Tuesday, May 8, 1990 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed with Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
Are there any Reports of Committees?
Introduction of Bills.
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Notices of Motion.
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Wilderness guide training policy
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is particularly timely to inform the House of the new education program consistent with the wilderness guide training policy that meets the needs of an important economic sector of the Yukon. The wilderness guide training program is a fine example of various government departments and branches working together to develop a product: in this case, a two and one-half month-long course offered through Yukon College.
It is the governments policy to support and encourage cooperative efforts, such as the Yukon wilderness guide program, to enhance and augment the wilderness tourism sector of the Yukons tourism industry. This program is among the first initiatives promoted by this policy.
In the case of the Yukon wilderness guide program, cooperation was not limited to just the developers of this program: the advance-education branch of the Department of Education; the extension division of Yukon College; and the Departments of Tourism and Economic Development. This cooperation also extends to the groups that will directly benefit from this program: the wilderness guides and the outfitters of the Yukon.
This is the first year a full program has been offered. Prior to this, pilot programs were developed and offered through the Mayo community campus of Yukon College. Currently, 12 students are enrolled in the program, which began on April 17. The curriculum is a mix of classroom-based training and field experience. Today, for example, the students are working with Doug Larsen of the Department of Renewable Resources learning about moose biology. Already, they have spent time on Yukon studies, tourism hospitality, firearm safety, basic first aid, CPR and the biology of sheep and bears.
There are also units on wilderness ethics, small game and bird identification, map and compass skills, fishing regulations and techniques, the skinning and capeing of trophy animals, and photography. Camp cooking will be taught over four days by Nelson Lewis, who I understand is renowned in this profession.
A highlight of the program is the practical work that will be done at Rose Lake from June 4-29. There students will work on horseback riding trips, hiking trips, ferrying skills, field dressing, horse breaking and handling skills, among others.
This camp-based training is similar to the guide training work done by Jack Smith for the Mayo community campus of Yukon College. Mr. Smiths work complements the work of the Yukon wilderness guide program and is another initiative that falls under this governments policy concerning wilderness guide training.
For too long the guiding industry has had to rely upon non-Yukon residents as employees during the busy summer and fall months. For too long there has been a lack of formal training in environmental awareness and sensitivity in wilderness activities. The Yukon wilderness guide training program will redress that problem.
By the end of the wilderness guide training program, the guiding industry will have the opportunity to employ 12 well-trained people who will be an asset to any operation.
As you know, it is this governments policy to support and diversify the Yukons economy, particularly our resource-based economic activity, as identified in the Yukon 2000 Economic Strategy. The wilderness guide training program is a small but integral part of this on-going commitment.
What is particularly appealing about this program is that it can train people who, in another context, might have difficulty finding employment. You, Mr. Speaker, and I know people like this - people with superb bush skills, but with very little formal education. What the wilderness guide training program is designed to do, and what it is doing now, is complementing the skills these people already possess and enhancing the skills needed to ensure good employment opportunities.
The demand is steadily increasing for wilderness tourism in the Yukon. Now is the right time to train Yukoners so they can make the most of this opportunity - and to support the tourism sector, as this government committed to do in the Yukon 2000 Strategy.
Mr. Devries: It is with pleasure that I rise in response to this ministerial statement today. I fully support this initiative being taken by the Department of Education in cooperation with the other various interest groups.
There is no doubt that we have some people with excellent qualifications participating in this program. Presently, there are many excellent guides in the Yukon, but having been in the expediting business for the outfitters and listening to numerous complaints from various tourists, there is no doubt there is room to give the new guides a handle on basic skills.
I would question the number of graduates as I gave one of the participants a ride from Teslin this past weekend and was told there were three dropouts in the past week, although the Minister may have adjusted his numbers already.
Also, I have five years of guiding experience under my belt and learned something new every season. I still question whether the referral of 12 well-trained people could be perhaps slightly overstated.
Guiding is an ongoing experience. The recognition of being a well-trained guide can only be achieved through years of hands-on experience. We are also interested in who will be running the Rose Lake camp and what the Minister means by ferrying skills.
I commend the government in its efforts in this area. The proper training, combined with years of experience, will see the guides serving the wilderness tourist industry in such a way that the visitor will leave the Yukon with many pleasant memories. The wilderness tourist guide who is happy is the best free advertising we can get in our tourism industry.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Placer mining industry
Mr. Phelps: I have some questions for the Minister responsible for mines and small business with regard to the problems facing the placer mining industry. Several weeks ago, I raised questions regarding the governments position on the rather unfortunate fallout from the Old Man River decision, which creates a lot of uncertainty about the licensing process for placer mines in Yukon.
It has been announced that the Minister for Northern Affairs recently approved eight licences, but there are still 70 or more licences waiting to be screened, and time is of the essence for these miners.
Can the Minister tell us what, if anything, this government is doing to try to have the process simplified and speeded up?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I indicated the last time the Member asked the question, the government has, through my office and the offices of the energy and mines branch in the Department of Economic Development, made contact with federal Ministers and officials to indicate our concern with respect to the approval of the water licences for placer miners.
I indicated at that time that in the context of the ministerial conference with respect to energy and mines that was held recently that that case was made very clearly to the federal Minister, Mr. Epp. I have also taken the opportunity to write to the Minister of DIAND, Mr. Siddon, to express concern that the duly approved water licences by the water board are not being given final ministerial approval. I have requested that Mr. Siddon sign all licences that are approved by the water board, irrespective of any anxiety people might have about the interpretation of the Environmental Review Panel guidelines.
Mr. Phelps: I am pleased that the Minister has taken these steps. Is there any sign that there might be an early resolution to the backlog? Will we see these 70 licences approved in the next short while?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is our view that the Minister will approve the balance of the licences shortly. By taking the first step to approve a small number, the Minister has obviously accepted the fact that it is all right to sign licences even with the lack of definition with respect to the ERP guidelines. Now that the Minister has taken that initial step, we are expecting that the Minister will sign the rest of the licences and allow the placer operators to operate unhindered this season.
Question re: Placer mining industry
Mr. Phelps: We understand the industry is concerned about proposed changes to the Northern Inland Waters Act. Could the Minister for Mines and Small Business tell this House if the industry has been property consulted by the federal government regarding the proposed rewrite of this act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At the northern mine ministers meeting, at which the KPMA was present, they forcefully indicated, both in the private and public sessions, that they thought they had not been consulted to the extent they had been promised by federal officials on Northern Inland Waters Act changes. The federal Minister indicated that any consultation he conducts has to incorporate the interests of all stakeholders, and not simply bilateral discussions between the federal government and the mining industry.
In the interim, I am ascertaining exactly what commitments have been made with respect to the rounds of consultation that were originally proposed some years ago when the announcement was made the Northern Inland Waters Act was to be reviewed, to see whether or not the federal government has lived up to its originally-stated commitments.
I have been given to believe by the president of the KPMA that, in their opinion, the federal government has not lived up to its original commitment. If that is the case, I will be speaking further to the federal government about the situation.
Mr. Phelps: Through his department or otherwise, is this government going to have meaningful input with regard to the rewrite of the Northern Inland Waters Act? Is this government being consulted? Is it going to have a look at the draft and make recommendations?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have been consulted in the past. Whether or not we get a look at the final draft is another matter. I cannot say where on the parliamentary agenda the Northern Inland Waters Act will be placed. That is some of the information I am currently seeking.
Mr. Phelps: Are you taking a strong position that the placer mining industry be fully consulted before the draft, that is presently in existence, becomes law?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I agree with the Members assessment to the extent that I believe the federal government should thoroughly consult with the placer miners association and that they should live up to all commitments they have made in the past with respect to that consultation process.
If there remains anxiety and time, irrespective of the original commitment for the consultation schedule, I would encourage the federal government to continue to discuss the proposed changes with the KPMA and all stakeholders, in accordance with Mr. Siddons wishes, as well as in accordance with the consultative practice with all stakeholders, and complete that consultation prior to introducing the amendments in federal Parliament.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre, tour
Mr. Lang: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Human Resources. I would like to give you a little background. Just a short time ago, I was assigned the responsibility of critic of Health and Human Resources. As part of that function, I felt it was my responsibility to reacquaint myself with some facilities, so that I become more aware of the various programs that we are offering in this particular area. For example, last week I contacted the administration and did a tour of the hospital. Last Friday, I contacted the deputy ministers office and requested that his office arrange a very short tour of the young offenders facility. I did not receive any word back. On Monday, I received a call from the Minister of Health and Human Resources office, from his special assistant, indicating to me that I could not tour Na Dli, this public facility, until the session came to an end. Since I am the critic for the area of Health and Human Resources, I would like to ask the Minister: why am I being denied access to a walk through this facility prior to the end of the session?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: First of all, the Member is required to, by long-standing practice and rules of this House, to direct such requests to the Minister, not to officials of the government. We have responded. I have a number of Members who are interested in having a tour of the facility and I have offered to arrange that tour following this session. I have offered to personally accompany the tour. It is a secure custody facility. People do not have access at their convenience. It is our interest to avoid any kind of disruption or disturbance to the program there and any tour of the facility will be done on a supervised basis. When MLAs wish to the tour the facility - I have had a number of requests - I have indicated that I will arrange that tour following this sitting, with the other MLAs who have requested a tour as well.
Mr. Lang: At the outset, I want to set the record straight. No Members from this side have requested a tour; only I. That is correct. I want to point out to the Minister that I do not understand why a tour cannot be arranged prior to the end of the session because a number of representations have been made to me. I want to see whether they are accurate representations. If that is the case, I guess I will just raise them in the House.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Naturally we welcome the Members questions at any time, whatever representations he wants to make on any subject. But the Member is wrong in his preamble. He is not the only Member on that side of the House who has requested a tour. The Member for Porter Creek West has also requested a tour, as have Members on this side. We were responding to the request by arranging a tour for the several MLAs who have done so.
