††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Wednesday, November 10, 2004 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
In recognition of Remembrance Day
Speaker: Before the House goes on to the business of today, weíll take a few moments to honour the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of Canada. Tomorrow, November 11, is Remembrance Day. On that day services will take place throughout Canada where Yukoners and other Canadians will pay tribute to the men and women who gave their lives defending Canada.
Recently, our Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, led a delegation of veterans overseas to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the battle for Italy. Almost 100,000 Canadians served in the Italian campaign. Almost 6,000 of them lie buried in war cemeteries in Agira, Cassino and at the Moro River.
While we honour those who served in wartime, the recent death of Lieutenant Chris Saunders on the HMCS Chicoutimi should also serve to remind us that sacrifices borne by our military personnel are not a thing of the past.
As the Yukon Legislative Assembly will not sit tomorrow, it is appropriate for us to observe a moment of silence today. I would ask, therefore, that members and all others present rise and bow their heads and reflect on the sacrifices of those who gave up everything for us.
Moment of silence observed
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Alfred Olsen
†Mr. McRobb: I am honoured to rise today to tribute a former long-time Yukoner and relative who passed away October 19, 2004.
Alfred Olsen was born on January 20, 1924, at Eastend, Saskatchewan, to Walter and Helen Olsen. After finishing high school in 1941, he found work in Vancouver until the spring of 1943, when he ventured north and discovered his home for the next 36 years.
He married Margaret Jordan in 1949, and this past spring they celebrated 55 years together.
For more than 23 years, Al worked for the British Yukon Navigation Company, later known as the White Pass and Yukon Route. He spent many interesting summers on the paddlewheelers Kaska and Whitehorse on the Yukon River between Whitehorse and Dawson City and later became first mate on the SS Klondike.
Al recently donated to Parks Canada a river chart map of the Yukon River he hand-traced and used to navigate the tricky paddlewheeler route. A replica of that map is now on display in Dawson City.
Uncle Al pioneered the trail to the Yukon for most of my immediate family, including two brothers and my parents. Al was known as ďBig AlĒ, and he frequently smoked a big cigar. He and his wife were avid curlers, and both were active in the Whitehorse Lions Club.
In 1978, they moved to Fort McMurray, Alberta, where Al used his navigational skills on the Athabasca River. In 1984, Al and Marg retired and moved back to Saskatchewan. Even though Estevan was his final home, his heart was always in the Yukon. A perfect host, Alís door was always open for coffee, a meal, and often advice. Good turnouts at family gatherings demonstrated the love from family, friends and neighbours.
Al often said, ďOur memories come from everywhere and from everything weíve ever done or seen and from everyone we contact or think of. It is wonderful and may it ever be!Ē
He is survived by his wife, Margaret, of Estevan, brother Frank, of Burnaby, B.C., sister Evelyn of Whitehorse, and many other relatives and friends.
I invite all members of this Assembly to join me in welcoming to the gallery, Alís sister and brother-in-law, my parents, Evelyn and Gordon McRobb.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to ask the members of the Assembly to help me in welcoming my mother-in-law, a long-time Yukoner who has spent all 89 of her years here in the Yukon ó in Dawson, in Mayo and in Whitehorse ó Betty Taylor.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like all members in the House to help me welcome my brother-in-law, Roger Ellis, to the gallery.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would also like to invite members to acknowledge Mrs. Percival, who is also in the audience to be with us today.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there returns or documents for tabling?
Are there reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes the need for emergency measures planning in Yukon schools, including measures for evacuating and securing our school facilities;
THAT such plans, including fire drills and lockdowns, must be practised; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Education to review the practices used in emergency measures planning in Yukon schools in consultation with school administrators and school councils.
Mr. Cathers: I rise in the House today to give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges all Yukoners to recognize and honour veterans who have served our country in times of war and as peacekeepers.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
†Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† ††Climate change
†Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Premier. I was interested in the Premierís comments in Charlottetown this week that Canadians will be looking toward the north more and more in the future. I hope this is a sign that the Premier intends to show leadership on the national front when it comes to some serious issues facing the north. The enormous impact of climate change on Arctic regions is clearly one of those issues. Since the Minister of Environment has failed to make a clear commitment on this urgent matter, let me put the same question to the Premier. What specific resources is the Premier prepared to commit to climate change, and how is the Premier going to demonstrate leadership on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Canada is a signatory to the Kyoto convention. Here in the Yukon, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is the lead department on implementation. The Department of Environment is basically a monitoring and research and data collecting arm of government. To that end, let me share with the member opposite some of the involvements of the Department of Environment. Yukon Water Resources has been involved in climate change studies and activities for the last two decades. The Wolf Creek research basin project, managed by Yukon Water Resources, has been the site of ongoing comprehensive climate change studies. Yukon Water Resources maintains a Yukon-wide hydro metrological monitoring network, which is used to monitor climate change, including stream flows, water levels, snow packs, soil moisture, water temperature, river ice break-up. The list of the involvement of the Department of Environment in data collecting is extremely extensive, and I would be happy to share more detailed information, which is available during the course of briefings, of course, on this very important area that our government is involved in.
Mrs. Peter: Talk is cheap. What Yukoners want from the Premier is action and a demonstration of leadership. Climate change is directly related to human activity, including our unsustainable reliance on fossil fuels. This government blindly chases after oil and gas activity, but any long-term environmental vision is completely absent.
Iíd like the Premier to address a related issue on which the Environment minister also refused to take a clear position. What message is the Premier prepared to give to the Canadian government and to the new administration in Washington about the need to protect the Porcupine caribou herd from the impact of oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: This is the third time this question has been asked, and for the third time let me tell the member opposite that our position as a government with respect to the protection of the Porcupine caribou calving area has remained unchanged.
It has been the subject of two debates in this Legislature and was unanimously supported by all parties. That message was clearly sent to the respective federal government agencies in the United States and Canada, as well as to the respective governments of both jurisdictions.
We are in full and firm support of no activities in the calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd, and weíre referring to the 1002 lands in the northern part of Alaska.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the minister is wrong. The Premier is willing to go to oil and gas meetings. Heís willing to go to Ottawa and ask for money. Heís willing to go to Charlottetown to give comforting speeches about the role of the north in Confederation, but he doesnít seem to be very willing to stand up and be counted on an issue of critical importance to the Gwichíin people.
Mr. Speaker, I have a letter here for tabling that the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party signed this morning. It is addressed to President George W. Bush, and it asked him respectfully not to endorse any effort to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas development. Will the Premier add his signature to this letter this afternoon so we can let the new administration in Washington know right away where this House stands on this issue?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I noticed with interest the amusement the Member for Kluane found in the Yukon taking its place in Confederation, considering the fact that for the last 106 years this territory has struggled down a long and arduous road to improve on responsible government and implement responsible government for this territory. Thatís an important point, because itís obvious the official opposition is void of that knowledge and what it means to the Yukon and this country.
As far as the issue with the Porcupine caribou herd, we have been asked by the government of the Vuntut Gwitchin people to allow them to take the lead. We have done that. We have clearly articulated to the State of Alaska, the federal government and all who will listen that the Yukon governmentís position hasnít changed and that it has been the same position for years. There must be protection of the critical habitat of the Porcupine caribou herd. That position hasnít changed; it remains the same. Unanimous decisions in this House by motion ó if the official opposition wants to write a letter, go ahead and write the letter. What we will do is supply resources and help to the Vuntut Gwitchin people to make those representations as they have in Washington and anywhere else in the world. We are acting through resource implementation. They are writing letters and talking about it.
Speaker: Order please.
Before the leader of the official opposition asks his next question, I would like to remind all members of section 6(6) of the Standing Orders, which says that when a member is speaking, no member shall interrupt, except to raise a point of order or question of privilege. I would ask members to respect that.
Question re: First Nations, government relations with
Mr. Hardy: Letís talk about responsible government, Yukon Party style.
My question is for the Premier on one of his key promises from his 2002 election platform. The Premier has frequently spoken about partnerships and respectful government-to-government relations with Yukon First Nations. But in recent days and weeks, we seem to be witnessing a meltdown in these relationships. The legacy of this Yukon Party government could be the work it creates for lawyers defending the actions of various ministers against court actions by First Nation governments.
What is the Premierís plan to get his government-to-government relationships back on the rails before it is too late?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Our plan is very much unfolding as it should. Our partnerships are very solid with First Nation people. Letís talk about the Childrenís Act review in partnership with First Nations. Letís talk about the corrections reform initiative in partnership with First Nations. Letís talk about education reform in partnership with First Nations. Letís talk about self-determination for First Nation people.
Out of the 12 self-governing First Nations in the whole country of Canada, 9 of them are here in the Yukon. Letís talk about economic empowerment ó itís happening in todayís Yukon, not only with the government nurturing it but throughout the corporate community. Letís talk about education itself and the investment by the Minister of Education in our system to further enhance First Nation involvement and participation in our education system, including changing our curriculum with an investment of a half million dollars for more First Nation content, investment in aboriginal language servicesí first voices initiative to address fluency, and the list goes on and on and on.
New native language instructors, home tutoring programs for First Nation people, a partnership with First Nation women on violence they experience in the home ó all these things are elements of a partnership that this government has brought forward.
Mr. Hardy: Instead of talking about all of these initiatives, I wish this Premier would talk with the First Nations. One chief has been very, very clear about this. He said this government talks the talk but doesnít walk the walk. We just witnessed it today. Here in the House the Premier and his ministers donít even talk the talk. They refuse to acknowledge how serious things are and they all talk around the issues as if everything is fine. We witnessed it again today from this Premier.
I can tell you right now, things are not fine. The Premier has gambled big time and the Yukon could be a big loser in this. Will the Premier drop his ďmy way or the highwayĒ approach and sit down face-to-face with the First Nations ó who feel they are being ignored or mistreated by this government ó to work out how to repair these relationships?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: One thing about a partnership is that it must be based on respect and reciprocity. That is certainly what this government is doing and proceeding with with First Nations. There are always going to be disagreements. In those matters of disagreement, First Nations as governments have a choice to make on behalf of their citizens. In some of these cases that is exactly what theyíve done. This government has absolutely no hesitation presenting what it has done in areas of section 17.7 and the negotiations and the mandate to do so in the areas of the Tombstone Park and its creation ó totally in keeping with our obligations under the final agreement. The list goes on and on and on.
The member opposite says weíre talking about it. Well, Iíve just spent the last few minutes in responding to the leader of the official opposition with tangible product. Thatís the difference between this side of the House and that side of the House. They are talking about it in a way to dismantle this territoryís future. We are building this future with First Nations, not in spite of them.
Mr. Hardy: Well, big, brave words from the Premier, but itís not being shown today. Never in the history of the Yukon, from my memory, have I ever seen such discord in government-to-government relations brought about by this Premier. What will it take before this Premier acknowledges how serious things have become, because obviously heís not acknowledging it today? Carmacks, Mayo, Dawson, Haines Junction First Nations ó all these communities have serious issues with the Minister of Education. Dawson, again ó the First Nation could take the Environment minister to court over Tombstone Park. The Chief of Kwanlin Dun First Nation may take the Energy minister to court over land development. The Chief of Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation says heíll tell the oil and gas industry not to expect certainty in the Yukon because of how this government treats First Nations. Thirty years of work being undermined in two years by this Premierís actions and his attitude ó serious stuff indeed. Before things get even worse, will the Premier quit gambling with the Yukonís future and start building respectful relations with First Nations that he promised in his last campaign election?
Speaker: Before the hon. Premier answers, I would like to remind members once again of section 6(6) of the Standing Orders: ďWhen a member is speaking, no member shall interruptÖĒ
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is with great pleasure that I respond to this question. This government and this party acknowledged the issues between the government and First Nation governments back in the election in 2002, and that is why we brought forward the platform we did and thatís why we are carrying it out. As far as the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and its chief attending oil and gas conferences, I would hope when he articulates their concerns that he also adds the fact that the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation receives a sizable royalty cheque every year from the partnership in this territory when it comes to oil and gas development.
There are issues here and, as governments, we must all represent our respective citizens: First Nations, theirs, and we as a public government must represent the public interests.
The choice to go to court was not one made by this government. If the First Nations want to proceed in this manner, we are very comfortable and confident that we can present a clear position on the fact that we have followed through with our obligations. We will continue to do that, and to say anything else would not be correct.
This government is carrying out its plan of partnership. Itís certainly evident across the territory and the list of tangible product is long.
Question re: Safe drinking water regulations
†Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Last summer, the Government of Yukon announced that it was going to make our drinking water safer. There were public consultations that began in August 2003. In April of this year, new draft regulations were posted on the Government of Yukon Web site. Can the minister tell the House if these new rules have been passed by Cabinet? In other words, when did these new regulations become law?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The rules governing potable drinking water for public systems, i.e., the City of Whitehorse, the respective communities, and trucked water, have been passed. They are currently law and they are in place.
Ms. Duncan: I would ask the minister to provide a date when these were passed by Cabinet because the minister had indicated, when he announced the public consultations, that they were working very hard to develop standards to ensure high-quality drinking water.
The minister also said in his press release that the department would turn its attention to regulating the semi-public drinking water systems once these new regulations were in place. So, if the minister would indicate when the regulations that were posted on the Web site were passed by Cabinet ó they havenít been gazetted, to my knowledge ó so when were they passed by Cabinet ó if the minister would answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I will get back to the member opposite with the exact date. Further to the consultation process thatís underway, weíre now into the next phase. The first phase was the municipal water supplies and the truck water supplies. The second phase will be semi-private/public, and then we get into the last phase, which is the private, where there is testing required. But the semi-public/private is an area where we have dealings with a number of First Nations, and the question of Yukonís jurisdiction in this area is something that is an area that we have to address with the First Nation governments.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would like this clear for the record. The minister is going to indicate when the regulations that were posted on the Web site after the public consultation ó he is going to get back to me when those were passed by Cabinet.
The next phase of consultations is regarding the semi-public drinking water systems. As I understand it, there is a consultation process currently in place. Could the minister give the time frame for that consultation process and when we might see the draft regulations on the semi-public water systems?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I believe there are some draft regulations being circulated currently, Mr. Speaker, given that theyíre part of the consultation process on how weíre going to evolve in this area. I am not sure what is actually posted on the Web, but I am aware that the regulations for municipal water supplies and truck water supplies are currently in place, and I will get back to the member with the exact date.
Question re: Coal production
†Mr. McRobb: As the end of this Yukon Party governmentís term in office nears, it is becoming apparent that there are many similarities between it and the former Ostashek government, with the exception of this governmentís disrespect for the Umbrella Final Agreement. As prospects of re-election diminish, history will show that both governments gambled heavily with the future of the territory. The Ostashek government started throwing the dice with projects such as the railroad to Carmacks and the big coal plant scheme.
Now this government wants a piece of the action. According to legal documents filed by Cash Minerals Limited in August, it has recommenced exploration for coal on Division Mountain. Can the Premier tell us his governmentís policy with respect to coal plants?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Exploration, obviously, is a prerequisite before any mining development or production will ever take place. I donít see any correlation, though, with some exploration going on and coal plants. That certainly isnít something thatís happening in todayís Yukon.
I can tell you this: this government will ensure that the highest of environmental standards are applied in this territory, as we do across the spectrum of resource development and access to land. What we will do, however, with those highest of environmental standards, is make sure that they are applied consistently and fairly so that we are advancing responsible development for this territory as we should.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís still not a policy. Now not only is Cash exploring for coal, itís exploring for coal-bed methane. Coal-bed methane or natural gas from coal, or NGC ó as this government likes to call it ó is a controversial issue in surrounding jurisdictions due to its impact on the land, water and people.
However, the Yukon governmentís oil and gas branch is actively promoting coal-bed methane throughout the Yukon. Would the Premier agree to place a moratorium on coal-bed methane, or NGC, to give Yukoners a chance to decide whether they want this industry introduced here?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would point that any access and development of resources is controversial to the NDP. In fact, under their leadership we would not have such a thing happening in this territory; it would be shut down. Weíre not going to do that. We are going to promote responsible development. We are going to apply the highest of environmental standards. What we are saying to Yukoners, to industry and to Canada, is that the north is going to play a role in Canadaís future. The development of the resources in the north is going to be a part of Canadaís future, and we must ensure that we maximize the benefits that are retained here for the citizens of the Yukon and the north. As far as all these fearmongering approaches by the official opposition, theyíre nothing more than speculation.
