Monday, April 3, 1995 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with silent Prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of Visitors.
Are there any Returns or Documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I have a document for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any Reports of Committees?
Are there any Petitions?
Are there any Bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 39: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 39, entitled An Act to Amend the Travel for Medical Treatment Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 39, entitled An Act to Amend the Travel for Medical Treatment Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 39 agreed to
Bill No. 55: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I move that Bill No. 55, entitled An Act to Amend the Apprentice Training Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Hon. Minister of Education that Bill No. 55, entitled An Act to Amend the Apprentice Training Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
Are there any Notices of Motion for the Production of Papers?
Are there any Notices of Motion?
Are there any Statements by Ministers?
Winter maintenance of the south Klondike Highway
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I rise today to report to the Legislature that Alaska and the Yukon have reached a political accord for the winter maintenance of the south Klondike Highway from Carcross to Skagway for an indefinite period.
Since 1986, the need for year-round maintenance has been evident for the ore haul from the Faro mine. However, since 1986, the highway has become much more than simply the route for the ore haul. Trucking of goods, principally petroleum products, from Skagway to Whitehorse and other locations throughout the Yukon is a continuing operation. This and other commercial traffic is important to the Yukon for Yukon jobs.
The route is also important to Skagway and southeast Alaska. Skagway residents and businesses also benefit from the export of Yukon products and the shipment of goods through the Skagway port to the Yukon. Jobs in Skagway, particularly in the winter, are sometimes difficult to find. As a result, the commercial traffic to and from the Yukon through Skagway is important to business and workers in Alaska, as well.
The importance of the highway was made very evident last year to the Skagway residents when the main dock collapsed and resulted in disruption to ferry traffic for an extended period. During that emergency, we offered assistance to Skagway through our Emergency Measures Organization.
When I spoke to the mayor, he indicated then that Skagway did not have an immediate need for emergency assistance, but were very thankful for the availability of the south Klondike Highway as their only reliable access for that period.
Certainly many Yukon and Alaska people use the south Klondike Highway on a year-round basis as a means of travel to and from social and cultural events in both jurisdictions. We all know the number of Skagway parents who have come to Whitehorse to use its medical facilities, and the number of little Yukoners born to Skagway parents in our hospital each year.
This political accord came about as a result of the Government Leader's first meeting with the new Governor of Alaska just over one month ago.
As a follow-up to that meeting, I travelled to Juneau last Friday and met with the new Commissioner of Transportation and Public Facilities for Alaska and signed the agreement I tabled today. The Commissioner and I both recognize the challenges that will be faced to ensure the year-round maintenance of the highway. These challenges include avalanches and some of the highest snowfalls and deepest drifting anywhere in the north. Both jurisdictions also have budgeting limitations and our discussions were very frank as we agreed to endeavour to keep cost within the budgetary allocations available to meet our respective responsibilities on both sides of the border. Nevertheless, we are sure of the political will to provide winter maintenance, and we have agreed to cooperate very closely to achieve our mutual goals.
The next step will be finalization of a specific agreement that will detail what each jurisdiction will undertake to ensure winter maintenance is carried out. W
ork on this subsidiairy agreement is already underway and no major obstacles are expected, as we already have two winters of experience using the cooperative partnership approach that Alaska and the Yukon have adopted.
Ms. Moorcroft: It is important to note at the outset that there have been previous agreements, which have kept the Skagway Road open during the winter months for the last several years, so I fail to see what is new in this announcement.
The Minister referred to the implementation of the winter maintenance of the south Klondike Highway as being a direct result of the Government Leader's meeting with the Alaskans, and he talked about the collapse of the ferry dock in Skagway. I would like to ask what word there is on construction of a public dock facility, which would also benefit Yukon and Alaska residents. Was that topic included as discussion in the meetings that the Government Leader had?
The Minister also referred to this agreement as a political accord. I think the political accord to keep the Skagway Road open was first reached in 1986. We would like to know what the financial agreements are and what the cost-sharing arrangments for road maintenance are, because there is no mention of those in this ministerial statement.
There is also no mention of industrial user fees. I would like to ask what companies, like Anvil Range, are going to pay to haul ore through Alaska and whether or not that was part of the negotiations. Some of these details may be contained in the document that the Minister tabled, which I think is the agreements, but I would like him to respond to the question about the cost-sharing agreements.
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I would like to answer the first question. In the two years that I have been in government, it has been a shotgun approach. For example, on November 4, we still did not know whether that road would be open. In fact, we were prepared to shut down our side of the road, because they were not prepared to give us any money. It was a last minute deal. With this agreement, we know that both of us are going to work very hard and do our best to keep it open. I am quite sure that we will be able to keep it open this way.
New docks were not discussed at the meeting at all. The dock where the ore is loaded is separate from the regular docks. Those two docks are there at the present time. The industrial fees between the trucking companies and the two governments, and anybody else involved, are being discussed now. We feel that this will be corrected before long.
Question re: Association of Yukon Communities
Ms. Moorcroft: Over the weekend, the Association of Yukon Communities met in Whitehorse. At a panel discussion on Sunday, I heard the Government Leader say that it was necessary for the Yukon government to work with municipalities on a government-to-government basis. The AYC passed a number of important resolutions, including some on airports, forestry policy, Municipal Act changes, and the Campbell Highway. Given that Yukon municipalities are respected as an order of government, will the Minister of Community and Transportation Services be meeting with the AYC executive within the next two weeks to discuss the issues that they passed resolutions on?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I am not sure that we will meet within the next two weeks. We meet at any time the association asks us to or at any time we have questions.
Ms. Moorcroft: During the discussion about the resolution, the Association of Yukon Communities asked the Minister for his support on a number of the resolutions it passed. Will the Minister bring each of these resolutions to Cabinet over the next month?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I made that commitment at the AYC meeting, and I intend to carry it out.
Ms. Moorcroft: Can the Minister give us an example of how this government has negotiated an agreement with the Association of Yukon Communities, or a municipality, in light of the Government Leader's statement about the importance of dealing with AYC on a government-to-government basis?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: There is one I hope we succeed with - I know we will, but we will have to work hard at it. I have agreed that we will look at the Municipal Act and, if there are feasible amendments the AYC wants, they will be put into the act.
Question re: Weather observation system
Ms. Moorcroft: The automatic weather system remains a significant concern to all communities with airports. One AYC resolution that was passed wanted Transport Canada to maintain human observers at all airports to ensure the safety of the travelling public, by supplementing computer systems, which have proven to be unreliable, with more reliable human observers.
Has the Yukon government involved the Association of Yukon Communities, or the Town of Watson Lake, in its negotiations with Transport Canada on airport devolution?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: We certainly have. Watson Lake deserves a lot of credit. It has worked very hard with us and has written to Transport Canada, as have we and the airlines. I am sure the town had quite a say in the finalization of it.
Ms. Moorcroft: The Minister indicated that the government has involved the municipalities in its discussions, but I am not sure if he told me they had definitely been party to the negotiations.
Has the Minister talked to Mayo and Whitehorse about the potential job losses with their airport devolution? What is he doing about that?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No, I have not. We have a negotiating team working with Transport Canada.
Ms. Moorcroft: He first said that they had negotiated with the municipalities, and then he said that they had not.
The schedule for the devolution of the Whitehorse airport is set for April 1, 1996. I know that the federal government wants to privatize and downsize, and we are not sure just exactly where the Yukon government stands on that. Where will the Yukon government position itself if the federal government is going to privatize the airports in the process of devolution?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I understand that commercialization is three, four or five years away, and we hope to have our agreement completed by April 1996.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mr. Cable: The Minister of Health and Social Services issued a press release last week relating to the hospital reconstruction. He indicated that a number of subcontractors had been prequalified, but conspicuous by their absence were the prequalification of local general contractors. Could the Minister indicate how many local general contractors were asked to prequalify for the hospital reconstruction contract?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Two local firms answered the ad and tendered their qualifications. They were not accepted by the board.
Mr. Cable: Can the Minister tell the House the reason for not accepting the Yukon local general contractors at the prequalification stage?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The criteria for prequalification tenders was set out quite clearly in the advertisement. We have set up a board that is made up of various experts in the field, and upon whom we rely quite heavily regarding this project, which is the most complicated and the largest project in the history of this government. The board made the determination about which firms qualified in accordance with the specifications set out in the advertisement.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister confirm that the bonding stipulations in the pre
qualification instructions required the general contractors to have bonding that related to hospital construction?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: That is my understanding, yes.
Question re: Employment Standards Act, amendments
Ms. Commodore: My question is for the Minister of Justice regarding the Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act. The Minister has chosen to leave in one of the most unfair provisions of the current act, section 50. This provision allows an employer to deduct one week's wages from the pay of an employee who has quit without notice.
Our party believes in the principle of a day's pay for a day's work. If a female employee was forced to quit without notice because of sexual harassment in the workplace, does the Minister believe it is fair to deduct a week's wages from her pay?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I could give all kinds of examples the other way, too. If a single mother owns a small business and an employee quits without any notice and this person is key to the business, does the Member opposite think that is fair to the person who owns the small business?
This recommendation was one that was made by the Council on the Economy and the Environment, and it was one that the NDP in the last round chose to leave out of their act.
Ms. Commodore: I was asking the Minister to answer a question and he did not. I do not think he should be standing up unless he has an answer.
The right to refuse overtime with notice is important for single parents who might not be able to arrange child care at the last minute in order to work compulsory overtime. Why is there no protection in the bill for those individuals?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I checked this and, evidently, in the past, there have been no cases of complaint regarding this type of problem. Usually the question of overtime is worked out between the employer and the employee. The requirement to give 24 hours' notice of overtime is really a misunderstanding of how business works. Many overtime situations result as cases of emergency and there is no way that someone can give 24 hours' notice of an emergency that they did not know was going to happen. If it does happen, I believe that most employers are considerate enough that, if they have an individual who has other responsibilities, they will take those responsibilities into consideration when asking the employee to work.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister is missing the whole point. I am not sure what he is trying to do. In his bill, he has also severely restricted the leave for First Nations people to attend potlatches, and I would like to ask him why.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have not restricted the leave of any immediate family who is involved. The organizer of the potlatch is still allowed to go. We feel that is reasonable and fair. That is why the change has been made.
Question re: Historic Resources Act regulations
Mr. McDonald: The Minister of Tourism has released the proposed amendments to the Historic Resources Act, along with a rather accelerated consultation process, to ensure, I presume, that they can be tabled in the Legislature shortly.
Can the Minister tell us whether or not he can also table the draft regulations pursuant to the Historic Resources Act that the government has developed, so that we might be in a better position to understand how the government wants to interpret the legislation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I will not be able to table the draft regulations. Even under the previous government there was never an intent to produce regulations in tandem with the actual Historic Resources Act. If it had, it would have done so when it spent the seven years developing the act, and then the seven months before it actually did not get it over to the Commissioner's office. The feeling is that we have to consider the UFA requirements and regulations jointly with First Nations. That has just come into effect now. Any regulations that are going to be developed will be developed under the UFA in conjunction with First Nations. That is my understanding of why the regulations were not tabled the last time as well.
Mr. McDonald: We have been waiting for these brief amendments to the act for approximately two years. There is much more to the drafting of regulations pursuant to the Historic Resources Act than simply those revolving around the amendments.
Presumably the government has taken the opportunity to bring clarity to the legislation and will be in a position to table the regulations pursuant to the act generally when it comes forward with the amendments. Can the Minister tell us if it is prepared to do that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We are going to deal with the act in this sitting. We will not have the regulations with it, but I must point out to the Member that if that was the case, why did their government not instruct the department to draft even some basic regulations when they were in power? The NDP government did not do it. It did not do it in the seven years and it did not do it in the seven months, and now they are insisting that, if I table the act, regulations be attached to the act. All I am saying is that I asked the department where the regulations were and it came back and told me that, in conjunction with UFA, this is the way it was going to be done. If we are going to table the act and deal with it this spring, I will not have the regulations here. I would like to get them drafted as quickly as possible, but it will have to be done in consultation with First Nations and others.
Mr. McDonald: I remember the standard of performance that the Minister had established while he was the Tourism critic. He berated the government at some length for not having the regulations ready for the debate when the Historic Resources Act first came through the Legislature. I presume, given that what his commitment to the issue was in 1991 and 1992 and, given that he has now been the Minister for two years, he would have the regulations ready for the act. I would have thought that he would have undertaken the consultations with First Nations under the UFA, and that he would have ensured that the detail, in terms of interpretation of the act, would have been exposed through tabled regulations. Why has he changed his mind?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I just explained to the Member why there are no regulations attached to this bill. This particular bill is very much tied to the UFA and consultation with First Nations. We have to sit down with the First Nations and consult. I have asked the department to start work on the regulations. As soon as they are ready and the consultation is finished, the regulations will be presented to the Members.
Question re: Historic Resources Act regulations
Mr. McDonald: We have been given to understand that the draft amendments to this act, which are in fact major amendments to the legislation, even though they are short, were given to First Nations with the expectation that the First Nations would complete their review and comments in two weeks time. Presumably, if the Minister was able to live by his word about the situation that he had led people to believe was the case, back in 1991-92, he would have had the regulations ready and been able to give them to the First Nations two or three weeks ago and would be able to table them in the Legislature.
I do not understand why the Minister refuses to accept the responsibility that he established for himself about having the regulations ready. When will the regulations be ready?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member about that. I am not sure how long that process takes.
I do not understand why the side opposite is crying out for regulations now. They had seven years to start them and seven months after the act was passed to develop them and consult in a more integrated way after the act was passed. Yet, they did not even start them. They did not give anyone instructions to start them. It is kind of hypocritical that they are now demanding that we have the regulations in place, when they had seven years and seven months to do so and did nothing about them.
Mr. McDonald: It is hypocritical for him to say he wants to see the regulations before any consideration of the act takes place, and then, two years after being in a position to draft the regulations still not put forward any regulations - he not even intend to initiate the consultation on the regulations until after the amendments are delt with. That is what I call a perfect definition of hypocrisy. Why is it that, at this point, the Minister cannot tell us when the regulations will be in place? Does he have a target date set, so that we can test the Minister by his own words? Does he have a sense of when the regulations will be ready?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The reason I cannot give the Minister a definite date is that, every time one gives the Member a definite date and does not hit that date right on - and he knows that happens a lot when you do consultation - the Member jumps up and criticizes us for not hitting the date. I would like to have them drafted fairly quickly - within weeks and months. The work would start immediately. How long that would take would depend on how long it would take to get together with individuals in the community, draft the regulations and get approval of the regulations. I guess that it would take a few months. I would hope to have it in place to start fairly shortly. I cannot give the Member an exact date, because I am not sure how long the process would actually take and how many regulations would actually be involved in this case.
Mr. McDonald: The Minister suggests that I would be biting at his heels if he did give us an exact date. I would remind him that he indicated that the government would be bringing in amendments to the Historic Resources Act in the spring of 1993, the fall of 1993, the spring of 1994 and the fall of 1994. Now it is the spring of 1995. I have not exactly been rough on the Minister by asking him to live up to those four or five different deadlines. Can the Minister tell us whether or not the City of Whitehorse has been consulted on the act, and is it facing the same deadlines for completing its commentary on the amendments to the Historic Resources Act - the same deadlines that everyone else faces?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not aware if it has been consulted as of today. I know it is going to be consulted. I am not sure if people have actually sat down and had discussions with it as of this date.
Question re: Heritage buildings, protection of
Mr. McDonald: Given that there is only about seven days left before the Minister completes the consultation, I would recommend that someone do contact the City of Whitehorse. We called the City of Whitehorse planning section and discovered that it has not yet experienced any consultation, but I am certain that it is interested in engaging in discussion with the government.
Has the Yukon government made any suggestions as to how the two governments, both the territorial government and the City of Whitehorse, might work together to protect heritage buildings in the short term, because there is a concern about the safety and protection of buildings, particularly in Whitehorse, over the coming months.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is my understanding that the city now has the ability - that was advice given to it even under the previous government - to pass some kind of heritage bylaw that would give some protection to these buildings. It is my understanding that the City of Whitehorse can do this without territorial heritage legislation in place, as is done in some other municipalities.
Mr. McDonald: I hope that we are not facing an ongoing dispute between the two levels of government that will ultimately result in buildings not being protected during this interim period.
Many people are concerned about saving properties currently in private hands, but, without a list of these buildings, no one seems to know definitively what should be protected and left alone. Does the government have a list of buildings for the Yukon that it would like to see protected? Has the government been consulting with anyone about the extent of this list and about what should ultimately be designated as an historic site?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think the Member asked me that exact same question last Wednesday or Thursday.
I believe there is a list from the City of Whitehorse containing some 21 or 22 buildings that are now designated as historic buildings. I asked the department if there was an actual list of historic sites throughout the Yukon that has been compiled over the years. There are some that we are all aware of, such as Fort Selkirk and buildings in Dawson, but as far as an actual list is concerned, the department has not come back to me as yet, but I will check on it again today for the Member.
Mr. McDonald: I asked the question last week. The Minister took notice of it. I am interested in finding out if the government is prepared to go to the wire, have some courage, and designate a certain list of properties as historic buildings. That is why I would like to see the list. I am sure a lot of private property owners would also like to see if their buildings are on the list.
Can the Minister tell us if he is prepared to make public a list of those buildings his department believes should be designated as historic sites and protected for future generations?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Again, I will take the question as notice and look at it. The Member wants me to go to the wall with this one, make a list and make it public, but that side did nothing for seven years. It never designated or identified any building. We are talking about historic buildings, not ones that are two years old - within our mandate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It seems that the Member for Faro wants to speak.
We are talking about buildings that are a little older than two years. The previous government chose not to make that kind of a list, or to make it public, or to do what the Member is asking me to do now. I wonder why the Members opposite did not do it, if it is so important to them now.
I will look into it and see if we do have such a list. I asked the department for it, but it has not gotten back to me as of today. If there is a list of buildings throughout the Yukon that are of historic significance, I see no problem with making it public.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mrs. Firth: I have a question for the Minister responsible for Health and Social Services about the Whitehorse hospital construction.
The Minister made some announcements about the prequalification process for the construction of this project and indicated that there was a set of stringent criteria for general and mechanical contractors. Today in Question Period, in response to a question put by another Member, the Minister indicated that a board of various experts in the field developed the criteria and made the decision. I would like to ask the Minister if he could tell us who these various "experts in the field" are who are on the board.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The submissions were reviewed by the architect, which is Rockliff Pierzchajlo, et cetera, by Cheriton Engineering Inc., which is a firm of mechanical engineers, and by Morgan, Dowhan Engineering, who are electrical engineers, by Helyar & Associates who are cost consultants, and by the project office.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister about these experts. Are they presently on a contract with the government to do this, or is the project manager looking after that? Can the Minister tell us how this process is working and how these people are being paid to offer their services to prequalify whether or not local Yukoners are qualified to proceed with such a project?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: We have the architects, of course, who are on contract to design the hospital, and we have the cost consultants who work under contract for estimating costs. With regard to the other two engineering firms and as to whether or not they are compensated and how, I would have to get back to the Member on that question. The project office includes the person we hired to manage the project.
