Monday, November 3, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Do we have any tributes?
In remembrance of Dorothy Wabisca
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to Dorothy Wabisca, who passed away on August 11, 1997.
Dorothy was of Tlingit descent and a member of the Killer Whale Clan of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations. Dorothy was a daughter of Sue Van Bibber and was raised along with four brothers and sisters at Champagne and Whitehorse. In 1955, she married Roy Wabisca and settled in Whitehorse. Shortly after the birth of her youngest child, Dorothy began upgrading her skills at Yukon Vocational School and has since been involved with and worked for First Nations organizations in both an administrative and political role.
In the late 1970s, she held the first-ever job as native advisor to the Yukon Commissioner. In the mid-1980s, she became the western vice president of the Native Council of Canada. In the late 1980s, she returned to the Yukon and was elected vice chair of the Council for Yukon Indians.
From 1990 until her passing, Dorothy worked with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations in self-government negotiations and claims implementation. Dorothy also served on many boards and committees, including the Yukon Indian Arts and Crafts Co-op, the Council on Native Women and the Law, the World Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and, until her passing, was chairperson of the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Dorothy was a leader and an advisor; a consensus builder with a no-nonsense attitude. She was strong and respected but, most of all, she was a friend who reached out and touched everyone who came in contact with her. Her guidance and wisdom will be greatly missed by her family, friends, First Nation organizations and all Yukoners.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Dorothy Wabisca also called Porter Creek home, and I would like to join with my colleagues in paying tribute to her. I met with Dorothy a number of times over the years and I will always remember her as a strong leader, able to envision the opportunities and solutions in all the challenges that presented themselves.
The Yukon, in particular the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, lost a respected leader this summer. Dorothy Wabisca will be missed by all who knew and worked with her. Our caucus would like to join with other members in this Legislature in offering our sincere condolences to her many friends and family.
Speaker: Are there any introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a letter of instruction from the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to the Commissioner of the Yukon, Judy Gingell, and the public accounts for 1996-97.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have for tabling the recent arbitral award for the collective bargaining process between the YTG and the YTA.
Also, I have the annual report 1996 for the Yukon Development Corporation.
Speaker: Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 22: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that
Bill No. 22, entitled Oil and Gas Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Economic Development that Bill No. 22, entitled Oil and Gas Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to
Bill No. 34: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move
Bill No. 34, entitled Continuing Consolidation of Statutes Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 34, entitled Continuing Consolidation of Statutes Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 34 agreed to
Bill No. 35: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Financial Administration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It is moved by the Hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 35, entitled An Act to Amend the Financial Adminsitration Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 35 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Cable: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Utilities Board should be directed to use an Integrated Resource Planning Process in the licensing of all energy projects, so that social and environmental costs to society are included in new project assessment.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
1. motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 16 and 24;
2. new drivers of all ages are more likely to be involved in serious motor vehicle crashes than experienced drivers; and
3. the government should prepare a discussion paper examining the implementation of a graduated licensing system for new drivers in the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Taking Action on Crime
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, in keeping with our government's policy of fostering safe, healthy communities, I rise to inform members of a number of initiatives we are undertaking to take action on crime and to address the causes of crime in our communities.
Yukon people are justifiably concerned about the senseless and destructive criminal acts taking place in the territory. Our government recognizes the important role it has in addressing these concerns and improving public confidence in the justice system.
I was pleased to observe the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and other groups appeal for leadership and cooperation among agencies and individuals involved with the problems of crime in our communities.
The safety of our communities is a shared responsibility. Each of us, no matter what our position in the community, must take personal responsibility for this. A cooperative response is necessary, and this is exactly what our government supports.
Mr. Speaker, I believe all members of the House will agree that a preventive approach to crime is preferable to remedial action after the fact. My intention is to build upon the excellent work already being done by government departments and community agencies to address social problems that lead to crime and eventually the courts. The vision of this government is that actions to be taken will attack the root causes of crime, reduce crime in our communities, reduce the impact of crime on victims, make the justice system more responsive and effective, encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions, communicate information about the justice system and crime prevention and improve coordination of crime prevention activities.
I am pleased to announce the following new steps toward fulfilling this vision: a crime prevention and policing branch is being set up immediately within the Department of Justice; existing staff and functions are being realigned to create a stronger focus on crime prevention; the Justice department is teaming up with the RCMP to hire a coordinator of crime prevention. This partnership with the RCMP will strengthen our joint capability to coordinate crime prevention activities.
The crime prevention coordinator will work on new and existing crime prevention programs with government representatives, the RCMP, First Nations, municipalities, schools and community groups to develop specific programs across the territory. This initiative will use existing funds and will operate on a pilot basis until March 31, 1998. My colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, and I are in the process of identifying funding for a youth crime prevention coordinator position to be added to this branch and are reviewing ways to improve the youth justice system. I expect to meet soon with the mayor and new council of Whitehorse to continue our close working relationship in developing new strategies to combat crime.
A Justice and RCMP public forum on community safety will take place in early March, 1998. We expect this forum to be co-hosted by Justice, police, First Nations and municipalities. One outcome could be a council on crime prevention that would meet annually to discuss plans for programs, projects and legislation that address community safety. First Nations and municipalities will be involved.
A strategic working group will be established to develop and coordinate an early intervention crime prevention action plan called Taking Action On Crime. Representatives from the Departments of Justice, Education, Heath and Social Services, Community and Transportation Services, the Women's Directorate and the RCMP will work with Justice Canada, the Council of Yukon First Nations, Crime Prevention Yukon and the Association of Yukon Communities on Yukon-wide actions.
This group will work closely with the city, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation on actions to address specific concerns in Whitehorse. It will also provide guidance in planning the March forum on community safety.
Crime prevention and community safety plans will be developed with each community. These plans will be developed through close collaboration with the RCMP and other government and community agencies and will build upon the excellent work already being done in community policing, family group conferencing and community justice.
Public awareness activities related to crime prevention will also be expanded. The first edition of Community Justice News was released on October 22. This newsletter, prepared by the Haines Junction Community Justice Committee, is an innovative way to build a community justice information network in the Yukon that puts a spotlight on what is happening in the communities.
A community-based editiorial team determines the content of the newsletter, which is supported in part by the Yukon Department of Justice.
A Yukon community justice website will be available on the Internet in January. This web page has been donated by YukonNet to allow people across the Yukon and around the world to read about what is being done here with regard to community justice.
The Haines Junction Community Justice Committee, in cooperation with Crime Prevention Yukon and the Yukon Public Legal Education Association will provide the information for this interactive site. It will include articles on community justice and crime prevention, and will provide general information on the law.
Mr. Speaker, effective crime prevention requires local action and local solutions. Some of these solutions will be debated this fall as proposed legislation regarding the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act and the Victims of Family Violence Act, as well as important amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act that are designed to make our streets, roads and highways safer for everybody.
Our strategy of taking action on crime will recognize children and families as priority sectors of the population. We will focus on preventing crime by investing in families to ensure that we have integrated early intervention crime prevention.
Mr. Speaker, through these actions and others that I will be announcing later, our government hopes to reduce crime in our communities, enhance public confidence in the Yukon's justice system.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to see this initiative before the House today. I'm a little disappointed though that it's taken one year to come about. Many of the initiatives listed are in many of the same words in fact that are in the document that we have in front of us that were in the Talking About Crime initiatives. The recommendations of that particular group were in the minister's hands over a year ago, and it has taken a year to kindly put together - or start to put together - the administrative side of trying to deliver on the recommendations made in the Yukon Party Talking About Crime report that went all over the territory.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a couple of comments about these initiatives and some problems that I can see on the surface that appear to be in the presentation the minister gave today.
They talk about encouraging offenders to take responsibility for their actions. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think I've heard too many people use the word "encourage". Most people have said to me that there should be something in law to make offenders take responsibility for their actions, and that "encourage" has been the problem in the past, and that's why there seems to be a much higher crime rate.
They say "reduce the impact of crime on victims and make the justice system more responsive and effective." Mr. Speaker, there is something that I guess was lacking in the Talking About Crime participation, and obviously again lacking in this particular move, and that is the involvement of the Crown attorney's office and the local judges in participating in any discussions about crime prevention and any discussion about future actions on crime. I would hope that the minister's office - heaven forbid I suggest that she write a letter to the judges - but I would hope that the minister's office or someone in the Justice department would communicate to our local judges and the Crown to encourage them to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem, and that they participate in any discussions that might take place in crime prevention.
I know they probably have some useful ideas and I know that they probably have some useful things they could learn from travelling around the territory listening to the average Yukoner in their concerns about crime.
Finally, I would like the minister, if she could, to provide us with what the costs will be for this community crime prevention policing branch that is going to be set up within the Department of Justice and a little more detailed breakdown of where the funding is going to come from. I know we are told constantly by the officials in the department that there is no extra money anywhere, so I want to know from the minister what programs are going to be cut out or discontinued and, if there is no new money, what programs are going to be sort of done away with to provide money for this particular program. And then, of course, I need to know the overall costs from the minister.
Finally, and this does not have to be done right away, I wonder if the minister could have her department provide us with the most recent figures in the past year, from now until October of 1996, of what the crime levels were, so that we can have that on record and a year from now, when we come back into the House for the fall session, we can look and see whether or not this Taking Action On Crime really did work or if it was just more money spent and with very little result. I would like the minister to give a commitment here today that she will come back into this House with those figures for us within the next few weeks or possibly before the House adjourns, to let us know what the current figures have been for the last year.
Like I said, I'm a little disturbed that it took a year for the minister to come up with something but I'm pleased to see that there's very little variation, if any, from the initiatives that were already underway and the work that was being done by the Yukon Party government. I'm pleased to see that, although they criticized what we were doing, they are certainly following in the same track. So I'm hopeful that those initiatives will work. They were recommendations from the general public and if the minister follows those reports I would hope that there will be some positive results.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: The minister's efforts and her initiative are based on two themes. One is that crime is a community responsibility; it's just not the responsibility of probation officers and social workers and educators and police, and whoever else is in the system, or the justice system, for that matter. The other theme is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of sentencing, and those are two themes that we agree with in the Liberal Party, and I think most other people in the community agree with them.
Now, something I had asked the minister during the Justice debate in the spring was whether she collected statistics relating to the efficiency of the various sentencing alternatives. We heard people suggest that young offenders, for example, be paraded down Main Street to be embarrassed, or that they be drafted into the armed services. So people are looking for sentencing alternatives, and what we need, in this day of the computer, is the efficiency on the repeat offender rate - the recidivism rate - with respect to things like fines and incarceration and community work service and personal work service orders, the whole battery of sentencing alternatives that are available to judges, both for young offenders and for adults.
Another comment I would make, and a question I ask of the minister: it appears that there are three departments involved in this initiative - Health and Social Services, and Justice, and Education. Now, we all know that, within the public service, of course, there are some territorial boundaries, and I would ask the minister to tell the House who is actually taking the lead, so that these initiatives, which appear to be quite sound, do not founder on departmental imperatives.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'd like to thank my colleagues for their support on these initiatives. I do have to tell the critic for the official opposition that this is representing ongoing work of both government people and community agencies. The member doesn't need to make the allegation that nothing has been happening in the last year. A number of things have taken place over the last year. We've supported community justice initiatives in a number of communities. There's been ongoing work building on what the community has recommended we do within the justice system and within alternatives, and so, while there are some new initiatives here, there's also been a lot of ongoing work.
I would like to thank members of the Department of Justice who have been working, as well as the people involved in community agencies. I don't know if the member heard that this past Hallowe'en there were 60 citizens who volunteered to help the RCMP to keep peace on the streets and that there were very little incidences of vandalism or problems on Hallowe'en. I think that is an indication of how much community support there is and community responsibility for safe neighbourhoods.
I would also like to assure the official opposition critic that the judiciary and the Crown attorney office, among others, responded to the consultation documents that our government put out in regard to the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act and the Victims of Family Violence Act. I believe that they are more than willing to work with other segments of the justice community and I am pleased with that.
There were some specific questions for numbers that I will be happy to bring back to members.
I would like to mention as well that alternatives to the court system - diversion programs, family conferencing and restorative justice initiatives - particularly when they are working with youth, are initiatives that take some time to actually show a demonstration of results, but we do believe they are effective. In other communities in Canada and in other countries around the world where restorative justice initiatives have been undertaken, they have been found to be very successful. I will, however, bring back further information for the members opposite. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Kwanlin Dun initiative - recreation and leadership training for youth in McIntyre
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I rise today to inform this House of a new joint venture between the Yukon government and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation that reflects our government's policy of promoting safe and healthy communities.
Earlier this year, the supervisor of youth services for the Department of Health and Social Services took a lead role in developing and implementing a comprehensive recreation and leadership training program for children and youth residing in the McIntyre subdivision. This was done in partnership with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
This eight-week youth program was highly successful. It provided over a hundred different sport and recreation activities to approximately 90 children living in the community, as well as providing leadership training and summer employment for 16 youth in the community.
I can tell the House that I had an opportunity to visit on two occasions and I was very impressed by the young people who were in these leadership capacities. I was very impressed by their maturity and how they had developed.
Mr. Speaker, this program has had a positive impact on the quality of life of the community in that it has provided new experiences for youth, improved the self-esteem of participants, introduced new knowledge and skills and increased the recognition of youth as a valuable resource in the community.
An important related outcome of the project was a reduction in property crime. A comparison of reported occurrences of property-related crimes between June and August for the two previous years indicates that property crime dropped significantly this summer in the Kwanlin Dun community.
The project was developed as part of an interdepartmental initiative between the Kwanlin Dun Band and the Departments of Health and Social Services, Education, Justice and Community and Transportation Services in response to an identified need for structured recreation activities for children and youth throughout the summer months.
The project was initially designed as a short-term initiative to address periods of inactivity and lack of constructive focus for children and youth. Its success, however, has prompted the department and the First Nation to agree to work together on broader child and youth initiatives.
Based on the success of this summer's program, the supervisor of youth services will assist the First Nation in an integrated approach to the delivery of such programs as the community wellness program, health services, the Ashea Head Start program, HRD/training and education, recreation and community justice.
As well as this, Mr. Speaker, establishing the child welfare process that would bridge the services provided by YTG to what is needed by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation will be coordinated.
We share with Kwanlin Dun the belief that by working together with other levels of government and organizations, a healthier community can be built.
Mr. Speaker, this is one example of the work we are doing with and for youth in the Yukon. The leadership program provided skills to the youth who participated in it and many others who are now expressing interest.
By working together today, and by helping to ensure the well-being of children and youth, we are laying the foundations for strong, healthy communities tomorrow.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It's a pleasure today to respond to the ministerial statement regarding the Kwanlin Dun initiative and its success. Creating and promoting safe and healthy communities was a priority during the Yukon Party's term in office and, in turn, we initiated a comprehensive crime prevention strategy dealing with a number of issues, including that of youth crime.
We are pleased to see the Yukon government has also recognized the importance of such initiatives and would like to commend both the government and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for successfully introducing and implementing the Kwanlin Dun initiative, which provided sport and recreational activities, as well as summer employment, for youth of the McIntyre community.
My question of the minister, which I would appreciate the minister responding to in his rebuttal, is, if indeed the Yukon government intends to initiate other youth programs with other Yukon First Nations and, more importantly, whether or not the minister has come to his senses and has recognized and reconsidered his opposition to provide stable funding for the youth empowerment and success program. As Yukoners are well aware, YES has had its fair share of difficulties over the past year as a result of federal cutbacks and a territorial government that has consistently refused to offer long-term support to YES, while pretending to be committed to youth at risk, as was outlined in the NDP A Better Way.
Last week, YES announced that it would be closing its doors for lack of funds. While this didn't come as much of a surprise to many of us, it seems to be astonishing to the Minister of Health and Social Services, as he was not aware of the financial crunch that was facing YES. What is even more astonishing here is the minister's sudden case of amnesia. Over the past year there has occurred considerable lobbying efforts from members of this Legislature and members of the private sector and, more importantly, from members of our youth.
Mr. Speaker, this is a program that's proven to be successful, providing a safe, positive place for youth who are at risk to meet. As relayed to the federal Minister of Justice, Mr. Allan Rock, by our Member of Parliament, northern youth are at higher risk of destructive behaviour and suicide than southern youth, and that the YES program is unique in Whitehorse, as opposed to the many programs that exist in larger cities.
It would appear that everyone but our Minister of Health and Social Services is in full support of the YES program. Once again, I am urging the Minister of Health and Social Services to rise above partisan politics for the good of our youth by reconsidering his opposition to providing long-term support for YES.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, by and large, the Yukon Liberal caucus is in favour of a coordinated approach to the delivery of services for youth or, for that matter, any other group. I was most interested in how the federally-funded programs for children, as well as youth, were to be considered together by the Yukon supervisor of youth services who has been seconded to the Kwanlin Dun as well as by the First Nation itself. The policy of seconding staff to the Yukon First Nation is a good one. The only concerns that I do have are: are other Yukon First Nations going to be able to access seconded staff in the Department of Social Services; how long will this staff person be serving the Kwanlin Dun First Nation; what specifically is the seconded staff person doing - what are his terms of reference; who is replacing the seconded staff person in the department, and how is that position being funded; what resources - for example staff and dollars - have been allocated to continue the processes that this staff person from the government is initiating at the Kwanlin Dun? Is this staff person working alone up at the Kwanlin Dun? Does the First Nation supply administrative support to seconded staff?
We are setting precedents here. Which positions have been identified as being the First Nation liaison staff up at Kwanlin Dun?
I see a lot of good intentions here from the government. I hope that further initiatives in this area are well-planned and will have lasting, fully-resourced effects on the First Nation that requests these staff secondments.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will respond first of all to our critic from the Liberal Party and I will provide her with some of the details on this. I would say that this is a policy of our government. It's a first one for Health and Social Services, but I do know other government departments have provided seconded staff to assist First Nations, and I think this is the kind of initiative that is laudable because we can share resources and often share expertise. As well, we've also begun making opportunities available for training First Nations staff within YTG. I will get further details.
With regard to my friend from the Yukon Party, I think he gives new meaning to the word "bootleg". He managed to bootleg an entire speech.
First of all, he may not be aware of the fact that over the past year this government has supported the youth empowerment and success program to the tune of some $24,000. As well, in the period between June and October this year, the group also received $10,000 from the population health studies of the federal government, of which we took a lead in trying to encourage the federal government to come forward there. As well, I believe some $8,000 was raised within the community.
I had a very productive meeting with the chairperson of the YES group on Friday. It was a very frank, very open discussion. We discussed matters of mutual interest, mutual support. I am committed to working with this group.
We have some issues that I think we need to work around. I think we have some issues where we can work in commonality. I have not ruled anything out, but I do recognize that the board itself is going through some considerable turmoil. There has been some considerable change. I believe they are committed to getting a good, functioning program up there and I am interested in working with them.
Incidentally, along with that as well, after consulting with the chair of the YES board, I made some suggestions in terms of the kind of strength that they might want to bring on to the board and, following on that, I contacted a prominent Whitehorse businessperson to see if they would serve on the board and that was agreed to. I think this is a productive way we can work together with this group. I look forward to a solid meaningful relationship with this board in the future. Thank you.
Yukon Energy Corporation fire: update
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to provide members with a further update on the fire at the Yukon Energy Corporation on Thursday morning.
Officials from the Yukon Energy Corporation and the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. continue to work fully with the Whitehorse Fire Department to determine the extent and the amount of damage. The origin of the fire appears to have been traced to the northeast corner of the bottom floor in the building, which housed the three turbines, but the cause of the fire has not yet been determined.
The formal fire investigation is expected to begin on Wednesday when the Yukon's fire marshall will be available to work with the Whitehorse fire chief. Preliminary estimates on the replacement costs are between $3 million and $5 million.
I would caution members and the public to be aware that until a full assessment of the damage has been completed, the estimate could vary; for instance, the SCADA master panels have sustained only limited smoke and water damage. At the same time if the turbines suffered any structural damage, this would increase replacement cost dramatically.
We are pleased to report that consumers should not be affected by these costs since the Yukon Energy Corporation's insurance policy will cover the full replacement value of damage sustained and has a deductible of $100,000. This insurance is held through a consortium of large and reputable insurance firms. The policy may also cover lost revenues if the large turbines are not operating after 60 days.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon Energy Corporation officials are fully in charge of the situation and have developed a plan to return our public utility to normal operations as soon as possible.
The insurance adjusters and the Alberta Power official responsible for insurance programs arrived Friday and initiated a site inspection. A team of three engineers is being brought in by the adjusters early this week to help with the assessment and restoration of these facilities.
Power is to be restored to the site today. A temporary shelter is being prefabricated by Jacob's Industries. Work on the turbines and switch gear can start once the units are protected against falling debris and once fire and insurance officials have authorized demolition of the remains of the building.
The visual inspection of the units is encouraging. With respect to corporate documents and technical material located at the site, it appears that the majority of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation records, including critical computer files, may be saved. Yukon Energy Corporation has contracted local experts for the document recovery process.
Space for a temporary control centre and offices has been located and will be available for up to one year while design and construction of replacement facilities are underway. The space is available immediately and at reasonable cost. Yukon Energy Corporation is currently operating from temporary space at the Tourism Business Centre.
Regarding environmental impacts of the fire, the Department of Renewable Resources monitored the downtown and did not detect any increases in the carbon monoxide levels. Water samples taken by Environment Canada also did not register any impact from the fire. The building is free of PCBs, although there were batteries in the basement. The water in this area and the turbine hall was pumped into trucks to be properly disposed of and booms replaced in the river to capture any debris.
The Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. are contracting for project management services for restoration of the control centre, recovery of turbines and office construction.
With respect to the control centre, depending on the extent of the damage to the equipment recovered, a basic centre will be operational in no more than four weeks. A detailed action plan has been prepared and is being expanded as the project proceeds.
