Wednesday, November 26, 1997 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Introduction of bills?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 22: Introduction of revised French text
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a bill which combines what I believe to be a true copy of the English text of Bill No. 22, entitled Oil and Gas Act, which was introduced and given first reading on November 3, 1997, with a revised true translation of that text into French. This version replaces the combined text which was tabled on November 6, 1997 as Sessional Paper 97-1-64.
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Seniors housing audit and accessibility study
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: As part of the policy of fostering healthy communities, I rise to inform members of the new initiative designed to assist seniors in social housing.
Of the 334 social housing units in Whitehorse, 94 are occupied by seniors and those who will soon be seniors. Yukon Housing Corporation recognizes that, as tenants age, their needs also change. The corporation wants to be well-positioned to respond to the needs of both tenants and to those of an aging Yukon population.
In order to do this, Yukon Housing Corporation is conducting an audit of 63 senior units to determine if additional features, such as grab bars, specially designed toilets or lever-style door handles would help seniors stay in their homes. Staff will meet with tenants to inspect their units and determine their individual needs.
At the same time, seniors are being asked for advice on the need for additional senior housing and the kinds of location and design features they would find attractive.
Some of our tenants are in Yukon Housing for reasons of affordability, but others appreciate the location and type of housing that the corporation offers. The corporation would like to encourage private sector developers to meet the needs of this market by compiling the information on what seniors would like to see in housing designed for them.
The audit process was kicked off by Yukon Housing Corporation at an open house where 30 seniors met with board members to offer their ideas on future development. Once the audit is complete, staff will review the data gathered and propose a plan of action. Necessary upgrading is expected to begin in the new year.
Mr. Speaker, in response to requests from the public, Yukon Housing Corporation is also working to identify private sector units that are equipped to help elders and the physically challenged.
Yukon Housing Corporation is seeking proposals addressing three issues: the current need for assessable housing in Whitehorse; total stock of accessible housing; and, the current availability of units.
Responses to this call for proposals is due at the end of November. Depending on the cost and feasibility, the information compiled on such a study would lead to an inventory list of units for people seeking special-needs housing.
By collecting this information, the Yukon Housing Corporation could create a data base to determine if there is a need for programming or assistance to develop this kind of housing.
Mr. Speaker, seniors and elders represent an increasingly large segment of the Yukon society. It is important to have up-to-date information available so that we can plan effectively to meet present and future housing needs of this part of our population. This initiative by the Yukon Housing Corporation is a positive step toward that direction.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition, we are pleased to offer our support for this initiative. In an increasingly ageing society, it is important that we ensure the needs of our seniors and elders are addressed. I believe this audit will be a worthy exercise because it will help identify individual needs. If actions can be taken that will help seniors stay in their homes longer and more comfortably, close to their loved ones and pets, then I believe there will be much to gain.
Again, Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words. I believe the first course of action should be reclassifying this area of social housing for these seniors so that there's no stigma attached to seniors in this housing category.
We do have some concerns with this statement, however, and would ask the minister if he would provide the answers to the following questions during his rebuttal. Senior citizens do not reside solely in the City of Whitehorse. Are similar audits being undertaken in rural Yukon to determine their needs and ideas on future and existing development?
Are there any plans in the next few months or years to extend this initiative, Mr. Speaker? If so, could we have a copy of the timetable for such consultation? And if it's not the case, why not?
Have the outlying communities been made aware of this type of audit and accessibility study? Why does the audit only include 63 of the 94 seniors units? It would seem that if the corporation is going to undertake such a comprehensive study it would include all of the units, and advertising Yukon-wide for this initiative would be a good program.
Could I ask the minister what the government is looking at in terms of money to be spent on upgrading the units identified and the units to be identified in the next fiscal period?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus to congratulate this minister and his government for finally starting to address issues around seniors housing and our future housing needs. Good work.
Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned quite a few times in the House already, seniors are the fastest growing segment in the country and this is also reflected in Yukon statistics. Seniors are also staying in the Yukon longer, moving to the Yukon for lifestyle and/or health care reasons, and moving from communities to Whitehorse to take advantage of available services.
Seniors' housing needs are growing, and this need is not being met.
Planning for change until today did not happen, and most importantly, good solutions can be affordable. I was most heartened by the corporation's willingness to deal with seniors outside of the realm of subsidized housing. I was also delighted to see that someone was going to be asking the private sector for their input in the process. And finally, Mr. Speaker, the corporation is talking to pre-seniors, like us, who have different expectations from the seniors who are in seniors housing today. Now, that's what I call planning.
Mr. Speaker, it's good to see the government working with this side of the House in a constructive way. As everyone in the House is probably aware, this has been a pet project of mine for a long time. What they may not know is that I have been harassing governments of all political stripes about seniors housing for years, and no planning has been done until today. I hope this assessment is just the first step in the development of adequate, appropriate seniors housing, not just in Whitehorse, but in the Yukon as well, and I hope that there are going to be sufficient resources allocated toward the development of seniors housing.
Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I hope that there are going to be a lot of seniors buildings developed, because, although I enjoy spending time with many of the people in this House, quite frankly, I don't want to live with you.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: I thank the members for their comments and I appreciate the support we get from the members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, the need for information for seniors and those who are challenged - the information is not out there right now and this has really prompted us to try and gather the information. For example, if someone wanted to know a bit about what housing is available for them if they are in a wheelchair, there is no data out there and there hasn't been any out there that can give them that kind of information.
I feel that this is a good step in gathering information on what seniors would like to see with regard to housing in the future.
In regard to the question of communities, we are going community by community. The corporation wants to work with the municipalities and First Nation councils and look at what communities offer in terms of housing. What we lack here in the Yukon Housing Corporation is the data through First Nations and what they have within that community and what kind of housing is needed in the community. We are doing a couple of pilot projects this year, asking communities what they would like to see with regard to housing in the future and how they would like to see the Yukon Housing Corporation play a role.
Pedestrian safety program
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I rise today to announce an initiative of the Department of Community and Transportation Services that reflects our government's new policy of fostering safe and healthy communities.
Recently, I tabled a number of amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act aimed at making Yukon roadways safer by cracking down on impaired, uninsured and suspended drivers. Today, on the eve of the 43rd annual Safe Driving Week, I am pleased to report on a program that is designed to address the important issue of pedestrian safety.
The Motor Vehicles Act spells out rules that pedestrians and motorists must follow, but tragic accidents involving pedestrians, injuries and even deaths can occur if drivers and pedestrians do not fully understand their responsibilities. Overcoming this problem requires change in behaviour, through a combination of education and enforcement. Today, I am announcing a new, multi-partner pedestrian safety program involving my department, the Department of Education, as well as the RCMP and the City of Whitehorse bylaw department.
Yukon children, parents and teachers have an equally important role in this program. The theme, "Think Bright," is being used as part of this program to remind people to wear clothing that can be easily seen by motorists during our dark winter months. A resource guide is being distributed to all elementary schools in the territory with a variety of educational materials to reinforce basic traffic safety concepts.
Mr. Speaker, this morning the Minister of Education and I had the pleasure of joining the RCMP Safety Bear and a city bylaw officer to present reflective tapes to young students at the Golden Horn Elementary School. These attractive tapes will be given to all children from kindergarten to grade 3 around the territory to wear on their jackets or backpacks as a reminder of how important it is to be visible after dark.
This and other pedestrian safety messages will also be reinforced by a series of posters and media announcements over the next year.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, parents and teachers will be encouraged to teach basic traffic safety concepts to children and to set a good example for young people to follow. Children will be reminded to follow the rules they will learn, and the RCMP and city bylaw officers will ensure that the existing laws are followed by both pedestrians and drivers.
Mr. Speaker, children are often impulsive and may lack the experience to judge the distance and speed of an oncoming vehicle and, because children don't always recognize danger, motorists must stay alert. As part of this pedestrian safety program, we will be reinforcing the message to motorists to be aware of children walking on the roads. Drivers have a particular responsibility to make sure that they are in control of their vehicles under all road, traffic, lighting and weather conditions.
Mr. Speaker, although the initial education campaign in this program is aimed primarily at school children, all of us share the responsibility for making Yukon roads and streets safer for pedestrians and vehicle users alike.
Mr. Jenkins: We, on this side of the House, rise in support of the initiative to raise awareness about pedestrian safety in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, National Safe Driving Week is upon us, but for such a small population, Yukon experiences more than its share of pedestrian accidents. With increased knowledge and education made available in our schools about basic traffic safety skills, I believe there will be fewer accidents as well as fewer fatalities.
Mr. Speaker, having travelled our highways on a regular basis, there is another area of concern that is not being adequately addressed, and that is the question of safety on our many bridges. Although there are pedestrian walkways on most Yukon bridges, there seems to be a problem of people not wishing to use these walkways, raising serious concerns about the safety of those individuals and motorists alike. In particular, the bridges located at Upper Liard, Pelly Crossing and Carmacks are of concern.
Could the minister perhaps tell us if there are any plans to extend its educational awareness program to rural Yukon communities beyond that of schools, and if there have been any discussions given to this problem and what actions may be taken so as to avoid any potential problems in the future? As part of the pedestrian safety program, the minister mentioned that there will be a reinforcement of the messages to motorists to be aware of children walking on the roads. Perhaps this message could be expanded to include those walking on bridges and other precarious areas.
I would also like to present caution to our RCMP Safety Bear, in light of the recent bear problems that we have been experiencing in Whitehorse. For the safety of our Bear and motorists, I would suggest that the Bear wear clothing that can be easily seen and that he be accompanied by the RCMP at all times. Let's make Safe Driving Week extend to Safe Driving Year.
Ms. Duncan: On behalf of the Liberal Party caucus, I would like to offer our congratulations to the government on this particular initiative. Our children are truly precious, and efforts of all government levels to enhance their safety are efforts that should be commended and not criticized.
Lest anyone should believe, for one moment, that this is not an issue - safety of our children and particularly our children as pedestrians - I would like to draw attention to a particular situation in Porter Creek South. It's an issue around motorists speeding on 12th Avenue and on Pine Street. During the first year, although I lobbied on this initiative, I did not see any progress on the matter. However, again this fall, it was brought to the attention of both the RCMP officers and bylaw officers in the City of Whitehorse. I received, as did the residents who were concerned about this, particularly excellent responses from both of those agencies.
In fact, I was notified subsequently that motorists were pegged on Pine Street in Porter Creek, a subdivision of Whitehorse, doing in excess of 100 kilometres an hour and on 12th Avenue, in excess of 80 kilometres an hour where children are walking to and from school. This is a serious, serious issue.
I would like to offer a couple of comments to the minister today as possible suggestions of enhancements of this program. The minister has indicated in his statement that attractive tapes were given to kindergarten to grade 3 students this morning. I'd like to strongly recommend that the minister and his officials work with the local business communities throughout Yukon to make these tapes - "attractive tapes" as they are called by the minister - available to those who cross-country run and those who use our roadways for walking and other purposes. They should be available to everyone and I'd like to strongly recommend that the minister work with the business community on this.
I'd also like to note that the minister has stated that it's important to set a good example for young people to follow. The best example we can set is the way we cross city streets, community streets and the way we drive as motorists. Children learn what they live and it's up to us to provide them with good examples.
Finally, I would like to suggest to the minister, in light of Safe Driving Week, that he and department officials revisit some of the points that have been raised by my colleague from Riverdale South. In particular, she has noted in this House the Speed Kills campaign and graduated licensing as two initiatives that should be examined by this government.
One final point in that regard: it hasn't been mentioned previously in this House that the Government of Saskatchewan undertook a safe driving program to draw attention to motorists and to the way they pass large semi tractor-trailer trucks. I would like to recommend to the minister, in light of these safe driving initiatives, that he give examination to that program as well.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I will take into consideration the direction given by the member of official opposition concerning bridge safety.
And, in answer to the question regarding rural Yukon beyond the schools, I will certainly be working in conjunction with all RCMP within the schools, and there is a presence of all the RCMP in the communities. So, it would be good to extend the concept into a yearly concept, but certainly Safe Driving Week is something that we should all take very seriously. As the member from the third party said, we should be examples and leaders and role models within that context, and certainly I do believe that is the way we should do it.
As for the comment of the safety of the Bear and the protection of the Bear, the Minister of Education this afternoon did caution Safety Bear that he should stay away from all of the dumps. So, I do believe that Safety Bear is going to definitely be taking that to heart.
I do understand the problems on 12th Avenue and Pine Street, and certainly we can convey the messages of the member opposite to the RCMP. Although we did have a half-hour lunch with some members of the RCMP, it certainly did seem that the folks that we had lunch with were certainly on side in a very, very big way - very happy and pleased with the work that has been done to date.
As to working with the business community to enhance the program and to extend it into cross-country runs, as per example, certainly we can look at those type of things.
Thank you very much for your critique.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: United Keno Hill Mines, financial assistance
Mr. Ostashek: My question is for the Minister for Environment.
We've heard in the last couple of days about a very serious cash crunch that is being faced by United Keno Hill Mines, in Elsa, and that they are in real danger of having their power cut off if their power bill isn't paid. It is also our understanding, Mr. Speaker, that the company is required, through its water licence, to operate water treatment systems, pumps and test equipment, and much of this anti-pollution system is operated by electricity.
Can the minister advise this House if he has been in touch with his federal counterparts in the environment ministry, and is there an contingency place in plan to cope with these environmental problems should the power be shut off today?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: After hearing about the possibility of the power being cut off at United Keno Hill, I did bring it to the attention of the department to look into the matter.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that. Perhaps the minister could tell us if, in the event that the power is shut off today, the Yukon government is prepared to step in, as an emergency measure, and keep the power going to the pumping system and the anti-pollution system, at least in the short term, so that we're not faced with any environmental problem that need not happen as long as there's electricity to the site?
Hon. Mr. Harding: As the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation, I should probably answer this particular aspect of the question.
I've just been in communication with the president, and the power has not been cut off as of right now. There are discussions underway between United Keno Hill Mines and the power utility and the chair of the board. They are looking at all the environmental issues and what possibly could be arranged. So, all of those contingencies are being identified and looked at. The potential liability to the Energy Corporation is being assessed, and that is presently underway and has been all day yesterday and today.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation for that. My final supplementary is for the minister responsible for the environment.
Unfortunately, it appears that United Keno Hill Mines is in serious financial trouble, having lost $2 million in the last year, and we understand it is facing court action from creditors totalling more than $1 million, which raises the concerns of environmental liability both in the short term and the long term.
Can the minister advise this House if his department has worked out a cost estimate to ensure that the mine poses no environmental risk and if he can provide that cost estimate to this House, so that we know that this is being looked after?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: No, Mr. Speaker, we have not worked out any cost estimates for this. I asked the department to work in conjunction with the federal government to look into the matter of what possible environmental damage could result from the power being cut off at United Keno Hill. At this point, it's too close to the beginning to determine any of the cost of this at all.
Question re: United Keno Hill Mines, financial assistance
Mr. Ostashek: Well, I hope that the environment minister is going to work very diligently on it, because there is a serious environmental risk there. My question now is to the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Yukoners have learned in that past, the hard way, that when large electrical consumers such as mines close down or can't pay their power bills, the ratepayers eventually end up having to pick up the tab for it. We are now faced with United Keno Hill currently having an outstanding power bill of, I believe, $400,000. I would like to know from the minister responsible for energy, is this government prepared to provide any assistance to United Keno Hill in paying this bill that is similar to the assistance that was provided to Anvil Range Mining?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the power has not been cut off as of this time. There are discussions underway. The Yukon Energy Corporation and the chair of the board are in communication with both United Keno Hill Mines and other people, who have been looking at that property in partnership with that particular company. With regard to the situations at the Faro mine, Elsa and the United Keno mine, they are hardly analogous in the sense that, number one, Anvil was immediately going into production when we paid the Energy Corporation a portion of their arrears, and that removed a 20-percent rate rider immediately from the bills of all Yukon ratepayers. That is quite a different situation from this, where you have a company that is not contemplating going into production, and presently there's no rate rider of 20 percent on people's bills.
So, I think that, while we are interested and I have made my concerns known about trying to keep an arrangement with United Keno Hill that would allow the Energy Corporation and the ratepayers some comfort in this territory, I think it's important that the president and the board be free to try and ensure that the ratepayers are protected and that they are not providing constant, free power to an operation. There hasn't been a payment since the summer.
Mr. Ostashek: The House won't be in much longer. We won't have a chance to ask these questions of the minister until spring, and that's why we're asking them now.
We still have the 20-percent rate rider hanging over the heads of ratepayers in the Yukon. Anvil Range is not in a very strong financial position. In fact, the last information I heard is they had enough money to operate until March.
I would like to ask the minister: the last information we have on Anvil Range's outstanding power bill was that the government provided a $1.5 million loan to the company, and we do know that there were some outstanding power bills.
Can the minister advise this House if Anvil Range is in good standing with the power bills at this time?
Hon. Mr. Harding: The loan wasn't provided to the company. The loan was provided to YEC, and the money went directly to YEC, not the company. The company is responsible, as a liability, for paying us that amount back. The difference is substantial, in the sense that the money has gone to protect the ratepayers. It's gone directly into the pockets of the Energy Corporation to protect against future rate hikes and to knock that 20 percent right off the bill back in September, which was very welcome by a lot of Yukoners. Of course, the mine started back up.
Of course, this was all done through an arrangement that was made public at the time, similar, I guess, to the action the Yukon Party took back in 1992-93, when they loaned, I guess, $2.4 million to Frame to pay part of his power bill with Curragh. So the member's quite familiar with these types of arrangements.
Mr. Speaker, in this situation, I believe - my latest information is that - Anvil is current on their bills since they've started the stripping program.
Mr. Ostashek: I thank the minister for that, but the minister can appreciate the ratepayers' concerns in this. The minister will recall that a $1.9 million loss in profit to the Energy Corporation resulted in a 5.5-percent increase to Yukoners' power bills.
So I would like to ask the minister if he can assure this House here today that, regardless of whether United Keno Hill pays their power bill or Anvil doesn't keep their's up to date, Yukon ratepayers will not have to bear the burden of these defaults. I'd like the minister to give that assurance to the House, especially in light of the NDP's election commitment to provide affordable, stable power rates for Yukoners.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all we have brought rate relief back to life in this territory from the axe the Yukon Party wanted to put to it. We've brought in a massive energy conservation program. We took action to get the Faro mine back into production. If the Yukon Party was still in government, that mine would still be down to this day and Yukoners would be paying 20 percent more on their power bills. So, we feel very good about the actions we've taken to try, in difficult circumstances, to ensure that rates are stabilized and reasonable in this territory. The impact of mining operations on the mortgages that we have to pay on the assets of the Energy Corporation is very substantial, and it's been that way for a long time. When they're operating, they help pay the mortgage; when they're not operating, the mortgage is spread through fewer customers. That is a difficult equation. However, we are looking at other further rate stabilization initiatives to try and handle times when large industrial customers come on and off the grid.
However, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that they do help Yukoners pay the mortgage on our power assets when they are operating, and a lot of the hydro that we have today is as a result of the mining industry being in this territory.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, maintenance
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Justice on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
The Barr Ryder report, Mr. Speaker, done in January of 1995, reported on the condition of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and it outlined more than 25 non-security deficiencies. These are deficiencies relating to health and the physical condition of the building, and they included problems with the propane system, the plumbing system, the ventilation system and the sewer system. Can the minister tell the House why, after nearly three years, these problems have not been fixed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, to the contrary, what I can tell the House is that many of the items that were identified in the physical assessment conducted by the Barr Ryder architectural firm have been addressed. I can provide the member with an update. I do not have that update with me in the House.
Mr. Cable: The minister, earlier this year, made assurances that the immediate health and safety concerns had been met. I understand that, in August, there was an attempt to repair old propane lines. These lines - or line - broke because of extensive corrosion and the whole building has to be evacuated and the fire department called in.
Can the minister assure this House that there is no danger to the staff or the inmates from the corroded gas lines?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, it seems that the member opposite does have some information with him in the House. I don't have a report in front of me to indicate what work has been done and what work has not. I can certainly let him know that Government Services staff have completed a lot of repairs at Whitehorse Correctional Centre that were identified in the Barr Ryder report and I'll be happy to come back to him with specific answers to the questions he has just raised.
Mr. Cable: Now, the remand area of the jail is where prisoners awaiting trial are held and they are classified as maximum security prisoners. The remand area was recently shut down because of health and safety concerns or overcrowding and these prisoners are now housed in the dormitory.
Is it the minister's position that the open dormitory at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre meets national corrections standards for the housing of maximum security prisoners?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I will take the member's question as notice and provide him with a written answer or bring an answer back to the House for him.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre, maintenance
Mr. Cable: Now, a couple of weeks ago, I asked the minister a question relating to a report that was done by Mr. Roberts, and she was going to take it under advisement as to whether this would be released. Has the minister reached a conclusion as to whether she will release that report and if so, can she file it today?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I am not able to file the report that the member is referring to. The Roberts report is a security report. Corrections Canada was asked to come in and provide some information to Whitehorse Correctional Centre to supplement the security practices already being used, if there were some additional security measures that could be taken.
Mr. Cable: The minister, in the first round of questions, indicated that she would get back to the House outlining those deficiencies identified in the Barr Ryder report that had been fixed. I'd like to table a document that our staff has prepared outlining in excess of 25 deficiencies, and I would ask the minister whether she would go through the list and identify for the Justice department debate in the supps those deficiencies that have been corrected. Could she do that, please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'll be happy to take a look at the list that the member has tabled and see what information I might be able to provide.
