Wednesday, March 31, 1999 - 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.
Are there any tributes?
Recognition of International Year of Older Persons
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, 1999 is the International Year of Older Persons. I rise today to acknowledge the year itself and to pay tribute to the countless Yukon residents who will be organizing and taking part in various activities throughout the coming months to honour and celebrate Yukon seniors and elders.
In the gallery today, Mr. Speaker, is the Yukon's representative on the Canada coordinating committee for the International Year of Older Persons, and she has made the trip today from Mayo. I am referring, of course, to Jean Gordon.
Jean is, of course, no stranger to this House. I know that all members will join me in welcoming her here today.
Her efforts are certainly helping to put the Yukon on the map with her counterparts across the country. First Nations, the l'Association des Franco-Yukonnais, Signpost Seniors, Yukon Council on Ageing and the Canadian Red Cross have all undertaken or will undertake activities to involve and honour seniors across the Yukon.
Yukon people will also have an opportunity to participate in a national project on improving the quality of life of Canadian seniors. Whitehorse was one of eight cities to participate in the special Health Canada project to mark this year.
Yukon seniors and elders provide us with a wealth of history and knowledge. We are indeed favoured that they share so willingly their experience with all of us.
In their honour, I invite all members to wear the pins that were placed on their desks to commemorate the International Year of Older Persons.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus and office of the official opposition, I am pleased to take this opportunity to join with members in paying tribute to senior members of our community through the International Year of Older Persons.
The celebration of our seniors provides an excellent opportunity for us to all reflect on the positive aspects of aging and to acknowledge the contributions seniors make to their families, their communities and to our society at large. With years of experience and invaluable knowledge, our seniors play an irreplaceable role in all our lives. They help family members by providing care and support. They provide advice and volunteer much of their time and efforts helping charities and individuals at large. Seniors offer a sense of continuity as to who we are and where we came from.
In addition, they are major contributors to our economy through income, property and sales tax. While some of us may believe that an aging population leads directly to rising health care costs, in actual fact, only a small percentage of seniors use the health care system frequently. Similarly, while many may feel that seniors are frail and dependent, nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that today the majority of seniors live active, healthy and productive lives. While most seniors today can look forward to healthy independent lives, it is important to recognize those seniors who are not as fortunate and are vulnerable for social, health and economic reasons.
Regardless of their background, sex, colour or race, older persons need the assurances that society will support them in their efforts to remain independent and contributing members of their communities.
Here in the Yukon, we're proud to have a very active senior community. One only has to look at the recent performance of Yukon seniors at the Canada Seniors Games held in Medicine Hat last year, in which Yukon participants performed exceptionally well, and captured the spirit of the games award as the province or territory exemplifying the most spirit.
Organizations such as the Yukon Council on Aging, the seniors' information centre, Signpost Seniors, Yukon Order of Pioneers, among many other associations, continue to play an integral role representing and assisting our Yukon seniors population.
I would like to commend the work of those groups, and am pleased again to offer our support to the International Year of Older Persons, which is a unique opportunity to recognize and address the needs, aspirations, and contributions of people of all ages.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to 1999, which is the International Year of Older Persons.
That was declared by the General Assembly of the United Nations to celebrate the world's aging population. Over the next few years, the average lifespan, worldwide, will increase by almost 20 years. At the same time, the proportion of older persons, defined by the United Nations as 60 and over, will increase from one in 14 to one in four.
Canada's senior population is among the fastest growing in the world. It is 12 percent of Canada's total population right now, but by the year 2041, 23 percent of all Canadians will be seniors. In the Yukon, eight percent of the population is now over the age of 60, and the rate is increasing rapidly as seniors elect to retire here or come north to join younger family members who are working here.
This demographic shift will impact on families and communities and alter the economic, social and cultural fabric of our territory. The International Year of Older Persons is an opportunity for us to think about these coming changes and how we can respond to them as a society. The international year of growing older helps to dispel some of the myths around aging by helping to reduce the fear of aging and by promoting a more realistic image of aging between generations. It also provides an opportunity for Canadians to recognize and benefit from seniors' talents, energy, life experience and contributions to society.
By fostering greater knowledge of seniors and greater understanding and appreciation of their role in society, the International Year of Older Persons aims at building a better country for citizens of all ages. Here in the Yukon, the health investment fund is funding a number of projects with Yukon First Nations, with the Red Cross through the Red Cross funded fitness program for seniors, the Signpost Seniors, and the Yukon Council on the Aging funding for going to the games last year.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Recognition of Newfoundland's 50th anniversary of entry into Confederation
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to pay tribute to the people of Newfoundland/Labrador, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their entry into Canadian Confederation.
Long before midnight on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland had a close bond with Canada. There is indisputable evidence that parts of its rocky coast were the first places on the North American continent to be visited by Europeans.
Since becoming Canada's youngest province, Newfoundland/Labrador has made a tremendous contribution to our national life, and I'm not speaking of Rex Murphy or the cast of "This Hour has 22 Minutes".
The Yukon has been privileged to provide a second home to a great many hard-working people from Newfoundland and Labrador in communities throughout the territory.
So, on this special day, I invite all members to join me in saluting Newfoundlanders and Labradorians from Cape Chidley in the north to Cape Grace in the south. Happy anniversary, and thanks for joining us.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party caucus and the office of the official opposition would like to join with the government in sending our best wishes to Newfoundlanders on this very memorable day for them.
I've had the good fortune to visit Newfoundland, and it was a great experience, a very down-to-earth people and very friendly. I'm sure that they have a debate going on in Newfoundland all the time as to whether they should have joined Confederation or not, but I want to say to them that I'm glad they're here and hopefully, one of these days, the Yukon can join them in the same status.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to join with the Government Leader and the Member for Porter Creek North in sending our best wishes to the people of Newfoundland.
Mr. Speaker, in recent memory we've often heard the phrase, "My country includes Quebec." Today, we're celebrating the fact that as of 50 years ago today our Canada includes Newfoundland and Labrador. Tomorrow, we will celebrate that our country will also include Nunavut.
This 50-year anniversary of Newfoundland joining Canada and tomorrow's historic occasion point out what a young country Canada is and how we, especially in the Yukon, are building a part of Canada together today for our children tomorrow.
As we watch the nightly news and observe the centuries-old conflicts overseas, Mr. Speaker, as Canadians, we appreciate just how wonderful our country, including Quebec, Newfoundland, Nunavut and the Yukon, really is.
Recognition of Aboriginal Languages Day
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in tribute to Aboriginal Languages Day. I'd like to say, [Member spoke in native language] and what I have said is, "How are you, my friends. Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you in my language."
I'd like to say that this day is set aside now to recognize the languages and I do believe that, without our languages, there would not be a culture. I encourage all our people, no matter where they might be, and all those people who take a great interest in our language who are not native people, to explore the language because it is such a fascinating, wonderful thing.
I reiterate, without our language we would have a great loss within our culture and we must take the ownership upon ourselves to be able to practise it, even if it's minutely as I just have or if it's in great expanse, like some of the elders can. It's very, very important.
This government will continue to recognize the importance of language to the cultural events that are sponsored and hosted throughout the Yukon Territory and, indeed, it is my great pleasure to pay tribute to the Aboriginal Languages Day.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Phillips: I rise as well on behalf of the Yukon Party caucus to pay tribute today to Aboriginal Languages Day.
Mr. Speaker, I came to the Yukon over 50 years ago this April and I can recall clearly, when my father and I and the family drove around the territory and stopped in some of the smaller communities around Whitehorse, meeting and playing with First Nations people. At that time, when I was a young boy, many of them could speak their language.
A lot has changed over the years, and with the influx of various activities that took place in the Yukon, the languages started to become lost. But, I think, thanks to a lot of dedicated people, some First Nations people as well as other people who have taken a keen interest in preserving their languages, we, today, in the Yukon, probably have one of the best programs in North America with respect to preserving and protecting our native languages.
I would like to not only pay tribute to Aboriginal Languages Day today, but also pay tribute to the Native Language Centre at the top of the hill at Yukon College, the director of the centre and mostly, all the First Nations people who have come to that centre and worked so hard in our communities to preserve and protect the First Nations languages. I think that it is extremely important for the First Nations culture.
We saw something cross our desk the other day. They were publications teaching Yukon native languages.
I think a tribute to all these people involved are the dozens of publications that are now available in the Yukon that preserve, protect and give us a bit of history on the native languages in the territory.
So my hat's off today to those people, the First Nations people as well as the First Nations television station - NEDAA - which does a lot of documenting of First Nations language, to the elders, who have worked so hard to preserve it, and all the people within the system of government and federal government who have funded most of this over the past few years to make sure we record it and protect it for the future.
So, Mr. Speaker, I too would like to recognize all those people on Aboriginal Languages Day.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Yukon Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Aboriginal Languages Day.
It's often said that you can't understand a culture until you understand its language. It's in the nuances of the words people use and the way that they use them. Much of the subtlety of a culture becomes known through language.
In the Yukon, we're fortunate to have a number of languages that represent the rich cultural life of the territory's original inhabitants.
We can't say that the aboriginal languages in the Yukon aren't threatened. Some of them are. Some of them are spoken by very few people, and written by fewer still. But the languages are now understood far better than they ever were before.
Mr. Speaker, in the short time I have today, I would like to recognize one person whose hard work in this area has made a real difference. Close to 30 years ago, a young linguist named John Ritter arrived in the Yukon. He started work with the knowledge he'd gained at school with just a handful of native language teachers here to learn, to understand, and to document the rich language history of the Yukon.
Mr. Ritter has always deferred to aboriginal speakers. He doesn't like to be in the limelight himself. But his dedication in working so hard with so many people for so many years has helped to bring Yukon native languages to their present state.
Now the languages are taught in schools throughout the Yukon and enjoyed by all students. There are never enough teachers - there are more now than there used to be - who are comfortable not only in speaking their own languages, but in writing them, reading them, and - very important - comfortable in teaching them to the young people.
I'd like to thank John Ritter, and I'd like to thank all of the teachers of the aboriginal languages throughout the Yukon. It's very important work that they do, and we thank them for it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the proposal to sole-source an $11-million contract for environmental cleanup work at Komakuk Beach in the northern Yukon to a Northwest Territories company is unfair to Yukon contractors who are fully capable of undertaking this work, given the opportunity to bid on the project; and
THAT this House urges the Department of National Defence to publicly tender the Distant Early Warning Line clean-up project at Komakuk Beach in the northern Yukon, allowing Yukon contractors to submit bids for this project.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the federal Liberal government is failing to meet its special fiduciary responsibility to Yukon First Nations by offloading health and social costs for Yukon First Nation citizens onto the Yukon government;
THAT this House recognizes that
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to advise Yukon First Nations, the Council for Yukon First Nations and the Assembly of First Nations of this serious breach by the federal Liberal government of its fiduciary responsibility to First Nations and to encourage them, as well as the Government of Yukon itself, to protest this breach in the strongest possible terms to the Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Whitehorse Shipyards area squatters are deserving of fair and appropriate compensation;
(2) the provision in the current squatter relocation compensation program granting the squatters $1,000 per year up to a maximum of $45,000 for illegally occupying land, as well as rebating their taxes, is excessive compensation and is unfair to Yukon taxpayers; and
(3) further providing squatters with preferential access to country residential and agricultural land, as well as exempting them from government land disposition policies, is unfair to other Yukoners who have followed or are currently following the legitimate due process for acquiring such lands.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Whitehorse Airport runway extension
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the Whitehorse airport extension.
It has come to my attention that only now is the Yukon government surveying land around the airport. They are mapping out hills, trees, and power lines, including chimneys and satellite dishes in nearby Valleyview. The reason for doing this survey is all too apparent. The Yukon government has paid $3 million for a 900-foot extension, only 50 feet of which can be used on runway 13 right.
Can the minister advise the House why the survey of potential obstacles wasn't done prior to the runway extension? Why wasn't ordinary common sense used?
Does the minister get up in the morning and put his shoes on first and then his socks on afterwards, because that's what we're doing here? Everything is out of order. Could the minister advise why the situation was out of order with the extension to the Whitehorse Airport?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, it does give me great pleasure indeed to announce to the House that the airport extension plan is on track, is in order, is on budget, and will be completed on budget.
Mr. Speaker, as to the specific question of the Member for Klondike as to why we are doing a survey now rather than later, well, this is all part of the due process, and we will continue to work within the process so that we might be able to enhance the tourism; we might be able to put more airplanes into the Yukon Territory; we will be able to put heavy equipment operators to work during the construction of this, and the benefits of this will be into the new millennium. So, it's all just a small part of the process, and we will continue to work within the process so that we can finish the airport, because it's such a wonderful thing for the Yukon community and the tourism industry.
Mr. Jenkins: Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, this well-intentioned project has turned into a comedy of errors, but no one is laughing, especially Yukon taxpayers.
Can the minister advise the House what obstacles are currently around the airport that Transport Canada deems to be in the way of the flight path or the approach path of aircraft? What hills, buildings, fuel tanks and other obstacles does Transport Canada want removed, and what is the cost of their removal going to be?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, Transport Canada has not instructed us to remove anything at this point in time, and I do not expect that they will. We are working with the Transport Canada officials so that we might be able to configure to zoning regulations, that we might be able to work with them as partnerships to continue to develop the airport as is such.
Mr. Speaker, it is all a part of the process, and whatever the member opposite does is purely fear-mongering, and I do believe that that is what the Yukon public has come to expect.
Mr. Jenkins: But can the minister confirm that the PAPI lights were installed along the runway extension, then had to be moved back because Transport Canada would not certify it? The bottom line is that Transport Canada will not certify the extension. Now, why? When will the runway extension become fully operational and certified by Transport Canada?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, again the member is truly fear-mongering and is obviously running out of questions of pertinence in the House. I would like to say to the people of the Yukon that the airport is on track, is on budget and will continue to be throughout the year, of course unless something happens that is an act of God. Certainly, through good planning, we'll continue to do that.
We do have partners within the process, of which Transport Canada is one. The lights have to be fixed and arranged and moved. It is all a part of the process. The important thing is that we're moving ahead with the construction industry, we're working with the tourism industry to bring more people into the Yukon Territory for the benefit of everybody and we'll continue to do so, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to explain the situation.
Question re: Whitehorse Airport runway extension
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, I have questions for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on the Whitehorse International Airport. The minister has failed to answered any of the three previous questions.
Last summer, the minister couldn't see the power line obstacle for the trees, but now that the survey is being done, more and more obstacles are coming into the minister's view.
It is my understanding that in normal airport extension, Transport Canada and any airport designer has a template that they drop over the existing airport, and after they've dropped that template, all the obstacles around the planned extension would come into focus.
This is a normal first step in the planning process. I would like the minister to explain why this first step wasn't taken in relationship to the Whitehorse Airport extension. Why wasn't the first step taken?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the first steps were taken, and the member is very well aware of that. In 1996, Transport Canada were the owners of the airport and it certainly was not a problem with them at that point in time.
All correct procedure has been followed with the development of the airport plan and it will continue to be followed with the airport plan. Small glitches might arise throughout it. We are working very cooperatively with Transport Canada and the industry so that we might be able to have a good airport here in the Yukon Territory to bring more tourists to the Yukon, because we do have a wonderful destination called the Yukon.
So, we will work within the process, and, again, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike is purely fear-mongering.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but the Member for Klondike is not fear-mongering. The Government of Yukon is responsible for doing the planning and the extension of the runway at the Whitehorse International Airport. Transport Canada only certifies it, and authorizes its use. They haven't done that, because there are obstacles.
Can the minister advise the House who is doing the current study and survey, of what obstacles are in the flight path?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to say again at this point in time, who is doing it? The department is doing it. We are working with Transport Canada to address any of the zoning issues that are there now, that have been there historically, Mr. Speaker.
We are working in partnership with them, and will continue to do so, Mr. Speaker, so that we have meaningful development for the Yukon, and again I reiterate that the Member for Klondike knows this, as the other members of his caucus do.
Again, Mr. Speaker, the well is drying up and they are coming with fear-mongering questions once more.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister still hasn't answered the question. It's now my understanding that the Government of the Yukon is advancing the argument that because the federal government ran the Whitehorse International Airport for so long that it should help pay for the cost of removal of the obstacles blocking the use of this $3-million runway extension.
Now, in view of the fact that Transport Canada had no input into Yukon government's decision to expand the runway, what does the minister believe his chances are of getting any money out of the federal government to pay for his government's poor planning?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, this is a government with a vision. Of course the airport is very much a part of that vision.
I would like to reiterate for the Member for Klondike, Mr. Speaker - so that he will quit with the fear-mongering, and understand that we are working with Transport Canada - that the airport is on time, the airport is on budget, and if there are obstacles in the zoning problems, we will continue to work in partnership with them, and the airport will be open on time, on budget, as scheduled.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to answer the question from the Member for Klondike.
Question re: DEW Line site cleanup, Komakuk Beach
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House the leader of the official opposition asked about a contract sole sourced to the Inuvialuit. The contract, worth $11 million, is for the cleanup of a DEW Line site on Yukon's north coast at Komakuk Beach.
Now, I know the leader of the official opposition doesn't understand obligations under land claim agreements, and we've seen his treatment of First Nations when he was Government Leader. The current Government Leader, Mr. Speaker, was elected to this House when the Inuvialuit final agreement was signed.
Would the Government Leader confirm that the Yukon was a signatory to the Inuvialuit final agreement, and will the Government Leader also confirm that section 12 of the agreement clearly provides Inuvialuit with opportunities, on a preferred basis, for work in Ivvavik National Park where the Komakuk DEW Line site is located?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Obviously, the Liberal hotline in Ottawa has been buzzing as they've prepped up the local Liberal leader to stand up dutifully and defend the federal Liberals in the face of what I believe is something of concern to Yukon workers and Yukon contractors.
We've simply stated that we believe, Mr. Speaker, that the Inuvialuit no doubt have, and should have, some opportunity to obtain some of the work, but some of this work takes place in our territory, and we believe that Yukon people should be allowed to participate in the bidding of this and in the work that's going to be done there.
We have economic challenges that we have to face and this particular large contract would help alleviate and deal with some of those challenges.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in this House, in response to questions on the same subject, the Minister of Economic Development said that he thought the awarding of this contract was a concern, and he also said in this House, "We don't support it."
Mr. Speaker, my question for the Government Leader is, is the Government Leader's position the same as the Minister of Economic Development, that the NDP government no longer supports the Inuvialuit final agreement?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, we will live up to the letter and spirit of all land claims agreements that we are a party to - first and foremost. But let me tell the member opposite, as she's playing goalie with significant parts of her body on behalf of her federal colleagues in Ottawa on this particular issue, that this is an issue that involves Yukon workers and Yukon contractors, who should have an opportunity not to be dictated to by their Liberal friends in Ottawa.
And Mr. Speaker, let me tell the member opposite another thing. It's important that the Yukon government stands up on behalf of Yukon people to ensure that, where it's important - and in this case, I believe it is - we represent the interests of Yukon people and try to ensure that we get the opportunity to participate in federal contracts, such as this, just as the Inuvialuit should in their territory.
Ms. Duncan:Well, Mr. Speaker, I commend some nighttime reading to the Minister of Economic Development - The Western Arctic claim, the Inuvialuit final agreement, section 12(42) gives the Inuvialuit work in the new national park on a preferred basis.
Mr. Speaker, there are two DEW Line sites in the Yukon - Komakuk Beach is in Ivvavik National Park. Under the Inuvialuit final agreement, the Inuivialuit are to receive opportunities in the park on a preferred basis. That's clearly spelled out in section 12.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Section 12(42). Perhaps the Member for Porter Creek North would like to borrow a copy so he can read it and understand it.
Mr. Speaker, there is a second DEW Line site in the Inuvialuit settlement region in the northern Yukon. That second DEW Line site is at Shingle Point, and it's scheduled for clean up next year. Has the Minister of Economic Development approached the Inuvialuit Development Corporation about this work - in working with them? Has the minister explored any partnerships, as they are to have a preferred option on this work under section 16? Has the minister explored those options? Has he read the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, it doesn't mean the Inuvialuit under those agreements should get all of the work. It doesn't mean that everything should be sole sourced. This is a major contract. This has the opportunity to provide a lot of work to Yukoners on work that's being done in the Yukon on the DEW Line.
Mr. Speaker, I can't believe that this Liberal member - just like on Bill C-68 on gun control, rallying to the defence of her federal colleagues, just like rallying to the defence of her federal Liberal colleagues when they put lines in the budget about economic development funding for the Government of the Yukon in last year's budget and then can't even come up with monies to make good on that commitment.
Mr. Speaker, every time we turn around, we have the defenders of the federal Liberal government. The minister must have phoned her at home last night to say, "Stand up in the House tomorrow and speak on our behalf." Well, this government will speak on behalf of Yukoners.
Question re: Wood pellet industry study
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development - the minister in the extended Yukon Party caucus.
Yesterday in the House, I asked the minister about the shared-cost feasibility study agreement with his government that his government has entered into in relation to Yukon's wood pellet industry. That agreement is with a B.C. company, Autumn Industries, and it deals with a number of district heating projects. I asked the minister yesterday what commitments had been made to Autumn Industries, whether the district heating deals -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: I can stop here for a moment and arbitrate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Mr. Cable: Now, I asked the minister yesterday what commitments had been made to Autumn Industries, and whether the district heating deals could be put out for proposal calls, and the minister said, "There is that potential. Absolutely." But that's not what the agreement says. It gives Autumn a first option to build the projects.
How can the minister say that the Yukon companies and other suppliers can get a shot at these projects, when Autumn is sitting there with the first option? Would the minister clear up the record?
Hon. Mr. Harding: It was kind of hard to hear over the heckling of the member opposite's Liberal leader during the question, but I did catch some of it.
Let me say to the member opposite first of all that what he just said does demand some clearing of the air because it's not, in fact, the case. First of all, Mr. Speaker, we dictate the terms of whether the Yukon government wants to participate in anything based on the outcome of this feasibility study, and first and foremost in our minds would be ensuring that Yukon companies and the people who are potentially in the business to supply this district heating system, if it were to go ahead, would be able to get some opportunity out of it. That would be determined by the Yukon government, and we would expect that that criteria be upheld.
