring at me, looking very angry."


"When he went out of his way to do the same thing three more times over the next two weeks, it became obvious to me that he wanted me to feel unwelcome."


"With Lana's father it happened once. I was standing, talking to someone else, he was also there that day and he walked towards me, coming from behind the person I was talking to. He was staring right at my eyes with an aggressive, menacing, look on his face, fists clenched. I actually thought he was going to attack me but he didn't."


Unsolicited messages


Yorgason is also known for using Facebook Messenger in November 2020 to send unsolicited messages to a number of women who had been critical of Yukonstruct on Facebook, 'correcting' them on their views.


After he sent the messages, Yorgason publicly boasted on Facebook about how he had contacted the women. He also shared images of the messages.


Around the same time, Yukonstruct management is said to have gone into damage-control mode and decided to deactivate the 'reviews' feature on its Facebook page after sinking to a rating of just 2 out of 5 stars, the lowest for any Yukon organisation.


Some of the reviews were blisteringly negative and related to people being mistreated by Yukonstruct staff at the CYBN.

Rick Yorgason McGarry Selbee Yukon bullies

Rick Yorgason, a director at Yukonstruct (left) and McGarry Selbee, father of Yukonstruct's executive director, are alleged to be a "menacing" and "intimidating" presence in the Canada-Yukon Business Network (Image: Yukonstruct/Government of Canada)


Inexperience and incompetence


A root cause of the issues at the CYBN is said to be the inexperience and incompetence of the people who are paid to manage it on behalf of the Liberals.


Hampson had no management or business qualifications whatsoever prior to starting at Yukonstruct in 2018. Her LinkedIn page* lists jobs prior to 2018 that include bicycle repair, bartending and outreach coordinator for the Yukon Invasive Species Council.


According to Yorgason's LinedIn page,* he was equally unqualified when he started at Yukonstruct around the same time as Hampson. Prior to Yukonstruct, he worked for 17 years as a programmer for a small Toronto-based games development company Longbow Games.


Selbee, who is the senior manager of the CYBN, seems to be more acutely aware of her lack of business credentials and appears to have made up fake ones to cover up the fact.


Fake credentials


On her LinkedIn page* as well as on Government of Canada websites such as StartUP Canada and Mentorly, Selbee claims to have "founded and launched" her "first start-up business" in Calgary in 2009. She also claims to have "15 years of entrepreneurship experience."


Both of these claims appear to be false and are contradicted by multiple sources.


The "start-up" business Selbee claims she founded and launched in 2009 is the retail clothing store 'Eleven Eleven' that was actually founded and launched in 2008 by established Canadian clothing designer Jessica Redditt.


In its July 2009 edition, the magazine 'Fashion' published a story that talked about how Redditt, not Selbee, founded Eleven Eleven.

A few months later, in a subsequent interview with The Creative Mixx, Selbee admitted that she did not start the business at all but in fact purchased it from Redditt after it was already up and running.


Business background


As well as not having the start-up background she claims, Selbee's true experience as an entrepreneur seems to be a far cry from the "15 years of entrepreneurship experience" that she claims.


Prior to starting in Yukonstruct, Selbee worked for two years with the Yukon Liberal Party as a campaign staffer and cabinet advisor. Before that she was employed in various desk jobs with the City of Calgary and Calgary's local shopping website BeLocal.


Failing to stay in business with the clothing store she purchased in Calgary over a decade ago appears to be the full extent of Selbee's experience with owning a business.


In her March 2010 interview with The Creative Mixx, she said that prior to Eleven Eleven she worked in "dead end serving jobs."

SLIDESHOW: Yukonstruct's executive director and CYBN manager Lana Selbee has contradicted herself numerous times on the record with regards to her entrepreneurial background.


Colonial mindset


Whilst fact-checking for this story, the Whitewash News discovered that two highly-regarded Indigenous businesses abandoned the CYBN not long after voicing criticism of its management on social media.


One of the businesses said that they were bringing their diversity concerns to the Yukonstruct management "often" and despite being told they were "being heard," nothing was ever done to address their issues.