Mr. Lang: Perhaps I should just correct the record here. My understanding is that the Member for Porter Creek West has not recently requested a tour of the facility. That request was months and months ago and obviously the Minister has something to hide. I do not understand why I am denied access, in view of the request that I made, with what I believed to be adequate notice, similar to what I have done in the past if I wanted to tour the correctional institute. As long as two days notice was given, the tour was arranged with departmental staff and you did a walk through the facility. I do not understand, for the life of me, what the Minister has to hide, denying access to me to go through the facility.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member again, as his wont, is again saying: what does the Minister have to hide. We have nothing to hide. This is a secure custody facility. Citizens, whether they are MLAs or not, do not have the right to walk in at any time. As the Members request was reported to me, it was not reported as a request, it was reported a demand from the Member - that he was going to turn up at a certain time and he had better let him in because he was Danny Lang, the Member for Porter Creek East, and we had better walk in fear when he made his demand.
Mr. Lang: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. That is totally...
Speaker: Order please. Point of order to the Member for Porter Creek East.
Point of order
Mr. Lang: I phoned the deputy ministers office. I could not get through to the deputy minister, of course. He is too above us to speak to a mere Member of the House.
I asked if it was possible to arrange a tour for myself. My preference was 11:00 on Friday if it could be arranged. I put in a call on Monday morning, again, to the deputy ministers office. Needless to say, I never got a call back. Finally, later on today, I got a call back from the Ministers office, telling me, as a Member of this House with my rights and privileges, You shall not go into that facility until the session is over with. I would like to know who he thinks he is and what has he to hide.
Speaker: I find that there is no point of order, but there is a dispute between two Members.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre, tour
Mr. Lang: I would like to ask the Minister, in view of the heavy security required in that facility, why it would be so difficult to arrange a tour in view of the fact that there are only two young offenders presently in the facility, and there are 15 staff members taking care of them over a 24 hour period.
Speaker: Order please. I would just like to say that it is a new question for the Member for Whitehorse Porter Creek East.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I am not quite sure the Members information on that point is correct. The last information that I had was that there were five young people in the facility: three on remand and two serving sentence, but I will double-check the facts.
The Member knows full well that there were long-standing rules established during the time he was in government that such requests would be directed through a Ministers office and not through a deputy ministers office. Also, this is not a public place; this is a secure custody facility, which has, earlier this year, experienced some problems of security. The facility has been operating well recently, without incident. That is how we want it to continue to operate. It is a perfectly reasonable proposition that a request be made, and proper arrangements be made, for a tour, but not just at a citizens convenience, or even at an MLAs convenience, but at a time that is convenient for the people who are managing the facility as well.
Mr. Lang: Talk about a red herring. Two inmates are presently serving some time in that facility, and the Minister says to a Member of this House that with two or three days notice, we cannot arrange a half hour walk through with some of the departmental staff there, and there are 15 people on staff.
Can the Minister confirm that there are three young offenders who have been sent out of the territory and are presently being incarcerated in Prince George?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: That question has already been asked some time ago by the Member for Porter Creek West. The answer has been given. That information, as of the last report I had, is correct.
Let me respond to the Members preamble again. This is a secure custody facility; no citizen, whether he is a Member of this House or not, has access at a time when they demand it. I apologize to the Member if the tone of his request was misunderstood in the department, but that is as it was conveyed to me.
Mr. Lang: I have no problem with having to give two, three or even four days notice, but being denied access until the session is over only leads me to believe there is something being hidden.
I want to ask the Minister if he can tell the House if it is true that the department made the decision to send those three young offenders to Prince George as opposed to keeping them in this $3.2 million facility that was built to lodge them.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I explained many days ago to an almost identical question from the Member for Porter Creek West, there are procedures under the Young Offenders Act whereby, following sentence, the director - in this case the duties are carried out by the assistant deputy minister responsible in this area - and the staff make a disposition as to where a person will serve the sentence unless there is a specific instruction from the courts. That is done in consideration of both the needs of the young offender involved and the capacity and programs available at our programs and facilities elsewhere.
Question re: Na Dli Youth Centre, incarceration
Mr. Lang: We built this particular facility for the purpose of keeping Yukon kids close to their immediate family and in the hopes of building a successful rehabilitation program. Now, we have sent the majority of our young offenders again to outside facilities.
In view of the fact that it was the assistant deputy minister who made the decision to send these young offenders outside, I would like the Minister to tell me whether or not that was the recommendation of all the staff workers involved in the cases of these young people?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member says the majority of our young offenders are serving time outside. That is not correct. We have young offenders in open custody and closed custody. The Member makes a statement that is proven wrong and then he snickers. I am sorry he has such a careless regard for the facts. I am sorry if the Members are upset about having facts on the record.
Whatever recommendations are made by individual staff and decisions made by the director are not subject to review by the Minister or subject to public debate in any kind of matter like this, whether a social work matter or a case of confidence.
The Member is snickering. Is he really suggesting that we should have public debates about matters which, under the Young Offenders Act...
Speaker: Order, please. Will the Minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: ...protects the identity of the young person, and there is an absolute provision that there is no public debate about the circumstances of the disposition of their case. I will not enter into that debate.
Mr. Lang: The point here is that we have three young people. At least one that I know of has very strong family ties here. The family is committed to that particular young person. Yet, because of the actions of top management in the department, that person has basically been sent into exile to Prince George.
What I do not understand is why we have a $3.2 million that was built on the premise stated by the previous Minister of Health and Human Resources that for secure facilities we would provide for our own so that Yukon juveniles would be close to their families. This is a matter for public debate: why are we sending these particular young offenders outside when we have a facility with 15 staff members working 24 hours a day with hardly anyone in it?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: If the world was operated in the way we would like it to be, we would have nobody in a secure custody facility.
The Members groan and moan. Let me state my preference in this matter. If we did not have some young people who were so much in trouble with the law that they were a risk to themselves or other people, I would rather not see any young person in secure custody, whether it is here or anywhere else. In the program developed by my predecessor Minister, it was never contemplated that every single young persons needs would be able to be met by the secure custody facility here. We were required ...
Speaker: Order please. Would the Member please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: We were required to build such a facility here, and it is our objective, as much as possible, to see young people who have to serve time serve it in the Yukon so they can be accessible to their families. Not every case can be provided for in the Yukon Territory, for all sorts of reasons.
Mr. Lang: We have the majority of our secure young offenders now being lodged outside the Yukon Territory. This is totally contrary to the principle we all voted for in this House of providing a facility for Yukon secure young offenders when it was necessary.
We have in the neighbourhood of 15 staff members on duty over a 24 hour period, seven days a week, taking care of two young offenders presently onsite. On a per diem basis, what is it costing the taxpayer to lodge those three particular young offenders in Prince George? I am not asking about the young offender in Calgary, because the courts requested that he go to Calgary.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: I will take notice of the question on the cost of maintaining young people in the facility in Prince George. The Member asks it in terms of a per diem cost, and I will take notice of that question.
The Member is quite wrong when he says it was our policy to make sure every young offender was taken care of here. I have it on absolute reliable authority that the previous government and the Ministers responsible for that department understood there would be individuals who would have to be sent outside. That has always been the case in the Yukon, and I suspect it always will. The Member opposites rhetoric will not change that.
Question re: Tagish Kwan Corporation, Centennial Street project
Mr. Nordling: Before I ask my question, I would like to clarify the record. I did request a tour of the Na Dli facility. That was several months ago. I called the deputy minister, but my call was not returned. I then called the Ministers office. The Minister was not available and the executive assistant was going to get back to me. I have not heard back from that executive assistant. That being months ago, I assumed my request had been denied or forgotten. I do not think that is any excuse for denying the Member for Porter Creek Easts request for a tour of that facility.
The Tagish Kwan Corporation recently received a loan from the government of $400,000 and is presently undergoing what has been described as an internal restructuring of financing by the Minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. The Minister of Economic Development said he would be monitoring the situation carefully. From what I see, there is still no work being done on the Centennial Street project.
Can the Minister of Economic Development tell me what is being done to ensure repayment of our loan?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I will undertake to answer the question, given that the matter partially falls within the area of Yukon Housing.
The Member raised the question about a week ago. At that time, I indicated to him that there was an extension granted for the completion of the project Yukon Housing was having done. This is a turn-key project on Centennial Street.
I am advised by the administration of Yukon Housing that an additional extension has now been granted, I believe for three weeks. This was based on apparent progress in the internal restructuring of financing that was being done. It is also seeking to establish a new schedule for completion of the job. We are awaiting completion of those discussions and, in that interim period, a three week extension has been granted.
Mr. Nordling: My supplementary is to the Minister of Economic Development. When was the loan due to be repaid? Have we given the corporation an extension on the repayment of that loan?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will have to check on the exact details, but the loan was due to be repaid when the Tagish Kwan Corporation received its funding from the Yukon Housing Corporation on the turn-key contract. An extension has been granted because there has been an extension granted with respect to when the building could be turned over to the Yukon Housing Corporation.
As I indicated to Members last week, the Department of Economic Development is interested in recovering the loan and will take whatever actions are necessary to protect the integrity of the original loan agreement.
Mr. Nordling: The Minister said that the loan was secured by the building itself. I would like to ask what the value is of other loans secured against the Centennial Street apartment, which take priority over the government loan.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is one loan in advance of the governments loan to the Royal Bank. I believe it is in the neighbourhood of approximately $1 million or less. I am not certain. The Yukon governments loan is in the second position and then there are other creditors as well.
Question re: Physiotherapists
Mr. Phillips: I have a question of the Minister of Health and Human Resources regarding physiotherapists. I have recently received several complaints from constituents regarding the unreasonable waiting time for one to receive proper physiotherapy care. In fact, in some cases, it takes as long as six weeks to get the proper care. This wait often seriously complicates the problem. In some cases, it has resulted in these cases becoming chronic. What plans does the Minister have to alleviate these very unnecessary delays?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The only way in which the physiotherapy program is now covered under the health services and insurance programs, as the Member knows, is through the hospital-based facilities. The department recently has had some discussions about this subject and the delays. It is my understanding now that there has been some rescheduling of the programs so that people with urgent needs can have access on an immediate basis. What has been happening is that the work of the professionals in the field has been rescheduled so that I think there is one day a week where people can get immediate access to the program. The consideration of further steps to improve the access and reduce the waiting list is continuing.
Mr. Phillips: I have spoken to people in the field and I understand they are priorizing the patients so that they deal with the more serious ones sooner, rather than later, but having been a patient of physiotherapy myself at one time, I can assure you that everyone who has to go to a physiotherapist feels that it is important to get there as soon as possible and get the proper treatment.