Mr. Cable: Also for the Justice debate in the supplemental estimates debate, could she provide to the House a total of the money that has been spent on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre over the past decade in repairing and patching up the deficiencies?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I'll see what information that we have available. I think that a lot of that information is readily available. We will provide what we can to the member.
Question re: Social assistance, back taxes payment
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last week I raised the fact that the minister's department broke its own regulations by awarding social assistance money to Mr. Gary Bemis, one of the minister's most favourite constituents, and this money was to pay back taxes that Mr. Bemis refused to pay based on the principle - not because he didn't have the money, but the principle that he shouldn't pay taxes.
Members will also remember that this is the same individual who cost the Government of Yukon thousands of dollars in legal fees trying to recover these unpaid taxes before social assistance jumped in. It's come to my attention that Mr. Bemis may not be in the territory any longer at the present time.
Is the minister aware of Mr. Bemis' absence, and can he confirm that his department is investigating this matter?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that.
Mr. Phillips: Well, isn't this getting interesting?
Mr. Speaker, under the social assistance rules, you must obtain permission to leave the territory when you are on social assistance or receiving funds from social assistance. In fact, I think it's called an "absent decision tracking form."
Did Mr. Bemis receive such a form before he left the territory?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated, we are investigating this issue, and I can't comment any more on that.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, this is a pretty serious issue. This is an issue where the taxpayers have not only paid $3,000 or $4,000, but have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fighting it in legal court, and now the minister's favourite constituent has received several thousand dollars from the minister's department in what I claim is an illegal fashion, because they didn't follow their own regulations. Now the individual appears to have departed the territory, probably laying on some warm beach somewhere, laughing at the whole system.
I would like to ask the minister how much money Mr. Bemis got to pay his back taxes, whether Mr. Bemis has paid any of that money back, through his social assistance money, and whether Mr. Bemis is still receiving funding from social assistance, even though he's alleged to not even be in the territory.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: First of all, the member knows that I can't discuss the details of an individual case, but I am grateful to him for one thing. The one thing that I am grateful for is that this regulation was changed under the previous government, and I'm certainly grateful that they've come forward to admit their error and have asked us for assistance in changing it.
Question re: Safety audit requests from school councils
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Education. The safe schools initiative seems to be focusing some of its energies on emergency preparedness and actual school facilities. At the recent school council conference, departmental officials were asked about safety audits. These are examinations of the premises to see if there are provisions that could make the structure a safer place for students and staff.
Can the minister indicate if she or her officials have received any requests for safety audits from school councils and, if so, how many requests, and when does the department anticipate fulfilling them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I don't have information with me in the House related to whether we have had specific questions for safety audits, or what is happening as a result of those. I can certainly provide the member opposite with an answer.
Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Education prides herself and her department on working with school councils. I would like to draw to her attention minutes from an October school council meeting. The minutes say, "The gym divider doors have been broken since February. It was thought this could be handled at the school level, but this has proven unsuccessful. When the department was notified in February, they came and dismantled the whole door, said it was a structural engineer's problem and would cost $7,000 to fix. The department's response was that it might not be possible because of budget restraints. The teachers cannot teach gym in the classrooms. The situation is 'inadequate and dangerous.'" These school council minutes are from October. That is nine months' difference in time. What steps is the minister taking to make sure that facility requests that affect student safety are acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The minutes of the school council meetings go to the Department of Education. There are people who work on facilities upgrading and coordinating the various work orders that take place. I can look into the specific request, if the member provides me with the details, and find out what the answer to her question is.
Ms. Duncan: I would be delighted to pass that on to the minister's attention, so that it can be dealt with appropriately and timely. It is not the only instance, however.
The primary recommendation in the task force to promote safe schools is that the Department of Education declares safe schools to be the primary thrust of the department. Even a letter that the minister wrote to me in October says, "I must, first and foremost, assert that safety and well-being of all youth are of paramount importance." If the minister is to be believed, what steps is the department taking to ensure our school facilities are the safest places they can be?
The school council minutes say that there is little or no money for safety audits. It takes over nine months and strong letters from school councils to get inadequate and dangerous situations corrected. Golden Horn has years of letters on record, trying to get their playground equipment up to standards. What is the minister doing to ensure that our schools are safe places for students and staff?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, I think that the member opposite is taking a very alarmist approach and I think she's doing so needlessly. We have a safe schools coordinator. We have superintendents who visit regularly with the schools and who follow up on requests from individual parents and from school councillors. The playground at Golden Horn school - I was at a recent school council meeting there, and the school council and the parents are satisfied with the work that has been done to upgrade and maintain the playground.
The bully prevention program is underway. The property management agency has a formal written facility management agreement and work with Yukon schools to operate, repair and maintain all schools.
A lot of work is done on a regular basis, and safety is a concern. I think that the departmental officials are working as effectively as they can.
Question re: Hotel room tax
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Speaker, a review of the Yukon Municipal Act is currently underway and consultations are taking place about the proposed changes with Yukon municipalities. One of the issues that has been raised is that of a hotel room tax from municipalities in order to allow municipalities to raise more of their own local revenue.
Can the minister advise the House if he is in favour of municipalities being granted this taxing authority?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Municipal Act is being reviewed and a report is due soon. The direct question - if I am personally in favour - well, certainly I can only say that I will work with the communities through the review process and continue to do so and hopefully complement their work.
Mr. Jenkins: I understand that the Government Leader is in favour of this municipal taxing power, providing agreement can be reached in relation to not eroding the Yukon government's taxing authority and to the Yukon government's agreement with the federal government on this sales tax.
Is the minister aware that many municipalities are concerned about the implications of such an increase in taxing authority, especially in view of the fact that senior governments tend to give the power and then reduce transfer payments? And there are also industry concerns and the effect that the adoption of any additional tax will have on our visitor industry.
Is the minister concerned about these issues, and what are his comments with respect to the reduction of transfer payments after the downloading of this authority?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, my government will live up to commitments that we made during the election. Certainly, no expectations will be placed on the municipalities without full consultation between the parties. Certainly, I think that that is the answer in itself, and we will continue to work with the municipality in this light. I can say though that there has been no reduction to the block funding to the municipalities and the AYC grant in recent years.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm looking for is the minister to give his personal assurance that any proposed change in the taxing authority of municipalities under the Municipal Act will have the proviso that the Yukon government will not use this increased taxing room as an excuse for the Yukon government to reduce their block funding transfer payments to municipal governments.
Can the minister give that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, my government will continue to do things in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. We will work with the municipalities, and certainly that is the direction that we will continue to do go; we will work with the municipalities with respect as a local government. I'm sure the AYC will take comfort in that. I certainly know that the president of the AYC, when I speak to the president of AYC and we talk about these very such items, does take comfort in that fact.
Question re: School busing review
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education.
In response to lobbying during the last election, including some from myself, a review of school busing in Whitehorse was conducted and has now been concluded. The implementation of the report has been subdivided into two committees of school council volunteers. The implementation committee is meeting with the City of Whitehorse and is expected to finalize discussions by January next year, and the tendering committee is expected to complete its work by December of this year.
Will the minister indicate if the government will be able to tender the contract for busing and implement any changes in time for the new school year in September 1998?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We hope that with having the results from the implementation committee and the tendering committee in hand that we can proceed to make a decision in the new year. We certainly hope that we will be able to tender for the 1998-99 school year.
Ms. Duncan: It's fully expected by some of the volunteers working on these committees - and the minister herself, I believe - that the work of this dedicated group will actually save the Department of Education some of the in excess of $3 million spent annually on busing. The minister has said, "The government prefers to divert money spent on school busing to education programs in the schools."
Will the minister seek the advice of the busing committee or school councils on where these savings should be allocated in education?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We are seeking the advice and input from these volunteers right now as the implementation committee and the tendering committee do their work and prepare their reports. Certainly we will take into consideration what they have to say in their reports. I can, however, assure the member that education and good programming in our schools for all of our students is the first priority of the Department of Education. Transportation is a secondary priority.
Ms. Duncan: Another school council's minutes say that the possibility of having full-day kindergarten is being examined rather than the existing half day, as this would be a great cost saving regarding the busing budget. This would be quite a change. Is full-day kindergarten an option that's being seriously examined for all of Whitehorse by departmental officials?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Full-day kindergarten is an option that is occurring in many of the Whitehorse schools now. I know many schools where the kindergarten children go to school all day, and consideration of other full-day kindergarten is certainly one of the options under consideration.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 83, standing in the name of Mrs. Edelman.
Motion No. 83
Speaker: It is moved by the member for Riverdale South
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) alcohol abuse is a major problem for Yukon society;
(2) alcohol abuse is destructive to personal relationships, and contributes to domestic violence;
(3) alcohol abuse is a significant factor in the health care costs to Yukoners;
(4) impaired driving is a serious problem for Yukoners and alcohol abuse is a significant factor in the commission of other crimes; and
(5) misuse of alcohol during pregnancy is causing increasing concern among Yukoners, because of the disabilities that those persons suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects encounter, and because of the effects on our education system; and
THAT, recognizing the seriousness of alcohol abuse in the Yukon, the Yukon Government should create a Task Force composed of all the affected government departments to recommend a specific and immediate action plan to be implemented by the Government of Yukon to mitigate the detrimental effects of alcohol in the Yukon.
Mrs. Edelman: There is no question that alcohol has a tremendous effect on our lives every day in this territory. All of us have known friends or family who are alcoholics. We pay for the effects of alcohol abuse every day in our taxes. Our roads are dangerous because of the impaired drivers who decide to drink and then drive, and our children go to school with children who suffer from FAS or FAE. Our jails hold far too many adults who suffer from this syndrome as well and every month there is at least one child born in the Yukon who has fetal alcohol syndrome or effects.
Mr. Ostashek: Point of order.
Speaker: Point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: I don't believe we have a quorum, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Quorum count has been called.
Speaker: Having done a count, the Chair sees there is a quorum.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, there is no question that alcohol has a tremendous effect on our lives every day in this territory. All of us have known friends or family who are alcoholics. We pay for the effects of alcohol abuse every day in our taxes. Our roads are dangerous because of impaired drivers, who decide to drink and then drive. Our children go to school with children who suffer from FAS or FAE. Our jails hold far too many adults who suffer from this syndrome, and every month, there is at least one child born who has fetal alcohol syndrome or effects in the Yukon.
To their credit, this government - and previous ones - has started a number of programs that deal with the effects of alcohol abuse. The latest thrust is to target youth. There is an effort being made to have youth take their first drink a little later in their young lives than sooner. This is all good stuff, of course. There is also Crossroads, alcohol and drug services, corrections, the employee assistance program, the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, the Department of Education special needs staff, and the list goes on and on.
With this amount of effort, then, you would think things would be getting much better for us here in the Yukon. There should be far fewer alcoholics. There should be far fewer FAS children being born, and there should be far fewer impaired drivers. Our alcohol consumption rates should be way down, and the Yukon Liquor Corp. should be concerned about their profits next year, but that's not happening.
Certainly, things are marginally better. There was a time not too long ago when it was perfectly acceptable to drink on the streets of Whitehorse - you're not allowed to do that any more - and it used to be that it was perfectly acceptable to pop your first beer at the top of the South Access on your drive out to the lake for the weekend. If you got caught for impaired, well then, Mr. Speaker, you were a member of the 250 club, almost a Yukon fraternal organization.
It used to be that we would see kids and usually a dog sitting out in a station wagon in front of the Whitehorse Inn, waiting for Mum or Dad to come out of the bar and take them home for the night. You don't see that too much any more, but it's still there.
The Yukon still has a very high alcohol consumption rate, and you must remember that the statistics we keep are not completely accurate.
There is much about alcoholism that is a secret and I'll bet my last dollar that kids are not too forthcoming if asked about how much they are really drinking. And I'll bet my last dollar that the adults are not being too honest about their consumption either.
I'll bet there is a lot more drinking out there than we know about. I know also that there a lot more people out there who suffer because of that drinking and they're not about to tell anyone about the problems that they are having. They're frightened and they're ashamed and, what's worse, they've lost hope.
It's strange, but even in 1997, Yukoners see themselves as pioneers. We are not too polished a group, we like to think. Even though the average Yukoner is far more educated and well-travelled than the average Canadian - we make more money, too, than the average Canadian and we have the highest federal dollar transfers per capita - we also have the dubious distinction of being hard drinkers. We compete, if you will, with the Northwest Territories for the highest alcoholic rate, the highest venereal disease rate, the highest murder rate and the highest suicide rate. We have much not to be proud of. This is a competition with the Northwest Territories that I would like to end.
You see it all goes together - the drinking, the sex, the violence and the death. This isn't 1898; this is now. It's time for the Yukon to grow up. We have to decide where we want to be 10 years from now. We are the leaders of the territory. We can make decisions today that will shape our future and our children's future.
So, how do we make things better? Well, there are not simple solutions. We have to decide what we want, we have to set goals and we have to do everything in our power to reach those goals.
As a starting point, how about we aim to have one of the lowest alcohol consumption rates in Canada in 10 years? And why not aim to have 50-percent fewer FAS births per year in the Yukon in five years? Why not?
In 1996, Danny Joe, the NDP Member for Mayo-Tatchun, put forward a notice of motion that said, "That it is the opinion of this House that substance abuse and subsequent problems are pervasive throughout the Yukon and that it is the responsibility of the Government of Yukon to use any available resources to address this serious issue." Mr. Speaker, I would assume that the NDP members of this Legislature, who are now government members, still support this motion. The NDP members of this House, who now form the government, are now able to put all available government resources toward addressing the issue of alcohol abuse in the Yukon. And, Mr. Speaker, I challenge them to do just that.
If we adopt an integrated approach toward dealing with alcohol abuse in the Yukon, then we are doing what numerous governments have done in the past. This government now has an interdepartmental group of senior bureaucrats who meet regularly to deal with issues around substance abuse, but they are not decision makers. There is no political will there to make things different.
The mother of an FAS child told me not too long ago that the wish list that was recently finalized by the interdepartmental FAS working group is almost identical to the one she helped develop 15 years ago with a similar interagency group. And the same mother told me that things are only three percent better for an FAS child today than they were for the FAS child of 20 years ago.
The politicians - that's us - have to decide what we want this interdepartmental alcohol abuse group to do. We, the decision makers, have to set some goals for the future and ask these interdepartmental groups to make these goals a reality. These groups are not the people who will initiate change in the Yukon. We, the politicians, are the people who make things happen. We were elected to make change, and we can do that. And in the year 2007, the Yukon will have one of the lowest alcohol consumption rates in Canada; by the year 2002 we will have 50-percent fewer FAS births per year than in the year 1997. That is possible.
There has been a lot of work done by Yukoners in the field of addictions that can help us reach our goals. The alcohol and drug strategy set out some fairly realistic plans and time lines to help fight alcohol and drug abuse. The FAS/FAE implementation plan, which has been actioned in piecemeal fashion, could also be used to help bring Yukoners into the 20th century when it comes to substance abuse.
Probably one of the most promising programs recently brought about by Yukoners is the prenatal programs in Dawson City, Watson Lake and here in Whitehorse at the Teen Parent Centre. These prenatal programs encompass many health and social concerns for pregnant mothers. There is lactation consultation, nutrition education, subsidies for food, shelter and child care for women travelling to Whitehorse to have their babies, individual counselling on healthy lifestyles, and home visits for up to six months after the women have had their babies. Though there have been no reviews of these programs to check how effective they are at improving healthy pregnancy outcomes, there have been other similar programs elsewhere in Canada that have been reviewed.
In B.C. the pregnancy outreach program has been remarkably effective at changing the health behaviours of clients. The four target areas are smoking, eating, drinking and drug abuse, and these were studied extensively.
The program was aimed at high-risk mothers whose babies are likely to be of low birth weight and are more likely to die in the first four weeks of life and five times more likely to die in their first year. Low birth weight infants are three times more likely to have neural developmental handicaps, such as mental retardation, cerebral palsy, vision and hearing impairments or learning disabilities. As well, they're more susceptible to common pediatric illnesses, like respiratory infections.
In Canada, the cost of health care for a low birth weight infant has been estimated to be from $500 to $1,000 per hospital day. The average number of days of hospitalization increases with the decreasing birth weight. The cost of care over the lifetime of one handicapped, low birth weight child is over $1.5 million, and this comes from the health promotion branch in Ontario.
FAS babies fit into this category. The pregnancy outreach program in B.C. reached women it has never reached effectively before. Clients made significant lifestyle changes, and clients gained self-esteem and control over their health but, most importantly, the program was valued by clients and professionals and supported by the community.
Here in the Yukon, the number of women being referred to the Watson Lake prenatal program has increased so much that they have had to hire a second worker to do counselling. The Dawson program has been similarly successful. It will take years to fully realize the impact these prenatal intervention programs will have on our communities, and it will take years to quantify the savings in health care cost, and it will take years to feel the savings in the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, and even in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. It will take years to fully comprehend the benefits these programs offer to Yukoners and their children.
Unfortunately, funding will run out for these programs long before those benefits can be realized. These three prenatal programs are funded by the federal government. In three years, the money runs out.
This NDP government has said they will not pick up federal programs. Well, they had better pick up this program and, in fact, this program should be expanded. In Hawaii, the healthy start program has been almost 100-percent effective in attacking the roots of delinquency, crime, domestic violence, welfare dependency and wasted human potential. The Hawaii health start program began as a federally funded pilot project as well. Its success is measured by the lack of abuse or neglect of children in families identified as high risk in hospital screenings. Its success stems from the fact that it turns potentially bad parents into good ones. It achieves this not by lecturing, punishing, or advising, but by providing nurturing care that most of these new mothers never had.
Mr. Speaker, the high-risk parents that this program targets are parents who have unhealthy lifestyles. The Hawaiian healthy start program starts when the mother is in labour and continues through the first five years of the child's life. Most of the parents are substance abusers; Hawaii's approach offers the biggest bang for the buck. As a Hawaiian psychiatrist notes, if abuse could be cut down substantially, there were be huge savings later in the cost of crime, mental health programs, and school failures.
It's going to be years before the first Hawaiian healthy start babies are adults, and considerably longer before savings start to show up in the state's budget. Still, the latest abuse figures from 1994 show that 80 percent of victims of serious child abuse lived outside of healthy start areas.
We need to look at using the program here in the Yukon. This sort of preventive approach will help us achieve the goal of having one of the lowest alcohol consumption rates in Canada, instead of one of the highest.
This type of preventive approach will help us reduce the number of Yukon FAS births by 50 percent in five years. These pre and postnatal programs will not only save these children, but it will help their parents, too. And in the end, this program will save all of us money. I strongly urge this government to take up these pre- and postnatal programs when the federal government funding runs out.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I realize that preventive programs are not politically sexy. The benefits of preventive programs, particularly health and social preventive programs, are not easy to quantify, and the results are not easily seen by the public until long after four-year political terms are up.
Therefore, preventive programs, though they almost invariable save money in the long run, don't get a lot of political support. A good example of this is the Health minister's latest preventive program for chlamydia. I didn't note a ground swell of political support for that initiative. No one got up and staked their political career on its efficacy. Actually, no one got too excited about the chlamydia prevention program at all. But, the program is going to have many long-term benefits for Yukoners in health care cost savings.
Pre- and postnatal intervention programs will benefit of all us too. Now I'm not expecting great fanfare if we decide to adopt these programs under the territorial umbrella, but as the leaders of this territory, adopting these preventive programs might be one of the most important things we do in our political careers.
We need to send the message to the senior administration of this government that there is the political will to make change in the way we deal with alcohol abuse in the Yukon. Though that message may not have an immediate impact on Yukoners, it will 10 years from now, 20 years from now and well into the 21st century.
Preventive programs don't do a lot to address the problems that FAS adults face in our society. FAS adults in the Yukon are extremely likely to be incarcerated for reasons they don't understand. FAS adults are extremely likely to have sexual abuse problems, but there are no tailored programs for them.
How do we help these Yukoners? I don't have a lot of answers, but as one wise woman told me yesterday, we have to offer programs till we don't need them any more.
Mr. Speaker, alcohol abuse is substantial problem for us. The Alcohol and Other Substances in the Yukon Territory report of 1993, prepared by Health and Welfare Canada, paints a pretty bleak picture of alcohol abuse in the Yukon. The findings from the 1989 national alcohol and drug survey and the 1990 Yukon alcohol and drug survey indicate that the volume of alcohol consumed in the Yukon greatly exceeded the reported amounts in southern Canada though the number of drinking occasions was comparable.
In a 1993 Yukon health promotion survey, 84 percent of Yukoners were current drinkers. This is an increase of seven percentage points since 1990, when 77 percent of Yukoners were current drinkers. In 1990, the Yukon ranked sixth among the provinces, but once again has the highest current drinker rate in the country.
Here is a little myth-blower. In 1990, First Nations people in the Yukon, which is approximately 24 percent of the general population, were more likely to be abstainers and former drinkers than non-aboriginal people in the Yukon.
The 1990 current drinker rate for First Nations was 63 percent compared to 82 percent among Yukoners. On a more frightening note in 1990, 21 percent of the respondents reported that they had been a passenger in a vehicle where they thought the driver had had too much to drink. Seventy percent of them reported that they were concerned about their safety, but chose to be a passenger, regardless.
Sadly, in 1989 and 1990, the RCMP Whitehorse detachment reported approximately 30 percent of the total files open in those years had alcohol or drug involvement. Thirty-five percent of total offences involved alcohol, but this does not include over 1,000 instances of detainment for public drunkenness without charges in Whitehorse alone.