Speaker: An expression like ďfearmongeringĒ would lead to discord, and Iíd ask the hon. Premier not to use that terminology.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: My apologies to the members opposite, but I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the development of the oil and gas sector in the Yukon goes back a long way, and we are going to enhance that sector of our resource development. It is paying great dividends for this territory, shared with First Nations.
Mr. McRobb: Itís obvious that this Yukon Party government has an agenda, just like the original version from a decade ago. That government was prepared to gamble away our future by entering into a long-term contract with the coal developers. Important factors such as financial risk, consumer rate shock and environmental impacts were inconsequential to a government desperately trying to roll the dice while on the ropes. Will the Premier help ease tensions by unequivocally reassuring us there would be full and meaningful public consultation before his government enters into a contract supporting a coal plant or coal-bed methane extraction? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The real stress here for the members opposite is what is happening in todayís Yukon under this governmentís watch and leadership: population increasing, jobs increasing, one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and partnerships with not only First Nations but other jurisdictions.
I have just pointed out to the Member for Kluane that we will apply the highest of environmental standards, and we are about to bring YESAA into force and effect ó something that Iím sure the member opposite recognizes will ensure responsible development.
So the members opposite must also clearly position themselves for the Yukon public. I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that their position is anti-resource development, anti-private sector, anti-profit. Not this government: we support those elements.
Question re: Whitehorse Copper land development
Mr. Cardiff: My question is for the Premier.
The Minister of Community Services and his officials have consistently diminished and dismissed the outstanding concerns of area residents in the City of Whitehorse around the Whitehorse Copper development project. In recent meetings with the city, the department has presented a take-it-or-leave-it attitude and made it clear that it would be their way or the highway.
I would like to know what action the Premier will take to demonstrate that he does not condone this behaviour by his Minister of Community Services and the ministerís officials.
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I have stated in this House on several occasions on this matter, we are acting on behalf of the City of Whitehorse in the development. The area development scheme was approved back in 1999; it was approved through the process of their consultation through the official city plan. We are following that course.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister continues to diminish the concerns of residents and the concerns that the city council is currently reviewing. This appears to close the door on any possible changes to this development. Yet on April 8, 2004, the Premier ó and the question is for the Premier ó stated in a letter to me that the concerns of the area residents in Wolf Creek would be fully considered before any final determination was made on the future of this project. Will the Premier reassure all concerned that this project has not been cast in stone and direct the minister to live up to the Premierís statement in that letter?
Hon. Mr. Hart: At that particular time, we instituted an environmental assessment of that area. We extended the review for that period ó for one more period ó basically another year. Secondly, we looked at reconstructing that particular development to reduce the impact of the number of units within that area. That was done under our watch, and making the assessment. Plus we entertained doing an environmental assessment for that particular area to address those concerns.
Question re: Income Tax Act amendments
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I am going to return to a question I asked a couple of days ago. This House is currently debating a cut in the small business tax rate. It is not a big cut, and weíre not necessarily opposed to it; however, we are concerned about one part of it, and that is the direction that the minister may be heading in. It is all very well for this right-wing government to cut taxes, but government still has to provide necessary services. Did the Premier take section 8 of the Taxpayer Protection Act into consideration before deciding to introduce the bill allowing for the small business tax cut?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, letís get something clear. The integrity of the Taxpayer Protection Act is firmly in place, and that is a fact.
Secondly, the government has looked into a number of areas of taxation that may be helpful to address the Yukonís economic situation. A decision based on the efforts and the due diligence of the Department of Finance has come forward with the information that a reduction in the small business tax rate would not compromise the Taxpayer Protection Act, would not compromise the financial situation of the Yukon Territory and certainly would not compromise its future. In fact, it puts $800,000-plus into the pockets of Yukoners to help further stimulate the economy. Thatís a very positive initiative.
Mr. Hardy: Well, thatís quite a visionary perspective ó looking and predicting that for the next 100 years it wonít compromise the future.
The former Yukon Party leader suggested publicly that the Premier doesnít understand land claims. Maybe the Premier doesnít understand the Taxpayer Protection Act as well. Weíve certainly seen this week how little the Minister of Economic Development understands about the true cost of public/private partnerships. You only have to replay some of the comments he made about the figures there.
Weíve heard many comments from the government side, questioning the very role of the government and implying that the government itself should be smaller, but the reality is that Yukon people rely on their government to provide public services, such as the infrastructure, as well as health, education and the rest of the social basket the Premier likes to refer to.
If this government finds itself short of revenues in the future, does the minister intend to reduce services or call a referendum, as required under the Taxpayer Protection Act? Or will he amend that act so he doesnít have to call a referendum? Thatís the way itís spelled out.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, first, the Member for Kluane just moments ago accused this side of the House of being a mirror copy of the former Ostashek government, and now the leader of the official opposition has just pointed out the areas where weíre not similar at all. I would urge the Member for Kluane and his leader to spend more time together.
†The finances of this territory have never been better. They have improved steadily over the last 24 months. Our intention all along was to strengthen the financial position of the territory. The first phase of our plan is unfolding with the biggest budget in the history of the Yukon, investing in Yukonersí futures and still maintaining a healthy financial position and a very, very healthy accumulated surplus. This is testimony to our financial management and our vision. The members opposite are talking about speculative areas that in all likelihood would transpire under an NDPís financial administration: spend, spend, spend; forget the private sectorís contribution, forget how to earn the money; just spend it.
Mr. Hardy: It sure is interesting to see how much dislike the former NDP member has for the NDP, and I really canít help this new leader of the Yukon Party if he canít get along with the former leader. It has become very evident publicly. We see no evidence on this side of the House that this Finance minister is any better at predicting surpluses and deficits than his counterparts in Ottawa. According to his earlier talk about the big, bad spending trajectory ó and we donít have to think back very long to remember that ó the territory should be almost broke by now. There are documents out there that theyíve produced. Instead the minister has far more money than he knows what to do with and no vision of what the Yukonís future could and should look like. Thatís no surprise given the ministerís own contradictory positions. First he says government doesnít create jobs ó on record. Then he brags about all the jobs that are being created because of the pots of money his government is putting into the economy. Now he canít have it both ways ó he honestly canít. Will the Premier tell us a clear picture of what to expect from this government? Iím going to give him an open forum here. Will public services be protected and provided publicly, or will we see an increased drift toward a B.C.-style privatization of public services?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, letís look at the facts. How can the member opposite stand on the floor of this Legislature and say that public services are under attack? We have increased health care. We have increased investment in the social basket. We have increased the monies for daycare operators. We have increased education. We have increased training. We have increased the base grant for the College. Across the social spectrum this governmentís social conscience is very heightened, is increasing its investment in programs and services to Yukoners. Why? Because our commitment is to create a better quality of life. And when it comes to jobs, letís be clear: the governmentís position is that governments do not create economies. They create a climate in which an economy can grow and flourish. Obviously, thatís whatís happening in todayís Yukon. We have one of the lowest unemployment rates, more jobs for Yukoners, more people coming in all the time. It is working. The evidence is clear.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Speaker: Government private membersí business, motions other than government motions.
government private membersí business
motions other than private motions
Motion No. 335
Clerk: Motion No. 335, standing in the name of Mr. Rouble.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Southern Lakes
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to reinstate its funding to the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society.
† Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and my duty to bring forward this motion today. Mr. Speaker, this is not a pleasant, feel-good issue, but it is one that must be discussed and must be addressed. It is a vital issue to the health and well-being of people in Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the motion put forward today is to urge the federal Liberal government to reinstate its funding to the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society, and I am requesting that all members of the Assembly support this motion.
Iíd like to provide some background information on this. Itís important to know where we are today and how we got there, and where weíll go in the future. Iíd like to provide a little bit of background on the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society, on the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, the federal governmentís aboriginal action plan, the rationale as to why it was created and some brief history.
During the first half of the 20th century, the policy of the Government of Canada toward First Nations was assimilation. It was thought that the quickest route to civilizing and converting the indigenous population was to forcibly remove indigenous children from their homes and communities and place them in residential schools.
No brief overview can express the complex history of residential schools and their legacy. While it is not uncommon to hear some former students speak about the positive experience in these institutions, their stories are clearly overshadowed by disclosures of abuse, criminal convictions of perpetrators, and the findings of various studies such as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
These studies tell us of the tragic legacy that the residential school system has left with many former students. In addition to allegations of physical and sexual abuse, which were found in 90 percent of legal claims, allegations relating to such things as cultural loss, breach of treaty, loss of education opportunity, forcible confinement and poor conditions at the schools were also alleged.
Over 5,000 cases representing almost 12,000 individuals made claims against the federal government. Currently there have been over 630 settlements and 11 court judgements. It is estimated that there are over 90,000 people alive today who attended residential schools and, while there was considerable variation in how these schools operated, in many cases the children were forbidden to speak their mother tongues, their cultures were condemned as barbaric and their spirituality condemned as heathen.
This is a part of our history that Canadians clearly feel remorse for.
In 1998, the Government of Canada responded to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples with a long-term, broad-based policy approach designed to increase the quality of life of aboriginal people and to promote self-sufficiency. Itís called Gathering Strength Ė Canadaís Aboriginal Action Plan. The vision captured by Gathering Strength is fairly straightforward. Itís a new partnership among aboriginal people and other Canadians that reflects our mutual interdependence and enables us to work together to build a better future.
It is desirous to see financially viable aboriginal governments that are able to generate their own revenues and able to operate with secure, predictable government transfers.
The third part of its vision is that aboriginal governments will be reflective and responsive to their communitiesí needs and values.
Gathering Strength is a renewal of relationships with aboriginal people. It is based on recognizing past mistakes and injustices and commencing ó Iíd just like to highlight the word ďcommencingĒ ó reconciliation, healing and renewal and building a joint plan for the future.
The report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples tells us that significant changes in the relationship between non-aboriginal and aboriginal people are urgently required, and the Government of Canada agrees.
According to the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, Gathering Strength is an action plan. It sets long-term objectives, but also focuses on short-term results. Again, Iíd like to highlight that it has long-term objectives. It is desirous that it will bring real and meaningful change to the everyday lives of aboriginal people. It is about taking steps today to give aboriginal people, particularly aboriginal youth and children, the promise of a better tomorrow ó clearly something that weíre all looking for.
While the problems are complex, the planís approach is not. At the heart of the action plan is a commitment ó again, commitment from the federal government to address the needs of communities by building real partnerships with aboriginal people, including the development of mechanisms to recognize sustainable and accountable aboriginal governments and institutions. An essential aspect is the need to work closely together to define this partnership and shape a common vision of the relationship between aboriginal peoples and the federal government.
The plan has four key objectives. They are: renewing the partnerships, strengthening aboriginal governance, developing a new fiscal relationship and supporting strong communities, people and economies.
A cornerstone of the Gathering Strength project commitment was the Canadian governmentís commitment of $350 million to support community-based healing initiatives for Mťtis, Inuit and First Nation people on and off reserve, status and non-status, who were affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in residential schools and intergenerational impacts.
On March 30, 1998, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was created following discussions with survivors, members of the healing community, the Assembly of First Nations, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Inuit Taparisat of Canada, the Mťtis National Council and the Native Womenís Association of Canada.
The foundation was to design, manage and implement the healing strategy under the terms of a funding agreement with the Government of Canada. This is a crucial point. The funding agreement was signed by both parties on April 1, 1998, and was to exist for a four-year period ó a four-year period.
It was expected that all of the accomplishments, the objectives, all the problems would be solved in four short years.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation is an aboriginal-run, not-for-profit corporation that is independent from government and represents aboriginal organizations. The terms of the funding agreement called for the foundation to make best efforts to commit the full $350 million plus related interest over a four-year period. The four-year time frame began when the first project was approved. The Aboriginal Healing Foundation has developed and adopted the following mission, vision and values to guide its work: the Aboriginal Healing Foundationís mission is to encourage and support aboriginal people in building and reinforcing sustainable healing processes that address the legacy of physical abuse and sexual abuse in the residential school system, including intergenerational impacts. Again, in this mission statement it makes the point of wanting to build on sustainable projects ó long-term solutions. I donít believe thereís a quick fix or magic pill to resolve these issues. These issues will take time.
Also, Iíd like to draw attention to the fact that there was a very specific focus to this and that it was to address the legacy of physical abuse and sexual abuse, so it looked at two very significant issues but neglected the larger holistic impacts on the community. It didnít look at the loss of language or the loss of culture.
Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker, it seems that the leader of the official opposition was making something about a point of order.
Speaker: Carry on.
Mr. Rouble: My mistake.
Mr. Speaker, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, according to its funding agreement with the federal government, must ensure that eligible projects meet specific mandatory criteria. An eligible project must address the healing needs of aboriginal people affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in residential schools, which includes intergenerational impacts. It shall establish complementary linkages, where possible in the opinion of the board, to other health and social programs and services such as federal, provincial, territorial or aboriginal, and shall be designed and administered in a manner that is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and applicable human rights legislation. Healing projects funded by the foundation should address the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual realms of life. Aboriginal Healing Foundation funds are directed to the healing needs of Mťtis, Inuit and First Nation persons residing in Canada who have been affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuse and residential schools, including intergenerational impacts.
Mr. Speaker, I want to bring your attention again to the fact that this does not address some of the greater issues or some of the broader objectives of residential schools. One of the broader objectives of residential schools was to assimilate people into a culture. To that end, there was a loss of language and a loss of culture. These objectives are quite narrow. They address some of the problems that arose out of the residential schools. They donít go to address the significant ideas behind the residential schools. They donít go to help to rebuild culture and language. Instead, while they are worthwhile objectives, they seek to resolve some of the problems ó I donít want to call it ďa solutionĒ ó that the previous system created.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the foundation also supported innovative approaches that reflect local differences, needs, geography and other realities relating to the healing process. As of October 8, 2004, there were 1,343 grants in Canada worth over $375 million, which effectively depleted the funding available.
In the Yukon there have been 40 projects funded to a total of $10,900,417. Some of these projects funded by the foundation include: the Aishihik Lake Wilderness Treatment Centre Societyís programming; Carcross-Tagish First Nationís road to recovery program; with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nationsí pilot project for community healing of alcohol-related intergenerational impacts of residential school, alcohol-related birth defects. A particular program was funded.
Programming was funded with the First Nation of Na Cho Nyšk Dun; the Kaska Tribal Council; Kwanlin Dun First Nation; the Liard Aboriginal Womenís Society; the Liard First Nation; Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation; the Margaret Thomson Centre, Ross River Dena Council. The Northern Native Broadcasting Corporation received funding; the Northern Tutchone Tribal Council; the Sal Kajana Healing Society; the Selkirk First Nation; the Tatla Mun Cultural Centre/Northern Tuchone Tribal Council; the Teslin Tlingit Council heritage and culture department program received funding. The TríondŽk HwŽchíin and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation Department of Health and Social Services programming received funding.
If members want more information on the specifics of these, Iíd be glad to provide them after our debate today.
Additional, funding was received by the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society. They received funding for community outreach in 2000, for outreach and counselling in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. That funding is scheduled to expire in January of 2005 ó only a couple of short months away.
Itís also important to note that CAIRS is not the only project funded by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation that will soon expire. There are 10 projects active in the Yukon whose funding will cease in 2005 and 2006.
If members would like to receive more information on that, Iíd also like to direct them to the Aboriginal Healing Foundationís Web site, which is at† www.ahf.ca.
Iíd like to spend a moment talking about CAIRS. The Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society was originally started in 1995 as a steering committee and was funded in the beginning by money that was provided by the Trailblazers. The Trailblazers was a group of 12 men who had been victims of residential school abuse who were prepared, despite their personal pain, to speak about the issue of residential school abuse and to pursue a healing path. The program began with donations from these 12 courageous men who received financial compensation as a result of their civil actions resulting from their abuse as children in government-run residential schools. Originally, the steering group and its work was proposal-driven.
CAIRS is now a society based in Whitehorse with a volunteer board. It received its first funding from the aboriginal healing fund late in 2000; however, that funding will expire at the end of January 2005. They have been identified by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation as one of a few programs it has funded that has successfully attracted and maintained male clients. Mr. Speaker, itís clearly a program that works and clearly one whose support needs to be continued.
CAIRS operates out of a building on the corner of 4th Avenue and Black Street where it sees an average of 40 clients a day, about 2,500 drop-ins a year. CAIRS has been successfully running a drop-in centre and workshop area for individuals who have histories of abuse, addictions, unemployment, homelessness and poverty. Most have had involvement with the justice system and many have had their children in care or they themselves were raised in foster care. CAIRS is a valued program. It has the infrastructure to offer continued support to its clients. Thatís an important point to make, that it has established the infrastructure; it has built the systems and it is able to continue to provide ongoing support.