In many other provinces the government uses the services of private practices, by referring the overflow to these practices and allowing the costs to be covered by medicare. Will the Government Leader consider this option to help solve the long waiting period?
Hon. Mr. Penikett: Some provinces do not do this and it is because of the cost. When you are adding programs to the list of insured services, you are inevitably adding to the insurance costs, and all Members in this House know that those costs have been rising. Some of the provinces - the Member is correct - have added the physiotherapy services on the basis of some form of insurance or some form of restricted service. We are aware of that. A lot of provinces have not. The situation is that we are looking at the service that we now provide. We are talking to the federal people about the hospital-based services and studying what is done in other jurisdictions.
Mr. Phillips: I would not be surprised at all that after we investigated both the private and the hospital services that we would find, in some cases, that the private services might be a lot less expensive. I believe that the present system we have is discriminatory. What happens is that if you can afford the service, you can go to a private physiotherapist now, but if you are an individual who has to see a physiotherapist, you have to wait in a long waiting list, for six weeks, to get in to see one. I think the government should be looking at that area. I ask the Minister to consider seriously using the option of a private physiotherapy clinic or clinics that could be in Whitehorse if the Minister allows this go through the medicare plan.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: The Member is identifying the problem that exists for the two-tiering of health services, which is a trend that is developing in the country and is a concern for a lot of people. The problem, as the Member points out, is that there are some people who may be taking voluntary advantage of physiotherapy services, who can pay for it. The option of making an addition to the insured program has quite significant financial consequences, which is why most provinces have looked at it very carefully, because once you put it on the insured program it becomes accessible under our system at no cost to anyone all the time. We do have to consider those types of decisions very carefully.
Mr. Phillips: I would argue with the Minister to the contrary. If the people who cannot afford to see a physiotherapist have to wait it may cost us more money in the long run as the problem could become chronic. I would ask the Minister to look very seriously at the problem again and consider doing this. Other provinces do it now.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: As I previously indicated, we are already looking at what other provinces are doing and have done, including the costs. In terms of the people who have an urgent need, we have seen some steps taken that would improve access by people. Arrangements can now be made for a person with an urgent need to see a physiotherapist within a day or two. That is an improvement from the previous situation, but there is still a waiting list. People involved in delivering the service have taken some steps to try to improve that.
Question re: Campbell Highway condition
Mr. Devries: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation. I had the opportunity last weekend to travel through the Mount Hundere mine site and was appalled by the condition of the Campbell Highway, which has been deteriorating rapidly due to the extensive use by logging trucks hauling logs from Tuchitua to Watson Lake. Since by late 1991, there is a potential for a further 10 trucks per day hauling ore from the Mount Hundere mine. Can the Minister advise the House what plans his department has to upgrade and maintain this very important transportation corridor, as I see nothing in the budget other than routine maintenance and dust control?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The short answer to the Members question, as I indicated in previous responses, is that we are doing cost analyses of various options for the required upgrading in relation to the Mount Hundere project. This analysis is currently at the stage of requiring further refinement. Should the Mount Hundere project proceed, the appropriate dollars will have to be found to do the required upgrading.
The Member is correct in his assumption that the Mount Hundere mine will increase the traffic on that corridor and it will have a direct impact and effect on the required maintenance and upgrading. We are currently crunching those numbers and working with the proponents through Economic Development, with a one window approach on the overall project.
Mr. Devries: Last week, a B-train was stuck on the road for three and a half hours just north of the Mount Hundere junction, between the junction and Tuchitua. It was bogged down in mud. Would the Minister instruct his department to determine what can be done in the short term to maintain the section of road north of the Mount Hundere junction?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: I accept the Members representation about the condition of the road. I believe there were considerable problems in several sections of the territory over last weekend, because of the various levels of snowfall that did occur. That area was one of them. Natural wet conditions contributed contributed to the problems on some of the roads, particularly with respect to the fact that the highways crews were tooling down from winter equipment stock into summer maintenance.
I believe the problem the Member raises was a short-term one. The department is on top of it, and I am being kept apprised. The Member can be assured the highways crews are providing the required maintenance to that particular road as necessary and in the best reaction to the weather conditions that happen.
Mr. Devries: The truck I am talking about got stuck three days before the snow. It was in the mud. There is an anticipated 400 loads of logs to be hauled out of the Tuchitua area in the next month down this road. This road is vital to the forestry and mining industries in Watson Lake and, consequently, to the economy of the whole region.
I would like a commitment from the Minister that he will fast-track the upgrading of the Campbell Highway as a matter of priority. It is very important to Watson Lake, because we do not have Yukon Forest Products right now. Will he make that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Byblow: The commitment the Member will receive is that we will do what is required to maintain the road to an acceptable standard for traffic usage. It was raised in budget debate that we are proceeding with an upgrade on the Tuchitua bridge, so there is a commitment in the budget already. On the regular maintenance side, we have the budgetary commitments. From what the Member raises, I will have my department do appropriate reassessments of traffic usage in order that the required maintenance be kept up.
On the capital side, what the Member is asking for is an impossible task to commit millions of dollars of upgrading in the middle of a budget year for his perception of increased usage. I will take the matter as notice. I will have the issue reinvestigated and provide the Member the assurance that we will be on top of the maintenance.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now lapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Pursuant to the provisions of the new Standing Order No. 14.1(1), I would request the unanimous consent of the House to have only Motion No. 97 called under Motions Other Than Government Motions, when that item of business is called on Wednesday, May 9, 1990.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Bill No. 87: Second Reading
Chair: Second reading, Bill No. 87, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Joe.
Hon. Ms. Joe: I move that Bill No. 87, entitled An Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act (No. 2) be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved that Bill No. 87, entitled An Act to Amend the Workers Compensation Act (No. 2) be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Joe: This bill contains a small number of amendments that affect the benefits injured workers will receive if they are required to remain on compensation for over a year. These amendments cover the review and enhancement-to-wage-loss benefits, which is conducted each year for a beneficiary of workers compensation on the anniversary date of that accident. The enhancement has two components. The first makes some provision for the fact that a worker who suffers an accident that prevents his or her return to the same occupation for a prolonged period of time may be losing opportunities for promotion or advancement. The second ensures that the annual inflationary adjustment will always be the greater of the consumer price index or the average industrial wage.
The other amendments contained in this bill are linked to the enhancement-to-wage-loss benefits I have just referred to. They are contained in this bill for the express purpose of making the financial management of the fund sufficiently flexible to help protect employers from future rate fluctuations and to ensure that the enhancement-to-wage-loss benefits can be provided at no additional cost to employers.
These amendments have been brought forward by the Workers Compensation Board as being fair, reasonable, desirable and necessary. We have examined them with care and we are in agreement.
Mr. Brewster: I am rather pleased to see this bill up here. I am rather pleased to see at least the government is starting to move and look at some of their legislation. I cannot say they did that before this but apparently they are doing it now. I also feel, however, had not this side forced the amendment, none of this would have come forth. If it had not been for my leader, who questioned the Minister and questioned the witnesses, we would never had had this bill in front of us. I, frankly, have a burning, dirty taste in my mouth over the way the officials and the Minister treated people, especially the blind person who was involved in this.
But I will not dwell on this. I am very happy to see this coming up the way it is and I will be quite fair with the government on the other side. When they saw the evidence brought out by my leader, they then turned around and supported us on the bill and for that I am very pleased.
I also learned, I think, another thing. In politics, when it comes to bills and such things, quite often the Ministers take the word of the administrators and do not bother to look any further. It was quite apparent with my bill, and I hope it is not the case in this one, that they never bothered to check anything; they just ignored it and got themselves into quite a bit of trouble.
Just one other thing, before I go: I would just like to get this off my chest. There were a number of remarks made on the other side on the other bill that I did not do my homework. Well, I will tell you this: I will match my work ethics with any person in this Legislature, any time, any place.
Speaker: The hon. Member will close debate if she now speaks. Does any other Member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Joe: I feel that I am forced to stand up and say a few words in regard to the statements made by the Member for Kluane. I do appreciate the fact that we are able to bring this bill forward for amendment and that the Member on the side opposite did propose an amendment to the Workers Compensation Act, and that we were finally able to deal with it.
There was also representation made by Members on this side of the House in regard to that. As the Member said there is often information given to us that we believe to be correct. It was decided by us, since the Member brought the former bill forward, that he should have had the information he needed in order to do that. It was not our job to do that. I am not saying that he did not have the proper information but he certainly did not have it at the time that he presented the bill.
As a result of the information we did receive from the actuary further down the line, we were able to support his bill as amended. As a result, we were able to make proposed amendments to the act that would allow more benefits to those who were entitled to them. Because of all of that additional information given to us by the witnesses to us we were able to pass not only his bill but also the additional amendments that we are proposing now in this one.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Government House Leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a break.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 29 - Education Act - continued
Clause 15 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Before we proceed to clause 16, I suggest that we return to clause 4 to deal with the amendment that Mr. Devries brought forward. I will ask the indulgence of the House to return to definitions to address a matter that was raised by Mr. Nordling.
Chair: Is Committee agreed to go back to clause 4?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
On Clause 4
Mr. Devries: I discuss this with the Minister, and I would like to ask for unanimous consent to withdraw the amendment that was put forward yesterday on page 15, clause 4(c), which read to promote the importance of family and put forward a new amendment.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Mr. Devries: I would like to put forward a new amendment. I move
THAT Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act be amended at clause 4 at page 15 by
(i) adding the following paragraph: (c) to promote the importance of the family and community; and
(ii) re-lettering the original paragraphs (c) to (i) accordingly.
Amendment to Clause 4 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Nordling brought up the issue yesterday of the definition of private school on page 13 of the act. He suggested that if there was an amendment was coming forward ...
Chair: Order please. I forgot to carry clause 4.
Clause 4 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Nordling brought forward a suggestion as we were going through the definitions section of the act that the definition of private school should anticipate a change in the legislation that was coming with respect to private schools, as Members are aware. At the time, I indicated it was my understanding that the definition was still relevant, as the amendment would accommodate both those schools that are registered and those that are registered and accredited.
