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††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon

††††††† Tuesday, November 15, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.

 

Speaker:   I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.

 

Prayers

Withdrawal of motions

Speaker:   The Chair wishes to inform the House that Motion No. 507, standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition, and Motion No. 516, standing in the name of the Minister of Tourism and Culture, have been removed from the Order Paper. This is due to those motions being similar in content to Motion No. 525, on which the House has reached a decision.

DAILY ROUTINE

Speaker:   We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.

TRIBUTES

In recognition of National Addictions Awareness Week

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the House, I would like to recognize November 14 to November 20 as National Addictions Awareness Week, an event celebrated throughout the country every year. The purpose of this week, Mr. Speaker, is to raise the publicís awareness of the hazards of substance abuse and at the same time to encourage healthy lifestyles that do not include alcohol or other drugs. This week also serves as a celebration of those in recovery from addiction and those who have won the battle but still continue to fight the war.

We have a grassroots organization of dedicated individuals and representatives of groups and agencies who have worked together throughout the year to plan this celebration to create joint community-based initiatives that all work toward preventing alcohol and drug abuse and create a greater awareness of the problems faced by individuals affected by addictions and those who are impacted by their lifestyle choices.

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In addition to this, Mr. Speaker, our government, along with the opposition and the third party, has initiated and is implementing a comprehensive community-based substance abuse action plan to further address substance abuse and addictions in Yukon. In 1988, National Addictions Awareness Week organizers adopted ďKeep the circle strongĒ from Coppermine, a small community in the Northwest Territories; 17 years later, this slogan continues to exemplify the strength of those who have chosen an addiction-free life and the forward movement of the circle of life for all people.

 

Mr. McRobb:   The official opposition notes that National Addictions Awareness Week takes place on the third full week in November each year, and this year that is celebrated between November 20 and 26, which is next week, Mr. Speaker, not this week.

 

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Speaker:   Introduction of visitors.

Are there returns or documents for tabling?

Are there any reports of committees?

Are there any petitions?

Are there any bills to be introduced?

Are there any notices of motion?

NOTICES OF MOTION

Mr. McRobb:   I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) the Yukon Party government should start practising what it preached in its campaign document, specifically: ďThis new inclusive style of governing will be based on consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise, not on confrontation and unilateral actionĒ;

(2) the government did act deliberately on November 14, 2005, to unilaterally call a government motion for debate without first identifying the motion or its subject matter to the opposition parties;

(3) a fundamental tenet of the principles of natural justice is the requirement of proper notice and the right for the other side to know in advance the case to be heard; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to live up to the promises it made to all Yukoners, be more accountable and help to elevate the level of debate in this Assembly by ensuring it notifies the opposition parties of the subject matter of any government motion it intends to call for debate at that dayís House leadersí meeting.

 

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Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

Is there a statement by a minister?

This then brings us to Question Period.

QUESTION PERIOD

Question re:†††† Housing programs

††††††† Mr. Cardiff:   Yesterday during Question Period, the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation said, ďThe affordable housing program has nothing to do with social housing and, specifically, seniors housing.Ē

††††††† Last year he said that the Housing Corporation would address the diverse housing needs and interests of older Yukoners and others with special housing needs. That was in a January 28 press release. The backgrounder attached to that press release said that a government priority was the creation of new, affordable housing units for Yukoners aged 55 and up with special housing needs.

††††††† I would urge the minister to look at the affordable housing agreement. What I would like to know today is: will the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation tell us which one of his statements is correct?

††††††† Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   It certainly is a priority of this government to look at affordable housing and to utilize the best of our abilities to respond to the federal affordable housing initiative. The member opposite continually confuses affordable housing and social housing and other programs.

††††††† For instance, the 44 units at Falcon Ridge are designed to be barrier free on the main floor, and we will ensure that there will be barrier-free homes within the Whitehorse housing market. We have also partnered with others in the private sector to do this, so that the units are affordable and are accessible for people. They might be used in the future for social housing; they could be seniors housing. They could simply be affordable housing.

††††††† The member continually mixes up these programs, Mr. Speaker.

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Mr. Cardiff:   The only person in this Legislature who is mixed up is the minister. Yesterday we were also told that requests for proposals by the Canada Winter Games Host Society for the athletes village produced absolutely nothing of any value and that there was nothing they could go forward with. The minister conveniently forgets ó and the Premier forgets too ó that there were options for Yukoners. There were proposals that included manufacturing units here in the Yukon, and that included a manufacturing facility here in the Yukon, which would have created lasting jobs and trades training opportunities, which is a priority of this government.

In the end, the manufacturing contract for these units went to Alberta. The management contract went to Vancouver. Why did the minister ignore proposals that would have provided benefits, training opportunities and lasting jobs for Yukoners?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   There were several proposals put forward at the time, but none that were acceptable. Our government provided $20,000 ó I believe the figure was ó for one of the proponents to have a complete evaluation of their business plan done by a very qualified third party. Iím not, of course, at liberty to provide a copy of that, but I would invite the member opposite to ask that question of others.

The construction budget of the athletes village right now is $28.5 million for 140,000 square feet, which means a cost of $204 per square foot. Iím actually told by contractors thatís within the $200 to $250 range. There are very good reasons for this, Mr. Speaker ó the quality of construction, the type of basements, et cetera, all of which Iím very happy to speak about.

We look at the future use of the building: affordable housing ó it could be social, could be seniors, could simply be affordable housing. We look at all these things, and the construction costs are very well within what we are able to leave as a legacy from the Canada Winter Games.

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Mr. Cardiff:   Well, weíd like to know what the final use of the building is going to be. Obviously the minister has his own ideas about that, and this minister is obviously pretty desperate to try to answer these questions.

Last year there were proposals that would have seen some of this project disassembled and shipped to rural communities in the Yukon where, in some communities, housing is needed desperately. The minister doesnít appear to be talking about that option any more. Why is he ignoring the housing needs of rural Yukoners?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   We have been very clear in terms of what the final use of the building is projected at this time to be. As a matter of fact, building A, which is the student family residence, has 12 two-bedroom suites and 12 three-bedroom suites. In addition, there is approximately 14,500 square feet in the lower basement level. That will be utilized in the future as we have stated in the House before ó at this time itís projected for the research cluster that weíre working with the National Research Council on.

Building B, the Yukon Housing building, has 18 one-bedroom suites and 30 two-bedroom suites. The basement level has approximately 21,600 square feet, or about 2,000 square metres.

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite again tries to compare this to conventional construction, and that shouldnít be. The basements are concrete construction with walls 10-feet high and 10-inches thick. The concrete foundations are designed to support the three storeys of modular construction and to support seismic activity ó in other words, theyíre earthquake proof, a valuable thing in terms of the research cluster and the potential uses there. They are barrier-free designed throughout. They are fully sprinklered, which is not done in a conventional residence or a conventional house that Iím sure the member opposite compares that to. They are of the green home design. Both have elevators. The Yukon Housing building has two elevators, Mr. Speaker, and both have paved parking lots with electrified parking plug-ins.

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Question re:†††† Housing programs

Mr. Cardiff: Well, we go back to last January and the press release from this government announcing the affordable housing program and the affordable housing initiative. As I said earlier, the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation said that this was supposed to address the diverse housing needs and the interests of older Yukoners and those with special housing needs. The target group for this program was Yukoners aged 55 and older. Itís for people who canít afford to participate in the regular housing market. But to this minister it appears that low-income families donít exist. Why is the minister not using the federal affordable housing dollars for what they were originally intended?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   As Iíve said many times, I wish the member opposite would actually read that and attend the briefings that we have offered in the past and will offer in the future. The affordable housing process, or the initiative, is a federal program. We have two choices: we can utilize it and put it to good use, like the legacy project at the Yukon College for housing, for research space there and for support of our Yukon College; we can use it in affordable housing, to lower the cost of rent or lower the cost of home ownership.

But the member opposite keeps trying to slide social housing programs into this, Mr. Speaker. If heíd pay attention to the documents and actually read them, heíd undoubtedly agree. We are not prepared to give those funds back, as I believe one member opposite suggested in the last session. Weíre prepared to use them and use them to the good benefit of Yukon.

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Mr. Cardiff:   The minister needs to read the agreement. In the agreement, it does provide for social housing, and it was this minister who changed the agreement. They negotiated changes to the agreement.† The minister changed the basic intent of the affordable housing agreement; they negotiated that. He has diverted funding that was meant for lower income families in need of housing. He is taking from the poor and the seniors and using it to house elite athletes and provide housing for middle-class Yukoners. Does he think that this blatant cover-up of the diversion is ó

Speaker:   Order please.

Unparliamentary language

Speaker:   Member for Mount Lorne, you know full well that ďblatant cover-upĒ is unacceptable terminology, and I would ask the honourable member to retract that, please.

Withdrawal of remark

Mr. Cardiff:   I will retract that.

Speaker:   Thank you very much.

 

Mr. Cardiff:   I would like the minister to tell us which group of seniors he has been talking to who are willing to move into the units where there is no evening transportation, no health clinics, no shopping area and where they have consistently said they donít really want to be. They want to be downtown.

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   I do hope that the member opposite switches to decaf soon.

The program is affordable housing. It is utilized within the program that is given to us by the federal government. Itís a good program; itís an excellent program. For instance, in one case ó for an investment of a little over $800,000 ó we generated over $20 million. I think the figure was closer to $23-million worth of construction jobs, training, activity, with all subcontracts going to ó all that I know of anyway ó Yukon companies. We partnered with other sectors. We are going to utilize what is left of the money, and we are looking at supported seniors housing in one of the rural communities. We continue to make use of what is in this fund and to leverage that into a much larger investment. At the end of the day, some of these units could be utilized for social housing. They could be rented by Yukon Housing and turned over to social housing for rent geared to income. Thatís a possibility, but that is not the program that we are talking about here, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite is completely wrong.

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Mr. Cardiff:   The minister doesnít know what program heís talking about either. He needs to read the agreement. I donít know how many times I have to say that: read the agreement.

The government has ignored proposals that would have provided training opportunities and lasting jobs for Yukoners. The government turned down realistic proposals for seniors housing, and a survey of seniors clearly shows they want to be downtown, but this government seems to have ignored that.

Once again, theyíve changed these agreements to suit their needs. Why has the government meddled with this funding to the detriment of those most in need of housing?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   Iíll ignore the comment of changing things to meet the governmentís needs, as that perhaps could border on unparliamentary, but Iíll let the member opposite have the latitude on that, and the leader of the official opposition seems to agree.

The member again gets his programs confused. There were proposals on the table for seniors housing, for supported living and assisted living. The proponents withdrew the applications. We didnít turn them down; the proponents withdrew the applications.

One of them, through the Legion, we continue to work with and we just funded their continuing study of how to increase their capacity and to produce that. Weíre funding the studies; we funded the evaluation of a business proposal the member opposite refers to. I invite him to take a look at that evaluation. Ask the proponents ó Iím not allowed to give that out. Itís confidential. Ask the proponents.

Question re:  Contracts, sole-sourcing

Ms. Duncan:   I have some questions for the Acting Minister of Community Services on the Yukon Party governmentís haphazard tendering policy.

Last week we heard how the Minister of Health and Social Services, in sole sourcing the contracts for the Watson Lake health centre, could not outline what the special case was that required such sole sourcing. The Minister of Community Services sole sourced a contract for $1.7 million to an Edmonton firm for developing the concept design for the athletes village project.

The contracting rules, section F, say that in special cases authorized by the minister a contract may be sole sourced. What is the special case? Why does the Yukon Party government think they donít have to follow the rules with $1.7 million of taxpayersí money?

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Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   Once again, for the record, the contracting rules and regulations with respect to all these projects that the member opposite is referring to have been completely adhered to and abided by at all times.

Ms. Duncan:   If the rules have been completely abided by, the minister should not have any problem explaining what the special case is.

The president of the Contractors Association has already said publicly that the governmentís decision to go the sole-source route is a breach of standard protocol used by governments across North America to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for their money. Last week it was Watson Lake. This week it is the athletes village. The minister has not and cannot justify sole sourcing $1.7 million to an Outside company.

How does he justify sole sourcing another $400,000 ó $329,000 for a project manager and an additional $70,000 for management services? Why does the Yukon Party believe that the contracting rules donít apply to their government?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   What I said earlier is that the contracting rules do apply, are being applied and will consistently be applied by this government. There has been no change whatsoever in the procedures and format that is in place under this government versus the previous government ó the Liberal government.

We are following all the rules and regulations. The member is on a fishing expedition. It is not fair to the great number of contractors in the Yukon who are busy at work rebuilding the Yukon that was decimated by the previous two parties in government.

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Ms. Duncan:  † No one has criticized the contractors. There has been criticism because the Yukon Party cannot explain to the public why they used this special case provision ó whatís the special case? $1.7 million to an Alberta firm.

My question related to the other Outside firm sole sourced $70,000 for management services. How did this Outside company get on the ministerís list? Is it because this is the company the Yukon Party hired when they downsized the construction of the hospital? The then leader of the opposition asked the Yukon Party in the House if this Outside expert was, ďwho the minister employed to apparently keep Yukon contracts and Yukoners off the hospital project.Ē How was this contractor sole sourced $70,000 of taxpayersí money? How was he selected? Was he just picked off the Yukon Party rolodex?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Let us correct the record. In the first place, the government has done nothing outside the confines of all contract law, policy and regulation. But when the host society brought this government the terrible situation that they were in with respect to an athletes village ó the host of the Canada Winter Games ó itís this government that had to bail out that project. One of the obvious problems was the need to get a project manager. That was done. Again, itís a sign of a government that will make a decision so that we can get things accomplished, and thatís exactly what transpired here.

There was no way the athletes village was getting built; there wasnít any money for it, nor was there project management in place. This government put those things in place. This government invested the money. This government organized the partnership with the City of Whitehorse, with Canada and with the host society to be sure that an athletes village would be available. We made the choice of investing in the Yukon College for a long, sustainable legacy that will go with the games.

What we have done is contribute to what will be one of the best Canada Winter Games ever ó the first time north of 60 and itíll be a long time before it comes back.

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Question re:  Canada Winter Games, athletes village

Mr. Hardy:   Well, yesterday, the Minister of Community Services answered two questions that were actually addressed to the Finance minister, the Premier, about the exploding costs of the athletes village. Since the Finance minister doesnít seem to like answering questions about his runaway spending, Iíll give the Acting Minister of Community Services, whoever that is, a chance to expand on some of the answers that we got yesterday.

The minister said the government had appointed a project manager to oversee this project. And here Iíll quote from yesterdayís Blues, Mr. Speaker: ďÖto ensure that the village will be built in time for the gamesÖ.Ē ó not a word about keeping the costs realistic. The price of this thing has bounced around like a rubber ball, Mr. Speaker ó $2.7 million, $10.5 million. Now itís $31.5 million. What assurances can the minister, or whoever stands up, give that the cost of this legacy project wonít soar even higher under this spendthrift government?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Well, Mr. Speaker, it took this government, project management officials from related departments, all to come together to actually get a realistic cost of the athletes village.