While we have received assurances that the fire will not have a negative impact on the territory's power supply, Mr. Speaker, our government continues to advise people that it is in their best interest to practice sound energy conservation measures at all times. As members can appreciate, this is a difficult time for our public utility, but I am confident in the ability of YEC management to respond to the situation quickly and appropriately. Thank you.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for coming back with a report today and an update on what is a very serious situation in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I do wish the minister could be a little more specific. There are many Yukoners who are very, very concerned about power in light of this fire and in light of the uncertainties of the Faro mine going back into production, knowing full well that if the mine doesn't go back into production, there's going to be another power rate increase. Yet, we have the minister today, some four days after the fire, using words like "the consumers shall not be affected by these costs," and goes on to say that the policy may also cover lost revenues after 60 days. The fact remains that there are some additional costs, and I would appreciate it if the minister could verify this in his rebuttal and be a little more specific and show a little bit more confidence that the rates are not going to go up. That is what I think the Yukon ratepayers expect the minister to say: that the rates will not go up.
The point I would like to draw to the minister's attention that he may be able to address in his rebuttal - and, if not, I would expect a reply early in the week - is: on Thursday, when I asked the minister about the insurance, he said that the policy was carried by our manager. Today, he is saying it is in the Energy Corp.
He is also saying that there's $100,000 deductible. My question to the minister is: who is responsible for the deductible? Is it the energy corporation or is it our manager? This will have an impact on the revenues of the corporation and expenditures.
Also, there are going to be additional diesel generating costs in the 60 days prior to the policy kicking in to cover lost revenues if, in fact, we do have that kick-in. Sixty days is a long time, Mr. Speaker, at this time of year when we are generating electricity with diesel. I had heard over the weekend that diesel generators have been fired up in various Yukon communities to help supply power. I also understand that there is at least one more generator being moved into Haines Junction. These are going to add costs. My concern is that we know what these costs are and what impact they are going to have on ratepayers in the Yukon.
Now, I realize that it is only four days ago that this fire happened but, in light of the seriousness of this, I would have expected the minister to come back with a little more positive statement today.
On the issue of critical computer files that we have here today, the minister is saying they may be saved. Can the minister not advise this House today if there are in fact no backup files for those critical files that may be saved, or are there backup files? If there are not, I would hope that this would be a lesson to the corporation and government how important it is to keep backups of critical information. There will be more questions in the days and weeks ahead on this issue, I believe, but I would appreciate it if the minister could elaborate on this statement in his rebuttal.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker,
I'm pleased to see that the damage amount is manageable, although the minister cautions that the amount that is on the table right now - $3 million to $5 million - is tentative, and that the insurance adjusters are coming up this week to look at the damage and assumedly make some estimation of the amount of the damages. It would be useful to hear from the minister when the final assessment will be on the table so we can all guess as to how long it's going to take to restore the facilities.
The minister also mentions that there is a 60-day clause in the insurance policy for the loss of profits. Now assumedly, that won't be triggered if the turbines weren't going to be in operation anyway, but it would be useful to have that also confirmed.
I'm pleased to see that most of the records will be recoverable and, for somebody who lives outside of town who is subject to a lot of outages, that the control system will be up and running in about four weeks, and I'd like to say, by way of an aside, that I'd noticed the minister was quoted in the newspapers as saying that he thought the opposition members were holding him personally responsible for setting the fire, and I want to assure him that we were not accusing the minister of playing with matches.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, that certainly makes me feel better, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Liberal member of the opposition for that comment.
Mr. Speaker, I know the official opposition expresses the desire for me to be more specific. However, I would beg of them or plead with them that there would be some understanding of the fact that only four days have passed. The area over there is still often not available to anyone to enter at this point.
With regard to issues of insurance, again, it's an extremely complicated policy. I think that there are some issues that are going to be worked out probably in the courts, Mr. Speaker, because there are certainly insurance companies that are not always that willing to cover everything up front. That shouldn't come as a surprise to the former Minister of the Yukon Energy Corporation.
I'm hopeful that that won't happen but, Mr. Speaker, you certainly can't rule it out, particularly when you go beyond replacement cost. There are provisions that relate to 30 days for incremental costs. There are provisions that relate to 60 days, as they pertain to lost revenue. All of these things, I can assure the member, will be part of the claim, and certainly due efforts will be put forward to try and recoup those costs, if there are any, for the benefit of ratepayers in this territory.
With regard to the policy, when I said it was carried by the manager, I meant that they are responsible for accessing the insurance. They don't hold it. It's not Alberta Power insurance company. They were responsible to the manager for ensuring there was appropriate insurance on the assets, and the actual insurer is a consortium of major multinational insurance companies.
With regard to the deductible, I will get the exact answer for the member on the deductible, if that will be folded into the claim or will be borne by the manager or by Yukon Energy Corporation, or the ratepayers.
Mr. Speaker, with regard to the records, I don't know. The member, perhaps, could scratch back, bring back his memory to when he was Minister of the Energy Corporation and what his policy was on backup files and what direction he gave the utility. My understanding is that about 80 percent of the files look like they can be recovered, but some of them are very wet, and they're sorting through them very, very carefully. And it also appears that a lot of the hard drives will be recoverable.
With regard to the Liberal member's question about the final assessment, again, as soon as I can get that final assessment, I'd be more than happy to share as much information as I have with the members opposite, but I have to caution the members that it will more than likely be some time. Right now, for example, the ventilators over top are in very, very bad shape structurally, and before they can inspect the turbine safely, they are having to do some shoring up around the ventilators over top of the turbines, because it's just far too dangerous to be in that area right now. So, those are the kinds of problems the people working very hard, in terms of getting the utility back up to 100 percent, are having to face, so those are the impediments that are arising.
But, as soon as I have appropriate information, I'll be more than happy to provide it to the members. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Unemployment rate
Mr. Ostashek: My question is to the Government Leader concerning jobs for Yukoners.
In September of 1996, when the Yukon Party government was in power, the New Democrats stated that the unemployment rate of the day, 7.8 percent, was simply too high and required positive actions by the Yukon Party government to focus on job creation. However, since the NDP took office, the Yukon has consistently had the dubious distinction of having the second-worst unemployment rate in Canada - always in the double digits. Yet, at a recent NDP meeting, the Government Leader was quoted as saying, "Having the Yukon government spend money to create jobs for Yukoners is just not in the cards."
Can the Government Leader explain to Yukoners why jobs aren't in the cards for them, while his government is spending money creating jobs in other parts of Canada, particularly in areas of computer programming and in managing the energy utility?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I thank the member for the question. I was about to jump up and pounce on my answer until I heard the member refer to the government wanting to create jobs elsewhere, and particularly he referred to high-tech, modern-tech equipment being purchased by the government outside the territory, or software being purchased outside the territory. It was only a couple of years ago, of course, that we were talking about the DocuTech arrangement that the member himself was championing at the time but seemed to suggest that modern technology could only be found by a single supplier outside the territory.
The unemployment rate is too high. It would be too high if it was two points less than it is today. The fact remains that, when the Anvil Range mine shut down, it caused a severe strain on the territorial economy, and it is important that the government take action. What the member failed to quote when he was reciting words that he thought I had said at the NDP territorial council meeting was that I said that I don't intend that this government spend money we don't have, creating jobs.
Now, the member has - in his old sob - and is continually stating in the Legislature and in the media that he wants the government to spend more money. Well, Mr. Speaker, we are spending all the money that we have on programs and services and on the capital budget of this territory.
What I am unable to do, which my predecessor and the member opposite was able to do, was to spend considerable amounts of money on road construction on the Shakwak project and considerable amounts of money in building construction on the Whitehorse Hospital, two projects which could total in any given year between $30 million and $40 million in raw spending activity in this territory. I am unable to do that because there are no such projects available to the government, even though the NDP government is trying to negotiate a renewal of the Shakwak project agreement. I am unable to spend money I do not have.
The government is trying to target money carefully to ensure that there is more work in the communities. I raise, just as an example, the community development fund progam, which is a direct expenditure program, which I know the member disagrees with. I can only tell him that in all the communities that I have visited over the last three weeks, virtually every meeting raised the subject of the community development fund and disagreed with the member and wanted it not only to stay but to be enhanced.
So, we are taking direct action in terms of expenditures, but we cannot do what the member opposite did and that was to spend money to the extent that the Yukon Party was spending money, and we certainly will not spend money we do not have.
Mr. Ostashek: There is a $48 million surplus, but we do not have any money.
It is not a question of having the money; it is a question of spending priorities and the Government Leader should be addressing that. They were very critical of us, that we spent money to create jobs for Yukoners and they are quite prepared to sit there and let nature take its course and let the Faro mine solve all of the unemployment problems in the Yukon.
We will talk more about the community development fund in other debates in this Legislature. I really was surprised to hear the Government Leader use DocuTech as an excuse for his going outside. There is quite a bit of difference in both of those areas. One, nobody in the Yukon could supply a DocuTech machine, and furthermore, the Yukon Party did not have a local hire commission going around the Yukon telling Yukoners how good it was going to be for them under an NDP government.
My supplementary is to the Government Leader to explain why is his expensive Cabinet commission on local hire going around the territory telling Yukoners that the Yukon government will be using its contracting spending power to create jobs for Yukoners, when it's the very same government that sole-sourced contracts to a Nova Scotia company, which we now find are going to be worth in excess of $800,000, for a computer-based data program that at least two companies in the Yukon said they were qualified to provide to the government.
Can the Government Leader tell us how this is creating jobs for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, the fact that we have got problems with the existing law, the existing contract regulations, bespeaks the need for changes to those laws. What this government will not do is break the law on an ad hoc basis for every contract that comes up in anticipation that there may be changes once the consultation is completed. What the government will do is consult with people, and if a change in the law is required - and there is obviously some evidence that there is - then we will change the law, and I'm looking forward to the member's support - the Member from the Liberal Party's support - when we do make changes to those laws, and we will make changes to those laws.
So I'm looking forward to their support.
Mr. Speaker, the member suggests that the government has put all its eggs in the Anvil Range basket. In recognition of Francofête, let me just say au contraire.
Hardly is it the case that this government has put all its eggs in the Anvil Range basket, even though this government is working hard to see a resumption of activities at the Faro mine. The community development fund, the member doesn't like it. I look forward to more comments. Every time he speaks on the community development fund, it entrenches our support in most of this territory.
We are working to improve the record with respect to local hire, local purchase policies, once the consultation with the territory is complete.
With respect to other elements that are associated with economic resurgence and economic vitality, the Air Transat deal, which the Minister of Tourism negotiated, will provide a tremendous boost to the tourism economy.
With respect to training, we have put a million dollars into training trust funds, and we're redoing the training strategy today.
The minister responsible for Economic Development has just held a trade and investment workshop that, by all accounts, was very well received by a large number of people in this territory only last weekend to try to encourage more exports and improve investments in the territory. So, the member today tabled the oil and gas legislation, which, for some reason, bogged down under the previous government.
So, let me just say that there are a number of things that the Yukon government is doing. There are a number of things that are showing that there are some improvements to be made but, in the first instance, we cannot simply spend money we don't have, as much as the member would like us to. We are not going to raise taxes as the member did, and we are going to try and target our expenditures where they count the most, but as long as our spending power is not as significant as the previous government's, as long as the Anvil Range mine continues to be down, then obviously, the government is going to have to work very hard to try to improve the economic figures.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
You can certainly tell when the Government Leader doesn't have any answers, and he reverts to political rhetoric.
The Government Leader was a member of this House a year ago when the oil and gas legislation was introduced and went through first reading, and if his government would have been on the ball, it would have been back in the Legislature last fall, or this spring when we offered to debate it even though it was a budgetary session. Now he is accusing us of delaying it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Supplementary question was called.
Mr. Ostashek: In fact, we know it was a deal he made with First Nations, Mr. Speaker.
My final supplementary for the Government Leader is for him to explain how the government is creating jobs for Yukoners by having the Yukon Energy Corporation contract to manage its billing and other services from Dawson City, Mayo and Faro go to now an American-owned, B.C. company - West Kootenay Power - after they condemned us so bitterly because we were going to sell out all our interests to Alberta Power.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Since the basis of the question is with regard to a decision of the board of the Yukon Energy Corporation, I thought I had better respond.
But first, to speak to the preamble regarding oil and gas legislation, the member did indeed bring in a bill on oil and gas but unfortunately it died on the Order Paper because it had no support from the federal government and no support from a significant portion of the Yukon population, Yukon First Nations governments. Typical of the attempts by the Yukon Party to proceed down the devolution agenda, they failed at every turn. We had to pick up the pieces and move this bill forward and, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to announce that we've tabled a bill today that actually has support of Yukon First Nations, Yukon people and the federal government and will actually succeed in terms of furthering advancement of job creation in this territory and benefits for Yukoners.
With regard to the decision of the board to transfer systems from an Alberta-based company to a company out of Trail, B.C., that was done by the board for sound business reasons, and I welcome the member to talk to some of the board members that he actually appointed to that board that made the decision.
Question re: Unemployment rate
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The long arm of the minister. My second question is again to the Government Leader concerning jobs for Yukoners not being in the cards. The Government Leader has recently been on a tour of Yukon communities pleading poverty and trying to reduce the expectations of Yukoners and tell them that they'll have fewer jobs because of lack of major capital projects such as the hospital and the Shakwak project, which he referred to in the House today.
Approximately $165 million has been spent on the Shakwak project over the last 20 years, and around another $100 million of work remains to be done for the remaining 136 kilometres. Can the Government Leader explain to this House why, when the current authorization expired about a month ago, October the 1st, the Yukon government has made no previous public announcements about their lobbying efforts on the Shakwak project and why they did not meet with the Governor of Alaska until the end of October? In fact, in the news release announcing that meeting, the Shakwak project wasn't even mentioned, Mr. Speaker.
Is the Shakwak project not a priority for putting Yukoners to work by this government?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the member asked that question because, when we came to office just under a year ago, I asked about the future of the Shakwak project knowing that, without that spending in the territorial economy, road construction companies particularly would suffer, and I was told that very little work, in fact, had been done to that point on the renegotiation of the Shakwak project. Having been involved in the negotiating in the first instance, I knew it took at least three years of lobbying by the NDP government from 1989 to 1992 to get the funding in the first place.
I was surprised that that work had not been done, but that did not deter the current government from proceeding immediately to not only communicate with the Alaskan governor, but also Alaskan legislators, and getting letters of support from the Alaskan governor last spring in support of the Shakwak project. In fact, the letters have been written to the Prime Minister and to the President of the United States and to the department of transportation in the United States, all in an effort to see that the Shakwak project continues. It is precisely because we did care about the need for this particular infrastructure project that we did do that significant work.
Mr. Speaker, the meeting with the Governor of Alaska did include some discussion of the Shakwak project but because we have a long-standing agreement between the two of us that this is a worthwhile project and should be pursued, we did not give it as much air time as we would have for those projects for which we still had lots of work to do or for which there may be disagreement.
Mr. Ostashek: I would advise the Government Leader to go back and check with his department, because he will find that he is wrong. There was extensive lobbying done by the Yukon Party to extend the Shakwak project. I would like the Government Leader to table any correspondence he had showing that he has been lobbying for the continuing support of the Shakwak project - all correspondence that he can.
In opposition, the NDP government was fundamentally opposed to the large budgets that were presented by the Yukon Party government, which were large primarily because of those two big projects - the Shakwak and the hospital - that created lots of jobs for lots of Yukoners. So, I would like to know from the Government Leader now the reason that he is not fully supportive of the Shakwak project, and I don't believe that he is. Is this by philosophy that this government is opposed to the U.S. government spending money to improve the north Alaska Highway?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, that question just doesn't make any sense at all.
Why would an NDP government spend three years negotiating funding for the Shakwak project, to have it be initiated in 1992-93, when they had severe philosophical disagreements with the notion that the federal U.S. government should be spending money in Canada? That doesn't make any sense.
The work on the Haines Road, which had been done previously to that, was found in budgets that were tabled in this House by New Democratic governments. They didn't seem to express any concerns about that then, either, so I don't understand the member's question. Perhaps he could explain that to me.
I will be more than happy to table correspondence that demonstrates to the members opposite that there has been a lobby for a very long time with the Alaskan government and with the U.S. federal government to secure funding for the Shakwak project. As a matter of fact, there was a resolution in the State House last spring, which I believe was communicated to members - certainly it was communicated to me, which said that they acknowledge the need for this project and were going to support us in our efforts to continue our lobby.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the Government Leader seems to be alluding to the fact that it was the NDP government that was responsible for the Shakwak project, when in fact it was a Conservative government in the territory that negotiated the first agreement on the Shakwak. The Government Leader, in his term in government before, may have worked on a renewal of that contract, but as I recall, the Shakwak project started in the late 1970s and early 1980s, before the NDP ever come to power.
Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary, at a TIA meeting in Haines, the Minister of Economic Development stated that the next territorial budget would only be around $400 million because of lack of these capital projects, which means that there'll be a very small capital budget next year and fewer private sector jobs. But, Mr. Speaker, that's because of a tremendous increase in the operation and maintenance expenditures of this government.
Can the Government Leader confirm if the Economic Development minister's prediction of a $400 million budget was accurate? We know there'll be no funding in that budget for the Shakwak project.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, one thing at a time. First of all, the Shakwak project was not negotiated by the territorial government at all, at any time. It was never negotiated by the Yukon government. It was negotiated by the Canadian government. The Canadian government had responsibility for operation and capital for the Alaska Highway and it was the Canadian government that signed a treaty with the U.S. government for the funding of the Shakwak project.
Now, by 1989 the project had become moribund. There was a need for a rejuvenation of the project and the NDP government did very actively pursue the project reconstruction at that time and did do a lot of work to negotiate a renewal and rejuvenation of that particular project, which paid results and paid dividends in the sense that it did provide, from 1992 to 1993 onwards to this last year, very significant capital outlays to the territory, and now through the Yukon government because now the Yukon government is managing the construction of the Alaska Highway. Now, that was the reality that we faced and now the reality is that we have to rejuvenate the project once again.
With respect to the overall budget totals, the member is going to have to wait for next year's budget allotments. We are still not in a position to know precisely what the budget allotment, or even the transfer payments from federal government, is going to be. I am looking forward to having discussions with Mr. Martin in the not too distant future to talk about that subject. But, I will be tabling an estimate as accurate as can conceivably be determined at this point within a week or two, when the supplementary budget is tabled in the House with the figures for this year.
Question re: Gibbs Group Homes, cross-cultural training for staff
Mrs. Edelman: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services and these questions are about the services provided by Gibbs Group Homes for-profit company that operates all the youth group homes in Whitehorse.
Can the minister tell the House what type of cross-cultural training and awareness the staff at these group homes receive?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I cannot speak specifically regarding the actual cross-cultural aspect. However, as these homes do interact with a number of First Nations children, there would be sensitivity to First Nations needs.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, a number of the youth, as the minister has said, in these group homes are First Nations people. Gibbs Group Homes has approximately 50 staff people, but less than 10 percent of the staff are First Nations. Combined with the fact that there is little or no cross-cultural training provided to staff members, I believe that the level of service being provided to the youth in this area is lacking.
Is the minister aware of these staff shortcomings, and if he is, what steps are being taken to increase cross-cultural training and First Nations staff?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Any group that works with Family and Children's Services would receive, as part of its mandate, the direction that they have to be sensitive to the needs of First Nations communities in this territory, and I believe that probably a contractor who works with us would make that effort.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure that that is being done, but I've also heard concerns about the lack of First Nations programming at these group homes.
Can the minister tell us if he is aware of why this type of programming is lacking, and why connections are not being nurtured between the youth and First Nations role models, such as elders and First Nation leaders, and what is the minister going to do to improve the situation?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I can look into the degree of training that the individuals in this case do receive, and if there are some shortcomings, we can see what we can do to address them.
Question re: Non-government organizations, funding for
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I once again have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Now, if there is a substantial change to a contribution agreement with an NGO, it has to come back to the House at the next possible opportunity to be re-examined. These agreements come back to the House to ensure the public purse is being spent wisely.
Is that the minister's understanding of the process?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Speaker. When we enter into an agreement with an NGO, they agree to deliver a service for us, and we in turn have expectations of them. If, for example, the NGO was not fulfilling the substantive portion of that agreement, then yes, we would have to review it. However, I would emphasize that we are talking about substantive portions. From time to time, an NGO will have changes, perhaps in staff. They will have changes perhaps in some deliveries. If they aren't substantive, then I wouldn't see any need for them to come back to this House in terms of contribution agreements.
Mrs. Edelman: There have been some substantial changes to an $800,000 contribution agreement that the government has with Northern Network of Services. Gibbs Groups Homes has taken over the operations and management of this agreement for some reason. Northern Network of Services was a non-profit society run by a board of directors. This service is now being provided by a for-profit business - Gibbs Group Homes.
Does the minister agree that this substantial change warrants taking another look at the contribution agreement in this Legislature at the earliest opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think the member may have some misinformation there. The initiative to change that arose out of some difficulties within NNS in terms of staffing and in terms of the loss, I believe, of their director. There were some subsequent staffing difficulties. I should emphasize that the board actively sought out Gibbs Group Homes to fulfill their mandate for delivery of services in this regard. Quite clearly, if they actively pursued this option, there must have been some reasons why they felt comfortable with Gibbs Group Homes following this.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, Gibbs Group Homes has been providing this service, for some reason, since this summer. Gibbs Group Homes is a for-profit business, and when they bid on the group home contracts, it goes out to public tender. Why were no other businesses given a chance to bid on the provision of these services, because we are talking about $800,000 of taxpayers' money?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once again, this was a decision by the board. The board actively sought someone who could deliver the service and that's what they followed through on.
Question re: Old Crow, winter road
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Minister of Renewable Resources. It is concerning the winter road to Old Crow.