It is very important for people to understand the scope of the project and how complex it is and the fact that we took the management away from Government Services - Cabinet did that - and placed our confidence in a group of expert people who offered their expertise. Thus far, it has been going smoothly, and if they feel we are going to substitute political decision-making for decisions made by the experts simply because the two Members opposite are being lobbied by local firms who did not qualify, then they should come again.
Mrs. Firth: This is the situation. We know that of the five firms the Minister announced in his press release as qualified for the general contract, none are local. They could not satisfy the board of various experts - we do not even know if some of these are on contract with the government yet. We know that the firms could satisfy their bonding companies, but they could not satisfy the board.
I am trying to find out about fair process. I am not being lobbied by anybody, nor am I making a representation on behalf of anyone.
The project manager, James Graham, has been hired to oversee this. Is this same board going to make the decision with respect to awarding the contract? Is it actually going to award the contract?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: The advice of all these people with regard to awarding the tender will be given to government. The attempt by the two Members opposite - who are so keenly interested in this issue - is to suggest that bonding adequacy is the sole criterion by which we should proceed. They are asking us to substitute one of the many criteria, mainly bonding adequacy, for the list of criteria asked for when the ad for the pre-qualification tender went out. If we were simply to rely on bonding as the sole criterion, we would not have bothered with prequalification tendering.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mr. Penikett: I want to emphasize to the Minister that this was not a political decision, in my view. It was an economic decision, and a very bad one.
Why did the Minister not advise the board that the Government of Yukon would like to see the maximum utilization of local business, local labour and local materials in a project like this - probably the most important capital project we will see in this town for years?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: How delightful for that Member to stand up and make such a statement. First of all, the incentive for local hire and local contracting and the sub-trades remains in place.
Secondly, we know that it was that Member who was the leader of the government, when PCL was hired by the government to run the building of the Yukon College - PSL, an outside firm. Yet, that Member stands up and says that this was a complicated project. It was under that government that the Philipsen Law Centre was concluded - again, with PCL running it. How can the Member stand in his place and be so two faced as to make such a statement as he just made?
Mr. Penikett: The Member opposite has the most convenient memory and the most lurid fantasy life of any legislator I have ever known. The Philipsen Law Centre was designed and built entirely by his government - by the Tories, and his friends. Large parts of the college were contracted with local labour and local contractors, including Klondike Enterprises, which has had lots of experience on big jobs in the Yukon and could easily have contributed substantially to a project like the hospital.
Every person who has complained to us about what is going to happen - because of the Minister's decisions - is that we are going to see Alberta contractors and Alberta labour coming in here to build a project that Yukoners should have had a chance to participate in. Again, I ask the Minister - forget the political bafflegab - why did he not advise the hospital board that we, the people of this territory, wanted to see local labour and local contractors on that job, as much as possible?
Speaker: Before the Member answers the question, I would like to remind him to refrain from using borderline unparliamentary language.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I apologize for saying PSL. It was really PCL, and it was one of the five contractors that qualified as the general contractor on phase 2 of the hospital. It was also the contractor that was engaged by the previous government to be the general contractor on Yukon College.
The situation is this: the general contractor will be tendering out all the mechanical and general contracting. It is our strong belief that local firms will get most of that work. There is nothing different between the Yukon College situation and phase 2 of the hospital except that, in this case, the offer was made to all interested parties, including Yukoners, to submit their papers and attempt to prequalify for the bid. That is something that was not done with regard to Yukon College.
Mr. Penikett: There is only one hospital that has been built in this territory for the last several decades. Would the Minister not agree that allowing the establishment of a rule requiring previous hospital construction experience effectively guarantees that no local contractor would get to do the job?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I certainly would not. The indication that was given to local contractors was that they should enter into agreements with larger outside firms - some of them are affiliated already with such firms - in preparing their bid to prequalify for the tendering.
My learned friend across the way makes a good point when he says that this is the first hospital that has been tendered here in many, many years. This is an extremely complex job. It has been taken out of the normal capital project criteria that had been set for this government. We have placed our faith in a group of experts. We have relied very heavily on assistance from southern jurisdictions, including Public Works in both Alberta and B.C. We are not, at this point in time, suddenly going to turn on the experts who have served us well and tell them that we are going to substitute a political decision - a political decision - for what we have seen as valuable advice and insight into hospital construction.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mr. Cable: I have some further questions to the same Minister on the same topic.
Could the Minister confirm that the bonding companies that were prepared to bond the two local contractors and their large outside affiliates were prepared to give them bonding for the construction of the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: Of course. My learned friend insists on his circular reasoning, his rather strange idea of a logical argument.
I have already said that bonding was only one of the requirements. The other requirements included proof of experience in acute care hospital construction of a similar size and complexity by providing descriptions and references; proof of experience in other projects of similar size and complexity by providing descriptions and references; the resume of the head office and senior site personnel employed on the referenced projects and providing an affidavit stating that equally experienced personnel shall be assigned to the project if the respondent is contracted for the work; proof of financial capability by banker's reference; and bonding adequacy.
Mr. Cable: Could the Minister tell us who drew up those prequalification requirements?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: It sure as hell was not a politician.
The prequalification requirements were drawn up by the people who are responsible for the building of this hospital, and the panel of experts adjudicated on it. If the side opposite really thinks politicians should take the place of experts, well, we all know how badly some of their major projects went - way off the rails.
Mr. Cable: We have not built a major project in years.
On an allied matter, I have heard that the bid depository system is not going to be used for the mechanical and electrical contractors. Could the Minister confirm that this is or is not the case?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will have to get back on that issue.
Question re: Whitehorse General Hospital, prequalification of contractors
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services a question about the Whitehorse hospital construction project.
When I read the contract for the Shakwak project, I noticed a clause there that said that, due to the fact that it was federally funded, it did not come under the Yukon territorial government's business incentive policy. The Minister has indicated that the business incentive policy will apply to this job on the hospital construction, which is also federally funded. I would like to ask the Minister if he can tell us if there was a special arrangement made to allow this.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I am really not sure if there was or was not. I trust that the Member is not asking me to provide legal advice for her.
Mrs. Firth: I am just asking the Minister, who has a smirk on his face, to justify his press release. In his press release, he says, "Health and Social Services Minister Willard Phelps said today that he believes there will be a lot of employed construction workers around this summer", and he bases that on the fact that the business incentive policy is going to apply, and that is why so many local people are going to be employed. Now he cannot even tell me whether or not he knows if there was an arrangement or even whether or not he can find out. Federally funded projects cannot be discriminated against constitutionally for local hire, so if no special arrangement is made, how can the Minister make this claim?
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I will get back on whether or not some special arrangement was made. However, I am sure the Member opposite is acutely aware that Shakwak was funded by the Americans, not by the federal government.
Mrs. Firth: This is that Minister who based his whole announcement on the fact that there would be local jobs for everybody. We have been through this situation before with other projects, where local contractors got the foundation and the steel work and very little else. This Minister has maintained that we will have all of these Yukoners employed. I would like to know on what information he bases that, because that is not the message we are getting from local Yukon firms or local Yukon representatives.
Hon. Mr. Phelps: I stand by what I said in the release. PCL, one of the five general contractors that prequalified, built the Andrew Philipsen building and was responsible for managing that project. Most of the work on that project was local. This company was also responsible for the management of building Yukon College, and most of the work on that project was local. Most of the work thus far on the hospital construction is local, and I have every reason to believe that it will continue to be so.
Question re: Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, labour nominee
Mr. Penikett: I have a question for the Deputy Government Leader.
In 1993, the Yukon Party cut in half representation of women's organizations and working people on the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment. Now that the labour slot is vacant, the government is apparently consulting with all Yukon union locals, rather than solely with the Federation of Labour, in an attempt to get a nominee.
Is this an attempt to find someone who is politically acceptable to the government, rather than accepting the legitimate voice of working people as represented by the Yukon Federation of Labour?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: No.
Mr. Penikett: We notice that the government has done this in the past with respect to WCB. Rather than taking labour's representative, the government found someone who was more acceptable to the Cabinet. In the YCEE, that person is bound by law - the law creating the YCEE - to represent the interest of labour.
How can someone who is chosen independently by the Yukon Party Cabinet claim to be the legitimate voice of labour, as described in law? Why does the government not simply consult, as it does with business, with the legitimate voice of the democratically elected officers of the Yukon Federation of Labour?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: If we are talking about the person who was appointed to Workers Compensation, he was a member of a union.
Mr. Penikett: So what? That completely defeats the whole purpose of the legislation, which was to have someone chosen by labour, not have a labour person chosen by the Tories.
We are getting close to an election. It may have occurred to Members opposite that it may be time to show at least a modicum of respect for working people prior to that election.
Why is it that the government has only given two weeks for labour groups to respond? Why is it that the government has refused to consult with the Federation of Labour - the legitimate voice of labour - for a nominee? Why is it casting a wide net in the hope that it can find someone politically acceptable?
Hon. Mr. Brewster: I will take the matter under advisement.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Phillips: 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 now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95 - continued
Department of Justice - continued
Chair: Is there further general debate on Justice?
Ms. Commodore: I am just trying to get organized, but I will start by asking the Minister questions about his policy for community justice. I have been a little bit concerned about some of things I have been hearing about it, especially from people I have talked with in the communities. I asked the Minister responsible for juvenile justice questions about community justice. One of the concerns that I brought up with him was that I heard that this government will only fund community justice programs if they are sanctioned by the whole community. For instance, if the First Nations community wants to apply for funding under community justice, it would not be eligible and would have to be funded by the federal government. I think that is what the Minister responsible for juvenile justice told me. Can I ask the Minister if that is true?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The purposes of the community justice agreements are to strike justice agreements with everyone in the community and have an agreement with the whole community per se - for the First Nations and others.
We have been successful in Carmacks and in Haines Junction in doing just that.
Programs that focus on First Nations are going to be developed according to the principles outlined in the First Nations land claims agreements and the model self-government agreement. It is the federal government that is responsible for any initiatives that lead to separate justice systems for First Nations people under self-government. We are talking about two different models.
There will be some communities, I suppose, that may choose to go, and they may all eventually go, toward their own First Nations justice agreement. At the present time, our policy with the community justice agreements is to have them be just that: community justice agreements with both native and non-native participation.
Ms. Commodore: What the Minister is saying is that what the Minister of Social Services said is a fact. Can I ask him if that message has been passed on to Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know in just what context the Member means, but I can tell the Member that when we have gone around to the First Nations in the communities with the basic fundamental principles of community justice, it has been explained to all of them. We asked them if they want to get involved. Two or three of them have come forward already, I believe. Dawson is working on one now, as is one other community that I mentioned the other day.
I can get back to the Member about that. Evidently, Carmacks has one now, and Carcross may be the other one that has initiated it.
I guess what happened is that the Department of Justice went around to the various communities, explaining what the principles were, how to get involved and how it would work. Then, the communities themselves decided how they would buy into it. Some are moving a little quicker than others, and that is why we are where we are today. They are not all going to proceed at the same speed. I think some are looking at different options. I think Teslin is looking at a totally different option. I am not sure about the other communities, but for those that want to get into the program, we are applying some basic fundamental principles. One of them is that there be support from the whole community for it to work, because we do not have the money to put in dual systems in communities. That is the one thing we want to try and avoid.
Ms. Commodore: I do not understand what is really happening and how the First Nations - at least some of them - have reacted to this. I only know that I have talked to individuals who are very disappointed in the kind of things they are hearing. When the Minister's department was talking to people in the communities, did his department tell them that any First Nations' initiatives would not fit into this new program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, to the contrary. This government has taken a joint approach in working with the community. For example, probation services, victim services and circle sentencing are some of the justice initiatives that are taking place. This government is working jointly with First Nations and non-First Nations in developing community justice agreements.
If the Member would like to let me know privately about the communities and individuals who have concerns, we could deal with the specific concerns, because it is hard to pinpoint exactly what the Member is talking about. I have not heard the concerns as expressed by the Member yet; I have only heard that some communities are more reluctant than others to get involved and are looking at other ways to do this for various reasons. Some communities have other priorities and are dealing with other issues. There are only so many people in the small communities to deal with these issues.
I would like to know from the Member, if she would like to let me know on a private basis, where she has heard specific concerns so that maybe we can deal with the issues and solve the problem, by explaining to those individuals with concerns how the community justice system works.
Ms. Commodore: I have no problem with the manner in which the Minister is going about conducting his program. I think that it is progressive and that that kind of working relationship has to be worked on in the communities, and it appears there are communities that are doing a good job in this area. I have no objection to what the Minister is doing, but what I am asking him right now is in regard to the new policy, which has been stated by him and the former Minister, that First Nations groups will no longer be eligible for any funding if they choose to do programs on their own.
One of the programs that I would like to ask the Minister questions about is the Teslin Tribal Council. I was told that Matthew Thom's position was cancelled, because it was not a joint initiative. Could the Minister tell me if that is the case?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Is the Member talking about the clan leader's court as opposed to the community justice court in Teslin? I am not sure about what the Member is talking about.
Ms. Commodore: I am asking about Matthew Thom's position. I asked the former Minister about this last year. The tribal council in Teslin was given some money for a position. The position belonged to Matthew Thom. In order to cut back on funding, a lot of things like that were cancelled, and this was one of them.
I have recently heard that the contract for that one position was not renewed last year. One of the reasons given to me was that the government was no longer funding separate programs for First Nations people, and that they had to be approved jointly by the two sections of the community.
If the Minister does not know the answer to that right now, I would like him to come back with something in writing. I would like to be able to tell the people that if they have plans to put together some kind of a program that deals strictly with tribal justice, this government will not fund it. I would like to be able to have something on record.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have been in consultation with the Teslin First Nation on various aspects of tribal justice. We have not come to a conclusion or agreement on anything.
With respect to the issue of Matthew Thom, this is the first I have heard of the matter. I will dig up the information that the Member is requesting and get back to her.
Ms. Commodore: Could the Minister come back with that information? I know there are people from his department listening to this debate, and it is just a matter of sitting down at a computer, putting that information together and faxing it over here.
Could I have that information while we are still in this debate, so I can have it on the record? I am sure he can do that.
I asked the Minister if he had anything in writing about the policy that his community justice initiatives would no longer be available to First Nations people if it is a First Nations initiative that includes no other section of the community.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is understandable. We want to avoid a duplication of service. When we strike community justice agreements, we come to an agreement with the First Nation in the community on the delivery of programs. In the case of Carmacks, the First Nation there will actually be the agency delivering the program. In Haines Junction, a joint committee has been struck of First Nations and non-First Nations people to deliver the program.
I do not think there is any overlap in those two communities. We hope to reach these kinds of agreements in other communities and, where we cannot, agreements will be reached under the umbrella final agreement with the First Nations. The federal government will fund those agreements, as per the UFA, which we hope will satisfy the need and avoid a duplication of services.
We have to be very careful setting up justice systems, especially in the small communities, so that we do not have one system for one and a separate one for another that do not work closely together. There is a public concern that the justice system be fair and equal to all. We have to make sure that we cover that. This is what is happening with most of the negotiated agreements we are involved in now, as well as others - Kwanlin Dun, for example. We are discussing the very issue of compatibility of systems, overlap and duplication, which we are trying to iron out with these agreements.
If the Member has a specific problem from a specific First Nation and lets me know about it, perhaps I could deal better with the issue and in a more detailed way.
Ms. Commodore: I agree with everything the Minister is saying. I think the government is working toward something progressive.
However, I am concerned - and not only with the loss of Matthew Thom's position in Teslin. The government has contracts with Kwanlin Dun for First Nations tribal justice.
There is some concern out there because of the rumours that are going around and because he does not actually know the exact criteria for his new community justice programs. There is a possibility that, because they are not run jointly by the community of Whitehorse, those kinds of programs might be cancelled, and I would like some assurances from this Minister that that will not happen.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Maybe the Member can tell me what types of program they are afraid may be cancelled. What are we talking about here? It is pretty hard for me to deal with this broad-brush approach. Some people are talking about some programs being cancelled. If I had an idea of what communities the Member is talking about and what programs she is talking about being cancelled, I could deal with it.
I hope the Member understands my dilemma. We are consulting and working with each community as much as we can, but if I do not know what problems the Member is describing, it is pretty hard for me to suggest some solutions.
Ms. Commodore: That is the dilemma - the very fact that First Nations communities do not know what is happening. Can the Minister just give me a list of the contracts the government has with Kwanlin Dun? Can he do that right now?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We have a Kwanlin Dun justice project. They developed a community justice project with the following objectives, and I will read this into the record for the Member: it was to develop a comprehensive circle court model through a process of tripartite consultation with Yukon-Canada and a review of the Kwanlin Dun circle court process; to develop and pilot a community justice of the peace court level for less serious offences; develop a pilot community alternative dispute settlement mechanism in the form of a community justice circle. The three-level process will demonstrate a comprehensive alternative community justice system that will be developed and administered by the community in close cooperation with the criminal justice system. The police advisory committee is made up of four representatives: the Yukon Department of Justice, the federal aboriginal justice directorate, the judiciary, the Crown counsel. Probation services, the RCMP and community representatives oversee the project.
Yukon Justice in 1994-95 provided $46,500, and the same amount in 1995-96. In addition, Justice has a member of the community corrections staff seconded to the project, and has estimated this contribution to be about $45,000. It is really too early to talk about whether the program has been successful. The project is a product of the community justice approach and encourages increased awareness and participation in the justice system. The project will be offering a current reference level in the 1995-96 fiscal year.
That is the agreement we have with the Kwanlin Dun. I understand that, although it has only been running for just over a year now, some feel that it is working out reasonably well.
Ms. Commodore: It is programs like this that individuals are concerned about, when they start listening to the Minister talk about his community justice initiatives. Other programs have been in existence. I am speaking in general. The Minister wants me to sit down with him and talk to him about individual concerns that I have heard. I have talked to an awful lot of people who all want to see some kind of community justice initiatives in their communities. I think that is good; however, I have also talked to people who have received information from the department informing them that unless they work with the whole community, their projects will not be funded. The Minister has already indicated that is a fact.