So what's wrong? There are a number of different reasons that spring to mind. Why are we sending people from rural Yukon into Whitehorse or outside for alcohol treatment? If programs are developed on the local level, they are more responsive to local needs. Local support networks are developed, and the community takes responsibility and follows up on people trying to change their lifestyles.
Kicking an addiction is an ongoing and very difficult job. A person needs all the help they can get in the process of getting well. Having treatment and followup in the communities makes the likelihood of being successful in kicking an addiction that much more possible.
We need to spend more time and money on prevention and not just education. That doesn't work.
The prenatal and postnatal programs that I have spoken about today are active intervention programs. It is time to roll up our sleeves and get down to work on actively preventing the birth of more FAS children in the Yukon. Good prenatal and postnatal intervention programs like the ones in Dawson and Watson Lake and the Teen Parent Centre in Whitehorse, need to be in every Yukon community. And in Whitehorse, where the bulk of the population lives, this program needs to be expanded.
Fetal alcohol syndrome is completely preventable. Now, many will argue that it's hard to quantify what sort of effect FAS preventive programs are having because of the lack of consistent diagnosis or just lack of FAS diagnoses by the medical community, but that doesn't mean you give up. Prevention programs aimed at high-risk mothers will be successful, and I suppose that's the problem of starting to deal with alcohol and substance abuse. It's such a large problem. It is overwhelming. Nevertheless, my caucus colleagues are going to present to you a number of different approaches to help deal with the problems of alcohol abuse in the Yukon. We believe in not just identifying problems but also presenting some good solutions.
Now, to be clear, we do not want to denigrate the very good work that has gone on in the field of addictions for these many years, but the reality is that things have not changed much in the last 20 years. We still have the highest alcohol consumption rate in Canada. No doubt the government is going to point out the multi-departmental committee of senior bureaucrats that has been instructed to deal with alcohol abuse, and once again, that is a beginning, and it has been tried before, and we still have the highest alcohol consumption rate in Canada.
What has to change is that we, the territory's leaders, have to make alcohol abuse our number-one political priority. We have to set goals for ourselves about where we want to be in 10 years and we have to allocate all the resources that we have toward meeting those goals. Why can't we have one of the lowest alcohol rates in Canada? Why not?
Danny Joe's motion said that it is the responsibility of the Government of Yukon to use any available resources to address this issue. You are the government now. It's time to pay the piper.
Very shortly, a government member is going to stand up and list off the many programs that they have initiated or continued in the field of alcohol or substance abuse, but there is no cohesion in these programs; there is no coordinated effort to deal with these programs. There is no goal that people are striving for. There is no political commitment by this government, or any previous one, to actually reduce the amount of alcohol that Yukoners drink or to reduce the number of children born with fetal alcohol syndrome or its effects. There have been numerous reports, surveys and implementation plans, but nothing has changed.
So, when the government member stands up to pat himself and his government on the back for the good work they do, don't be too proud, because, just like 20 years ago, this week, in the Yukon, a child will take their first drink and then take another. Tonight, someone is going to drink way too much, go home and beat their spouse. This month, just like 20 years ago, another child will be born in the Yukon with fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects. What are we going to do about that? We'd better do something.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to thank the Member for Riverdale South for her comments. I think she has raised a number of germane and thoughtful points. I would like to thank the Liberal opposition for presenting this motion, because I think it does give us an opportunity to discuss some of the things we can do and some of the positive actions we can take, as well as, I suppose, some of the directions we should be going.
I'm encouraged by the support, if I read into the comments of the member across the floor. I think there are a number of very positive suggestions there and I would like to explore a few of them with this House and discuss where we can go. I do think it's a curse. I think it's a bit of a scourge on our territory.
There are a couple of things I'd like to go through just in general, but I think one of the most fascinating things is that, in a sense, as a political entity, we grew out of an alcohol problem, and that alcohol problem was in 1898 when the Yukon Act was essentially settling a dispute between the federal government and the Northwest Territories over - guess what? - the lucrative liquor traffic revenues. Going back and researching this, less than a year later, the Yukon Liquor Ordinance - isn't it amazing, we had the Yukon Act followed quickly by the Yukon Liquor Ordinance in 1899 - set forth limits on distribution and sales. I think it's no secret that alcohol has been a major feature of this territory and the two themes surrounding this particular commodity - the generation of public revenues and the protection of the public good - have been a couple of dominant themes and have sometimes been perhaps a bit at odds and have dominated the political and social discourse in this territory.
It's fascinating that in 1897, the sale of liquor licences and permits netted $300,000. That didn't even include the liquor.
So, we've had a rather chequered history with this particular problem, and I think over the years we've gone through this vacillation, this kind of swinging back and forth between liberalizing and tightening up. This has crossed all kinds of lines. There have been issues surrounding First Nations, treatment personnel, law enforcement - all of these stances have shifted over the years. As I said, I think there have been two almost contradictory themes running through the political and perhaps the social life of this territory. One has been, "Let's maximize what we can on liquor." I'm sure, if you talked with many of the people involved in the hospitality industry, they would tell you that this is a major generator. As a matter of fact, I recall recently talking to a hotel owner who recounted to me what he found was the virtue of dinner theatre. He said the profit isn't in the dinner. He said it's not even in the ticket sales. He said it's in the liquor that you sell. So I think we've got that on one hand - a whole industry that's grown up on liquor and the consumption of alcohol - and on the other hand we've got this sometimes very contradictory theme saying, "Let's recognize the damage that this is doing." And the damage, as the member has quite aptly pointed out, is damage to the unborn, the damage to future generations and, I think quite frankly, the devastation sometimes of some of our communities - the devastation to family lives. No one is immune from this problem around alcohol, and I've often remarked that this must be one of the few cultures in North America where alcohol is so omnipresent at almost every social occasion.
I had some guests up this summer from Ontario who remarked on that. They were quite taken aback that virtually every social occasion you go to, alcohol is present. I guess, perhaps, with changing mores in other parts of Canada - maybe other parts of the world - it isn't quite as omnipresent, but here they were struck with that. They said, you know, it was quite surprising to them that virtually every place they went, every social situation, alcohol was present.
So, I think we've wrestled with this one for a long, long time.
Interestingly enough, during World War I, this whole question of the sale of liquor and the revenues came up again. At that time, the whole issue was prohibition. Although the Yukon had rejected prohibition two years earlier, the federal government basically silenced us in this regard by providing $40,000 to cover loss of revenue from liquor licences. So we did enact prohibition in 1920, and it was probably one of the first major exoduses out of the territory. I think it probably ranked with some of our mine closures, because a lot of hotels closed, a lot of proprietors left because of the serious lack of business.
The following year, the federal government cut back its funding to the Yukon, and the territorial government responded by holding a plebiscite on the establishment of government liquor stores. The majority of the voters chose to bring in liquor stores as a way to effectively discard prohibition.
So we've had this sort of battle over liquor and liquor revenues. Of course, the big impact, I think, came in 1942, when the military first came. I think we saw alcohol consumption on a huge scale. You know, I mean, Whitehorse grew from, what, 500 I believe, to 15,000 in a very short period of time - a matter of weeks.
Going back and taking a look at liquor sales - maybe my colleague here in charge of the Liquor Corporation would be interested - from April 1942 to December 1942, our liquor sales in Whitehorse grew from $7,000 to $86,900. They must have had some interesting times trying to cope with that volume.
This has been a real problem. It was also around this time that we began getting the first sort of bootlegging, the kind of bush stills being generated, alcohol becoming a black market commodity and it also became a major problem. I think it's the first time we began seeing indications in records of drunkenness becoming a serious problem for productivity for individuals. We started getting some notations in the papers about alcohol and its effects and people talking about lost productivity.
However, once again, that whole issue of money came up again and, by 1944, the liquor account was $400,000 in surplus. That was in 1944 that we had $400,000 in surplus. In 1956, a special tax of 25 cents a bottle was introduced and the money was directed to a special welfare fund which went for the construction of community clubs and other projects.
So once again, here we get this idea of a commodity that's generating income so you've got, in a sense, that financial aspect and then, on the other hand, there's a recognition of some of those difficulties being caused, so we've got this kind of contradictory issue.
I think one of the problems we have in this territory, quite frankly, is we have built up a mythology around drinking. I mentioned before the idea of sometimes people from other parts of Canada being surprised at the ready availability of alcohol and the consumption of it. I think part of our sort of, if we will, national mythology in the Yukon around just who we are is this whole idea of rugged individuals and that sometimes that rugged individualism carries a very, very hefty social price. We have individuals who may be rugged, but part of that ruggedness has been a lifetime of very heavy, very steady drinking.
I think it's no secret that some of individuals who are street nurses and individuals of that nature and people who work with this sort of segment of the population find that there is often a correlation between some of these folks who live in poverty or in impoverished conditions and alcohol abuse.
And, quite frankly, I think one of the things that's happened is that we have so quickly changed over a relatively short period of time that there's been a major, I think, social and demographic change, and I think, in particular this very rapid change - when you think essentially back a little over fifty years ago, the main modes of transport were river and rail and things like that, and now we have all kinds of modern technology, modern transportation - and very rapid influx of people into the territory has been a major impact, and particularly, I think in many ways it has been disastrous for some of our First Nations communities.
The member mentioned the previous Member for Mayo-Tatchun, Danny Joe, whom I've known for a number of years, ever since I came into the territory, and I know, when I was first teaching in Pelly, this was a major concern of Danny's. That was a community that was touched frequently by tragedies involving alcohol, and it was a community that in many ways just seemed to be getting up on its feet and making progress, and there would often be a very tragic event, very frequently involving alcohol, that just impacted so tremendously on the community.
It still sticks in my mind. I had been in Whitehorse at a meeting and coming back to Pelly one day, and they had just agreed to opening up an off-sales, and previously there hadn't been any off-sales in the café. I remember coming back from Whitehorse and being shocked because I hadn't seen that kind of alcohol abuse in the community at that point.
It was for me very, very surprising, because many people that I had known who were such powerful individuals in the community had really been negatively impacted by it. That particular event of coming into that community that one day still sticks in my mind as really seeing the kind of tragedy that alcohol can bring to some of our First Nation communities.
At the same time, there were people there in that community - Danny being one, certainly his wife Betty, and many others, many of the elders - who recognized this problem and just argued vehemently for prohibition and argued vehemently for control of the liquor sales, and really did make very, very strenuous efforts to control bootlegging. You know, last week, I met with the Northern Tutchone Council and some of the chiefs from Pelly and Mayo and Carmacks-Little Salmon, and they were arguing many of the same things. You know, the problem of bootleggers is still there, the problem of trying to get people into a healthy lifestyle and all of those issues are still there. Those are some things I think we need to address.
I think, possibly, I would see alcohol abuse as probably our principal social problem in this territory. The member has very rightly said that some things have changed. Since 1975, there's been a ban on public drinking. I'm sure that members on that side can remember the time when you could literally walk down Main Street with a beer, and some people did. I can remember being startled when I first came to the territory by people tooting along with highway with ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can still remember people driving down the highway with beer. I can recall - though not with pride - one teacher of my experience, whose name shall remain nameless - won't remain mentioned - and his way of getting home was he would buy a 12-pack of beer and go stand out on the highway. It was almost guaranteed that someone would pick him up, and he figured that the 12-pack of beer would get him and the driver at least to Stewart Crossing where they could load up again.
Now, I'm not saying that those attitudes are acceptable. As a matter of fact, I think they're completely unacceptable and, as a matter of fact, reprehensible, but that's the kind of mythology that we lived with, and I think, in many ways, we're still trying to shake off that sort of mentality.
I think we have done some things in this regard in terms of trying to tighten up on some of those restrictions, and I think those are long overdue.
I'd like to talk a little bit about some of the issues surrounding this, and where I think we can go, and some of the things I think we can do.
The member made reference to the idea of one of the issues that we're going to focus on, the idea of restricting - well, not restricting so much but trying to encourage young people to hold off on that first drink. That, I think, is something we really do have to address. Unfortunately, in this territory drinking is a rite of passage. We've had several - a number - of tragic events where young people have associated alcohol with certain kinds of events - bush parties and things of that nature - and it has posed, in some cases, some really tragic results.
One of the aspirations we have, with this idea of focusing in on young people, is trying to move them out of that mentality - trying to move them out of the idea that, if you are in grade 10, that's the time to drink. I'm not saying that drinking in grade 12 is better, or your first year of college, but at least if we can discourage people from beginning at an early age, perhaps we can address some of those other behaviours along the way. Perhaps we can encourage people to take a more responsible attitude if we can raise that age of the first drink perhaps just a degree, and I'll talk about that in a little while.
I think the other thing we need to do - and one of the other targets that I'll be addressing in just a little while with the alcohol and drug implementation plan - is the question of reducing the number of drinks per occasion. It's not just necessarily a problem of alcohol consumption. I think that, in many cases, it's a problem of alcohol consumption and volume. People up here - it's not a question of just drinking; it's how much we drink. I think that's another area that we've identified as being a second key strategy: to try and reduce the amount that people drink, the amount that people abuse.
The member made reference to the need for some prevention programs and treatment programs. Certainly, that is something that we've recognized. For example, certain kinds of programs are not always appropriate for everyone. We have recently concluded a community tour - a community visitation - by ADS, and that's one of the themes that is coming out very clearly, that there needs to be more of a variety of programs, more of a diverse approach.
Interestingly enough, one of the issues that came up was the need for followup, particularly in terms of alcohol and drug treatments. One of the issues that did emerge was the fact that a person may go through a treatment program but, far too often, they go through that program and then they're out on their own devices.
Alcohol and drug services is looking at this very hard and trying to develop programs that have a built-in followup component. So, in other words, you don't do the program for 14 or 28 days and then, "Thank you very much". There has to be some kind of followup. There has to be some follow through. How are people applying those kinds of skills, how are people applying those kinds of behaviours that they've learned to change their lives?
So I think one of the areas that we're going to be looking at is how to enhance - as the member has raised the issue - the idea of community-based initiatives for alcohol and drugs.
I think there are several ways that we can be doing this, and I can go through probably in greater detail on some of the strategies that would work, but I think with regard to young people, first of all, is work more creatively with the RCMP and the Department of Education - "we" being Health and Social Services - to try and empower schools and try to get them to work on this issue. One of the very positive things that we've had happen has been the involvement of the RCMP in the high school. I think that's a very positive step.
As well, we are going to be getting our ADS counsellors in F.H. Collins to try and begin a program in this regard, and directing our youth health promotion officer to work on this as well.
We are also, right now, designing a pilot project on the use and abuse of alcohol and drugs that we're looking at targeting for primary schools. We think there needs to be some work done with young people before they hit high school, before they hit that kind of pre-adolescence where alcohol becomes a big deal. We have to maybe start addressing some of the attitudes down in younger grades, and right now we're currently looking at different models in this regard and we're looking at designing our own program, something that can be brought into the curriculum, possibly as part of the family life curriculum, to maybe set down some healthier attitudes with younger children.
I think I mentioned, as well, that we are working with the Northwest Territories in designing a television campaign. This is something that is a little bit different for us. Our focus on that one is going to be on the drinks per occasion. We're going to be trying to target that particular problem that we see as being another key component: the idea of reducing the number of drinks per occasion. So, in other words, people are going to use alcohol. People are going to use it in a social context. Certainly we are coming up to a season where people do use alcohol, but what I think we have to do is we have to encourage people to have responsible, clear attitudes toward alcohol and if you are going to use it, learn that there is limit at which the number of drinks becomes, I suppose, more problematic and can lead to-
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The member has said "stupid." I think probably that's it. I think no one likes to admit they get to that "stupid" point when they are drinking, but unfortunately many of us have sometimes reached that point. No, not at this point in my life, I might say. There were some points, however, in my younger days, where probably I was not perhaps as wise, is what I mean. I may look back at them with a certain amount of nostalgic astonishment that I was quite that stupid.
One of the things that I think we have to do is - as the member has pointed out, and I would like to make reference to it again - is this idea of working with communities and designing community alcohol and drug treatment programs - and presenting some options. I really think that this is very important, that we have to provide some options to communities.
One of the things I think that we have to do is to move out of that mode of saying this is that one kind of treatment and that's it, that's what you get.
The member has made reference to the very high costs of treatment programs that require people to go outside and, in particular, for many of the First Nation communities, the demands on dollars in that case are extremely high.
What I think would be probably more, I guess, positive would be if we could present some options that would help communities address some of these problems a bit closer to home.
I think there are a number of things that we could do in this regard and, like I said, I'm interested in pursuing a number of these options, and we will be making some announcements in that regard.
The member spent a fair amount of time on FAS/FAE, and I think she spoke with a great deal of eloquence on the whole problem of FAS/FAE and its impact on people's lives, its impact on children's lives, its impact on family lives. I think she certainly feels keenly about this, as do we all, particularly those of us who have spent some time in education.
The member made reference to, I guess, one point I would have to take a little bit of exception with, and that was the section on the lack of progress with FAS/FAE. We're not there, and we're not where we are, but I can recall a number of years ago, prior to the first Asante study, where we in schools, quite frankly, were very, very ignorant of the impact of FAS/FAE. We simply didn't know. It wasn't the case that we weren't willing to do anything. We just frankly did not know. I think, when I recall back to Dr. Asante coming and doing a study in a school which I administered, we were, frankly, shocked.
I think for us as a staff, it was a real revelation when Dr. Asante shared his results. I remember him sitting in the staff room, showing us pictures of children with FAS/FAE, describing behaviours, and all of a sudden it was like the lights went on for many of us in teaching. These children that we'd been struggling with, these children who were often so frustrating in terms of just development, in terms of why could you think you teach a concept, and that concept is gone, often later on that afternoon, or certainly by the next day, and the whole impact on short-term memory and children acting out behaviours, just out of sheer frustration, the inability to cope, the inability to be able to deal with many things their classmates were able to deal with. For many of us, that was a real revelation.
I think, if we've had an area of success in the area of FAS/FAE, I think that area, quite frankly, has been in the educational community.
I think much of the work around learning disabilities, much of that work around children receiving assistance in the classroom, children receiving assistance from learning assistants - if we've had any success, I think it has been in education.
Certainly, I've known over the years a number of teachers, a number of learning assistants, a number of classroom aides who've really worked tremendously to try to help these children out. I think they, in many ways, have been sort of, if you will, the pioneers, some of the leaders in maybe changing some situations for children, certainly in the classroom setting.
So, I think we've made some gains. Are we there yet? No, we're not. I think we have to move out, particularly with FAS/FAE, in terms of prevention. I don't think we're there yet. The member has very accurately identified it as preventable. It's clearly one of those social and health issues that you can prevent. You can just stop it dead in its tracks. I think that's something we still have to work on and still have to deal with.
As well, I would make a strong pitch for an area that is a concern of mine and I believe it's a concern of the Minister of Justice. And that's the whole group of young people who have kind of moved through the school system and are now in young adulthood and facing a lot of pressures, tremendous pressures because of the FAS/FAE disability - pressures in terms of occupations, pressures in terms of criminality. The same behaviours that led them to difficulties in school, lead them to difficulties in acting up because they didn't understand the consequences are still there. They don't disappear when you turn 18. They don't disappear when you walk out the door of Vanier or Porter Creek or F.H. Collins. They don't disappear. They're there. This is a lifetime disability.
The member has made reference to some of the problems that these young people have. We have, for example, one institution here that's devoted primarily to young FAS individuals who have serious sexual acting-out problems. Much of that really revolves around the inability to understand social mores, social conventions, things of that nature. The kind of impacts that this disease can have, I think, is quite astonishing.
That's a group that I'm particularly concerned about, and I'm particularly concerned about the difficulty with these young people in terms of what their future life is going to be like, because in many cases, these people become victims. They become victims of other people who will deceive them, people who will take advantage of them, people who will exploit them. So, that's a group that I have some real concerns with.
The member brought an interesting point up - the Hawaii healthy start program. I believe I've probably read the same article that the member had, and I brought it to my department. I've given it to the department to take a look at to examine some of the ideas and principles there - can those things be applied? I think the idea of probably identifying some of the risk factors very, very early on, even in prenatal months, is key, because, too often, the first time a problem may occur may be when the child first goes to the local community health nurse for maybe weighing and some other things, and all of sudden people begin to notice and nurses begin to notice developmental problems. I think if we can maybe address some of those factors ahead of time, we can do some serious prevention work. So, that is an initiative that I've passed on to the department and asked them to review and see what kind of literature we can find on it and if there are some things that we can do.
Some things that I think we are working on - and I'd like to just note, if I may, some of the work around alcohol and drug services. I think that the alcohol and drug services branch is very dedicated to getting people out of the addiction cycle, and as a matter of fact, I had some discussions with them on Friday on this whole question of addiction cycle. They are going to be proposing some different treatment modes to me, because - and we had some discussion on this - they do have a real problem with the idea of people going through, as I said, a particular program and all of a sudden showing back up in the system again. So, that has become a concern of their's, and I think they're working very positively and doing some good thinking around that.
Alcohol and drug services - I don't think it's recognized as well - does their own day programming. They do group programming and, as well, provide a counsellor part-time at the youth achievement centre and the young offenders facility. I think that's something that we also need to do. We need to recognize the connection there between alcohol and drug problems and sometimes criminality.