Last Thursday, the Minister of Government Services indicated in this House that the Government of Yukon was going to go it alone and build its own winter road to Old Crow, separate and apart from the winter road Northern Cross is planning to build through part of this area. I would like the minister to explain, from the perspective of protecting the environment, if he believes that it is better to have two winter roads constructed in this environmentally sensitive area or just one, where it can be jointly shared.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I am speaking as the Minister of Government Services in this case.
Perhaps I can elaborate a little bit on this question of the second road. The determination was made on the decision to build our own road, so to speak, for a variety of reasons. Some of them had to do with the staging area of Eagle Plains. We felt that that was a better place and would provide more benefit for the area around Eagle Plains. As well, there were some substantial problems with the terrain that would be necessitated by, in a sense, jumping off the Northern Cross road, and that's completely separate from any of the other issues, but there were substantial difficulties with that terrain.
C&TS engineers did considerable consultation, and they gave us the route that they felt was best. I have a map here, if that would be of any help to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: It's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that we now have an entirely new story from the Minister of Government Services, speaking on behalf of the Minister of the Environment, to whom the question was directed.
The issue is that a lot of this road going into the same area can be cost shared between Northern Cross and the Government of Yukon. There's a cost savings to both parties. There is an additional environmental -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: There's an additional environmental saving in that two roads do not have to be constructed which, for about 16 to 20 kilometres, will parallel each other into the same area, and the Minister of Government Services, last week, indicated that Northern Cross had made no formal approach to the Government of the Yukon to share the construction of a joint road. But I'd like to ask the Minister of the Environment - the Minister of Renewable Resources - if, in the interest of protecting the environment, he would be prepared to approach Northern Cross about sharing the construction of the winter road to Old Crow? Will the Minister do that? Has there been any formal request made, or any discussion, with Northern Cross?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. I feel I have to respond to some of the absurdities that were just mentioned.
There were a variety of reasons why this route was selected, not the least of which were terrain issues. The nature of the roads are very different. The road that's being proposed to Old Crow is a road that is essentially a single lane, one direction only. The road for Northern Cross is a road of some 18 kilometres.
Mr. Phillips: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the question was an environmental question to the Minister of the Environment. We now have the Minister of Health answering, giving the environmental answer. Is it because the Minister of the Environment doesn't have an answer or doesn't know what's going on? Could we have the appropriate minister answer the question, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Harding: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The hon. Mr. Harding, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Government Services is responding to an issue that pertains to the Government Services jurisdiction. It is not in the opposition's prerogative to direct which representative of the government will respond to the questions they put to the government.
Speaker: There is no point of order. It is Cabinet's choice. Continue, Minister of Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Member for Klondike made reference to cost savings. The Northern Cross road really only represents about 18 kilometres. The savings on that would have been extremely modest, and any savings would be offset by increased distance to the staging area, Eagle Plains. As well, they anticipated considerable extra costs in terms of the difficulty of the terrain going off from Northern Cross, and that was based upon some engineering studies from C&TS who flew over the route and chose the easiest and least expensive route for this road.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has indicated that it plans to appeal the court decision concerning the land use permit granted by DIAND allowing Northern Cross to reopen some old oil wells near Eagle Plains because of environmental concerns. I'd like to know if the Department of Renewable Resources is also opposed to Northern Cross's applications for environmental reasons and, if not, will the department recommend one joint winter road to Old Crow, rather than two into that area that can be jointly shared? This is for the minister responsible for Renewable Resources.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once again I'll exercise that prerogative.
With regard to both of the roads in question, I should remind the Member for Klondike - although he's perhaps not following the press quite as avidly as the rest of us are - that there has been considerable opposition to this on behalf of Vuntut Gwitchin. As a matter of fact, one of our concerns was the necessity to accomplish this. It now appears that the Vuntut Gwitchin will exercise some legal rights in trying to appeal to a higher court. That would delay this project even further.
My concern, and I know the concern of my colleague the Minister of Education, is that we get this project underway, that the school be completed so the children can be accommodated. Certainly the community of Old Crow has given us strong support in trying to accomplish that, and they have indicated that as far as a road that we would be looking at and they would be satisfied with, they have no opposition to that. However, it is apparent that they do have some concerns with the Northern Cross road.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 23: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 23, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 23, entitled Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, with this act, our government seeks to provide members of the public with new opportunities to act in ways to prevent crime and enhance victim services.
When criminal activity reaches new levels and we are uncertain when or where we will be victimized, our homes broken into, our property stolen, our children violated or our own person assaulted, people feel that the justice system is left largely in the hands of experts. There is almost a sense that, to a very great extent, it is not the justice system of the ordinary citizen any longer.
What the crime prevention and victim services trust fund will do is fund initiatives that are inspired by the needs and ideas of organizations and communities in the Yukon.
The justice system in the Yukon is being called upon to resolve an expanding number of disputes and deal with a wide range of complex issues. The Yukon, like all areas of Canada, is hearing more public complaints about the justice system. From Dawson, I hear that a curfew bylaw is essential to stop youth crime. In Whitehorse, at city council and at other public meetings, there are demands that the people of the city be protected.
The justice system is expected to provide safety and security in homes, on the streets and in workplaces. There is dissatisfaction with the reaction of the system when vandals deface property, steal money and burn vehicles, seemingly without any consequences.
In general, public satisfaction with the justice system has decreased. Statistical evidence of the decrease in certain crimes does not convince a skeptical Yukoner. People everywhere are asking pointed questions about Canada's justice system. On one hand, the system is expected to toughen its treatment of young offenders; on the other hand, the taxpayer does not want to pay for more prisons. There are conflicting demands on the justice system: for conviction, for defence, for incarceration and for cheaper justice.
We have accomplished a great deal in a short period of time, but we have much more to accomplish to restore faith in the system. This fund will help accomplish that.
The Yukon justice system must change the way it does business to accommodate First Nations' administration of justice. We are developing more flexible innovative approaches to preventing crime.
As I mentioned earlier, we are looking at ways to attack the root causes and the social indicators of crime. We need to stop crimes before they occur and reduce the impact of crime on victims.
By shifting our emphasis to prevention and community-based initiatives made possible by this fund, we will avoid increasing the bureaucracy and the cost of justice and encourage community involvement in what was once a closed system.
We are working closely with the federal and municipal governments, with First Nations, and with other departments of the Yukon government to solve problems that often begin as health, education or employment issues. By reviewing justice programs and services, setting goals and objectives that we can meet, justice can serve victims more effectively with less cost to all of us.
We want to give people a voice on what the crime prevention and victim services trust fund can do, and we want to involve the public in justice matters so that victims of crime, the community and justice professionals will be able to direct resources from this fund to find a better way of doing justice in the Yukon. We need to not just seek ways of building healthier communities, but create a healthier justice system that works for people.
I want the justice system to be restorative. We need to share the responsibilities for the ways we bring justice to the community. Together we must build a citizen-centred, preventive justice system. Our justice system should be responsive to the needs of Yukoners. The public must understand the law and the system. We must therefore be transparent in our actions and make sure that we teach and inform people about law and justice. That is one way of creating a justice system that they can respect.
When I am approached by Yukoners, it's often to express their ideas and comments surrounding the issue of crime prevention. An unfortunate reality of these times is the increasing incidence of violent crime in our society and, more particularly, crimes against women and children. We've all read the articles in the newspapers and watched the 6:00 news. It's impossible to do so without being faced with reports of theft, vandalism and often brutal acts of violence. These reports come from all over the world, and the fact remains that some of them originate here in the Yukon.
Along with the increasing level of crime in our society, there is a proportionate demand upon governments to do something about it. It is right that governments take leadership in this area. In the Yukon, we take pride in living in a place where we can raise our families and live our lives in an environment of safety without the threat of violence.
Traditionally, low rates of crime contributes to the quality of life we enjoy in this territory. Yukoners want government to develop programs designed to address the causes of crime and to promote its prevention. They also want government to help victims of crime. Yukoners want to continue to live in safe, healthy communities, and do not want to become victims of criminal activity.
To date, this government has developed initiatives aimed at creating safer communities through a variety of crime prevention programs. These include administrative sanctions for people who are driving while impaired or without a valid licence. We've seen a number of communities working to increase community policing projects. We have been actively supporting justice initiatives in Carcross, Watson Lake and Dawson City that include family group conferencing, diversion programs and community justice committees. We have seen school councils and individual school administrations working to promote safer schools and ensure that our children are enjoying an environment of respect and safety when they go off to school.
This budget year, we increased resources to the Department of Justice's victim services branch, and we're continuing to support private programs offering counselling to victims of crime.
While this government remains committed to helping victims of crime and family violence by providing resources to help them deal with the effects of being victimized, we also want to take action to prevent crime by attacking its root causes. These lie in violent homes, in school dropout rates, in drug and alcohol dependency, in lack of opportunities and the diminishment of hope. They lie in fear and misunderstanding.
The challenge for government is to develop creative ways to fund projects and programs directed at crime prevention and victim services, particularly when the development of new programs costs money and available dollars are shrinking. This new legislation provides the way to use existing resources to help support Yukon victims in regaining control over their own lives and to provide services designed to reduce the incidence of crime.
The Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act establishes a trust fund and provides a framework for its administration. The trust will be funded primarily through fines imposed under territorial legislation and, with the cooperation of the federal government, fines collected under the Criminal Code of Canada. Victim surcharges imposed on these fines will also go into the trust fund, along with existing monies held in trust under the Victim Services Act.
The interest earned on the court trust account, in addition to the revenue received by the government from the slot machine management agreement with the Klondike Visitors Association, will also be deferred into the trust. Together, these resources will provide an opening balance of approximately $1,086,000.
Under the trust management principles, 10 percent, or $108,000, can be used in the first year. That's $108,000 that's available for crime prevention and victim services without spending a single extra tax dollar.
In consultation with the public on the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, First Nations brought attention to the fact that violence means abuse, whether physical abuse, sexual abuse, mental abuse, alcohol and drug abuse. First Nations communities and the Yukon government have to look for ways to change abusive behaviour and to deal with the attitudes and values that lie behind abusive behaviour.
Crisis intervention and victim support is one phase of our responses to these types of crime.
Of great importance, in order to change attitudes in Yukon's society, is to begin with our youth. Children are unable to respect other people and other people's property if they do not learn self-respect. In our school system, we're working to improve all students' knowledge of the cultural differences in Yukon communities. Developing locally based curriculum that informs all students about First Nations heritage and traditions are ways to enhance respect for others. This is a vital part of building safe, healthy communities, with reduced incidence of crime.
Mr. Speaker, we need to live in a society where all people have the right to live without violence and the threat of violence, and we all have a personal responsibility to try to bring that about in our own lives and in the organizations that we work with.
The violence and the threat of violence that goes on in Yukon communities today maintains disadvantages, particularly for women and children.
The Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act is only one piece of how our government plans to take action on crime. The victims of family violence act will be another important legislative initiative to help protect family members who face violence.
The cost of violence against women and children can be measured in financial terms, as well as in the abuse and intimidation, and often murder, that occurs as a result of this violence.
A strong coordinated approach based on what works with and for communities is needed to counter violence in our community. Programs and services have to be accessible and appropriate to diverse needs, taking into account linguistic, cultural and geographic diversity.
Physical and social isolation is often a factor for women and children, and we need again to help change the attitudes and values and abusive behaviours.
Through the victim services component of this trust fund, we need to have the goals of providing effective supports for women and their children who are victims of violence. We need to look at ways of preventing violence through education and awareness.
Prevention must be built on strong communities, on partnerships, on local solutions, accessible programs and respect for choice. Prevention must be seen as long-term problem solving with necessary short-term measures such as crisis intervention.
Examples of prevention and education that we can look at include school-based services for children who have witnessed violence, professional development for teachers, supports to public education, and prevention initiatives in local communities and the workplace. We can support training on violence prevention issues for police, for Crown attorneys, for probation, parole and correctional officers, and health, education and social service professionals. We can support multi-media public education campaigns and activities promoting healthy and balanced relationships between boys and girls.
Examples of crisis response services that can help ensure safety and support for victims include crisis lines, emergency shelter and transportation, medical treatment, counselling and support to help deal with trauma and to increase women's safety and self-reliance, and follow-up supports for women and their children.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that you are aware of the increasing numbers of volunteers who are working both with the police to provide immediate support to victims and with community agencies on more systemic approaches.
Strengthening the way that the justice system responds is another key strategy to use. We need safeguards for women and their children who are in danger, as well as effective and accountable treatment programs for abusive men, and support for victims of violence in the justice system.
Victim witness support in court is something that we have offered through our Department of Justice and that is expending. Emergency legal aid for women victims of abuse, cultural language assistance, counselling programs for abusive men, and victim crisis assistance and referrals are both existing and new types of programs that we can look to the community to come forward with applications for support in this trust fund.
As the trust fund builds, it's expected to reach its threshold of $2 million by the sixth year of operation. The interest earned on this threshold will result then in an estimated $200,000 available for expenditure in each fiscal year. The fund will be administered by a board of trustees composed of representatives from First Nations organizations, women's groups, the RCMP and members of the public service. The trustees will be responsible for ensuring the funds are used for community-based projects aimed at both crime prevention and victim services.
These types of programs, while not limited to, could include leadership projects, community policing, public awareness campaigns on crime prevention, counselling services for victims of crime, and training programs dealing with the dynamics of family violence and spousal assault for victims, offenders and victim services professionals.
The Yukon public wants programs that are designed to stop crimes from escalating. All Yukon people will be well served by crime prevention programs that are initiated locally. We've seen examples of locally initiated programs in the youth leadership projects held this summer in Watson Lake, Ross River and Kwanlin Dun. We've seen diversion programs and community justice committees underway in neighbourhoods and villages and hamlets and towns around the territory. We're continuing to implement Keeping Kids Safe programs. We've also seen increased funding for victim services and coordination of community notification protocol.
I think that these are the types of programs that the community wants to see supported, and I think that the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act will help all Yukoners to participate in crime prevention initiatives that can help improve public confidence in the justice system by creating an important new way of providing money to communities and groups for the programs they believe will help to reduce crime.
These programs will help to ensure that all Yukoners enjoy the right to live without violence or the threat of violence in their homes, in their schools, in their workplaces and in their community. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I do not intend to speak for a long time on this act, but there are some points that I would like to put on the record.
The first point is that I am pleased to see the minister has brought this particular piece of legislation forward to the House and, again, because it seems that it is starting to become a bit of a habit of the side opposite. Many of the initiatives that we are seeing the NDP government do are initiatives that were well underway under the Yukon Party government. In fact, we were even criticized when they were on the side opposite. In fact, this one was well underway and in fact, when I look how the bill is designed, it has the same briefing that I received from the department - the various initiatives and how it was going to operate and where it was going to come from. The work was all done, but it took a year to get here.
I am pleased that it is here. In fact, if I can remind members to think back to a year ago in September, we talked about starting a community protection act. Now, they did change the name of the act a little bit. They are not calling it a community protection act. They are calling it a Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act. Our community protection act would create a crime prevention and victim services trust fund. Sound familiar?
The trust would be established by pooling several sources of revenue which are available from the Department of Justice, outside the government's general revenues, so as not to be a drain on the tax revenue or require increases in existing budgets. The revenue would be for implementing or creating safer communities initiatives - as we heard in the announcements today - implementing recommendations made by the Talking About Crime Committee - initiatives that we heard today as well - and to provide grants to groups and individuals in the community to fund locally initiated crime prevention programs and victim services.
I am pleased to see that the minister is carrying forward on an initiative that we started when we were in government and will have my support in that regard.
I do have some questions about it and some other concerns regarding the justice system that I do want to talk about. This particular program, this bill, is called the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act. One would be led to believe that this particular bill is going to be of some assistance, some help to the victim.
I read the bill and I listened to the minister today talk about the initiatives that the minister is going to carry out, and there is one area I think that is obviously missing. Although I don't have any magic solutions for it, I would like to hear the minister's views on this after I sit down and she has a chance to respond to us, and that is that the minister talked about people, more and more across this country, being disgruntled and upset and frustrated with our justice system. What I want to talk about, Mr. Speaker, today is the victims of the justice system and what we are doing to the victims of the justice system.
The minister said that she didn't want Yukoners to become victims of criminal activity, and I would agree with that 100 percent. But I don't want to see victims being revictimized by the justice system, and that's what we are seeing across this country - not just in the Yukon but all across this country. And I know that the new Justice minister has been to Justice ministers conferences and I know that that's a topic of discussion of every Justice minister across the country. What I'm talking about, Mr. Speaker, are decisions that are made by the justice system - in many cases, final decisions that are made by the judiciary - that revictimize the victims. Statements that I think, in some cases, are totally insensitive to the victims who are involved.
Let me give you a few examples, and I'll start first with one that made my blood boil last week, Mr. Speaker, and that's about a young man in Ontario. His name is Martin Kruze. Martin Kruze was a young, 13-year-old hockey player who went to Maple Leaf Gardens to try and access some of the facilities there and play with many of the young boys that were there. And there was a fellow there, an equipment manager, assistant manager of the Gardens, a guy called Mr. Stuckless. He came into contact with hundreds of boys from 1969 to 1988. It's now been revealed, by way of a court case, that many of these boys were abused by Mr. Stuckless.
Mr. Speaker, several weeks ago, a decision was rendered in the case and Mr. Stuckless was found guilty of abuse - hundreds of cases of abuse - and when the decision was rendered, the judge gave him two years less a day. For years, he had been abusing these young boys and using his authority, and this guy got two years less a day.
The judge said that the reason he gave him that little time is that he had shown remorse. Well, sorry, Mr. Speaker, but that's not good enough. That's not good enough.
The public was outraged. But even worse than that, last week, the ultimate price was paid by Martin Kruze. This young man who had been abused and came forward as the lead person to expose this reprobate for the terrible and violent actions he had committed on these young kids, committed suicide. In the end, as his family said, we feel that justice was not served and, unfortunately, Martin paid the biggest price of all with his own life.
That is probably a pretty high profile case for Canadians and Yukoners to look at, but we have some here at home that are frustrating and upsetting the general public. The Klassen case. Now, I understand that people are still frustrated with what happened there and failed to understand what happened and some of the comments that were made.
A case I raised with the local judiciary - the Gingell case - about the victims being left out of the equation and my efforts to offer the judiciary an avenue for possible further training on the concern or the rights of victims that they could look at, which was nothing to do with the Gingell case. I didn't ask anybody to change a thing, but just said that, in the future, the victim should be considered. More recently - and it's under appeal, so I won't mention an awful lot about the case - but it was a gang rape case, where the sentence was rendered and the reasons for a lower sentence was that it would be better if the individuals serve their time in an institution where cultural values were more paramount. Well, I think if you asked the individual who was gang raped whether cultural values were of any importance at all to those three men at the time, she would tell you that they were not. Again, the public was outraged.
Mr. Speaker, I guess people in our justice system - lawyers, judges, Crown attorneys - and everybody have to realize that these are serious crimes, and people want them treated seriously. There were comments made in this rape case and in other rape cases - the one in Montreal comes to mind - that they didn't use any violent weapons, or it wasn't a really violent rape.
Well, Mr. Speaker, wake up. Wake up, justice system. Rape is a violent act whether they use a weapon or anything else, and to say otherwise for any reason whatsoever is outrageous, and that's why the people are mad, and that's why the people are frustrated with this system of ours. It appears not to be working.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear from this Justice minister how we in the Yukon can change that. What can we do to change our laws. Some of our judges have said that we shouldn't interfere with the justice system by talking to justices or even suggesting that things should improve. We have the right to change the laws, so what I would like to know from this Justice minister - because I know she feels similarly as I do about some of these cases - is how we can change the laws. What message can we send there - a clear message so there's no wavering from doing the right thing - so that some of these statements that are made, which revictimize the victim by our own justice system, stop, so that if someone makes these decisions, they are held responsible for their actions, because there seems to be no responsibility by anybody? They can say whatever they want. We get angry. We get upset, but no one does anything. In this Legislature and in other legislatures across this country, we make the laws.
So, I challenge every member in this House to think about that, to think about how we can change the law so that these kinds of things - the revictimizing of these victims - don't happen any more.
Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of questions I have about the bill we have in front of us. The minister talks about the interest, I believe, of this bill that's going to be used for this victim trust fund. The minister talked about it being a $2 million fund over a period of years. Nobody's getting very much interest on their money right now with the interest rates the way they are. I just wonder if the minister has some idea, possibly over the next two, three or four years, what kind of dollar value we will see, Mr. Speaker, so we can get some idea of where this money will be used and how much money there will be there to use. I think it's a good idea. Like I said, it was a Yukon Party initiative, and I support the initiative, but I would like to know how much is going to be generated.
Mr. Speaker, the other question I have is in relation to some of the areas where we're going to get the money. One of them is interest received by the Government of the Yukon which is not required to be paid out to any beneficiary. Maybe the minister could tell us what that dollar amount amounts to on an annual basis, or regular basis. Fines paid into the court - I can't recall, but I thought that money that was paid into the court, Mr. Speaker, went into the general revenue fund and was used in the Department of Justice. Now, is that the case, or was the money put into a special trust fund, like other monies here were, and not actually spent? Because it does raise some interesting questions.
The other area that I would like to ask the minister about is the money received by the Government of the Yukon from the Klondike Visitors Association. I would imagine that that would be the taxes that would be paid by the Klondike Visitors Association for the gambling that goes on in Gertie's, and I think it varies from $180,000 to $300,000 a year, from year to year.
I guess what I'm concerned about is, of course, the fact that it is kind of a dangerous precedent to be earmarking revenue generated from any fund, and earmarking it for a specific case. It's not done very often, because usually the money just flows right into general revenues, and then ministers work and squabble and fight and try and keep enough money for their own departments to keep them operating. So this means that if there's any money coming out of general revenues, or being decreased in general revenues, and being earmarked for a certain program, that's kind of a dangerous precedent, and I'd like to know if that's the case.
