Wednesday, April 14, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a detailed response to questions from the opposition regarding allowance for doubtfuls.
Speaker: Are there any other 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. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to promote personal firewood cutting in areas where there is a high fuel load near communities for the purpose of reducing the risk of wildfires.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) access to safe, clean water should be considered a universal human right;
(2) private ownership of water as a commodity is contrary to the best interests of humanity; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to pass legislation preventing the private ownership of water and, through Canadaís representatives at the United Nations, to advocate international adoption of the principle that access to safe, clean water should be considered a universal human right.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Premier to commission an independent inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act into the current financial situation of the town of Dawson City and that the timelines and mandate for such an inquiry be debated and approved by the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to examine the possibility of using waste heat and surplus electricity from the Whitehorse Rapids plant for a community-based greenhouse to produce locally grown produce for Yukon food banks and soup kitchens, as well as for seniors and elders and others with limited financial resources who cannot afford fresh, nutritious produce on a regular basis.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the extraction of methane from coal deposits in Wyoming and elsewhere has resulted in major destruction of the surrounding environment; and
(2) the extraction of methane from Yukon coal deposits using current technology could cause irreparable harm to the territoryís land, waters, wildlife and human populations; and
THAT this House adamantly opposes any activity related to the extraction of coal-bed methane in the Yukon until it can be proven that such activity can take place without any irreversible environmental damage.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to demonstrate leadership in the area of energy conservation by ensuring that all future purchases for the fleet vehicle agency, including purchases of hybrid vehicles or alternative-energy propelled vehicles, be based first and foremost on their ability to reduce consumption of carbon-based fuels.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic Ocean could put hundreds of marine and land-based animal species at risk;
(2) any threat to such species is also a threat to the cultural survival and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the northern circumpolar region;
(3) all jurisdictions in the circumpolar north have a shared responsibility to protect international waters from environmental degradation; and
THAT this House opposes offshore exploration for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean and urges the Premier to communicate this opposition to the Governor of Alaska in clear terms at the earliest possible opportunity.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Mr. Cardiff:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. The minister has hung out a sign announcing that Dawson is under new management, so I have a few questions about just what that means and what the exposure of the government is. Is the Government of Yukon now legally responsible for Dawson Cityís finances including its current operating deficit and the cost of settling outstanding legal actions?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, the trustee is in charge of the City of Dawson and its responsibilities.
Mr. Cardiff: The City of Dawson is also under a judicial order to have effective sewage treatment in place by this fall. Is the minister planning to challenge that order or does he intend to provide the necessary funding in order to allow the municipality to comply with the judgeís order?
Hon. Mr. Hart: That situation is currently under legal action.
Mr. Cardiff: So weíre not sure whether or not the government is challenging it or the municipality is challenging it. The minister wasnít clear in his answer.
Itís interesting to see where this governmentís financial priorities really lie. The minister has access to $50 million for a bridge in Dawson City but anyone who believes in protecting the environment had better be prepared to hold bake sales and pancake breakfasts. What Iím hearing is that no one seems to know just how much the ministerís excellent adventure into municipal management is going to cost for the next year or so, until democracy is restored.
Will the minister be putting forward a supplementary budget for his department, and how big a contingency will that include for running the town of Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Hart: This is speculative information, and until such time as we know specifically what it is, weíll be able to sit down and bring it to the House.
Question re: Dawson City sewage disposal
Mr. Fairclough:Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. Is the minister aware of any pending or potential legal action against the town of Dawson City for continuing to pump untreated sewage into the Yukon River?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we are aware of the situation, and it is under legal aspect right now.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, thatís one area. And Iím sure the minister is aware of the reasons the former mayor of Dawson was not present in person at last weekís council meeting. Just in case, Mr. Speaker, Iíll remind the minister: the former mayor was in Alaska attending a meeting of the Yukon River Intertribal Watershed Council. He was there to persuade this council not to launch an international lawsuit against the town for pumping raw sewage into the Yukon River. Now that Dawson Cityís affairs are in the ministerís hands, what steps has he taken to prevent a possible lawsuit by this international body?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Department of Community Services, in conjunction with the Department of Environment, are looking into aspects that will address the situation that the member opposite has mentioned.
Mr. Fairclough: I was hoping that a lot more information would come from this minister ó and obviously not.
Now, this Yukon government has run out of wiggle room on the question of Dawson Cityís ongoing gift to the downstream environment. The townís affairs are now the ministerís responsibility. The sewage treatment is the ministerís responsibility. Setting priorities for infrastructure is the ministerís responsibility. Now, this government is spending some $160 million on capital projects this year, so the minister cannot play the blame game any longer.
Will the minister make a commitment that a proper sewage treatment system will be in place in Dawson City before the construction begins on the proposed bridge across the Yukon River?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, the departments are working on a situation that will address the sewage system in the Yukon River. We hope to address that in the near future and assist the City of Dawson in its dilemma.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Community Services ó it seems to be his day ó on the Yukon Party governmentís undemocratic takeover of Dawson City.
The MLA for Klondike hired an old friend from B.C. to come up and destroy the former mayor and council in Dawson. He spent months looking for the Dawson equivalent of weapons of mass destruction and never found them. He eventually gave up. In the end, the MLA for Klondike decided he didnít need a reason to take over the city; he would just do it.
The MLA for Klondike, the minister who knows best and who only hears his own voice, was musing this morning out loud on the radio about how it was going to take many years for Dawsonís finances to be straightened out. This is wrong. There is a very simple, straightforward solution: provide Dawson City the money it needs to get back on solid ground.
The government is awash in cash. So much so that it is spending $1.5 million this year as part of a $50-million bridge to nowhere. Will the minister turn this $1.5 million over to the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We provided lots of money to the City of Dawson, and look where we got? We have a recreation facility thatís not there, and we donít have a sewage facility. This whole dilemma has been caused by years of taking the process where it is today. Weíve gone from a $4-million plus to a $4.4-million deficit in the City of Dawson. I think thatís what we have to deal with. We have a very difficult situation. Throwing more money is not going to solve the situation. We have to go in to determine what it is, and then weíll address that particular question.
Ms. Duncan: The takeover of the Dawson City council has nothing to do with financial mismanagement and everything to do with the ego of the Member for Klondike. $42,000 has been spent on an old friend from B.C. to get rid of the Dawson City council and mayor. If the government is truly interested ó truly interested ó in improving the lives of the people of Dawson it would help, and it would help by providing some much-needed financial resources. Itís not like the governmentís broke. They just found $2 million for Whitehorse last week. This government, thanks to the federal government, has more money than it knows what to do with ó so much money that itís wasting $1.5 million this year alone on a legacy project for the MLA for Klondike: a bridge to nowhere. Instead of building monuments to the MLA for Klondike, will the minister put the money where it can help, toward the lives of the people of the City of Dawson, in Dawsonís bank account?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíd like to reaffirm the situation. We have provided Dawson City, as I mentioned before, $10.4 million to assist them in their recreation facility and their sewage plant, neither of which are a completed facility. We are looking at trying to provide Dawson City with some assistance. Thatís why we have Mr. Hayes going in there to assist them, in addition to a new CAO, to assist that town with their process. Until such time as theyíve had time to review whatís going on in Dawson City, we wonít know where weíre really at.
Ms. Duncan: A Yukoner and a member of the public service is assistance ó absolutely. However, itís about cash, and the government demonstrates its priorities by how it spends its money. This governmentís thinking is clearly more focused on legacy projects for the future than on solving the problems of today. If Dawson City is broke, help them pay their bills. Itís a simple solution. Itís obvious that the government could do that. Itís equally clear that itís choosing not to. Why? Why is the minister choosing to sit on a mountain of money instead of giving it to the people who need it, the residents of Dawson? This government has money to build ó $705 million ó yet itís choosing to make Dawson City residents go without today so that the MLA for Klondike can retire and tell everybody about the bridge he built.
Will the minister show some backbone and move the $1.5 million from the misguided bridge project to Dawson City where it is needed now?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would just like to state that we are involved in the infrastructure. We have two facilities in Dawson that are uncompleted and incomplete, so we are looking at those particular aspects on behalf of the citizens of Dawson. Weíre not going to know until such time as the trustee has a look at the situation and determines what it is. We may need $1.5 million, as the member opposite indicates, but we may need $500,000. We donít know what it is today. Until such time as we can sit down and review it, weíll go at it at a later date.
Question re: Dawson City sewage disposal
Mr. McRobb:Well, the minister could sit down, but Iíd like to invite him back to his feet. The minister is no doubt aware that as of March 15, the town of Dawson City is in breach of its water licence. Since itís the ministerís town now, we should say the minister is in breach of the water licence. What options is he currently considering for a sewage treatment facility in Dawson City? Can he tell us that?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, weíre dealing with the Department of Environment on trying to come up with a solution for that particular event.
Mr. McRobb: Itís my understanding that itís only practical to build a lagoon system across the Yukon River from the town site, either where the west Dawson campground is now or in the Sunnydale area. A mechanical treatment option might be workable, but itís required to maintain a proper temperature for the effluent during the cold winter months. As the minister knows, with the Mayo-Dawson transmission line on-stream, the Yukon Energy Corporation is now moving its diesel generators out of town. Such action removes the possibility of using waste heat from those generators in a mechanical sewage treatment facility. Iím interested to know, in his new role as super-mayor of Dawson, has the minister had any discussion about this matter with his colleague who is responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thanks to the NDP for that particular process, so he can address that situation and perhaps respond to it himself the next time he gets up.
The issue weíre trying to deal with in Dawson is the sewage treatment facility and thatís what weíre concentrating on at the moment. Iíll take it from there.
Mr. McRobb: Well, cut the waste, Mr. Speaker. Now this government canít even heat waste with waste heat. Instead, itís fixated on building a $50-million bridge. Iím looking for any evidence that this Yukon Party government has moved beyond the cavalier mindset that the solution to pollution is delusion. Weíve had chunks of that attitude for far too long and so have the people downstream from Dawson, Mr. Speaker. Itís time for the minister to show a rare flash of environmental awareness and give sewage treatment in Dawson City the priority it deserves.
Will the minister direct the new trustee for Dawson City to give priority to selecting an efficient, cost-effective sewage treatment system, and will he commit the funds to pay for it before any bridge-building begins?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would say the trustee has many issues to deal with when he gets started tonight and tomorrow, and Iím sure this situation will be on his palette over the next six months.
Question re: Dawson City, appointment of trustee
Mr. Hardy:I also have a question for the Minister of Community Services. I actually believe heíll also have a lot of questions tonight in Dawson City. Iím really glad to see heís going up there.
The minister has finally ended this guessing game about how he was planning to resolve Dawson Cityís financial problems, and the buck does stop at the ministerís desk now, although Iím sure weíll see lots of attempts to pass it around, and weíre already starting to hear them.
Because weíre talking about value for money, I have a direct question for the minister: how much would the minister have saved Yukon taxpayers by putting Dawsonís affairs into a trusteeís hands six months ago instead of appointing his hand-picked supervisor from British Columbia to supposedly work with this council over the last six months? How much? And I mean total cost ó the cost of the council, the mayor, cost of the buyout of the inappropriate firing of the superintendent who was previously in place ó all the cost.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Thatís obviously a hypothetical question, and I canít respond to it.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to inform the Minister of Community Services that it is not a hypothetical question. Those are hard facts that should be in the hands of this minister right now. He seems to be willing to use certain facts to fire a council, to fire a mayor, to criticize Dawson City, but when we ask him questions about what those figures are, he calls it hypothetical.
It may take a while to sort out how much Yukon taxpayers are on the hook for as a result of the ministerís decisions yesterday, not to mention his earlier decisions ó or lack of decisions ó on the Dawson City file. Weíre starting to get some sense of the governmentís financial exposure, but this is about more than just dollars and cents. Itís also about democracy. Some people in Dawson are talking about how the ministerís decisions fit in with the United Nationsí Declaration of Universal Human Rights. Iím sure many other Yukon municipalities have questions about what might lie in store for them down the road.
Will the minister clarify for the record when, how and under what conditions Dawson Cityís municipal affairs will be back in the hands of a mayor and council elected by the people of that community?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíd like to thank the member opposite for that question. I believe that under the Municipal Act we have to provide the City of Dawson a chance to go back to mayor and council within a year and/or whenever the trustee deems that they are in a position to do so.
Mr. Hardy: Ah, what a relief ó not a hypothetical excuse this time. Thanks very much for that vague answer.
Now, the whole situation has been highly dramatic and traumatic for Dawson City residents. And I know; I was up there, and I heard it. Their town made national headlines again today, but not in the way they would have chosen. Dawson has had some very good headlines, but lately it has been very, very poor.
Like any other drama, most of the real action has been behind the scenes and not right out in front. So, Iíd like to invite the minister to take us backstage for a moment. Does the minister plan to amend the Municipal Act so that his colleague on the front bench can realize the cherished dream of being both Member for Klondike and Mayor of Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I donít even know if thatís a question or a statement that the member opposite is making. For me to respond, itís just not there.
Question re: Dempster Highway upgrade
Mrs. Peter:I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. The budget for 2004-05 includes some planning money for a bridge in Dawson that could end up costing taxpayers about $50 million. Now that Dawson City is getting a bridge to accommodate all that traffic from Alaska, what is the ministerís timetable for the next item on the northern road agenda ó improvements to the Dempster Highway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are making some improvements on the Dempster Highway this year to assist the Department of Tourism with their anniversary of the actual highway.
Mrs. Peter: Itís no secret that upgrading the Dempster is another item on the wish list of the Member for Klondike. However, itís not necessarily on the wish list of people whose traditional territory is most affected. What specific plans does the minister have to consult with the four First Nations whose traditional territory is involved before pursuing any plans to upgrade the Dempster Highway?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíll obviously take our consultation that is necessary for all the First Nation traditional territories the Dempster Highway crosses.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, last year, we learned about a so-called conceptual study of access corridors that could run helter-skelter throughout the Yukon. Weíve learned about railroads and lateral pipelines, but we canít pin this government down on what it has in mind in the longer term. Will the minister give his assurance that there wonít be any major upgrading of the Dempster Highway or any other development of so-called "roads to resources" in northern Yukon until all the legal obligations under the Yukon First Nation final agreements have been met?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iíd like to assure the member opposite that weíll follow due process. Iíd also like to remind the member opposite that Northwest Territories, through their government and their First Nation, just spent $18 million on the Dempster Highway.
Question re: Dawson City financial situation
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have to return to the Minister of Community Services once again. The minister did not answer the questions about the anticipated cost of running the City of Dawson or whether heíll bring in a supplementary with a contingency fund to cover these costs, so Iím going to put the question once again. Will the minister now answer that very important question, even if he can only give a ballpark figure? Weíd appreciate that. I believe the people of this territory would appreciate that, and I also believe the people of Dawson City are expecting that.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I said, once our team gets in there and has a look at the situation, they will bring that report to me, and if need be, I will present a supplementary in the fall.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the minister did not answer the question about what he was going to do about potential legal issues resulting from Dawsonís continued dumping of raw sewage into the Yukon River. Thatís a question that many, many people feel very strongly about, and itís also a question, Mr. Speaker, that is on the minds of many other municipalities, because sewage treatment is one of the outstanding issues with municipalities throughout this territory. What is happening in Dawson is also being monitored by the other municipalities, and theyíll be expecting some assistance and help from this government in that area. So will the minister now explain his departmentís legal position on the judicial direction to have sewage treatment in place by this fall and on the potential of legal action for breach of international treaties? This is an exceptionally important question for many municipalities in this territory.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, this particular case is under legal action right now and I donít believe it is incumbent upon me to mention anything in the House about it right now.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I actually believe that the minister has the ability to answer questions in this House and I believe that there is an onus upon him to answer those questions to the people of this territory. This House is one place where we hope we can get those answers, so we will continue to ask those questions.
Now, the minister did not answer questions about the sewage treatment options. Once again, he has decided to shift it off somewhere else. He has tried to hide. He has hid behind the legalities of it, the Environment minister, the Dawson City trustee, and even the NDP have been thrown in on this mix.
One more time: will the minister make sewage treatment a priority for the new trustee in Dawson City and will he provide the money needed to bring Dawson into compliance with its water licence without any further delay? Itís a very simple question, a very simple promise.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier on several occasions, the new team going into Dawson will have several things to deal with. One of the issues to be dealt with will be the sewage treatment facility. We will be dealing with the actual court cases that Dawson is involved with and, until such time as everybody is up and current, we wonít know where exactly we have to go. But the priority list will be compiled, and we will go from there.
Speaker:Before the leader of the third party starts her set of questions, I would just like to make a request. Your last set of questions came relatively close to imputing motives. I understand that you are not trying to do that, so I would just ask the members to be cautious.
