Tuesday, November 1, 2005 — 1:00 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?
In recognition of Women Abuse Prevention Month
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today as the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate to recognize November as Women Abuse Prevention Month. As was described in the recent issue of All About Us — Women’s News, published by the Yukon Status of Women, “woman abuse” refers to physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, social or financial abuse of a woman within a relationship. Mr. Speaker, abuse knows no age, race, religion or economic background. Abuse occurs for a number of reasons and happens all too often in our country. The rate of woman assault for women aged 18 to 24 is especially prevalent, some four times the national average.
Mr. Speaker, this month the Women’s Directorate, coupled with the Department of Justice, will be launching the first in a series of three posters that address violence against women and as part of our government’s commitment to a long-term public education campaign. The activities of this initiative are being led by an inter-agency group of the Government of Yukon Department of Justice, the Women’s Directorate, Education, Health and Social Services, Kaushee’s Place, the RCMP, the Yukon Human Rights Commission, Yukon Family Services Association, Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre, Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Yukon College, Men’s Society, Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Association, Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, CAIRS, and the Yukon Status of Women Council.
The commitment to reducing the high incidence of violence against women is a priority for our government, and as the participation of this dedicated group shows, it is one of the community at large as well. A safety kit, a new tool to assist rural front-line workers and women experiencing violence in their lives, has been developed and will also be released this month. Led by the Women’s Directorate, this initiative is the result of the combined dedication of Kaushee’s Place and the family violence prevention unit within the Department of Justice.
This year, as in the past, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre is leading the public awareness campaign surrounding Women Abuse Prevention Month. The centre, working with a committee of community groups and government departments, has organized a series of brown bag lunches throughout the month to address topics such as family law, healthy relationships and the link between substance abuse and family violence.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the front-line workers that are working to help victims of violence each and every day. Their efforts and expertise are integral to building healthy communities. It is a very difficult and demanding job, also very appreciated and very necessary.
It is also a time to acknowledge and support the women living around us who are coping, existing with and resisting violence in their own lives. As individuals, legislators, families and communities, we need to support victims to encourage accountability for harmful acts, and to support our communities in providing education, prevention and healing.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: I rise on behalf of the official opposition and the third party in tribute to Women’s Abuse Prevention Month, which is November each year.
Abuse of women is an urgent public health issue that occurs in epidemic proportions in Canada. We know the rates of physical and psychological abuse of women remain totally unacceptable and that the Yukon is a prime offender in this crime.
As an aboriginal woman, I am continually dismayed that three times as many aboriginal women suffer from spousal assault as non-aboriginal women. This fact remains one of the highest priorities for First Nation women in the Yukon. A report from Amnesty International, entitled Stolen Sisters, shows that young indigenous women in Canada are at least five times more likely than all other women to die as a result of violence.
Many abused women are mothers. The environment in which children grow up forms their character and values. When children witness abuse, there can be serious lifelong effects. Health Canada tells us that, of all Canadian children, it is estimated that 11 to 23 percent have witnessed some form of violence against their mothers in the home. If the child witnesses abuse of its mother, it has a far-reaching effect on his/her future welfare and on relationships formed in later life.
Abused mothers can be encouraged to use parenting skills to help their children, whether they remain in an abusive home or leave.
Investing in services for our children helps us to grow healthy families, communities and society. Our long-term vision must include healthy children living in healthy homes. This means sufficient investment in the helping services.
This is a special challenge in our rural communities. It is very difficult for abused women to come forward and seek help when they are in small communities. We should be looking at policies that will allow the various agencies involved in the helping professions to work together and to be proactive in offering support to women and children who are in an abusive home.
There are many events planned this week to educate the public on women abuse prevention, and we urge everyone to take part in these.
In recognition of Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Hon. Mr. Hart: I rise today to pay tribute to an organization that is making a positive difference in protecting lives and making our streets and highways safer for everyone. Of course I am speaking of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD. Today marks the beginning of MADD’s annual awareness campaign, Project Red Ribbon, “Tie One on for Safety”. This marks the 18th year of this popular campaign. MADD conducts this information program in partnership with the Yukon Liquor Corporation through the month of November and into the new year as we approach the Christmas holiday season.
This is the time of year when our thoughts are on family and gathering together for the holidays. It is also the time of celebrating and good cheer, and the opportunity to raise a glass presents itself on many occasions. MADD wants to remind all of us of what may be at stake if we choose to drink and drive. By tying a red ribbon on your vehicle in a conspicuous spot, you are supporting the goal of keeping drunk drivers off our roads and recognizing the devastating consequences drunk driving brings to all members of the Yukon.
You will see boxes of red ribbons in Yukon motor vehicle offices and in our liquor stores. Yukoners are invited to pick up a ribbon, tie it on their vehicle and display it in memory of their friends, family, and fellow citizens who have lost their lives or who have been injured due to impaired driving.
The other part of MADD’s message is no less important. As a host, do whatever it takes to prevent one of your guests from getting behind the wheel after they’ve been drinking. Call a cab, find a sober designated driver, or have them sleep on your couch for a night, but don’t let them drive.
We all have a responsibility to protect the lives on our roads and our highways by stopping drunk driving. Organizations such as MADD can only do so much, but what they have done is a lot. MADD lobbies governments to create laws that punish drunk drivers more severely. MADD coordinates a number of education programs for high school students and community groups. MADD works with law enforcement to promote more check stops and lobbies the courts for more appropriate sentences for drunk drivers, but MADD can only do so much. It is up to us to mind their important messages and not to drive when we have been drinking and to prevent others from making that potentially fatal mistake.
I encourage all members of this House, and Yukoners, to support the fine work of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Pick up a red ribbon and tie one on for safety.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today on behalf of the Liberal caucus and the NDP caucus, the official opposition, in recognition of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
This is the 18th annual Project Red Ribbon Campaign. The Red Ribbon Campaign runs from November 1 to December 31 and is a public awareness campaign to urge Canadians to drive safe and to drive sober. MADD volunteers across Canada distribute red ribbons and encourage motorists to tie a ribbon on a visible location on their vehicle. This simple act — to tie one on for safety — has become MADD — Mothers Against Drunk Driving — Canada’s most recognized public awareness campaign. It’s a sign of respect for the thousands of Canadians who have lost their lives or who have been injured as a result of impaired driving. By displaying a red ribbon on a vehicle, you are making a personal commitment to drive safe and sober.
Impaired driving crashes are preventable, because they are not accidents. We can change the odds by changing attitudes, through public awareness campaigns and educational programs that emphasize that it is never okay to drink and drive, and you should never allow anyone you love to do so.
We would like to thank the many Yukon volunteers and local law enforcement officers, throughout the territory, for their commitment in making our roads safer. Red ribbons, as has been mentioned by the minister, are available through the motor vehicles branch in Whitehorse and through Yukon liquor stores. I would encourage all members and the Yukon public to pick up a red ribbon and display it proudly as your personal commitment to drive safe and sober. By making the commitment not to drink and drive, the life you save may be your own. Encourage your friends and your loved ones to make the same commitment. A life is a precious gift. Help save one today.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of National Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today on behalf of the House to recognize National Down’s Syndrome Awareness Week. This week is dedicated to recognizing Canadians living with Down’s syndrome and to helping increase public awareness about the contribution that individuals with Down’s syndrome make to our country.
Down’s syndrome is a naturally occurring chromosomal arrangement that is present in approximately one in 800 births in Canada. There are approximately 35,000 Canadians with Down’s syndrome.
With the proper support, individuals with Down’s syndrome are making important contributions to Canadian society. They are working, they are volunteering, they’re attending school and they’re living independent lives. Yukoners living with Down’s syndrome make this a better place to be, adding their own unique contributions to the fabric that makes Yukon as unique as it is.
The Yukon is proud to be one of only six Canadian jurisdictions recognizing Canadians living with Down’s syndrome and those who are committed to helping those individuals reach their fullest potential. We are all proud to be counted.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Pursuant to section 34 of the Interpretation Act, I have for tabling the report on regulations for April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005.
Ms. Duncan: I have for tabling a letter to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission regarding the correspondence of September 12 regarding whistle-blower legislation.
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling six documents.
Speaker: Are there any other 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
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the federal Liberal government’s recently announced $5-billion, five-year early learning and child care initiative will not meet the child care needs in the north if the funds are provided on a strictly per capita basis; and
THAT this House urges the federal Minister of Social Development responsible for early learning and child care, the Hon. Ken Dryden, and our Yukon Member of Parliament, the Hon. Larry Bagnell, to change the funding formula for the Government of Canada’s recently announced $5-billion five-year early learning and child care initiative as it applies to the three territories, to provide base funding plus per capita to better meet the needs of early child care in the Yukon and Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to move forward with plans to build a new elementary school in the Granger-Copper Ridge area of Whitehorse, on land already set aside on Falcon Drive.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is a very serious problem for children, youth, adults and their caretakers in the Yukon;
(2) the only organization in the Yukon dealing directly with this issue is the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon, or FASSY;
(3) FASSY is facing the end of its funding for its most important programs as early as next month; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to live up to its promise to respond to the problem of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder in the Yukon by immediately alleviating the crisis in the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon and assure them that funding will be available to continue their important work with people living with FASD in the Yukon.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to respond to the ruling of the Yukon Human Rights Commission regarding the Yukon Housing Corporation’s discrimination against a pet owner who was also on social assistance, by immediately preparing regulations that allow all tenants to have pets regardless of their source of income.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Government relations
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Deputy Premier about the Yukon Party’s definition of “respectful relations between governments”. I would like to hear the Deputy Premier’s take on the question of the pecking order that has been created. If I have it right, it seems to go like this, Mr. Speaker: Canada doesn’t listen to the Premier, or we would have support for a railway study and some clarity on the Alaska Highway pipeline. We don’t have that. The Premier doesn’t listen to the First Nations, or we would see more positive relations with, for example, Na Cho Nyäk Dun, Little Salmon-Carmacks, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Kwanlin Dun, and even the Kaska Tribal Council.
He doesn’t listen to the municipalities, or the people of Dawson would have had their democratic rights brought back by now. But apparently he does listen to Governor Murkowski and maybe to Premier Klein and Premier Campbell — we will have to wait and see on that.
Can the Deputy Premier confirm that I have the government-to-government pecking order right?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The premise for the member opposite’s question is pure bunk.
Speaker: As humorous as the reply was, we as legislators ask legitimate questions. I understand that the government House leader does not agree with the premise of the question; however, I would prefer that the responses be a bit more cordial, if you wouldn’t mind.
You have the floor, leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Well, there is an old saying, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are pretty good that it is a duck,” Mr. Speaker. Let me give the Deputy Premier a recent example of why we have suspicions in this regard.
In the middle of last Friday afternoon, after the newspapers had closed up for the day, the government quietly let word slip out that the Premier would be going to Vancouver for a little pipeline bonding session with Governor Murkowski and a couple of western premiers. That’s going to be very suspicious now. The trouble is that we knew about the trip the day before. Not from them, not because the Premier had the courtesy to advise this House, not because he had the courtesy to tell the Yukon people. We heard about it from Governor Murkowski’s people in Alaska, through the media on that side of the line. Is there a matter of international security at issue here? Can the Deputy Premier explain why it is necessary to keep Yukon people in the dark about the Premier’s coming and goings?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, there is no issue with the travels of anyone on this side of the House. It is common knowledge that all the travel done by the ministers and the Premier is to address very important issues, attend conferences and such. The Premier’s attendance at this conference was well known by all prior to it. It must be just the members opposite who came by it by happenstance.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the Deputy Premier says it was common knowledge, but it definitely wasn’t for the common people. What we are seeing here — and the Deputy Premier is confirming it — is the destructive game of who’s on top, and that is how it has been since this government first came into office. Who’s on top at the Cabinet table? Who’s on top in the House leaders’ meetings? Who’s on top in this Assembly? It’s driven home daily. Who’s on top in media interviews? Who’s on top with the government employees? We are all seeing that kind of approach. Who’s on top in meetings between this government and First Nation governments? Who’s on top with municipal governments?
What people are extremely concerned about with this government is that they are at the bottom. That has become extremely clear. It doesn’t matter if it is Governor Murkowski or the Premier calling the shots. Yukon people feel that they don’t matter to this government. What is the Deputy Premier doing to correct this situation so that Yukon people, once more, have the feeling that the government works for them, not the other way around?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Again, the whole premise of the question is 180 degrees reversed from what it should be. Our party was elected to serve Yukoners, and that’s exactly what we are doing. We ran as a party on a platform to restore investor confidence in the Yukon, turn the economy around and provide opportunities for all Yukoners, at the same time working collaboratively with our partners, the First Nation governments. We have clearly demonstrated that across the board.
The population of the Yukon is increasing, the GDP of the Yukon has increased, and unemployment is the lowest under our watch than it has ever been under any government, so across the board our party has gone the extra mile and, at the same time, it has addressed the social issues, NGO underfunding and a whole periphery of these areas.
We have done a job and it’s a good job, and we will continue to do that good job.
Question re: Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition
Mr. McRobb: Let’s review with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources some of the documents I tabled today. On June 2, the Premier wrote to the heads of Imperial Oil, ConocoPhillips and BP Canada, pushing the NPA process. The NPA is a northern pipeline agreement that dates back a quarter century and gives Foothills Pipe Lines full rights to the Alaska Highway corridor.
On June 8, the Premier issued a news release pushing the NPA option and added he expected the federal government to make a decision on a regulatory process soon — five months later, still no announcement.
On June 9, the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition responded by letter, calling the Yukon government’s communication offensive and a breach of our mutual commitments to work cooperatively and in collaboration on pipeline issues.
How can the minister possibly claim he’s working cooperatively with the APC?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the member opposite has it wrong. We have worked with the APC, the aboriginal pipeline group. We funded it to the tune of over $350,000 to date. We’re working with them to get the national government, the federal government, on track to fund the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, exactly how they’re funding the aboriginal pipeline group in Northwest Territories. The five First Nations on the Mackenzie route have been funded for $500 million. We are looking for the same treatment on this side of the mountains, and so we should. We’re Canadians. Also, as public government, we have a responsibility to work with First Nations and also the general public on the impact of the pipeline, if and when it comes, for the betterment of all our community.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the June 9 letter speaks for itself, and I quote: “Your hasty and unilateral action of writing to the producers constitutes a missed opportunity to work together in good faith with mutual respect and is injurious to the proposed pipeline project and all Yukoners.” On June 14, the APC wrote to the heads of the big three oil companies contesting the Yukon government’s misrepresentation of its position. From that letter: “The coalition has not made a determination with respect to the NPA or a traditional review process.” What’s going on here? Why is this government intentionally straining First Nation relations to push the NPA option?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong. We’re not pushing. All we’re doing is — the NPA is the only regulatory documentation this government has to look at. In the green route, we don’t have that. So as far as the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition, they’re independent of this government. They’re working internally to get their house in order. We in turn have funded it. We have funded it to the tune of $350,000. We’re doing it in partnership. Now we want the Canadian government to come to the mark and join that partnership and fund it like it should be, exactly how they’re funding the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, Yukon coalition First Nations are a necessary ally to the development of the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline project. On June 16, the APC wrote again to the Premier to object, this time to being excluded from a meeting with Alaska Governor Murkowski. Another quote: “It was extremely disappointing to learn this news through a third party and at the last minute. It is even more disappointing that a representative of a First Nation government is not attending with you. Partnerships with First Nations, as you continually espouse, require a different manner of interacting.”
This government just doesn’t get it. Why did the minister fail to take that advice and instead support yet another meeting with Governor Murkowski and other premiers without our First Nation partners present?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the member opposite asking the questions to the pertinent minister that the letters were sent to, but I would like to remind the member opposite that the resources were voted against by the member opposite for exactly the task that he is saying we are not doing. We funded it to $350,000. We have put more money on the table. We expect the federal government to come to the mark and do exactly what they should do and bring the resources to the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition so they can do their job. The member opposite voted against those resources, Mr. Speaker, and I remind every Yukoner that they voted against it.
