Tuesday, November 18, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed with prayers at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cable: I'd like to reintroduce a friend of mine, the Yukon Senator, Paul Lucier, and I should mention to the members that, if you care to drop down to our caucus offices at 5:30, Paul is buying lunch for anybody who happens to be there.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have for tabling the 1996-97 annual report of the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues and, as well, the 1997 edition of Family Violence: Yukon directory of services and resources.
Petition No. 4
Ms. Duncan: Thank you Mr. Speaker. I have the honour of presenting a petition on behalf of the residents of the Porter Creek area. The petitioners desire to protect the diverse ecosystems and natural attributes of the Commissioner's lands bounded by Rabbit's Foot Canyon on the Alaska Highway on the southwest, and including McIntyre Creek on the south and east.
The petitioners have asked that the Yukon Legislative Assembly urge the Government of the Yukon to take action so the lands described are protected, to designate these lands as a park, for the use and enjoyment of the future generations of Yukoners.
Speaker: Are there any introductions of bills?
Disabled employees: reintegration
Hon. Mr. Harding: As I mentioned in this House yesterday, it is the policy of this government to ensure the fair and equitable treatment of its employees.
In that regard, I rise today to inform members about positive changes in the process used to provide assistance to employees who are unable to continue their current jobs after becoming temporarily disabled.
Mr. Speaker, the reintegration of employees with disabilities policy was established in June 1992 to provide other employment opportunities to employees who face such a situation.
Over the past year, the process for helping those employees has changed significantly from a corporate responsibility borne exclusively by Public Service Commission, to a team approach that involves the employee, human resource personnel from individual departments, as well as staff of the Public Service Commission
A more cooperative case-management approach dealing with sensitive and complex issues confronting employees with disabilities greatly improves the chances of affected employees being able to return to the workplace.
The active involvement and support of departmental staff has the added bonus of providing an increased understanding of how the workplace might be adapted to accommodate the needs of employees with disabilities.
There are many challenges in this process. Employees with disabilities who return to the workplace can be in a physical or an emotional crisis and often the job they were doing prior to incurring their disability is all they know. In addition to learning how to deal with a disability, they must also deal with change in the workplace.
Each employee who comes to us through the reintegration of the disabled employee policy has a unique set of needs based on his or her particular circumstances. An evaluation is conducted to determine the limitations of the disability and the employee's skills, knowledge and aptitudes are assessed.
Through a consultative process, the case management team then identifies potential opportunities that make the best use of the disabled employee's skills and abilities. This may involve helping the employee acquire new skills.
Once a suitable job has been identified, the worksite must be prepared for the successful inclusion of an employee with a disability. This must be done in a timely manner as the reintegration process is more likely to be successful the sooner an injured worker is able to get back to work.
Although the actual number of reintegrations is small, it is highly significant for the individual employee who has overcome the loss of an ability and has found the opportunity to put other talents to productive work.
I should point out that this support is available to all permanent term and seasonal auxiliary employees who have compiled 12 months of service. It also applies to any disability, regardless of whether it was incurred in the workplace or not. Every successful reintegration is a gain for both the employer and the worker, since the reintegrated employee can once again contribute positively to the organization, and the employer retains a valued employee.
The shift to a more coordinated teamwork model, dealing with the challenge of reintegrating employees with disabilities into the workforce, reconfirms our government's commitment to treating its employees in a fair and equitable manner. In a larger sense, it also reflects our commitment to doing government better.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: We, in the Yukon Party, support the initiative that has been taken here by the government. It really is the next step in the reintegration of employees with disabilities - the disabilities policy that was established in 1992 - and I think we all, as members of this Legislature, are aware of some of our constituents or other Yukoners who, through some unfortunate circumstances, have been disabled while on the job and have had difficulty in reintegrating themselves to other jobs. This is a positive step in helping people to do that, and we are certainly in support of the initiative.
Ms. Duncan: The Liberal Party caucus would also like to express our support for this effort and would like to particularly commend the Public Service Commission, the minister, and especially his staff who have opted to adapt to a team approach involving all of the affected persons in reintegrating these individuals into the workforce.
Perhaps one question that does arise out of the ministerial statement is the question of need for this policy. The minister has indicated that the actual number of reintegrations is small. In general terms, perhaps in his response, he would like to elaborate further on that.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I thank the opposition for their comments. I think it's certainly a good initiative the way we've tried to broaden it throughout the whole organization of government rather than it being handled in a singular fashion by the Public Service Commission.
In terms of numbers, just in this year alone, 19 people have participated in the reintegration process. That's just this year alone. Seven of those people have been successfully reintegrated; four have been medically retired, and one has resigned, and seven are in progress.
The numbers are small, but for those people they are very significant, obviously, because it's their livelihoods and their jobs. To the employer, I think, it's a good initiative, and there's benefit for both the employee and the employer.
So, those are the kinds of numbers that we're talking about, and I think it is a good initiative for disabled people, and I look forward to working with my staff, who are doing a very good job, doing more of this kind of thing in the future.
Addictions Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I attended the opening ceremony marking the Yukon's National Addictions Awareness Week here in the foyer of this building, together with representatives of community groups who are dedicated to raising the awareness of the problems of alcohol and drug addictions.
Today, I rise to inform my colleagues of many of the positive initiatives taking place in the area of alcohol and drug services within the Yukon as we continue to implement our policy of promoting healthy, safe communities throughout the territory.
There is a recognition within the Department of Health and Social Services that we cannot fight the problems of alcohol and drug abuse in isolation. We need to get out and work with the communities and other groups to spread the word. To that end, we are creating new partnerships with other government departments and agencies in this territory.
We also recognize that we must begin with the children and youth before problem behaviour patterns emerge. To that end, we will very shortly have an alcohol and drug services counsellor going into F.H. Collins Secondary School to deliver an awareness program.
We are also in the design stages of a pilot project to take into primary schools.
Problems do not stop just because we face certain fiscal realities, Mr. Speaker, but we are working on ways around that as well.
We have begun recently collaborating with the Government of the Northwest Territories to develop television advertising campaigns that will address a number of alcohol and drug related issues, including fetal alcohol syndrome and responsible drinking.
The medium of television has been used relatively infrequently by this government but we look forward to learning from our more experienced colleagues to the east.
I've already spoken in this House about other interdepartmental working relationships where projects are jointly developed and funded. In addition, I'm happy to point out that we've established a working committee at the deputy ministerial level to examine some ways to fulfill our commitments in fostering healthy communities.
This committee includes senior officials from Justice, Health and Social Services, Education and the Women's Directorate.
One focus of this year's National Addictions Awareness Week commemoration is youth. The government has a number of plans in place to deal with youth and substance abuse.
Addictions staff are involved in a youth group - Youth Making Choices Against Addictions - and they helping youth services develop a specific in-house prevention and treatment program for young offenders in our care.
We also have a full-time counsellor assigned as a youth worker, who works with youth at the young offenders facility, at the youth achievement centre and with parents. As well, this individual works with community youth in Whitehorse who are on probation orders.
Work is also continuing on the development of a web page, where young people can chat and learn more about the impact of addictions.
We have found, Mr. Speaker, that if we want a project to succeed, we must work directly with the youth to determine what they actually want. Young people have been very involved in the development of this project.
To strengthen our partnerships, we recently completed meetings with community alcohol and drug personnel throughout the territory. This is part of our effort to create accessible, effective and innovative alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation programs and services within the territory.
Many people in the Yukon shoulder varying degrees of responsibility and authority for the delivery of alcohol and drug services. The potential for duplication is high, and we recognize that the information flow has not always been as good as it should be.
To address that concern and to ensure the sharing of information and resources, we are creating an inter-agency committee. Partners currently involved are alcohol and drug services, the RCMP, the Department of Education and Kwanlin Dun.
We are moving to expand the membership of this inter-agency committee, in the expectation that, together, we can provide a better coordinated service in the territory that meets the needs of all.
We recognize that the plans we speak of here will not succeed overnight. Dealing with the many complex issues involved in alcohol and drug addiction is multi-faceted and a multi-year challenge, but it's one that's being actively addressed by a lot of hard working people throughout the Yukon in a coordinated and effective manner.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: We in the Yukon Party caucus support and are pleased to give recognition to Yukon National Addictions Awareness Week. As many northerners know, alcohol and drug abuse are major Yukon problems.
In May 1993, the Minister of Health and Social Services announced a three-phase alcohol and drug strategy to deal with alcohol and drug abuse by working with community groups and First Nations on prevention, treatment and recovery.
Some of the benefits that emerged from this strategy included the increased number of addiction treatment counsellors, the out-patient counselling made more accessible by extending hours of availability and providing a drop-in service that eliminated the waiting list, upgrading the Carcross building, moving the detox centre into the Crossroads building to increase capacity, production of a handbook for Yukon teachers focusing on working with children from alcoholic families, providing training and addictions prevention to staff at young offenders facilities and delivering community conferences dealing with solvent and substance abuse.
In addition to these initiatives, a major amount of work in developing community-based social programs was done in Ross River and Watson Lake. These programs were unique as they combined government monies with monies from the Kaska Dena Council. These are but a few initiatives of the three-phase alcohol and drug strategy that was introduced by the previous government. This strategy was comprehensive and it worked because it was implemented.
Much work has also been directed at youth at risk. I am pleased to see that this government is continuing the work of the previous government and admire the minister's recognition of tackling problems associated with youth at risk.
There is much work to be done and, again, I would urge this government to act upon these problems starting with the reconsideration of its position on providing long-term funding for YES.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to applaud the work of the many groups that work in the field of alcohol and drug addictions. It is hard work and often heartbreaking. In particular, the preventive work with youth must be commended. The large number of areas where Yukoners are working to prevent alcohol abuse and treat its effects demonstrates the pervasive and insidious effect that drugs and alcohol have on our territory. Once again, we hear of the development of inter-agency and interdepartmental committees, but we do not hear of their ability to give information to decision makers or to move forward on implementation plans.
The 1993 alcohol and drug strategy is one of a series of plans and implementation plans that have been developed over the years to deal with the effects of alcohol and drugs in the territory. The 1995 FAS/FAE prevention plan is yet another example of the many plans and studies that we have developed over time. They're examples of plans, studies and implementation programs that go back well over 20 years, and in the meantime, the mother of an FAS child who is now in his 20s says that things have improved for her son only three percent in the last 22 years. A recent wish list produced after a year of effort of an inter-agency committee on FAS is virtually identical to the list of needs developed 15 years ago by a similar committee.
When the talking about crime group toured the communities, 80 percent of crime and social problems were attributed to alcohol abuse. One judge in Whitehorse says that 90 percent of the cases in his courts are alcohol related.
The minister yesterday spoke about an interdepartmental working group on alcohol and drug issues made up of senior bureaucrats, and that's good, because our problems with alcohol and drugs in the Yukon cuts across all departments, all governments, all communities, all economic levels, all racial lines and age groups. It is everywhere.
It costs us too much monetarily and socially to ignore this problem. The minister is quite correct on that score. Certainly we should give credit where credit is due and applaud the many service-delivery groups in the territory who deal with alcohol and drug abuse, but what about our responsibility as leaders? There has to be political will to take action on the issues of alcohol abuse in the Yukon. How about starting with the 50-percent reduction in FAS births over the next five years? How about a 10-percent reduction in all alcohol sales in the next 10 years? How about aiming to have the Yukon have the lowest alcohol-consumption rate in Canada 10 years from now? We can do that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to some of the comments from the Member for Riverdale South, one of the areas where we are trying to target in terms of reducing, as the member has suggested, the alcohol consumption, is we have established, through ADS, one of the targets over the next year, and this partially explains why we're looking at, for example, primary school programs, bringing ADS into the high school. As we see it, one of the clearly identified problems we have with our youth is trying to raise the age of that first drink, and that's going to be one of the major targets for ADS over the next period of time.
We believe if we can intervene with young people to suggest and to work with them on such concepts as alcohol doesn't necessarily have to be kind of a rite of passage, we can make some steps in terms of perhaps changing that behaviour and, ultimately, perhaps changing adult behaviour. That's one of them.
The other area that we have as one of our goals is to reduce the number of drinks per occasion. That's also one of the other clearly identified goals that we have.
So we will be working on that. I think to reduce the alcohol consumption and to put us in the lower percentile of Canadians drinking is a laudable goal, and that's what we aspire to.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Carcross-Tagish First Nation contribution agreement
Mr. Ostashek: Yesterday in Question Period, I raised with the Minister of Renewable Resources the alleged misappropriation of $25,000, a contribution agreement with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. Mr. Speaker, the letter of complaint was issued in March of 1997 to Renewable Resources, and that complaint was only put in writing after Renewable Resources refused to act on a verbal complaint prior to that.