Question re: First Nation forest resources
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, and the Minister of Community Services will be delighted to know that this question is directed to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, following up on yesterdayís question.
I asked a very simple question yesterday; however, I didnít get the answer. Now, the minister has had a day to think about it and hopefully he has come to the House with an answer.
Does the minister believe that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation owns 100 percent of the forest resources in its traditional territories? Itís a straightforward yes-or-no question, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Lang: As we had conversation and questions yesterday directed toward the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, the innuendo is about the Kaska deal we signed with the Kaska First Nation, which was an extension of the MOU that was signed by the previous government ó and that we jumpstarted the forest industry in southeast Yukon. It will certainly benefit all Yukoners; it will certainly be a very constructive thing to the economy in southeast Yukon. This deal ensures the Kaska First Nation and the Yukon government share in the revenues and it also honours the commitment made by that MOU, signed by the previous government, extended with an AIP with the Kaska. Itís good news for the Kaska, itís good news for southeast Yukon, and whatever is good news for southeast Yukon is good news for Yukoners.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there are two agreements. The agreement negotiated by the member opposite and by the Yukon Party government has 100 percent of the forest resource royalty revenue going to the Kaska First Nation.
In a March 8th speech to an oil and gas conference in Calgary, the Premier announced he was prepared to begin negotiations with the Acho Dene Koe First Nation on a transboundary land claim. The Acho Dene Koe is based in Fort Liard in the Northwest Territories.
The minister has already put on the public record ó the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has stated he believes the Kaska people of British Columbia own 100 percent of the forest resources in southeast Yukon. He has also agreed to give them 100 percent of the stumpage fees on all timber in the southeast. He has not yet made up his mind on Carcross.
Does the minister believe the Acho Dene Koe own some of our resources as well? For example, under the Umbrella Final Agreement, only the Yukon First Nations are entitled to oil and gas royalties. Is the minister offering those royalties to another non-Yukon First Nation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the question from the third party, understanding her limited knowledge on the subject.
Weíre talking about apples and oranges when weíre talking about the two First Nations. Weíre dealing in southeast Yukon with an Indian Act band, which has traditional rights in the southeast Yukon. As far as 100 percent of the wood, they own 100 percent of the withdrawn lands, the R blocks, in the southeast Yukon.
In our deal, R block forest potential comes into the scenario to make up our partnership on how weíre going to harvest and benefit in 100 percent of the forest industry in southeast Yukon. So as far as 100 percent of the royalty, again I feel for the opposition when they donít do their homework. One hundred percent of the royalty is dead wrong. Theyíre getting the stumpage. And everybody knows, in the forest industry, thereís an upset price. Part of that upset price is stumpage. There are engineering costs. There are reforestation costs. There are silviculture costs, administration costs ó theyíre all added on. Our partnership is beneficial to everybody in southeast Yukon.
Now let me remind the members in this House: who shut down the forest industry in southeast Yukon and then who started the forest industry in southeast Yukon? This is a good deal for all Yukoners. Our partnership with the Kaska is very positive; it is opening the forest industry in southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: What weíre talking about, in spite of the rhetoric from the minister opposite, is resource royalty revenue, and the minister has put those for the first time ó 100 percent of them ó on the table. He has yet to answer the question whether or not the minister is putting Yukon resources on the table for another non-Yukon First Nation, the Acho Dene Koe. That was the substance of my last question. The substance of the first question related to Carcross; he has yet to answer those.
The Yukon government and the federal government, over the years, have taken a position that transboundary land claims would not include resource royalties for non-Yukon First Nations. In fact, the Yukon Party themselves, on their own Web site, have always been opposed to giving ownership of Yukon resources to non-Yukoners. One of the main advisors to the current Premier describes it this way on the Web site: "The Yukon Party was opposed to the COPE agreement in principle, because it established an unacceptable precedent for transboundary claims in the Yukon".
I would be delighted to not only ask my question but to actually receive an answer. Is the minister putting Yukon resources on the table for another non-Yukon First Nation, the Acho Dene Koe?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you for that very long question from the leader of the third party. Sheís dead wrong on the royalty. We entered into an agreement, and she knows very well what that agreement was. Itís a public document. We are sharing in the resources in southeast Yukon with an unsettled land claim, which is the Kaska First Nation.
Transboundary ó the member oppositeís government put 190 square miles on the table for a transboundary First Nation in southeast Yukon, and they didnít settle then. Our government has to work with the cards we were dealt, and the cards we were dealt was a memorandum of understanding signed by the last government, which we worked on and signed an AIP. And the leader of the third party can hide behind whatever she wants, but the facts are open today. The forest industry is open in southeast Yukon, and weíre moving ahead with economic development in southeast Yukon in full partnership with the First Nation, which happens to be the Kaska First Nation, on its traditional, unsettled land.
Sheís dead wrong on royalty, dead wrong on negotiation, dead wrong on where sheís coming at with this question. This question is answered in legal documents.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. Weíll proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 232
Clerk:Motion No. 232, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party
THAT this House urges the government to begin the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre immediately; and
THAT the necessary funds for the redevelopment be brought forward in a supplementary budget in the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Ms. Duncan: Contrary to what was stated in Question Period, Iím very much alive and very pleased to be able to speak on a factual basis with respect to this motion. Much as it may pain some of the members opposite, the facts are clear, and Iím still alive and still here.
Mr. Speaker, the Whitehorse correctional facility is an issue that I feel very strongly about. Itís an issue that is about the right thing to do. And I feel very strongly that this particular facility should be redeveloped and reconstructed, and I have brought forward the motion today in the hopes that all members would speak to it and support a genuine desire to see the redevelopment proceed as soon as possible. Justice delayed is justice denied.
Iíd like to speak this afternoon from not only my work here in the House as a Yukoner and from knowledge but also from the heart. Itís an attempt to reason with the members opposite, particularly with the Minister of Justice so that she in turn has an arsenal with which she can go to the Management Board table and with her caucus and do the right thing and proceed with the reconstruction of the correctional facility in a supplementary this fall.
Iíd like to set the scene so that listeners who are listening currently or who may be viewing later can visualize whereof we speak. Personally, as members know, I grew up in Takhini, went to school there. There is an elementary school near our correctional facility. Many, many Yukoners have fond memories of the former Takhini Curling Club and the recreational centre near where there is a condominium development now. I can recall, as I was in working in Ottawa at the time, a number of Yukoners applied to develop the land for the Softball Yukon complex, which is across Range Road from where the Whitehorse correctional facility is now located.
A former member of this Legislature, the former Member for McIntyre-Takhini, can claim political credit for the development of Yukon College near where the Correctional Centre is located, and also of course the Arts Centre, which is the pride of all Yukoners throughout the territory.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre was in this location before the softball complex, before the College, and it survived past the curling club and recreation centre, and the elementary school continues to coexist in the particular area.
During the Ostashek government, the current Minister of Justice served as a political assistant. That government ó not necessarily the now minister ó may have started to become aware of the problems and the difficulties and the fact that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre was ageing. I would like to support this conclusion by referring to 1997.
If I might, just to refresh ó not everybody was in the House at that particular point in time or may recall; the Yukon still has somewhat of a transient population ó the Member for Riverside at the time, Mr. Cable, asked the then Minister of Justice this question. I am quoting, Mr. Speaker, but I wonít quote extensively: "The Barr Ryder report, done in January 1995, reported on the condition of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and it outlined more than 25 non-security deficiencies." The 1995 report would have been done under the Ostashek government. This is my point with respect to that.
The Barr Ryder report, specifically, as I said, outlined more than 25 non-security deficiencies. These deficiencies related to health and the physical condition of the building; they included problems with the propane system, the plumbing system, the ventilation system and the sewer system.
The then Member for Riverside asked the Minister of Justice why, nearly three years later, all the problems in the Barr Ryder report hadnít been addressed. The then Minister of Justice said that she would provide an update. As weíve all witnessed in Question Period from various sides of the House, there are a variety of answers that are provided.
Mr. Cable went on and asked if the minister would release the report, and the debate between Mr. Cable and the then Minister of Justice went on for some time ó in fact, during the life of that government. In 1998, the member tried to follow up with the then Minister of Justice on this particular issue and asked again if he could get a copy of the report. There were issues around dealing with privacy issues and so on, and the fact was it was also noted by the Minister of Justice at the time that the Barr Ryder report also dealt with internal management issues at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. It was a long report and it had several recommendations.
Many of the recommendations then, Mr. Speaker, dealt with not only the physical condition of the building but the impact the physical condition of the building was having on those who were required to work there.
Very clearly two issues emerged during that legislative session of the NDP government. First and foremost, the jail had to be replaced and the fact is itís neither healthy for staff to work in nor for the inmates.
During the election campaign of 2000, the Liberals were clearly on the record, thanks to the work of the former Member for Riverside, as recognizing the need to build a new correctional facility.
Now, the current Minister of Justice and I and many members of this House are familiar with the fact that, upon being elected to government, there are briefing notes and there are briefing notes and there are briefing notes, and so on. Thereís also the big, bad trajectory of spending and thereís no money and you have to get a handle on it, the governmentís broke, and so on.
The fact is that, very clearly upon being elected to government we were made aware ó and it was confirmed ó that the present correctional facility could not be cost-effectively renovated; there are safety concerns and only a new facility would do. We were also made aware that there were a number of other issues to be dealt with. So as a government we worked toward the Correctional Centre redevelopment ó with respect to finding the money and committing the money ó and there was considerably less money available than what the current government has to work with. We also worked on revamping offender programming, revising staff duties and offering training ó as the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin asked the previous Minister of Justice ó and building relationship with the community and also rewriting legislation work on the Corrections Act. There was a project coordinator; the dirt had been turned; work had begun; initial contracts had been let.
Now fast-forward even further to today, and what Iím asking is all members of the House to support a motion for the Yukon Party government to immediately recognize that the detailed construction plans and consultation exists with respect to redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and to further delay this redevelopment is a denial of safety and security for both inmates and employees. Itís a straightforward motion. I believe it is worthy of support, that it can be supported as worded. It doesnít require referral to a committee. It doesnít require an amendment to when funds allow because, quite clearly, in a $705-million budget, the money is there; the money is available.
And quite clearly, all the evidence ó the evidence from Hansard, the evidence from past information presented not only to our previous government but to this government as well ó shows that the jail has to be replaced, not repaired. The current government is having difficulty spending the $500,000 budgeted for repair of the jail because it canít be repaired. No amount of repair is going to enable that building to meet safety codes. It puts the fire marshal and those responsible for ensuring safety codes are adhered to in an untenable position. It cannot be repaired. It has to be replaced. Even to the Yukon Party government this has to be obvious.
There have been a number of reasons ó some might call them excuses ó as to why the construction where the dirt had already been turned could not proceed. One was consultation. To say that no consultation took place on the replacement of the jail is simply, to quote another member, Mr. Speaker, dead wrong ó absolutely dead wrong, an expression, I would suggest, we should perhaps visit as questionable as to its usage.
However, the excuse seems to be, "Well, we havenít done enough consultation, so letís not build the jail until we consult, letís not replace it, letís find a way out of building a jail. So weíll consult about it." Extensive consultation has already been conducted by a building advisory committee that included not only the departments of Justice and Government Services and Council of Yukon First Nations ó extensive consultation ó but also the staff who work there.
Extensive consultation has been done. In addition, there has been extensive work on revamping offender programming. Work was done by our government on rewriting the Corrections Act. That work had begun. Most importantly in all of this is that the Council of Yukon First Nations Elders Council regional working group was consulted extensively by the minister of the day and by staff. Issues were discussed ó detailed, specific issues were discussed and resolved. Some of these included First Nation programming at a new facility, after-care, and the specific building design. Staff at the jail were consulted and kept updated on the progress of the new facility.
Iíd like to ask to the minister, when she responds to this motion: where are the staff now? How have they been consulted in this top-down, unilateral decision to delay the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre? Staff at the Correctional Centre have waited far too long. To make them wait further, as I said at the outset, is denying them a safe environment to work in.
There are references in Hansard as well to questions asked of the then Minister of Justice about the occupational health and safety standards in place at the jail.
To say there arenít proper plans for the facility is wrong. Plans exist. Construction had begun.
The minister and the Yukon Party government have hung their hats on an agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I would remind them that there was extensive work with the Contractors Association on the plans and reconstruction of the jail, and many of those same contractors have had significant agreements with Kwanlin Dun with regard to employment on the jail ó significant.
Previous governments to ours had an agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation with respect to the construction of Copper Ridge.
There is no reason for delay of the construction of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. To say there was not the consultation is incorrect ó itís factually incorrect. There was extensive consultation. To say there was no attention paid to the larger issues of offender programming or the Corrections Act is factually incorrect ó that work was done as well.
As I opened my remarks, I pointed out that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, in its current location, has a long-standing relationship with the community. It has been in place for many years and the community has grown around it and has coexisted with it.
Yesterday the minister said ó or earlier this week; it may not have been yesterday ó that she would follow the Childrenís Act model. The Childrenís Act model is, by current estimates, two years at least and $600,000 and, in the meantime, whatís happening to the children? There are issues that have to be dealt with. Itís an expensive exercise, considering what has already been done, Mr. Speaker.
I have had the understandable privilege of sitting on the other side, and itís a dilemma. Building jails isnít very popular. Itís not nearly as popular with a large segment of the public. The public thinks, "Well, theyíre just prisoners." Well, weíre talking about people and weíre talking about safe, secure, healthy places. Weíre talking about after-care; weíre talking about offender programming; weíre talking about a facility where safety is a major concern.
There are also individuals who work there on our behalf. You know, itís much more politically expedient to build schools, to build roads, to build bridges, for some ó things that some people support. As a government, however, with a public responsibility, you have to take a much, much broader view. You canít be motivated by politics or by one riding concern over another; itís about doing whatís the right thing to do. The government knows in its heart and knows on paper through Hansard, through briefing notes, through the Barr Ryder report, through talking to their own constituents ó some of whom are employed in that facility ó that rebuilding the jail is the right thing to do. This isnít about whatís good for one riding or whatís not good for another riding; itís about whatís the right thing to do for the whole Yukon. Itís unconscionable not to rebuild that jail.
The minister has to have the support of this House to go to Management Board, to go to her colleagues and say, "Look, the evidence is there. We have to rebuild this facility." She needs our support in this House at the Cabinet table.
The government has chosen to build a bridge in Dawson. That ignores the health and safety concerns at the jail. Construction of that bridge is a straight political decision, a choice made at the Cabinet table.
This choice needs to be revisited because the choice should be the right thing for all Yukoners, and the right thing to do is to rebuild that jail.
Fixing up the existing jail for $460,000 is a waste of money. The ministerís own officials are telling the government it canít be fixed.
The Minister of Education, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, is shaking his head. The building, since 1995 ó the health, safety and security deficiencies then havenít been addressed. Weíve had propane leaks, weíve had breakouts, weíve had break-ins. The facility is past its best-before date ó way past. No amount of money is going to enable you to put a sprinkler system, as required by the building safety code, inside a concrete building. Itís done ó we have to rebuild it.
To say that there hasnít been consultation, and we have to wait and canít build it ó itís not correct, itís not accurate. The fact is, consultation has been done. Another excuse ó "Well, it canít be built there." Well, financially, building it on that site is affordable, could be done, the plans exist. Those plans exist in consultation with staff, in consultation with the Council of Yukon First Nations Elders Council. The design exists and all the information is there.
Another suggestion is that the government is obligated by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation agreement to work with Kwanlin Dun First Nation on a new building. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation worked with the government on the building of Copper Ridge. The Kwanlin Dun First Nation worked successfully with Yukon contractors in the development of Mount Sima lots. To suggest we need another agreement, a separate agreement with one First Nation outside of working with what is existing, is another excuse. Itís another excuse to delay the jail. It seems that if itís not in the Premierís riding or the Deputy Premierís riding, it doesnít seem to matter. The fact is that this issue does matter. Building jails may not be ó I canít think of a better way to describe it, Mr. Speaker ó it may not be a sexy political issue. Itís the right thing to do.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The leader of the third party has the floor. Please carry on.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
When the Speaker said that I have the floor, the Member for Klondike said that thatís all I have is the floor. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, I also have the evidence, and Iíve shared the evidence with members today. I would ask members to listen to what I have to say, to go back ó if they do not accept that I have quoted accurately from Hansard or that I have quoted accurately from the work done by our government, then I invite them to read the documents for themselves. The plans, the construction, the work with First Nations, the work on offender programming, the work on the Corrections Act, the legislation ó all that work has been done and is ready for the Yukon Party government. The problem is that the Yukon Party government needs the political will to act.