I would be increasingly concerned if, in fact, the government, at the present time - I know the Government Leader was running around the territory crying poverty - if the budget comes out next spring and $300,000 that was gathered from the Klondike Visitors Association, through mainly tourism revenues, we saw a $300,000 reduction in the Tourism budget.
It would almost look like it was generated by tourism and was taken from tourism, so I think that's the concern you get into. I mean, some would argue that if you're going to start earmarking money for specific projects from specific revenues, you would say that the money raised from tourists should go to the Tourism department as opposed to any private practice, and make an argument for that - that the tourist paid the money and the taxes were collected, so maybe we should do a Canadian or European promotional campaign with that money to get more tourists here to spend more money. That would be an argument one could make.
So I would like to know from the minister if that, in fact, is the case, and how much of this money is virtually just sitting there in trust funds already and maybe isn't in the general revenue fund. I don't have any problem with that money that's sitting there and in fact is really doing nothing. It should be put to work. At least, the interest from it should be put to work.
I was reading the guidelines for the purposes of the trust and they are rather broad, but from listening to the comments today of the minister with respect to this particular program, the minister talked about youth crime prevention and talked about three or four different programs that the minister's government is now carrying on, but noticeably absent was any mention of the success of YES again. It's quite interesting that it seems to get missed when this government speaks. They talked about their new youth initiatives and, like I said in a press release about a week ago, it's almost like if it's not their idea, it's not a good idea. I don't know whether it was just an oversight of the minister not to mention YES, because I know they have given YES some funding. Maybe, they either don't think that YES is doing a very good job so that's why they don't mention it and that's why they're not funding it, or - I don't know. I just don't understand the rationale. I listened to CKRW Radio about a week-and-a-half ago and the Government Leader was on there just before the House started and he was talking about all the positive things his government was going to do and one of the initiatives he talked about was that we believe in fighting youth crime and crime prevention and we want the programs driven by the youth. YES is a youth-driven program. After listening to the minister today and listening to the Government Leader the other day and even listening to the Minister of Health today, YES meets all the criteria but it seems that the Minister of Health wants the YES people to come on their hands and knees and grovel to get any money.
I think that's too bad, because we heard from some of the youth from YES and some of the supervisors on the radio the other day talking about the kids that are now out there. Some of them are actually committing crimes - property crimes - because they lost their resource centre and because they lost the direction and the things they do and a place to go and discussions, and that kind of thing. I see the Minister of Health and Social Services shaking his head, but I wish he could get by the politics of it and would realize that the funding of a resource centre for youth would be a useful thing to do.
The minister said that his hands are tied. Who is running the government? Who tied the minister's hands? I thought that the minister made policy and the minister gave direction and the minister asked his department to carry out these initiatives. I read the NDP election platform - A Better Way - and it talks about working with youth and youth-driven programs. That is what YES is.
The minister keeps meeting with YES. We have heard all kinds of reasons why he couldn't fund YES. First of all, there isn't a program slot he could put them into. The minister can make a program slot. The minister can ask his department to develop an initiative that would deal with the kinds of things that YES is doing and maybe ask YES to improve on some things and work a little harder on others, but at least examine what they're doing.
Now, if the minister has done some of that already and determined that he doesn't think they are doing a very good job, he should just say so. He should just say it; he shouldn't beat around the bush and make them come to his office door week after week after week and grovel and plead to the minister to help them out.
In the election, they said this was the kind of thing they were going to do, and they should do it. It shouldn't be just because it was a federal Liberal idea that they don't want to go ahead with it. I condemned the federal Liberals, as well, for starting a pilot project, actually, and not following through with a good idea, but that's the crazy nature of these pilot projects that the feds have done for years. They start one pilot project after the other and it doesn't matter if they're good or bad or whatever. Then they just start another one afterwards; very few of them actually continue on. I think some of them have proven successful and some of them have proven to be a failure, but I think that any government, whether it be territorial or federal, that starts a project, should keep in mind that if the project is successful, there will be continuous funding.
If the project fails, then they might try another way of solving the problem.
Mr. Speaker, like I said when I started here today, I am supportive of this Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act in principle. I think the purposes of the trust are rather open-ended and maybe they have to be in the justice system because there are all kinds of different ways to institute crime prevention programs.
The board of trustees that they are going to set up seems to be a board made up of people who represent a special-interest group of one kind or another. Two persons are from the public service. One person is from Health and Social Services, so, that makes three government members. Two were recommended by the Minister of Justice and one person has been nominated from the Yukon Council of First Nations, so First Nations will be represented on the committee and I think that is a positive move. One person has been recommended by the Minister of Justice and one person has been nominated by organizations concerned with women's equality issues and problems facing women in the Yukon.
What about the rest of us? What about the rest of the Yukoners out there? Are the government bureaucrats the only ones representing us? There are women's issues. I think that is an important priority. I would have liked to see possibly two or three people recommended by the Minister of Justice from among Yukoners. If the minister chooses to appoint more women to that position and more women facing equality issues, I do not have a problem with that.
In crime prevention you want to involve people other than those who are all wrapped up in the system and that is part of the problem. You want community-driven initiatives. You want people who understand what is going on in the community. I think we should be looking at putting people on that committee from the communities, possibly three people from the general public, one rural, one urban.
Like I said, I do not have a problem with the minister choosing someone who has concerns about women's issues, but I can tell the minister that, as well as some of the more serious crimes, we are also talking about a lot of the property-related crimes and they do affect everybody.
And so I'd ask the minister to consider an amendment in that section to allow for possibly two more people from the general public who would be appointed, and they could be citizens, I suppose, that were involved in crime prevention in the community already and had some background and knowledge of the community activities that are taking place.
So with that, Mr. Speaker, I'll leave it at that.
As I said, I would hope that the minister will rise today in response to my questions about the other issue regarding victims. I think one that is just as serious - not necessarily more serious but just serious - and that is the revictimizing of the victims in the justice system itself and how we deal with and address that issue. I would hope the minister would address it, because I'm not going to let it go. I'm going to be raising the question time and time again in the House, and I am searching for solutions to that, and like I said, I would challenge all members of this House to come forward with suggestions and ideas about how we could make the justice system more accountable and make sure that we not only assist and give support to the victims of crime when they have been victimized, but we don't deliberately revictimize them, and I think that we should be conscious of that.
And again, I commend the minister for bringing this particular piece of legislation forward. I would hope the minister would have some answers for me on the funding questions when she rises here today.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Both in the ministerial statement today and in the minister's preamble in the second reading, she has spoken about community involvement and how community involvement is necessary. She's also alluded to the fact, which I believe is her position, that crime prevention is more important than punishment. Now, those are what I think we can safely say are self-evident truths, but we need to be stating them over and over so that people will hear them and hear the underlying message.
Now, I had occasion when I was out visiting my son in Drayton Valley a few weeks ago to pick up a newspaper, and there was a letter from an RCM policeman - I guess it was a weekly column - where he made a very eloquent case for community involvement in the crime prevention area, indicating that the police themselves can't be counted on simply to be the only lever for catching criminals and preventing crime.
The gentleman, the policeman, couldn't have been more accurate. Community involvement eventually is the only way that we can prevent crime. Secondly, when people are frustrated by the system and what they perceive as its shortcomings, they think that punishment is not reflecting the crime, and punishment becomes a preoccupation. I think that's very much the case in the Yukon at the moment and it's particularly relevant to the mindless crime that we have been witnessing over the past two years - mindless vandalism - and people want to strike back because they feel helpless. I think it's very important that governments at this time and justice ministers and people in the crime prevention business calm people down and encourage them to focus on the causes of crime more than the punishment.
Last year, I had occasion to ask one of the researchers that the then three-person Liberal caucus had to go over all the crime initiatives in the territory, and I was amazed at the number of crime initiatives. There were acronyms I'd never heard before and bodies floating around out there doing things. I was very happy that there were that many people involved with these crime initiatives, but it did bring to mind, and this is reinforced by what is going on both in this bill and in the ministerial statement that was given today, the many, many initiatives.
There appears, on the surface anyway, to be a need for integration of what's going on. There needs to be an integration of the Justice department - what I would assume would be the lead, at least in crime punishment - with other government departments, and there needs to be an integration of the initiatives as between the various public bodies and the various public bodies with the government. I don't see that publicly, and it may simply be because I'm not knowledgeable as to what's going on, but there needs to be an overall coordination of efforts if we are to be more successful, particularly in preventing crime.
It would be useful to hear, when the minister is on in the committee report, the present status of the Crime Prevention Council and what's going on and whether that's a suitable coordinating body.
I'd also like to find out, and I put this question to the minister after her ministerial statement, whether or not there is an articulated lead agency in the government and, if so, who is it? What is the umbrella that is coordinating all these efforts within the government?
The minister has indicated that it's the Department of Justice. I'm pleased to hear that and perhaps we can explore that a little more in Committee.
Now, last December, the minister said, when we were talking about crime initiatives, "I'm therefore pleased to announce that, in the fall legislative session, I will be introducing a bill to create a crime prevention and victim services trust fund," which she, of course, has just done. "This trust fund will allow community-based groups..." There's a bit of noise coming out of Faro here, for the moment.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: "This trust fund will allow community-based groups to apply for funding for locally developed programs that will prevent crime and provide services to victims. The criteria that we will be developing for guiding how the trust will be expended will focus on encouraging projects designed to reduce violence against women and children."
Now I gather there's a set of guidelines floating around. I haven't seen them. What I would like to know - and we can talk about this in the committee report - is how these guidelines are going to be given to this trust, and whether there's going to be any statutory basis for them. I don't see any statutory basis, just flipping through the act, and it appears that the regulatory power is simply administrative in nature. I would assume that guidelines will change, from time to time, so it'd be useful to hear from the minister how she is going to give these criteria to the trust.
As the official opposition critic mentioned, it'd be useful to get the projections for the size of the trust over the years. The sources of revenue, as I read them, at least four of them, are variable in nature. The lottery money from the Klondike Visitors Association is variable, of course. The interest provided by the government as a consequence of money paid into court is variable. The fines paid into court are variable. Any money donated is variable, and the victim surcharges, of course, are variable. So the major sources of revenue, at least in numbers anyway, are based on random sources of revenue. I'd like to hear the minister's thinking on whether the principle behind the bill that there should be programs, and that there should be this group of trustees running these programs, and how that conflicts with what appears to be unpredictable sources of revenue.
I don't have anything more to say, other than that I do congratulate the minister for bringing the bill forward. It's one step of a many-faceted approach on a very serious social problem.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'd just like to take some time to speak a little bit in support of the initiatives by the government to help address crime and help victims through Bill No. 23, the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, but before I actually get into the substance of my comments, I would like to mention to the Member for Riverside, who questioned the cooperation between departments, that that is a process that has already begun under the leadership of the Minister of Justice, and our deputy ministers are meeting to discuss how we can approach crime from a crime prevention, from a concerted, congruent kind of approach and, as well, education is also being brought into it, because we see some areas where public - and I suppose civic education - can be integrated into this whole process. So the process has already begun.
There have been some meetings between those departments, and we've given our departments very specific direction that dealing with crime is not going to be "we're doing one thing, this department is doing another thing, and this department is doing something else." We see this as being a cross-departmental approach, and we believe that this is the best way to bear fruit.
Just on the whole question of crime, it is a very hot topic, and it's something that is not just simply confined to this territory, and, in fact, it is one of those issues that I think has become more and more a concern for individuals. Interestingly enough, even though violent crime statistics have dropped steadily over the last 30 years, there is a public perception that crime is rampant. I'm not really quite sure where that perception comes from. Perhaps it's the influence of television. Perhaps it's other media portrayals of towns and cities under attack. Perhaps it's the portrayal of sometimes very horrific kinds of crimes, and I just wonder if sometimes we don't do a bit of a transference. We see things on southern media and perhaps transfer those on to our own communities.
So, Mr. Speaker, I really can't address there is that huge perception, but I do know that there are many sincere and committed people in this territory who are concerned about crime, and they have reason to be.
In Whitehorse, much of that crime has revolved around the issue of youth, and as my department is responsible for youth when they come in contact with the police, I'd like to address this issue a little bit in relation to the act that we are discussing today.
Interestingly enough, analysis for crime statistics across Canada show that the peak ages for charges of non-violent offences, including break and enters and theft, are ages 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20. By contrast, the peak ages for persons being charged with crimes of violence are 29 and 30 years of age. Also, the involvement of persons over the age of 30 years in all crime gradually declines with age.
With regard to some of the statistical data with regard to young offenders, we have in this territory one of the highest rates of involvement with our youth population in the correctional system, both in probation and custody, and we have one of the highest rates of committal to custody in the country.
That, in itself, may appear very dire and it is not the best of news, but I think it needs to be balanced against the fact that the Yukon has one of the highest rates of reported crime and one of the highest rates of charging in the country. Interestingly enough, we share this distinction with two other small-population jurisdictions: the Northwest Territories and Prince Edward Island.
I suppose, in a sense, that is not necessarily bad news because what happens is people tend to report crime when they know and have more confidence in the police and those kinds of occurrences often take place in jurisdictions with small populations where the people feel comfortable and they have a knowledge sometimes of their own local police force.
Also, incidentally, because of the size of our population, we have one of the highest concentrations of police in the country compared to other larger jurisdictions. Basically, this fact, plus the likelihood that people know one another, means that more crimes get solved in smaller places.
But, then balanced against that, we have some other factors that influence us: the high rate of alcohol consumption and heavy, frequent drinking. We have serious illicit drug use problems in the Yukon, all of which can be correlated with crime rates.
Now, when we look at that, that appears to be overwhelmingly negative, but it is not. Family and children services now has two years of recidivism data for the young offenders alternative measures program and one year of data for the youth achievement centre.
Recidivism data for both programs compares very favourably with published recidivism rates in other similar client groups in Canada. The young offenders alternative measures program reports a 20-percent recidivism since 1996. Now, this is compared with 21 percent in the P.E.I. study and 22 percent in the Nova Scotia study.
The youth achievement centre reports an 18-percent recidivism rate for 1997 participants. We had some difficulty in finding cities with comparable Canadian programs. However, since the youth achievement centre serves very high-risk teens, many of whom have been in custody already, we tried to do a comparison with Ontario. We found that Ontario youth committed to custody have a 40-percent recidivism rate for open custody, and a 64-percent recidivism rate for secure custody, over a two-year period, which I suppose really brings into question some of the extreme measures that Ontario was looking at right now with some of their young people.
So, I think it's also important to point out that Yukon recidivism rates include both Criminal Code and territorial offences.
So those are, I guess, some groundwork that I'd like to sort of get in place before I move into some more substantive kinds of aspects.
We know that there are many theories about youth crime. The one that I hear very frequently is, "We're bored". Well, I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, I just can't buy the argument. As a former principal and teacher, I just can't picture otherwise happy, healthy kids - it's never been my experience - sitting around on the couch one evening saying, "Well, you know, gee, I'm bored; there's nothing good on TV, so maybe I'll go break into somebody's house." It doesn't happen like that. It really doesn't. Young people who have solid community and home backgrounds simply don't engage in crime for those kinds of reasons.
I personally believe that there are a number of factors that promote crime in youth. Boredom may be a minor factor, but I think it's way down the list when we start looking at some of the more insidious kinds of circumstances that affect a family and society.
At this point, I'm talking about the issues of poverty, the issues of lack of opportunity, and sometimes family politics. So I believe that crime and crime causes are multi-faceted.
It has been, I think, an article of faith that poverty can be correlated to crime very easily. It's been a fundamental understanding that, when poverty rises, so do incidences of crime. Now, fortunately, not all poor people turn to crime as a solution, or our society would be in far more difficult situations than what we are.
However, it does play an important role. If a child grows up in a home where the basic necessities of life are not available and where there's a lack of opportunity that inhibits the progress of that family, then crime may sometimes appear to be a viable outcome to that child.
Over the next few days, you're going to hear some things about the government's efforts to try and address poverty and to reach children who are at risk. One of those initiatives that I'm very pleased about is the school nutrition program, of which we're a major partner. This is a relatively simple, inexpensive, community-run and supported program that allows children to get the basic sustenance they need if they're hoping to benefit from education. I believe quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, that this program is going to pay off in a big way. I think if children have enough to eat they're able to concentrate on school work and that, in turn, will make them more involved in the kinds of things that go on in school and community. And I would like to commend those people who have been working with this. The school councils are our other partners in this program, and I suggest that this is one way that we are actually, in our own fashion, fighting youth crime. If kids stay in school and they get an education, they're less likely to be involved in criminal activities.
I think, however, we have to really begin to say that our children-at-risk initiative has to begin, Mr. Speaker, long before children get into school.
You're going to be hearing over the next few weeks some directions where the government is planning to identify children at risk and how to intervene. There was an article, I believe about two weeks ago, about a very innovative program that the State of Hawaii has done where they've tried to identify risk factors for children who are at risk of a variety of social problems, and it appears to be bearing out some very positive benefits, particularly in the area of child abuse - finding out what some of those indicators are, finding out how we can minimize them - and this is done at a very early age with the child.
So I think there are a number of things. For example, we know that children who are born to teenage mothers sometimes tend to be underweight, that they tend to suffer more from childhood diseases, failure to thrive, and I think if we can provide and assist families, particularly young mothers, giving them some things that they can actively assist their children with, then we'll make a difference in the outcome of those children.
Of course, the greatest influence of any child is its family. A child that's born into a healthy family has opportunity. He or she, if they have that opportunity, are likely to succeed. I've been struck by the fact that sometimes children's attachment, even though their own family situation is particularly horrific, to that family is overwhelming, so I think that we have to assist families, and assist them in being healthy.
Some of the elements that I think mitigate against that in this territory are drug and alcohol abuse. Not only does the abuse affect children in the long term, but we know, in particular, the children who have been affected by the alcohol before birth. So, for example, fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects are serious concerns for us.
Increasingly, I think, the Minister of Justice and I have had some discussions about this, particularly about young people who have entered our adult justice system, in particular, who, because of difficulties with fetal alcohol effects and fetal alcohol syndrome, appear to bereoffending on an ongoing basis. It's simply because, for them, many of those connections that can be made between committing a crime and the effects, not only on themselves, but the effect on other people, cannot be made. We've had some discussions with Justice about perhaps identifying individuals, perhaps working at some alternative sentencing models, perhaps directing more of our efforts into trying to sort of break that ongoing cycle for many of these young people.
So I guess the point I'm trying to make, Mr. Speaker, is that perhaps if we can do some things to prevent FAS or to reduce at least the difficulties caused by it, I think we would also be on the right track to doing some crime prevention.
There was a really interesting article back in the spring that showed that a child - There was a study done by a Toronto psychologist who studied children, and he studied two groups of children, basically, who had been born in privation, tough circumstances. Why did one group rise above those circumstances and go on to succeed in life, and the other group didn't?
He found that the single most important factor for the children that did succeed against all odds was the fact of that child connecting in a real way with one significant adult. That person could be a parent who had faith, it could be teachers who had supported that child, it could be individuals in sports organizations or individuals in community organizations, but the very fact that there was a significant individual who demonstrated to that child that they were a valuable person, that they did have worth, was one of those issues that assisted that child in staying out of difficulty and helped them go on to future success.
And I'm hopeful that some of the initiatives that we'll do with the children at risk will perhaps identify some of these key supports, and perhaps there are some things that we could be doing in Health and Social Services to provide experiences where children can make those significant connections, and that may in turn help those children stay out of difficulty in later life.
Now, you'll notice, Mr. Speaker, that I haven't mentioned anything about incarceration except to quote some statistics that we have. Particularly with young people, what we are discovering is that incarceration is not necessarily the route to go. What we have demonstrated is some real success - I think very demonstrable success - with some of our alternative sentencing programs, and I quoted some statistics earlier. Basically, just putting a young person in jail to solve all the problems that he or she faces - I would suggest that it doesn't. I would suggest that popping another person in the young offenders facility doesn't necessarily have the effect of mitigating many of those factors that underlie that child's problems - be they family problems or whatever. So, I think from our point of view - the Department of Health and Social Services' point of view - that while we are fulfilling our obligations to the Young Offenders Act, we are going to be trying to focus on reaching children and supporting families so that jail doesn't necessarily become the outcome.
I've heard the argument more than once that if the young offenders facility was tougher with kids then youth crime rate would fall. Well, quite frankly, we have one of the highest incarceration rates in Canada. Therefore, if logic follows, then we should have one of the lowest youth crime rates in Canada.
There is a perception that kids in the young offenders facility are leading some kind of life of luxury. Well, quite frankly, that isn't the case. I have visited the young offenders facility, and I really can't understand where this picture comes from. What I see up there is I see young people engaged in programming - often very worthwhile programming. They are all on educational programs, much to perhaps the public perception, and incidentally, I suppose if they were quite so enamored with the young offenders facility, it probably doesn't jive with the requests sometimes from the inmates to get transferred to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, because if it was so easy at the young offenders, why do they want to get out? So, I would encourage some of these people who suggest that the young offenders facility is some kind of a country club to go up and take a look.
Speaker: Two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Two minutes? Good heavens, Mr. Speaker. I haven't even got into the substance of my comments here.
Well, I think what I might do is just take a moment if I could to respond to my good friend, the Member for Riverdale North, and his comments about YES.
I think that the member is really sort of missing the point here. I have explained the kind of support that we have provided to YES. I have indicated to him that we are interested in working with this organization. I have very productive meeting. I think there are avenues where we can go. I think there are avenues where we can cooperate.
He suggested we just find a niche that we can pop this group into, but it does not actually work like that. We do not carve out a niche; what we try to do is find if there is some way that we can work constructively with a group, any NGO. Can we get them to deliver something for us that is meaningful and, in turn, can we support them in their efforts. That is precisely what we are doing.