The primary focus of this study is on district heating, and this particular firm has extensive knowledge. They came up with ideas and they also put money on the table to see it looked through.
Mr. Cable: I have a copy of the agreement. It clearly gives Autumn a first option. What's the minister talking about? He's talking about nonsense.
I asked the minister yesterday why this deal was sole sourced to Autumn, why this deal wasn't put out for tenders or proposal calls and he came back saying that Autumn has strategic alliances, technologically, that give it an advantage.
Now, there has been a Canadian machinery supplier who has worked up here for the last several years who could certainly supply the technical information. What the minister has done is give Autumn the right to design these projects and then give them first shot at building and operating the projects.
Does the minister seriously want us to believe that there are no other qualified competitors around? Why has the minister sold the farm to one supplier?
Hon. Mr. Harding: I have a copy of the agreement here, too, and it says, "If the Yukon decides it would be feasible to go forward with construction of any one or all of the projects..." and then it talks about the option.
The key is, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon has control of whether we want to proceed or not and we would ensure that local people are involved so that we can enhance any existing industry - that's a criterion.
The other thing that we would want to ensure is that we were talking only about if it is to be wood - and that's going to be looked at in the feasibility study - it would be only residual wood or fire-kill. We don't want to cut into allowable harvests or any of those other issues. We're just talking about trying to take advantage of an opportunity that we see with district heating with the extensive fire-killed wood damage we've seen in the last few years to try to create some jobs and some opportunities for Yukoners.
I would also say to the member opposite that this particular company has extensive international contacts with firms that are in the business of district heating in similar sized communities in the world right now, and that gives them an opportunity to have a good level of experience, internationally, and with communities like -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Mr. Cable: If the government decides to go ahead, they have the first option. I don't know why the minister's having trouble getting his head around that prospect. He sold the farm to one supplier. He's moved in, and eliminated the free market.
Now, the minister said in this House last April during the debate on public/private partnerships, "If you're talking about true public/private sector partnerships, then I think, and I fundamentally believe, that the private sector must share a portion of the risk." That's what the minister said.
Yet here we have a $200,000 contract with a sweetheart deal at the end, where the contractor gets its money back if the project goes ahead, and he gets his money back if the project doesn't go ahead.
Just how is Autumn Industries at risk?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, there were so many false statements by the member opposite in that preamble, I don't know where to begin.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite alleged we sold the farm. That's ridiculous. If it is to proceed under an option, it's under our terms - it's if we decide. And we would only decide to move forward if there's significant benefit for Yukoners in it.
So it's not a locked-in option. They were interviewed on CBC Radio this morning - the company admitted there's nothing binding on the government.
Mr. Speaker, this is a public/private sector partnership. This company came up with ideas and experience. They put money on the table. What is the government to do? Turn around then and give the idea to somebody else?
Mr. Speaker, it's important that we try every opportunity we get before us to see if we can create good, solid, feasible economic jobs and opportunities for Yukon people. This company does present an opportunity. We want to see it through. We obviously have a lot of work to do in terms of ensuring that it benefits Yukon people overall, but no decisions have been taken, and let's see what the study says, and go from there.
Question re: Shipyards residents, relocation to Hot Springs Road area
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Yesterday in this House, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services stated that while the shipyard squatters being relocated to the Hot Springs Road have to comply with the agricultural zoning in that area, they are exempted from the stipulations of the agricultural policy which require the development of a farm plan and other requirements, as outlined in the agricultural agreement for sale.
I'd like to ask the Minister of Renewable Resources to explain why squatters are being given access to agricultural land, exempt from the agricultural policy, while other Yukoners have to comply with the agricultural policy? What's the reason for this double standard?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: The Member for Klondike well knows that this issue is to be addressed to me. Working with the waterfront residents, I would again like to reiterate, if I may, that the waterfront residents, who are desirous of the property, are going to be able to conform to the agricultural policy. I did categorically state yesterday that they would not have to develop a plan. No, sir, they will not. But they will live up to the zoning regulation.
It is simply the fact that we are asking people to leave - somewhat voluntarily, with incentive, but we're certainly asking people to leave. Those people are very willing to work with the government in a partnership - something they have not recognized from 1992 to 1996, but have recognized since then, and will continue to work in partnership.
Again, the important point, Mr. Speaker, is that they are going to be living to the configuration of the zoning requirements, and that is the answer in there.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, to the Minister of Renewable Resources, in his capacity of being in charge of Yukon Housing Corporation - I'd ask him to put that hat on. Could he advise the House in what way the Yukon Housing Corporation is involved in the squatter relocation program?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, there are many partners within the government and the departments, of which Yukon Housing is certainly one. That is the involvement of the Yukon Housing Corporation, with the lead being C&TS. All departments are involved where pertinent, and will continue to be, so that we might be able to work in a meaningful manner with the waterfront residents.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess now that we have 131 agricultural land applications, will the minister be advising those individuals that the quickest way to gain access to agricultural land, rather than through due process, is to break the law, squat on land where the government doesn't want you to reside, and then get bought out and moved.
Why are law-abiding, legitimate agricultural land applicants being discriminated against by this government?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, 'tis the way the member paints the picture, and it is not at all the way it is.
Mr. Speaker, we are working with the waterfront residents so that we might be able to free up the waterfront zone. We are working with them willingly and they are working with us very cooperatively. We are not going to create displaced people. It is part of the obligation of the Yukon territorial government to work with people and we'll continue to work with people.
As I have said, they are going to live up to the configurations of the zoning required on the Hot Springs Road, as agricultural. They are going to do that, Mr. Speaker. I see not where the issue is with the Member for Klondike.
Question re: New home warranty program, creditor protection
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, when a Yukon contractor builds a new home in the Yukon, they have the ability to acquire a new home warranty. This type of insurance can be passed on to new home buyers, and, indeed, it's even required by new home buyers who put very little down, like in a CMHC mortgage where you only put 10 percent down.
The new home warranty program for B.C. and Yukon holds 70 to 80 percent of new home warranties in B.C. and the Yukon, and they have just filed for creditor protection, something similar to Chapter 11 in the United States.
Now, does that mean that, as of today, new homeowners who have insurance under the now economically unstable new home warranty program are no longer covered by new home warranties?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, the member knows that this is a very recent event. The Housing Corporation is trying to address it. They have been working with the Home Builders Association and the banks on mortgages, trying to resolve this situation. One thing I can say is that the new home mortgage doesn't apply to those that are building homes under Yukon Housing Corporation programs.
Mrs. Edelman: Now, Mr. Speaker, the new home warranty program of B.C. and Yukon is in this trouble because of the leaky-condo crisis in the Lower Mainland. Now, the NDP government in B.C. has today walked away from the new home warranty program in B.C. The new home warranty program is trying to renegotiate for insurance, but that will not come into effect until May 1. Is the Yukon Housing Corporation looking at stepping in to provide bridge insurance for this 30-day period?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I just said to the member that we are trying to work with the banks, the Home Builders Association and industry to try to resolve this. It is a recent matter, and there is a possibility that it could be run through the Housing Corporation. We're not sure. We'd like to look at the details and try to work things out.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, no matter what happens over the next 30 days with the new home warranty program of B.C. and Yukon, rates for new home insurance are going to triple. This is going to be a considerable hardship for new home builders and contractors here in the Yukon, because they will have to pass their costs onto new home buyers, and it will make it even harder for home builders to survive in our already poor economy. Their houses are going to be priced so high that they will have difficulty selling them.
Now, is the Yukon Housing Corporation going to be developing an action plan to deal with this crisis?
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member brought this up, because it's a good time again to promote the green mortgages. As I said to the member earlier, the new home warranty does not apply to green mortgages or any other home builders programs through the Housing Corporation, so they can go through that route.
Question re: Mathematics marks
Mr. Phillips: My question is for the Minister of Education on grade 12 math marks.
The previous Yukon Party government placed a great emphasis on teaching the three Rs in the Yukon's education system, with particular emphasis on the teaching of mathematics.
Mr. Speaker, I've learned that grade 12 math marks of F.H. Collins students in 1996 were outperforming their B.C. counterparts, with a 72.6-average score, compared to 66.1 for B.C. students.
This week, parents are meeting with their teachers at F.H. Collins to discuss their children's marks and how they're doing in school, but I understand that F.H. Collins students' marks were six to eight percent lower this last semester in math overall, on average.
Can the minister advise the House why our marks have dropped so dramatically in such a short period of time?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, let me try to reassure the member that indeed the Yukon government, the New Democratic government, does take having our students do well at school quite seriously. We continue to support good assessment standards and good instruction in our schools.
The math marks in the recent SAIP tests showed that our students in the Yukon are improving and that they're doing well. We continue to put an emphasis on students doing well in math, as in all other subjects.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister might be happy with the SAIP test, but I'm talking about the departmentals, the last exams that students write in grade 12 before they go to university. These are the marks that they have to present to the university to get in, and nowadays it's harder and harder and harder to get into Canadian universities.
Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to think there is no problem, but I've been told by several people in the education system there's a serious problem. Can the minister tell us what the department is doing to address the serious downturn in marks, the eight-percent downturn in marks in math of our Yukon students? Are they getting an opportunity to rewrite? What are they doing to offer some tutoring to these students in the chance that they might be able to rewrite some of these marks, so they can get accepted into university?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Mr. Speaker, our teachers work with students to ensure that they do well in math, as they do in other subjects. The member knows that that's the fact. The member knows that we also have a departmental assessment committee that works with the YTA, and with administrators and teachers, on ensuring that we have good testing and good instruction available.
We will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker, and we will ensure that our students have good curriculum, and the best opportunity for good results.
Mr. Phillips: Well, the minister didn't answer the question. Mr. Speaker, it makes me believe that the minister isn't even aware that there's a problem.
Mr. Speaker, there is a significant drop in marks in our math students in grade 12 in the last semester - not only in F.H. Collins, but I understand in other high schools in the territory as well. And I've asked the minister: in light of the significant drop in marks, what is the minister's department doing to help these students achieve higher marks, or allow them to rewrite the exam so that they can get into Canadian universities, which are demanding a higher standard every year?
What is the minister doing?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Well, Mr. Speaker, the fact is that I cannot rely on that member to provide accurate information in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I can assure you that our teachers will ensure that good instruction is provided to the students, and if there is need for additional resources that those will be available. Our teachers are committed, and they work hard to provide good instruction - in math as in all the other subjects - for our high school students.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
private members' business
motions other than government motions
Clerk: Motion No. 162, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie.
Motion No. 162
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Watson Lake that
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
THAT this House supports
Mr. Fentie: It is a pleasure today to rise and speak to this motion - I might add, another quality motion from this side of the House for debate, if we compare some of the motions recently that we've had to sit here and debate and go through.
I'd like to say to the conservative element here in this Legislature today that there's a new sheriff in town, and it's restorative justice.
Mr. Speaker, the issue of justice -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: I see the members opposite find that quite amusing, yes.
The issue of justice, Mr. Speaker, has been with mankind since the beginning of time and, obviously, a very important one. We have a lot of history in that regard in this country and, in fact, in this territory, and there are some definite changes that we must consider and must look at.
If we look at the recidivism rate, which is over 80 percent, there's an obvious problem with our system, as far as rehabilitation. One of the most important factors of any justice system is to rehabilitate the offender and put them back in society so that they become an asset to society, not a liability.
I'd like to say to the members opposite, having listened to them on a number of occasions here in Question Period and through debates, when it comes to this issue of justice, that I sometimes wonder where they're coming from. If we look at the Member for Porter Creek North, whose machine-gun style of justice is somewhat similar to him riding in like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, all by himself, I would say that that contributes - that very attitude, that whole approach to justice - to the recidivism rate, contributes to this aspect of warehousing people instead of addressing root causes of crime and prevention and real rehabilitation.
And we all know the Liberals' concern here in the territory is the jail that we have. I would suspect that some of the Liberals' thinking is all around jails and making them bigger and better - build them, and the criminals will come. We'll be able to fill those jails. But that's not what this motion is about, Mr. Speaker.
It's about a very important concept - restorative justice. Now, that's a philosophical framework and approach, and it's an alternative to the current way of thinking about crime and criminal justice. It's also something that can be considered as a more useful tool for our police force, for our peace officers, for our lawyers, for our judges, and for our court systems because it brings into play the community aspects, the community involvement. That's the important fact here, when we truly want to approach rehabilitation. Dealing with the victim, the perpetrator, and the community, and the harm that's done when a crime is committed is an important first step in achieving rehabilitation.
Now, this system - the restorative justice system - emphasizes the ways in which crime harms relationships in the context of the community. As I stated earlier, there is harm done when a crime is committed, and that is the issue that must be addressed first and foremost. Restorative justice defines accountability for offenders in terms of taking responsibility for their actions and, by that method, addressing the harm caused to a victim, or to victims, and to the community.
Let's, for a moment, look at our system today. When a crime is committed we have many vehicles within the justice system in the way of charges that can be laid. Once the process has reached its final analysis and a sentence is handed down, and if that sentence results in jail time, let's consider what that really does.
In the first place, are all these people in our jails today really criminals, or are they just people who have made mistakes?
The concern that I have - and I think one of the things that restorative justice wants to address - is that we need to try and break the cycle, because once a person has been put into jail, the chances of them really and truly becoming a criminal are much higher. That's where young people and people who have made mistakes can learn how to be a criminal. It's a whole different lifestyle in those jails. There is very little chance for people to be able to address the aspects of crime prevention, address the root causes, and try and alleviate those and deal with those in a manner that truly puts people back into society as valuable parts of society, Mr. Speaker.
I think it's time here, in this territory, that we take a really close look at this aspect. The whole restorative justice system is about ensuring that we are implementing justice and meting out justice in a manner that's consistent with the right and the wrong.
When I think about some of the initiatives that have been coming out of governments in the past - and we can use for an example the federal Liberals' Bill C-68, the gun control legislation - now, I can understand if the federal Liberals would have said to the Canadian public, "We are going to develop legislation so that we can inventory and control and know how many weapons are out there with law-abiding citizens in this country." But they disguised this bill, this legislation, by saying that its intent is to reduce crime. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Bill C-68, the gun control law, in fact may increase crime, because what it does is make illegal weaponry worth that much more. It puts a much higher value on illegal guns in this country.
It does nothing to address the criminal element. It truly is a problem when governments such as the federal Liberals use this type of legislation in the context of reducing crime in this country, because it doesn't do that.
This concept, restorative justice, is something much better able to reduce crime because it can get to the root causes early. It can help change someone's life. It can help put them back on the right track, because it involves the victims, it involves the community, and that's an important fact.
I'd like to just for a moment discuss an initiative that happened in my community, Watson Lake. It has to do with the Liard First Nation there, and it is a concept spawned out of restorative justice. Its name in the Kaska language is Dena Keh, and it simply means, "our people's way". It's an innovative community justice project, and it was developed by the Liard First Nation community in partnership with the rest of the community and this government.
Mr. Cable: Point of order.
Speaker: Point of order has been called.
Mr. Cable: Mr. Speaker, do we have a quorum?
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if any time during the sitting of the Assembly the Speaker's attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker will cause the bells to ring for four minutes and then do a count.
Speaker: I have shut off the bell and I will do a count. We have 10 members present. There is a quorum. We will now continue debate.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate the Member for Riverside's adherence to the rules of this House. I hope the Liberal leader has made contact with her counterparts in Ottawa so she can speak to this motion today in the context of what the federal Liberals believe justice should be.
At any rate, Mr. Speaker, restorative justice is a very, very important initiative, and it's high time that the political people, governments and all facets of the justice system took a very serious look at this concept.
The Yukon people deserve more accountability, and the justice system has to reflect their values as a society in a much more consistent manner. There is no getting around the fact that, given the recidivism rate - this revolving door in our jail system, through the incarceration process - there is definitely a problem.
There is another point to be considered when we look at restorative justice and the whole system of justice, and that is, there is a range of criminal activity that has great differences and not always is the system that we have in place prepared or able to deal with some of those differences, and that's where we lose our chance and the very important timing in getting to people who are breaking the law, or people who are making mistakes. It is in that time frame that we must break the cycle. Restorative justice is definitely one of those vehicles.
But getting back to the Liard First Nation and the Dena Keh justice process, what it does is use the community conferencing model as their guide. And what it does is they will accept referrals for the following: pre-charge diversion, post-charge diversion, sentencing recommendations and re-integration of offenders program - very important facets of meting out justice.
What this does - the community conferencing model - is bring the victim, the offender, their supporters, community resource persons, and a trained facilitator to discuss the offence, the impact of the offence and how best to repair the harm. Each person is given the opportunity to speak and to input into the agreement.
Now, unlike our court system today - in a lot of cases the victims aren't heard. There's no consideration for the community that a crime has been committed in and the damage done to the community.
Restorative justice - in this model, the Dena Keh justice process - is very much about that aspect.
Now, the result of this community conference is to develop an agreement, which then becomes the offender's commitment to the victim and, of course, to the community.
I guess with the Member for Riverside leaving the Legislature, we won't have any interruptions on quorum again.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale North, on a point of order.
Mr. Phillips: Our rules spell out quite clearly that a member is not supposed to name members who are not present in the House, and I think that's out of order.
Speaker: Would the member withdraw that?
Mr. Fentie: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw that remark.
Speaker: Continue on.
Mr. Fentie: The result of the conference is to develop an agreement, which then becomes the offender's commitment to the victim and the community for repairing the harm they have caused.
It combines this victim-centred model with the Kaska traditions, and one of the things that is quite noticeable in our jails is that there is a very high percentage of First Nation population. This approach to justice, I believe, is also part of what circle sentencing is intended to do because, quite frankly, First Nations people have an even harder time in jails. That lifestyle, that whole approach, for them is not something that's anywhere remotely involved in their culture, and it is a difficult situation if we consider the fact that incarceration, removal of people from society for a time, is premised on rehabilitation and re-entering society, unless of course the crimes bring a much longer sentence.
Dena Keh accepts referrals from the RCMP and the Crown for pre-charge and post-charge diversion, respectively, and in these two models, Dena Keh will report back to the referring agency when an agreement has been reached. The Dena Keh staff then becomes responsible for the follow-up and monitoring of that agreement.
So, this also involves the police force - the peace officers - and also has follow-up which, of course, our existing system of incarceration does not do once any other initiative, such as parole or probation, has been served. There is no follow-up; there is no connection.
This process also accepts from the court requests to provide sentencing recommendations, so the judiciary can also be involved in this approach by making recommendations to the justice process.
The Dena Keh staff and council meet with the people affected by the crime - victim, offender and their supporters - in the same format as they would for pre-charge diversion and post-charge diversion - based on the community conferencing model - to develop an agreement on how best to repair the harm. This agreement is then provided to the court and serves as sentencing recommendations by Dena Keh justice. I think this is a very important factor because this can also help the judiciary when it comes time to mete out the sentencing.
At any rate, in a community like Watson Lake and its First Nations people, there has been quite a significant step toward restorative justice already, but there is much more to do, Mr. Speaker. We have to ask some questions when it comes to justice, and these are important questions. We have to ask ourselves if our justice system is presently accountable to its citizens. Restorative justice ensures and guarantees that the justice system will be accountable to its citizens. That is why justice is meted out - its citizens are the ones who should be receiving the right sentencing, the right aspects to the overall justice system.
Does it reflect the values of society? I think there is some question around that - there's no doubt.
Does it meet victims' needs? There is a major point to be brought forward here, because one only has to look at the aspects of family violence to wonder: does our system meet the victims' needs? I think it's definitely time to explore that question.
Does it deter people from committing crimes? Well, I don't believe that incarceration, in any way, shape or form, is a deterrent at all.
If the recidivism rate, at the percentage it's at, speaks to anything, it is the fact that our system does not deter people from committing crimes. However, we must understand how many of those people that are committing crimes today are really criminals, or are they just people making mistakes, people that need a hand, people that we must reach out to. Restorative justice, its intent, is to address that.
Are offenders being rehabilitated? Highly unlikely.
Mr. Speaker, I also want to speak for a short time about a label that justice has been given, and it's called the "business of justice". I would first like to point out that it wasn't that long ago that the United States made history. For the first time, they have surpassed every other country in the world, and that accomplishment is that there are more people in prison in the United States than in any other country, including the Soviet Union.
That's an important fact here, because we are looking at some of those similarities in our jail system here in Canada. Although we don't come close to the size and population of the American system, it comes down to the point of incarceration - the business of justice.
Some of these jails are self-sufficient, Mr. Speaker. What they need to operate is a workforce, and that workforce is the criminal element. There is no rehabilitation in that system. None whatsoever.
Now, if we were to take this and consider it in our medical system - trying to take care of people and prevent them from being sick - that's an obvious failure, Mr. Speaker.
I think it's time that we pursue innovative approaches to crime prevention and criminal justice, based on the principles of restorative justice and community decision making. That's an important fact, because the community aspects are the front line. It is there in the community that we are best able to begin the process of rehabilitation once a crime has been committed.
The role of the community under restorative justice will change dramatically. The entire community bears some responsibility for all its members, including the victim and the offender. The community is also responsible for supporting and assisting victims.
Crime is everybody's problem, not just the police force, not just our judicial system, not just the political people, those who make the laws - it's everybody's problem.
The community is also responsible for holding offenders accountable and ensuring opportunities for offenders to make amends. Again, that's the front line; that's the early intervention; that's the area where people can be turned away from a life of crime.
Communities are also responsible for addressing the underlying causes of crime to reduce victimization in the future. Community involvement is very, very important in restorative justice, and it's high time that we take these steps, Mr. Speaker.
Another point to be made is that innovative approaches, such as restorative justice, can open up the justice system for victims. With a community-based restorative justice system, victims of crime have an expanded role. It also helps the problem of how victims address a crime that has been committed upon them or their property. It's a definite violation, and it brings with it a lot of emotional upheaval, and it's quite traumatic to get through in some cases.