In order to have the political will to act, I am asking all members of this House to support the motion so that the Minister of Justice can go to her Cabinet colleagues and say: "I have the support of the House, this is the right thing to do, and now letís get on with it." Letís get on with it in a small supplementary budget. Letís do the right thing and rebuild the jail and letís get started on it.
End the stalling. Put the money in the supplementary this fall. Prove that all of Yukon is a priority and that this government ó the Yukon Party ó does accept that rebuilding the jail is the right thing to do.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to membersí debate of this motion.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I rise today to speak to this motion urging our government, the Yukon government, to begin the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre immediately, according to the motion, and that the necessary funds for this redevelopment be brought forward in a supplementary budget at the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Now, I would first like to thank the leader of the third party for bringing this motion forward for a couple of reasons. The issues surrounding the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and its very replacement are indeed a very important matter and certainly deserve full debate and full scrutiny among all members. So, for this very reason, it really is indeed my honour and privilege to speak to the motion. Not only is it an opportunity to present an overview of perhaps what has happened in the past, where we are today, but more importantly, where we are going in the future. It is also an opportunity for my colleagues and me to share with members opposite and with all Yukoners our vision for the future delivery of corrections in the territory.
A lot has been said by the leader of the third party, and I certainly appreciate all the work done to date; there is no denying that. I donít believe Iíve ever said that no consultation was ever taken in the past. In fact, I recognize a fair amount of consultation was taken. Iíve always recognized that in this House. Iíve never taken issue with that. In fact, what we have always said ó at least I as Minister of Justice ó is that we in fact recognize the work that was completed by all previous governments. All the work that has been completed to date will not go by the wayside, but rather it will be reflected in future work with respect to the future redevelopment of the Correctional Centre.
So just to put things in context here, when we talk about corrections, we talk about corrections, and its whole existence is to provide safe, secure and humane administration of the sentences of the court.
Corrections encompasses a wide range of services and interventions, as members opposite are fully aware. It includes having a correctional centre; it includes providing probation, programming, prevention and after-care services as well, as the member opposite referred to earlier.
Corrections does not operate independently; rather it responds to how the court constructs sentences. Itís therefore by and large a relatively reactive system that responds to the court and the judicial system. As such, it is influenced by the trends and decisions of these other systems.
I think itís very important to take note and to take heed of its very influence because, as I have stated on a number of occasions in the Legislature here, there have been a number of changes over the course of the last few years ó changes in the sentencing patterns with respect to the treatment of offenders and, in particular, aboriginal offenders that reflect both the historical and structural conditions of our aboriginal peoples.
These changes have meant, in large part, that other options ó for example, for community-based supervision and support for aboriginal offenders ó must generally be explored before an aboriginal offender is sentenced to custody.
So, Mr. Speaker, there is truly a need to develop a correctional system in the Yukon that reflects not only government-to-government relationships with our Yukon First Nations and the needs of its members in light of the land claim agreements and the implementation of these final agreements, and their ability, in turn, to administer their own justice agreements on their own land.
It is truly unfortunate that members opposite perhaps donít appreciate the very importance of working with Yukon First Nations on a government-to-government basis. Itís something that was reflected in our platform during the 2002 election, and itís something our government takes pride in. I believe we have been working very hard and very proactively with each of the Yukon First Nations, not just the ones within our Premierís riding or the Deputy Premierís riding, but all Yukon First Nations, as we are obligated to do and as it is in all Yukonersí best interests to do so.
As a result of those actions, we have truly seen the ability for us to be able to address some of the very social concerns confronting our territory as well as some of the economic plight, thanks in large part to actions of previous governments.
And again, Iím very pleased to say that thanks to the efforts of First Nation governments, our government, the actions of our employees and the private sector, we have been able to work on our economy. As a result, we have been able to garner a very low unemployment rate. Weíre putting Yukoners to work on a number of initiatives, and itís not just done solely with government spending, but it is also producing that climate that is conducive to the growth of the private sector.
Getting back to corrections ó corrections, as I have also stated on a number of occasions in the House, must also determine best ways to address the chronic, multiple needs of each of our offenders in order to reduce the current revolving door that we see all too often. The Premier has alluded to this very problem that we see in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre as well as other correctional centres throughout the country, and it is a problem. It is also a problem that the majority of our clients within the Correctional Centre here in Whitehorse are of First Nation descent.
There is also a need to enhance public safety through reducing rates of crimes committed by known offenders. I have always stated, and will state again, that the safety and security of our Yukoners is of utmost importance to me as Minister of Justice ó it is my obligation ó as well to this government. And I work very hard in my particular position as Minister of Justice and pay very close attention to matters at hand and what is going on.
Last year the Yukon government, as members opposite are fully aware, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation outlining our governmentís very intent to work with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and all Yukon First Nations to review a design and develop programs for use at the new correctional centre.
This action perhaps was not received well by all members opposite. In fact, I think it has been received perhaps with a lot of scepticism. But when the actual memorandum was signed, it was signed by the Premier with the chief and council at that time. There was a commitment made to involve all Yukon First Nations ó all Yukoners ó in the very design, delivery and evaluation of the future corrections to be delivered in the territory. At the same time, we also made the commitment to work with Kwanlin Dun First Nation on the design of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, on different options as to how the facility would be constructed, its ownership. But one caveat that we stated was that the facility, regardless of what would happen, would continue to be operated under the Yukon government. That has never been a matter that has been disputed by any of the other parties, except for perhaps the members opposite.
Again, by singling out Kwanlin Dun First Nation, as the member of the third party alluded to earlier ó it is not true. We made that commitment to fully involve all Yukon First Nations in the discussions and we chose, as our obligations under the land claim agreements as well, that we would fully involve Kwanlin Dun First Nation as the facility happens to lie within the territory of the First Nation and that we would engage and fully involve them in the type of facility to go up as well as potential options surrounding its ownership.
I should also say that the memorandum of understanding truly and clearly sets out our governmentís commitment to a more inclusive approach to corrections and honours the spirit of the economic development provisions in the final land claim agreement that was reached, ratified and signed off by the First Nation.
It is exactly for some of those reasons we chose to sign a memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun. I know it has been stated on many occasions by members opposite that, yes, while I was absent from the actual signing ceremony, I thought it was very important that I also approach the staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to give them an overview of the memorandum of understanding and provide an explanation for why we have chosen to go down this road and what the next steps are. So I thought it was very important that I be there with our staff and explain that to them.
I have also repeatedly stated in the House that our government is committed to replacing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. To say otherwise is just not true. And I will state it again: we are committed to the replacement of the facility. I have also stated, however, that our government wishes to ensure that the project replacing the actual Correctional Centre properly reflects the needs of the community it serves.
As I mentioned earlier, we are living in a time when the justice system is going through some very substantial, very significant changes, such as those resulting from the settlement of land claims in the territory, as well as some significant changes in sentencing patterns.
Our government feels, therefore, that careful yet comprehensive consultation must take place before we proceed further with a redevelopment project. When we talk about consultation, we talk about consultation with Yukon First Nations; we talk about consultation with the employees of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre; we talk about consultation with a whole variety of community stakeholders, and all Yukoners for that matter. We have, as members opposite know, a consultation protocol with Yukon First Nation governments in place. As a result, we work with Yukon First Nations to arrive at a process that is comfortable among all governments and one that is both meaningful and also transparent.
The leader of the third party referred to the Childrenís Act review and how that was costing over $600,000. Well, you know, it is certainly a lot of money; thereís no doubt about that. $600,000 will buy a few houses. When I also look at the money we are designating to children in care, when we look at the money weíre designating to our health care system, to alcohol and substance abuse, when we look at money thatís being directed to the justice system, for example ó I like to think that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is kind of the last-stop shop. There is a whole host of events that transpire before one unfortunately ends up in the Correctional Centre.
While $600,000 and some is a lot of money, I think it is an investment in the future of Yukoners and the delivery of services that will hopefully certainly result in improved services to our children and to our families. It is a family-driven approach. Very similarly, that is exactly what weíre looking at in corrections, perhaps having a community-based approach that is program driven instead of facility driven.
This whole idea of a holistic approach, a community approach, is certainly one that is being adopted more so in many of our jurisdictions in Canada. Itís not a new approach. Itís an approach that has been built on family values of respect, of sincerity and commitment for positive changes. So these values have been in our lives for many years, and certainly many generations before me, and this is an approach we wish to carry on with.
Itís an approach we think is well worth the $600,000 some or the $500,000 some; we think itís very worthwhile, very pertinent, very prudent and very responsible to take that extra step and to engage all community stakeholders, whether it be in a review of the Childrenís Act or a review of corrections or a review of education ó I think itís a good one. Itís an approach our government has taken over the last year and a half and will continue to do so.
When we talk about the consultation, I will put on the record again that I recognize the amount of work that was completed by the previous government and the government before that. I recognize and appreciate wholeheartedly all the work that was done by all stakeholders: the Council of Yukon First Nations elders advisory council, the building advisory council.
What Iíve also said in the House is that all that work would be reflected in future discussions and future decisions surrounding the new development of the Correctional Centre.
Now, in the Childrenís Act review, I have to say that a number of discussions to date have taken place between me ó whether it be the Premier ó and the various First Nations around the territory, including the Council of Yukon First Nations leadership, Kwanlin Dun First Nation and Liard First Nation, to name but a few. And of course we have had a number of occasions to also discuss this very important initiative with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.
And actually, at one of the last leadership meetings of the Council of Yukon First Nations I did broach with the leadership around the table, again asking the leadership and seeking their guidance as to the best route to undertake a consultation that reflects ó that was both meaningful and transparent. I referred to the Childrenís Act model as a model that is very comprehensive, very transparent, and appears to be working very well. It is a model that was just recently worked, only recently developed among the Minister of Health and Social Services and the leadership of Council of Yukon First Nations. It is a model that entails many of the leaders of our territory and also takes place or encompasses a gathering of views from many of our community stakeholders, Yukon and federal government departments and agencies, including the staff directly involved with children in care. And that is exactly what we had proposed as being perhaps the model to proceed with.
At that table, the sentiments that were expressed around the table were certainly very appreciative of the opportunity to provide the input as to how we proceed with the consultation and very much interested in proceeding with the consultation. In fact, there were a couple of leaders around that table who both agreed that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre being planned by the previous government was in fact not the way to go perhaps and that, instead, what we should be doing is taking a look at what programs we can offer in the communities, what programs we can better deliver in the Correctional Centre and how we engage the very citizens of the Yukon in better delivering these types of very important services.
So, I came out of that meeting feeling very encouraged, feeling that I had a very strong mandate from the table and feeling perhaps even more entrenched in my view that this is the right road to go down.
While I appreciate that there is a need for a new facility ó there is no doubt about it; Iíve never disputed that fact. I will be the first one to tell you: I have taken a number of visits to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, whether it be one of the feasts during solstice or whether it be a tour of the facility with some of my colleagues, and I appreciate the need for that replacement. I certainly fully appreciate the very fact that our staff, our employees and all of the individuals who work within the corrections system are reminded of that very fact on a daily basis.
I have to say I applaud their efforts. I commend their work. Itís a tough job and not everybody can do it. I certainly applaud their efforts and I think theyíre doing an exemplary job, a fine job. Despite the criticism we get from across the way about how things are not handled properly, investigations perhaps arenít taken properly or what we could have done better, Iíve always said on a repeated basis that itís not only important but itís our obligation to undertake a number of evaluations on an ongoing basis with respect to how we can better deliver programs, better deliver services, perhaps looking at our policies and procedures. Itís an ongoing effort on everyoneís part. I have a lot of respect for those efforts. Right from the superintendent of the facility to the director of corrections to all of the individuals from probation to delivering community justice in each of our communities, they are all to be applauded. That is the type of work that we appreciate, and we want to see how we can better enhance those services and programs.
When we talk about consultation, we would like to proceed with a process that is similar to the Childrenís Act review. I had a meeting recently with the Grand Chief of Council of Yukon First Nations, and again it was reiterated at that time that he has a strong mandate to proceed and he very much wants to proceed with consultation as soon as possible. I agree. Iím very encouraged by the Grand Chiefís words and very enthused by his commitment to this initiative. Itís a very important part of his mandate and itís one that we are very much committed to proceeding with.
The purpose of the consultation ó perhaps the member, the leader of the third party, doesnít seem to be very clear on what the purpose of the consultation is. Weíve done that, been there. Well, the consultation is to stimulate and provoke discussion among all Yukoners ó among our stakeholders. Itís to help inform and raise awareness regarding changes in our sentencing patterns, the changing inmate profiles and the impacts of First Nation final agreements through the administration of justice agreements.
The consultation process is to ensure that the views of all Yukoners are taken into account in the review of corrections in the Yukon. Itís also to reflect our government-to-government relationship between the Yukon government and First Nation governments in the territory. And, of course, the consultation is to provide programming in the new correctional facility that reflects the needs and cultural sensitivities of the inmates, programming that will ultimately help define the scope and design of a new correctional facility in the Yukon and to determine what programs and services can also be delivered in our communities.
So again, itís very important to note that, prior to any decisions being made, careful consideration by all users and service providers is certainly sought, included and maintained with the utmost importance.
When we talk about community stakeholders, I refer to the staff, the employees of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the Council of Yukon First Nations, Yukon First Nations, Yukon government departments and agencies. I refer also to the other consultations taking place, such as the Childrenís Act review. I believe the discussions flowing out of the Childrenís Act review will also be very pertinent to the consultative exercise that will transpire on the corrections front.
Itís not just about corrections: itís about prevention; itís about intervention; itís about education; itís about preschool; and itís about providing healthy choices. Itís all of those things, and itís tying in all those things. While I certainly donít profess to know all things ó in fact, far from that; I continue to be on a very large learning curve, but Iím very confident but we have nothing but to gain through this very important initiative. Itís all about learning, and itís all about doing better for Yukoners on behalf of Yukoners.
There are individuals, agencies, and different entities to be consulted ó the federal government has a large role to play in this particular initiative ó our municipalities, the womenís organizations ó the womenís shelters and transition homes have a lot to say ó and our Health and Social Services Council. We have the Fetal Alcohol Society of the Yukon and they will certainly have a lot to bring to the table.
We talk about our judiciary, our legal counsel and our legal professions. We talk about community justice projects. We have a whole number of various initiatives transpiring in the territory, offering various forms of restorative justice for delivering community justice in the territory. They have a lot to say and they have a lot to contribute.
I think about the RCMP. I think, of course, about our union. I think of Crime Prevention Yukon and all the other agencies working toward crime prevention. I think of CAIRS. I think of youth organizations, and on and on and on. So, contrary to what the leader of the third party has alluded to, this is not going to be a closed shop. Itís not going to be just a simple consultation. Itís not going to be an exercise to deviate from our obligations, responsibilities to administer justice here in the territory. Actually, itís a very sincere initiative and commitment on our behalf and we think that itís very pertinent, very responsible, to take the time to spend the money ó whether it be $600,000. I think itís very important that we go down this road.
So, as I mentioned earlier, the goal of this consultation is to offer Yukoners an opportunity to provide their views on the future of corrections ó what works, what doesnít work and what can be improved within both the correctional facility inside and outside in our communities. These views will, in turn, help guide future decisions about the building of a correctional facility and the various aspects of programming to be made available.
Just to reiterate, work such as that completed by the Council of Yukon First Nations, the elders, will certainly be instrumental in guiding future discussions with all stakeholders.
Now, within this review, an overview of corrections in Canada needs to be considered. Similarly, an overview of what aboriginal initiatives are currently offered elsewhere in the country needs to be looked at. Right here at home, an overview of Yukon corrections, including a whole host of things, including inmate profiles ó we look at the numbers, the needs, the types of crime, the types of diversions undertaken.
Corrections in the Yukon, as members may or may not be aware, must address a whole host of offender needs in relation to both security and rehabilitation. Because we are a very small jurisdiction does not mean that Yukoners or our offender population are immune to some of these very diverse needs. So when we look at corrections, it must encompass, therefore, the needs of both sentenced and remanded inmates, both male and female offenders, offenders with serious substance abuse and trauma issues, minimum-maximum security level offenders, and offenders with disabilities.
Corrections must also encompass offenders on conditional sentences, intermittent sentences, custodial sentences and also probation orders. Unlike most other jurisdictions, Yukon does not have a cascading system ó call it what you will ó which provides a wide range of custodial options. Rather Yukon has one option, that being our Whitehorse Correctional Centre. So there are certainly a lot of different demands, a lot of different needs that we must address solely within this facility, as well as outside the facility.
Another thing, when we talk about an overview and what is to be considered, I mentioned earlier, we have to look at the sentencing patterns. Now there have been a number of changes in the patterns with respect to the treatment of offenders and in particular aboriginal offenders. In particular, I refer members to 1996 in which changes were made to the Criminal Code, which allowed the judiciary to sentence offenders to serve their sentence in the community.
