††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Thursday, April 28, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: The Chair would ask all members and those in the gallery to remain standing. Members from all parties spoke yesterday during tributes about today being the National Day of Mourning, in honour of workers killed or injured on the job. The Chair would now ask for a moment of silence.
Moment of silence observed
Speaker: † We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the Yukon Writersí Festival and Yukon Young Authorsí Conference
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise today to mark the opening day of the 15th annual Yukon Writersí Festival, called Live Words. Each year, this successful event brings Yukon people together with local and visiting writers to celebrate the joys of Canadian writing and reading.
This yearís festival should again prove to be very exciting and interesting for all participants. For the next five days, Yukoners will exchange ideas, skills and stories with internationally acclaimed Canadian writers. The public is invited to read, listen and write with six celebrated fiction and non-fiction writers. One of these writers is Yukonís own Al Pope. I wish to welcome five other Canadian authors to our territory. They include Joan MacLeod, Steven Galloway, Julie Czerneda, Ronald Wright and Andrew Pyper.
Yukoners and Yukon writers are encouraged to join these skilled and renowned authors for readings, workshops, book signings and receptions. Yukon has much literary talent. Itís part of our history, and it is events like the Live Words Writersí Festival that encourage Yukon writers to work hard and pursue national and international literary success.
Mr. Speaker, Iím† particularly pleased that the 26th Yukon Young Authorsí Conference will also take place this week on April 28 ó today ó and April 29 at F.H. Collins High School here in Whitehorse. This conference will include almost 100 students from grades 8 to 12 from all schools in the Yukon and Atlin, B.C. Students will work closely with some of this yearís guest authors to develop their craft through workshops, readings and discussion groups. For our young writers, this is expected to be an intense but most wonderful opportunity to write and to be coached by six Canadian experts.
Events like these only happen with support from many community groups, as well as businesses here in the territory. I would like to thank all our partners and sponsors who have collaborated over the years to ensure the success of this conference and this festival. Thanks to Yukon public libraries, public schools branch, Nakai Theatre, the Yukon Science Institute and the Yukon News for organizing this event.
Many local businesses have also generously contributed to the festival, and their support is most appreciated.
Financial support from the Yukon government, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Writersí Union of Canada, and the Playwrights Guild of Canada has made it possible to bring writers from across Canada to the Yukon for this yearís festival.
I wish to also give special acknowledgement and thanks to our Yukon volunteers. It is their love of the written and spoken word and their hard work that will ensure that this yearís events are another success.
Finally, I would like to remind Yukoners that the festival events are either free or at a very nominal charge. Tonight and tomorrow night there are free public readings and receptions, starting at 7:00 p.m. at the Beringia Centre. On Saturday, the festival will travel to Haines Junction for a similar public event.
Program information is available through the local media, on the public libraryís Web page, and through the Yukon public libraries.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I invite all Yukoners and all members of this Legislature to enjoy the festival.
Mr. Fairclough: I rise on behalf of the official opposition and the third party in tribute to the writers of the Yukon. We all have our favourite writers from our famous past. Jack London, Robert Service and Pierre Berton all lived and wrote in the Yukon.
Today Yukon writers are being recognized and published more and more and are making important contributions to Canadian literature. We are justly proud of our Yukon writing community that includes all ages and all types of writing. We have playwrights who have had their work on the stage in large Canadian cities. We have travel writers whose books are being read in Europe. We have poets who are winning national prizes and fiction writers whose stories are being made into films and are international best sellers. Our journalists enjoy local and national reputations. Many of them use their experience here to go up the ladder to do greater things. We canít forget to mention our most famous columnist, Edith Josie, with Here are the News, who enjoys visits from fans from around the world.
Local writers are organized with the group e-mail list that communicates current writing issues, events, contests and congratulations on successes. They hold periodic summit meetings that help to give support to what is sometimes a lonely profession. Thanks to a few energetic volunteers, successful writers retreats and conferences have been held that have inspired new writers and have given valuable contacts to those who have manuscripts waiting for publication. This week we are enjoying the annual Yukon Writersí Festival, and our students are gaining valuable writing experience through the Young Authorsí Conference. Readings from well-known visiting authors are being held in Whitehorse and some in rural communities.
These are stimulating events, Mr. Speaker, and they are very important for all writers and readers in the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Are there any introductions of visitors?