So, there's a long period of healing that must take place. Under restorative justice, crime victims are offered more opportunities to regain personal power, to help address that sense of violation. Even as small as a crime that may be committed, that violation, that very thought, is there.
With community-based circle sentencing or family conferencing or diversion, victims have a voice. Instead of watching justice being meted out, they can participate in meting out justice, another important step in the victim's process of healing.
Mr. Speaker, the innovative approaches, such as restorative justice, can help rehabilitate offenders and stop recidivism. Now, that's the key to any successful justice system - stop that revolving door, break that cycle, put people back into society who are no longer a liability but are an asset.
Under the existing criminal justice system that concentrates on legal issues and the possibility of avoiding punishment, offenders are not required to realize the harm they have done. In other words, and I'll give you an example, in our system today, good lawyers - in a lot of cases, high-priced lawyers - can definitely change the outcome of any justice proceeding. Offenders are often not required to do anything to right the wrong they have committed.
Under restorative justice, that is one of the most important components. They have to right that wrong. They must repair the damage. They must address what they have done. Once people become institutionalized in jails, you will never, ever, ever be able to get that concept back in their minds.
Incarceration by itself may be considered a relatively easy sentence compared to the restorative justice approach that holds offenders directly accountable to their victims. Again, a very important part of restorative justice - the offender has to be accountable, not only to the system, not only to the community, but to the victim, or victims.
If we use a hearing of circle sentencing for an example, victims can confront their offenders with the personal harm they have caused. In other words, the perpetrator can see firsthand what he or she or they have done - again, a very important concept in restorative justice, something that has begun quite some time ago through circle sentencing. It's one facet of what restorative justice - the whole - is all about.
Circle sentencing - or that approach - goes back many years. An example is on a British Columbia island, Bella Bella, - 1978, where a provincial court judge issued a novel sentence to a 14-year old boy who committed armed robbery. He involved the community, he involved the victims, and he took an approach somewhat similar to circle sentencing.
In circle sentencing, offenders are often required to make real amends, not only to the victim, but to the community as a whole - very important, Mr. Speaker, because not only are the victims violated, not only are the victims the ones who have suffered the crime, the community itself suffers that crime.
If we look at our existing justice system, offenders are in a passive role. But if we take restorative justice, the offender has to become an active participant in reparation.
Now, let's look, for a moment, at restorative justice in practice. And here are some examples.
Support and assistance can be provided to victims, and families of victims, by community volunteers, church organizations, and professional agencies. So we already have in place today in communities a number of the areas and agencies that are needed to implement restorative justice.
Restitution is given priority over other financial obligations of the offender. Now, that's part of dealing with the victim. Restitution, in some cases, never ever takes place.
Victim-offender mediation can be made available for victims who wish to participate - another very novel approach by restorative justice.
The community can help to provide work opportunities so that offenders can pay restitution to victims, and I think it's safe to say that having a meaningful job and playing a meaningful role in the community is very, very important when it comes to rehabilitation.
Offenders can become engaged in community service projects valued by the community. They can be active participants in the overall day-to-day life and goings-on of the community as part of their sentence.
Treatment programs can include components dealing with victim empathy and responsibility as a community member, and I'd like for a moment to touch on one of the highest percentages of jail populations in this country - people who, for whatever reason, are people who misuse substances or misuse alcohol, and whose root cause of their crime is driven by that very fact. All we have to do is look at some of the news about East Hastings in Vancouver and understand what this means, the scope that this can take on - the misuse of substances and the substance abuse.
Offenders can face the personal dimension of harm caused by their crime through victim-offender mediation and family group conferencing, diversion or circle sentencing. So, there are many components in restorative justice that come into play.
If they wish, victims can have the opportunity to help shape the obligations placed on the offender for repairing the harm, which means we can have the victim get on with the process of healing much sooner.
Courts and corrections can provide annual reports on measures related to reparation. Community members can become involved on advisory boards that drive the courts and corrections, which is helping the judiciary, the justice system, in meting out justice and sentencing. And its intent is to get to rehabilitation, not to institutionalization.
Business and community organizations can work with the offenders to reintegrate them into the community as offenders fulfill their obligations. One of the most important facets of rehabilitation is being able to go back into your community and again, as I said before, become an asset to that community.
Using restorative justice as a supplement to those offenders who must face jail, offenders can leave correctional systems with greater skills than they entered with. When we look at the opposite to that, what goes on in our institutions today, it can be said that offenders leave jail with greater skills, but it's highly unlikely those skills would be an asset to society. In fact, they're probably highly skilled in criminal activities. And when we look at young people being incarcerated, they don't have any chance at all.
Every criminal justice intervention will leave the community stronger than it was before the crime occurred because that community is participating in correcting and righting the wrong.
Mr. Speaker, I know the opposition is not supportive of restorative justice, and we've all witnessed - I'll say it again - the Member for Riverdale North going on in a great rant about circle sentencing and how he approaches justice. I might add that that attitude is adding to the recidivism rate - it's a contributor. We have to change our thinking about justice. Not all people who make mistakes, who commit crimes, are truly criminals.
A lot of them need help. It's up to us, the leaders, to provide that assistance, to reach out and help these people.
Mr. Speaker, as a person who has witnessed crime, who has had crime perpetrated upon me, I can understand where people come from, this sense of hopelessness because it's happened to you, this violation, but we have to get beyond that. We have to see through that. We have to look beyond that. Restorative justice is a vehicle for us to do that.
I want to point out something else that the Member for Riverdale North seems to be bent on and that is circle sentencing being a failure. I can tell you, that's not the case. But nothing is perfect. If we agree that restorative justice is the approach we must take, circle sentencing can play a role in that approach to justice.
I would urge the Member for Riverdale North to really, really consider this today when he gets up to speak because I believe he can be rehabilitated also. He can be part of restorative justice. He can be part of improving our justice system.
Mr. Speaker, I also urge the Liberals, when they rise today on this issue, to give it a truly Yukon approach, not a federal Liberal approach, not something like Bill C-68, which was a complete jolt when it comes to actually deterring crime.
What it is is a regulatory process that is regulating innocent law-abiding people who happen to have weapons. When we look at the Yukon itself, those weapons are used, in a great many cases, for subsistence.
Bill C-68 does not deter crime, and I urge the Liberals in this Legislature to give that some serious consideration, and try and detach themselves from that federal Liberal doctrine. You represent Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, restorative justice, though the name "restorative justice" is somewhat new - these ideas have been around a long time. I think it's very important that we make these steps. I think it's important that we address all areas of justice, not just build jails. Let's focus on the root causes of crime. Let's reach out and help those people who aren't really criminals, who are just simply making mistakes.
If we consider our inner cities in this country today, there are children who are born and grow up in a six-block square area and know nothing else but what they live. Are these people really criminals? I doubt it. I think we have to consider that restorative justice is a vehicle to consider that very fact.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I want to encourage Yukoners to take the opportunity presented by our government to attend the restorative justice consultation, to participate and have them help shape the changes to the Yukon justice system.
The time is now. We can do this. This is not something to be fearful of. This is actually something that warrants our attention. It is high time that we approach justice with different views, different attitudes, and let's truly make a Yukon Territory, through the restorative justice system, that we can all be proud of.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will be supporting this motion.
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to hear that the member who put the motion forward in the House has decided, after speaking to it and thinking about what he said, that he's going to support his own motion. That's rather unique.
But, Mr. Speaker, when I saw this motion appear in the Order Paper, especially brought forward by the Member for Watson Lake, I said to myself, "spring is really here". It's getting warmer and, you know, as it gets warmer in the Yukon, the snow melts and it uncovers all kinds of things that you never thought were in the Yukon before. All of a sudden we have the Member for Watson Lake, who has been silent up until now, in two and one-half years, on justice issues, becoming the reborn champion of the justice system, coming forward and talking about restorative -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I didn't see this gentleman.
Speaker: Will the member please continue?
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It appears the Member for Watson Lake called a point of order and there wasn't one. He's just having trouble counting, but we can understand that from New Democrats. B.C. New Democrats are having trouble counting as well right now. That's a disease, I think, that takes hold of New Democrats after a while. Addition and subtraction - math in fact - is not one of their strengths.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit about what the Member for Watson Lake has said here today. Obviously, because he's new to this field of justice - like, gung ho on Monday, when he tabled the motion - and he's been given a whole bunch of notes from the Department of Justice and the justice minister and he's dug up a couple of things on his own, he's obviously not aware - and didn't have time to do his homework - of what has been taking place in the justice system over the last, probably, 10 years.
It's not just yesterday - probably 10 years. So, I'm going to take some time today, and I hope the Member for Watson Lake will hang in there and listen, because this is his motion, and maybe when he listens to what some of the other members will say in the House here today he will hopefully learn something about the history of the justice system in the territory.
My greatest wish in this debate today, unlike the last motion that the Member for Watson Lake put forward, is that he hangs around for the vote. If he's here to support his own motion, that will be a strong statement from that member - introduce the motion on Wednesday, was reborn on Monday, introduce the motion on Wednesday, spoke to it, and actually hung around for the vote, and I think that would be a first and an important first for the Member for Watson Lake.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake said that he didn't like what we did in the justice system. He said that we didn't address the root causes of crime and that all we believed in was jail, and statements like that. Well, that bothers me a little bit, because that's in fact not what happened, and if the Member for Watson Lake had taken some time - I know he was rushed into this and was told, "Look, we've got to debate this motion right away, because they are going to debate one on circle sentencing next week. We've got to get this thing on the Order Paper as soon as we can to try and scoop them." Well, if he had taken some time and spoken to the Minister of Justice, he would have realized that many of the things that are taking place today were initiated three and four years ago under a Yukon Party government.
There are some new initiatives taking place, and I applaud them. In fact, I don't have a great deal of problem with the member's motion. I really don't have a great deal of problem with the member's motion. It lacks a little bit, and I have to say that the member's speech in making his argument was kind of light.
But I can understand that in the haste with which the member was told, "This is what you're doing on Wednesday. Get in there and do it; you're the new Justice critic, go after it." So I can understand the member coming in sort of ill-informed.
What I'd like to do is just go through some of the things the member has said. He talks in his motion about restorative justice. And in fact, he said in a couple of places that restorative justice was the be-all and end-all. Restorative justice can stop recidivism, he said. That's what he said. It can stop - stop - recidivism.
Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, restorative justice is a new term that's just come out in the last few years. And what is the word "restorative" justice? Restorative justice is to restore justice. It says in itself that there's a lack of justice out there now, that there needs to be something done. We need to do something different.
And I don't think there's any evidence out there right yet to form a final conclusion. As the member said, and he said, "Read Hansard" - I will read Hansard, and I'll read it back to him tomorrow, and he can read it.
He said, and I wrote it down, "Restorative justice can stop recidivism" - can stop it. Well, I would hope that would be the case, but I would be very surprised if that would happen.
You know, Mr. Speaker, the member talked about jail, and he talked about this party on this side just wanting to put people in jail. Well, the member seems to, on one hand, want to be concerned about victims and society but, on the other hand, likes to lump the opposition into the party that just wants to put people in jail, but if he knew the history of it -
When the Yukon Party was in government and I was involved in the Justice department, there were all kinds of diversion projects, all kinds of initiatives taking place, all kinds of initiatives involving the public in "restorative justice issues".
If he had taken the time, if he hadn't been told to rush in here and try to scoop the motion next week and hadn't come in ill-prepared, he would have done some research and he would have discovered that there was a whole bunch of things done, and I'm going to lay a bunch of them out for the member today because, obviously, he didn't do much homework on this particular motion.
Mr. Speaker, another thing that he said today that bothered me immensely - and I will be conveying what he said back to his constituents in Watson Lake. I know that the majority of Yukoners in this territory do not support Bill C-68, and they especially don't support a registration system for firearms, but the Member for Watson Lake said today that he supports an inventory of firearms. Mr. Speaker, he supports an inventory of firearms. Who does he think is going to sign up for the inventory of firearms - the criminals of the country?
So, it's interesting, and we're going to pass that on to the Firearms Association and other people in this territory, because the New Democratic Party was very weak on Bill C-68, and they were dragged into the debate, finally, after Yukoners, thousands of them, spoke out and said they didn't like what the federal Liberal government was doing with Bill C-68 - which is a joke and a disaster and costing as much money as the firearms people said it was going to cost for registration.
The NDP were weak. The NDP said, at the last minute, "Me too."
They were very weak on the issue, and now the Member for Watson Lake says he supports - and I imagine he's speaking for his party - an inventory of firearms in this country. Tell it as it is - we support an inventory of firearms in the country. So, he supports the government, the police, or the federal government, or somebody having an inventory of firearms in this country of every law-abiding citizen. What's the point? The criminals aren't going to register their firearms. The criminals aren't going to inventory their firearms - I mean, give me a break. So, I think that the firearms people will be very interested in the comments made by the Member for Watson Lake here today.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake asked, "Does incarceration deter people from committing crimes?" He replied, "None whatsoever." He said, "None whatsoever, in jail, are people deterred from committing crimes. None whatsoever."
Do you know what bothers me about that? There are dozens of committed people who work in our jails and our institutions in the Yukon and other parts of this country who work very hard to rehabilitate some of these people and are successful at rehabilitating some of these people - not all of them, but some of them. But the Member for Watson Lake has said here today, "None whatsoever." I think that's an insult to the hard work that's done by the people who go up to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre on a daily basis, deliver the programs, work with the people and work with them when they get out of jail. The Member for Watson Lake should be ashamed of himself for not recognizing the hard work that these individuals do in our institutions.
He said a lot of things here today that probably concern a lot of people. Like I said, I support the motion, but unfortunately, the Member for Watson Lake has come into this House so ill-prepared that he's put his foot in his mouth a half a dozen times, and that's unfortunate.
He should have taken a little more time, and thought a little more about his motion before he came into the House.
He also said in there today - and I'm going to get into this a little later - victims should be more involved, and I couldn't agree more. That's where I came from as a Justice minister; that's where I've been coming from as a critic, for years in this territory.
Now, he says an important part of circle sentencing is that the victims can confront the accused and be part of the solution. In a few minutes, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to talk about that, because that's precisely the problem I have with what's going on in some cases with circle sentencing in the territory. That's precisely the problem I have, that the victims are left out, that the victims are ignored. That's the concern I have with respect to the circle sentencing. I'll be talking about that in a little while.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake has talked about the programs that are taking place in his community, and I applaud the work of the Liard First Nation and others in his community, but I can tell that member that I have had all kinds of people call me from Watson Lake who are frustrated, upset, disappointed, sick at the actions of our justice system today and what it's doing.
The Member for Watson Lake basically said here today that no one should go to jail. Well, guess what? That's not what the general public out there thinks, and there are a lot of people in the general public who think there are some people we have to be protected from in society, and those people should go to jail.
He also said, Mr. Speaker, that anyone that ever goes to jail becomes a criminal forever, that they never get out of the circle, they're always in the circle. Well, I beg to differ. The Member for Watson Lake probably knows some people that have gone to jail once or twice and never gone back. I know people that have had to go to jail for a mistake that they'd made and have never gone back.
The Member for Watson Lake says that they never get out of the circle, so what the Member for Watson Lake said here today is that anyone anywhere who has gone to jail is still a criminal. I don't agree with that. I don't agree with that, and you know what? I don't think the Member for Watson Lake even agrees with that. I don't know why he said it, but it might be because he didn't have a lot to say when he came in here today, and he was in a haste to get his motion before the House. They said, "Dennis, get in there. We've got to beat these guys to the punch because they're coming with a motion next week. We've got to get it in there before they do."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Minister of Justice, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Point of order, Mr. Speaker. I believe the Member for Riverdale North is well aware of the standing rules in this House, which do not permit referring to members by name. The member should refer to members by the riding that they represent.
Speaker: I will ask the member to identify members by their riding, not by names.
Mr. Phillips: I apologize to the Member for Watson Lake, Mr. Speaker. It was my fault. I was thinking of him before he became a New Democrat. He was Dennis then. Now he's the Member for Watson Lake. I'm sorry for that, and I apologize profusely for that error on my behalf. I will call him the Member for Watson Lake without the right wing. From now on, I will do that.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake talks about what this motion will do, and he talks about the involvement of the community.
Mr. Speaker, the community of the Yukon has generally lost confidence in the justice system in this territory. I think that's a fair statement to make, and I think there need to be some dramatic changes in the way the justice system is carried out in this territory, and I think the innovative approaches to crime prevention and the criminal justice system are good. We can't continue on with what we're doing, because it isn't working. It just isn't working.
If the Member for Watson Lake had had some time to do some research on this particular motion that he was forced to bring into the House by someone on the side opposite, he would have discovered that, in 1995, a report was done by the Yukon Party government - in fact, I think at the time I was the Justice minister - and the report was called "Talking about Crime". It was a report that was commissioned. There was a group of Yukoners who travelled about the territory, from community to community, and these Yukoners heard the views of people in various communities in the territory on what they felt was right and what was wrong with our justice system and what we could do to improve it.
Mr. Speaker, in fact, the four guidelines used in the meetings in the communities were that the group was to listen, to record Yukoners' viewpoints, to use plain language, and to stimulate discussion on how to reduce crime in the territory.
The group of individuals travelled throughout the Yukon over a period of weeks and months, and met with hundreds of Yukoners from all walks of life, who gave freely of their time and ideas to improve Yukon's justice system. In fact, some of the recommendations are - there were three major concerns with respect to the Yukon's justice system - first of all, its failure to check the spread of crime, the difference between the law and justice, and its inability to address the root causes of crime.
The Member for Watson Lake said - I think it was one of his first statements - we didn't address the root causes of crime.
Well, we commissioned a report that went out and looked at that very issue and made recommendations regarding that very issue - 24 recommendations; 24 recommendations that were put forward.
The first recommendation was that the Government of the Yukon develop a comprehensive interdepartmental crime prevention and community safety strategy. And that work was going on.
When the Member for Mount Lorne became Minister of Justice and was briefed in her first Justice briefing, she was probably told that there was a lot of work already going on in this because I know there was a lot of work going on in the department. The people in the department weren't waiting for direction from that minister. They were following what they had heard from the communities in developing programs and developing initiatives that the minister today is undertaking.
I applaud those initiatives. I think many of them are responding to the 24 recommendations in the Talking About Crime report. Now they've changed the cover and they changed a few words, and called things "restorative justice" and other things, and that's fine - that's politics, I guess.
But the fact of the matter is, most of the things that the government is doing today are things that were recommended by the people when they did an extensive consultation process throughout the territory, back in 1995.
This, by the way, said that the Government of the Yukon should identify and establish working partnerships among Department of Justice, Health and Social Services, Education, recreation, Economic Development, with a mandate to design comprehensive crime prevention and community safety strategy, including policies through community empowerment, through social development. And I know that that work was being undertaken at that time.
The second recommendation is that the Government of the Yukon redirect funding for crime prevention projects. That was done under a Yukon Party government - crime prevention projects - and it's being done under this government, and I applaud the government continuing the good work of the recommendations of the committee that felt that this is the kind of thing that the people of the Yukon wanted to see.
The third recommendation is that the Department of Justice be identified as the lead department in crime prevention, and that's happening. That started back in 1995-96 and is continuing today under the direction of the Yukon New Democrat Minister of Justice.
Number four was that the Government of Yukon provide tangible support for Crime Prevention Yukon, and that's happening as well. They're working with the RCMP and they're working with Crime Prevention Yukon and others, developing new and innovative programs, and I applaud that work. That's exactly what the people were asking us to do and it's exactly what was initiated under our government and something that was carried out and continued on and added to by the new government. I'm pleased to see the report. It's one of the few reports, by the way, that didn't get thrown on to a shelf and ignored.
Number five is that the Government of Yukon, the Government of Canada and First Nations develop a process in the role of justice within self-government and that's something that's more of a longer term thing, but it's something that is being worked on. I know there were discussions when we were in government with the Teslin First Nation, with other First Nations with respect to drawing down some of the justice responsibilities, and I know that those discussions are ongoing with First Nations and that's good.
The sixth recommendation is that the Government of Yukon review with the departments of Justice, Health and Social Services how to improve the delivery of adult and youth services. I know that's a mid-term and a long-term recommendation, but I know that that initiative is being carried on as well, so I'm pleased to see that the government is following through with the recommendation.
The seventh one is that the Government of Yukon review the protocol in sharing information between the departments of Education and Health and Social Services. Now, there was a protocol in place, established under the Yukon Party government, to deal with this issue. I'm a little concerned about this one, because I've heard recently that there is some information that we could be sharing and I know that there are always complications between Health and Social Services and Education.
I would like to see a little more cooperation between the departments in this area. I mean, the bottom line here is for the betterment of the youth involved, in many cases. I think we have to put aside some of this protective stuff we have and find innovative ways to share more information so that we can provide the necessary services for these youth in trying to rehabilitate them.
"That the Government of the Yukon encourage public input on federal legislation" - that's a recommendation that we haven't heard much about under this government. We did talk a little bit about it. I know the government wrote a letter on the Young Offenders Act - actually flip-flopped on a couple of positions on the Young Offenders Act, with respect to naming young offenders. They were initially not going to name anybody, and now the Minister of Health and Social Services responsible, as we're getting closer to an election and he's been reading the views of the Yukon public, has changed his view a little bit on that. Now he's agreed that the names of more violent offenders should be made public. So, they have done a bit of a flip-flop on that. I'm pleased to see that - he's coming around.
Recommendation number 9 is "That the government and community mechanisms be put in place to evaluate justice programs and services". Mr. Speaker, we've done some of that, and I think that the motion addresses that - "To pursue innovative approaches to crime prevention and criminal justice based on the principles of restorative justice and community decision-making, and involving the community is extremely important." My concern here - and I'll be dealing with that a little later on - is the issue of evaluating justice programs. The one program that I've suggested should be evaluated, and is timely to evaluate, is circle sentencing. I'll be raising that issue in a few moments with the member.