Question re: School enrolment
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Education about the need for a new school in the Granger, Logan, Arkell and Copper Ridge area of Whitehorse. Over the last couple of years, more than 200 new homes have gone up in this area. These new homes mean more children. The result is that the Elijah Smith Elementary School is completely full. It cannot accept any more students. In fact, some children are now being bused out of the neighbourhood to schools in other areas of the city.
Yesterday the minister said he recognized there is a need and a growing issue. He also said he was not prepared to actually do anything about it. When is the Yukon Party government going to respond to the needs of young people in the Granger-Copper Ridge area?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that question. However I will say — and not to insinuate any disrespect to the member opposite, but when the previous government was in, Mr. Speaker, there was talk of some schools being closed in Whitehorse. I specifically remember a school in the riding of McIntyre-Takhini that was being considered as one of those schools to be closed. One has to ask themselves why, Mr. Speaker. It was because the government of the day actually believed that there were not enough children to warrant having that school open.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I beg to differ with the member opposite that surely the number of children needing to go to the school has not increased that drastically in a couple of years that we now have to start building new schools in everyone’s backyard.
Ms. Duncan: Let me bring the minister to the present reality and things that have happened over the life of this government opposite. More than 200 new homes in one particular area — surely the minister will also agree that going to an elementary school in your own neighbourhood is far better than putting a five-year-old on a bus and sending them across town. Maybe he thinks that’s okay. Dozens of children have been turned away from Elijah Smith Elementary School over the last year. The school is completely full. Many, many children are being bused or driven from Granger or Copper Ridge to other parts of the city. That number is going to continue to grow as more homes are being built.
While all this is going on, the minister is doing nothing about it. Does the Yukon Party support building a new school in this area of the city, or are they opposed to it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe it would be a very nice day for every citizen in the territory if they could walk across the street to school, but that’s not reality. The government will have to look at the catchment areas right now. I know the Elijah Smith Elementary School does have a large number of students. I believe maybe some need to look at going to Takhini. Those are issues the department is reviewing at this point in time.
Ms. Duncan: When the Copper Ridge subdivision was being built, land was set aside on Falcon Drive as an educational reserve for a new school. That land is still there; it’s still available. The reality is the Minister of Education just stood on his feet and said the Yukon Party government is opposed to building a new school in that riding. So what’s the land going to be used for?
The Department of Education not only owns that land, they also own the plans that were used to build the Holy Family School and the Hidden Valley School. The government owns the plans, and owns the land in that particular area.
The minister has watched that part of the city grow. The demand has increased and they have done nothing about it. Now he has just stood on his feet to say he’s opposed to a new school.
Why has the Yukon Party done nothing about the needs of their youngest constituents? Why are they opposed to fulfilling the needs of people?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite appears to be putting words in one’s mouth. I never said any such thing as being opposed to building anything.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I believe in the past, Mr. Speaker, you’ve ruled against members ascribing motives to another member, and “putting words in my mouth”, I believe, was the example you used before.
Speaker: On the point of order, government House leader.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There’s no point of order; it’s just a dispute among members.
Speaker: On the point of order, member of the third party.
Ms. Duncan: I do believe the Member for Kluane is correct, that you have, in past practice, ruled the words “putting words in one’s mouth” out of order as ascribing motives.
Speaker: The Chair agrees that I have used that term, but I feel the context is different in this instance today. So, there is no point of order; it’s simply a dispute among members.
You have the floor, Minister of Education.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government always is and always will be concerned about the well-being of the children and their education. At the present time the government is, and the department is, considering striking an independent committee — one that has no political interest; one that can look at the capacity of the school situation in the City of Whitehorse. So, Mr. Speaker, this government is not sitting idle. Neither is this minister. We know there is a concern. We know there is a growing population and growing infrastructure in that area. It will be monitored carefully.
Question re: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Mrs. Peter: I am glad to see in the supplementary budget that this government is giving an additional $21,000 to the Porcupine caribou herd. This is a good thing and I look forward to hearing the details. As we all know, the individuals and organizations in Canada and the U.S. that are trying to protect the Porcupine caribou herd need both our financial and moral support — right now especially.
The U.S. Congress is gearing up for another key vote on whether to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil development. Decision time is fast approaching, Mr. Speaker. Will the Minister of Environment impress upon the Premier — who has travelled to Calgary, Houston, Anchorage, Ottawa, Washington, and Vancouver to lobby for a pipeline — how important it is to give some much-needed moral support to the people who have campaigned so long and hard to protect the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our Premier has gone one step further. Our Premier has met with the President of the United States and conveyed the message to the President of the United States. Our Premier has met with the Prime Minister of Canada, who has subsequently relayed the message from our Premier through the Prime Minister of Canada to the President of the United States.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this is a battle with people who think that anything that doesn’t have a price tag doesn’t have any value, that what cannot be sold is not worth saving. Can the minister tell us when the Premier will put some concrete action behind his fine words and meet with senior U.S. politicians and bureaucrats who hold the fate of the Porcupine caribou herd in their hands?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, as I said in my first response, the Premier of the Yukon can’t go any higher than the President of the United States of America, and that’s where the conversation has gone to, and it has gone directly from our Premier to the President of the United States, and it has also gone through the Prime Minister of Canada to the President of the United States. So we’re right at the senior levels of government, and our government’s position with respect to the protection of the habitat area of the Porcupine caribou herd is on the record here. It has been the subject of a number of motions that received all-party support, if I could remind the member opposite, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the Premier obviously didn’t have any effect. Mr. Speaker, I’ve been reading the latest news releases from the Premier’s trip to Vancouver to spend more quality time with his friends from Alaska, B.C., and Alberta. He has taken a stand on the issue of Canadians and Americans needing passports and, as a Tourism critic, I applaud him for that. He has taken a position on joint action to get the Alaska Highway pipeline underway, and that is no surprise. But there is something missing in those releases.
Will the Environment minister remind his boss of the need to show Yukoners that he takes the fears of the Gwich’in people seriously enough to go to Washington to defend their interests while there is still a small window of opportunity?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin asked the Premier to take the lead on this initiative. The Vuntut Gwitchin have taken the lead, and it has been resourced by our government to a great extent. That is a fact. At the same time, the Premier has made representation to the Prime Minister of Canada requesting that representation be made to the President of the United States on this file. That has been done. At the same time, the Premier of the Yukon has met with the President of the United States on this matter, among other things.
This side of the House, this governing party — the Yukon Party — has gone way above and beyond anything that has been done before with representation to the senior levels of government in both the United States and Canada.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The Chair is getting distracted by the extraneous chit-chat, and I’d appreciate it if the member would keep it down.
Member for Mount Lorne, you have the floor.
Question re: Workers’ Compensation Act review
Mr. Cardiff: Yesterday I asked about the lack of progress on the Workers’ Compensation Act review, and the minister was full of lame excuses, none of which will wash with the public. The minister said that the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board was doing a great job in the area of prevention. I would agree with that: they’re going pretty far; they’re doing a great job of that, but the legislation that governs the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board was mandated to be reviewed in the legislation and the process has fallen way behind schedule.
There’s a whole bunch of issues out there that need to be addressed. Does the minister really believe the changes to this act will be made before the next territorial election, or will he leave that task for the next minister responsible for the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue of the act review is a work in progress. A facilitator has been hired to do the review with the three parties that represent the act review committee. We’re moving forward on this file. At the same time, I just happen to have the strategic plan in my pocket for the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, which I will be pleased to table for the member opposite, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister is not only dropping the ball on the Workers’ Compensation Act review, he has also dropped the ball on the occupational health and safety regulations that have been gathering dust under his desk for over three years now. This is despite urging from business, labour and even the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board, who all support the proposed changes.
In most cases the existing regulations are about 20 years old, and they don’t reflect today’s modern workplaces. The minister has previously tied the passage or the proclamation of these regulations to the completion of the Workers’ Compensation Act review, and we all know where that is. It is in the toilet. Now, how long is the minister prepared to allow the new, more modern regulations to languish under his desk? When is he going to do something with those?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what’s in the toilet is a matter for the member opposite to determine, but I am not going to go there. The issue is what has happened with respect to the OH&S regulations. The OH&S regulations are being carefully reviewed and considered.
Just because a regulation is 20 or 30 or 40 years old, it makes no matter, if it is a commonsense, logical regulation. That is, to keep changing and imposing more and more regulations — why make more laws when they’re not needed, Mr. Speaker? The member appears to be on that track. The regulations that were needed and justified, like the oil and gas regulations, have been brought forward, and they are in place now. The balance of the regulations are currently under review. But by and large, a lot in the suggested or proposed regulations was totally unworkable, and the member knows full well what a number of those areas were, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: This member doesn’t know what they were, because the minister has said before that he has these concerns about the new regulations. He has never once cited a specific regulation or clause in those new regulations; he hasn’t shared his specific concerns with any of the groups that worked on the original consultation when the new regulations were suggested, and now we hear that they’re under review again. So he’s reviewing the review — that’s pretty standard for this minister.
The chair of the Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board is aware of some of those concerns and he’s even prepared to make those concerns and the responses they’ve prepared public, if the minister will grant his permission. Now, a year ago the minister assured me he would grant his permission to make those concerns public but, to this date, nobody has seen or heard anything to do with the minister’s concerns.
Will the minister now commit in this House to providing his permission for making public his specific concerns, if they even exist, by the end of this week?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What I have committed to is a review of the Workers’ Compensation Act, and that is underway. What I have committed to is a review of the OH&S regulations, and that is currently underway. When they’re concluded, I will be tabling them in the House.
Question re: Kyoto Protocol
Mrs. Peter: The David Suzuki Foundation has identified the Yukon as one of only three jurisdictions in Canada with no plan for implementing the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, yet the Yukon — like other northern regions — is more vulnerable to global warming than other parts of the world. Glaciers are visibly melting, the polar icecap is disappearing at a much faster rate than previously expected, and the Yukon’s permafrost is clearly under threat.
I have a question for the Minister of Environment. Why has the minister responsible for protecting our environment allowed the Yukon to drag its feet on climate change and global warming when we already face severe threats to our environment and way of life, which will only worsen if nothing is done?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We have not been dragging our feet, and we will not drag our feet on this issue. Most of the pressures on Yukon stem from other areas of the world. That is the reality of the situation. The bottom line is that currently, if you look back to the base year, the Yukon is way ahead of the curve as far as local compliance with emissions. But we have a couple of factors here in the Yukon that are going to drive our emissions way up — one of them being forest fires and the other one being the beetle kill. One of the largest areas of beetle kill is in the Kluane region. When those trees there start to decay, as they will, they will give back into the environment a lot of greenhouse gas emissions — a lot more than they took out of the environment. That is not being addressed by the Government of Canada.
Across the range of things we can do here in the Yukon, we are ahead of the curve, and we will continue to be so. We are 83- or 90-percent reliant on hydro energy here in the Yukon, versus what has transpired in the past. That is progress, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: The reason we are in this embarrassing position comes down to one simple thing: lack of political will and direction from that side of the House. The last time we looked, the minister responsible for the Yukon’s Kyoto implementation plan was the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, not the Minister of Environment, who should at least be paying some lip service to the problem.
For some reason, the Premier has put this vital file in the hands of someone whose main job is promoting industries that create greenhouse gases. Something is wrong with this picture. Will the Environment minister make a commitment that the next time he meets with the Premier he will ask him to put the Kyoto implementation file into the hands of someone who will do the job without any further delay?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite has failed to recognize what has transpired on the federal level. On the federal level the lead agency is now the federal Department of Environment under the Hon. Stéphane Dion. Previously a lot of it was over in Natural Resources Canada. That has been transferred. The lead agency is the federal Department of the Environment.
Mrs. Peter: Can the minister tell us which department is lead on the climate change file?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It depends what area, but the majority of the overseeing and data collection is done by the Department of the Environment. One only has to go back to the federal Department of the Environment to see how things flow under their reign. It has been changed. The federal government made a change, and we followed suit. We are tracking the federal government system.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members’ business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, November 2, 2005. They are Motion No. 430, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge, and Motion No. 484, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 63: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 63, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I move that Bill No. 63, entitled Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am very pleased to be standing here today presenting the amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act to the Yukon Legislature. Our government has a strong commitment to preventing family violence, and the fact that we have developed a strategy to combat family violence that includes amending this act speaks volumes about the commitment, keeping in mind legislation does not fix the offender or heal the victim.
In considering changes to this legislation, our government directed the Department of Justice staff to use the best information available to them, as well as to consult with Yukoners to find out what they had to say about how the act was working and how it could be improved. We have a number of years of experience now with the working of the original act, so it is timely to bring forward these amendments.
The Family Violence Prevention Act came into effect in 1999 and a review of the legislation was carried out in 2002 by the previous government. I would like to take a little time to remind this House of the purpose of the act and what we are doing about family violence so that I can put into context the changes that we are proposing here today.
The act is territorial legislation that allows, for example, a woman to apply for an emergency intervention order so that she can be separated from her spouse where there is an allegation of domestic assault. The act does not replace the Criminal Code; rather, it provides emergency relief for individuals while the police conduct an investigation into allegations.
The act is one plank of a larger platform to address family violence in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, at this point I would like to talk a little bit about the traditional knowledge, values and beliefs that would be very helpful in seeking an understanding of where family violence comes from. This is not to rationalize or minimize any process that takes place to deal with family violence, but to seek understanding is a very important component to even developing legislation or to developing any programs that may help deal with this very serious issue.
For example, when we talk about traditional versions, it is our traditional belief that women are sacred. That in itself is a statement that, if honoured, would greatly minimize any kind of violence toward women. The sacredness of women comes from the Creator. The Creator selected the woman because she is the stronger of the two sexes. The woman has a great responsibility, a very important responsibility, and it’s because the Creator chose them to be that person, the one who will pack the fetus and bring the fetus to this earth.
It’s a job that they must provide nourishment, shelter, warmth, comfort — everything in the womb that must also be done on this earth to survive. The woman has that job. With that, Mr. Speaker, if one can only envision all of the work that the woman does to bring life to this earth, I think it would be very hard to find a reason not to say that they are special. It would be very hard to find a reason to even commit any kind of violent act toward that individual. It is a belief that every woman should be treated as though she is your mother.
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about seeking understanding of family violence and spousal abuse, we must in the Yukon Territory — because it is a relatively young territory — look and try to understand the different dynamics from those in the historical past that have really created a lot of the platform for the amount of family violence and spousal abuse that’s in the territory today. To do that, we must go back to the fur traders when they first came to this area. What impact did that era have on the situations of today? Well, there was a very large influx of foreign people, who brought different values and beliefs with them, and there could have even been a lot of importing of alcohol, for example.
That era created the stage for people getting to know that the Yukon existed. All the furs, all the animals — it became known worldwide that they were in abundance here. It attracted a lot of people and not everyone, I would assume, was a desirable type of a person, so that did create an impact.
Then we go to looking at the mission school era in the 1800s. One has to research that era very carefully to try to seek understanding of what actually happened to family structures and family dynamics when the children were pulled away from the parents without their permission.
I believe that the government of the day probably thought they were doing what was right. However, it did create a massive abuse of a race of people who have basically had no intervention — or to help one understand why so much anger would arise in one and not be able to explain where it’s coming from.
The mission school era, right to this day, still creates many, many problems for the First Nation people. Mr. Speaker, we have elders in this territory who are still feeling the effects of the mission school, because they were there.
Mr. Speaker, I’ve heard, as recently as within the last year, victims of the mission school saying it was because of their mother that they were put there. Now, we have to think about that comment. How does it affect spousal abuse? Well, when an individual grows up to believe that one individual, who happens to be a female, was responsible for their horrendous life in the mission school and not understanding that that’s a false statement, but grew up to believe that it was true, one can start to now visualize why there is an abundance of spousal abuse.