Having discussed with the department their discussions with the private schoolers in the Yukon, it appears it would be a complicated arrangement and one that private schoolers may not be in favour of, to have a designation for both registered private schools and registered and accredited private schools.
I would like unanimous consent to return to the definitions section to adjust the private school definition to anticipate the amendment coming with respect to registered and accredited private schools.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Clause 1 - continued
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is quite simple. I indicated in general debate that I intended to amend the act to reflect the terminology in the Alberta Education Act with respect to private schoolers, after discussions with private schoolers in the territory, and to incorporate the concept of an accredited private school, as well as a registered private school. The difference is that the registered private school would not have to meet the test of teacher qualification the accredited private school would have to meet. This is important to private schoolers, especially those whose school is founded on religious principles.
We have an opportunity to deal with that at greater length when we do clause 29, if the Members wish. I would like to move a minor amendment
THAT Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act, be amended in clause 1 at page 13 by adding, in the definition of private school, after the word registered the following expression: or accredited.
This allows for the existence of two designations of private schools, both that which is accredited, and that which is registered.
Chair: It has been moved by the Minister of Education
THAT Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act, be amended in clause 1 on page 13 by adding, under the definition for private school, after the word registered the following expression: or accredited.
Amendment to Clause 1 agreed to
Clause 1 agreed to as amended
On Clause 16
Mr. Devries: Where it says where a child is not in attendance at a school..., school is still defined as a school under the Minister or deputy minister. I wonder if that should include a private school or day home situation. This is one concern that was brought to me.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We do not anticipate in the act funding a home-schooling or private-schooling situation. This is for the determination of identifying special needs in order to provide a service for the publicly-funded school system only.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister some questions in a general context about this particular clause.
Is this the clause that would determine particular educational direction for children with special needs or learning disabilities, such as fetal alcohol syndrome children?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is one of the sections.
Mrs. Firth: Where is the act going to be able to identify specific programs for children with learning disabilities? Is it under this clause, is it somewhere else, or is it going to be in the regulations? Where will the direction be given? Are special needs children with fetal alcohol syndrome, children who are mentally handicapped, or children with learning disabilities going to be combined into this one clause?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In a manner of speaking, yes. The special education division on page 18 refers to a provision of special education services. It does not define what services will be available. It defines how the services will be determined, based on that which is available. It defines how an individual education plan will be established, who will be involved, and determines how the individual education plan will be set up and what appeal procedures there will be if the plan is not accepted.
Mrs. Firth: This clause is going to be dealing with very diverse kinds of needs. Does the department and the Minister philosophically agree you cannot plump all these children under one subtitle and address all their needs? Will those special and specific needs be addressed in the regulations, if they are not addressed in the act, so that is the direction that is being taken to educate children with fetal alcohol syndrome, or children with learning disabilities? Each particular area has its own particular approach.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The approach taken in the act is to establish a plan of action for each individual child identified as having a special need, whether that special need means they are having trouble keeping up, or whether it means they are moving faster than the rest of their class. The approach taken is to establish a plan of action, determined at the school and with professional assistance, if that is required, to determine what kinds of support the child needs in order to receive an appropriate education, based on their individual needs.
Basically, the approach taken is one that determines each childs needs independently of others, and does not try to lump together, or mainstream, special needs students into one or another particular program. It addresses each individual childs needs and determines a plan of action that is tailor made for that childs needs.
Mrs. Firth: Will it be in the regulations or the policy of the department where clear and specific directions will be given as to how the case of each individual child, particularly those with special needs or learning disabilities, will be addressed? The concern the Learning Disabilities Association has is that you cannot just bunch all children who require special education into one group of children with learning disabilities. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome have different requirements than children who are mentally handicapped or have identified learning disabilities. Is there going to be something in the policy or regulations that will identify the concerns of that association so that the childrens needs are being met on an individual basis? Will there be something written to address that issue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We are not connecting. The act does exactly what the Member suggests should be done in regulations. The act states that there will not be a mainstreaming of special needs students into a class or program - out of sight is out of mind - where all will be dealt with equally no matter what their individual needs are. That is not the approach the act is contemplating. The act is contemplating an approach that tailors a program to the specific needs of a specific child. It does so by using a school-based team, in cooperation with the parents of the child and the relevant specialists within the department to determine a course of action for that specific, individual child.
The course of action may involve policies and programs that are established by the Department of Education from time to time based on the specific needs of the children within the Yukon education system, but each plan of action is tailor made to the needs of the child as determined by the school-based team and by the assessments done by professionals. This is the approach of the act.
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Mr. Devries: Clause 18(c) is getting back to the issue of appealing decisions that significantly affect the education, health or safety of children. I often think of appeals as being fairly confrontational. It does not seem to indicate that the appeal is a last resort. There is going to be a lot of discussion prior to an appeal. Every attempt is going to be made to arrive at a consensus with the people before they have to go through an appeal process.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Before an education appeal tribunal will hear a case, it will expect that the individual education plan and the working up of the individual education plan has taken place. In the case of a parent disagreeing with the plan for the child and disagreeing with the conclusions of the school-based team, of which they are a member, in coming to a conclusion about a particular child, they would not hear a case for which due process has not been provided in advance.
It is difficult to write into legislation, if not impossible, a definition of those matters that would significantly affect the education, health and safety of a child. Some judgment will have to be used by the education appeal tribunal as to the significance of the appeal being put forward and whether or not the proper steps have been taken in advance of the call for appeal that are anticipated in the legislation.
I personally am not concerned about that particular element. There may be people who want to rush to appeal, but they will be encouraged to follow the outline of the act with respect to procedures that must take place prior to their having a case for appeal.
Mr. Devries: This is probably the biggest problem I have with the education appeal tribunal. I keep thinking back to what happened in Watson Lake with the Human Rights Commission case where something could have easily been resolved through a bit of dialogue, but all of a sudden, they go to the extreme and go through the appeal process immediately. I find this a little scary. It is going to create situations where the dialogue is going to be discontinued too soon and people are going to jump into the appeal process.
Again, some people tend to be that way where others are much more open to dialogue.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There will be every encouragement for dialogue at every stage of the process. The education appeal tribunal will be encouraged to ensure the spirit of the act is respected with respect to that matter.
The situation in Watson Lake was a difficult one. It involved an investigation of a situation that was made very public, quite contrary to the legislation. There was an individual named in the investigation, but that individual was me, as being somebody under investigation. The act does not anticipate there should be a public exposure of those sorts of investigations. That was a subject that came up in the House during the Human Rights Act debate, in that it was unfair to expose people to public embarrassment prior to having had any kind of fair hearing.
In the situation here, we are talking about a bit of a different thing. We are talking about disagreement with an administrative decision to place a child in a particular program. Ultimately, the school-based team will be made up of the principal, the learning assistant, the teacher, any specialists in the department who are relevant, plus the parent. In the case where the parent disagrees they are bucking the odds with respect to coming up against the administration in the department and the teaching force. In these particular cases, the education appeal tribunal would determine whether or not the case should be heard, based on whether or not due process had been followed up to that point. Following that determination, if they decided the appeal should be heard, it would be an administrative appeal tribunal where they review the case with expert judgment, and presumably independently of any outside forces, and would determine either aye or nay on the request of the parent, in this hypothetical case.
I do not anticipate it having the same potential for embarrassment as the situation in the other case the Member mentioned, even if the act is not respected, as the Human Rights Act was not respected by somebody in the case of the situation in Watson Lake.
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Mr. Lang: I do not know if it is a typing error, but it says student records. This section seems to be part of clause 19. Should it not be a separate heading?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. The student records phrase just below Clause 19 should be in bold as it is a title as opposed to being part of Clause 19. I can make an amendment to have it in bold.
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Mr. Devries: Clause 20(2) is not clear to me. Can the Minister tell me what it means? Just for the record, does the phrase a student who is 16 years or older mean that the student can come there alone or do the parents go with him or her?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. A student who is 16 years or older may see their own file.
Mr. Lang: I just wonder about that. It would seem to me that we are getting into a pretty serious situation if a student is asking to see his or her records. This is not an every day request. Should it not be that until the age of 18 they can only see their records with their parents? If there is a problem at school, this would let the parents know. I wonder about allowing a student of 16 to demand to see his or her records. What is the purpose of this? Sometimes parents are not aware of what is happening.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Age 16 was chosen because that is also the age where students can elect to leave school; they are mature enough to leave school at this point. The opportunity to see their own record is a recognition of a subjective view of the maturity of those students at that age. Other jurisdictions have stipulated age 16 as the age one can view ones records, Saskatchewan for example. It is recognition that, because a student is mature enough and is expected to be mature enough to be allowed to make a decision as to whether or not they will continue school, it appears consistent to allow them to see their records. The Member is right, it would be a rare case, but it is considered to be a basic right for students who achieve a level of maturity. Sixteen was chosen because it is the age they can make the decision to leave or stay.
Mr. Devries: With respect to clause 20(4), is it common in other jurisdictions to have this clause in here? I looked through one act and could not find it, but I did not have a chance to look through some of the other copies I had.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe it is. I will have to have that matter checked. Much of this clause was modeled on the Alberta act. Had the Member checked the Alberta act for this information? I can check, because I believe it is relatively standard.
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Mr. Devries: As much as I agree with the content, who decides if the act is intentional or negligent? Sometimes you have students who are accident-prone.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It will be a court that decides who is responsible and who will be held liable. Presumably it will be an act of vandalism and it will be a criminal offence. If Members ask me whether or not there is any administrative tribunal within the act that deals with this, the answer is no. The courts would deal with it.
Mr. Lang: I am wondering about the age limit again. I accepted the Ministers observation on clause 20 regarding the 16 year age limit. What happens in a situation where a student is 17 years of age and does not live at home and has no connection with the parents?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That situation can occur even if the student is much younger than 17. I know of at least one case in Whitehorse where a student is 12 years old and is not living at home. There is a question about who the parent or guardian is of that child. Who would be considered liable for anything the child does, and who does the school respond to when questions are put about the childs performance or behaviour?
In those sorts of circumstances, each case will differ. If the case comes forward and the child is either 17 or 12, the court would have to decide whether or not the child was in the care of the parents. A case could certainly be made at that point that the parent was not in effective control or responsible for the child at the time. Consequently, the parent could not be held liable for anything the child does.