If we are looking at cancelling Matthew Thom's position because it was not a community project involving the whole community, what else could be cancelled? There is a concern out there. I am not criticizing; I am just trying to get some answers. I would like to be able to look at Hansard or the Blues, and send information like that out to those communities that do not feel they totally understand the initiatives from the department. If the Minister were to look at all of the contracts he has with First Nations people, and found that they have not all been signed by the whole community, is there some danger that some of those contracts will be cancelled? Those are the kinds of questions that are being asked of me.
Let us take Carcross as an example. The Minister has already indicated that they were working with the whole community. I know there is a division of community justice in Carcross. As a matter of fact, the former Minister was saying that if it is not working, it should be changed. Other people are saying that they did not even know what the other group was saying until they read it in the paper.
If they choose to run their own programs in a different way in which they felt is more acceptable to the First Nations people in that area, they wonder if they will be able to do it if it is not approved by the rest of the community.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Part of the process of the community justice agreements is to go into each individual community, look at what is being delivered by all the various agencies and try to come to some agreement. There may be the loss of a Matthew Thom job, but if it is a justice agreement between the Yukon government and the community of Teslin, they are looking at using those resources in a manner to deliver the program more effectively and efficiently, and deliver it in a way agreed upon by the individuals. That is what has happened in Haines Junction and Carmacks.
There are all kinds of community justice initiatives happening in different communities. Some of them are more advanced than others. Perhaps it would be helpful if I offered to the Member, or any of the Members opposite if they wish, a briefing on community justice with our officials some time at a later date, in the very near future, where one could sit down, bring questions to the briefing, ask the officials where they are going or where they are with the various communities, raise some of the concerns that people have called about and get some more direct answers from the officials who are there. I can assure the Member that the community justice agreements represent a consensus in the community with the community leaders - the First Nations chiefs, the justice council or whoever is responsible for delivery of justice in that community - to come to some agreement so that we can deliver a more effective justice system to the victims, the accused and others in the community. Perhaps a briefing would be helpful to the Member.
I know that this is a bit of a moving target, because some of the changes occur week to week as they are being negotiated, but I am sure that we could give an up-to-date briefing to the Members to let them know what each agreement is all about. It would take a couple of hours to go through the agreements, but it might be helpful to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: The position - and I am sorry that we have to keep using Matthew Thom's name - has been cancelled. The money has been cancelled for it. This position was a good one and was approved by the First Nations in Teslin, and the cancellation of it, of course, was a disappointment.
Why is the government going about doing things like that without letting the First Nations people know why? We are looking at programs we have in the jail. Aboriginal people are performing smudges at the jail. I do not know if they are still doing sweatlodges. They have a prison liaison person there. Are we looking at the possible cancellation of some of those programs as well, because they are run by First Nations people?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, not at all. I told the Member I do not know what the Matthew Thom incident is all about. I will get back to the Member about that. I do not want to comment any more on that particular issue, because I am not sure of the circumstances. There may be valid reasons why that position was changed, one way or the other. I will get back to the Member about that.
I commented earlier, when we first started debate, on some of the things we are doing at the Correctional Centre, and I think in my opening speech I spoke of a continuation of some of those things. No, we are not considering that. We do consult with First Nations when we implement them and we do consult with First Nations when, for one reason or another, the program is stopped.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister, I think, is going to find out that although his intentions are good, he will run into a lot of problems. We know that changes must be made. We know that communities are starting to work with circle sentencing, and that not only aboriginal people are taking advantage of it, but other people are as well. If they choose not to go before the circle, the traditional court is available to them.
I think the Minister knows, although everything that he says sounds good, that there will continue to be problems. I go back to the controversy in Carcross where, all of a sudden, on the radio, some person in Carcross is saying at a meeting that circle sentencing is not good and that it is not working, but what he never said was that traditional sentencing was not working either.
Then there are people from First Nations groups who are saying that they knew nothing about the meeting that was held to talk about circle sentencing, and did not know about it until they heard about it on the radio. This is coming from people who are involved in circle sentencing. So, we are looking at communities that could be divided over the manner in which justice is served. Despite the fact that the Minister's intentions are good, there are still, and will continue to be, problems out there. I will continue to ask about the manner in which the programs are delivered, and especially about this one. We have been told by both this Minister and the former Minister that there is a new policy now and that the territorial government will no longer fund strictly First Nations justice programs. If it chooses to do that, then they will have to be funded by the federal government, or according to the umbrella final agreement.
So, there are a lot of changes and, somehow or other, First Nations are going to have to know what that change is and how it is going to affect them, and also whether or not it is going to apply to those First Nations that have not reached their agreement yet. I do not know how the Minister intends to do that. Is he going to be sitting down and talking to CYI or somebody about how they are going to let First Nations know that they have to now start funding their own separate programs? Is that what the Minister is going to do?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: With all due respect, the Member has got it all wrong. In community justice we are looking at the existing programs being delivered now in the community and coming to an agreement with the First Nations and non-First Nations on the most effective way to deliver the programs. Community-driven justice - driven by that community. If there are other programs that First Nations wish to pursue on their own under the umbrella final agreement, there is room to strike an agreement with the federal government that will provide for the federal government to fund various pilot projects. I know that the federal government is looking at some. I think that by 1999, some First Nations can have the vast majority of control over their justice system in their communities. Some will move toward that more quickly than others.
It is under the UFA and the federal government pays. Surely the Member is not suggesting that we should step in after negotiating for over 20 years and have the Yukon government pick up the tab when the federal government has agreed to it, along with all three parties. The other matters that the Member mentioned are hypothetical. The sweatlodges and other things at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre are not even considered to be part of the justice delivery right now. It is just something we are doing there. We have been improving the types of programs we deliver and we are planning to continue with them.
When it comes to the specific communities, it is up to them to decide how they are going to deliver their justice programs. When I look at the two that have already come to an agreement - Haines Junction and Carmacks - and see that they can do it, I believe that other communities can, as well. No matter what kind of system we put in place - I think the Member knows this from being the Minister of Justice - whether it is circle sentencing or the conventional system, there are always going to be people who are unhappy with it. We will never please everyone; however, it is hoped that we can reach a community justice agreement with the leaders of the various communities in the territory that will include and enhance the existing programs we deliver in the communities. They will be planned, delivered and managed by the communities themselves, which is the purpose of the program. It is all we are trying to do.
There are good intentions here. If the Member could tell me who is upset, who does not think it is working and which program they think they will lose, perhaps I could be more specific. The Member has given me a moving target. I do not even know what program I should be talking about, other than the ones at the jail she mentioned, which I told her would not be discontinued.
What other programs are we talking about?
Ms. Commodore: The Minister is getting very defensive and I cannot blame him. I am not criticizing what he has already done. I keep saying that the community initiatives are fine and that if the government can get a community to work together on community justice initiatives, that is good. However, what I am concerned about, and what First Nation groups are concerned about - I have talked to a number of them - after attending meetings with the Department of Justice, is just where this government is going with these initiatives.
When I hear one Minister saying that the government will no longer fund programs that are being operated by First Nation people, where are the guidelines for that decision?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Commodore: The former Minister said that and it is recorded in Hansard - I am sorry I do not have it with me today - where the Minister said that from now on no First Nation group can go to the Minister and apply for funding if it is only going to be something that that First Nation wants to do within its own community. The Minister indicated that the government would no longer support those types of programs. The Minister who said that is a Cabinet Minister who was responsible for the Department of Justice in the past, so if I am reading something like that and that kind of a comment has been sent out to all of the First Nation people, you have to wonder what is happening.
The Minister has said that he would like me to sit down with him to talk about individual programs. I am talking about comments that were made in this House that are going to drastically affect what Yukon First Nation people do in regard to where they are going with their own programs.
The government is already funding community child welfare under the Department of Health and Social Services for aboriginal children only. If we are looking at this big change in justice, will this change also apply to other areas? That is where the problem lies, because they do not know exactly where the government is coming from in regard to justice programs.
I am going to try and find the comment that was made by the Minister, and if I can, I will ask the Minister to respond, but I would like to know if the Minister's community meetings have been completed in regard to community justice programs and whether or not the meetings are ongoing.
The Minister has just spoken about two groups coming to some kind of agreement about the manner in which their programs will run. Has the Minister had unqualified support from all First Nations in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They are ongoing. The communities of Haines Junction and Carmacks now have a committee structure. Carcross is finalizing a community justice model. The Ross River Dena Council, the Vuntut Gwitchin Council and the Selkirk First Nation are acting as agents in their communities. An organization such as the village council, the First Nation or a private agency may act as a carrier for an offender management program or victim program in the community, and the community may have several delivery organizations. There is some direct contact. The department initiates the contact with a member of a community. There are accountable measures built in to ensure the community involved in establishing justice objectives has regular meetings with First Nations and consultative groups.
Dawson City has a contact worker, and Dawson is working toward having a community justice committee in June 1995. Probation officers visit communities on a regular basis and work with the offenders and resource people in Watson Lake, Mayo and Teslin right now. That is sort of the status quo, but there is work going on in some of the other communities. As I mentioned earlier, the First Nation administration approach is happening in the Kwanlin Dun and being talked of in Teslin. There has not been a full agreement reached with Teslin. The one with Kwanlin Dun is in place and working.
That should give the Member an idea of some of the programs in place.
Ms. Commodore: In the newspaper, on January 5, 1995, it talked about the Department of Justice taking another step toward community-based justice. It said that "the Department of Justice is in the process of setting up 18 community-based correction facilities. The ADM said this marks a new direction for the rehabilitation of offenders. Its main goal is to include the community in the process. Nora Sanders said it would be up to communities to decide how these facilities will operate. Sanders says the department plans to employ local people to work in the facilities. She says the new facilities are part of a plan to stop people from offending again." W
hat does that mean?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe the name of the person she quoted in that article works with the NWT government, so maybe it is the Northwest Territories government that is planning to do this.
Ms. Commodore: There are some other things in here that are questionable, too, because it talks about the NDP government and about being in the process of setting up 14 community-based corrections facilities. Maybe it was the NWT - I do not know - but I thought I would ask the Minister about it because it was in the news.
Ms. Moorcroft: I have just a couple of questions regarding the community justice initiatives as well.
The Minister made the statement that people are always unhappy, but the problem I have is that it is very unclear as to what exactly is happening.
I would like the Minister to explain the guiding principles. Earlier, he said that one of them was that everyone in the community has to support it, and maybe he could start out by explaining what that means.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Does the Member want me to give her a whole outline of what community justice is? Is that what she is asking? I laid that out in the ministerial statement and I spoke about it in the House. I do have some other documents that lay out some founding principles, but, basically, as I said in the ministerial statement a couple of weeks ago, it is the various justice delivery systems in the community, from probation and victims services to circle sentencing and that kind of thing being delivered by the community justice committee.
The committee would set its priorities, decide on how it will deal with its offenders, and have the victim support services in the community for immediate response. As it is now, it takes some time to respond to the victim, but if there is a committee set up in the community, there is a greater opportunity for support services by placing the service providers right in the community. Local services can be more responsive to reach out to victims sooner. Offender management is another issue. Local accountability is created for offender behaviour by local involvement and supervision of offenders, such as probation.
This leads to more effective incentives for offenders to improve or modify behaviour, safer communities through the development and strengthening of community resources and knowledge and awareness of offenders in each community. It will not be driven by Whitehorse or the big justice system here. There will be community involvement in developing alternative sentencing options that are more effective than institution incarceration, yet meet the needs and concerns of the community, and community involvement in diversion programs, free and post-charge, that make the programs more effective.
The basic principle of community justice is that the communities are in the best position to set up programming priorities to deliver a variety of justice services. These agreements put this basic principle into practice and the communities in question now have the means to take a greater degree of control over their system. There will be a great deal of latitude within the agreements about how they choose to do this, and the communities themselves will determine the best way to improve service delivery. It is something that the communities have been seeking.
The Member said that there are people who are confused about what the system is, and that may be because it can be different in each community. There are some fundamental basic principles, some of which I just laid out, but some communities may want to take on more than others in delivering the system. Perhaps that is where the misunderstanding comes from.
I have to say to the Member that where we have reached agreements - the Mayor and the Chief of the Carmacks First Nation have signed an agreement - we have tried to bring into the loop the leaders of the community who bought into it.
We are not always going to please everybody. There are some critics of circle sentencing; there are some critics of the conventional way of sentencing, as well. I do not think we are ever going to satisfy some of the critics, no matter what we do.
I hope that it helps the Member by laying out what the fundamental principles are.
Ms. Moorcroft: That does help. I think it is important to know what the fundamental guiding principles are. I would also like to know what the financial implications are.
I heard the Minister say earlier this afternoon, when he was discussing it with my colleague, that there is no money available for communities. The Minister also referred to a contribution to Kwanlin Dun circle court model and that there was an equivalent of $45,000 applied to it.
Does the Minister have a breakdown of how much money from Yukon resources is going to various communities for the various contribution agreements?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: As was issued in the press release a week and a half ago when we announced it, the amounts for these two communities, Haines Junction and Carmacks, is $25,000 each, and that is in this budget. It may differ depending on the community's needs and the resources that are in the community. We are planning to look at what we deliver in the community now and how we can deliver it more efficiently. There may be a reallocation of resources within the community, but it will be driven by the community justice committee, who says, for example, if we need more time for the probation officer, more time for victim services. We will look at delivering the program more effectively, but right now there is $25,000 for each community.
Ms. Moorcroft: One of the concerns that I have heard, and I would just like to be sure the Minister is apprised of it, is whether or not these community justice agreements might be part of downloading without the necessary funding, that it will be a mechanism for reducing the funding. That is something that the federal government is engaging in more and more, and we would not like to see that happening on a local basis.
I would like to ask the Minister a question in relation to the guiding principles. I believe everyone has a right to freedom from violence. Violence and the threat of violence serve to maintain and enforce disadvantages for some people, particularly girls and women. I think that our social response to violence should help to create safety for people and to prevent further harm. We must help victims regain and exert control over their own lives and hold the offender fully accountable for the violence.
Can the Minister tell me how that principle is accommodated in any of the agreements that have been developed to date or in future ones?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There was a conference in Whitehorse a couple of weeks ago about violence and spousal assault. Many of the 175 or so people who were here for it were from the communities. Many of those people will go back to their communities and will be the people involved in drafting the priorities of their communities for community justice. I hope that those kinds of concerns and issues will be incorporated in their community justice agreements in their own communities. Again, that is the idea of it.
There has also been an increase in the profile and scope of victims services. Since the victims services office has been put in place, we have raised the profile of it - so to speak. More people are aware of it. That office is a very busy office. To date, a number of communities have started to take on the provision of victim support services. These communities include Carmacks, Haines Junction and Kwanlin Dun. Discussions are also underway with Faro, Dawson City, Watson Lake, and Carcross. I think that, as a result of the community justice initiatives and the conference that took place a couple of weeks ago, people in the communities are getting more involved in a justice program in the community that is driven by the community. They know better than anyone else about who the offenders are in the communities and how to deal with them. The responsibility is going to flow more to the community. I hope that answers the Member's question.
Ms. Moorcroft: Not exactly, so I will try rephrasing it. I would like to know what mechanisms are in place for respecting victims. If a victim does not want to participate in an alternative dispute resolution process, do they have a say in that? Can the victim elect to deal with charges against an offender in the regular court model, if that is their preference?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would think so, but can I get back to the Member about that? That is more of a technical question about the process.
Ms. Moorcroft: If the Minister is coming back with information, I would appreciate a legislative return that spells out which rules govern in the circle court or other alternative dispute-resolution processes.
I have a final question, and it is with regard to funding for training for judges, community leaders and participants in alternate justice models.
I have just been talking about the fact of violence and fear of violence with which many people live. I think that should be a primary consideration. We hear lots of criticism that the present judicial model is not respectful enough of victims. I would like to know what the Minister is doing to improve that and to make sure that the same criticism does not arise from alternate models.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring back a detailed response to the way that we are dealing with the issue of violence against women right now. I have stood up in the House several times and pointed out the various programs being delivered from the Women's Directorate and that are in our schools. I spoke quite extensively last week about all the programs we are delivering. I also would suggest to the Member that some of the concerns she has expressed about educating judges and others about this kind of issue came up in a recommendation at the end of the spousal assault conference two weeks ago. Many of the groups reported at the end of conference, and many of them talked about the educational process. I was present for that.
The information from the participants will be taken back to the department, and a report will be put together with recommendations of areas that can be dealt with. It is hoped that the education issue will be one of the things to come out of the report. I understand from what was said at the conference that they expect the report to be done at the end of May or June. They think it will take a month or so to compile everything and put out a booklet. That would happen within 60 days of the end of the conference.
Recommendations were made regarding education for the RCMP about issues regarding spousal and family assault and education for judges, individuals in the justice system, probation officers and others. All these issues tied into the recommendations that are going to come out.
The kind of thing that the Member would like to see will flow out of these recommendations, and we will be able to see specifically what the communities want and how they want to see the program delivered in the future.
Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to point out to the Minister that those are not new recommendations. Those are recommendations that I have heard people making for years, and I did ask the Minister a specific question about what financial resources would be put in place, not only for the present legal system but for the alternative community justice systems. I hope that the Minister will accept my representation that that is a very important component of any system.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot give the Member a figure now and I do not think the Member is asking me for that. There are a lot of resources now dedicated within the Yukon government with respect to that issue. Once we see the recommendations that come out of the conference - some people said the government is spending a lot of money in the wrong area and that we could spend it in another area and be more effective - we may not need more new money; we may be able to spend the money that we now have more effectively and get better results.
I do not have a figure right now for the Member, but I can assure the Member that it is a priority of mine and a priority of our government to deal with the issue, because I think it is a very serious issue and one that we want to deal with.
Mr. Joe: I would just like to talk about how tribal justice is set up in a community. Some people, like the Minister, do not understand how the tribal justice system works in a community.
It started about four or five years ago. The courts were having a problem dealing with some difficult cases. That is when the communities got involved. I was involved in the justice system, too, so I know how it works. It is not very easy, especially having to deal with the people. There are the same problems that the courts were having with the different cases. Sometimes, with youth problems, they do not want to send the youth outside, but they do not know how to deal with it. They do not want to send them to jail. They do not want to send them away anywhere. The court can send them away, but they do not know how to deal with it.
When tribal justice came in, it was a whole different system in Carmacks and Pelly. In Pelly, they have the elders' system. When they deal with youth, the youth see people in a big circle, and the little fellows get scared. So, if that is the case, we have the power to deal with the problem. The Minister should go up there some time, and we will show you how it works.
These elders deal with the problems of youths, trying to find some kind of alternative for community work for what he did. He was working. Before, he was put to work by the probation officer. But the probation officer does not work every day, like community workers do. They are lucky to see a probation officer show up there more often than when the court is being held, or once a month.