Of course, more recently, in 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on section 718. This ruling, known as the Gladue decision, found the need to do a number of things, including the improvement of the serious problem of over-representation of aboriginal offenders in our prisons. Also, it encouraged sentencing judges to take a restorative approach to consider the unique systemic factors that may have played a part in bringing the offender to court and, of course, to also use imprisonment as a very last resort.
These changes are evident in corrections today since very few people who are charged end up being sentenced. As proof in the pudding, I refer to a report of Canadian Corrections, in which a study looked at 100 incidents reported to the police, 96 percent of which are found to be actual incidents. Of those incidents, 34 percent are cleared by means other than a charge, of which 22 percent of these offences result in charges. Of those charges, 15 percent or fewer result in convictions. Ultimately, only four percent of all incidents reported to the police result in incarceration.
When I first read that, I was surprised. But certainly, when one becomes aware of the recent changes in legislation on the federal front, and accordingly the various sentencing patterns that flow from those changes, it just brings to mind some of these results.
So, Mr. Deputy Speaker, with Yukonís recidivism rates and offender profiles, I believe itís safe to say that perhaps only a small number of our First Nation offenders commit a majority of crimes that result in a term of incarceration. With that said, if we also take a look at the majority of clients within the Whitehorse Correctional Centre we see that the majority of those are of First Nation descent. In fact, it was interesting looking at a report in Saskatchewan. They refer to eight percent of their population being aboriginal, yet 76 percent of the inmate population in their adult correctional centres were aboriginal. So I think itís safe to say that the disproportionate representation is certainly mirrored in every Canadian jurisdiction, although the gap, I think, is the widest in perhaps northern Canada, and including provinces such as Saskatchewan and Manitoba, for example.
Now, programming is very important to take a look at, and in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, we have a number of programs that we offer to the inmates. I think that we have a ways to go. I think that the programming that has been done to date has been well responded to, well-received, but I think there is a whole lot more that we can do. I refer to the substance abuse management program that is offered within the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and this particular program is offered four to five times a year, on the average, and it can accommodate up to 12 offenders, I believe, at each offering.
The Whitehorse Correctional Centre also has a full-time addictions counsellor designated to meet the needs of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, thanks to the Department of Health and Social Services, and that counsellor sees an average of about 30 offenders and so works with the clients in the community as well as the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
We also offer programming in the sense ó including a violence prevention program, in which inmates can take group therapy or one-to-one counselling at victim services family violence prevention unit. Weíve also been delivering a relatively new program called "commitment to change" to address criminal thinking and behavioural change. Where appropriate, offenders are referred to Yukon Family Services for support and follow-up on release from Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Iíd also be remiss, of course, if I didnít make mention of our contract with the Council of Yukon First Nations for a pre-release and transition worker who assists inmates with release planning and transition to the community, as well as meeting other needs to do with culture and recreation.
Mr. Speaker, these are just some programs. I should also mention that recently weíve been able to provide some programming in the facility ó thank you very much to the Minister of Education ó and it has been funded by advanced education, including computer training, introduction to welding, and small engine repair. Thatís about to gear up pretty quickly and weíll wind up at the end of May.
These programs are very widely received. In fact, I was speaking with our Yukon College representative who operates the satellite college campus in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, who does a phenomenal job, I should add, in providing training, whether it be enhancing life skills or literacy skills. The College certainly is of the opinion that these programs delivered through the correctional facility are very widely received as a great tool to enhance life skills, to enhance their educational abilities, to find something that they would perhaps choose to proceed with in helping to change behaviours.
I have to say that a number of participants participated in the 30-hour computer fundamentals course that was held February 25 to March 29 of this year. Again, it was to develop skills in students. I can say that I have actually taken this course, and itís a great tool for introduction to computers, including keyboard accuracy, speed, Windows basics, and on and on and on. The introduction to welding just wrapped up, I believe, last week.
Again, we talk about education as a key tool for providing healthy choices ó positive ways of conducting oneís life. We only have to take a look at the recent injection of funds into Education. I refer to the $1-million increase to the Yukon College base grant and the $1.5 million for the community training funds, with $500,000 specifically for trades training, such as this welding course.
Now if it werenít for this government, unlike the leader of the third party who actually took money out of the community training fund ó I think it was half a million dollars, if it wasnít more than that. It was very unfortunate, but we chose to reinstate that money and designate a portion of that for trades training because we see the opportunities ahead of us for Yukoners. We see the very exciting initiatives on the horizon, whether it be pipeline development, whether it be construction of facilities ó including the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility ó whether it be cultural industries, whether it be in health. We as a government think that investments in our education, in our young people, or older people, are great. Itís the way to go. If we donít invest in our people ó Yukoners ó we are not going to see the results and we will just be standing by watching the opportunities fly by to Outside investment.
So I say bravo to the Minister of Education for providing these additional funds so that we see courses like welding. Courses like small engine repair are made available and I thank him for that. I thank his department officials for making this happen in the facility. This particular course provides 50 hours, allowing students to be attracted to the trade and upon completion they have the ability to either pursue entry-level employment or go on to further training.
Students learn about regulators, they learn about hoses, fittings, backfire, flashback, torches, tips ó you name it. Theyíre also engaged in cutting exercises. Small engine repair, which is scheduled for next month, as I said, for the month of May, provides 70 hours, providing students, again, with skills to work on small engines. And, again, it may help attract potential students to enter this particular trade. The course also includes sections on workplace safety, identification and use of tools, electrical systems and engine service. Again, this course is going to be taking place in the engine mobile trailer, which belongs to Yukon College, and it will be located at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for the duration.
So I am very pleased to just say a few words about those various initiatives. With that said, I think it just points out that we need to take a serious look at what better programming we can deliver to meet not only the educational needs of inmates but also the social needs of some of the inmates coming into our facility and, again, what can be delivered within the facility and outside the facility.
Other things within the review to take a look at include case management and transition, a look at the community services and the after-care, the administration of justice agreements with Yukon First Nations. And there are a number of discussions taking place with various self-governing First Nations surrounding the future delivery of justice within their territory.
I think itís very important that we certainly give full consideration to these changes that will transpire as a result of the negotiation and implementation of these final agreements and the ability of First Nations to draw down powers pertaining not just to justice, but health, education and economic development.
We respect each of these governmentsí abilities to do just that, and we are there to honour those agreements and work with them on a government-to-government basis. And the administration of justice is certainly but one aspect of the final agreements. Interestingly enough, I had a very interesting discussion with an individual recently, who is working on behalf of the federal Department of Justice in looking at reviewing our justice system as well from a federal perspective. Interestingly enough, this individual used to reside in the territory. Heís a very well-respected individual among First Nation communities, as well as all Yukoners.
Our discussion was such that it was almost the same words that we were sharing with respect to justice and what changes are happening, the changes that have happened, and what we need to look at. So, it was very comforting and, again, very encouraging for me to know that it certainly is not our government or not just First Nation governments that are looking at these different ways, but that it is certainly a shared vision among other Yukoners and a road perhaps less travelled, but a road that we believe is the right road to take.
One other thing to take a look at in this review, I would suspect, would also be the location of the new facility. This flowed from a discussion with the Chief and Council of Kwanlin Dun First Nation recently, when I had an opportunity to meet with them in conjunction with the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini. It was at that time that concerns were raised about the current location of the facility and that, in fact, perhaps it could be situated elsewhere for the very reasons that the current facility is located adjacent to an elementary school, a daycare centre and a residential neighbourhood.
Now, Iím not saying that it shouldnít be located where it is right now, but what Iím saying is that there are concerns being raised, so letís look at those concerns and letís look at other areas to situate the new facility. I think hearing those concerns and taking the time to listen to and address those concerns is a responsible thing to do. Simply by taking the approach that that is where it has been for the last number of years, since 1967, and thatís where itís going to be for the next 36 years ó I beg to differ. I think thatís a whole exercise, and the whole purpose of seeking Yukonersí views is to obtain the very input of all Yukoners to hear their concerns, their ideas and their perspectives ó fresh ideas. I think itís a healthy thing to do.
Yukon is not alone in attempting to improve the correctional system. Across the country, corrections faces many competing challenges. Nunavut, for example, has also one of the highest per capita rates of incarceration in the world. Many of those prisoners have been convicted of murder, violence against women, children and sexual assault. Interestingly enough, I was reading a report on CBC that more than 100 citizens of Nunavut are in some form of custody, which shows that the territory is relying heavily on prisons, instead of dealing with the problems at hand.
According to this criminology professor, who was referenced in the story, it was felt that more emphasis should be placed upon the reasons why people end up in prison and more emphasis on intervention and prevention at earlier ages of an individualís life. Again, I refer to the very importance of the Childrenís Act review, a review of our education system, a review of our policies and procedures, finding what works, what doesnít work and what can be improved.
Again, I say to members opposite that while taking additional time and additional dollars to consult people ó all Yukoners ó to review these very practices that obviously, quite frankly, havenít worked. Our spending in social systems has been going up; yet the results havenít been coming out perhaps in the way we would like them to come out. There have been some improvements on some fronts, but I think we are all striving to improve the way we deliver social services and the way we can better define those needs of Yukoners.
As I also said earlier, aboriginal people are disproportionately represented in all of our jails. This is especially true in northern Canada in our three territories. Itís recognized as a major problem. Itís recognized as a major problem by the federal government. There are pages of all the various commissions. Over the last two decades, there have been a number of inquiries, reviews that have been commissioned by Canadian governments and other bodies to examine aboriginal justice issues. There is quite a lot with respect to the summary of the findings, the findings that our justice system is failing aboriginal peoples of Canada. That in itself is enough reason to take some time to see how we can better meet the needs of aboriginal people, who happen to comprise the majority of our clients in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
I also refer to, interestingly enough, January 2001, the Speech from the Throne from the Government of Canada, in which it read: "Canada must take the measures needed to significantly reduce the percentage of aboriginal people entering the criminal justice system so that within a generation it is no higher than the Canadian average." Well, that is a very powerful paragraph. Itís very powerful in that it makes a very strong commitment to reducing the recidivism rate and the percentage of aboriginal people entering our justice system. Itís a very ambitious proposal but I concur. Thereís obviously a problem and we certainly need to take some time to address these various issues.
It is unfortunate that the member opposite doesnít recognize perhaps what her federal counterparts recognize, and this is referenced by the desire to build a facility that perhaps doesnít meet the very needs of our inmate population. When we talk about our employees ó people who have to work day in and day out at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre ó I have said on a number of occasions in the House that safety and security of our employees, as well as the inmate population, is of paramount importance to me, as Minister of Justice, as well as to this government.
Again, we strive to evaluate and improve our policies and procedures at every opportunity. I commend all our staff for doing just that. We are making every effort to ensure the safe operation of our current facility by working with a number of various officials, including the Yukon fire marshal, the City of Whitehorse fire prevention officer, the occupational health and safety committee at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, as well as the Department of Highways and Public Works to address the health and safety concerns at our centre. This work includes implementing each of those recommendations that were put forward in the fire marshalís report. Those recommendations include improvements to the fire alarm system, improvements to the central control room, improvements to the ventilation system, additional improvements to the building that will provide greater fire safety and the ability to better deliver services in the case of an emergency.
Some time has been spent on ensuring that all parties have a very full understanding of the required upgrades and how they can be implemented in a full-functioning facility. Nonetheless, contracts have been issued for the design work surrounding the renovation. That will also go out to tender soon. Again, this work reflects each of the specific items identified within the fire marshalís report pertaining to safety.
Mr. Speaker, weíre also responding to ongoing occupational health and safety concerns through our committee, reviewing recommendations of risk-threats assessment that took place soon after our government was elected. Weíre also reviewing and implementing recommendations arising from investigations held in the past ó again, part of that process of reviewing and refining and improving policies and procedures that we deliver within corrections.
I should also add that retrofits and alterations to the facility, as the member opposite did state earlier, have been made over the years by previous governments. The important point to be made, however, is that weíre continuing to work with the appropriate authorities to ensure the safekeeping ó the very security and safety ó of our employees and our inmate population is adhered to and maintained.
It was raised with me earlier about a recent disturbance that transpired, unfortunately, at the Correctional Centre. Again, we are responding to those recommendations arising from the investigation that was held and, again, I commend the staff and the employees who had to go through that ordeal. It was very traumatic indeed and I commend them for doing a superb job in responding to the situation at hand and for ensuring the safekeeping of the remainder of the inmates and for responding to the crisis at hand.
They did an exceptional job. Again, their jobs are anything but easy, and for those very reasons itís very difficult to perhaps attract and retain individuals at the facility. So for those efforts and their ongoing work, I applaud them.
Again, our government is certainly responding to those recommendations, whether it be investments in training, investments in equipment, or refining our policies and procedures. We as a department and a government strive at all times to improve the emergency preparedness and incident management capability of our staff, as well as the safety and security of our clients at the facility.
When we talk about some of the observations to date, I think itís very safe to say that early community intervention and diversion methods have proven to be more effective in modifying criminal behaviour versus institutional isolation. Prisons themselves do not change criminal behaviour, and physical isolation of individuals from their families, friends and communities does very little to contribute to the learning and maturing that must accompany a fundamental and enduring personal change.
For these very reasons, our government has chosen to embark upon a process that entails a very comprehensive, very meaningful process ó that will be very transparent as well ó that will take a look at some of these challenges facing our correctional facility. I certainly look forward to proceeding with this exercise, this very important initiative. Itís very important to take a look at community-driven corrections, look at alternatives to incarceration, look at how we can reintegrate offenders into the community through various ways ó again, offering programs.
I think itís safe to say that crime begins in the community and in most cases it can best be addressed in the community. So I think that looking at community-driven approaches provides an opportunity for the community to recognize and accept responsibility with respect to the reintegration of offenders and changing patterned ways in the past that have not served individuals well, providing opportunities for offenders to be contributing members of our society, and demonstrating accountability for their actions.
I think these are all very important principles and I think that itís building upon the fine work that has been transpiring in our communities to date. Again, I refer to the work of our community justice projects. We talk about restorative justice ó there have been a lot of various initiatives that have transpired in our communities and we are very supportive of this approach.
We support a number of the initiatives in the communities with financial resources and in-kind services. I think that also when we talk about community justice, we look at a research framework for the review of community justice. That can be seen ó Iím sure members opposite have already perused the site ó on our government Web site. Itís an incredible resource and useful tool for our community justice project coordinators and other justice partners interested in how restorative community justice issues have been addressed in the Yukon, across Canada, in the United States and on an international basis. A number of recommendations, of course, have been made. We have certainly adhered to some of them, including a victim-focused client satisfaction needs survey and training sessions for our coordinators. We again applaud the work done on a day-in/day-out basis by these justice coordinators and committees. They provide a very invaluable service in the communities and, in some cases, have helped reduce the recidivism rate of our offenders ó very much so. I think itís important to recognize this work.
I think itís safe to say we have been, and continue to be, leaders in our country in this particular field and continue to support these initiatives. Again, this very consultation on corrections will certainly reflect the work that has been done to date and, again, what areas we can improve upon and enhance our ability.
When we also look at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, I referred to earlier the spousal abuse management program; I refer to all the work that has been done and continues to be done by our family violence prevention unit, victim services. This work continues to be a priority of this government, and what we as a government can and will continue to do is provide not only victims of abuse with counselling, information and support but as well providing offenders with the necessary treatment to help them change their behaviours, to learn new ways of dealing with issues and, again, taking responsibility for their actions, being held accountable. These are ways in which our government, together with our communities, are effecting change. Violence ó whether it be family violence in our communities ó as members opposite know, is a very large issue in our communities. Unfortunately, our communities are far too familiar with these particular problems. But I believe that through enhanced awareness, through training, through education, we are able to help eradicate or at least help reduce the incidence of family violence in our communities. This is achieved in large part by working with our communities, working with the Womenís Directorate, working with the Department of Health and Social Services, working with all community agencies, levels of government ó again, by continuing to offer services, education and community-driven initiatives.
As I mentioned earlier, within this budget alone we have resources identified for an additional victim services worker in the Department of Justice. This particular branch does a remarkable job in providing services to victims of abuse and also providing services to our offenders. I think these additional resources will certainly enhance their ability to provide services and also help enhance their ability to offer services in a healthy and positive environment. Their job is very similar to those working in corrections, including those people working at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Those positions are taxed very heavily. They have huge demands but they do a remarkable job, day in and day out and, again, I commend them for their work and their efforts. I certainly applaud them.
Whatís also important to look at is to applaud our successes. One success I take a look at is the Family Violence Prevention Act, the domestic violence treatment option, the DVTO. With these particular initiatives, we certainly recognize that family violence is a serious criminal act and that more innovative responses are required. Thanks in large part to the delivery of this option, we have been able to significantly reduce the collapse rate of family violence cases that hit the floor of our courts ó something to the tune of from 75 percent down to almost 25 percent, the collapse rate.