This clause leaves it up to the court to determine the individual circumstances of a particular case, because there are literally hundreds and hundreds of cases that could occur regularly with respect to whether or not the child is living at home, whether or not the child is living at home but there is considerable difficulty between the child and parent or the parent has effectively lost control of the child, even if the child is living at home. If the child is living away from home, are the people taking care of the child considered responsible too? Maybe they are not. Maybe a case could be made that they are simply performing a good Samaritan service with respect to housing the child, but they are not legal guardians or to be held in any way liable for the childs actions. In most of those cases, I am sure a judge would consider that there is no parent or guardian in that childs life who effectively has control, in which case the responsibility of liability would fall entirely upon the child.
That is the purpose of leaving it as general as it is: to allow a myriad of personal situations that can occur, which could involve any number of decisions by a tribunal. You cannot put a specific age limit on the matter because there are situations that involve persons under 16, for which there is a problem.
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Mr. Devries: In clause 22(c), it says the student is a participant in Yukon aboriginal cultural activities or in aboriginal harvesting activities. I never really thought much of it when I first read it but when I was in Watson Lake, someone brought it up - a non native. He traditionally takes his kids out on a little hunting expedition sometime at the beginning of September and he feels the department is not really promoting equality when it is giving one right to one group of people and not to another, in this respect.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, the desirability of allowing students to undertake cultural harvesting activities is something that is obviously very important to aboriginal peoples. In a normal course of events, quite often a parent will go to the principal or the teacher and ask whether or not the child can leave school for some particular purposes. Quite often it is for purposes other than hunting or fishing: it is for holidaying or travel. In most cases, the parent is given homework for the child to do and there is no problem. There are other cases where it is obvious that, despite the fact that the child is travelling or holidaying or whatever, the child will not receive a reasonable education; it is basically a judgment call by the school, the teacher and the parents themselves.
With respect to this particular case, it refers to whether or not the person shall be technically excused for the purposes of attendance records. There is, I guess, a cultural imperative that for aboriginal peoples this is very important to them. We cannot, in all cases, design the school year around aboriginal peoples cultural activities. In most cases around the territory, the aboriginal peoples are very much in the minority and, as much as we would like to assist them to accommodate their individual requirements - and we can do this in some schools, such as Old Crow or Pelly, and others - as much as we would like to accommodate the school year to approximate the cultural imperatives of aboriginal peoples, in some schools that is very difficult to do because they are very much in the minority. The saw-off, or the compromise, is to allow them to be excused when those cultural activities are taking place and for technical purposes, to allow them to be excused from the school.
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Mr. Devries: I guess clause 24 would refer to a situation such as happened last year shortly after school started when there was a whooping cough epidemic.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes. If there is an epidemic of some kind and the public health officer is determined that, under the Public Health Act, the attendance of a child who is ill will jeopardize the health and safety of the other children, the child will be told to stay home. The option will be to provide optional education for the child if the period at home is extensive. As happened last fall, the Department of Education did prepare for an itinerant teacher to visit students who were at home in Whitehorse. Not every instance can be anticipated. Sometimes it may be difficult to provide for optional education in all circumstances though it would be desirable in most. But it is to accommodate the circumstances the Member mentions.
Clause 24 agreed to
On Clause 25
Clause 25 agreed to
On Clause 26
Mr. Devries: Is there a truancy system whereby, if the student is absent from school for 20 days, without a permission slip, there would still be the option of suspending the child? Has anything changed from the present system? I believe the 20 day limit is established by the school committee at the start of the year. It is a problem that once a student has been absent for a month or even for a week at a time, the teacher has to spend a lot of time helping that student catch up and the rest of the class suffers for the truancy of this student. Will the existing policy be able to continue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Policies developed at the school level will continue if the school committee, council or board wished them to continue. It is a bit of fiction that school committees have decision making authority right now, but it will be the case that the school councils or boards will have this authority under this Education Act.
Mr. Lang: In the past five years, have there been any legal proceedings against anyone whose child is not attending school?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not aware of any particular cases at all.
Clause 26 agreed to
On Clause 27
Clause 27 agreed to
On Clause 28
Clause 28 agreed to
On Clause 29
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have an amendment for clause 29. This deals with the issue we mentioned before, with respect to private schools and the issue of registration and accreditation. For background for Members, generally speaking, the designation of private school, as outlined in the act, is a fairly standard designation across the country. There have been discussions between the department and the private schoolers in the territory in recent weeks and during the consultation process. In the end, these have caused us to consider the concept of accreditation and registration.
The concern of the private schoolers is not that they are unwilling to abide by the terms outlined in the act here, but that they are concerned with the one issue respecting the employment of teachers and the qualifications required for teachers in private schools.
They feel that for the private schools that currently exist in the Yukon, the school itself is prepared to abide by the goals and objectives of this act and of the Legislature, but they feel that they should not be forced to live by the qualification standards for teachers that the government may lay out from time to time in the regulations.
They propose that an amendment be brought in that I am proposing to agree with, which draws a distinction between private schools that are simply registered and those that are accredited. The private schools that are accredited would incorporate all the provisions that are shown in clause 29. The schools that are simply registered would live by all but one of the provisions shown in clause 29. The one exception would be the employment qualifications for teachers.
The argument that there has been for private schools, especially those that are based on religious grounds, is that the priority qualification for the teaching staff is based on religious grounds. For example, for a fundamentalist Christian school, they feel that the first and most important qualification of the teacher is that the teacher respect the religious principles of that school. Consequently, they would sometimes find it hard to meet the teacher qualifications, which may be academic qualifications. They feel that they should not necessarily have to live by that standard.
I am proposing to agree that there should be a distinction between those private schools that are registered and those schools that are accredited and stipulate that the schools that are registered need not employ people who bear the qualifications stipulated in the regulations.
There will be, in all likelihood, some regulations respecting the operations of registered private schools, probably in accordance with those that exist in Alberta. Now, with the distinction between registered and accredited private schools, this would match Albertas provisions for private schooling.
In Albertas case, they have a stipulation where, while Alberta will not set the qualifications for registered private-school teachers, they do insist that all parents who send their children to private schools are made aware of the qualifications of the teachers.
Consequently I would like to move the amendment that reflects the case I just outlined.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move
THAT Bill 29, entitled Education Act, be amended in clause 29 at page 24 by:
(i) adding, after the word registered where it appears in subclauses (2), (5), (6) and (8), the following expression: or accredited;
(ii) adding, before the expression employs persons where it appears in paragraph 2(b), the following expression: in the case of an accredited private school;
(iii) deleting the expression any evaluation and monitoring where it appears in subclause (3) and substituting for it the following expression: Any guidelines, evaluation and monitoring; and
(iv) adding after the word registration where it appears in subclause (4), the following expression: or accreditation.
To my knowledge, the amendments as I have outlined them here have been presented to representatives of the private schools and appear acceptable to them. They also appear acceptable to us.
Chair: Does the Committee want to deal with the amendment as it relates the whole clause?
Some Hon. Members: Yes.
Mr. Devries: I have just a few comments on this area. I have had several meetings with the people from the private schools. Originally, they felt they were not going to have all their needs met but they are very pleased the department has met all their recommendations.
I guess I could have taken political advantage of the situation but I am not politically astute enough. I suggested that they go to the department rather than use the Opposition, as sometimes the department is a little more reluctant to accept something put forward by the Opposition. I am happy to see that this has happened.
It is quite common knowledge that the Deputy Minister of Education swears like a state trooper at times. It was mentioned that, at times, God can use anybody.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I have not had much personal acquaintance with state troopers but I have had personal acquaintance with the deputy minister. Home schoolers or private schoolers may be quite correct. However, I think it is important to point out that I believe the Member is quite politically astute because it quite often can be the case that where there is a friction in the Legislature that sometimes the discussion has ended long before the matter reaches the Legislature and decisions are hardened.
The other point to make is that we have been working with the private schoolers and home schoolers from the period the consultation process began with the draft Education Act. We have been working to resolve the issues as they have seen them. We have made it clear there are principles we do respect, and there is a mandate we feel absolutely resolved to protect with respect to the education of children in this territory, irrespective of whether or not they operate within the public school system.
As it stands now, the situation is a respectable reflection of both those objectives of any reasonable and responsible government and those as stated by the private schoolers and home educators, who have expressed their own particular perspective of education.
The understanding has been enhanced over the course of the consultative process. I am more than pleased to be able to accommodate their interests, as long as the basic philosophical underpinning of Yukon education is respected by all territorial residents.
Amendment to clause 29 agreed to
Clause 29 agreed to as amended
On Clause 30
Clause 30 agreed to
On Clause 31
Mr. Devries: With respect to clause 31(8)(b), it should have said something after achievement testing, like taking into consideration the educational plan submitted by the parent upon registering the child. The parent has to register their child and has to show the department the educational plan he or she has developed for this child. Here, it says the student has failed to meet standards of student achievement, as measured by achievement testing....
Possibly, depending upon what was approved originally, would this achievement testing be based on what was approved originally, when the child was registered?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, and the achievement testing would not be different from the achievement testing that the department provides for the public schools generally, with the exception that the tests will be restricted to clause 8(a), which is basically the three Rs.
The concern of some has been that the Department of Education might, in the future, try to test in a manner that is different, or provide a more severe test for home schoolers than they provide for the regular public school system and thereby try to undermine or discredit the home-schooling situation. What we are saying here is that the testing will be no different than the testing provided for the public schools. It will be CTBS testing, I presume, or some standardized test that we would apply to all the schools. The same testing would apply to home schoolers but we would restrict, certainly, the test to respect clause 8(a), which refers back to the goals and objectives of the Yukon education system and basically refers to the basic skills.
Mr. Devries: In respect to clause 31(9), apparently the home-school people, during discussions with the deputy minister, were promised by him that if the Minister decided to give a notice of termination to a student to direct him to attend a school operated by the Minister, as it says here, then - the deputy minister had assured them - it would include something of the nature where they would also have the option of picking a private school or using B.C. correspondence or distance education. They feel that they could possibly be restricted by where the Minister is directing the student to attend.