Recommendation number 10 is that the Government of the Yukon turn its attention to the root causes of crime by supporting early-intervention strategies, and I know that this government cut its support for the YES program. It wouldn't support the YES program that the federal Liberal government pulled out of. But I do applaud some of the moves that the government has made recently with respect to some of the initiatives for youth. I think that again we should go back to what we heard in the Talking About Crime report and in some of the meetings that we've had with youth, where the youth said that the programs have to be driven by the youth as opposed to the programs being forced on them by us. It's better if the youth are the ones who design the programs and work on the programs, because they know what the youth will actually accept.
The eleventh recommendation is that the Department of Education actively promote crime prevention and zero tolerance of violence, drugs and alcohol in Yukon schools. I know that they had had a committee struck in the Yukon schools with respect to violence. We haven't heard a lot about it lately, and I guess, in that case, no news is good news, but I would be interested, I guess, somewhere down the road, in hearing the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Education give us an update on exactly what has happened with that committee and what is happening with respect to the initiatives that they are working on.
Recommendation number 12 is similar to the earlier recommendation that we work with youth, and I've spoken about that - where the government should develop programs. There were some programs developed when we were in government, and this government has continued with them and added new ones, and I don't have a problem with that. I think those kinds of programs are positive but, again, I would suggest to the minister that the youth be very much involved in the developing of the programs if you want them to partake in them.
The City of Whitehorse and the Government of the Yukon review the need for a recreation centre, and the Government of the Yukon there has given a commitment to the City of Whitehorse government with respect to a new recreational complex in the territory. And, hopefully, once we resolve the issue of where it's going to go, construction will actually start on this new facility, and youth and others can use it on an ongoing basis.
Recommendation number 14 is that the communities be encouraged to establish dispute resolution bodies and procedures. Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake said we didn't involve the communities. Well, guess what? This is what this recommendation said. In fact, it was the communities that made the recommendation. We went around to the communities with this group, and they listened to the communities. It came across as a fairly strong recommendation, and a lot of initiatives are taking place now as a result of those recommendations. I think, for the first time, some people in the communities must be starting to feel like they are being listened to a little bit, and I think that's positive. It may help restore some of the confidence back in our justice system.
Recommendation number 15 said that the current approaches to community justice continue to be supported, and I know that the government is moving in that direction but, again, I'd point out that this is something that came out of a report in 1995. It's not anything new that the New Democratic Party government did, but a recommendation that they followed up on, and I applaud the fact that they didn't shelve the report but followed up on it. I have no problem with them moving in that direction.
The victim and offender program is to be expanded into the communities - I know the government is attempting to do this. It's a little more costly, a little more expensive, and maybe the Minister of Justice, when she gets up to respond today, can give us a status report on that and tell us how we're doing with that particular program.
The RCMP reviewed the delivery of its community policing programs, and I know that, when Superintendent Egglestone was here, those were exactly the kind of initiatives that were being worked on - the community policing initiatives. I don't take the credit for it. A lot of the credit has to go to the hard-working people in the Department of Justice, who meet on a regular basis with the RCMP, and the hard-working people in the RCMP, and the commitment of the senior officials in both the Department of Justice and the RCMP to get things moving along, to support the hard work of the employees in the department who are working on these programs and developing them, based on what they heard in the Talking About Crime report.
That was initiated under a Yukon Party government and continued under the direction of the current Minister of Justice from a New Democratic Party government, and that's great. I think that's what people in the Yukon want to see. They don't want to see it thrown out and put on a shelf just because it was someone else's idea.
I don't think, for a moment, that our party, or any other party in this House, has a lock on all the best ideas. I think that the current Minister of Justice has even added to some of the initiatives that have taken place, but many of the initiatives that are added to, we have to be honest with each other, are initiatives that have come from ideas from people in the communities, from RCMP officers, from people in the department. And those are the people whom we should be applauding, rather than patting ourselves, politically, on the back. I think it is those people who actually get the programs moving after we give direction to support these kinds of initiatives.
Recommendation number 18 that the RCMP distribute its local policing plan to the community. I'd like the Minister of Justice, if she can when she responds, maybe let us know - I think I've seen an overall plan for the RCMP, but are we doing one for the smaller communities? How far are we going with that particular recommendation?
"The RCMP review the feasibility of setting up the Citizens on Patrol program" was recommendation number 20. Well, we held several meetings - I think two or three meetings when we were in government - to try and establish the Citizens on Patrol program, and much of the work had been done in gathering the background information for the Citizens on Patrol program.
The current government thought that was a good recommendation, and I understand that that program is doing very well in the territory. It involves a lot of dedicated Yukoners who are concerned about justice in this territory and concerned about their community. They're giving of their free time to provide extra eyes and ears for the RCMP in our neighbourhoods in Whitehorse.
And I also, Mr. Speaker, should not only thank the RCMP members and the volunteers who were involved, but I understand as well there were a lot of businesses that have donated services in kind to support the COP program - the Citizens on Patrol program. Those were initiatives again, that were started three or four years ago.
Now, the Member for Watson Lake said that we didn't do anything. Well, so far I've listed 20 recommendations that were all initiated way back in 1995.
The other issue was that the RCMP expand the auxiliary police program to the communities. I know that the minister is attempting to look at that, and I'm not sure how far along we've got in that. But I know we brought an Auxiliary Police Act in, and I applaud the minister for that. I supported the act. It was something that was found to be needed to protect the liability, evidently, of the auxiliary police officers, and it was something that they asked to do, and some work that was being initiated way back in 1996. So it's something that was being initiated then, so I'm pleased that that has gone forward.
Recommendation number 22 is that "Information about the justice system and community concerns be shared between members of court circuits and community residents." This is public education, and it recommended that the Yukon Department of Justice and the Yukon Public Legal Education, with input from the federal Crown prosecutor's office should hold informal meetings with community residents at regular intervals throughout the year to gain input on community expectations and standards.
Now, this is one that I haven't heard a lot about. I think it falls into line with the member's motion that's here before us to work with the people in the community in decision making, and I would hope that the government would be acting on that particular recommendation. I think it's important to go back to the people and get an update, from time to time, on things that we could do better in the justice system.
Number 23 says "That more opportunities to learn more about the justice system be encouraged in our Yukon schools", and I don't believe much has been done on this one either. I know there are some teachers in some of the high schools who run some programs and do some work and invite people in from the justice system from time to time, but I don't think much has changed over the past five or six years. I don't think that we've moved much on that particular recommendation.
Number 24 is that "Counselling, rehabilitation and similar programs must be reviewed to ensure that people get the help they need without having to resort to criminal activity in order to access programs." This says that there should be a review of all policies to make programs more accessible to those in need before a small issue becomes a major problem. I'm not sure what action the government has taken on that particular one, but I think it's one that should be followed up on.
One thing that we heard loud and clear in the consultative process when we went around the territory back in 1995 was that people were somewhat upset that Justice officials were coming back into their community and asking them what they thought about the justice system and what they could do to make it better. The reason they were upset is, they said, "You people keep coming and doing this all the time but nothing ever changes. No one seems to listen. You just show up, you ask us what our views are, you leave, and nothing changes."
It's fair to say that since 1995, under a Yukon Party government, this consultation process was initiated and some of the recommendations were acted on early and most of the recommendations have continued to be acted on by the department and the current minister. I hope that the people in the communities realize that that's all part of restoring confidence in the justice system - not restorative justice, because I'm not sure whether that is maybe just more of a buzz word or the new modern word to use for admitting that the current system is a failure.
I don't share the confidence that the Member for Watson Lake has in the fact that restorative justice is the be-all and end-all and, as he said, "will stop recidivism". I would like to think that might happen, but I kind of think that he's dreaming a bit, if he thinks that that's the only solution.
Mr. Speaker, the people of the Yukon spoke loud and clear, back in 1995, and they also spoke loud and clear last year when another Whitehorse group put together a study on perceptions of crime, safety and justice. It was a Whitehorse city survey. This city survey went out and looked at what people's concerns were with respect to justice in the territory, primarily in the City of Whitehorse.
Many Yukoners were very concerned - had the same concerns that we heard in the other report. I'm not sure why we have this motion in front of us here today, other than the fact that the government wanted to try and get in ahead of the motion that we were going to table next week, because it talks about - let's look at the motion. The motion says that the Yukon people want and deserve a justice system that's accountable to them and reflects the values of society. Well, I don't think anyone could disagree with that. That's a given.
"The Yukon's justice system can become more open and accountable by community participation and crime prevention, meeting victims' needs and offender rehabilitation and correctional reform" - well, that's exactly what the Talking About Crime report said. That's what it said, so we can't disagree with that, either.
It says, "That this House supports the pursuit of innovative approaches to crime prevention and criminal justice, based on the principles of restorative justice and community decision making." Now, I don't think one could necessarily disagree with that, either. That's a positive statement that basically says what the report says - that the people want something different.
They want justice restored - not necessarily restorative justice - but they want justice restored.
The next line is that "The government's restorative justice consultations, which will provide the Yukon public with an opportunity to shape positive changes to the Yukon justice system." I'm not sure what the minister wants to do here. Restorative justice consultations - well, Talking About Crime said clearly that the people were tired of always being asked and not seeing any action.
It's important to go back from time to time and consult and update and get input from constituents, but this was only done four years ago. There are still more things to do in this report, and I would hope that when the government goes around with this round of consultative talks, maybe one of the things it could be doing is updating the people who appeared before this committee on what initiatives have been acted on and what changes have been made.
I think that would be a positive move, because the general public, a lot of the time, doesn't see a lot of the work that goes on in the justice system. I think it's important for the Department of Justice, or whomever, when they go out in this next found of discussions, to provide an update on the Talking About Crime report. That way, the people would feel that it wasn't a completely useless exercise.
The Member for Watson Lake, who came to the House without a lot of information about justice, I hope understands now that there is a bit of history to what is going on in the territory, that the initiatives we're seeing today, the new programs that are operating today with respect to youth and adults and rehabilitation, are not something that just started since they got into government - or even just started since we were in government previously.
A lot of these programs have been ongoing for years. I would hope that the Member for Watson Lake would realize, when he thinks about this a little more, that the people in the correctional institute in Whitehorse - the employees - work hard and are dedicated people who really believe that the work they're doing up there is helping someone, and that some of those people who do get incarcerated are actually rehabilitated by the hard-working people, some of whom give of their free time to go to the correctional institute and run programs and deliver programs, and others who have developed programs over the years that are retraining people for trades, basic skills, education. I know that some of the people in the Yukon College come down there and run programs at the correctional facility. I would like to think that those people must feel like they are having some positive effect on people in our institution.
Now, the member said that recidivism is very high, and we all know that. And we should work to try to change that. And I think every member in this House wants to do that. I don't think there is anybody in here who doesn't want to see that happen. I mean, I don't think it would be a great thing to have a record as the United States does, of having the most people incarcerated of any country in the world. That's not anything to brag about. But, on the other hand, the Member for Watson Lake has to realize that there are some bad actors out there. There are some people who are harmful to society. There are some people from whom the public has to be protected, and some of those people have to be incarcerated. Rehabilitation programs just don't work for some of those people.
Mr. Speaker, the member talked a little bit about circle sentencing.
In his discussion about circle sentencing, he said that we, in the Yukon Party - and me, primarily - were against circle sentencing. Again, it the member had taken some time, if he wasn't just a new, born-again Justice critic as of Monday morning when he tabled the motion, and even if he'd read the Order Paper of two weeks ago, three weeks ago, I tabled a motion in this House about circle sentencing. It doesn't say anything about not supporting circle sentencing. He knows what I said in this House. If he was ever interested in Justice issues, he could have read Hansard a half a dozen times. He could have read the local newspaper a week ago, when I was asked about my support for circle sentencing, and I said yes, I did support circle sentencing for minor crimes.
I have a real problem with circle sentencing for violent crimes, and we only have to look at a couple of recent cases and the circus that's carried on - I mean, some people are calling it "circus sentencing", because that's what it ended up being - a circus. One individual, I think, ended up going back to court after he was sent to a circle almost 30 times. It probably cost the taxpayer $10,000 or $20,000, for the RCMP time, the judges' time, the lawyers' time and the court's time - thousands of dollars. The unfortunate thing about that particular case is that the victims - the person who was held at knife point, and the general public who were the victims - suffered again, and again, and again, as a result of the inability of the justice system to deal with the problem.
The Member for Watson Lake said circle sentencing is good because the victims are involved.
Well, if the Member for Watson Lake had taken some time, had had more than three days to research his instant motion, he would have discovered that the victims - the circle sentencing in the violent crimes - were left out.
There was a case a few months ago where the victims were going to participate, and the victims refused to participate, but the judge in this case chose to proceed anyway. The same thing happened in the most recent case, where the individual has been in court more than two dozen times and where the victim again was not a priority of the circle - re-victimized, felt re-victimized, spoke out about it, time and time again.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Watson Lake wants to paint a black-and-white picture. But it's not that easy. What I proposed in my motion last week that flows with the issues that are in front of us here today - talking about crime and the criminal justice system and the principles of restorative justice and community decision making - the principles are the same.
The Talking about Crime report recommended that we review programs from time to time and evaluate whether they're working. That's what people said out there in the communities. The people in the communities said that, from time to time, we should look at our justice programs, and see how they're working. And I would think the same should go for any new restorative justice programs that the minister's initiating now. Any program she's got in place, we should be really looking at it to see how well it works. I mean, what I found surprising today is the outright statement made by the Member for Watson Lake, the instant Justice critic, when he said, "Restorative justice is the answer."
You know, the jury is still out on what restorative justice is in some areas. I mean, it means different things to different people. There are all kinds of new and innovative things that people are trying, rather than incarceration - and we should be. That's the direction we should be trying to go in, but keeping in mind the rights of the victims and the protection of the public should be paramount.
One of the fundamental principles of restorative justice is the rights of the victims, and that's one of the concerns I have with circle sentencing, especially for use in violent crimes. What I have suggested to the government is that circle sentencing has been in place now for quite a few years - I think seven or eight years, where it's been practiced on a regular basis in the territory. It has a history. It has a record, so to speak, of individuals who have gone through the system, and it's probably timely that we look at how well it's working.
I'm not here to say it isn't working at all, in all aspects. I'm here to tell the members that I don't think it's working for violent crimes, and I think most Yukoners feel that way. But I am here to suggest to the government that we should be seriously looking at evaluating the use of circle sentencing for violent and non-violent crimes. It's something that we can't ignore. It's becoming more of a major part of the foundation of justice in the territory. We're moving from one area to another, and circle sentencing seems to be one of the pillars that we're starting to depend upon. I think, before we get too far down the road, it's timely now to have a look at it and see whether it has been positive.
I've heard some very positive things about circle sentencing in some aspects. It's worked very well. But I've also heard some negative things about it.
I recall when one of the First Nations was asked to put together a justice circle to deal with a serious crime, they didn't even have a justice committee established. They had to set up a justice committee in a hurry and, since then, that particular case has just crumbled. It has brought all kinds of criticism upon the use of circle sentencing for violent crimes. The First Nation involved has sort of backed away from it, because it didn't want to deal with the problems that this individual was causing. The judge has described the individual as a trailblazer, and I think that's probably the only accurate thing in this case. The fellow certainly burned every bridge that he crossed in causing people to question whether circle sentencing was the right approach.
The Member for Watson Lake talked in the House here today about responsibility, and one of the things we heard in the Talking About Crime report was that people have to take responsibility for their actions. We, as a society, have a role to play as well, but people should be answerable for their actions. I disagree somewhat with the Member for Watson Lake and, for the most part, his party, when they like to put the blame on everybody else for the actions of an individual when that system failed the individual.
But guess what? Sometimes, whether we like it or not, the individual fails the system.
Mr. Speaker, this motion that's before us here today really, for the most part, talks about what is already being done. It doesn't initiate really new initiatives.
I'm sure when the Minister of Justice gets up - the real Justice minister in the territory gets up - and speaks about this motion today, she'll list dozens of programs that the government is doing right now with respect to restoring justice in the territory and the work it's doing in the communities. I don't have a problem with that. That's fine, but the motion isn't suggesting we do anything really new. It just says we should pursue innovative approaches to crime, and I know that's exactly what the Talking about Crime report recommended, and that's exactly what was initiated back in 1995-96, and it's exactly what the minister and her department have carried on since then. Again, I applaud the good work of all the people in the justice system for moving in this direction.
I get a little disturbed when the Member for Watson Lake tells us that restorative justice - or, as I like to say, restoring justice - is the be-all and end-all. I mean, we'll see. It's too early to make that kind of a judgment now as to whether it's the only way to go.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that, although the motion is general in context, I think it talks about a couple of areas, but should be more specific in one area, and that's the area that is one of the pillars now in the approaches we're taking in the justice system, and that is with respect to circle sentencing.
Mr. Speaker, that's why what I would like to do today is provide a friendly amendment to the motion that's here before us that will in no way change the intent of the motion of the instant Justice critic, the Member for Watson Lake, but will in fact enhance the motion that's put before us and, I think, strengthen the motion and speak to an issue that I have heard many Yukoners raise with me over the past few years, and that is the issue of circle sentencing. It's important, Mr. Speaker, that we address this issue, because it is a part of the justice system that is extremely important. It flows, clearly, with the recommendations in the Talking About Crime report, which says that from time to time to evaluate the various programs we have in place, and I would hope that the government members and the other opposition members see fit to sponsor the motion.
Mr. Phillips: So, Mr. Speaker, what I would like to do at this time is move
THAT Motion No. 162 be amended by adding the following words at the end of clause 2 of the second paragraph: "including an evaluation of the use of circle sentencing for violent and non-violent crimes."
Speaker: Order please. It has been moved by the MLA for Riverdale North
THAT Motion No. 162 be amended by adding the following words at the end of clause (2) of the second paragraph: "including an evaluation of the use of circle sentencing for violent and non-violent crimes."
Mr. Phillips: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, what I've tabled here today is a friendly amendment, an addition to the motion, which speaks specifically to a specific program within the Department of Justice. It is certainly consistent with the recommendation in the Talking About Crime report that asks us to go back from time to time to these various programs and evaluate them.
Circle sentencing has a history to it now. It's something that I think would be a useful exercise. And what we would hear from people, I'm sure, are some very positive things about circle sentencing in the territory. We would possibly gain some valuable information that would improve the use of circle sentencing for other crimes in the territory. We'd hear whether the general public is supportive of using circle sentencing for non-violent crimes or violent crimes. We'd hear the pros and cons of the use of circle sentencing.
I think that this would be a useful exercise to do. I don't think it's an onerous one that the government could carry out. I think it could work in conjunction with First Nations and others in evaluating this particular program.
We might find out, in the end, that we made the program much better, and I'm sure we will, because I would be very surprised if a recommendation came down after the evaluation that it wasn't working. I firmly believe it is working in some cases, and working very well. But I think, like anything else - you know, the Member for Watson Lake talked about recidivism. Well, we don't know the recidivism of circle sentencing right now. This is the kind of thing I think we would find out. Is it working better or worse than the other one? Maybe it would add some strength to using the circle sentencing for more individuals.
So, I would recommend to the members that this is a friendly amendment. With this amendment, we certainly could support the motion put forward by the Member for Watson Lake. I would hope that the debate today has enlightened the Member for Watson Lake somewhat on the history of the justice system in the territory, and that, although he was reborn early this week, that in fact he now realizes that the justice system has been around a lot longer than he has, and that many of these programs and the hard-working people in our community correctional facilities and the Department of Justice were working on these issues long before the member found a new interest in this field.
So, I would hope that members would see fit to support this amendment to the motion. I believe that it strengthens the motion. We were leaders in the country with respect to circle sentencing a few years ago, so it's certainly time, before we go much further down the road, to evaluate how well it's performed, how successful it's been, and how we might improve it in the future. So, I would recommend to all members that they support this friendly amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: First I'd like to applaud the Member for Riverdale North for his constructive input. Let me say that restorative justice includes doing an evaluation of circle sentencing, so this side of the House would have absolutely no problem supporting the amendment.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called. Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Harding: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. Livingston: Agree.
Mr. Ostashek: Agree.
Mr. Phillips: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Cable: Agree.
Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the amendment carried.
Amendment to Motion No. 162 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion as amended?
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: I hardly know where to start this afternoon. I am absolutely blown away by the uncommon experience of having compliments from the Member for Riverdale North.
Mr. Speaker, our goal as a government is to bring justice closer to home. New approaches are needed and people are enthusiastic about it.
Now, the Member for Riverdale North stood there, and while he did pass on some compliments about the constructive work that we're doing, he also said that there were no changes. One might think that position is a little inconsistent but coming from that member, it doesn't surprise me. Let me tell him that change is happening at the community level. People are seeing action. People are seeing change.
The Member for Riverdale North also contradicted himself in saying that nothing needs to be done, that people don't want to talk about the justice system again. Mr. Speaker, I think that they do.
I'm committed to work for change in the justice system. We need change. We need a new way of thinking about crime and conflict. This is a subject that has always engaged the interest of the Yukon public and, indeed, the public in Canada and around the world.
The traditional approach is to see crime as an offence against the state, to see crime as an offence against the political organization, which is the basis of civil government. The Legislature and the House of Commons create the laws on behalf of the public that govern behaviour in our society. The state is seen as impersonal.
Mr. Speaker, we recognize that the public deserves a voice in how their justice system operates.
That is why I am presently conducting Yukon-wide community consultations on crime prevention and restorative justice. That consultation began last year, when I released the restorative justice in the Yukon discussion paper. We are working with community justice committees, with First Nations, municipalities, the education system, the Yukon Teachers Association, youth groups, the RCMP, women's groups, and many other non-government organizations, as well as individual Yukon residents who care passionately about our justice system and have ideas on how to improve it. I believe that the restorative justice discussions that will be continuing throughout this year will serve us very well.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverdale North spoke accurately when he said that we on this side of the House have a very different way of looking at the world than the members opposite. We are providing the public an opportunity to help shape change to the justice system according to a restorative justice approach. I think one of the fundamental differences between the Yukon Party vision and our vision is in recognizing the value of restorative justice. We have to put the victim back into the justice system. We have to recognize that, when a crime is committed, it is not committed against the state alone. A crime is committed that harms the victim and that harms the offender and that harms the community as a whole. That is why we need to build personal and community responsibility. That is why we need to engage in discussions with the public on how we can make constructive change.