Those are significant findings, and it certainly energizes and provides encouragement to those victims of abuse that there are treatment services available for offenders, as well as for victims of abuse.
Again, I think that those individuals that administer the DVTO ó and there are many community stakeholders, including our judiciary, the RCMP, victim services, and a whole host of community individuals. I think these efforts have been very well-received by the community, and they have certainly been applauded by the rest of the country. In fact, at every opportunity, we showcase the DVTO as a very innovative response to some of these very serious issues facing our communities.
Again, DVTO is recognized as a new approach to addressing family violence in the justice system of the Yukon. I think thatís exactly what weíre trying to accomplish with the consultation on corrections ó finding a new approach to addressing crime in our communities. Again, itís finding ways of improving our system and finding ways to deliver services and programs better.
Again, we seek the comments and the views of all Yukoners in this very important exercise.
Mr. Speaker, I think I am going to sit down here because I think that I would like also the opportunity to hear other members in this Legislature and hear their views regarding this very important initiative. I know that many of my colleagues very much want to say a few words about this initiative, and our caucus has been very much supportive of this initiative right from day one when we announced this was the road we were going.
So I certainly welcome the input and feedback from members opposite. Any suggestions for improvement as to how this consultation is to be exercised, we welcome them too.
With that said, I unfortunately cannot support the member oppositeís motion that has been put forward, but instead I very much support a process that will be program driven instead of facility led.
Mrs. Peter: I speak this afternoon in support of this motion.
This motion, Mr. Speaker, encourages the government to look at redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. This motion encourages the government to come up with the necessary funds for redevelopment to be brought forward in a budget.
This government, not one year ago, cried poverty and said there was no money available to spend in areas that address social needs in our society.
Crying poverty and stopping a project such as the Whitehorse Correctional Centre was not the way to go. All we have now after the delay, and all thatís left standing, is an old building and a huge pile of gravel.
The next statement I want to make may be a little extreme; however, I will go so far as saying that the building is falling down and crumbling around the feet of the employees and the inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. This building is and has been a health and safety issue for years. The fire marshalís report was out and it had serious concerns about the state of that building, and yet we keep throwing band-aid solutions, only to add fuel to the fire.
The Premier and the Minister of Justice are famous for saying they donít want to warehouse people, and that the First Nation population make up the majority of the inmate population. I agree. Thatís in our history right across this country. Thatís information that has been out there for centuries, let me say.
It sounds like only now weíre awakening to such information. It sounds like weíve only become aware of this just very recently. Give me a break. Inmates are escaping from this facility more and more. A riot just took place there not too long ago, jeopardizing the safety of the staff, of other inmates, and the public. We hear that drugs are a concern. Where there are drugs, there are problems of security. That leads into other concerns.
So now the Minister of Justice, to address this issue, has ordered protective gear so all the officers who walk around are heavily guarded. For some reason I canít imagine that in a territory of our size.
Weíve been talking about justice issues in this territory for years and years. Many governments have come and gone. Many of the ideas, the very good ideas, have been brought forward. These ideas are written in reports. These ideas have been discussed endlessly around tables with all stakeholders, including First Nations. This is all not a new idea.
In the community of Old Crow, I recall a meeting that was held there that included the court parties, that included the judges, the people who work in our justice systems and all the people in the community.
It was stated very clearly at that time and many times since that justice is a community responsibility. They have some great ideas to address those concerns, Mr. Speaker. Many people volunteered their time. They put energy and valuable resources into something they believe in, and these ideas are sitting in a report on somebodyís shelf collecting dust.
I recall the topic of restorative justice being talked about in the communities, and the energy that went into that. People were excited; people wanted to take responsibility; people had great ideas on how to address justice issues of our own people. If the minister would take the time to go to the community of Old Crow today, she would hear those ideas that were voiced 10 years ago ó they still stand the same today.
One of the great ideas thatís always out there is to take the $250 per day it costs to keep an inmate at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and put that monetary resource to the community so the individual has a choice and option to go out on the land with an elder or with someone who can guide this individual in a good way.
Sometimes thatís all it takes. Thatís all the individual needs ó to address their own personal concerns about who they are, where they come from, and what they need to learn about whatís out on the land because maybe they never had that opportunity.
The court circuit that attends in our community every month or month and a half hears over and over and over again those concerns from grandparents of young men and women who are before the court system. These are our suggestions. Yet we need the government of the day to have the leadership ó to show leadership in that area and say, "Yes, this is a great idea. Maybe weíll work with you. Maybe some of these individuals will take that opportunity and change their lives. Maybe they have a family they need to be close to." Of course all this depends on the type of charge that weíre dealing with, and the community is well aware of that.
While weíre debating this issue and talking, Iíd like to thank the minister also for her hour and a half of information, but what I didnít hear were any solutions. Where are we going? Are we just going to talk in circles and circles until time runs out and nothing gets done in the end?
The people most affected are still sitting in that decrepit building and people are still not feeling safe. Or are we going to make some progress? There is a huge budget in front of us, and in that budget there are many plans for infrastructure that cost millions and millions of dollars. Where was the consultation for those ideas? Yet we are talking about a group of people in our society who are usually placed on the back burner for whatever reasons. Governments, groups, donít like to deal with those kinds of social problems. Yet we can stand here and say, "Oh, yeah, they are people too."
Many of these people are from our communities. We said that in this House time and time again. I am not standing here and feeling sorry for any one of them, but are we going to continue to make excuses and waste time?
Yes, itís important to talk to leadership. Yes, itís important to talk to the Grand Chief. Itís good to hear what their opinions are about our corrections centre, our justice system. But how long are we going to talk?
Or is that just another front for the government to waste time? How many years do we have if weíre going to follow the Childrenís Act review model? Two, three years of talking, and by then itís time for an election so itís going to be put on the back burner again, and people are still going to be waiting for a decision. Or are we just waiting and buying time so that this government can be still planning, talking to other companies to address public/private partnerships? They call it P3s. There have been many agreements signed with various organizations and governments and other interest groups in our territory in the last year or so. And some of these organizations are from outside our country. We hear of huge conglomerates, such as SNC-Lavalin, Epcom, and some of the history of these huge conglomerates that are in private partnerships throughout the United States mostly. In the end, who benefits? Is it the inmates who are going to have resources within the jails? Are they going to have the programs to address their addictions, or are we going to have resources in there to address FASD or mental illnesses?
Or in the end, weíre going to have these great big companies owning these buildings, and we may still be consulting with First Nations, and the inmates and the staff at the Correctional Centre will still be waiting to see who is going to take the first step so that they can have a safe place to work and a little better place to live for the time that theyíre allotted in those places.
I heard the minister talk about their commitment to this building. She apparently spoke to the Chief of Kwanlin Dun First Nation on the design and the ownership. And it is interesting, because just recently I heard the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation state, you know, how he was pushing this government to move forward and make some progress. Iíd like to suggest to the minister to dig out once again some of those old reports that are sitting on those shelves, read through some of those many great ideas that were brought forward by many of the communities not so long ago. And while theyíre looking over those ideas, rethink the decision that was made by the Premier himself to redevelop that project, to start it up again. Iím sure that while theyíre planning or using the old design to build this building, they can be talking over here to other people about the programs that they would like to deliver in that facility.
How does that saying go? You kill two birds with one stone. You can be addressing two issues at the same time and make some progress.
With that, Mr. Speaker, my time has run out, and I thank you.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to start out by stating how amazing I find it to have two First Nation people who have such a difference of opinion with regard to justice in the Yukon.
This is said with no intent to discredit the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, but I also have my own opinions about some of these things. She refers to a new big jail to house more of our people. I would prefer something different when it comes to justice, and that is justice reform, which I may state at this moment was a decision that was not made by the Premier himself, but by the whole caucus. I think it was a good decision.
I do not support Motion No. 232, put forward by the leader of the third party. This motion speaks to building a new correctional facility, better known by our people as a jail. Thatís all we see it as: a jail.
In my opinion ó and everything I say today is my opinion, Mr. Speaker, and being a First Nation person, I believe I speak for a lot of our people when it comes to talking about a jail.
We have a different word for justice from whatís being presented on the floor of this Legislature. Itís quite common across Canada for First Nation people to refer to justice as "just us" because we tend to fill all the facilities, right across the country.
I believe that it has never done us one bit of good, ever, to be in there.
What I want to start with today is going to be somewhat of a history with respect to justice and First Nation people. In the territory here, I believe that about 70 to 90 percent of the inmate population are First Nation people. When we talk about justice reform, for example, we have to think about talking about the traditional ways of dealing with justice issues. To do that, we have to seek understanding of what it is that creates our people to be in those jails ó criminals. They refer to us as criminals. So why are we in there?
I think that in order to seek understanding of this issue, we need to go and look at the history of the Yukon Territory. We start from back in the 1800s when the fur traders came here. There was a change in society; the dynamics of the communities changed. And then we look at the mission schools and when they started sometime in the 1800s. What did those two issues do to the First Nation people?
Well, the fur traders ó and this is not to discredit anything in history or anyone that was involved with history. However, to understand justice, we must understand what creates a person to become one who does not accept the norms of society.
So we follow the influx of outsiders coming to the territory and what they brought with them. Well, we know that alcohol was one thing that caused a lot of us to become criminally minded. We have to think about what the mission schools have done to the First Nation people. To totally strip someone of all responsibilities and bonding and just completely destroy a culture is criminal in itself. In my opinion, it is a criminal thing.
I have said before and Iíll say it again: the mission schools are Canadaís Holocaust. Our First Nation people were severely damaged by mission schools and grew to have a hate that still reflects the criminal today who is in the correctional facility.
Then we go to the gold rush of 1898 and what that created. What dynamics changed in the Yukon from that gold rush when thousands of strangers from different parts of the country came into the Yukon and took over the Yukon, basically?
I can tell you today that speaking to some of the elders, the gold rush might have been a big event to some people but to others it was very destructive ó again, promoting partying and boozing and having fun.
Then we would go on to looking at the Alaska Highway and what changes that brought to this territory and to a lot of the people living here. I think that one of the quotes I remember from the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow that has always stuck in my mind as a very important quote states that, overnight, 10,000 men came to our territory with no women of their own.
When you look at that now and you start to begin to see the big picture, you begin to understand a little bit of what could have created the high rate of criminal activities in a small jurisdiction like the Yukon Territory.
When we talk about this huge influx of people, we have to ask ourselves: were all these people of sound mind, spirit and body? Were some of these people already professionals in the criminal activities that they brought here with them? I would tend to believe that quite possibly a lot of the things learned here were brought with the coming of the Alaska Highway. So when we look at this large influx of strangers into the Yukon Territory and all of the different nationalities, the different issues that each one could have brought with them and the violations of so many First Nation people, we begin to understand why some of the inmates who are filling the correctional facilities today are First Nations.
There are a lot of issues there that a lot of First Nation people never did understand and probably donít understand right to this day. There are a lot of social issues and a lot of hate. There are so many things that the First Nations had pushed on to them that could be a factor for why we fill the jails.
So to seek understanding would be to understand that portion of it, but also to understand the traditional ways of justice. We have to look at punishment versus treatment versus healing.
Punishment was a foreign way for First Nation people when it came to justice, and today this is a real cultural clash between two different races of people: First Nation and non-First Nation.
In the European system, thereís an old saying, "You do the crime; you do the time." I guess thatís quite standard and quite true, but when we look at some of the documentation over the years, it does make one wonder why you would even have a jail. It states in one part here that the physical isolation of individuals from their families and communities does little to contribute to the learning, grieving and forgiving that must accompany fundamental and enduring personal change.
When you look at that and you look at what happens in a correctional institute, you would wonder why you would have a jail. When you start looking at the more traditional ways ó such as circle sentencing, for example ó itís all based on healing. What process could we develop that would ensure that a person has a really high chance of rehabilitating themselves?
Iíve been involved in the conventional method in supporting offenders, and Iíve also been involved in the traditional way of circle sentencing of supporting offenders, and I have to say the traditional way is the one I prefer. I prefer it because you look after both the victim and the offender. The victim has a support group of people who can support and help them deal with the offence that was committed against them.
And when we go to the offender, the offender has to take responsibility for what has happened. Theyíre not able to cop out by just saying, "Well, Iíll just go and do my time in jail and watch TV for three or four months." That, to me, is the easy way out.
When we go to circle sentencing where you have to face the victim and face the community for what has happened and be responsible for your actions, it tends to have more of a positive effect on the offender. In the same breath, I also recognize that there has to be a secure facility for severe criminal behaviours. Itís a fact of life that some may never change from their criminal activities. They may never, ever change, and it doesnít matter what kinds of programs or facilities are in place for that individual. Thatís just a fact of life. So, the secure facility is also necessary.
Again, I think, I support the justice reform approach. If punishment was the answer, then I guess the statement, "The longer sentences and incarceration in a secure facility have no significant deterrent effect in reducing crime rates or re-offence occurrences." ó when we say that, itís not something thatís productive and it isnít proven to be a deterrent later on, so why would we keep constructing facilities, such as bigger correctional facilities?
That statement doesnít support pouring millions of dollars into a big new facility. We have to ask ourselves a lot of questions when it comes to justice reform, and one of them, again, should be: should our main objective be creating alternatives to incarceration? I think it should be. What about considering healing camps located in wilderness settings versus a luxury facility?
In conclusion, it is my opinion that there may have been consultation done previously, but I believe there is room to hear from more of the number one stakeholders, and those are the First Nation clients. Iím convinced they would be asking for a more traditional way of obtaining justice.
In the same sense, I want to say again that Iím also convinced that a secure facility is also needed, but it may not have to be as large or as extravagant as what was being proposed by the previous government.
Again, I want to state for the record that itís just a fact of life that some people will not change their behaviours and may be there forever.
It is for these reasons that I do support the approach this government is taking with looking at justice reform. As much as I can sympathize with the condition of the facility as it stands today, I still believe that rushing out and building a new facility would not be the solution. I think there are a lot of questions, including even the location of the facility now.
I have often wondered why any planning process would put public schools and colleges all around a correctional facility; however, thatís history. If the new facility were to be constructed, I know I would be totally in support of relocating that facility. I do not support this motion, and I want to thank Minister Taylor for the introduction she did give. I think it really captured a lot of issues that the opposition had to hear, because they seemed to be a little slack in knowing anything about justice.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Arntzen: I rise to speak to Motion No. 232, dealing with the immediate redevelopment of Whitehorse Correctional Centre, placed before the Legislature by the leader of the third party.
Mr. Speaker, this is another case where the approach of this government is greatly different from the positions taken by the previous two governments. Mr. Speaker, I believe it was in January of 2003 when the Minister of Justice announced that the construction of a new Whitehorse Correctional Centre, planned by the previous government, was put on hold. There was quite a hue and cry created from the opposition; however, I believe that was the correct decision. The previous government had made a capital forecast of about $17 million for the construction of this facility at that time.
On February 17, 2003, the Premier announced a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. This is as it should be, since a new corrections centre will be built in their traditional territory. The Kwanlin Dun land claim and self-government agreements have stipulated that the Kwanlin Dun must be extensively consulted when any activities are undertaken in their traditional territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, in announcing the memorandum of understanding, the Premier stated, "We can no longer allow the system of revolving-door warehousing of prisoners. The First Nation percentage of incarcerated individuals in the justice system is probably the highest in the country." Thatís what the Premier stated, and he was correct.
Indeed, statistics provided to the Minister of Justice show that anywhere from 80 to 85 percent of the population within the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is of First Nation ancestry, as has been stated previously by some of my colleagues. This is an unacceptable level to First Nation inmates and to all of us. Something must be done to reduce these levels of incarceration before a new facility is built to simply warehouse inmates.
In addition to this, Yukonís recidivism rate is between 70 percent and 90 percent, where the Canadian average is between 50 and 60 percent. So we in the Yukon are about 30 percent higher than any other Canadian jurisdiction. So how can we let this revolving-door attitude continue, Mr. Speaker? We obviously cannot do that.
Well, let me back up. If the Whitehorse Correctional Centre staff is seeing the same people over and over again, and these people are largely of First Nation origin, it seems only logical that First Nation governments be consulted and cooperated with. Who better to determine the causes of their large incarceration rate? Who better to determine means of reducing and preventing these large rates of incarcerations? Who better to determine treatment methods, as my colleague from McIntyre-Takhini spoke so passionately about? And who better to determine the size and programs offered within a new Whitehorse correctional centre? For this reason, it makes no sense to hurry up and build a new revolving-door warehouse just to build something.