The wheel doesnít need to be reinvented. The wheel is already rolling.
Mr. Speaker, many of its successes have been with clients who have led impoverished lives with much time spent in the justice system or on the street. Originally, the program focused on individuals of First Nation ancestry who were impacted by the residential schools, but overall its philosophy is one of inclusion.
CAIRS programs and services are open to all adults who wish to participate. It offers separate weekly talking circles for men and women. They have held educational healing conferences, with representatives from all Yukon communities and northern British Columbia. There are sewing groups, literacy opportunities, traditional parenting classes, music afternoons and painting.
These activities complement their counselling and outreach work. Over the years, they have established a well-equipped workshop where individuals make traditional carving tools, hunting knives and drums. They have a policy that, when making these items, you make one for yourself and one for CAIRS. This fosters a sense of ownership and belonging among the clients.
CAIRS acts as an advocate for their clients, and itís very client-driven. For example, if a client wants to learn a specific skill, they will try to find someone who will teach that skill. Clients are involved in the planning, implementation and evaluation of activities at the centre. They use a digital camera to assist individuals in developing a portfolio of their work, so they can work toward employment and training opportunities. They have a number of clients who have gotten jobs after they were trained at CAIRS and some have gone on to become trainers.
CAIRS helped the Childrenís Act review committee by facilitating a session with First Nation men, so the review committee could receive feedback from the men. Mr. Speaker, about 12 men attended this session.
It is an organization that works strongly in our community. It has collaborated with most of the health-and social-related non-government organizations and agencies in the Yukon. And this is quite an extensive list. It ranges from the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of the Yukon, Hospice Yukon, Blue Feather Youth Society, Blood Ties, Whitehorse Youth Centre, Second Opinion Society, Kausheeís Transition Home, the Yukon Family Services Association, the World Youth Exchange, the Sexual Assault Prevention Committee, Grey Mountain Housing Society, the Salvation Army, Skookum Jimís Friendship Centre and Yukon College.
CAIRS has also worked with a number of Yukon government departments and branches, and they are: Health and Social Services ó Alcohol and Drug Services, where CAIRS provided the housing at Bamboo House for a six-month period for the treatment program run by Alcohol and Drug Services; Justice ó Adult Probations, Crime Prevention; Whitehorse Correctional Centre ó they have also provided assistance to the victim services/family violence prevention unit; and theyíve worked with the Department of Education.
They have established a good working relationship with all Yukon First Nations and they provided workshops in the majority of Yukon communities ó all except Old Crow and Faro.
Their staffing includes three full-time, one part-time, staff and one part-time contract worker who provides clinical supervision of staff.
CAIRS currently receives $201,000 from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. That amount is supplemented with smaller contribution agreements, fundraising and donations that provide between $40,000 and $98,000 a year.
Mr. Speaker, what will happen when the funding from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation runs out? Well, if alternative funding is not identified, the building they are operating in will close. There will be about 40 clients a day who will not have anywhere to go. The drop-in support they provide will not be available anywhere else in Whitehorse. There is nowhere else these individuals will be able to go where they can speak to a counsellor, do activities or just listen to music.
Clearly, the work outlined in the federal governmentís action plan by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation is not finished. Objectives have not been accomplished. There is still work to be done.
This certainly isnít without trying. I previously read some of the programming initiatives that have taken place throughout the territory. There are some excellent initiatives along the way but, Mr. Speaker, the problem or the situation isnít resolved.
More healing has to happen. You canít fix all of the problems in four years.
Now, it is important to remember the Government of Canada has a fiduciary responsibility in this issue. Other orders of government are willing and eager to get involved, but the money has to come from somewhere.
Now, in conducting the research on this motion, I had the opportunity to talk to several members of the community as well as research on the Internet and contacting national organizations. I will be the first one to say that I think this motion could have been broader. I go back to one of the motions that was previously put on the record, actually that I put on the record in one of our first sessions. If I may revisit that motion, it was:
THAT it is the opinion of that House that
(1) many aboriginal students suffered abuse in residential schools established by the Government of Canada in northern Canada;
(2) the Government of Canada has accepted its responsibility for the impacts on the students of these schools by the establishment of a $350 million healing fund;
(3) although this fund is much appreciated, the abuse these students suffered has resulted in their inability to provide good parenting to their children; and
(4) this results in their children and grandchildren experiencing larger incidents of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, alcoholism, drug abuse and lagging behind their non-aboriginal peers in their school careers; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to work with First Nation governments, provincial and territorial governments and aboriginal groups to develop the programs and funding needed to improve the health, social and educational conditions of the children and grandchildren of residential school students.
Mr. Speaker, I recognize that this motion before us today could be broadened, and I would be open to friendly amendments. If members opposite care to join the debate and wish to make amendments that would broaden it, I would consider that as friendly.
Mr. Speaker, one of the amendments that I could see would be that the funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation continue. I think the federal government should live up to its responsibility and continue to fund that organization.
This would allow for continued, Canada-wide programming. The project criteria could be widened. In particular, I had discussions with a member of the community around this, and he felt that they were significantly hamstrung by the programming criteria and the funding criteria. There was a challenge to constantly relate a worthwhile project to some very narrow and specific criteria. Currently the funding is limited to addressing the healing needs of aboriginal people affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuse. Clearly that could be broadened to include cultural programming and language programming. I also heard criticisms of the application process. There was significant comment about the bureaucratic nature of the organization, the length of time it took applications to go through and the hoops that one had to jump through. One of the objectives of residential schools was to assimilate, and I would support expanding this program to look at more holistic points of view, such as including cultural and language issues.
Also, I would like to remind all members again that this program is the fiduciary responsibility of the federal government. I honestly believe that all orders of government are eager to work together, but the funding is the responsibility of the federal government. Theyíre the ones with the significant budget surpluses. Theyíre the ones with the responsibility. Theyíre the ones that have publicly stated that they have the responsibility. They have funded this in the past. Theyíve said that they believe in the objectives. They need to continue to come forward and to continue to fund the program. They need to continue to fund programs like CAIRS.
Iíd like to thank all members for their attention and support today. Additionally, I would like to thank members of the community who shared with me their stories, their criticisms and concerns. Iím sure that all members in here have heard some stories of residential schools, and I know itís not easy to share those. Iíve met with people in their kitchens and they literally had tears in their eyes while telling me their stories. Iíd like to thank them once again for sharing that with me. I hope that passing this motion and encouraging the federal government to again live up to its responsibility and fund programs that assist these people will help the healing to continue.
Finally, I would urge all Members of the Assembly to support this motion. The territory and the nation need the federal government to continue to live up to their responsibility.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to thank the Member for Southern Lakes for bringing this motion forward. Itís one I believe that can be supported to a certain degree by most people in the Legislature. I also have to agree with him on a point he made toward the end of his talk, and that is that the motion may have some problems; it may not be as broad or it may not be as well-written as it could have been and heís willing to accept amendments to it, and we will bring forward amendments almost identical to what he addressed in his speech, as well as maybe something else.
One of the problems, of course, we face ó weíve seen in the past, historically every government has faced ó is a federal government. Iím not pointing out a federal Liberal government, or Iím not pointing out the federal Conservative governments that weíve had in the past as well. They have all done this. Theyíre all guilty of this. Itís not particularly a brand name that acts in this manner. What they do, of course, is put money into a community, or they give money to an organization that is obviously doing good work. It has a timeline to it, and then they stop.
What has happened, of course, is that those organizations are well-developed. They become part and parcel of a community. They are doing tremendous work and they are relied upon by so many people, depending on what they are addressing.
All of a sudden, there is no more funding, and many of the local governments, whether municipal, First Nation, territorial, or provincial, have to make a decision about whether they really do value the work that the organization is doing and, if they do, will they spend some money to continue to have it operating and not just continually ask the federal government to do it?
I donít like what the federal governments have done in the past. I donít like it. I think the commitment should be there long enough to address and make the change necessary on whatever the issue is. In this case, of course, itís a very serious and long-standing issue with healing and health for the First Nations.
So, I donít buy the argument that itís a responsibility of the federal government because they have a large surplus, or itís the responsibility of the federal government because itís Canada-wide. I do buy the argument that, of course, it is the responsibility of the federal government. But I also argue, and believe very strongly, that itís the responsibility of the local governments as well.
This government has a surplus ó contrary to all their predictions, though it was predicted before they even formed government that the economy was on an upswing. There is a surplus. If thatís the argument thatís made, and if thatís the case weíre facing today within the financial budgets of the territorial government, then it shouldnít be a problem for them to be able to bring forward some initiatives, some funding, to ensure that the programs that were originally sponsored will be able to continue ó until possibly some more funding can come from the federal government.
Now, the motion addresses the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society, and it is a tremendous organization. Now, Iím not sure if the member who sponsored this motion ó he wasnít clear on this, so maybe he can be clear ó if he actually went down to their operations and spent some time down there and saw work they did. Maybe he did?
He indicated that he did go down there. Thatís wonderful. I went down there about a month or so ago. I have to say, and Iíve said it before, and I have said it a couple of weeks ago, two and a half weeks ago, that that is one organization that is doing absolutely tremendous work. They are having such a positive impact on peopleís lives, peopleís future, and what they do with the monies they have is tremendous. Without a doubt, that organization, that society, needs and deserves the support necessary for them to continue.
They are doing workshops in the basement. They are teaching skills. They are empowering people, bringing back pride to some people. They have music. There are instruments all over. There is a huge degree of interaction and respect for each other. I was there for probably a couple of hours, somewhere around there and, honestly, I was quite moved by the commitment of the people who are working there, the volunteers who come down, the clients ó if you want to use that term ó who come in and their strong feelings about the society, the artwork that is on display there ó the level of craftsmanship is very, very impressive. I could just go on and on. I was just thoroughly, thoroughly impressed.
People were sitting around, singing songs, playing guitars in the shop down below, the work, the training around making knives and other steelwork, metal work projects, the leatherwork, using the machines ó everything about it, I just felt, was a very positive thing, so from my perspective on that society ó absolutely.
I would like to see the territorial government put some money toward that ó Iíd like to see the territorial government become a sponsor of that; not just in identified initiatives, but on a longer term basis, recognizing it as they do recognize many other societies.
Other organizations have been able to access the funding ó the $350 million that was agreed to in 1998. I have some of the names here: the Carcross-Tagish First Nation was able to access some money; the Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Liard Aboriginal Womenís Society, Northern Tuchone Tribal Council; Selkirk First Nation, the Teslin Tlingit Council heritage and culture department. Of course what the motion is around ó the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society and the TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation has been able to access money; and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nationís department of health and social programs.
Each and every one of them has been able to benefit from this funding from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation funds. Because the money ó like all money ó has a limit. It has stopped. All the programs theyíve offered, the assistance theyíve been able to give to people recovering from residential schools, will stop, or else they will have to picked up by the First Nation governmentsí own coffers.
I sincerely believe that the territorial government should also be doing this. There are ways to do it.
We have called upon the territorial government to do it in the past for other groups ó last year, last fall was one ó and we had a vigorous debate in here with regard to that, and fortunately they came forward.
Bringing forward a motion does not necessarily address the problem. It does raise the issue; it talks about it, but it doesnít necessarily solve the problem that exists. In this case, when you have so many good societies and groups that are doing such good work, and the money disappears, you have to ask why? You have to ask: where does it go from here, and what is the role of the territorial government in this? It has to be more than just having a motion on the floor to indicate that the federal government should do it.
Of course the federal government should continue to do it, from my perspective, and obviously from the perspective of the sponsor of this motion. But he also has to recognize that they are leaders over there in their own right. They have a surplus as well. They can move forward.
I think I did hear that indication from him. I am hoping he is speaking on behalf of all his colleagues that some finances will come forward to ensure that these societies will be able to continue. Whether or not the next step for the federal government is to assist is lobbying to reactivate or re-establish the funding for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation remains to be seen.
We had on the floor today the Premier indicating that writing a letter is of no value or consequence. Well, that could be argued with anything you put down on paper, but you know what? It does have a lot of value. Itís a statement, itís attention, and itís recorded, just as this motion and this debate that weíre having about this is very essential and does and could have some impact if it is backed up with action and it doesnít just stay as words. There is a correlation here between the two, Mr. Speaker, and I am hoping that it is recognized over there.
I have an amendment. I am going to bring it forward right now. I donít want to spend a lot of time talking about this. The Member for Southern Lakes did go into the history of it, and thatís why I havenít touched on it. I think he did a good job. He had it laid out quite well. I listened closely.
Anybody who has been listening to this I think will get a fairly good picture. So, I do know a lot of people do want to have the debate. He indicated that maybe the motion wasnít broad enough. We are quite willing to do that on this side.
So, I have an amendment to the motion to present.
Mr. Hardy: I move:
THAT Motion No. 335 be amended by replacing the wording after the phrase ďfederal Liberal governmentĒ with the following: ďto ensure that funding is available through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to continue the positive work of Yukon-based programs such as the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society.Ē
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT Motion No. 335 be amended by replacing the wording after the phrase ďfederal Liberal governmentĒ with the following: ďto ensure that funding is available through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to continue the positive work of Yukon-based programs such as the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society.Ē
Mr. Hardy: As Iíve already said, I believe also that the Member for Southern Lakes, the sponsor of the motion, had indicated this was the kind of friendly amendment that he would welcome. Obviously, in drafting the motion and probably once it was on the books, he thought more about it and recognized that possibly it could be broader and be more inclusive of other organizations that have relied upon the funding that came from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Itís not just one society or group within the Yukon that is affected by the lack of continuing support from the federal government.
In doing up a motion you often find that other sides, other MLAs, other parties, suggest changes to strengthen it or to correct something that you didnít see. It is no fault of the person who drafts up the motion ó not at all. I think most motions are brought forward with good intentions, and in this House I believe that definitely happens ó not all, but I think most. This change that weíre adding definitely addresses some of the shortcomings of it and broadens it. Like I said, Iím not going to talk a long time on this, as well. I say so much has already been covered.
I do know the people who are working with CAIRS are quite nervous and concerned about funding and whatís going to happen to the people who come there. Are they going to be able to continue any type of programming, especially when they have seen some real progress with some of the people whom they have been able to help? The fear, of course, is that you can help somebody, and if you havenít been able to establish a changing of patterns or ability to allow them to advance with the difficulties that they are suffering through no fault of their own ó of course we recognize what residential schools have done to so many people. Sometimes if there is not something to continue, you lose all that momentum and all that initiative, and the people who are in need of the help often end up back in the same situation they were in when they started. Then you have to question: was that money well-spent, all $350 million across Canada? Has it been well-spent if there is an ongoing assistance to be able to take people through the whole process of healing? Itís like a veterinarian situation, where they walk away halfway through an operation in trying to assist an animal, or a doctor who is halfway through an operation trying to assist a person. Itís anything along that line, where you havenít been able to complete it, and you havenít allowed the healing to continue, and thatís throughout our whole society.
Thatís with anything we do. We have to recognize that half-efforts ó half-attempts ó are not generally successful. There has to be a commitment to the whole span. That commitment from the federal government was a set sum that had to be spent within a short period of time. Thinking about that, there may have been some very strong reasons why, but you canít say that from this time to that time the healing will happen, and that the change, assistance and support will all be in place, and everybody will be able to walk away at the end of four years and itís all done.
The federal government should have recognized that this is a long, ongoing commitment, and the organizations, societies and people that are on the ground supplying the care and the health need that ongoing support. And, of course, like so many things, they need the financial support. There is no question about that.
But I also have to say that the territorial government has the ability to maybe assist in that matter as well. Iím hoping that when some of the members from the other side stand up, that will be indicated. I felt that was indicated by the sponsor of the motion. If thatís the case, then maybe we will see some concrete action, and not just a motion. That concrete action could be in ensuring that there are some types of funding coming forward at a territorial level, as well as some very serious and strong lobbying happening at a government-to-government level with the federal government and the territorial government, to try to encourage them to continue that kind of sponsorship and programming that has been so beneficial to so many people.
Thatís where a motion should go. A motion has to be more than just putting it on record. I think we all need to consider that when we draw up our motions. Itís not just to get it on record, though some motions are. But the hope is that when you make a motion and itís passed in the Legislature, from the Legislature there will be concrete action. Iím not sure if that always happens. I would probably have to say that it doesnít.