Are there reports or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Today I have for tabling a package containing responses received by the Minister of Community Services to the report of the forensic audit and financial review of the Town of the City of Dawson. I have tabled these responses in consideration of advice received from the independent legal advisor on this matter.
Mr. McRobb: I have a letter for tabling from Haines Junction seniors addressed to the Health and Social Services minister requesting line item funding.
Speaker: Are there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
†Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to revise the program for compensating those who suffered abuse in residential schools to ensure that fair and equitable compensation is provided to all victims and the program is operated in a fiscally responsible manner.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to implement a program of refunding tuition costs for those Yukon post-secondary students who commit to returning to the Yukon for a certain period of employment after graduation.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) there are homeless youth and other Yukon youth who are in need of counselling and support services;
(2) many youth are not comfortable with the present services available; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to establish counselling and life-skills training services that respond to the specific needs of youth, such as street-level, storefront or low-threshold programming.
Speaker: It there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† †Anti-poverty strategy
Mr. Hardy: This week has demonstrated in no uncertain terms the difference between this side of the House and that side when it comes to addressing the needs of people with limited means. In question after question, we tried to get the Health and Social Services minister to recognize that affordability should be defined by ability to pay, not by market forces.
Yesterday afternoon we gave the government a golden opportunity to show compassion and leadership in tackling the sad reality of poverty in this territory. Instead, the government took a progressive motion calling for a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy and turned it into a debate on Margaret Thatcher-style trickle-down economics.
Instead of developing an effective anti-poverty strategy, why is the Premier content to see seniors, single-parent families and the working poor continue to be marginalized and shut out?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, I believe the member opposite may be confusing the affordable housing program ó which is, in fact, a federal program, and we are living up to the federal guidelines on that.
In terms of housing, for the member oppositeís information, we have quite a wide variety of programs, such as the home repair program, the upgrade program, the green mortgage, home repair enhancement program, residential energy audit, mobile home upgrade program, rental suite program and rental rehabilitation. We also put on a series of self-help courses. Thereís training in heating, refrigeration, air conditioning, insulation, heat loss and that sort of thing, R-2000 training, community and housing industry development. We have an extensive social housing program, the report of which has been tabled in this House, I believe.
We continue to work toward social housing and to relieve those in need, but, again, I believe the member opposite is confusing the program weíve been discussing over the past week with social housing, which is a completely different program.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, obviously the minister didnít listen to the question, because it had nothing to do with what he just rattled off. I think the only confusing part in this whole debate right now is what the minister is saying. Now, Iíll remind the Premier about what John Kenneth Galbraith said about trickle-down economics: itís like feeding oats to your horse in the hope that something will pass through for the sparrows.†
Yesterday, the Member for Southern Lakes repeated the tired clichť about a hand up, not a handout. Mr. Speaker, the people Iím talking about arenít looking for a handout. They simply want to be treated with fairness and respect, and I wish that that member would recognize this. One idea we put forward was a long overdue raise in the minimum wage. A higher minimum wage creates more spending power, which benefits small local businesses, as well. For a government committed to capital democracy, that would be a very good place to start. In the absence of a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy, will the Premier at least agree to increase the minimum wage and index it to the cost of living?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as the Acting Minister of Community Services, in March, the Minister of Community Services did contact the Employment Standards Board and requested, in writing, that it review Yukonís current minimum wage of $7.20 per hour. We expect to hear from the board fairly shortly, and we expect that the review will take precedence soon after the completion of a fair wage schedule review.
Mr. Hardy: Obviously, the Premier has no time for poverty questions. He wonít even stand up. Now, Iím trying to offer the Premier a practical way to demonstrate his governmentís compassion. The Premier is spending three-quarters of a billion dollars this year and more every day for pet projects like the maybe railway. And there is more money on the way ó and I would like to get this registered on the record ó thanks to Jack Layton and the federal NDP in their negotiations. If the Premier wonít raise the minimum wage, perhaps he will at least direct his Health and Social Services minister to do two simple things to help alleviate poverty: raise the social assistance rates for families and end the clawback on the federal child tax benefit supplement. Itís not that hard, Mr. Speaker. They can do it tomorrow.
Will the Premier direct the minister to implement those two small steps to help Yukoners who are most in need?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, let me point out that this government is following a set of principles when it comes to dealing with poverty that are very important. We talk about accessibility as a principle for a standard of health care that all Canadians enjoy. This government has done that. We have significantly increased health care.