Mr. Speaker, before I turn to a discussion of the principles of restorative justice - of public safety and accountability and community involvement and partnerships - I want to talk for a moment about the Member for Riverdale North's comments in relation to circle sentencing.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that restorative justice is a mechanism to evaluate the existing justice system and a way to evaluate some of the changes that are in place. Later on, if I have time, I want to speak about some of the changes that are occurring and some of the alternatives, such as family group conferencing, diversion programming and circle sentencing.
First, however, I want to be very clear that restorative justice is about examining those alternatives and how they're working. In fact, Mr. Speaker, there's a community justice newsletter that has been coming out regularly for about a year now, and in a recent issue, they put out a call for people who have experience with those alternatives, with circle sentencing, to provide us with some information.
The Member for Riverdale North, in his comments in this House about circle sentencing, has created a very dangerous impression about how the justice system operates. I want to set the record clear. The public deserves to know how the justice system operates.
Mr. Speaker, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has half a dozen articles about the right that every person has to be treated equally in the eyes of the law.
People have the right to be protected by the laws of their country, no matter who they are. They have the right to see justice done, if their rights are violated.
Mr. Speaker, article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that people have the right to a fair and public hearing if they are ever accused of breaking the law or if they have to go to court, for some reason.
The courts must be independent from the government, qualified to understand the law, and free to make their own decisions. People who are accused of a crime have the right to be treated as innocent until they are proven guilty, according to the law. They have the right to a fair and public trial, where they are allowed to defend themselves before an independent judge.
Mr. Speaker, it seems that the member opposite didn't get it when he served as Minister of Justice, so let me put it in very simple terms: the Minister of Justice is not the judges' boss. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in stating that everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing before an independent tribunal, means that our justice system is based on the concept of an independent judiciary. That's a fundamental democratic right.
The member opposite is creating a very dangerous impression in the public eye. I was recently accosted by someone who wanted to say that I had ruined their lives because I had let someone out of jail. There's the danger that the member opposite is creating. A Justice minister does not send people to jail and a Justice minister does not let people out of jail.
The Justice critic for the official opposition seems to relish his role as an investigator and a prosecutor and a judge and a jury and an executioner. I'm sure he'd like to lock them up and throw away the key, too, but, Mr. Speaker, in a democratic society that is not his right. That is not any minister of justice's right.
Public safety is one of the most important principles when we're determining which offenders should be separated from society and which offenders can be better managed in the community. That is a more victim-centred approach and places the right of victims and the public's right to feel safe in their communities out front.
In order to have an accountable justice system, we need to consult Yukon people. We have to monitor the implementation of restorative justice programs, which are built on community involvement.
Now, Mr. Speaker, when the Member for Riverdale North is criticizing circle sentencing and is criticizing the work that's being done, he needs to be careful because he's criticizing countless volunteers who are working very hard in communities to create constructive change. Our community justice model is built on partnerships with First Nations and municipal and federal governments as well as communities and non-government organizations.
We have made significant progress in the area of crime prevention. Mr. Speaker, we brought forward a Crime Prevention and Victim Services Trust Act, which creates a trust fund for supporting crime prevention programs at the community level. We have supported student crime-stopper programs. We are doing a lot, as well, to recognize victims' rights and responsibilities.
The Member for Riverdale North has spoken about victims' rights when it comes to circle sentencing. If I may speak from a personal viewpoint for a moment, victims should have a voice and should have the ability to state their choice and have it respected.
We have brought forward programs to support victims. The public agrees that the justice system needs to take offenders' and victims' needs into account. We can improve victim services, and that is something that can happen through our community justice work.
The member also spoke about interdepartmental work to support community empowerment and social development. Let me say, Mr. Speaker, that we have made it work. We have created a new crime prevention and policing branch within the Department of Justice. The previous Yukon Party minister didn't do that.
We are continuing to work with Crime Prevention Yukon. We have supported youth leadership programs in a number of communities around the Yukon that have reduced crime and that have not only reduced crime in the short-term while those programs are being offered, but will reduce crime in the long run.
The Member for Riverdale North also spoke about youth, and I want to spend a few minutes talking about the constructive activities that we're doing for youth. The new Youth Criminal Justice Act has been introduced. There has been a debate about youth crime and the Young Offenders Act for quite some time. The Interchange on Canadian Studies conference, which will be held in May, has justice as its theme. We want to ask students from across the country who are at that conference to consider the new youth criminal justice law and what changes they would recommend.
Our youth strategy recognizes the value of having youth involved in determining the programs we offer and how to meet the needs of youth. We have had strong interdepartmental work not only among government departments, but with non-government organizations such as the Positive Action With Yukon Youth Coalition and the City of Whitehorse. We have supported youth recreation programs. We have $200,000 in new funding available to offer programs that help keep kids out of trouble. We've supported theatre camps, computer camps, fish camps. We've seen the youth investment fund have increased monies available for programs that have included student crime-stopper programs.
The Member for Riverdale North also, in saying that nothing had been done, didn't recognize the value of the community development fund, which has supported Crime Prevention Yukon, and which has supported a number of activities around the territory that will help us move toward a restorative justice model that recognizes the rights of victims and reduces crime.
Correctional reform is also something that has had a lot of discussion in this territory. We have seen sentencing reform with amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada. While there are as many as 80 offenders at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, there are also as many as 1,200 offenders who are on probation, who are involved in diversion programs, who are on some form of community sentencing. There's a lot of new activity there, Mr. Speaker, and there is a lot of support for correctional reform.
It is earlier community intervention and diversion methods that have proven to be the best ways to modify criminal behaviour. Locking offenders up for longer sentences and longer periods of incarceration in a secure facility does not have a significant deterrent effect, and does little to reduce the crime rates of re-offending. Again, I contradict the Member for Riverdale North.
The role of government and society, while protecting its citizens, is to determine better and more efficient ways to rehabilitate those who break the law. The findings of a recent review of Yukon adult correctional centres, First Nations self-government agreements and the poor physical condition of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre all point toward the need for change.
We recognize the need not simply to replace Whitehorse Correctional Centre, but to engage in meaningful correctional reform. We can't treat offenders in the same way. We have to look for more effective ways of rehabilitation.
At the same time, there will always be some offenders who require secure custody. That is why I have made a commitment in this budget for funds to support our restorative justice work and our identification of correctional reform measures that will meet the needs in the Yukon.
That is why our government has made a commitment, in the long term, to replace Whitehorse Correctional Centre, to do the feasibility work, after we have heard from the public about what measures we can use as an alternative and about how to improve the facilities that we can offer in a new correctional centre.
That is a firm commitment, Mr. Speaker - to replace the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, after we've looked at programming needs and designed a replacement facility that can offer the widest range of rehabilitative programming possible.
Yukon correctional reform must balance the risk to public safety with the need -
Speaker: The minister has two minutes.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I want to applaud the members of the community justice committees around the Yukon who are working hard already to establish restorative justice in our neighbourhoods. I want to say that we recognize the need to address the root causes of crime, to bring a new approach that can promote healing for the victim, for the offender and for the community as a whole.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cable: I'll say at the outset that we will be supporting the motion - despite the comments of the mover of the motion, the Member for Watson Lake, not because of them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cable: It's just the truth.
Underlying the motion are a few general propositions, and underlying what I think are the minister's initiatives in the area of community justice and restorative justice. I'd like to go over them, simply to collect my own thoughts on the matter, and tell the minister and the mover of the motion where we're coming from.
I think a first general proposition that I hear - out on the street, anyway - is that the justice system belongs to everyone, not just the major players in the system, in the same sense that the health system or the education system belongs to everyone, not just the professionals in those systems.
Another proposition is that, right now, the justice system does not have the complete confidence of the public and that most people think that the justice system needs some kind of a tune-up.
The final proposition is that the public must be the major players in bringing changes to the system. This is basically what the motion is saying. The motion is basically a collection of truisms. It's difficult to disagree with it. I don't think anybody would disagree with the major principles.
Now, over the last half century, the public has drifted more and more away from active involvement in bringing justice to our communities. Many North Americans, in general, and many Canadians, in particular, have become migrants in their own countries in the sense that community ownership of community problems has diminished. At the same time, our sort of crazed consumerism has raised pressures on the less financially fortunate in our society, and the lessened demands on the younger members of our society has provided the opportunity for mischief. This has resulted in many things that members of the public find annoying, particularly the spates of vandalism.
Over the last few years, it's become apparent that as war is too important to be left to the generals, justice is too important to be left to the justice system professionals, and there has been for several decades an unfocused but vague unease that the system isn't working, but it is only in the last few years that we have come to deal with its problems in terms of personal inter-reactions and personal transactions among the victim, the community and the criminal.
It's interesting to go over what has been done here in the Yukon. A couple of years ago, back in August of 1995 - three years ago - there was a group of citizens who went around the territory to discuss crime issues. They produced a document called Talking About Crime, a committee report. It's interesting to go through the various recommendations, because underlying many of them is the suggestion that the community must become more involved.
Recommendation 14 in this report that's called the committee report of August 1995 recommends that the communities be encouraged to establish dispute resolution bodies and procedures.
Number 15 recommends that current approaches to community justice continue to be supportive.
Number 20 recommends that the RCMP review the feasibility of setting up the Citizens on Patrol program in Whitehorse.
Number 23 recommends that more opportunities to learn about the justice system be encouraged in Yukon schools.
It was recognized three years ago that the justice professionals, by themselves, are certainly not going to restore justice to our communities.
There's another interesting handbook that came out in the last few months from the National Crime Prevention Centre. It's called Safer Communities, a Parliamentarian's Crime Prevention Handbook and, in section 3, which is entitled, "A National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention", the document says, "Crime prevention works when it takes root at the community level. It is the people who live and work in a community who are the experts on their area's problems, strengths and needs. Yet, for communities to develop innovative solutions to create a safer society, they need to form partnerships."
So, I think it's safe to say that there is no doubt that the people are on side in wanting change. The people are already there in wanting greater accountability, whether it's accountability of the criminal for his or her actions, or accountability of the community in producing the environment that causes crime and the accountability of the community in dealing with crime prevention.
So, the question really isn't whether restorative justice and community decision making are supportable - of course they are and of course the motion is supportable but we are rapidly moving toward the time when we need some action - less talk and more action.
So, the question for the government is this: will the necessary human resources be applied to the justice system to make it work, to translate the theoretical into a reality? That will be the test of the effectiveness of the government's initiatives, not the support of some motion, which basically pats the government on the back. But action is for another day, Mr. Speaker, and that's a debate for another day, so we will be supporting the motion.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I welcome the opportunity to speak on this particular motion.
Well, I think, Mr. Speaker, one of the things we need to take a look at is that we're at a point now in our history where we do need a different sort of approach. We do need a different take on justice.
The simple fact of the matter is that the system that we have had over the centuries hasn't been particularly effective in a lot of ways. The idea of just locking people up and throwing away the key doesn't seem to work and, basically, I think we can base that on the very fact that we do have extremely high incarceration rates in Canada, particularly in the Yukon. I think the recidivism rates are disgraceful, and, quite frankly, we do more in terms of sentencing people to incarceration here than they do in other parts of the country or even parts of the western world, and it doesn't seem to be making a huge impact. In fact, if we can say that there is a crime, in some ways the criminal justice system itself is a crime.
So, I think we have to, quite frankly, look for alternatives. I think we have to look for alternatives that are not only more socially beneficial but also more fiscally beneficial. The money that we put into jails in this country just seems to rise, and, of course, if we compare ourselves to the United States, where they seem to be building prisons at the rate of one every six months, it's even more startling.
So, I guess we've been increasing our spending on the criminal justice system, so what has happened? Well, for one thing, crime has increased. The majority of the inmate population comes from a small minority of the community population, and as we've seen, not only in the Yukon but throughout Canada, it is over-representative of people from lower income and, particularly - and I think this is an enormous tragedy - of our aboriginal population.
Quite frankly, it's a waste of lives. It's a very disturbing waste of lives and a waste of human potential, and I think we have to look at other alternatives. I believe this is what my colleague, the Minister of Justice, is trying to do with her work on restorative justice. I think what she's looking at is seeking alternatives that will work, alternatives that won't focus so much on incarceration, but on community options. I think we've had some successes already in place. I believe, despite perhaps maybe some of the comments of my friend, my colleague, the Member for Riverdale North, we have had some successes.
I think diversion is an example of one of those successes, and I'm speaking, of course, from a youth justice perspective, but diversion does keep kids out of jail. Statistically, about 80-percent of the kids who go through a diversion process never show up in the justice system again, and it's a way to give young people a second chance. It's a way to make them confront the impact of their crimes. It's a way to make them come face to face with those people whom they've injured, and realize the impact that they've had on people's lives.
Another initiative that I think has been very successful is the family group conferencing. This was an initiative that really grew out of a New Zealand experience, where the Maori indigenous population was over-represented in jails, and we began to use family group conferencing up here with some real successes.
As a teacher and principal, I saw the success of peer mediation in schools programs. I think there are a number of strong anti-violence programs in at least one school. My colleague there, a former principal of Porter Creek Secondary, can attest to that. As a matter of fact, that was a program that was sponsored by an individual whose name has come up in this Legislature, the late Flo Kitz.
So there are some alternatives that I think have been successful. I think they've helped young people, who have made mistakes, acknowledge their actions and work to turn their lives around.
Now, I'm not saying that all alternatives are perfect. They're not. There will be failures in circle sentencing. We know there will be. There will be repeat offenders. There will be people who are not appropriate for circle sentencing. There will be people who, despite our best efforts, will not respond to these options. So I guess, Mr. Speaker - what's new? I mean, the system that we have right now isn't a particularly sterling example of success, so I think we have to look at options, and I think we have to be willing to try different ideas.
We know that if we spend the money on early programs for children, we know if we spend the money on programs in meaningful education, if we can reduce some of the root causes of crime, we can help diminish the chances that a person will enter crime later on in life. And I think, quite frankly, we've taken some steps in this budget, which, in terms of Health and Social Services and Education, will be along there.
One of the concerns that is frequently raised about the criminal justice system is that victims of crime are without a voice and that there's no real forum for them to express the real impact of the crime on them. I think in some ways circle sentencing does address that. It allows a clear forum in a manner that's face to face with the offender. Now, the victim can tell the offender and tell those who are present ways that the crime impacted the victim. And often the offender can be quite surprised at the extent and impact of their crime. I know I've seen this myself in some of the work that I've done with youth diversion.
Young people may not think that the action that they took is that big a deal to them, but when they come face to face with a person who has had their life changed - perhaps just the property that they valued, destroyed, or perhaps their home broken into, and the sense of violation that that produces - I've seen some of those young people be actually quite startled and shaken by coming to realize what they have actually done.
I think that, in a way, is one of the most positive aspects of programs like diversion, and others, where a young person has to realize, "What have I done to this other individual?"
It's the community justice committees, made up of citizens in communities, who look at the circumstances of the case and decide if the case is appropriate for circle sentencing. I would hope that we can all agree that the people who make up community justice committees are well-intentioned and are truly seeking the best for the community in general. I hope that, in any of the discussion, what we're not doing is sort of implicit criticism of the volunteer commitments of people on community justice committees. I think citizens want to help; they want to be fair; they want to offer alternatives, and they want to try and save the kids in their own communities. No one wants to throw young people away. No one wants to give up on young people. I think community justice committees and the people who participate in them are an example of how a community can do that.
So, in some ways, I think, what we're seeing are good signs that communities are changing, that people have realized that they can't depend on some external force to help heal a community or help repair some of the damage that's gone on. They have to work at it themselves. Citizens of a community have to work on this.
I think this is a very traditional method of dealing with strife, or internal dissent within First Nation communities, and I think we have a lot to gain from the First Nation community on this. As I said about family group conferencing, I think these are ways we can perhaps use some traditional knowledge of people to help approach justice in a different way.
There are many kinds of circle sentencing, depending on the community. There is a misconception, however, that circles cannot sentence offenders to jail. They can do so. They can choose not to take individuals on, and they can use severe probation orders, as well. Once again, just making a reference to some of the work I saw on diversion - I actually saw diversion committees impose much tougher standards, sometimes, on young people that came before them than what that young person would ever have gotten through the formalized justice system.
People know the individuals and they're not going to be fooled by a young person saying, "Yes, I'll do this" and "Yes, I'll do that".
One thing that was alluded to here is that crime is, in effect, a problem of society. It's related to issues such as poverty, lack of education, lack of opportunities and perhaps related even to issues around just the opportunities that an individual has because of such things as developmental disorders as they're growing up. As a government, I think we've recognized that we have to address some of those points from a society.
In this budget that we're debating every day, we have taken some steps - the low-income family tax credit and the Yukon child benefit - both of which I think recognize that families do need some additional financial support. And we've put money into trying to help people who are on the lower end of the economy to keep more money in their pockets and perhaps be able to provide some opportunities for their children that maybe they didn't have. Perhaps what we can do is provide some ways so that people can support their families, materially and in other ways.
Some of the things that I hope we're going to be able to do in terms of providing recreation opportunities for young people of limited means I think would go a long way to do that. We've put more money in the youth investment fund to allow activities like this. We've established programs like school nutrition and the children's optical and drug program.
These are programs by which we're trying to support families of limited means, and I think things we can do like that will naturally enhance a young person's life and hopefully make the idea of getting involved with crime a less attractive option.
I think, if I have an opportunity, what I'd like to do is sort of discuss a little bit the new Youth Criminal Justice Act and how we would see this sort of flowing into the idea of restorative justice. As the federal Liberal government has tabled this new act, I believe it is an attempt to address the concerns of many Canadians about crime committed by 12- to 18-year-olds.
Now these are the favourite bête noirs of the Member for Riverdale North. These are the people that he feels are running around causing tremendous havoc, and he alluded to some of our stands on the previous Young Offenders Act. So what I thought we'd do is make up a bit of clarification on that.
Canada has been trying to deal with young offenders by legislative measures since 1894. At that time, there was an act called the Arrest, Trial and Imprisonment of Youthful Offenders. In 1908, the Juvenile Delinquents Act was proclaimed. This sort of grew out of the idea of the child-saving movement of the early 19th century, which, as many people could probably recognize, grew out of that sort of Victorian sort of sense of responsibility. This movement was responsible for the establishment of child protection systems. The act addressed concerns about incarcerating kids and teens with adults.
The Juvenile Delinquents Act adopted a welfare model for addressing youthful offenders. It used an informal process and treated young offenders as "misguided children".
Now, interestingly enough, we hear about the idea of publication bans and this is one element of the Young Offenders Act that so many people find absolutely very offensive, but in reality, under the earlier Juvenile Delinquents Act there was a complete publication ban under this act. Hearings were held in complete privacy.
The special leave of the court was required to publish the identity of the youth, but this was rarely, if ever, given. So, people who talk about the Young Offenders Act as being somehow softening up, need to go back and take a look at what existed there before.
In 1984, the Young Offenders Act was established. This was preceded by 20 years of public discussion about the nature of a forum. So, there has been this huge period of time that people have been trying to wrestle with this whole issue of youthful offenders. This isn't something just brand new. We haven't discovered so-called bad kids in the last 20 years. This has been something that society has been wrestling with for a long time.
The Young Offenders Act responded to federal criminal offences and separated youth justice and child welfare systems, and emphasized the ideas of youth accountability and established procedural protections for youth. The Young Offenders Act raised the minimum age from seven to 12. That occurred under the Young Offenders Act. Prior to that, children as young as seven could go under the Juvenile Delinquents Act. It standardized the maximum age at 18. It guaranteed the right to counsel - because this is post-Charter - established determinate sentencing - so, in other words, fixed periods of time to which a young person could be sentenced - exceptions to the publication ban, which had not existed in the previous Juvenile Delinquents Act, and formalized diversion.
So, that is a little bit of the history, unless members would care for me to go back any further. I suppose I could talk about even the earlier times. But we'll save that for another time.
The act being debated in the House of Commons currently sets the minimum age at 12. This may be one of the issues that is debated in a most spirited way in the House of Commons. I think Reform members, for instance, would be quite happy if the minimum age was 12 months, the way that I've heard some of those members talk. They will support the plan A, which is the lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key kind of approach. The new act reflects much of what we're doing in the Yukon.
Because of that, we feel it's consistent with the concept of restorative justice. It seeks to reduce the use of custody and limit custody to the most serious offences, which we feel is the thrust of restorative justice. It tries to provide meaningful consequences that are likely to prevent re-offending.
The act's principal role is to protect the public. Now, I can even bet that the Member for Riverdale North will like that statement, Mr. Speaker. I can bet that he could even buy into that one, even if it came from the Liberal government - and we know that there seems to be a split in the right wing today. I'm disturbed to see that they actually almost came to fisticuffs there, but I'm sure that the Member for Riverdale North can even see the wisdom from his Liberal colleagues there.
Of course, I don't know. I may be misinterpreting his usual huffing and puffing. I don't know. Does he really want to protect the public, or does he simply want to sort of sweep all the young people out of an area?
I mean, he did -
Speaker: The minister has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Oh, good heavens.
Well, I guess I'm just pleased to see that this new act does include, in the preamble, a specific mention of the UN Charter of Rights of the Child. It's comforting, because I think that's something that we need.
I think the act is very large. It's 160 pages. We studied it to some degree. We're still continuing to study it. We've had a meeting with Justice officials and my department. We feel that it is consistent with the covenants of restorative justice. It's consistent with alternative justice efforts, such as diversion, family group conferencing.
We think that we actually may be better placed than some other jurisdictions to take advantage of using this act because some of the programs that we have in place, other jurisdictions in Canada do not yet have in place, so we feel we're well-positioned.
It allows substantial government discretion in designing and implementing programs.
We do have some hesitations about the act. We have some questions about resources. What will the federal government be providing to us? Those are questions that we still have.
It works like the federal government, who do pay a significant amount for incarceration, moving away from incarceration to alternative measures, and I sincerely hope that that is a philosophical movement, not merely reflecting a desire to not pay for such things.