Then we must move on to looking at the gold rush era. What happened in the gold rush era? Again, thousands of people, foreigners from right across the world, ended up in the Yukon Territory. I might add that an elder once said about the Alaska Highway that, overnight, 10,000 men appeared in our territory with no woman of their own. Now, one has to look at that statement. If you look at the last part of that statement, you will begin to understand what went on in the gold rush era, because not every man that came here brought his wife or his girlfriend. I have had the opportunity to talk to elders who have told me stories of the horrendous abuse of women in this territory through that era.
All of this is building the stages of why the Yukon does have a serious problem today. Then, to try to seek understanding of this issue, we must also look at the building of the Alaska Highway. There again was a large influx of soldiers — thousands of them — in the territory just instantly. Again, all might have unlimited alcohol rations, no wives, no girlfriends — one will begin to understand how the women of this territory could have been preyed upon, how they could have been abused.
Mr. Speaker, when we talk about all these issues, they all begin to build a platform of really what the Yukon Territory is faced with and what it has to deal with. We probably have 200 years of abuses that went unmanaged or where there was not enough intervention done to help a lot of those individuals who went through this whole period of history and packed everything forward with them as they went.
Why does one have an issue with the women? Again, you look at all these different scenarios that I talked briefly about. If one were to go and do absolute 100-percent research in that area, you would find that it would take you a very, very long time to come to a total understanding of each one of those eras and what dynamic changes in society arose because of them.
I believe that, in order for one to go on, this is going to take a lot of individual will to thoroughly address this issue. I know the ideal would be that there is no such thing as spousal abuse. I know it does greatly affect myself, as a human being and as an individual citizen of this territory, that it still happens a lot today.
With that, I will go on with talking. For example, in Watson Lake, our government has supported that community by helping them assemble their community wellness committee. We have also enhanced the domestic violence treatment option court by expanding it into Watson Lake, as a result of the high incidence of family violence in that community.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I believe it’s important that citizens across the territory understand what the domestic violence treatment option court is, so therefore I will go into that specific program for a bit. We couldn’t have a discussion about family violence without talking about the domestic violence treatment option court.
The domestic violence treatment option court was created by the Yukon government as an innovative response to local needs and issues. Our government was concerned that Yukon has the third highest rate of interpersonal violence offences in the country. Again, when you look at that statement, you could start to understand, if you were to go back and research history, that what I stated earlier has some merit to it.
Our First Nation population often feels victimized by the formal justice system, whose culture and values are inconsistent with their own, and there is a perception that relatively few victims actually reported domestic assaults to the police. And when domestic assaults are reported, more than one half of the cases are stayed or withdrawn because the complainant is unwilling to testify.
Due to these concerns, there was a developing consensus that the formal justice system, being adversarial, punitive and offender-focused, was not reducing the incidence of violence in Yukon homes. A therapeutic alternative that helped motivate offenders to take responsibility for the violent behaviour early in the justice system process and to understand and unlearn their behaviours was needed in order to be more successful in reducing domestic violence.
That statement is very important, because when one lives in a dysfunctional environment, it becomes somewhat normal for that individual. For them to have to come back to a program to try to learn that what they are doing is not acceptable in society, again, is a whole new learning process for the individual. This therapeutic alternative became known as the domestic violence treatment option. It is important to stress that the DVTO is therapeutic and not an alternative measure or diversion initiative.
This approach shifts the burden of responsibility for the prosecution of the offence from the victim to the offender. That is a very critical thing to do. We have to realize that the offender does need help. DVTO is premised on paying more attention to the needs of victims. Victims of domestic violence want the violence to stop but don’t want their partners to go to jail. They want their partners to get treatment, and this is what the domestic violence treatment option offers.
The Yukon domestic violence treatment option is premised on the belief that many more victims would be prepared to participate in a criminal court-based process that offers a therapeutic treatment alternative to offenders or that requires the offender to acknowledge responsibility by entering an early guilty plea. This is very important that the offender actually begins to realize and admit that there is an issue there. Once the denial is dealt with, I feel that there is a good chance that this offender may be able to learn to undo the things that are happening in their family.
To be effective, this alternative must, at the same time, hold the offender accountable in a meaningful way and must not compromise the safety of the complainant.
The Yukon DVTO is an alternative to conventional court but, again, does not divert offenders away from criminal court. On the contrary, its objective is to bring more offenders into the justice system. It offers an alternative based on principles of therapeutic jurisprudence to encourage offenders to accept responsibility for their actions at a very early stage of the proceedings. Knowing that their partners can opt for counselling and programming under court supervision and thus be eligible for a community-based sentence encourages more victims to come forward and disclose their victimization. The domestic violence treatment option recognizes that family violence is a serious criminal act and that a more innovative response from the criminal justice system is required.
The primary goals of the domestic violence treatment option are to reduce the amount of domestic violence in the community and to reduce the negative impact on victims and children. Although court-based and post-charged, it provides an alternative to conventional court and is based on premises that victim safety is paramount and that initial and ongoing support must be offered to the victims and their families. Domestic violence is learned behaviour that can be changed. Domestic violence usually occurs as a repeating and escalating behaviour. Early intervention by a multidisciplinary team is essential. Government and non-governmental agencies must work together to coordinate delivery of programs and support for offenders and victims of domestic violence.
Offenders need to take responsibility for their actions while being supported by counselling. An offender must be held accountable and any deterioration in the offender’s behaviour will be reported to the court immediately.
There are several essential elements of the domestic violence treatment option that have made it so successful. The DVTO is court-centred and is not diversion. The degree of court intervention and participation by the judge and probation services depends on the circumstances of the offender, the continuous evaluation of the offender’s risk factors and the performance of the offender in programming. Inter-agency collaboration occurs through a DVTO steering committee, similar to a board of directors, comprised of representatives from government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and the community that deals with domestic violence offenders and victims on a regular basis. A working group consisting of those individuals who work in the front lines with offenders and victims meet on a regular basis. Enhanced police investigations, management and reporting procedures support this initiative. The approach taken by officers when attending a complaint has a significant impact on the disclosure made by the victim and his or her willingness to follow through with a formal complaint. Effective victim advocacy is provided by specially trained victim assistance program staff who take a proactive approach to supporting victims, identifying their needs, making appropriate referrals and providing helpful information. Specialized judges, like the Honourable Judge Lilles, have made a commitment to the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence that are essential to the DVTO.
Designated Crown prosecutors are specially trained to prosecute cases in the DVTO court, and they provide consistency and continuity in dealing with offenders and victims. Designated, experienced defence council are fully informed of the domestic violence treatment option and other available treatment programs and can advise clients objectively about the advantages and disadvantages of the available alternatives. Prosecution and defence lawyers have adopted a non-adversarial, collaborative approach consistent with public safety and the offender’s legal rights.
This multi-agency participation is essential to improving case management and assistance for victims and children. Offenders are required to attend, participate in and successfully complete a specialized and effective counselling treatment program. By way of referral, offenders and victims have access to other resources, such as alcohol and drug counselling, parenting programs and other rehabilitative services. Specially trained probation officers will provide risk assessments, community-based supervision of offenders, and liaison effectively with others involved in the DVTO program.
Mr. Chair, at this time, I would like to reiterate the importance of inter-agency collaboration and how it has been so integral to the success of DVTO. I would like to speak more about how the inter-agency collaboration works. Partner agencies each have representatives who form the DVTO steering committee. The DVTO working group and court management team advise the steering committee, and it then sets policy and priorities for the DVTO court.
The domestic violence treatment option steering committee is comprised of representatives from government agencies, non-government organizations and the communities that deal with domestic violence — offenders and victims — on a regular basis. The steering committee provides guidance initially with respect to the implementation and subsequent operation of the DVTO.
The steering committee also provides a forum for information sharing and problem solving, with specific emphasis on the effective operation of the treatment option and promotes a more efficient allocation of community resources directed to domestic violence.
The working group consists of individuals who work on the front lines with offenders and victims. The working group currently includes the following representatives: DVTO court coordinator, Crown prosecutor, defense counsel, probation officer, RCMP officer, treatment program representative and victim services counsellor, and a family and children’s services worker. The working group is responsible for meeting on a regular basis for the purpose of identifying and resolving operating issues that arise on a day-to-day basis.
The court management team operates as a problem-solving team in support of the front-line workers. Issues and problems that arise are often resolved by the cooperation of the working group and the CMT, who then report to the steering committee.
The CMT is comprised of the DVTO court coordinator, the designated Territorial Court Judge, the director of legal aid, the director of the Department of Justice and the manager of the family violence prevention unit who, by virtue of their positions, can commit their officers to adopting change when required.
RCMP-enhanced police investigations — management and reporting procedures are essential for the DVTO initiative. A risk assessment tool has been developed and is being used by police officers when answering and attending to any domestic violence call for service. Designated Crown prosecutors are specially trained to prosecute cases in the DVTO court. They provide consistency and continuity in dealing with offenders and victims.
Defence — the DVTO is dependent on a core group of lawyers who are prepared to practice therapeutic jurisprudence. A designated defence counsel that is fully informed about the DVTO and associated treatment programs are specially assigned to the DVTO.
As in the case of designated Crown prosecutors, this provides for consistency and continuity in dealing with both offenders and victims. The primary role of defence counsel is to advise clients objectively about the advantages and disadvantages of the DVTO and other available alternatives, including formal court.
A special sitting of the Territorial Court has been established to hear all first appearances for domestic violence cases and to oversee all offenders until they elect to proceed outside the DVTO. The territorial judges are specially assigned to this court and, consistent with the principles of therapeutic jurisprudence, defer to the recommendations of the treatment team.
In probations, specially trained probation officers act as case managers by being designated bail supervisors on each case. They assist with risk assessments, provide community-based supervision of offenders, prepare reports for the court and liaise effectively with others involved in the DVTO program.
There are also a number of programs available for victims and offenders to access. These include the spousal abuse program. The core of the DVTO court is a specialized and effective counselling and treatment program for offenders. Individual and group treatment is provided to both male and female offenders. The spousal abuse program provides treatment that has been proven in research to be the most effective approach with spousal abusers.
Safety, accountability and collaboration with other workers are all paramount to the success of working with this population.
Victim services — specially trained victim service counsellors are available to take a proactive approach to supporting victims, identifying their needs, making appropriate referrals and providing useful information. The victim is offered support and counselling through the process and afterward, with a focus on safety and building a relationship with the unit and other supports in the community.
Family and children services — a specially trained child protection worker is informed of any domestic violence incidents where children reside. The mandate of this worker is to support the primary caregiver, not to remove the child from the home.
Lastly, I would like to discuss the recent evaluation of the DVTO court. Since its inception, 550 offenders have entered the DVTO. Only nine percent of these persons have re-offended against their partner in 12 months post-DVTO. DVTO has turned a 75-percent collapse rate in the courts into an 85-percent conviction rate in violent cases. It is because of these important statistics that the Yukon government will continue to support this innovative and successful approach to dealing with domestic violence in the territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, as you can see, the domestic violence treatment option court does and can be a very valuable asset in dealing with domestic violence in the home. Many in this House will remember that Watson Lake was a community in crisis following a brutal case of domestic violence. That case was part of a much larger problem that I am pleased to say the community of Watson Lake decided to tackle head-on at the community level.
I am also pleased to remind this House that the community needed help. This government was there for them and continues to be there for them. Mr. Speaker, it does not stop there. This government committed in November of 2004 to a two-year communication and information campaign on family violence prevention, sponsored by the Premier in conjunction with the Minister of Justice and the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate with Motion No. 323. This motion was the part of our campaign committed to combat family violence that has at its heart enhancement to the DVTO that I have already mentioned.
We are discussing the infrastructure campaign on family violence prevention and the amendments in the Legislature here today.
Is there more to do, Mr. Speaker? Of course there is, and that is why this government will continue to work hard on this issue. The changes in this act represent considerable policy decisions taken by this government after consultation with Yukoners and careful study by officials. There are also changes to this act to correct errors in the original act and fix problems that surfaced over time as the act was implemented. I will have more details on all these changes later on in my address.
There are two major policy issues reflected in the act. First, the 2002 review recommended that penalties to breaches of orders made under the act be increased. I am pleased to report to this House that we have done just that. The fine for a subsequent offence will be increased to a maximum of $10,000. The maximum penalty may also be up to two years in jail, or both a fine and imprisonment. With this change, we are targeting those individuals who are habitual abusers. We are telling them that, if they continue to abuse, there will be much more serious consequences.
Secondly, I am very pleased to inform this House that we are also adding “emotional abuse” into the definition of “family violence”. The 2002 report that I referred to earlier recommended that this change merited further work, and during the consultation and our deliberations in Cabinet, we felt that we had enough information to proceed in this area.
As many members of this House are aware, abuse can take many forms. Emotional abuse is particularly insidious because it leaves no outward scars, yet the damage can be immense.
Abusers who employ emotional abuse are trying to control their partners or the people close to them by using their intimate knowledge of that person against them. It is this kind of behaviour that the legislation will now target. Society has to confront inappropriate and damaging behaviour in relationships and we must decide whether or not we want a society where certain kinds of behaviour are not acceptable.
Of particular concern in the area of emotional abuse is the devastating effect it can have on children. Children are too young to have the necessary emotional skills to deflect abuse. They look to the adults around them for support and guidance to allow them to mature into well-adjusted adults. If one were to look at what went on in the mission school era, that was missing. The children there, who normally would look to their parents for support, had no parents. All they had was a bunch of other children with very few adults to monitor them or watch over them. Many of those children lost the ability to bond because there was no one to bond to. The family structure was gone.
This is a bond of trust that we hope all children develop with the adults in their lives. When this bond of trust is shattered by abuse, in particular emotional abuse, the fall-out can be long lasting and, in some cases, permanent. Children who are abused emotionally will have that abuse manifest itself later in life in the form of self-destructive behaviour such as substance abuse, self-hatred or even physical harm. When they mature into adults, they will be more likely to emotionally abuse their children or the children of relatives in their lives, because that is the way in which they were treated and they are modelling that behaviour on others.
With this act, we have already said that family violence is unacceptable, but the definition of that violence was incomplete. By adding emotional abuse to the definition, we are saying that all forms of abuse are not going to be tolerated and that people who carry out this abuse should be stopped.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important to add in a bit more of some of the traditional side of the equation here. When we talk about one being well, and being a whole person, we mean that we must be spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally intact. Abuse destroys that. In fact, when it comes to abuse, a person’s spirit is somewhat like a campfire. When it is fed the right things, which are respect, caring and sharing, your spirit will grow. You will grow to be a very respectful person. If your spirit is doused with abuse, which is like throwing water on the fire, your spirit will go down to the point where you no longer respect boundaries. There is basically nothing that can make you happy.
You begin to accept the sorrow and sad feelings as being a normal way to live.
Let me deal with the more straightforward changes. This act will clarify terms and processes currently referenced in the act. It will replace the word “firearms” with “weapons” and propose that the definition of “weapons” be consistent with that in the Criminal Code. For those who may be listening and don’t know what that definition is, section 2 of the Criminal Code defines “weapons” as anything used, designed to be used, or intended for use (a) in causing death or injury to a person, or (b) for the purpose of threatening or intimidating any person.
So, Mr. Speaker, that very clearly lays out how weapons are defined. It will provide an explicit statement of immunity for victim service workers. There are also changes that address typographical errors.
I would now like to discuss the terms in detail, because I know the members opposite are anxious to comment. I would like to give the fullest of explanations for our government so that the discussion can proceed expeditiously.
Section 2(1) of the act is amended as I have mentioned previously by replacing “firearms” with “weapons.” The consistency with the Criminal Code was desired because this definition gives greater discretion to the court on what constitutes a weapon in the household.