There is a lot of work involved with fines. I have been a volunteer there for a long time. I do not know where they get hold of funds but they pay some elders $50 a day for doing this. There is a lot of work for $50 a day, if you deal with five or six youths like that. It is a lot of work.
One thing that I have already heard the Minister say is that there are no funds for tribal justice. Again, I would like to say that every time the communities try to do something for themselves, there seems to be the same problems with funding. I think there should be something better than that in place for tribal justice; otherwise, just forget it.
I would like to see the court system work. If we do not do something about it, it is not going to work, and we will have the same problems again. We are not going to solve anything.
I see in the budget that there is a line item for community JPs in the amount of $32,000. I do not know what they are really doing in the communities.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can understand the Member's concerns. The Member suggested that we are cutting funding for these types of initiatives in the community. That is not what is happening with the community justice agreements. We are looking at what is being delivered in the communities now. We are sitting down with the various communities and looking at the best way to deliver these services in the community. It may be that we will be using the same funding that is there now and either using it in the same way or reallocating it, depending on the priority of the community. We have reached an agreement with Carmacks and are working with the Mayor of Carmacks. If we sit down with the people of Pelly and reach an agreement with them, we will use the services and resources we have there now and deal with the issue in the way that the community wants to deal with it, as a community-driven justice issue.
I do not want to leave the Member with the impression that they are losing all their money for projects in their community. We are looking at projects now being driven by the community and we have money in this budget - almost $200,000 to deal with community justice projects. We talk with each community as we go along and strike committees to discuss their priorities, negotiate an amount for various services and deliver the program.
I think it is a positive thing. It is not Whitehorse again telling you when you will get your probation officers, it is you sitting down and deciding when you need your probation officer, or whatever other services you need in the community and you will decide how the service will be delivered. That is what this program is hopefully going to do. I hope it does solve some of the concerns that the Member has about the delivery of justice in his community.
Mr. Joe: I think the Minister is talking now, but I hear nothing about funds for tribal justice. It does not matter what kind of system you establish, it is not going to work.
He did not say anything about the $200,000 dollars available for tribal justice or anything. That is where I misunderstood him.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The $200,000 is for community justice initiatives. It is $195,000 - not quite $200,000. It is in the budget.
Mr. Penikett: I had not planned to enter this discussion. However, some of the things the Member said about community justice, and the way in which he uses the term, reminded me of a fascinating discussion that I had a chance to observe at a justice conference here in Whitehorse a few years ago. At that time, Ms. Kim Campbell, the then Minister of Justice for Canada, was engaged in a long-running debate with a number of aboriginal leaders about the future of the justice system in First Nations communities. Aboriginal people, for quite obvious reasons, felt that the justice system had always favoured the rich and disadvantaged the poor, which is sociologically obvious and quite observable, but, worse, had been culturally biased against First Nation people, who were pushing for the kind of tribal justice system contemplated in the full implementation of our land claims agreement. Ms. Campbell rejected, very much, the notion of tribal justice, and was advocating instead something she called community justice as an alternate model.
Since the Minister seems to be very much wedded to a similar concept, can I ask him how his advocacy of that model and his commitment to implement that model fits with the obligations he has also inherited to implement tribal justice as it is contemplated under the umbrella final agreement? How will the two work together and how he will achieve both?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is quite a question. I have also asked if there will be duplication and how we will deal with it.
It will be a real learning process for us with respect to that. It will not be easy. Some First Nation bands will be easier than others. For example, perhaps in Pelly or Old Crow - or other areas where the majority of the population is First Nation people - if the band chooses to go that route, it would be easier to implement an agreement.
It will be a little more complicated. I do not have a clear answer for the Member opposite. We hope many will choose the community justice model for now and that some bands will take on the responsibility. The model that was looked at under the Teslin agreement - which is not official - is where people have the option of going through the First Nation system. There would be a steering and a guiding committee with guiding principles. A list of the types of crimes it could involve would be set out.
I could bring back a more detailed explanation. It is quite complicated. There are about five pages of notes from the Teslin one that involve the way the system would work. It is a complicated process. I am a bit skeptical of how it will work, but I want to give it a chance. There will be growing pains, as will be with many aspects of the land claims. I hope First Nations will take on these kinds of responsibilities in a cautious way, at the same time as the federal and territorial governments take on special agreements regarding the takeover of the justice system for First Nations.
Where we see the community justice initiative being more beneficial is in the communities where there is about a 50/50 split of First Nations and non-First Nations living in the same community - for example, Haines Junction and Carmacks. It may be a little more satisfactory in those communities.
Mr. Penikett: I appreciate the Minister's undertaking to get back with more information, since he gave no substance about the content of either system in his answer.
The Minister used the word "caution" to describe the implementation of tribal justice, and I know full well, having done hundreds of public meetings on the subject, that of all the self-government provisions, there is probably more public anxiety about the implementation of tribal justice than any other feature. I also know that there was a very strong view in the First Nation community that the existing system, from top to bottom, was profoundly ethnocentric.
Ms. Campbell, in her presentations at the justice ministers conference in Whitehorse, was quite clear that we could have one or the other, but not both. She was an advocate for community justice, rather than tribal justice. The Minister here is a champion of community justice systems - and that is fine - but the Minister has inherited some obligations to implement the system that is in the UFA. The implementation is intended to be slow because of the anxieties about it - both in the First Nations community and outside - but nothing has been discussed in the Minister's presentation today about his implementation of agreements, which are now law. I am curious about how he will be working with the federal government to implement tribal justice, because it obviously has to exist side by side and in some kind of parallel track with the dominant system.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I cannot give the Member a lot more information. The period for which justice initiatives will be taken over has been extended to December 31, 1999. They are going to have jurisdiction over the administration of justice with respect to their own citizens. It will include matters such as adjudication, civil remedies, punitive sanctions, including imprisonment, prosecution, corrections, law enforcement and other aboriginal matters that may be identified in Canada, and the Yukon is negotiating interim justice guidelines upon which the Yukon's claims for reimbursement of new and incremental costs are to be based.
Everyone is moving very slowly at the present time, because we are not quite sure where this is leading. I think the only First Nation that is really moving on it is Teslin.
Other than that, I do not believe there is any other First Nation that is in the forefront, of which I am aware. I can bring back a written note or a legislative return to the Member with more detail about the questions he has asked.
Mr. Cable: I have one question at this particular juncture. The Minister's colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, near the beginning of the Economic Development debate tabled a list of policy initiatives and the status of these initiatives, together with some comments. I wonder if it would be a major chore for the Minister's staff to compile that information fairly soon. I had meant to get this request in last Thursday, which would have given the Minister's staff the weekend to get this information together. Is it a major proposition to get this information together before this debate is over so that we can see where the government is going? We only need the major initiatives, not those concerning the use of paper in the department - only the major initiatives. There was a one-page summary put forward by the Minister of Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I could have the department have a look at that request. I thought I laid out some of the priorities in my opening remarks, and those are the main areas that we are dealing with. However, I will ask the department to condense that information into a one-page summary. I do not want to give the department a whole pile of work if the government has already tabled the information. The department is busy enough providing information.
Ms. Commodore: With regard to the program for the community justice workers, it says in the information that I have that the services are in Dawson City, Carmacks, Ross River, Old Crow, Pelly Crossing and Kwanlin Dun. The description of the program activities is "to act as a focal point for the development and coordination of community-specific, aboriginal justice programs, participation in the circle sentencing process, alternative sanctions, training and development needs, identification and community education. This position works closely with the Department of Justice, aboriginal justice coordinator," - which is no longer in existence - "the crime prevention program, as well as the community corrections personnel." This program description was dated June 1992.
In the news release the Minister sent out on February 2, he talks about community-based justice and says that five community justice worker contracts are in place in the communities of Old Crow, Dawson, Ross River, Pelly Crossing and Kwanlin Dun - the same as there were in June 1992. The functions include coordination of circle sentencing and probation supervision liaison between the First Nations and all segments of the justice system, as well as development of the culturally relevant crime prevention or social development programs. Are those programs that he listed in February 1995 the same as were included in the information in June, 1992? There appears to be little change in the functions of those workers, and they are in the same communities as listed in June 1992. Are they the same ones?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In a general way, I guess they are. In the other one, they were justice workers in the program; now they are working toward the community justice agreements. Those people will be working with the various individuals in the communities, aiming more at reaching a community justice agreement or arranging it in the community.
Ms. Commodore: The positions are described as being the same - community justice worker and community justice worker - and it describes the community justice worker contracts in both of these documents. Who are these workers and who pays them? Are they paid by this government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In the community justice agreements we will provide the funding to the community justice committee or the deliverer of the community justice program and they will pay the individual.
Ms. Commodore: Is the Minister saying that those are new contracts that he is talking about, or are they contracts that were signed a long time ago?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Some of them are at different stages. Some of them who are being paid now were community justice workers, I believe, and were probably paid by us initially. As we work into the community justice model, they will be paid by the committee, or by some other arrangement. For example, Dawson City has a contract worker. It is all funds that, I think, flow from the government and are paid to deliver the community justice initiative in the communities.
Ms. Commodore: I notice that under the description of the community justice worker contracts in June 1992, the phrase "to act as a focal point for the development and coordination of community-specific aboriginal justice programs" has been taken out. Can I ask the Minister why?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Maybe the easiest way to deal with this is if I again offer the Member a briefing, because we are getting pretty technical about how these people are being paid, how the funds are flowing, and so on. I am willing to offer the Member a briefing on the community justice initiatives, at which time all of the technical questions can be asked of the officials, who have the immediate, technical answer.
What happens now is that if we do not have the answer here, it gets bounced over to the department, and someone is scrambling in the department. Then it is a day or two before the answer gets back. If the Member has some questions and wants to express them now, I can have the department get those answers ready. I can arrange a briefing in the very near future - fairly shortly, if need be - to try to give the Member a full briefing on the community justice initiatives so that the whole technical side - how people are paid, how programs are administered, who is in charge of a program, and that kind of thing - can be understood.
Ms. Commodore: The information I am asking for I want on record, and that is why I am asking these questions here in the House. I think it is my job to get some answers to some of the questions that I have been asking. One of the reasons I ask this particular question is because it appears that the department is getting away from specific aboriginal justice programs, as it was stated in the description and is missing in the information that is attached to the Minister's release dated February 2, 1995.
I asked the question because of a concern I have already stated in this House about where the government is going in regard to specific aboriginal justice programs. The Minister does not have the information right now.
This is dated June 1992, and it was put together by the policy and community programs branch. It describes the program and activities. Why has the activity "to act as a focal point for the development and coordination of community-specific aboriginal justice programs" been taken out? Why is it no longer in here?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is not in the new one because we have a whole-community approach, as opposed to a specific approach, as in the aboriginal community. We are working with everyone in the communities, and we have reached agreements with others in the community.
These types of programs were delivered by the Department of Justice. Now they will be primarily driven by the communities, which is what the communities have been asking for - the ability to prioritize initiatives in the community and receive the funds to manage them. That is what we are trying to do with this program.
Ms. Commodore: In June 1992, that program was described as community justice workers. In February 1995, it is described as community justice workers. So, there was a community aspect to it at that time. It appears to be the same thing; the workers with contracts are in the same communities. The community justice workers in June 1992 were also community justice workers on contract. It appears to be the same thing, according to the Minister's information.
I was not asking the Minister about the community. I was asking him why specific aboriginal justice programs have been eliminated from the activities.
They are both described as the same communities, the same number of workers, and it appears that their functions have changed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: They have not been eliminated. They have been incorporated into the community justice agreements. It is driven by the community itself. The community will look at these types of initiatives and say, "This is what we want to be part of the community justice agreement. This is our priority." It will be incorporated as such in a community justice agreement, driven by the individuals on the community justice committee in each community.
Does the Member have a problem with the communities driving their own justice initiatives? That is what we are doing here; we are turning over more responsibility to the communities to prioritize and direct their community justice initiatives. That includes aboriginal justice programs and other programs that are in the community. They are incorporating them under one umbrella and delivering them as that.
Does the Member have a problem with that concept? I do not understand what we are hung up on. We seem to be going around and around. We are talking about the same programs, and the whole community now has the opportunity to pick and choose whichever ones are effective or efficient and how to deliver the programs more effectively to meet the victims needs or to meet the needs of the accused. It is going to be driven by the community. That is all we are doing here.
Ms. Commodore: I do not know if the Minister wants me to go over there and give him a pat on the back or stand here and applaud. I have already said that I support the community initiatives. This is the third time that I have said it since 2:30 p.m. I am not opposing any of that. What I am trying to find out from him is why they eliminated that specific part of the program's activities - that is, "to act as a focal point for the development and coordination of community specific aboriginal justice programs." I asked him why that was eliminated. I have not received an answer.
Once again, I support the community initiatives. There is no question in my mind about that. I do have some concerns about how we are getting away from specific aboriginal justice initiatives - that is my concern.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I know that the Member has said several times that she supports the program. I have said several times that it is not eliminated. It is rolled into the community justice initiatives by the community. It is there, and it will be driven by the community.
Ms. Commodore: A number of programs have been eliminated that I could ask the Minister, starting with the tribal justice coordinator that was eliminated by the former Minister. I should have known then that specific aboriginal justice programs that are run by aboriginal justice people were on the way out.
I asked him about Matthew Thom's position. A couple of years ago, I was asking questions of the former Minister about the program. I wanted to know if the position was in existence. On June 2, 1993, the department replied, "Matthew Thom, an elder in the community, is a community tribal justice officer employed under contract with the Teslin Tlingit Council. It is a new position created to develop and initiate programs for delivery in the new Teslin Community Correction Centre. It is anticipated that this program will be filled some time this summer." The program is not in existence any more. It appears that it had something to do with the Teslin Community Correctional Centre. I would like to ask the Minister about the coordinator of the Teslin Correction Facility - the person who was to coordinate those kinds of programs. Who is doing it?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have been advised that the Yukon-wide recruitment to fill the position on a permanent basis will begin in April 1995, with the intention of having the position permanently staffed by June 1, 1995. The consultation team is currently working with the Teslin staff and the community advisory committee to design the overall program framework for the facility.
The recruitment decision was initially delayed as a cost-saving effort when the facility experienced low resident population during the first four months. Resident programming during this time was effectively implemented by the facility manager, with the assistance of justice workers. Partly because of low numbers, it was delayed, but I am told that advertisements will go out this month and that by June there should be someone in the position.
Ms. Commodore: I heard that the person who was in coordinator's position resigned and that the position had not been filled. The Minister said that the position was going to be filled soon. Who has been coordinating the programs in the absence of the coordinator?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I just said that the program was implemented by the facility manager with the assistance of justice workers.
We have only had four to six people in the facility. The government thought that the numbers of people in the facility would be closer to 15 in the first year, so the programs have been easier to implement because of the low numbers.
The government is now trying to fill the position. The Member is correct; the previous person in the position did resign. The position should be staffed by June.
Ms. Commodore: In the minutes of the Yukon Health and Social Services Council, dated September 25 and 26 of last year, the department described the priorities of the Department of Justice as set out in its operational plan. They were reviewed and noted as follows: community-based justice, crime prevention and youth programs, the corrections strategy, criminal and court reform, regulatory review, family violence, sex offenders and policing. Can I ask the Minister whether or not he has an update on all of these programs that were described to the Yukon Health and Social Services Council, because they were ministerial priorities in September 1994? Are his priorities the same as the former Minister's in regard to the list I just read?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Shortly after becoming the Minister, I sent a letter to the department, setting out my priorities. If the Member wishes, I will try and get a copy of the letter at the break and table it. It is similar to the priorities of the previous Minister, with a strong expression of concern about violence against women and children.
Ms. Commodore: I was just going to ask him if they were similar to the former Minister's. Did he have discussions with the former Minister when he set out his priorities? I am asking that because I would like to have an idea about how priorities would change from one Minister to the next.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: When we switched ministries, I met with Mr. Phelps to discuss priorities he had on the go, so that I would know what he had asked the department to deal with on a priority basis. As well, I asked him about various other programs, so we had a several-hour discussion on where they were going with various programs in the Department of Justice and his views on some things. Even today, I speak to Mr. Phelps from time to time about justice-related issues, especially when they are programs he initiated or if I have concerns or questions about some of the background or history on how we got to a certain point. I did have a meeting with him.
Ms. Commodore: They also noted the following priorities of the Minister - it was Mr. Phelps at the time - and that was First Nations community policing, crime prevention, youth initiatives, victim services, family violence, operation and planning. The Minister has just tabled in the House information about new initiatives with the RCMP and other information. Is there anything new, according to the list that I just gave him, because these were listed by the department at that same meeting?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The latest initiatives by the Department of Justice in most of these areas have been laid out in the ministerial statements in the last few days. Those are the most recent ones. I will get the letter of priorities, which I sent to the department, for the Member.
It is similar to the previous Minister's, but a little bit different in the fact that it talks about crime prevention and violence against women and children, which I feel are extremely important.
Ms. Commodore: The minutes of the meeting noted that council was pleased that the Department of Justice is again attending council meetings and advised that council looks forward to following up some of the issues raised during the discussion at the next meeting. Can I ask why Justice was not attending the meetings prior to that?
Mr. Harding: I have some questions about a number of justice issues. I will start with some technical information. In looking at the budgets for policing services for the last three years - 1993-94, 1994-95 and 1995-96 - I see that the block grant to the RCMP in 1993-94 was $10,440,000. It was forecast in 1994-95 at $9,770,000, and this year's budget is an estimate of $10.5 million. This brings us back to a little above the 1993-94 actual figure.
The Minister can give me his initial response and then bring back more technical information. Has there been any lapsed or unspent money in the RCMP grant? What is the policy with regard to money that is lapsed or not spent? Does it come back to Justice, or does the RCMP keep it? How does that work?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We only pay what is spent. If there are lapses, the money comes back to us.
As I stated in my opening remarks, there is a difference between this and last year's level, partly because of a $700,000 accounting change. I laid it out in my budget speech, and it has something to do with housing for the RCMP and that we were only being paid for 70 percent of the value of their housing, while we are now being paid 100 percent for accommodation. When that is added up for two years - the Auditor General raised this with the RCMP - we get an extra $700,000. It went up quite a bit last year, and is back down again.
Mr. Harding: Actually, according to figures, it is up this year and was down last year. The Minister is nodding his head in acknowledgment.
My question is not so much about the funding level, it was just essentially pointing that out to show the level of funding. The Minister indicated that there are, or there have been, lapses in the last few years. Can he give me an estimate of the amount of lapses from the RCMP?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Maybe I can bring back the lapses or requests for more money from the RCMP for the last four years, if that would help the Member.