Let me remind the member that the games, which last for two weeks, require that we provide facilities for 1,800 athletes. Thatís a sizable number of people that we must house here. The option to invest in the college became the option of choice. The costs are realistic. It is all the other issues that were being dealt with when this government got involved and bailed this project out that were unrealistic. Thatís the point here, Mr. Speaker. That is all about sound fiscal management, getting down to what the actual costs will be and providing the necessary resources to do so.

But in this case, we did it through a partnership. Not only is the city contributing, not only is Canada contributing, not only is the host society contributing, but so too is the Yukon government. Itís a partnership with many involved that has got us to this juncture and it is going to be a success, and it is because this government stepped in to help out.

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Mr. Hardy:   What heroes they are.

Yesterday, the minister said part of the escalating cost is due to the fact ó and again Iím quoting ó ďÖ that we are behind the time crunchÖĒ ó and the Premier is saying it now. I know the Premier would love to jump up and thump his chest about higher material cost and no workers available because he single-handedly created a boom economy, but weíve heard that song and dance and, frankly, none of us believe it.

What I want the minister to explain is this: weíve known for years that the games were coming. The first big funding commitment for the games wasnít made by this government or even the last government; it was made by the government before that, the NDP government from 1996 to 2006, which he was part of. Weíve known the games were coming; weíve known the athletes needed a place to sleep; so why did the government get itself into such a time crunch?

My question is, who messed up? Was it this minister? Was it the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation? Was it the Premier? Was it the federal government? Are you going to blame the opposition for this as well, since youíre blaming everybody else except taking the responsibility?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Let us take full responsibility, Mr. Speaker, and letís point exactly to where the problem was and is. The member opposite has said that the money for the Canada Winter Games was the result of a former NDP government. Well, that would include a $2.7-million value put in toward an athletes village.

So obviously we know where the problem is: the NDP, as usual, undershot what the costs would be. Itís this government, with professional involvement, that actually got to the bottom of this and got realistic costs in place and now have moved on to build the facilities that will be Yukon College facilities for long-term use by Yukoners, and we just happen to have the luxury for two weeks of athletes being able to utilize those facilities.

Mr. Speaker, all the investment made here by Canada, by the city, by the Yukon and now by the corporate community is showing that we are embarking on what will be one of the best Canada Winter Games ever hosted in this country. Canada goes on to say itís all about nation building. Thatís what this government has undertaken.

So the problem obviously is the $2.7-million undershot bid.

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Mr. Hardy:   Once again it is the blame game. Thatís all the Premier does ó blame everyone else for everything.

Well, Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Question Period, the Premier said this, and I quote, ďWell, Mr. Speaker, the official opposition simply is not dealing with anything that is factual in their questions.Ē Then he went on to say, ďSecondly, there was no $10-million cost to the athletes village.Ē Whom do we believe? Well, the president of the college, in an interview article dated 2004/08, mentions how it will be complete with a new $10.5 million in residential construction to provide for 1,800 athletes. In September 2004, the coordinator of the project mentions the focal point of the $10.5-million athlete village for 2007 Canada Winter Games is a local benefit ó this is $10.5 million, which contradicts him.

It goes on even more. The former NDP leader ó the former Finance minister ó

Speaker:   Order please. Ask the question, please.

Mr. Hardy:   Okay. Mr. Speaker, enough of the blame game. Whom are we to believe? The people I mentioned or, once again, this Premier and the spin he puts on everything?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Well, the question is obvious. Why, then, did the whole society and City of Whitehorse come to the Yukon government, if all those so-called proposals were realistic in the way they were going to go? That is not the case. They came to the government for assistance. The government stepped in and helped. The reason we did is because we believe in the Canada Winter Games being a tremendous opportunity for the Yukon and the north to showcase to southern Canada the tremendous opportunities here, along with the culture and identity that we have in our rightful place in this federation.

This is an investment in Yukonís future. This is not about the NDP trying to reconstruct what they thought the past was all about. The facts speak for themselves. The government has stepped in to assist the city and the host society ó not only for the cost overruns with respect to the multiplex, but now, too, for a facility for the Yukon College that will be used for the athletes for two weeks during the games.

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Question re:  Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act review

Mr. Hardy:  † In previous sittings the Minister of Highways and Public Works has said that the review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act was in the works. Thatís a good thing and, frankly, itís long overdue. The Privacy Commissioner has been quite outspoken about the culture of secrecy that exists within the Yukon government. The only problem with the ministerís promise to fix the situation is that the minister has managed to shroud it with its own cloak of secrecy. No one seems to know whatís happening, whatís being fixed, who is doing the fixing or what the final result will be. We know more about this governmentís plan to snoop into workersí education-mails than we do about how it will protect the publicís right to know what their government is up to. Will the minister give us a short factual update about what progress has been made so far to make the government more open and transparent, at least when it comes to the ATIPP act?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act is only one ó one ó mechanism of full disclosure by government, but there are certainly many others. The department is in the process of reviewing the act, mostly because of the access to it, the number of uptakes with respect to the act and information required. Thatís obvious, then, that we must look into it to see how we can make it better, so that itís more accessible and more expedient to the public. Thatís what the department is doing. Itís not about shrouding anything in secrecy.

Furthermore, letís talk about secrecy; letís talk about those past governments who did not fully disclose the liabilities of the government by getting around the Taxpayer Protection Act provision. Itís this government that provided full financial disclosure and booked our full liabilities, which included the employees leave liability. Today, this government, this territory, no longer has qualified audits. The Auditor General, once again, has given the territory a clean audit, and one of the reasons is full disclosure ó no secrecy.

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Question re:  Government spending

Mr. Hardy:   Now, here we are in day 11 of this sitting, and it is pretty obvious the government is in lockdown mode. I can understand the Premierís frustration, you know. I really, really can. It must be very frustrating when you believe youíre doing a crackerjack job and nobody out there seems to agree with you. It must be tough when youíre trying your best to convince people you can handle money, but the records show a pattern of erratic, unplanned expenditures. In the retail sector, thatís known as ďimpulse buyingĒ, and the merchants love it. Will the Premier now admit he has a problem keeping costs under control and get some help before he puts our economic future in jeopardy?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Well, Mr. Speaker, I would urge the member opposite to pick up the most recent budget document, and he will see that the fiscal framework certainly is not putting the Yukon in any sort of financial jeopardy. In fact, we had to bail out the Yukon when it comes to its financial position, and the evidence of that is clear. The budgets have gone from $500-million plus, and we were actually borrowing or in overdraft position to pay for programs and services under the former Liberal government, to where we have cash in the bank, a healthy net financial year-end position and a very strong accumulated surplus, with projections into out years that show positive numbers all through.

Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the member to keep on with this line of questioning so I can start reciting the long list of investments that were made that clearly show that there is nothing erratic about what this government is doing at all.

Mr. Hardy:   Mr. Speaker, the Premier can run, but he canít hide. The public knows exactly what the game is here. Weíve heard a lot of excuses about why the costs are going up. Itís the booming Yukon economy. He has used that one. Itís the booming western economies. He has used that one. Itís the price of steel. Itís the shortage of skilled labour. Itís the booming Chinese economy. The funny thing is the Premier loves to take credit for all that booming when it suits his purpose, and he has done that. But then he turns around and blames the very same thing on why he canít deliver projects on time or on budget and the ones he has already cancelled. He canít have it both ways, Mr. Speaker, but heís trying to.

Before next yearís budget and the construction season that follows, will the Premier work with his most experienced officials and ministers to develop a capital construction plan that is realistic and coordinated so that projects donít slip off the rail or fall off the table altogether, as weíve witnessed in the last budgeting?

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Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Well, Mr. Speaker, Iím not sure if it is possible to get the member opposite to understand what is actually happening here in the Yukon. But the member implies that we havenít invested anything, as I understand what he is trying to point out. How is it, then, that for two budgets in a row, the highest capital in the history of the Yukon was invested in this territory, with projects virtually in every community? I ask that question, Mr. Speaker. How is it that there was such an increase in terms of highway reconstruction, if we are doing nothing? How is it, from what was an exodus of our population in 2002 under the former Liberal government ó indeed a mass exodus under the former NDP government, one of the reasons I left the NDP, that they didnít get it ó our population has increased between 2,000 and 3,000 people? How is it that we have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country? Why is it that mining has gone from $5 million a year of annual investment in exploration, and we are pushing $50 million this year? How is it that we finally started drilling in our gas reserves in southeast Yukon ó first time in three decades ó increasing our production in own-source revenue? This is just the tip of the iceberg of all thatís happening in todayís Yukon. Itís a very positive place, unlike what the NDP portray it as.

Mr. Hardy:   Well, well, the Premier wants to take credit for everything as usual. It must be lonely up on top.

Now, I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if weíve touched a nerve. The Premier gets really edgy around this stuff when he is questioned. I know he doesnít like the fact that we suggest that he canít handle the hundreds of millions of dollars being given to him and that he is responsible for. How dare we suggest that there might be something lacking in the planning and the execution of the projects. How dare we. How dare we suggest those things, even though we are far from alone in doing so. The public is doing it. We even heard it from within the Premierís inner circle, and not just when voices are raised behind closed doors.

In the interest of allowing people to judge for themselves how their government is functioning, instead of asking them to accept a managed, muzzled, mutated interpretation from central command, will the Premier now free his ministers and other official spokespersons to speak openly and straightforwardly to the Yukon people?

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Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Thatís exactly what the ministers and all members of this government do on a daily basis. Itís ongoing; itís continuous. I would offer the members an opportunity to look at everybodyís schedules here to see the long list and numbers of people and groups and societies and Yukoners and First Nations and others we meet with on a daily basis to talk about their concerns and about building Yukonís future.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk about fiscal management, all we have to do is look at the numbers. I take you back to the first budget, 2003-04. The Auditor General has gone through our books for that year. We showed a $1-million-plus accumulated surplus. Today our net financial position has risen by millions, and weíve gone to full accrual accounting. As the member points out, when it comes to fiscal management and the ability to handle it, weíve gone from good old chequebook stub accounting by the government to full accrual accounting, which is the way the world operates.

I donít think thereís a problem with fiscal management from the perspective of the Yukon public. The problem is by the memberís own admission, that the member is dumbfounded by the budget. I think that speaks volumes to whatís really going on here.

 

Speaker:   The time for Question Period has now elapsed.

Notice of government private membersí 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 16, 2005. They are Motion No. 421, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, Motion No. 497, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge, and Motion No. 524, standing in the name of the Member for Lake Laberge.

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ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BILLS

Bill No. 57: Second Reading

Clerk:   Second reading, Bill No. 57, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I move that Bill No. 57, entitled Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, be now read a second time.

Speaker:   It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 57, entitled Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, be now read a second time.

 

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I am pleased to be able to speak to this House about amendments to the Small Claims Court Act. After an initial request by the judiciary to review certain provisions of this legislation made late last year, our government approved a consultation that would deal with the amendments to the three areas we are looking at today.

A consultation with Yukoners was undertaken by the Department of Justice to ensure that this legislation would be responsive to the needs of those who would be most likely to use it. It resulted in some very good input, generally positive feedback and helpful suggestions from the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Bar Association, members of the Law Society and various chambers of commerce

I would like to begin our discussion today by setting out the framework for members of this House who may not be familiar with the Small Claims Court. I will first talk about our court system and Small Claims Court in general, and then move on to the Yukon experience.

Canada has both federal and provincial courts, but they do not constitute two separate systems, as in the United States. For example, criminal laws are enacted by the Parliament of Canada, but the laws are administered mainly in provincial courts; thus, provincial courts may hear cases involving both federal and provincial law. Each province has its own hierarchy of courts. The structure and names vary somewhat from one province to another.

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The Supreme Court of Canada has been the final court of appeal since 1949. The Supreme Court has exclusive ultimate appellate civil and criminal jurisdiction within Canada. Appeal to the Supreme Court is normally by application for leave to appeal. The federal government may also refer constitutional cases directly to the Supreme Court. The Federal Court of Canada continues the old Exchequer Court of Canada. It has both a trial division and a federal court of appeal.

The federal courtís jurisdiction is limited. It does not have any diversity jurisdiction with the provincial superior courts, and it is not a parallel court structure to the provincial superior courts. Although in some matters the federal court and the provincial courts have concurrent jurisdiction, the federal courtís principal area of jurisdiction relates to cases arising out of decisions and orders of federal boards, commissions and other tribunals and to such matters as copyrights, patents, and interprovincial railways. Each Canadian province has superior courts of inherent jurisdiction.

The trial level courts may be called the Supreme Court, the High Court of Justice, or the Court of Queenís Bench, depending upon the province. The appellate level may be called the Court of Appeal or the Appellate Division. Some provinces have county or district courts. Most provinces have established special divisions of the Superior Court at trial, such as the family diversion or small claims court.

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Small claims courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that hear civil cases between private litigants. Courts authorized to try small claims may also have other judicial functions and the names of such courts varies by jurisdiction. It may be known by such names as County Court or Magistrateís Court.

Small claims courts can be found in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, the United Kingdom and many U.S. states. The business of small claims courts typically encompasses small private disputes in which large amounts of money are not at stake.

The routine collection of small debts forms a large portion of the cases brought to a small claims court, as well as evictions and other disputes between landlords and tenants, unless the jurisdiction is already covered by a tenancy board.

Typically, a small claims court will have a maximum monetary limit to the amount of judgements it can award. These limits may vary. Upper limits are set in the thousands of dollars or pounds. By suing in a small claims court, the plaintiff typically waives any right to claim more than the court can award. The plaintiff is allowed to reduce a claim to fit the requirements of this venue.

In some jurisdictions, a party who loses in a small claims court is entitled to a trial de novo in a court of more general jurisdiction and with more formal procedures. I will be discussing this in detail later in my speech.

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The rules of civil procedure and sometimes evidence are typically altered and simplified. One guiding principle usually operating in these courts is that individuals ought to be able to conduct their own cases and represent themselves without recourse to legal counsel. In some jurisdictions, cooperations must still appear represented by legal counsel in a small claims court. Rules of pleading are likewise simplified. In many court systems, no answer is required of the defendant, and default judgement is not available for failing to file a written response. Instead, all matters filed in small claims courts are set for trial. Under some court rules, should the defendant not show up at a trial and not have requested postponement, a default judgement may be entered in favour of the plaintiff.

Trial by jury is seldom or never conducted in small claims courts. It is typically excluded by the statute establishing the court. Similarly, equitable remedies such as injunctions, including protective orders, are seldom available from small claims courts. Separate family courts may exist to hear simple cases in family law, for reasons having more to do with history than the sort of case typically heard by a small claims court. Most U.S. states do not allow domestic relations disputes to be heard in small claims courts.