My question again is to the Minister of Renewable Resources. Will the Minister of Renewable Resources please tell this Legislature when he was first aware of the complaint and the possible misappropriation of funds? When was he first made aware of it?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I know the member across the way is interested in this matter and so are the rest of Yukoners. This is an alleged misappropriation of funds and we don't take this issue lightly. We have to take it seriously and we are doing a number of things and continuing to follow up on this matter. It's not as if nothing has been done since then. There has been communication back and forth to the First Nation with which we have the agreement.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister has completely avoided answering the question. He's already told us in a letter dated last July that they're working on it. I want to know, and Yukoners want to know, when this minister was made aware of the problem. How long has he known about it? Could he please tell this House?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have been aware of this matter for a while now - like we said, during the past summer - and it's not as if this is a problem. I mean, we've had allegations in regard to a number of things over the time that we've been in, and we cannot act just on verbal alone. We need a lot of information to back these up and we can't be a judge and jury like the official opposition is or seems to be. They're consistent with that - finding them guilty before we even look into the matter and gather all the information.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's quite clear to see who's guilty here, and it's the minister, of not doing his job as the Minister of Renewable Resources. That's who's guilty. On one hand, he stands there and tries to tell this Legislature and the people of the Yukon that he's taking this matter very seriously, yet after seven months he says the matter is still under investigation. Further to that, I believe that the minister was hoping this issue would go away. In fact, right after these questions on the floor of this Legislature yesterday, he hurriedly arranged a meeting with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation for tomorrow. Can the minister tell this House what's going to be discussed at that meeting?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We did not arrange a meeting right away; this was planned. A telephone conversation is planned for today and a meeting for tomorrow, and it's all to follow up on information that we both have. We did not find anything major that was wrong with it, so we need to be meeting with the First Nation whom we have the agreement with, go over the matter with them, and talk about what steps to take.
A possible step that we can take is to have an independent audit to come in and look at the books.
Question re: Carcross-Tagish First Nation contribution agreement
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the more answers we get, the more complicated it gets.
My question again is to the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Clause 6 of the agreement, the contribution agreement, which was signed by the government and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation says that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation shall keep proper accounts and records of all work and expenditures, and commitments, including all invoices receipts and vouchers, and that these shall be made available for inspection at reasonable times.
And, it even goes as far to say that Yukon government can make copies of them and take extracts from them.
So, I'm asking the minister today, when did he order an audit by his officials of this agreement?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We have not ordered an audit yet. I said we were going to have a discussion with the First Nation to talk about this.
In most agreements that we do - contribution agreements like this - having a clause in there in regard to audits is quite normal. And what we are doing with this issue is following due process.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, I for one find it hard to believe that this minister and his government are taking this complaint filed by six residents, six residents of the Carcross Tagish First Nation, seriously.
Mr. Speaker, will the minister be prepared to table a chronological order of his actions in relation to this alleged misappropriation tomorrow in this Legislature, so that we can see, and Yukoners can judge, whether he has acted appropriately or not?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I know the member would like more answers to this. We gave him what we are doing and would like to do in the next little while in regard to solving this issue and bringing some answers to the people who are concerned with this.
Right now, we're following the process that government normally takes and we want to be careful with this - this is not a light issue to deal with - and gather all the information that's necessary to give proper answers.
Mr. Ostashek: We know that there's a group of residents in the Carcross-Tagish First Nation who don't believe this government is taking this very seriously at all. In fact, they've been stonewalled by this government in trying to get any information from them. That's why this issue has been raised on the floor of this Legislature; it's because they couldn't get any answers.
The minister indicated that there was a review of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation that was prepared last June 6. Now, is the minister trying to tell this House that that was what he was waiting for -that review of last June 6 - before he could take any actions? And would he please tell us, again, why it has taken seven months and this matter is still under investigation when it seems to be a very straightforward matter to be able to get a look at the books and see if there has in fact been any wrongdoing or not? That's all these people have asked for. Can the minister respond to that, please?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have had communications back and forth with the First Nation. We've been writing to them. Just to note, in speaking to us as a department, it is not us who have done anything wrong in this. We have followed up with communications with them and tried to resolve this and we're continuing to do that. We're meeting with the First Nation tomorrow to look at what actions we do take from now until we get an answer. I feel that our department has done the right things. We've acted accordingly and have had communications with the First Nation with which we have the agreement.
Question re: Old Crow school replacement
Ms. Duncan: My questions are for the Minister of Government Services.
With respect to the construction of a new school for the residents of Old Crow, a common comment from residents is that the construction and work on this school has been terribly slow. The existing classrooms that are being used are very, very small and it's not creating a very healthy environment for students.
The design contract was awarded to a Northwest Territories firm in early September. Would the minister tell this House whether or not a final design for the Old Crow school has been jointly selected by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Government of Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As the member has said, the design for the school was given to a company from the Northwest Territories to do the architectural design. However, the design was based on the footprint of the Holy Family school.
In my visit up there most recently, that design had undergone considerable changes. We're anticipating that the final design - and keeping in mind, of course, that this school has changed from an elementary school in nature to a elementary/secondary school, considerable design changes have had to be made. We're anticipating that those design changes will be finished in January.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has just indicated that the design will likely be finalized sometime in January. After that, the construction contract still has to be tendered and awarded and, in the meantime, the window for transporting the materials to Old Crow over the winter road is getting narrower and narrower.
How does the minister anticipate dealing with these tight time lines? Does the minister anticipate purchasing the materials for the school construction and then having a successful contractor for the construction take them over from the government?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, that's essentially how it's being anticipated right now. We knew that we would have some difficulty in the assembling of materials, given the tight time frame with the road. We therefore are going ahead with the purchasing of the material that we do know, working from the basic design of the Holy Family School. However, we're also anticipating that there will have to be additional materials brought in. There will probably be some specialized materials brought in. As was indicated earlier in the press release, very likely some of that material will have to be air freighted in.
Ms. Duncan: This is a somewhat unusual method of construction of schools, and I think the business community and members of this Legislature can appreciate that there are somewhat unique circumstances.
Would the minister state for the record when the tender call is anticipated for the materials that are to be purchased and when the tender call might be issued for the actual construction of the Old Crow school?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to the materials, I would have to get back to the member on when we're anticipating that. However, in stating that this is unusual, that isn't necessarily the case. This has been done in Old Crow once before with the building of a grader station. Materials were assembled and then brought up in anticipation of the building.
With regard to the actual tender of the school, we're anticipating that that would likely take place in February.
Question re: Old Crow winter road
Mrs. Edelman: My question is for the Minister of Government Services and it concerns the construction of the road to Old Crow.
On June 4th of this year, an official from the Vuntut Gwitchin told CBC Radio that an agreement had been reached with the Yukon government to use a winter road to transport materials into Old Crow for construction of the new school. That was June 4th. If the government had a deal with the Vuntut Gwitchin on June 4th to build a road, why did they not apply for a permit to have a road built until October 17th - over four and one-half months later? Why was there a delay?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, Mr. Speaker, as far as the agreement to build the school, we had been looking at both a road and an air option. We had been looking actively at both and trying to assess the benefits.
With regard to the amount of time it took for applying for the permitting, the member may be aware that permitting is not simply a process of saying, "This is where we want to go." We had to present a fair degree of detail. It took us over a month and one-half to scout out the road, so to speak, and to turn in the proposed route to the DIA prior to the application.
Mrs. Edelman: If the government wanted to get a road into Old Crow and had an agreement with the Vuntut Gwitchin saying that they would construct the road, it would only make sense to get an application permit in a timely manner.
Mr. Speaker, a line item in the supplementary budget, tabled last week, lists the cost of the road to Old Crow at $990,000. In a newspaper article last week, a Yukon government official stated that a cost analysis had been done, comparing the cost of the road versus air transportation. Could the minister table that information in this House, and can the minister tell the House whether the road work will be tendered or done in house?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, I think there's probably a degree of poetic licence taken in it. In the agreement that we had with the Old Crow people, we suggested that the road would be done if there was no more cost-effective option. With regard to the various costs, when we anticipate the cost, the cost of both air and road options come in approximately the same. When one anticipates the actual construction of the road plus the actual freighting, the two proposals are very, very close.
With regard to us doing the roadwork in house, there are no plans to do that.
Mrs. Edelman: Can the minister tell the Legislature what time lines are for construction of the road and what backup plans the government has in case their failure to get the application in on time causes delays in the construction of the road to Old Crow?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, it's very simple. If, for example, we experienced either bureaucratic delays in terms of the federal government in terms of not issuing a permit, or if we experienced climatic difficulties in terms of there not being the adequate, I suppose, freezing or snow cover, et cetera, we would have to proceed with another option.
We are proceeding right now with plans to build the road. We are not absolutely 100 percent committed to those. We will be taking into account all of the factors. Right now, the window of construction for such a road would probably be during the month of February, with the use of the road being confined to probably March.
Question re: Carcross-Tagish First Nation contribution agreement
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the Minister of Renewable Resources with respect to the misappropriation of funds - the alleged misappropriation of funds.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Renewable Resources is responsible -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The members are laughing at it, Mr. Speaker, but I don't think that they are going to be laughing when the facts are known.
The Minister of Renewable Resources is responsible for his budget, and this is $25,000 of the minister's budget that has been alleged to have been spent inappropriately.
I would like to ask the minister this, Mr. Speaker, because he didn't answer the question before, and I would like the minister to be specific: when was the minister made aware by his officials or anyone else that there was an alleged misappropriation of funds?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have had this issue come to us during the summer and, at that time, several things were said to us. We took this issue and started to deal with it. There have been communications back and forth, like I said, to the First Nation in trying to come up with an answer as to whether or not this alleged misappropriation is true. To date, we still continue to have communications with the First Nation, and that's where it's at right now. Like I said, tomorrow we have a meeting with them to see where we go from here and to share information.
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is a serious allegation and the minister's telling us now that he was not aware of this situation until the summer? The letter that we received and that his officials received was in March. Is the minister telling us that, between March and the summer, which is sometime in July, the minister was not made aware by his officials that there was an alleged misappropriation of funds? Is the minister telling us that he was kept in the dark for about three and a half months with respect to this serious issue?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have not been kept in the dark. We have been dealing with the issue and we will continue to work on this matter. I know the member feels there is guilt in this issue and we feel that we need to gather information and look at exactly what went wrong or whether or not there was anything wrong, and that's the line we continue to act on.
Mr. Phillips: The point is, Mr. Speaker, that the minister has an agreement with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and the agreement states clearly that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation shall keep proper accounts and records. It also states clearly that they shall make available facilities for audit and inspection.
I'd like to ask the minister, if his officials and the minister had concerns, why didn't they call for the audit at an earlier date, Mr. Speaker? This is eight months later, and this is taxpayers' money. The minister appears to have fallen asleep on this issue.
I want to know why the minister isn't on top of an allegation to, one way or the other, clear the air with respect to this issue.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Like I said, we don't take this issue lightly. We take it seriously, and we need to have the information gathered. Like I said, we have had communications with the First Nation. We've been trying to get information from them, and we've been talking back and forth with them, and we will continue to gather information and share it with one another and try and come up with a direction together. The agreement that we have is with the First Nation, and we're going to follow due process in this matter.
Question re: RCMP auxiliary program
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice about the RCMP auxiliary program. Last year, I had written the minister asking questions relating to the RCMP auxiliary program and, in a letter dated January 8, 1997, she replied to me, and I quote, "The auxiliary program is now in its third year, and the RCMP have requested that, based on experience, the program become a permanent activity of the RCMP in the territory."
Then she went on to say that, in her view, the program has been very successful. Would the minister bring us up to date? Is that her present view, that the program has been successful and, if so, does she intend to keep the program going?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I am still in support of the auxiliary police program. The question of whether the program keeps going, Mr. Speaker, is something that we were discussing yesterday afternoon in this House when we had the Workers' Compensation Board amendments brought forward that extend the coverage to volunteers, including the auxiliary police.
Since the auxiliary police program is a program of volunteers, it is, in some measure, contingent on volunteers being interested in participating in the program.
Mr. Cable: Now, the minister, in this letter I just referred to of January 8, 1997, went on to say, "It is important that legislation be developed to ensure the long-term success of the program." Then she hoped to bring legislation to the Legislature during the spring session. Of course, that was a budget session, so that didn't happen, and it hasn't happened so far in this session.
Does the minister intend to bring forward legislation? Is there legislation on the books that she intends, at some time, to bring forward to this House to act as a legislative umbrella for the RCMP auxiliary program?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have requested the Department of Justice to develop a discussion paper on territorial police legislation and that work has been done. It is our intention to, as I indicated when I met with members of the auxiliary police force a couple of months ago, circulate that discussion paper to the public in the new year and proceed from there on any legislative initiatives.