I think there are a number of things that we are doing, and sometimes, if I understand the member's concerns right, we have a plethora of programs. We have programs all over the place. Sometimes, what we really need to do is pull together a concerted approach, because when we begin to look at the kinds of things we do, such as detox, ADS, Crossroads - even if we want to look at such things as the employee assistance program that we have here for government employees who may have some difficulty with drug and alcohol abuse. We work with the Child Development Centre, which has been doing tremendous work with FAS/FAE children, particularly in the rural areas.
I guess in some of my meetings with CDC, I've been impressed by the work they're doing in the rural communities and I would like to see them carry on in that regard.
I think other government departments are doing some fairly interesting stuff. When I think about the support given to such things as substance-free grads, those are some things we are doing.
The member made reference to the Teen Parent Centre and some of the things that are happening there in terms of identifying young women at risk, and trying to teach issues surrounding alcohol abuse and alcohol use, I think are key. One of the other things we've done is design an FAS education kit. The indications that I have on that - the feedback - has been quite positive. We've got two prevention counsellors and one treatment counsellor, who attended an FAS prevention and treatment workshop very recently in Vancouver. We have ADS prevention consultants, who attended the FAS/FAE working group in September and, as a matter of fact, there were over 20 agencies there.
I've been quite impressed by the interest in communities themselves to address this problem, and I've been quite impressed by the number of communities that attended the recent conferences on this subject.
Some of the things that we are doing, as well, in terms of trying to do some on-the-ground prevention, if you will, is trying to identify young women at risk, and this is being done by health prevention professionals, rather, and schools. We're doing more counselling, more referral, prenatal literature and education focusing on substance abuse and pregnancy. We've been doing prenatal health care, as the member has mentioned. And the education of new moms in hospital I think has been quite good.
To be fair, I think our physicians have been doing a lot more in this regard. Certainly, when I've spoken with physicians, they're very cognizant of this problem, probably much moreso than they were a number of years ago.
As well, I think the member mentioned education in a postnatal environment. I think that is increasingly important, and the idea, for example, of postnatal visits by public health nurses.
One of the things I've been discussing as I've been going around to rural communities is the whole idea of doing teleconferencing in order to better serve communities - teleconferencing not only on the subject of alcohol and alcohol abuse but in other regards as well.
We've got the street nurse downtown basically working with people who probably wouldn't see the doctor otherwise. Sometimes people feel inhibited by their lifestyle or just by their own inclination not to go and see doctors and nurses on a regular basis.
I've visited the nurse and she does a tremendous amount of work, both with our drug and alcohol affected clients.
Interestingly enough, when we were discussing it, she mentioned that there's almost a hierarchy amongst people who abuse these substances. In other words, alcohol abusers sometimes look down on drug abusers, who look down on solvent abusers, so it's surprising that even amongst the population who abuse alcohol and drugs there's a hierarchy.
Some of the things that we have been working on - for example, Yukon Family Services has been working for us in this regard; we've also been working with Kaushee's Place, the Dawson shelter, Help and Hope - trying to support women who have suffered abuse based on alcohol.
We've been working with the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre in terms of counselling. My friend, the minister in charge of the Yukon Liquor Corporation, will be able to acknowledge that the Department of Health and Social Services has been working with the Yukon Liquor Corporation on such things as designing materials, particularly surrounding the whole question of drinking and driving, which occupied a good deal of our time here. We've been participating in campaigns, particularly around the holidays, when so much of this occurs and so many tragedies occur.
I think some of the action taken in this House the other day, in terms of passing, substantively, the Motor Vehicles Act, I think is a major step in sort of addressing the whole difficulty of drinking and driving.
This isn't a problem that's going to go away, and I don't think it's a problem that we can acknowledge will disappear probably in our lifetime. The member has brought up the idea of a very laudable goal - an extremely laudable goal - in trying to reduce our alcohol consumption. I think it is a laudable goal. I think there are some things that we could be doing in this regard, but I think we have to make a societal change. It's not merely a governmental change. We as a culture - we as a Yukon society - have to begin to change that mindset around alcohol and alcohol abuse being an acceptable social mode. I think we have to do that. I know government has a role in this, but I think, in a larger sense, Yukon society will have to change in that regard.
The member's original approach - if I understand where she's going, and I understand what her concern is - I think is very worthwhile. I can acknowledge generally the idea of alcohol abuse being the problem, I can acknowledge the destructive nature of it on personal relationships, the relation to violence - domestic violence in particular.
I'll also just acknowledge the significant factor in health care costs. If we take a look at some stats on economic costs of alcohol-related harm, when we go back and look at some stats here, in 1994, which is the year that we have the most complete stats for, there were 15 deaths and 426 potential years of life lost that could be directly attributable to alcohol in that year; that's 13 percent, 13 percent of total mortality, and as well, it is 19 percent of the total potential years lost in that one particular period of time. So, in other words, if we look at this, we say, okay, given all the health problems people may face and the kinds of problems that people may experience, whether it is cardiovascular, carcinomas, or whatever the cause of death is, and the potential years of life lost for individuals, alcohol alone represents almost 20 percent of all those potential years. So, just in terms of human potential that is a tremendous amount.
Just on that, in 1994, alcohol abuse cost this territory more than $13.8 million. I would suspect that that is even higher now. I would suspect it is $14 million to $14.5 million, but if you think about it on a per capita basis that represents $441 per person in this territory; that's what alcohol abuse represents to us.
Or, if you want to think about it in the larger terms, 1.6 percent of our gross domestic product is consumed in alcoholic abuse. The largest cost, which is approximately $6 million, is in lost productivity due to mortality and morbidity, and followed by an additional $4.2 million in direct health care costs.
If we want to compare this to Canada, I don't think the $441 is a particularly laudable target. We may not lead the country in too many things, but when we think it cost us $441 per capita due to alcohol abuse, when you compare that in Canada as a norm, the per capita cost for Canada as a whole is $265.
So, we're substantially ahead of that, and, as well, if we think about just what the cause is in terms of what alcohol abuse represents to the GDP on a national scale, it represents almost two percent. I think that's a startling indictment.
So, these are many things that I think are major problems, and I'd like to acknowledge that we see these as major issues.
I guess, on the question of the task force, I'm not, perhaps, as enamoured with the concept of a task force approach as perhaps some others are and I'd like to sort of identify what they are and perhaps propose a friendly amendment. I think if I understand the spirit of what the Member for Riverdale South is talking about, I'd like to propose an amendment in that regard.
While I understand the aspirations of the task force and I think there're a couple of issues there, we have a number of programs already and plans in place that we're working on. I think the question of a task force may sort of direct us off into, perhaps, the idea of yet another study. I think, as well, there's the question of the cost around that. I think it could be better directed.
Much of the work in looking at what the member suggested in terms of the task force has been completed and, I think, is underway. I think there is an alcohol and drug strategy implementation plan. We've done the first draft of the High-Risk Drinking and Alcohol-Related Harm, and that's gone back for some revision there.
As well, I think the member mentioned that we have been working with my colleagues in Health, Justice, Education and in the Women's Directorate. The deputies have been working on a regular basis to address issues such as alcohol abuse and we think many of these issues cross departmental lines.
As well, I think we can't discount the role of the Health and Social Services Council, which has made a number of recommendations on issues. I think, if I might make a suggestion, I could arrange for the member opposite, if she'd like, to meet with the Health and Social Services Council or at least the chair and the vice-chair to maybe discuss some of her concerns. I can certainly facilitate that.
I guess, finally, I would just be concerned with the whole idea of diverting some of our resources from the service of people with alcohol and drug problems.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: To that end, what I would like to propose - and I hope the member will take this in the spirit that it is being offered, because I do think she has laudable and noteworthy concerns, certainly concerns that we all share, as I am sure everyone in this House does - is that Motion No. 83 be amended by:
deleting the words following the phrase, "THAT, recognizing the seriousness of alcohol abuse in the Yukon, the Yukon government" and replacing them with the following:
"should continue its coordinated, focused approach, including the work of the Fostering Healthy Communities Committee, and report back to this House in the spring of 1998 about progress and actions in the area of alcohol and drug services prevention and treatment."
I will just distribute that for the members.
I won't take too much longer, but I would like to sort of suggest -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: But, wait a minute, I have to speak to my amendment.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Motion No. 83 be amended by:
deleting the words following the phrase, "THAT, recognizing the seriousness of alcohol abuse in the Yukon, the Yukon Government" and replacing them with the following:
"should continue its coordinated, focused approach, including the work of the Fostering Healthy Communities Committee, and report back to this House in the spring of 1998 about progress and actions in the area of alcohol and drug services prevention and treatment."
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, on the amendment, I've just received a signal from the Clerk that I have, what, 20 hours? No?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, 20 minutes. Well, where to start?
I'd like to continue just if I might on this for yet a few more minutes, because -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, you see, there's a certain amount of cynicism there, Mr. Speaker, that I think is deplorable in not recognizing that perhaps we all have things to say that are positive.
The reason I would like to propose this, and the reason that I hope the member will consider this in the spirit that it's offered in, is I believe that we are already working in some areas, and I'm pleased with some of the progress that we have been receiving from the various partners that we have. For example, I think the work between Education and Health and Social Services that we've begun with our deputies will bear some very positive results.
As well, working with alcohol and drug services, we're coming forward with a number of options, and I think those options will be worthwhile, and I think they'll perhaps address some of the concerns that the member has raised, particularly in terms of community treatment options. We've just drawn up a variety of option papers. We've identified an implementation plan for dealing with the four key components that we've seen - for example, the issue about early drinking by young people and some of the initiatives that we're taking in this regard; the analysis of drinking patterns being more extreme, particularly in communities, and the need to focus a lot of our energies there.
I think, interestingly enough on this one, what we've found is that simply providing a service to a community by ADS is not the solution, that individual communities need the ability to meet their own community needs, and I think there has to be a recognition of the fact - particularly in First Nation communities - that they have to have the ability to design programs that are more appropriate for their members and more appropriate for their needs than perhaps some of the things that we can deliver out of a more centralized agency.
So, that's another issue, and we have a number of initiatives underway. One of the things that we've been doing in this regard is the idea of touring with communities, meeting with NNADAP workers, talking about different delivery systems, solvent abuse workshops - we're planning to address that particular problem to a greater degree - and developing conferences with communities to look at all those issues.
When we talk about communities, we sometimes think about a community being a specific geographical unit, and I think that's a mistake because we have to recognize that, within a community, particularly a community like Whitehorse, or in any other community, there are communities - whether those communities are young people, whether those communities are the seniors community - and ADS has been taking a lead role in developing a conference addressing the whole question of substance abuse amongst seniors. These are some things that we've been working with with this group.
FAS/FAE planning, we're currently working on a resource book which will provide information to FAS/FAE individuals, or professionals I think. One of the areas where we could probably do considerably more work, and I've made some contact with my colleague, the Minister of Justice, in this regard, is the whole question of providing a better understanding of FAS/FAE and its impact for justice professionals. I'd like to see a greater understanding by individuals, perhaps in the law enforcement community and perhaps in corrections, about the problems surrounding these individuals, and maybe an explanation of some of their areas.
One of the things I think we have to do, and I mentioned it earlier, was the whole idea of addressing community outpatient and followup services - after-care, if you will. And as I said, alcohol and drug services have just developed, for my review and for some discussion among the Department of Health, some options in that regard. I've read through them and I think there's some real merit. As I said, I met with them and they outlined this, and I think they are on the right track.
Was there a question there?
Oh, time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
How many hours?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the third issue that I think ...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: ... and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface.
The other area that I indicated is a concern for us, and something that we want to work on, is the whole question of reducing the number of drinks per occasion. This is one of the goals we're going to have over the next while. I think this is something that we need to be doing.
In terms of, perhaps, an education prevention strategy to the whole population, but particularly, I think we need to do it around some of those establishments where alcohol is served. I think maybe just see what kinds of education, what kinds of prevention we can put into those venues, maybe just remind people of their responsibilities and that they don't need to drink to excess. As well, I mentioned earlier, the N.W.T. and ourselves are working on a campaign in that regard.
As well, in terms of how we're working with other services, or pulling together the services provided by the medical services branch and the NNADAP program - and the member has made reference to this before - I think we're certainly very open to working with our NNADAP partners; we're very open to working with our First Nations communities. This is something that we would like to be able to do. Some of the other things we're doing is adding additional prevention workers.
So for all these reasons, I think we are already moving in that direction - a more concerted approach, a more focused approach. I'm hoping that some of these issues will bear fruit. I would like to suggest that this amendment would give us a chance to continue that approach and report back to this House the kind of progress we're making, the kind of steps that we're taking, and perhaps other areas where we need to go, I think realizing that one approach is not all-inclusive for everyone.
I'd like to thank the members for their patience in this regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on the amendment, this amendment allows our caucus to rise in support of the position taken by the Member for Whitehorse West in regard to this motion before us. Allow me to provide an overview for the House of the action taken by the previous Yukon Party government to address alcohol and drug abuse problems in the Yukon. In my outline, I'll attempt to put forward some of the initiatives that were undertaken by the previous government and the accomplishments that were so recognized.
On this side of the House, we feel that much of the work has already been undertaken and completed to address alcohol and drug abuse in the Yukon. There's no quick and easy fix to these problems. We believe we must continue with the work that has already been completed and expand upon the work versus initiating another comprehensive review as to what has already been done in the alcohol and drug strategy implementation plan and the FAS/FAE prevention plan.
We have the human resources in our communities and the people who care enough to make a difference and we have a plan, a comprehensive plan, to address the epidemic problems of alcohol and drug abuse.
In the previous Yukon Party government's four-year plan, the Yukon Party promised to work with community groups and First Nations to provide more financial assistance and support for prevention, treatment and recovery programs. A commitment was also made to identify and alleviate the causes of alcohol and substance abuse and to increase public awareness of the effect of drug and alcohol on unborn children.
Upon taking office in 1992, among discovering a whopping $64-million deficit, there was also a realization that government costs were out of control and that an immediate remedy was needed to stop the government from hemorrhaging cash. Of considerable need of remedy was the Department of Health and Social Services. Costs were simply escalating far beyond estimates. It was at that time that the then-Minister of Department of Health and Social Services, Willard Phelps, and his Cabinet set out some achievable goals and objectives that the government could meet.
One of the main priorities identified was to come up with an alcohol and drug strategy and try to ensure that there was good prevention, good treatment and good education in place to address the problems of drug and alcohol use in Yukon. Over an 18-month period, a draft alcohol and drug strategy was widely distributed throughout Yukon with consultations held in each community where people were asked for their ideas on services such as day treatment, youth programs, after-care recovery, professional training, assessment, and public education campaigns. Other partners have played an integral role in developing a strategy with the Council of Yukon First Nations, the medical services branch of Health Canada since it devolved to the Yukon, and the national native alcohol and drug abuse prevention program.
Dealing specifically with the government's alcohol and drug services, the following goals were identified: the reduction of the number of drinks per occasion of alcohol by Yukoners; to raise the age when Yukon youth take their first drink. The health promotion survey in 1993 found that from 1990 to 1993, the age of the first drink dropped for our youth. In other words, Mr. Speaker, youth were drinking at a much younger age. Point 3 was to strengthen the services and programs delivered by the alcohol and drug services. Point 4 was to strengthen the alcohol and drug services involvement in helping communities to meet community needs and to further reduce the incidence of FAS/FAE.
In addition to these goals, a number of objectives were established for the alcohol and drug services unit and expanded upon their work that was already going on. These included the expansion of the detox service and better integration of this service with the residential treatment program. Coupled with this objective was the proposal to also move the detox unit into the Crossroads building to create a direct physical link between both programs, to increase the use of group counselling and outpatient treatments, and to initiate a day-treatment program that would permit clients to attend a treatment program during the day and return home at night.
Also, identified in the plan is the number of recommendations directed to this area in the prevention of FAS/FAE. It is an unfortunate fact of life that, every year in the Yukon, a number of children are born suffering from FAS/FAE and they will continue to suffer throughout the rest of their lives, all because of alcohol or drug abuse. While everyone agrees that this is a problem in the Yukon, there is a need for more information to understand the extent and nature of this problem by undertaking a comprehensive review of the alcohol and drug problems in the Yukon.
The Yukon Party was able to identify and design what worked best in the areas of prevention, and how to assist those who were affected by FAS/FAE. By preventing more children from being born with this disability we can all benefit. Changes identified in the strategy have already been implemented to help reduce the incidence of FAS/FAE, and these include prevention programs and information sessions for school-age children, assistance with safe accommodation for pregnant women who wish to avoid alcohol during pregnancy, establishing a family support worker position to provide support to high-risk women in avoiding alcohol during pregnancy, and to improve the coordination of prenatal nutrition, health care and counselling for women at risk of having a FAS/FAE child, parental training and alcohol counselling, and the continued involvement with other agencies, just as the Child Development Centre, early nutritional programs, and Health Canada public health offices. These are programs of the federal government which have since been devolved to the Government of Yukon.
Links have also been established within the government such as in Education and Justice. In conjunction with the Department of Education, a basic information kit was developed to provide training to learning assistants, schools, and communities on the issue. By developing messages and actions aimed specifically at children and teens, there can be much achieved in the areas of prevention and education.
While departments other than Health and Social Services can do little in the area of prevention, they do play an integral role in providing services to those already disabled by FAS/FAE. In addition to this, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Services, working with Carleton University in Ottawa, undertook a $200,000 federally funded research program that helped to answer some very basic questions about the effect of prenatal drinking on individuals, families and communities. This information is also invaluable.
While we have done much work in this important area, there is still much more to be done. There remains the question of diagnosing those with FAS. There seems to be no handle on how many of the repeat offenders, for example, suffer from FAS and how many of the unemployed suffer from FAS. We have yet to get a handle on that so that we can design programs to better fit the needs, depending on the scope of the problem. To do so is of critical importance.
Emerging from the alcohol and drug strategy were a number of recommendations as well as an alcohol and drug strategy implementation plan, a FAS/FAE prevention plan. As I have already outlined, these plans are comprehensive, with worthy suggestions. I am pleased to say the strategy has been a success to date because it is working - not just a bunch of words on paper but a call for action that has resulted in action.
To name but a few initiatives that were implemented during the previous government's mandate, I outline the following. The alcohol and drug services branch moved into more suitable counselling offices. Previous to this move, staff was literally crammed in the alleyway in the back of the Crossroads building. The offices were not private. Conversations with the counsellors could be overheard by the people waiting outside the room, and they actually had to have meetings in places that they had to rent - hotel rooms and so on. There was a lot of wasted money here, Mr. Speaker.
The number of addiction treatment counsellors was increased. Outpatient counselling was made more accessible by extending hours of availability and providing a drop-in service that has eliminated the waiting list.
The Crossroads building was upgraded and the detox centre was moved into the Crossroads building to increase its capacity. Alcohol and drug services' visits to most communities were on a regular basis in an effort to assist them in finding community-based solutions to their alcohol and addiction problems.
A research project was undertaken to provide additional information on the alcohol and drug abuse in Yukon. Pilot projects were initiated in the Elijah Smith school regarding the establishment of an alcohol and drug prevention program in the education curriculum. A handbook was produced for Yukon teachers, focusing on working with children from alcoholic families. Staff at the young offenders facility received treatment and addiction prevention and have been provided with materials so they are able to facilitate discussion groups in the facility. Alcohol and drug services have been instrumental in delivering community conferences regarding solvent abuse.
These numerous initiatives, introduced by the previous government, were a demonstration of the Yukon Party's commitment to tackle alcohol and drug abuse problems on all fronts, Mr. Speaker. Also, as a result of the alcohol and drug strategy, a large amount of work was done with the Kaska and Liard Basin Task Force. When they first saw the draft strategy, they were quite interested in it because it complemented the work they had been doing.
In the case of the Kaska Tribal Council, a three-year pilot project was struck that ended on March 31, 1997. The Department of Health and Social Services contributed $105,000 per year for one prevention worker and one aftercare worker. As many know, aftercare is important in many of our communities as it provides care for those people who have returned from treatment centres outside their communities so as to help avoid relapses from occurring. The project served all Yukon people in the Ross River and Watson Lake areas, and proved to be quite a success.
There was also a three-year pilot project with the Ross River Dena Council to establish a family support worker who provided services to families from the Ross River Dena Council experiencing parenting difficulties. This person worked closely with the department social worker, but was managed by the Kaska Tribal Council.
Third, the previous government also initiated a pilot project with the Liard First Nation, establishing a family support worker similar to that of the Ross River Dena Council. It is my understanding that evaluations of these projects were to have been prepared earlier in the year, at which time recommendations for continuing the programs were to come forward. I would hope that full consultation was given to the merits of these projects and that this government made a decision to continue and expand upon their operation.
By taking these steps and building upon work that has already been completed by the department and people in the Yukon, we have been able to help those with alcohol and drug addiction problems. We are able to prevent more children from being born with FAS/FAE.
This is not to say that this is it, but strategy and prevention plans developed by the previous governments will not remain static, but will continue to evolve as we identify new problems, new target groups and, perhaps, even new answers to some age-old problems.
Alcohol and drug abuse remains alive and well in the north and are not problems that can be expected to be solved overnight. I don't believe for one moment that anyone could be convinced of that. What I do know is that there is comprehensive plan before us that is the result of many years of work done by many individuals.
This strategy details direction the government should be working toward in reducing FAS/FAE as well as the steps required to reduce the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse within the Yukon. As we have seen, several aspects of the strategy have been implemented, including increasing staff and expanding prevention and treatment programs at alcohol and drug services.
Alcohol and drug problems are widespread in the Yukon. Most of the focus of the discussion here today has been targeting alcohol. The drug scene, recreational drugs - it's amazing its growth in the last little while in the Yukon and yet, if one looks and one sees what is happening in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia, they're looking at decriminalizing a lot of the drugs.