I do not have an amendment prepared but if the Minister does not have a good argument to counteract what I am stating here, I would perhaps like to leave the clause and put forward an amendment.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I do not believe that an amendment is necessary. Firstly, with respect to ministerial schools, that also applies to distance education so if a person is going on a correspondence course, they would otherwise enrolled in a school. In order to receive public schooling or a public benefit, they would have to be enrolled in a ministerial school.
With respect to the private-schooling situation, it appears to me that the parent would have the option to attend the ministerial school or go on correspondence and then again to choose, as a right in this act, an alternative form of education.
The only difference would be that the child would move from a ministerial school after technically being registered there to a private school, rather than going straight from the home schooling situation to the private school.
Mr. Devries: Is there a time frame in conjunction with this? When this termination is announced, they have a week or two to get the child oriented to go to another school, or would there be any demands in that respect?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, but the department cannot demand the unreasonable. To enroll this child in the school does not necessarily mean that the child will receive some sanction or some penalty if he does not show up right on time, any more than a normal child would receive sanction or penalty for missing a class or a program. It usually takes a very poor attendance for there to be any sanctions applied. I would not regard that as a big problem. I would not think it would ever be enforced in any draconian way. That is not at all what is anticipated.
Clause 31 agreed to
On Clause 32
Hon. Mr. McDonald: With respect to clause 32(2), if the Members will read the sentence, they will notice there is a typo. Rather than upsetting the Clerk by asking for unanimous agreement that there is a typo, I went through all the paperwork to move an amendment.
Mrs. Firth: You have unanimous agreement that it is a typo.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The typo is the word of. We obviously do not need it. In case anybody wants to see the paperwork, there is an amendment here to delete the word of in 32(2).
Chair: The Committee has agreed that it is a typo.
Mrs. Firth: Before we clear the whole clause, with respect to kindergarten, will children still be able to enter kindergarten programs prior to the age of four years and eight months by September 1, in an unofficial capacity? I believe that practice has been allowed. It is going to continue?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If it has been allowed, it has been unofficial, because the current act and the present act, as I am sure the Member is aware, are fairly clear about who can enter kindergarten and who can enter grade 1.
Mrs. Firth: I am not speaking about that particular case. Maybe you do not understand. I am not speaking about the official age and the legal age for kids to go to kindergarten; I am talking about children in smaller communities like Old Crow or Ross River, perhaps when the children are three and a half or four years old. There have been requests before by school committees and parents for children to attend in an unofficial capacity. That has been a practice that has been allowed, and I noticed that there is nothing beneficial and that nothing in the law has changed with respect to the old School Act. I am simply asking if the Minister is going to allow that practice to continue. I imagine that if he is, it is still going to be at the discretion of the school committees and the school and the principals and so on.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If the Member will cast her eyes down to clause 33, I think this may be the clause that refers to the potential for pre kindergarten programs. I did look into this at one point. If I am not mistaken, there was a section in the current act that dealt with the pre kindergarten programs. If there is a copy of the current act, I can find it.
Mrs. Firth: It was kind of an unofficial thing.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: In some respects it is unofficial, because it is judged on the basis of language skills of some children as to whether or not a special course should be put on in order to accommodate that and to bring the language levels up to the average child who is entering kindergarten. We still anticipate doing that where the needs would exist, and not throughout the entire system.
Mr. Devries: There was an instance in Alberta where I believe children could get into kindergarten at a younger age. They had grandparents living there so they sent their child down there for a month and had him registered in the kindergarten. Then they said, Well, my kid has been in kindergarten; he should be able to go to kindergarten here. It was rather a sneaky way of squeezing him into the system. The question would be: if a student has been enrolled in a kindergarten elsewhere in Canada, and still is not four years and eight months old when they arrive in the Yukon, would they be able to get into a kindergarten program?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I believe that there has been a case where a family whose child had been in kindergarten somewhere else came to the Yukon and unofficially attained access to the kindergarten program.
We do have the arbitrary age listed in the act. I can tell the Member that a great deal of agony was spent in trying to determine whether or not there was a better way of providing for entrance into kindergarten and grade 1, because the concern about the arbitrariness of the age often leads to that anomaly, and, in my experience, it happens once every two years or so: a situation where someone is just outside the limit and it is a cause of some concern for the parent. Quite often the parent can be assuaged by the education theory that it is perhaps better to not start children too early.
The alternatives prove to be quite difficult and expensive. The alternative that has been considered elsewhere is called continuous intake and is done on the basis of assessment. If a parent says a child is precocious and has language skills and is only three years old and the child is tested, the child can go to kindergarten and start through the education system.
In practice, it appears that certainly the majority of parents feel their child is ahead of the standard and should be considered a candidate for kindergarten or whatever publicly funded schooling is available. The evidence that the costs for providing continuous intake is substantial. It is somewhat destructive as well, as students enter into the programs throughout the year.
As much as we wanted to consider an alternative to the existing School Act, it appeared in the end that we could not consider one that respected all the objectives that we would have liked to see. There is a designation of an arbitrary age here. It is meant to be respected. It is in the current act. If there are cases, they are unofficial because I would not be bound to give them sanction as the existing School Act and the Education Act are clear on that point.
Mr. Lang: I would like to move to one other area regarding kindergarten and that is the section that states that a child cannot attend more than one session of kindergarten a day. I do know that in one school there have been some changes in time to accommodate parents who live outside of town so that some children can attend kindergarten for two or two and one half full days a week instead of going the five half days. Is the Minister aware of this? Would this clause not preclude this type of thing happening or will there be special regulations to accommodate that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I will just turn to the provisions on school hours. Perhaps this is a good time to take a break while I check into this situation for the Member.
Chair: We will have a short break at this time.
Chair: The Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The Member for Porter Creek East asked a question about the latitude, or flexibility, that would be allowed in clause 32(4) to allow students to attend kindergarten all day, as opposed to half a day, if it makes sense for those students who have to travel a long distance to school.
As I have discovered, there are situations where children do attend kindergarten all day. It is anticipated that the definition of session will be determined in regulation to accommodate those special situations where a student who has to travel a long distance can attend the kindergarten all day. The session will be defined as an all-day session, rather than a half-day session.
The wording is designed to encourage parents to understand that, generally speaking, kindergarten is half time, and not full time, and should not be used as a substitute for day care.
Clause 32 agreed to
On Clause 33
Mr. Devries: Regarding play school education programs, as the Minister is aware, they have one room in Watson Lake Elementary School for this. I am not sure whether it is rented from the department or not. I believe the parents are charged a certain amount for their child to stay there.
I support the concept in principle, but if it came to a point where it was not self-supporting and took monies from another education area - for instance, special needs - I would be hesitant to support it. To me, this is getting into an area that is a luxury.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: This is not the open door for day care in the schools to my knowledge. This refers to the preschool programs I was referring to before the break that are in practice much like kindergarten but they are designed to improve language skills for those students having difficulty. Kindergarten assumes some language skills sometimes that the students do not have.
We have two preschool programs, one in Pelly and one in Old Crow, to accommodate a specific identifiable need. This is the enabling clause that allows that to happen.
This is a normal program offered by the school. This is not to equate this with a day care. If the local school committee wants to have a day care in the school and there is room and they want to manage it through a society or some other organization outside the education system, certainly it is within their ability to do so. This is different. This is a normal program to be offered on a as-needed basis for those situations where language skills are underdeveloped.
Clause 33 agreed to
On Clause 34
Clause 34 agreed to
On Clause 35
Clause 35 agreed to
On Clause 36
Clause 36 agreed to
On Clause 37
Clause 37 agreed to
On Clause 38
Mr. Devries: I have an amendment I would like to propose for this clause. I move
THAT Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act, be amended in clause 38 at page 28 by:
(i) adding the following paragraph: (b) treat teachers with respect,; and
(ii) re-lettering the original paragraphs (b) to (g) accordingly.
Chair: It has been moved by the Member for Watson Lake
THAT Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act, be amended in clause 38 at page 28 by:
(i)adding the following paragraph: (b) treat teachers with respect,; and
(ii)re-lettering the original paragraphs (b) to (g) accordingly.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Will the Member please me with an explanation of this as there has been no consultation I am aware of. The students shall be respecting the rights of others.
I would like to know why the Member feels respecting the rights of others precludes respecting the rights of teachers, and whether or not it is now necessary to include the rights of janitors and other people in the school system. Is that now important, so that consequently, we should be adding other people who work in the school?
Generally, why does the Member feel clause 38(a) does not cover people with whom the student comes into contact?
Mr. Devries: When I originally read respect the rights of others, I assumed that to mean the rights of other students and things in that area. I realize the Minister possibly meant for it to be interpreted in a broader context.
Also, one of the most commonly-heard problems within the school system right now is where you have students swearing constantly at teachers. Quite often, the teachers feel they are restricted in doing something about it. I realize they can go to the principal, but it is the most common thing we hear from teachers. We all agreed that having this treat the teachers with respect emphasizes the importance of teachers being treated with respect. I am not saying nobody else in the school is important. One of their biggest problems in this day and age is discipline. It seems there is a certain segment of our population where parents do not teach their children the proper discipline and respect for their elders. I think it is very important.
I have another question in this area. Where do bus drivers fit into this area, unless bus drivers are under a school busing act, which I believe was introduced several years ago?
Getting back to the subject of teachers, if I read it and do not see that in there, I feel there is something missing.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: If we were to single out teachers and ignore the rights of school bus drivers, for example, or janitors who work in the school, or anybody else students will come into contact with, and not specifically name them, one might ask the question about others who work in the system. In large part, the clause is designed to focus on the issue of what the student should be doing. Its legal effect is minimal.
The reason the clause was written to respect the rights of others was to capture all people the student comes into contact with during the school day. For one, I would not object if the Member were to state the student would respect the rights of others, including teachers. If the Member is stating there is some sort of special arrangement for teachers alone, that would cause us all to wonder what clause 38(a) then meant. I have concern about that and would not be able to agree with the Members suggestion.
Mr. Phelps: I would like to follow up on that. Clause 38(a) stands by itself, respect the rights of others. I do not know that it is the right of people to be treated with respect in a normal relationship. We have a situation in the schools where the teachers stand in a special relationship to the students. The teachers are responsible for teaching, maintaining discipline and order in the classrooms, and that sort of thing. I do not think anyone can argue that the relationship is not different from the relationship between ordinary people - students, or students and other people within the school system or on the street.