Another reason is to enable police and justices to use the familiar definition and the cases that interpret and apply to it. This enables detailed searches and cross-referencing of case law. Section 2(2) of the amendments corrects an error in the English language version of the act that was created in the consolidation of 2002. Section 2(3) adds “emotional abuse” to the definitions, and it should be noted that emotional abuse at present is also included in other legislation such as Manitoba and the Northwest Territories. Our government felt it would be prudent to add a definition of “emotional abuse” at this time, as I have previously mentioned. This definition is modelled after Manitoba because that jurisdiction had the clearest definition.
Section 3 creates consistency in the act, using the term “family violence” throughout. Another common term for “family violence” is “domestic violence” and the two were used somewhat interchangeably in the existing act. However, because the act is entitled the Family Violence Prevention Act and because “family violence” has a broader application, we felt the act should maintain this consistency.
Section 4 deals with the simplification of the wording that will result in a less restrictive use of this section. The change will make the section clearer and will simplify the way people are designated. For instance, we can declare the holder of a particular public office to the holder of a particular position in, say, Kaushee’s Place, rather than using the more awkward designation of a group of people.
Section 5 deals with the matter of interpretation by the courts. By removing the words “reasonable grounds to conclude that” and replacing them with “concludes that”, this section of the act becomes consistent with section 2(5) and with similar legislation in other jurisdictions.
The judiciary found the definition of “reasonable grounds” problematic with carrying out this provision of the act because they felt it conflicted with subsection 2.5.
Section 5(2) deals with the definition of “firearms” being changed to “weapons”. I don’t need to explain this area again.
Section 6 allows for a Territorial Court Judge who is acting in place of a justice of the peace in granting an emergency intervention order to not have to inform the Territorial Court as prescribed in section 5(1) since they are already judges of the Territorial Court. Section 6 falls under the category of “streamlining”.
Section 7 allows for both a Supreme Court and Territorial Court confirmation of any emergency assistance order, as described in the act. It was generally felt that each court should be able to confirm an emergency assistance order so that the widest possible avenues would be available to access this kind of intervention in a family violence situation.
In sections 8 and 9 there are further changes of a corrective nature in that they deal with definition changes identified earlier in the act. Section 10, as I have mentioned, increases the fines and penalties to $10,000 or 24 months in prison, or both. I have already mentioned that we wanted to send a strong message to repeat offenders that this behaviour is unacceptable and must stop.
The changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act will be one part of a larger effort to stem the tide of family violence in the Yukon. I would like to take this opportunity to talk a little bit about the consultation.
As I have mentioned, the previous government undertook a review of the act and our government carried out the consultation that has led to the changes before this House today.
At least one member from the opposition had asked for more information about the consultation, so I will give details to the whole House as part of my reply. Advertisements advising the public of possible amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act were placed in print media. Additionally, information about the consultation was provided during the morning show interview on CBC on August 4, 2005. A variety of stakeholder groups were consulted about possible amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act. Meetings were held with representatives of the RCMP, the Territorial and Supreme Courts, justices of the peace, women’s shelters, women’s advocacy and interest groups, victim services groups, disability advocacy and interest groups, senior advocacy and interest groups, community justice coordinators, First Nations directors of health and social services and other government departments, including the Women’s Directorate and Health and Social Services. Additionally, information packages were sent out to First Nations, as well as interested groups and individuals. With consultation such as this, there was a wide variety of responses and suggestions, and these were weighed carefully by our government. What we have here today is the culmination of that consultation in the text of the act before this House.
I would like to point out to the members opposite that we have been both practical and bold in our steps here today — practical in the sense that we have corrected errors and fixed problems that were results of field testing the act. I do not place blame on previous governments who brought in this act. In fact, I applaud their efforts. It is for this reason we have chosen to enhance the act by amending it to fix the problems that come up in legislation when it is put to the tests of time and usage. We are addressing areas that could be seen as emerging fronts in the battle against family violence. These fronts are emotional abuse and bringing in stronger penalties for those who choose to continue in their unacceptable behaviour patterns.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all those persons who chose to take part in the consultation. Our government values public input into everything we do, and this legislation is no exception. As this House knows, our government continues to consult with Yukoners on a variety of issues. And it pleases me, as it does my colleagues, that so many Yukoners take time out of their busy schedules to take part and comment on the things that matter to them. I think it is important that we acknowledge that commitment to Yukoners by continuing to listen to them and then having what they have said reflect in the things that we do and in the legislation we bring before this House.
I would also like to include some of the services to victims and families, Mr. Speaker. The Department of Justice offers many services to individual victims, families and communities. Some of these services are state of the art with other provinces and territories looking to the Yukon as the leader. The victim service and family violence prevention unit offers support services and professional help to victims of crime and abuse as well as treatment programs such as the spousal abuse program and the sexual offender risk management program. Every Yukon community has counsellors assigned to work directly with both victims and offenders. There are nine employees who provide services to victims both in Whitehorse and in the assigned communities. In addition, there is a half-time victim services worker located in Dawson City and a three-quarter time worker in Watson Lake.
There are two separate but integrated and complementary programs to support victims. The victims program offers short-term services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. The women’s program offers longer term individual and group counselling services to women who have experienced or are experiencing violence in intimate relationships. In addition to these established and regular programs, the unit offers other activities that support victims and provides educational opportunities such as training for front-line staff in government, other organizations and communities on the prevention, intervention and management under the Family Violence Prevention Act.
Formal training sessions have been provided in a variety of communities to shelter workers, JPs and the RCMP on such topics as how to use the Family Violence Prevention Act, how to work with victims of domestic violence, coping with vicarious trauma. The unit has also provided peer support training to individuals who are working with FASD victims in the With a Little Help from My Friends project operated by FASSY. The unit, in collaboration with the RCMP, is doing community training on the Family Violence Prevention Act and the domestic violence treatment options to RCMP officers in each detachment in Yukon. They will also receive training in trauma and victimology.
Further, an interactive CD-ROM training package has been developed by Yukon Justice that can be used by RCMP officers who are new to the Yukon and have not been able to attend a regular training session.
The unit also provides yearly three-day training sessions for about 40 community members on skill development for community members interested in facilitating a work group as it relates to family violence.
The Protect Yourself, Protect Your Drink campaign, also known as “the coaster campaign”, was launched in the late summer of 2004. This is a public awareness campaign that highlights the dangers of date-rape drugs that can be placed into victims’ drinks. This campaign was done with the cooperation of local drinking establishments that allowed Justice staff and members of the women’s community to contribute the materials to patrons. We carry out this campaign at various times during the year.
The VictimLINK crisis line is a toll-free service staffed by professional staff who are trained to provide victims of crime access to Yukon support information and referral services.
They also provide crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence. VictimLINK is now available 24 hours a day. The Government of Yukon and the Government of British Columbia have established a formal agreement that allows the Yukon to provide victim services to residents of Atlin and Lower Post, B.C. This is significant, as these small northern communities had no access to local victim services programs. The agreement also allows Yukon residents to use the crisis line services in B.C. known as VictimLINK, and this is something that our government committed to do in our platform commitment. The set-up of this service fills a gap and provides an important service to victims and families in crisis. Services include access to support, information and referral services to all victims of crime, and it provides crisis support to victims of family and sexual violence.
There has been ongoing information made available to the public about VictimLINK. The British Columbia government is allowing Yukon to access the VictimLINK crisis line at no cost to Yukon. B.C. is providing $10,000 this year to the Yukon to help pay the costs of providing victim services to the communities of Lower Post and Atlin. Without this agreement in place, these communities would not have access to victim service programs. The Yukon public benefits from these arrangements in two ways: Yukoners have been able to access VictimLINK since July of 2004. In the year that followed, approximately 90 calls were made to VictimLINK.
Two media campaigns were conducted to ensure that Yukoners are aware that this service exists. The first media campaign occurred in July 2004, and the second occurred between December 2004 and February 2005. The first media campaign announced the launch of this service to Yukon residents. The second campaign was an advertising and public education campaign, running from Christmas until the end of Rendezvous. This time was chosen because this season can be a time of elevated crisis.
This campaign provided the opportunity to partner in various ways with agencies like the Women’s Directorate, Whitehorse General Hospital, the RCMP, public health agencies and even the movie theatres. The media campaigns included ads in local newspapers, radio ads, the distribution of brochures and flyers, ads in buses and bus shelters, and placing posters in bars, grocery stores and other public places.
We are embarking on another media campaign in December 2005. The RCMP have been supportive of this initiative. Members carry wallet cards to give to victims at scenes of domestic violence calls. The service is also advertised with posters in each of the M Division detachments.
We will continue to distribute information to Yukoners to ensure that they are aware of this valuable service.
In addition to these services provided by the victim services and family violence unit, the Department of Justice also operates the maintenance enforcement program, which helps to collect child and spousal support for Yukon families.
The department also supports victims and families with funds for the following: the support variation assistance program provides assistance to persons who need to have their support orders varied; legal aid to provide lawyers for parents involved in child protection matters and permanent custody applications; the Law Line, which takes over 2,000 calls per year, of which more than one-third are family law questions; an annual meeting of family violence service providers of the For the Sake of the Children parenting program.
So, Mr. Speaker, as I’ve laid out here, there are steps taken to try to address family violence among families in the Yukon. However, one may never do enough in this area. But the main thing that needs to take place is that the awareness has to happen. People have to be aware that it is happening, and action has to be taken by everyone in the territory. Again, Mr. Speaker, I strongly believe that it’s the spirit within the individual that has to find the will to deal with issues that are creating situations where they are abusing their spouse or they are abusing their children. It’s an individual responsibility.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I will now hear from the opposition. Thank you.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure today to speak to Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. This is an important piece of legislation. It has provided a way for victims of family violence to seek some shelter from that abuse, for both them and their families.
Now, on the Family Violence Prevention Act, I think the minister pretty much covered just about all the bases, but I would just like to speak about a few things in relation to it. It was an initiative that was undertaken by a previous NDP government and it came into effect in 1999 to address issues around family violence. I think it is interesting that it is coming forth on the very first day of November, which is also, as we’ve heard earlier today, Women Abuse Prevention Month. Because if you look at the statistics — I don’t have the latest statistics. We asked for those statistics earlier today in the briefing, and I would like to thank the minister for the briefing we received today at 11. We did ask for some of the statistics regarding the use of the Family Violence Prevention Act and the use of emergency intervention orders, victim’s assistance orders and any warrants of entry that have been brought into force under this act in the last couple of years. What would be nice would be to have it since the last set of statistics that we have, which were in the report of July 2002.
So, if the minister could endeavour to provide those statistics, it would provide — I must have missed it. He’s looking at me like — I gave you those statistics in my speech, but the minister was lengthy in his remarks and I must have missed it.
The statistics showed that for the time period of the review there were 51 granted. They actually showed that there was a decline in the use of the act. It’s interesting, to go back to the point about the appropriateness of doing this today, November 1, the first day of Women Abuse Prevention Month, is that of those 51 emergency intervention orders, 48 of those were obtained by women. This shows which persons in our society are most at risk of suffering from family violence. It also shows, I guess, that women aren’t the only ones who suffer from the ravages of family violence, and we need to be cognizant of that fact as well, that there are also others who are victims.
So, the Family Violence Prevention Act provides a mechanism whereby there are protective court orders for someone who is in danger, whether it be a woman, child or man, and it’s designed to address those violent relationships between family members or intimate companions. One of the recommendations in the report was actually to try to redefine the definition, I guess, of those relationships and to try to expand on them, and it’s one of the things that actually weren’t done.
We’ll let the minister explain the rationale behind not expanding the definition of those relationships, perhaps when we get into Committee of the Whole.
The report also pointed out the need for legislative and institutional reforms, and a lot of the legislative reforms were recommended in this report from July 2002, when the report was done for the Department of Justice, victim services offices, under a contract with the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family — it’s a fairly extensive report. There’s a lot there to read.
A lot of the legislative changes they recommended are actually included in this bill, Bill No. 63. There are a few that aren’t.
Other problems I have — don’t get me wrong. I support the idea of making changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act, but I do have some problems with the process we’re going through to arrive at these changes.
The minister may remember — in fact, even the previous minister may remember, because I believe she had the opportunity to respond to some questions about a year ago — that when I first asked about the Family Violence Prevention Act, I was told there had been a review done and that they were going to be making changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act.
I support that. The process for me wasn’t very open and unfortunately it also wasn’t very open for other people. The minister may remember, although he may not remember, that on April 28 of this year I asked him again when we were in budget debate about the Family Violence Prevention Act and what plans there were. He circled around the issue a little bit, and he talked about how there may be a workplan or there may not be a workplan. I asked him if he could possibly provide a copy of that workplan for the consultation. He failed to do that. He failed to provide me or members on this side of the House, including the member of the third party, with a copy of that workplan, so that we could see what the process was going to be. He decided that it wasn’t necessary.
It is kind of reminiscent of the minister responsible for Workers’ Compensation Health and Safety Board not wanting to share his concerns about occupational health and safety regulations, like we heard earlier today. He is going to keep those close to his chest so that he doesn’t have to share them with anybody. That’s not a very open process.
The minister is right, that we did ask about the consultation process and I failed to take down — the minister was speaking too fast, or I got distracted, so I didn’t get all the details of the consultation process. But here’s what I do know, and the minister stated this, too. There was a morning show program where an interviewer on CBC interviewed somebody from the Department of Justice about changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act on August 4. There were ads in the newspaper, and I don’t know the earliest date those ads appeared, but I do know I did see the ads, and what stuck out in my mind was the deadline for public comment on changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act.
That deadline was August 15. It ended up being a pretty short time frame. It’s amazing — I think this is an important piece of legislation. It provides victims and respondents with the rules around seeking protective court orders and responding to protective court orders. It lays out the rules for that in response to family violence issues and violent relationships. It’s important in our society that this be done appropriately and that people be involved in it. It was unfortunate that it came to my attention so late. I contacted groups in communities and asked them whether or not they were aware of the fact that there was a report from 2002, and that the government was actually conducting a review and proposing to bring forward changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act in the upcoming legislative sitting, the one that we are in now.
It’s amazing that they weren’t aware of it. These are groups in communities — not necessarily in Whitehorse — who were unaware that this was even happening. I find that to be not very inclusive. That’s not what the Yukon Party said they would do in their election platform. They talked about being inclusive and consulting. I think that there could have been a better job done. It’s not like the government didn’t know I was interested in this. I brought it up a year ago. I believe it was the former Minister of Justice who answered on behalf of her colleague at the time that I brought it up. Again, I asked in the spring about it. Yet, if you look at some of the other review processes that this government has announced — and they’ve announced them with a certain amount of fanfare — I don’t recall seeing a press release announcing that changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act were going to be brought forward and that there was going to be some sort of review and that if people wanted to participate, that this was the way to do it.
So I think that while I applaud the intent to make this piece of legislation better, because there were concerns when it was first brought in place — that’s why there was a report done. They saw there was a need; there were some problems with the way the act had been implemented; it needed some changes, and that’s why we have the report from July 2002. And, yes, we knew that there needed to be changes, but it needs the involvement of the public.
Even the report from July 2002 states that there were limitations to what they were able to do. They weren’t able, for instance — I’ll just quote from the report: “There were limitations in time and budget in preparing this report. In particular, there were no interviews with victims of domestic violence or respondents to the Family Violence Prevention Act applications.” So one of the drawbacks to the report was that they didn’t get to talk to people who experienced using this act first-hand — or people who were put in a situation of using the act.
So I would be interested to know just how far — maybe the minister can provide in writing now the detailed workplan that they used, and maybe he can provide in writing a list of organizations and groups that were involved. I don’t need him to identify individuals, but it would be interesting to note how many individuals also participated and provided input for the changes to this act.
I’d be interested in getting that information from the minister, as well as what I asked for previously — the statistics on the use of the act.
It’s nice to see that at least some of the recommendations — probably the majority of the recommendations of this report — have been listened to. The inclusion in the definition of “family violence” of psychological and emotional abuse is most welcome. I think we need to recognize that violence comes in many forms and that psychological and emotional abuse in society — not just in family relationships — is something that should be unacceptable, but it’s definitely unacceptable in a family relationship.