The drug scene that is occurring in the Lower Mainland that makes the news on a regular basis exists in the Yukon just below the surface and we must be aware of it. Alcohol is not just the problem; we have to target the recreational drugs - the marijuana, the hash, the coke and the many derivatives that are causing problems.
Also included in this class is solvent abuse. We only have to look again to the Lower Mainland to see what is happening with respect to our social assistance paid out and the occurrences of many problems on welfare Wednesday, when people receive their cheques. That problem exists here in the Yukon. It's below the surface, but it still exists.
There is a wide public acceptance of these drugs and it's very disconcerting.
Government can only do so much in addressing this issue. It's up to society as a whole to adopt a different approach to alcohol and drugs. Government plays a role, a pivotal role. That's it, Mr. Speaker. Beyond that, people have to awaken to the realities and be responsible for their own actions.
We are in support of Motion No. 83, as amended by the Member for Whitehorse West. Thank you very much.
Ms. Duncan: Like the speakers before me this afternoon, there has been recognition of alcohol as the single largest issue affecting Yukoners. No one Yukoner has had his or her life in some way unaffected by alcohol. No one government department is unaffected by alcohol.
I'd like to examine the amendment and this issue. To start with, from the perspective of the departments on which I offer suggestions on behalf of our caucus, the first one is Education. How does alcohol impact upon our education and our education system? The most obvious discussion - and it has been a lengthy one this afternoon by many members - is the children affected by FAS and FAE. How do we educate children who suffer in this way?
I'd like to remind members of the preamble to the Education Act, and I know one member in particular, the Government Leader, and members from other parties worked very long and hard on the preamble to the Education Act. I think it's important to remember that we recognize that the Yukon education system will provide a right to an education appropriate to the individual learner based on equality of educational opportunity, prepare students for life and work in the Yukon, Canada and the world, and instill respect for family and community and promote a love of learning. We must remember that that opportunity is open to those children who are affected by the disabilities of FAS and FAE.
There are many issues in education surrounding these children. Is our diagnosis adequate? Is it early enough? Do we have enough educational assistance? Ultimately, we must ask ourselves, are we doing our best by these children? Could we be doing better?
I think we must also ask ourselves, could our teachers' experience - and the Member for Whitehorse West, a former teacher himself, has outlined some of what that experience is - I must ask if our Yukon teachers' experience could help others? There has been much talk about our high rate of FAS and FAE children and how we educate our children in our schools. Recognizing that our front-line staff, our teachers, are doing their very best and that they are living up to the ideals of the Education Act, why don't we praise their experience and, most importantly, why don't we build upon it? We aren't the only place in the world with this situation. Could we be marketing our expertise? Could we be using it, helping others to reach their potential?
FAS/FAE and children afflicted with this disability isn't the only area in education that alcohol touches. I remind members of the comment made by the Member for Riverdale South. As shortly as seven years ago, the RCMP Whitehorse detachment reported that approximately 30 percent of the total files opened in those years had alcohol or drug involvement.
Thirty-five percent of total offences involved alcohol. Other members have noted the community policing efforts going on in our schools, and there has been much talk of "violence begets violence". What situations are our children arriving in at school? And there have been discussions around graduation ceremonies - alcohol or alcohol-free - and there has been mention of the bush parties when school is out.
When I first noted that I wanted to begin to address the amendment and this motion from the perspective of the departments that I offer suggestions on, the Minister of Government Services looked somewhat surprised. Yes, alcohol touches that department as well. The minister is fond of reminding me that Government Services is in the business of spending other departments' money for them.
Alcohol affects this act in two ways: there's a requirement to spend more on health and treatment facilities, if our consumption and abuse goes unchecked; and without the Yukon Liquor Corporation revenues, there wouldn't be the money to spend.
The Public Service Commission offers counselling and assistance for employees and employees' families that are affected by alcohol use. Renewable Resources: where did the whole recycling movement start? It started with recycling liquor containers. Unfortunately, in talking about alcohol and the Department of Renewable Resources, the Agricultural Association, although it is a growing industry, it's unlikely to be promoting growing grapes in the Yukon, even the ice variety.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: That's true. Global warming - you never know. The Member for Mount Lorne is quite correct.
The Department of Tourism: as recently as a few days ago, we heard a member in an aside talk about liquor consumption figures - oh, that had to be because of our tourism industry. I don't think so. I'm not a Yukoner who buys into that theory.
At the same time, when talking about tourism, Chilkoot Ale, as an industry in the Yukon, is a drawing card. There are people who are coming to Whitehorse specifically to purchase that beverage. There's also a very important element of our tourism industry. There's the wilderness visitor, who likes to enjoy a glass of fine wine and a fine meal in our pristine wilderness settings.
The other area I have the good fortune of offering the current government suggestions on is the Yukon Liquor Corporation. There are, no doubt, employees throughout the Yukon who are listening today, who'll be concerned that this debate is translating into some kind of a view that we wish to eradicate the use of alcohol in the Yukon. No one is advocating that we could easily live without the $7.5 million contributed to the coffers by the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
It should be noted, though, that there's also an extensive list of de-alcoholized products that are available through the Yukon Liquor Corporation. The Yukon Liquor Corporation also has a program, BARS - Be a Responsible Server - a commendable program. The Yukon Liquor Corporation also has, as its mission statement, "The Yukon Liquor Corporation, in response to a customer-focused environment, merchandises its products and services in a manner consistent with its economic and social responsibilities." One of the corporate objectives is to encourage social responsibility in the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the Yukon. These are important points.
This Crown corporation does a very good job. We need to remind ourselves always that there is a need for balance in everything we do, and this is not to say that a Yukon-wide, government-wide, department-wide effort to address alcohol is not without opportunity for the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
The Yukon Liquor Act is long, long, long overdue for an overhaul. Indeed, one of the research papers that we have obtained in the Liberal caucus office is the Alcohol Act and Related Statutory Provisions Act of Sweden, and I note that it is published in Sweden by the Minister of Health and Social Affairs. Maybe that's an opportunity for the Yukon. Maybe that's a way for Yukon attitudes to change. Why not have the Minister of Health and Social Services be the minister responsible for the Liquor Corporation?
That's how alcohol presents issues and, yes, opportunities for Yukon in the specific departments. The problems, the issues, and, yes, the opportunities are enormous. In fact, alcohol is such a large issue it's easy to suggest we study this matter, that we revisit one part of it such as refocusing our efforts on enforcement of laws, or simply to see it as a social problem.
The Minister of Health and Social Services talked about reducing the age at which young people take a drink, and I found that particularly interesting. What are we going to do about gripe water? And for those of you for whom this experience may be some time away, let me remind you that gripe water is that magic solution for the first four months of your child's life when you are walking the floor with a colicky baby - gripe water or Dinneford's.
I know of one store in Whitehorse that carries gripe water that doesn't contain alcohol and I have searched every single store. Now, I cannot imagine leaving the Whitehorse Hospital with a brand-new baby, particularly if it were my first, arriving in one of the isolated communities or a community outside of Whitehorse or it being the only store in Whitehorse that's open at the time that you leave the hospital and you can't get the gripe water that doesn't contain alcohol. It's a simple thing, but it's a very important issue because the first age when you taste alcohol could be as young as a couple of months, depending on what brand of gripe water or Dinneford's you use.
The point I'm trying to make is that alcohol is pervasive; it is everywhere and it cannot be examined in isolation.
The question is: what do we do?
There's been much discussion about programs in this House this afternoon. I believe this issue starts with attitude, and again, I'd like to direct comments to the Minister of Health and Social Services. There are changes in attitudes. In 1994, during my first pregnancy, I was not asked at any single point during those nine months by my doctor if I had taken a drink - not asked. In 1996, as short as two years later, I was asked. They were different doctors, different times and different assumptions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: No, my career change occurred afterwards. It's a very good point; however, my career change occurred afterwards.
I noted this particularly because I was serving on the minister's Advisory Council on Health and Social Services at the time and we had several briefings on alcohol and its effect on pregnancy and I noted it. I was pleased to see that there was a change in attitude.
We, as political leaders, must take that absolute first step in the famous 12-step recovery program. We have to say "We have a problem."
We have to take this very, very public first step because, without healthy communities, it won't matter that we have landmark agreements with First Nations governments; it won't matter if there are forests to enjoy and/or harvest; and it won't matter that we have boundless opportunities in tourism; it won't matter if we don't have healthy communities; it won't matter if all that we're remembered for is refusing to admit that Yukon has a problem.
I must remind members that I have stated, and I do believe, that we must see alcohol not only as a problem - there are opportunities, and I have mentioned some of them, and we aren't the only ones with these problems. Let's lead the world in the solutions.
I believe our caucus is asking members to really examine their commitment to admitting we have a problem, because this issue crosses party lines, it crosses community lines, it crosses government lines. I'd like to remind the members of a quote from the Government Leader. As recently as Wednesday, November 19, the Government Leader said, in a news broadcast, that there should be meetings among federal, territorial, provincial and aboriginal groups on an ongoing basis to keep hammering away at social and economic issues.
I'd like to commend the Minister of Social Services for bringing forward the amendment. The amendment is fully aware of what the government's efforts are. It doesn't criticize any specific government, nor does it unduly praise any government. What it does is it recognizes the problem and, most importantly, it commits to a date - to the spring of 1998 - for progress and actions.
This is a very important point, and I commend the member for bringing it forward.
Ms. Duncan: I think the Government Leader's point that I just mentioned, that there should be meetings among federal, territorial, provincial and aboriginal groups on an ongoing basis to keep hammering away at social and economic issues, is an important point as well and it's missing from the motion. I would therefore like to move an amendment to the amendment to Motion No. 83, and add one paragraph as follows:
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 83 be amended by adding, at the end of the amendment, the following:
"THAT the actions leading to the preparation of this report should include consultation with affected government departments, other governments, and non-government organizations dealing with alcohol addiction and abuse."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Porter Creek South
THAT the amendment to Motion No. 83 be amended by adding, at the end of the amendment, the following:
"THAT the actions leading to the preparation of this report should include consultation with affected government departments, other governments, and non-government organizations dealing with alcohol addiction and abuse."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: A point of order has been called.
Mr. Livingston: A point of privilege, I guess, would describe this, Mr. Speaker, if I could ask leave of members of this House to introduce a distinguished guest in the gallery?
Accompanying one of the members of the Yukon Commission on Unity, Ken McKinnon, is Dr. Peter Meekison. Dr. Meekison is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Alberta, having retired from the university in June of last year.
He's here in the Yukon to participate as a panelist in this evening's unity town hall proceedings.
Dr. Meekison is well-versed in Canadian unity matters. He served as deputy minister of federal and intergovernmental affairs in the Alberta government during the constitutional negotiations leading up to the 1982 Constitution Act. He was also constitutional advisor in Alberta during the 1992 Charlottetown Accord discussions.
Dr. Meekison is currently on the executive committee of the Council for Canadian Unity, so I'd ask members to join with me in welcoming Dr. Meekison to our House and to the Yukon. Welcome.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of thoughtful debate this afternoon around the issue of alcohol. This issue begs for strong, courageous leadership committed to making the right decisions for Yukoners.
Members, let's think back for a moment to 1:30 this afternoon. How do we begin our daily debate? We begin it with a prayer that includes, "that we, the elected members, will make only strong, fair, and sound decisions on behalf of the people we represent throughout Yukon." Committing today to deal with the pervasive issue of alcohol it is a sound, fair and just decision. The motion, as amended by the Member for Whitehorse West, as enhanced by the amendment I have put before you, admits to the problem and it proposes that we deal with this in a manner that has been, this afternoon, I believe, thoughtful and from an all-party perspective.
I would strongly urge members to support the motion, as enhanced, before them.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would like to say, first of all, that I think we're in serious jeopardy of breaking one of the long-standing traditions in this House by actually coming to a general consensus and agreement on general principles.
Just following a little bit on this - and perhaps I'd like to speak to this proposed change to the amendment - first of all, I think I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge some of the fine work of the previous government in this field. I think the Member for Klondike has pointed out that some of the ideas began with the previous government, and certainly I would like to acknowledge the work of my predecessors in this regard. I don't think this is an issue where we can be too partisan. I think we have an opportunity to build on successes and build on opportunities.
I guess, in terms of this amendment to the amendment, I don't have any difficulty with this particular proposal, but I just wonder if, in a sense, it isn't - and I'm really raising a question here of wording - a bit redundant because, since we are looking at the idea of a coordinated focused approach, including the work of the Fostering Healthy Communities Committee, part of what we are doing in that is consulting with representative groups, not only within government - and this refers to affected government departments - but also we'd be consulting with other governments, specifically municipalities and First Nations governments in that regard, as well as non-governmental organizations, because I think there are a number of them. I'm thinking particularly of a group such as FASSY in that regard.
hile I'm not opposed to the amendment on principle, I think that the original amendment really does address that, and I would just suggest in that regard, perhaps we might be doing a bit of redundancy there, because I think what the member is suggesting is really contained in the intentions of the original amendment.
As I said, while I am not opposed, I would like to suggest that, perhaps, on the original amendment, this really does address the concerns. I would suggest that the amendment may be somewhat redundant in this case.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, I have no problem at all with the first amendment, but I think I share the concerns of the Minister of Health and Social Services with respect to the subamendment. I know what the member is trying to get at, but I think the first amendment deals with the issue.
The first amendment talks about a coordinated, focused approach of the Fostering Healthy Communities Committee. The approach that's been taken in the recent past and now is to involve consultations with affected government departments, other governments, non-government organizations and such. It has already been done.
I know the intentions of the Liberal Party are well-meant, but again, I think we're just saying what has already been said in the first amendment, that it is being done now. It is being carried out. The consultation, the meetings, the various conferences that take place and the discussions that take place are with First Nations and others. And I think that's going to continue. And indications from the Health and Social Services minister are that it's going to continue.
We certainly support the amendment. I don't really have a problem with the subamendment except the fact that it's redundant and, maybe, Mr. Chair, in light of the fact that both parties - one party who has been in power recently and the party that's in government now - have indicated to the Liberal Party that the kind of thing she wants to see in her amendment are already being done, the member may want to withdraw the amendment rather than vote on it, because I think it is redundant and I think what the member wants to accomplish is clearly going to be done in the first amendment.
Mr. Cable: Speaking just to the subamendment, I appreciate what both the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Member for Riverdale North had to say on the subamendment. They both seem to be saying that what the subamendment proposes is already being done and, of course, that's in their knowledge, but it may not be within the knowledge of the other 32,000 Yukoners.
I think it sends a clear signal to the group that is going to be doing the consultations and reporting back to the House as to what is expected. So at the very worst, it's redundant. At the very best, of course, it assists in clearing people's minds. So if we're all of the mind that it has no down side, which I assume is the case from what the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Member for Riverdale North have had to say, then why shouldn't we be supporting it? At worst, it's simply some extra verbiage and at best it assists those people who are going to be doing that study to ensure that other parties besides government officials are consulted with.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Of course the Member for Riverside knows my aversion to any kind of excess verbiage.
Speaker: Order. You've already spoken.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I just wanted to acknowledge my-
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: I've listened to the Minister of Health and Social Services so much that I think I know what he wants to say, so I can step in and say that, while the element of redundancy with the subamendment has been raised by both the Yukon Party and the minister responsible -
I hear the point made by Member for Riverside who feels that all 32,000 Yukoners, who are going to read this motion that we pass here today, are going to have a clear message from the subamendment, as well as the people who are going to be charged with performing the tasks and it'll be much clearer to them. It's a stretch, I think, considering it's the way the government, which was formally responsible for that portfolio and is now responsible for it, has been conducting its business.
So I don't know if it's needed, but in the interest of ensuring that we have an amicable and forward-looking debate in a kinder, gentler Legislature that we've all been trying to create here, we're not going to raise any opposition to the subamendment as it's proposed. We think that, obviously, the minister has been conducting his affairs and his strategies for dealing with this very serious problem in a consultative approach. Because it is a societal issue, there's absolutely no way that you could do a successful strategy to deal with these problems in any other manner.
We feel good about the position we put forward as an amendment. We feel that it is clear, concise, and outlines a solid strategy and way of addressing this important Yukon societal issue. We will, however, be supporting the subamendment on the basis that perhaps the Liberal Party feels there hasn't been this kind of approach or because the Liberal Party feels it should be stressed more stridently in the motion so that it becomes apparent to all 32,000 Yukoners who will read that motion just exactly what this Legislature meant when they were debating it this Wednesday afternoon.
So on that note, I think this side of the House is prepared to vote on the amendment and subamendment, and get back into the -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Harding: To both, I think, to both the amendment and subamendment, and get back into the main debate.
Subamendment agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the amendment, as amended?
Amendment agreed to as amended
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion, as amended?
Mr. Livingston: On the amended motion, I'm pleased to be able to rise and speak to this motion. It's a motion that expresses a concern that has been around for a long time in this territory and I have no doubt, unfortunately, that it will be around with us for some time to come.
It's an issue, it's a problem. The problem of fetal alcohol syndrome and its effects on our communities is a problem that's going to be around for some time and one that's going to require some persistent effort on our part as a government and on our part as community members, in order for us to adequately address it.
I was pleased to hear from the original mover of this motion, the Member for Riverdale South, references to the necessity of the response to FAS and FAE - the need for it to be an integrated type of response. I think that tells me that simply addressing the problem, the visible problem at the front end, is not quite enough. There're a lot of underlying causes and elements to this particular issue that will require ongoing attention and, indeed, will require an integrated kind of approach, an approach where we consider what left hands and right hands and so on are doing, so that we can be having, kind of, maximum effect, if you like, for the resources that are available.
Just to talk a little bit about the problem of fetal alcohol syndrome and FAE - I won't go back and do the kind of historical retrospective that the Member for Whitehorse West provided us with: the establishment of the Yukon Territory as a result of a dispute around the control of alcohol and many of the historical incidents over the last 100 years that have helped to shape, I suppose, this territory and certainly set the stage for how this particular problem plays out here.
I think, suffice it to say, and certainly I know as an educator that the fetal alcohol syndrome involves serious neurological damage and it's estimated to be the leading cause of developmental handicaps in Canada. That is a problem, Mr. Speaker, that plagues us throughout our communities in a variety of ways, in our health care system, in our education systems, in our justice systems and in our communities at large.
So, I'm encouraged that we're taking an integrated kind of approach; I'm encouraged that we currently have an interdepartmental team that works across departments and works with a variety of community agencies on this particular issue.
I think two of the things that the subamendment provides are that it make this motion an even more constructive motion in the sense that it talks about a specific action, and it talks about reporting on actions that have already been undertaken, and of course, good information helps this Legislature, I believe, make good decisions, helps our communities to make good decisions around what work not only what remains to be done, I guess, but what new initiatives and so on may be appropriate as well.
I think that the subamendment that was tacked on, of course, emphasizes the notion of consultation, the spirit of which, I guess, this government continues to work at - encouraging consultation, of course, with community in a variety of ways, consultation with those people that are most affected by actions that government may take.
As an educator, certainly, since the 1980s, I am aware of too many situations in which young people are affected by fetal alcohol syndrome, how they interact within their schools, how they interact within their communities, how they interact with their families. And, I've had the opportunity to watch some of these young people growing up into adulthood, to watch the particular conditions that accompany FAS youth and the difficulties that that creates - the difficulties that that creates both in a school climate and in the larger community.
There is a sense, I think, among these youth that they can carry out a sequence of actions that accomplish a particular goal and can even develop a fair bit of skill level doing that, and I think that's a potential strength for them, and one of the features that can help us to plan effectively for them. I'm speaking in very general terms, Mr. Speaker, but one of the challenges, certainly, is having young people or anyone who has fetal alcohol syndrome have some sense of what the effects of their particular actions are on other people. That is probably one of the most troubling aspects of FAS - having a young person or other person with FAS have that sense of how their actions might be affecting others. That leads to a lot of problems. It leads to problems in schools, in families, and in the larger community.
So, I'm pleased to note that a number of things are being undertaken and have been undertaken in that regard. FAS youth haven't specifically been targeted, but I would note the relapse prevention program that's been in place that assists a number of young offenders who are assessed as being at greatest risk of reoffending and are living in the community and are subject to an intensive supervision program. The goal of the program is to prevent further offending by closely monitoring individual behaviour associated with any criminal activity that might be undertaken by those youth. So, it's one example of a program that supports these young people.
I note another program - the Mountain Ridge residential treatment program. It is a program that closely supervises care and training for FAS adolescent boys who have been in sexually offending behaviour. To date, I would note that there has been some significant success. None of the residents have reoffended, despite frequent supervised access to the community from that program.
I note as well, Mr. Speaker, the existence of an FAS summer camp. This program for FAS - FAS meaning fetal alcohol syndrome - and attention-deficit disorder boys, the ADD boys, between the ages of eight and 12 - targets boys at high risk of entering the young offenders system.
The boys who attend this program typically exhibit poor behaviours. They can't attend mainstream summer activities, but improvement of behaviour and enhancement of self-esteem are the goals of that program.
I think, as well, that in order to avoid - this is where we really break out into the larger picture, the value of the integrated kind of approach. Working with teen parents will help us down the road in avoiding more FAS babies. Clearly that's a very important matter and something that we want to be doing.