The problem people have with regard to the breakdown of discipline in schools has to do with the problem that students show disrespect to their teachers in the classroom, and so on. To treat teachers with respect is a different thing from respecting the rights of others. It is not the same at all. There is a special relationship within the system between teachers and students.
We are talking about showing respect for a teacher, whether or not the teacher has the respect of the student: not respecting the teacher, but showing respect for that position of authority in that particular environment.
It is much the same as showing respect for the Speaker when he is in the House or for a judge in a courtroom. It is my respectful submission that there is a special relationship between teacher and students. I think most people would say that students should show respect for teachers. That is different than respecting the rights of people.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I am not sure I agree with the Member. The clause as I interpret it is that every student should respect the rights of others whether it is the bus driver as bus driver, the teacher as teacher, the fellow student as fellow student or the janitor as janitor. I regard that as being the interpretation of the clause. It is not respecting the rights of the teacher because the teacher happens to be an adult in the school with no particular relationship with the children. Their role is included in the concept. I am not yet convinced that the Member has made a good case at this point, although I am more than prepared to consider it overnight. At this point I will require more time.
Mr. Phelps: I just have one more thing to say on the phrase respect the rights of others. I am not sure I understand the side opposite if what they are saying is that somewhere in this act the right of the teacher to some respect is spelled out. If it is not then 38(a) does not bear on this particular issue, which is simply the showing of respect for the teacher as the teacher.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: There is a clause that states it. I will try to find it. I quote clause 167, Every teacher has the right to be treated in a fair and reasonable manner, free from physical or other abuse. They have a right to be treated in a fair and reasonable manner by anyone.
Mr. Lang: I just want to make my representation here. I do not know why we are arguing about this. It is a common thread whenever you talk to anyone in the teaching profession that there is a major concern with what is going on in the schools as far as the attitude of students is concerned, generally.
My point is that the Minister has proposed a section here covering the duties and responsibilities of the students. All we are asking is that one of their duties be that they treat the teaching staff with respect. If the politicians in the Legislature feel strongly that it has to be clearly identified that that is one of the chief duties of a student in the Yukon school system, we see that as giving some comfort to the teaching staff in the Yukon. It is beyond me why we are even debating whether or not that should be in the act, especially when the Minister just acknowledged - although it may not be on the record - that that is one of the major problems in the school system today: the attitude of many of our students. It is not just in the school system; we have talked about it ad nauseam in respect to the situation today. Modern technology, TV, all these things have had a bearing. I do not understand it. As the Member for Riverdale North says, We just look at it as a friendly amendment that I think we can all agree with.
If we are going to spell out the duties of the students in law, then one of the chief duties is to respect the teaching staff. If we oppose that in this House, then maybe there is a hidden message here somewhere.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: To be perfectly frank, I find the whole approach to be quite unreasonable. I believe that the act states what the Members have stated that they want to see in the act. There is no dispute that people should be respected in the school system. Their rights should be respected; there is no dispute about that. I have not once said that I disagree with that at all. I would not want to give anyone the impression that because the Members have come forward with a particular clause that that has not been considered in this act and that it has not been incorporated into this act. I believe it is in this act, and I believe that the right to be treated in a fair and reasonable manner is in this act. The obligation of the students to respect the rights of the teacher is in this act. I believe it is in this act. That is what I am saying.
Given what the Members have said, I will consider it overnight, but I cannot, right now at this time, accept the Members points that they are adding something to this act. I do not believe they are adding something to this act. I will be more than happy to take it under consideration overnight.
Hon. Mr. Penikett: It may be useful to allow us to consider this overnight. I want to understand the position of the Leader of the Official Opposition more clearly. Could I put a question or two to him about this amendment? I want to understand his argument.
He has argued that clause 38(a), which requires the respect for the rights of others, is not sufficient to provide for the situation he would like to have, which is a legal obligation by students to respect teachers. In defence of that argument, he then cited the obligation that lawyers may feel for others, or to respect judges in a court, or for MLAs to respect the Speaker.
As the Member well knows, I am not a lawyer. I hope the courts will remain unfamiliar territory for me. There is something I have an understanding of as a citizen. There is a big difference between respecting the rights of fellow citizens, the rights of other MLAs, the rights of certain office holders or offices, like the judiciary, the Speaker and a teacher, or respecting the person.
In the language proposed here, it says treat teachers with respect. I am not a legal draftsman and I do not know what the meaning of this language is here. It could mean you are required to treat persons who are teachers with respect. I suppose most of us, in our best days, would want to see a society where all human beings are treated with respect. That is the kind of general language in subclause (a).
I am troubled by the notion, not that we require people to treat the office of a teacher, or the office of a principal, or the office of the Speaker or the office of a judge with respect, but we are required to treat teachers with respect. It may be that there are judges whom, as a lawyer, the Leader of the Official Opposition does not respect. I do not know that, but it may be: you do not respect their legal learning, you do not respect their intelligence, you do not respect their judgment, but you will nonetheless continue to respect the office of the judge. The Leader of the Official Opposition is nodding his head, so he concedes that point.
I am troubled with language that suggests that students are required to respect persons who are teachers by law, not the office of teacher, but persons who are teachers who may be a bad teacher, or someone who is unpleasant to the student. There is that possibility. I am then troubled by the possibility of what the enforcement of an obligation to treat such people with respect might be.
For example, I am sure it is not the case any more, but there were occasions in my schooling when there were teachers who, in the wide view of my classmates, were not worthy of respect for a number of reasons.
The Member for Riverdale South points out that this was long ago, and I concede that point. It was a great deal of time ago, in fact, a generation ago. I am sure schools themselves have changed, and for the better, I hope.
But that is not my point. My point is that the Member opposite is proposing to create an obligation on the part of students to treat teachers with respect. I understand what is meant by that and that is why I am putting this long question to the Member opposite.
How is this to be enforced? I will project myself back eons in time to the time when I was a student. If I encountered a teacher who I, as a student, frankly believed was an idiot - and there were one or two in my career - and malicious to boot - and there was the odd person like that - would I be obliged as a student to respect not the office but that person? Can I be punished under this act for not showing my respect in my manifest or public behavior? I want to understand what the position of the Leader of the Official Opposition is on that score.
Mr. Phelps: The Premier raises an interesting point. The original amendment that was being proposed by one of the Members on this side read somewhat differently than this. It said something to the effect of respecting teachers. There is a difference. The Member has put his finger on the difference. It is treating the teacher as a teacher with respect, not respecting the teacher as a person. They are vastly different concepts.
It is my view that when, as a lawyer, you are talking about a court case, it is improper to not treat the office of judge with respect. Often there is a reprimand. I would not think the penalties would be much different than what would happen under (a), which reads, respect the rights of others - whatever that means. Likewise in the House, the ultimate sanction is that you are thrown out of the Legislature for the ultimate transgression: disrespect shown to the office of the Speaker.
It is my view that this amendment deals with the proposition and the principle that the office of teacher should be treated with respect whether or not one respects the person. I have had similar experiences in my own career, many eons ago, as a student. There were one or two teachers I did not respect at all, but if I did not treat them with respect in the classroom I would expect some consequence to follow, whether it be a telephone call to my parents or a detention, or whatever.
In short, I am not suggesting there is a duty to respect someone one may not respect. It is respect for the office. Then it deals with the issue of how children carry on in school in the classroom and so on.
Clause 38 stood over
On Clause 39
Clause 39 agreed to
On Clause 40
Clause 40 agreed to
On Clause 41
Clause 41 agreed to
On Clause 42
Clause 42 agreed to
On Clause 43
Mr. Devries: With respect to clause 43(3), several people have had questions regarding the development of locally developed courses. If a course is developed around a subject pertaining to native culture, or something of that nature, would the whole class take it?
I agree that the whole class should take it, because it is very important for everyone to be aware of native culture and why natives have different attitudes toward different things than non natives. By the same token, some people feel threatened in this area, that if you were weighing a native-oriented course against some other course, the native course would possibly be given priority. I am not saying that that is the way I personally feel, but it is a question that I have been asked to put.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: A great deal depends on what kind of course is being developed. If it is an elective course, people can elect to take it or not. If the course is mandatory and is a whole program, then everyone must take it. If the course is a unit within a particular program, and it is mandatory, then they must take it.
For those people who feel threatened that they may have to learn something about native culture and values in the public school system, I can only answer that native people, for their part, have felt equally threatened when there is nothing in the school system that respects their culture and values.
If you make your home in the Yukon, part of the Yukon history - whether you want to redesign history or not - is native history. In fact, the major portion of Yukon history, in terms of numbers of years, is native history. That is a reality and that has to be respected. If people feel threatened by it, then it is going to be a maturing process to rise above that and come to terms with the reality of the Yukon and the reality of the Yukon is, in part, the native reality. If a unit is developed and approved by the local school council and the Minister that incorporates native cultural traditions and values, and it is a mandatory course, then everyone has to take it. If it is an elective, then individuals can elect to take it or not.
Mr. Devries: I think the Minister understood that very well, and I am sure that it was explained much better than I could have done and that is why I asked the question. I got into a fairly heated argument with a person about it. I hope that this will resolve that matter.
The Minister is saying that some of this 20 percent of curriculum that is made up of local courses could be mandatory, and other parts of this 20 percent curriculum could be designated for certain people or certain classes or groups.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Like the new language program, for example. In some schools they are electives even in the elementary grades where you can take the core French program, or you can take the native language program. In some cases it may be an elective. You can choose to take it or not. Perhaps most commonly, it will be a unit or one element of a larger course, a social studies course or a science course that emphasizes local aboriginal cultural traditions or values or history. In those cases, it would be obligatory to take the course.
Clause 43 agreed to
On Clause 44
Clause 44 agreed to
On Clause 45
Clause 45 agreed to
On Clause 46
Mr. Devries: In the area of developing the school year, I think I mentioned in the opening debate or possibly in the response to the second reading that I had some concerns put forward to me regarding how the school year would be developed and the transferability of children from other jurisdictions. Across Canada, most jurisdictions have the same basic school year that we have, although I understand that some of them are experimenting with changing it around, similar to what I understand some of the people would like to do. As much as I am in agreement that possibly it would be good to see a flexible school year to accommodate the people employed in the tourism trade, I just wondered if the Minister had given any thought to how this could affect transferability, et cetera.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, I have, as have many others who have been commenting on the act and the principles of the act, for some time now.