I am committed to working with this group. I know that my friend has somewhat of a, I suppose, "Let us throw money at things," kind of an Ozymandias kind of complex, given the number of edifices that he has built around this territory to his own promotion, but I am not committed to just throwing money out. I will work cooperatively with the YES group and we will get some productive things going there. I am very hopeful for that.
I realize that I am coming close to the end of my time, but I would like to just address a couple of other things. There have been a number of issues arise about how -
Speaker: The time has elapsed.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Time has elapsed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I rise as well to speak to the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act that has been introduced just last week by the Minister of Justice.
As in all of the Yukon, the people in Crestview, MacPherson, on the Hot Springs Road, in the Mayo Road area, want safe and secure neighbourhoods and homes in which to live.
Neighbourhood Watch in Crestview is one example that has been used as a model in other parts of Whitehorse, including the MacPherson area, as a means of ensuring - providing an opportunity, really - for citizens to be involved in keeping an eye on their community and trying to ensure and in some cases create a safe community.
We committed, of course, to build safe and healthy communities in our election bid one year ago and this bill represents one important cornerstone of our commitment to building it in partnership with various community groups. It provides both a tool and some resources to encourage crime prevention.
I was particularly pleased to hear the member opposite, the Member for Riverside, talk about the focus on crime prevention, because I think that is particularly fitting.
I know that one of the other former Ministers of Justice in a previous government talked about not wanting to use the word "encouragement," but I think that what we do want to do is use as many vehicles as possible to meet our ultimate goal, which is crime prevention, which is safer communities. How big the stick is, in terms of punishment, is not the measure. It's not the measure of our actions. In some cases, it may even be appropriate but the measure really is safer communities.
This bill represents or incorporates a number of different purposes. The trust fund will work to support an end to violence against women and children, and I know that all members of this House are appalled at some of the things that we've seen over the last 18 months, even in our own community, particularly in the way of spousal assaults - those kinds of violent crimes that leave all of us really at a loss for words and fearing for the safety of neighbours and so on. Those kinds of things should not, and we must find ways of making sure that they do not, occur in our communities.
Services for the victims of offences is certainly an important part of this initiative and I know that more ways will be explored, including increased funding for victim services programs, the coordination of a development of a community notification protocol, expanding volunteer victim programs, including property crimes, continuing negotiations with the federal government to restore the compensation for victims of crime fund. All of those kinds of things are measures that can help victims to deal with offences when they have occurred.
Reducing the incidence of crime is one of the key focuses, I think, of this particular bill, and finding ways of preventing it. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" has already been stated, and I've mentioned already the Neighbourhood Watch initiative - how that's an opportunity for people in communities to work for safe neighbourhoods - but there's quite a number of different ways that we can approach reducing the incidence of crimes.
I note that another purpose stated directly in the bill is addressing the root causes of criminal activities, and we've heard each of the last two members talk a little bit about that.
I'd like to just reference, if I could, the National Crime Prevention Council, in a December 1995 report, and what they had to say about preventing crime and some of the causes of crime.
"Researchers," they state, "have identified many factors that place children and youth at risk of engaging in criminal activity, including the following: child poverty, racism and other forms of discrimination, inadequate living conditions, difficulties in school, inconsistent and uncaring parenting, delinquent friends, childhood traumas, such as physical and sexual abuse, living in situations where there is alcohol, drug and other kinds of substance abuse, and family breakdowns. The council believes that a comprehensive approach to systemic crime prevention through social development best addresses the combination of these factors that place children and youth at risk and contribute to crime."
So I think that that puts quite a larger umbrella over this whole picture. It's easy to kind of have the knee-jerk reaction and test our measures through, "Is the stick big enough; can we make our stick just a little bit bigger," but to really address crime prevention, we need to take a look at the bigger picture and examine some of the things that we've done.
We've heard today in this House the Minister of Health and Social Services talking about partnering with Kwanlin Dun First Nation in terms of youth leadership programs at that First Nation, - a commendable activity and one that goes to the heart of addressing these types of concerns. Clearly, Mr. Speaker, there are many, many other areas that we can be working at.
So, when the Member opposite for Riverdale North wishes to avoid words like "encouragement" when speaking about youth or any other group, for that matter, the member opposite needs to recognize that that's an essential ingredient in the promotion of a healthy community.
The youth to leadership projects, also in Watson Lake and in Ross River, are examples of positive actions with youth. The Youth Works initiative, the other actions that work with youth, the sports and recreation programs - all of those are part of creating healthy communities, and important elements, I would add.
I certainly agree with all members of this House, I'm sure, that there is a fundamental right to community safety, and the things that we do, both as a government and the things we do in our communities to encourage that are particularly important.
Firm and effective measures that support all citizens' right to a safe and healthy community need to be supported, and the measures that can be taken to do those kinds of things include the lobbying that this government has done, for example, on local concerns such as the Klassen case; the continued implementation of Keeping Kids Safe programs; the new measures that will be contained in the Motor Vehicles Act that will talk about ensuring that we have safe roads on which to travel. Because all of these measures, Mr. Speaker, can help us to address, in many cases, the root causes and take measures to ensure that we have safe communities in which to live.
This particular bill, Mr. Speaker, includes a representative group to coordinate the trust fund and how those resources will be used to prevent crime. I think it's commendable that the advisory board, the trust board, will
include members from the public service but also members from the larger community. Basically it will be a representative citizen board intended to make those tough decisions about how our resources will be used to best prevent crime.
I think that the mandate that they have that covers a wide range of purposes certainly helps to provide a good general direction, a representative board, and I would suggest, too, Mr. Speaker, that the way the fund has been created is a fiscally responsible one. It's funded basically in perpetuity by the way that it's established. It's a type of program funding that does not mortgage the long-term finances of this territory but does set the stage for long-term support. And it can do that, of course, through this trust fund mechanism.
This particular model also provides a positive link between the fines being paid and the use of those dollars in the areas of crime prevention.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see in this bill the connection between crimes that occur in our streets, whether they're crimes of violence or whether they're property crimes, and the concern that Yukoners have about those crimes and the connection with the roots of those crimes - whether it's about drinking while pregnant and our concerns about FAS and FAE that arise from that; support for dysfunctional families; dealing with low self-esteem and truancy; ensuring that there are recreation programs within our communities; and, of course, maybe most fundamentally, dealing with poverty and unemployment - because all these do indeed have an effect on crime.
Without these kinds of issues and these kinds of conditions, which lead to offences, being addressed, we're not going to resolve and prevent crime when the offender returns to the community.
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to see this government move from talking about crime to doing something about crime, to taking action on crime, and I think that that's one of the key elements and one of the key initiatives that we see this fall from a government that is concerned about healthy and safe communities, and this indeed is one more measure that this government is taking to provide the tools necessary for this community to carry on with that task.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I won't be long in my remarks, as I do acknowledge the eloquent statements made by other members of the Legislature in speaking to the bill. I only want to say, in terms of my own contribution, that we should pay extra tribute to community organizations that have been taking action to ensure that young people, in particular, who at times are particularly susceptible to being victims and victimizers in the community, that projects such as the Kwanlin Dun summer child and youth recreation program stand out as stellar examples of what can be done when people put their mind to it.
As other members have said, there has been fairly severe frustration in the community over the past decade or more about the degree of criminal activity in the community, the concerns about victims of that activity, and the pain and suffering that it has caused so many people who have been forced to come in contact with offenders in the system. At the same time, there's a concern that the offenders themselves are not identified for what they are and, in most cases, are truly victims in their own right.
So, the concern has been that we should be tackling the causes of crime, we should be tough on the causes of crime, and that we should be sensitive to those who've been victimized by criminal activity.
I would point out that the Kwanlin Dun's summer program was a program that involved a lot of young people in my constituency - a lot of people in the McIntyre area - who had traditionally not had an opportunity to participate in any kind of organized recreational support programs - many children who live in difficult circumstances and were forced, for quite a long time, to fend for themselves. The program this last summer, with a fair degree of support from the Yukon government, was a response to those children's needs.
I'm the first to acknowledge, Mr. Speaker, that money can't solve all problems, but the fairly small investment by the Yukon government this last summer in establishing and carrying out the programs that kept many young people busy and occupied, not only in recreation, but also in leadership training and direct employment, was an example of a program which can produce good results.
At year end, or at the end of the summer, there was a community barbecue - a neighbourhood barbecue - which was to celebrate the many good people who'd been working on the program and the sponsors of the program, and it was very, very well attended. There were people from all over the community who put aside differences that they might have with each other on other fronts and joined hands to acknowledge the people who had worked on the program and to acknowledge the accomplishments of the program itself.
As ministers have already mentioned, not only did it reduce antisocial behaviour in the community and improve cooperation and communications in the community, but there was also an identifiable drop in property-related crimes in the neighbourhoods of McIntyre, Granger and Hillcrest.
So, it was suggested that perhaps there was a correlation between the program activity and the drop in community and neighbourhood crime.
I had the opportunity over the course of the last few weeks to tour the territory on a community tour, and was treated to the plea from many community organizations, and particularly in Old Crow, Mr. Speaker, as you'll know, that there ought to be youth programming to ensure that young people have constructive things to do that will make them feel good about themselves and constructive participants in the community.
I think the government is hearing that message very clearly and this trust fund is but one step toward providing sufficient resources to communities to ensure that they have an opportunity to undertake programs that may provide activities, particularly for young people.
So this, along with some of the other initiatives that the ministers have mentioned, along with other initiatives that the minister will be announcing in the fullness of the session, will demonstrate our government's commitment to providing an effective response to the community need for crime prevention and greater cooperation in the community to ensure that all people, including young people, have an opportunity to fulfill their goals in a constructive manner.
So, I am standing in support of the bill and look forward to continued discussions.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak in support of this bill today and here are just a few reasons why I would like to speak in support of this bill.
I feel that since I have grown up here in the Yukon for forty some odd years - I will not say how many, actually, but forty some odd years - I have seen the Yukon change. I will not say that it has changed for the better; I will not say that it has changed for the worse, but I will certainly say that I have seen it change in terms of the quality of living.
I think that this bill will actually enable us to get back to that fine quality of living. Whether you call it country living, Yukon-style living, or whatever you call it, we will get back to that principle-driven social concept of working together, of not casting out different peoples because they do not fit with the mold. I think that this piece of legislation, this act, will start to do it.
As I looked through and read the principles this bill will adhere to, they have been spoken to already. What I would like to say is that what we are doing here is not setting up a slush fund. We are not setting up a compensation fund. What we are doing is not to reimburse, but to certainly curb and to help to weave a social network of people who will come together in support. I know this might sound like a pipe dream, Mr. Speaker, but at times I feel that it can be achieved and will be achieved.
Because when you put the pressure back on to the perpetrator, not the victim but the person that committed the offence, and you take pieces, surcharges, of the fine, and you let the people know, I think that that is a seed that will certainly start to weave that social fabric back together, because for so long people have been pushed aside and cast aside, so I do believe that this is here.
The purpose of the trust certainly is to provide services and operate projects. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to also say that the projects are based on family projects. They are based on the holistic approach of a family where it's not men against women but it's family development for society. That's what it is. This will ingratiate the concept of grandma and grandpa back into decision making, into peer pressure, into family structure, so that the elders, whether they be man or female, will start to use their influence again as once as it has been.
Mr. Speaker, to me, that is so very, very important. It does bring people together and it will continue to bring people together, Mr. Speaker.
I can see the day, Mr. Speaker, if this act is implemented properly and as it flows through the Yukon lifestyle, that this act might become dysfunctional at one point in time because I think the act is not a reactionary act but it's an act that will look after focusing on projects that are good for people, and it will also enable people to come together for the common front of putting crime where it should be - not anywhere in society. I do believe that, with the endorsement of all peoples in this House and the buy-in of all peoples in this House, that it will show that this act is something that is going to be carried forth and that people are going to have to live with and accept as a greater parameter for working toward better social good for all people.
Mr. Speaker, I just have a few short comments for that. I'd also like to say that, as we move through justice and bring justice into the hands of the people, whether through its First Nations justice concepts, whatever that might be, whether it's circle sentencing, whether it's the Teslin concept of a clan structure, that the principles will weave and hold people together so that we might have not, just segments of justice coming out, but a holistic approach to justice that will be, first of all, that these things should not happen and, second of all, that the victims of crime certainly have rights also.
So, thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the chance to speak in support of this bill.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I think what we've heard here this afternoon is that Yukon people want and deserve safe communities that support and enhance their quality of life. I would like to thank the members opposite for their support of this bill and to respond to some of the questions and concerns that they raised.
Community ownership of the justice system is what the public demands and deserves. The Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act will be one mechanism where we can increase community involvement in the justice system. Groups and organizations can apply for funding to support a wide variety of programs that can help improve crime prevention initiatives in our communities.
The critic for the official opposition was asking questions related to victims being revictimized by the justice system. The principle of judicial independence is fundamental to our democratic society and one that I respect absolutely. The member opposite knows that for good reasons the Minister of Justice is unable to comment on specific cases before the courts. The member referred to the Klassen case. I can say that I wrote to the federal Minister of Justice, who retains authority for the Crown attorney function, and requested that there be an appeal of the Klassen decision. As people know, that decision is now before the Supreme Court of Canada to see whether they will hear an appeal of that.
The member also asked questions about how we can change the laws and was asking for some response from the government on what we intended to do. I have already suggested to my justice minister colleagues across the country that we look at amending the Criminal Code to remove the defence of provocation, which can be used in cases of spousal homicides. I have suggested that we could develop model jury instructions for jurors who are hearing cases about violence against women and children.
I have suggested that there be amendments along the lines of allowing for admission as evidence in assaults and family violence cases where previous convictions of violence against family members might be admissible.
We have also established the Hughes Inquiry into the administration of justice in the Territorial Court, as required by the Supreme Court of Canada's recent decision. So, we are working on the issue of having the justice system respond not just to victims, but having the justice system respond to all members of the public.
The members opposite might also want to take advantage of the opportunity to make a submission to the Hughes Inquiry on the administration of justice, as all members of the public are also able to do.
There were some questions relating to the board of trustees for the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act. The representation on the board was eventually determined after taking into consideration suggestions received in the consultative process. The Department of Justice, as the Liberal critic was asking, is the lead agency for crime reduction and crime prevention, as reflected through the department's mandate, vision and statement of core principles.
Public servants are Yukoners and represent the interests of Yukon residents in both their personal and their professional lives. There are three members of the trust from government and four members of the trust board from outside of government.
I would like to make sure the official opposition critic is aware that First Nations people and women are not representing simply a special interest on this trust fund. First Nations people in the Yukon and women residents have knowledge of community issues and will be playing an important role on that board.
As the act indicates, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police also have a seat on the board and they have a strong interest in crime prevention.
The members opposite asked whether the youth empowerment and success program would be eligible to apply for funding from the trust. The objectives of YES are clearly consistent with the purposes of the trust set out in section 4; therefore, YES would be eligible to apply for funding and the decision on whether or not to fund would be up to the board of trustees.
Members also asked for details in relation to the revenues and opening balance of the fund. The opening balance will be approximately $1,086,000. The courts trust account interest revenue will be approximately $8,000 per year. Victim surcharge revenue is $40,000 per year. Criminal Code fines revenue would be approximately $100,000 per year, and the Klondike Visitors Association slot machine revenue will be approximately $190,000 per year.
The victim services fund, Criminal Code fines and interest on the court trust account are not presently recorded as revenue in the Yukon government's public accounts. Therefore, transferring them to the trust will not have an impact on the formula financing grant.
The intention with the Klondike Visitors Association lottery revenue is simply to divert the money from KVA into the victim services and crime prevention trust fund until there is a balance of $2 million in the fund. After that point, the KVA monies could go back into general revenues for the Yukon government. Certainly, Yukoners, in the consultation, indicated to us that they felt that money would be well served being spent on crime prevention and victim services.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that that responds to the questions members raised in the debate. I'll be happy to respond to more specific questions in Committee debate, and I would like to thank members of the House for their support of this important bill.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 23 agreed to
Bill No. 33: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 33, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Sloan.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I move that Bill No. 33, entitled The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act, be read for the second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 33, entitled The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'm afraid my ardour for this bill has somewhat exceeded my patience. This is a bill that I have felt quite strongly about for some time and I'm delighted that it is here and I'm delighted to have the opportunity to lead off on it.
It's one of those bills that sometimes, just by its very nature, may not appear clear to the general public but I believe it's a bill that does address an international problem and one that I think we have a moral responsibility to take part in the solution of, and the bill on intercountry adoption, sometimes called the Hague Convention Act, I think is a step in that direction.
Essentially, this bill implements a convention on the protection of children and its cooperation and respect for intercountry adoption. In the Yukon, it amends the Children's Act to facilitate implementation of that convention.
The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act sets up a process in which the Yukon may participate in the process outlined in the convention. The schedule, which is the convention itself, must be accepted as it is and may not be amended.
The convention was initiated by the Hague Conference on Private International Law, an intergovernmental organization whose purpose is to work toward the progressive unification of rules of private international law. The member states meet to negotiate and prepare multilateral treaties or conventions in different fields. The subject of intercountry adoption was proposed for the convention for the following reasons: one, the dramatic increase in international adoptions occurring since the 1960s; two, the serious and complex human problems resulting from this increase; three, insufficient existing domestic and international legal instruments, resulting in the need for a multilateral approach.
The convention recognized that intercountry adoption is an alternative and appropriate measure when a suitable family cannot be found for the child in his or her state of origin.
The essence of the convention is that it requires contracting states to set up central authorities to deal with each other in the case of intercountry adoptions and requires certain standard procedures to be followed.
The procedures provide a safeguard against the exploitation of parents and children, and against abuses such as traffic in children for purposes of child labour, prostitution and pornography. The convention ensures that adoptions occurring between contracting states are only done in the following terms: all relevant parties understand and consent to the adoption; the adoption does not occur under duress; there is no compensation or payment involved; and the adoption is done in the child's best interest. The duty of the central authority includes: fostering cooperation between member states; ensuring that the child is adoptable and the consents have been obtained; ensuring that the adoptive parents are eligible and suitable to adopt; determining that the placement is in the best interest of the child; and preventing improper financial or other gain from adoptions.
It also ensures that there is collecting and exchange of information about the adoptive parents and the child - such as the family medical history; the child's upbringing; religious and cultural background - and ensuring that the child has the authority to leave the state of origin, to enter and reside permanently in the receiving state.
It also provides that each of the states agree to provide each other with information about a particular adoption situation subject to the law of that state.
So, essentially, what I'd like to do is to now refer to where this act is for ourselves. This act is part of a Canada-wide and international effort to ensure that the best interests of the child are a primary consideration when the children who are adopted by persons outside of the child's birth country, and in recent years we've all become familiar with some of the horror stories around adoptions from states such as Romania and some others, where there are issues of children being adopted often into some questionable circumstances.
The legislation is primarily designed to protect children against illegal private adoptions, adoptions for purposes of child pornography, child prostitution, child labour and, possibly one of the most horrific things that I've heard of, the idea of adopting children for purposes of organ retrieval.
We've all seen, Mr. Speaker, and heard of children falling into the wrong hands, both literally and figuratively. I feel strongly that we have an obligation in this territory to be part of this agreement to protect children.
The Yukon government does not place Yukon children for adoption outside of the country, so the legislation will apply primarily to Yukoners wishing to adopt children from other countries. This legislation will provide a measure of security for these families, assuring them that the adoption was done legally in the best interests of the child, and that consideration is given to the ethnic, cultural and religious background of the child.
Many First Nations people in Canada practice what's known as customary forms of care, or custody-guardianship type of arrangements, that cross international boundaries. These are not considered legal adoptions and are not within the scope of or affected by this legislation.
Canada has filed a declaration with the international authorities stating that customary forms of care practices by aboriginal people in Canada are exempt from the convention. This declaration was developed after consultation with five major aboriginal organizations in Canada and officials from Indian Affairs.
This government has contacted all the First Nations in the Yukon and has given them the opportunity to express any concerns that they have had about this legislation.
The convention was finalized on May 29, 1993, and came into force on May 1, 1995. To date, 13 countries have ratified the convention. Canada is one of the signatories to this. It also includes a list of countries extremely diverse, ranging from developed countries, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, to countries of perhaps lesser development, such as some of the African countries, but the important thing is that all participants in this agreed to this convention.
The convention seeks to establish a cooperative framework between the states of origin and the receiving states. This cooperation will ensure that the interests of children are safeguarded when they are provided with an adoptive family capable of caring for them.
On April 1, 1997, the convention came into force in those jurisdictions with implementing legislation: British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan.
Files that are already in the system will not be affected by the coming into force of the convention. They will continue to follow the same process. Central authorities will handle all new applications for adoption.
The central authority is a single-window access procedure. Those who wish to adopt a child abroad will apply to the authority. Other accredited agencies or bodies will also be able to act on behalf of the central authority. So, for example, agencies which are currently in the field of international adoptions - and we know of many of them - will not be impacted by this.
So, the goals of the central authority, we believe, are both laudable and practical. They would remove barriers that delay or inhibit in-country adoption. They would be advocacy for and protection of children without permanent families. There would be a prevention of improper financial gain and fraudulent practices. And, in particular, we've had cases of Canadians going to other countries, sometimes with so-called agents, to facilitate adoptions only to find themselves languishing in that foreign country with no prospect of being able to return to Canada with the child because they have been, in some cases, duped by unscrupulous agents overseas.
And some dissemination of statistical data about intercountry adoption and other important objectives. We believe that this new system will facilitate intercountry adoptions by allowing for greater cooperation between the states concerned, the public authorities and accredited bodies where authorized to operate. The monitoring of intercountry adoption process by the central authorities will make the system far more reliable.