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Winning in a small claims court does not automatically ensure payment of compensation for the plaintiffís damages. This may be relatively easy in the case of a dispute against an injured party or extremely difficult in the case of an uncooperative, intransigent or indignant defendant.

The Yukon Small Claims Court is similar to other small claims courts across Canada in that it is a low-barrier court that is user-friendly and designed to be accessible to litigants who are representing themselves in court matters. When I say low-barrier, I mean simply that fees are much lower than Supreme Court; the process of filing papers is simpler; there is an opportunity for free mediation by the senior justice of the peace and the costs are limited for both the plaintiff and the defendant. I would like to take this opportunity to walk the House through a small claims procedure, so that they can have that knowledge in their deliberations on this bill.

What kind of claim can someone file in Small Claims Court? One may open a file in Small Claims Court to sue for NSF cheques, unpaid accounts, unpaid bills for services you provided, unpaid loans, unpaid rent, costs due to motor vehicle accidents and property damage. One may also sue to recover goods taken or kept without permission. Claims for libel or slander and disputes about land or wills or estates cannot be filed in Small Claims Court.

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Currently, if your claim is more than $5,000 and you do not think it is worth the cost or the trouble of going to the Supreme Court, you can reduce the total to $5,000 to have it filed in Small Claims Court. If you choose to reduce your claim to meet the small claims limit, you must give up any part of your claim that is over $5,000. You cannot divide a larger claim and sue more than once in Small Claims Court for different parts of the same debt.

All these rules will be the same under the changes to the Small Claims Court Act before you. In most cases, the event that resulted in your claim must have taken place in the Yukon. For example, if you pay for goods through the mail from another province or territory and donít receive them, you may have to sue in the courts in the other area.

The time limit for filing a claim depends on the type of claim. You must file a claim within six years of the date when you could have first made a claim for unpaid accounts, promissory notes, personal loans, NSF cheques or damage to property. Claims for personal injury, such as from vehicle accidents, assault, breach of lease or failure to return property, must be made within two years of the event.

Besides the time and money limits, persons who are considering an action in Small Claims Court should think about how likely they are to win. To win a claim, there must be a good and sound legal basis. Similar cases to the one a person intended to try can be reached at the law library and must have been successful.

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A person should also be able to show the court that they have evidence such as copies of unpaid bills to prove that you have a valid claim. The court will hear an oral claim, but if a person has evidence they will more likely be able to prove their case. Individuals should not consider whether they will be likely to collect on their claim in the event that they win the case.

It will be up to the individual winners to enforce any court judgement in their favour. The court staff canít collect your money for you, although they can help you with the forms that you need. In some cases an individual may have to pay more money to enforce their judgement. If they canít find the person who owes them money, if they arenít working, or if they do not have assets, they probably will not be able to collect from them.

Each person should also consider whether it is really worth it to try to collect on their debt. If they win their case, the court may order that they be paid for costs associated with filing their claim, but they may have to spend several hours learning what to do and going through the steps of the small claims process. Individuals will not be reimbursed for the time they spend on their case, or for any wages they lose by going to court. Going to court can also be a stressful experience. Before suing someone, I would urge people to consider sending the other party a letter by double registered or certified mail, clearly stating what you are owed, and demanding payment by a specific date.

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The letter should also state that they will be filing a claim in Small Claims Court if they are not paid by that date. Sometimes communicating in this official way will send a clear enough message to avoid the cost and trouble of going to court. I would remind members of this House that the most desirable outcome is to settle civil matters outside the court process because, even in a low-cost court like Small Claims Court, the cost for settling disputes will invariably be higher in a court setting.

If, as a party to a dispute, an individual is willing to use the free mediation services that are offered as part of the small claims process, they should say so in their letter. Members of the public should also be aware that they may check with Consumer Services if they have a problem with refunds for goods or services theyíve purchased, or for landlord-tenant matters. If a person is owed money from an employer, they can call Labour Services to see if the claim should be handled by that office.

The Law Line can provide members of the public with limited legal information. These services are free, while a half-hour consultation with a lawyer, through the lawyersí referral services, costs $30. This court differs from the Supreme Court because the recovery of costs from defendants or plaintiffs is specifically limited by the regulations of the court and because it only hears matters up to a certain dollar amount.

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In the Supreme Court, legal fees may be recovered, as prescribed by a judgeís ruling, while in a Small Claims Court that discretion is not available to the judge, and the costs are only as set out in the regulations. Before the Yukon Small Claims Court Act and regulations were amended in 1995, it wasnít unusual in the early 1990s for up to 600 or more claim files to be opened annually. Today the number of files opened is around 200. Most of the cases filed before the regulations were changed did not proceed to trial. Today, the same situation is true, although the number of cases that actually proceed to trial is less than half the number that proceeded to trial in the early 1990s.

Why the change in the number of claims that were filed? The large numbers of the early 1990s were due in part to a few large retailers with aggressive collection policies. There are fewer national retail chains offering low-quality credit cards to their customers nowadays, and they no longer seem to follow their previous policies of proceeding to court on outstanding debts. The number of small claims filed has steadily declined since that time, in part because at least two of these retailers are no longer in business in Whitehorse, and our retailers have adopted a different approach to credit than they did in the past.

Mr. Speaker, another issue related to the steady decline in small claims filed in Small Claims Court may be related to the maximum amount of debt that is allowed to be claimed.

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Currently, the maximum amount of debt that may be claimed in Small Claims Court is $5,000. As I have stated, this amount was established in the 1990s. At that time, the Yukon limit was in the middle limit of small claims limits across the country. Since that time, other jurisdictions have been steadily raising their maximum amount. Today, Yukon has the lowest small claim limit in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, today, B.C. and Alberta have already raised the limit of actions in their small claims courts to $25,000, with Nunavut not far behind with a proposed $20,000 limit. In B.C., they have gone one step further by stating that the limit could be raised to $75,000 over time. So why would we want to raise the amount? Well, there is the simple matter of inflation over time. In the 10 years or so since the limit was last raised, the purchasing power of $5,000 has declined. There is the potential for more court matters where the debt claimed exceeds that amount.

There has also been change in the amount of credit available to consumers due in part to low interest rates, a strong economy and the trend by Canadians to spend more and save less. In our consultations there was unanimous support for raising the amount because everyone felt that the amount was too low and not realistic in an era where cars often cost $30,000, lines of credit are routinely set at $25,000, and a great deal of our big ticket items and services cost more than the $5,000 limit allowed for in the current Yukon Small Claims Court Act.

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Small business owners who might feel it uneconomical to hire legal counsel to pursue someone who owes their business money and who would prefer to collect the debt on their own in a low-barrier court found that the low monetary jurisdiction automatically would bump many matters into the more formal and usually much more expensive Supreme Court.

There may be those who fear that raising the limit will adversely affect low-income people or families, because now it will be cheaper to litigate on debts below our proposed $25,000 limit. Some might argue that the higher amounts will see more people brought before the courts by plaintiffs, because they cannot pay. Also, we already have a Supreme Court that allows litigants to proceed with matters over $5,000, so why would we change the current amount?

I would submit, however, that these arguments are fundamentally flawed. They are flawed because, under its rules, the Supreme Court has the ability to award costs to a plaintiff that are much more generous than those that can be awarded by the Small Claims Court. The Supreme Court can award all or part of the costs incurred to hire a lawyer and, as such, it is more likely that persons in Supreme Court will be inclined to use legal representation.

Also, as I have mentioned, in Small Claims Court there is the option of free mediation by the senior presiding justice of the peace.

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This dispute resolution method was used to settle 174 claims filed in Small Claims Court in the last five years alone. In both British Columbia and Alberta, mediation as an alternative dispute resolution method was brought in to mitigate the increase in the amount of claims that were filed in Small Claims Court, as a result of increasing the limit. Both of these jurisdictions felt that, by offering the option of an alternative dispute resolution method, litigants would keep costs down. An added benefit was that administrative costs would be lower, as the number of small claims cases that went to court would be kept to a minimum.

I am pleased to note to this House that, because Yukon already has mediation in place as an alternative to taking matters to trial, we are well positioned to handle any increased volume in Small Claims Court today. We will also continue to encourage litigants to resolve their disputes by continuing our practice of requiring them to attend mandatory pre-trial conferences. Many matters are settled at these conferences and do not require any form of mediation. We also have the ability to reallocated resources between the Small Claims Court and Supreme Court registries because they all operate in one branch of the Department of Justice.†

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If there is an increase in the overall volume in small claims, we will revisit the issue of resources at that time. But at present, there is no anticipated need for more resources over the medium term.

Mr. Speaker, under the current regulations, costs associated with actions in the Small Claims Court are capped at a maximum of $250. This is subsequently less than the amount of costs that could potentially be awarded in a Supreme Court matter. The important concept here is that the availability of costs should be of a magnitude that seems consistent with the nature of the court ó in this case, a user-friendly, low-barrier court.

Filing fees are also far less expensive in small claims courts, with a standard filing fee of just $50, compared to $200 in Supreme Court. A small claims court is designed to be user-friendly, and there is great care shown by our judiciary to help self-represented litigants with the procedures and issues that arise in the actual trials and pre-trial conferences. Since Small Claims Court proceedings are less formal and more conducive to being used by self-represented litigants, this also helps keep costs down for everyone. Awards granted by this court are far less likely to have the skyrocketing costs often associated with legal and court fees.

Mr. Speaker, in any society where commerce is carried out or where humans go about their daily business, there is bound to be disputes. Changing the amounts in the Small Claims Court will certainly not lessen these disputes, but it may result in the people involved in them resolving them in a quicker, more economical manner.

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Increasing the small claims limit therefore provides the opportunity for greater access to justice by our Yukon citizens. It is for this reason that we are proposing this change.

At this time, the opposition might be asking why we donít simply go higher. Why have a maximum at all? My answer to that question is that Small Claims Court was designed to give people a dispute resolution method that was easy to access, simple to use and less costly than the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court also has a role to play with respect to civil disputes. That role will be to deal with matters that are more complex or deal with subject matters where the Small Claims Court has no jurisdiction and therefore cannot handle it. An example would be disputes over land matters.

In speaking with the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Bar Association, our government was asked to consider providing parties to a dispute with the ability to move claims from Small Claims Court to Supreme Court when the judge is satisfied that the claim may exceed $25,000. Currently, the act allows for claims to be moved from Supreme Court to Small Claims Court, but not the other way around. As part of the amendments before this House today, we are proposing that parties to an action be allowed to petition the court to move the claims to Supreme Court if the amount is likely to exceed the maximum small claims amount.

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How would the parties not know the exact amount prior to filing? A scenario to illustrate this situation would be a personal injury case, such as whiplash where, due to the nature of the injury, it may not be entirely clear at the time the action is first initiated, when there may be limited medical information available, whether an appropriate eventual award would exceed the maximum amount the court can award. In such a case, one of the parties would apply to the judge with evidence to indicate that the amount is likely to go over the limit. If the judge accepts this evidence as accurate and therefore concludes that the eventual award might exceed the Small Claims Court limit, he or she would be compelled under the act to move the claim to Supreme Court.

Another scenario would be if a person filed a claim that related to damages to property that had been estimated but not yet determined. In this case, the plaintiff would primarily be interested in the courtís finding of fault before proceeding to have work done, based on an estimate of the cost of repairs to the property.

If the amount estimated was in a range that was from an amount lower than the minimum amount to an amount higher than the maximum amount, and the plaintiff did not want to forego the amount over the maximum, they could petition a Small Claims Court judge to move the claim to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Speaker, these two scenarios will illustrate the changes to the act. Firstly, thereís now the ability to move claims to the Supreme Court by any party, including the judge; secondly, the claimant can forego the amount over the maximum amount in Small Claims Court and keep the matter in a court that will cost less for them.

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Thirdly, there is the ability of multiple parties to a claim to have the matter heard in Small Claims Court if each of the claims does not by itself exceed the maximum. This last provision will allow multiple parties to have their cases heard together, since the evidence may be in common but the decision and award are separated by claimants. For example, take the case of a person who has a car accident and drives through several peopleís back yards before stopping, causing damage that, taken together, would exceed the maximum amount. For the sake of argument, say that each of the three claimants claims over $10,000 in damages from this single accident.

Under the proposed amendments, the claimant will be able to file their claim against the driver and their insurance company in Small Claims Court because the individual claims would not exceed the new maximum amount. They could have their cases heard together, using common evidence from the same event, but any award they receive would be separated by claimant. In this case, we have a single accident with multiple claimants using common evidence and receiving individual awards. In this example, the amendment would keep down court costs, as well as costs for the person who had the accident.

Mr. Speaker, another area in the act that we looked at was the procedure of appeals. When this act and others like it were first introduced in Canada, local magistrates and even sometimes the RCMP would be called upon to hear small claims matters.

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The people hearing the cases were often laypersons, with little or no legal training, so there was a strong argument that the quality of justice received was not of a uniformly high calibre. It was for this reason that small claims courts often had trial de novo process in their legislation that determined how any appeals of small claims matters would proceed. Trial de novo means new trial ó that new trial was usually heard by a judge in a superior court such as our Supreme Court.

In Yukon Small Claims Court today, there is no question about whether the quality of justice received will be adequate because all matters that proceed to trial are heard by fully qualified judges. In addition, the senior presiding justice of the peace, while not a lawyer, has received extensive training in mediation and trial proceedings as well as legal training, so pre-trial sessions and mediation are carried out by a competent person.

To reflect this new reality, we are amending this section and replacing it with a more modern and appropriate appeal process for this court. This new section will remove the automatic right to a new trial in the Supreme Court or trial de novo as the appeal process and will replace it with the process that is centred around appeals based on questions of fact and on questions of law. This appeal process may be overridden should the Supreme Court order a new trial after being petitioned by a party to a small claims matter. However, this trial will be granted only with leave of the Supreme Court and will not be automatic.

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What does it mean to have an appeal based only on questions of fact or questions of law? Quite simply, questions of fact mean that the judgement rendered cannot be supported by the facts in the case. In other words, one party to the case may make the argument that the judge should not come to the conclusion they did if the facts had not been properly considered. The claimant could also argue that the judge did not apply the law directly to the case and, as such, the judgement was an error. Each of these types of arguments can be made only on their merit. The party appealing must make their case only on questions of fact or law. They are not allowed to re-try the case in the Supreme Court, which in this case is acting as the appeal court for matters heard in Small Claims Court. The judge hearing the appeal will make this judgement and then not on the fresh evidence brought before him, but on the basis of the record from the Small Claims Court.

There was also general support for this change from the input we received in the consultation. Given the fact that Territorial Court judges sit in Small Claims Court to hear all small claims trials, I think it is appropriate at this time to make this change. Across Canada there are a variety of appeals processes, including the use of trial de novo in some jurisdictions. Some jurisdictions have what we are proposing today, and still other jurisdictions, such as Quebec, have gone to the other extreme, where there is no right to appeal Small Claims Court matters and all small claims rulings are final.