The feeling is that if there is proper advance notice to anticipate the timing of the school year, then we should not experience great difficulty or even any significant difficulty at all in attracting teachers. The school year, across the country, of course varies. It starts at different dates but generally speaking, at around the same general time of the year.
In my experience, not every teacher prefers the same school year, either. In those instances where we have a call for a different school year - for example, from Old Crow and Dawson - quite often the people who were leading the charge were themselves teachers, who realized the community reality and suggested that it makes reasonable sense in those communities, in those settings, to have a different school year.
If there is any change, if people do propose changes to the Minister of the day, through their school councils, or if they do propose changes to a board or if a board does propose changes, itself, then they will take into account a variety of things in determining the school year. They will have to take into account, for example, the potential for going to summer school for some students, if that is a reality for high school. It may be a reality that they have to time the end of the school year with the necessity to gain summer employment, so that they can go on to higher education.
There are a variety of things to take into consideration. It is not simply a trivial exercise to determine the year. They will obviously also be recommending that ministerial schools be based on local preferences and local requirements.
In those cases, we hope the school year will be more tuned in to the community preference. There are a variety of things that have to be considered. In some cases, departmental exams can only be held at certain times of the year. If you are operating a high school and wish to end the school year a month before the departmental exams are to take place, that has to be considered in making the decision of whether or not that is a sound practice.
There are a variety of things that have to be considered in exercising local preference or recommending the school year differ from the standard norm.
Mr. Devries: In the area of resignations by teachers, et cetera, right now I believe they have to give notice of intent by the end of May. Would this create any staffing problems? If school ends earlier, I assume it is going to start earlier and, possibly, teachers would not be in place by August 1, or whatever they are planning in that area. Are we going to have to be flexible in that area, too?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Currently, we have one of the later resignation dates in the country. We are also proposing to continue to keep the same resignation date. The question has to be put as to whether or not we have had significant problems securing teachers, given the late resignation date, which signals when you will know you need another teacher, and what qualifications you will require.
We have not had a problem in securing teachers for the coming year, for all practical intents and purposes. When the recommendation was made to move the resignation date earlier, so we would have advance warning of the impending resignation of a particular teacher, the case was quite eloquently made by many teachers that the situation as it currently exists allows special flexibility and has presented no significant practical problems in securing teachers.
For example, in the current year we have had to be a little more aggressive in terms of our recruitment practice, in terms of going out and finding well-qualified teachers and making commitments to them. It has also entailed that, to the extent we possibly can, we secure at least an informal commitment from those people who may or may not be intending to leave the Yukon school system, so we get some reading as to what our needs might be.
With that history or that practice under our belts, we have been able to meet our recruitment requirements relatively easily. We have not experienced the recruitment problems that the rest of the country is facing. We still do not have that problem even with the late resignation date.
To make a long story longer, I do not anticipate a problem.
Clause 46 agreed to
On Clause 47
Clause 47 agreed to
On Clause 48
Clause 48 agreed to
On Clause 49
Clause 49 agreed to
On Clause 50
Clause 50 agreed to
On Clause 51
Clause 51 agreed to
On Clause 52
Clause 52 agreed to
On Clause 53
Clause 53 agreed to
On Clause 54
Clause 54 agreed to
On Clause 55
Clause 55 agreed to
On Clause 56
Clause 56 agreed to
On Clause 57
Clause 57 agreed to
On Clause 58
Clause 58 agreed to
On Clause 59
Clause 59 agreed to
On Clause 60
Clause 60 agreed to
On Clause 61
Clause 61 agreed to
On Clause 62
Clause 62 agreed to
On Clause 63
Clause 63 agreed to
On Clause 64
Clause 64 agreed to
On Clause 65
Clause 65 agreed to
On Clause 66
Mr. Lang: I have a question on school boards: specifically in Whitehorse, is it the concept that there is going to be one school board in Whitehorse, or one for every school?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, we will have to wait to see how the voters decide. We must put the question to them, and they have to vote. We cannot automatically create a school board. We have to define an education area and, then, within that education area, the voters vote as to whether or not they want a school board. By resolution, they ask for the vote. It cannot automatically be created; there still has to be a vote taken.
Mr. Phelps: I am not clear about what is being said here. Is the act saying that, for each education area, there must be a school board, and for each education area, there must be a school council? Both?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For each attendance area, there should be a school council, and for each education area, there shall be a school board.
Mr. Devries: During the briefing with the deputy minister, he indicated they were possibly looking at two school boards or four, depending on whether the Catholic school system decided to become a school board. There would be one Whitehorse school board and one rural school board. This was one of his examples.
Is that what the Minister feels the system is going to go toward? Does he feel that Watson Lake and Teslin would become a school board, and Haines Junction and some of the communities there would become a school board?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Most of those options could take place. What the heck, I might as well take a chance. If I were to judge, if I were to anticipate the publics wishes with respect to school boards in Whitehorse, I would think that there would be the potential for a Whitehorse-wide school board, with the exception of the separate schools, and I think that they will likely opt for a school board on their own. They would prefer that option. Then there would be the general school boards.
Mr. Lang: Who is going to put that question to the general public? What I am not clear on here is that, the way I read the act, in theory, each school could have a school board. If you follow the steps, you could have a school board. My question is: who is going to put the question to the public as to whether they want two school boards in the City of Whitehorse - one for the Catholic schools and one for the public schools? How is that decision made? It is not clearly put in here. Does the Minister do that by decree and say that that it is an option that can be voted on?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, there is potential for that. It is likely. The Minister may combine education areas, which would cause a vote to be taken out of the extended education areas as to whether or not they wanted a school board. So there is the potential for combining education areas so that we do not have a situation where there is a school board for every school. Technically, there can be a school board for literally every school in the territory. Practically, I would think that would be unlikely.
Mr. Lang: I do not know if we are getting ahead of ourselves, but if you look at the wording of clauses 75 and 76, you cannot do that until you have created the council or board. You almost have to go through two processes to do this.
Also, if there is only one school board for the public schools in Whitehorse, how do we ensure that we get representation from Jack Hulland, Porter Creek Junior Secondary and Jeckell and all the other schools in the area?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: It is not anticipated that we would develop a kind of a ward system based on old attendance areas for schools. It would be a vote that would incorporate all the voters within various attendance areas. In clause 76 it says that you can combine school boards and councils with certain education areas and attendance areas together. When we get to clause 76, you will see you can combine councils with boards. You do not have to wait for a council to become a board to combine it with another board. You can combine a council with a board and basically expand the education area to incorporate an attendance area as well and then consequently there would be a larger area for that school board and everyone in that area would vote on who the school board members would be.
The question is whether or not there would be representation from an old school council on a new school board. That is not anticipated. It is not done by schools; it is done by an area. There is no ward system within a school board district. I do not know of any place where there is a ward system within a school board district.
Mr. Lang: I believe I am speaking for the Porter Creek area as a whole when I say if there were no representation from that area on the school board, representing the interests of that school, as a voter I would have to ask why we would be part of that school board.
I see a political pitfall in the aspirations to form one board in the Whitehorse area, where you are going to get that type of position being put forward by the electorate. They are going to say: we do not need that. How do you feel you are going to be successful if, when people in a given area go to vote feel they are not going to have some representation on behalf of their school? If I am voting for my area in Porter Creek, and I want to have somebody there representing our area, and we get everybody from downtown and Riverdale, it seems ridiculous. The parents and the students in Porter Creek are going to feel they are not being represented. Did the Minister give that serious consideration?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: That is as eloquent a case as can be made for a ward system within the municipal framework as I can imagine. I am sure the case could be made within municipal government for a ward system, in order to protect the interests of Porter Creek versus the interests of downtown or Riverdale.
The difference here is that the parents would be able to decide whether or not they wanted to opt into an overall Whitehorse board through a vote, which is something that is not provided for in the municipal system. They are just part of the City of Whitehorse.
I think that they would take that into consideration. That is true for a northern school board. For example, say there is a school board for three schools. In the future, the school council will have most of the range of responsibilities they want with a school council framework. If they choose to move to a school board, they gain something and lose something. In the north region, if they decide to opt in together, they collectively gain many of the employer responsibilities associated with school boards and a greater final say on how they allocate the budget for all those schools. As a school council in a particular community, they lose the potential to influence the operation of the school in that community they already had with a school council. You gain some responsibility, but you may give up some responsibility, from a local perspective with respect to your relationship with that particular school.
Mr. Lang: Let us go through the scenario in Whitehorse and say there is a school board for all of Whitehorse, and all the representation happens, through the wishes of the electorate, to come out of the downtown area and Riverdale.
What mechanism is set in place for the people in Porter Creek, for example, in the two schools there, to get their position known so that it can be considered, as far as the authority that the Minister talks about and so that the appropriation of dollars is done properly?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Firstly, the legislation does not anticipate that there will be advisory committees for every school within a school board. Basically, the system that we have right now would be in effect within the school board.
With respect to the board, if the electorate chooses, meaning that if the Porter Creek people choose to go in, then they are exercising their votes too. If they choose somebody from downtown to represent them because they feel that the person downtown has a better understanding of education philosophy, policy, practice - whatever - then that is a choice for them to make and they will be responsible for making decisions that are good for the whole system and not simply for the schools that may be immediately adjacent to their own homes and their own neighbourhood - such as the city council system.
Certainly that situation would be much better from the Porter Creek residents perspective than it is even now, even if it is a one-person school board for the entire education system. This will at least bring local decision making down to the community of Whitehorse level. It may be, however, that the residents of Porter Creek indicate that it is more appropriate to have a school board for Porter Creek schools; it may be a practical alternative.
There are costs and benefits to opting for a school board for a small school and none of those have to be considered in any vote. Voters will have to decide, of course; it is their right to, under this act, but there are costs and benefits to opting any particular way.
Madam Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 29.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Ms. Kassi: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 29, entitled Education Act, and directed me to report progress on same.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House Leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:29 p.m.