For one that has ramifications like this, I would hope that there is some positive action following this and weíre not coming back next spring and saying, ďOK, we passed a motion. It was good, we felt we were all in agreement; what has happened since then?Ē ó because it will be too late. They are going to have to close their doors unless there is some assistance. Maybe some have already done it as well; Iím not sure, with the others that have been able to access the funding.
Saying that, I will allow other people to speak to this amendment to the motion.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will speak in favour of this amendment. For the record, Iíd like to start by saying that the federal government does have a great responsibility here in ensuring that funding remains available for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to continue.
We must not forget that the churches were also involved with this issue. I believe that they still have a responsibility. In my opinion, the work is not completed by the federal government. It is virtually impossible for anyone to be able to even imagine that a hundred years plus of abuse and very horrendous abuse, many forms of abuse ó sexual, physical, emotional, mental ó of a whole generation of people could be rectified in four years. Itís impossible.† In my opinion, itís really an insult.
This issue will remain active for many years to come in this territory and it will remain evident in many areas of education and in health and social services programs. Itís just like the ripple effect that comes from the victims from the mission school. They will be a long time in healing ó if they ever do.
Thatís the other issue. We must not forget today all those victims who cannot stand here today and talk or be witness to anything happening in their favour. I know many of my friends and many people who could not overcome what they went through in the mission schools. A lot of them were victims of suicide; they were victims of severe drug and alcohol abuse to where they did pass on. There were and still are cases of victims who are in the penitentiaries today and who have been for many years. I have a friend who has been 22 years in ďthe shoeĒ, the maximum-security penitentiary. Upon talking to this gentleman, it all related back to what he went through in the mission school. So the federal government cannot expect that they can drop the ball and run on this issue because it cannot happen. Even in the territory here, I think everyone has responsibilities to ensure that help is made available for survivors.
I want to talk just a moment on survivors because this is all connected to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and how they must stay committed. We talk about survivors ó and Iíve heard this phrase used many times: ďWe survived the mission schoolsĒ, by First Nation people ó but I really beg to differ on that statement because I have witnessed first-hand in my 40 years in the Yukon Territory that First Nation people did not fully survive the mission schools. Some did, but the majority didnít.
I say they didnít survive it, Mr. Speaker, because today they live in social conditions that are unbearable. They live in conditions where it is a chore to survive day by day. Itís a challenge and a lot of the individuals I know who are now 50 years plus, have finally started to be able to deal with some of these issues.
I have a lot of family members who are in this very position today, still trying to deal with what they went through in the mission schools.
I want to also put on record that I believe in my heart that these may have been very good intentions by the federal government and the churches, but it just went sour; it went bad. It was an issue where someone may have thought that this was the best thing for a whole generation of people. At the end of the day as we stand here today and talk about it, we fully realize that it was not the right decision.
Citizens at large need to visualize how they would react today if someone of a different culture, different race, walked into their home and took their children without their permission ó took their children because they felt that they could do a better job than the parents.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I talked to a lot of people who told me of the day that happened, the day when the children tried to grab on to everything they could as they were being removed, to try to hang on to something to stop from being taken but, as we know, physically the adult, who was either a big man or an adult woman ó a young person physically could not stop them.
I was raised in Atlin, and I always remember the story of a lady running after a big bus. I was a young child then, maybe 10 years old. I did not understand that that bus had every First Nation child in Atlin who was of school age on it. And the lady who was chasing the bus ran until she fell down on her face, crying, screaming, kicking, because her children were leaving. Quite often, what I remember of this issue in Atlin was that the children didnít return again until the summertime, so they were gone through the whole school year.
Again, Mr. Speaker, we need to ask about the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and what its obligations are to those individuals who lost their children. Itís like theyíre a forgotten group. The federal government is now trying to make amends by financial compensation to the victims who went to the mission schools, but the victims go beyond just the ones who attended the schools. I know many elders today who are still suffering to this very day from losing their children who are now 40 and 50 years old. Mr. Speaker, we have 80-year-old elders who are still sad about losing their kids who are now grown up and have children. So the ripple effect just keeps going on and on and on.
Mr. Speaker, when you have a ripple effect that affects five generations of people, no one in their right mind could ever, for one minute, think that they could fix this and have a solution in four years ó never. Itís going to take another 100 years to work through this issue, if itís ever done. Today we have children who are now grandchildren and great-grandchildren who are still being affected by what their great-grandparents went through in this era.
I canít help but support any kind of motion that goes through this government to try to make the lives a little bit more livable for the people who went through this horrendous era. We talk about the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, but I also want to put on record that, in my opinion, they have not done its job in the healing process. It has not done its job. As I stand here today, I can say on the floor of this Legislature that I have personally paid out of my pocket for traditional healing to happen in Whitehorse. A lot of the people who attend the sweat lodge that is at my place are people from residential schools.
I believe that we need a lot more of that kind of financial support. I believe that traditional healing is an option. There will be some First Nations that will be totally in favour of the churches now, because they have been involved with the churches for many years, and I respect that. I respect their decision to be Catholic, Anglican ó whatever religion it is. I ask that the First Nation elders also respect any First Nation youth who chooses to go to the traditional way of healing.
Iíll state for the record that in my opinion, the traditional healing path is not a religion; it is a way of life. It teaches one about the Creatorís law and the law of respect, caring and sharing ó all the positive things that if one would govern oneself by those principles, one would have a beautiful life. The barriers to a lot of things that stop people from growing would be removed.
Again, I want to say with regard to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation that the government needs to look very closely at what they are doing today with regard to compensation and dealing with all the victims of abuse who have launched suits against them. I have a number of constituents in my riding who have talked to me about all the trauma and the difficulties they are now experiencing going through this process. In their opinion, itís as bad as being in the mission school again. When I asked why they would think like that, some of the comments that came back to me were that they are reliving the past without having qualified counsellors for intervention. That is a serious thing. Itís very serious to have someone disclose all their abuses and then not have the necessary help available.
Iíve heard comments like, ďThe government is really trying to minimize, through the court process and other processes, the effect that the abuse has had on the victims.Ē
That, again, is a very serious issue. When anyone in authority, such as legal counsel or governments, does not believe a victim, it revictimizes that individual, because they feel no one believes them. Another issue I heard was about the lengthy time frames for dealing with these issues. Some of my constituents have noted that it has been up to five years since the first time they started talking to the government. It has been five years, and there still is no end in sight to this court action. So again the victims are being dragged through a very lengthy process that is taking its toll on a large number of individuals who are trying to deal with this issue. Another concern I heard from some of my constituents was the abuse of women was not being taken as seriously as the abuse of men. There is differential treatment between the men and women. For example, I have heard from one constituent that sexual abuse of a woman has received less compensation money than a man who was sexually abused. Again, this created disharmony among the First Nation people.
Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on about all the issues that need to be addressed. I think that, through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, all these issues need to be looked at, and it should not be up to the federal government to dictate how an organization intends to work with people.
I have to say today for the record that I have the utmost respect for what CAIRS is doing. I also want to commend the Trailblazers ó the 12 men who came forward and started the organization. It took a lot of dedication on their part. It was a bold move to come out publicly and have their cases known by everyone across the country and what they went through. Sometimes thatís what it takes to really move forward in the healing process. I believe that the first step is being able to talk about it. I really hope and pray that as days go on, a lot more individuals will come forward and start talking about the historical events that affect them today. I stated before that, in my opinion, the barriers to education are behind us, and this is the kind of thing I talk about when I say that. One needs to look at that and try to understand what those barriers are and how this has affected the lives of people and kept them from moving forward in a good way.
I would assume that one could talk for hours and hours on this very topic to try to get the message out about the devastation that took place here. I sincerely hope that all of society will take this issue very seriously and start to think differently about the individuals you see on the street who are suffering from alcohol and drug abuse. I would encourage people to put their hand out to these individuals and help them up and not stomp on them when theyíre down.
The old saying, ďYou must not condemn anyone until you have walked a mile in their moccasinsĒ is a very good indication of what this is about. If you knew the history of these people, you would not be condemning them, because you would understand what their past has been.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Rouble: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to thank the leader of the official opposition for bringing forward his constructive and friendly amendment today. I agree that the motion is made stronger by including the phrase ďto ensure that funding is available through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation to continue the positive work of Yukon-based programs such as the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society.Ē I thank the member for encouraging the government to enhance the funding to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, and I appreciate the member bringing forward a specific point about Yukon-based programming.†
I think thatís one of the important points to notice in this situation: the programming is typically all site-specific or specific to the community. It isnít the situation where a program was created by DIAND and photocopied and given to everyone. Instead, there are made-in-Yukon solutions or made-in-B.C. solutions or made-in-Alberta solutions ó solutions that take into consideration situational differences, the cultural differences and linguistic differences.
This also makes the program delivery that much more expensive. When youíre dealing with something as generic as, say, teaching people how to use a Word processing package, you can create one manual and photocopy that and pass it out to thousands of people around the planet, and they are likely to learn.
But with a situation like this, I agree we need to have community-specific solutions. So I thank the member for including that.
Now, Mr. Speaker, Iím also pleased to report that, following a conversation with the communications people at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, I have become aware that their funding is now not in the realm of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada but is now held in the Ministry of Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada. So the federal government has recognized more significantly their responsibility in this issue, and it created a specific ministry to work with aboriginal organizations, territorial governments, provincial governments and other organizations to resolve this. Theyíve gone to the extent of creating a ministry, which they have a minister responsible for.
So while there has been no firm commitment of continuing and ongoing funding, it is important to know that this new ministry has been created and it is receiving the support of many of the members of the House of Commons. I would strongly encourage our own member of the House of Commons, whom Iím sure weíre all very familiar with, to support this incredibly worthwhile initiative.
Mr. Speaker, I would just like to bring membersí attention to the raison díetre, which is what it is identified as in this ministry. It indicates that the Indian Residential Schools Resolution Canada was created to resolve claims and to address issues arising from the legacy of Indian residential schools. It is also important to note that, on their Web site, they go on to include the apology that the Government of Canada delivered, a statement of reconciliation to all aboriginal peoples that included an apology to those who had experienced sexual and physical abuse while attending a residential school.
In particular, it mentioned that the Canadian government regretted the treatment of aboriginal people. Mr. Speaker, if I may quote, according to their Web site: ďAs a country, we are burdened by past actions that resulted in weakening the identity of aboriginal peoples, suppressing their language and cultures and outlawing spiritual practices.Ē
Iím satisfied and encouraged to see that the federal government ó again, the order of government that is responsible for this ó is accepting that responsibility and living up to its duties.
In conversations with people at the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, I also discussed where else they were receiving funds and support. They did identify that they had been seeking support from corporate Canada, but that was slow in coming. I asked where else they thought they could look for funding, and it was identified that the churches ó those who were partners in the residential schools ó would also have a responsibility. To date, churches havenít made a commitment to this organization to assist them to assist others, so I would also call upon the churches responsible for this to live up to their responsibilities and also to support these very worthwhile initiatives.
Again, I appreciate the leader of the opposition bringing forward this amendment. I believe it does make it stronger. I believe itís another example of the fact that we can work together in this Assembly, that we often do, and Iím very encouraged by that. I certainly enjoy working with the members of the opposition, and I agree that, in this instance, they have made this motion better. I will support it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, on the amendment to the motion, I would like to thank the leader of the opposition for this amendment to the motion and thank the Member for Southern Lakes for bringing forward this motion in the first place. It is nice and, given the past few weeks, a rather welcome relief to see constructive suggestions coming forward from the opposition, and I certainly support this amendment to the motion.
Now, of course, CAIRS, as we have all talked about, is funded by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, which the federal government is ceasing to fund. This, unfortunately, is a practice that has become all too common with the federal Liberal government: they create funding for organizations or for foundations and then, after holding their splashy press conferences to announce the money and usually reannouncing it several times before the money is forthcoming, if, indeed, it ever does materialize ó of course, we all remember some of the commitments such as the commitment to a national pharmacare program and a national daycare program that the federal Liberal government has been making in every election from 1993 on ó 1993, 1997, 2000 and again in 2004. They keep committing to this, yet we fail to see it materialize.
This area, of course, is a problem that needs to be addressed. Itís not an easy situation to create a resolution to and, certainly, the space of four years is absolutely ridiculous to hope to solve it in. This problem has been many years in the making. We do need to take steps as a society to try to come up with solutions and ways that we can heal the wounds of the past and move forward together and move forward as a strong society.
Rather than being bound up in the problems of the past, we need to find those solutions and we need to move forward or, if not a solution ó because this is certainly something thatís hard to solve; itís hard to really create a solution when you have a problem; when you have damage done to somebody, a crime that has been committed or some action that has affected them deeply, itís hard to ever fully create a ďsolutionĒ. Itís something that hopefully we can bring a measure of closure to for that person and assist them in that. Hopefully you can move forward and heal that wound and, perhaps even from that great impact, learn some lessons to make you a stronger person in some way. I would personally think that is something we should all strive for, that no matter what happens to us in our lives, with luck and with fortune and hopefully with the support of our friends in the community, we can actually ó even if it was a tremendous blow to us ó in some ways help in our personal growth and development.
Now the residential schools are certainly something that we hope, as a society ó a mistake of that magnitude ó will not be made in the future, but moving back to the crux of this issue here ó the amendment to the motion ó I think it is valuable to expand the motion beyond specifically referencing the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society and expanding this to include the entire Aboriginal Healing Foundation and urge the federal Liberal government to reinstate that funding, which they are terminating.
The information Iíve been provided is that the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society sees an average of 40 clients per day. Thatís a pretty significant number of people. Thatís a pretty significant impact. I understand the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has identified this as one of the most successful programs attracting and retaining male clients that it has funded. Many of its successes have been with clients who have led impoverished lives with much time spent in the justice system and/or on the streets.
These are people who have a very critical need. If we do not assist these people in moving on with their lives and healing those wounds, they will not be able to move forward as people. As a result of that, from some of these people, we see continued criminal activities, run-ins with the justice system, dysfunctional behaviour that affects themselves, that affects their families, that affects their communities. They cause damage to themselves; they cause damage to society by their inability to get past what happened to them.
As a society, if we canít assist them in moving forward and being able to live happy, healthy and productive lives, we still are facing a cost as a society. Both at the territorial level and at the federal level, the costs to the justice system are there, so it does not make sense to me to yank the funding, which is designed to assist these people, and it also has benefits in crime prevention.
Instead, by not helping these people move forward, not only are we leaving them with the sorrow and the wounds, but many of them, because of their inability to move forward from this, and because of the dysfunctional behaviour patterns that some fall into, they take actions that hurt themselves and other people. This ranges through a wide variety of activity, including criminal activity and abusive behaviour. This is something that, again, I canít stress enough ó to yank the money from an area of preventive programming does not make any sense. Even from the financial side, it does not make any sense, because we as a society are inevitably going to pay the cost. Not only by yanking this funding are they leaving these individuals in a situation where they do not receive the assistance they so badly need, but there are others in society who will be affected by that.
So it is, in my view, necessary that the federal government reinstate the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and that they do provide this assistance. And certainly, from the information Iíve been presented, there have been problems with some of the programming that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has run. Not all of them have been as successful as had been hoped. My understanding is that CAIRS is one of the better ones. It has done a very good job and has a good record.
But when there are areas where programming does not work as well as hoped, that doesnít mean that all funding should be cut, especially when you have successful programs that you can adopt and model other programs after, and direct that funding to areas where it is working well.
†When we have something thatís successful, why is the federal government ceasing to fund it? The Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society has worked with many organizations and with government departments. I understand that theyíve collaborated with the majority of health and social services-related non-governmental organizations and agencies in the Yukon, such as the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society, Yukon Hospice, Yukon Blue Feather Youth Society, Blood Ties Four Directions, the Whitehorse Youth Centre, Second Opinion Society, Kausheeís Transition Home, Yukon Family Services Association, World Youth Exchange, Sexual Assault Prevention Committee, Grey Mountain Housing Society, the Salvation Army, both for the downtown operations and the adult residential centre, the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre, the traditional parenting program, and Yukon College; they have worked with government departments and branches, including Health and Social Services, Justice, Education, and have established a very good working relationship with Yukon First Nation governments and citizens and have provided workshops in the majority of Yukon communities.
Now if I have the numbers correct, itís currently about $201,000 that they receive from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. If this funding is yanked, if it does expire at the end of January 2005 as scheduled, there will be nowhere else many of these individuals will be able to go. They will have nowhere to turn for assistance. That is why this society in particular is one of the things that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has funded that is valuable.
Now, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has funded a number of other groups as well and projects: the Aishihik Lake Wilderness Treatment Centre Society, Carcross-Tagish First Nation, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, projects theyíve been funding through the First Nations, the First Nation of Na Cho Nyšk Dun and the Kaska Tribal Council.