Under this convention, private intermediaries can continue to operate and perform certain functions, such as locating a child or preparing reports on the children or parents. Many of those worthwhile organizations, as I've said before, that are involved in this practice already and have served the country so well will not be impacted by this.
The only requirement is that they obtain the authorization of the state in which they operate, if the state in question has ratified this convention. The federal central authority will play primarily a role of coordination, will provide assistance for provincial central authorities, federal authorities such as immigration, and foreign central authorities, on general and case-related issues when required.
The designation of a central authority is another part of the Hague Convention to which Canada is a party, including the Hague Convention on International Child Abduction and the Hague Convention on Service of Documents Abroad. As a federal state, Canada can designate more than one central authority, and I believe there were some concerns raised about how this would impact on intercountry abduction.
The Hague Convention seeks to ensure that the rights and responsibilities of adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents are respected. It's designed to standardize adoption requirements, to allay fears that internationally adopted children are being treated as servants or are otherwise misused, and to improve the process by which a child can gain a permanent family.
The convention will impose new responsibilities on the federal government, such as the creation of a central authority. Many members of the international adoption community have been actively involved in establishing accreditation criteria for adoption agencies and working with federal officials to ensure smooth implementation of the convention.
So, despite all the verbiage, I guess, what will be the practical sense on the adoption procedure? Well, first of all, agencies will have to be approved by a formal accreditation body in order to work. They'll have to be licensed in Canada and meet the Hague Convention accreditation, and they will have to meet rigorous requirements, such as staff credentials, accounting practices and other ethical and practical standards.
Smaller home-study agencies may not need to be fully accredited but they will need to be approved in order to work with the Hague Convention and probably work with accredited agencies. Non-licensed, non-accredited agencies should not be allowed to offer adoption services. As I said before, the attempt is to weed out some of those more unscrupulous agencies and individuals.
For adoptive parents, the Hague Convention should mean additional peace of mind regarding their agencies. The parents will know that the agency is formally accredited as meeting the standards for all convention-accredited agencies. Parents will also know that the foreign government with which their agency is working is also committed to safeguards ensuring that intercountry adoption is not only in the best interests of the child but also respects that child's fundamental rights as recognized under international law.
One practical change is that re-adoption in Canada will not be necessary, because a convention adoption finalized overseas must be recognized by all countries that have ratified the convention. It is possible that the Hague Convention will promote expedited naturalization and citizenship.
Birth parents and adoptees should benefit as well from formalized safeguards and standards. The rumours that sometimes arise in countries of origin regarding the use of children as servants and worse should be put to rest. And this is a very, very real concern in many countries where horror stories have come forward about such things as children being adopted for purposes that are very, very improper.
Adoptees' interests under the Hague Convention should be protected by the preservation of information about their origin, their medical history, and, in keeping with the laws of the country of origin and the adoptive country, such matters as religion, ethnicity and other issues of that nature.
I'm hopeful that the Hague Convention will strengthen the integrity of the international adoption process for all involved. I'm convinced that the viability of international adoption is an option for homeless children. When a child cannot remain with his or her birth family, in-country adoption should be the first priority. When that is not possible, international adoption sometimes offers a positive solution for children who need homes and forever families.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party caucus offers our support to the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption. It's a very important agreement. It protects children around the world, setting standardized adoption requirements by allaying fears that internationally adopted children are being treated as servants or otherwise misused and improve the process by which a child can gain a permanent family.
As a parent, I believe that institutional and foster care should be viewed only as a temporary solution to a child's need for permanency. I also believe that when a child cannot remain with his or her birth parents, in-country adoption is a first priority. When that is not possible, international adoption offers an alternate solution for children who need homes and lasting families.
This agreement, Mr. Speaker, will ensure that the intercountry adoptions involving Yukon families are carried out in the best interest of the child. Although we are in support of the act, we do have some questions which I am hoping the minister will be able to answer.
As I understand the act, each province and territory to which the convention applies must designate a central authority to monitor the intercountry adoption process. This is intended to streamline the adoption process so that Canadians who wish to adopt children abroad will be able to apply through this single-window process. While I commend the effort to streamline the system, I have some concerns as to how the process is to be administered.
For example, Mr. Speaker, how will the central authority in the Yukon be established? Will this be administered by the Department of Health and Social Services, and within existing resources, or will there be additional cost and expense incurred by the government? Is the federal government providing any financial or administrative support to the Yukon government to implement and operate this process?
In a press release by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade regarding the ramifications of the Hague Convention on International Adoption, reference was made to the provisions of assistance to provincial central authorities, federal authorities, such as Immigration, and foreign central authorities on general and case-related issues when required.
Perhaps the minister could elaborate on the issue of assistance to be provided by the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, it is estimated that there are approximately 20,000 intercountry adoptions around the world each year, of which 2,000 involve Canadians.
I would like to know of those 2,000 adoptions in Canada each year, how many Yukon families were involved in intercountry adoptions in the past years? My concern is that I am hoping this process will be a benefit for Yukoners and not just another layer of bureaucracy.
Mrs. Edelman: Like the Yukon Party caucus, the Yukon Liberal caucus supports this act. Likewise, we have some similar concerns to the Yukon Party, which is quite surprising.
The first concern for the minister responsible is sort of a breakdown on how this process on intercountry adoptions is going to be streamlined. In particular, what I'm wondering about is the relationship with Alaska. Now, the United States is a signatory, but it hasn't ratified this agreement. We have quite a strong relationship with Alaska, and there is a lot of movement back and forth, and I'm wondering how this is going to be streamlining that particular process between Alaska, for example, and Canada, particularly as they have not ratified.
In addition to that, I need to have a little bit more clarification on Yukon First Nations. Now, if they decide to draw down their adoption powers - well, are there any Yukon First Nations that have expressed an interest in drawing down the adoption powers, and would this help their process, or would they be modelling it after this? Has there been any interest expressed in that?
Now, another issue of course, is what does happen with countries that are non-signatories? Now, I understand there has been some discussion with China and a small country in Africa as well, but are there any other countries where there are discussions ongoing? What does happen now, and will there be any changes with the convention on adoptions between countries that are not signatories to this act?
Now, I suppose that any act that we put forward in the Legislature is only as good as the people who are going to be using it, and people will only use it if they know about the act, and if they have a familiarity with the act. To that end, what dollars are being put forward for public education on this act? How is the information about this act and the fact that it's supposedly going to be easier to do intercountry adoptions going to go out to the public in the Yukon Territory? Have there been any funds allocated for that very purpose?
If the minister can get back to me on that I would really appreciate it. I was extremely pleased to finally get a briefing on this act, and I hope that we can continue that process where members of the opposition are given briefings on the act as they come forward to us in the Legislature, and hopefully we can get briefings in a timely manner so that we can have decent discussion here in the Legislature.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased to rise to support the Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act before us and for the Yukon to sign on to what has become an international accord relating to adoption practices across the country.
This act provides that there will be standard adoption procedures across all countries who adopt the Hague Convention. It's unfortunately true in our world that there is traffic in children and there is a risk that some adoptions are occurring because people are interested in child labour or prostitution or pornography. This bill will ensure that legal adoptions take place that avoid those crimes.
When children are removed from the country of origin, it's also important that authorities have relevant information in the home country about the adoptive families.
The bill also adds a measure of security to the adoptive parents themselves because it provides for essential information about the child, the family and medical history, the child's upbringing, to the adoptive parents. This enables adoptive parents to provide a home and opportunities that are consistent with the child's background and culture.
The family and children's services branch will be an effective central authority in the Yukon for the Hague Convention of Intercountry Adoptions. This represents another way of our government taking action to be sure that children are safe in our society.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I rise as well to support Bill No. 33 on intercountry adoption that flows out of the Hague Convention. I am pleased to support this particular bill. I think it brings the Yukon government and the Yukon certainly in line with what we're trying to do across Canada. We are signatories to the convention and, of course, Canada is one of the countries that has ratified it. So here we are, roughly two years later, finally enacting the legislation that we can use as a vehicle to be a part of this.
The point has been made that, at this point, many countries around the world have not adopted this particular convention, but I suppose we can liken this movement, if you like, to the old snowball analogy - as it grows and builds momentum, it will in fact make a difference around the world. We already have many countries - Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Mexico, Romania - that have signed on and that, in itself, will make a difference.
The momentum builds in other countries that have already signed the convention, like the United Kingdom, and if the United States signs on as well, that in fact will make a difference.
This is an important act, even though, in a sense, we're simply taking care of business that has been signed internationally. It's important because, first of all, it puts children's interests first and, within the Yukon itself, we already have at least a dozen cases of international adoption. I think Yukoners will take some comfort from the fact that children's interests are in fact going to be represented and going to be protected through the passing of this particular piece of legislation. It also ensures that all relevant parties understand and consent to the adoption and that undue duress is not a part of the process.
We all know horror stories, whether it's Romania or Russia, particularly after the Soviet Union divided into multiple states and so on. We all are aware of horror stories of children being bought and sold, sometimes moved into families that were truly interested in caring for them, but of course, in too many cases - and any cases are too many cases - where it was child labour, prostitution, pornography, those kinds of things in fact were the motivating factors.
So, I think the fact that we now have some procedures that provide a safeguard against exploitation of parents and adoptive parents and against abuses, such as the trafficking in children, can provide us all with some comfort.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that we now have a piece of legislation that we can support, that puts children's interests first, in the case of international adoptions, recognizes and acknowledges that international adoptions are an appropriate measure when more local solutions are not found, and that we have this piece of legislation before us today. Thank you.
Mr. Hardy: I rise in support of the Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Act, but I rise with some reservations and some concerns about it.
I'd have to say my concerns are based around the fact that this is between states and countries and often - even though we're supposed to mind our business about other countries in a lot of areas - it seems that the leadership of this country has really taken that to heart in minding their own business when it comes to trade: trade deals with countries that violate child labour and violate human rights.
This is a step in a right direction, but again I have reservations. I have very strong reservations, because it doesn't go far enough.
As long as we are continuing to ignore human rights violations, child prostitution at our federal level, as long as we allow exploitation of children, and we don't deal with the countries and bring them to task on that in our trade negotiations, we are missing the boat. We are not helping the way we should.
My colleague here mentioned some of the atrocities that happened with children: child prostitution, pornography, the selling of children for body parts. And we stand here and quibble about a few dollars. We talk about the cost and which department's going to have it. I find that absolutely disgusting, that that becomes a big concern in this House.
We have atrocities happening around this world and we talk about a few dollars locally. This should not even be a concern in this matter. I don't think it's a lot of dollars, but the impact it could have, the benefits it can have to help children, and not just the children, but also the adoptive parents, and also the parents of the children, because, in many cases, children are taken from parents and sold to other countries. This is what that's supposed to address. But it's there to help. This is a step.
I'm also very distressed about looking at this list of names on here and the countries that haven't ratified.
I'm not surprised that the United States hasn't ratified it yet because they haven't signed on to ban land mines. There seems to be a very slow process happening in the United States right now and that raises a concern for me. I think it should raise a concern for this country, but this is a step, as my colleague next to me has said. This is a step, and hopefully it will lead to other steps which will strengthen protection for our children, and I really hope that's the truth. But as long as we keep reducing everything to economic terms, we'll never get past first base, because if that's how we measure the value of a human life - in economic terms - then we're not going to go anywhere.
So, Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this but I do have reservations.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to echo some of the comments that my colleague from Whitehorse Centre said. There are sometimes issues where I think we need to rise above the more prosaic elements, and some of those issues are issues which are driven by moral imperatives. If we ever are to say that we have an international conscience, that we have an international belief in people's rights, particularly children's rights, it's issues like this that we have to be tested on.
We've seen over the last number of years issues coming out about child labour, child exploitation around the world. I think this particular act is a way to try to reduce some of those terrible inequities that children face around the world. We know for example of children being exploited in countries such as India and Pakistan in carpet factories where, because of their ability to make knots in high-quality carpets, they're often exploited and worked for hours at pitiful wages, wasting their childhood, wasting the best years of their lives in work that can best be described in sort of a Dickensian sense. We think that child labour has gone out of the vocabulary, but there are many places in the world where children are still exploited. We know that there are issues surrounding, for example, primarily the exploitation of female children around the world and some of the horrific acts that go on in the name sometimes of cultural or religious integrity that cause each year the deaths of untold numbers of female children.
I think my colleague from Whitehorse Centre has sometimes given us a kind of moral nudge on issues like this, and I think he has said an important thing. We can't reduce everything to basic dollars and cents. We can't reduce everything to simply how much is this going to cost, who's going to be handling this, because there are some larger issues at stake, and I think the most crucial of those issues is the rights of children.
I'd like to see the Hague Convention go further. I would like to see the Hague Convention be expanded to deal with issues such as child labour, child exploitation. I was pleased, a couple of weeks ago, to see the Prime Minister, in what I think was an unusual step, a letter to our local paper - I believe it was repeated around the country - to bring up the entire issue of the sex tourism industry that has sprung up in many developed and underdeveloped nations of the world where particularly European pedophiles are taking advantage of sometimes laxer laws in foreign countries to exploit children. I was pleased to see the federal government take a stand on that and a step forward.
My colleague from Whitehorse Centre has made reference to the question of land mines, and an international court to ban land mines. The devastation, particularly of children, in countries such as Mozambique and Angola, where war has raged for over 20 years, and the devastating, the absolutely devastating impact of weapons such as land mines, these silent killers, have inflicted on children, I think really does go to this whole central issue of how are we treating our own children, how are we treating children around the world.
So I would thank him for those comments, and perhaps what I can do is address some other issues that were raised by my colleagues across the floor.
First of all, with regard to who will function as the central agency in this territory, it's family and children's services who have that role presently in national adoptions. So that will continue on.
Do we see increased costs? No, we don't. We don't expect that we will incur any additional costs.
What is the volume of international adoptions? Well, it varies from year to year but currently there are 12 open files, international adoption files, in the Yukon. These include countries such as India, Africa - specifically Sierra Leone - Colombia, Philippines; there is a child coming from China, as the member asked about that; some additional applications are in place for children in Colombia and one is also in place for another child from India. So, there's a total of 12 currently open right now.
With regard to how do we deal with countries that have not yet ratified, the member made reference to, I believe it was, a country in Africa or China. I think the country in Africa is Burkina Faso and I think they have ratified. With regard to China and perhaps the United States, where there is a question of ratification, I will go back and I will try to get those legalistic details around how that actually does work and get it for the member. Those are a couple of issues that the member has brought up at this time.
There were a couple of other points that were raised with regard, I believe, to the whole questions of First Nations and where do First Nations stand with regard to this. I think I explained before that Canada has intervened on this to say that that would not affect the custom adoptions of First Nations people.
With regard to First Nations, yes, we have contacted First Nations. They have been contacted on each of these points here. I am just trying to find some additional points on that.
Yes, with regard to First Nations that choose to draw down their powers, to date we've only had one First Nation that has given an indication of their interest in drawing down child welfare powers, and it's only a very preliminary indication. So if a First Nation, for example, decided to draw down that power, they would be, I suppose, given the opportunity of participating in the convention that provides those to the convention, but currently right now, the Yukon government has a policy of not adopting First Nations children outside of First Nation families in the Yukon, so we would not be, I suppose, in support of anything that would interfere with that. We believe that the impact on First Nations would be somewhat minimal in that regard.
I'm just going through and trying to make note of some other points with this regard.
This act will not impact on family adoptions, because those fall under the guardianship provisions of the Children's Act rather than the adoption provisions, so we will be discussing with the Yukon Advisory Committee on First Nation Child Welfare to make sure that it's clearly understood what the impact and purpose of this legislation will be.
Following that, upon passage, we will be informing individual First Nations about what the passage of this particular legislation will mean. And we will, as I said, honour our commitment to CYFN not to place Yukon First Nation children with non-First Nation families outside of the Yukon.
So, those are some things that I hope I've covered. I'm just trying to see if, in my notes I jotted down - Oh, yes, the Member for Riverdale South asked about the question of a public information campaign. Presently, we don't have a public information campaign in this regard but we will be making information available to the media once the bill is passed and we'll also continue to make the information available on request to interested people who contact us. Very often, that is couples or families who make requests about adoption, since we're sort of the central agency. That kind of information will be made to them, about what our acceptance into the Hague Convention will mean to them if they choose to go the international adoption route.
As I said, with 12 cases, it's primarily with specific families who are interested in following this.
If we find, for example, that this might facilitate intercountry adoptions or there's greater interest in intercountry adoptions, then certainly we can make that available in a greater public campaign, but at this point we're primarily working at disseminating the information through the local media.
I am hopeful that, as this bill goes through the Legislature, we will get more interest in it. It is a complex issue. It is a bill that perhaps doesn't leap out at people, but I think it's a bill that has some real importance and has some real importance for children and real importance for families in this territory.
So, I would just like to say that I feel that this is a bill that should go forward. It's a bill that should have good public acceptance. I thank the members.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I just wanted to express my appreciation for the stellar support that I've received.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan:
I try to work together and look what happens.
I would like to thank everyone for their support and for their comments. We will try to provide some additional information, if we can, in terms of ratification issues, et cetera.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, that leads me to the next four pages I have.
This is a pleasure actually to get to speak at some comfort and with a certain amount of certitude that I won't be cut off on an issue that I think is very important to this House and this territory.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 33 agreed to
Speaker: Order please. The time appearing to be 5:30 p.m., the House will recess until 7:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will call the House to order.
We will continue with Government Bills.
GOVERNMENT BILLS - CONTINUED
Bill No. 26: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 26, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fairclough.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I move that Bill No. 26, entitled An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 26, entitled An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Just to remind people again, this is a very short amendment to this act, but it has big implications as to how this act will be put into force from this time forward.
Mr. Speaker, this bill proposes simple but long overdue amendments to the Animal Protection Act. The Animal Protection Act from the very beginning since its original passage in this Legislature has been ineffective because it failed to set out an offence section. The creation of an offence section in this act has been supported by the vast majority of organizations and individuals involved in several sets of public consultation over a number of years.
The passage of this bill would create that needed section. It will make it an offence to cause distress to an animal and to allow an animal to continue to be in distress. Distress is defined as "being in need of proper care, food, shelter or water," a definition which is consistent with the definition used in other jurisdictions.
The new offence section is clear and concise, and it does not require a person to have formed a criminal intent for a charge to be laid. The amended act, in conjunction with this current provision of the Criminal Code, will equip us with a range of legislative tools to better protect animals when people refuse to use common sense.
The wording in this prohibition section very clearly states that generally accepted animal management practices are not considered abuse or distress if they are carried out in a humane manner.
Mr. Speaker, no one who is acting responsibly is likely to face charges under this act. The proposed amendment to the bill also makes it clear that the owner of the animal is defined to include someone who is looking after an animal. People with animals in their care, whether they own them or not, have the responsibility to look after them. The person responsible for a child or someone in the care of a guardian is also captured by the new definition. This means that a parent or guardian has a responsibility to ensure that a person under his or her care is not causing distress to an animal.
A final change proposed deals with the penalties which are available under the act. The new addition to this section of the act will allow judges and justices to impose orders prohibiting persons convicted under the act from owning or having charge of animals for a time period set out by court. By explicitly setting out this power of the courts in this section of the act, we are informing people that society does consider the abuse of animals to be a serious matter.
The protection of animals is not only dependent on government laws; it also depends on public education, awareness and an effective enforcement regime. We intend to look, with humane societies and other organizations involving animals owners, to make people more aware of the responsibility they are taking on when they acquire animals.
Passage of this bill will be one giant step toward better enforcement of animal protection, but, for the act to be effective, there will have to be close cooperation between the range of agencies that have responsibilities in this area.
The first order of business will be to define a new protocol outlining their respective responsibilities. Effective animal protection will involve people in my department, the Yukon Humane Society and local humane societies such as that in Dawson, municipalities and bylaw officers and the RCMP.
I think the people who have worked on this issue for some time, particularly those involved with the humane societies, will realize that these amendments alone will not change the situation overnight. However, I am confident that, in working together in the same spirit of cooperation which has brought these amendments to the Legislature in the first legislative session of this government, we will be able to improve the situation of animals in the Yukon.
In conclusion, I believe that these amendments will have a positive effect and will help the public to appreciate that society does not consider it acceptable to cause distress to animals.
The amendments have been prepared in cooperation with two humane societies, and I believe that they will prove very beneficial to animal protection. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We agree in principle to the long overdue amendments to the act, but I do have some concerns that I would like to raise with the minister, and he could, possibly, in his closing debate on the bill, enlighten us a little more. We know that the amendments to this act have been long overdue. We also know that, while the Humane Society was consulted on these amendments, we understand that the Yukon Humane Society is somewhat disappointed that the act didn't cover a lot more areas. They do not believe it will do the job that they were looking for.
I would hope that by the time we got out of Committee debate we can give some comfort to the public that the act will be a lot better than what we had. There is no doubt about that, and I believe the Humane Society agrees with that, but they were looking for and expecting something more.
As the minister may or may not be aware, our Justice critic received a letter on July 20 from the Humane Society respecting that concern.
Mr. Speaker, I have a few concerns that I would like the minister to try to sum up in second reading, and he alluded to it in his second reading speech, and that is that we have An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act here; we have a Pounds Act; we have a Dog Act; we have a Highways Act, and they all pertain to the handling of animals, and I would look forward to the minister explaining how he sees these acts all melding together so that there's no overlap, and there's a clear direction to enforcement officers as to what they can and cannot do.
The minister, in his second reading debate, said that there were various different departments that had to deal with this, but those various different departments are covered by different acts as well.
So, if the minister could maybe expand on that in his closing of the second reading debate on this, I would certainly appreciate it.