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I do not think the latter approach is the way to go, but neither do I think that the status quo is appropriate. That is why we have amended this section to use a more common practice that is similar to that found in other courts in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, to sum up, I would like to say that this set of amendments is just one part of a large set of amendments meant to modernize our courts. With that, I would close and hear any comments from the opposition.

 

Mr. Cardiff:   Well, Iíd like to thank the minister for the lesson in Small Claims Court proceedings. His officials provided us with a briefing on the Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, Bill No. 57, and these improvements to the Small Claims Court process are largely welcome. I think that it is probably long overdue. Essentially, moving the limits from $5,000 to $25,000 reflects whatís happening across the country.

There are a couple of things, and I am not all that sure about why ó it is unclear to me as to why, in order to raise these limits from $5,000 to $25,000, we have to come here to the Legislature to do that. This Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act also removes that requirement.

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The government can do that through an order-in-council. That way thereís no need to discuss the raising of those limits. The government can do it at their own discretion. Iím not sure if thatís necessarily a good thing. I donít disagree that raising it to $25,000 at this time is a bad idea, but I donít know that the government should just be able to do that without having a discussion in the Legislature about what those limits should be.

If the public has concerns, we should be able to discuss those concerns here. That particular amendment will do away with the discussion of those concerns.

The only other comment I could make is that, since weíre at day 11 and since this was presented, there was an article in the paper about improving the justice system and the court system. Many people have stopped me and asked me about this particular act. They wanted to know why we were only increasing it to ó and this may be a good argument for what I was just talking about. People on the streets are asking why you are only raising it to $25,000. Why arenít you raising it to $300,000 or $301,000, so that citizens or the government can collect on the Member for Klondikeís debt?

Here we have a government that isnít fully accountable, that doesnít collect bills, and here they have a perfect opportunity to get that money that is owed to the taxpayers of the Yukon, and theyíre missing that opportunity.

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While we support this basically housekeeping bill, we think the government could have gone a little further.

 

Ms. Duncan:   I rise to address Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, at second reading.

I have no difficulty with this legislation. The government has brought forward an amendment that reflects a trend across the country and reflects some research on the part of the department. I have not a great deal of debate for it.

My only concern, which has been outlined by the Member for Mount Lorne, is that section 3 of the bill amends the act so that the Commissioner in Executive Council may by order increase the monetary limit. In other words, the government no longer has to come back to the Legislature to change the limit.

Now, the usual argument put forward is that coming back to the Legislature can take time, be cumbersome and cause delays. The fact of the matter is that this is the place of the publicís debate. This is where our concerns are raised and it is where we do the public business. This order-in-council is behind closed doors. It is not subject to public debate. Itís not subject to review or vote. In fact, the backbenchers on the side opposite wouldnít necessarily even know about it until it was published when the orders-in-council are gazetted ó that is, if itís brought to their attention. Thereís no need for that section in this act, Mr. Speaker. There is no need. It is not unheard of for bills to come to the floor of this House very quickly. We witnessed that in a bill that is scheduled for debate later today ó the Family Violence Prevention Act. First, it was tabled as a private memberís bill and, lo and behold, the government brought it forward as a government bill, with some very minor wording changes. This was done very quickly, in the same session.

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Thereís no need for that section of the act, and it does a disservice to our democratically elected Yukon Legislature to have sections like that in. As innocuous as it may seem on the surface, Mr. Speaker, itís not necessary, and I believe it was a very famous Chinese philosopher who said the longest journey begins with a single step. The erosion of democracy is done piece by piece by piece by piece by piece, and it is sections like this that erode our democratic principles, and I am concerned about that, Mr. Speaker.

On the whole, the bill is a good one. On the whole, itís fairly minor and innocuous, except for that section. I have difficulty with it, and perhaps the minister in his closing remarks would indicate that they would be prepared to delete section 3 of this bill. Perhaps the government will be prepared to ó given that they pledged to the Legislature that they are willing to work in a manner of consensus and collaboration with the opposition, both the NDP and I have expressed concerns about this particular section of the bill. Perhaps the minister would indicate that theyíre prepared to live without that section in the interest of consensus and collaboration. If so, I would applaud the minister in that respect. Openness to suggestions ó that does what we pledge to do each day, to make decisions on behalf of all Yukoners. This would make for a better bill.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to address Bill No. 57, and I do hope the minister will give consideration to that suggestion.

 

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Mr. Cathers:  It gives me pleasure to rise today in support of Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act.

My remarks will be brief today. I want to speak to the importance of modernizing legislation and updating the cap within the legislation. I appreciated hearing the remarks from the member of the third party and the Member for Mount Lorne, their concern regarding giving the ability for Cabinet in the future to change the monetary limit applicable to Small Claims Court, to change the cap, the maximum value of a claim that can be brought to Small Claims Court. Their comments about the concern of giving that to Cabinet are certainly very valid debate. It is a pleasure to hear, particularly from the leader of the Liberal Party, the comments about the erosion of democracy. That is something that must always be taken into consideration.

What also must be taken into consideration is flexibility and the ability to conduct business, and there is always a judgement call involved. In this case I would submit that there are far more significant and serious powers in the hands of Cabinet already and under Cabinet discretion than the monetary limit applicable to Small Claims Court. This is a matter that certainly does have a profound effect on Yukoners who are trying to collect small claims. It is something that can be a barrier to Yukoners if they are forced to go with the more cumbersome court process. This is an example of reducing red tape ó one more example of our government reducing barriers affecting Yukonersí lives.

The thing that I believe should be considered with regard to answering the concerns of the member of the third party and the Member for Mount Lorne is that considering this manner of the cap applicable to applications to the Small Claims Court, itís hard to imagine why any government would want to increase this for some ó Iím not sure if the word ďnefariousĒ is in order, Mr. Speaker, but it is hard to imagine what nefarious purpose any government would have for wanting to increase the Small Claims Court limit, and it seems that, in this case, allowing the flexibility of Cabinet to make that change is not transferring a significant power, taking into consideration particularly the powers already within the jurisdiction of Cabinet that have been within the jurisdiction of Cabinet for many years, and to leave the flexibility in this situation seems to be something that gives us the ability to adapt to the changing times, as the Minister of Justice pointed out.

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The last time there was a review of the Small Claims Court Act, the Yukonís limit on applications was somewhere in the middle in comparison with other jurisdictions and, right now, we have the lowest limit under the Small Claims Court Act.

The world is changing rapidly. Modern commerce and modern finance have changed things significantly, and I would respectfully submit to members that I do appreciate their concern. Itís always something that should be taken into consideration by all members of our society when powers are being transferred or delegated to someone else ó whether itís to Cabinet, to a minister, to officials, or to anyone ó what the effect of that is and what power is being handed and whether that power is significant and whether the decision is well-advised in the interest of flexibility or poorly advised in the interest of wanting to achieve greater control.

In this case, I would urge all members to consider their point, as it is a very valid one, but I see a great need for this in the interest of flexibility and very little in terms of potential downsides. So I would urge all members to vote for this legislation and to vote for the flexibility contained therein. I thank all members for their attention.

 

Mr. McRobb:   I have a few comments I wish to get on the record. First of all, I agree with some concerns that the government side is trying to limit the debate in the Legislature by rubber-stamping a condition that now requires legislative approval. Certainly it is the slippery slope of anti-democracy.

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The leader of the third party mentioned a Chinese philosopher. I would like to think that in Canada we have a better form of democracy than China. I am wondering where the Yukon Party is headed, because the Minister of Economic Development certainly likes to visit China frequently. Perhaps he is taking back some sample legislation for passage in this Legislature. Maybe heís adopting their style, I donít know. But ó

Some Hon. Member:   Point of order.

Point of order

Speaker:   The Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.

Mr. Cathers:   Mr. Speaker, clearly the Member for Kluane is imputing false and unavowed motives on the Minister of Economic Development. I would ask you to have him retract that.

Speaker:   The leader of the third party, on the point of order.

Ms. Duncan:   With all due respect to the Member for Lake Laberge, I didnít hear anything about motives in the Member for Kluaneís comments. What I heard were references to the Minister of Economic Development taking trade missions to China. This is a fact. Iím sure it is a fact that wouldnít be disputed by either side. The minister has undertaken trade missions to China. In fact, so has Canada. I rest my case, Mr. Speaker.

Speakerís ruling

Speaker:   From the Chairís perspective, there is no point of order. The Member for Kluane has the floor.

 

Mr. McRobb:   Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Now, maybe the Yukon Party wants to change the Yukon form of government to more of a Chinese style. I donít know.

Speakerís statement

Speaker:   That past statement would invoke a point of order. I would ask the Member for Kluane to carry on with the debate and stay away from being argumentative in terms of the philosophical relationship between the Government of Yukon and the Government of China. I donít see a relevance here today in this debate.

 

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Mr. McRobb:   Mr. Speaker, I do celebrate freedom of speech, as well.

Getting back to the act, which is the business before us, the minister did mention the provision for pre-conference meetings to attempt to resolve some of the disputes, and I would certainly encourage the availability of those mechanisms in the future. I know there is no requirement in the act, and it is certainly mainly an undertaking by the officials in the department, but it would seem to be extremely worthwhile.

The minister referred to the Landlord and Tenant Act, and I would like to be permitted to speak to that, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me that that other act has come up. It has been mentioned a couple of times now in the past week, both in the debate on this bill and in relation to the safe communities act. Mr. Speaker, I wonder why that other piece of legislation isnít being dealt with. If you speak to people in the department who deal with that legislation, you will discover it is integral to the Small Claims Court Act and other pieces of legislation.† You will also discover that that other act is archaic and is in serious need of updating. As someone who is both a landlord and a tenant, Mr. Speaker, I can personally testify that I have referred to the act on numerous occasions and do see numerous deficiencies in the act. I would urge the minister in his portfolio to also try to develop the accompanying legislation that some of these acts refer to and that he refers to in his debate, Mr. Speaker, and bring in that legislation to be updated at the same time he brings in pieces of legislation such as the Small Claims Court Act, because theyíre all inter-tied, and there is no point in just updating the odd act, Mr. Speaker, when theyíre all inter-tied. Thereís a need to upgrade a group of acts together.

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So thatís the point I wanted to make on the other legislation. Once again, I have to ask the question: why wasnít that work done? Why was it left to some future government to do the work?

 

Mr. Rouble:   Itís my honour and pleasure to rise today with the rest of my colleagues in support of this piece of legislation. From what weíre hearing from the opposition, it sounds like thereís support coming from their benches as well. Iím glad to see we can work together on an issue of concern to Yukoners, and all recognize that we have a need to change this legislation.

The debate today isnít centred around whether we need this or not, because we clearly need Small Claims Court legislation and need to have that type of instrument in our community. Itís an important tool thatís used by private individuals and businesses and itís important in helping people to fight for their rights and what theyíre entitled to and for getting an argument out in the open into a court of law. We all know there are usually at least two sides to the coin or two sides to the case ó the person being sued and the person doing the suing ó and itís always good to get these matters out in the open and to hear both sides, to hear both different arguments.

This bill isnít about a new piece of legislation; instead, itís about making an existing piece of legislation better. It recognizes the need in our community to have a higher limit and it changes that low limit to a much higher and more appropriate one, and it increases Yukonersí ability to seek justice.

Additionally, it allows the government to be responsive to changes in the economy. In the ministerís opening address, we heard about how today the old limit doesnít buy much. I think you could probably buy a television set for more than the old limit.

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The old limit doesnít cover the cost of some vehicle or home repairs. We need to increase the limit.

Weíre all going to recognize, too, that in the future prices will increase, and we will need to raise the limit again. One option that we as legislators could have put in place is to say that we know that this amount is going to need to increase as time goes on. We could put in an automatic escalator, such as increasing the amount by ó pick a number ó two percent a year, and just do a straight-line increase in the amount. That would have been one option. Another option would have been to set the increases to one of the indexes, such as the consumer price index, to recognize that this amount is going to be insufficient in the future, so it should be increased in some way.

Or, as the Member for Kluane is saying, we could attach it to a poll. I think that that isnít part of what has been done here. The government has gone out and talked to Yukoners and found an appropriate figure. We are actually doing what the member opposite has requested ó putting it to a poll ó and putting it to an amount that Yukoners feel is right. We all know that doing a straight-line appreciation wouldnít necessarily work, because some years there isnít any inflation or itís a negative amount, or it increases at a rate that is higher than the predicted amount. Using another index like the consumer price index might not be the best for what needs to happen in the Yukon.

Instead, this new legislation has recognized that thereís going to be a need to increase it in the future and put in place a mechanism for that increase. We all know that things that go through Cabinet are not take lightly. All orders-in-council require an awful lot of work, a lot of consultation and a lot of consideration. It isnít simply a rubber-stamped arrangement.

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So we now have responded to Yukoners by saying, yes, we need to increase the amount. We responded to a need that says we need to have a way to regularly address that, and that is the rationale for putting the ability to change the amount into the hands of Cabinet.

Mr. Speaker, I think this is a piece of legislation that is responding to the realities here in the Yukon, and itís responding to the needs of Yukoners. I think weíve heard support for this from both sides of the floor, and I think we can probably put this to a question fairly soon and unanimously support it. Thanks very much for your attention.

 

Speaker:   If the honourable minister now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

 

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I would like to thank the members opposite for their comments.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to realize that innovative solutions to problems and the acceptance that our courts must grow and adapt is what we are discussing here today. Mr. Speaker, a small claims court is, of course, not the same as a criminal court, but the need to keep that court up to date with the current practices and keep up with conditions in the population that it serves is very important in keeping the courts relevant. In addition, the proclamation date for the Small Claims Court Act amendments will be April 1, 2006, to give the department and, most importantly, the public time to learn more about the changes. It is our intention that the Department of Justice will use this time to develop new forms, brochures and procedures as well as time to advertise the changes to the public. I am very pleased to bring these amendments forward today. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all those persons who took the time to comment on the proposed changes. I would also like to thank the Department of Justice staff, as well as my Cabinet colleagues, for working on and supporting these changes.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Speaker:   Are you prepared for the question?

Are you agreed?

Some Hon. Member:   Division.

Division

Speaker:   Division has been called.

 

Bells

 

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Speaker:   Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Agree.

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 14 yea, nil nay.

Speaker:   I declare the motion carried.

Motion for second reading of Bill No. 57 agreed to

Bill No. 58: Second Reading

Clerk:   Second reading, Bill No. 58, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I move that Bill No. 58, entitled Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now read a second time.

Speaker:   It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 58, entitled Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now read a second time.

 

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I am pleased to be presenting this legislation to the Legislature for its consideration. The Yukon Supreme Court is a very important institution in our judicial system. The judges who serve in this court deserve our respect and, where possible, our recognition for the difficult task they perform in our society.

The Supreme Court is a superior court that hears civil and criminal matters in the Yukon Territory and appeals from decisions of the Territorial Court, Small Claims Court and various quasi-judicial boards.