Mr. Harding: Yes, I would appreciate that. What I am interested in, of course, is the difference between the initial estimate for the budget year, what is spent during the year on operations and what is turned back, and, if possible, I would like to get the reasoning that has been given to the department for the additional requests or lapses - not too detailed. It would be helpful. I would just like to get a sense of what is being turned back and for what reasons, because I know there are so many needs for policing services.
I will wait for that information from the Minister. We will probably be in debate in Justice for a while, so I will have an opportunity, I hope, to respond when I get that more detailed information.
I would like to move to another area with the Minister, and that is the issue of the programming that is coming out of the department. A couple of examples would be the announcement on February 2, in a news release from the Minister, about the Citizens on Patrol program. In the news release, it makes mention of the program, the auxiliary program, how they are working, and it makes mention about how they work in British Columbia. Then, of course, we have the pilot projects announced the other day in a ministerial statement, such as the volunteer victim services. I applaud the initiatives of the department to create programs to address some of the issues that have been identified by Yukoners.
The concern I have - and which I have heard from other people - is that it is difficult for the officers in the rural communities - who are often given the task of implementing and coordinating these programs - to pull together the time to actually deliver the type of successful program that the department wants delivered. I would like to say that to the Minister in terms of a representation and introduction, and get some initial response from him.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member makes a good point. The COP program, for example, is one that could probably work in Whitehorse, might work in Watson Lake and Dawson, but it probably would not go much further than that right now because it depends so much on volunteers and the efforts of an individual. In fact, in practical reality, right now the COP program would really only apply in Whitehorse, and it may even be marginal here because a huge population and volunteers are needed to make it work.
I realize that is a problem. However, one of the things I think is important is that we are now talking about the crime consultation process. When we go to Faro and other small communities in the territory, I hope to hear suggestions from people saying exactly what the Member opposite said: "Look, do not ask our police to deliver any more programs. They should be out on the street; they have more things to do. They cannot spend all their time developing, delivering and working on programs being brought in. Let us look at a different way to deliver some of these programs." I hope we will get suggestions from individuals when we go around the territory about the most efficient way to meet a community's needs. Again, it goes back to community justice initiatives, which are driven by the community.
We get the same feeling here when Ottawa imposes a new law that affects everyone in the Yukon. It can sometimes affect people in the outlying ridings much more than it affects people in Whitehorse. The same goes for us in Whitehorse when we say, "We have this new program. Let us implement it in all of the communities." Perhaps it does not work that way.
I hope that talking about crime will give us some solutions to that problem and suggest more efficient ways of dealing with it.
Mr. Harding: I am glad to hear that the Minister is open to that approach because that is a concern I hear expressed often in our community of Faro.
They would like to see the ideas generated more at a community level and perhaps adapted to fit the specific community, because every community in rural Yukon is very diverse, of which the Minister is well aware.
I am glad that the Minister is aware that often what we are doing is placing a further paper-pushing exercise and coordinating exercise upon officers who want to be in the communities carrying out policing duties. These individuals want to be involved in the community and have things driven by Members of the community.
We have a couple of groups in Faro, similar to programs like COP, or perhaps volunteer victim services and other things coming out of the department. There is an inter-agency group involving people in health services, social services and the RCMP in the community who actively meet and participate in ensuring that there is an understanding of each other's needs in the community and what levels of service are being provided.
There is also a community consultative group that basically is a group of concerned citizens who are not usually the opinion makers in the community, or the so-called power players - for lack of a better definition. They are people who are interested in the community, but they are not the mayor and council; they are not the MLA; they are the average citizen in the community who is pulled into this group to try and get broader perspectives.
The problem for these programs is that we want to use different groups and isolate groups, such as the community consultative group, and say, "No, we do not want to use that group to work on COP, or that group to work on another program initiated by the Justice department." If we do that, our pool of support and help in the community, in practical and real terms, really dissipates. The Minister knows that these small communities are very small - and especially when people are working a lot - it is sometimes difficult to get active participants and volunteers. I would make the representation to the Minister that we cannot always hope to have a separate group to work on separate programming and that we may have to use groups in Faro, for example, like the community consultative group to be a player in terms of justice programs that the department is coming up with.
We may not be able to come up with people to form separate groups for a particular program that the department comes up with.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hear the Member's representation. That is what the talking-about-crime consultation process is all about. It is about going to communities like Faro to hear from the community how they figure they can best deliver crime prevention programs. I am willing to listen to any option that delivers them more efficiently, using the limited resources we have in each community.
Mr. Harding: The Minister is talking about the community consultations that are underway. We had a couple of people from the department in Faro for a very brief 20 minutes or half an hour, to discuss some of the issues in Justice with a few people in the community. What expanded consultation is there going to be? What expanded consultation is there going to be? When does the Minister foresee, for example, meetings in Faro to discuss crime? Will there just be the one? What does he hope to see come out of that meeting? What is his sense of how that is going to work? Once the department has discussions with the citizens, who does the follow-up and the coordination after that? Does it then get channeled to the local RCMP detachment, or will there be some broad departmental help, so that our officers can do their community work and community policing?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That hour and a half that Faro got was it - I am just kidding the Member opposite. I have a list here that I can table after the break. It states where they are going to be, on what days and who is going to be in the community. We have assembled a group of individuals who have been involved in crime prevention in Yukon for some time, including people from the department and others. They are going to split into two different groups and travel to the various communities. I will table this list after the break. They will be in Faro, for example, from May 15 to May 19 - they are going to be in Carmacks, Faro, and Ross River, so they will be one night in each community. Linda Bench will be taking the lead role, and there will also be Bob Cole, Sandy Gleason and Charles Stewart. I believe Charles Stewart is a criminologist. Sandy Gleason is a First Nation person, and Bob Cole is from our department. I believe that Linda Bench is involved with the block parent program. However, she is the head of crime prevention. These people are going to travel around to the communities, listen to the input, come back and write a report. The report will be made available to me as the Minister and, I hope, released to the public. It should make recommendations on actioning things we can do in the communities for crime prevention in the future.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess at this time?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on the Department of Justice?
Mr. Harding: I have some further questions for the Minister. The Minister indicated in his initial remarks to me, when I was questioning him about his thoughts on the time that some of these programs require of the officers for coordination in the communities, that he understood that problem and had some sympathy with it. I want to say to the Minister that the problem is further exacerbated in our community by the lack of full-time clerical support. For a long time, during the mine shutdown, the community relied - as the Minister knows, because we spoke about this many, many times - on volunteers, and we had one particular volunteer who put in countless hours and is still contributing hours of help to the community.
We are now on half-time. In my mind, it does not allow the officers to do community policing and the coordination of the programs that the Minister is talking about.
I can see the Minister saying that he just gave them a new officer. The fact that we have a new officer is welcome but long overdue. As the Minister well remembers, because we discussed it dozens of times, we were at a point where we had almost a decision by the RCMP to close down the detachment in Faro, even though we were extremely busy in the community. The fact that we have an officer certainly helps us, but we have a great influx into the community right now. We have had people come into the community from all over the country. Some of them had actual warrants out for their arrest. They were essentially drifters and were removed from the community as fast as people could establish their identities.
t is a help for us to have another officer, and I sincerely thank the RCMP and the government for that move. However, it still does not fill the need for more clerical support. I would remind the Minister that the budgeted allotment for the detachment in Faro with a 1992 population was four officers and full-time support. We now have three officers and half-time support, and only just now got the third officer. So, whereas we are thankful for that, I would like to make a representation to the Minister that I believe there could be a lot more community policing done, and a lot more work on programs the department is trying to institute, if there were full-time clerical support in Faro.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hear the Member. It is not a problem we have just in Faro; it is a problem our officers experience in many of our rural communities. It is just the nature of the job. The RCMP looks at the numbers periodically - depending on the workload - and it judges by the number of cases it has and makes a decision about whether or not that warrants an increase in clerical support.
The Member for Faro knows that I have been very supportive of Faro. I have always worked hard on issues that the Member brings forward to me.
We made an announcement just two weeks ago about the addition of a new member of the force in Faro. All I can say to the Member for Faro to have a little bit of patience; the seat that the new member of the force occupies is hardly warm yet. He just got there, and you now have a third member. Let us look at the workload. I will point it out to the RCMP. I am sure that the RCMP will monitor it. If Faro is growing quite rapidly, we will keep a close eye on it. If it does warrant more staff, we will have to look at it.
Those are the types of operational decisions that are made by the RCMP itself to judging its workload in the communities. I tend not to interfere with it until I hear concerns that it is seriously interfering with policing in the community and it is raised to me by others as creating a problem. Then we deal with it because it is an operational decision made by the RCMP. There is a standard used throughout the north by the RCMP and throughout their detachments everywhere, and I support its decisions. However, the Member has made a representation and I will raise it with Inspector Henderson the next time I meet with him, but I cannot guarantee the Member that there will be a change immediately, because the Member did just see a third member of the force stationed in Faro just weeks ago.
Mr. Harding: I do not want to get into any kind of Donnybrook with the Minister. Suffice it to say, I think I would be accurate if I said that Faro suffered cuts before any other detachment in the Yukon, and not only related to population. I am glad to have that member back at the detachment in Faro.
I want to make the point to the Minister that this is not the first time that I have raised the issue of secretarial support with this government. I have raised it on an ongoing basis. The Minister was in Faro this summer when a plaque for volunteer work was given to the person who does clerical work for the detachment members there. We had to rely on that person tremendously, and I do not believe that is entirely fair.
The Minister has heard my representation, and I am not going to try and nail him down on this, but I do not buy into the theory that just because we finally have a third detachment member - whom we have needed for a long time - we do not need further clerical support in Faro.
I would also say that if one compared Faro to places like Dawson and Watson Lake, one would see that Faro suffered the biggest cut. The Minister might stand up and say that was because the mine went down, but we started suffering from the cuts while we still had a large population.
Now that the population is growing, they are very busy in Faro. There are big investigations going on. Everyone in town is talking about what happened during the receivership and the status of mine property that left the site. Investigating that is taking up a lot of the officers' time. That is something that is on the lips of every citizen in Faro. I also want to make the point with the Minister that, whereas I understand the need to quantify how busy a detachment is by the caseloads that they have, I think that position is contrary to the concept of community policing. On one hand, the government is saying that it wants the police out there in the communities - and I support community policing - in the schools, and talking to young people, and getting out there where they are visible and a positive influence, in the hope that that will reduce, in a proactive fashion, the caseload for the detachment. The problem comes in when the so-called performance indicator - that is, the success that they have in making a positive impact in the community - reduces that caseload. Therefore, they are no longer as busy, because their caseload has dropped. In actuality, what has happened is that their greatest efforts are placed into the task of community policing and being proactive. In my estimation, it is a double-edged sword. There have to be other quantifying factors taken into account to determine how busy a detachment is. I would just make that point to the Minister.
I appreciate him bringing this up with Inspector Henderson. I am not going to try to nail him down about this today. I made the representation to him about secretarial support, and I have made it before. We are appreciative of the officer in Faro. We think that the officer should have been there a while ago. Nonetheless, I am the first person to stand up in public and say that I think it was a good decision. However, I would just say to the Minister that I feel it is needed in the community, and I am cautious about the process of determining how effective or how busy a detachment is simply based on caseload. I think there are other quantifying factors that have to be taken into account.
Let me ask the Minister another question. What kind of a commitment does he think he can make to me regarding the 1992 population in Faro? At that population level, there was a four-officer detachment with full secretarial support. Does he foresee that when we hit levels of population that coincide with the 1992 levels, we will return to the kind of clerically supported operation that we had before - one that the other, larger communities like Watson Lake and Dawson City have?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, I cannot give the Member a commitment that we will return to those levels. I say that because I do not think any government in Canada can give a commitment that it will return to 1992 levels. It appears that those days are over with federal, provincial and territorial governments.
I can assure the Member that the government will look at recommendations of the crime prevention council, which will tour the territory and will be talking about crime and taking recommendations on preventing crime. By implementing initiatives in the future to prevent crime, we may possibly require fewer police in our communities as the level of crime drops. However, as for going back to 1992 levels, I cannot give the Member that assurance.
I know that the Whitehorse RCMP detachment will not be at 1992 levels after this year, and I believe they are looking at changes in administration and in other areas throughout the police force.
We have to be realistic in today's economic times throughout this whole country that those levels may not happen again. I will give the Member assurances that the government will work with the RCMP to provide adequate levels of policing and support staff for Faro and other communities. The police have a formula they use to provide that type of support staff, and I rely on them to make those types of administrative decisions. I will raise the concerns of the Member for Faro with Inspector Henderson, but I am not going to suggest that we should have the same number of officers and support staff in place there if the population is the same as in 1992.
There may be more efficient ways to deal with things in light of modern technology. Policing and community policing is done differently now than in the past. The government may be able to provide services in a different manner, and I do not want to close the door on those options. However, I will discuss the Member's representations with Inspector Henderson.
Mr. Harding: It is a difficult situation across the country. Perhaps, without getting into a debate, I could ask the Minister to bring back to me a comparison of all the incorporated communities in the Yukon, their population ranges and the staffing levels in the detachments in each of the incorporated communities.
The Minister is shaking his head. I do not think that is too much to ask. I would like to compare the statistics so I can see that the community I represent is getting its fair share of policing resources. I do not think I have to apologize for that.
I would like to see the numbers for 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and this year, 1996. I do not think it is too much work. All the numbers have to be there. I am sure it is just a matter of gathering the information. It would give me some indication about whether or not everyone is sharing the new fiscal realities equally. I know it is a consideration that the Minister would have been interested in if he were acting as a Member for Riverdale North and not the Minister. Can he do that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is interesting. One week ago, he got a new member, for whom the Member was crying, and now he is crying again.
I will put the Justice people to work to try and pull together the information for the Member. Some of these things take a lot of time and energy. I sometimes have to wonder if this is the most useful way for us to spend government money. We have to pull people away from other jobs to gather volumes of stuff that may never get used or dealt with again in the Legislature.
I told the Member that I would look into the staffing problems at Faro and deal with them in a serious manner. He asked me before about the third officer in Faro. I dealt with that in a serious manner. I told him that I would deal with this in a serious manner. It does not appear to be adequate for the Member, and that disappoints me. I will try to get the information, no matter how much effort it takes. We will do it, because the Member insists on having it.
Mr. Harding: There is no rush. The Minister and his department do not have to rush to get me this information, but rest assured, I will raise it again in the Legislature if we find that our community is not being treated fairly. Make no mistake about that.
The Minister said that that is perhaps not the best way to spend money. Well, he can use the new million dollar Docu-Tech machine to have the copying work done in a very efficient and quick manner, and that should undoubtedly speed up the ability for him to provide me with that information.
The questions I am asking here are important, and they are important to the community. I get a lot of representations about policing, and the Minister has been accommodating, I will say that, but I take issue with the Minister standing up and saying I am crying again. That really bothers me and it invites a response in kind. I am going to try to ignore that remark, but I am not always successful at doing that. Nonetheless, I will try. I understand the Minister is under a lot of pressure lately, I am sure, on this sixtieth day of this session, and I thank the Minister for his commitment to get me that information. He does not have to rush to get it to me, but I would like to monitor what is happening in the community of Faro with regard to policing resources in comparison to the other communities. I think that is a fair request and I thank the Minister for committing himself to return that information to me.
The reason I make that request is simply because the Minister said to me that we have to change, we may never go back to the 1992 levels, fiscal reality is here. I am just trying to ascertain that we are all sharing equally in the brunt of reductions, because I believe Faro is entitled to the same level of policing resources based on population and the workload as are other communities. I am not going to apologize for that as the Member for Faro.
In terms of the anniversaries program and the RCMP anniversary, can the Minister tell me what the budgeted and actual spending has been by the RCMP on these anniversaries? Is any part of the anniversaries budget coming out of the direct grant that the Yukon government pays the RCMP for policing services?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member, but my understanding is that they have done what has probably never been done before in this country. The RCMP has changed its policy on corporate sponsorship. For the most part, most of the RCMP activities surrounding the anniversaries are corporately sponsored. I know that Holland America and others are picking up the tab for the musical ride. I know that there are many other sponsors involved, such as Polaris, for the recent trip taken over the last week or two. So, for the most part, I do not think it has cost the taxpayers much, if anything.
I can tell the Member that the public relations that the Yukon and the RCMP are getting out of it is worth hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Yukon. The coverage we have gotten on the Polaris trip - I understand it will be shown on Canada AM, and some other initiatives are also happening - is great for the public relations of the Yukon and will gain far more than what it is costing us in those kinds of initiatives.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that. What some people have said to me is that they understand there will be some tourism benefits that, it is hoped, will go toward increasing the tax base for Yukoners and allow us to be more self-sustaining. However, the mandate of the RCMP should essentially be policing services. If there are needs, the priorities have to be weighed.
The Minister has said that the RCMP has moved to corporate sponsorships. I would appreciate it if he would come back - and he said he would - with the information about what portion of the RCMP budgets are being spent on the anniversaries. If he would like, and there are estimates of what return it might be for the RCMP financially, then I would invite him to provide me with that information as well, because I would be interested in seeing that.
Those are essentially the Faro policing services issues I wanted to raise with the Minister, and I look forward to receiving the information I requested. I promise him that he need not worry that this issue will not be raised again. He should know by now that I will bring up issues if I find the community is not receiving proper services. I appreciate and will use any information I receive.
Another issue that I would like to raise with the Minister is a case that involved one of my constituents and about which I sent the Minister a letter. Perhaps he does not want to get into the details on the floor of the Legislature with me, but I would like to address this as a policy issue.
I have some constituents - the Wagantalls - who have lived in Faro and Ross River for over 20 years now. They had a problem with a person who borrowed some of their equipment. There was no payment for the use of this equipment. A civil action was taken by the Wagantalls against this citizen of Ross River, and they were successful. I believe that was in May 1994. I do not have the actual dates in front of me.
The action came down in early spring of 1994. When very little payment was received - somewhere around $1,800 of the $10,000 they were owed - they requested their lawyer to file a writ for seizure and sale. That writ was received by the sheriff's office in late June of that year, but no action was taken to seize and sell until February of the following year - a very long period of time.
During that period of time, the people who owed the money - as determined by the court - left the Yukon. It is the position of my constituents, and I am sure the Minister would agree, that June of one year to February of the next is a very long time to work on a writ that was delivered to the department in June.
This is causing much frustration, because my constituents have been left with a very large legal bill for this civil action, but there has been no action on the writ of seizure and sale. All in all, they have had an extremely frustrating experience.
I would be interested, without going into the details - I would welcome it if the Minister wants to go into the details - in his thoughts from a policy perspective about this particular case. The letter should have been in the department for about two weeks, so it is hoped that he has had a briefing on it.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I have not received a response from it yet, but from a policy issue perspective, my view is that these things should be dealt with as quickly as they possibly can. The sheriff's office does not just deal with one case, it deals with many cases and it deals with other issues, such as jury trials. I will check into the details for the Member and try to get back to the Member, if not tonight, some time tomorrow with the details of the case.