There are a variety of ways, Mr. Speaker, that we can offer integrated support and help to create a setting in which we discourage and indeed work to decrease the number of FAS children - such things as the recreation program. Recently, of course, the Kwanlin Dun summer recreation program was mentioned in this House, and the recreational leadership program that's occurring there. That's a program, of course, that provides a setting for healthy recreational activity for youth.
I note, as well, the Young Women of Grit, which is an outdoor adventure leadership program that was sponsored by the Women's Directorate and Health and Social Services, I'm informed by the Minister of Education, the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate. That, of course, works with young women at building self-reliance, learning respect for nature, body image, motivation, gender equity and goal setting. That's a part of having an integrated kind of approach that helps to support a climate that will, in fact, reduce the occurrence of FAS.
Providing opportunities like the apprenticeship program - the Yukon secondary school apprenticeship program and the apprenticeship program that's out there, and some of the youth training and other training programs that are out there - are all ways that help us create the climate in which these kinds of things - the FAS - will not recur.
The Youth Works is another program that has just recently been announced, of course, by this government. The trust fund, administered by a board of trustees, with a majority of youth members on it, will help to develop lifeskills and prepare young people to live independently, help to address the need to develop work skills, the need to communicate with youth and with the community, an opportunity for youth to volunteer in their communities and to promote appropriate leisure activities in the community.
The youth leadership program, in partnership with Justice, Health and Social Services and the Department of Education, is designed to encourage community involvement in youth activities. And this takes an interesting kind of approach, Mr. Speaker, because what it does, of course, is try to draw them - this one's not aimed at youth but, rather, at the rest of the community -into being partners in promoting youth leadership and providing opportunities for youth activities.
Clearly, this is a partnership. We can't expect our youth to go out there and do it alone. Part of being a community is working together in these things.
Even the things, Mr. Speaker, like the Canada Winter Games, Canada Summer Games and the North American Indigenous Games are all examples of important initiatives that provide opportunity for youth and an atmosphere which helps to build a sense of community and a sense of hope, and those are part of the conditions that help us to avoid any escalation in FAS and help us to reduce the incidence of FAS.
I note also that there were some earlier references to the work of the Yukon Liquor Corporation and its role. Certainly, it is the government's corporation that is involved in the sale of liquor and does reap some profits, but I would note that it also works with the communities in a variety of ways. One example that was shared with me this afternoon is working with the community of Carmacks where the bars are closing at an earlier hour, just as a way of trying to reduce the incidence of alcohol abuse.
I would make one last remark, I guess, with respect to this whole notion of an integrated kind of an approach and the kinds of things that I think about when I think about an integrated approach. One of the most significant roles, probably, that government can play is in assisting communities in developing leadership around issues like this, facilitating and supporting their efforts at addressing problems in their communities, in our communities, Mr. Speaker. If, in fact, our approach is going to be truly integrated, it needs to be the people who are on the front lines, working together as a team to provide, essentially, seamless support, addressing, if you like, the holes and the gaps and the cracks that people tend to fall through, and being able to work at that kind of a community level.
So, Mr. Speaker, my hope is that, as this interdepartmental group does its work and has its discussions, and indeed participates in the preparation of this report that has been proposed by our Minister of Health and Social Services, they'll be looking at ways of enhancing support for community-based efforts at reducing FAS and of creating a climate that addresses this.
I would like to just take a couple of moments because I think this is relevant. It's easy for us to target a particular problem and look at it in isolation. In my remarks this afternoon, I have worked at trying to help us to see the bigger picture, I suppose. I have talked a lot about a number of different programs that work, in fact, to create a more positive climate.
Just to provide a little bit of background, I think it's worth noting that we do have a gap growing in our society. In general terms, in 1984 the median income of families with children in the wealthiest fifth of our society was 12 times higher than the median income of families in the poorest fifth.
By 1994, 10 years later, that value had doubled. The wealthiest families enjoyed an income that was nearly 24 times higher than the poorest of families. I think that that highlights one of the issues that we cannot ignore in this kind of a problem because we know; we don't have to commission another task force or another study to go out and help us to understand that it's often a sense of hopelessness, a sense that there is not a better tomorrow out there that can drive people to do some rather desperate things. Alcohol has been, for a long, long time, used as a crutch in that regard. It has been used and abused as a way of ignoring those kinds of problems that might be sitting on your doorstep.
I would note as well - because this kind of debate does have implications for many of the other debates that go on in this House - we can't deal with FAS in isolation. Recent changes in federal policies mean that money for training programs for aboriginal peoples, for other people who may be unemployed, will be directed more at those - in fact are being decreased. In the case of the unemployed, we simply had money phased out over a period of, I believe it is, three years - basically $1 million in training dollars was phased out.
In terms of aboriginal peoples, it's directed more at those living specifically on reserves. We know that, in this territory, that's not particularly good news for us because that's not how we're organized.
I would note as well, Mr. Speaker, that the reduction in transfers to the provinces of $5 billion between 1996 and the year 2000 for health, post-secondary education, social assistance and community services, also will have an impact on this widening gap that we see occurring in this country and of the implications for problems such as this. We have to remember that alcohol abuse, that FAS, are, in a sense, tips of the iceberg. They're that 10 percent that we see, just a portion of the problem that's sticking up above the water, and we know that it's really that vast chunk underneath that is the problem or the issues that we need to address if we're going to successfully address social problems like this in our community.
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to see all members of the House supporting this amended motion and highlighting it as one that requires our ongoing attention, our work across departments and across the community, if you like. There is considerable work, I believe, that does need to be done. Changing patterns is never an easy task. It takes concerted efforts. It takes efforts over a sustained period of time. It's not just an event, Mr. Speaker, but something that has to occur over a period of time. I'll be looking forward to the report that the minister will be tabling in the House in the spring of 1998 about progress and actions in the area of alcohol and drug services, prevention and treatment.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The issue that we're debating here this afternoon is one that crosses all of our ministries. It certainly has a heavy bearing on my work as Minister of Justice and of Education and for the Women's Directorate. It is also something that is an issue in all of our ridings for all of the MLAs in the House. We've seen that in the productive debate we've had here and the support for the motion as it has been amended.
Alcohol abuse is a concern in the Yukon, and we do need to continue with a coordinated, focused approach to bring back progress in the areas of prevention and treatment.
As the Minister of Justice, I see the effects of alcohol abuse in our courts, in our jails, in probation services, and in a number of other program areas. I'm aware of the destructive effects it has on family relationships. I also see the tragic effects that alcohol has when we deal with people affected with FAS/FAE.
The 1994 Yukon Health Status Report stated that eight percent of Yukoners are grouped as heavy, frequent drinkers - people who drink more than five drinks per occasion, four times a month or more - 12 percent of these being men and four percent being women. Nine percent of Yukoners are classified as heavy, infrequent drinkers.
Yukon women are very concerned about alcohol and drug abuse in their community. In the 1993 report, Multiple Roles, Multiple Voices, a survey of Yukon women's concerns and priorities, Yukon women chose alcohol and drug abuse, along with family violence and child abuse, as one of their three top community concerns. I think we can all recognize the links between each of those problems.
Earlier in this legislative session, I talked about the vision I have for what is needed to reduce crime in our communities. Priorities for action are intended to attack the root causes of crime. Alcohol abuse leads to crime.
We need to reduce crime in our communities. One of the other members spoke about the ongoing expansion of community policing programs in our communities and the very positive steps that individual citizens are taking in making their neighbourhoods safer. That's a good way of reducing crime in our communities.
We need to reduce the impact of crime on victims. Our government has attempted to make that a priority with the Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act and the Family Violence Prevention Act. It is important to make the justice system more responsive and effective and to encourage offenders to take responsibility for their actions.
We need to communicate information about the justice system and crime prevention and improve coordination of crime prevention activities. I see coordinated action to prevent alcohol abuse as an activity that will help prevent crime.
We need to be, and we have been, involving government departments, First Nations governments, non-government organizations, social service agencies and the general public in programs and in discussions about ways to reduce alcohol abuse and to provide treatment.
Data in the Yukon Health Status Report of 1994 indicates that alcohol abuse has an important impact on social and community health in the Yukon. Interventions to minimize the damage of alcohol abuse in the Yukon need to ensure a focus on the social consequences of intoxication, and on the reduction of intoxication.
In the area of prevention, the Women's Directorate has developed a public awareness campaign in response to the escalation of violence and increase in alcohol consumption over the Christmas season. This is done through radio spots and print ads that focus on how to help if someone you know is being abused, the effects on children who witness violence, and what men can do about men's violence against women. This campaign runs through December to the middle of January.
There is no doubt that alcohol makes the problems of family violence worse. I must emphasize though, Mr. Speaker, that in the criminal acts of family violence, alcohol is not an excuse; alcohol is not a cause of violence. It sometimes is a contributing factor, it is a problem that has to be addressed when dealing with family violence, but it is not an excuse or a cause.
The family violence unit is working closely with alcohol and drug services to better understand the relationship between alcohol abuse and family violence. They are discussing ways to make that relationship better understood by community service groups, and to make sure that both the alcohol problem and the violence problem are dealt with.
The Minister of Health and Social Services spoke about the interdepartmental work that's already being done, and so I'm not going to emphasize that point, but I do want all members to know that we've supported the subamendment of the Liberal caucus to ensure that organizations outside of government, as well as government, are involved in looking at solutions.
Alcohol is also a trigger that leads to crime. In a recent court case, a Yukon judge said that for 95 percent of people before him, alcohol had played a part in them being before the court. For an extremely high percentage of the people who are currently on probation, or conditional sentences, alcohol is a trigger.
We have alcohol counselling and treatment programs available in both institutions, and individuals are referred to alcohol and drug services and to other territorial treatment resources.
At the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, specifically, there was a joint educational program offered by the departments of Justice and Community and Transportation Services. The substance abuse prevention program has, as its primary purpose, to increase the offenders' awareness of the cost and benefits of substance use and abuse, both to themselves as individuals and to their family, friends and society. The program is approximately 33 hours long and is offered in a sequence of three-hour sessions.
Through the risk needs assessment process, Correctional Centre staff determine whether it's appropriate for an offender to take intensive substance abuse programming. Offenders are then directed to participate in the offenders substance abuse pre-release program.
This program is designed to help offenders develop a step-by-step relapse prevention and pre-release plan. There are approximately 80 hours of instruction in alcohol and drug education, goal setting, problem solving, behavioural and cognitive coping, social skills training, and relapse prevention training. This individual counselling and general program is offered frequently as a series of 26 sessions, each lasting for three hours.
Probation services also works closely with alcohol and drug services to help individuals.
On October 29th and 30th of this year, the RCMP drug awareness unit hosted a conference to discuss a substance abuse strategy and solutions for the Yukon. Forty-five people from around the Yukon attended. Current federal, territorial, First Nation and non-government substance abuse programs and strategies were reviewed, and duplications of services were identified.
A second meeting of FASSY is tentatively scheduled for spring of 1998 to discuss ways to improve the effectiveness of the programs offered.
Alcohol also causes FAS/FAE. People who suffer from FAS often end up in the court and the correctional system. The Department of Justice is working with other departments to ensure that the needs of FAS and other special needs offenders are coordinated within the department.
A five-step action plan in Justice is being developed to improve ways to identify and diagnose FAS/FAE and special needs offenders, educate Justice staff who work with these offenders; share information between community support agencies and correctional staff, identify policies and programs that need to be modified to address the needs of these offenders, and provide information to help community and family members on how to respond appropriately to these offenders.
As well, Justice with Education, Health and Social Services, Challenge Community Vocational Alternatives and Yukon College are developing a comprehensive interagency approach. They're working already on a feasibility study, funded by the Department of Justice and Human Resources Canada, to examine alternative sentencing models for adult offenders with FAS/FAE.
There's also been collaboration between the Department of Justice, the Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, Yukon College and Yukon Learn to look at offenders and literacy and reintegration.
Alcohol also leads to deaths and injuries on our highways. Justice and Community and Transportation Services cooperated in developing the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act that we brought forward to this House earlier this session. We believe these initiatives will improve the ability of various agencies to deal with impaired drivers and will use existing resources effectively.
The changes should increase levels of personal responsibility for ensuring that safe, sober driving conditions exist in the Yukon. There was significant public support for stronger measures to deal with the problems created when drivers who are impaired, suspended, disqualified or uninsured are on the road, risking life and limb of the public. Our government's sterner measures to deal with impaired drivers is but one aspect of crime prevention where, but for alcohol, there would be no crime.
The Department of Education deals with the needs of many FAS/FAE students in the school system. They held an information workshop on FAS/FAE in April 1994, with representatives from each school. The department has developed a kit of information in consultation with other agencies. This includes the text of the workshop, videos and reading materials.
There are the reports of a Learning For Life conference in October 1996, on fetal alcohol syndrome and effects, and how do we help those students learn: Teaching Students With Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, A Resource Guide for Teachers, a handbook for teachers on children of alcoholics.
The Yukon Education Act provides that all students deserve and are entitled to receive a program outlined and an individualized education program if they are in need of special education programs.
Students in the Yukon do not need a label to get these services. Funding for these services is not limited to those who have a label. Time, energy and resource monies are focused on what a child needs to learn.
We have in place learning assistance teachers who provide school-based support services to support classroom teachers and their students who have mild to moderate difficulties in learning.
There are program implementation teachers, designed to support parents, classroom teachers and multi-disciplinary team for development and implementation of individual education plans for students with disabilities.
There are also educational assistants and school counsellors who work to help all students meet their educational, personal, social, emotional and career development needs.
We have many departmental specialists who are already familiar with the work that has been done in the Yukon on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects and how to work most effectively with the students who have that.
The topic of substance abuse prevention is included in the career and personal planning curriculum in Yukon schools. Teachers deal with FAS- and FAE-related issues on a daily basis. The solution to the FAS problem is prevention. The goal is to have healthy children enter the school system.
We're working with other groups and organizations, such as Health and Social Services, the Child Development Centre, the Yukon Association for Community Living and the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon. We believe that there is a lot of good work underway and we look forward to coming back in the House in the spring with the results of the progress and actions that have been taken in the area of further alcohol and drug services prevention and treatment.
I thank members for their support of this motion.
Mr. Cable: I'll be very brief because I think we'd all like to come to a vote on this issue.
The minister mentioned the anecdotal evidence that she had received from one of the Justice officials that, I believe, was that 90 percent or 95 percent of the people appearing in front of this person were on alcohol-related charges, and this is reinforced by a paper we received that indicated that, in 1989 and 1990, the RCMP Whitehorse detachment reported that approximately 30 percent of the total files opened in those years had alcohol or drug involvement.
If one casts one's mind through an impaired charge, for example, it's amazing the number of costs and the number of players that come to play in the processing of a fairly simple charge such as an impaired-driving charge. Initially, there's the cost of the police, the payroll costs, the vehicle costs, the radio cost, and the backup administration cost in simply apprehending the impaired driver. In the event the driver is not released at the roadside, there are costs associated with retention and custody. Then there's a bail hearing, if in fact the accused is kept in custody. There's the cost of the RCMP, of the justice of the peace, the cost to the accused of being driven home, and there's a cost of the lawyer. And then if we move on to the next step, there's the cost of the courts, the administrative and judicial machinery that's brought into play, and there's the cost of the prosecutor and the cost of the police preparing the prosecutor and briefing the prosecutor. Then we have appearances, or an appearance, in court - the court clerks, the administrative staff, the judicial officers, either judges or justices of the peace - and, if there isn't a guilty plea, the cost of witnesses and a trial. If there is a guilty plea, there is a fine and the cost of processing the money received and disbursing the money.
Or, if there is incarceration, there is the costs of the correction officer's food and accommodation. If there is probation or other forms of punishment, there is a cost of government officers associated with administering those forms of punishment. And if charges are laid as a result of an incident or an accident where someone is hurt or some property is damaged, then there is the cost of civil proceedings.
The costs have been calculated by a group that released a paper called "The Costs of Substance Abuse in Canada". These figures that were given in this paper that I have are slightly different from the figures quoted by the Minister of Health and Social Services, but I think they're of the same order of magnitude and I think they make the same point. The figures quoted in this study indicate that substance abuse - that's alcohol, tobacco and drugs - cost Canadians the figure of $18.45 billion a year, or 2.7 percent of GDP, and the costs specifically associated with alcohol are $7.5 billion per year, or $265 per capita. Working that out in our population and ignoring our higher-than-average per capita consumption of alcohol, that's $8.5 million per year, if I've done my mathematics correctly.
There are very significant costs associated with alcohol addiction. Those are only the costs that could be readily quantified. There are the costs of social organizations that deal with the disadvantaged and the costs associated with their not dealing with other disadvantaged persons.
Those figures don't take into account the personal and psychological costs of people suffering from FAS in a diminished enjoyment of life. They don't catch the psychological costs suffered by children that have to deal with alcoholic parents and the effects on their education and mental health, and they don't really catch the personal costs and energy associated with dealing with alcoholics in the workplace. And they don't really catch the psychological costs to families that suffer from dealing with that problem and the family violence that arises from abuse of alcohol.
Yukoners have really had enough of substance abuse. The paper that led up to the motor vehicle amendments study clearly shows the majority want impaired drivers dealt with by stronger measures. The Talking About Crime report makes reference to alcohol abuse as a common problem in relation to crime.
Then we have the motion by Danny Joe that was introduced in the last Legislature, Motion No. 80, February 15, 1996. This was a cry from the heart as he was witnessing the destruction of Yukon communities.
The consumption of alcohol in this jurisdiction is simply amazing. In Yukon, in 1994 and 1995 - these are the most recent figures we have - there was 12.5 litres of absolute alcohol consumed per capita by people 15 years of age or older. That translates into 725 bottles of beer a year and 162 bottles of wine. That means that every one of us, on average, is sitting at home quaffing back a bottle of wine every other day, or two bottles of beer every day.
These numbers are declining, but they're still a long way above the national average.
Now, I'm going to give the Minister of Health and Social Services a compliment. He's been very amenable today on the motion and on the amendments. I don't take shorthand, so I'm going to translate what he said to me, what I understood him to say. He said four things: there was a change of mindset required, and I couldn't agree with him more; he said Yukon society, and not just government, will have to take the lead role, it's not just a government issue; he said also there's a plethora of present programs, everybody has some idea on how this problem is to be solved; and he also recognized that it's a longstanding problem and we shouldn't expect miracles, if I have understood what he said correctly.
His amendment, as proposed, I think very adequately emphasizes the importance of the issue. It sets a short time line on the calling for a report, and I think in doing so he has backed up the essence of the motion that we recognize and accept the seriousness of the problem. So, I would like to thank the minister for his support on the motion. The Liberal caucus, of course, will in fact also be supporting the main motion. Thank you.
Motion No. 83 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. Harding: I'd like to move, with the unanimous consent of the House, to have the Speaker now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole for debate this evening.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. The time being close to 5:30, the Committee will recess until 7:30 tonight.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 24 - Family Violence Prevention Act - continued
Chair: The Committee will begin its proceedings tonight with further study of Bill No. 24, Family Violence Prevention Act. We have cleared general debate and will go to clause 1.
On Clause 1
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, clause 1 sets out some of the key terms used in the act. However, by way of preamble, I am distributing to the critics the summary of responses obtained during consultation on Bill No. 24.
I also want to respond to some of the comments from members opposite regarding the courts. Some of those comments, as I've been thinking about them since last week, have troubled me a little bit. My duty as Minister of Justice, which brings with it many aspects of the role of Attorney General, compels me to ensure that the government does not do anything which would tend to bring the administration of justice into disrepute. That is a duty we all share.
If there is an anxiety about public safety or the laws of this land, or even dispositions in certain cases, we have an obligation to be circumspect in our criticism of our institutions. It will do us all well to remember that independent courts are a cornerstone of a free and democratic society and criticisms which might scandalize or diminish them as an institution contribute to a lack of confidence in the justice system. Particular cases may attract attention, but we must all get all of the facts first before making criticisms. Members of this House will be no stranger to knowing that reports in the media are not always complete and full reports.
Let me give an example of reporting in the case of Sam, Tom and Tom on October 10, 1997. The court said, "It is a mitigating factor that at the conclusion of this incident there was no violence in excess of the violence involved in a sexual gratification of the accused, which violence is, of course, not to be minimized." What was actually reported in the Whitehorse Star on October 14 left out the judge's last words, which put the decision in quite a different light. As a general rule, our judges work very hard to reach decisions in often very difficult cases.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to, as well, outline some of the key terms used in the act, contained in section 1. The term, "cohabitance" is used to describe who may use, or be subject to, protective orders under the act. It is meant to include extended family members and could include persons subjected to elder abuse.
It also states that the persons do not have to be actively living together at the time the abuse took place to be protected by the orders. If a couple have children, then the orders will apply, regardless of whether or not they have ever resided together or been legally married.
The definition of family violence, as we discussed in second reading and in general debate in Committee, includes intentional or reckless acts or omissions that cause bodily harm or damage to property, threats, forcible confinement, sexual abuse and depriving people of the necessities of life. The terms "emergency intervention order" and "victim's assistance order" are also defined in the preamble. "Intimate companions" does include the broader connotation of close friendship, although it suggests sexual intimacy, but it may include companions who do not have to be sexually intimate to fall into this definition and could include dating couples.
Chair: Given the remarks of the minister, the Chair assumes that all members of the Committee have agreed that we have returned to general debate. Are there any further comments on general debate?