The court is currently made up of two resident judges, five judges from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and 42 deputy judges appointed from across Canada.

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The Supreme Court follows the rules of the Supreme Court of British Columbia and other rules that judges may set out. The court also issues practice directions as well as memoranda and notices to the bar from time to time. The rules and practice directions are usually authored by the Senior Supreme Court Justice under the old act. Under the amended act, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will be the author of these directives.

The Supreme Court sits on a regular basis in Whitehorse and sits in some smaller communities as required.

Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Supreme Court is not necessarily the last word when it comes to judicial decisions. The Court of Appeal of the Yukon Territory heard appeals of decisions made by the Territorial Court and the Yukon Supreme Court in civil and criminal matters. Appeals from the Court of Appeal go to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Court of Appeal is made up of justices of the British Columbia Court of Appeal and justices of the Yukon Territory and Northwest Territories.

A panel of three judges of the Court of Appeal usually hears appeals. The Court of Appeal sits in Whitehorse once a year for one week, but many of the cases are heard when the court sits in Vancouver. If a case is appealed beyond the Yukon Court of Appeal, the final court in Canada is the Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I think itís important to talk about these institutions in this House. I would like to briefly quote the Right Honourable Chief Justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin, because I think she speaks very clearly on behalf of the Supreme Court and, indeed, all courts in Canada.

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Madam Justice McLachlin states: ďIn these times of turmoil, Canadians are privileged indeed to live in a peaceful country. Much of our collective sense of freedom and safety comes from our communitiesí commitment to a few key values: democratic government, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law and accommodation of difference. Our commitment to these values must be renewed on every occasion, and the institutions that sustain them must be cherished.

ďAmong these institutions, I believe that Canadian courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, play an important role. A strong and independent judiciary guarantees that governments act in accordance with our Constitution. Judges give effect to our laws and give meaning to our rights and duties as Canadians. Courts offer a venue for the peaceful resolution of disputes and for the reasoned and dispassionate discussions of our most pressing social issues. Every judge in Canada is committed to performing this important role skilfully and impartially. Canadians should expect no less.Ē

Mr. Speaker, Beverley McLachlin was speaking in her role as the Chief Justice, and she was talking about the Supreme Court of Canada.

I want to talk briefly about the Supreme Court of Canada, because I think it is important to understand the context and place that the Yukon Supreme Court plays in the court hierarchy.

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The Supreme Court of Canada is Canadaís highest court. It is the final general court of appeal ó the last judicial resort for all litigants, whether individuals or governments. Its jurisdiction embraces both the civil law of the Province of Quebec and the common law of the other provinces and territories. The Supreme Court of Canada stands at the apex of the Canadian judicial system. The Canadian courts may be seen as a pyramid with the broad base formed by the provincial and territorial courts whose judges are appointed by the provincial and territorial governments. At the next level there are provincesí and territoriesí superior courts. In the Yukonís case, it is the Yukon Supreme Court, whose judges are appointed by the federal government. As I have mentioned, judges from the superior courts may be appealed to the next level, the provincial or territorial Court of Appeal. As well, there are the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court and the Tax Court of Canada.

Unlike the provincial superior courts or the Yukon Supreme Court, which exercise inherent jurisdictions, the jurisdiction of these courts is granted by statute and encompasses matters falling within the competence of the federal government. The Supreme Court of Canada hears appeals from the court of last resort, usually a provincial or territorial court of appeal or the Federal Court of Appeal.†

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The court hears appeals from three sources. In most cases, leave to appeal must first be obtained from a panel of three judges of the court. Cases for which leave to appeal is not required are primarily criminal cases and appeals from provincial references as a second source. The third source of cases is the reference power of the federal government, by which the court is required to give an opinion or questions referred to it by the Governor-in-Council.

As this House can imagine, people who are appointed to our courts must be seen to be above reproach when it comes to their credentials and their work history. Yukon Supreme Court justices are highly qualified individuals who come to their positions with impeccable credentials and a history of many years of service as lawyers after they are called to the bar.

In Yukon, the ranking Supreme Court judge is currently referred to as the senior judge. Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned, this amendment will create the position of Chief Justice of the Yukon Supreme Court. This change will make the title of that position consistent with that of similar positions in the other two territories and will reflect a recent change to the federal Judges Act.

The Yukon Supreme Court judges have requested this change because it will grant equal statute with the ranking senior judge in other jurisdictions. This is a minor technical amendment. It only affects the operation of the Supreme Court and does not directly affect the public.

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The federal government appoints Supreme Court judges, and it will also select the Chief Justice of the Yukon Supreme Court. The role of the Chief Justice is to establish court sitting dates and assign judges to sit as is required to carry out the business of the Supreme Court. There is no cost to Yukon for this change.

Mr. Speaker, our institutions are important, and it is incumbent on us as legislators to recognize and support our judiciary. I would like to remind this House that we amended this legislation several sessions ago but, at that time, the change to the federal legislation had not yet occurred. As this House will recall, the previous legislative amendments allowed for an annual general meeting of the Supreme Court judges, including the two sitting judges and the deputy judges. I point this out for the benefit of members who may ask why we make this amendment at this time.

I look forward to hearing comments from the opposition.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

Mr. Cardiff:   Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure today to rise and speak to Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act. Like the previous piece of legislation, this was a recommendation that came from the judiciary, I believe, to make it easier to deal with the court system and to bring us in line, in this instance, anyhow, with federal legislation that is anticipated to pass soon in Ottawa. So I really donít have much to add to that. Itís basically a housekeeping piece of legislation, and I donít anticipate any major hurdles to cross when we get into Committee of the Whole, either.

Thank you.

 

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Ms. Duncan:   I rise to join my colleagues in addressing Bill No. 58, entitled Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act. I appreciate that this is largely technical in nature. I have a technical question that I would like to put on the public record that perhaps the minister could address in his closing remarks.

I have no difficulty in supporting the bill. My concern is that we are doing this in advance of federal legislation. So, in preparation of the House of Commons passing a piece of legislation in the Senate, and the Senate subsequently approving it, we are passing a piece of legislation. My concern, Mr. Speaker, is that the last time we did this, we had to come back to the House and do it all over again, because it was a question of who passes what first. It was the Oil and Gas Act that we had to do twice, because there was a glitch in the way in which we had done the steps of passing the legislation.

I would like the ministerís reassurance that we are not going to have any difficulty in that regard. I note that the House of Commons has not yet passed this and the House of Commonsí status is rather day to day these days. My concern is that I donít want to burden future legislators with having to do something all over again. If the minister could just reassure me on that point, I would appreciate it.

Other than that technical point, this is a technical piece of legislation. Perhaps the minister could address it. The minister is looking a bit puzzled. Would he like me to explain my point again? The minister is nodding.

My point with regard to this legislation is that in past practice in this House, when the federal government had not yet passed their legislation, the Yukon made an error when it passed our legislation first. The example I am citing is the Oil and Gas Act, which we passed.

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And, because the federal government hadnít passed theirs first, we had to come back to the House and do it all over again. I note the House of Commons hasnít passed this piece of legislation yet, so Iím concerned that weíre burdening future Yukon legislators with having to do this again because the House of Commons hasnít passed theirs and, as we all know, the House of Commons is day to day these days.

If the minister could just address that point ó other than that technical question, Iím largely in support of this technical bill. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the ministerís attention to that concern and the time of the members in the House.

 

Speaker:   If the Minister of Justice now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

 

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I would like to thank all members opposite for their comments and support of this bill. Again I want to thank all the staff for the work they did, and my colleagues for bringing this bill forward.

 

Speaker:   Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members:   Division.

Division

Speaker:   Division has been called.

 

Bells

 

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Speaker:   Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Agree.

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 14 yea, nil nay.

Speaker:   I declare the motion carried.

Motion for second reading of Bill No. 58 agreed to

Bill No. 62: Second Reading

Clerk:   Second reading, Bill No. 62, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now read a second time.

Speaker:   It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Jury Act, be now read a second time.

 

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   These amendments are being put forward as part of a court reform initiative that will also see changes to the Small Claims Court Act and the Supreme Court Act. The Senior Justice of the Yukon Supreme Court and the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court jointly approached the Department of Justice officials in December of 2004 to ask the department to begin court reform-related amendments on various statutes, with statutes like the Jury Act having the highest priority. The judiciary worked with criminal bar members and Department of Justice officials to identify possible amendments. The Department of Justice supports the proposed amendments, as they contribute to the priority of involving access to justice for Yukoners.

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Further, the department benefits by being able to act on the opportunity to work collaboratively with the judiciary. The judiciary forms one of the three branches of government. It is an independent body but is an important partner with the legislative and executive branches of government.

For many generations, trial by jury has been a cornerstone of our justice system. Through participation in the jury system, citizens of a community play a direct role in the administration of justice. The jury system is also an important safeguard in preserving our democratic system of government. The right to be tried by a jury that is made up of representatives of oneís peers in cases in which the punishment is imprisonment for five years or more is one of the basic legal rights set up in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Serving on a jury represents one of a citizenís most important duties. By performing this civic duty, we help maintain our own rights and freedoms and contribute to the protection of the fundamental principles of our criminal justice system.

It is an important factor that jurors bring their community values into the formal legal process. The diverse values held by citizens from different sectors of our society ensure that the community at large is represented when a jury passes sentence on an accused person.

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Mr. Speaker, there are criminal and civil jury trials. Juries are also used in coronerís inquests. I will first say a bit about coronerís inquests. There are two instances where an inquest is held. Section 9(1) of the Coroners Act outlines the first instance, and it is discretionary. If a coroner, after an investigation, has reason to believe that the deceased person came to their death as a result of violence, misadventure or unfair means or as a result of negligence, misconduct or malpractice on the part of others, or under any other circumstances that require an inquest, the coroner may hold an inquest. The second instance is mandatory and is guided by section 11 of the Coroners Act, which states, ďIf a prisoner in a prison, jail or lock-up or in the custody of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or a peace officer dies, the coroner shall hold an inquest on the bodyĒ.

Civil jury trials are relatively rare in the Yukon, but they do occur from time to time. Criminal jury trials are the most common. In criminal law, persons accused of the most serious offences have the right to choose to be tried by a judge or by a judge and jury. In recent months in the Yukon, there have been some high-profile criminal jury trials resulting from an unusually high number of homicide charges.

There are many factors that affect the number of jury trials in a year. These factors are not predictable but can include the prevailing crime rate, the number of accused who elect to be tried by a judge and jury, and the number of cases that do not proceed to trial at all. In 2004-05, there were five jury trials scheduled. Three proceeded to the jury selection process.

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To date in 2005-06, nine criminal jury trials, two coronerís inquests and two civil jury trials have been scheduled. Of these, two criminal jury trials and one coronerís inquest have proceeded to date. Three criminal jury trials did not proceed; one coronerís inquest, two civil jury trials and two criminal jury trials remain to be held in the near future. A further one or two criminal jury trials may also be scheduled before the end of March 2006.

Each time a jury trial is scheduled to proceed, the sheriff must summon a large group of citizens to report for jury duty in order to ensure there are sufficient numbers to obtain a jury that is representative of the community. Since 1991, there have been various minor amendments to the Jury Act. The most recent amendment, in December 2001, enhanced the information available to the sheriff when compiling the jury list.

The amendments tabled today make changes to the Jury Act that support practices that have developed over time. The amendments reflect current technology and contribute to improved operation of the process of selecting and managing juries. They are housekeeping amendments that will make the Jury Act easier to apply and understand.

Some sections of the Jury Act are difficult to interpret. The amendments include changes that support plain language use and a more coherent organization of the act.

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Mr. Speaker, the amendments are intended to support cost-effective procedures and contribute to a more effective overall administration of justice. Professionals such as judges, court staff, legal counsel and members of the general public who read and interpret the Jury Act will benefit from these amendments. Mr. Speaker, I will now begin to briefly review some of the amendments that are being put forward. The amendments are not controversial.

Subsection 2(1) has been amended to allow 90 days instead of two weeks to prepare for a civil jury trial. In reality, two weeks is not sufficient time for any of the parties to prepare for such a complex matter or for the sheriff to summons a jury. This type of amendment supports current practice and will contribute to improved operations. Although civil jury trials are not convened often, they can be requested by the party being sued in more technical and lengthy matters.

Subsection 2(2) has been amended to make the civil jury process clearer and to allow for more flexibility to dismiss a jury in complicated civil trials.

Paragraph 3(4)(a) of the act is also being amended to reflect current practices. In practice, it is the sheriff and not the clerk who is responsible for the costs of the jury, including the expenses connected with summonsing a jury panel and paying jurorsí fees.

We have also recognized sections 5, 6 and 7 and 21 of the act and made the language in those sections clearer.

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Section 5, which outlines those persons who are not qualified to serve as jurors, and section 6, which sets out persons exempt from service, have been combined to make clearer who is disqualified from serving as a juror.

The new section 6 identifies those citizens who are exempt from jury duty and clarifies that those falling within this section may choose to serve as a juror, but cannot be made to if they do not wish to.

The new section 7, previously section 21, deals with the application to be excused for religious or hardship reasons. This provision has been moved to the part of the act that deals with potential jurors and persons who have been given exceptions or may be exempt.

Section 5(a) has had an addition to make it clear that persons who have been pardoned after being convicted of a criminal offence for which a sentence of more than 12 months could have been imposed are not disqualified from serving as jurors.

Section 5(j), previously section 6(1)(i), has been amended to include a specific disqualification of Department of Justice employees who are employed in the Supreme and Territorial Court registries, as they are likely to have intimate knowledge of matters before the court which would make them unsuitable to be jurors.

To be consistent and in consideration of other justice officials in a similar situation, section 5(1) has been added. This section disqualifies federal Department of Justice and Correctional Services of Canada employees from serving as jurors.

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Mr. Speaker, section 6(i) is a new provision exempting persons over the age of 65 from the requirement to serve as jurors. It has been the practice of judges to exclude individuals over 65 years from serving as jurors if they request it. To be clear, this means that a person over the age of 65, who has been summoned for jury selection and wants to serve as a juror will be eligible to do so. For those over 65 years of age who do not wish to serve on a jury, it means that they will be spared the expense and inconvenience of having to show up at the courthouse for the jury selection process when they donít want or are not physically able to serve as jurors.

I will continue to review a few more of the changes to the Jury Act. Due to improved technology and changes in actual practices, procedures that are currently in place differ from those in the act. This is not a desirable situation. Legislation and the procedure that carries out the legislation should be consistent.

Further amendments are also being proposed in relation to the compilation of the jury list. Revising subsection 9(2) to allow for lists of not less than 75 names, instead of 48, increases the chance that a jury can be formed from a list. In order to compile a list of at least 48 and now 75 names, it has been the actual practice for some time to summon up to 200 people for a major criminal trial.

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Compilation of the list has been made easier with access to computer data bases. The sheriff can retrieve accurate and up-to-date data in a more timely manner by using this method. As a result of compiling lists on demand and increasing the list numbers, more citizens are likely to be summoned for jury selection and the chance for a representative jury increases. An amendment to subsection 9(1) confirms the sheriffís current practice of compiling a list of potential jurors on demand, rather than once a year.