Mr. Cable: Now, in a memo to me dated March 21, 1997, in response to some questions I had asked during the budget debate, the minister referred to the auxiliary police service as a rural communities initiative and she indicated, and I'll read, "An assessment is required of the impact this expansion could have on the overall mandate of the auxiliary police services and of the impact of a number of other issues, such as peace officer appointments, indemnification and workers' compensation."
Now, the minister has just indicated she has dealt with the issue of workers' compensation. What does she propose to do with respect to indemnification for the auxiliary police? These are for acts that are committed in the course of their duties.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I can tell the member that I have met both with the auxiliary police and with the RCMP on that matter. At present, the Department of Justice is working to ensure that they're covered and I think that when we take forward the discussion paper to the public we'll hear what the level of interest is in Whitehorse and in the rural communities on it and how the public is interested in proceeding from here. This will meet one of our campaign commitments and we're looking forward to hearing what the public has to say.
Question re: Carcross-Tagish First Nation contribution agreement
Mr. Ostashek: My question is again to the Minister of Renewable Resources on the alleged misappropriation of funds.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
The government doesn't need to worry about us getting it right; they'd better worry about themselves getting it right.
The minister was reported yesterday as saying to the press that he didn't know why it took so long to get to the independent audit stage, but he said the matter has been complicated by the fact that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation contracted out the work it was supposed to do with the money. That's what he said to the press yesterday.
So, I guess my question to the minister is this: clause 5 of the contribution agreement states quite clearly that this agreement may not be assigned by the Carcross-Tagish First Nation either in whole or in part without the prior written consent of the Yukon government. Did the Carcross-Tagish First Nation get that written consent?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: What I explained to the press yesterday was the fact that our agreement is with the Carcross First Nation and, in turn, they had a contract with someone else to carry out the job that's described in the agreement. We're dealing with the First Nation and they need to gather the information from the people that they contracted out.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the minister has again not answered the question. I asked him quite clearly, did the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, not the contractor, the organization they have the agreement with, receive prior consent before they contracted out this work? That's the question to the minister.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have known that the Carcross First Nation was going to be doing this and they have in the past. With the contracts that we have had with CYFN, they've done the same thing in regard to contracting out. It's not something that's unusual, or whatnot, in contracts with governments.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, what's the rationale behind having a contribution agreement if it doesn't mean anything? And that's what the minister has just said. We can put whatever we want on paper and sign it. It doesn't mean anything.
Further to that, Mr. Speaker, as the minister has just indicated, this has been an ongoing program and I want to ask the minister now, has there been another $25,000 allocated in this budget, the 1997-98 budget, for a contribution agreement with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and, if there has, has it been paid out?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: We have not allocated any monies to Carcross-Tagish First Nation for this year. In regard to the contract itself, this is quite normal. If we had a contribution agreement with a First Nation that lists the type of jobs that need to be done, they can go out and contract and get specialized people to do the job. It's quite normal in contracts like this. I know the official opposition wants to try and dig dirt out to see whether or not our government is in the wrong, and we're not in the wrong. We're following due process and we continue to do that. And, Mr. Speaker, we're going to continue to have good communications with the First Nation and continue to work on this matter. It's not as if we're going to let it go or take it on an easy route or have this matter just slide away. Our department is working on it and they've had good contact with the First Nation with whom we have the contract.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Motion No. 74 - removed from Order Paper
Speaker: The Chair would like to inform the House that Motion No. 74, standing in the name of the member for Whitehorse Centre, will be removed from the Order Paper as it is very similar in intent and subject matter to the Motion No. 68, which was standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition.
Motion No. 68 was debated, amended, and decided upon by this House on November 12, 1997.
Notice of government private members' business
Hon. Mr. Harding: Pursuant to Standing Order No. 14.2(7), I'd like to identify the following items standing in the name of the government private members to be called Wednesday, November 19. They are Motion No. 82, standing in the name for the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and Motion No. 73, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House now resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the wish of the Committee to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 41 - An Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act
Chair: We are dealing with Bill No. 41, An Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've given a speech at second reading. There were some points raised that I attempted to answer in those comments, and I'm now open to further, more technical questions in Committee.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just like to draw to the attention of a number of members a few points in general debate on this bill. There were some speeches given in second reading that suggested that members had not fully understood that the Liberal Party caucus intends to support this piece of legislation, that questions with respect to section 29(2) have been quite legitimately raised by this caucus and, in fact, are consistent with our party platform that suggested that we would introduce election finance legislation to increase accountability of political parties for election spending.
I just take issue with a couple of remarks from that particular debate. The Member for Whitehorse Centre spent a great deal of time explaining that this issue - particularly this section - was about freedom of choice, when in fact it is not the choice of individual union members. It will be the choice of the union executive as to how monies are spent.
I would remind also that the Member for Mount Lorne indicated that it would be political parties of the employee's choice. In fact, it wouldn't be. It would be the choice of the union executive.
I would just clarify for this general debate, prior to going into clause by clause, that those remarks should be corrected for the record and that it should be restated for the record that yes, indeed, the Yukon Liberal Party did support this particular piece of legislation. As a corollary to that, we do support the increased accountability of political parties for election spending. I think that's a very important point and I wish to restate it for the record.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I guess therein lies the problem. We have a fundamental difference of opinion philosophically with the Yukon Liberal Party. We believe that unions are free, democratic organizations.
The member is gravely wrong in her statement that it's the union executive's choice and not the individual members'. Unions are democratic organizations that operate under democratic principles, just like this Legislature, and they elect an executive, they put forward resolutions and they put forward actions that their executive has to act on. They're free to attend their union meetings, express their views, cause votes and have special meetings. It is not solely a choice of the union executive when it comes to supporting political parties or being politically active. They are accountable, through elections, to their members.
We fundamentally disagree with the Yukon Liberal Party's disposition that individual members will not be free to express their opinions with regard to this legislation.
There is some educating, perhaps, that has to take place with the Yukon Liberal Party. The very anti-union comments that came out of the Yukon Liberal Party regarding options put forward, in the context of local-hire discussions, did not go unnoticed by the labour movement in this territory, or the fact that the wage-restraint legislation budget was supported by the Yukon Liberal Party in this territory. So, there's a real problem in terms of understanding by the Yukon Liberal Party and in particular this new leader of, I think, just what unions are all about.
We fundamentally disagree in terms of her position that it's a union executive choice and that their members have no choice. I would say that we stand by our comments. I think the Member for Whitehorse Centre was bang on the money when he said that it is freedom of choice and it is a democracy. So, I don't really know. While the Liberals say they support this legislation, I don't really know whether they support it or not because on one hand they seem to criticize the principle of section 29(2) and on the other hand, in terms of their viewing of this bill, they say that they are going to support it. So, I guess it's, once again, a both-sides-of-the-fence type of position.
We would just say that we stand by our comments in the debate and we are not going to correct the record at all. We don't believe it's solely a Yukon executive choice; we believe that union members, individually and collectively, have the ability to raise their voice in their own democratic organization.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I thank the Member for Faro, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, for his comments. Let me correct any misapprehension he may have that this particular individual doesn't understand unions and doesn't understand democracy. I'm fully aware of the principles involved in both, and I look forward to the clause-by-clause debate of this particular legislation.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, I thank the member for that; however, the words speak pretty loudly, but I guess we'll wait and see.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I was all fired up for debate.
Mr. Chair, I would move that you report Bill No. 41 out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has now come to my attention there are two more clauses.
Does clause 3 carry?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: If the members have a point of order, I urge them to stand up, but I would like to remind them that I did not ask if it was agreed or not.
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd like to report Bill No. 41 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 24 - Family Violence Prevention Act
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to begin Committee with some general comments on the Family Violence Prevention Act.
First of all, I would like to, on the record, extend thanks to the executive director of the Yukon Family Services Association, the Yukon Family Services Association in Watson Lake, the Yukon Status of Women Council, the commanding officer of the RCMP, the head of the domestic violence unit of the RCMP, the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court of Yukon, the alcohol and drug counsellor from Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation in Dawson City, the senior justice of the Supreme Court of Yukon, the Yukon Registered Nurses Association, the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, Kaushee's Place executive director and Kaushee's Place board members, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Dawson City Shelter Society, the Yukon Federation of Labour, the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues, and the chair of the Canadian Bar Association, Yukon chapter, family law subsection.
Mr. Chair, all of those groups and individuals have written to the government to respond to the consultation paper on the Family Violence Prevention Act, and I would like to acknowledge the work that they've done and to indicate to all members that the government has acted on their concerns and responded to their many questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, I consulted with them, Mr. Chair.
I'd also like to thank all members of this House who supported this bill unanimously in second reading, and I look forward to the discussion on specifics relating to the bill.
I want to confirm again that we have met with interested groups and individuals about the Family Violence Prevention Act and given the commitment to them that they will be involved during the implementation phase of the Family Violence Prevention Act.
I'll look forward to members' questions.
Mr. Phillips: I received a letter today, as I think all members did, from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation with respect to the consultation on the bill. I see that the minister is cc'd here, so I expect the minister received a similar letter, dated November 18th. Mr. Speaker, I only have one copy of the letter but maybe I can read the letter into the record for the minister and then I'll get a copy made for the minister so that the minister is aware of the letter.
It's written, actually, to Mr. McDonald, the Government Leader, and maybe that's why the minister has it cc'd to her as well as all other members of the Legislature, so I don't know - maybe there's a minor communication breakdown in the NDP caucus about getting their mail, but we certainly got ours on this one, so I'll read the letter into the record.
It is "re: proposed Family Violence Prevention Act."
"The Kwanlin Dun First Nation is generally supportive of the proposed Family Violence Prevention Act. We do, however, have a number of concerns for the proposed act. We have asked for your government to provide a meaningful consultation process with the general public and those groups and organizations who work with victims of family violence before" - and that's underlined - "the bill is proclaimed.
"During the second reading of the bill, the Minister of Justice stated that she met with groups last week and that they did not ask her to pull the bill. We appreciate the time the minister took to meet with us, but we thought that our position on the bill was very clear. We want a consultation process (similar to the consultation process for the Keeping Kids Safe project) before" - which is underlined again - "this bill is proclaimed.
"Many questions and concerns were raised with the minister. These were listened to, but many were not answered. The minister has stated that she feels the consultation process she is proposing after proclamation may take up to one year, and the act will not come into force until that time.
"This is extremely important legislation, and it only makes sense to work out the implementation and other issues and processes first and then craft the legislation around the finalized product.
"I hope this clarifies our position on this issue. It is important that the victims and those who work with victims will have access to legislation that meets their needs, not that they have to try and fit their needs around the legislation. Only then will they be comfortable in the role and the implementation of this very important piece of legislation."
It is signed, "Sincerely, Chief Joe Jack, Kwanlin Dun First Nation."
Mr. Chair, I will give this to the page.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: Oh, the minister has it.
This kind of allows us to raise the ugly head again of the minister's consultative process. It appears that the impression that the minister gave us yesterday of everyone being happy and the impression we get today from some of the parties are not the same - that there are some who are unhappy with this.
My concern with this is that I'm not certain if Chief Joe Jack and others understand our process as clearly as we do. So, what I want to get from the minister is a commitment that there will be an extensive consultation process with these individuals before the bill is proclaimed. Normally, I think that the way this is done is that the bill might be given first reading or second reading and then it goes out to the public. Then the public gets a chance to talk about it and then it comes back in with possibly minor changes or whatever. Then, we pass it through the House. The consultation, for the most part, is usually over on the context of the bill by the time it gets to the House. This is rather unusual to go out afterwards and then determine that there might be some changes and then have to have the minister come back later with some more amendments to the bill.
So, I think that we have to make it clear to the people who are concerned about the consultative process that it will be more difficult to change what is in that bill after it passes through this House, unless the minister intends not to proclaim it a year from now and bring it back into the House after she has consulted a little more, and make some amendments.
I'm not sure if that was the intent of the minister's consultation, or is the minister saying that she was going to consult with the people but still make no changes to it?
So, maybe the minister could clarify for us what approach she's going to take with respect to this bill and spell it out in clear terms of what the minister sees as the consultative process so that Chief Joe Jack and others can see exactly where the minister is going with this bill, what the time lines are, what kind of input others might have from here on in, and when the minister expects to see the bill proclaimed.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I do have a copy of the letter that has been sent in to me now, and I'm happy to have a chance to clear up any misunderstandings that may exist.
First of all, I have not said at any time that the act will not be proclaimed for a year. I should probably also inform the member that Chief Joe Jack was not present at the meeting last week; it was one of the staff members from Kwanlin Dun First Nation who attended the meeting.
What I indicated at that time is that the act will not be proclaimed until the implementation plan is completed and that the implementation plan will include ongoing consultation with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and with others. It is our intent to have a consultation process before this bill is proclaimed. So, I think we are on the same wavelength here.
I have returned phone calls to Chief Joe Jack, but not spoken with him directly, and will certainly be following up with him to make sure that they understand clearly that we will continue to consult with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and with others before this bill is proclaimed.