Itís very necessary to take the time to consult and work with all Yukon First Nations to develop not only a new facility but the entire fabric of programs and services surrounding it to hopefully reduce the incarceration and recidivism rates for First Nation individuals.
I think we all know that we need to build a new facility, but only when we are ready to build a facility that is proper and that will be of benefit for all concerned. Thatís the time. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Lang: On Motion No. 232, Iíd like to speak to the motion put forward by the third party.
When we were elected to office 16 months ago and we came on board to be the government of the day, we confronted a few challenges as we arrived, which were large challenges. We had the Mayo-Dawson line, which was a challenge. We had the one-stop shop, which was a challenge. And, of course, we were facing the prospect of a very massive investment in the jail, which was planned by the previous government.
We in turn, with the 12 elected members we had ó 11 of us in caucus ó took a very prudent look at all of the projects out there, and we looked at how we could best serve the Yukon taxpayer. We certainly went to work on the economics of the community, to make sure that the government had some economic strength. We certainly looked at ourselves as a team and how we could best service that. As a team, we have come out very positively on a lot of issues pertaining to Yukoners. Of course, by getting our house in order economically, we were able to come out with more of a balance between the social expectations and, of course, infrastructure, economic development and all those other issues that are out there.
I think one thing we did learn ó a lot of us had never been in the jail. Iíd been in it once myself. So for me to stand up and debate about the physical plan is a question. But I started to listen to people, like the Minister of Education, who probably has spent more time in that jail working with inmates in the First Nation community than anybody in this government or in the opposition.
It was a pity to see the lack of participation on that side when one of the most experienced workers in the whole government had something to say about the jail because he had been in the jail as a worker for many, many years.
The statistics speak for themselves. We canít argue the statistics about who is in the jail, how many times have they been in the jail and what are we doing with the jail. I sort of look at it and listen to the Minister of Justice, who is working on it on a daily basis, and other members of our caucus, which is a cross-section of our community, asking, "How can we best serve the Yukon people?" Understanding that we have to have secure places in which to put people who break the law, understanding that we have a remand centre, where people are in it and we mix them with the people who have been sentenced. Is that a healthy community? I donít think so. We serve the communities, the outlying areas, so those people come into the system.
To get some knowledge and background, I talked to my caucus and listened to the Minister of Justice and also very consciously to the Minister of Education, who told us, through his eyes ó he being a First Nation person and a person who worked in the system ó where he could see the system going. When we talk about healing, we have issues in our community that the average Yukoner ó or we in this House ó doesnít see on a daily basis. When they give me statistics about the drug use in our communities or in the outlying communities, Iím amazed. I hope that theyíre 50-percent off, but I live in a different world, so I have to listen to these people.
We are very lucky on the government side to have the calibre of members that we do. We have a representation of a cross-section of the Yukon, so when we sit in caucus and we throw ideas around, we have some pretty good ideas on any aspect of Yukon society that you want to talk about.
Weíre lucky. I understand the last government didnít have that flexibility. I mean, at the end of the day, it fell apart. So the Yukon people elected us a year and a half ago to meet the challenges we told them we would meet. We are doing that. We have addressed some of the shortcomings and some of the problems weíve met but, at the end of the day, we have to be very conscious of this decision.
The idea of just throwing money at the problem isnít going to work. It hasnít worked on other issues and itís not going to work with the Whitehorse jail. It is a jail. It is exactly that. It is a big box. We can call it a correctional institute, we can call it all sorts of names if you want, Mr. Speaker, but at the end of the day, we have a jail filled with, as the Minister of Education said, an uneven balance of our community.
If you shrink a jail down into your family, if you have a family of three children and you look at the issue of discipline, every child is different and everybody has a different way of reacting to discipline. In my family, violence wouldnít work with my daughter, because guess what? She would just stiffen up, so we have to figure out another way to deal with my daughter.
With my son, you can hurt his feelings and, all of a sudden, we have communication. So when we take that family unit and put it out there on the street ó Iím talking personally, Mr. Speaker. Iím talking about the Yukon justice system and the need for a prison, but Iím saying we can shrink it down into our own family unit.
Understanding what the First Nations have gone through ó and it was very interesting to have the Minister of Education walk us through the traumatic experience that community has gone through in the last 100 years. Then when I read articles across Canada about the justice system, about the jails, about the violence and about the problems they have in these big box jails ó and then if you want to expand it even more, do we want a United States version, where we build plastic boxes, steal everything away from these people and say, "Three strikes and youíre out, and thatís the end of you"?
Life in prison? Who has the largest jail population in the world? The United States of America. They are doing what the opposition wants us to do. They want us to build a box, preferably far enough away from the community that it doesnít really matter. Second of all, the more money you spend, the better you are going to feel about the box. Well, I say before we build the box we have to look at all levels of the problem.
When they say that weíre just shirking our responsibility, we certainly arenít, but we certainly are not going to invest a huge pile of money without any return. We donít get any return out of the box. They will break out of the box. They will break into the box. They will break up the box, and we will have a constant maintenance problem with the box.
What we want to do is minimize the number of people we have in the box so that we, at the end of the day, can bring some of these people back into our society as productive citizens. Now, is that an unrealistic dream, that we would have the good conscience to not only take a look ó certainly we have to take a look at working with the staff? The staff members are very important, and to make them feel safe we have to have a safe box for them, because they have to work in it 40 hours a week, day in and day out.
The secret is that they are in the box too, but they are only in it for eight hours a day. I am thinking about the guy whoís in it for 24 hours a day. I am thinking about the disproportional population of our prisoners. I am thinking of their family units at home ó lack of somebody in the unit, and all these issues that are out there. I am also thinking that we have to save the community from violent criminals. Certainly, if it is violence then we have to recognize that they need the box.
Some people out there probably should never be out of the box, but Iím saying a big proportion of the people we put in the box could become productive members of our society if we let them. Now thatís the secret. If we as a society would let them participate, working within the prison system on how the sentencing goes ó Iím not condoning letting people off lightly, Iím not condoning saying, "Oh, thatís all right, weíll overlook that." I donít want that. I donít think in the long run ó it certainly doesnít work in the long run, but I think a lot of these situations are a call for help.
We certainly have Watson Lake in the south and Old Crow in the north. We have these small communities that have social problems leading to a justice problem leading to family breakdowns. All the issues we address in our social envelope are there in those communities. I think our government looked at it from a point of view of being fairly selfish in the fact that I think we made a huge commitment to the Yukoners who elected us to work on the social ledger to try to bring some of these problems to the front burner and solve them in the community where those crimes were committed.
If you were to look at an article ó and of course I donít have the background that many of the opposition do in justice, but I do live in the communities and Iíve lived in the smaller communities in the Yukon, and I understand the problems they have on a daily basis. But when you talk to justice people from across Canada and you talk to them on issues ó how does our justice system condone two or three percent of our population filling 70 percent of our jail space?
Then we close a blind eye to it and say, "Itís fine because theyíre in the box." You see, Mr. Speaker, weíve got them boxed, but, in fact, weíre just expanding that sickness. Weíre not solving that problem.
Iíd like to thank the Minister of Health for going forward with a program in Old Crow, which heís funding for three years, on how we can get a better lifestyle. Now thereís something. What would happen if we took a certain age group and showed them, on a daily basis, how they could live a healthier ó physically, mentally and academically ó lifestyle? Now, those resources are in place. They have a group in Old Crow that is gung-ho about this. Theyíre taking a small group of the youth population in that community, and theyíre doing a three-year study with Western University and other people from Outside with expertise, and theyíre going to see at the end of three years the benefits of those resources we put into showing people a healthier way to live ó a healthier mental and academic way to live. Iím looking forward to that report, because I think weíll amaze ourselves. Because of the remoteness of Old Crow, I think itís an apt place to do the program. You donít have people coming and going in the community.
But again, as we move along in the never-ending justice question on whether we should "box" them, or whatever we do to them, or how we can make the jail look like anything else but a jail ó appearance is very important ó and the more money you spend on the box, the more successful you are in the system ó I say to you that is folly. I say to you that we certainly have to communicate with each other in the caucus here, and the jail has been part of those conversations. The Minister of Justice is working, of course, with all of the stakeholders to get some kind of semblance of reasoning from everybody to come up with some sort of a question on the safety of the building, the location of the building ó all those issues. And then, of course, we have to look at what we are going to do with rehabilitation.
Are we better off to send the prisoners to a different location? Are we better off to send them to Alberta and go through a program of healing than try to do the healing the way weíre doing it in our box? I say to you that we have to concentrate on the healing aspect of our justice system, and we have to listen to the likes of the Minister of Education, the Justice minister, the First Nation people ó and we have to listen wisely. Because at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, if we donít listen and we donít heed the likes of the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice and the First Nations and the constituency that is in that jail, that program will only grow bigger. And as it grows bigger, it becomes more expensive and the whole dynamics of the prison change.
A couple of weeks ago, there was some question about how we were going to protect the staff and weíre ordering equipment to make sure that theyíre protected in case of an uprising or whatever happens in the box. I understand that. And I understand the issue, as the Minister of Education said, that some people need a box. But do we have to put everybody in the box and forget about them and make a bigger and better box? Or could we be progressive and think out of the box system and say, look, training programs, family participation, all of these issues that are out there in the general public ó Iím not just talking. There are a lot of issues in all parts of our society. Itís not just First Nation. We have to think this thing through thoroughly for all Yukoners. Thereís violence out there; there are drugs out there; thereís alcohol out there ó all sorts of issues that are going right through our society. And I say to you not to forget about the big box. I say to you that this is worth thinking about.
Because when we become committed to the big box, the big box will be with us for 40 years and hopefully we can put wings on the big box to handle the influx of society weíve decided to write off and put in the big box.
I say to you that this side of the House is not prepared to build a bigger box. Weíre going to think this out; weíre going to think from the social, justice and community points of view; weíre going to listen to the likes of the Minister of Education who actually spent time in the big box, working there as a volunteer. Iím going to listen to the Minister of Justice who is going to give me the statistics and tell me whatís happening in our community, not only here but across Canada, because at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, we are a mosaic of Canada. As we look at these statistics, why not be ahead of the pack? Why not be proactive instead of saying "big box"?
In closing, the big box that was proposed by the last government was a very expensive big box, a fabulous big box, but at the end of the day, that government didnít have the resources to build the big box, not according to what we saw when we came into government. That was an election ploy, Mr. Speaker ó nothing else, nothing more.
At no point did they have the resources to build the big box they intended to build. That was done as an election ploy and the people of the Yukon saw through it. They voted that government out of office. That concept of a big box went out with them, and we are left with a pile of gravel in a yard in a jail ó a jail, not a correctional institute ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:The leader of the third party on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: The member opposite has stated on the record that at no point in time did the previous government have the financial resources to redevelop the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. That is suggesting motive, false or unavowed motives, and the memberís information is false as per the tabled documents in the Legislature, which show the financial commitment. I would ask that he withdraw that comment.
Speaker: Mr. Lang, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Lang: On the point of order, Iím just surmising that they werenít going to build it.
Speaker:Iíve heard enough. This is a dispute between members. I would ask the member to carry on; you have 30 seconds left.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I thank you for that decision, a very, very wise decision.
In closing, Iíve said my piece about the justice system. I think the Yukon is well served by our caucus. I will listen more to the Justice minister and of course our learned Education minister, and I tell the Yukon people down the road there is going to be some facility to address the problems we have at the moment.
Mr. Rouble: Itís my honour to speak to this motion today. Itís an extremely interesting motion that this House urges the government to begin the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre immediately and that the necessary funds for this redevelopment be brought forward in a supplementary budget at the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, I am concerned about what the word "redevelopment" means. When the motion was presented, the member wasnít clear about what "redevelopment" means.
If redevelopment means rebuilding a replica of our current facility, I canít agree with that. Thatís a band-aid solution and a band-aid that is more likely to cause an infection than cure the problem. A new concrete box wonít resolve our problems.
If redevelopment means understanding our current situation, working with others, changing the system, creating programs to resolve issues and creating a facility to house such programs and efforts, well, then, Mr. Speaker, I will agree with redevelopment, because thatís exactly what our Minister of Justice and our government is doing.
A new warehouse wonít solve our societyís problems. Letís take a look at our situation. We have a very high rate of recidivism. We have a very high inmate population of people of aboriginal ancestry. We are seeing changes in their sentencing practices, and the administration of justice is changing. Our old facility did not work and building another one in its image wonít work either.
Alcatraz is closed and that model doesnít work.
I canít support a motion that says to just go ahead and build another jail. That isnít responding to the needs of our society.
Mr. Speaker, letís take a look at our situation. We have a very high rate of recidivism. Weíve heard that discussed a couple of times this afternoon and I think we must all ask ourselves: why is 70 percent to 90 percent of the population that goes through the Whitehorse Correctional Centre recommitting additional crimes? Why is there a circle, this continuous swinging door, happening up there? Whatís the cause of it? Is it a problem with the facility? Is it a problem with the programs? Is it a problem with the system? Is it a problem with our society? What is the cause behind this?
Mr. Speaker, we also have a very high percentage of inmates in that facility who are of First Nation ancestry. In 1995, the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples concluded that the Canadian criminal justice system had failed aboriginal people of Canada. That came out loud and clear in their findings.
Thatís something weíve known now for nine years, since the study was done, but it does take time to institute these changes, and building a new facility is one of those times when you can institute those changes. As the member who spoke before me said, once you build a new concrete box, youíre stuck with it for 40 years. Itís hard to change it once itís done.
So what can we do to reduce the rate of incarceration of people of aboriginal ancestry?
Additionally, weíre seeing changes in sentencing practices. What kind of impact will that have on a correctional facility?
As the Minister of Justice mentioned earlier, only four percent of people picked up for committing a crime end up in a correctional facility. So how has that changed over the years? Does that mean we can expect to see more people in the facility or less people? Does that mean we should have more cells, fewer cells, bigger cells? Iím not sure.
Additionally, weíre seeing changes in sentences. Sentences are now including more time doing community service or time spent in the community. As the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin commented earlier, sometimes itís especially beneficial to have that option ó instead of incarcerating a person in a concrete box, to put them in a program, in their community, out on the land.
We need to have the flexibility to put into place the programs that the member was talking about because theyíre good ideas. Sinking all of our resources into a new concrete box wonít allow us that flexibility.
Additionally, weíre seeing changes with the administration of justice. First Nations are taking over the administration of justice on their settlement lands, their traditional territory. Thatís a reality that our Yukon justice system has to respond to. So there are lots of changes happening. This is our new, current situation. Itís the new reality we need to live in, and we need to create programs and services that reflect this situation.
Now, Iím concerned when the member opposite says, "Well, letís just build a new jail." Well, how many cells would that have? What size would they be? Would it have any cells ó or dormitories? Where would it be built? Iím certainly not convinced that the best place for a facility of this type is in between a triangle made up of the College, an elementary school and a key recreational complex.
That doesnít sound like the best place for a facility of this type; it sounds like the best place for a housing development. It certainly doesnít seem to be the best place for that kind of facility.
Speaker:The Member for Lake Laberge on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to Articles 3(1) and 3(2) of our Standing Orders, there does not appear to be a quorum present.
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speakerís attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker shall cause the bells to ring for four minutes and do a count.
Speaker: I have shut off the bells and I will do a count. There are 15 members present; a quorum is present. We will now continue debate.
Mr. Rouble: Itís always a pleasure to debate with the members opposite and discuss things face to face with members who bring motions forward to get to the guts of the issue.
So what would this new off-the-shelf facility look like? What programs would it have? How much space would they need to operate? What are the objectives of the programs? How would this new facility accommodate some of the needs of the people in there, people with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, or drug and alcohol addictions, illiteracy or degree of incarceration? Iíve heard comments that we have more people in our current facility now that are on remand than are actually sentenced to there. How do we need to accommodate that? I think that needs to be taken into consideration.
Mr. Speaker, there are too many unanswered questions. We need to dig deeper, and a new cage doesnít come up with these answers. We need to have the programs to resolve the situations. Mr. Speaker, I know that the members opposite are often fond of quoting parables. In fact, in here we often hear the parable, "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime." Well, Mr. Speaker, thereís a new parable that Iíve come across. That is, "Cage a man today, arrest him tomorrow; rehabilitate a man today, and end the circle of sorrow." Mr. Speaker, we have bigger problems in our society, and we need to work toward resolving them.
Mr. Speaker, we need to build a new facility; that certainly isnít the question. But we have to build the right facility. And there has been a decision to build the right facility, and that will require proper consultation, proper programming and design. But the process is well underway. And switching that process midcourse and using some off-the-shelf solution wonít serve Yukoners well.
Mr. Speaker, good ideas have been brought forward. Thatís true. We have been looking at the justice system for years. There has been a commitment to make it work better for all involved. Good ideas have been brought forward in the past, and good ideas are certainly being brought forward in the consultations now.