Some of the other criticisms I have heard are that although there is an offence section in the act, people aren't certain who is going to be responsible in enforcing that offence section. I'm looking forward to hearing what the minister has to say, and I will be exploring it in detail in Committee debate to see how the act is going to work once it has passed this Legislature and is out there in the general public. I would like to know from the minister who he sees as enforcing this act. Is he going to call upon the wildlife officers to enforce it? Is he going to call upon the poundskeepers to enforce it, or is he going to call upon the RCMP to enforce it, or all of the above? I believe that it may be comforting to the public to know that the government has a clear direction as to who is going to be responsible for the enforcement of this act.
As I said, the Yukon Party caucus does not have any quarrel with the principles of the act, but we are concerned as to how it is going to work once it has been proclaimed, and it will be interesting to see what amendments are going to be made to the regulations under the act.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: The speakers previous to me have touched upon the long history of this issue and this legislation, if you will, and the need for the legislation before the public and before this Legislature. It might be helpful just to have a quick look at that.
Certainly in our caucus, the file grows thicker daily. Interestingly enough, there was a letter in 1992 from the Yukon Humane Society thanking the then NDP government for drafting the new Animal Protection Act and for making funds available through the agriculture branch for enforcement, but then things changed, government changed. From 1992 to 1995 the file just got thicker. In 1995, the then Yukon Party government, with respect to animal protection legislation, based on legal opinion that existing federal and territorial statutes provided adequate protection, declined to bring forward this legislation.
The Yukon Humane Society has continued to lobby for an omnibus piece of legislation, an Alberta model that is effective, enforceable and deals with the issues.
As I mentioned, this file seems to continue to grow and it has a variety of stories, unfortunate stories of neglect and abuse. In 1995, I note there were 473 complaints received by the Yukon Humane Society. Today, we have an amendment to the Animal Protection Act and the minister gave a mandate, as I understand, to provide an offence section. Still, there is no omnibus bill. Again, we have a band-aid when full-scale surgery was what was requested.
Periodically in response to this, I hear an argument about enforcement cost and various mutterings about tremendous expense, and I would like the minister to advise in his later presentations on this bill, has there ever been a complete costing of draft, omnibus animal protection legislation? What is the cost?
It is interesting, I note, that various political parties at various times, in the Yukon and throughout this country, have argued for regulatory reform, have argued that we should somehow put a sunset clause on regulations we have passed and deal with various acts and do some kind of a check to see if they are still relevant, if they still apply. Are they still working? Are they still meeting the need they intended to address?
I think we need to look at this legislation in that same light. We need to know, as one of the previous speakers has noted, how does this act interface with the Dog Act, the Pounds Act, the Highways Act, and I'm looking forward to that response.
There are differing descriptions of the enforcement in those pieces of legislation, and it should be noted for the record that, in terms of enforcement, in passing and debating this legislation we have a responsibility to enforce what we pass. We can't simply decide or pass requirements that there be a certain speed on Yukon highways and then expect that it will be enforced - just expect that somehow this happens. There have to be enforcement provisions.
The minister, in his opening remarks, indicated that there would be a protocol, and I'm looking forward to the details on that protocol. For example, does the minister intend to enter some kind of agreement with an NGO with respect to enforcement? How will the enforcement take place? In a case of neglect or abuse, will a situation happen as it most certainly seems to occur, and will there be a general finger-pointing, "Well, I thought you did it," "I thought you had responsibility," "I thought you did," and no one seemed to take responsibility? What will the enforcement provisions be?
There are also some interesting definitions and clarifications I would like the minister to provide when we get into greater debate on this legislation. The section was noted by the minister himself that it would not apply where reasonable and generally accepted practices of animal management were being applied. I'm certain that the minister's fully aware that one can find any two lawyers with two differing opinions, so one can find any two veterinarians with differing opinions as to what, in some instances, constitutes "humane", and I'm looking forward to the minister's clarification on that particular section.
My colleague has quite rightly noted as well, in discussing previous legislation this afternoon, that there's also a requirement and an onus upon us in terms of public education, and I'm interested in the minister's details as to how that will be dealt with in this particular piece of legislation.
A final point. I would like also, in further and greater debate, to hear an elaboration as to how this particular piece of legislation will interact with regulations.
I look forward to the further debate on this particular piece of legislation.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I'm very pleased to support An Act to Amend the Animal Protection Act. At present under the Criminal Code, animal abuse is an offence. In all cases of reported animal abuse, the RCMP conduct an investigation. Over the past few years, humane societies and responsible animal owners around the Yukon have participated in public consultations and recommended that an offence section be created in the Yukon's Animal Protection Act. Our government is therefore bringing in an amendment that adds an offence section to the territorial statute, the Animal Protection Act.
This amendment will add another legislative tool available to the public, the police and prosecutors for the protection of animals. This bill will make it an offence to cause distress to an animal by depriving it of proper care, food, shelter or water. Generally accepted animal management practices are not considered abuse or distress if they are carried out in a humane manner.
I would say, in response to the previous speaker's comments, that I think that any veterinarian would be able to responsibly determine the difference between humane and inhumane treatment of animals.
The new definition of "owner" in this act makes it clear that parents or guardians are responsible for making sure children are not causing distress to an animal.
The new penalties in the act will allow judges and justices to impose orders prohibiting people convicted under the act from owning or having charge of animals for a time period set by the court. By these amendments, we are informing the public that we do consider the abuse of animals to be a serious matter. We intend to work with humane societies and other organizations involving animal owners to make people more aware of the responsibilities they are taking on when they acquire animals.
Mr. Speaker, I believe these amendments will have a positive effect and will help the public to appreciate that society does not consider it acceptable to cause harm or distress to animals. I believe they will prove very beneficial to animal protection in the Yukon.
Mr. Cable: It has been my understanding that some of the problems we've encountered over the years - I'm thinking of a dog case up in Dawson and also some animals on the Mayo Road that were underfed - have arisen because we're not sure what all of these officers, under these various pieces of legislation, are entitled to do. Are they peace officers? Can they go on people's property? Can they break down doors? Can they do this? Can they do that? I'm not sure that this amendment actually deals with that problem. Perhaps when we get to Committee discussion, the Minister can walk through these various bills with us, to fill us in on just what he thinks these various officers under these animal laws can do - in particular, the officers referred to in the Animal Protection Act.
Mr. Livingston: I rise, as well, to support the amendments to the Animal Protection Act as they are being proposed in this our first legislative session.
In my riding, there are a large number of households, farms and businesses that have animals for their benefit, and this includes, of course, pets, teams of dogs for sledding and farm animals. As the viability of Yukon-based meat production becomes more evident and an increasingly larger market demands local produce, it is important that we have legislation and regulations that reflect the importance that we place on these animals and on the care of them.
The changes that are proposed in the Animal Protection Act make the legislation stronger, I think, in terms of definition, as well as in terms of the offences that are listed under the act. These amendments will tighten up with the definition, as well, as to who is responsible for the care of animals and will enable that responsibility to be assigned to the individuals that it needs to be assigned to. Certainly there have been instances in the past that have been very upsetting in regards to the neglect of animals, and the individuals who have been charged with these offences have either been let off or were handed rather weak penalties. I think these amendments strengthen the ability for authorities to lay charges and be more specific as to the charges that are laid, which will, in the end, increase convictions.
Human civilization has a long history of loving animals to the point of absurdity and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, misusing, abusing and treating animals particularly cruelly when they are in our care. The Humane Society has been a proponent for changes to the Animal Protection Act for many years now, and I'm glad that they were involved in the process of amending this particular act.
In the future, I think it is up to us to teach our children the proper care of animals and to create and sustain a feeling that these animals, whether it is a family dog or the hardworking Clydesdale, deserve our respect. It is also incumbent on us to continue to be active in promoting proper animal husbandry and accepted animal management procedures.
The abuse or neglect of animals is one of the most cowardly acts that I can think of, so I am pleased that these amendments have been brought forward. I think its an important role that we play as legislators to have laws in place that protect the animals that are under our care.
Mr. Phillips: I would like to join with all other members of the House who have spoken before me and have expressed their view about having legislation that will be effective and will, in fact, deal with individuals who neglect their animals and deliberately harm them.
I, like the Leader of the Opposition, support this bill in principle, but I have some questions as well about how this bill will actually work, and I have a suggestion for the minister. Possibly when we get into Committee of the Whole, the minister could take the last five or six major incidents going back a few years to the horses, I believe, that were on the Mayo Road that were found neglected, and there was a dispute about who to charge, what the charges would be, and maybe the minister could tell us if this law was in effect then, how would it work? There was a recent incident the other day with the puppies that were found in the dumpster. How would this law work with that?
There have been other histories of neglect in the past four or five years, and perhaps the minister could bring back to us in Committee of the Whole just examples of these four or five or six cases that were significant and let us know how the jurisdictional question would be addressed. I know that was something that a lot of people were concerned about, and everyone was pointing fingers at everyone else and telling them that it was their job to do something, and meanwhile the animals were suffering. So, if the minister could bring back kind of a scenario of what would have happened if these particular changes were in place then, I would appreciate seeing that.
I am pleased to see that we have some legislation in front of the House. I guess the proof will really be in the pudding, I suppose. There's not going to be a lot that we on this side can do, because there is a majority government over there, and they can push this legislation through, so I guess we're just going to have to wait and see what happens when there is an incident, when there is a need to use the legislation, and see whether or not it actually does protect the animals that it is supposed to protect.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I, too, would like to stand and voice my constituents' support for this piece of legislation, and I'd just like to speak a little bit about why I feel that this is so important.
As you have heard me speak previously, Mr. Speaker, I speak of things that I know and which I appreciate, and which I love. I have a great, deep respect for the Yukon, for the animals, and the earth as it has come to evolve. I feel strongly in my heart and in my Tlingit beliefs that the earth is a very small, fragile centre, and we must use things in harmony, and certainly the protection of animals is a major component of using it in harmony, keeping the earth in balance.
So often, since the pigeons have been domesticated and taken off this earth, I think the - I was going to say a politically incorrect word, so I guess it's not a rule of thumb, it's common sense; how do you legislate common sense? Certainly, what this act says is that we want to make it an offence to cause distress to animals and for the owner to permit distress to an animal, and we expanded the definition of what "distress" is. We even go so far as to expand on ownerships and to include not just the adult in me but the people and the wards that might be in my charge.
Mr. Speaker, I'm so pleased to be able to say that I support this, but I would also again like to reiterate: how do you go further than just saying that you're going to do this in protection and that you're going to go along and you're going to interact with the Dog Act, the Pounds Act and the Highways Act? I think the challenge for this House and for all members of this House is to start to think about how to stay away from legislating this type of thing and how do you legislate common sense and what can we do?
I think that we must get back to treating animals as a part of the family that we are, and we must look at it in that light. In the Tlingit sense, you would call it [Native language spoken] and you have heard me say that many, many times in this House, and I will continue to say it. It's just a simple word in Tlingit that I think we should all learn. It just means respect.
The Tlingit line of thinking is that animals offer themselves to you, and if you abuse that, which many do, that quota of animals coming to you to offer themselves to you for food, for protection, would be thrown off balance in a spiritual way. I know that many here might snicker at what I say and how I talk, but I strongly believe in it, as many other people in rural Yukon and in Whitehorse certainly do.
So I encourage all to start to look at an animal as more than just a ward but as an equal to you. The only difference between an animal of the four-legged or the fin kind or the wing kind and ourselves is that we can stand and talk and reason with ourselves. We do not put ourselves at their mercy as they put themselves at our mercy. But if you look at them further, we do put ourselves at their mercy because they so much keep Mother Earth in its check and balance and they are our forecasters. They are our forecasters, Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware; you can read the environment from the health of the animals around you. Is it true of a domesticated dog, a French poodle? I'm not so sure, but the people that take the time to observe, the naturalists, the First Nations people and all that are interested, will certainly rise to this challenge I'm putting out and say that that is absolutely correct.
You can look at a moose and tell by its thick hide; you can tell by the birds' migrations what the weather is going to be, how much wood you should be bringing in, not just by looking at your neighbour's wood pile and saying, he's got 10 cords and I have to get 10 cords, but by looking at the animals. What does this have to do with the Animal Protection Act? I think everything has got to do with the Animal Protection Act because it is common sense. I think that if we all go home with the idea of working toward the passage of this, putting our thoughts into it, that life here in the Yukon will be a much better place for us to live in.
It has been said that the humane society is disappointed and that we have to interact with other acts. Well, that is simply just a challenge for us to move forward on. I think that it is a first step and it is a wonderful first step. I do believe that, as we move forward with this act and we start to look at the protocols that are going to be developed by the minister and by the statements he has made and bringing forth for the protection of animals is long overdue and certainly one that we are willing to support.
Mr. Speaker, I do not have so much more to add, except that I strongly believe in this. I strongly believe that, as Legislators, we should pass this, endorse this, speak to it and then we should look at what the protection of animals actually means in terms of tourism opportunities, in terms of harvesting opportunities, in terms of cultural distinction, in terms of economic development.
The protection of animals is something that we should take into care and that we should protect the animals that are within our care, the innocence of them, their spirits and protect them as we would our own children and to look after them and to nurture them as our own children. It may seem impossible to do with your common household dog, but certainly the principles that you use to look after your dog are shared principles that will look after the environment.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: I rise in support of the Animal Protection Act. There is a lot that has been said and I feel a lot of support in the House for this act.
I believe everybody here at one time in their life has had animals, has experienced the bond, the relationship that you get with an animal. An animal puts tremendous trust in you. You are the caregiver of an animal. They look toward you in a domestic sense. They look toward you to feed them, to offer affection. Anybody who has a dog knows how much they love affection. There is a saying that has been said many times that we as people shall be judged on how we treat others. That can be applied to how we treat the other species on the planet as well.
Unfortunately, in our society, there is a lot of abuse. There is abuse among people. There is a tremendous amount of abuse among animals. Sometimes you have to wonder if the abuse that is allowed to happen to the animals of the world does not itself, then, lead into the abuse of people. A child sees a parent or another person on the street kicking their animal, hitting it or throwing it. What is the next step after that? It sees the yelling and the treatment toward an animal. Maybe they re-enact that when they grow up, but maybe they also carry it a little bit further.
I think it is all related. We are connected. Our animals are connected to us and we are connected to them. I live right downtown. I have a household of four children and a wife who, most of the time, is around, and five animals. I will tell you now that I have five animals because I have in my house a daughter who is an animal lover to the point that sometimes I don't know what to do.
I got a call when I was visiting my wife in Ottawa - it was a Saturday - and she called to say, "Dad, be prepared, there's another dog in our yard. I found this dog and it was hungry and it was lost. There's no tag on it, and I brought it home." Now, that's good. I don't need another animal and if I have another animal, I break the bylaws, but it is that care that she exhibits toward those animals that teaches me also that openness and care that has to be exhibited. I see among many of our colleagues how when an animal comes around, they soften. We can be really hard with each other at times.
You see it among seniors. One of the things we used to do when my wife and I would go to Macaulay Lodge was bring our dog over. The seniors love to interact with the animals and they didn't have one around there at that time. They would come out and you could see a bond and sense of joy. The animal feels it and they feel it. The laws also have to reflect that because there is a tremendous value that we gain from our relationship with animals. This act is just a step in helping us address some of the abuses that do happen out there.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: It has been a long time that many organizations have been asking that more be put in place in this Animal Protection Act. We've had this act in place for a long time now, and nowhere in there does it say that it is an offence to cause harm to animals, to abuse animals. We have gone through several governments, all of which were going to make amendments to this act, and we have finally come to the point where this government feels it's important to address these issues, and we're making things happen.
Mr. Speaker, we believe that the wording changes in this act, even though there is not a whole lot to it, defines the fact that persons who cause an animal to be in distress could be charged. It also gives the government, RCMP, city bylaw officers and the Department of Renewable Resources officers, COs, a tool that they can use to either charge someone or give someone a fine through tickets. We also feel that it would take some time to work out a protocol because of the number of players involved, including the Humane Society, and that's why we had put in this act a section right at the end to address these, because there still needs to be work that could be done to make sure that all the enforcement arrangements are working satisfactorily prior to proclamation.
Also, for the first time, once this act is in place, people other than the RCMP will be able to exercise sanctions against people who cause distress to animals. I think even that is a big improvement, where we have alternatives and other ways and means of enforcing this act.
We had an act in place that really did nothing for those who abuse animals. Finally, by simple wording changes, we have something in place that can give relief to a lot of people around the Yukon. It does not just focus on dogs and cats, but involves all animals, including farm animals, that are being neglected and abused.
I think this is an important step that this be recognized for all the people in the Yukon, including First Nations people who have always respected the wildlife that we have out there, and seeing people abuse animals - it doesn't matter who they are - finally they can be charged under this act, and, Mr. Speaker, I ask that the whole House support this amendment and push it forward and finally get something positive to the people out there.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 26 agreed to
Bill No. 27: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 27, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fairclough.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I move that Bill No. 27, entitled Animal Health Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved that Bill No. 27, entitled Animal Health Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The purpose of this bill is to provide more effective measures to prevent the entry and spread of animal disease and parasites. Right now, the Wildlife Act and its regulations allow for the control and management of disease in wildlife and game farm animals, but there are no Yukon laws that allow for the control of disease in domestic animals.
Existing federal laws currently apply to a total of 30 specific animal diseases and a number of situations regarding fish. The purpose of this bill is to give the territory a tool to deal with disease or parasites that might affect animals or fish that are not covered by other legislation. The disease prevention powers in this bill can be used to apply to all animals, including fish, and to all disease and parasites not covered by federal legislation.
Mr. Speaker, the need for this legislation became very obvious when, a number of years ago, a number of diseased reindeer from the Northwest Territories were brought through the territory on their way to Alaska. Had this bill been in place at that time, the herd would have never been allowed to enter Yukon. At the time, an ad hoc response was required, and once the reindeer were in the territory, placing them in quarantine confirmed the disease and then they were humanely destroyed.
Mr. Speaker, work on this bill began not long after that with a review of the legislation in place and in other jurisdictions.
Consultation with stakeholders began in 1991. Since then, there have been ongoing discussions with the agricultural industry, through both agricultural planning and an advisory committee, which advises the minister, as well as through the animal disease committee. Veterinarians in the territory have also been closely involved with the evolution of this bill.
A version of this legislation, in draft form, was broadly distributed for public consultation in 1996. The bill before you today incorporates many of the suggestions made during that public review.
The result is a bill that is specifically crafted to suit the Yukon situation. It has been designed to provide tools that will protect all animals in the Yukon from the spread of disease that might be imported into the territory or from disease that might develop in animals that are already here.
It has been drafted so that we can do this without creating a whole new bureaucracy. It will not place an unbearable burden on the developing agricultural industry or on others who work around animals. It offers a commonsense approach to dealing with both emergency and the day-to-day situations involving animal disease and parasites.
One of the keys to this legislation is that it will give Yukon the ability to require animal owners to provide proof of the health of animals before they are imported into the territory or transported through it. Right now, if you want to buy a horse in Alberta and haul it back to the Yukon, you can do that. Once the act is in place, that will not change. You will still be able to do the same thing. No animal health police are going to pull you over at Watson Lake if you don't have a health certificate. However, if there is a major outbreak of disease in Alberta or Northern B.C. that affects horses, the Yukon would then require anyone bringing in horses to produce a health certificate for those horses. If a veterinarian were able to give your horse a clean bill of health, that would be your key to getting them into the territory, even if there had been a disease outbreak where your horses were wintered.
As things stand right now, even a horse obviously suffering from a disease, so long as it is not covered by federal legislation, could be brought into the territory and spread that disease to other animals.
Other features in this act are built on the same commonsense approach. If you bring a domestic farm animal or a non-traditional domestic animal, such as a llama, into the territory and it dies within 30 days of arrival, you will be required to report that death. This is a requirement that is already in place for game farmers under the Wildlife Act regulations.
Similarly, if you have an outbreak of a contagious disease at your farm, you will be required to report that. So would a veterinarian if he became aware of a contagious-disease animal health problem.
This is the kind of reporting that any responsible animal owner would want to do as a common courtesy who might be affected if the disease were allowed to spread. This bill makes it clear that domestic animal owners have that responsibility. The bill also provides for the appointment of animal health inspectors and the involvement of veterinarians to check out cases of animals that may be diseased and authorize the necessary actions to prevent the spread of disease.
Before any alarm bells go off, we are not preparing to hire any new staff to enforce this act. We propose to appoint inspectors under the act who are qualified animal health specialists or veterinarians. The director of agriculture, for example, will be asked to put on a new hat, since he has those qualifications.
Inspectors appointed under the act will be authorized to delegate authority when they cannot be on the scene immediately to deal with animal health situations, but those delegated powers are limited, and a veterinarian would be brought into the situation as soon as possible.
The powers that can be exercised by inspectors under the act are subject to the usual limitations. They would not have to take steps to seek an owner's permission before going on to private property to deal with a possible disease outbreak.
Although inspectors have the power to stop a vehicle which they have reason to believe might be carrying disease, in cases such as this, they are likely to delegate the responsibility for pulling somebody over to the RCMP or a conservation officer, assisted by someone who could then make some determination about the disease.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that this bill has the necessary components to allow government to respond to animal disease in animals other than fish, without further regulations. Once it has been proclaimed, the Yukon will have the tool it needs to respond to emergency situations and to the state of the agricultural sector as it exists now. However, as time goes on and the industry grows and the department acquires more experience dealing with animal health problems within the framework of the act, more specific regulations may be useful to provide clearer guidelines to both animal owners and to the people charged with enforcing the act. The bill provides the authority for their development.
As has been the case with virtually all legislation administered by the department since the passage of the Environment Act in 1992, any further regulations under the act would be developed in conjunction with stakeholders and then widely distributed for a common period before being put into force.