Speaker: Order please. The member is speaking to the amendment, and the Chair is failing to make the connection between the funding of CAIRS and the amendment on the floor. So if the member would speak to the amendment, please.
Mr. Cathers: My apologies, Mr. Speaker. I must have been mumbling. This is actually ó the projects I was just referring to were projects funded by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, not by CAIRS itself, which I believe is directly connected to the amendment to the motion, and these are Yukon-based programs that are being discussed here.
But there is a fairly long list here. I will not continue reading through the whole list of the projects and the areas that the Aboriginal Healing Foundation has funded, but referring to comments made by other members, including the mover of the original motion, the Member for Southern Lakes, it is the federal government that has a fiduciary responsibility for funding this area and this type of programming. That is something that has been made very clear. The federal government itself does acknowledge that obligation, yet we do see in a number of areas where they do not appear to be living up to their obligation to the fiduciary responsibility related to aboriginal peoples.
This is a problem that has also been faced in areas such as health care, where they are often remiss in funding the areas that they are responsible for that are provided by the Yukon and other governments. The last number that I heard was outstanding in the bill that the federal government owed the Yukon government for the provision of aboriginal health care was about $24 million. That number may have been revised since I was last updated, but we are talking about fairly significant dollars here.
Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, the federal government does have the responsibility. As I stated, the funding through the Aboriginal Healing Foundation fund and through projects that it funds and associations it funds such as CAIRS ó they do provide a very important type of programming and something that is needed in our society because we do need to correct these problems, we do need to try to heal these rifts from the past and move forward.
I will conclude on this note. I look forward to hearing comments from other members on the amendment and later on the main motion. I think that this is a valuable amendment. I think itís a good example of how members of this House can collaborate, and I look forward, hopefully, to hearing more productive suggestions from the opposition instead of some of the negativity that weíve heard in past days.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Amendment to Motion No. 335 agreed to
Speaker: Is there any debate on the main motion as amended?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †It gives me great pleasure to also rise and speak to the motion before us. Iíd like to thank our side ó the government ó for tabling this motion and bringing it forward for discussion among all members in the Legislature.
The motion before us, and of course the amendment to the motion, which was carried and which I was very pleased to support ó I thank the leader of the official opposition for bringing that amendment forward. It certainly strengthens the motion and places more credence on the very importance of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and all the contributions it has made to Yukoners over the last number of years, albeit only four short years.
The issue of residential schools goes back a number of years, and all the negative attributes that have flowed from those days are certainly very much apparent in todayís society. Although this abuse took place many years ago, as my colleagues have said on both sides of the House, the repercussions, the implications of such abuse certainly are alive and well in our communities today.
And whether it be oppression of our aboriginal culture, lifestyle, or the ability to be among oneís own family, it certainly affected many generations and continues to do so today, an oppression that has occurred not just in the Yukon but throughout all jurisdictions in our country.
So I think that initiatives such as the Aboriginal Healing Foundation ó again, albeit it has only been in place for the last number of relatively few years ó have contributed to a number of very positive initiatives throughout all our communities, initiatives that we support. But as with a number of federal government programs, the federal government unfortunately seems to be fixated on short-term fixes, not looking at the long-term needs and the long-term need to address the problems at hand, and problems that just arenít going to go away in a year or two. Rather it takes collaboration of many people in our communities and governments, all working together to address these very dire social issues apparent in our communities today.
I just look at some of the things that weíre debating today. The Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society here has been doing a very good job in the Yukon. I look back to other initiatives: Youth Empowerment Success ó YES ó that used to be in existence here not long ago but did some very good things among our youth in providing positive and healthy choices for our youth at risk, in particular.
Skills Canada ó when we look at implementation of land claims agreements, the federal government has to recognize that it has a fiduciary responsibility and obligation to adhere to its requirements, as set out in law. So this is just another reminder of how the federal government seems to be absolving itself of its very important responsibilities to work with all our communities and the respective levels of government at all times in addressing some of these very serious issues in our communities.
In the territory today, we as a government have certainly looked at a number of the social problems that have developed, perhaps as a result of residential schools. When we look at sexual abuse, for example, and physical abuse, one of my very important responsibilities as minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate ó weíre very much aware of sexual assault against women today in the northern part of Canada. All three territories are certainly not exempt from this very dire problem, and particularly among aboriginal women, where sexual assault is three times higher than any other jurisdiction in the country.
So, we as a government have taken it upon ourselves to work in collaboration with aboriginal women and aboriginal womenís organizations, as well as women at large in the territory, to address violence against women. This has been identified as a number one priority among ministers responsible for the status of women across the country for the last couple of years.
We as a government have risen to the challenge, and we have identified some financial resources to look at ways of addressing violence in our communities, and particularly violence against aboriginal women. Of course, more recently we also identified some additional money ó $150,000 ó to look at violence prevention initiatives, violence against women ó so prevention of this very dire problem. That would target women all across the territory.
I think that it is important that we are all doing our part to address these issues, and I believe the federal government also has a very large role to play in this area. I look at another initiative that our government has taken upon itself, and that is the consultation on corrections. It is a very large undertaking; it is a very comprehensive initiative, but it is one which I think is certainly going in the right direction. It is a consultation that recognizes the growing population in our jail, recognizes the fact that the Yukon has one of the highest ó if not the highest ó recidivism rates in the country, and that also recognizes that the largest population in our facility happens to be that of aboriginal people. So for those very reasons, we want to take a look. We want to engage the communities at large. We want to engage staff at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. We want to engage the respective governments, including the federal government. We want to engage and work in full partnership with Yukon First Nations, and we have been able to do so through the good work of the Minister of Justice by striking a process that will look at the very root causes of crime in our society and look at the very problems of crime and violence in each of our towns.
So I think that again we are certainly doing our part. Thereís always room for improvement and we know that. For us as leaders in our respective areas in the territory, as legislators, itís not always an easy job, but when the opportunity arises I think itís incumbent upon each of us to rise to the challenge and to look at different issues that have been prevalent in our communities for generations and to view them in a different light, to look at different approaches as to how we can address some of these problems and how we can start turning around some of these issues.
So I think that our government has certainly been innovative and very creative over the last couple of years in addressing some of these issues. I just touched upon two of them and there are many others, which my respective colleagues can speak to.
Now, as has been mentioned over the last little while, there have been approximately 40 projects funded in the Yukon under the Aboriginal Healing Foundation since its inception, for a total of over $10 million. It includes a whole host of initiatives that have taken place in each corner of the territory. Looking at the long list of initiatives that this foundation has helped fund over the years, it has been pretty impressive, to say the least. While these initiatives are very well-founded, itís not to say that our job is done. Our job is never done and our job is to again work collaboratively with our communities, side-by-side, to identify problems and help facilitate further discussion and find creative ways to seek resolution to some of these issues.
What we donít want to do, though, is exactly what the federal government is proposing to do, and that is to basically expire its funding on a number of initiatives, including CAIRS, but there is a whole host of other initiatives where funding is to cease in the new year, as well as in 2006.
This is quite alarming for all of us. I think that that is why collaboration on this motion today has already been demonstrated by the leader of the official opposition and us by sending a very clear message to Ottawa, to the federal government, to the minister responsible, that this is a concern and that they do have an inherent obligation to not walk away.
If itís something about perhaps looking at the particular program and making improvements, well, we support that. But simply walking away and not even looking at how we may improve this particular initiative or how we may work on these dire problems is just not acceptable.
So I certainly am very supportive of this motion. Again, I thank the member of the official opposition for bringing forward the amendment because there are a lot of other initiatives that are due to expire other than CAIRS. I am just looking at about 10 others, each involving a respective First Nation government ó from Na Cho Nyšk Dun First Nation, Carcross-Tagish First Nation, Liard Aboriginal Womenís Society, Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Northern Tutchone Tribal Council, Selkirk First Nation, Teslin Tlingit Council, TríondŽk HwŽchíin First Nation, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and, of course, CAIRS.
I donít want to belabour or go on a great length about this, because I think weíre all on the same page when it comes to expressing our support for these monies and the need to continue to work collaboratively with one another to address this and come up with creative and innovative solutions.
I just look at CAIRS, for example, which has been around as a society since 1997, as I understand, and it has done a pretty effective job of advocating for those affected by abuse in residential schools. As the leader of the official opposition outlined, they host a whole number of services, including drop-in services for those who wish to access the very services they have to offer each day, participating and co-hosting healing conferences and delivering and facilitating workshops, including a lot of artistic activities, be it sewing, carving, button blankets and so forth.
I just have to take members back to about a year ago, when I took part in a news conference having to do with the crime prevention mobilization community fund. I think that was the exact name. Perhaps maybe Iím a little off, but it was a federal fund on crime prevention that was very similar to our crime prevention training trust fund ó victim services training trust fund. I remember at the conference there were a couple of aboriginal artists in the room who were showcasing some of their work that they actually had produced over at CAIRS.
I remember speaking with them and hearing their personal experiences and how much it inspired them to become engaged and to be able to share their artistic talents with respect to carving and painting, and to be able to showcase their works of art with pride. They at one time had been housed in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and they had suffered from substance and alcohol abuse, but through working with others and being inspired by fellow artists, being mentored and having the opportunity to divert their attention to something that they loved and felt very passionately about, they were able to reinvest in their lives and show a number of improvements in how they carried out their lives day to day. To see them as very successful artists in our communities today is very inspiring. This is but one example of the service that CAIRS has been able to provide and looking at holistic alternative methods to incarceration certainly goes a long way to help address some of these problems.
Again, I just urge all members to be supportive of this motion and the very amendment that was just passed by all members. I certainly hope that, when it comes to the end of this debate, we are all able to walk hand in hand and send a clear message to the federal government of our support regarding this particular initiative and the need to continue to work very closely and collaboratively.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of this motion, this very important motion that we have before the House. By way of a bit of background, the residential schools were boarding schools for aboriginal children between the ages of five and 16 years of age, and they operated throughout Canada for over a century. What was initially thought of as a very good idea has come back to haunt the federal government, a number of churches and society as a whole. Thatís the fallout, the residential school syndrome, that weíre dealing with today.
The federal government has initiated over 40 projects costing some $10 million over a number of years. In one year alone, our government has anted up to the plate to assist in this area to the tune of $150,000 odd. There appears to be a resolve to do a number of things at the federal government level. Some have been done. The Government of Canada delivered a statement of reconciliation to all aboriginal people that included an apology to those who had experienced sexual and physical abuse while attending a residential school. That apology clearly lays out responsibility.
The Aboriginal Healing Foundation was established, and today its funding appears to be running out.
My colleague, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice, and members of his immediate family, have been involved in this school issue and have spoken eloquently to the issue. The strain that is placed on many, many people of aboriginal descent in our society is really gut-wrenching. A lot of the former students of the schools recall their experiences with a lot of pain and tremendous anger. There are a number who have fond recollections of their experience in the school, and Iíve met many on both sides here in the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, there has been a resolve, as I said earlier, on the federal government level to bring this issue to a conclusion. But healing itself is going to take more than just a few years. Itís going to go on and on until new generations come up through the system and are not tainted by their involvement with mission schools or residential schools ó however they were referred to across this great country of ours.
Schools were located in every province and territory. More than 130 schools existed over the time that these schools were in place. There is an estimate that as many as perhaps 100 of these schools could be involved in the subsequent claims that are arising.
Canada itself ó the Government of Canada ó was virtually joint venturing the operation of these schools with many religious organizations. It wasnít until April 1, 1969, that the Government of Canada assumed total responsibility for the school systems, although many churches remained involved for some years. The residential schools ceased to operate in the mid- to late-1970s, and the last federally run residential school in Canada closed its doors in 1996.†
What overshadows the positive experience that some of the students had was the issue of abuse, and that has come to see quite a number of people employed in these schools convicted of criminal offences.
Mr. Speaker, there is a legacy of tragedy that follows many of the residential school residents, and that has left part of our society with a need for assistance.
This motion, Mr. Speaker, encourages the Government of Canada to step back up to the plate and continue to fund this initiative. Here in the Yukon, we see a lot of the direct work that has been accomplished by CAIRS. It has been beneficial, and one only has to know some of the individuals who have worked in the system to recognize the frustration that the officials are having, seeing the sun setting on the federal money. And if youíre sitting in far-off Ottawa, Iím sure the feds will say that, well, part of the original application process is to demonstrate how this project would be sustainable after the federal government funding lapses. That is one of the questions on the application process: will the project be able to operate once the foundation money ends?
Part of the other application criteria is the sun setting on the funding. This appears to be the way the federal government operates in a number of other areas. We as a government would like to work very closely with the federal government and bring them to the realization that Iím sure has already sunk in, that there is a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that money flows to the First Nations who have been residents and are victims of our residential school system.
Just the fact that the federal government has taken it upon itself to apologize and to set up a commission to deal with the funding and to deal with the claims shows that there must be a clear path to healing. With the estimated 90,000 individuals living today who attended residential schools, and with the high incidence of reporting and claims being made against the government, one can easily identify with the issue.
Itís interesting to note that, of those who have made the claim against the government, there is also a claim against a church that is in addition to the government. The courts have waded in and I am given to understand that there have been 11 court judgements and 630 settlements, but we still have a way to go. The path to healing is not an easy one.
Back in 1998, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was formally launched. That foundation was created to manage the healing strategy and it also provided financial support to eligible community-based healing initiatives that complemented existing aboriginal and government programs. It is an aboriginal-run non-profit corporation that operates at armís length from the government. That foundation funds proposals from the First Nations, the Inuit and Mťtis affected by the legacy of physical and sexual abuse in the residential school system. The foundation will assess and fund eligible community-based healing initiatives to address issues such as the cycles of physical and sexual abuse, family violence, substance abuse and parenting skills.
While weíre on the topic of substance abuse, that has become the current scourge of society, and itís afflicting many of our First Nation residents here in the Yukon to the extent that this is going to come back and haunt us probably to a greater extent than the residential school syndrome. Iím not trying to look at a crystal ball, but all Iím pointing out is that we are seeing the fallout from substance abuse in society today at a very alarming rate. In fact, Iím given to understand that itís easier to go downtown in Whitehorse and find any drug faster than you can buy a six-pack of beer. That does not bode well for our society. The soft drugs, the IV drug use, crystal meth ó weíve come a long way from marijuana.
We all have a responsibility as legislators, as parents, to ensure that the society we create for future generations is safe and ensure the best possible opportunities for our youth. Theyíre the most precious part of our society today ó our children. Itís only reasonable and fair that we provide them with every opportunity to move forward in a healthy environment, free of abuse, both physical and sexual, such as what transpired in some of the residential schools, and free from substance abuse.
If you ask anyone, they just want to be happy, want a decent standard of living, but they more often than not want opportunities for their children ó opportunities that they didnít have. Nothing has really changed over the years, over the generations. Itís important that we deal with the issues that have been handed down to us and deal with them in a forthright and straightforward manner, and look ahead as to how we cannot fall into the same pitfalls and the same traps that society has had before.
Mr. Speaker, this motion, as amended, is a very worthwhile motion, and I would recommend it to this House.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to have the House join me in welcoming Susanne Hingley, who is the executive director of Skills Canada, and Duncan Miller, who is the president of Skills Canada. They are in the gallery.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Iíll be brief on this motion, as amended, because I support the motion, as do all the speakers so far. There is no need to belabour it or repeat many of the points already on the record. Obviously, we all feel that CAIRS is a worthwhile institution and something that deserves government support.
I did consider the possibility of introducing another amendment to this motion to ask and urge the Yukon government to partner or share the financing burden with the federal government.
But I think that point is already clear on the record. There is no need to necessarily prolong the discussion on this motion this afternoon, as an amendment would tempt us to do. Instead, I would like to see it come to a conclusion and a vote so we can at least send a message to Ottawa on the central message, which we all seem to be in agreement with.
Now, I have met people who have worked for CAIRS over the years and am familiar with their struggle for funding. I have also talked with many people who have visited their facility and have gone through programs such as the Aishihik Lake Wilderness Treatment Centre, and I am familiar with the good that this program and institution do within our society.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, in the Yukon the MLAs are provided with a greater privilege not shared, generally speaking, by politicians in the larger jurisdictions to our south. The reason for that is, on average, we have about 2,000 constituents each and are able to better interact with our constituency on a personal level. I know in the Kluane riding, after eight years, I pretty well know everybody on a first-name basis, and I think that is true for the other four MLAs who have been in here for eight years as well.