The implementation may take six months. It may take eight months. It may take one year. The only preference to one year that I made is that it may take up to a year to complete the implementation, but it's possible that it could be done within six months.
We know where we're going with this bill. Where we're going is we're bringing into law another choice for victims of family violence to use to be able to remain in their homes and to be safe from abuse by having abusers removed from their homes.
Mr. Phillips: The minister shouldn't get her back up because I don't think anybody is disputing the intentions of the bill. I think even Chief Joe Jack is generally supportive of the proposed Family Violence Prevention Act.
I guess the difficulty we're running into here with this letter is that the minister is saying that she's going to take six months to a year, I suppose, to work out an implementation plan and she's going to consult people on that. The impression I get from Chief Joe Jack's letter is that he feels that there still can be some changes made to the bill, which would improve the bill.
So, can the minister tell us whether there will be anything in the next six months to a year with respect to this bill that will be changed, or is it the minister's intention to go with the bill the way it is, and the only thing that might be changed is the implementation plan, but the minister has no intention of changing anything in the act?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I must respond by saying to the member that I haven't seen a request, even in the letter that came in today, for not proceeding with the legislation. The request is to work with groups and organizations who are on the front lines and who support victims of family violence, before the bill is proclaimed. That is clearly what we intend to do.
The specific questions that were raised by Kwanlin Dun First Nation and others have resulted already in some changes to the bill and also in answers being given about how the bill will be implemented. For example, one of the issues that has been raised is whether the RCMP directive for mandatory charging on domestic violence will remain in effect. Yes, it will. Who will ensure that the RCMP get copies of the civil orders? That is covered in section 9 of the bill, where "An order under this act is a direction binding on peace officers to give notice of the order to the respondent forthwith, and to take necessary steps, which may include arrest of the respondent...to enforce compliance with the order."
The question of whether those orders are enforceable on First Nations land has been raised by the opposition and by groups in the public. As I indicated yesterday in the House, the laws of general application apply unless and until a First Nation draws down authority and passes their own legislation. Whether it's the Criminal Code of Canada, the Family Violence Prevention Act, or the Motor Vehicles Act, the legislation would apply on First Nations land.
Where is the money coming from to do the training and education in regard to this act? We will identify funding internally to provide training and education in Whitehorse and in the communities.
Kwanlin Dun First Nation and other groups who've written to us requesting for input into the type of training that will be done will have that opportunity. That will be part of the implementation process.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe I can make a suggestion to the minister. I know the minister's not going to be happy with this, but it is an option to consider.
Chief Joe Jack said in his letter today that this is extremely important legislation. I'm quoting from it, "This is extremely important legislation. It only makes sense to work out implementation in other issues and processes first, and then craft the legislation around the finalized product."
So the minister is doing it the other way around. The minister is going to pass the legislation, then work out the implementation plan. So there's a bit of a concern there from Chief Joe Jack in that process.
The second issue Mr. Jack raises: "Many questions and concerns were raised with the minister. These were listened to, but many were not answered."
Let me provide a suggestion to the minister. We're going to be here for at least another week. Another week's delay in this bill is not going to kill the bill, but obviously there's a misunderstanding between what the minister's doing with respect to the bill and what Chief Joe Jack is suggesting be done with the bill. We can go through some general debate, but maybe we should stand the bill aside and move on to other legislation, which we have to do, and other work we have in the House, and then the minister can come back with the confidence of Mr. Jack that things are going to work out.
I just want to feel a little more comfortable with this, and I think maybe if the minister gets an opportunity to meet with Chief Joe Jack it may be able to be worked out, and that we may be able to proceed. I feel somewhat like the minister, that I want to get on with this, but I also think that Chief Joe Jack and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation have some legitimate concerns. It appears that there's some confusion about how the system is going to work and what the minister is going to do with respect to consultation.
All I'm asking the minister is to take another few days and try and sort it out with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. We don't have to deal with that immediately. I'm sure that the minister and her officials can take the time very quickly and meet with Chief Joe Jack and others and sort out this particular issue, and we can come back to it early next week or later on in this session and pass the bill and get it done in this legislative session.
I would like to see that happen, but I would like to see the confusion that there appears to be with Chief Joe Jack, and maybe others, cleared up a little bit if the minister would take a little more time.
Would the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, I certainly agree with the member opposite that we want to clear up any confusion that exists with the chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation
I will commit to speaking with the chief about the bill; however, I would like to, at this time, continue with general debate on the Family Violence Prevention Act. I can certainly meet with the chief and come back and ensure that he does understand that we will have a consultation process that involves them before the bill is proclaimed.
Mr. Phillips: I have to say that I'm a bit surprised by that reaction from the minister of that government. The reason I say that is because the New Democratic Party government has talked quite a bit about the First Nation and treating them like a government - government-to-government negotiations - we have here a chief, a head of one of those governments, asking to have meaningful consultation. And, it's a bit of an insult, I believe, to debate the bill now and pass it through Committee, and then go and talk to the chief; the chief wants meaningful consultation. The chief does not want to be told, "Yes, you've got some great ideas, Chief Joe Jack, or you have some great suggestions for changes, but it's too late." I mean, I think the minister can probably meet with Chief Joe Jack in the next couple of days, sort this thing out, come back Monday or Tuesday with the bill, and we could probably proceed.
I'd like to see it happen this session, but I want the minister to clarify it. I want the minister to also respect the wishes of the chief and clear up the confusion the chief or the minister may have with respect to the consultation, and what changes can be made. Because, the minister is saying, "We will pass the bill and then we'll work out an implementation process," while Chief Joe Jack is saying, "Let's work out the processes and then craft the legislation around the finalized product."
So, all I'm asking the minister to do is take some time, a couple of days, the weekend - the minister can work on the weekend; I used to work weekends once in a while - and meet with Chief Joe Jack and solve this problem.
Mr. Chair, that's all I'm asking. It's not an unreasonable request, when we're showing our respect for the First Nations out there. I'm sure others would like to see that happen. I don't want Chief Joe Jack to feel like the barn door was slammed and the horse was running across the meadow and then the minister said, "Well, we want to talk about this horse you've got in your barn - because it's not there any more." So, I want the minister to show some respect for the First Nation chief and delay the bill for a couple of days.
We've got lots of work to do - well, not a lot of work to do, Mr. Chair; I shouldn't say that. We've passed a lot of housekeeping bills and we have some other work to do, but we also have a budget to deal with, which we'll probably be dealing with later on today or tomorrow. We have other things to do in this House, and two or three days are not going to kill the bill.
I'm just asking the minister to meet with - and this isn't just a special interest group; this is a chief of one of the 14 First Nations, who wants to sort this out. That's all I'm asking.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member opposite seems to have completely misunderstood my response to his previous question. What I indicated is that I am very interested in meeting with Chief Joe Jack. I am prepared to meet with Chief Joe Jack. I did not refuse his suggestion to delay moving this bill out of Committee until after I have had a meeting with Chief Joe Jack. I am willing to do that. However, Mr. Chair, I expect that there are other questions and other issues that members want to discuss in general debate. I am suggesting that we continue with general debate and, before we conclude Committee of the Whole, we can set this bill aside until I've had an opportunity to meet with the chief.
Mr. Phillips: Okay, Mr. Chair, just so I get this straight, the minister is saying we'll conclude general debate, and at that time we'll set the bill aside. We won't go clause by clause now. We won't go clause by clause? Because if we do go clause by clause, and we pass the clauses, then we have to go back to them again.
What I'm suggesting to the minister is that I don't have a problem talking about the bill in general debate, but after general debate, let's stand it aside, and then the minister can go talk to Chief Joe Jack, and if the minister comes back after her conversations with the chief and decides that there may or may not be changes, then we'll proceed on that basis. But I would like to hear from Chief Joe Jack as well on whether or not he is happy with the consultation that the minister will afford him this week with respect to the bill.
So, if that's what we're going to do, fine, but I would have great difficulty, Mr. Chair, going clause by clause on the bill right now, because I think that we should respect the concerns raised by the chief of the First Nation and at least have an opportunity to talk to him before we close the barn door.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe I've said this before, but I will say this again. I'm in agreement with the member. We can continue general debate and complete general debate and then set aside going clause by clause on this bill until after I've met with Chief Joe Jack.
Mr. Cable: I have to say that in going over the events of yesterday afternoon, it was an interesting and strange afternoon as the debate went. I think "strange" is an understatement, and if I could, Mr. Chair, I'd like to take a moment, and go over some of the arguments that were put forward, because what happened yesterday reinforces what we had been hearing, which was that the minister is not hearing people.
I think she's fixated on a course of action and is just not into receiving the signals that are coming in. Now, I very carefully went over some of the dangers that were in the bill and identified that, on balance, the dangers were worth accepting, because there was a greater good, and this is what I said: "Now, the orders under this act will have some dangers. They are initially, of course, ex parte in nature. The act does set up a situation where there can be unjust or improper accusations made by people who approach the JPs and this of course is possible in the case of peace bonds or civil injunction applications. We can't get away from that.
"There are also third-party or other parties' property rights that can be unfairly affected, but when we balance the rights in the down side, I think we can clearly see that the down side to victims is of a much different and greater order than the down side to other affected parties. The protection from the danger of physical violence is a much greater good than the protection of some property."
This is what came out of the minister in the rebuttal, and hopefully she will correct me if I've misunderstood her. The Member for Riverside indicated that this bill could act as a good remedy in some cases, that it adds to the victim's protection armoury.
She also indicated that the orders have some dangers "in that improper accusations could be made by people who approach a justice of the peace for an emergency intervention order or a victims assistance order." So far, so good. She goes on to say, "Well, Mr. Speaker, the bill that was tabled by a Liberal member in this House in the spring includes those same orders in it."
What we have done in response to those concerns is to set up a mechanism to balance the rights of the victims and the rights of the offender - exactly what was said. We were having a vigorous agreement.
Then there is the Member for Faro, off on some wild tangent, some wild, aggressive tangent. Here's what he had to say, but I won't go into all of it because he was really bouncing off walls.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Well, I will then. If the Member for Whitehorse Centre needs help in reading Hansard, I will certainly do that.
"I believe that when I hear the other comments about bringing witnesses, I don't discount the notion totally of bringing witnesses before this Legislature. It's done very rarely, but the Member for Riverside, the Liberal member, implies that the only way we can hear people on a bill or the only way we can have any direct democracy is by bringing witnesses before the Legislature to hear evidence."
There's absolutely nothing in Hansard that gives rise to that comment. The implication is that the only way we can hear advice on this bill is to have witnesses before the Legislature. Then he goes on and on and on.
So, Mr. Chair, I don't follow the logic of the members opposite. The logic of the members opposite - and I think this was shared by both the official opposition and by the third party, the Liberal Party - is that there might be some people who could, in a formal setting, give this House some good advice.
That's the only point. We weren't making the point that there were people out on the street tugging at our shoulder, asking to be heard in the House. It was our idea. The point we were making was that witnesses had been heard before in this House when members wanted to take information in a formal manner, and we referred to the Environment Act. The point also was made there's no committee system in this jurisdiction to formally take consultation. On occasion we strike committees, such as the Land Claims Committee, or we have the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which will take advice in a formal fashion. That's the point we were making.
Now, we - and this is the final point - in the opposition feel this type of exercise is useful. We want the stakeholders to appear to give us that advice. Finally, there were the comments, Mr. Chair, that were made by the Justice minister in reply. I'm not going to go into all of them. They were extremely odd because we were supporting her bill; we were very careful to spell that out.
She says, "Mr. Speaker, this is why I'm gravely disturbed by the members of the opposition standing here today and using this bill for their partisan political purposes to criticize the government. The members opposite claim to share a common concern about the dreadful reality of many people's lives here in the Yukon." Then a little later, "I'm at a loss to understand why the members opposite want to delay responding to family violence." Then she finishes off, "Mr. Speaker, I would like to emphasize that we believe it's very important to involve the public. I believe this bill sends a strong message to victims and offenders that abuse is not accepted and will not be tolerated."
There is absolutely no question that we are in agreement with that. "Unfortunately, the message from the opposition is run roughshod over the rights and needs of victims, to refuse to acknowledge our government's work to respond to helpful advice we have been given by many, many people."
There's no suggestion whatsoever that we were running roughshod over the rights of victims.
There have been many stretches in this House but that had to be one of the biggest stretches I've ever heard. What we're telling the minister, in a fairly roundabout way - and I'll make it just a little more definite - is that she was not hearing what everyone was saying, that everyone was not in total agreement, and we, as legislators, would like to hear about it. We aren't given our salary, as least I don't think we are, to simply act as a clapping section for the NDP.
What we are also saying is that, whether or not this bill is the same as the Liberal bill or different in some minor respects, none of us should have some obsessive and blind pride of authorship. There might be some improvements possible.