Now, we also need to consider some of the other aspects of the justice system, some of the other characteristics, such as punishment ó what is an appropriate punishment for breaking a law?
How do we go about rehabilitating those who have habitually committed those offences? Can we create a system that actually creates deterrents to others to prevent them from committing crimes? How do we go about creating a system that involves healing for all?
I support the Yukon Partyís plan. This is a plan that has been brought forward and discussed in this House on numerous occasions. The Minister of Justice discussed it earlier. The Minister of Education also hit on some high points. This plan is to work with First Nations. Itís to work with Yukoners. Itís to work with our employees and Justice professionals and itís to work with the inmates in order to build programs and solutions to address our real issues.
Itís to that end that I put forward the following amendment to the motion.
Mr. Rouble: I move
THAT Motion No. 232 be amended by replacing all words after the word "immediately" with the words "following the completion of consultation on corrections that will engage the full involvement of Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners in developing a facility that is designed for effective program delivery."
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Southern Lakes
THAT Motion No. 232 be amended by replacing all words after the word "immediately" with the words "following the completion of the consultation on corrections that will engage the full involvement of Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners in developing a facility that is designed for effective program delivery."
Member for Southern Lakes, I believe you have six minutes left.
Mr. Rouble: When I first began, I started off with looking at what the word "redevelopment" actually means. If redevelopment means understanding our current situation, consulting and working with all our partners, changing the system, creating programs to resolve issues and creating a facility to house such programs and efforts, then I think we can all agree to this because I think thatís what we all want to do.
Mr. Speaker, every speaker Iíve heard here today has commented on the problems with our current system and with our current facility. People talked about options and ways of addressing the underlying issues. Thatís what we really need to address: what are the underlying issues? Just building another big concrete box wonít resolve anything.
So this amendment remains very consistent with the original motion the member put forward but it does put in the condition that consultations take place with Yukon First Nations and with Yukoners. I donít think any member in here could get up and vote against consultation.
The members opposite have been very critical of this government in saying that decisions have been made without consultation. Well, weíre committing to consultation and weíre saying that this process needs consultation. So Iím certain and I would expect that the opposition would agree. I mean, voting down the amendment would be voting down consultation with Yukoners and First Nations. I donít see how or why that would happen.
Additionally, this amendment puts forward the idea that the purpose of this is to develop a facility that is designed for effective program delivery. I think thatís what our justice system is all about ó what are the effective programs we can put forward?
Again, programs or ó well, laws to guide peopleís behaviour so theyíll act in a certain way, and punishment, if they choose to break that law. We have systems in place to deter others from committing crimes, and weíve all recognized that we have to put in place programs to promote healing ó healing of the victim, healing of those who committed the offence, and some work to rehabilitate so that the offender does not reoffend.
So this amendment takes it one step further. We can all agree that we need a new facility, but Iím sure weíll all agree that we need the right facility. Itís the right facility that would be built through consultation. Letís talk about some more of the issues. The members opposite are commenting that consultation happened. Well, the word weíre getting back is that people werenít happy with the consultation ó that it needs more, that there are additional issues out there that need to be discussed.
Mr. Speaker, weíre listening to the people. Theyíre saying that there are other issues that need to be brought forward, that need to come up to the table. So we agree; the facility needs to be rebuilt. We agree that we need the appropriate programming. We agree that there is a certain time urgency in here. We canít go on forever with our current facility, and we all recognize that. But we need to go forward with the right facility that will house the right programs to address the issues.
Mr. Speaker, it will be interesting to hear the debate that will go on on this, because I honestly hope that all members can endorse this amendment and agree to it, because I think it makes an awful lot of sense. It addresses the underlying issues. Weíre agreeing with the opposition. It was their motion that was brought forward. Itís a good idea, for the most part. It needed a bit of clarity and a bit of definition.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would again thank the member, the leader of the third party, for bringing forward the motion. I hope that she will accept this friendly amendment in the manner that it was intended, and that was just to fine-tune and to give further direction and clarity to the motion. And I ask all members of our Assembly to support it.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the amendment.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is an expression ó Robbie Burns uses it about the best laid plans of mice and men. This amendment may be viewed as friendly by the Member for Southern Lakes; it may be viewed as constructive by the Member for Southern Lakes and providing clarity. In fact, it does not. What it does is further delay a badly, badly needed redevelopment of a facility.
The expression ó since we seem to be using parables, letís go to acronyms: DYH, do your homework. The January 31, 1995 conditions survey for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, otherwise known as the Barr Ryder report, says ó first of all it was initiated in September 1994 under a Yukon Party government. It hired a group of architects, planners, electricians, mechanical analysis. It said: "The project scope was review the as-seen condition status. Identify the capacity of the existing facility to accommodate the projected correctional program. Identify requirements for the facility to be brought up to environmental code standards. Identify costs for the required upgrade. Establish a conceptual design approach. Develop an option." The conclusions of the report are absolutely crystal clear, and there are three of them that I have to mention.
Before I do that, I would say that the report focused on critical life safety upgrades, technical standards, correctional standards, program fit. There are three critical recommendations. They have to be stated for the record: "(1) It is the recommendation of the consultant team that the facility not be considered for substantive renovations in order to assist in accommodating programs. Even if the program requirements could be limited to life safety issues, the facility will not operate in an appropriate fashion, will not provide for the program functions necessary, will not have a lifespan exceeding five years without further substantive deterioration of the overall facility." That was recommendation (1).
"(2) Consideration should not be given to relocation of inmates to a separate building and utilizing the existing facility for staff administrative program consideration unless the facility can be brought up to full life safety and technical standards." And this part is underlined in the recommendations ó"There remains a danger that earthquake or fire will cause loss of life or injury to staff, if not inmates, in program areas."
This is in bold in recommendation (3) in the report: "Options in future, therefore, should not consider the continuation of this facility but must look toward its replacement as soon as practicable."
That report is nine years old. There is a legal requirement for the Government of Yukon to replace that facility ó absolutely a legal requirement.
Yes, Mr. Speaker, I apologize for raising my voice, but I feel very passionately that no government should ignore advice that they have received, that they have been given, that very clearly spells out that they have a legal and moral requirement to do something.
How in good conscience can any government ignore that? They cannot. That building exceeds the governmentís own Management Board directives for the places we require our employees to work. How in good conscience can government ignore their own Management Board directives?
It appalls me to hear the Member for Porter Creek Centre suggest for a moment that the previous Liberal government had not taken that advice. They had taken that advice. They had accepted that report and I could table the budget figures and the budget speeches to prove it. The money was there. The work was done and the gravel still sits there.
The work was done and that work included the consultation work. It was signed off by the Elders Council ó the building consultations. Every fine-tuned moment of those building consultations went back to CYFN Elders Council and they were consulted with. We have had successful partnerships with Kwanlin Dun First Nation in rebuilding other government facilities without delaying them and ignoring our legal and moral requirements to the people of the Yukon. Itís wrong not to rebuild this facility, and this amendment to suggest we further delay and consult for the life of that government opposite and the members opposite is unconscionable to me as a member of this Legislature.
I have heard for the eight years I have been here about the need for this facility. I have read the documents that prove it unequivocally. I have worked on the other side and faced the dilemma of limited financial resources and a crying, desperate need. Iíve lived by those Management Board directives, the fire marshal saying, "No, delay is not acceptable. You have to rebuild, replace and redevelop that facility." And the best way to do it was in consultation with First Nations, working with the staff, working with corrections, working with the standards for corrections across the country ó the standard for the boxes, as the Member for Porter Creek Centre called them.
Those are buildings where people live and where people work. These people deserve a safe, healthy place to work. Our Management Board directives tell us we have to provide them with that. Weíre not meeting those Management Board directives. While enlightening, the hour-and-a-half dissertation by the Minister of Justice about justice neglects the straightforward fact that it is incumbent upon governments to do what we ask others to do. If weíre saying that, by Management Board directives, we have to provide X amount of space for people to work in.
If we have a government-commissioned report that is unequivocal, that has been supported by subsequent reports from the fire marshal and everyone else ó architects and everyone else have told us, "You have to replace that building", then government has to do it. Delaying that, for the life of a government ó particularly a government that has a $705-million budget, and is ignoring this very basic need ó to me, itís unconscionable.
And to say, "Of course, weíll support this amendment because we believe in consultation" ó well, the consultation is there. The consultation has been done on a specific building design, a specific building location, and it has been redeveloped in consultation with the Council of Yukon First Nations Elders Council, which made specific recommendations that were followed.
The consultation has also been done, although itís neglected to be mentioned in here, with those involved in corrections across this country, in light of decisions as mentioned by the Minister of Justice.
Why is consultation only good enough if itís done by the Yukon Party? Itís not. Consultation works when other people do it as well, and that consultation has been done on a very specific facility, and weíre going to delay it, because we donít want to build this building.
Why is it okay for a $50-million legacy project to keep open a road we donít even have a commitment from the other side to keep open ó nothing, not a commitment. Itís a road that has significantly deteriorated to the point of where the 1995 ó I believe it is ó estimates about keeping that road are substantially increased.
What about the 86 inmates? What about the population who work at the jail?
A $19-million construction project ó total cost of completion, $24 million, less than half the price of a bridge, significantly more than the Yukon population. In fact, the entire Yukon is affected by the governmentís decision because the entire Yukon and the Yukon government wears the liability when we donít rebuild it. Do your homework, please, members opposite. Go back, look at the Barr Ryder report. Look at Hansard. Look at the budget documents. Listen to the people who work there; listen to the inmates. It isnít just about an opposition memberís motion. This is about the right thing to do for Yukoners, and thatís what we were elected to do: to make decisions, to argue our point.
In the dilemma that is governing the territory, there are many, many, many choices to be made. Building a bridge in Dawson and delaying the jail is the wrong choice. Itís the wrong choice for the Yukon. It doesnít recognize the work of those who have gone before. It doesnít recognize the consultation that has been done. I canít help but wonder how those who spent hours and hours and hours and hours providing their input on what the healing lodge would look like at the redeveloped Whitehorse correctional institute, on how to accommodate the programming that is desperately needed ó how do those people feel, who provided that input as well-meaning citizens who said, "We recognize this, we have to do this, we want to share our opinions." They provided their advice, their advice is taken, there is an election, and itís completely ignored ó completely ignored ó completely ignored because weíre going to do our own consultation.
Well, itís the same Yukoners. And those Yukoners are still saying that this facility should have been redeveloped.
So I donít see the amendment as friendly. And it may come as a complete surprise to the Member for Southern Lakes, but Iím not going to support it because there has been substantial consultation, and to ignore that advice of Yukoners is simply as wrong as delaying the construction of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the jail. Itís more than nine years overdue. Itís well past time. It makes me sad, disappointed ó any of a number of adjectives ó that the current members opposite are continuing to delay this project and ignoring the advice and hard work of Yukoners who have put their time in and ignoring the advice of the professionals who worked on a redevelopment, ignoring the consultations ó that is, the advice of those who have done the homework on the corrections standards from across the country, as to the size of the jail cells and how they should meet the needs.
All of us ó there isnít a member in this House who wouldnít look forward to the day when a jail wasnít required. The fact is, it is required. It has been there for some time. Yes, justice is changing. Yes, there are a number of ó in fact, in the Law Day insert in tonightís paper, thereís a very well-written piece about circle sentencing and other justice initiatives. The fact is that while justice changes, albeit slowly, we have continued to need and we still have the need for the jail. The building itself is what we are focused on. The building itself we have known for some time has to be redeveloped.
I understand that I have five minutes left, Mr. Speaker.
The body language of the members opposite and the sense I get is that I havenít convinced them of my point. Well, itís an old study ó what does it matter?
Well, I really believe that people matter and Yukoners know that this has to be done. Yes, weíd like to support and see the changes that are required to the justice system to better meet the needs of our community. And as the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has said very eloquently this afternoon, there are dozens of reports gathering dust. Those reports are about the justice system, about working with the community.
The need for the facility has been there and no one ó not one person ó has stood on their feet and said no, we are never going to need the facility in the future. We are going to need the facility. The one we have now isnít safe, itís not secure and itís not within the governmentís own directives as to how and what sort of place people should go to work in.
They have the money to put it back on the table, to get the plans out, to dust them off, to redevelop it and to do it.
The Premier is certainly welcome to stay and listen ó not that he pays any attention, but he is certainly welcome to stay and listen.
I would strongly urge the Minister of Finance, who has control of the books and the purse strings, who chairs Management Board, to also get an opinion from the Justice department as to what the liabilities are, knowing he has all this information ó the Barr Ryder report, the architectural plans, the contracting work. Itís all there, including the consultation with the Elders Council.
Why not proceed? The money is there.
Absolutely ó engage in consultation on the justice system, on corrections ó and work had been done on a corrections act. In the interim, the need for the facility is there and will continue to be there. Letís not continue to put Yukon workers and place Yukon loved ones ó who find themselves incarcerated ó at risk in this facility while the government engages in a consultation exercise about other aspects of the justice system.
The fact is, the facility has to be replaced. Do it now.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd like to speak to the amendment that was put before us by the Member for Southern Lakes. It encourages more consultation on corrections that will engage the full involvement of Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners in developing a facility that is designed for effective program delivery.
Earlier, when I spoke to the main motion, as I was finishing off I wanted to address that area specifically in regard to consultation. I suggested that the government, while doing its consultation, can also address the need for a building, suggesting that they can work on both issues at the same time.
Mr. Speaker, that suggestion is very simple; that suggestion is very straightforward. I believe that a design for the building has already been completed in consultation with all stakeholders in the territory. So what is the holdup? We have a building that is in an unsafe state and a hazard to the health of the staff and inmates at the Correctional Centre. Weíre wasting time addressing whether we should talk to people or not.
I made the suggestion earlier that there has been consultation going on for years. Iíve seen a group of people on many occasions in my own community, and I know and I heard the ideas that were put forward to these people because, in the community where I live, justice issues are very important. I want to state again that justice issues are taken very seriously and we consider justice issues our own responsibility. And we want to work with the justice system so that we can take on that responsibility for our own people.
I have heard many times this afternoon, and I will state again that it is a matter of information and a matter of history that the majority of the inmate population throughout Canada is of First Nation descent.
For that very reason, First Nation communities in this territory and across this country want to be part of those decisions ó and they have been. This is not a new idea drummed up by the Yukon Party government. Other people have been involved before.
I found it very interesting that after the Yukon Party was elected, we had to define and redefine the meaning of the word "consultation". A protocol even had to be signed to define the word "consultation". And in that protocol, there are commitments made by everyone who was party to that agreement on how they were going to interact with each other. However, that was already taking place.
We are again talking about a group of people that society tends to place on the back burner. Yet we can stand up and make our grandiose statements about how much we care, about how much we would like to do, and how much time we need to still sit around and talk.
I heard someone make reference to some of my statements earlier, and I heard references made to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre as a concrete box. I heard many times before how we like to warehouse these people who are in these concrete boxes.
Are we talking about human beings, Mr. Speaker, or are we talking about animals?
Some of these people are our friends. Some of these people in there are our families. I donít think there is one of us in this Legislature who doesnít know someone who has walked through those doors. We have felt the emotion that goes with that, because we all care ó I hope we do ó and have hoped that they walk out of there with a better hope for the future and have learned a lesson.
When we see our friends or our family walk through those doors and we see how the gates shut behind them as they walk in, we know what our hearts feel like inside.
Put yourself in the shoes of a young manís grandmother who is living in a distant community and realizing that their relationship now has to be distant. The young person has to learn a lesson and the elder is sitting in the community thinking about her grandchild and how they could combine the two systems so that the young person can learn a lesson and the grandparent can play a part in that.
Thatís what this is all about. That kind of information is already written in reports and sitting on somebody elseís shelf gathering dust. Not one month ago, at a public meeting I held in the community where I come from, those very ideas were put forward. They wanted me to come back here and relay that message to the Yukon Party government, to take that $250 a day that it takes to keep an inmate in that correctional facility and put it to a better use where that young person may have another chance and be out on the land and learn from his or her own people. Again, given the situation, it depends on the charges.
The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is making comments over there, and I heard his comments earlier about referring to the end of the Holocaust and how all this ties into it. I thought that was pretty extreme. There were a lot of people who died. Weíve all had a pretty serious history, and weíre talking about our own people here. Our ancestors, the First Nation people in this land, paved the way and a trail for us so we can walk in a good way in this society, whether in our communities being a responsible person or being a responsible person outside our community in the white society.
And thatís what I learned from my grandparents and from my mother. It might be a laughing matter to people, but those are the very teachings of the Elders Council and the recommendations that theyíve made. And while theyíre building a building that is so much more suitable than what the people up there have to deal with today, the staff who are working there and the people who have to live there, they can be building another building.