Implementation of this bill, following its passage, is a key concern. Every effort will be made to educate and inform the public about the new legislation and the need to work together to prevent the spread of animal disease. As I have pointed out, much of that effort will be rooted in common sense. We will also be doing the best we can to make the public aware of our collective responsibilities to report public health problems affecting animals. I think that many of us who live here feel a special relation to Yukon fish and wildlife and to domestic animals we work and play with and want to act with their interests in mind.
The agricultural branch will be doing its best to stay on top of animal disease outbreaks in the rest of Canada. This will make sure that we all have the information needed to make any decisions to require animal health certificates for specific animals which may be coming from areas where there is a problem with an outbreak of disease.
Before I finish up, I should touch upon one final matter that may be giving some members of this House some concern. In the definition of non-traditional domestic animals, some members may have noted that the listing of some species of animals are game-farmed in other parts of the country, but are not allowed game-farmed species in the Yukon. Naming them in this act would require an owner of such animals to report the suspicious or presence of contagious disease to the government, the same as it would be required of the owner of regular domestic animals. However, this section does not create some sort of back-door entry into the Yukon for species, such as red deer or any other potential game-farmed species.
The entry or passage through the territory for species such as red deer or any species, wild by nature, will still be managed under section 28 of the Wildlife Act. This section prohibits the entry of this kind of animal. We are not proposing to let anyone raise this kind of animal here. I only mention this because there was concern and I did not want to see the act used to expand game farming to species which could cross breed with Yukon wildlife.
Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, we do not anticipate that this will be a heavily used piece of legislation, and we do not expect many problems with, or violations of, the act. The animal disease incidents throughout Canada are uncommon, and we expect the same in the Yukon. However, we have learned from experience that disease problems can be very difficult situations to manage if you do not have the proper tools in place to do it.
This bill allows the government to minimize the potential for animal disease to enter the Yukon and to stop the spread of disease and parasites. We believe it will be able to do this at a reasonable cost and with minimal disturbance to animal owners.
The vast majority who have provided comments to us as we developed this legislation share that view, and I trust that we will enjoy the support of all members of this House in the passage of this bill.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak to Bill No. 27 in second reading.
As the Minister has said, this is a piece of legislation that has been long overdue in the Yukon, and the Yukon Party caucus supports the bill in principle. It was under a Yukon Party government that the consultation process on this bill, as well as the Cruelty to Animals Act, was conducted. I believe there were fairly good turnouts to the consultation that was done on this bill.
The Minister recapped for the House some of the reasons why the bill has come in and why it was needed, and we concur with that. During the consultation process, some concerns were raised by the public that we will be exploring in greater detail when we get into clause-by-clause reading of the bill. I hope that we can get some assurance from the Minister that the concerns that were raised by the people during the public consultation have been addressed, and addressed in a manner that they find satisfactory.
I was pleased to hear the Minister say that the regulations would go back out to public consultation. I would just like to put on the record at this time that I urge the Minister to give full consideration to thoughtful consultation on the regulations that will go with this bill because the regulations could make this bill one that could be very hard to deal with if the regulations aren't crafted in the proper manner.
I would just like to point out some of the pitfalls that I can see happening that will cause problems for the government in the enforcement of this bill and cause some inconveniences for the public in general. I believe that if we take the time and the effort in the debate on this bill and in the drafting of the regulations, we can avoid a lot of that.
While the bill, I believe, is necessary to protect our wildlife and all animals in the Yukon from the spread of disease, I also believe that a bill giving a right to officers to have animals impounded, inspected or require health certificates needs to be administered, as the minister said, in a commonsense manner. I would hope that the regulations will define what that commonsense manner is, because when you look at the clauses of the bill, there are some very heavy powers that are given to whoever's administering this act, in the clauses of the bill itself. I know that those will be governed by the regulations.
Some of the areas where I see there is going to be concern in the public is in the transporting of animals, when they are detained at a point of entry with no ability to have their animals receive fast passage - on animals either coming into the Yukon or animals that are going through the Yukon. I think we want to avoid that at all costs. We want to be able to have the mechanisms and tools in place to expedite the act and to keep our wildlife and animals free from disease in the Yukon, yet not impede the general public in the transportation of animals.
This is one bill, Mr. Speaker, that I believe the minister is going to have to spend a considerable amount of financial resources on education if the bill is going to work. This is a new piece of legislation in the Yukon. There are many, many different people that bring all sorts of animal into the Yukon, whether they are pets or whether they are llamas. I mean, there are all of these different things going on. A lot of them are not covered now, as the minister said, by federal legislation. So I think it's important that we have a very good length of time for a good education process put in place for the general public so that everybody fully understands the bill, understands that the efforts of the bill are to protect them ,not to encumber them, and not to cause them delays. If we do have a good advertising campaign and knowledgeable people who are going out to the public and letting them know what this act is and what it does, I believe it will save a lot of problems for the government and the people that they appoint to administer the act.
We will be discussing in Committee more as to who are going to be appointed as officers to enforce this act and what their qualifications are going to be. Those are all things that we will discuss in Committee.
One other concern that was raised in the public consultation was that, under the act, an inspector can enter on to private property without contacting the owner. I will be looking to the minister to explain in great detail how he envisions that section of the act working and what he envisions is a reasonable belief that a disease is present before the person enters on to a person's property.
Another concern that was raised was the lack of compensation for an animal who is ordered destroyed under the act at the owner's expense. I know that that is a very touchy issue and that there are pros and cons. It is handled differently in different jurisdictions. I would hope that the minister can come back with some examples from other jurisdictions as to how it is handled. I know that in some areas, in some cases - not necessarily all cases - compensation is paid to people who have to destroy animals.
Another concern that was raised is just how the whole issue of health certificates will be handled if the department hears of a region where a disease has been known. It could insist, as the minister has said in his second reading speech, that those animals could be required to have health certificates. We want to have a clear understanding of how those are going to work and what the criteria is going to be for the enforcement officer to be demanding health certificates.
I believe that this is one of the areas where, in the public education process, if we have a good public education mechanism worked out and people are aware before they go out to get animals that they may be required to have health certificates, it will save a lot of grief for people who are administering the act and also for the inconvenience of people who are transporting animals, as I said, into or through the territory.
Again, we believe it is a bill that is long overdue. We also know that it is a bill that has raised emotions in some of the public consultation, that there are pros and cons and that people have mixed views on it. But I agree with the minister that most people - the largest majority of Yukoners - who have animals or have concerns for animals are supportive of this type of legislation.
So, I look forward to Committee debate on it, and hope that once we're out of Committee, everyone, myself included, will have a better understanding of what's in this bill and how it's going to be implemented and what the regulations may look like that will go with the bill.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'd like to say at the outset that we on this side appreciate the minister's intention in bringing this bill forward and what it sets out to do.
That being said, there are a number of questions in terms of the technical drafting of the legislation, and first reading raises a number of questions that when people have been very close to a particular subject, they might not see. The fresh eyes of the Legislature provide another look at this legislation, and it is incumbent on us to do a thorough analysis of the legislation and look at all eventualities and to cover off any questions that arise and I would like, in expressing our general support for this initiative, to raise the questions with the minister in order that they are on the record and can be dealt with further in Committee.
For example, the minister, in his introduction of this legislation, indicated that this legislation will not create a whole new bureaucracy, and I'm certain that everyone appreciates that we do not necessarily want to create jobs in this fashion, although we want to create jobs. There are concerns, however, about - and again, they are enforcement issues - who will enforce. When, where and how? - the usual questions in sorting out any situation. There is a requirement that an inspector "shall report" in this legislation. To whom? How? When? Within what time frame?
There's also a very glaring question that was raised with me in reviewing this legislation. In the whole subject around the definition of "veterinarian," this particular piece of legislation indicates that it is someone who is licensed to practice veterinary medicine. Is that currently? Is that since one year ago, 10 years ago, 20 years ago?
There is a time frame missing in there. There is also follow-up legislation missing in this particular section. There is not professional regulation of veterinarians, although I note the Northwest Territories does have a Veterinarian Act. That is something that the minister may wish to consult with officials on and advise the House.
I noticed there is quite a discussion about, and provision for, testing, removal, transportation, cleansing and disinfecting. These are all references made in the act, although I fail to notice reference to who would bear the cost of these initiatives and these requirements. Although some members opposite have assured me that everyone agrees and there is general agreement on the definition of "humanely killed", I still believe it warrants further discussion in this Legislature.
I am also concerned with, as has been mentioned earlier - we, on this side are concerned - section 25 and 26 of the act that seem to provide a great deal of power and authority in the minister. I would just like some clarification as to when and why such authority would be used.
There is also the denial of compensation. I have grave concerns about that particular section, in that no one, I believe, certainly in this House, believes themselves to be totally infallible and neither are inspectors. So, what happens if someone is wrong? It is an investment in a particular piece of livestock and that animal's health.
That is the compensation, and then there are also restitution questions and questions with respect to regulations and these need to be clarified in our discussions as to how the government will proceed with them.
I would just like to say that we do appreciate the intent in bringing this piece of legislation forward and what it sets out to do. However, it is also incumbent upon us to ensure that it is in the most clear cut and best drafted form that we, as legislators, can debate it to be.
Mr. Cable: I have one question for the minister, if he could bring us back an answer for Committee.
There seems to be a denial of compensation, the right to sue the government, at section 26. I was wondering what the ambit of that section is. Does that cover mistakes and misdiagnosis of animals or negligence or deliberate acts? If the minister could seek advice on that and let us know.
Mr. Livingston: I am pleased to be able to rise and support the Animal Health Act and thank the Minister of Renewable Resources for his description of the purpose of the act and of the need for the act. Indeed, he provided, I think, some useful examples about how the act, in fact, would function.
Mr. Speaker, I would submit that this is an example of a commonsense piece of legislation. It's crafted in a commonsense kind of a manner, the commonsense kind of a manner that this government likes to operate in by not adding unnecessary red tape, and the example of that, of course, was in that it does not apply to all animals that might be imported into the Yukon but, rather, where there is an identified problem. So we're using that notion of a targeted approach rather than the notion of a wide-ranging or shotgun type of an attack. So we're trying to target particular problem areas, and so I think that's an effective way of helping Yukoners avoid red tape where we don't need additional regulation or hoops or whatever.
So, it's a sensible kind of a tool, because I know that all members of this House would share with me concerns about the insidious invasion that disease represents. When we have a disease, whether it's brucellosis or whether it's the mad cow disease or whatever it might happen to be, it's the kind of thing that can creep in here without us having a sense that it's even here until we see some warning signs. Or we've seen the warning signs from outside before it comes and we've got the necessary tool in place, the Animal Health Act, namely, that can help us to avoid this kind of a problem.
So, I would just like to congratulate the minister for bringing forward a valuable piece of legislation, a commonsense piece of legislation.
The leader of the official opposition talked about consultation. I was pleased that he raised that. He noted that consultation on the Animal Health Act had occurred under Yukon Party government. I note that consultation began in 1991 under the then NDP government and carried on, apparently, under the Yukon Party government as well.
That was 1991. It's now 1997. We have a new government, and I'm pleased that we're finally, after some thoughtful consultation, bringing forward the Animal Health Act. I was pleased to hear the leader of the opposition talk about thoughtful consultation because this government believes very much in thoughtful consultation and, indeed, it's one of those things that I hope will be a hallmark of the way this government does business.
This government is working to establish new patterns with the Yukon public. We want to involve the Yukon public in matters that affect them and involve them in discussing what legislation will look like. I think we also want to establish a relationship with the Yukon public that's a commonsense kind of relationship - not one that's bound up in additional red tape where it doesn't need to be - but a relationship that is cordial and useful. I think, in this case, we see a piece of legislation that tries to target where there's a problem and deal with it effectively.
So, I would support the Animal Health Act. I think it's one more piece of providing healthy and safe communities in the Yukon.
Speaker: If a member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to thank people for voicing themselves and showing concern about this serious matter that we have out there - one that's been talked about for a long time - and are willing to look at this a bit more closely. This is new legislation, and I know that there may be concerns in the different sections. I look forward to debating this with the members. I also look forward to the passage of this bill.
I think it does give Yukoners a great deal of comfort to know that we are dealing with diseases that could be here already in the Yukon or could be entering or passing through Yukon. With a lot of the people here living off the land and knowing that wildlife out there could be affected by disease going through Yukon, it will give us some comfort to know that governments can now deal with the situation and prevent the entry and spread of disease, which is what this legislation is all about, Mr. Speaker.
I look forward to answering the questions of members in debate and look for the support of all members of this House. I think that every one of us here does have concerns with the possibility of the spread of disease. One thing we should not hear, though, is that when we do talk about this, it's not that we're monitoring this very closely and have people in place. We will be responding when we suspect that there are animals that are diseased that could be passing through the Yukon or coming into the Yukon, or if we suspect animals in Yukon of having disease. That is when we will respond with this type of legislation behind us.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the debate. Thank you very much.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 27 agreed to
Bill No. 30: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 30, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 30, entitled An Act to Amend the Constitutional Questions Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 30, entitled An Act to Amend the Constitutional Questions Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The amendment that we are proposing will allow the Government of Yukon, through the Commissioner in Executive Council, to seek a declaration of the validity of a law of Canada. Similarly, Cabinet will also be able to refer the constitutional validity of a federal law to a court of appeal.
The act, as it is presently written, allows Cabinet to seek a declaration of the validity of a Yukon law, but does not allow us to challenge federal legislation. The proposed amendment will make it easier for the Yukon to challenge problematic federal legislation before the courts. The need for this amendment was discovered during the legal analytical work relating to the challenge to the federal firearms legislation, Bill C-68. Yukon was able to participate in the challenge of the federal authority to legislate firearms ownership by intervening in the Alberta challenge, since provinces already have the ability to challenge federal legislation.
The change we are proposing support this government's goal to build trust in government and become a more responsible government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: We on this side support the principle of this bill. I was subjected to some of the same problems that the now Minister of Justice has when we talked about challenging Bill C-68 - not having the ability to lead the challenge, but only having the ability to participate. This will hopefully change that, and it will be one more small step, I suppose, in enjoying some of the same constitutional rights that other provinces do. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Livingston: I, too, rise to support An Act to Amend the Constitutional Questions Act. I think it is one more step for the Yukon in expanding the role that legislators in the Yukon can play. It is one more step, indeed, in the Yukon obtaining one more measure, I guess, of responsible government. It, of course, goes hand in hand with some of our aspirations around devolution of various program responsibilities to the Yukon government, and will enable us to more fully play that kind of role here in the Yukon. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Bill No. 31: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 31, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 31, entitled An Act to Amend the Cooperative Associations Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It is moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 31, entitled An Act to Amend the Cooperative Associations Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, this bill contains amendments that will enable the Minister of Justice to appoint a registrar of cooperative associations from the public service and will allow for the appointment of a deputy registrar. As the act is presently written, the registrar must be appointed by a commissioner in executive council and there is no provision for appointing a deputy registrar.
These amendments establish a practice similar to that set out in other acts administered by my department, such as the Business Corporations Act and the Personal Property Security Act. These amendments enable government to be more efficient by being consistent in its application of appointments of registrars under the acts administered by the Department of Justice.
Mr. Phillips: We have no problems at all with the principle attached to this act.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to be able to rise to support the amendment to this act, and I'm pleased to be part of a government that recognizes that cooperatives are one more tool in the repertoire of people in the Yukon - one more tool for economic development. So, I'm pleased to be able to support the amendments to this.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 31 agreed to
Bill No. 29: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 29, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. McDonald.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 29 be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government Leader that Bill No. 29, entitled An Act to Amend the Taxpayer Protection Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, I thought I'd say a few words before the Member for Lake Laberge has a chance to wade in.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government has, since 1986, carried a liability on its books for the accumulated leave credits payable to its employees were they all to resign or be laid off on the last day of the fiscal year. These accumulated credits are comprised largely of unused vacation days but several other things, including termination benefits, long-service leave and a portion of unused sick leave, are also taken into account. This accounting is in accordance with the recommendations of the public sector accounting and auditing board of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants. Many governments have adopted this approach for accounting for leave liability, but the practice has not been universally accepted despite it being a generally accepted accounting principle.
Among the reasons for this lack of universal acceptance is the unusual nature of the liability. While there is no question that, at any given time, such a liability exists, the likelihood of it being paid out in one lump sum is remote, to say the least. This could only occur under the circumstances already mentioned, that is, were the government to cease functioning as at a certain date and lay off all its employees or they were all to resign at the same time. In practice, what happens is much less dramatic. Employees simply take holidays during the course of a year and this is paid out of current appropriations while, at the same time, drawing down the accumulated liability. When they leave or retire, the payout is generally charged to the liability account, reducing it, but as new vacation and other credits are earned, the liability account is increased, and so it goes on, year after year.
The trend, of course, is one of an increasing liability because, as wages increase over time, so does the value of the payout. The public service is also aging in terms of service and this, too, is a factor in the increase, although presumably, at some point, that will top out and perhaps even reverse itself.
When first recorded as a liability at the end of the fiscal year 1985-86, the leave account value stood at $8.6 million. As of March 31, 1997, its value is $29.7 million. We do not dispute the validity of a recorded liability for this item but we do think there is some reasonable limit as to the amount of funds that should be put aside out of current surpluses to fund a debt that will, in the normal course of events, often simply be paid out of future appropriations financed by future revenues.
We have assumed for the purposes of the unconsolidated financial statements that a recorded liability capped at $30 million is an adequate reserve for this item. This is probably somewhat higher than the figure members have been thinking about in the past years, but we wanted to ensure that the cap was no less than the recorded liability in the year immediately preceding the establishment of the cap.
Section 4 of the Taxpayer Protection Act states that, for the purposes of measuring compliance with the act, the public sector accounting and auditing board of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants accounting recommendations are to be followed. Section 4 then goes on to list an exception to this rule for capital assets, other than land held for sale and inventories. The amendment that is the subject of this bill simply provides one more exception to the rule in section 4. If this exception is not made, there is no point in capping the leave liability account on the books, since the uncapped figure would always have to be used in arriving at the year-end unconsolidated accumulated surplus.
It is a given, of course, that the liability that is being limited by this bill is the recorded liability and not the actual liability. In other words, the sums owing employees are unchanged by these amendments since this bill only deals with the methods of accounting for those sums in our unconsolidated statements.
At some point, the Auditor General may comment on our departure from the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants' recommendations. However, since the capped liability is only for unconsolidated purposes, this may not be a matter of concern to them since the Auditor's formal sign-off is on the consolidated statements, which will still contain the actual liability. Thank you.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, we do not have any difficulty with this amendment at all. As the Government Leader says, the Auditor General might, but we will deal with that if and when he does. I will have a couple of questions in Committee on the amendment, but for the most part we will fully support it.
Mr. Cable: I listened intently to the Government Leader's explanation and I am looking forward to reading Hansard to get a second go-around, but I think having heard what I have heard today, the Liberal Party will be supporting the amendment. It might be useful to hear from the Government Leader in Committee whether he would anticipate that this sort of amendment will have to be made, say, every decade or so, as inflation floats the numbers upwards.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I would like to rise out of place to pre-empt the Member for Laberge. I just rise to support this initiative as the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. I do believe that the amount that we have capped the fund at is sufficient to meet the needs and to establish an adequate buffer for leave accrual liability. It is higher than some of the amounts that have been discussed in this House in the past, I know, amongst Finance critics and Government Leaders in the past.
We felt that it was important, given that we finally bit the bullet on capping it to set it at a level that was at least higher than the determined liability in the year, which was done for comfort for the public, the members opposite and public service employees.
We do feel that, at some point, there may be some consideration given to this by the Auditor General. However, the Department of Finance has given us some advice, as indicated in the Government Leader's speech, that because of the difference between the consolidated and unconsolidated statements, it may not factor in. So, we do believe it's an appropriate way of conducting and calculating such a liability. At some point, there may be some future increase needed. I think it's something that perhaps has to be reviewed every five or 10 or so many years. But, at this point, unless there's massive growth in the civil service, which is not expected, it would, no doubt, be more than acceptable.
So, with that, I would just say that I commend the Minister of Finance for this wonderful initiative. It's something that has been long overdue for Yukoners, and I know that my constituents will be more than happy.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 29 agreed to
Bill No. 25: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 25, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Moorcroft.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 25, entitled An Act to Amend the Notaries Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 25, entitled An Act to Amend the Notaries Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, under the existing Notaries Act, a complicated and time-consuming method for the licensing of notaries is used. After consulting with a judge of the Supreme Court, it was agreed that a more efficient manner of licensing was required. These amendments will streamline the licensing procedures for those people who wish to become notaries in the Yukon, and will ensure that the same process is used for both public and government notaries.
The proposed changes will eliminate the appointment of notaries by Cabinet and will result in increased levels of service to the public. They will also provide for the appointment of a registrar and a deputy registrar, to whom a person wishing to make application to become a notary will apply. Once an individual has paid the required fees and successfully completed a written examination, they can be sworn in by a member of the judiciary.
In conclusion, the amendments to the Notaries Act will help to contribute to this government's commitment to more efficient administration by eliminating unnecessary procedures for those who oversee and enforce the legislation, as well as the public they serve.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, we support the principle of this bill. Basically, as we understand it, this bill is just to improve the efficiency of government and allow for more timely appointments of notaries, and I think that's a good and positive step.
I consider it a housekeeping amendment but one that will be, I think, well received by the general public.
Mr. Cable: Just for the record, we will be supporting the bill when it's read for the third time.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 25 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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 9:03 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 3, 1997:
Letter dated August 28, 1997, to Hon. Ms. Gingell, Commissioner of Yukon, from Hon. Jane Stewart, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, re instruction regarding post as commissioner (McDonald)
Public Accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory, for the year ended March 31, 1997 (McDonald)
Arbitrator's decision in the matter of the Yukon Education Act and in the matter of an arbitration between the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon government (1996-1998 collective agreement), dated October 31, 1997 (Harding)
Yukon Development Corporation 1996 Annual Report (Harding)