Because we pretty well know everybody, weíve become familiar with their life circumstances over a period of time and we have the opportunity to meet people who have experienced unfortunate events in their life ó such as the events dealt with by the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and CAIRS ó certainly those of us who come into that type of contact can appreciate the need for these programs and services.
But I wonder if that type of contact is not lost at the federal level, because we know the members of parliament who vote and decide on the federal funding that keeps programs such as these running may not get out there and meet people who directly benefit from such programs.
I know our Member of Parliament for the Yukon is aware of the plight of the CAIRS program in the Yukon; furthermore, he is also aware of many of the alcohol and drug treatment centres in the territory. I would expect him to use whatever influence he can bring upon the Prime Minister to help to save these very worthwhile programs. Should he need anything further from this Legislative Assembly in addition to the motion from todayís debate that will be sent to the Prime Ministerís office, then certainly I would invite him to make any such request known.†
I have put on record my support for the CAIRS program and also Aboriginal Healing Foundation programs and the various institutions theyíve operated in the past. I know there were at least three wilderness treatment centres operating in the territory; there might have been four. One of them, as mentioned, was at Aishihik Lake. I did have the opportunity to visit it several times, including at the grand opening, also attended by our MP.
Over the years, the wilderness treatment centre at Aishihik Lake has operated during four or five different periods. Itís largely dependent on funding from the federal government, whether the programs are operating or not. I know the Chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations made an appeal to the Yukon government for operating funds on previous occasions, yet we havenít heard of any corresponding financial announcements from this Yukon Party government with respect to the need to fund the treatment centres.
Now I know itís something that isnít out of the realm of the Yukon government because only about five or six years ago I recall a previous Yukon government allocating funds toward programming at that particular facility. There may have been funds also allocated to the other centres at Tatlmain Lake and Jackson Lake and maybe elsewhere.
So, not everything should be riding on the possibility of federal funds. I believe the Yukon government should be prepared to pick up the ball and provide interim funding, if needed, in order to sustain the programming at CAIRS.
Mr. Speaker, if the Yukon government would just roll its sleeves up a little higher and work a little harder, I am sure it would be quite possible to achieve some sort of financial partnership with the federal government with respect to funding these worthwhile programs.
I think my point is quite clear in terms of funding and the worthwhile nature of these programs, and I look forward to bringing this motion to a vote so we can send a united message to Ottawa.
Mr. Arntzen: I rise in this House today to give support to this motion as amended.†
I am sure that all members in this House personally know of or have known someone who was abused in the residential schools. I know I have. During my travels and my work throughout the Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and northern British Columbia, I have come into contact with many of these victims and I have had the opportunity to speak to them. Itís painful sometimes to listen.
We can speak in this House for hours on end without getting any results from that; however, action sometimes is what is needed.
Mr. Speaker, I am not going to repeat a lot of what has been said by my colleagues on both sides of the House but just go over a few things that I have noticed, and that is that there were schools not only in the Yukon and Northwest Territories and northern British Columbia, but there were schools all over Canada, except for Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. It may have been said already, but of the 130 schools that existed over time, it was estimated that up to 100 of them could have been involved in these claims, so it is a great number of people who have been affected. It is estimated that there are over 90,000 people alive today who attended those residential schools.
Mr. Speaker, I think we all know that money alone cannot solve these problems. Programs do ó programs such as the CAIRS program.
On May 4, 1998, the Aboriginal Healing Foundation was formally launched. The foundation was created to design, implement and manage the healing strategy, including providing financial support to eligible community-based healing initiatives that complement existing aboriginal and government programs.
†It is an aboriginal-run, non-profit corporation that operates at armís length to the government.
†It is wonderful that we have those programs, but when funding dries up, so do the programs. We all know that the federal government has started many, many programs over the years, but has failed to see them through or failed to provide funding to see them through.
Iím not saying here that only the present Liberal government has done that. I think all federal governments have failed us in the past. Itís therefore very important for us, as members of this Legislature, to become the watchdogs and keep an eye on these programs to see that they are continued and do whatever it takes to convince the federal government to keep funding these worthwhile programs, particularly ones of this magnitude and importance.
Much has been said by members on both sides of this House with respect to this very important motion. I think all of us in this House agree that we must find ways to continue funding these particular programs; therefore, I am going to ask all members in this House to vote in favour of this motion. I know I am.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I, too, certainly support the motion but I think I would be remiss not to at least express some concerns that the Member for Copperbelt has very well expressed. The magnitude of the problem is certainly one aspect of it.† If you look at some of the statistics from about a week ago, there are 11,315 former students with unresolved residential school claims against the Government of Canada ó 11,315. Of those, settled before trial: 1,052; settled in what the government calls pilot projects: 198; actual trial decisions: 15; resolved in alternative dispute resolution processes: 3. And yet, thatís something that the federal government seems to be trying to push. Then, if you take a look at the total of dismissed and discontinued: 461. This totals 1,729 actual actions.
In terms of what has been spent by the Crown ó we wonít get into other organizations involved in that ó simply in settlements and trial decisions: $74.8 million; and, itís estimated today that, depending on which Web site you go to, there are 87,500 people alive today who actually attended the schools. Iím suspicious that we can actually look for a lot more actions there.
On March 31, 2005, the last of the funding for the Committee on Abuse in Residential Schools Society will end. Thatís really what weíre talking about here. As with most federal initiatives and projects, money is time limited. I agree with the Member for Copperbelt that this perhaps strikes all political stripes at one point or another; but the last number of years, the last couple of decades in the federal Liberal government, I think, is something to take note of here.
This is a common problem that any government has faced ó any territorial or provincial government has faced: the co-called boutique programs. There will be a nice program announced for two or three years; the money will be flowed through the territorial government with very strict regulations and restrictions, I might add, so that the territorial or provincial government has very little latitude in what they do with it; but itís flowed through them. By the time the two or three years is over, and the project is now up and running, where are these groups going to go for the money?
So thatís the situation that we find ourselves in today. I donít think anyone in this House is critical of the organization or has anything but high praise for the organization. The question is who really should be funding this and who should really be stepping up to the plate on the whole thing. Clearly most of these projects do ask, ďWill the project be able to operate once the money ends?Ē and I think thatís something that the federal government has to put more emphasis on in all of these programs. There has to be a means of continuing the program without simply dumping it on the provincial or territorial government.
Another thing that has been certainly brought to my attention with one of my portfolios ó and Iím suspicious that, as all of the ministers have to delve into their individual areas, itís a common problem, certainly one that Iíve spoken of with everyone and everyone is in agreement. Over the number of years, the federal Liberal government has continually withdrawn and reduced funding for health care. This is certainly well known in the media, well known in the population, and itís a strategy to deal with the deficit ó itís not one that I particularly agree with, but itís a strategy.
As that funding is continually reduced and more and more emphasis and more and more of the problems are put on the territories and the provinces, we have had to bear the brunt of that. How do we do that? How does any political stripe, territorial or provincial government do that? They have to shirk. They have to cut back on road maintenance. They have to cut back on housing stock, in my case. We have a rapidly ageing housing stock that, in many respects, is falling apart. Itís not adequately maintained, it needs repairs, but the money has had to go into health care.
I think thatís something that most citizens, most Yukoners, most Canadians, have not really looked at and do not really understand.
To now turn around and take the credit for saving health care is going to put the onus right back on us if they do that by cutting programs such as CAIRS, cutting the boutique programs, cutting the very worthwhile programs out there that theyíve now stepped away from and have taken the credit in another area. I donít think thatís a really fair way to look at it.
This is a good organization and itís one that deserves support. Itís not worth going into the background. I think the other members have done that quite well with a historical overview of the residential schools.
I will only relate one story, Mr. Speaker, about when I first came to the Yukon ó not quite when I first came, but after I had been here for awhile ó I had the opportunity to meet someone who had attended a residential school. Interestingly enough, she was not of First Nation ancestry. That kind of threw me because that was something I wasnít aware of at the time. But coming from a very small town with a residential school and no other, this is where she went to school.†
So I took the opportunity to ask her what her opinion was and if all the stories we hear are true. I was horrified at first with her first answer, and that was that no, they werenít. After I sort of closed my mouth she said that they were much worse and that what you hear really is a dilution of it, that it is much more of a problem than I think most of the community and most Yukoners understand.
I agree with the previous speakers and I agree with the things we have heard that so many of our social programs today are due to that. Yukon, to my knowledge, was not a major player in that; it was the federal government. For the federal government to now step away from funding and throw that back on the territorial government ó I tend to think we will look after it, but I think it is really shirking some major responsibilities.
Mr. Hassard: I, too, rise in support of this motion as amended and I thank the leader of the opposition for his friendly amendment.
I just want to speak briefly because this subject does affect a lot of the constituents I have in my riding. I find it almost unimaginable that, given all that weíve heard today and all that is going on with regard to this matter, the funding would be cut. I think it is a fairly well-known fact that most people feel that the federal government is failing in its responsibilities to deal with this issue.
Some of my constituents wonder why the federal government spends more money administering the overseeing of the issue than they do actually paying out the claims. You have to wonder why. I mean, is it just a way to create jobs, or are they looking to increase the bureaucracy, or donít they care? I would just have to ask that question. I realize that not every person who attended residential school had a bad experience, but I think the number who had a bad experience outweighs the number who didnít. I know in talking with people in my riding that for many of them it wasnít an enjoyable experience. One person in particular attended the residential school in Carcross and talked about the unfairness in his mind as to how they were treated. There was no middle ground. If there was ever a dispute, why, there was nowhere for them to go. They lost. Every argument they lost. He said it led him to a life of rebelling against authority and all the problems that go with that, as a young man especially.
So it is certainly something that I am pleased to see we in this House can all agree on: to encourage the federal government to reinstate the funding. That is about all I have to add to it. I will listen to the other members.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the motion as amended?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I think the yeas have it. I declare the motion carried as amended.
Motion No. 335 agreed to as amended
Motion No. 333
Clerk: Motion No. 333, standing in the name of Mr. Hassard.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to reinstate its funding to Skills Canada.
Mr. Hassard: It is my pleasure to bring forward this motion today. I feel itís important that we get together as a group and encourage the federal government to reinstate this funding.
It was interesting when I watched our guests come in this afternoon. I thought one of them looked rather familiar. Upon further reflection and a few minutes of discussion, I realized that Mr. Miller was, in fact, my high school shop teacher. So, itís certainly a thrill to see him here today.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hassard: He threw away my report card ó trust me. He did mention something about teaching me everything I knew. I said that couldnít be true because I wouldnít be here if that were the case.
Mr. Speaker, Skills Canada was expecting to receive $300,000 from the federal government this year. But to date, I believe they have only received $137,000, and there is no guarantee they will receive the balance.
We believe that itís very important to ensure that we have skilled workers. The Yukon needs those workers to work on the many projects going on in the territory. Given whatís on the horizon for this part of the world and whatís happening right now, the need will only continue to grow. I think one only needs to look at the housing boom thatís going on in Whitehorse. The building of the multiplex and building of future infrastructure for the 2007 Canada Winter Games, building throughout the territory in communities like Ross River, Old Crow and Watson Lake, have homeowners and contractors alike scrambling to find skilled tradespeople, whether theyíre plumbers, electricians or carpenters. The real possibility of an Alaska Highway pipeline and a Mackenzie Valley pipeline are also places that we would expect to see a large number of skilled workers required.
I regularly speak with a group of people in an association thatís known as PNWER, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. One of the topics we regularly discuss is workforce development. This shortage of skilled workers is not only here in the Yukon or in Canada, itís something that the people in the U.S. also discuss, especially when they talk about the pipelines. Itís interesting to listen to people from Seattle or that part of the world. They have the very same fears that we have here when it comes to finding skilled trades.
So that makes the work that Skills Canada does even more important now than ever. Our existing workforce is approaching retirement and weíre not seeing enough younger skilled workers coming in to take their place, and I think we need to put an emphasis on our young people to encourage them to start thinking of trades as a career.
They need to know that the trades can offer high paying jobs. We need to continue to raise the awareness and increase opportunities for youth to follow their interest in a trade.
Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to see the commitment of $2 million to the community training trust funds and, more specifically, $500,000 dedicated for the trades training. Also of note for myself was the $75,000 for the Faro community training trust fund.
Now, I personally have not had a lot to do with Skills Canada, but I do know people who have. Iím sure that many of the members in the Legislature know people who were involved with it. In talking to our guests in the gallery, they indicated that many of the members of the Legislature have visited their facility. I promise to do so in the future.
In 2002, Skills Canada Yukon opened the doors to their new skills centre. The opening of this facility marked a change in how extracurricular skilled trades for Yukon youth would be delivered. If you have driven down on Industrial Road, down near where the Esso bulk plant is, you would see the large banner that identifies what is now home to many of the skills clubs and workshops that Skills Canada offers.
Mr. Speaker, all over the Yukon ó it doesnít matter where you go ó you run into people who discuss the problem of how to keep our young people in the territory. In the past, many Yukoners have had to leave the Yukon to get the training they needed to go into their desired area of work, and once they get out of the territory, it is obvious that they are going to find other opportunities for work, which is going to make it a little bit more difficult for Yukon companies to entice them to come back and work here.
The work that we have done to date as a government, I believe, does a lot to change that. We are improving training opportunities, and I believe that some of the work we have done has improved the economy, both which allow our young people to stay in the Yukon.
In looking at the time, I would probably wrap up and give other members an opportunity to speak to this issue, as I am sure that many of them do have some good things to say.
†I look forward to unanimous consent on this motion.
Mr. Cardiff: I do have quite a few things, actually, to say with regard to this motion urging the federal Liberal government to reinstate its funding to Skills Canada.
Itís interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, once again, the deficiency in the motion and how hurriedly it was put together. I think that it is important to note that Skills Canada is a rather large, broad and national organization. There is undoubtedly a skills shortage in Canada and around the world ó it is a serious problem. Itís not just a serious problem for employers who are looking for skilled tradespeople, itís a big problem nationally in our ability to compete in the global market, in the global economy, and how we can better the whole of our nation, I think.
I have done fairly extensive research on this and there is a lot to be said about this.
Skills Canada is represented in 12 regions in Canada and it also has a national office.
I believe that every province in Canada has an organization. The local one here is called Skills Canada Yukon. The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin directed all his comments around that and, believe me, Iím aware of the problems that theyíre having with funding, but I think that the matter goes a lot deeper.
There is also a national organization that promotes trades as careers and they do a fine job of it. Iíll get into a little more detail in that respect later.
So what do we do locally? What does Skills Canada do locally to promote trades? It organizes skills clubs in many areas. It organizes them in baking, in culinary arts, in carpentry and electrical workshops. It has a robotics component to it. It has all kinds of ó too numerous to mention probably. There are a lot of them.
How are those skills workshops run? They are supported by the local office here, but largely they are done through the good work of the volunteer community here in the Yukon. I believe the number I heard at the Skills Canada Yukon AGM was 4,800 hours in the past eight months.
One of the other things Skills Canada Yukon does is they organize a territorial competition every year. Itís an opportunity for young men and women to test the things that theyíve learned and to excel through their experiences in those skills clubs and the experience that they get at school. They learn all of these new things. They learn to excel in them and theyíre coached by very proficient people who have experience and expertise in those particular fields.
A territorial competition gives them a chance to actually show that off and to show the public the good work that Skills Canada Yukon does and the good work that the volunteers are doing in providing that training. Following those competitions, Skills Canada Yukon supports the successful people in those competitions in going to a national competition where they again get to show not just people in the Yukon but they get to show people on the national stage how good the programs are here in the Yukon. Thatís a testament to the good work being done at Skills Canada Yukon by the board, the staff and the volunteers working there.
We debated a motion the other day. Another organization that has actually participated with Skills Canada Yukon is Crime Prevention Yukon. Skills Canada Yukon has done some excellent work with Crime Prevention Yukon, and I think that that definitely bears some recognition. I guess the part of the problem with the funding is the fact that unfortunately ó from my understanding ó next year, in 2005, there will probably be a reduced number of young Yukon men and women going to that competition because of the uncertainty of the funding.
Thereís some good news, though, about that competition, and one thing ó I believe Duncan has championed this, along with a lot of other people ó is the solar bike challenge. It is a really innovative way to engage young people in a variety of trades all at the same time, from building the vehicle to learning about solar energy and about electronics and controls. It is actually a great event. I had the opportunity to participate in that event earlier this year, as did other people here in the Legislature. It was a wonderful event, and a lot of interesting vehicles came out, and the winning vehicle, I believe, was from the Premierís riding.
