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Foster home operator under investigation over allegations it gave cannabis to kids in its care

A Winnipeg foster home operator is under investigation over allegations it provided cannabis to youth in its care.

Manitoba Families Minister Nahanni Fontaine tells CTV News Winnipeg allegations were brought to the province’s attention that Spirit Rising House was administering cannabis to youth in its group homes without authorization.

Spirit Rising House operates homes specializing in stabilization and addictions programming for at-risk youth, and is a private provider for Child and Family Services (CFS).

Fontaine says it’s believed the organization saw cannabis as a form of harm reduction.

“The issue is that we’re dealing with some of the most vulnerable, highly complex needs children who have addictions,” she said.

“Certainly, harm reduction is something that our government believes in, but in the legitimate options of harm reduction and certainly legally, as well.”

Fontaine says the province immediately reviewed Spirit Rising House’s services and ordered it to stop distributing unauthorized cannabis.

It also conducted unannounced visits to the group homes, and Fontaine says it became clear that cannabis was distributed in some of the homes.

A hold on new placements is now in place, and CFS has appointed co-managers to the foster homes.

The province is also working with CFS to transition the children still in Spirit Rising House’s care into new homes.

According to Fontaine, the province also referred the allegations to police, and the Winnipeg Police Service (WPS) says its child abuse unit is investigating.

The matter was also referred to the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth.

“I refuse to believe and accept that that’s the best that we can do, that we are going to offer drugs as a means of keeping children placated and managed,” Fontaine said.

“That is unacceptable.”

CTV News Winnipeg reached out to Spirit Rising House for comment. Executive Director John Bennett confirmed the organization is currently working with the department of families and guardian agencies on a transition plan for the youth.

Until those plans are finalized, Bennett says Spirit House Rising has been advised not to comment.

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