Financial stewardship ó weíve shown that we are good financial managers, considering where our finances were in 2002 and where they are today.
Accountability ó weíre accountable on all fronts. We are very public about what weíre doing, to the great consternation of the members opposite.
Economic opportunity ó look at the statistics. Unemployment is at 4.8 percent ó more jobs, more opportunities for Yukoners.
Public participation ó the consultation lists are long, page after page, and we have created partnerships with First Nations, other jurisdictions and Yukoners.
All six of these principles are an NDP anti-poverty strategy that this government is following. I wonder what the member is really talking about.
Question re: Canada-Yukon affordable housing agreement
†Mr. Cardiff: The Yukon Party government has frequently complained about the terms of the Canada-Yukon affordable housing agreement and that they were too strict. The agreement was recently amended, according to the press release, and the public has yet to see the changes. If the minister would table the amended agreement, it would be greatly appreciated.
But why didnít the minister insist on amendments that would define affordability, based on a more realistic formula of what the market can bear?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: † Iím pleased to hear that the member opposite recognizes that this is a federal program.
The amendment had to do with a number of different ways that we could utilize the program but definitely did not change the character of that. We can go back to a number of different places ó for instance, to the social housing documents that were produced by the Yukon Housing Corporation that refer to the fact that the housing stock is aging and, as a result, may not be adequate in type in five to 10 years. Basically, as these units are retired from the stock, fewer homes will be available. In addition, many homes cannot be renovated to accommodate aging in place. Again, this goes on and on in this document, which I believe has been tabled in this House.
The fact of the matter is that we have to create these particular units as we go along, and it has nothing to do with social housing. Again, we start getting these things confused. Itís a federal program. It generates almost $23 million in economic benefit to the Yukon Territory in employment and all the benefits that go along with that. Weíre very pleased to go along with that. It is not the be-all and end-all, and there will be other programs.
Mr. Cardiff: Weíre certainly seeing capital democracy in action from that side of the House. This government wonít recognize that seniors, people on low incomes, and young families donít have the assets that affluent baby-boomers have. Under the old agreement, there was a stipulation that the territory had the primary responsibility for design and delivery of this program. Itís not a federal program. Itís this government that has the responsibility. Is that something that the minister negotiated out of the agreement and, if so, why would he pass on an opportunity to design programs that meet the real needs of Yukon people?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: If I can continue from the document that I referred to earlier, which is an evaluation of the social housing program produced in September 2004: ďSeniors disabled wheelchair housing units are not in excess supply. The question remains as to whether the current supply meets the demand as some seniors are in units not specifically designed for that purpose.Ē
So the results of the survey showed that we needed to create more accessible wheelchair, mobility-limited housing, and thatís something that this program does. Again, at the current program and at the current incarnation of that program this week, the $1.4-million investment generates $23 million of employment, $23 million of jobs in the Yukon. Surely the member opposite isnít suggesting that we pass up on that opportunity.
Mr. Cardiff: Thatís the second question the minister hasnít answered today. The original agreement was to provide new resources to address the identified needs of low-income Yukoners. One of those needs identified by community housing studies is that a substantial number of homes in rural Yukon are in need of major repair. As well, the original agreement supported the creation of new social housing and major home repairs on affordable housing. Were these objectives negotiated out of the agreement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Once again, the definition of ďaffordable housingĒ in this particular program, and I quote, ďmeans housing which is modest in terms of floor area and amenities based on household needs and community norms and is priced at or below average market housing rents or prices for a comparable housing in a community or area.Ē
Itís a program that we agree doesnít answer every potential situation, but it begins to recreate an accessible and affordable housing stock. Could this later be integrated with social housing ó again, a totally different program? Perhaps it could. But what bothers me the most is that the leader of the official opposition yesterday in debate pointed out some of the problems with this individual program and suggested that we give it back. He would prefer that we give it back. $1.4 million translates into $23 million of economic benefit. The NDP strategy is to give it back and pass it up. We are not prepared to do that.
Question re: Alaska-Yukon railroad, feasibility study
†Ms. Duncan: Yesterday, the Premier stated on the public record that the third party is opposed to a railway. Suggesting that asking reasonable questions on behalf of the public presents some kind of opposition is the Premierís typical stance that the best defence for not having an answer is an offence.