The good news is that the solar bike challenge is contagious, and due to the efforts of the people at Skills Canada Yukon, it is going to be an event at the 2005 national skills competition in Edmonton.
I probably havenít covered off all the things, and I could probably stand here until long after weíre done talking about all the things that Skills Canada Yukon does.
In order to address this at a national level, the federal government has undertaken a number of different initiatives. I happened to have researched some of that.
There is one area where the motion actually falls short. If we are going to support Skills Canada, I think we should get the name right.
The name of the organization, as a whole, is Skills/Compťtences Canada, and they have an office with six staff members in Gatineau, Quebec.
One of the initiatives that the federal government has undertaken is a program called Skilled Trades Ė A Career You Can Build On. I would just like to read a couple of things from a backgrounder/fact sheet that I pulled off the Web this afternoon: ďCanada is beginning to feel the effects of a shortage of skilled tradespeople. The point is that almost 50 percent of businesses surveyed in 2003 said a shortage of qualified labour was one of the most important issues facing them. Moreover, 56 percent of the firms said they were forced to hire people, even though they were not suitable, and almost 30 percent said they had foregone business opportunities.Ē Thatís actually a quote from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
So thatís one of the reasons why this is not just a Yukon issue. This is a national issue.
This campaign, Skilled Trades Ė A Career You Can Build On ó you can see some of this on the TV and in the newspapers. To some extent it is a media campaign, where they are basically promoting trades and technical careers as a career path for young people. This campaign is managed by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, in partnership with Human Resourcesí Skills Development Canada and also Skills/Compťtences Canada as well.
So Skills Canada, the national organization, has a role to play in this. What I would argue is that Skills Canada, the national organization, is already playing a role in this, but itís the other things they do. Itís the other things that Skills Canada, the national organization, does that will complement this other campaign.
So I donít think this should be a day where we gang up on the federal government and say, you know, ďCome to the table and bring your chequebook and this is what we think you should do.Ē I agree, the federal government starts a lot of things and then backs out of them, but I think we need to make good arguments about why that funding should be maintained or increased.
Right now we donít even know, to a large degree, what the funding is going to be. The funding is basically uncertain. My understanding, in talking to people, is that basically the federal government and Human Resourcesí Skills Development Canada is probably ó if they havenít, they probably are going to be ó reducing the funding and that thereís no commitment past March 31, 2005.
So I think one of things we could also do as well is to urge the federal government to ensure ó it would lead me to believe, seeing as how we just had a federal election, that thereís probably going to be a new federal budget. That would probably stand to reason. We should be sending letters to our Member of Parliament and the other appropriate Members of Parliament and ministers, urging them to ensure that this is a priority in their department, and that there is funding for Human Resourcesí Skills Development Canada to maintain this funding because of the arguments that we are making today about how it complements another initiative that the federal government has undertaken.
The national organization is in Gatineau, Quebec. They have an office; there are approximately six people there. One of the things that they do is house a committee ó the National Technical Committee. The National Technical Committee serves as an operational and advisory committee to the national office. The purpose of the committee is to formalize a competition development process that will ensure a positive experience for the competitors, the instructors, the judges and the Technical Committee members. The committee will provide each region of Canada a voice in the development of Canadian skills competition criteria. This will allow the standardization of Canadian skills competition scopes, projects and judging criteria.
What does this do for the national competition and the spillover into each regional competition that is held? I believe that it lends credibility to the existing competition. It lends the professionalism thatís necessary to promote trade and technical career paths for young men and women. The competition isnít just about an opportunity to travel somewhere and compete. Itís a chance to shine in the particular field that youíve chosen to explore; itís an opportunity to rub shoulders with others from around the country and to hear of their experiences in their trades.
†So thatís one thing, and I think that itís important to have that professionalism to lend credibility to the organization. This is happening across Canada, in 12 regions. Itís happening at the national level. At the local level here, a lot of that credibility is lent by the volunteers and by their professionalism day after day, evening after evening, going to those skills clubs, sharing their experiences, promoting trades and giving those young men and women pride in what they may do as their chosen career.
There is no saying that because you participated in a skills club and you attended a skills competition that you are maybe going to do that, that thatís going to be your career, but it exposes them and it opens their minds to those possibilities.
One of the other things that the national organization does is actually put on that national competition where young men and women from across Canada, in the various regions, attend and have that opportunity. I think thatís very valid because it kind of puts it all on the national stage.
The national competition next year is going to be held in Edmonton. Itís an opportunity to share with that city, that province, the citizens and the parents of those young men and women, and to showcase just what opportunities are available in skilled trades.
The other thing that comes out of that is that the national office also supports the successful competitors there in attending a world conference where they have a world competition. Itís kind of like the Olympics of trades ó that might be the way to put it, I guess. Unfortunately, because of the uncertain funding this year, again, Canada is not going to be able to send as many of those young men and women to that event. I believe in the previous one there were 31 trades represented, and I think there will be about 26 trades being represented this year.
I think we need to note that trades are not just those guys who wear steel-toed boots and hard hats and suspenders and have a tape measure hung on their belt. There are lots of other trades out there. There are bakers; there are cooks; there are hairdressers; there are people who work in robotics. There are all kinds of technical careers out there that are actually regulated either by provincial legislation in their jurisdiction or theyíre regulated in some other way. There are probably at least 150 or 200 different trades out there that are recognized. We need to take note of that.
The last world competition was held in Switzerland, and 180,000 people went through the doors over the period of the competition, so it was a great exposure in that locale for trades as a career.
In 2009 ó this is another good reason why this motion should actually speak to the whole organization, the national organization, as well as the regional organizations ó the world competition will be held in Calgary, hosted by the national organization. Iím sure the federal government and the Province of Alberta will play a role in hosting that. In terms of the contributions, my understanding is that the provincial government of Alberta is going to kick in $6.1 million and the feds are going to match that, so thatís $12.2 million. I think this is an excellent opportunity for Canada to showcase how good we are.
We can actually achieve a whole bunch of things by continuing this funding. We can address the shortage of skilled workers in Canada. We can showcase the skilled tradespeople in 2009 we have here in Canada and attract investment here to our country. People are going to go, ďBoy, I went to the world skills competition in Calgary and the Canadians did a great job.Ē We can do that at every world competition, but I think itís just like the Calgary Olympics or the 2010 Olympics, thereís always that ó I guess ó playing to the home crowd kind of thing where you can excel just that much more because youíve got all those people behind you. And if they believe in what it is that youíre doing, you can do really well.
For my own part, I canít tell you who all went to the last national skills competition that was just this past year, but I can tell you of one person I know who excelled and had a good experience there: a constituent of mine, Katie Girling, who was in the baking competition. Now Katie didnít place first, second or third, but she placed fourth and just missed third place by a hairís breadth.
I think we need to be proud of that. We have numerous examples of Yukoners who have gone to those national skills competitions and excelled.
Like I said, I could probably talk for days about this, but I think the important thing to note is that too many Canadians finish school without the training they need to compete in the job market. That seems to put a premium on knowledge and fully developed skills.
We know we are facing a shortage of tradespeople ó whether it is the negative perception of trades or technical careers, whether itís retirement, there are all kinds of things that can affect that. I think that the long-term effect is the missed economic opportunities, both here in the Yukon, in our communities throughout the Yukon, and as a country.
We are obviously going to support this motion. If the sponsor of the motion wants to amend it, I would support that as well, to change it to ďSkills Competence CanadaĒ and the regional organizations ó however he wants to do it, I think that we need to maintain that national focus.
The only other thing that I would like to say is that if you look at how we support Skills Canada Yukon here in the territory, itís largely funded through Human Resourcesí Skills Development Canada. Their funding is uncertain, and we need to encourage the government to make sure that that funding is there for all the reasons that have been stated.
I know that the government has done lots to promote trades. It can be through training trust funds; it can be through their focus on trades training or the funding that theyíve given to the College, but unless we reach out to those young people ó and these are the people whom Skills Canada Yukon is reaching out to ó the skilled trades, a career you can build on and the national competitions are going to be for nought.
If you look at where Skills Canada Yukon gets its funding, the Yukon government ó according to the financial statements that I have before me ó funded this project to the tune of just over $25,000. I know that there are a lot of other ways that the Yukon government helped Skills Canada. Iím sure there are other ways that they do.
I had the opportunity to attend the annual general meeting of Skills Canada Yukon. It was a well-attended meeting. I was pleased to see the Minister of Education show up there and say some great words about what it means to be a tradesperson and what it can mean in a personís life. The minister also took the opportunity to get out his cheque book and make an offer to Skills Canada Yukon. What Iíd like to do is encourage Skills Canada Yukon to take the minister up on that offer and Iíd encourage the minister to not just open that cheque book, but to fill it out.
We will support the motion on this side of the House as it is, or if the sponsor would like to amend it. Thank you for the opportunity to speak.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to rise today to speak to this Motion No. 333 in support of Skills Canada Yukon.
In todayís world, technology and trades are becoming increasingly important. The good work that Skills Canada does could not come at a more important time because I believe it is vitally important for any organization to plant the seed in the young peopleís minds. Planting the seed with regard to trades is of great value.
Both here in the Yukon and across Canada, the demand for skilled workers is increasing, while skilled workers themselves are in short supply. The existing workforce is approaching retirement, and younger skilled workers are not coming to take their places. Presently, we are experiencing an unprecedented residential building boom in Whitehorse. People wanting to build houses are scrambling to hire tradespeople. There simply arenít enough to go around.
The Canada Winter Games 2007 and an Alaska Highway pipeline are also going to drive demand higher for the skilled trades. At a recent meeting I had with the Alberta Minister of Education, he stated that, right now, Alberta could use 5,000 tradespeople ó immediately. And talking with other ministers across Canada, some feel that immigration is the solution to this issue.
However, I feel that Canadians really need to train Canadians to be tradespeople. Thatís not to say that I disagree with immigration, but I believe that, as governments right across Canada, we have a responsibility to ensure that people have the best opportunity to become tradespeople, if they so choose. That is why this government embarked upon starting the alternative pathways to education school ó to focus on the young people who are very close to being able to move on to some kind of a trade, but need that extra little help to do that.
Mr. Speaker, our government believes that it is very important to ensure that we have the skilled workers the Yukon will need to complete the types of projects that I mentioned and to build a brighter economic future for the territory.
We also want to ensure that Yukoners are getting maximum benefit from future economic development. This means creating training opportunities for Yukoners to help them acquire the skills they need to get available jobs. A strong economy with more people working and good jobs also means stronger, healthier communities.
Skills Canada Yukon will certainly play a key role in helping Yukoners access trades and technology training, which is a step in the right direction. This is why, despite federal government cuts of at least $50,000 to Skills Canada Yukon funding, the Yukon territorial government continues to offer its support for the valuable programs and activities that Skills Canada Yukon provides.
A recent report by the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum identified that, among the key barriers to people entering a trade, some of the most important ones are a lack of information and awareness and a poor image of the trades. This again supports what I stated earlier about planting seeds for the young people to be able to make decisions. Skills Canada Yukon is doing a lot to change the perception of trades and technology careers through their various programs and activities. The hands-on experience and opportunities they provide youth are invaluable.
Just recently, my granddaughter told me that she went somewhere to learn to do something with wood and do some woodwork. She thought it was just out of this world, and she enjoyed it so much that she now says, ďI think Iíll be a carpenter.Ē
Both Skills Canada Yukon and this government want people to start thinking about trades as a number one option. We want people to know that trades and technology offer well-paying and engaging work. Again, Mr. Speaker, I mentioned several times that I myself obtained a red seal interprovincial welding ticket many years ago. It really served me well. I was able to always be employed, and I still enjoy doing welding to this day.
By raising awareness and increasing opportunities for youth to cultivate and follow their interest in the trades is very important. I would like to take this time to outline some of this governmentís initiatives to promote trades and technology careers.
Through the Yukon secondary school apprenticeship program and also through stronger links between schools and Yukon College campuses, there will be more opportunities for students to get high school credit and apprenticeship credit at the same time. Weíve also continued to support training opportunities beyond high school. This year we increased funding to Yukon College by $1 million. Trades and technology courses at the College continue to increase in popularity and this year many of the College programs were full. Weíve also committed to spend $2 million through our community training funds, with $500,000 dedicated specifically for trades training. Finally, we increased support to students receiving the Yukon grant and student training allowances.
While this government is working hard to promote the trades and provide many training opportunities, I am pleased to say that we do not work alone in this area. We have important partners, like Skills Canada Yukon. The effect of Skills Canada Yukon introducing youth to the trades will be felt in this territory for many years to come.
Before I talk about the wealth of Skills Canada Yukon programming, I would like to speak about their remarkable education facility first. In November 2002, Skills Canada Yukon opened the doors to the Skills Centre. The opening of this facility marked a significant change in how extracurricular skills, trades and technology exploration for Yukon youth would be delivered.
Located at 103 Platinum Road in Whitehorseís industrial area, the Skills Centre is now home to many of the skills clubs and other workshops that Skills Canada Yukon offers throughout the school year. The Skills Centre is a two-storey facility that houses multi-use shop space downstairs and a computer lab classroom and offices upstairs.
Setting up the facility in the Skills Centre was a big job that would not have been possible without the many hours of work put in by dedicated volunteers. The existing building was utterly transformed into a unique facility equipped to provide exceptional learning opportunities in trades and technology for youth. I did have an opportunity to look at the facility, and I was very impressed with the number of youth who were present.
†Since it opened, the Skills Centre has been a hive of activity every afternoon, evening and on weekends too. Youth come to learn and work on a variety of projects including construction of skateboard ramps, building a computer from scratch, creating a snowboarding video, sewing clothes and wiring a furnace.
The Skills Centre has also been open to youth community groups to use for projects requiring the use of trade or technology skills.
Mr. Speaker, there are many things that I can say about Skills Canada Yukon and what they do and their commitment to the trades. At this time I would like to say thank you very dearly to all the volunteers who get involved with Skills Canada Yukon and for the countless hours they put in. I would also mention that Skills Canada Yukon organizes the Young Women Exploring Trades Conference. Again, this is very encouraging, and I am very pleased to hear that a lot of the women are seeking trades, because they are very good at what they do. The ones I know who work in trades are very capable and good workers.
This conference proves year after year to be a very fun and informative time for grade 8 girls who are interested in exploring what the trades have to offer. This yearís Young Women Exploring Trades Conference is scheduled to take place at Yukon College on Friday, November 19, 2004. Skills Canada Yukon also offers a parent and child carpentry course where family members can build together as they are guided by a professional carpenter. Finally, Skills Canada Yukon also runs a solar bike race and cardboard boat race, which Iím sure most of the members are familiar with. What better way to get out and have fun, all at the same time as learning skills.
I want to thank Duncan Miller, president of the Skills Canada Yukon Board of Directors; the Skills Canada Youth Board; Susanne Hingley, executive director of Skills Canada Yukon; and her staff. These people have given their talent, their experience and their time to create a Yukon organization that is really making a difference. I would also like to thank the many volunteers again. They cannot be thanked enough for all the time they volunteer. When we talk about the skills competitions across Canada, I would certainly have loved to have been able to do that when I was younger because I think I could have given a lot of those welders across Canada a run for their money when it came to welding.
This government looks forward to working with Skills Canada now and in the future. Thank you.
Mr. Rouble: Itís my honour and pleasure to speak again to our Assembly today. Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to welcome and thank the guests we have in attendance today.
I rise today to voice my support for this motion before us this afternoon. Iím very encouraged by the support being voiced by the members on the other side of the Assembly. Education and skill development is essential to our continued growth and development. Technology and trades education and the resulting tradespeople produced are vital to our economy. As investor faith is being restored in the Yukon, we are experiencing a building boom and as someone who believes in the Yukon Territory, Iím investing in the construction of a new home as well. I know first-hand the shortage of qualified tradespeople. It is a challenge to find qualified electricians, plumbers and drywallers. I was lucky. I found an excellent carpenter, Lester Balsillie, who started his apprenticeship here in the Yukon over 10 years ago. On Mr. Balsillieís resumť is the fact that he won third place in Skills Canadaís national competition and represented Canada at the international level. Clearly Skills Canadaís programs work.
When I was in high school, becoming an apprentice or embarking on a trade wasnít encouraged. Well, we missed the boat, and thatís why we need organizations like Skills Canada ó organizations that provide information about trades and the opportunities they present and reinforce the positive role that trades play in our community. This government has supported education and promoted trades and technology careers, and now we need to get the federal government back on-board.