And what I'd like to bring to the minister's attention is this very carefully drafted document, A Better Way. It goes on and on and on about consultation. I'm not going to read all the sections. Of course, we've heard about consultation ad nauseam in this House.
So, the question I have for the minister - and it's really one I have some difficulty in asking because, for the life of me, I can't understand why she hasn't been in agreement. I've yet to find out why she feels that some formal questioning by the opposition isn't useful and that we can't be accommodated. What is the reason? I know she's getting her briefing notes from the Member for Faro. He's whispering little tidbits in her ear. That's a danger.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: Oh, Trevor. Now, what is the reason. Why can't we have witnesses? Why can't we be accommodated? Is there a shortage of time? Does she think the witnesses have nothing to say? Or is it simply because it's our idea, that we would like to have witnesses appear in this House in a formal setting and spend two or three or four or five hours in front of us? Could we have the answer to that question? I really have difficulty understanding why we can't be accommodated.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, it's very clear to me that the member opposite is smarting a little bit at my, admittedly, fairly impassioned response at the end of the afternoon yesterday, where we sat here and heard all the opposition members stand up and say that the bill is not good enough because the consultation hasn't been proper and we think the government has made some mistakes. In the end, they voted for the bill. Now, they're standing up and they're wanting to suggest that more delays are in order. They seem to not be recognizing, Mr. Chair, that the bill contains a clause indicating that the bill will come into effect on a day to be fixed by the Commissioner in Executive Council. That's a fairly normal, fairly standard clause in any bill - that the bill will be proclaimed after such time as regulations are developed.
As I've indicated before - and I'll respond to the member's point about the concerns of the public being taken into account - we have heard advice that has been given at public meetings, in letters to myself, in meetings between community groups and departmental officials. That advice has been taken into account.
We have listened to what people have to say. We have made a number of changes to the Yukon Family Violence Prevention Act from the model of the Saskatchewan legislation and the Prince Edward Island legislation that it was based on. We're certainly prepared to listen. We have listened and we will continue to listen. We will have an implementation process where we continue to meet and consult with transition home workers, with First Nations, with community groups and with women's groups.
The member is curious about why witnesses being called to the House is not a concept that we're wholeheartedly endorsing on this bill. I think the member is betraying some dissatisfaction that he's not in the federal Parliament where he could be part of a justice committee and hear witnesses and go around talking to people about the clauses of the bill. Mr. Chair. I want to make it really clear to people that we, as a government, have had a full and open discussion with the very people that members are asking us to bring into the House as witnesses.
Bringing people into the House as witnesses is not a fair way to consult with the public. We consult with people outside of the Legislature.
The Member for Porter Creek was speaking - and I'm not the only one who reviewed Hansard, Mr. Chair, and took a look at the public record of what was said yesterday - in talking about witnesses having been called on rare occasions to this House, for example, in dealing with the Environment Act, and what the Liberal member said when she cited that example was that it didn't work.
I think, Mr. Chair, that it is not necessary to call witnesses to the House. Members opposite should know that we have listened to and responded to many of the concerns that have been brought forward from transition homes, First Nations, women's groups. We've made many improvements to the bill, and that we will continue to involve the public in the implementation of this bill. That's our position.
Mr. Cable: So what the minister's saying is that she's heard it all; there's no advantage to us hearing what she has heard in a formal setting. Is it the policy of this government that witnesses appearing before this House have no value?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Liberal caucus was present at at least one of the public meetings that have been held on this bill. The Liberal caucus is certainly able and encouraged to hold their own public meeting, if they so desire, on this bill. The Liberal caucus has received copies of the correspondence relating to concerns that have been brought forward on this bill.
We have changed this bill to accommodate the concerns. We have had a meaningful consultation with the public. We intend to continue meeting with and answering the questions and concerns that are being raised by any group interested in this bill.
I started out, Mr. Chair, at the beginning of Committee debate, with a list of the respondents to the consultation on the proposed Family Violence Prevention Act. I don't know how many times I need to say it, but we've heard the concerns and we're more than willing to continue listening. We believe, however, that there is a need to set in place the ability for a victim of family violence to go to a JP and to request an emergency intervention order or a victims assistance order in order to enhance their safety.
That's something that the members opposite are saying they believe in in principle, and they're generally supportive, but they're putting roadblocks in the way. I fail to understand the member's point.
Mr. Cable: I'm not putting roadblocks in at all. Everybody on this side of the House very carefully told the minister yesterday that they were going to support the bill. It was a good idea. There should be absolutely no doubt in the minister's mind that the bill is going to pass. If there is any doubt in her mind, then let's dispel it right now.
The only point we're making is that when she says "we," she's talking about her side of the House. Now, the "we" over here has an idea. We'd like to hear witnesses, and I've yet to hear from the minister's mouth any valid reason why we can't spend a few hours of our valuable time listening to people who may have something to say. They may not have anything to say, but they might have something to say, and they might improve the bill in some minor respects.
Could the minister indicate just what her reservation is about it? Does she think it will turn into some kind of a political show? Is that her reservation, or does she just not want to accommodate the opposition in any circumstances?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I've just finished accommodating the opposition by indicating that we would set aside the clause-by-clause debate on this bill after Committee of the Whole in order to meet with the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I've also indicated to the members opposite that we have had a full and open discussion with the very people that the members are asking to bring in the House as witnesses. I don't understand the member's point.
We have put out a public discussion paper. We have received many responses to it. We have incorporated a number of changes into the bill to accommodate the interests of transition home workers, First Nations, the legal community, the RCMP. What more do the members opposite want? We've made the commitment that we will, before we proclaim the bill, continue to listen to and work with First Nations and with transition home workers, women's groups and others who are concerned about this bill.
Mr. Phillips: I wasn't going to get into this, but maybe I can help the minister out. The minister is wondering why we are concerned. Well, I think it goes back, Mr. Chair. In the election campaign, the New Democratic Party produced a document called A Better Way. Throughout that campaign, they talked about consultation and how they would consult with people and not just go out and do things.
Well, this is really the only piece of legislation we have in front of us in this session that is relatively new. Everything else is old stuff.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Public Health Act. There is one other piece of legislation that is new. So, two pieces of legislation of about 25 or so that we have received in front of us here contain relatively new stuff. So, it was an opportunity for the New Democratic Party to strut their stuff and show us how they consult.
The first thing we started seeing were letters to the editor and letters sent to us, and groups on the radio and other media complaining about the consultative process. The minister's first reaction was, "It's time to take action." That isn't what they said in the election. During the election, they said, "We will listen to the people and implement the wishes of the people on these things." The minister, despite the cries of a few groups and organizations who are involved in this, proceeded on and even stood up in the House and condemned members on this side, as if we weren't supporting the bill at all, as if we didn't care at all about violence against women.
There was a terrible speech yesterday, condemning other members for their approach. It was off the wall. I know that the minister is passionate about this, but I can tell the minister that so are others in this House passionate about it, and some of them sit on this side of the House. The minister should recognize that. There have been a lot of efforts made by members in the opposition with respect to women's rights and violence against women when we were in government and from the Liberal members when they brought forward bills that addressed the very issue we're talking about. So, people do care. And to just passionately fly off the deep end and say that no one cares is irresponsible on the minister's part.
Mr. Chair, our leader, the leader of the official opposition, said he didn't have a problem with witnesses in front of the House. Maybe the minister can provide us with something other than witnesses, because she is refusing to do that. She talks about all the other people involved. Well, I haven't seen anything in writing from the transition homes or the legal workers or others who say that they're happy with the bill. I don't see anything that says that these people are now satisfied and that everything will work out.
So I want to hear from the minister. Does the minister have correspondence from these groups that says that they're happy with the consultative process and they're generally happy with the bill and that they're pleased that it's going forward? Does the minister have that kind of correspondence from those groups she consulted, or is it possibly a figment of the minister's imagination that she has their support? I mean, does she really have the support of the groups she consulted on this or are they still, as Mr. Jack is, feeling that there could be some changes and there could be some problems? I think that's a fundamental issue here. We have to remember, it was the New Democratic Party that said they consult and they listen.
So, what I want to know is, did they listen to what the transition home said, the RCMP said, the legal workers said and Mr. Joe Jack said, and are those groups now happy with the bill that's in front of us?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Chair, as the member opposite probably knows, since he was in a minister's chair for a while, there is an enormous volume of correspondence that does deal with this issue. I have received letters requesting me to extend the time period for consultation, and did extend the time period for consultation. I have received letters thanking me for the opportunity for input and I would like to make it very clear to the members opposite that we have worked with the people who will be affected by this legislation and have received a lot of helpful suggestions that have been incorporated into the bill. We've received a lot of support. We've also received some concerns about implementation.
I have to comment to the members that all of the outstanding concerns that I am aware of, all of the outstanding concerns that the members opposite have been articulating yesterday and today, have to do with implementation.
I have indicated to community groups and to the opposition that our plan is to involve them in the further consultation in developing the regulations and implementing the bill.
One of the letters is from the Yukon Status of Women Council; it is a letter of congratulation, acknowledging support of our efforts to further affect the safety of Yukon women with the introduction of the proposed victims of domestic violence act.
Mr. Chair, the name of the act was changed to Family Violence Prevention Act to reflect recommendations that were received from the local bar and from others, from First Nations and other groups, that the word "victims" should be taken out of the title. It's now entitled the Family Violence Prevention Act.
Another letter here says this is an important piece of legislation which affects all Yukoners, and we look forward to participating in future consultations regarding the implementation of the act.
Let me reiterate for the members opposite that we have heard from Yukon Family Services Associations, in both Whitehorse and Watson Lake, from the RCMP, from the courts in the Yukon, from Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation, from Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, Kwanlin Dun, Kaushee's Place, and the Council of Yukon First Nations. We have also had letters of support from the Yukon Federation of Labour, the Dawson City Shelter Society, and the Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues.
So, Mr. Chair, when the members are saying that consultation has been inadequate, I think they are just not listening to what I'm responding to them. We have made many changes to the bill to reflect the questions and concerns that have come forward to us on the ongoing questions about providing training in the communities, about what will happen on First Nation land and about the implementation of the act .
We will, I repeat, continue to work with the community on implementing the act.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister can help us out a bit. Maybe the minister could table all the letters that the minister has received, pro and con this act, so we can read them over ourselves and judge for ourselves how widespread the support is for the bill as it is written today.
I don't doubt that most all organizations are supportive of doing something and I think the minister is on the right track with what she's doing. But, Mr. Chair, what I want to be clear of, in my mind, is all the issues that are still outstanding out there with respect to the act.
So, maybe the minister, before we get back to this act after we set it aside for a bit, could provide us before that time with a copy of the correspondence, pro and con, with respect to this act.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We have taken into consideration all of the contents of that correspondence. If the members opposite felt that the consultation was so flawed, they would have voted against the bill.
Mr. Chair, I'm not going to stand here and make a commitment to release letters that I have received from people that are not letters that I wrote myself. I can provide the member with a summary of the consultation responses to the act. I can tell the member that, as far as I recall, all of the letters raising concerns about the bill have already been copied to the opposition and been published in the media. Many of the letters of support have not gone to the media, so maybe there's an unbalanced perception out there that there isn't a lot of support for the bill, when in fact there is a lot of support for the bill.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe the minister, then, could possibly check with the individuals who wrote letters and see whether or not they would agree that copies be provided to the opposition, just for perusal. I don't think that's an onerous task. I would imagine there's probably a dozen letters or so that have been written to the minister with respect to this. We just want to get a clear picture of where everybody stands on the bill.
I think the minister should realize we're not opposed to the bill. We're not trying to hold it up unnecessarily, but it is the first consultation that this new government has undertaken and, surprisingly enough, it's the first one that's produced some controversy. So I would like to kind of feel clear in my mind that they actually did listen when they consulted. That's what I want to make sure of.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I did commit to the member that we would provide a summary of the consultation responses to him. I have to respond to the member's comment about it being the first consultation exercise that the government has embarked upon over the last year that we've been in office. The member is dead wrong on that. Totally wrong.
Mr. Chair, I've had ongoing consultation with the education community on a number of subjects, including the decision-making process in relation to the planning of new educational facilities. There has been consultation with the auxiliary police. There has been consultation with women's groups and on many of the initiatives of this government. The member is completely wrong in saying that there hasn't been consultation and that there hasn't been effective consultation.
We are listening to the thoughtful views that have been presented to us by the community. We have incorporated many, many of the recommendations that have been made to us in relation to how to deal with family violence into the bill that's before us in Committee now.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I have a few general questions about the bill, and perhaps the minister can educate me on a few of those issues.
How is the warrant of entry different from the Criminal Code, generally speaking?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The similarity between the warrant of entry and the Criminal Code is that the test is the same. In order to make an order, the judicial officer needs reasonable grounds. The purpose of the warrant of entry is to search for someone who may be being abused. A search warrant is issued in order to look for a thing.