This amendment requires a further change, which is the deletion of section 13. Section 13 will no longer be necessary, as it explains procedures for the selection of a jury panel from an annual master list. Sections 14 and 15(1) are amended by replacing the word ďpreceptĒ with ďdirectionĒ. These sections refer to the sheriff receiving direction from the senior judge to summon a jury panel to appear. Using the word ďdirectionĒ is simply clearer.

These amendments support plain language use, which is the accepted practice today. Plain language use is appropriate in legislation that is used by people of varying backgrounds, from lawyers and judges to members of the public who are potential jury members.

Mr. Speaker, overall, these amendments will contribute to a more efficient administration of justice in Yukon and will increase public confidence in the justice system. The amendments make the process for jury selection clearer, further ensuring that the trial process is fair.

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Mr. Speaker, once the amendments have been approved, the department will embark on a public education campaign about jury selection and jury duty. Both interest in recent high-profile jury trials and the tabling of these amendments make it timely to talk about the jury selection process and the role of a juror. These amendments are intended to clarify and update the jury selection process, ensure that plain language is used and address existing grammar and consistency issues.

Mr. Speaker, these amendments are not intended to address certain issues such as the challenge of developing an adequate jury list in a small community. Although we are fully aware of the issues related to development of jury lists and forming a jury panel, the department is not able to make changes to the legislation that will help address the issues of jury selection in small communities. The fact remains that the number of citizens in some communities in the Yukon from which juries can be selected is very low, and people in these communities may know or be related to either or both the accused or the victim. The department is recommending these amendments as they support the core departmental objectives of access to justice for all and an improved confidence in the justice system. Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all the staff who put these amendments into place. I look forward to hearing some comments from the opposition.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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Mr. Cardiff:   Itís good to be able to rise today and speak to Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act. The minister outlined the intent of the changes and we donít have any problem with them. Itís always a good idea to improve legislation, especially to make it easier to interpret for the general public, so there is plain language used. I donít know if you could call it plain language ó it could be plainer language than the legalese that is so often associated with legislation. So anything that assists the public in the interpretation of the legislation ó and if it makes it easier for the professionals who deal with this on a daily basis, that is good as well. If it streamlines the system ó I think weíve seen probably in the past year or so more jury trials than we have in a long time. The courts are busy enough as it is. We need to provide them with the tools that they need to operate efficiently to provide that service to the general public in the administration of justice. That way, justice is served in a timely manner, but a thorough manner as well.

We donít have many problems with the amendments as the minister has presented them. I would like to thank the officials for providing the briefing on this matter to our staff, and look forward to hearing from the member of the third party.

 

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Ms. Duncan:   I rise to support this particular bill, and I appreciate that what the minister is trying to do is fundamental to our Canadian justice system. However, if I might for a moment, I would just like to remind the minister and some of the other members listening today to the debate the last time we amended the Jury Act. The Member for Klondike had these sorts of things to say. He referred to the Jury Act as an invasion of privacy; he also said that he deemed ď Ö it to be very, very poor legislation, unnecessary legislation, unwarranted legislation, and the minister is just buying into a departmental request without doing her job, ÖĒ

Those were the comments from the Member for Klondike the last time we debated the Jury Act, and now, my, how things have changed. All of a sudden, the Member for Klondike is suggesting ó and has the Minister of Justice ó bringing forward amendments to that legislation to make it even clearer ó not changing one iota or taking out this bad legislation, according to the Member for Klondike.

So perhaps the next time the members opposite want to accuse the opposition of not doing their job, of not bringing forward substantive debate, perhaps they could hearken back and read a little of the Hansard. A perfect example is the last time we debated the Jury Act.

Lest the Member for Watson Lake think he didnít say anything about the Jury Act the last time, letís just see what he said, Mr. Speaker.

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ďThe official opposition doesnít support this bill whatsoever.Ē We have to remember, of course, that the Member for Watson Lake was in the NDP caucus at the time and didnít support the Jury Act. There was no rationale for it. The territory has never had a problem with compiling juries, so why would we want to do the Jury Act?

There but for a few short stairs ó once they climbed them, they seem to have forgotten the comments they made in Hansard ó their lack of support for things like the Jury Act. Perhaps the members opposite might consider that when they have heard opposition member after opposition member ó both parties over here ó stand up and recognize this bill for what it is. It amends good legislation to make it even clearer, and it does a service for Yukoners, ensuring that we can continue to be incredibly proud of our justice system and know it is there when we need it, and know that it will be fair.

Iíve listened to well-known, respected Canadians talk about the rule of law and the Canadian justice system, overseas in countries such as China, and Iím proud to be a member of this Legislature and to support legislation like this, to agree to it, to not prolong the debate in the House and to respect the rules of the House and understand why the minister has brought forward this particular bill and to give credit to his officials for their work on it.

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I just thank the House for their indulgence in reminding them of their current colleagueís comments when they sat on this side of the House. Perhaps the next time the members opposite are chastising this side of the House, they will remember that the words are recorded in Hansard and they will come back. We remember that. I remember well those days when the Member for Klondike went on and on and on that the Minister of Justice hadnít done her job because she was bringing in amendments to the Jury Act. He chastised her in a very difficult manner that would not be allowed today under your ruling, Mr. Speaker. It would not be allowed.

I would just caution the members that itís not funny. Itís not funny. It wasnít appreciated then and itís not now. I do appreciate the confidence of the people of Porter Creek South, who have put me back here to stand and recognize when the government has done what they should do and improved legislation.

I just want the members opposite to recognize that we on this side are doing what we should do when we ask questions. We are doing it in a respectful manner, which is something that was not seen previously, particularly in debate on this bill and particularly from the Member for Klondike and the Member for Watson Lake. I would ask the minister to recognize that in his debate on the bill. I would again express that I certainly appreciate the reasons for the amendments to the Jury Act, and trust that they will do as they were intended and make the administrative process for jury selection better.

 

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Speaker:   If the Minister of Justice now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

 

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I would like to thank the member opposite for all the comments that were made, and I think it would be of value to maybe put on record now something about traditional knowledge, values and beliefs. One of our beliefs is that the Creator gave you two eyes, two ears and one mouth. That is so you can look at things twice, you can listen twice, and you can speak once. In that fashion, you will be a little safer about what you say with regard to other people.

I also want to state that jurors play a very important role in the justice system and we must appreciate, as a society, the role and responsibility of citizens who are selected for jury duty. It is a very demanding and sometimes can be a very tiresome duty that is being performed.

I would also like to put on record that, in light of the comments made by the member for the third party that, thank goodness, Iím not responsible for comments or opinions made by previous members in the House and that I do recognize the democratic process gives everyone the right to their opinions. I must add that opinions change with time. So what one necessarily may have believed three or four years ago may not necessarily be the case today. Thank goodness that everybody has the liberty to have a change of opinion.

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With that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to sincerely thank all the staff who worked on these amendments, as I know there was a lot of work put into them, and all the speeches that were written are much appreciated. I look forward to discussing this bill further in Committee of the Whole.

 

Speaker:   Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members:   Division.

Division

Speaker:   Division has been called.

 

Bells

 

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Speaker:   Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Agree.

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. 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. 62 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

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Mr. Hardy:   Mr. Speaker, I would ask the House to join me in welcoming Phillip Owen. He has come to the Yukon for the forum on safe communities that will be held tonight from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. He has graciously come to speak at it and to listen to the concerns raised by people throughout the Yukon.

Mr. Owen is the longest consecutive serving mayor in Vancouver history, from 1993-2002. As well, he was instrumental in developing and implementing the Four Pillars approach to substance abuse in Vancouver. The document was presented in 2001, and it is still intact today. It is obviously having tremendous results and a good response across Canada, as well as in Vancouver.

Mr. Owen also has a history in the north. His grandfather came to the Yukon in 1898, first to Atlin. He was posted to Bennett in 1899 and then was back in Atlin from 1902-11. He was the chief constable. His father was born in Atlin in 1904, and he later became the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia from 1970-78. Please welcome Mr. Owen.

Applause

 

Speaker leaves the Chair

 

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

Chair:   Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.

The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 63, entitled Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. Before we begin, would members like to take a brief recess?

Some Hon. Members:   Agreed.

Chair:   We will take a brief recess.

 

Recess

 

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Chair:   Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.

Bill No. 63 ó Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act ó continued

Chair:   The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. Weíll continue with general debate.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:  † I would like to start by saying that it is rather unfortunate that society has to have legislation of this nature to ensure that violence isnít inflicted upon other people. However, it is a fact of life, and therefore legislation must be developed to support the vulnerable in society.

With regard to domestic violence, I think one has to look at the big picture. As the House knows, we have tabled changes to the Jury Act and the Supreme Court Act in this legislative session, and it is my hope that we can continue the modernizing of our courts and that we can enhance our first-class court system with such additions as the already expanded domestic violence treatment option court, as well as the new problem-solving court.

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I am particularly pleased that the problem-solving court has been included in our much anticipated draft substance abuse action plan on which Yukoners are currently being asked to comment. This connects directly to the Family Violence Prevention Act because alcohol and drugs play a big role in and are partly related to domestic violence.

The Yukon problem-solving court, like the amendments to the Small Claims Court, will seek to modernize our courts by using past practices found in other jurisdictions in Canada to create a court that is responsive to the realities of the people who come before the court. The purpose of the Yukon problem-solving court is to create a therapeutic alternative for use within the criminal justice system. Again, it is very important to work with the offenders as well as the victims.††

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The Yukon problem-solving court would be available to offenders with substance abuse problems, both drug and alcohol, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, and/or mental health problems that are significant motivating or influencing factors in the commission of offences.

Offenders who choose to participate in the court will have intensive supervision from a multidisciplinary team of professionals and be required to participate in an individualized treatment plan developed by a team to address the factors that contribute to the offenderís criminal behaviour.

The Yukon problem-solving court will monitor the offenderís progress on a regular basis until the offender completes their program. This court will be designed to address the unique circumstances of life in northern communities. Data and experience indicate that offenders who have drug and/or alcohol addictions, FASD and mental health problems commit a significant percentage of crime in the Yukon Territory.

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The Yukon problem-solving court will be developed to provide a structured environment. The quality and intensity of services will allow these offenders to bring about meaningful change in their lives and, in turn, to contribute to the safety and health of the greater Yukon community. The development of this court process will build upon the Yukonís current unique and innovative practices of interdisciplinary collaborations for the purpose of addressing serious social issues.

The Yukon problem-solving court will allow offenders to access a variety of services specific to harm reduction. The Yukon territorial government is in the process of developing a number of state-of-the-art programs and services to address the needs of high-risk members of the community. These programs include an intensive supervision program through probations services, enhanced mental health services, alcohol and drug services, culturally relevant programming and a variety of programs specific to those who are affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

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Clients who will be involved with the Yukon problem-solving court often experience difficulties with other aspects of their lives. Again, Mr. Chair, I say itís very important and critical for all people who are going to participate in discussing the Family Violence Prevention Act to know that this is all part of the big picture. A lot of these issues are relevant to why there is family violence in the home in the first place.

The Yukon problem-solving court treatment plan will attempt to assist by addressing issues such as employment, housing, social assistance and education. I am pleased that this type of court will be implemented by our government, and it shows our commitment to our court system in these and other changes we have been proposing.

Mr. Chair, the low limit in small claims court was impeding the use of that court, and the appeals process was terribly outdated, given the current reality. This same argument can be made about the regular criminal proceedings that handle the cases of offenders with substance abuse problems. Again, Iíd like to put on record that the Yukon was nationally recognized at the justice ministers meetings last week as having a gem, a state-of-the-art program called the domestic violence treatment option program. Thatís something that Yukon can be proud of, and I think the Yukon can continue to be a role model and a leader for other jurisdictions right across Canada when it comes to dealing with the Family Violence Prevention Act.

Thank you.

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Mr. Cardiff:   Iím glad to finally be at this point. Iíve had some questions that I wanted to have addressed, and this is the place where we have the opportunity to quiz the minister on his thoughts about this particular act. I agree this is an important piece of legislation that addresses an issue that itís unfortunate, as legislators, we have to address.

I have some initial questions that I actually asked on November 1 about statistics. We had been told in the briefing we received that we would supposedly get these statistics. What we asked for were statistics regarding the use of the act and the use of emergency intervention orders, victimís assistance orders and any warrants of entry that had been brought into force.

I believe the last statistics available to us were the statistics presented in the review that was presented in July 2002. Iíd like to ask the minister if he could get those for us now. We did ask on November 1 for those statistics, and we havenít been able to obtain them.

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Those statistics, I would think, should be available in the department.

One of the other things that I asked the minister for on November 1 ó and I asked the minister as long ago as April 28, actually ó was the workplan for the consultation that took place. I know that the consultation is over but I still think that it would be beneficial, for myself anyhow, to be able to look at that workplan to see just how the minister envisioned bringing forward the amendments to this act. What was it that the department actually went out and did with regard to consultation, and whom did they consult? I know the minister listed for me ó I think twice on November 1, once at least ó whom they had consulted. My concern was that I heard from womenís groups and individual women in rural communities that they didnít even know that this was happening, that there was a review. In my view it is unfortunate that some people were left out. It looks, from the list that the minister read in the Legislature, that there were quite a number of groups that were consulted, but it also appears to me that there were a few that were left out.

So I asked him if he could provide that workplan. I asked last April 28 and I asked again November 1. So I would like the ministerís commitment to provide that material, if he could do that.†

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Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   It was our thought that that information was already provided. If it wasnít, we can surely accommodate him and supply that information on the consultation process. If any members of the communities are in the Whitehorse area and feel that they werenít consulted, I would be the first to apologize for that, because it certainly wouldnít have been done intentionally. A large number of stakeholders were consulted, and we felt that the consultation process was fairly extensive.

Mr. Cardiff:   The minister went on at great length in his second reading speech about the domestic violence treatment option. There was a review of the domestic violence treatment option done in November 2001. According to the information I have from the then Minister of Justice ó the letter is dated July 2002 ó it was a three-year review of the domestic violence treatment option. The evaluation was supposed to be finalized in March 2004.†

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If the minister has that document available, I think it would be valuable to all Members of the Legislative Assembly and the public.

I think itís important ó we do all this work in the Legislature here. Thatís one of the reasons why Iím asking for the statistics around the Family Violence Prevention Act, so that as members we can evaluate, as well as the department, just how well weíre doing our jobs, whether or not weíre meeting the goals and objectives that weíve set out for ourselves here to address this important issue regarding family violence and the treatment of offenders.