It goes back to what I was speaking about earlier on the definition of relationships. I know this is meant to deal with family violence. It’s how you define relationships. In the act that we’re amending, it talks about persons who have resided together or who are residing together in a family relationship, a spousal relationship or an intimate relationship. It also talks about persons who are the parents of one or more children, regardless of their marital status or whether they have lived together at any time.
I would argue that there are other relationships where there is dependency on the part of people that doesn’t necessarily fall into these categories, and that is something that should be looked at in the future. Whether it’s physical abuse or sexual abuse, or whether it’s emotional or psychological abuse, there is a relationship there. I know there are other laws, other acts, where those issues can be dealt with in criminal law.
I honestly believe that it’s something that — I don’t have the answer, but I believe that if we open it up to the public and to people who’ve been affected by the use of this act, we may find those answers. We need to listen to those people.
The report that was done in 2002 recommended some institutional changes, and the minister did address some of the recommendations. I’m not positive that he has actually addressed them all. I believe that one of the recommendations, which is more of an institutional thing — and the minister, when he has an opportunity to respond, can tell me whether or not this in fact is going to happen — in the regulations that are annexed to the Family Violence Prevention Act is the application form for an emergency intervention order.
Maybe I don’t have the terminology quite right, but it is the piece of paper that a respondent would receive in the event that there were an emergency intervention order or I believe even a victim’s assistance order, maybe. When you look at the regulations, this wasn’t included. One of the recommendations was that all orders under the act should state in bold letters that a violation of the terms of the order may result in a prosecution, that it will become a criminal act and that it is punishable by a fine or a jail term. Currently, in the regulations — at least the version that I was able to get from the government Web site — that hasn’t been done. I think that that’s an important thing. The person who is being told, “Look, you have to stay away, you can’t interact with this person because of the violence in your relationship, or you can’t go into your home,” needs to know that this has the force of the law and that there is a consequence that they will pay if they violate the terms and conditions of that order.
It is interesting to note that one of the other recommendations was to increase the fines. It is interesting to note that the increase to the fines and the penalties is only for a second offence. I would be interested in hearing what was said during the consultation process and why the minister thinks that a fine of $2,000 and imprisonment for six months for a first offence is actually enough, when they have basically doubled the penalties for a second offence.
I’m not saying you need to double penalties for a first offence, but I honestly believe that, in this day and age, maybe those penalties aren’t enough of a deterrent and that might bear some review as well.
One of the other things — I know the minister did talk about this, but I honestly believe that we can always do a better job, and that’s about public education. It’s about educating people just in the general public about the fact that there is this option, that all hope is not lost and they can get some protection without having to call — well, they might have to call the police, but they don’t necessarily have to invoke the criminal justice system and go through a criminal trial. There are ways of dealing with these issues in another manner. I think we need to educate the public about that.
We need to ensure that both the victims and the respondents know what their rights are, what their options are. I think that’s important — what’s actually in the legislation.
One of the other recommendations, as well, with regard to access to justice was providing access to people other than the RCMP, so that outside of business hours you didn’t have to necessarily call the RCMP, and that there were other people out there who could assist in making those applications on behalf of victims. I don’t know that it’s a legislative change, but it may also just be something that could be dealt with through regulations or through the way that the act was administered.
Another thing was that legal aid should be available to financially eligible applicants and respondents who are involved in the review of applications for an emergency intervention order or in the making of an application for a victim’s assistance order.
The other thing I brought up previously with the minister is training. He did speak about training, he talked about the CD-ROM that is available to new RCMP who are coming into communities and haven’t had the opportunity to become aware of the Family Violence Prevention Act, its use and administration. I think that there is more that could be done in the area of training.
I’m hearing that from individuals as well as groups of people.
The report that we have from July 2002 talks about training together, so it’s about bringing Crown prosecutors and defence lawyers and RCMP and people who work in community groups together and training. What that does is promote learning together how each individual organization is actually using this piece of legislation. It allows them to share their experiences with one another and it encourages them to work together more.
The minister can maybe update me on if there is something new happening or if I’ve missed something, but I think that the training needs to be made available on a more regular basis. As things change — just like things change in workplaces and we need better rules to govern workplaces or regulations — society changes, relationships change, and that is why we’re bringing forward these changes now — we find out that things don’t always work the same as they did five years ago or 10 years ago or 20 years ago, that things just aren’t the same and that we need to find new ways, better ways, or there are just ways of improving things. I think that this is one way of improving the administration of the act and the provision of these services to both the victims and the respondents so that they know what their rights are and what options are available to them.
We have a community — a group of people out there — who are dealing with this, who understand the views of the other groups and agencies and how they interact and deal with it on a daily basis. I think there are some opportunities there, and I would certainly hope that the minister will take my comments under consideration.
I won’t go on for much longer. One other thing that was addressed in the report about the Family Violence Prevention Act was the fact that what we did this past summer, what was done in 2002, needs to be done on a continuing basis. Remember that this report was written in 2002. I honestly believe that they anticipated that the changes to the Family Violence Prevention Act would be happening before November 2005. What they recommended was that a further, more detailed review of the Family Violence Prevention Act should be done in two to five years after the issues that were addressed in this report in 2002 were in place. It’s unfortunate that it’s taking three years to actually deal with this report and to put those changes in place. The recommendation was “two to five years after they are in place”, and it seems like three years have already gone by since the recommendations were made.
So I would hope that the minister will consider the need for that. It’s not something that necessarily needs to be formed in the legislation, a mandated review, but I think it’s something that both this Minister of Justice and the future Minister of Justice in future governments need to take seriously and to look at.
I thank the House for listening to me today. It indeed is a pleasure to speak to this, and we look forward to hearing the comments of other members today and to getting into further detail in Committee of the Whole later.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you very much, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to address this bill, the amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act.
I would be remiss if I didn’t make a short comment. The minister was very lengthy in his remarks. In fact, I noticed that he took more time to introduce the amendments than the sponsoring minister took when she introduced the bill at the time — far more time. It hearkened me back to December of 1996, when we spent the entire afternoon in this Legislature, engaged in debate on the title of the bill and the phrase “ragging the puck” went on all afternoon.
It’s quite interesting that here we are, on only day three of this particular legislative session, and that phase is coming to mind again. It refers to the tendency of some to spend a long time passing the puck around and with any luck at all, of course, the individual or that particular team might score.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, if you might permit me for a moment, the net is very, very, very large and so is the credibility gap between Yukon voters and the Yukon Party. The issue is attending to the task at hand, which is the legislation and the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars. I would encourage us to focus on that particular function that we have as opposed to ragging the puck. Of course, we are all pleased to welcome back the NHL — and it, too, has its share of violence, I note, as I was thinking about my remarks this afternoon.
The Family Violence Prevention Act started out — if members would just permit me a moment to remind them — as a private member’s bill in this Legislature, introduced by the Liberal Member for Riverdale South at the time. It was reworked somewhat by the NDP government and brought into the Legislature in 1997. At the time, the criticism of the bill was the consultation process in the bill. Lest we think that we are living in a particularly violent time now, in reviewing some of the speeches, I note that there were several tragedies that occurred in the Yukon that particular fall and year that were linked to domestic violence.
The act was timely. As I said, it started out as a private member’s bill introduced by the Liberal Member for Riverdale South and then it was reintroduced as an act from the government of the day, the NDP government. The criticisms were about consultation, and members on the opposition side — the Liberal Party in particular, my former colleagues — had asked that we have witnesses come, which the government refused.
The Yukon Party at the time criticized the lack of training available, and there was quite a noted criticism of the judiciary, by the then member for Riverdale North. I note that the current Yukon Party minister noted that there has been a significant training undertaken in ensuring the effectiveness of this bill. The act was introduced and passed in 1997, proclaimed in 1999. There was a change in government and our government undertook a review of the Family Violence Prevention Act. The Member for Mount Lorne has quite accurately and thoughtfully pointed out that the review did not have, for budget and time reasons — that there was no data on the effectiveness of orders under the act in protecting victims of family violence or preventing further violence. The authors didn’t review the criminal case records to determine whether there were concurrent or subsequent criminal charges. Focus group sessions and key informant interviews did, however, provide some impressionistic information on these questions.
Following the life of this legislation passed in 1997 — members of this Legislature, criticisms brought forward — subsequent governments did what should have been done, in that there was an independent review done of the act — how effective is it? Too often we pass legislation and it simply sits there. How often is it that we go back and have a look and say, how effective is it?
The Member for Mount Lorne noted that there should be either sunset clauses or mandatory reviews of acts. That has been instituted in the Legislative Assembly, but somewhat less than effectively, if I might.
The review has been conducted and now, some time period later, most of the recommendations in this report have been brought forward by the government. I support the amendments to the act as the Liberal caucus also supported the act, in spite of the questions and criticism we offered. This is an important piece of legislation, and the Yukon was one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to do this, as is noted in the report — one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to enact civil legislation to deal with family violence. It’s important that we recognize that this Legislative Assembly — where we all serve the people — worked together; we passed an act; we evaluated it, and now we are amending and implementing the recommendations, having had a look at how effective the work we did has been.
I support the amendments. I am glad they have come forward. I did have some questions that have not been answered in the briefing that I’m sure the officials are prepared to send over. The information I was looking for in particular was how much the act has been used. How effective is it? I think there has been an important point made here with respect to consultation. When the act was originally introduced, there was not adequate consultation. A review has been conducted. The review notes that there needed to be consultation with those who use the act. The minister made a very sketchy reference to “consultation” that was not a formal consultation process, and I am concerned that we should have a greater consultation, and I would like to see the information that we’ve requested from the department.
This is perhaps one of the more important issues that we as legislators will be dealing with in this session, recognizing that we as a society need to deal with the scourge of family violence. I am pleased to support the amendments and I would look forward to receiving the information from the minister as requested.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I am also pleased to speak to this act, as the MLA for Whitehorse West, but also in my capacity as minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate. I have listened with great intent this afternoon to the comments coming forward by members of the opposition and I appreciate hearing their suggestions and their feedback.
The Family Violence Prevention Act, as members on both sides of the House have admitted, provides options for those people who may find themselves in family violence or domestic violence situations. The word “options” is really key when we take part in this debate because it does provide a set of options for individuals who find themselves in situations such as this, that weren’t necessarily made available to them before.
So this act is especially important to Yukoners, given that we in the north experience a high rate of spousal and domestic violence relative to the rest of the country — there is no question about that — particularly among aboriginal women.
Amending this particular piece of legislation is but one plank of a coordinated and comprehensive policy platform to address family violence issues in the Yukon. Our government has endorsed a public education campaign to raise awareness of family violence issues, particularly in our communities, which has been developed and implemented by the Women’s Directorate in conjunction with the Department of Justice.
Other initiatives include ongoing support for the family violence prevention unit’s programming and education initiatives, the domestic violence treatment option court, for example — as the Minister of Justice had elaborated earlier this afternoon — and support for our community justice committees situated throughout the Yukon in all our communities.
I just want to take members back to a statistical profile of 2005. It was published in July, as I understand, by the Canadian Center for Justice Statistics, and it states that seven percent of Canadians 15 years of age and over in a current, previous or common-law union experienced spousal violence in the previous five years. The report also goes on to state that the most pronounced changes in spousal violence between 1999 and 2004 have been within previous relationships. What this essentially means is that while violence in previous relationships has decreased, violence in previous relationships continues to be more common than in current relationships.
In other words, the highest risk is when a relationship is ending or has already ended. It also states that violence is also more prevalent in common-law relationships than in marriage. As I mentioned earlier, spousal violence knows no age, it knows no race, it knows no economic boundaries. But, as I also stated earlier, in recognition of the month of November being Women Abuse Prevention Month, the risk of violence is higher for those who are young, primarily those aged 15 to 24, those who live in common-law relationships, those who have been in a relationship less than three years, those who are aboriginal, those who have a partner who abuses alcohol, as indicated by heavy drinking, those who live with very controlling and abusive partners, and also those who are undergoing a separation.
As the member of the third party also stated earlier, there are a number of jurisdictions with pieces of legislation, ours being one of them — of course, in jurisdictions such as Saskatchewan and P.E.I., those dating back to 1995-96, where they had brought in civil domestic violence legislation as well, as I understand it.
In the Yukon, our Family Violence Prevention Act came into effect in 1999. It provides for three levels of protection orders for victims of family violence, including emergency intervention orders, victim’s assistance orders, as well as warrants of entry.
As part of the plan for the legislation as it is, for most pieces of legislation there comes a time when reviews of our legislation must occur. As part of the implementation plan for the legislation, as I understand it, it was determined that an evaluation would be performed after legislation had been in effect for a few years — hence the Nick Bala report, which was conducted in 2002.
The review reflected a number of themes with respect to the act. In particular, it stated that the act is a valuable tool for victims of family violence; it endorsed that. It also reflected that the offences section of the act may not have enough teeth. For example, when somebody breaches an order — that is, if conditions associated with an emergency intervention order or a victim’s assistance order have not been met or not adhered to, there was a feeling within the review that was reiterated within consultations with individuals and stakeholders that the offences section did need to be increased.
There was also recognition within the review that there is a need for further training and ongoing training.
As was elaborated by the Minister of Justice, there certainly has been an increase in training. I know training dollars have been increased to the family violence prevention unit for specific training, formal training sessions to be provided in a variety of communities to workers who are employed within our women’s shelters, justices of the peace and the RCMP, specifically how to use the Family Violence Prevention Act and what services are available, and how to work with victims of domestic violence.
As mentioned by the Minister of Justice, the unit also, in collaboration with the RCMP partners, continues to do community training on the act and the domestic violence treatment option court to all RCMP officers in each detachment in the Yukon. At the same time, they will receive training in trauma and victimology. Some RCMP officers are not able to attend a regular training session like those we offer in the communities, so a CD-ROM has been created by members of our family violence prevention unit for this purpose.
I just also would like to take the opportunity to say that Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues has also formally approached the RCMP to talk with them about training of RCMP officers and about how we can enhance our training with respect to victim services.
We certainly are striving to improve our training ability and, as I mentioned, we do now offer formalized training sessions and, of course, members of our detachments — including our detachment commanders — are also offered training in early October. I think that increasingly there is a recognition that this act is a very important piece of legislation that effects positive changes and it does make available options to victims of abuse. By working together, we can accomplish so much more.
I think, as the Minister of Justice may have elaborated on, our family violence prevention legislation is certainly not intended to replace, but rather to complement, existing processes under the Criminal Code. This legislation provides a broader range of tools and remedies than those currently available under the Criminal Code, not to mention other provincial and territorial statutes.
The strengths of this type of legislation, the Family Violence Prevention Act, have been identified as follows: the ability to grant the victim exclusive occupation of their home, temporary possession of personal property and temporary care and custody of the children. The act also has the ability to specifically prohibit the selling, converting or damaging of property. It has the ability to remove the abuser from the home and the ability to seize weapons from the abuser.
These are really key attributes — and certainly when the act was being developed, in response to domestic violence taking place in our territory and how processes and options can be made available to remedy these situations.
The act makes reference to a number of different changes, including, for example changing “firearms” to “weapons”. It changes the term “domestic violence” to “family violence”. It addresses administrative and typographical errors. It changes the definitions to reflect the non-cohabitating close personal adult relationships as well. That was something that was raised and discussed through the consultation period. Right now, as I understand it, you have to be cohabitating or have a child together. It was certainly felt throughout the review that Professor Nick Bala had referred to in 2002 that we should look at and discuss with our stakeholders different kinds of relationships that had intimacy or some type of base to them. That is exactly what this proposed amendment refers to.