We are hoping that it will mean that they won't contribute less to the Yukon. We hope that it's not downloading. We don't know, as yet, what the costs of implementation are at this point.
I guess we do have some - in general, we have a degree of acceptance of the act. We feel that there are some positive measures there. We've looked at all the key points. We feel that there's nothing there that is inconsistent with the restorative justice, and in many cases it's -
Speaker: The minister's time has expired.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Thank you.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the Member for Watson Lake for bringing forward this motion today. It gives all of us an opportunity to discuss some positive changes that we could make to the present justice system in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I'll focus today on FAS in the Yukon's corrections system. It's my understanding that there's a program underway to help diagnose or identify inmates at our correctional institute here in Whitehorse who may have fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects.
I'm not sure how far we've come in this endeavour, but I must say that I support the initiative. The needs of persons with this particular disability are markedly different than any other inmate. Programming must be tailored to recognize and enhance the abilities of persons with fetal alcohol syndrome. There is an opportunity here to significantly better the lives of persons with FAS and FAE who are constantly inmates at our correctional facilities.
It is my hope, also, that when we embark on the development of programs for inmates with FAS, we may develop some marketable programs that we can share with the rest of Canada, and the correctional systems in other nations as well.
Now, in Correctional Services Canada's research report on fetal alcohol syndrome, Implications for Correctional Service, which is a very recent document, released only in July 1998, it's noted that although there are a significant number of studies that suggest a link between crime and FAS, there are apparently no known studies in Canada on the prevalence of FAS and FAE in our prisons. By gathering this information here in the Yukon, I would venture to say that we are paving the way for other jurisdictions to gather similar data. From this prevalence data, we can work not only with other jurisdictions, but also, hopefully, the federal government, to develop appropriate programming for inmates with FAS and FAE. The greatest challenge, though, is going to be to identify and develop programs for inmates with FAE. There are a number of quick-check diagnostic tools available to diagnose persons with FAS, but the true challenge, once again, is to identify persons who are suffering from fetal alcohol effects.
In a study by Streissguth - this is my own version of the pronunciation - released in 1997, it was noted that, "It's possible that children with FAE may actually be more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system later in life than are children with FAS because their symptoms are often not recognized and they fail to get the help they need. Unfortunately, although individuals with FAE may be more likely to end up in prisons than individuals with FAS, they are also probably more likely to go undetected within the criminal justice system."
It is my contention today that we are going to have a very large problem trying to identify inmates with FAE here in the Yukon. As has been noted in the literature, they are probably the people we should be trying to help the most.
Another reason we should try to identify inmates with FAS or FAE in the Yukon is so that we can improve their lives outside of prison. Not only should we be developing prison programming so that we can reduce recidivism stats for persons with FAS in our justice system, but we should also be helping to develop lifeskills for persons with FAS so that they can add to the richness of our community life.
Ideally, of course, the best outcome for persons with FAS or FAE is if they are diagnosed early in life. In this situation, a person could hopefully avoid the justice system altogether by developing appropriate coping mechanisms at a younger age. In fact, research has shown that an early diagnosis, before the age of six, is associated with a much lower rate of trouble with the law, and this information again is from the Streissguth study released in 1997.
Barring early diagnosis, the next best alternative is to diagnose at the earliest opportunity when a person starts to interact with the Yukon justice system. This type of diagnosis would be useful in all aspects of the criminal justice process, for example in prosecution, conviction, sentencing, prison management, rehabilitation programs, rural supervision and in aftercare.
A mother of two children with FAS here in the Yukon described this issue to me very well when she said that by the time a person with FAS is arrested they have no memory of the crime and cannot understand why they are being arrested. There is no action-consequence connection in the mind of a person with FAS. However, she did say that, oddly enough, in some ways a person with FAS can thrive in a prison environment, and the reason for this is quite simple: they crave routines and certainty in their daily life, and prison offers that type of routine.
By being aware of this coping mechanism for persons with FAS and FAE, a prison administration, along with help from the disabilities community, can develop appropriate programming. Once a person is diagnosed in the prison system, it can help staff in these facilities understand the inmate a bit better. Instead of seeing the FAS person's behaviour as negative, they can attribute some of that impaired judgment, memory problems, and/or disorientation in time and space as part of the brain damage that occurred when that inmate's mother or father drank during pregnancy.
And, yes, I did say the father who drank, too. Some of the most recent data suggests that there is a connection, though not as strong as the maternal connection, between the father and the fetus in cases of fetal alcohol syndrome.
However, I digress.
Knowing that an inmate is FAS or FAE, a well-trained staff person would be more likely to offer the inmate the structure and assistance that they truly need. And that is another point as well. If you're going to be identifying inmates in your prison system with FAS and FAE in an effort to improve the Yukon justice system, then we had better be prepared to allocate adequate resources toward the training of corrections staff and the development of appropriate programming for these inmates.
In the federal research report on FAS implications for the correctional service, it was highly recommended that the criminal justice system should consider designing an FAS/FAE awareness manual and implement in-service training at all levels to educate and raise awareness about this condition.
Furthermore, this should happen not only in prisons, but also for parole officers and classification officers. If the federal government is still interested in developing these manuals, then perhaps the territorial Justice department should consider a joint effort on this initiative.
The report also suggested if there were sufficient numbers of FAS and FAE offenders in the facility, then an advocate should be appointed to look after the best interests of these special inmates and to help manage programming for this group. We may want to examine this possibility as well.
In the long run though, developing programming for inmates is only a first step in dealing with issues around FAS, particularly in adults. People with FAS and FAE have higher rates of depression, substance abuse and suicide attempts. This information, once again, comes from the 1997 Streissguth study. We need to think about supported living situations in the community and treatments to reduce harmful behaviours.
The federal FAS research study also notes that sexually inappropriate behaviour is common and will have to be addressed. In addition, many have psychiatric problems such as depression that will require attention.
Substance abuse treatment will clearly be needed - and this is a very good point. It's obvious that FAS and FAE offenders, whether male or female, are multi-problem individuals with few resources and many deficits and needs. Treatment will likely be difficult, and without a great deal of support and supervision, the prognosis is likely to be poor.
Clearly, we need to follow up with persons with FAS and FAE after they have left the prison environment. We need to continue programming and treatment so that, in the long run, we can reduce recidivism rates and improve the long-term prognosis for adults with FAS or FAE in Yukon society.
Some of the programming that is suggested for persons with FAS and FAE are basic lifeskills, such as communications, social skills, organization skills and time management and money management, as well as recreation and possibly anger management, and that makes sense. People with FAS or FAE have damaged brains. Through no fault of their own, they have to live with an extremely debilitating syndrome. Recognizing and working with persons with FAS and FAE in our justice system will only improve life, not only for these individuals, but for all Yukoners. But we cannot do it alone. The Yukon public has to be involved in decision making around rehabilitation and our correction system. The Yukon public can only benefit from an improved justice system.
Mr. Livingston: Mr. Speaker, this motion that supports a move to a more restorative justice system in the Yukon, a motion that I'm certainly prepared to support, is a motion that I believe talks about fairness, it talks about public safety, it addresses healing and restitution for victims, as well as accountability and healing for perpetrators.
Mr. Speaker, prior to sitting in this House, I worked as a school principal for a number of years, and in the last school that I worked in, Porter Creek school, I had the privilege of working with elders from Kwanlin Dun, as well as support people from a couple of different departments within the Yukon government, where we actually put together some circle justice initiatives to address issues that arose from time to time between students.
Any time you pull together four or five hundred students over the course of a day, there are bound to be some problems and, from time to time, one of the effective ways for dealing with these problems was through a circle justice approach.
The program was really initiated by some First Nations members of our school community, and the elders from Kwanlin Dun. We sat down initially in a huge circle, and identified some of the pros and cons of proceeding in this kind of way, within a public school.
As the school principal, I had the opportunity to sit in on a number of different circles that were subsequently used to try to reach a resolution on issues - a variety of different kinds of issues that would come up from time to time. And, like any process, there were positive features, and there were negative features. And I'd like to talk about a couple of those, just for a moment.
I think one of the first and foremost positive features of the circle justice approach, as we used it, was simply bringing the community together. It brought together the various players - in this case students and their parents. But in the case of the justice system - and I've also had the opportunity to participate in circles there - it's very similar, in the sense that you bring together victims and perpetrators, and various players sometimes, from different social agencies, places of work and so on.
But the bottom line is that, around this circle, you've got a representative community. Both the community that's been harmed, or that there's ill been done to, as well as the member of the community who has been the perpetrator.
You also have, around the circle, these various other players, who can act in roles to help to focus the discussion sometimes, to help identify next steps, in terms of trying to reach a resolution. And one of the things that happens, of course, in a circle situation, is that the perpetrator has to face the community. He has to face the community as the wrongful act is being addressed.
That's a very powerful feature of the circle - the simple fact that not just facing away from the people and looking up at the judge, but rather the accused, or the person who has been identified as being in the wrong, has to face this whole community.
There is opportunity around that circle for some restitution, and it can be a very effective means of arriving at restitution, simply because the victim also has an opportunity to fully tell their story, the other players get to offer their perspectives on it, and also the perpetrators themselves get to be part of the discussion.
So, when the victim is strong enough for a circle to take place - strong enough to participate in this discussion - it's a way to arrive at a reasonable kind of restitution, where there's some consensus about what's appropriate. It's also important for the victim, when the victim is able to do it. I would be the first to agree that circles aren't appropriate in all circumstances, just like virtually any other measure isn't appropriate in all circumstances. There's not one single recipe that fits all cases. But when the victim is strong enough to be able to sit and be in the circle, it's an opportunity for them to move on, as well, Mr. Speaker - an opportunity for them to face down the perpetrator and to begin to take the next steps in their own healing.
And Mr. Speaker, one of the other features of the circle is the opportunity, not just for the perpetrator to pay the restitution - to pay for the crime, if you like, that's been committed - but also some sense that there's a community out there that can support the perpetrator as they would take the next steps toward some type of healing - toward being able to put the wrongful acts behind them, start a new page or chapter in their lives, and move on in their life.
So, Mr. Speaker, having the circle, having the victim and the perpetrator, as well as the community, to support around that circle, being able to arrive at fair restitution, where there's agreement around that circle, and also having the perpetrator be held accountable, but also move on, and feel that there's some sense of community support for healing, are all positive features - can be positive features - of the circle.
One of the negative features of the circle is simply the time and the number of people that it takes to move through a circle process. It takes considerable time to set it up. Oftentimes, there needs to be some special time spent with the victim, so that they have some confidence that the circle can bring about some justice. So certainly the amount of time that's involved, and the number of people involved, can make this an expensive process, but not, Mr. Speaker, in comparison with the alternative - at least the alternative that is too often used, and that's incarceration.
When we look at the statistics with the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and the number of repeat offenders, the number of people who go back there not once, Mr. Speaker, not twice, but five times, and 10 times, we look at a considerable - I don't have the statistics in front of me - but I believe it's the case that a majority of offenders have been there more than five times. That's incredibly expensive, not just in dollar terms, but in personal terms, in terms of the families of those perpetrators who head back in there, where there's not always enough support to help them to turn their lives around and move back in to the mainstream of life, and put the wrongful acts behind them.
My colleague from Whitehorse West mentioned some other alternative techniques - the family group conferencing from New Zealand that has shown a great deal of promise, the peer counselling that has occurred in schools - and, Mr. Speaker, a reference was made to Porter Creek school, where we implemented a considerable violence-prevention program, but also on the positive side is our teacher-advisor program that worked with students in trying to build more respectful relationships. We know that it's not just a stick that works effectively but also the words of encouragement, the sense of belonging and the sense of hope that people have a positive tomorrow and so on to be part of.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of different examples of restorative justice around the territory. The Kwanlin Dun community school justice project is a new project. Community members are assisting in that project and are implementing justice processes that encourage offender and community responsibility. These processes include community dispute-resolution processes, victim support, circle sentencing, youth diversion, and crime prevention initiatives.
I see as well, Mr. Speaker, just in today's newspaper, the Whitehorse Star for March 31 - building a safer Yukon. There is a conference in crime prevention through social development occurring a week from now, on Thursday, April 8. And they've got presentations by a good cross-section of Yukon organizations. The Skookum Jim Friendship Centre will be there - Kwanlin Dun healthy families project, healthy families initiative, the Yukon Health and Social Services, child-abuse treatment services (CATS), positive action with Yukon youth. In addition, there will be a special performance by the students against drunk driving from Watson Lake, as well as a number of displays, and program and funding information.
So, those kinds of initiatives, Mr. Speaker, are positive things. As well, the youth recreational programming that's gone on up at Kwanlin Dun has also been a positive platform so that young people have some positive outlets. That's also, of course, an important antidote to crime and other wrongful activity.
Mr. Speaker, I note as well Skookum Jim's cooperation with CYFN youth diversion program. They are running a youth diversion project called Tän Sakwäthän. The staff members are delivering this program by focusing on teaching young people traditional values and culture and communication skills. They also provide assistance to youth facing sentencing in the territorial courts.
There is also, in Haines Junction, a community justice committee, which is a joint project between the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation and the Village of Haines Junction. Members of this committee became involved in community diversion and family group conferencing, circle sentencing, mediation, healing circles, pre-sentence circles, community justice of the peace court, running community service programs and assisting to supervise adult offenders on probation.
As well, the Teslin Tlingit Council has a Teslin peacemaker court project.
Mr. Speaker, there are quite a number of different projects going on already around the territory, and I think the next steps that are talked about in this motion that's before us today supporting restorative justice will give people an opportunity, and an opportunity in a particularly timely way as we're approaching the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, with that just around the corner, being able to have some good, hard discussions. Sometimes there'll be tough discussions, I'm sure, around the Yukon Territory. This will help us to ensure that we arrive at a restorative justice system that will provide for fairness, will provide for public safety, healing for victims, and also accountability in healing for perpetrators.
Mr. Speaker, it's timely because, with the impending replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, it will also enable us to design any replacement so that it fits the model of justice that Yukoners are looking for, that Yukoners want, and it's in the kind of direction that we want to go in.
Mr. Speaker, I support the motion and look forward to the next steps that are proposed to be taken.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Fentie: Well again, we've shown in this Legislature that we can get beyond the politics of confrontation and together, as a Legislature, come forward with a noble enterprise: restorative justice in the context of working for Yukon people. Though we had a little bit of a wobble from the Member for Riverdale North when he first began his rebuttal, we've managed to get beyond that and I think this is another great day for the Yukon Legislature and indeed the Yukon public and I, too, want to thank the opposition for again supporting a government motion.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion No. 162 agreed to as amended
Hon. Mr. Harding: I request unanimous consent to not call Motion No. 163 or Motion No. 164.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is it the members' wish to recess until 7:30 p.m.?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is dealing with Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000.
Bill No. 14 - First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000 - continued
Department of Health and Social Services - continued
Chair: We are on the Department of Health and Social Services. Is there further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister have any answers to any of the questions we posed when we were last here, in his department, debating it? Are there any answers forthcoming, or do we have to go back over them again?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I need to know what the question is. So, maybe you should go over them again, and we can proceed from there.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I was afraid that the minister's memory was very good, but very short. One of the issues surrounding the provision of services to the Department of Indian Affairs was the outstanding amounts and the rough calculation for interest. If we've had these funds on hand, as they are normally flowing to the Government of Yukon, what kind of money, interest-wise, would we have derived from the investment of those funds over the years?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I thought I made it clear that any interest that we would have earned on those funds would have been offset by our formula financing. I thought that was fairly clear.
I don't believe I made any commitment in terms of interest. We've given the member the numbers. We will be doing a calculation of the amount owing for this year, which we could provide to the member, and he can use whatever formula or whatever interest rate he chooses to use. He's certainly an adept businessman, so I imagine that he can do those calculations relatively easily.
I apologize - I do have one aspect on the Dental Profession Act and some of the other acts. I've been advised that, at least with regard to the Dental Profession Act, the translation aspect of that is nearly complete, and it is expected to be completed by Tuesday. I don't have as yet a status on any other acts, in terms of translation, but I did get a message on the Dental Profession Act today.
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister's reason, Mr. Chair, for not providing this information is that it's irrelevant because if we gain some interest income into general revenues, it would be offset by a decrease in the formula financing, the perversity factor.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, it's the failsafe provision, I'm advised.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to ask the minister, Mr. Chair, at what juncture and at what amount does it become prudent business practice or prudent of the government to collect this outstanding debt? How much are we going to let this debt amount to before we take some action?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I'd suggest we've acted on any outstanding amount, and we have been taking the steps to try to recover this from our federal counterparts.
I outlined, the previous evening, the steps that we have taken. We have certainly emphasized to the federal government what our needs are. We've taken the steps that we believe have clarified any question in their mind about the amount and the way that we've calculated the amounts, what those expenditures are for. We have taken some steps to assure them of the actual role of the centres, such as Macaulay and Thomson.
They weren't of the impression that we were billing for acute care services, but rather extended care services. We've done presentations for them, to clarify that in their own mind. We believe we've taken all the steps that we can take, to clarify any outstanding informational issues for the federal government.
I outlined as well, in the form of the letter, the understandings that we had as to the next steps that were going to be taken, in terms of payments on accounts, status of agreement, the kind of commitments that the federal government had made in that regard.
As well, as I said earlier, we provided information in areas where they had questions, so we believe we have acted, on our side, to provide them with the necessary information that should remove any impediment, at this point, to them coming forward with the payment.
We've also emphasized to them that we are expecting that this be acted on in a timely manner. We have asked that they assign a person to this particular file. They have agreed to that, so we're hopeful that this will move the process ahead.
And, as I've said, we'll be looking at what other steps we can reasonably take - and I emphasize "reasonably" - in this regard. I feel that we've met all the obligations, and all the requirements of the federal government on this particular case, and we feel it's now up to them to follow through, and make good on the commitments that they've made.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, I'd like to correct one of the statements I did make the other day, and that was with respect to the amount outstanding. It's approximately $40 million, Mr. Chair, and it represents eight percent of this year's budget of the Government of the Yukon, or 10 percent of the O&M budget of the Yukon. I had those numbers somewhat reversed. So, we're looking at 10 percent of the O&M budget of the Government of the Yukon being outstanding and being a debt due from those special federal Liberals to the Government of the Yukon, and we haven't received it.
The minister has gone through a whole series of background as to what steps the Government of the Yukon has taken and his department and his officials have taken to collect this amount. Well, if we've jumped through all of the federal hoops and done everything according to their blueprint, why haven't we collected the money?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Quite frankly, I think it's a matter of will. As I indicated earlier, I don't think that the federal authorities, in this case, see this as a priority. They probably don't see us as a priority, given some of the pressures that they face across the country.
I think it would be fair to say, as I indicated earlier, that their interest in this has waxed and waned. In some cases, when the proper attention has been given to the file, we have made some progress. When DIAND's interests are elsewhere, and they're not willing to commit the resources to it, quite obviously, that's when we begin to experience problems. We've continually brought this forward, and we will pursue it, not only ourselves, but we will also continue to pursue it with our First Nation partners, in this case. I have raised this with aboriginal leadership at meetings of chiefs; we've raised this with CYFN; I'll be raising it again with CYFN's health committee, at a future meeting in, I think, early April, and we have emphasized to the federal government that we want to have this resolved in as timely a fashion as possible.
Now, what we're going to have to take a look at is, if we continue to get the kind of stonewalling from the federal government on this case, what reasonable steps we can engage in. We haven't wanted to go that route because we've been continually trying to work with the federal government. They've asked us for information, and we've provided the information. We've been continuing to pursue this. Quite obviously, at some point, we're going to have to take a look and see what other avenues are available. Those avenues may take the form of having the issue raised, in terms of a federal political forum, such as the House of Commons, or otherwise. Those may be some steps at our disposal.
As well, we can obviously take a look at other avenues we have - legal as well as service-type steps. But I have to emphasize that, in some ways, because we have a duty - although it's not a fiduciary obligation in the same way the federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to aboriginal people, we do have a duty, and I believe it's a duty, if you will, of care to our aboriginal citizens here - in moral terms, I don't think we can deny services, I don't think we can withdraw services, I don't think we can offload programs and facilities simply because our dispute is with the federal government. I would be very, very loathe to even go down that route.
But I can tell the member that this is an issue for us, that we are continuing to pursue it, and hopefully, perhaps this debate itself will prompt a measure of interest in the federal government's mind.
Mr. Jenkins: I just want to make it abundantly clear for the record - abundantly clear, Mr. Chair - that I am not suggesting that the Government of the Yukon withdraw services or deny services, so I'd ask the minister not to continue to go there, because he doesn't need to. It's not an issue on this side of the House. We're not suggesting that the services be withdrawn. We're not suggesting that services be denied. The minister always alludes to or suggests that.
What we're suggesting, and what we're more than suggesting, and what we are of the opinion of is that we get the federal government to pay for a debt that is rightfully theirs. And by all indications, that is the case.
Now, the minister suggested stonewalling - if we experienced stonewalling on the part of the federal government. Now, since 1993, there are outstanding amounts due to the Government of the Yukon.
It now amounts to some $40 million outstanding. Could the minister provide his definition of stonewalling? If this isn't stonewalling, I don't know what is, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I said, "continued stonewalling". We have made some progress. We seem to be stepping ahead and stepping back. I think, as I indicated before, part of the problem is just the level of interest and resources that the federal government is willing to commit to this.
The member seems to be suggesting that we're particularly happy about this and that we feel that this is an acceptable situation. We don't feel that at all, and I can tell the member that we've been working on this, but we're in a situation now where, as we submit invoices, those invoices were being queried on every particular point.
It's time-consuming. We're providing further information. They're querying the amounts that we bill. They're questioning the amounts that we charge for particular services. They're questioning the clients as to the applicability of the services that we're delivering.
I think part of the problem has been that DIAND has had rates that they're willing to pay for some more services in western Canada, particularly in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and they're trying to apply the same formula here, and our costs are considerably higher, in many ways.
So, there is a whole variety of issues, not the least of which has been the continual demand by the federal government for us to provide yet more information and more definition and more justification for each of our invoices.