According to the Minister of Justice of that day, the evaluation was supposed to be finalized in March of 2004. That is a year and a half ago. If that document is available, I would appreciate the minister telling me whether or not the evaluation has been completed and if that document could be made available.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   Iím pleased that the member opposite raised the domestic violence treatment option again. If I may quote Minister Cotler, the federal minister, after the meeting he said, ďThis is a crown jewel that is not as well known as it deserves to be. This is one of the major initiatives with respect to combating domestic violence and to do so in a way that both protects the victim, brings about accountability of the offender, provides for appropriate treatment and therapeutic options and really brings credit to the administration of justice.Ē Our presentation to the table looked not only at the program but also the recent evaluation that was completed on the domestic violence treatment option.

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And I would like to share with this House the finding of that evaluation because I think it shows what a commitment to developing and enhancing our court system can achieve in the delivery of justice to our citizens.

The Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court recognizes that domestic violence is a serious criminal act that requires an integrated and more innovative response. So, I would have to check with the officials and see if that evaluation is now a public document and, if so, I have no problem with sharing it with the members opposite or even this House.

Mr. Cardiff:   The minister also brought up in his remarks today the Yukon substance abuse action plan, which we all supported in this House. One of the initiatives contained in the substance abuse action plan is the problem-solving court, and the minister brought that up today. It kind of jogged my memory. What I would like to know from the minister is: what work has been done to date and if there is some sort of a workplan toward implementing a problem-solving court?

I read a motion last Thursday into the record with respect to this matter. What I am hoping to urge the minister to do ó because I think this is a good idea to have a court that solves problems and looks at both sides of the problems that face society with regard to substance abuse, especially, and to violence as well.

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The motion I read into the record urged the government to take immediate action on implementing the substance abuse action plan by immediately researching the cost, design, implementation and evaluation of Canadian drug- and problem-solving courts and reporting back to this House before the beginning of the next sitting. I know itís up to the Premier to decide when the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly is. It could be in February or March.

Does the minister think that any of this work will be done before the next sitting of the House, so that we could look at the work the department does? Then we could see where we could go with this problem-solving court option. He seems pretty committed to it; he brought it up in his remarks today. I would like to know what his plans are with regard to implementing this. Is he going to go out and look at similar courts in other jurisdictions? Is he going to look at the costs and how we can best make this work? When does he anticipate that that work will be done?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I thank the member opposite for showing such interest in this issue.

I know that I, as minister, am totally committed to ensuring that justice is done to the best of our ability.

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Itís noted that individuals suffering from FASD do have difficulty in the conventional court system. Drug- and alcohol-addicted citizens do have a problem complying with probation orders and whatnot in the system. The problem-solving court thatís being proposed, I believe, would be a very valuable process in the Yukon Territory.

At the justice ministers conference, I did have some discussions with federal officials, and theyíre going to look very seriously at cost sharing this initiative. We are pursuing that at the present time. I look forward to ó and my goal as the minister for the rest of this mandate is to desperately try to have something in place before the end of this mandate.

Mr. Cardiff:   Does the minister have information available in the department or in his office? Weíve done a little bit of research, but Iíd be interested to know what models and which jurisdictions the minister is looking at as examples of how this might work in the Yukon, or are we just proceeding and will design our own problem-solving court? I think itís beneficial, as we tried to do with the safer communities act, to look at other jurisdictions.

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Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, a lot of times itís easier and more beneficial to look at the experiences of other jurisdictions that have kind of pioneered the way on some of these initiatives ó to look at what theyíve done, and then try and make it fit here in the Yukon. Thatís what we try to do by urging the government to use the act that had been implemented in Saskatchewan.

So with regard to the problem-solving courts, these courts ó drug courts, problem-solving courts ó exist in other jurisdictions. Does the minister have information about which jurisdictions they are looking at and what models? Can he provide that information to this side of the House?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   Iíll take those requests under advisement for now, Mr. Chair, but I believe that there are other jurisdictions that do have some courts that deal with healing processes as opposed to incarceration. I believe that the federal government is involved with supporting a few of these problem-solving courts in other jurisdictions in Canada. But I donít think thereís one thing wrong with the Yukon doing a project that is relevant to the Yukon.

I would like to believe that we can take into consideration what other jurisdictions do but I am also a firm believer that the Yukon can develop one of a kind, such as they did with the DVTO Court. With respect to that DVTO Court, it was recommended that every jurisdiction in Canada adopt that model. To the best of my knowledge, department staff have even gone to Europe to explain the DVTO Court.†

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I really look forward to a challenge that we are going to do something thatís maybe one of a kind in Canada. Again, who knows?

Thank you.

Mr. Cardiff:   Well, the minister has said that his goal is to try desperately to have something in this mandate ó so the minister has less than a year to get that done. I believe that it would be beneficial to share with the public the information that the minister is looking at and to have a bit of a discussion that doesnít require a million-dollar consultation. I think it would be good to have some discussion in the public about how this is going to work and how it works in other jurisdictions so that people have an understanding of that. Thatís all Iím suggesting.

The minister said that he had some discussions with the federal government with regard to cost sharing. Does the minister have any idea of ó not necessarily a dollar value, but if a dollar value is available, that would be helpful, or a percentage of how much the federal government would be willing to cost share on the drug and problem-solving court.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I would like to state to the member opposite that at this point in time the discussions are premature. There has not been a firm commitment, but there was a commitment to have discussions around this issue, and the deputy minister will be going to Ottawa in the near future, and this will be one of the issues for discussion.

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I believe that an initiative of this magnitude and importance will definitely not be kept a secret. The public will know about the option of the problem-solving court, as will the opposition.

Mr. Cardiff:   Well, I look forward to hearing more from the minister ó from my perspective, the sooner the better so that the discussions can get underway. We can work with the minister, as well, to try and desperately get this option out there for people who struggle with the conventional justice system. I think itís important that we try to deal with it. There are people who just donít function well within the system as we know it today.

I would like to talk a bit today in general terms about Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. There were several recommendations that came out of the review that, I believe ó actually I am unclear about whether or not theyíre in the amendment to the act.

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One of the recommendations was to ensure that victim services workers were protected by this act. I just want the minister to confirm that that has actually been done in this amendment. If he can tell me exactly where ó I think I know, but I just want him to ó

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   In response to the comments from the member opposite, I would like to state for the record that, as politicians, we are aware of the complications some people have in the justice system and we have a responsibility to do something about it, and thatís why the problem-solving court is now being discussed.

Protection of the workers is covered under clause 9 of the bill and section 15 of the act.

Mr. Cardiff:   There were some other recommendations. There was a recommendation that there be a statutory maximum for emergency intervention orders. I believe that, right now in the act, an emergency intervention order ó that would be subsection 4(5).

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The designated justice of the peace may set a date for the expiry of an emergency intervention order. There was a recommendation, and I donít know the background as to why that recommendation was made, but the people who did the review seemed to think it would be good to have a statutory maximum. I guess the idea would be that after 90 days the victim, or the person who would apply on behalf of the victim, could go back and apply to have it extended. The justice of the peace could extend it, if he felt there was a need to. Iím just wondering why that wasnít acted on. It was a recommendation.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   Well, the department has not acted on that recommendation. What the department is looking for is fair balance between the victim and the respondent. When the victim applies, it can include an expiry date, but not necessarily. The way it is, it forces the victim to make unnecessary applications. Again, it was done this way to better protect both parties.

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Mr. Cardiff:   I think I understand the reasoning, because I think that basically what the department is saying is that theyíre going to leave it to the discretion of the justice of the peace or the judge who issues the emergency intervention order.

But it is interesting that the bill weíre discussing today ó Bill No. 63 ó in the explanatory notes- it says that the idea is to clarify some provisions and eliminate inconsistencies in terminology. Iíd like a response on this. If you look on the previous page to that, so weíd be in section 4(3)(e), the provision requiring a respondent to surrender all firearms. So this says an emergency intervention order may contain any or all of the following provisions. One of the provisions is a provision requiring the respondent to surrender all firearms in their possession to a peace officer for whatever period up to 180 days that the judge decides. Or if a firearm has been used or its use is threatened, the justice shall require the respondent to surrender all firearms in their possession to a peace officer for whatever period up to 180 days that the justice decides. To me, that is inconsistent with what we just discussed.

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The justice of the peace or the judge can have an emergency intervention order in place that could be for 200 days. It could be for one year or two years. If the justice of the peace feels that the emergency intervention order should be in place for ó letís put it this way ó longer than 180 days, and that the use of a firearm has been threatened, the respondent gets the firearm back in 180 days, according to the legislation. To me, that is inconsistent with the ability of a justice of the peace to set the time limits on an emergency intervention order for a period of greater than 180 days.

Can the minister explain why that inconsistency wasnít changed? Maybe there is a good reason. I am looking forward to hearing it.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I think the member opposite needs to consider the word ďemergencyĒ. That is what this is all about. It enables a period of time in which there is no firearm. It gives the officials dealing with this case time to proceed with a criminal investigation. That is what this is all about. It is to ensure that there is a safety net in there for any potential victim of the use of a firearm.

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Mr. Cardiff:   So, if I understand the minister correctly, the period of 180 days is to allow the criminal justice system to decide whether or not they need to press charges, and then the respondent would have to surrender their weapons either on a permanent basis or for an extended period of time ó they would be prohibited by the courts from possessing a firearm. Is that what the minister is saying?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:I believe that that is on the right pathway to explaining it and, you know, there is always that option that one can take the firearm indefinitely, but again that would be up for debate and it is something that was considered in this particular area of this bill. I think that the main goal was to ensure that the firearm was removed.

Mr. Cardiff:   I can accept the ministerís answer there. Something just occurred to me here. I talked earlier about the consultation and the workplan. I just wondered if the minister could tell me: one of the limitations that the authors of the review cited in the review ó they felt they had some limitations back then with regard to doing this review ó was that they didnít have the opportunity to interview or have any interaction with ó I recognize the need to provide for the security and privacy of both victims and respondents in the process. One of the limitations of the review that was done in 2002 was they didnít have the resources at the time to try to contact people who had had personal experience, either as a victim or a respondent, with this act. So, if they had participated in an action ó if they had gone to a justice of the peace and got an emergency intervention order or if they were a respondent and were on the other end ó what were their experiences like. I think that itís important to look at those things when evaluating how this piece of legislation works and to see what people who have first-hand knowledge have to say. We can sit in here and try to speculate about what their experiences were like: front-line workers often work with those people, and some of those people were included in the consultation. But I think, at times, if people are willing to participate, then itís advantageous to listen to what they have to say.

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So, can the minister tell me whether or not any persons in either of those categories were consulted in this latest review of the Family Violence Prevention Act?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I would take that question under advisement from the member opposite. I will confirm whether or not that actually took place.

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Mr. Cardiff:   I look forward to receiving that information from the minister. Iíd like to go back to some of the changes and some of the recommendations that were contained in the report. There were a number of issues that were identified for possible future changes in legislation but they werenít, in the consideration of the authors of the report, part of their mandate. Yet the government, when they did their consultation, included them in the consultation. I think that thatís a good thing, that there was a discussion of these other issues, and we see that the government actually did make some changes. One of the ones was the inclusion of emotional abuse and psychological abuse as grounds for making an emergency intervention order. We think that thatís a good idea.

One of the other recommendations was to increase the penalties for a breach of an order. The government did that as well. But if I read this correctly, if you breach an order, the penalty for the first offence is $2,000. The penalty for a second offence is $5,000.

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Bill No. 63 amends the act to provide for a fine of $10,000 for a second offence and imprisonment of up to 24 months. In the previous one, it was 12 months for a second offence. I am wondering what the rationale was for not increasing the penalty for a first offence.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I would like to state for the member opposite that the report actually recommended that there be no increase to penalties for spousal abuse. However, this government wanted to send a very clear message that this is unacceptable and did increase the penalty. I know that the first year remained the same because it was felt that the penalty was sufficient and we wanted to promote a non-confrontational resolution. However, on the second, there was an increase. That, again, was to send a clear message to the offender that any form of violence is not going to be acceptable to this government and it shouldnít be to anyone in society.

Mr. Cardiff:   Well, I accept that answer as well. I understand the need, in dealing with some of these issues in a problem-solving manner, to try to be as non-confrontational as possible. However, I do disagree with the minister, because when I read the report ó I will read the section from the executive summary of the review.

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It says right there: ďThere are a number of issues that were identified for possible future legislative action, but that require further consideration or were outside the mandate of this review.Ē These include increasing the maximum penalty for breach of an order, or the other option was to link a breach of order to the Criminal Code. But I applaud them for increasing the penalty for the second, and I accept their interpretation of how the act should work and try to work in a non-confrontational manner to try to resolve some of these conflicts. So, I can accept that.

The other recommendation wasnít actually something that needs to be a legislative change, and I also asked for this information. The latest information that I can find on the Internet, or through the pages where information is made available about regulations ó when I look at the regulations that are available on the government Web site ó when a respondent is served with an emergency intervention order ó actually, I might have a copy of that somewhere here in this pile. One of the recommendations was that when the order is served, it should state in bold letters for the respondent what the penalty is if they breach that order.

And when I look at the regulations that are available to me, that hasnít been done yet. Can the minister tell me whether or not itís his or the departmentís intent to make that change?

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Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I can bring that to the attention of the officials.

Mr. Cardiff:   I donít know. To me, I think it makes sense that ó I mean, you can read it to them, I suppose. You can tell them that if they breach the intervention order that theyíre going to get a fine or imprisonment for six months. But I think there is ó in bold letters and itís stuck to their wall or their fridge or they have it in their jacket pocket and it serves as a reminder that this is a serious matter and that theyíre expected to live up to the terms and conditions of that order. Otherwise they will face a further penalty.

There was another recommendation, as well, that the people who did the review felt was outside their mandate but thought should be addressed, and that was the mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect in this act. The minister went forward with doing this review. So there was a review done, and the report was submitted in 2002. One of the recommendations in the executive summary is that two to five years after the issues identified in this report are addressed ó which is what weíre doing now. Thatís what weíre doing now.†

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In the next two to five years, a more detailed review should be conducted to ascertain whether or not the Family Violence Prevention Act is effectively protecting the victims of family violence and treating those alleged to have committed acts of family violence fairly. The idea would be to gain the full picture of how the act is working and ensure that victims are surveyed to assess whether or not they are being served by this.†

For some reason, when the government did the last review, they did include a couple of the recommendations that were outside of the mandate. In their review they included emotional and psychological abuse and they also, if I remember the ad correctly, included those involved in close personal adult relationships that do not involve cohabitation in the act. For some reason, they did not include a mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect. I am just wondering if there is a reason why that didnít happen. Is the minister planning to do a further, more in-depth review of the Family Violence Prevention Act at some date in the future? Does he envision that for a future Minister of Justice in a different government?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I believe that where the member opposite is going with this would fall more under the policy thatís already under review with the Childrenís Act review. The consultation process and review are already taking place for that act. I would assume that mandatory reporting of child abuse would certainly be looked at under that act.