Mrs. Edelman: I wonder if the minister can confirm that the warrants of entry were never used in Saskatchewan and they never were requested in PEI either. Is that still the case?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As far as we know, they have not been used.
Mrs. Edelman: So, I wonder then, what would be... Because what we've done is we've borrowed legislation from other areas, this is knock-off legislation in a lot of ways, with a few minor changes - three I think for the Yukon.
Why would she have kept the warrant of entry? I guess I don't follow the reasoning in it, because what you do when you borrow legislation from other areas is that you learn from their mistakes and from the things that they did well, as well. What I'd like to know is this: is there a definite need out there for a warrant of entry on this level and can the minister be a little bit more clear about that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't agree with the member that because the warrant of entry has not been used to date in other jurisdiction that that provision of the bill is a mistake. We want to have the opportunity where a warrant of entry might be necessary to use that provision. The thinking is that, often, elder abuse occurs and the elder may be afraid to complain. This provision of the act would empower the police to search a residence to determine if there was someone being abused.
Part of the education process that we intend to bring into effect, at the request of many community groups, is to ensure that transition home workers, community justice workers, social service agencies and the police are aware of the provisions of the warrant of entry, understand what it means and how to use it. If it's necessary, it's good to have that provision available.
Mrs. Edelman: So, am I to understand then that, perhaps with public education, the warrant of entry might be used more often? If so, how is our public education on that going to be any different from the education in Saskatchewan and PEI which, in PEI at least, was quite extensive.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I can't speak to the details of the training that has been offered in Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, although I know that there was education done in the communities after the legislation was passed. What I can indicate is that our intent with this bill is to provide some opportunities for victims and for friends and relatives of victims to help them to be safe.
All of the provisions of this bill are ones that I think it's important that members of the public understand - what they are and how to use them. Whether the warrants of entry are being used will, to some extent, I believe, depend on the level of occurrence of the criminal actions that they seek to redress.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, unfortunately I don't think domestic violence changes much from province to province or territory to province. So, I'm still very unclear on that.
The minister spoke yesterday about how internal funds would be allocated for public education on this bill. There's going to be a number of training needs in the future. One of them is possibly a JP phone system that goes directly into Whitehorse, and that may be fairly expensive. As well, there's ongoing training with new RCMP. Has the minister identified a specific amount of funds? Is it all going to be internal funding? Is there no new funding for this bill?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It's not unusual for officials within the Department of Justice to travel to communities and to offer education, whether it's on new pieces of legislation or policy changes. We will find the money for officials to do the training of members of the public in the communities within the internal budget of the Department of Justice.
Mrs. Edelman: So what I hear then is that there is no new funding.
The next question I have, and maybe the minister can be ... I'll give her an opportunity to wax poetic about this particular bill. Can she be a little bit clearer on how this bill benefits seniors and children?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I suppose one option would be to invite the member to review Hansard from yesterday to get an idea of what the position of this government is on the benefits of the bill. This bill, if it does anything to help individual victims of family violence and to indicate that there are consequences for violent behaviour against women, against children, against elders, will be doing something to benefit the lives of those victims of family violence.
Mrs. Edelman: I was looking for a far more specific response than that, because I'm still not very clear on exactly where it is that this bill is any better than any of the other remedies out there for seniors and for children. What I would like the minister to perhaps be a little bit clearer. In Saskatchewan, 17 orders were lost, totally lost. What I'm wondering about is, when we start to bring in this bill, is there anything that the minister can see as a way to track those orders, perhaps better than they did in Saskatchewan?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is asking me to be specific about the remedies that are available for seniors or children. I do find that question somewhat puzzling, in that the member who asked that question tabled in this House a domestic violence bill that took the word "Saskatchewan" off the title, put the word "Yukon" on the title, and was the same bill that has been in effect in Saskatchewan for a couple of years.
The differences that we have put forward in the Family Violence Prevention Act are ones that we have made in order to respond to specific needs in the Yukon and in order to respond to recommendations that we have received from many, many community groups.
Children will be protected because they will be saved from witnessing and/or being the victim. The victims of family violence have the ability, under the Family Violence Prevention Act, to apply to a justice of the peace for an emergency intervention order that can remove the offender from the home.
The offender is removed from the home and is therefore not there, abusing a child, a woman, an elder. Similarly, the victims assistance order can require a number of restrictions on the action of the abuser. There is an ability to remove firearms from someone who is abusing family members, whether it's physical abuse or sexual abuse. In all of those ways, the lives of victims of family violence will be safer.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I raised this issue yesterday and I wasn't totally satisfied with the minister's answer. It goes back to the issue of sensitivity in the justice system with respect to violence against women and children. With respect to this bill, what kind of training is there going to be available for JPs and judges with respect to sensitivity in dealing with violence against women and children? Is there a special allocation here? Are we going to make extra efforts, or are we just going to carry on with the status quo and just hope that some people become more sensitive as time goes on?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: There are some things that we can do and some things that we may be able to do in the future that we're unable to do now. The government has the ability to appoint justices of the peace who have already an understanding of family violence and the dynamics of violence against women and children that, as I'm sure all members agree, is too prevalent a problem in our society today.
There is also an ability to offer training to justices of the peace and the judiciary on violence against women and children.
I do need to inform the member that many of these opportunities have already been taken advantage of by justices.
Mr. Phillips: I don't know who's taken the course, but it doesn't appear to have worked or been too successful.
Mr. Chair, I think we can do a couple of things. I would like to see us here certainly build a stronger component into our JP training with respect to issues of violence against women and children, and I think that is something we can do in our JP training before we certify people as JPs.
Once we build a component, I think we could certainly ask the existing JPs who are out there if they would like to, in their JP conference - we offer them a conference every so often; maybe we could offer something that would bring them up to speed on issues such as this and afford them the opportunity to go through the program again, because this is moving into a new area that we haven't been in before.
I suppose, with respect to the judges, there, when judges either leave us to go on to greener pastures or pass on themselves, or whatever happens, we could make sure that when we hire new judges that that be a priority of this government in the criteria when we are looking for a judge, that this kind of sensitivity is paramount.
You know, I'm sure the existing judges that are there care a great deal about these issues, but I think that the general public has an impression that some of the recent statements that have been made have shown an insensitivity to these issues. All I'm saying is that it's time to be more sensitive to an issue that's important to Yukoners and to a problem that's prevalent in our society.
You know, I mean, I'd love to be able to force them to do it. I wish we could. I think we should be able to, quite frankly, force them to take sensitivity training, and I don't think that's telling them they have to make a judgment one way or another. I think they just, in some cases, have to get with it.
I would hope that they would look at this as a very important issue and that, without our encouragement, they would volunteer their own services, as a result of this bill in decisions they might make, step forward and - I would hope - that the Government of Yukon could come up with a few dollars to put on a program with respect to sensitivity to these issues. I think it would be money well-spent. So, I just encourage the minister to look at those options. I don't think it's going to hurt anybody.
I'm not condemning anybody or saying that they should be fired or they shouldn't be allowed to do this or that. I'm just saying that I think that there needs to be something done on this side of the equation and I would hope that we would do what we can do with JPs in their training. We can certainly build that into their training because we do that and do what we can do when her officials meet with the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court and encouraging them to add to the skills they already have with respect to sensitivity and these issues.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: What I hear the member opposite doing is putting on to the floor of this Legislature an issue that is very much in the media and in the public arena these days and that is how we can enhance public confidence in the justice system.
There are some initiatives that are underway to deal with exactly that issue of enhancing public confidence in the justice system. One of the things that we, as a Legislature, can do is pass laws that respect the rights and needs of victims and that hold offenders accountable. That's what this bill is an attempt to do.
We can also lobby and work with the federal ministers to seek amendments to the Criminal Code. Amendments to the Criminal Code are being sought in the defence of provocation, which is another issue that deals very much with the concerns about the terribly high level of violence against women and children that's prevalent, as has been said, not just in the Yukon, but in all of Canada and around the world.
We have engaged Mr. Ted Hughes to provide us with a report that deals not just with the remuneration of judges, as required by a recent Canadian Supreme Court decision, but also to look at the Territorial Court Act, the appointment process, the composition of the Judicial Council, the justice of the peace program and many other issues that members of the public are interested in and would like to have an opportunity to put forward their views on how we can improve the system and thus, improve people's confidence in that system.
Mr. Phillips: I think that's a good idea, but I think Mr. Hughes was a former judge, is a lawyer. I would hope that when Mr. Hughes holds some public hearings - and I understand that was his intent, to hold some public hearings with respect to this - that they would be well-advertised, that there would be a campaign that would go on to make people aware that they can be heard. I think it's really important for people to be heard.
I would have preferred, I suppose, if we're going to hear about these kinds of things, that we would have had not just a former judge and lawyer as the person who's going to make the recommendations. It would have been nice to see a committee of individuals, some lay people and some with respect to the law, who were involved in it. I think that Mr. Hughes may be, because of his background, taking a pretty strong position with respect to the legal side of things. I think that's the problem nowadays; the public doesn't understand the legal side of it as well as they probably should, and I think that the legal side of it doesn't understand the public side of it as well as they should.
I don't have any simple solutions to it, but I know that there's a real erosion in confidence of the justice system out there as a result of things that have gone on over past years. I would hope that this minister that we have now, when the minister brings forward legislation such as this - you know, the minister said it already today, we have the ability to make the laws. Then I think we should be clear in the laws with respect to these kinds of issues, so that, in my view, we remove maybe some of the discretion that might have been there in the past, so that we don't get some of the things that are happening nowadays when people just shake their heads and can't understand why. We make the laws, and we made the federal government. Somebody in the federal government made the law with respect to provocation at one time, and didn't, I guess, fully think of all the consequences, or whatever - or maybe they did and just didn't want to listen to people at the time. There are some real concerns over those kinds of things now. I think the general public is getting pretty fed up with the legal system and the way it's not working, and they want more say.
I've had people call me in the last few weeks and months, saying, "You know what we should do in the Yukon? We should elect our judges; that's what we should do."
I'm not a supporter of that, because I think that that has problems in itself. I'm not a supporter of that particular initiative, but I think it points to the concern that people have about responsibility of the judiciary and who they are responsible to. Like I said in debate earlier in the House, an individual was on CBC Radio one morning and a woman called in and laid it out exactly the way it is. I think she did a very good job pointing out the concerns of the legal side and the concerns of the public. The public's pretty frustrated right now, so I'm just saying to the minister that I think we should be doing a little more with respect to making laws that actually deal with the issue the way the public wants them dealt with.
Now, I don't know if the minister really answered my question about the training for JPs and judges. She did say that they couldn't do much about the judges, but would the minister consider, in the next JP conference - maybe she could tell us when that conference will be - whether or not there will be a component with respect to this bill? The JPs will be primarily dealing with this, and it's important that the JPs are pretty familiar with this new piece of legislation. So, will there be a training component with respect to the bill dealing with the sensitivity issues around violence against women and children?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Firstly, I would like to express my respect for professionals. As the Minister of Education, I certainly recognize the value of specialized education, whether it's for teachers or lawyers or veterinarians.
The member was referring to what would happen with the Hughes report. As I understand it, Mr. Hughes will advertise that he will hear from anybody who wants to speak to him. Whether those hearings are open to the public will also be up to him.
We will make training available for the justices of the peace on the subject of the Family Violence Prevention Act and generally on violence against women and children in our communities.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, maybe I'll make another suggestion to the minister. The minister has sort of left it up to Mr. Hughes whether it'll be public or whether Mr. Hughes will meet privately with individuals. Here's a suggestion for the minister: I'm not sure which way Mr. Hughes is going to go, but why doesn't the minister call a public meeting and the minister advertise the meeting as "Do you think there's something wrong with our justice system? One-on-one with the minister. Come to the public meeting." And just invite the public to come out to a public forum on justice and talk to the minister. I mean, I think the public wants to be heard and I'm not sure whether I have a great deal of confidence in the structure of the Hughes inquiry or the Hughes - I don't know what it will be called, but the work that Mr. Hughes is going to do will be advertised well enough or satisfy enough the concern that's out there. I'm just concerned that if there's just a small ad that appears in the corner of the paper that "I will be in Whitehorse and if you have concerns, contact me", that might not do it. I don't think you're going to hear from too many people. You might hear from some people in the legal community who have the time and effort to get involved and make statements on it, but I don't know if the general public is going to respond in that way. I think we're going to have to do more public relations and media advertising to let people know or make people aware that they can have a say and that the say will be listened to by someone.
So, I would suggest to the government that, if they don't do it themselves, they should assist Mr. Hughes in promoting the fact that he's here and raise some questions to get Yukoners interested, I think, because I know the Yukoners are out there. I know they're concerned about it. I mean, I hear from them all the time. There are so many things going on in this town, and if it's not promoted as a significant thing, it might pass unnoticed.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I have every confidence that Mr. Hughes will do the right thing. The Department of Justice has already been fielding calls from the general public, from First Nations, from the legal community, from people who want to present to Mr. Hughes, and they will be afforded an opportunity to do so.