What we've been trying to do is work with the federal government to try to get some standards, to try to get some clarification on things, and move ahead from there.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister did suggest that they're making progress but each year the debt or the amount due to the Government of Yukon from the federal government increases. We're incurring more outstanding each year than we're receiving from the federal government.
That is a fact, Mr. Chair. So we are not making progress; we are actually going backwards.
I'd like to explore with the minister some of the areas surrounding the building procedure, as to how frequently we bill. There was a period of time where we didn't bill at all, and then we billed at the end of a year.
Are we billing on a monthly basis? Weekly? Quarterly? How are we billing for the various services, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We can check with our finance officer on the way that it's billed. But it's my understanding we do interim billings and final billings.
With regard to frequency, I can check into that and provide that for the member.
Mr. Jenkins: And the outstanding amount - how was that verified by the Auditor General?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The Auditor General was working from our figures - from the amounts that we had provided to him, based on our calculations of what was owed.
So for example, if we calculate the rate that we might charge for a child in care, based on our costs with say, a group home or the receiving home, that is what the Auditor General accepted. I'm advised here that one of the formulas that DIAND has been attempting to use is the Ontario on-reserve rates, which, as you can imagine, are considerably less than what we would probably be bearing, in terms of our costs.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm not looking at the comparison to Ontario, or any other jurisdiction in Canada. I'm looking at the audit process, confirming value, or the numbers of dollars outstanding and due to the Government of the Yukon from Indian Affairs.
Now, it's the same Auditor General that audits Indian Affairs. Do they jibe in both respects? The Auditor General wouldn't confirm the amount as being due to the Government of the Yukon if he did not cross-reference it to Indian Affairs.
So, unless there's some management letter in there, or some other notation, these figures have to be confirmed by the Department of Indian Affairs. Are they done in that manner?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The auditors have accepted our billings. The auditors have accepted our costs for the purposes of determining the amount owed.
Mr. Jenkins: In the management letter that is accompanying the Auditor General's report to the Government of the Yukon, is there any notation or any outstanding paragraph that covers off this area as being due and in dispute? Is there any notation? No, it wouldn't be in the Auditor General's report. It would be in a management letter, which doesn't even accompany the Auditor General's report. The Auditor General's report also has accompanying it a management letter for the various departments with specific points and concerns raised.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: No, we've not received one in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Has this issue been taken up with the Auditor General, as to whether the Department of Indian Affairs confirms the Government of the Yukon's figure, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes. I'm advised that my deputy minister has discussed this with the Auditor General and, while the Auditor General is noncommittal, the issue has been raised with him, so the whole question of how billings are done, and so on and so forth, and some of the key points in this have been discussed with the Auditor General.
Presumably, based on the Auditor General's report, there seems to be a general acceptance of our billing methods and our calculations on this.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister stated there's not a general acceptance by the Auditor General. There is an acceptance by the Auditor General of the numbers that the Government of Yukon deems outstanding and due to it from the federal government. That was my interpretation of what the minister said.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If the Auditor General took exception to the amounts, presumably that would have been reflected in some kind of comment, either suggesting that our billings were too high or not accurate, and probably there would have been some sort of direction for us to adjust accordingly. That isn't in there, so the Auditor General has accepted the amounts and accepted that we have arrived at those billings by a generally accepted method of our true costs.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm a little uncomfortable with where the minister is taking us on this issue, Mr. Chair, in that the Auditor General doesn't get into the realm of whether the billing is fair or reasonable. He just takes the total dollar figure that is presented by the Government of Yukon and goes back to the paying agency of the Government of Canada and confirms that, in fact, that amount is outstanding and due to the Government of Yukon. The Auditor General doesn't get into whether it's $200 a day, or $100 a day, or any of those cost factors. He just takes that total figure back to the Department of Indian Affairs and says, "This is what is outstanding and shown as being due from Indian Affairs to the Government of Yukon." Now, that's the information I'm looking for. Has that confirmation been done? That information would be reflected and conveyed back to the deputy minister.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The deputy minister hasn't been advised that DIAND does not accept the billings, so there hasn't been anything directed to us in that regard. That would lead me to presume, rather, that if the Auditor General confirmed with DIAND, they must have accepted that these amounts were outstanding.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, the minister is not aware and his deputy minister is not aware of any management letter sent to the department or conveyed to the department by the Auditor General questioning certain areas with respect to the billings to Indian Affairs.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I have received no letter and my deputy minister has received no letter in that regard. The only thing that we have, really, are the comments that are in the Auditor General's report.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other steps that could be explored by the minister - and I was wondering about, given the tremendous amount of money outstanding due to the Government of the Yukon - is to go to the Grand Chief, Phil Fontaine, who actually worked here for Indian Affairs some time ago. Has that avenue been explored, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We have taken our concerns to the level of the deputy. The Government Leader and the Grand Chief of the Yukon First Nations have made joint representation to the minister, Jane Stewart, in this regard. We, on our part, have gone up the chain as far as the Deputy Minister of DIAND on this matter. On a political level, the action has been taken primarily by, as I said, the Government Leader and Grand Chief Adamson.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would be of the opinion, given that $40 million is currently outstanding from the federal Government of Canada to this government for the provision of health care services to Yukon First Nations, that this should be an issue that we get all of the chiefs, from Grand Chief Shirley Adamson here in the Yukon and Phil Fontaine, on board and make representation to Canada, because it's not an area that's going to go away, given Indian Affairs' inability to pay their bills on a continuing basis.
We only have to look back last summer to the forest fire season here in the Yukon when Indian Affairs said, "We don't have any more money in the budget. We can't pay." instead of going back to the Treasury Board and making the appropriate submission.
But everywhere I turn, Mr. Chair, Indian Affairs and Northern Development has a considerable amount of outstanding invoices and this is probably the largest I have seen for a region as small as we are.
So, I'd like the minister to give consideration to putting together a whole political entourage of Yukon First Nations chiefs, the Grand Chief, and perhaps getting that group to go, together with Phil Fontaine, the Grand Chief for Canada - it's probably worthwhile even making a trip to Ottawa, given the $40-million amount that is outstanding and getting some kind of commitment from the Government of Canada to meet their fiduciary obligations.
We are too small of a jurisdiction, Mr. Chair, to continue to allow this to grow and grow and grow and try to deal with it at the bureaucratic level. We are not being successful. The government is continuing to stonewall. We have to move this situation more into the political arena, involve the First Nations to a greater extent and get some dollars flowing to the Government of Yukon.
Does the minister not agree with me, and is he prepared to take those steps?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As I indicated, I'll be meeting with the CYFN's health and social services commission later on this month, and I intend to raise the issue again and seek political support there.
Though it's small comfort, we are not alone in this battle. This is an issue that has come up consistently at, primarily, Social Services ministers' meetings.
Because, as I indicated before, the western provinces in particular have been impacted by some of the decisions of the Department of Indian Affairs, in very major ways.
Just for a point of clarification, these services that we're talking about are primarily social services, rather than health services. DIAND is not particularly reticent about health services, but the social services seem to be the bugaboo, and that also appears to be the experience in the western provinces. That's where they've been impacted, primarily in areas of social assistance, and indeed, child welfare issues in the western provinces.
I've had a number of discussions about this, particularly with my western colleagues, and we've raised this consistently at meetings of Social Services ministers.
We've also talked about the idea of doing a joint representation from the western areas on this whole particular issue, and trying to get some clarification. Quite frankly, I think part of the aboriginal leaderships' dismay with the social union talks has been that they felt, in some cases, that the federal government was attempting to offload fiduciary responsibilities for aboriginal people in some of their social union discussions, and this was raised as a major stumbling point by the aboriginal leaders.
I'm certainly willing to utilize whatever resources we can with our aboriginal counterparts here. As I raise it with the First Nation leadership, I'll also be asking for support on this, and whether or not that support takes the form of a joint representation, or some kind of representation, actually, to the federal minister, I don't know.
I do know that it has been brought to the federal minister by both the Government Leader and Chief Adamson.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I acknowledge that this is an issue for other jurisdictions in Canada but, given the large amount due to the Government of the Yukon, we're looking at 10 percent of the annual O&M budget of the Government of the Yukon being outstanding and due to the Government of the Yukon from Indian Affairs. That, in itself, suggests something. The other comparison to, say, the other provinces in western Canada, is that the amount due to them, while it's a large amount, wouldn't be anywhere near to the same percentage of the total O&M budget of that province as it is here in the Yukon. So, there's more significance to this amount than there is to the provinces.
Could the minister elaborate on what initiatives have been taken by himself and his colleagues with respect to this issue - his colleagues in the western provinces that are faced with the same dilemma of Indian Affairs not paying their bill?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Particularly in that regard, I mentioned earlier both Manitoba and Saskatchewan, which have been very negatively impacted by the decision of the federal government to, essentially, no longer cover social services costs or child welfare costs for First Nations people living off-reserve.
Now, what has happened there is that the federal government has said they will only pay on-reserve costs, whereas in reality in provinces like Manitoba, the move toward the city, particularly Winnipeg, has been so substantial that Winnipeg now has a massive aboriginal population, especially in the north end. Many of these folks have come into Winnipeg seeking work and better opportunities, but unfortunately not finding them.
What has happened is that this has exploded the social services cost of provinces like Manitoba and Saskatchewan in very short order. With the stroke of a pen, some place in Ottawa, 30,000 or 35,000 people could be added to the social assistance roles of the Province of Manitoba. I've met with my counterparts in Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba on this, to discuss how we can bring the federal government to the issue of recognizing their fiduciary responsibilities. We've had several meetings in this regard. It appears to be less of an issue for the eastern provinces. To be very frank, I don't think it has been that big an issue. However, I think it is becoming more of an issue, quite frankly, for Ontario, and particularly northern Ontario.
We have met with our counterpart, the hon. Pierre Pettigrew, and we've raised this at our meetings. It's something that was on the agenda of the social union discussions, and we fought very hard to keep it on there because we felt that, at certain points, the federal government seemed to be stepping away. They had, in the original drafts of the social union talks, indicated the role of governments - plural - in supporting aboriginal people. We took exception to that. We felt that the fiduciary responsibility was clearly with the federal government. That actually became quite a sticking point for a long time, not only for ourselves, but the NWT also thought it was a major issue, and the western provinces.
We have consistently raised this at social union talks; we've raised it consistently at social ministers talks. I believe Minister Mitchelson, in Manitoba, wants to make this a focal point of a future meeting - this whole question of bringing the federal government to the table. Up until now, we have been dealing primarily with Minister Pettigrew. We've discussed, for example, the possibility of bringing in not only Minister Pettigrew, but Minister Stewart, as well, to explain the dilemma that this poses and try to get some commitment from the federal government that they'll no longer be involved in such things as offloading responsibilities.
Quite frankly, that's what it is. We're concerned, from our own experience here, as to what this can mean to us, and as the member has indicated, we're a small jurisdiction, and other provinces are very clearly concerned about this. We don't have the reserve system. Because we've been dealing with this on a kind of ongoing basis, perhaps the shock hasn't been quite so sudden as it was in the western provinces, but certainly it's an issue across western Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I agree with the minister. We're in synch here. And the minister did point out that there has been a downloading or an offloading of this responsibility for off-reservation First Nations, but we, as the minister correctly pointed out, don't really have that situation here in the Yukon. So, we don't have any excuses. The federal government shouldn't have any excuses whatsoever. I'm sure they'd like to find some - well, obviously they've been quite successful because, since 1993, we have outstanding amounts, going back, of $24.9 million. It's atrocious the way Indian Affairs is treating this government.
But if the minister feels that the approach through his colleagues in the same position in other provinces in western Canada can achieve something, when is this going to come to fruition? When is this kind of meeting going to come to fruition and take place?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The issue is on the forthcoming meeting of the ministers of Social Services, which, regrettably, because it's, I believe, on April 12 and 13, I will not be able to attend - but it is also on the main meeting of the Health ministers, and particularly for the meeting of the Health ministers, I asked that it be included on the agenda, because I felt that this is a particular issue that I think we need to get resolved - not specifically our situation, but the entire question.
The member has said that this is an issue that does cause us some distress and, quite frankly, not only does the issue of social services, which the billings have been up to now, cause us some distress, we are very, very concerned about the possibility that the federal government may, at some future juncture, choose to step away from some of the non-insured programs. And there have been rumours to that effect.
As a matter of fact, I believe one of the leaders of the First Nations bands in this territory attended a meeting in Halifax about a year or so ago, at which it was being openly talked about by Health Canada as a way to reduce their costs. For example, if the federal government were to step away from something like medical travel, the impact on us, quite frankly, would be massive. Even though the aboriginal population here is about 20 percent, the amount spent by DIAND on medical travel comes very close to the amount that is spent by YTG, and we could just imagine what the impact would be if, for some inexplicable reason, the federal government said, "Well, that's no longer an insured service and, thank you very much, but we're not going to transfer the money to the First Nation."
We know exactly what would happen at that point. People who were referred by their physicians would be obliged to come to us and we would then be in the rather unenviable situation of having to say, "But we don't cover that," or actually expand out the program. My suspicion would be that it would force us to modify our program in such a way as to accommodate some of these extra needs.
So, there are things that we are very concerned about, particularly on the health side.
I guess we're very frightened about the federal government - if they chose to go that route, the impact that it could have on us.
Up until now, the impact has been on the social side, and not on the health side, but I can tell the member that some of the health implications would be very, very disastrous to us. I guess during the whole course of the social union talks we got a very strong suspicion, just from the wording that the federal government kept bringing forward on a consistent basis, that this was what they were aspiring to do - to share out that responsibility. And we took a very clear position - no. The fiduciary responsibility for aboriginal people's health and socials resides with the federal government.
And fortunately that seemed to be incorporated in the social union talks.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're making strides. Again, I concur with the minister on this issue, Mr. Chair, and his meetings have substantiated the information that I have flowing to me, that the federal government is indeed looking at backing away from the provisions - first, of the social agenda side. In fact, there is a very good chance that the majority of the money spent to date will not be recovered from Canada by the Government of the Yukon - a very, very good chance, Mr. Chair.
And knowing quite a number of the First Nations chiefs around the Yukon, I'm not aware of any one of these chiefs who is of the opinion that these responsibilities are not the federal government's responsibility.
Does the minister not think it's prudent now to line up all of the chiefs, and if it really takes a court challenge by the Yukon First Nations to settle this once and for all, does he not feel that that might be the appropriate venue? Because we are talking a very, very serious matter.
Again, I want to make it abundantly clear that I'm not suggesting we curtail services to the First Nations here in the Yukon - curtail services in any way whatsoever - but that the payment for these services rests where it rightly belongs: with the federal Government of Canada. They have a fiduciary responsibility that they're abdicating, and they appear to be downloading - or weaseling out of it, if you want to use those terms, Mr. Chair. The Liberals have been known to weasel out of a lot of things. That happens from time to time.
I'd like to ask the minister: just what does this First Nations commission on health and social services consist of and who is involved in it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There are representatives from each individual First Nation. Now, the composition varies. In some cases, it's the individual and the band who handles the social file, if you will.
Bob Charlie, the Chief of Champagne-Aishihik, is the new chair of that. I've had a meeting with Chief Charlie in Champagne in, I guess it would have been, February. We had another meeting late February with some of the First Nation leadership. We are working with the First Nation leadership right now - we being the government - on trying to set up a bit of an ongoing summit on a regular basis to discuss issues of common concern, and I have raised this with the First Nation leadership and I'll be raising it again with the First Nation health commission.
I meet with them later on in the month. We will be seeking their support in this regard, and perhaps seeking some avenues that they can suggest in this regard.
As for the legal challenge, I don't know if we're there yet. I think we have to give the process that the regional director general of DIAND has committed to some chance to come to success but, quite clearly, if that doesn't pan out within the next month or so, we're going to have to take a look at other avenues.
These are issues that I will raise again with the First Nation health commission.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd urge the minister, Mr. Chair, that he really consider joining with the Yukon First Nations and mounting a legal challenge, because if we wait and we wait very long, what is going to happen is that the policies of the Government of Canada could change with respect to the provision of these services. They could be made retroactive, and they could walk away from this sum of $40 million worth of standing accounts receivable that the Government of the Yukon has due to it.
If we start something at this early date, it might send a clear message to the federal government that we're sending this clear message that we have to play by the rules that currently exist, we're not looking at them being changed, and we need payment because the expectations of the Yukon First Nations are there and they should be met, but they should be met and paid for by the authority having responsibility for them, and that is clearly the federal Government of Canada, the Department of Indian Affairs.
So, at this meeting with the health and social services commission, I would urge the minister to put that point on the table, because this is not going to go away, and I can't see it being resolved in this fiscal period, Mr. Chair.
I can see us here again next year, and the debt is not $40 million; it's probably $48 million. I think that's where we're heading, and I think, if the minister gives serious thought to the messages he's hearing coming out of Ottawa, there is a good chance that it'll eventually be written off - the majority of this sum of money. I think Yukon deserves better treatment from Ottawa than what we're receiving here.
I know my colleague from the Liberal Party wants to get into this debate, and perhaps their pipeline would offer some venue that would be beneficial to the government, so I urge her to get into this debate and see what she can do to help resolve this situation, Mr. Chair.
Will the minister consider putting a legal challenge on the plate for negotiations at this health and social service commission meeting he's having with the Yukon First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I will raise the issue and see if there is a measure of interest. I will venture the idea and see where it goes from there.
Mrs. Edelman: Thank you for giving me an opportunity to speak to this issue. I think that we need to be clear that the Yukon Liberal caucus does not have a red phone, direct line to the Prime Minister's office. I know that there's a lot of mystique around that particular fallacy. If anything, it becomes very, very difficult to get through to anybody outside of the territory.
Can the minister give us some information about what letters are on file, what sort of documentation from over the years, other than, of course, the meetings we've had with the Health ministers across Canada? I know that there's been extensive back-and-forth with the department. I'm talking about letters at the political level.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: In terms of the letters, it's been primarily points of discussion at meetings, and I have to give credit, I suppose, where credit is due. Manitoba has seen this as being a key point. It's been more a matter of discussion rather than letters, though Bonnie Mitchelson, at the meetings in January leading up to the social union framework agreement, asked about the possibility of getting western provinces together on this, because it is certainly an issue for them.
When you said "correspondence", we assumed you meant correspondence with DIAND on this one particular issue, and that would involve me going upstairs and borrowing one of those little trolleys to bring over the boxes for you. Or, as an alternative, I could bring the boxes in and read them into the record, but I don't think we'd want that.
But it is a common problem, and it's been more of a problem that hasn't really taken the form of letters so much as just general discussions on frustration. This goes back. At the first Health ministers meeting I ever attended, one of the first things I was approached on was by the then minister, I believe of social services, for Saskatchewan, Ned Shillington, who raised the issue with me at a meeting. It was one of the first meetings I attended and I was surprised that it seemed to be such an issue for them as well, but I guess they'd just gone through this sort of transfer of off-reserve folks, or the removal of off-reserve folks from DIAND's responsibility.
It's been more a matter of just discussions and issues being raised.
Mrs. Edelman: So, Mr. Chair, I suppose what I was trying to find out is, how far back the political documentation had gone on. Are we talking back five years, 10 years, 15 years? I know that very small portions of the debt have gone on for quite some time.
So what I'm wondering is, what's been happening on the political level, and how far back that type of lobbying has been going on?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: As far as the official correspondence, that's been going on for several years. On a political level, the correspondence that has gone on has been primarily between the Government Leader, Chief Adamson - and that took the form of a letter to Minister Stewart. I'd have to find the date on that, but as a general principle, the whole idea of offloading responsibilities for First Nation citizens in western Canada goes back at least two and a half, three years, I would imagine, at the very least.
Oh, yes, the Government Leader also raises it at face-to-face meetings with Minister Stewart as well, so the issue's been raised not only in the form of a letter, but also in terms of personal meetings.
I would suspect - though I don't know, my colleague isn't here - that this also was an issue at the most recent meetings with First Nation leadership, which concerned issues that had sprung out of the social union framework agreement, as well. That was the meeting that was held in Saskatoon, or Calgary - just a couple of weeks ago.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think that what I'm trying to get at is that portions of that debt have gone on for many, many, many years, and I would imagine that there was some political lobbying that went on perhaps back to the previous NDP government, if not before that.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I'm advised that at that time it was not that great, but there probably was some correspondence that goes on. That would probably be in archival form. Since it would likely be on a political level, it would probably be someplace in the records, but we've had an ongoing correspondence with DIAND on this issue as it has developed.
Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, if it's possible, I wonder if we could have copies of some of the political letters and only the political letters. I know that some of the debt goes back for, I believe, 15 years.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: The older debts then have been cleaned up -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: - been semi-cleaned up, apparently.
The next issue, of course, is that the minister spoke earlier about legal remedies, dealing with DIAND. What specifically is the legal remedy, providing that in a month's time we couldn't come to some sort of agreement? What would be the form of the legal remedies that the minister would take?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Since DIAND does not dispute the amount that's even in the Auditor General's report, I suppose we could take the form of, let's say, a suit to try and recover the amount. Failing to actually get cash, we'd be willing to take 24 Sussex and part of the East Block. I wouldn't mind part of the Rideau Canal. So, we could take that for interest.
We would go after the amount that we were owed.
Mrs. Edelman: I assume this would be through the Supreme Court, or are we going to stick with the Territorial Court level?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: We haven't got quite to that detail but probably as we speak, over in the Justice building, the lawyers on staff have got those little grindstones and they're probably sharpening their axes right now.
We haven't really gone down that route of where we are to go legally but certainly that's one of our options, but you don't generally go into court until you've exhausted all the other remedies that you have. If I could be slightly optimistic about this, I think we do have some goodwill from the new regional director general of DIAND and I think I have some faith that he will try to put some pressure on his own department to try and at least get some form of resolution on this. So, we're hopeful that his offices will have some effect.
Chair: Do members wish to recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Is there any further debate on the Department of Health and Social Services?