I prefer not to discuss any particular individual's case on the floor of the House. I will discuss principles of the issues with the Member, but I prefer to keep discussions of the case between the Member and me.
Mr. Harding: I am not entirely opposed to that. I wanted to raise it with the Minister just so that it gets the proper personal attention from the Minister that it deserves. I am not suggesting that the sheriff's department does not do anything; I realize that they are busy. The Minister can certainly appreciate the point that I have made, and that is that it seems like it takes a very long time, and when there is knowledge that someone may be leaving the territory, quicker action would have resulted in my constituents obtaining the value that the court determined they were owed.
He can look into that; I will await a response. I would like to see some recourse. My constituents need to know what recourse there is. They are frustrated and do not know where to go. They have received some quite bizarre answers in their research about how they can proceed, and - without stretching it - bizarre answers about how they should try to collect the money from the people who are down south.
I would like to know if there is any recourse against the department for not acting quicker or, if that is not possible, how they could obtain some advice about how to proceed without costing a lot of time and money, which they have already spent.
I have another question for the Minister about the unpaid wages for former Curragh employees, many of whom are my constituents. The Minister raised this issue in his introductory speech, and I would like to ask the Minister about the status of this issue and when he expects my constituents will receive their pay?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is something that we have been following very closely. It is my understanding that the pay out will probably take place some time in May. Due to the court process and everything that must take place - through the mill, so to speak - to be safe, people should be receiving a cheque some time in May. This is just in time for fishing season, when the lakes are opening up and people can enjoy a bit of the summer.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Minister for that answer. We had been looking at April, but I can understand the delays. I think most people are happy that the pay out is coming and that the work of the staff at the labour services branch has been solid and helpful in recovering those wages. The decision of the Cabinet to pay out the monies earlier than the court process is one that I welcome and appreciate.
So we will stay tuned. I hope that the Minister is right and that it will come just in time for when the river goes out so that people can go bear hunting or fishing or whatever.
Ms. Commodore: I just have some follow-up about the Minister's explanation on the budget and then I will get on to other things.
The Minister has just spoken about a crime committee that will be visiting every community in the Yukon to discuss crime, its causes and possible community-based solutions that will make our communities safer places to live in the future. Who is on that committee?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I hope I do not miss anyone here. Included are Linda Biensch, Robert Cole, Ron Bird, Charles Stewart, Sandy Gleason, Al O'Donnell and Johnathan Parker. Some of them are officials. Bob Cole and Johnathan Parker are officials, Al O'Donnell is from the RCMP, Sandy Gleason is with Crime Prevention Canada - the Canadian Crime Prevention Council - and Linda Biensch is, I believe, involved in the new community crime group that she started up and also with the Block Parents Association. Ron Bird is, I believe, a criminologist at Yukon College - or perhaps it is Charles Stewart.
I can clarify that for the Member, but I am just reading from the list I have here, which is where they are going to be and in which community. It does not say what their actual positions are, but all these people have been involved in community crime prevention initiatives in the Yukon for quite some time.
Ms. Commodore: Did the Minister just read that list a short time ago? I heard him mention some of those same names. Was it in relation to the same committee? I should have been listening, but I was reading other things.
As he stated in his budget speech, the visits will be completed and a report produced by June or July. Can I ask the Minister what he is going to do with the report? Will it be available to everyone? I would also like to ask him what the estimated cost of the group is going to be?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member with the costs. What I would like to see come out of it is a body of recommendations that we could implement. I do not have a real problem with it being eventually made public. It will be something that I will receive, because it is a committee that we have struck in the Department of Justice. It will be an action plan for us to look at the various communities to see how we can work with them in implementing some of their concerns. Some of it will depend on whether there is new money available. Some of it will depend on what programs, upon recommendation of the communities, we are going to discontinue or maybe redirect into another area. It all depends on what we hear from the communities about what works, what does not work, and what we should and should not do, and that kind of thing.
I did send over to the Member the list of community consultation communities. I hope the Member has it on her desk. I sent it over a few moments ago. If the Member does not have it, I do have another one, which I will send over right now.
Basically, they are starting out on April 19 from Haines Junction, and will finish the last one in Riverdale on May 30. For the Member's information, the last two pages of the document lay out who will be in what community and the dates they will be available.
Ms. Commodore: The former Minister was always talking about doing more for less, but most people are saying he is doing less for more. I have never said that; I am just repeating.
I remember when the Department of Health and Social Services held a press conference with regard to the Keeping Kids Safe project that was mentioned at that time, and the new initiatives used to monitor sex offenders, and everything else. They were not going to cost any money, because there was no new money for it. Is that the message that is going out with this committee in its travels throughout the community - that there is no new money available? As I said, the former Minister was always talking about doing more for less.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is certainly part of the message that we will take out to the communities. We are not going to necessarily just throw money at the problem to solve it. We want some innovative solutions from the communities, prioritizing the initiatives there now and making best use of the dollars we have and not duplicating programs. We want to sit down with the communities, talk to the communities, get suggestions from them, and we hope it will not cost us any more money, but that remains to be seen. I would like to see some good strong recommendations that would make a difference, but I do not always believe that if it costs a lot it is better. Our education system is a good example of that. Our education system in the Yukon is the most expensive education system in the country, other than the Northwest Territories', yet our students do not score the highest of all students in the country. So it does not depend on how much money is spent per child; it sometimes depends on how the money is spent.
I do not want to judge our success in the justice field by the amount of money we spend compared to other jurisdictions.
Ms. Commodore: I know most of the people on the committee who will be visiting the communities. They are certainly well qualified to conduct the tour, but I noticed, and I could be wrong, that there is only one aboriginal person on the committee.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe that is true. I do not know all of the individuals, but the plan is to go into the communities and work in liaison with the community justice workers in each community.
For example, when the committee visits Ross River, those people will be involved with the community justice initiative and work with them. The government is going to utilize the resources in the communities, and many of those resource people are aboriginal people.
I have not heard any complaints from anyone about the justice committee. I think the idea is that we want the people to go out to the community. The representation on the committee is well respected and well qualified to come back and write sound recommendations that the government can consider when it finishes its report.
Ms. Commodore: I am not criticizing; I am making an observation. I am making that observation because I know how communities react to people who go into the communities to meet with them. I have been here for a long time. I have been to a lot of communities and I know what people say. I was just making that observation. I have already indicated that the people I know are well qualified.
Can I ask the Minister if this committee will be taking information with them? When one goes into a community to talk about crime, what is the format? What will they be doing when they get there? Will they be having evening meetings? Will they be having individual meetings with people who might want to come to see them? I know that sometimes one gets different people out. For instance, if one meets with a First Nations group one time, and on the same day, but a different time, one meets with another group, one gets a different perspective of what people want to talk about. I just want to know what the meetings are going to be like.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it will be a similar presentation in each community, but I will bring back the format for the Member. I know that they have been working on that. They did discuss the format with some communities already in order to make the community would feel more comfortable with them coming.
As you can see, we are not sending the whole committee to each community. We are breaking up the committee into two subcommittees. They will be travelling sometimes simultaneously to different areas of the territory. The partial reason for that is that some people were not available to do the whole tour. The other reason is that we figure we can cover the whole Yukon.
It is sometimes a bit imposing on a community to have six or seven people come in, rather than just having good dialogue with two or three people. The idea here is it is going to be more of a community-oriented, friendly type of committee, which will be able to have a wider variety of discussions with people in the communities.
Ms. Commodore: A lot of years ago, when we were talking about the implementation of the Young Offenders Act - and we actually got a really good response in a lot of the communities - the department made a presentation to individuals at the meeting to give them an idea of the kind of things we were looking at. Will this committee be doing the same thing? The Minister said he would provide me with information about this. I would like it to be a success, and I am sure everybody who cares about reducing crime wants it to be a success. I am sure a lot of thought has gone into the consultation process.
Does the Minister know if there is an introduction of any kind planned prior to getting input from people in the communities?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can tell the Member that the committee is extremely concerned about how it makes its presentation. I know it has done a mock run-through with the criminology class at Yukon College. It said to the class, "Here is how we want to present it; what do you think?" and received some really good recommendations on what and what not to do. So it has changed its format somewhat so it is now more geared to the communities. There were people from various communities in that criminology class. The committee asked, "If we went into the communities, how would you feel about this?"
The people on this committee are very, very sincere and will work very hard to produce a good report. They are taking this very seriously, as I pointed out to the Member.
Chair: The time being 5:30 p.m., we will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are dealing with Bill No. 3. Is there further general debate on the Department of Justice?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Earlier this afternoon, the Member asked me some questions about Matthew Thom, who held a justice worker position in Teslin. I am advised that the contract ended over two years ago as a result of the First Nation's wish to pursue justice projects that better reflected their needs and concerns with respect to the administration of justice, and since that time there have been ongoing discussions and various possible justice projects with the Teslin Tlingit First Nation, but no proposal has come forward that involves community-wide support for joint justice delivery.
Ms. Commodore: Has the government received proposals for programs specifically for the Teslin Tlingit Council?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We did receive a document that the federal government and the Teslin First Nation were discussing. It is the only document I have seen. It was regarding clan courts, I believe.
Ms. Commodore: Has the department had any meetings with Teslin Tlingit officials?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I believe we have met a couple of times. Mr. Cole has met with Mr. Keenan a couple of times on this issue.
Ms. Commodore: What was the response to that request? Was the council told that the federal government is responsible for those kinds of programs?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The agreement we were presented with was one that the federal government and the Teslin Tlingit had worked on together, and then brought to us to sign. We had some concerns with the amount of money provided in the project, and we did not sign. The way the agreement is written, the federal government and the Teslin Tlingit can do this on their own if they wish. We have not heard from them for several weeks now.
Ms. Commodore: If the Teslin Tlingit and the federal government could sign an agreement on their own, why were they seeking the support of the territorial government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: At the time, the government could not come to agreement over the amount of money that should be paid, and there was a dispute because of this.
The government agreed to contribute a certain amount of money to the project, but the year was almost over. I believe the Teslin Tlinglits wanted the full amount of money for the full year, but the government was not prepared to pay for a service that it was not receiving. It was March and the government indicated that it was prepared to pay one-twelfth of the year's payment. The government expressed its views and we have not heard from the Teslin Tlinglits since that time. I believe the amount was $45,000 - that was the figure that was shown for the full year - and the government was willing to pay one-twelfth of that amount, because it was the 10th of March when the agreement came about and there had not been any services provided for the preceding 11 months; therefore, the government did not think it should be paying for services that were not provided.
Ms. Commodore: I am not familiar with the program that the Member was talking about, but I wonder if that was an example of the kinds of things I was hearing in regard to concerns that First Nations people have.
The Minister has indicated that he was willing to look at the possibility of funding the program for the rest of this fiscal year. I think that is what he was saying. Was there any decision to continue this funding after the fiscal year, or at the beginning of this fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Just so that I can explain to the Member opposite, there was money in the budget last year for this project to go ahead, but negotiations got stalled and nothing happened with the project. Finally, some kind of an agreement was reached in March. There was money in the budget, and because there was money in the budget, the Teslin First Nation felt that it should be given that money - the whole $45,000, I believe. We said no. Like other budget items, if we do not embark on programs or build buildings, we do not spend all the money for the whole program if the program only starts halfway through the year. We only use half of the money - we lapse the other half. That is what we normally do. So, we said that, beginning in March this year, we would give them one-twelfth of the money and would work on the following year. There is money in the budget this year for the program. Talks broke off at that point and we have not heard back - at least, I am not aware that we have heard back from Mr. Keenan - since, I guess, a couple of weeks ago, or early March.
Ms. Commodore: I think the Minister indicated that the federal government was somehow involved. Had the federal government offered any kind of funding for that program, in addition to what was being requested from this government?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, my understanding is that the federal government had offered $75,000 for the program.
Ms. Commodore: Does he have any idea about what is going to happen to that program now? Was there an understanding that the federal government would pay that amount if the territorial government paid the other half? Sometimes that request is made and they will not fund it unless the territorial government does.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I read the agreement and the way it was drafted, the federal government and the First Nation could go it alone. The board would be comprised, I think, of three First Nations and three federal appointees.
If the Yukon territorial government became involved, I think it would be two, two and two. It would still be made up of six members. I may be wrong about those numbers, but that is what happened. It was worded in such a way that if the federal government gets into this program, the makeup of the board will change.
This was a steering committee that was set up to oversee the clan court. Most of this was negotiated with the federal government and the Teslin First Nation and then brought to us after it was all negotiated. We sort of saw it after the fact. At that time we said, "Well, we are not prepared to commit our whole $45,000 for the last year, because there is only one month left in this year, but we are prepared to look at it for future years." As I have said, we have not heard back from the Teslin First Nation since that day.
Ms. Commodore: This sounds very similar to what we have been hearing from First Nations about consultation, where they do not hear about things until after the fact. For instance, when an act is drafted and sent over to the CYI for consultation, it does not see it until after the fact. I can understand what the Member is saying, as that is a complaint that we hear from them all the time.
I mentioned to the Minister that I had, in debate with the former Minister of Justice, a discussion about community-based justice. He mentioned that if an aboriginal community did not have the support of the rest of the community, it would not be funded by this government.
I would like to send a copy of the debate that day, in which Mr. Phelps talks about community-based justice. I was talking about juvenile justice, because that is what he is responsible for. I would like the Minister to go over it and draw his own conclusions. It appears that he felt that First Nations had to be more informed about where this government was going in regard to community-based justice, and how it applies to communities as a whole and not specifically to First Nations.
There is a bit of confusion because First Nations seem to get different ideas about community-based justice, because some of them feel that there is no provision for a program such as the Minister has just indicated he would consider supporting. We have a bit of a conflict here, and I do not know how we pass on the information to First Nations.
The Minister is reading, so I do not know if he heard much of what I was saying. I just want to let him know that there is a problem out there and, somehow or other, it has to be dealt with.
I was going over the Minister's explanation about his department's budget. He mentioned in his speech that a condition report on the facility - we are talking about the Whitehorse Correctional Facility - was recently completed, and that it recommended improvements to deal with some of the immediate health and safety issues, and that department officials, who are currently working to identify costs of various options, are responding to the report's long-term recommendations. I wonder if the Minister might tell me what some of those health and safety issues were?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Some of the health and safety issues were emergency procedures, and the ability to get inmates out of the institution if a fire happened, potential loss of life in case of fire, technical upgrades and that kind of thing. I mentioned to the Member earlier that we changed the telephone system so that, even if the power went out everywhere, there would still be a telephone system within the facility. One of the things that we have done recently is to change the locks on the doors, so that somebody in the main office can hit a button and all of the doors will unlock. Before, if there was a fire, someone had to run through with a key and unlock every door. If there happened to be a lot of smoke, there could be a potential loss of life if the doors could not be opened. This is a system in which a button is pressed, all the doors open, and everyone is free to get out in a hurry. Those are the kind of things that were looked at. They were mainly life safety considerations - technical upgrades to meet corrections standards and that kind of thing.
Ms. Commodore: That was the safety part of it; what about the health part?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can get back to the Member, but I remember that, in a briefing I had, there was talk about ventilation systems. Due to the fact that we had added on so much to some of our old schools, the initial system that was installed for the building was not doing the job. I think they built better ventilation systems or remodeled them somehow to provide air to other areas of the building.
Ms. Commodore: If I may, I would like to introduce to the House a long-time constituent of mine, who is sitting in the gallery, watching how we operate at night. His name is Phillip Cunningham. He is with his two children.
I asked the Minister about the victim fine surcharge. He has talked about how the money supports community initiatives. I asked him what some of those initiatives were, and I cannot remember whether or not he gave me a list of them.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: If the Member will give me a moment, I can provide her with a list of those initiatives.
Ms. Commodore: The last question I have regarding his budget explanation was about the office of the ombudsperson. The Minister has indicated that this office is not expected to form part of the budget in the Department of Justice. The Minister also said that he did not know of any money budgeted anywhere for this program. I am wondering when the Minister expects - if the bill is passed in this House, assented to and proclaimed - that office would be in operation?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not really the Minister to be answering that question; it should be the Government Leader. I would hope that there would be an office established within this next fiscal year. The bill has not passed the House yet, so it is a little bit premature to predict whether or not that will happen. If it does, I imagine that the search will go out fairly shortly. There is discussion about the ombudsman being selected by two-thirds of the majority of the House, so we would probably be called back into session for a short period of time, if the selection were to take place between sessions, and we would deal with the selection of the ombudsperson.
Ms. Commodore: There must have been a lot of money put into the planning of an ombudsperson act. Does the Minister have an estimate of how much he thinks this program will cost?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to defer that question, because the Government Leader is leading this from the Executive Council Office. As I said in my opening speech, the money is not in the Department of Justice budget, so that information can be provided by the Government Leader.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister mentioned it in his budget speech. If he was not aware of the program, nor of what it would do, why was it in his speech?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In some jurisdictions, it is in the Department of Justice. In this particular case, I was trying to provide as much information to Members on the side opposite as possible in the briefing and the preamble I gave leading into the budget speech. I wanted to make clear to the Members the status of the ombudsman so that they would have that information.
Mrs. Firth: I have a few questions for the Minister now. I will save the rest of them for the line-by-line debate.
With respect to the Justice flyer sent out - a publication of the Yukon Party caucus - did the Department of Justice have anything to do with preparing this flyer?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, it did not.
Mrs. Firth: Who prepared the flyer?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My executive assistant did some work on it. I do not know who else worked on it. Most of the information provided in the flyer is taken from press releases issued during the last few months.
Mrs. Firth: Did the Minister's executive assistant verify the information with the Department of Justice? Is it factual or just produced by the political arm of government? Did the executive assistant check with the Department of Justice to verify the accuracy of the information?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Everything my executive assistant does is factual, and I am sure that all of the information provided there is factual. Since the newsletter went out, the Deputy Minister of Justice said that department staff looked at it and made comments on it, such as "looks okay". However, it was certainly not something that we sought the Department of Justice's approval on. It was something that came out of the legislative staff.
Mrs. Firth: So, it is simply a political publication, and that is what I wanted to find out. The Minister says that it is a factual, political publication. I guess that remains for the public to interpret. I have had some other interpretations made and, no doubt, the public will have an opportunity to voice its concerns at election time.
I want to ask the Minister some questions about the break-ins at the Justice building. I understand that it was broken into at least four times. Was it only cash that was stolen, or were there any records or documents stolen?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that, in most cases, it was a minimal amount of cash. In one case, I believe a VCR was stolen from, I think, the jury room.