As offensive as Yukoners and I found the Premierís response, I will politely try again today. The Premier has signed an MOU with the State of Alaska for an Alaska-Canada rail advisory committee to be established by May 20. The working group will be established by May 13 and the terms of reference done by May 6 ó next week. Everybody will be in place in less than a month.
The Minister of Economic Development said that meetings have been ongoing for some time. Who has developed the terms of reference and who has been appointed to represent the Yukon and Yukon First Nations on the working group and the advisory committee?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Itís indeed a pleasure to be able to respond again to this question, considering how quickly the Yukon government and the State of Alaska moved on this initiative, given the significance and importance to the citizens of Alaska and the citizens of the Yukon Territory.
The advisory committee is established to oversee the overall study. We have offered up to two seats to First Nations for the Yukon and Yukon will have two other seats. We will make those choices and we will make those decisions in concert with the State of Alaska, Yukoners, First Nations and all concerned.
The point here is that this government has made the decision on this initiative. We are forging ahead, looking into the future with a plan and a vision. That is not always the case from the third party, considering this issue was there when they were in government two and a half short years ago, with nothing done. Weíre actually taking a course of action here that is all about the future.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier said yesterday repeatedly, and even today he said, ďThe public will be very involvedÖĒ So far the only public involvement has been witnessing the Premier, without public discussion, spend a great deal of public money.
Yukon taxpayers, including members of this Legislature, have not been involved. There has been no opportunity for the public to submit their name for this hand-picked Yukon Party committee. There appears to be no boarding pass for the average Yukoner on this Yukon Party train.
The public will not be told by the Premier who is involved. Will he tell us what they are doing?
The terms of reference will be completed by next week. The Premier told the Empire Club in Toronto in January that the next step for the railway is to build the Bering Strait railroad tunnel between Alaska and Russia, and potentially China. Do the terms of reference include an examination of the Premierís version of the tunnel?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Nowhere do I see in our work with Alaska anything to do with the Bering Strait. In fact, the Empire Club was merely being informed what the overall initiative includes by some interest in the United States of America. Obviously, a feasibility study that will produce data and information on the social and economic impacts on environmental issues, on feasible corridors, is going to be very public. How else can we do it? But weíre also going to ensure that we advance this initiative, not just talk about it. Thatís why weíve made a decision. I can assure this House and Yukoners that the government is going to stick to this decision. Itís a wise one, a prudent one, and itís looking into Yukonís future, something the members opposite simply cannot grasp.
Ms. Duncan: The Premierís version of public involvement appears to be on a need-to-know basis. The Government of Yukon has spent $130,000 of Yukon taxpayersí money on studies of the feasibility of the railroad. They wonít make that existing information public, although Iíve asked for it in this Legislature several times. What do the reports say? Well, it canít be good because the Premier quoted the Cooper Consulting Company of Kirkland, Washington study at his Empire Club address. This is yet another study. He quoted them in his Empire Club address that the project was technically and economically feasible. He didnít quote the IBI Group report done for Transport Canada that says itís unlikely the Alaska-Canada rail link would ever achieve financial self-sufficiency or that itís not likely to attract much attention from the private sector. Three studies, likely three different opinions, but weíll never know, because the Premier wonít make all this information public. Yet the Premier says repeatedly that the public will be very involved. Will he give the public all the information being given to his hand-picked committee so that Yukoners can decide for themselves rather than just be denied boarding aboard the Premierís train?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, we take this as a great compliment that weíre moving quickly to provide economic development.
But Iíll give the House the conclusion of the report. ďPreliminary estimates suggest that the Alaska-Canada rail link would enjoy a diverse traffic mix made up of a variety of commodities being shipped between a number of different origin-destination points. This portfolio of traffic would support an operation of between six and 13 mainline trains per day. The projected traffic is largely long-haul, bulk commodity, unit train business and intermodal, the core business of every major North American railroad. While further detailed analyses are warranted, it does appear that a sufficient volume of óĒ
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, itís customary when youíre reading or quoting at length from a document that that document be provided to all members of the Legislature, which is what I ask for.
Speaker: I was just consulting with the table officers on exactly that issue. Give me a moment, please, and then I will hear the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, if I may conclude that bit, the document is at the printer as we speak and will be tabled at the beginning of next week as soon as itís available from the printer.