Mrs. Edelman: I suppose that what I'm wondering about is that if we are going to be launching a legal challenge of some sort, would we be joining in with the other jurisdictions who have similar concerns?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, our concern in this case would be quite specific to us, because we would be trying to recover our amount. This would be somewhat different from, say, being party to a class action suit or anything like that, because ours are very specific to our issues, and I imagine that Manitoba and Saskatchewan are going through their own trials with the federal government on their specific issues of recovery.
Mrs. Edelman: When the minister says that they are going through their own trials with the federal government, is he speaking figuratively, or is he actually talking about legal challenges?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Figuratively, but I would imagine at some point it may turn into a legal challenge. I don't know what their situation is. Apparently, British Columbia has a somewhat different arrangement with the federal government. Their arrangement is actually one that we're trying to mirror because it seems to work quite well for them. We've proposed a similar arrangement to the British Columbia arrangement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: For the billing back of services to DIAND - services delivered, such as child welfare, social assistance and so on, for First Nation citizens. They have an arrangement that seems to work for them and we've been trying to get a similar arrangement with DIAND for ourselves.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: The arrangement is just one - they have a particular formula for direct and indirect costs that we would like to be able to get in a similar fashion here.
Mr. Jenkins: I thought, when my colleague from Riverdale South got into the debate, that the Yukon Liberals could certainly add something and put their weight behind this issue, but I guess, where the Yukon Liberals were when Bill C-68 was debated, they accepted the federal Liberal position that Yukoners could not have ownership of land here and, jeez, now we have $40 million outstanding and due to the Government of the Yukon through Indian Affairs, and we learned tonight that they don't have any red telephone going to Ottawa.
And then, this afternoon, they were defending the position of an N.W.T. company to work in the Yukon under a COPE agreement and put Yukoners out of work.
So, I don't know what the benefits are of being a Yukon Liberal, Mr. Chair.
This is a wonderful opportunity for that party to make a phone call to their big brothers or big sisters in Ottawa, and see what they can do to resolve this issue - and it looks like it's going to be resolved on a political level. It won't be resolved by the bureaucrats.
But just going back to the issue of a court challenge, I would see that as being mounted by the Government of the Yukon, with the full backing of all of the Yukon First Nations, which I'm sure will probably be readily available on this issue. And that's what I would suggest to the minister, before the playing field is altered. I would suggest to the minister that all the indicators are out there. The playing field - the goal posts are being moved, and they're going to be moved at a very quick and rapid pace, to the detriment of the coffers of Yukon, and probably, indeed, a number of the provinces.
So with that in mind, as long as the minister can provide his assurance that he's going to explore that avenue at the table at the health and social services commission, with the First Nations, at their forthcoming meeting. If the minister can provide that assurance, I guess we can move on to the next issue, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Chair, I can provide that. It's certainly something that is an issue for us, and we want to get a resolution on it, so I will be bringing it forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's deal with one of the issues that's just come to the pages of the paper tonight, and that's the dental program here in Yukon, and the rural areas of Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Last fall, this government released the final report of the operational review of the Yukon's children's dental program. Thirty recommendations were provided in that report. The changes regarding screening and treatment were supposed to be expanded to high school students up to grade 12 in communities without a resident dentist, and improved services to preschool children were identified in that report.
The minister will recall that, back in June of this year, I wrote to him concerning the Government of Yukon's apparent decision to remove the dental therapist position from Watson Lake and then a subsequent response to that letter.
I would like to compliment the minister - of all the ministers I write to in the government of the day, this minister usually responds just shortly over 30 days. I compliment the minister in that regard. Some of the ministers over there, you just never receive a response from. I don't know if the lights are on, or if they've gone fishing, or what the problem is. You can send request after request, but they don't respond. So, I'd like to compliment the Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Chair, on his timely response to most of my correspondence.
Anyway, the minister did respond on July 13, indicating that relocating the dental therapist, presently in Watson Lake, to Whitehorse in mid-August is an operational requirement that is not linked to the dental review - most interesting. I subsequently wrote back to the minister and asked him how he was going to provide that service. He indicated that they will continue to receive the same treatment they are presently receiving. I reminded him of the government's commitment to maintain the existing children's dental program - that was on August 31. On September 18, I received a response with respect to the Watson Lake dental services. He provided information with respect to the number of students served by the program in Watson Lake by community - Watson Lake, 155; Teslin, 46; Ross River, 61. Could the minister just advise us of the position of the dental therapist, as to how rotating them throughout the Yukon is working - number one? And could the minister apprise the House regarding the situation of the full-time resident dentist in both Faro and Watson Lake? What, if anything, has changed there, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, with respect to the dentist in Faro, I'm not sure exactly how active a practice that is, to be quite honest. With regard to the practice of, I believe, Dr. Penner in Watson Lake, we've just become aware that the dentist there is looking at moving.
With respect to the dental therapist, we haven't heard any concerns or any complaints voiced to me or to the department in that regard. I certainly haven't heard anything on that particular aspect. The only thing I've heard actually, I think, in terms of the children's dental program, has been, I believe, a letter that I had about someone who was objecting to having their child's teeth sealed, but that's been about the only thing I've received in that regard.
With respect to the departure of the resident dentist of Watson Lake, what we would have to do is look at our situation with our dental therapist to see if the departure of the resident dentist will have an impact of any magnitude on Watson Lake. I can just say from personal circumstances that in the years that I was the principal in Watson Lake, I don't believe that in all that time we ever had a resident dentist. Well, I know we didn't have a resident dentist. We were served by a dental therapist who had also some support from a visiting dentist down from Whitehorse to do some prescribing of procedures and things of that nature.
So, we'll have to take a look and see how the change in the situation in Watson Lake will impact, if at all.
Mr. Jenkins: That's most interesting. If the minister could review the summary of recommendations contained in the operational review of the Yukon children's dental program, he'd see a number of areas that come right to the front of the page and stare one in the eyes. Well, if the alarm bells didn't go off, they should have gone off now that there have been some changes with respect to dentists in rural Yukon.
It says, "In communities where there are no dentists, treatments or restorative services will be provided through the program for all high school students. In Whitehorse and other communities with resident dentists, treatment or restorative services will continue to be covered for students in elementary schools.
So, what we are doing once again, Mr. Chair, is creating a double standard: one for Yukon residents in Whitehorse and other communities that have a dentist and another standard for communities that do not have a dentist. Now, why is the minister continuing to provide a double standard for the provision of health care, specifically in this case, for dental health care.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, if the member will note, we've expanded the service to rural high school students in communities with no resident dentists and that has been just in recognition of the fact that, within Whitehorse, there are more avenues available for parents so we felt that, in communities without a resident dentist, we should extend the program upward to service students from grades 8 through 12, which hadn't been done before.
Mr. Jenkins: Then we look, Mr. Chair, at one of the tables: organization of dental services. The one exception is Faro where a local private practitioner provides oral health care for school children. In all other areas, the program utilizes salaried dental therapists and, wherever necessary, private practitioners for the provision of oral health care.
Current staffing consists of one regional dental office position, which is vacant, five full-time dental therapist positions in Whitehorse, two full-time positions outside of Whitehorse - Dawson City and Whitehorse - and I might remind the minister that this report was written after they pulled the one dental therapist out of Watson Lake - three half-time positions, Whitehorse, with one vacant, and one full-time clerical program assistant in Whitehorse.
Can the minister advise how he's going to service all of these needs at this staffing level?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, we've been successful to date. We will do an ongoing evaluation of the program, but I can tell the member that, with the exception of the idea of the senior dental position, which we are reviewing and looking at staffing a full-time dental therapy program manager, we have contracted a public health dentist as a consultant to help us in that regard. So, we've made some changes there, and we feel that we are meeting those needs.
The other element in the report that the member needs to take a look at is that the dental program has been successful and continues to be so. We are going to try to change some emphasis in terms of trying to get some emphasis on dental health at well-baby clinics and try to do an increase in the daycare services for both Whitehorse and rural areas.
As well, we're going to be putting a bit of an emphasis on dental health promotion within the program and throughout other health programs, so we believe that we are able to meet those needs and we are staffing accordingly to make sure that we can fulfill our needs.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if the minister could just allay one of his fears - and he seems to have this ability to redirect the thrust to sideline the questioning - I'm not questioning the program. I am not questioning the success of the dental program.
What I am questioning is the delivery method. It is a very good program. I repeat for the minister's benefit: it is a very good program.
Now, what I'm looking at is the delivery, Mr. Chair. I was interested in the section pertaining to staff utilization, in which it was felt that a redistribution of dental therapy staff would not be prudent at this time, given the recommendations in the review that suggest fundamental changes to the program, patient focus, and services.
Now, what exactly is meant by that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Presumably, that means that what we wouldn't be doing, for example, is cutting back. There have been some suggestions around for a period of time as to the idea of basically making the program less universal, and that would be one way for us to curtail some of our costs, and perhaps some of our staff.
I believe that this was in reference to the idea that we shouldn't be changing the overall numbers and allocation of staff.
I suppose what the member is getting at is, what then precipitated the change in Watson Lake? And the change in Watson Lake was really driven by numbers - insufficient numbers to justify maintaining a full-time dental therapist in Watson Lake. Instead, the decision was made to try to utilize that person in a way to cover off other communities.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that goes on to say, "The following recommendation is to put any redistribution of dental therapist staff on hold, until such a time as the program's objectives have been implemented."
If that's what the report is saying, why do we jump the gun, and remove the dental therapist from Watson Lake? How was that decision arrived at, and why was it made just prior to the completion of the dental review?
Now, the minister's letter said that was an operational requirement, and not linked to the dental review. Well, that's pure bunk, and the minister knows it.
We're just looking for a way out. The statement is made to maintain the status quo regarding the current location of staff throughout the Yukon Territory. That's the statement that's made in this report, and then, bingo, just before the report comes out, the dental therapist is yanked out of Watson Lake and relocated to Whitehorse. Why? Can the minister come up with a better excuse than what he's given today?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Actually, it's done on numbers. Is the member suggesting that if the numbers don't warrant it, we keep someone in a position where they are basically under-utilized? We felt that that individual's time could be better utilized in servicing not only Watson Lake, but also Teslin and Ross River.
That's what we've chosen to do. That's appropriate allocation of staff. We simply wouldn't keep an individual in a community if there was no need to have that individual in a community. That to me is bunk. That to me doesn't make any common sense whatsoever. It doesn't make economic sense.
The suggestion would be that now that we have this marvelous report, if, for example, there was just a drop in the school numbers in a particular community and there was no necessity, we would be obliged to maintain the same status quo, like forever and ever, and that doesn't make sense to me in any regard. That simply does not make sense.
The issue was, in Watson Lake, that the numbers were not sufficient there to maintain a full-time dental therapist. I don't know if it was related to the idea that there was a resident dentist in the community. Perhaps that had reduced numbers to some degree, but obviously we had to make a judgment there that, based on the numbers and based on the utilization, we could better employ that person servicing not only Watson Lake, but some other communities as well. That's what we chose to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the numbers that the minister provided to me, I don't see any significant change, Mr. Chair. The dental therapist resided in Watson Lake. In 1996, the dental therapist serviced Watson Lake, with a total of 155 students, Teslin, with 46 students, and Ross River, with 61 students. In 1997-98, the dental therapist in Watson Lake serviced 153 students - there's a drop of two - and there's a drop in Teslin from 46 to 39, and Ross River, from 61 students to 49 students. Did we look at the statistics, at what was going to be coming into our school systems in these areas? Really, all we're doing is relocating someone to Whitehorse and servicing these areas out of Whitehorse now.
That seems to be the trend of this government - if it's going to be done, it's going to be done by the government in Whitehorse or based in Whitehorse - yank everything from the rural communities. There's the economic impact of the removal of that individual from Watson Lake, which is not being identified here, and now we have the dentist in Watson Lake giving up his practice and, I might add, for the very same reasons and just the same points that I've been raising with this minister: this government must develop a policy to attract and retain medical practitioners, doctors and dentists - the whole gamut - to rural Yukon, to our largest communities. This government isn't doing anything about it, other than driving them away.
Probably the other area that was just identified in the news tonight, and probably why we don't need a dentist in Watson Lake, is because we're the leading jurisdiction in Canada for an outflow of our population. Heck, we're twice as high as the next jurisdiction, which is Newfoundland. So I guess, we probably won't need as many dentists and doctors and dental therapists in a few years if the NDP continues to develop the economy as they are.
But the numbers do not support the decision that the minister made. When you look at the various ages of the population and the statistics and you expect that the lower age group will be entering into school in the next couple of years, it skews the numbers again.
Has any review been done with respect to that? It doesn't appear to be so, Mr. Chair.
I'd really like to know why the decision was made to yank the dental therapist out of Watson Lake, given the statistics that would show that there is going to be a new inflow of students in the following year into all three of those schools. It doesn't appear to have been taken into consideration, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, the Member for Klondike likes to believe that he is an expert on everything. I can probably speak to this with a little more authority, having worked in schools for a long time.
It's not merely a matter of just raw numbers; it's a matter of also the types of procedures that are done, the types of restorative programs that go on and the types of preventive procedures that go on. The schools, and dental health in general, have been improving on a very steady basis, thanks to such things as fluoride treatments for children when they're younger and sealants on teeth. The numbers of cavities showing up are less and less.
The decision to move the dentist was, I believe, made on sound grounds. By the way, the move was not resisted by the dental therapist in question. They agreed with the overall assessment and agreed with the redeployment. So on that particular point, I think the member may be somewhat off.
With respect to dentists in general, if the member is suggesting that somehow we have discouraged dentists going into communities, I might remind him that these dentists are private practice dentists and they can choose to set up wherever they might and they can choose to practice in a manner that they think is most expedient.
The dentist who moved into Watson Lake obviously made that an economic decision. I've been in that community when the numbers were much higher, when the population was much higher, when there was a far higher level of economic activity. We never had a resident dentist. Nobody moved in there with the idea of setting up a practice. We were served by dentists who came from Whitehorse, who operated out of the cottage hospital, from the public health unit. You went there, you had services done and you paid the dentist. That's how the system worked.
In this case, a dentist chose to move into town, chose to lease some space to set up a practice, and has concluded that the practice is not economically viable and is moving on.
I might point out that we have offered, both to this dentist and to Dr. Schoener in Dawson, the opportunity to do some community work that might actually supplement their income. Certainly, in the case of Dr. Schoener, I know that that offer has been declined.
So, these are private practice individuals. If a lawyer, for example, were to decide to set up shop in Watson Lake or Dawson and found out that it wasn't economically viable, would we then, by extension, be required to do some supplementing of that professional - or any other professional, or any other business person?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I beg your pardon?
The member has said that it's not business. I would suggest that, indeed, it is a business. Choosing to set up a dental office in a community of, quite frankly, 1,700 people, I don't know if that is actually economically viable.
I would venture that you would need, probably, a somewhat larger population base to make a practice economically viable - at least a full-time practice - and in this case the dentist has basically identified that the practice is not viable.
With respect to some of the comments of the dentist there, quite frankly, I'm not sure what that individual was alluding to, in terms of bureaucracy, and things of that nature. We have very little to do with dentists. We have the Dental Profession Act, but I'm not sure what impediments the dentist has identified there.
We haven't had much of a correspondence - or, I believe, any correspondence - with the dentist. I think I've only met the individual once or twice.
So I'm not sure what the person's concern is there. On one hand the members have said that we need to get out of the face of medical professionals, whatever they are, medical professionals or dental professionals. We need to get out of their face, we need to leave them alone, just do simple fee for service and get rid of all this other stuff.
And now we're being asked to do supports, and I don't really know where the Yukon Party is coming from on this point.
What we have said is that the dentist in this case made an economic decision to locate, and has made an economic decision to move out. It's that simple.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the issues surrounding the dentists in rural Yukon is a very simple one. It's the provision of a service to that community. In some cases, a very much-needed service.
And I agree with the minister that, as the population decreases or increases, that need decreases and increases accordingly. But what we see is a government that will establish and equip a dental office in most of the rural communities. They will pay for a dentist to rotate out of Whitehorse, and service that community.
They will pay that dentist's travel costs. They will pay the travel costs and the accommodation of that dentist and assistant to leave Whitehorse, travel to any of these rural communities, set up their practice, and whatever they recover in fees for service from the people that attend their dental clinics, these dentists put in their pockets.
Now, I don't have a quarrel with that. They're serving a need, but when a dentist comes along that is willing to relocate or locate in one of these rural communities and knows full well that he doesn't want to work full time and he's not looking for the same level of remuneration as a dentist could earn in downtown Vancouver or Toronto, and that he's looking for the lifestyle, what is the downside of the government providing him with that office space free of charge?
They provide it to a travelling dentist, plus they pay that travelling dentist's accommodations, plus they pay that travelling dentist's travel costs, plus they pay the same for that travelling dentist's assistant. Now, what's the downside of providing that space to a dentist who chooses to locate in a place like Dawson or Watson Lake, and providing it on a no-charge basis, just so that service is there? Does the minister have some problem with that, and if so, what is it? Is he going to try to say that he's a private practitioner and that he has to set it up and pay it all himself? Is that the case?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, for one thing, we've never received a request from the dentist in Watson Lake in that regard, and in the second place, we do support the dentist in Dawson to the degree that we've assisted the city in providing space. We've assisted in providing equipment, and so on.
We also offered to Dr. Schoener the opportunity to service some of our rural communities on a basis where we would provide travelling assistance, and so on and so forth.
That was declined. We don't bring in a dentist to Dawson. The only dentist who comes into Dawson is an orthodontist, who comes in, in a private arrangement with Dr. Schoener, where he uses the space, and presumably, there must be some kind of arrangement between that individual and Dr. Schoener. But that's a private relationship between the dentist and an orthodontist, in this case. We don't bring anyone into Dawson. There is a resident dentist there. What we've tried to do, and the offers that we've made - because it would certainly be in our economic interest - are to have the dentist in Dawson service Old Crow, just because of distance, and to service Mayo, just because of distance. We've offered that opportunity, and it has been declined. I think we can only go so far in supporting individuals, which we have done, in terms of office space, equipment, and so on, and so forth. And I think we've offered opportunities for these individuals to make more money and, for some reason or another, it hasn't been accepted. By the way, we're going to be making the offer yet again. So, hopefully, there will be an interest on the part of the individual to take us up in that regard.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the minister's information, if he could check back in his records, Dr. Schoener did service Mayo and Old Crow for quite a number of years. He did it continuously for, I believe, about six or seven years, and ran into a number of bureaucratic stumbling blocks that he wasn't prepared to address. Perhaps you might want to talk to Dr. Schoener about why he's declining the offer. But he did do it for quite a number of years, and he did have an established practice in Dawson for quite a number of years, until the arrangements he first came to with the Government of Canada were revoked by the Government of Yukon, and he just gave up his practice.
He gave up his practice for a couple of years, and the City of Dawson once again stepped in and actually recruited Dr. Schoener to take up his practice again, come to arrangements with the Government of the Yukon with respect to office space, and pay for half of it. Well, pay for half of the cost that was required of the dentist before he was allowed to utilize that space. And the minister probably should review a lot of the other conditions surrounding the provision of dental care and medical doctors to Dawson, because the waterfront building owned by the city was an exchange made between federal medical services for the doctors to occupy their place in the clinic, and there was other space made available to the nurses to put on their various programs.
Those arrangements were offsetting and it was a mutually beneficial arrangement, and they appeared to be getting ground up into the whole process and kind of lost track of by this minister in a convenient manner. He tends to have the ability to throw out those costs that will shed a good light on his position, but all I'm asking him to do is accurately reflect the total picture and the total financial contribution. Because, of all the communities in the Yukon, Dawson makes the most significant contribution to health care of any rural Yukon community.
I believe that's benefiting the residents of that community, and I would only hope the minister could see his way clear to institute similar policies in places like Watson Lake and Faro as the need arises, because unless this government develops a policy to attract and retain these medical people to rural Yukon, they're not going to go there. The opportunities to set up their own practices are not lucrative enough.
The minister tends to focus just in the direction he wishes to focus, but I might remind the minister he's dealing with professionals in a field who have their background and their knowledge of that field. Rather than addressing it from a strictly bureaucratic standpoint that is fed to him by his officials, he might want to stand back and look at it objectively, and look at it from a rural standpoint, from a viewpoint of the residents of Watson Lake and Dawson.
If you read the article in tonight's paper about the dentist in Watson Lake, that man doesn't have a comfortable feeling as to how he's been dealt with by this government.
The minister says, "Well, we didn't have any dealings with him." Well, the minister could have. He could have had a lot of dealings, and he could have made his practice that much more comfortable.
What it's going to come down to in the very near future is that the government is going to be charged with the responsibility of hiring a dentist, sending that dentist down to Watson Lake, paying that dentist's way - and that assistant to that dentist's way - paying for their accommodation in Watson Lake and servicing the needs of the individuals there on probably an inadequate basis.
Once you have a full-time resident dentist in your community, and you can phone that dentist virtually at any time, when that dentist goes away, it places a tremendous burden on the residents there because travel for dental reasons is not covered by Yukon health care, as the minister knows full well.
So what the minister is again doing is creating a double standard - one for Whitehorse, and one for rural Yukon. And I don't think the residents of rural Yukon are going to be very thankful to this minister for continuing to create this double standard and maintaining it in more and more areas, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Chair, that's simply absurd. I reject the member's notion. He appears to only see things from the context of his interpretation of things. We have assisted the dentist in Dawson. We have made opportunities available, but those do not seem to have been accepted. With respect to the dentist in Watson Lake, with all due respect, we have not had a great deal of interaction with that individual. We haven't received very many communications from the individual on issues of this nature. The only issues, I believe, that we've heard have been on the school dental program.
We have a responsibility, which we believe we are fulfilling in rural Yukon. I have to caution the member about this rampant social engineering that I see rolling out of the Yukon Party. It's actually becoming somewhat frightening. It has taken on Orwellian tones. Where will it stop? Please, Mr. Chair, I beg the member to reconsider this notion that he has to be in control of all aspects of people's lives.
But on that note, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 14, First Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, and has 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.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:28 p.m.