The second business spoke out against Yukonstruct's maladjusted attitude towards women and Indigenous entrepreneurs in particular.


Both businesses also criticised the way in which Yukonstruct was unevenly promoting white businessmen in its government-funded marketing spend.


Systemic racism


The attitude towards 2SLGBTQ+, people of colour and other minorities at the CYBN is not limited to how users of the facility are treated. The core values of the the people who run it are also reflected in their hiring practices.


In the last few years, partly in response to BLM, organisations across Canada and especially publicly funded ones, are guaranteeing jobs for minority employees in positions of authority and influence.


Meanwhile, in the Yukon, systemic racism within Yukonstruct, the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon has ensured that in the nine years Yukonstruct has existed, only once has a person of colour held any kind of paid management role within the organisation.


In those nine years, and despite receiving over $15M in public funds to date (based on news release figures and a $2.1M secret bail-out), Yukonstruct has hired just five people of colour in total.


Four of those hires have been for the role of 'Operations Assistant,' the lowest rung of the ladder at the organisation, with duties in the CYBN that include cleaning toilets, cleaning up after events, taking out the garbage and "stockpiling supplies" (according to publicly posted job descriptions).


As of the date of this story's publication, Yukonstruct has four Operations Assistants. Three of them are people of colour.


Virtue-signalling


Since the Diversity & Inclusivity report was completed in May 2021, Yukonstruct is reportedly "flooding" its social media channels with images of minorities and asking minorities to give quotes about how great Yukonstruct is.


According to one CYBN user, Yukonstruct's virtue-signalling is "really hard to bear" and "not reflective of the reality ."


"If you look at any of their social media channels," the user said, "you'll see that 99.9% of the time, Yukonstruct is talking about how great Yukonstruct is, how diverse they are. Nobody else is saying that."


"I was in the space one day and saw an Indigenous business owner come in. I swear she wasn't there 15 minutes before a Yukonstruct staff member swooped in to take her picture."


"I saw that picture posted to Yukonstruct's Facebook the very next day. It's sickening and heart-breaking to witness that kind of exploitation."


Yukon the exception, not the rule


To access the CYBN, the public must first 'sign up' as a member of Yukonstruct, which is a hoop the government service is not supposed to make anybody jump through.


In addition to forced membership of Yukonstruct, the CYBN also asks users to pay a fee for workspaces, internet, printing and business development "bootcamps" which are all services provided completely free of charge in other government business centres across the country.


This type of profiteering from government services is unheard of in Canada and makes the Yukon the exception, not the rule.


Other business services centres who get less funding per capita than Yukonstruct, such as Small Business B.C. and Alberta's Business Link, in addition to providing free business services, also offer services specifically for black, Indigenous, and women-owned businesses.


Despite receiving massive amounts of public funding, Yukonstruct has no such services.


Responsibility for the CYBN


Federal money for the CYBN comes from Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED). Dan Vandal is the federal minister responsible for ISED and the CYBN. He can be contacted at dan.vandal@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-0579


In the Yukon, responsibility for the CYBN lies with Minister of Economic Development Ranj Pialli who can be contacted at Ranj.Pillai@yukon.ca or 867-393-7418


Yukon's MP Brendan Hanley can be contacted at brendan.hanley@parl.gc.ca or 613-995-9368


Correction: An earlier version of this story described Lana Selbee and McGarry Selbee as lovers; they are in fact daughter and father.

 

* We included the red asterisk symbol in this story because Yukonstruct has a track-record of removing and editing its online content. Please let us know if any of the links in this story no longer work or if you would like to see a copy of the original content referred to in those links.

 

Editors' Note: This story was published in the 'Real News' section of our website. Facts are supported by the links provided within the story. If you have information or a tip regarding misconduct by politicians, government officials, or the organisations they fund, please consider sharing your story with us. We fully appreciate the risk of repercussions involved in speaking out and take very seriously your requests to remain anonymous.

5,855 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Whitewash

News

News & Opinion

that really

matters, maybe.