Mrs. Firth: Are the Justice officials aware of who the person is? Has the person who has been committing the offences been caught?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure if they have been convicted or not, but the individual who has been charged with the crime was observed coming in early, at five o'clock in the morning. There was surveillance put on the building. The police were called in and the individual was found hiding under someone's desk and was apprehended. I think that it was the third or fourth time. I believe the individual has been charged with the other three break-ins as well. I would want to check that, but I understand that they have been charged for all of the break-ins that occurred.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister report to us when this issue will be finalized and when we will know if the individual will appear before the court and it will become public?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand it is within the next few days.
Mrs. Firth: Since that time, since the break-ins started, there has been a security system installed in the Justice building. Can the Minister tell us if that security system is a security system for the whole building, including the law courts and the offices? Is it a security system for the total facility?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The new security system covers the entire building.
Mrs. Firth: Could the Minister tell us what the nature of the security system is? What kind of security system is it and how much did it cost?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can probably get the cost for the Member, but it is the security system for the building and I would rather not say exactly what the security is in the building. I can get that information, and I can tell the Member privately, if she wishes, but I do not want to let everyone know exactly what it is. It is some kind of an alarm system that is set off in the building, but I do not want to get into much more detail about how it operates.
Mrs. Firth: I do not want him to give me the combinations to the building or anything. Is it a camera system? He said that the person was apprehended because of surveillance. Was the surveillance in the form of a camera - is there a big dog, as the Leader of the Official Opposition says - a full-time watchman, or is it some kind of mechanical system?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: In this case, there was a security guard there specifically to watch for an intruder. The intruder arrived, the RCMP were called and they intercepted the person.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait for the Minister to bring back the cost of the system and see what happens in the next few days in the courts with the person who has been charged.
I would like to ask the Minister another question about the deputy minister position. The department has been without a deputy minister for about two months now - there has been an acting deputy minister. I would like to ask the Minister when he anticipates that a new deputy minister will be appointed.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The answer to the question about the cost of the security system is about $8,000.
The new deputy minister will be announced on Wednesday.
Mrs. Firth: That will be interesting. Is it a local person?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: On Wednesday I will announce the person's name.
Mrs. Firth: I would like to ask the Minister who hired the new deputy minister.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It was the Government Leader, the head of the Public Service Commission, Ms. Cumming, and I.
Mrs. Firth: Were there a lot of applications for this position? How many applications were there and how many people were short listed and interviewed?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: There were quite a few. I can get the number for the Member. I believe there were over 100. I think five were short listed and interviewed, but I will get that number for the Member.
Mrs. Firth: How many of the 100 applicants were local?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to get back to the Member.
Mrs. Firth: I will wait for the Minister to bring back the information.
I want to ask the Minister some questions about lawsuits. I asked questions of the Government Leader and the Minister in the House. I would like to ask the Minister specifically about the Taga Ku appeal. Could the Minister tell us who made the decision to appeal the Taga Ku lawsuit?
I would ask the Minister to answer that question first, and then I have some further questions.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: After the first decision was rendered, we met with the lawyers. The final decision to appeal Taga Ku was made by Cabinet.
Mrs. Firth: When Cabinet made the decision, did it make it just based on the information and advice that was presented to it by the lawyer representing the government during the lawsuit?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: We based it on the information presented at the lawsuit and the judge's decision. It was based upon the ability to win the appeal. The recommendation we received was to appeal and we chose that route.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell us how much money Cabinet has agreed to spend on the appeal? It has already spent close to $150,000 on the first go-around. How much more is it prepared to spend?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It is estimated that the next appeal will cost us around $35,000. We do not expect that it will go beyond that.
Mrs. Firth: When does the Minister anticipate that it will go before the courts? When is this appeal going to take place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I understand that it is in May of this year.
Mrs. Firth: That will be next month, then.
With respect to the other outstanding lawsuits, I asked the Minister for process. He was supposed to bring back some information with respect to what the process was. When the government is sued, and they are notified that they are being sued, what is the first thing that happens? What is the process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I asked the department to bring me back a written response to that. I can tell the Member that if someone is going to sue the Government of the Yukon, the first thing we do is have our lawyers look at it. If it is a lawsuit we feel that we will not win, we try and negotiate. If it is one we feel that we can win, then we go to court and present our case and hope the judge will rule in our favour.
Mrs. Firth: Can the Minister tell me when I am going to get this written process back? Will I have it for these budget debates in Justice?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would like to have it very shortly. I have the department working on it.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, the 17 or so lawsuits on the list that was given to me are all cases that the government has anticipated that it could win. Does the Minister have an idea of how many lawsuits were negotiated out of court?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No. I would have to get that information for the Member. In many of these cases that are before the court now - 19 out of the 25 or so - the action started before we came to power. The actual filing of the court case happened after we were in power. I know that one in particular was reaching its statute of limitations and was filed on the last day. Others have been filed since then. However, many of them are the result of incidents that happened quite some time ago. There were probably attempts at negotiations and discussions that went on for many months before people filed these lawsuits. We try to resolve as many as we can out of court, because it is in the best interest of everybody to do that. However, it sometimes gets to the point where one party or the other decides that the only way to settle it is to go to court, and that is where we end up.
Mrs. Firth: I think it is irrelevant to the taxpayer when the suits were launched and what government was in power. The relevant fact is that there are some 20 lawsuits, with 17 against the government. Of those, there were 13 or 14 since this government has been in power. I can appreciate the point that a lawsuit may not have been filed until some time after the event; however, the outstanding issue is that there are a tremendous number of lawsuits that I think still have to be settled - many with high price tags.
I would like to ask the Minister how much money is identified in his budget this year to defend lawsuits.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Approximately $600,000 has been allocated in the budget this year. The difficulty that we have is that the government does not have a lot of choice about which ones it gets into. For instance, "the Magic and Mystery" lawsuit is one that has been going on for quite some time, and it is quite a bizarre case, to say the least. The department has a responsibility, on behalf of the Yukon government, to protect the taxpayers when a lawsuit such as that is filed, and which the government believes is frivolous. If a plaintiff goes to the extent of taking this issue to court, the only way the government can defend it is to stand up in court and argue against it, and that does cost money. To cave in and pay a person hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars that this person is frivolously claiming would be a foolish thing for the government to do.
Mrs. Firth: I do not recall advocating that the government cave in on anything. I am simply trying to get some factual information from the government.
What exactly is the $600,000 for?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is for the hiring of outside counsel.
Mrs. Firth: By outside counsel, does the Minister mean outside of the counsel we presently have within YTG? The Minister is nodding his head yes.
How are decisions made with respect to hiring outside counsel? There are many lawyers within the Department of Justice. How does the department decide who is going to handle a case - the in-house lawyers or outside counsel? How does it decide if it will be local outside counsel or counsel from outside of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: It depends upon a lot of things. There could be issues of conflict. There have been cases where we wanted to go with outside counsel because we did not have the expertise within government. We wanted to go with local outside counsel, but we found that because there was a big problem with this particular project, almost every legal firm in Whitehorse had a conflict so we could not use them. There are all kinds of reasons to use outside counsel.
In the case of Taga Ku, when we go to the B.C. Court of Appeal it is wise to get a good appeals court lawyer to deal with it. There is a lot at stake, and it is important to have the very best one can to defend one's position.
Mrs. Firth: The Minister said they were only going to spend $35,000 for the Taga Ku appeal. What will we get for $35,000 - a lawyer for five minutes - if we are getting the best appeals court lawyer? It sounds to me like it would cost us considerably more to get the very best lawyer to handle that case.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is in this fiscal year. That lawyer worked for us over the past few months. We just had a ruling in our favour with respect to the Taga Ku. A lot of the background work has been done for the appeal, and we feel that it will cost us about $35,000 to get to the B. C. Court of Appeal.
Mrs. Firth: Is that just the fee, or is it the disbursements as well?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would assume that that is what the estimated legal costs, including disbursements, would be until the appeal of the Taga Ku project was complete.
Mrs. Firth: Obviously, if it is the same lawyer who worked on the original, that would be Mr. Bruce Willis from the law firm of Preston Willis - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Bruce Willis is assisting an appeal court lawyer from Vancouver. I will get the name of the lawyer, and I can probably get it very shortly. It is a fairly senior lawyer in a large firm in Vancouver, who does this all the time. Mr. Willis is working very closely with that particular lawyer on the appeal.
Mrs. Firth: Let me just get this straight. In the contract book, there were two contracts for Mr. Willis. I think it was for a total of approximately $132,000. Is that in addition to the lawyer from Vancouver? Is there still another fee for the lawyer in Vancouver that we do not know about yet? Or, is the one from Vancouver going to get the $35,000 fee?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get back to the Member on the breakdown of the two. I do not want to give her information that might not be correct. So, I will get the information - I do not have it here in front of me. I will find out what it cost us for Mr. Willis before,, and what it is going to cost us to complete the appeal.
Mrs. Firth: I have the contract book with Mr. Willis' contracts in it. There are two of them there. I just want to know if there is an additional contract for the Vancouver lawyer, as well as the one for Willis. If there is not, then one could draw the conclusion that this $35,000 is to cover that. However, if Mr. Willis has been working with the Vancouver lawyer, either we are paying the costs or Mr. Willis' firm is assuming the costs. I am just trying to get the breakdown of how much it is costing. If the Minister is going to bring that information back for me, then it might be a little clearer for us.
Is the written information that the Minister is going to bring back with respect to the process going to include information about how the legal services are contracted - whether or not they decide to get a lawyer from government or go outside for expertise? Will all that be included in the process?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can provide a broad policy statement on why we choose lawyers from outside of government. I have sort of given that reason tonight. I can provide something a bit more detailed in writing than I have given on my feet about why we choose lawyers, other than the ones we have hired in our department.
Mrs. Firth: I want something a bit more specific than broad policy statements. I want to know who is accountable. I want to know who makes the decision and what it is based on. I want to know if there is flexibility within the department for the present lawyers to decide whether they are going to go outside government or outside of the Yukon to get lawyers and where they get recommendations from about whom to hire.
If we are spending this money - the Minister is ultimately accountable in the Legislature - I want to know who has the ability to make those decisions. They can be very critical decisions.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring that information back for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I have a question with regard to the liabilities. I ask this on behalf of someone who asked me to ask the Minister about something. It is with regard to the $70 million of contingent liability for lawsuits outstanding against the government. I want to know if the Minister could provide a list of the individual contingent liabilities that make up the $70 million total - that is, the names of individuals or companies - and the amounts of these contingent liability for each of the individuals or companies. Can the Minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I did provide an outline of the ballpark figures.
All of the cases are before the courts, and I should not really be commenting on our strategy in the cases, because it jeopardizes our position and what we feel the liability may be. It is sort of showing one's cards, and I am sure the Member wants to make sure that she protects the public purse as well as we do. I am sure the previous government did not make those kinds of announcements about the kind of contingency it put away for legal cases.
I will get back to the Member with the information I can disclose to her without jeopardizing our particular case.
Ms. Commodore: I was just wondering when the Minister was going to start saying that it is before the courts and he could not comment, because he did give us an awful lot of information.
The Member for Riverdale South said that she had received a list of the amount of money that is owing. I am not sure if that is exactly what I was asking for, but if he could provide me with a breakdown - and it may very well be what the Member for Riverdale South has - I would appreciate it.
I will let the individual who wanted me to ask the question know what the Minister's response was.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I thought it was in a legislative return, but it might have been a letter that I sent to the Member. If it was, I will pull it out and send a copy to the other Members on the other side as well.
Mrs. Firth: It was in the form of a response to a request I had made about outstanding lawsuits. It included all of the businesses, individuals or companies that are suing the government and all of the lawsuits that the government is following up on. I think there were only a couple that the government is following up on. The total amount was for $17 million of outstanding lawsuits. The Government Leader has already indicated to us that there has been no money identified in this budget to cover any of the $17 million.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe some of those particular cases are covered by some type of liability insurance, but not all of them. Other than that, I do not think the government has ever set a contingency aside for that kind of thing. We feel we will win most of these cases, and that is why we are arguing our point, but in cases where someone is suing us, it is a little different matter. For instance, in "the Magic and the Mystery" case, it was sort of a magic and a mystery where this one even came from. There was no way to put aside a contingency for that particular lawsuit. It was a surprise.
Mrs. Firth: This insurance aspect is interesting, because I remember the Government Leader saying that most cases are covered by insurance. What kind of liability insurance is the Minister talking about, and what cases would be covered by that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring back the answer to that question. In the document I gave to the Member, I believe it might have said in the column if it was covered by some sort of insurance. I have seen a document like that which is, and I think three, four or five of them have some kind of insurance coverage. I will get back to the Member on what the arrangements are and why there is insurance on some and not on others.
Mrs. Firth: Does the Minister mean that the government has liability insurance, or that the person suing has liability insurance? I am not quite clear who has the insurance that will to cover the lawsuit.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will bring that information back to the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I am going to follow up on some questions with regard to the publication of the Yukon Party caucus. The Member for Riverdale South already asked some of the questions I was going to.
I noticed that this is a publication of the Yukon Party caucus. There appears to be information in here regarding the Department of Justice. On the back it says that if one has any concerns with regard to the Department of Justice, one should contact the Minister of Justice. Inside there is a message from the Minister of Justice. Is it common for a ministerial report to be put out by a party caucus? I have not heard of it being done before.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think that is technically correct. I do not know why it would not be. I do not know whom I could suggest the Members contact, other than me, in the Department of Justice if there is a concern about justice issues.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The Member for Riverdale South says why do they not contact the department? Well, I am an MLA, and the Minister of Justice responsible for justice throughout the whole territory, and I do not think there is anything wrong with anyone at any time contacting me, which many people have since that publication has been distributed.
Ms. Commodore: I noticed that the Member for Laberge had his report out, but it was entitled an MLA report. That report contained a lot of information about what was happening in the House and it was really an MLA report, which is similar to the reports we all put out as MLAs.
This report is a ministerial report put out by the Yukon Party caucus, because it says, "a message from the Minister of Justice." At the end of the report it says if a person has problems to contact the Minister of Justice. It is not an MLA report. I wonder if it is going to become a habit of the Yukon Party caucus to put out other ministerial reports, because that is exactly what this report is.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not have any problem with our caucus, which has Ministers in it, putting out reports about areas that we have concerns about and placing my picture in that report as the Minister of Justice. I have no problem with that at all, and I do not see the problem.
Every time this government puts out a newsletter that has our logo on it, the side opposite is mad. If it has my picture in it they are mad. I just read one of the NDP's newsletters, and if you want to talk about a politically slanted newsletter, it mentions the nasty Liberals and the nasty Yukon Party. It is about as political as one could possibly get, and it was published with funds from their caucus.
The document that we sent out is a factual document that neither slanders anybody on the other side of the House nor make nasty remarks. It talks about positive things that are happening in Justice. Maybe the side opposite is so down and out on anything that happens to be positive that they just cannot deal with it.
Mr. Penikett: I have been in this House long enough to know that we do not expect much positive from the Member opposite. In fact, he is one of the chippier Members in the history of this House.
If I can make the point seriously, without getting into partisanship, the problem with having a piece of paper coming out that says, "from the Minister of Justice; please contact the Yukon Party caucus", is that there is no such thing as - and never was, in the parliamentary system - a Yukon Party Minister of Justice.
If the Minister were trained as a lawyer, or if he had studied the history of our governmental system, he would know that the one office in Cabinet in the British parliamentary system that is customarily supposed to be above partisanship has been that of the Minister of Justice. The idea is that the Minister of Justice is not the Minister of Justice for the Yukon Party; he is not there on behalf of the Yukon Party, nor to serve it. The Minister of Justice is supposed to serve, without fear or favour, without preference, without partisanship, all people of the territory.
It sends a confusing message to citizens to suggest that if they want to contact the government, the Minister of Justice, the ministry of Justice, to find out something about justice, law or the court system, they should contact the person responsible in their partisan capacity. To me, as a New Democrat, it sends a message.
I have had a long experience with this Minister. I do not believe this Minister is a fair and impartial individual. In all the years in this House, I have never seen anything that would lead me to believe that he is fair and just in all issues. He even sent a chippy letter to me about my poor ex-constituent, who is suing the government over "the Magic and the Mystery" question - whatever the justice of that person's case is, they deserve a civilized reply, not a chippy response from the Minister of Justice saying it must be my fault, because it happened when I was in government.
That is the kind of childish, adolescent response that should never come from a Cabinet Minister, and it should never, ever come from a Minister of Justice, who should be above that kind of chippiness and that kind of partisanship. In my view, it is quite all right for the Member in his capacity as the Yukon Party House Leader, or as the Member for Riverdale North, to speak as a partisan, as he often does here. However, the one time when I think he should not speak as a partisan is in his capacity as the Minister of Justice, and the Minister of Justice should not have a publication going out under the Yukon Party label.
Whatever the Member opposite thinks, I think the Minister of Justice will have been most admired and most respected by citizens when that person is speaking with absolute impartiality and absolutely with no hint of favour toward one political cause or another, one side of a dispute or another. That is why - and I say this with no personal malice toward the Member opposite - a number of us had a concern about his appointment as Minister of Justice. We did not think he had the judicious nature of being above the fray, and of being able to speak objectively and fairly about legal issues - justice issues - without turning every one of them into a partisan question, because I do not think that they should be. I am not really asking a question here. Having been provoked by the Minister, I am just making a comment.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Perhaps the Member opposite does not like me being the Minister of Justice. I never approved of him being the Leader of the New Democrat Party or being the leader of any party in the territory. He pretended to be the great parliamentarian of the territorty, and yet he broke every rule in the parliamentary books in the House. He insulted Table officers and officials that were here. He broke the rules at his whim and did whatever he wanted to hurt people who could not defend themselves. It is inexcusable and cowardly. The Member opposite took that approach in the House and was condemned by many, many people in this House.
Quite frankly, I do not care what the Leader of the Official Opposition thinks; I do not have a lot of respect for him either.
I do not think there is anything wrong with the newsletter or the way it went out; I will continue to send them out in the future.
Mr. Penikett: I would say only that what the Minister just said absolutely proves my point.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister has just indicated that he does not care how this has been sent out and that he is glad he did it. I do have some questions about it. I am not saying what he did was not right; I am sure his information came from somewhere. However, what we have here is a ministerial report, put out by the Yukon Party caucus. It talks about all the things that are happening in Justice. As the Minister of Justice, he has issued a report that should have been released through his department.