Mr. Hughes has indicated that he will be advertising, and it won't be simply an ad buried in the coming events. I think there is a lot of interest, and I'm confident that there will be a good response.
The member also made a suggestion that I hold a public meeting, and I will think about his suggestion. I do not want to compromise in any way what Mr. Hughes is doing because, as I've said, I have every confidence in his ability, and I believe he will do the right thing.
Mrs. Edelman: I guess I need to go back to the issue around seniors abuse. This is an issue that I have quite a bit of familiarity with. The great thing about this bill is that, under family violence, you talk about a "threatened" act, and that was the good thing about this act, that you don't have to get beaten up in order to get help.
You also talk about a victim as a person who either lives with someone or they're an intimate companion, and that section speaks about stalking and harassment, and that's another good part of this bill. But what happens in seniors abuse is that most of the time they don't live with the ones who are abusing them. What happens with seniors abuse is that they aren't hit; they're threatened. So what I'm wondering about here is whether the definition of victim can be expanded so that you deal with the issues around seniors abuse.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The focus of this bill is on people who are living together, people who are living in the same household. People who are living in a separate place often have other avenues available from other helping agencies. I can let the member know that the Criminal Code also covers threats as being an offence, and so for those offences it's possible for seniors to call the RCMP and make complaints.
Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting, but many of the same principles for why women don't lay charges are exactly the same as for seniors, and for seniors it's even worse, because it's their children who are threatening them, and there's a great deal of embarrassment about laying charges against their children. It also speaks to not being powerful any more. It's the same principle.
You talk about how this bill protects seniors, and that would be a way to protect seniors, and there isn't the protection in the Criminal Code for threats or for stalking the way there would be under this bill. It would be one more option for seniors to have.
I can understand why the focus apparently is on the nuclear family, but it might be advisable for the minister to do a little bit of research and look at the issues around seniors abuse, because dealing with it under the definition of "victim" would certainly help.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The nature of the orders under the bill are to give access to dwelling places - where people are living. I think this bill does protect seniors by having both the emergency intervention and victims assistance orders, as well as the warrants of entry.
This act is not all things to all victims. The risk of abuse is not as great where people are living apart. Section 7, the victims assistance order, sets out provisions that can apply. One of those is a provision in 7(1)(b), "restraining the respondent from attending at or near or entering any specified place that is attended regularly by the victim." So that could be used by elderly family members.
Mrs. Edelman: I think that it's important for the minister to realize that you're not giving the same protection to seniors as you are to the victims who are in the nuclear family. And I also think it's important for the minister to realize that in the north, and particularly in isolated communities, there is nowhere to go. You live in a dwelling that's right across the street from your children and that's very, very likely and particularly in the small communities.
Everywhere is a place where people regularly attend, but this is not going to protect seniors any more than it protects a stranger on the street and I suppose that's why I have some problems with the claims for the protection of seniors.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't think that with any bill or with this bill that we can change the circumstances of life in small communities. What we can do is afford additional protective measures to victims of family violence.
I would argue that the bill protects seniors to the same extent that it protects women and children where seniors are living in the same home as their abuser. That might not apply to all situations, but it will apply to many.
As I indicated when I read into the record, section 7(1)b, there are sections of this bill which do provide for additional protective measures to victims of family violence. There's also a provision in relation to property that can be made to restrain the respondent from taking, converting, damaging or otherwise dealing with property that the victim may have an interest in.
There can be provisions recommending that the respondent receive counselling or therapy and provisions requiring the respondent to post any bond that the court considers appropriate for securing the respondent's compliance with the terms of the order. So, we've tried to set out a number of provisions that can be used by seniors as well as by women and children.
Mrs. Edelman: Once again, you cannot force people to have any sort of counselling and for that to be therapeutic; they can go there, but they don't have to drink; it's like a horse going to water.
I suppose that what I have a problem with is that you could expand "victim," if you wanted to. I think that that's a possibility. I think that what happens to seniors quite often is that they go the bank or they get their cheque and then the daughter or son comes over and gets the money; nothing is really said, it's just taken. And, that's the most common type of elder abuse in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, in relation to counselling I want to clarify for the member that it is not an order to take counselling that is issued by the justice of the peace. The act allows a provision recommending that someone take counseling or therapy.
The circumstance that the member just described, where family members take the pension cheque of the senior, is a provision of the bill that I just referred to in section 7(1)(h), where a respondent can be prohibited from taking property of the victim applies. They can be prohibited from taking a pension cheque.
Mrs. Edelman: One more time, that's if they live together.
Anyway, thank you very much. I've certainly enjoyed seeing this bill on the Order Paper and I hope that we will have further discussions during clause by clause.
Chair: Not seeing any further general debate, does general debate clear?
Would the minister provide us with the intention at this point.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, it was my understanding that we were going to take a brief recess at this time. I further understood that we are going to set aside clause by clause and that we will come back after the break and deal with general debate on access to information and protection of privacy.
I move that you report progress on Bill No. 24.
Motion agreed to
Clerk: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will go to Bill No. 37, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Act, 1997.
Bill No. 37: Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Act, 1997 - continued
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: In response to some of the questions from yesterday, the Health minister has information about the sharing of information on organ donors that he is going to read into the record.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In response to some of the questions raised by the MLA for Porter Creek South, we did check on this and I conveyed to the member today a written response on this. What I would like to do is a bit of an update on this for the House.
Essentially, organs can be harvested in the Yukon. A transplant team comes in from either B.C. or Alberta, harvests the organ and transports it or themselves by an air ambulance. Sometimes the donor is transported due to the short lifespan of harvested organs.
The home province of the recipient bears the cost. Organs are not transplanted to the Yukon; Yukon patients must travel south to receive a transplanted organ.
As organ transplants are allocated on the highest priority basis, the odds of a Yukon resident receiving a Yukon donor's organ is very small.
Even if this were to be the case, the transplant would not occur in the Yukon.
As more than one province/territory is involved, it may not be the Yukon legislation which will apply in the matter under question. If a B.C. donor provides an organ to a Yukon resident in a B.C. hospital, and the Yukon resident wants information on the donor, it's under B.C. legislation that the request will be considered. If a Yukon donor provides an organ to a B.C. resident and the recipient wants information on the donor, the legislation may be the legislation of the province/territory in which the organ was harvested that applies, which will not necessarily be the Yukon.
We have had some cases where the donor was located in the province east of Ontario, and the transplant occurred in a western province, however not B.C.
I hope this is of assistance to the members.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Mr. Phillips: As we said in second reading, this is really just consequential amendments for the most part, and recommendations made by the privacy commissioner. The only one we had a problem with was extending the amount of time to deal with a complaint or request. We will be supporting the bill except for that section, and we will be presenting an amendment to that section to delete the 60-day time period, but I'll do that in the line by line.
On Clause 1
Mr. Phillips: I would like to provide an amendment to clause 1. Again, we feel strongly about the amount of time. We feel that our constituents, when accessing information on this, need to be dealt with in a timely manner. We feel that the 90-day time period was adequate. So, Mr. Chair, we are providing an amendment.
Mr. Phillips: I move
THAT Bill No. 37, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Act, 1997, be amended in clause 1 at page 2 by deleting subclause 1(7).
Chair: Does the Chair assume that subclauses 1 to 6 have cleared?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I have an amendment to subclause 6. I move
THAT Bill No. 37, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Act, 1997, be amended in subclause 1(6) at page 2 by renumbering the new subsection 48(7) to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as subsection 48(5).
Mr. Phillips: Since the numbering of our amendment follows after the minister's, we have no problem with the minister's going ahead of ours.
Chair: It has been moved by the hon. Lois Moorcroft
THAT Bill No. 37, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Act, 1997, be amended in subclause 1(6) at page 2 by renumbering the new subsection 48(7) to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act as subsection 48(5).
Amendment agreed to
Chair: Moving to Mr. Phillips' amendment, it has been moved by Doug Phillips
THAT Bill No. 37, entitled Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Act, 1997, be amended in clause 1 at page 2 by deleting subclause 1(7).
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, are we allowed some discussion on the amendment?
Chair: Ms. Moorcroft, you have the floor.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I would like to speak to the amendment, if I may. I ask for your ruling if I may speak to the amendment.
Chair: Please proceed.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act currently requires the information and privacy commissioner to complete a review that an individual has requested of a government decision within 90 days. The act also gives the commissioner the ability to mediate a settlement where there is a dispute between an individual and a government on a government decision. The two information and privacy commissioners that have held the office in the Yukon over the past two years have indicated that the 90-day time frame can be restrictive where mediation is being attempted to settle a matter under review.
This amendment gives the commissioner some flexibility in cases where mediation is being tried by giving them up to another 60 days to reach a settlement.
The amendment to the bill that I am bringing forward - not the amendment that the member opposite has proposed, which would negate our amendment of adding an additional 60-day period - is intended to support mediated solutions while not hindering the information and privacy commissioner's ability to fulfill the requirements of the act. This possible extension of up to 60 days would not apply to all reviews. It would only apply where the commissioner is attempting to resolve an issue through mediation.
In other Canadian jurisdictions, the laws vary on the time limits for completing reviews. In B.C., there's a 90-day requirement. Alberta has a 90-day requirement, but there is a provision for the information and privacy commissioner to extend the time frame similar to what we would like to bring forward. The Northwest Territories has a 180-day time limit. In Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia, there's no legislated time limit on the completion of reviews.
Mr. Chair, we are not in support of the member's amendment. We believe that the information and privacy commissioner's request to seek an additional time period of up to 60 days in order to complete a mediation process is a legitimate request. We do not believe that the information and privacy commissioner will abuse this 60-day time extension.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, on the amendment, I appreciate what the minister is saying on this issue, but let's go back to the basis of why the new act came in. That was so there would be a timely expediting of a request, that there would be no ability for any stalling tactics of any kind.
My first reaction to this is when we're asking for an extension, I don't believe that either one of our commissioners has come up with a concrete example of where they were restricted because of the time allocations in the bill as it is today. The bill hasn't been in effect long enough for them to even try it, and they're already looking for amendments to extend the time. I have real difficulty with that.
We believe it's the government's responsibility to provide information to the public under the Access to Information Act in a timely fashion, and we're very, very concerned. Knowing how bureaucracies work, when you give some latitudes to them, they're going to start using those latitudes when they don't want to give out information. I have real difficulty with that.
If the minister could stand on her feet and tell me that either one of our previous commissioners has run into a problem, and give us some concrete examples where he has tried to mediate something and run out of time, we may be a little more sympathetic, but we haven't heard that from the minister. All she has said in her presentation is that she's not in agreement, because both commissioners asked for a change.
That's not reasonable enough. That act was passed by this Legislature. Each and every one of those clauses was debated fully in this Legislature. Many amendments brought in to that bill were proposed by the NDP opposition. We took their amendments into consideration to strengthen the bill, to bring forward a bill that we believed was workable, and I just don't have a good feeling about amending a bill that we haven't been given concrete evidence does not work.
We have put forward an amendment.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, perhaps I can give some comfort to the member opposite. Of the 12 reviews that were conducted by the information and privacy commissioner, nine of those reviews were mediated. The mediation process is only available where both the government and the individual agree to a mediation process. I don't think we're dealing with an adversarial situation here, where one of the parties is opposed to mediation. Mediation is used where both parties agree to use the mediation process.
In response to the specific question about the information and privacy commissioner, I will repeat for the member what was in a letter from Harley Johnson last spring - March, 1997. A copy of that letter was sent to Mr. Ostashek, where they referred to the time line for review. The commissioner indicated that the 90-day time limit was restrictive and recommended that, where justifiable, the commissioner would like to have the authority to extend the 90-day time limitation.
I understand that that was a direct result of at least one of the nine mediated investigations that the information and privacy commissioner was doing, running into some difficulty achieving the time frame.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. One in 12 really doesn't give me much comfort.
The other thing the minister has to remember is that that recommendation was made by a privacy commissioner who had another job. He was here on contract and was doing a job in Alberta.
The commissioner that we have now is only dealing with this one job and this one job alone. In fact, that was one of the reasons that this commissioner was chosen over other applicants in the process where we had an all-party committee that the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Member for Porter Creek South participated in. That was one of the things that I believe all three of us looked at.
I'm still not comfortable enough with it. We will be supporting the amendment.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I'd just like to inform the member that the current information and privacy commissioner has also requested the extension of the 90-day time limit to be available in cases where mediation is under way and an extension is justifiable. The information and privacy commissioner works part time and serves as both the information and privacy commissioner and as the ombudsman. We will not be supporting the amendment; we believe that this a reasonable request and that it will not be abused.