In the meantime the Minister of Justice, with all her staff in her department, in conjunction with other departments, can address the issue of offering effective programming to address the addictions, to address FASD, and to address the mental illnesses that some people may suffer from. Mr. Speaker, it can be very simple. Maybe it is too simple.
If weíre referring to these buildings as concrete boxes and referring to some extreme cases in our history, why are we here? I believe Iím here to make some difference, to make a difference if I can ó yes, on behalf of a group of people who society wants to put on the back burner. I have no problem with that because, at one point in my life, somebody did stick up for me and made a difference in my life.
Thatís part of the reason Iím here today. I do not support this amendment to the motion that was placed before us. I believe we can make progress, and thereís much progress that has been made already. Thatís why the building was ready to be built and you see the big pile of gravel sitting in front of WCC. Itíll sit there for the next three or four years while we sit around and talk.
I believe the Yukon First Nation people have valuable input, and if we go around in circles and circles, weíre not going to make any headway. The memorandum of understanding that was signed with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation spells out what needs to take place. Whatís the holdup? That MOU was signed about a year ago, and theyíre just meeting now. That says a lot, Mr. Speaker.
It took one year to meet with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and, with all due respect, because we are on their traditional territory, one year is a long time.
How many other First Nations do we have to talk to? There are 14. Is it going to take 14 years? I think we need to move a little faster than that for the health and safety of the staff and inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to give them a little security at their workplace so that the people who do this job on our behalf ó keep the Yukon public safe ó can feel a little better about going to work every day.
I have seen the state of that building. I have seen the mould that was forming around the windows. Iíve seen it in the winter, when the windows are all frosted up and you canít even see out the window. We expect people to work and live in those conditions, and then we make off-the-wall remarks in here.
Mr. Speaker, I will not support this amendment.
Mr. Cathers: On the amendment, I feel that this amendment that has been proposed by the Member for Southern Lakes is very critical. It is critical that we do full and fair and proper consultation before we undertake this project.
If we did as the opposition is urging, as the member from the third party has urged, and simply built a brand new box thatís bigger and newer than the old one, what would we have achieved?
This government has made it very clear that we are committed to building a new jail, that we are committed to addressing the problems with the current facility. But we have also made it very clear that we are opposed to warehousing prisoners. We must get past that old philosophy, that practice that has been far too long in our system ó that you simply lock somebody up and throw away the key for a set amount of time, and then you let them back out and ó surprise, surprise ó you didnít fix anything.
Itís critical that the new facility be designed around program delivery, that the development of the facility be program-led rather than facility-led ó that the facility fit the programs, not the programs having to fit the facility.
If we build a brand new $24-million box ó I believe that was the cost that the previous government had estimated for it ó and if we build it bigger and itís newer, and it turns out that after the time has been taken to figure out what programs should be delivered in it and that the new facility doesnít work for the programs, what have you got then? Do you have programs working poorly? Or do you just build a brand new facility?
Well, probably what would happen, Mr. Speaker, is that you would just make do and the programs would not be delivered properly; the rehabilitation needs would not be addressed.
The Yukon has one of the highest, if not the highest, recidivism rate ó that is the rate of re-offending ó in Canada. It is approximately between 70 percent and 90 percent, versus between 50 percent and 60 percent nationally. Itís important that rehabilitation be done. Itís important that we address the two key needs in any correctional system, which are protecting society and rehabilitating the inmates.
We must deliver effective rehabilitation and, before we can determine how that rehabilitation should be delivered and what that program should be, there must be consultation on corrections, as the Member for Southern Lakes has put in the amendment. We have to complete the consultation on corrections and we have to fully involve Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners. We have to develop a facility designed for effective program delivery.
Contrary to the suggestions of the members opposite, this is not being shoved on a back burner; we are moving forward with this. We are going to do the proper consultations. We have asked the First Nations to come to the table and weíre inviting all Yukoners to come to the table. The process will be done as soon as we can do this process, but it must be done properly. Simply to stick a label on something and say it was consultation and you did a lot of it or took a lot of time on it and say that that must be good enough, isnít enough. It must be done properly. The consultation also must be focused on the right questions. What are the questions? What are the focuses of that consultation? If youíre focused on the wrong area, your consultation isnít going to do you a lot of good. You have to be focused on the key and critical elements of the needs that youíre trying to address.
They say if you build it, they will come, and if we just build this jail, the inmates are probably just going to keep on coming and coming as they have in the past. We must address the programming needs. We must focus on rehabilitation and we must bring in the skills, the experiences and the background of Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners toward developing this process. The disproportionate percentage, or over-representation, of First Nation citizens within the population of the Correctional Centre is something that increases and highlights the need for First Nations to be involved: for the governments to be involved and for their citizens to be involved in developing this process.
Mr. Speaker, the member of the third party referred to the Minister of Justice going on for an hour and a half, she said, about justice issues and saying that she wasnít addressing the issue of the jail. The point is that the whole picture is the issue. The social problems, the problems with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, lack of access to education, to post-secondary education, problems from residential schools that are carrying over to certain families in society: these are all things that must be addressed because they are all part of the problem. We cannot focus on a tiny picture.
It reminds me of the story of the men of lesser vision, the five blind men and the elephant, feeling different parts of the elephant and, from feeling a different part, they came up with a different conclusion of what they were addressing. We could liken this type of thing to the same procedure. If we are looking at only a certain part of the picture, weíre not going to see whatís around it. We have to look at the whole picture.
It seems to me that the opposition doesnít appreciate the importance of working with the First Nation governments on this issue, that they donít appreciate the importance of addressing all aspects of this issue, of the problem, before determining the solution. Simply building a new jail will fix nothing, Mr. Speaker, unless the jail is designed to fix the problems. When a program isnít working, the solution isnít always just to throw more money at it. Sometimes you need to change or replace the program or your approach to something. The opposition is urging us not to build a facility addressing program needs but simply to build a newer and bigger version of the one we have right now. And what is that going to do, Mr. Speaker?
We need to sit down with First Nations and all Yukoners to see where the current system and procedure is working, where it is failing, and how we can improve on it.
A number of reports have been done on aboriginal involvement in justice. To quote from one report, which was done by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples ó I believe it was in Volume 3, Gathering Strength ó the commissioners emphasized that change would take time and that there was an immediate need for movement on social concerns. The social issue and the issue of corrections are so integrally linked that they cannot be separated, so we must take an integrated approach.
Again, a quote from this report: "Ö an integrated approach on everything from housing and education to language and health issues and more."
Another report, the Alberta task force report, Justice on Trial, made a total of 340 recommendations in the areas of policing, legal aid, the courts, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and corrections. Among the recurring themes in all these areas was the need for increased communications and liaison among and between aboriginal communities and organizations, police agencies and government departments; the need for increased and enhanced cross-cultural training for staff within the criminal justice system; the need to increase the number of aboriginal people employed within the criminal justice system; the need to develop custodial alternatives and options for remanded aboriginal accused and sentenced aboriginal offenders; the need to increase elder involvement in the criminal justice system; the need to expand the availability of alcohol and drug treatment programs; the need to expand aboriginal community-based resources; the need to increase aboriginal involvement in criminal justice system planning, program development and service delivery; and the need to increase public education regarding aboriginal issues, as well as aboriginal awareness of the workings of the criminal justice system.
I have several reports in front of me. Although I feel that the points from them would be very valuable to address, I would sincerely like to get to what other members of this House have to say and to hopefully bring this amendment to a vote, and ultimately to the main motion.
I hope that this has highlighted for the members opposite why we on this side feel it is critical to not put the cart before the horse, to build the facility after determining how the facility has to be designed so that you can effectively deliver the programs, and that you have to take an integrated approach and that that approach has to begin with consultation and consultation on the right questions. Simply for the members opposite to say that consultation was done ó what does that mean, Mr. Speaker?
The important question is: what questions were asked? What areas were focused on and on what areas were they asked for their opinions on?
We must focus on these things. We must begin the process involving the people so that we have the right result instead of simply another warehouse for people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: I wasnít sure if I was going to get a chance to speak to the motion or the amendment. I had tried to indicate that I was interested in speaking, but some members on the other side, even though they had already spoken, felt that they really didnít want to listen to me speak.
I do appreciate when you do try to ensure that every person in this Legislature has a chance to get on record their opinions about motions that are brought forward.
I know this is the amendment that has been brought forward from the Yukon Party, the government side, to a motion that was presented in the House earlier today, which I felt was a very legitimate motion, and worded in such a manner that would have been, I feel, perfectly acceptable for all people in this House.
The wording of the amendment, "following the completion of the consultation on corrections that will engage the full involvement of Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners in development of a facility that is designed for effective program delivery", doesnít necessarily give me a great deal of confidence. I would assume that since theyíve signed an agreement, what we would have seen by now is some indication that consultation has taken place. I havenít necessarily been convinced that any type of meaningful consultation has taken place. I am very concerned that all First Nations would be included in the consultation, and yet I have not heard from the other side yet that all First Nations have been included in the consultation. I would have expected that we would have had some updates on the progress of the consultation of the involvement of the First Nations and some idea what timelines are being developed or being put in place or being anticipated in regard to replacement of a facility, which I donít think anybody in this Legislature can deny. This facility must be replaced.
I donít know why the members on the other side go on and on about that. Are they arguing that this is a perfectly adequate facility, that the design of it, the construction of it, the massive amount of money we put in each year to keep the darn thing up and running, meets all the requirements as they exist today? Itís safe and secure. Itís one thatís a healthy environment for the people actually in there, never mind the programs they want to develop. Itís one that protects the guards and the staff up there. Itís one that allows them to put on other programs. Itís one that meets many, many issues that need to be addressed. Are they saying that thatís it? Of course itís not.
If theyíre saying it, then itís a delusion, because all they have to do is go up there and take a look at where the people have to work, what the inmates have to live in, what the people who visit have to experience, and the sense of hopelessness such a facility presents to anybody who might be contemplating changes in their life, because that facility is about hopelessness. And itís about hopelessness of a government that wonít recognize that, at some point or other, itís a facility that has to be dealt with. Itís not going to go away. Itís an issue thatís not going to go away. The NDP started working on this in 1996 to 2000; the Liberals continued the process and did some more work on it and advanced it to the next stage. Then the Yukon Party comes in and kills it. That is the solution that they have for this.
And I find it really funny that theyíre using this excuse they call consultation, because I have not seen any indication, nor have I heard in here, Mr. Speaker, anything that indicates that the consultation has taken place. And this is a year now.
Now, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin said that it has taken a year for the consultation in this stage ó what stage it is, we have questions about ó and there are still 14 other First Nations out there. Is it going to take another 14 years, and thatís the plan? Meanwhile, people are living in a hopeless structure that is completely demoralizing; people are trying to work in an environment that is unsafe; and we ignore those concerns because the Yukon Party government is saying itís an us-and-them, itís a this-or-that situation? Nonsense. These projects, the consultation, the programming that they feel needs to be implemented, and the facility can all go hand-in-hand-in-hand. Itís not that you have to do one before the other ó nonsense.
It also raises the question of their concerns ó when they initially cancelled the program, they stopped it in its tracks when the Minister of Justice decided she was going to kill this project and thatís the end of it, though she wouldnít come out and admit it. She didnít have the courage in this House to admit thatís what was happening. That is exactly what has happened, and the excuse was that it was going to cost too much, it seemed too high, yet we can hear talk from that side of building a bridge, just like that, and moving forward ó $1.5 million spent in this budget; $30 million, $40 million, $50 million. Iíve heard contractors say it would be $50 million to build this bridge and the infrastructure around it.
However, they can make that decision quite easily for a bridge but, for the lives of people, for the staff, for inmates, for the facility, for the safety of the public, they cannot find the money. Does that indicate the weakness of this minister in comparison to the strength of the Minister of Health and Social Services? Is that what weíre seeing here? Because thatís what it looks like, Mr. Speaker.
So what was the motion that was brought forward?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The member opposite in the corner, the Member for Lake Laberge, asked if I hadnít read it yet. Well, of course I read it. I read it in the record book, but I will quite happily read it again if he did speak to it but didnít read it. Iím quite willing to accommodate him and help him out. It wouldnít be the first time weíve tried to accommodate the Member for Lake Laberge in trying to understand something.
In regard to this, following the completion of the consultation on corrections ó okay, so one of my questions in regard to that is: where are we at then? Where are we at in the consultation?
Who have we consulted? Will the minister share that information with us? Will she tell us exactly who she has consulted? She promised to consult 14 First Nations. Has she consulted 14 First Nations after one year? Will she give us that?
Now, if there has been consultation, what does it say? What is the outcome of it and where is it going? What are we going to do with it? Is it going to be brought forward into the Legislature? Are we going to have a chance to debate this or is this going to be one more secret little plan in the back rooms of this group of people, and they will drop it like a bombshell on the people of the Yukon?
Has this minister consulted the people of the Yukon? Thatís a promise. I havenít seen any public meetings. Maybe I have been missing them. Has she gone out and consulted? Has she hosted public meetings? Has this issue been put before the people of the Yukon?
This is what was promised and itís a year later and we still donít see it. Why not? So, the question is: why not? Does this government have a true, honest commitment to build this facility during their term in office? Do we have a timeline? These are very legitimate questions. Never mind all the other stuff and all the rhetoric we hear about: "Oh, my gosh, itís the programming; itís the programming that is going to save people." We do have a facility that is crumbling. We have to deal with that as well. I think thatís recognized by everybody in here.
Itís not this or that. It doesnít have to be that way. It doesnít have to be spun that way. So weíve talked about the consultation. Can this minister tell us what the deadline for the consultation is? When does the minister anticipate a conclusion to this nebulous consultation that supposedly is happening out there? Weíre very eager to see the results of it. Weíre very interested to attend the public meetings that have been promised. And weíre very interested to see what the timelines are for new programming and for an overhaul of the whole justice system ó as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini indicated. If thatís where this government is going, itís going to be very interesting if they plan to overhaul the whole justice system and approach justice in a completely different light.
If thatís what that minister is proposing, I really hope he is talking to the Minister of Justice because itís quite a chore. Itís going to take up a lot of time of this government and it could have the potential to be tremendously controversial, but if thatís what they want to take on, so be it. We will engage in that debate happily and weíll contribute where we can. We will give our constructive criticism where we can to lend good ideas to try to maybe point out some of the fallacies or the faults of the proposals being brought forward.
So this is what we are interested in.
Now, they have talked about program delivery, and this is not the first government that has addressed it or talked about it. This is not the first attempt at changing the way we treat people who have fallen afoul of the law, as itís written today. And there are lots of ideas out there. No one has ownership of them.
I was in Old Crow a little over a month ago, and I heard some very, very good suggestions and some very, very heartfelt pleas by elders of Old Crow with respect to young people who fall into difficulties with the law. Their plea was that these young people do not always have to go down to the jail in Whitehorse ó that there was another method, another way to assist them, to help them get back on track, and to bring them in touch with their heritage and culture, to get them out and teach them through traditional values, traditional living, qualities in life that would guide them for the future and maybe break the cycle.
They were very, very honest statements, and I believe they are statements that we must always listen to and pay attention to and try, as much as we can, to incorporate into our thinking.
Has the minister been up to Old Crow and had this consultation yet? It has been a year. Has that happened? This is what I heard at a public meeting in Old Crow, and I know the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin represents her people very well and has already spoken about that, and Iím hoping that if the Minister of Justice has not been to Old Crow to hear this, that she listens closely to the member who represents the people of Old Crow, because that is whatís being said. Iíve heard it when I was there, and Iím hoping itís part of the consultation and part of the planning.
Part of what I heard that night, as well, was why so much money is spent to incarcerate somebody, and itís a repeat offender, for instance; therefore, theyíre incarcerated in the jail, they reoffend, they get out, they reoffend, they go back in, and itís a cycle. Why canít the money that is spent to hold them in the jail be put toward programs such as are being proposed or considered in Old Crow ó why canít that money be put toward the development of programs, the development of the camps, and the training that Iíve already suggested so that can be delivered in those areas?
Is the minister considering that? Is that part of this consultation?
There are a lot of other people from many walks of life who have ideas on how to deal with the situation that we face up here. Are they being considered ó rehabilitation, the alternatives that are needed?
But saying all that, it still did not change the fact that we do have to at some point find the monies and the will to put in place a new facility that can assist and help rehabilitate people. What we have today does not meet those requirements and, if anything, the clock is ticking on that building.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 232 and proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 14, 2004:
Bad Debt Expenses: letter (dated April 7, 2004) to Todd Hardy, MLA and Pat Duncan, MLA with responses to questions asked during debate on the 2003-04 Supplementary Budget (Bill No. 8) (Fentie)