Another area was to look at expanding what family violence is all about and how it is defined. The members opposite referred to consultation and although I don’t have a list of all the stakeholders involved, I do know that a variety of different stakeholder groups were consulted about the proposed amendments to the act, and in fact, as I seem to recall, in our discussions, the same group of stakeholders tasked with being involved with the domestic violence treatment option — their task of administering that therapeutic court option.
So groups included the RCMP, Territorial and Supreme Courts, justices of the peace, women’s shelters, women’s advocacy and interest groups, victim service groups, disability advocacy and interest groups, seniors groups, community justice coordinators, First Nations directors, Health and Social Services. Of course there were other governments and departments, including our own Women’s Directorate. The Yukon Advisory Council on Women’s Issues was also consulted.
I know that a whole host of packages were sent out to a number of stakeholders, on which the Minister of Justice could perhaps elaborate further. It is important to note that there were a lot of different stakeholders involved. To say there was a fairly narrow view when it came to the consultation I think could be perceived as erroneous.
Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House and I as the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate — as I mentioned earlier, amendment to this piece of legislation is but one plank when it comes to addressing family violence issues in our territory. We know there are serious problems in our territory; we know there is much work to be done, but I have to also acknowledge that a lot of good work is also being done as we speak, and that includes the fine work of the family violence prevention unit, which provides a whole host of core programs and services for victims of abuse, as well as to perpetrators of crime, whether it be the spousal abuse management program, the sex offender management program, a women’s program or victim services — not to mention all those Yukoners who have volunteered for many years, providing victim services, working alongside the RCMP, members of Health and Social Services, members of the women’s community and so forth.
It’s very important to recognize and to thank those individuals for their work, day in and day out, because it’s not often that these individuals receive thanks and accolades for the work they are providing. As a government, we are here to provide support to our workers and enhance our services where we are able to.
So, working within the Women’s Directorate, we continue to promote the prevention and public education programs to promote the equality of all Yukon women. Areas of public education that we have been involved in include violence prevention, not to mention economic security and women’s health. We are here to provide support to women’s organizations, to front-line service providers, providing current updated education resources. Examples include safety kits, the updating of the family violence resource directory and other brochures associated with dating violence and so forth.
We also provide services available for aboriginal women through our aboriginal women and violence prevention initiative.
Thank you again for the opportunity to say a few words in response to this act. I am very supportive of this act and I look forward to the rest of the comments from the members of the opposition and my own colleagues. Thank you.
Mrs. Peter: It gives me great pleasure to be speaking to Bill No. 63. We’ve heard over the course of the last couple of days the many issues surrounding family violence. We are now in the month of November, which is Women Abuse Prevention Month. This gives us an opportunity to speak openly and honestly about how abuse affects and impacts our families.
Before this bill came into effect, we have heard some of the history around family violence from the minister who introduced this bill and more especially the impacts. I would like to speak to the impacts from personal experience living in a small rural isolated community.
Mr. Speaker, when a woman lives with physical abuse in her home, that person becomes very isolated because of feeling the emotional impact, feeling the psychological impact of the situation that she is in, and when you’re living in isolation in a small community, it’s not that easy to reach out to members of your family or your friends, because you don’t want the community itself to know what you’re living with. It brings a lot of shame. It brings a lot of insecurity about how other people would view you and how other people would look at you.
Those are very important. Speaking about abuse in any way, shape or form is very sensitive to many people. Even in today’s world, people are not that open to talk about the many abuses that happen out there. One of the reasons is the lack of resources that we have — the lack of human resources we have in the communities, and the finances to make sure that those resources are available.
I was just sharing with a friend of mine an hour ago that when we’re in an abusive situation in a small rural community, even if the resources are available, it’s sometimes that much harder to reach out so that we can address issues we’re having in this particular situation, because we are still afraid of what other people might think about us. We are still afraid and we still carry a lot of shame and guilt.
When we’re living in an abusive situation, it doesn’t only impact the person who is a victim, but if there are children involved, it makes it that much more challenging.
There are all kinds of organizations that are involved, and there are all kinds of resources that are available, more centred in the Whitehorse area. For a woman to reach out and say, “I am having a problem, I need help,” and in order to address the abusive situation, they may have to be uprooted from their own homes, and then from being uprooted you have to go into the city, for example, and then you have your one or two small children with you. To be living in a strange place, in a strange home, whether it be the transition home or a home where you might go to for only a short period of time, then there is a lot of adjustment to be made — you know, to have some familiarity around you, to have connection to your family back home, and to be able to eat the kind of traditional food that you’re used to. These might seem like only small things that are not important, but they are very, very important to a person who is leaving a small community, living the traditional way of life and having to come into a larger centre and try to face the challenges of addressing this issue for themselves and keep their child from feeling the insecurity of being away from their own family also. It entails a lot of scenarios that we have to take into consideration.
Those are just a few examples of situations that a woman may face when dealing with abuse. I will just use myself as an example. If I wanted to reach out for help and support to deal with an abusive situation, I would have to have the courage. I would have to have the strength to be able to stand up and feel independent, to take care of my children, be uprooted from my home and move to a larger centre. I would have to be able to find a job and make sure that my family is financially secure and feeling secure in all areas of their lives. I would have to make sure that our basic needs are met.
In order for that to happen, I have to be strong. In most cases, when a person is in an abusive situation, they don’t feel that strong or secure. At the end of the day, if they are in a situation like that, they may just throw up their hands in frustration and say, “I would rather live and just take whatever I need to so that I can stay in my home, keep the family together and stay in the community; then I won’t have to leave or rock the boat; I wouldn’t have to seek counselling because I don’t want to be seen at the counsellor’s door where everybody will know that I have a problem.”
Those are some of the effects and impacts of abuses when they happen in a home. It’s scary.
So we have before us, Mr. Speaker, a bill that is amending the Family Violence Prevention Act, and in the report — the review they did of this act and the report that came out of that — there was some really good feedback from the stakeholders. Some of those are reflected in this bill before us. I’m very happy about that and I am going to support this bill before us.
There are a lot of young men and women out there in the territory who were exposed to family violence and we have to try to break that cycle. Our communities, I have said before, have a vision, and that vision is for our children and our grandchildren to live in healthier communities and have healthier environments so that we have hope for our future generations, so that there is a time that people can be open and honest addressing abuses in the home and we will be able to have the resources available so that they will be able to address those concerns and become healthier individuals.
There are many organizations out there that help to do that, that help move this forward. In our communities we have the RCMP, we have our social departments, and we have resources that come into our communities that stay for one or two days and come back every month or maybe once every six months. We have to appreciate whatever resources are made available to us and try to work with that, and that is the point I have been trying to get across the last few days. We have to have a government in place that’s willing to do that and work with the many different departments that have the responsibility of providing those types of programs to people who are out there who are willing and who are reaching out and saying that they do need help, so we can be more effective in building healthier communities.
When the review was done, I just wonder how many communities were involved. Who in the communities were involved? It doesn’t give us that information.
I mention that because of the importance that this act can play in dealing with violent relationships out there. It gives us a good framework in addressing family violence, and there is a part in this bill that is added, and it addresses the psychological and emotional abuse that a victim feels when they go through these situations. It is very important that that clause is in there, and I’m happy about that.
One of the conclusions in the report is that the act allows for a better coordination and linkage of services, and that’s the point that I made the other day. If you have the Justice department and the Women’s Directorate and the Health and Social Services and Education departments all involved and a strategy and a plan are in place when these situations occur, then we would be more effective in addressing this situation that is in front of us. If a mother is in this situation, she has young children who are in school, and that’s where the Education department can be involved. If the teachers are aware of what’s going on, then they can try to work together with the parents and also with the RCMP, and so you can have an inter-agency group that’s addressing a situation to help a woman face her challenges so that at the end of the day she can feel strong enough to move forward in her life. For a person to do that in a small community, there are a lot of challenges. I mentioned those challenges earlier, and one of the key ones is, “What does my family think about me because I’m going through this, or how do other people judge me?”
You know, there is shame and guilt that goes along with that.
It’s very key that the Family Violence Prevention Act address the psychological and emotional aspect of the abuse. My colleague from Mount Lorne addressed the issue of training for all professionals and for improvement of inter-agency cooperation and coordination. That’s another key issue for our communities — to make sure that if we can’t have professionals live in our communities, offering counselling for people who are dealing with abuses, we should have our own people trained in those capacities. That would definitely help us to address some of our needs.
We have always believed that it is a community responsibility. If we are not able to say that we do have these problems and we live in denial, we will never move forward. In my community, we are very open. We try to deal with situations with whatever resources we have. It’s a challenge, yet we are moving forward with what we have.
I know that I have only a minute left. I just want to say that I will support this bill that is before us. It is definitely making some changes and addressing some of the concerns of the Yukon people.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to speak in support of the Family Violence Prevention Act.
The Minister of Justice went through the many pertinent parts of it very thoroughly. I think that if we’re looking at family violence as an issue in our territory, we certainly have concerns about, of course, our smaller communities. We had the question in Watson Lake about the social ills of certain communities and how we should address them.
I think the member opposite was saying that in the smaller communities the issue of privacy is very important. I think with this bill and all other bills we have an issue with population because none of our communities outside of Whitehorse have a large population. So when people are going through these personal issues, they certainly become a public issue. Sometimes that can be productive and sometimes it can make a slave of you if, in fact, the issue becomes an issue of hiding the situation.
But I think with the Family Violence Prevention Act going forward as we move along with it, and as we address these issues — and of course we’ve addressed them in the past. But as we have tools to do it — of course, we talk about training. Training is always very important. The family unit is very important, as the member opposite was saying. Nobody wants to leave their family behind and go to a strange place to work on personal issues like this, especially people from small communities where they were raised and brought up. Of course, I don’t think anybody — leaving the family behind is a very big step.
But I think the government — the Minister of Justice, Minister of Health, Minister of Education — all these departments are committed to moving forward in a joint fashion to try to address, in unison, the issues around family violence. I think, probably, if a tool were used, education is very important — that we get a solid base of education in our communities so people have the tools so that when they get into a situation that is going to be detrimental to their family and themselves, they have the tools so they can leave that situation.
The problem that we have in lots of these family violence situations goes hand in hand with poverty, and without the individual tools — in other words, education, training — so the individual can move on and get on with their lives and make a decent living for their family, they tend to stay in a situation that becomes worse.
I think probably from a Family Violence Prevention Act, it’s an education for both parties. It’s an education not only for the abuser but the person who is being abused. At the end of the day, there is education all around, because most of the time — I guess not all of the time, but most of the time — these people are just repeating what they saw their family do when they were younger.
So the basis of all of this lifestyle is learned at home. So how do we break that cycle of abuse from the point of view of, if people come from that situation, how do we educate them that that’s not the way that people carry on lives, that the violence isn’t something that’s acceptable and that there’s a way out and that there’s a better way to live? And in these smaller communities, and of course I spent many years in a small community, I understand the stigma of going to that specific place for the counselling or whatever.
But as our society grows and matures, I think that stigma will shrink in the sense that it will not be a blemish on the individual if, in fact, they go out asking for help. Also, it will not be seen as a demeaning thing for the husband and wife to go for counselling to make sure that they don’t pass this on to their offspring. So I think this act will give the tools to our society to address this issue in moving forward. I’m very optimistic with the amalgamation of the departments that have pertinent responsibility for this part of — I don’t want to say policing of the situation — but of overseeing this kind of lifestyle that is very detrimental to the family unit.
I guess the proof will be in the eating of the pudding. But, at the end of the day, I think as we see our society mature and as we move ahead with this act, we will find a lot more openness to it, more acceptance of it, and we will also attract more trained people in this field.
I think probably, as the member for the third party mentioned, this is one of the first ones brought forward in Canada. We’ve acknowledged the issue. We’ve moved forward with the issue and hopefully as we monitor it, as we go four or five years down the road, this will be a positive thing in the community and will not be negative and that, at the end of the day, there will be an acknowledgement that family violence is not acceptable and it is not an acceptable way of life and we as a society will not accept that action on each other.
So, as the Minister of Justice went through point by point on the overview and how it will unfold and what the legalities are of this package, I think probably, optimistically, as the minister said, you know, we have to — it’s part of our society and it’s not something to be proud of, but at least we’ve recognized the issue, we’ve put the team together and we’re going to go out and address the issue.
I guess the issue will be looked at and studied as we move through the process, but let’s look optimistically at this tool that we can use to move forward with and, in four or five years, we can look back and say that this was a start of a very good thing because it brought it to the forefront, it brought it to the communities, it brought it to individuals, that this is not an acceptable way of life, nor does society accept this kind of violence — either mental or otherwise — and that in cases of a family situation, usually the female part of the partnership is the individual who takes the brunt of these actions. But, in turn, the other partner needs help too.
This is an overview. It’s something that we take a look at and we maintain the family unit as much as we can and, of course, minimize any impact on them. I think this act, with the support of these departments, will move forward and it will, in four or five years, recognize the fact that we have — in a perfect world, we could eliminate this issue.
We don’t live in a perfect world, but we can certainly minimize the issue. We can bring it up front and people don’t have to hide the fact that there is violence in their life or that it is not them alone that is going through this. A lot of issues with family units are that they think that it is a specific issue that they have brought on themselves and if they stay in a situation, it will improve. All these things, in hindsight, usually don’t work, because the longer one stays in a situation, most of the time it becomes worse. It is not just the person or the relationship. It is a stain on society that these things go on.
At the end of our five-year period, I hope that it’s an addressable issue. We need to educate our children and train them so that they have skills to make a decent living. We need to train both components — both the female and the male — so that everyone understands that, in a relationship, any one individual has the option of not staying in that situation.
I am optimistic about this. I think if we keep looking forward, hopefully in years to come, when we look back, we can say that it was a start. It’s not the end of it, but we have addressed the issue in a small way. I think that will be positive for everyone in our society.
Mr. Hassard: I rise today, too, to add my support to the Family Violence Prevention Act amendments.
In reading the explanatory note, it states that most of the amendments are to improve the procedures for getting protection orders, to clarify some provisions and eliminate inconsistencies in terminology.
A substantive change to include psychological or emotional abuse as a potential ground for making a protection order — it reminds me of something a friend said a long time ago, that no one can hurt you more than a member of your own family. I don’t think he was referring to a physical type of hurt, but rather the emotional hurt that can come when a person loses the trust of the people they trust the most, and that quite often is your family members.
I’m sure that all of us know of someone or can think of someone that they’ve heard of who has experienced some form of family violence. Personally I was very fortunate to have grown up in a loving, caring and supportive home. My parents taught me and my siblings to respect people for who they are and also to respect ourselves. I can’t help but think respecting yourself has a lot to do with how we get through life and avoid situations that are ones we don’t want to be involved in. I’m forever grateful for those teachings.
Unfortunately not all families are as lucky. There are a great many reasons as to why they are not so lucky, and some of those have been mentioned here today.
We recognize that family violence continues to be a serious problem in Yukon and I’m sure that, if we looked across the other jurisdictions of Canada, we will find we are not alone.
We also recognize one difficulty victims of family violence face is that the abuser often forces them to leave their own home to escape the abuse. I can’t imagine the distress that one must find themselves in when they are forced out of the comfort of their home: thinking of a child or a spouse forced to leave their home — home is where you feel the most safe. Even now, at nearing 40 years of age, I still think of my parents’ home as a place of safety and security.
Your home is your home. I wonder how anyone can truly succeed in life without someplace to call home.
Now, the Member for Mount Lorne mentioned the need for education, and I have to agree with him that education is vital, especially when it comes to helping people break the cycle, so to speak. It’s unfortunate that children can sometimes witness violence in the home and, even worse, in extreme cases when it perhaps can be seen as a normal practice and it’s just a way of life. It would be difficult to change that thinking if you’re a child that’s raised in such a home, and how do you get that out of someone’s head? I mean, we’re all raised with our beliefs, such as our political beliefs, and those aren’t easily swayed.
As a result of that, it’s unfortunate that it may take a very long time to get to a point where we no longer have violence in the home as an issue. For that reason it is important that we have legal procedures that allow victims of family violence to get the help that they need.