I wonder if his caucus intends to issue other ministerial reports from other ministries. Is that the intention of the party caucus?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not have a problem doing this in the future. I do not think there is anything wrong with it whatsoever. I think it is legitimate. Look at what is in the document; I think it is very informative for the general public. It is not slanted in any way. It is not saying, "Vote for us." It is informative. It talks about the community crime consultation that is going to take place throughout the territory. It informs people about the present programs and encourages them to get involved. It talks about our position on gun control and about amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act. It is an information piece for people, to let them know what has been going on. If one looks at it, it is done in a nature that is not political in any way, shape or form. It is just informative - "Auxiliary police program introduced in Whitehorse". It is telling people that there is now this program in Whitehorse. "Revised lottery licences" - that is information for all groups. Many people apply for lottery licences. It is an information piece. I do not think it is a negative piece in any way, shape or form, like the New Democrats' latest newsletter that slammed everyone in the world. This particular document is fairly neutral. I do not think it is extremely negative. I think it is informative, and I think we should continue it.
Ms. Commodore: I never said that. I am not standing here saying that this is a really bad report. I did not say that once. What I am questioning is the ability of the Yukon Party caucus to put out a ministerial report that I feel should be paid for by the Department of Justice - if it is going to be a ministerial report, which is exactly what this is. I never once said that it was slanted or that it should not be done in the manner in which it was done, except for the fact that it is a Yukon Party caucus publication, and he is the Minister of Justice for the whole Yukon. There are a lot of publications that go out from the Department of Justice, and other departments as well, indicating the kinds of programs that are available. I just feel that this should have been done through that department, rather than through the Yukon Party caucus.
The Minister talks about listing a whole bunch of programs in here. "Programs and initiatives have been developed as a result of ongoing consultation through the Department of Justice, the RCMP and the public." The Minister knows that a lot of these programs were already in existence prior to his party becoming the government. I think more than half of them are old ones. There are certainly some new ones being talked about. The one that keeps coming to my attention is in regard to the victim services and the family violence prevention unit. In their partisan mid-term report that was paid for by the taxpayers and should not have been, those two programs were included as new programs, but they are not new. They were in existence when we were in government. I would just like to make that point. I do not want him to include in his reports things that were started by the NDP government.
I just want to let him know that they were initiatives by the former government, because those are two very important things that they are taking credit for. A lot of things that are listed under the program initiatives are ongoing programs that were started years ago - and maybe some new ones. I think that the Member for Laberge issued his report and it was fairly partisan - that is fine. He did it as an MLA, not as a Minister. Although there is good information to be passed on to the Yukon, it really is a ministerial report.
Did the report go to everybody in the Yukon, or was it just in his riding?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: This was the same as the one done for Education. It went to everybody in the Yukon.
Chair: Is it the wish of the Members to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there further general debate on Justice?
Ms. Commodore: I would like to ask the Minister about the Correctional Centre. I meant to ask him a couple of questions before, but I forgot to.
Do they separate the sex offenders from the rest of the population at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I believe they do. I can get back to the Member on that kind of detail, but I believe there is some kind of a separation. When I toured the facility, I was taken into one wing and it was described to me to contain, for the most part, more violent sexual offenders.
Ms. Commodore: I ask this in regard to the health of those individuals. Are condoms issued to inmates?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I do not know. I can find that out.
Ms. Commodore: I know that they do it in a lot of jails outside the Yukon and I understand that it is a possibility here. I know that I have been asked by people who are concerned about health and about aids if that is done. I would like the Minister to bring back that information for me.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can do that.
Ms. Commodore: I have another question that I would like to ask the Member about his enduring power of attorney act. The Minister sprung this on us one day and introduced it in the House. I would like to ask the Minister if - I remember quite a few years ago we were discussing a guardianship act; is this act similar to what that act might have been?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I am not sure if it is or not. The enduring power of attorney act, as far as I understand, is for individuals who give their power of attorney to another individual in a situation where they become mentally incapacitated in some way and cannot deal with their affairs. That is what this act is intended to do. I am not familiar with the guardianship act, but this act is one where one could give power of attorney to a spouse, a friend, or someone in case something happened to one so that one was not longer able to one's own affairs in future.
Ms. Commodore: I understand what the act does, so the Minister did not have to explain it to me, because it is explained in the explanatory notes. We discussed a guardianship act for many years and it was never brought to the House by us, as a government.
Could the Minister find out if this replaces the guardianship act? He said he would. I wonder if he could bring back that information.
I have another question about this. The Minister said that he had sent out copies of the act, with an explanation note, to a number of groups and individuals. The letter was dated March 24. It asked for comments to be in by March 31. I wonder if the Minister could tell me what kind of a response he has received from those individuals. It is now past March 31.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I can bring back the information the Member wants about the guardianship act. I will try and do that tomorrow. I will also try and bring back, at the same time, my answers to responses we may have received. None of them have been brought to my attention to date, but they may go more directly to the Department of Justice than to me.
Ms. Commodore: I also asked the Minister if he had sent a copy of it to the Human Rights Commission. Has he done that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to check on that. I signed a lot of letters to First Nations bands and others. I would have to check, but I would think that a copy would have gone to the Human Rights Commission. I will double-check that.
Ms. Commodore: I would like the Minister to check on that. I did ask him for it one day last week. I did not expect an answer the next day or anything, but I would like to know.
I also mentioned before that it did not appear to be enough time for people to respond if they sought legal advice. It may be that they want to discuss it with other individuals in their groups - the organizations this has been sent to. Will the Minister consider giving those organizations more time to make comments and bring their concerns to the department? Will he do that if they want more time?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, I would consider more time. If possible, we would like to bring the bill in during this sitting. I think that we are probably going to be here another month or two, so I would think that there will be time, over the next four to six weeks, to hear back from individuals.
Ms. Commodore: I have some questions that I would like to ask the Minister about the Keep Kids Safe program. With a lot of fanfare, his department and the Department of Health and Social Services announced this program. At the time they announced it, they laid down their plan of action and talked about the kinds of things the program is going to do. One thing was keeping kids safe through the monitoring of sex offenders.
Can the Minister just bring me up to date on that? I do have some concerns in regard to the program. I am not criticizing keeping kids safe, because we all agree that that has to be done. However, my questions are in regard to the way it is being done. Can the Minister just give me a brief update on what is happening with his program?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will have to get back to the Member. My understanding is that there are teams put together to monitor sex offenders, but I would have to get back with more details. I certainly would not give out any names or anything like that, but perhaps the number of teams monitoring individuals and a bit of a status report on how it is working could be given.
It is very early in the stage of this program. I know it was raised at the spousal assault conference, and I know that the Member was there for most of it. It was raised there. I will try to get back to the Member with more up-to-date information on the program.
Ms. Commodore: The program says that in the communities, including Whitehorse, there is a plan to monitor sex offenders once they have been released from jail. I am curious how they are going to do that. For instance, in a hypothetical situation, one day a resident of Haines Junction gets released from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and goes home to Haines Junction. How does the committee work? If it starts monitoring the individual to keep the community safe, how extensive is that monitoring? Is it 24 hours a day? I know that they indicated that it was going to be done by volunteers, because there was no new money available. I am wondering how successful it is, because I know that most of the volunteers in the communities are already overworked, and if one volunteers for something, they are more likely to be involved in many other volunteer programs. Is this individual monitored night and day? How do they do that?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: My understanding is that there are five risk management teams in place for convicted offenders at the present time. Specific activities and objectives of the teams are to identify risk factors specific to the offender that lead to sexual offending; to assist community resources and the offender by identifying strategies to reduce the risk of re-offending; to develop strategies for monitoring behaviours and/or situations that may contribute to re-offence; to assist the offender in identifying counselling alternatives specific to risk factors that led to sexual offending; and to assist the offender in identifying support risk-management networks outside the risk management team; to provide in-service community education on the topic of child sexual offenders; to assist the non-offending parent in exploring and identifying counselling alternatives; and, to assist the community in identifying and monitoring known high-risk sexual offenders.
I can get back to the Member on how it is done on a 24-hour basis. In this particular program, family and others are involved, so I would imagine that, in some cases, part of the risk-management team would be members of the family who live with the sexual offender, who would be around the offender at certain times and know where the offender is, and the community would take responsibility for and work with the offender.
I can get back to the Member with more specifics of how it actually works.
Ms. Commodore: I am very interested in finding out how it works. I do not know how many sex offenders we have in the correctional centres right now or in correctional centres outside, and when they are scheduled to be released. I do not have that information. However, I know there are a number of sex offenders in custody right now, and some day they will be released. I applaud the people who are involved in trying to keep kids safe. It is a hard job, which is why I am interested in knowing how it works.
There has been a lot of talk about a sex offender treatment program for adults. For years, the department tried to put a program in place. It has done a lot of planning and gathered all kinds of information. As a result of the report, the government decided that sex offender treatment did not work, so the government was not going to proceed with it.
From watching Focus North, I do know there are individuals who do want treatment of some kind. From talking to individuals, I do know that there are sex offenders in the public right now, who are wanting some kind of treatment to help them deal with their problem. I am just wondering how the department is going to decide whether or not treatment is successful. According to Pat Kehoe, it is not. There is no evidence that sex offender treatment has been successful. I do not know what kind of evidence he was looking for. I have read a lot of articles about sex offender treatment, simply because I am interested in finding out whether or not it is going to happen in the Yukon. I am reading articles about other programs in other parts of Canada and the United States, and it seems that there are sex offender treatment programs in almost every jurisdiction except for the Yukon. I know that we have some programs for youth, and there are some programs within the family violence prevention unit to help with some kinds of violence and treatment, but it does not appear that we have a specific sex offender treatment program for adults. Is the department working on the assumption that no treatment is successful?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: No, not necessarily. In fact, although the priority is on keeping kids safe - the priority is on kids - there is some work in this program that is done with the offender. We do not just throw the offender out in the cold and protect the kids; we work with the offender.
What I was surprised by, when I spoke to Mr. Kehoe and others who are involved in this program, is that, although in the past we have had all kinds of programs in place for the sexual offender, there has been no way to calibrate the success rate of it. In many cases, sexual offenders re-offend within 10 years, and these are people who have been through programs. I think we sometimes get a false sense of security - I think Mr. Kehoe said this - when a judge sentences an individual who is a sexual offender and says, "You will take this certain course." Everybody then sort of figures that once the individual takes the course, they will no longer sexually offend; however, that has not proven to be the case.
People I have talked to in the field feel that the course does not necessarily work, so this is a compilation of comments from experts in the field, including Mr. Kehoe and others, who have said there has to be another way to make this work. That means working with the sexual offender, the families and people in the communities to develop a more child-centered program, and not throwing the sexual offender out into the cold. That person is part of the program. The monitoring takes place, and family-support people and other people in the community work with this individual to help him or her get through this. So, although it is not a program, so to speak, we all think that after a person takes a six-week course, the offender will come out and never do anything nasty any more. In this particular program, there is ongoing monitoring that might take place for years to come. Quite frankly, some of these people need that, because they do not have that control and they need that type of support from the community.
I think we should give this program an opportunity to see if it works; I am not totally convinced it will work either, but I am relying on the information from the experts, who, on a daily basis, encounter these people and deal with them. They are also the people who conduct the sexual offender programs and tell us they are not working. Surely, as politicians, we have to listen to those people, because they are the front-line people, the ones who are saying, "Let us do it differently".
I think that they have come up with a very good concept. They have gained a lot of support for this program in the communities, they have formed committees and I want to give the program a chance to see if it will work. I am not convinced that what we have been doing up to this point has worked very well.
Ms. Commodore: The Minister is absolutely right. A lot of things that have been done in the past are not working. I have done it before. I applauded the Keeping Kids Safe program and the kinds of ads I am seeing in the paper. I think that they are beneficial to everyone who needs to have that kind of information. They are good.
My concern is really about the statement that nothing works, so we are not going to do it. I am not an expert - far from it - and I do not pretend to be. However, I have talked to some people who are. They disagree with other experts. Even experts are not always on the same wavelength. Mr. Kehoe may have one opinion; another expert may have another opinion. I question the decision, based on questions that have been asked of me and information that has been provided to me about where the government is going with treatment plans.
I asked the former Minister about treatment for adult sex offenders. The committee made a statement about not having any evidence that sex offender treatment works. I asked him for some information about what options the government has for sex offenders if they choose to seek help.
He gave me a list of all kinds of different programs that are available to them. It is in a legislative return dated January 10, 1995. It has got all sorts of information in it and it is good. It describes some of the things that these individuals can do, but it is very deceiving to those individuals who say that they are not able to take advantage of any kind of treatment based on what they read in the paper and what they see on Focus North, where they said there is no treatment available. How do these individuals, who are crying out for treatment, know that some of these programs are available to them when they hear something, read something in the paper and then they see something else on Focus North, or if a sex offender, such as the one who was on Focus North, was trying to find out if there was any treatment here in the Yukon, and he was written a letter back saying, "No there is not." Then I get a legislative return that says we do have some stuff that these individuals can take advantage of. There is a bit of a problem where one thing is being said and another thing is being said in regard to what is available and what is not.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: That is a good point. I will ask the department to make sure that the appropriate branch within the Department of Justice does have a list of the programs available, if someone wants to know. I would point out to the Member that there are some individuals - and we cannot forget this - who do not really want to admit that anything really works and maybe they do not want to try hard enough. Maybe they are part of the problem. There are some individuals who have spoken out about these issues and who have gone through programs and have possibly re-offended. We can only do so much for some people. If the person does not want to take the bull by the horns themselves, get into the program and work hard at curing their problem, it is wrong for that person to cop out by blaming the department every time it cannot solve their problem. We maybe have to move to protect at least the children if this individual will not do something to protect society from the nasty things he does. For the most part, I think this program is centred around the victim, the child. It does take into account the concerns of the accused, of the person who has committed the crime, and they are involved, but some people may fall through the cracks.
The Member made a good point about getting the proper information in the proper place, so that when someone does ask for help they can get it. I will find out how we can do that - if it is by way of a brochure, or something that we could have available to people that we could get immediately. I will check on that for the Member.
Ms. Commodore: I thank the Minister for that explanation. I agree with keeping kids safe; there is no question about that. I think that he made a good point when he spoke about having a brochure or something. According to Focus North, a sex offender who did not identify himself said that he wrote a letter to the Yukon government seeking help, and a letter was written to him saying, "We do not have a program in the Yukon. Sorry." The letter was shown on Focus North, and it was signed by Mr. Kehoe. It would be very difficult for that individual to know anything about what the department has.
If the Minister's department can put together a brochure identifying the programs, it would at least help in some ways. Then, it should be made available to whoever responds to letters like the one I quoted - for example, Mr. Kehoe. I do not know if that individual came back to the Yukon, or whether he is still outside somewhere.
I will ask some more questions - not an awful lot - in regard to sex offender treatment. If the Minister does decide to put together some kind of a brochure that could be made available to people who need that information, can he let me know when that will take place?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will check into what is now available and what can be made available, so that it is accessible to individuals who are looking for help.
Mr. Cable: I have some questions about the court reporting contract. When it was let out a few years ago, was it a per diem contract, or is there a base number plus a per diem? From the Minister's comments in the supplemental budget, it appears that it is set up totally as a per diem contract.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, it is a per diem contract.
Mr. Cable: Have there been any complaints about the services rendered by the present contractor, either from the Minister's staff in court services or from the legal profession?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, there were some complaints.
There have been some complaints over doing some of the work, but part of the audit that we did relates to the government not initially spelling out clearly what all of the requirements of the contract were. Part of that is the clarity of the contract, and that wording will be cleaned up for the next contract that is issued.
Mr. Cable: The Minister just referred to an audit. Is the Minister saying that there was a formal review of the court reporting services, as provided for under the present contract?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: Yes, that is true. An independent audit of the court reporting services was conducted.
Mr. Cable: Can the Minister table that audit for our use and, also, for the use of the parties that will tender the contract the next time around.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The audit was done by the accounting firm MacKay and Partners. I believe that it has just been completed. I have not even seen it. I will check on it and, if there is no problem, I will table it. I do not see there being a problem.
Mr. Cable: I will look forward to receiving the audit.
On another matter, the circle sentencing initiative seems to have been driven, to a large extent, by the judges in the courts. Has the Minister's department examined the recidivism rates or compared those who have been sentenced under circle sentencing with those sentenced under the conventional system? I know it is believed that the recidivism rates are lower. Has there been any formal review of those rates?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I think it is perhaps a little early to determine how much recidivism there is. I think it has only been a couple of years since this kind of thing has been happening, so it is a little early. I know that the federal government now has a contract with court services and they are doing an evaluation of the circle sentencing concept, how it has worked, and that kind of thing.
Mr. Cable: I was listening to a program - I think it was on Sunday morning some weeks ago - where there was either an Inuit or a Cree woman commenting on the system. While she was not negative about the system, she was indicating that there were some problems in dealing with sexual offenders. Has the Minister's department come across any problems with that mode of sentencing with respect to sexual offenders?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I would have to check and see if that has been used for sexual offenders. I am not sure that it has. It is used for some of the other minor convictions, but I can come back to the Member on that.
I have not heard any complaints in that regard, although I have heard some concerns from some First Nations women about circle sentencing and whether or not it is meeting the needs. I think this is something that we have to have a good look at.
Mr. Cable: It would appear that this method of sentencing is going to be used on a very large scale here in the Yukon. Does the Minister's department have any plans to formally review the success of this mode of sentencing, both from the standpoint of recidivism and from comments made by the woman on the radio about the sexual offender problem?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: I will tell you where I am coming from with it. I feel that the time is approaching fairly quickly - I have been asked about this by some First Nations women - when we should have an evaluation of the program and examine how and why we are doing it. I am going to be looking closely at what recommendations come out of this contract from the federal government with respect to circle sentencing. We will have a look at that first, and then we will decide where we go from there - perhaps to a more independent evaluation of the circle sentencing - and determine what the results are from the first one.
Mr. Cable: It seems to me that this is really a sea change in the way sentencing is being carried out, but it is being driven primarily by the courts at this time. It would seem to me that the government and the First Nation should have a much greater role in examining the whole process.
The Minister indicated that there is a review going on by the officials in his department - have I heard him correctly? - and that possibly, later on, there will be a more formal review?
Hon. Mr. Phillips: The federal government is contracting with court services, and Barry Stuart will be doing the evaluation for court services.
The concern I expressed was the same as the one the Member just mentioned. I had heard a concern from First Nations women that the First Nations are not driving the circle sentencing. That was a concern I heard from one particular individual.
It felt like it was being driven by the court system or others, and it was getting away from the First Nations concept of circle sentencing. That is something that may show up in Mr. Stuart's work.
In light of the time, I move that you report progress on Bill No. 3.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Phillips: 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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Abel: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 1994-95, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Phillips: 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 9:26 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 3, 1995:
South Klondike Highway winter maintenance: memorandum of understanding between the Government of Yukon and the State of Alaska, dated March 31, 1995 (Brewster)