The Yukon government is on-board. Community volunteers ó to the credit of the organizers ó are on-board. I would also like to voice my thanks to all those volunteers for the hundreds of hours they contribute. We just need the federal government back on-board.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members opposite for their support. Letís send this message to Ottawa unanimously.
††††††† Speaker: Leader of the third party. Oh, sorry. Leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Youíve done this before, Mr. Speaker. I know Iím not supposed to correct the Speaker, but I will take the liberty at this point.
Speaker: And this time I will accept it.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you very much.
Well, of course, I am like everybody else. I rise today to basically ask how could you not support Skills Canada? How can you not support Skills Yukon? How can you not support any activity or program that enhances opportunities for employment of youth, of men, women, people leaving occupations, seniors even, older people when their occupation has ended through layoffs such as what we hear of daily. This morning I think I heard about layoffs from Bombardier ó 800 people being laid off. Well, thatís retraining. A lot of them will have to go into retraining. How can you not support that? Itís absolutely impossible to speak against it, nor should anybody speak against it.
I have been very, very involved with training people in the Yukon for 20-some years actually through the unions ó through the Carpenters Union, and the Plumbers/Sheet Metal Union. From my understanding, Lester Balsillie, who was a member of the Carpenters Union Local 2499, represented the Carpenters Union Local 2499 at the national competition of the Carpenters Union, which was across the country, and he did very, very well. Youíre right, I think he came in third at that competition, so there might be a mistake in the wording there.
However, thatís not the point of this motion. I think the point is that there are many, many trades and occupations that the Member for Mount Lorne has mentioned that we have to pay attention to. One of the biggest problems we have, of course, does not lie necessarily in financing, nor does it necessarily lie in support from the government.
Itís actually a cultural thing. Itís a sense that many parents raise their children to go to university to get a profession and often never promote, talk about or encourage trades. Iíve heard that time and time and time again. I have been with many families when theyíre talking to their children, and theyíre encouraging their children to go to university. Well, thereís nothing wrong with that ó absolutely not. Thatís a career path, but itís only one career path.
This country has been remiss in not promoting the trades the way European countries do. They have not given due credit and importance to the people who work with their hands, the people who work in the trades, the people who have occupations, whether itís hairdressers, artists, carpenters ó as have been mentioned ó or electricians or automotive mechanics. The list is endless. There are so many trades out there, and there is so much need.
When people talk about the need, I can assure you that 20 years ago, I heard the same argument. I heard the same concerns being expressed. There was a shortage in Canada ó not in all the trades. Here we are, 20 years later, saying the exact same thing and going through the same motions ó trying to find ways to address this.
A lot of the problems start with a sense within our community, within our culture, that the trades are a lesser occupation than a profession ó than a university degree. I have a big problem with that. Iím a proud, proud carpenter. I have a red seal. Just as the MLA for McIntyre-Takhini mentioned that he has a red seal interprovincial ticket in welding, I also have a red seal interprovincial ticket in carpentry.
I am very proud of that. I represented carpenters, plumbers, sheet-metal workers, painters and anybody who walked through that door who needed representation and wanted training. We set up apprenticeship programs. We were involved with writing the tests and we put on the first national competition in Canada north of 60, in the Yukon, for carpentry, and weíve done it twice in the last 12 years up here ó something that weíre very proud of. We hoped it would raise the profile and strengthen the movement of the trades and other young people getting involved in it.
But I keep running into that wall, and I still meet it today. I have a daughter who is getting her masterís in dance. I have a son who is right now at the College taking his first-year level carpentry apprenticeship. I have another daughter who took community care college courses and graduated, and I have another son who is doing both his carpentry level training and his university degree at the same time. I am proud of every single one of my children and their chosen paths for their future ó not one is above the other because of the type of learning they are getting, nor the occupation they will be serving.
I cannot imagine a world where we do not have plumbers, because I cannot imagine a world where we cannot turn a tap on and get water, or get a heating system. I cannot imagine a world where we do not have sheet-metal workers or donít have the quality of air that we breathe in our buildings. I cannot imagine a world where we do not have the carpenters who erect this, the painters who paint it, the electricians who supply us with the power. Or walk on Main Street ó the hairdressers, of which there are many in this town. Obviously that is a need that people get a lot of satisfaction from; they serve a purpose in our society.
The vehicles we drive, that transport us, that transport our goods; the truck drivers who carry the goods: there are so many that Iím missing, that Iím not naming, and Iím not missing them because I donít think theyíre less, I just donít have them at my fingertips.
So for 20 years Iíve been hearing this and it is frustrating for me to be once again hearing the same arguments and that same concern because I would hope that at some point in our lives, some point in this country, we would start placing the same amount of value in our families, in our schools, in our universities, our colleges, our trade technical centres, in our legislative buildings ó the same value that we place on other types of education and professions.
So where do we go from here? I applaud people who get involved in trying to help those get their trades, go into trade, and encourage. I applaud the counsellors in school who try to identify or direct young people who may not fall into the academic stream but may fit very clearly in a trades stream, but we have problems within our own system, we truly do. We have to address those if weíre really going to have a long-term change in the shortages that have been mentioned by people in this Legislature today. Yes, there are 5,000 or 6,000 positions right now in Alberta. Yes, there may be a shortage in the Yukon, but I can point to 10 carpenters who are not employed right now, and I can point to some plumbers who are not employed. Maybe itís a lack of connection. Maybe the structure doesnít work well. Maybe the hiring practices are not as well done as they should be.
Maybe there is not the amount of value on the quality that we have in this territory: the tradespeople, the young ones in the apprenticeship programs.†
We have, supposedly, a low unemployment rate but I can find unemployment in the trades, in all the trades. I do not rest a lot of value on statistics unless I can see what the statistics have been drawn from and how inclusive they are. I do rest a lot of value on going down the streets and running into young people who may not have decided what they should be doing in their life and who do not have direction. I may rest value in going down to the union hall and seeing a list of people who do not have employment. I go down to youth centres and see people without jobs; I run into middle-aged people who are looking for work. A welder was in our office the other day, 60 years old ó he cannot find a job, 60 years old. Yet we have a shortage. So whatís happening here? Do we have some linkage thatís not happening?
Without a doubt, year after year, I see the same reports: there is a shortage. What is the government doing? What is the territorial government doing? What is the federal government doing? What are the other levels of government doing to address that shortage? If we have a pipeline coming, what are we doing to prepare the people of the Yukon to get those jobs? I donít see very much happening right at the moment. I do know that there have been some training courses offered, both private sector and union, and there has been some involvement with the College, as well. But, if there is going to be that amount of a shortage, should we not be preparing for it? If they cannot get the job on the pipeline, if the pipeline doesnít come, then they can go elsewhere and work. It there is a shortage in Alberta, like was mentioned, then maybe they can go down there and work. My brother went to Alberta and he has never come back.
Heís a foreman at Fort McMurray, a pipefitter. I donít think he will ever come back now. He went down there and 12 plumbers followed him. We lost 12 very talented, very skilled tradespeople.
I am putting these things out and it is kind of random, but what Iím pointing out is a different picture from what I hear around right now. Itís a picture of frustration from my perspective, because I really do get frustrated about this. I really want to see a solid change. I really want to see that value placed on the trades. I want to see that value brought about by support, by how we talk about the tradespeople and the importance of the role they play in our society, and the value of their training in the same way that we talk about professional people.
At some point we have to change our attitude. Whether that means adopting an attitude that is more reflective historically of the European model with respect to the trades or we develop our own ó until we do that, I will be standing up here and, if I am still in this job 10 or 15 years from now, still saying the same words. We are still right where we were 20 years ago, 10 years ago, five years ago.
Sorry to put it that way.
I support this motion, of course, and I support every single person out there in the trades ó the teachers who help, the organizers, the programmers, our guests today, their commitment to making something more of the trades than maybe what they have been in the past, the opportunities, the competitions even. Of course, by supporting them, I hope that we have a country that has more equality when we talk about peopleís occupations and their value within our society.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today in support of this motion. Iíve enjoyed hearing the remarks from members on both sides of this House, and I welcome the guests in the gallery and thank them for taking time out of their day to come and listen to a bunch of politicians ramble on. However, with this motion I think itís valuable that we express the support and ask the federal government to restore this funding. We have a growing national shortage of tradespeople and, due to demographics, this is only going to get worse in the coming years. Itís important that we take steps to address this problem now. As a government, we have increased funding for trades training, including the most recent increase to the training trust fund, of which I believe $500,000 was designated specially for trades training.
Skills Canada does a very good job as an organization in promoting the trades and expanding the knowledge among young people, in particular, and I think that is very key to addressing this problem. As has been pointed out by several members of this House, there has been a negative perception of the trades as a career path, and itís important that we take steps to correct that. This can be a very valuable and very rewarding career for individuals, for Canadians, for Yukoners. Itís becoming more attractive as time goes on, and itís something we should encourage.
I would also note the work regarding the Young Women Exploring Trades Conference that is coming up this year on November 19. I think it is very important that girls ó young girls in particular ó be encouraged to venture into fields that have often in the past been male dominated and werenít considered as an option open to girls or young ladies.
I think that it is time that we should be increasing funding for trades training rather than cutting it. This should be done through creating training opportunities for Yukoners. Weíre expanding the money to organizations such as Skills Canada, not cutting it. The federal government was funding the organization, and I would urge them to restore their funding and to actually go beyond that to increase funding to Skills Canada and other organizations to expand national trades training initiatives and to begin to address the expected growing shortage of tradespeople.
That being said, and being as itís getting late in the afternoon here, I will truncate the remarks that Iíd intended to make and give other members of this House an opportunity to speak on this motion. I urge all members to support it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Thank you for this opportunity to speak to this very important motion before members of the House. This particularly comes very dear to my heart, because I was raised in a family of carpenters. My grandfather, who came to Watson Lake, I guess in the late 1940s or early 1950s, as a carpenter, constructed a number of structures in the town that still remain in the town today. His son, who is my father, has continued that tradition and continues to carry on the practice of carpentry as a small building contractor for both residential and commercial purposes.
Iím very proud to speak highly of my father. He is a very skilled tradesperson. He is also a journeyman level carpenter and worked very hard for that distinction. He has constructed many wonderful structures in the Town of Watson Lake, which Iím very proud to recognize today.
And, in turn, my brother has also carried on the suit as a third-generation carpenter in Watson Lake. He just recently also received his journey-level distinction as a carpenter and went on to receive his diploma in construction engineering and is now working toward his degree in project management. So Iím very pleased to be able to support the efforts of tradespeople in the territory and very much able to support this motion.
As colleagues before me have stated, our government is very supportive of the trades, in particular of Skills Canada. I would just like to really thank the members up in the gallery for taking the time out to come and witness members before the House. Itís all too often that sometimes we donít debate things in a very constructive manner, but I would have to say that today has been a very good day. I think weíve gained some momentum and I think power is always in numbers and support has definitely been shown on behalf of all members today on a number of very key initiatives, one being this particular motion to urge the federal government to reinstate its funding of Skills Canada.
I actually had the opportunity to go for the first time to Skills Canada where theyíre currently housed, just a couple of months ago, for their barbecue and had a great time. I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours there and actually spent some time with one of the volunteers who offered her time over the last couple of years. I also understand that she sits on the board of directors.
Theyíve done some incredible things, there is no doubt. I think that Skills Canada plays a very integral role in the development of our trades in the territory but, more importantly, it really gives our youth ó the young people of the Yukon ó the opportunity to obtain that hands-on knowledge and familiarity with skills and the potential to use those skills here in the territory.
Iíve often said that training and education are only as good as the jobs that there are after the fact. Our government has really placed a lot of emphasis on job creation. While we may not be creating jobs directly, it is our role, in my eyes, that we are responsible for creating a climate that is conducive to the growth of the private sector and to facilitate the infrastructure that creates jobs. We have been able to do that so far.
Unemployment is down, population is up, people are moving back to the Yukon, and there are a lot of exciting initiatives on our economic horizon. Itís very important that we as Yukoners fully equip ourselves with the skills and with the tools needed to take advantage of that future economic potential in the territory rather than become victims and sit back and let people from Outside take the jobs.
So, while we encourage investment from outside, itís also very important to give our local Yukon citizens the opportunity to take advantage of all the economic opportunities ahead of us.
That is clearly demonstrated; $2 million in community training funds is very important. Again, they certainly have a role to play in helping to educate and mobilize all of us as citizens of the Yukon.
As I mentioned before, we are dealing with what you could perhaps say is an unprecedented construction boom right now. Our governmentís goal is to continue building upon these successful economic indicators. Itís great to see the return of skilled Yukon workers who perhaps had to leave the territory a few years back; although I have to say we still have room to improve on that end. Just try getting a sheet-metal worker, for example. Our family has required the services of a sheet-metal worker and it wonít surprise the average Yukoner that there is about a three-month waiting time just to get that service.
Itís the same thing with electricians and so forth, so it is pretty indicative that here in the City of Whitehorse there is a lot happening on both the residential and commercial front, and while we are very pleased to see that activity, I think there is room for improvement to engage more young people ó more women especially ó in the trades.
As the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate, I continue to support initiatives to improve the representation of women in trades, which already have been mentioned here today. By taking part in events such as the Young Women Exploring Trades Conference ó and as the MLA for Lake Laberge mentioned is coming up on November 19 ó this will be my third conference in a row. I will have the opportunity to say a few words to the grade 8 young women who participate in this conference year after year. It is really exciting. Itís very inspiring to see the young women from all the communities take part in this really worthwhile exercise. I have to say that in having spent some quality time at that conference, I too have learned a lot, whether it be about working on a vehicle or reviewing their work when it comes to electrical work.
Itís absolutely amazing what theyíre able to learn and what theyíre able to accomplish after just one day at the conference.
Of course weíre also pleased to work with Yukon College regarding the Young Women Exploring Trades courses, which continue to be delivered.
Also this year the Womenís Directorate allocated a sum of money ó just shy of $50,000 ó for womenís programming, in addition to the other programming dollars I spoke of earlier pertaining to violence against women. Of those programming dollars, approximately half of these resources have been allocated to womenís programming in the area of trades. Again, I think there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to womenís participation in the trades.
According to Skills Canada, the average age of a fully qualified tradesperson is over 48 years. That means that in the next seven to 10 years, there is going to be almost a 100-percent turnover in many skilled trades, so that point in itself really reflects the need for more young people to become interested, become excited and become engaged in the trades area. I refer again to women, and the Young Women Exploring Trades Conference is a perfect initiative for initiating that excitement among young women when it comes to trades.
I certainly donít want to reiterate all that has been said today, because I know a lot has been said. I fully support all the comments that have come forward from both sides.
Again, I think it is very important that we all take a very strong stand on this particular motion and that we send a very clear, distinct message to our counterparts in Ottawa, the federal government, and explain the very important role that Skills Canada continues to play in the development of our economy today in all the different trades.
I fully support this motion and look forward to hearing other comments coming from the other side.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I just wanted to add a couple of things in here. I found the comments very interesting from the leader of the official opposition that there were tradespeople looking for work. If he knows of anyone who works on vinyl siding, Iíve been looking for two years and havenít found anyone. Iíll take him up on that offer.
One of the challenges in economic development is to keep the economy rolling and to keep everything going. One of the criticisms that of course comes now is that the multiplex is responsible for a lot of the boom. To a large degree, it is, but there is also huge growth in the residential sector; speculation of homes doesnít seem to exist any more in the territory. Just so much of that is developing.
One of the challenges of economic development is to make sure that continues; to look at continuing things after the multiplex, be it social housing, housing projects revolving around and coming out of the Canada Winter Games, and many, many other projects to keep the economy flowing afterward.
I have every confidence that our government will do that and keep that moving and keep us growing. I do certainly have a great deal of respect for all of the trades. I have a pretty good relationship with friends who are a plumber, electrician and such, and we have a great arrangement: they donít try to spay their cat, and I donít work on my electrical system or my plumbing. Iím not a mechanical person at all. The running joke is that I probably should ride a horse because theyíre much easier to fix.
I certainly support the motion, want to promote it, and will allow the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin to close debate.
Speaker: If the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hassard: I certainly thank all members for their comments. I would certainly like to thank our guests for coming in, and I will try to get by sooner than 20 years. It has been 20 years since I last saw Mr. Miller.
I certainly look forward to the vote.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
†Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 333 agreed to
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday, November 15.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following document was filed November 10, 2004:
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, protection of: letter (dated November 10, 2004) from Todd Hardy, Leader of the Official Opposition, and Pat Duncan, Liberal Party Leader, to George W. Bush, President of the United States† (Peter)