Now, no act will solve all the social problems, but we need somewhere to start, and this act provides one more tool with which to address the issue of family violence. It will, however, require efforts by everyone to address the entire issue of family violence.
Mr. Speaker, I’m not going to go on at length. I think there are other people who want to have a say. In an effort to allow them that time, I will just say that I’m pleased to have had this opportunity to say my piece, and I look forward to hearing from other members of the House.
Mr. Cathers: Much has been said by members on both sides of the House this afternoon on the subject of the act. I am pleased to see that there seems to be general support for this act. Rather than repeat many of the excellent points that have been made or make my own that are in a similar vein, I will be brief in my remarks.
Protecting families and providing the ability to get out of abusive situations is a critical issue. I think it’s one that most of us recognize as being very important to those unfortunate enough to be in a severe family situation that is not as loving and caring as was the case for many of us who were more fortunate while growing up.
Having had the opportunity, through caucus and through the Cabinet Committee on Legislation, to be involved in the drafting and review of this act, I am fully in support of the legislation. I urge all members of the House to vote in favour of it.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and all members of the House for their attention. I will close by urging all to support this amendment.
Mr. McRobb: I support this act and will be voting for it.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act. I see a lot of excellent work that has been done by my colleague, the Minister of Justice, in concert with officials from the department. There are a lot of initiatives in this new piece of legislation that may go a long way to address the issue of family violence and curtail it, and to subsequently penalize those who are responsible for these dreaded types of violence.
Mr. Speaker, I won’t go on to the extent that my colleague, the Minister of Justice, did so eloquently and so passionately on this issue. But I just rise in support, and see this as being a bill that this entire House can support.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly, I too support this bill. I kind of look at part of this with a different set of eyes, too, having had the very rare and good privilege of working almost nine years with the RCMP. I got to see a lot of problems first-hand with that, so I certainly have experience.
One of the things that has been involved, in my experience, anyway, with family violence — and I’ve seen it from both ways, as a matter of fact. That’s why the name is very important in there because I’ve certainly seen the violence occurring in directions that most people wouldn’t think of.
But I’d like to talk today a little bit about one of the main contributing factors about that, and that’s substance abuse. So I would like to talk a little bit about the draft substance abuse action plan that is out for consultation with the public right now. As the House knows, substance abuse is a major contributor to family violence. Last fall, together with the members of the opposition, our government committed to work together to have a substance abuse summit in Whitehorse in response to the crisis of substance abuse in our territory. As a result, last June we had a very well-attended summit with nearly 200 participants from Yukon communities as well as from First Nations, of course, and people who work in the field of substance abuse who gave us some valuable information that we later used to create the draft substance abuse action plan. The participants included community leaders, law enforcement, Justice officials, counsellors, social workers, addictions and medical service providers, educators, representatives of non-governmental organizations or NGOs and medical and health services, as well as citizens.
Most of the summit participants work in service delivery positions that bring them into contact with alcohol and drug problems on a daily basis. The content of the action plan really relies in a large part upon the discussions and suggestions that these individuals shared during that summit.
The public is particularly concerned about the use of crack cocaine and drug houses in residential neighbourhoods and small communities. These situations create significant unease, fear and distrust, in great part because of the addictive nature of crack cocaine and the violent and volatile behaviour of people under its influence, the criminal element involved in its sale and distribution and the criminal acts engaged in to support the addiction, such as breaking and entering and stealing from family members. That also is a part of the family violence, Mr. Speaker.
Delegates to the Yukon substance abuse summit recognized that substance abuse is intimately linked to unhealthy lifestyles, which can be passed on intergenerationally and throughout families. They described a range of problems associated with substance abuse that often have permanent consequences: illiteracy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder — FASD — problems within schools, poor nutrition, sexual abuse and child abuse and neglect. People who misuse drugs and alcohol are often both the perpetrators of harm to others as well as victims of harm from others. There is a strong link between alcohol and drug abuse and family violence.
Mr. Speaker, it is as a result of the hard work of these participants and the government that we are now before the public with what I think is a very good document that will lead to excellent policies and programs to deal with substance abuse in our communities. The Yukon substance abuse action plan responds to the harms caused by alcohol and other drug abuse by offering Yukon-based solutions. It is informed by current research on substance abuse and use and patterns of this in this territory and by input from front-line workers, community leaders and concerned citizens who attended the Yukon substance abuse summit in June 2005.
The key characteristics of the action plan are flexibility, sustainability and community involvement. The action plan must effectively address the diverse needs of the Yukon population and therefore the programs and initiatives of the action plan reflect different models of prevention and intervention that are sensitive to culture, age and gender.
In addition, because there are significant health and social costs associated with substance abuse, the action plan provides a strong commitment to the reduction of legal and illegal substances that compromise the health and well-being of Yukoners.
The action plan details this government’s response to the crisis, and I think it’s worth noting that without a broad-based plan to deal with substance abuse, it is almost certain that the cycle of violence in our families will continue. It isn’t just in the Yukon though. Substance abuse affects all communities in Canada, and Yukoners’ use of drugs and alcohol are similar to the rest of Canada. The Yukon does differ, however, from the rest of the country in some important ways concerning substance abuse, and an action plan must take these differences into account.
First, as a northern region, First Nation people comprise about 25 percent of the Yukon population and the Yukon consists of many First Nation and non-First Nation cultures and traditions. Solutions to substance abuse must reflect the cultural diversity of the Yukon, and in particular, First Nation cultures and traditions.
The population of the territory is small — about 33,000 people. The small population and the geographical isolation of many communities influence both how substance abuse surfaces in the Yukon and Yukon communities and how the Yukon government can respond to those who require assistance.
Some examples — individuals with alcohol- and drug-related problems are likely to have a greater impact on the community as a whole. The smaller the community, the greater the impact. A benefit of having a small population is that solutions can be designed to address specific situations. Social service providers have more opportunities to understand why some individuals or communities are more prone to substance abuse and, more importantly, to develop ways of responding to these individuals and communities to address their particular needs.
The small population makes it possible to monitor the impact of policies and programs designed to alleviate substance-related problems and where to make appropriate adjustments. These differences suggest that while the Yukon government can learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions, its policy responses and programs must be tailored to the unique features of life in the Yukon.
For the most part, as I have mentioned, Yukoners are no different from the rest of Canada. They are, however, a group of high-risk users that were identified by a recent survey we did to coincide with the summit. It was released at the beginning of June. The survey’s look at high-risk individuals was in order to assess the patterns of consequences of substance abuse among individuals who were more likely to suffer negative health consequences as a result of using alcohol and drugs. Higher risk respondents tended to be heavy and frequent drinkers, and multiple drug users. They reported drinking an average of more than 10 drinks on a typical drinking occasion, and these occasions occurred more than once a week.
Alcohol is the most frequently misused substance but there has been a recent increase in the use of illegal drugs. High risk individuals used a range of illegal drugs, with cannabis, cocaine and crack reported most frequently. I should mention, Mr. Speaker, on that, having been involved with the RCMP for a number of years, when I first started there was no provision in the cars and very little provision in the cells for injection equipment. Today every car is equipped with materials and bio-hazard materials to handle injectable products.
Compared to respondents in the general population, high-risk respondents reported high rates of harm to themselves and from others as a result of substance use, indicating self-harm and victimization are frequently experienced in situations where heavy drinking and drug use is frequent. This snapshot hopefully shows that substance abuse in the Yukon is not uniform. Rates of substance abuse in the general population are similar, however, to the rest of Canada. What distinguishes the Yukon is the presence of a core group of high-risk individuals who consume alcohol and drugs at rates much higher than similar high-risk users in the rest of Canada. Strategies designed to combat this issue must be flexible enough to respond to a diversity of needs. A continuum of health care approach is necessary in order to proactively address substance abuse experienced by individuals in communities.
Surveys provide valuable data on the extent of substance abuse in the general population, as well as in the high-risk population. But they don’t always address the important and more complicated issues of why some individuals are more affected by substance abuse than others and the effect of substance abuse on communities and how we can effectively respond to the addictions.
Surveys also do not capture the public’s concerns about alcohol and drug abuse in their community. For example, when surveyors talk to a special sample of high-risk individuals, they were told that marijuana use is widespread. Despite this, it is the increased use of crack cocaine that seems to be responsible for the recent escalation of concerns and, specifically, concerns about community safety.
Mr. Speaker, the draft substance abuse action plan will be this government’s response to the very serious issues. I would like to go into the details of the draft action plan for the benefit of this House, so they can see that we take the link between substance abuse and other social ills, such as family violence, seriously and that we are acting on a plan to deal with substance abuse.
The Yukon substance abuse action plan provides a framework for policies and programs designed to reduce harm from the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. The action plan provides options for working with individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs, and it addresses the needs of their family. It provides meaningful ways for community members to make a positive contribution.
The action plan explicitly recognizes the need for the reduction of both supply and demand of alcohol and other drugs. The action plan has developed after careful consideration of the input received from delegates to the Yukon substance abuse summit, and the action plan is a framework document that will help guide the Government of Yukon’s policy responses to problematic substance use in the territory over the course of the next five years. It is a living document, and it will be reviewed regularly.
The focus of the action plan is on problematic substance use and its effects. Problematic substance use refers specifically to the use of alcohol or other drugs that have negative consequences for the user’s physical, mental or social well-being. It also refers to substance use that has negative consequences for people other than the user.
The terms “substance” or “alcohol and other drugs” refer to any psychoactive material that is used for non-medical purposes or misused for medical purposes. This includes alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, amphetamines, illegal drugs, solvents, inhalants, and it’s often worthwhile remembering that any substance can be misused and any substance can be toxic. If one wants to take the time to do a Medline search in the medical literature, you’ll find two cases of water poisoning.
The action plan includes two key components: coordinated service delivery among all service providers — that’s government and non-government — and a continuum of services that responds to the unique circumstances of individuals and communities.
For the most part, service providers operate at the community level with clients within their agencies and with agencies in the community that may address the different needs of the clients. For example, the police, the courts, a social worker, and an alcohol and drug counsellor may be able to provide coordinated help to the same individual or the same family. Included in community services are culturally relevant First Nation options for prevention and treatment.
In most instances, particular services and interventions must address age and gender characteristics of the clients in order to be effective. The Government of Yukon plays a key role in the action plan, and the government serves as: a service provider, providing direct services relating to harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement; an investor providing funding, either directly to communities and NGOs or by ensuring the government services are adequately staffed and funded; a facilitator, providing the tools for communities to deal with substance abuse issues, convening meetings, providing technical assistance, assisting with community planning and/or drafting proposals to help the community find funding; and a leader, working with other levels of government, such as Yukon First Nations, other provinces and territories and the federal government, to advance innovative policies to combat substance abuse.
It is important to recognize the complexities and challenges that exist as a result of the many complex cross-jurisdictional responsibilities and capacities. For example, the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and each First Nation government have responsibility for some alcohol and drug programming. There is no shortage of potential partnerships and collaborations in this area. The action plan will address new ways of delivering services that respond to the unique needs and circumstances of the people they are designed to serve. In short, services must be flexible and must be delivered at a time and in places that are easily accessible for those looking for the help.
By having a continuum of services, services can be effectively targeted to individuals, to communities, to those communities most in need, particularly marginalized populations that experience barriers to services due to poverty, homelessness or geographic isolation.
I would also like to mention the seven pillars of the draft substance abuse action plan. The first is a community health perspective. The central goal of the action plan is to promote and protect community health. Policies will be most effective if they support and are supported by education, prevention and enforcement measures. Health promotion and prevention strategies must respond to the social, health, criminal problems and economic risk factors associated with substance abuse problems. Strategies will be more effective to the extent that they involve community partnerships.
Programs and policies should be designed to minimize the harm experienced by individuals in communities by actions associated with alcohol and drug abuse and drug trafficking.
The second pillar is a comprehensive policy approach. Substance abuse should be viewed as a symptom of social and individual problems, as well as a cause of these problems. Substance abuse interacts with personal, social and societal factors such as poverty and unemployment, family dysfunction, discrimination, and personal values.
Multidisciplinary responses are required, as the problems are often multifaceted. For example, the coordination of medical, social and judicial actions will often constitute an effective and appropriate action.
The third pillar is partnerships and integration. Government interventions are only a partial solution to the problematic substance abuse. A solution to substance abuse requires an ongoing partnership between the territorial government, the federal government, First Nations, municipalities and communities. Government may be the lead organization for some issues and, for other interventions, other partners may take the lead with government playing a supportive role. Policies and programs should be integrated across government departments and between government and other agencies.
The fourth pillar is evidence-based intervention. Policies and programs for the control, prevention and treatment should be based on objective scientifically validated information that is collected and analyzed in a timely, ongoing manner. In addition, local knowledge and anecdotal evidence must be taken into account, for sure, but the evidence provided through community participation and knowledge of front-line workers remains an essential part of developing that evidence-based intervention.
The fifth pillar is being culturally sensitive. Policies and programs should be culturally sensitive, especially in cases where First Nations’ experience, values and goals are concerned. They must be sensitive to diverse cultural values and perspectives.
The sixth pillar is being gender sensitive and age appropriate. Policies and programs for the prevention and treatment of problematic substance abuse should at the very minimum be sensitive to differences in gender and age. For example, research in other jurisdictions identifies a number of barriers to treatment for women, including early identification by professionals, childcare and access to children’s services, residential programs that can accommodate mothers and their children, transportation to and from addiction services, safe, drug-free housing and services that are sensitive to the needs of underserved populations.
And the last pillar is cost effectiveness. Policies and programs related to the control, prevention and treatment of alcohol and other drug abuse problems should be evaluated for their cost effectiveness. All policies and programs should be systematically evaluated and progress should be routinely monitored.
Mr. Speaker, I think from my description today, the substance abuse action plan will give us the policy framework to get a start at reducing substance abuse problems in this territory, and with a reduction in substance abuse and our other work on reducing family violence, perhaps we can finally begin looking at a brighter future in this field.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Rouble: I’m honoured to rise today to support the amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act. I think there has been a very good discussion today, and I’ll be fairly brief with my comments, but I would like to make a few points.
Earlier today, we heard a tribute to Women Abuse Prevention Month, and we heard some very disturbing statistics and realities of violence in our society. Violence in our society, especially violence in the family, is simply not acceptable. It cannot be tolerated. We cannot tolerate it; society cannot tolerate it.
Mr. Speaker, I don’t believe there’s anyone in here who would debate that. Family violence is something we all have a responsibility for. As individuals, we have a responsibility to not be involved in it, nor to tolerate it. In our families we can’t accept it, and as a community we can’t turn a blind eye to it. As a government we need to outlaw it.
We need to have strong, effective legislation to respond effectively when it occurs and to deter family violence.
Mr. Speaker, I’d just like to take a moment to discuss deterrents, and whether or not legislation exists to deter, to prevent or to penalize. In our society we seem to think sometimes that by creating a law, that will automatically stop it — that just because a piece of paper exists saying “You can’t do this”, that will stop it. I think we would be kidding ourselves if we thought that to be true. With this particular situation, I am surprised to hear that people feel we need to legislate something that should be morally obvious to everyone. Family violence is simply wrong. It is wrong to take any form of abuse against anyone in your family. We all know that, and all of us in society know that that is unacceptable behaviour. I don’t think you would have to tell the worst offender that what he or she is doing is wrong.
Far too often, I think, our justice system is too reactive. The system reacts after the crime has been committed, after the assault has happened, after the victim has been victimized. If our objective in our enlightened society is to live in peace, order and good government, then we all fail when a crime is committed. We don’t succeed as a society when we are successful in apprehending, prosecuting and penalizing an offender. We succeed when we prevent the crime from occurring in the first place.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we as a community must take responsibility to take proactive, preventive steps to reduce family violence. I was pleased to hear some of the previous speakers — the Minister of Justice, the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate, and the minister responsible for Economic Development — discuss some of these initiatives. As it was expressed earlier I, too, would like to thank the many Yukoners who contribute their time and energy to addressing the situation and to eliminating family violence. But unfortunately, until we reach the point where family violence is eliminated, we will need legislation like this to respond to it.