Mr. Phillips: I guess the minister has seen the letter of November 21 from Chief Joe Jack regarding the consultation that took place over the weekend. The way I read the letter it appears that Chief Jack is not entirely satisfied with the process. Is the minister satisfied that she has consulted and has allayed some of the fears that Mr. Jack had?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, my summary of the meeting would be that it was a productive meeting with the chief and a couple of his advisors. All of the people present at the meeting representing Kwanlin Dun indicated that they had no problems with the principles of the bill. They further indicated that they wanted to take advantage of the consultation process that the government is committed to in regard to implementation.
Mr. Phillips: Did they ask for any specific changes to the bill or did the minister give them a commitment that after the consultation the minister would come back to the House in the next legislative sitting with amendments to the bill to accommodate the recommendations in the consultation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The only specific concern that was raised was that the elders council had concerns about losing their bank accounts. We indicated in discussions with the chief that the regulations that were going to be developed would be an opportunity to set a task to ensure people were not suffering undue hardship with the awarding of a victims assistance order by a justice of the peace.
I further indicated to the chief that if those concerns could not be addressed in the regulations and in the implementation process that I would be prepared to look at specific requests for amendments.
Mr. Phillips: Maybe I can make a suggestion to the minister, then. It's a little late for this bill, but maybe if the minister intends bringing other bills of this nature into the House where most of the concerns will surround the regulations, the minister would bring the regulations to consultation first and then bring the regulations with the bill so that people can have a clear understanding of how the bill will actually work. The bill, the way it reads, is somewhat vague in some areas. And the areas of concern that Mr. Jack and others have expressed involve what is going to be done after we're finished here as legislators, so it might give some comfort to individuals. On bills of this nature that seem to have a power respecting people's rights and property, the regulations are written, and at least the groups and organizations have an opportunity to see, in effect, what everything is going to look like when the bill is passed.
I think there is a concern here that this is a bit of a blank cheque, because the officials go off now and consult with individuals and then draft regulations, but there is no real scrutiny, I suppose, of the regulations afterwards, because once the minister feels that she's consulted enough or she has the general consensus on the regulations, she can just adopt them, and they won't come back to this House. So, that's the concern I have. On this type of legislation, maybe in the future the minister could give us a commitment that they will try, at least, to draft the regulations and have the consultation ahead of time and get a general consensus and then come into the House, and we might avoid a lot of the concern that we've dealt with with this particular bill.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member's suggestions. As he knows, the normal course of events is that the legislation, which sets out the principles of the bill, passes through this House prior to drafting regulations. I can, however, assure him that we have a draft implementation plan, and as I have said previously in this House, we intend to continue to have a full and open consultation with the many members of the community who have indicated they have an interest in this bill. Kwanlin Dun, as others, will have an opportunity to participate as the regulations are developed.
Mr. Phillips: I would remind the minister that it hasn't always been done this way. There have been incidences where regulations have been drafted and brought into the House with the bill. So, all I'm suggesting is, on these kinds of bills where we're talking about people's property rights and those kinds of things, and there are the kinds of personal concerns that would arise, that we might, in the future, change the horse and cart around and put the horse in front of the cart so that the individuals, when they're dealing with the bill, could have their anxiety lowered because they would see exactly how the department or the minister intended the bill to work. That's all I'm suggesting. It has been done that way in the past. It has actually been done both ways but, with these types of bills, I would think it might be a suggestion in the future to do it ahead of time and avoid some of the criticism the minister has come up against.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, I think I echo some of the concerns that the Member for Riverdale North brought forward just recently. However, one of the things I'm wondering about is that what we're getting back now is another piece of correspondence from the Kwanlin Dun. I was very thankful for the summary of consultation responses, which is sort of a revised, smaller version of the original correspondence that the minister has received over time.
Now, many of us on the other side also received copies of the letters that the minister has been sent, and the bill is good but the consultation process wasn't as long and wasn't as exhaustive as it could have been. The reason why people are continuing to have concerns is because they think they haven't been heard.
It's too late obviously, at this stage, for the minister to pull this bill out, and the minister has indicated that she won't do it anyway, but what about talking about a review in, say, a year's time, after the bill is proclaimed, like they did in Saskatchewan? Would the minister commit to a review a year after this bill has been proclaimed?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I would like to assure the member that I believe there has been a good consultation process. I would like to remind members that we did receive quite detailed letters and comments from a number of groups and individuals across the territory. We have made a number of changes to the bill in response to the letters that we have received.
I'm somewhat puzzled by the member opposite, in that she has supported the bill in the House. She sent me a letter, I think in January, hoping that we could work together on this bill to ensure that we would be able to bring forward a bill that met the needs of Yukon communities. We have made many, many changes to the bill in order for it to be more responsive to Yukon's needs rather than simply proceeding with an identical bill to what Saskatchewan has in place.
We have had the benefit of a review after the Saskatchewan bill had been in effect for more than a year to also look at making improvements to our act, and I would be very happy to assure the member that after the Yukon's Family Violence Prevention Act has been in place for a year that we would be able to review its effectiveness and see if there is room for improvement, because I think there often is room for improvement.
Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Chair, that makes an awful lot of sense and I'm really pleased to hear the minister's commitment to that very thing. I suppose that I need to be clear that if the department had started the consultations in January, then perhaps there may not have been some of the problems that there have been.
I have to compare this consultation with the consultations that have gone on in Community and Transportation Services in the last couple of years, particularly now the rural services consultation, which I think is an excellent process that the department is going through, as well as the process that they went through with the Motor Vehicles Act amendments. Those were consultations that took a lot of time and they were extremely well done. They brought a lot of people on side.
I am pleased to hear that the minister is committing to a review. I think it makes a lot of sense, and I will look forward to the results of that review, probably two years from now.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I have to say that I kind of wished that the minister would have provided some of this information on consultation more than about five minutes before we're dealing with the bill, because it would have helped to have had some time to go through some of this. I'm just glancing now through the 19 pages of comments by the Yukon Bar Association, family law subsection. I don't want to hold up the bill, Mr. Chair, but in the spirit of cooperation and a better understanding of this, it would have been nice if the minister could have provided some of this ahead of time. There are some criticisms in here, and I don't want to go through every single one of them. Maybe the minister can tell us, in the letter that was written by the Yukon Bar Association, were their concerns addressed?
Like I said, it would have been nice if the minister could have provided us with this ahead of time and then possibly enlightened us on the comments made by the Canadian Bar Association and whether or not they feel that the bill, as it stands, has been changed enough to accommodate their concerns. Can the minister tell us if they feel that way now? Is there a further letter to this saying that they're happy, thanks for the consultation, and everything's fine?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: That's a difficult question to answer because the primary position that the family law section of the Canadian Bar Association took was that they did not believe that the proposed legislation would provide any greater protection to victims of domestic violence than the present legal framework currently relied on in the Yukon to help victims of domestic violence. In general terms, they then went on to say that if we were proceeding with the bill, that they had some suggestions to make.
In general terms, all of the comments that were received were considered by the department. Many of them were acted on. For example, the Canadian Bar Association, as did many other groups, suggested that the word "victim" should not be included as part of the title, and it no longer is. However, in many cases, we had women's groups writing and saying that the definition of "family violence" should include threats and should include property damage, and the bar writing and saying exactly opposite. We chose to make the definition of "family violence" a broader definition that included more acts of violence that we believe are violent. A threat of violence, or damage to property is often violent action toward a family member.
In general terms, I can tell the member that many of the comments or suggested wording changes by the Canadian Bar Association were incorporated into the bill as it presently stands. Then we also reviewed the Saskatchewan bill, and the Bar Association looked at the Saskatchewan bill rather than at the Yukon bill.
Mr. Phillips: Like I said, I don't want to hold this up. I can accept the minister's comments on that. I would agree with the minister that I think this is an important piece of legislation and it's one we should move on now. I think it will make a difference, as I am sure the minister does; that's why the minister has brought the bill before the House.
Like I said, in the future if the minister would provide us with this kind of legal comment from the bar associations she receives so that one can actually go through it and see what other people's views are out there. Maybe the minister could do that in the spirit of cooperation the next time when she brings a bill before the House so that we can get an idea of the kind of support that's out there and we don't have to rise on the floor of the House and demand it, and then get it at the very last minute, because I think that in some cases it might hold up deliberation of the bill because some of us may want to take a little more time in going through it.
So, I'll accept the minister's comments that the Bar Association generally does not, as their opening paragraph states, feel there's a real dire need for this legislation, but if it goes through I take it from the minister that they are in general support of the bill the way it's written. So, I'll accept that, I guess.
I'll just ask the minister in the future to consider the work that we have to do in the opposition when we're scrutinizing these particular pieces of legislation and provide us with the information ahead of time.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to clear the definitions together or one by one?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: One by one.
On "designated justice of the peace," could we get further clarification on how these justices are going to be designated? I know it refers to section 14. Just a brief layman's explanation would be useful.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Justices who can hear applications for orders under this act will be appointed by the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court.
Mrs. Edelman: In subsection (b), it says "any act or threatened act that causes a reasonable fear of bodily harm or of damage to property." Is this in response to the issues from the women's groups?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This definition is used to describe what has to occur before a person is eligible to seek protection. It includes any act or threatened act that can cause bodily harm or harm to personal property. This recognizes that violence may not have actually occurred and that reasonable fear of violence occurring is enough to grant an order.
In other words, you don't have to be hit first. If there is a reasonable fear of a physical assault - an act or threatened act that causes a reasonable fear of bodily harm or of damage to property - that is included in the definition of "violence." The Yukon Family Services Association and the RCMP both suggested that damage to property alone should be sufficient to provide for an emergency order, and that the wording should also include "with the element of fear." So yes, this is in response to women's groups and the RCMP and the Yukon Family Services Association.
Mrs. Edelman: This is an improvement on the situation now?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, there is nothing in place now, so this is an improvement.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, once again on the definition "victim," subsection (b), we have "an intimate companion who has been subjected to family violence by their companion". Now, are we talking here about harassment? Is this part of the harassment issue?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I think that that question goes back to the definition of "family violence," which included in clause (b) any threatened act that causes a reasonable fear of bodily harm or of damage to property. So, there are two elements: an act by the respondent, or something in the classification of a victim in using the definition of "family violence" in conjunction with the definition of "victim".
Mrs. Edelman: So, in this case it doesn't necessarily have to be someone who has been living with the person who is doing the abusing.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No. that is covered under the definition of "intimate companion," people who are in an intimate relationship who may not necessarily be living together under the same roof.
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Chair: Is it the members' wish to pass the subclauses together?
Mr. Phillips: Well, I just have a question about subclause 2(b). That says "a member of a category of persons authorized by the regulations..." Who did the minister have in mind there with respect to the individuals?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The victim's cohabitants and intimate companions or a person authorized by the regulations and any other person who the court allows can make an application for an order. This would apply for a family member, friend, peace officer, victim services worker, or other person set out in the regulations to apply for an order on behalf of a victim. It may also include a shelter worker. That final definition of who will be authorized in the regulations to make an application for an order would be part of the consultations during the implementation process.
Mr. Phillips: Is this clause found in the Saskatchewan bill? Is this something that they have?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: No, this is a strengthening upon the Saskatchewan bill.
Mr. Phillips: I guess my concern is that I don't see a problem if a government worker files the order, but I can see some problems cropping up if a friend or a neighbour files the order and an individual is forced to leave his home. These are usually pretty sensitive and pretty volatile situations. Has there been any thought given to any repercussions that might come upon an individual who files something like this and the fellow was forced to leave his home because the neighbour filed an intervention order?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, thank you, Mr. Chair, the member raises a good point that has been considered. This provision in the bill is in place because it sometimes happens that victims may be unable to or prevented from or simply afraid to apply for an order themselves but may go to someone else for assistance.
In response to the member's question about false accusations, that is why we have strengthened the bill and provided immunity for official acts and also for offences.
So, we'll come to clause 15 and I can read out the definition there, which sets out the offences in clause 16 as well. It is an offence to make a false statement in an application or a hearing under the act, but if you are acting in good faith, then you will not be held liable for damages.
Mr. Phillips: So, what the minister is saying is that if I don't like her Deputy Minister of Justice, who lived next door, I could file an order saying that this fellow is creating an offence under this act, and I would be committing an offence because, in fact, it would be false. Under this act, I could face charges.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, and I'm advised that he would also be exposing himself to civil liability.
Mr. Phillips: I want to make it clear that I'm making no such claim here on the floor of the House. I want to make sure that I'm not exposing myself to a civil liability.
Mr. Cable: What's contemplated in the way of evidence in front of the JP? Would you want a written consent form or could someone just wander in off the street and say that the victim had consented to the application?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The proceedings are informal. It is set out in the bill that the proceedings are informal; however, there is a responsibility to provide evidence before the justice of the peace.
Mrs. Edelman: Back to subsection (b), when we reviewed the Saskatchewan legislation - I need to be clear about this with the minister. Is this clause partly here because victims felt revictimized by going through the process of swearing out an order or swearing out a process against the person who has abused them?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I guess there are a couple of responses to that. It's often the case that a victim cannot take on the responsibility of going through a formal court process when they have been recently victimized. That's one reason for this bill setting out an informal process, whereby they can apply for an emergency intervention order.
Mr. Phillips: I want to explore this a little more, just so I know how this works. I know we aren't at clause 16 yet. I guess we've sort of cleared up that a person commits an offence if they knowingly make a false statement under the application, but the concern would be that they hear some hollering and shouting going on, they phone the RCMP figuring something's happening and, in fact, it may be just a disagreement. Maybe people holler and shout at each other when they discuss matters, I don't know. I'm just wondering where we go with this. Maybe the minister could explain how this would work when it's in place.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It's not simply a matter of somebody coming in, standing up and saying they heard some yelling and shouting next door, and they think that they should help someone to get an emergency intervention order. At the hearing of an application for an order, the standard of proof is to be on a balance of probabilities. There is a requirement for evidence to be presented before a justice of the peace, who would be trained to understand the dynamics of violence in family relationships. There also needs to be the consent of the victim. I think both of those are factors that help to prevent misuse of this bill.
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Mr. Phillips: The minister just touched on the training of JPs. Can she elaborate on that? Is there some more training we're going to do with JPs, and when is it going to be done? What is it going to involve? Can the minister just touch on that for us?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, that question will be determined in consultation with the Chief Judge after reviewing the report from Ted Hughes on the operations of the court. This section of the bill stresses the informality and the privacy of hearings. We want to ensure that all participants clearly understand what is taking place and that hearings should not be formally structured or contain a lot of legal jargon. We want everyone to understand the proceedings and the resulting orders. It also provides for protection of privacy for the protection of the victim and any children of the victim.
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Chair: Is it the members' wish to clear the subclauses together?
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, on subsection 3(e) there were concerns from Kaushee's, Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, CYFN and the Kwanlin Dun about this particular clause. Have any of those concerns been answered? Perhaps the minister can elaborate.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Is the member inquiring about clause 4.(3)(e), which is the provision that may require the respondent to surrender all firearms in their possession to a peace officer for whatever period - up to 180 days - that the justice decides? If that is the clause that she is inquiring about, could she specify what her question is, because I don't see that mentioned in the letter from Kaushee's Place or Kwanlin Dun?
Mrs. Edelman: It was 4(3)(e) which is the one that the minister just spoke about. What they were talking about and I'll just go through it here, if the minister could give me a second. There was a concern that basically you wouldn't be able to do this. I'm just wondering under what authority, other than this act? Is this normal that you can go in and take people's firearms?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It's not normal to have a provision to require a respondent to surrender firearms, but where you have legislative authority, where you have a judicial order coming from a justice and where you have a test of reasonableness, all of which are set out in the bill, then it is possible, where someone is being violent toward family members, for an order to be made to remove firearms to protect family members.
Mrs. Edelman: Am I to understand then that there are other pieces of legislation that allow for people to come in and take away people's firearms?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, section 103 of the Criminal Code.
Mrs. Edelman: Then is this any improvement on that particular piece of legislation, or is it just a repetition?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This provision links the seizure of firearms to a reasonable apprehension of harm. In that sense, it is an improvement. It also links the seizure of firearms to what is often a dangerous as well as violent situation, where one family member is being violent toward other family members.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I certainly don't have a problem with that. I think it makes a lot of sense to take the guns away before somebody gets shot.
What happens with the firearms?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The firearms are held by the police by a period of no longer than 180 days as set out in this provision, or a shorter period of time as set out in the provision.
Mrs. Edelman: And so in the appeal process, the abuser, I guess, can come and get those firearms back if they want to? Is there an earlier way of getting their firearms back?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, theoretically, the firearms could be returned the next day, because there is an ability to appear before a judge and apply for an amendment or a variation of the order. There is an opportunity to appear before a judge and vary the terms of the order.
Mr. Phillips: This is an area where I have some concern, as well.
Is the minister saying that the justices of the peace may bring a provision in requiring or responding to a surrender of firearms? What if an incident happens where an individual is threatened with a firearm? Shouldn't it be that the justices of the peace shall remove the firearm for 180 days?
We're trying to send a message out here about the misuse of firearms, and firearms have been known in many cases to be the lethal weapon in killing women who are being abused.
My view, Mr. Chair, is that if anybody at any time uses a firearm to threaten anyone, it should be over. They should no longer have the ability to possess that firearm or any other firearm. And let's just send a clear message out there, once and for all, that use of a firearm will not be tolerated.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: First of all, Mr. Chair, in response to the first question, the first clause of this subsection in clause 4(3) is that "An emergency intervention order may contain any or all of the following provisions;" and we are discussing one of the several provisions that are listed. The situation that the member has described, where someone has threatened another person with a firearm, is a Criminal Code offence. There is already a stronger remedy available under the Criminal Code.
Mr. Phillips: Okay, Mr. Chair, but unfortunately the stronger remedy under the Criminal Code gives people back their firearms as well. It's not an ultimate ban forever of the use of firearms, and what I don't understand is why, when we have the ability to make powers, can we not make our law strong enough so that if somebody threatens somebody with a firearm they cannot use the firearm any longer, that they lose their firearm, the rights to use firearms forever? Why can't we do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the responsibility that we have is to build a piece of legislation that fits all circumstances, so there is a requirement to give the judicial officer some discretion or we are threatening the ability to have that provision in effect.
Mr. Phillips: Well, I can understand a provision like this being in place if someone threatens an individual, but doesn't use a firearm in the threat, but there are firearms in the house and there's the potential that they could be used in the future. I can understand that. But what I would like to see in a piece of legislation like this is, if they use the firearm as the weapon in the threat, why don't we take a stronger stand? The next time the individual might be killed with that firearm. I don't think there would be a member in this House that would argue that they wouldn't support banning for life the use of a firearm if somebody used the firearm to threaten somebody's life. Let's send a real strong message to people out there that you don't point firearms at people and threaten them with it. We can be different from other jurisdictions. This is important.
I understand that there needs to be discretion and I don't have a problem with a clause like this if it just deals with somebody threatening somebody with a knife or if they threaten somebody with some other weapon in the house or even, as this act says, the indication of a threat and there's no violence actually attached to it, other than the threat at the time. I can understand this provision being used to maybe remove the firearm from the house for a month or three weeks or whatever -while there is a cooling-off period or whatever. But, I can't understand, for the life of me, why we don't come down very hard with our legislation with respect to somebody who might use a gun - a firearm - in the actual threat. Why don't we do that?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I agree with the minister that we are dealing with a very serious criminal activity and that we should be bringing forward some strong legislation to deal with it. First of all, I would inform the member that we are bringing in a stronger bill than is the case of either Prince Edward Island or Saskatchewan by including this provision for authorizing a peace officer to require the surrender of firearms. We do have a requirement, however, to build in some flexibility.
Mr. Phillips: But, there's a principle here, Mr. Chair.
I agree with the minister's argument that there should be some flexibility if a person is using something other than a firearm, but if someone uses a firearm to threaten somebody there should be no flexibility - none.
The message we want to send out there is that you don't use a firearm to threaten anybody, ever. And, I don't understand. We are just facing some laws that are being brought down on us by the federal Liberal government with respect to firearms that are not dealing with the problem. And here we have in front of us an opportunity to deal with the problem, and I'm saying let's deal with the people who make the threats. Let's deal with the criminals, and let's not give anybody any discretion to give the gun back the next day, for any reason whatsoever.
The only way you're going to stop people threatening people with guns is to make sure that everyone knows that if you ever, ever think of doing that, and ever do it, you'll never have a gun in your hands again - for any reason - for hunting or trapping or recreational shooting, or anything. If you use a firearm to threaten an individual - a spouse - then you just lost your right, for the rest of your life, to ever own one. Let's do something here that makes a difference and not give somebody the discretion to give the firearm back in a week, and a month down the road, the police open the door of some house and find a woman on the floor with her brains blown out with a firearm. Let's not give anybody that opportunity.
We're making the laws. We're told time and time again by the judiciary, "You make the laws." I know how the minister feels about these things. I know the minister feels very strongly about them, but the minister would feel sick if somebody got their firearm back a week later, and then this individual shot someone with that very firearm.
So, let's just send a message. I don't understand the reluctance. I understand - like I said - putting a provision in there if there are firearms in the house. That's a safety feature. It can be a dangerous weapon in the hands of somebody who is maybe unstable in these kinds of circumstances.
If they use it in the threat, they lose it. They use it, they lose it. Let's do something about it. We're here right now. Let's do something about it.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I have some comments to make and then a suggestion to make in response to the member, and he is right that I do feel very strongly that when people are dangerous and are threatening other people's lives that they should, as much as possible, not have the ability to carry out those threats toward other people's lives.
There are three conditions for constitutionality of territorial legislation. One is that territorial laws can exist parallel to federal laws. They can be concurrent with federal laws but they cannot be in conflict with federal laws. We, as a territory, must yield to federal jurisdiction in criminal law.