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Mr. Cardiff:   I donít think that you can rely on just one piece of legislation to deal with this matter. It is my understanding that this is contained in other pieces of legislation or in regulations ó and the minister can correct me if I am wrong, but itís my understanding that, in a childcare facility, when a daycare worker suspects that there has been child abuse, they are obligated to report that.

Now, I may be wrong in that, but thatís my understanding of it and I think that there is no reason ó the act is called the Family Violence Prevention Act, and children ó at least in my definition of family ó are part of a family and if thereís abuse happening in a family and it involves children, it should be reported.

When you look at what we are trying to do here, we have included psychological and emotional abuse. You canít tell me, in a family situation where there is psychological and emotional abuse or violence or physical violence happening, that children are not affected. I just donít understand why there wouldnít be something in the act that would require the mandatory reporting of that abuse.

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Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I would state that any family violence reports to authorities would automatically look out for the safety and best interest of the children. Certainly, victims or workers can report this to the authorities, and they are protected if they do. So when there is a domestic violence issue at hand, I am very confident that the authorities would ensure that if there are children involved, they will be taken care of.

Mr. Cardiff:   One of the other issues that comes up ó Iíve had the opportunity to discuss this with a number of people ó is the issue of training. I know that the minister is going to tell me that there is ongoing training, that there is a DVD that is available to RCMP officers that are new to the territory. And thatís one of the reasons why weíd like to see the statistics on the use of emergency intervention orders and other provisions of this act.

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Weíd like to see whether or not itís actually working and how well the people who are responsible for ensuring that the provisions of this act are in force ó how well this whole thing is working.

One of the recommendations ó if the minister wants to read along in the review, itís on page 47 ó talks about training and inter-agency coordination. The idea would be to have a coordinated approach and to have the RCMP and other front-line workers being trained. These people have to work together on a daily basis. It doesnít matter whether youíre a social worker, or you work in a womenís shelter, or you work for the RCMP ó these people all have to work together in order to ensure that the provisions of this act are administered properly and that victims are protected and respondents are living up to the terms of their emergency intervention order.

But from what I can understand, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of victims and people acting on behalf of victims to use the provisions of this act because they donít feel the people theyíre dealing with really take it seriously.

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I think that we can make all the changes to it that we want, but if itís not working out there in the community, weíre not doing our job. Thatís why I have asked the minister for the statistics. I would like to see some sort of an evaluation, so we can be sure that people are not being left behind out there.

I have heard from a number of people that they donít feel that this act works for them, that they are not taken seriously when they phone the RCMP and report an act of violence or that they feel threatened and would like to have some protection. That is what this act is there to do: to provide victims with some protection and to ensure that respondents are treated fairly.

If itís not working, there are a couple of things that the minister can do. One of them is to ensure that there is adequate mandatory training for everyone who is dealing with this act. If it requires a workshop every six months ó or even every three months ó I donít think we can put too many resources toward this.

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Put it this way: we need to work to ensure that all the people understand what the purpose of this is and that they take it seriously, and that includes the justices of the peace and the judges. Everybody needs to be informed about what it is that we as legislators are trying to accomplish here.

It goes back to what weíre trying to do, which is to provide safety for the victims but, to go even further, to pre-empt violence, to make it unacceptable in society for these acts to happen, to stop physical, emotional and psychological abuse in family situations ó and in every situation.

So there is, I think, the ability, if the minister is willing, to resource some more training and, as well, some public education. Itís about informing the public whatís available, what tools are available to them to deal with situations like this.

So I hope that the minister can respond to that. I know that there is training. The minister has told me that they do training. The minister has told me that they have a DVD thatís available to new RCMP who havenít had an opportunity to participate in the training. What Iím saying is that I believe that the minister and the department can do more in this area with regard to training.

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In my mind it should be mandatory and it should be interagency so that people who are working in different work places but come together on this issue and have to work together have a better understanding. They can develop a working relationship during the training so that they can work together more cooperatively and for the benefit of all involved. I know I brought this up with the minister a number of times in budget debate and other times, but Iím hoping that by bringing it up yet again, maybe heíll see the light and be willing to do a little bit more in this area.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I have seen the light. I was sitting there patiently and anxiously wanting to put on the record all the things that the department is doing. I want to also state that this is a never-ending challenge to train people to work in a stressful environment that deals with these kinds of issues. Itís not an easy job. I am confident that the department does the best it can and they are always actively seeking new programs and avenues to help those in need of support. There is not a doubt that they are.

For the record I would like to state that 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 a leader.†

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VictimLINK crisis line is now available 24 hours a day. This toll-free service is 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.

The Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court, again, was discussed quite extensively and is now offered in Whitehorse and Watson Lake. The DVTO is a process that recognizes that family violence is a serious criminal act, but provides a more innovative response to the issue of domestic violence by combating court proceedings with the proven benefits of treatment for the offender.

The victim services 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 their 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. One, the victims program, offers short-term services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault; and two, the womenís program offers longer term, individual, and group counselling services to women who have experienced, or are experiencing, violence in intimate relationships.

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Training has been provided for front-line staff in government, other organizations and communities on the prevention, intervention and management of family violence and 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, sexual abuse prevention, how to work with victims of domestic violence, and coping with vicarious trauma. The unit has also provided peer-support training to individuals working with FASD victims on the ďWith a little help from my friendsĒ 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 Court to RCMP officers in each detachment in the Yukon. They will also receive training in trauma and victimology. An interactive CD-ROM training package has been developed by Yukon Justice and can be used by the RCMP officers that are new to the Yukon and have not yet attended regular training sessions, as the member opposite stated earlier.

The unit also provides a yearly three-day training session for about 40 community members on skill development for community members interested in facilitating a work group as it relates to family violence.

The ďProtect yourself, protect your drinkĒ campaign, also known as the coaster campaign, was launched in the late summer of 2004.

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This is a public awareness campaign that highlights the dangers of date-rape drugs, which can be placed into victimsí drinks. This campaign was done with the cooperation of local drinking establishments that allowed Justice staff and members of the womenís community to distribute the materials to patrons.

This successful campaign was repeated at Christmas, during Rendezvous and in the summer. We plan to run the awareness program again in the fall. In addition to these services provided by the victim services and family violence prevention unit, the Department of Justice also operates the maintenance enforcement program, which helps to collect child and spousal support for Yukon families.

Again, all of this is very relevant to supporting families. The Department of Justice also funds the support variation assistance program, which provides assistance to persons who need to have their support orders varied. The Legal Aid Society provides lawyers for parents involved in child protection matters and permanent custody applications. Again, this was one of the priority topics at the Justice ministers conference: the issue of legal aid and its importance.

The Law Line takes over 2,000 calls per year, of which more than one-third are family law questions; thereís an annual meeting of family service providers; and For the Sake of Our Children parenting programs.

So, Mr. Chair, this is an example of just what is being done in the Yukon. I am quite confident that no one is sitting idle, twiddling their thumbs and trying to decide what theyíll do tomorrow morning. Itís quite evident that people are working diligently to try to address this issue of family violence in the territory.

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Again, I think it is important that one seek understanding of what family violence is really all about and how it got to the state it is in the Yukon today ó or, as far as that goes, across Canada. Why is it there? Again, we have to look at all the contributing factors to family violence. I keep going back to the mission school because it appears that the highest number of victims and offenders are always categorized in the First Nation population. I donít look for excuses, but facts are facts. The residential school was a major contributing factor as to why there are so many First Nations who have issues to deal with today. Basically not having any intervention, whatsoever, to speak of, confirms even more what kind of result you can have from being severely abused as a child and growing up in an environment where there is no bonding taking place, where the family structure is broken down. The list goes on.

There are so many issues that can come into play here that would complement and confirm why we have such a need for a Family Violence Prevention Act.

So, with that, I am going to assure the member opposite that I donít think this government or the governments before this government neglected anything to do with family violence. Indeed, it is the responsibility of the government of the day to improve on supporting victims and also working with offenders in any manner they can.

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Mr. Cardiff:   Well, I knew that the minister would read the list of all the meetings and workshops, but a lot of those activities arenít specific to this act or to the work of emergency intervention orders. I thought I made it clear that what I was looking for was a commitment to try to improve the system, the training and the inter-agency coordination and working together of those agencies.

Now, what I tried to get through to the minister was that what Iím hearing is that there is a reluctance on the part of individuals, whether they be victims or other persons who are applying for an emergency intervention order. I will just try to find the appropriate ó I imagine that this is maybe covered off according to the act; it could be covered off in the regulations ó but itís about access to justice.

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When it talks about which persons are able to apply for an order under the act ó according to this there are three categories: the victim, a member or category of persons authorized by the regulations to apply on behalf of the victim and with the victimís consent or any other person on behalf of the victim, with the leave of a judge of the Supreme Court or a designated justice of the peace. And that is if the nature of the family violence gives reasonable grounds to believe ó and I believe that is changing ó that another person should be allowed to apply on behalf of the victim.

In small communities there are not always these people available. This actually was one of the other things that came up in the review ó access to justice. It ties in with the inter-agency coordination and training. In my mind it does anyway. That is what it says on page 49. Consideration should be given to providing access to individuals, other than RCMP, available outside of business hours, to act as designated individuals to make emergency intervention order applications on behalf of victims.

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They recognize that it could be a challenge to find those individuals. But I think that this is a problem that affects a lot of communities. I think that we need to involve people from the individual communities in this process, and we need to provide support for them. We need to ensure that they have adequate resources, whether itís making emergency intervention orders on behalf of victims or whether itís participating in restorative justice processes in communities. We need to provide that support in every community in the Yukon if this is the direction that weíre going in to deal with this in a more problem-solving manner, a more holistic, healing type of approach to justice, as opposed to a punitive manner ó to get offenders to admit or to encourage them to admit to the fact that theyíve done something wrong and to find ways to deal with that and to correct that behaviour and to heal the relationship with the victim and their family.

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We need to put the resources where they need to be. And if it means finding individuals who are in communities, who are involved in some other way with the justice system ó whether they are involved with restorative justice committees or probations ó we can look for individuals in the community who are interested, who are leaders in their community in matters of justice and violence, and we can provide them an opportunity for some training and they can meet other individuals, both from their community and other communities. I think itís important that the experience is shared. I think it points that out in the report.

I would just hope that the minister would at least look at improving his efforts and the departmentís efforts in that area. I think that it makes sense. I think we need to have some way of evaluating just how well this act is meeting the needs of victims and respondents, and I donít know that weíre doing that.

I hear in communities that there is a reluctance ó whether itís a reluctance to apply on the part of a victim because they donít think the problem is taken seriously enough by the individuals they are applying to, or trying to get an emergency intervention order because they feel threatened, or whether itís the officials, the RCMP or other agencies the victims are dealing with who donít seem to take it seriously.

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That could be for any given reason. It could be that someone phones up and says that they donít feel safe. When it takes two hours to get a reply or they may not come by for half a day, thatís a serious problem. We need to work to improve the system. Maybe the minister needed to hear from a few more people. I donít know what it is. But what Iím trying to convey to the minister is that there is a need for better access to justice, more people in communities that are able to apply on behalf of victims, and more training, and thereís a need for some direction.

We pay a lot of money on an annual basis for a service for everyone in this territory ó I donít know what the figure is. The minister may be able to tell me. My recollection is that it is in the $10-million range for policing services on an annual basis. It may be more or may be less, but it is a substantial sum of money.

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If people in the Yukon arenít feeling that theyíre being well served, then the Minister of Justice is the person who can go to the RCMP ó heís the one who signs off on the policing contract, Iím sure, on an annual basis ó and make it known. The minister is the one who can gain the ear of the Chief Superintendent here in the Yukon, and he can say, ďIíve heard these concerns. I want the RCMP to take these matters a little more seriously.Ē Itís the Minister of Justice who can do that, and I think itís important that he does.

So would he commit to doing that? Because Iím hearing that there are still some problems. Itís not that I donít support the changes that weíre making. I do support the changes. I support all the changes that the minister has put forward. But what I want to do at this point in time is to try to make some improvements ó and not necessarily by changing the legislation but by just providing some direction to the minister and some ideas for him ó on how he could make this better for all Yukoners so we can ensure that itís working better than it is now.

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Thereís always room for improvement. I think the minister can understand that. Could he commit to doing at least one of those things? I donít need to hear the list of all the training and DVDs that are available in the Yukon on this. Iím not trying to make light of it but Iím asking him to take some of the suggestions Iíve made and maybe take some action on that ó could he do that?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza:   I must state to the member opposite that if the member continually asks what weíre doing, I will continually bring up all the things weíre doing.

Regarding some of the comments the member opposite started out with, citing a lot of different initiatives I cited, I would have to say that everything stated by this side of the House today and by me, as minister, is all relevant to any revisions of the Family Violence Prevention Act.

The member is right about one thing: it is a real challenge to find volunteers in communities who would like to be part of an emergency intervention.

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Of course, one never knows what kind of situation one can get into when involved in a domestic violence dispute. As a government we have to continue to work on improving the system. I would have to state today that one very good example of improvement that this government put into place immediately after getting elected was to develop a document entitled Working Without Boundaries. It is an interdepartmental collaboration agreement between Health and Social Services, Justice and the Womenís Directorate.

Again, this project had the objective of improving the delivery of front-line services by Education, Health and Social Services, Justice and the Womenís Directorate to children and families at risk by removing barriers and strengthening best practices for working together.

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The member opposite suggested that the government try to make improvements, and this is a prime example of just what took place. The steering committee that was formed included the deputies from each department. A working group was formed, including different members from within government.

A three-phase approach was approved: one was the information gathering ó several meetings with rural and Whitehorse front-line service delivery personnel and managers to identify whatís working well; barriers to interdepartmental service deliveries and possible solutions ó several one-on-one meetings with targeted non-government service delivery organizations and First Nation workers who share service delivery responsibilities to the same client group to identify whatís working well; and barriers to shared service delivery and possible solutions ó review of existing protocols, recent reports on service delivery issues and court decisions that provide observations respecting service delivery to common clients.

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Again, Mr. Chair, these are improvements to the system. No matter how you look at it, if you are actively seeking out avenues to improve on programs that are delivered, if you are constantly seeking out ways of not duplicating what another department is doing, you are improving on the system, and there is no doubt about it. It only makes good governing sense, and it is one way of ensuring that youíre being financially responsible with the monies that you do put into the programs. By looking at solution identification ó you know, we need to find solutions to a lot of the different issues that arise from different occasions.

To be able to work in collaboration with several government departments is a task in itself. I know that in meetings that Iíve attended on behalf of the government with regard to education ministers meetings and justice ministers meetings, several jurisdictions were very interested in this document, Working Without Boundaries, because it was stated that several have been wanting to be able to try to accomplish this over many years and have not been able to do it.

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Theyíre very interested in knowing how the Yukon was able to put a document together where the various departments could start removing the barriers and start working from the same page.

Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we 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?

Chairís report

Mr. Rouble:   Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 63, entitled 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 Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?

Some Hon. Members:   Agreed.

Speaker:   I declare the report carried.

The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.

 

The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.