While I am disturbed that we need legislation like this, I am comforted that these amendments will bring more assistance and protection to the victims. These amendments will enable enforcement, improve the procedures for getting protective orders and expand the definition of abuse to include psychological and emotional abuse. Additionally, Mr. Speaker, it sends a message to all that Yukoners will not tolerate this.
Mr. Speaker, I support this act, and I encourage all members of our Assembly to support it.
Mr. Hardy: I also would like to add a few comments about a very disturbing — I would say a very disurbing — act.
I say it’s a disturbing act, and I say it’s a disturbing act because it’s based on the premise that in our society we have to have this kind of prevention, this kind of protection.
The previous speaker mentioned a society — I don’t even have the right word. I was just listening generally to what he was saying. But the indications were good governments, good society, and one that was more of an enlightened society in having a structure in place that ensures people can live without — I’m adding words to him now. If he feels this is incorrect, that’s fine, he can stand up. But I think we share the same common value in the sense that we can live in a society without the threat of violence or abuse within our families, among our friends and neighbours and among our communities. Unfortunately that’s not a true picture, no matter how much we would like to see it. Because of that, of course, we have to have acts such as the Family Violence Prevention Act. Of course, from that, we are having amendments brought forward today — amendments that are good overall and are long overdue.
This act came into effect in 1999, I believe, by an NDP government. Like all acts, as time progresses, you find areas that they didn’t deal with properly or weren’t complete or expansive enough, where there wasn’t enough clarity in this area or that area.
It’s the organizations, groups and employees who work in these areas, as well as the justice system and people who have been subject to abuse who will identify the holes in the act. Contrary to what the Member for Klondike said in Question Period earlier, legislation is living and constantly needs to be looked at and, if changes are necessary or are identified, they need to be dealt with. There is no shame in that. There is no such thing as perfect legislation or a perfect act. Times change. Needs within our community, society and country change. Different demands are placed on governments. Out of that come acts.
This one was brought in to address some needs around violence. Of course, it had its shortcomings and they have been identified. We are seeing some amendments to it to address, I believe, some of those shortcomings. I believe that’s good. I think we are here to write legislation, rewrite it or get rid of some stuff that is not appropriate any more. That is part of our job, whether some people in this House agree to that or not — it doesn’t matter. We are called a Legislative Assembly for that reason. Part of our job is to address legislation in this chamber.
This one is a difficult one, I think. It’s not a subject that many people warm to. We can embrace it and face it head on. We can deal with it and we can try to make it better so that it does address some of the needs of today — 2005 — in comparison to when it was brought in, which was six years ago.
Unfortunately, I am very aware of violence within families. I have met many people who have been subject to it, whether from their partner or spouse.
I have met many children who have been subject to it, and the abuse is carried for a long time. When a person or child is abused, when there is violence of whatever type — sexual, physical, emotional or psychological — that is not something that’s treated with a pill and it’s not something that disappears, never to come back again so that a person can move on in their life. But they carry it for many years and sometimes all their life, and it affects everything they do, and it’s a handicap that they have to now live with.
There are not many places, and there weren’t historically many places, where a person could go to for help. In many ways there still isn’t. In many ways we still have areas within our justice system that do not address the long-term damage done to a person who has been subject to ongoing violence, or even some explosive violence that may happen. But we try.
I believe all of us in this room really care about issues like this. I think we can all agree — it doesn’t matter what political stripe you are — that this is something that should not be tolerated in our society and we need to work to eradicate it.
However, as it has been said before, it has a cycle to it, as well. When one person has experienced violence in their life, they often will pass that on in one form or another — not always, but they often will. And there is a cycle that will repeat itself over and over.
We have to find ways to break that. There is a story my spouse has been telling me about off and on for the last few years. She mentions it once in awhile, and she has been following this woman. I can honestly say I’ve listened to her talk about this woman, but I don’t have the facts like she has. But it obviously has had a profound impact on her. I can understand why.
When she was a Member of Parliament, she did a lot of work around the Klassen case and felt very strongly about the sentencing of that case and what happened there and was able to do some work at the federal level within Parliament, and that became one of the areas that she took up.
So I understand where she comes from in that regard. But she talks about a case of a woman in Pakistan, I believe. This woman — like I say, I don’t have the facts, so I’m going to take some liberty here. This woman spoke out against the men of this village in Pakistan on some issue, and I think it had something to do with a man raping his wife. The punishment that was meted on her was the powers-to-be in the village or the town got together, and they went to her house, and they raped her, to teach her a lesson.
That didn’t shut her up. She said it practically destroyed her life. Her family was ostracized because she was outspoken. She spoke very, very clearly about what had happened. She did not hide in shame. To do that in Pakistan under the laws they have there around women — what she had said was, “We are treated as property”. It was very courageous. Because of her actions and because of her outspokenness — it’s amazing she is still alive, actually — those men were charged. The Pakistan government actually intervened — something that has almost never, ever happened before. She stood up and fought for that. There were no laws, no acts — no family violence prevention act or anything like that — but she believed strongly enough in what was right and wrong and in the injustice and cruelty of what had happened that she put her life on the line to make that change.
It’s those kinds of people in the world and in our society who really are the heroes. They are the ones who pave the way. Rosa Parks passed away and her funeral was just a few days ago. There was another woman who stood up and finally refused to bow down to an injustice.
Because of that there was a change in a country. This woman in Pakistan — there was a change happening in that country because of her work. Rosa Parks — there was a change brought about, and out of Rosa Parks, if people will remember back, rose a hero, just as she was, and he was called Martin Luther King. Those are the heroes. Those are the people who put so much on the line because they just couldn’t take it any more.
Out of that comes acts, legislation, changes at the government level. We may take a little bit of glory by doing that but, truthfully, we shouldn’t be taking too much credit. We are not the ones who have walked the streets of blood to make these things come about, and there are a lot of stories that point to that.
So we do our little bit, but if we don’t go from here with the changes we’ve made, the legislative changes we make, whether it’s the Family Violence Prevention Act or whatever, and take it back out into the communities and stand tall and put a little bit of ourselves on the line — because it’s pretty safe in here — and give credit to those who have brought this about, then we are not doing anything, really, other than rewriting language, making slight changes, dotting an “i” here, crossing a “t” there, saying you shouldn’t do this, shouldn’t do that. It’s like motions we bring into the Legislative Assembly. What’s the motivation of a lot of the motions? Are they significant or are they politically motivated? Will they have an impact on people’s lives? Are we doing the real work? We have to question ourselves — how committed we are to this. That’s always a surprise, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister of Justice, who introduced these amendments — I’m going back to the beginning, to some comments he made. He talked about the gold rush and the impact it had on a culture, a people, and he talked about the Alaska Highway and the impact it had — the huge influx of people coming in. He was correct, in that many of the workers who came here were not women, and many of them — the huge influx — were male from all types of cultures — not one, but all types, from all around the world. A huge melting pot all of a sudden happened — many of them with different backgrounds, different religious beliefs, not just one. The gold rush — very specifically that.
The Alaska Highway was created for military purposes. That was the driving force behind it. It wasn’t to open up the north — and it did — but the impact it had was very significant. We know now, looking back, that there’s so much that could have been done to prevent the impact that different cultures can have on another and how there are a lot of negatives. But there was very little in place to address the very serious impact that those two rushes — those two huge economically driven periods of Yukon history — had on the First Nations.
There was nothing really in place to address those types of impacts. The residential schools, of course, have been mentioned. We now know, looking back — when we look at that we now know what kind of impact it had. We don’t have to just look here. We can look anywhere around the world and see when something like that happens, when there is this huge influx of people to a culture, an isolated area, the significance — often the very negative impact — it has. You can look in the Amazon, you can look anywhere — you can look down in Australia, you can look in Europe, you can look at my culture and how it was impacted when they were invaded in the England-Scotland area. There was a significant impact when it destroyed cultural beliefs and it affected the way people’s lives were and the good and the bad around that. We can look back and see those kinds of impacts.
We have another one coming, Mr. Speaker. It has nothing to do with whichever government is in place; this is coming, and it has been a long time coming. We have a chance to address the kind of major impact that is going to have. It’s called the pipeline. I have heard figures of 5,000 to 10,000 workers showing up. There is no question about it, it is going to have a social impact and there will be some negatives around that.
We have a Family Violence Prevention Act. We have other acts that try to address some of this. But we have to be addressing it in a much more vigorous and proactive way. We need to be prepared for these kinds of influxes. We know this one is coming. We know what happened in the past. We know the impacts it can have if we are not prepared. We should be working harder on this stuff. We should be committing more resources. We have not been doing that.
We’re talking so much about getting the pipeline that we’re forgetting that there are a lot of other factors that we need to address. So I’m glad to see some of these amendments, and I’m glad to hear the comments on the floor today. But I am saying — the one message I have — is that it’s not just in here that we will make a significant change. It’s what we do as human beings, as people of our community, how we live, and it’s when we speak up, like the heroes who have brought us to this point today.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Minister of Justice. If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard? Minister of Justice, you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It was really good to hear all the positive remarks and the support for bringing these amendments forward. Family violence is not acceptable in society, period. We must make every effort possible to ensure that people are protected from violence. In order to maintain social structure, it is essential to have laws in place to address those in society who do not respect others, keeping in mind that everyone is human and everyone has faults.
We must acknowledge that every human being on this earth is different, that no two people are exactly the same. They think different because they are different. We must respect the fact that everyone has had a different upbringing and were taught different behaviours, different rights and wrongs.
If one was raised to have no boundaries and was disrespectful, the positive side is that learned behaviour can be changed.
In closing, I would like to address the comment made by the member of the third party. I say this without being disrespectful. I do apologize if my introduction was lengthy; however, I believe that the issue of family violence is a very serious issue in the Yukon and that time spent discussing it should not be referred to as “ragging the puck”, as it was done with sincerity.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 13 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 63 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 63 — Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We’ll take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act.
We will begin with general debate.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I would like to thank everyone for their participation today with regard to discussing the amendments to this very important act — the Family Violence Prevention Act, as was commented on earlier. It is unfortunate that we have to have such an act in place. In a perfect world, everyone would have nothing but respect for each other and there would be no such thing as violence. That is not the case. There must be laws and legislation put in place to protect those from such acts of violence.
I have also heard members questioning the consultation process. I would have to say that there was a variety of stakeholder groups consulted about possible amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act. Meetings were held with representatives of the RCMP, the Territorial and Supreme Courts, justices of the peace, women’s shelters, women’s advocacy and interest groups, victim services groups, disability advocacy and interest groups, senior advocacy and interest groups, community justice coordinators, First Nations, directors of Health and Social Services and other governmental departments, including the Women’s Directorate and Health and Social Services.
Additionally, information packages were sent out to First Nations as well as interest groups and individuals. Again, I commend staff for all the hard work that was conducted in the consultation process, and I have absolutely no reason to believe that all of this didn’t take place. I believe the staff did their job when it came to the consultation process, and I think it was a job well done.
Again, I want to raise the domestic violence treatment option, because this is a very important initiative for dealing with family violence. This option provides a more innovative response to the issues of domestic violence by combining court proceedings with the proven benefits of treatment for the offender. There must be a course for the offender to start dealing with the issues that are creating this disruption in the family. It provides the offender with an opportunity to choose a therapeutic treatment alternative to traditional sentencing while, at the same time, focusing on safety for the victim. Again, it’s very important that the victim is well looked after with regard to any repercussions from family violence.
Offenders who do not take responsibility or who do not agree to participate in the DVTO will be seen in regular court where many will be found guilty and ordered to take treatment, regardless. The objectives of this treatment option are to first encourage more disclosures of domestic violence. Again, through our discussions with regard to this act all through the afternoon, there were several mentions of non-reporting. I think that’s a very serious issue to acknowledge. If fear is instilled in one to the point that they will not report acts of violence, then there is the possibility of that individual being physically hurt to a point where they could even be disabled, or the worst scenario would be to actually die from the violent acts of another person.
Society has to know when someone’s rights are being violated physically and emotionally. Again, there was talk today about physical violence and emotional abuse. I’ve heard the saying many times that a black eye will heal — it will eventually clear up — but emotional abuse is a very different story —very different — because that is a way to really scar one’s mental abilities. Once a person has been severely emotionally abused, they may never recover from it. Nervous breakdowns — I’ve known of several cases where emotional abuse caused severe emotional breakdowns, where a person is actually in a state where they are hardly able to conduct their own life without constant support from someone to help them in their daily activities.
Treatment options are also to provide for early intervention. Again, a very, very critical part of addressing family violence is early intervention. When one is beginning down the path where their spouse or someone in the house is really being physically violent or creating a lot of emotional abuse and stress, with an early intervention, a person has the possibility of good recovery. The longer someone stays in that predicament, the harder it is for them to move away from that abusive situation.
So the early intervention, again, is very critical. Treatment is to hold offenders accountable in a meaningful way. Again it’s very critical, very important, that an offender is held responsible and accountable for whatever actions they may do, whether it’s physical or emotional. One way to minimize the amount of abuse that exists in society is to deal with those who are committing it and give them the tools needed to be able to change their behaviour. If there is no accountability structure whatsoever in place, then I can imagine why one would begin to believe that they are doing nothing wrong. So accountability of the offender, again, is a very critical aspect of even dealing with family violence.
We talk about ways to reduce the high collapse rate of court cases. Collapse rates mean that charges are dropped due to the length of time it takes to get to trial or the unwillingness of the victim to testify. Again, this is something that I believe happens far too often. Whenever something is prolonged and it takes an awful long time to address issues, one begins to believe that it’s not worth bothering with it. I have to stress very strongly that every case of domestic violence is worth bothering with; because again, I think, like I stated earlier, the chances of one sustaining severe repercussions or disabilities from someone else’s violent act is very high. The faster the issues are dealt with in court, I think, the better the chance one has of being successful, whether it’s treating the offender or supporting the victim.
This also provides a treatment option to offenders under the close supervision of the court and treatment professionals and provides protection and support for complainants. Again, we must look at the best possible ways of ensuring that there is going to be long-term assistance for anyone who requires it due to domestic violence issues.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins 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. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 1, 2005:
Regulations Report (Yukon); April 1, 2004 to March 31, 2005, Volume 1 and Volume 2 (Edzerza)
The following documents were filed on November 1, 2005:
Whistle-blower Legislation, Select Committee on: letter dated October 24, 2005 from Ms. Duncan, MLA, Porter Creek South to the Hon. Elaine Taylor, Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission (Duncan)
Alaska Highway Pipeline Project: letters dated June 2, 2005 from Dennis Fentie, Premier to Mr. T. J. Hearn, President, Imperial Oil, Mr. Henry Sykes, President, ConocoPhillips, and Brian Frank, President, BP Canada (McRobb)
Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition: letter dated June 9, 2005 from Chief Mike Smith, Interim Chair, Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to the Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier (McRobb)
Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition: letter dated June 14, 2005 from Chief Mike Smith, Interim Chair, Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition to the Hon. Frank Murkowski, Governor of Alaska, Mr. P. Daniel, President and CEO, Enbridge Inc., Mr. T. Hearn, President, Imperial Oil, Mr. B. Frank, President, BP Canada, Mr. H. Sykes, President, ConocoPhillips, and Mr. H. Kvisle, President and CEO, TransCanada Pipelines (McRobb)
Alaska Highway Pipeline Project: letter dated June 16, 2005 to the Hon. Dennis Fentie, Premier, from Chief Mike Smith, Interim Chair, Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition (McRobb)
Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition: letter dated June 27, 2005 from Dennis Fentie, Premier, to Chief Mike Smith, Interim Chair, Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition (McRobb)