Mr. Cable: In (c) of section 11, there is a 30-day time for a response to the initial application that is made to the public body. That 30 days is within the control of the public body. There is then a 30-day time period in which to ask for the review set out in section 49(1)(a). That 30 days, I suppose, is in the control of the applicant.
Now, at section 52(6), there is a 90-day period to complete the inquiry. That time period is in the control of the commissioner. So, of the 150 days to finalize the application, only 30 days are within the control of the applicant.
It is my suggestion, and we will be voting in support of the amendment, that 150 days is adequate time to deal with the request for a piece of paper or a document.
When we are asking for mediation, we're not asking for mediation of people breaking up a marriage, or a complicated contract dispute, we are simply asking to get two people in a room, one to say why the document shouldn't be produced and one to say why the document should be produced. If that takes 90 days, then there is something wrong with the process.
Mr. Phillips: I think all members should think seriously about this. I mean, this is something that all of our constituents run up against all the time, and the whole reason for the access to information law was to provide speedy access to information when people wish to access that. As the Member for Riverside has said, right now it's 150 days. That's close to half a year, and we want to add a couple more months, another 60 days. I think it's too much.
I think that the job the privacy commissioner has to do can be done in the 90-day time period - in the 150-day time period, easily. The members on the government side shouldn't be misled by the requests here for more time. This is for your constituents. This is for your public, who's going to come to the government and make a request for some information. It's incumbent upon you to ensure that they get speedy access to that information. What you're doing by passing this piece of legislation here today is delaying that access by two more months. By not passing the amendment, you're delaying it by two more months.
I really ask the members to give serious consideration to this amendment. This is an amendment to protect the public, not just to make the job a little easier for the privacy commissioner, so he has more time to deal with it. He's got lots of time to deal with it. Look at the number of issues he's dealt with - 12 in review.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: There are 12 of them; nine of them were mediated. This is not a huge workload, folks. Let's do the right thing here and pass this amendment, and do something to ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Minister of Tourism, Mr. Chair, maybe doesn't care about his constituents, but I care about mine.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Minister of Tourism says he hasn't had one good Tourism question yet. Well, he won't stand up and answer them, because he doesn't have the answers when he's asked.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: The Minister of Tourism may not care about his constituents' access to information but we care about ours, and that's why this amendment is before us here today.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I can't take any more of that patronizing tone from the Member for Riverdale North.
The implication the member just made in his statement that the Minister of Justice is being misled - that was the word he used, "misled" - by the privacy commissioner and officials, I think, is quite outrageous and I think that he should elevate the debate. If he has a problem with the time lines, stick to that, but to accuse officials and the privacy commissioner of misleading the Minister of Justice is quite inappropriate.
Chair: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Member: Disagree.
Chair: The disagreeds have it.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 1?
Clause 1 agreed to as amended
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 37 out of Committee, with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 43 - An Act to Amend the Public Health Act
Chair: We will now go to Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend the Public Health Act. Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have some questions that were raised by the Member for Klondike and the Member for Riverdale South in general debate yesterday and I'd like an opportunity to address some of their concerns.
The Member for Klondike raised the issue about municipal health districts. Right now, the act and regulations establish five health districts covering the entire Yukon. Medical health officers and health officers enforce the legislation in all districts.
The amendment establishes each municipality as a health district so that municipalities can hire their own health officers to enforce the legislation in their own district, if they choose to - and it's only if they choose to.
As well, following up on the question of downloading responsibility in this regard, once again this is a responsibility that municipalities will only be taking on if they choose to. Incidentally, they've always had the power to take on this responsibility, so this is just clarifying that.
There was a question raised about the issue of bottled water. Currently, there is federal legislation on bottled water but it's very difficult to enforce, primarily because the federal officials rarely visit the Yukon and when they do they don't have the mechanism to stop the production if there is a problem. The regulations under the Public Health Act would require bottlers to follow the federal standards and also require a permit, so that if there was concern about contamination of the water, the permit could be suspended until the problem was rectified.
The Member for Riverdale South asked questions regarding the safety issue, specifically how is safety defined and what does this change mean? Well, basically the term "safety" is intended to cover a variety of issues. The regulations under the act now address some safety issues. For example the public campgrounds and campsites regulation regulate the child/staff ratio at summer camps, number of lifeguards, safety equipment and safety hazards at the beaches for children's camps.
Rubbish regulations regulate abandoned material that's likely to endanger life or limb or to cause a hazard to children playing around it.
We've been asked to address - this came up in some of the discussions around this - some other safety issues in our regulations, for example, lifeguard standards and safety issues in public schools, such as non-skid surfaces around the edge.
Another issue that arose is the question of public exposure to radiation-emitting devices, so that there's safety/ health. So, as we go through the regulations and review them, we'll be consulting with the appropriate officials and other key groups, such as municipalities. It is not our intention to cover areas that are already covered in other legislation and that would be better addressed in other legislation.
A further question on this, regarding construction, is the structural integrity of a building, what is the training for a public health officer in this area and what consultation happened with the public safety branch, occupational health and safety, environmental safety, fire inspectors, et cetera.
Basically, public safety regulations are not intended to cover these matters, because they are already covered in other legislation. I know that the member has some concerns about some of these areas. But in the review of our regulations, we have found some gaps - some areas that were not covered under legislation. I'm sorry, we may find some gaps. In this case, we'll work with the officials and other concerned parties, such as municipalities, to decide the best way to ensure that there are standards in this area.
It may come under the Public Health Act or it may come under some other legislation.
The development of regulation is basically ongoing. Two examples of regulation reviews, where safety officials from other areas have been involved: one was the devolution of sewage disposal system regulations and the second was regulations protecting the public from radiation hazards.
There were some concerns regarding how authority will be delegated from public health offices to other persons. In most cases, it will be the medical health officer or the health officer who authorizes another person to take a particular action. Frankly, in this territory, there are some situations that may require that we delegate the authority to some other individuals. For example, say there was an outbreak of a communicable disease in a more remote area and the community health nurse might be the most capable person to perform some of the duties that a medical health officer could do until he or she could attend in person. It may be, for example, testing. It may be posting notices, and some of these kinds of things. Another example that was given to me - say a conservation officer at one of our campgrounds notices a recreational vehicle dumping its holding tank, they are in violation of the Public Health Act and health officers aren't immediately available to issue a citation; that might be a role where that official might have a delegated authority.
On the time line on the development of regulations for the consultation process - and I think this is of interest to some people - we have the new draft sewage disposal system regulations prepared, and we're going to be providing those for the public for review in the new year.
Health and Social Services, Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services are planning a joint consultation on regulations concerning waste disposal in the new year, so that's one of our other priorities.
Some other priorities include food regulations and communicable disease regulations. Those will be following, and we've already established working groups right now to review those regulations, and these include federal, territorial, municipal, First Nations officials and representatives from key interest groups. As well, there will be an opportunity for members of the public to provide suggestions and comments on any changes.
So, I'd be pleased to go clause by clause at this point, or is there further information the members need?
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Mr. Jenkins: Regulated matter, Mr. Chair, if I could ask the minister to elaborate. Usually accompanying all these products, there's a MSDS certificate or form - material safety data sheet. Is the onus going to be now on the government if they expand this list to ensure that when they become regulated that these sheets are accompanying the product?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Basically, we regard this amendment as a housekeeping matter. The proposed amendment makes it clear that any items or matters set out are regulated matter, as well as any other item or matter that's not listed in the regulations. Basically, the problem with the current definition is that this isn't particularly clear.
The member's asking if there would be information sheets. I would presume that that would be one of the issues that we would bring forward.
As I indicated yesterday, much to my peril, the last time that a regulated matter was introduced was 1972, and it had to do with the intoxicating effects of inhalants. So, I presume that this would follow, at least defining the information necessary to the matter in question.
Mr. Jenkins: When one looks at - let's take a business - the use of these products in their business, that business has to have on hand the material safety data sheet for that product. When you look at the occupational health and safety regs, it says that the following products - and it lists them - or such other products as defined are regulated. So, that would cross over to this act, the Public Health Act, and necessitate the need for a material safety data sheet on that product line.
Irrespective of the fact that the last time a regulated matter was introduced was 1972, it could occur again. How is this going to dovetail with all of the other legislation? Also, you have the Dangerous Goods Transportation Act, which again lists a whole group of products and categorizes them as well as any other regulated matter.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: With regard to this, I would probably have to seek further clarification of what the intention is with dangerous goods. I really don't have that information on hand, but I could find out that information and return it to the member, if he wishes.
Essentially what this does is just basically try to bring the legislation up to cover other material; for example, perhaps chemicals that were not previously acknowledged as having a hazard, into the area of regulated matter.
I can find out for, for example, how this dovetails with other legislation and bring that back, if the member so chooses.
Mr. Jenkins: That would be fine.
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Mrs. Edelman: I need further clarification again from the minister. The section that we talked about regarding unsafe structural conditions is actually 4(3)(z). It's the amendment under subparagraph (3) and then (z), right at the bottom of page 2.
That was the one that this particular person who is familiar with these areas said was the area that we would talk about structural conditions, and I need reassurance from the minister again that that's not the intention. Particularly if you're talking about after a disaster or something like that, somebody has to take responsibility for going in and saying whether it's safe to go back into the building or not. It would make sense that it actually be in this act because it isn't anywhere else, and that's where I need clarification from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm afraid I wasn't quite as clear on that. When I asked a question about construction and structural integrity, as the member's indicated, perhaps in the case of an earthquake or something of that nature, that would be a matter to be determined by a public safety officer, probably working out of C&TS, as to the structural integrity of the building. Our role in that regard would probably have to do more with the public health aspect; for example, water lines, perhaps sewage systems and disruptions there, things that could lead to general health hazards.
In such a case, we would be charged - we being Health and Social Services - with determining the health aspects rather than the safety aspects of a building in that case.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that makes it a little bit clearer. So, I'm to understand then that probably the building inspection departments of either C&TS, or whatever municipality had a building inspection department, would be the ones that would be the predominant authority. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Takes his time.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Section 4(2), if I could ask the minister for clarification - English was not my major - but repealing the word "unsanitary", and substituting for it the word "insanitary"; both are adjectives. Could you tell me the meaning of, and the reasoning behind that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If the member would bear with me, I question that one, too, regarding the semantics of the word. I guess it's just a matter of clarification. I am, quite frankly, a little bewildered. I wasn't quite sure what the difference was, but apparently there is an issue involved there on what one word means, as opposed to another word. I'll just have to accept the department's word that that clarifies it and it is a semantic difference. I'm not exactly sure what the exact meaning of that is, but that is the preferred wording in this case and they feel it is the way to go on this wording.
Mr. Jenkins: I explored that in the dictionary, Mr. Chair - the meanings of both words - and I couldn't find any justification for it whatsoever. So, if the minister would go back to his officials - I'm not looking at wasting the time of the House on this issue, but it just seems to me that a lot of effort goes into something of this nature when either/or will suffice. If I could have the minister's undertaking on that, we can move on.
I will certainly clarify that vowel.
Mr. Sloan: Like my colleague on my left - not left-leaning, but on my left-hand side - I, too, have concerns about how the various areas of the regulations will dovetail with each other. I refer specifically to this act, the Public Health Act.
Let's take, in the case of an earthquake, in the case where a whole series of smoke detectors in a house that contained radioactive isotopes are destroyed. Who has first line? Who says - first of all, what's going to transpire in the case of an emergency like that? Would it be EMO after that emergency is declared, or does the Public Health Act come in prior to an emergency being declared? Then, when we go to reoccupy these buildings, usually if they're commercial, they have to have an engineer's certificate on them. So where is this all spelled out, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: This is primarily for the protection of the public from radiation in medical and dental offices, airport security gates and, surprisingly, suntanning establishments. The standards for most radiation-emitting devices have been developed under the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, which is an act of the Government of Canada, and these devices are inspected by Health Canada. Our task is to ensure that the use of devices has minimal harmful effects on the public. Radiation protection regulations, which are the responsibility of the Workers' Compensation and Health and Safety Board, will continue to regulate compliance of the employers and the workers with these standards.
Presumably in the case of, as the member has indicated, perhaps a radiation spill of some isotope or something of that nature, that would still be the responsibility of EMO. This legislation is designed to protect the public from, I suppose, radiation-emitting devices in commercial/medical establishments.
Mr. Chair, I move that the Chair report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 41, An Act to Amend the Public Service Act and the Public Service Staff Relations Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 24, Family Violence Prevention Act, and Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend the Public Health Act, and directed me to report progress on them.
Further, Committee has considered Bill No. 37, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (Consequential Amendments) Act, 1997, and directed me to report it with amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move 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 5:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 18, 1997:
Yukon Advisory Council on Women's Issues Annual Report, 1996-97 (Moorcroft)
Family Violence: directory of services and resources, 1997 (Moorcroft)