I would like to suggest to the member - since my deputy has been writing some proposed amendments - that we set aside clause 4 and that we look at a possible amendment to strengthen clause 4(3)(e) over the break and move on to clause 5 at this time.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, I can agree with that, and I know how the minister feels about these things, and I guess I can understand, as well, that we are bound by the federal government's jurisdiction in this case, but let's go as far as we can possibly go with this one with our Yukon law. This is one that I think we could use to send a clear message out there. I would agree to stand this aside and deal with it after the break.
Mr. Cable: Just to find out where we are going, would the four-year minimum sentence under the Criminal Code be attractive to the respondent if there were firearms used with respect to the victim?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Could the member try to explain what his question means?
Mr. Cable: If in fact there are threats given when the respondent has a weapon, is the Criminal Code section - as amended by Bill C-68, which made a minimum four-year sentence for the use of firearms in connection with some crimes - applicable in this situation?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, Mr. Chair, the Criminal Code track and the territorial law would be running parallel to each other. So, if there was a Criminal Code charge and conviction, the mandatory four-year weapons prohibition under the Criminal Code law would apply upon conviction.
Mr. Cable: This would seem, to some extent, to meet the Member for Riverdale North's problems. There are situations, of course, where the firearms aren't used in relation to the threat, so this act then would buttress the amended gun control laws of Bill C-68, the four-year minimum provision?
I just want to get the Member for Riverdale North on the record supporting Bill C-68.
Mr. Phillips: That Liberal member will never get me on the record supporting Bill C-68, Mr. Chair. I would remind him that it was his party that supports Bill C-68, not our party.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I feel like there's an attempt here to catch me in the crossfire between the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party, both in opposition. I think I'll give the floor to Mrs. Edelman, who has a question.
Mrs. Edelman: Quickly, before this gets out of control, the Yukon Liberal Party voted against Bill C-68, but back to clause 4, on clause 4(1)(a), one of the things that's good about this bill is that it allows victims to get help without having to lay charges, and that's particularly important to victims who are out in small communities where laying charges often has tremendous repercussions for many, many years. Now, in 4(1)(a) it talks about "reasonable grounds" and if the "designated justice of the peace has reasonable grounds to conclude that family violence has occurred or is likely to occur." Now, what happens with mandatory charging - the RCMP's directive for mandatory charging under that circumstance?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I believe that we did discuss this in general debate; however, I can certainly repeat that the RCMP have advised that their mandatory charging policy would remain in effect.
Mrs. Edelman: So that really, the advantage of not laying charges only happens when you're being threatened with violence, then?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The member is right. If family violence has occurred, the mandatory charging policy that is in effect within the Royal Canadian Mounted Police force occurs.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to stand clause 4(3)(e)?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Clause 4(3)(e) stood over
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Chair, we're still on clause 4, aren't we? You stood one section aside?
On clause 4(3)(a) I asked the member this in, I think, second reading, and I'm not sure if I got a clear answer. How does this work on First Nation land? Can the minister elaborate on how that would work, please?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: As we discussed in second reading and in general debate in Committee, the laws of general application apply. On First Nations land, unless and until a First Nation passes their own laws on the same subject matter, federal and territorial laws apply, whether it is the Family Violence Prevention Act or the Motor Vehicles Act or the Criminal Code.
Chair: Is it the members' wish to take a recess?
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will go to clause 5. Is it the members' wish to review the subclauses together?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, on clause 7(1)(a), there were some concerns from the Bar Association about third-party rights. I wonder if the minister can be a little clearer on that.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the victims assistance orders are similar to the emergency intervention orders, but they are granted in a more formal court process by appearing before a judge. All family members, including the respondent, have the ability to appear before the judge and to present their case.
Mrs. Edelman: I think that maybe I'm not being clear enough. In 7(1)(a) when you're talking about ownership of a dwelling, say, what if the dwelling is owned by another party and the other party doesn't want to have the victim or the abuser in their home?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: This bill does not change third-party rights. They remain the same.
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Mrs. Edelman: Actually, you've gone so quickly - I had another issue back on clause 7, but in clause 9(a) there were problems in Saskatchewan losing orders. We talked about this in general debate before and I'm wondering if the minister could speak to some initiatives that she may have thought of that would help to eliminate that problem here in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: We do have a court registry and we don't as a practice lose orders. We will certainly endeavour to ensure that no orders are lost. We also have a copy of the Saskatchewan evaluation and suggestions that we will be looking up at as we continue with the implementation plan and continue to consult with people in regard to the implementation. If the member has specific suggestions that she wants to make, I would be happy to entertain them now or during the consultation process on the implementation.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have gone through so quickly. I had questions on clause 7. I wonder if it would be acceptable to go back to clause 7?
Chair: Is there consent of the members?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Clause 7 revisited
Mrs. Edelman: This talks about a provision recommending that the respondent receive counselling or therapy. How enforceable is this particular clause?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: The court may choose to include a provision in the order recommending that the respondent receive counselling or treatment. This would not force the respondent to do so, but would help to show good faith on the respondent's part if he or she chose to accept the recommendation and then later made an application to have the order reviewed. It would certainly be in the interests of the respondent to accept and act upon the recommendation to receive counselling; however, it is not mandatory. We can't force people to take counselling that they're unwilling to take.
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Mr. Phillips: I'm not sure if this is the area here, but I have a concern about a case where an individual - a victim, a woman - receives an order, and the person who is accused of assault is removed from the premises. The premises are rented. The woman doesn't have a job. What happens in this case? It says here that she can stay on the premises, but what happens when it comes time for rent and she has no visible means of income and he was the main breadwinner of the family and paying all the rent. Is he required to continue to pay the rent, even though he's not supposed to be in the dwelling, so that she can remain in the dwelling? What happens in that particular instance?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the bill does not change the legal relationship between a landlord and a tenant. So, in the situation that the member describes, if the tenant, who has been paying the rent, is the abuser who is now being removed from their home, they still have an obligation to pay the rent. Further, under the earlier provisions of the bill that set out some of the possible conditions of an order, the respondent may be required to provide funds to the family members who have been victimized in order to provide for their well-being, whether it's grocery money or rent money.
Mr. Phillips: If the individual doesn't pay, is that just a violation of the court order, and they're taken to court? How would you recover - what I'm worried about is if the individual disputes it, or doesn't pay, or runs off, or whatever. What happens to the abused individual if they're left in the house with no visible means of income and, in fact, no means of support whatsoever?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, the bill is intended to deal with emergency situations and to look at the point at which the family violence has just occurred or is about to occur and applies for orders of a relatively short-term duration. We have created an offence section which does carry penalties with it. If a respondent has been issued with an order that he continue to pay the rent, and if he chooses to ignore any portion of the order, that is an offence. We're coming up to the sections of the bill that spell out the penalties for an offence.
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Mrs. Edelman: On clause 14, in Saskatchewan, justices of the peace were new justices of the peace that they brought in just for this act - the ones that were designated. Is that what the minister is contemplating with justices of the peace here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, we already have an existing complement of JPs; however, it is not ruled out that we may appoint additional JPs.
Mr. Cable: The appointment appears to be solely at the discretion of the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court, and the whole theory behind this bill is that there are JPs spread out all around the territory that can deal with these matters in the outlying communities.
Is it anticipated in the regulations that that sort of thinking will be put into practice, or is it going to be left solely to the discretion of the Chief Judge?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Just to give the member the explanatory note on this section of the bill, this section sets out that only the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court can designate which justices of the peace can hear applications and grant orders under this act. This is in keeping with the responsibility of the Chief Judge for the judicial management of the justices of the peace and the assigning of cases under the Territorial Court Act. The consultation surrounding implementation will include discussions with the judiciary as to the training needs of the justices of the peace who are designated under this act.
The statute also sets out the ability where a justice of the peace is not available in a rural community for an application to be heard by phone or by fax so that a JP could be available in Whitehorse on a 24-hour basis, and if there was not a justice of the peace available in a rural community, there could be a phone call or fax sent to Whitehorse.
Mr. Cable: The minister's thinking, though - whatever the mechanics, and I leave that to her - is that there will be justices of the peace out in the rural areas in most communities, available at most times, with backup from Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Yes, and we do have an existing complement of JPs in most of the rural communities as well now.
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
Clause 4(3)(e) revisited
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, I move
THAT Bill No. 24, entitled Family Violence Prevention Act, be amended in clause 4(3)(e) at page 10 by adding after the word "decides", the following:
"or, where a firearm has been used or its use threatened, the justice shall require the respondent to surrender all firearms in his possession to a peace officer for whatever period up to 180 days that the justice decides."
Chair: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice
THAT Bill No. 24, entitled Family Violence Prevention Act, be amended in clause 4(3)(e) at page 10 by adding after the word "decides;" the following:
"or, where a firearm has been used or its use threatened, the justice shall require the respondent to surrender all firearms in his possession to the peace officer for whatever period up to 180 days that the justice decides."
Mr. Phillips: Well, Mr. Chair, it's kind of like the first - the way the bill was written originally, it had one little baby tooth in it and this one sort of has the second little baby tooth in it. I'm a little concerned that no matter how hard the baby's going to bite, it's not going to hurt anyone that much.
I'm pleased that the minister took some time to go back to the drawing board to bring a little more strength to this section of the act, but I do have to tell the minister that I am a bit disappointed in the minister. I heard the Government Leader tell us in the last election campaign that he would challenge the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on the issue of local hire. Here we are today, and the minister's made the argument that we can only go as far as the federal government allows us to go because it would probably be challenged in court.
Well, this is one of those issues that I would feel as strong as the Government Leader did on local hire. I would feel as strong as him on this issue respecting firearms. It wouldn't bother me in the least to put a law in place here that we would ask our lawyers to stand up in court and defend at any time.
I know that if we did that, we'd be doing the right thing. I think this is just as important an issue as local hire - in fact, more important. The safety of women and domestic violence in this territory is supposed to be an extremely high priority with this minister. I don't see that priority being reflected in this act, at least not on the same strength or terms that the Government Leader puts the local hire priority.
This is one of those things, I think, that you make a statement on, you go to the wall on and you say that we're not going to tolerate it any more. Although I'll support the amendment because it strengthens the act, and thank the minister for taking the time and listening to what I had to say, I still have to tell the minister that I'm disappointed in the minister in not going the extra mile and not making as strong a statement as she possibly could in stating clearly - clearly - to the Yukon public, to the federal minister and to anybody who wants to listen, that the use of firearms to commit a crime in this territory won't be tolerated.
I know the constraints the minister is going to stand up and say she's under, but I think the minister could have gone a little further. We could have spent some money somewhere down the road on a challenge, but at least we'd be standing up for what we believe is right and what we believe we should be doing in this Legislature as lawmakers.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Chair, the Government Leader was quite right to push issues of civil law in relation to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as far as we may. There is a difference. As Minister of Justice, I am constrained by the Charter, especially where significant rights are involved, both personal and property rights.
I've heard what the member has to say. On this subject, I need to take the legal advice that I am receiving. I would like to say to the member that this law, I believe, makes a very strong statement in support of the rights of victims and in support of holding offenders accountable.
Mr. Chair, I would like to move that the proposed amendment to the bill proceed, however there is an omission, in that the amendment should read, "or where a firearm has been used or its use threaten, the justice shall require the respondent to surrender all firearms in his or her possession to a peace officer for whatever period up to a 180 days that the justice decides."
Mr. Phillips: I don't know if we can do this, but I don't have a problem with that being included in the initial amendment so we don't have to go back through the whole drawing board for it. I think it could be quickly changed that way. I see my Liberal colleague nodding in approval as well - or nodding asleep, I'm not sure. He's nodding in approval, he's nodding in approval. So, I would think that that could be changed without a problem.
Mr. Cable: The previous speaker's Liberal colleague was in fact nodding in approval. And I think this accords with the rule that we passed earlier under the standing rules that there be gender neutral language. I'm actually quite surprised that this one slipped by the minister because I can remember her educating me with little notes that she sent forward during the last Legislature instructing me not to call the chairperson a chairman.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, thank you Mr. Chair, I certainly appreciate this spirit of harmony we have on this. The suggestion has been made from the Clerk's table to be consistent with the wording in the previous clause that the word "his" in the amendment should read "their", "surrender all firearms in their possession." Is there agreement on that word? That covers both genders, yes, to the Member for Riverdale North.
Chair: Is there agreement on the word change?
Mr. Cable: I wonder if I may just make a comment as the Legislature's pettifogger here. Their possession? Isn't that plural? Shouldn't we using the term "the respondent's possession"?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, I'd refer the members to Casey and Swift's language text and the word there is commonly used as a pronoun in both the singular and the plural to deal with exactly the question of gender-inclusive language. It is used elsewhere in the bill and I think it would be good to use it here.
Chair: Do members agree to change the word to "their"?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Amendment agreed to
Clause 4 agreed to as amended
Preamble agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I move that Bill No. 24 be moved out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 43 - An Act to Amend the Public Health Act - continued
Chair: Committee will now go to Bill No. 43, An Act to Amend the Public Health Act. Committee is on clause 4, section 3.
On Clause 4 - continued
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Having laboured through all that pedantic kind of stuff with the previous bill, I'm glad to move on to something more exciting. Just on a point of clarification, I had a question the other day about immediate threats to public health and safety. With respect to health issues, public health officials often are called upon to take immediate action where there're conditions which could affect the health of a group of people. For example, contaminated food or water in a restaurant may lead to the shutting down of a restaurant until the source of contamination is found.
With respect to safety issues, public health officials are called upon to deal with conditions which do not fall under the authority of some other agency. Since the Yukon is a large jurisdiction, geographically, there are sometimes few resources on site to deal with safety matters. Many times, for example, in the case of health, spills or fires, public health officials have been called in to try to determine if there is a possible effect on the health of people in the area and to recommend taking certain kinds of actions to ensure to safety.
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister elaborate as to the ranking order in the event that a municipality appoints a health officer and the commissioner appoints one? What's the pecking order? Who is going to be senior, and how will they work together? Where is that spelled out, Mr. Chair? It just looks like they both have the same rank, but obviously, someone has to take precedence and someone has to be senior. Now, where is that spelled out, and how is it spelled out?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I suppose the best example would be that the medical officer of health for the territory would address issues of, say, a larger, I suppose, territory-wide significance - for example, an outbreak of an infectious disease that might transcend the boundaries of one jurisdiction, disseminating information on a potential health hazard. For example, very recently the medical officer of health spoke of the need for people to be tested for hepatitis C.
Where I would see the medical officer of health in the municipal jurisdiction focusing in on issues which are possibly specific to that jurisdiction - say, for example, there was contamination at a campground or something of that nature. So, I would see it basically more that the territorial medical officer of health would deal on larger issues than perhaps the local municipal officer.
Mr. Jenkins: It's not very comforting to hear those kind of words from the minister, that he "would suggest or understand that it would work this way" because, in fact, when you get right down to the actual interpretation, as it presently sits, various federal agencies have responsibilities for various areas. But, they do cross each other and one would want to make the process as simple and outline it as simply and slowly as possible to address the specific area.
Now, we're looking at two different categories. We have a health officer and then a medical officer. I can see the medical flowing very simply and not having a problem in that respect, but when one looks at the municipality and the way it's spelled out in section 5, the clause 4(4), if the Commissioner in Executive Council and the municipality each appoint different persons to be health officers, they both may act. So, that would suggest to me that they are both equal, in the same role and the same function. What I'm suggesting to the minister is that we have to have an authority that is senior, one to the other, for this to work.
Could the minister explain how he envisions this to function in the manner that it's set out in this section of the act?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Presently, the medical officer of health for the territory would have overall authority in the case of - how can I put it - I guess a generalized medical emergency, so, if we take it on that basis, the medical officer of health for the territory would have the over-arching power. I don't think that this really interferes at all with the ability of a municipality to appoint their health officer. As a matter of fact, it permits it, and basically all this really does is just set up the ability for a community to have its own health officers.
Mr. Jenkins: But we are creating a whole new area in which health officers can be appointed. Previously, it was a federal responsibility. The line of command and the line of communications was very straightforward, just straight and vertical, and then it flowed out the bottom very, very well; and, other than some federal overlapping, there didn't appear to be very much of a problem. Now, under the terms of this act, as proposed, what is being introduced is a whole new category which could appoint medical health officers for each health district. We're creating a whole new category, but nowhere in this act does it spell out the line of command as to who is responsible overall and who has the supreme authority. Unless I'm missing something, Mr. Chair, they're equal and it doesn't appear to be reasonable to have two individuals sitting equally on such an important issue.
Now, could the minister show me, in this act, where the lines of authority flow and how they flow, because I can't find it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As it's unlikely that we'll complete this this evening, I can stand this section aside until I get a clarification of the actual roles and responsibilities there that would impact on each other, if that's acceptable.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Edelman: I have a similar concern, although what I'm wondering about in this area is what happens when the position is vacant? How long can the position remain vacant? When there was devolution, the public health officer position was vacant for a very long time. How long can this occur that is acceptable? Is there a period of time where you have to put a public health officer in, and if there isn't one in the community then you have to appoint one?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I don't think there's any time limit. One of the difficulties we often have with appointing health officers, particularly medical health officers, is the fact that, increasingly, where physicians have served this capacity before, there is generally an understanding and agreement - and certainly it was the recommendation of the previous medical health officer of the territory - that the individual coming into the position should have specialized training in public health, and that's sometimes not as readily available.
Very often, this is a further graduate requirement of physicians. A physician may be trained as a general physician or perhaps even a specialized physician, but very often it requires further graduate training in public health as an area of specialty. Our previous medical health officer felt very, very strongly about this, and it was also a recommendation from other individuals and other parties that this kind of training be available. So, it's more a function of being able to secure people with the appropriate credentials.
Mrs. Edelman: It leads to an even more interesting question, then. What if the municipal health officer had the training and the territorial officer didn't? Who's got precedence? It's starting to get very, very complicated here.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I highly doubt that we would appoint a medical health officer who didn't have the adequate training. One of the things that this act does is set out some regulations respecting the qualifications of health officers to make sure that qualified people are appointed. That has been one of the difficulties in the past, and that's something that we're trying to correct with this legislation.
Mrs. Edelman: So, in these regulations that we don't have, do they speak about vacancies in the positions, as well?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I would doubt that they would speak specifically about vacancies. As I said, sometimes vacancies, in this particular field, are more of a function of just the ability to recruit. I know, for example, in recruiting for our present medical officer of health, after our former officer left, we were very fortunate in being able to recruit an individual who had actually taken that kind of specific training. That's certainly an area that we want to continue to pursue - making sure that people have a specialty area in the whole field of public health. It is a very specialized kind of area.
Mrs. Edelman: It still leaves us with the question: how long do you leave the position vacant? Do you leave it vacant for two months? Do you leave it vacant for six months, a year, five years? At what point do you decide that you have to fill that position? It's a very necessary position in the Yukon, I would assume. There needs to be somewhere in here recognition of that - that there needs to be someone in that position.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I can just assure the member that in that case, because it is a position that is so necessary and because it is a position that you really do require, because of issues such as communicable diseases and things of that nature and being able to inform the public, we tried to do it as expeditiously as possible. Now, we are fortunate here in the fact that we have a very cooperative medical community and, I suppose, in a pinch, one of their members would serve in that capacity as an acting officer. But, as I indicated before, our goal is to try to get an individual who is as best trained in that area as possible.
Mrs. Edelman: It does make sense that, at some point in the regulations that we don't have, perhaps we could note that we don't want to leave that position vacant for longer than, say, three months without at least appointing somebody in an interim capacity. I think that makes a lot of sense, just to protect us in case something does come up quickly, which does happen if there is an emergency or if there is an epidemic that comes on quickly.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I'll certainly forward that on. I think it's a suggestion that has some merit.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know in the past it's been difficult filling this position, Mr. Chair, and if that is the case, what is the rationale for allowing each municipality to get involved and find someone of that calibre to fill that role? What's the rationale behind having each municipality as a health district? Why, when we are so small a population centre, would the minister even consider having a health district in each municipality?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I think the goal in that case is just to empower municipalities. If this is a responsibility that they wanted to draw down or they wanted to enact on their own behalf, we certainly don't want to restrict the powers of the municipality in this regard.
Mr. Jenkins: What led to this decision? Certainly, this didn't come right off the wall. There had to be some background for it, and there isn't anything there. It is not an area that you'd want to devolve to the smaller Yukon communities.
Perhaps Whitehorse could entertain providing someone in this capacity, but I can't see how it would work in rural Yukon. It could lead to all sorts of cross-odds and cross-workings between someone appointed by the municipal government and someone appointed by the Executive Council.
Could the minister just explain his rationale behind that, please?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If I could just respond to this, this is not a new section. This is basically to formalize a current practice. The current act does authorize municipalities in this regard; however, in actual practice, the medical health officers and health officers are appointed by the territorial government. But basically we have just left the authority of municipalities to appoint their own health boards and health officers to be unchanged and they can take it if they choose to.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Mr. Phillips: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has consider Bill No. 24, Family Violence Prevention Act. and directed me to report it with amendment.
Further, Committee considered Bill No. 43, An Act, to Amend the Health Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
I declare the report carried.
Order. The time being 9:30 p.m. this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 26, 1997:
Oil and Gas Act (Bill No. 22): revised French text (Moorcroft)
The following Document was filed November 26, 1997:
Non-security deficiencies at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre identified in the Barr Ryder Report (Cable)