Speaker: The Chair is satisfied that the document ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. If this is on the point of order, weíre done on that one. Thank you.
Question re: Housing
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday, the Premier tabled a Yukon chapter to be added to the northern strategy. There are a lot of good ideas within the seven goals of the framework document. Of course, the real test will be when it comes to implementation of these plans. There is an interesting section on healthy, adequate, affordable and culturally relevant housing, for example. What assurance can the Premier give us that the northern strategy will produce a better result when it comes to affordable housing than we saw from the announcement his colleague made at the beginning of this week?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the $1.4 million announced this week accomplishes some of the goals, but there is much more involved in the program. We will be announcing those decisions as theyíre made.
Mrs. Peter: The housing projects weíve been discussing are both in Whitehorse, but thereís a real need in rural Yukon as well. In my community of Old Crow, for instance, there are young people who have to live with their grandparents, because thereís no housing available for them. Other communities also face a shortage of affordable housing for elders and people on low incomes.
Will the Premier make a commitment that any further negotiations with the federal government on the northern strategy will seriously consider the real housing needs for rural Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, Mr. Speaker, it is a very significant issue that has been dealt with by two orders of government in this territory, and that is developing the Yukon chapter of the northern strategy. As one of the goals, it commits to healthy, safe communities, and housing is obviously very much a part of that.
But let us not forget that the federal Liberal government in the last election committed to all aboriginal Canadians adequate housing by the year 2008, and you can rest assured the Yukon government and Yukon First Nations will hold our MP and the federal Liberal government to account.
With regard to rural Yukon and others in need, we have home ownership programs, an owner-build program, home completion program, extended mortgage program; we have repair and upgrade programs, green mortgage, accommodating home mortgage program, mobile home equity exchange, and the list goes on.
Mr. Speaker, under this governmentís watch we have covered the spectrum of housing needs in this territory, including hundreds of social houses in inventory. Thatís a very good record, considering the increased investment in our social fabric that this government has made.
Mrs. Peter: The women of all three territories, including the Premierís Advisory Council on Womenís Issues, donít agree with the process. They say that the Premier has to step back and actually listen to the people who live up here to make this an effective strategy. Health, poverty and violence problems that women deal with every day in the north are not addressed. The Minister of DIAND has said that they will have to engage the people of the north in ways that are much more inclusive than anything weíve experienced in the past.
This Premier isnít listening to the women of the Yukon. Will the Premier commit to sincerely include women and all the people of the Yukon in the development of a northern strategy? Will he use this opportunity to achieve lasting changes for them?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †This government is very sincere in meeting its commitments to the women of this territory. First of all, we actually reinstated the Womenís Directorate ó something that the previous Liberal government took away.
With respect to the northern strategy, our government held a number of consultations with a number of parties on the priority goals outlined in the northern strategy, including womenís organizations. As such, the Womenís Directorate did a very good job and I commend them for their accomplishment in conducting consultations alongside all Yukon government departments ó consultations including discussions with the Yukon Status of Women Council, PSAC Regional Womenís Committee, the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre, Yukon Aboriginal Womenís Council, the womenís studies program at Yukon College, the Yukon Advisory Council on Womenís Issues, the Whitehorse Aboriginal Womenís Circle, Yukon Women in Trades and Technology, and Kausheeís. The Womenís Directorate also sought input regarding the strategy from women during the annual womenís forum ó another initiative that our government implemented on an annual basis.
As well, the Women's Directorate also sponsored the videoconference that was organized and sponsored in conjunction with our Yukon Advisory Womenís Council. They have done a phenomenal job and I thank them for their input. Again, the strategy reflects those very concerns.
Question re: Seniors group funding
†Mr. McRobb: I want to follow up on the issue of declining rural economies in the territory with the Health and Social Services minister. Letís start by trying to clean up some of the inconsistencies from this government.
During the briefing for his department, we were informed that one of the two new ambulances would be destined for Mayo. We were also told that Haines Junction would be getting $50,000 to advance the study for its seniors facility. However, on Monday, the minister stated that both ambulances would be destined for Whitehorse. He also said the study money wasnít for a specific community, but for a Yukon-wide needs assessment.
Why did the minister change the original intention of those budget allocations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The original intention of the budget allocation remained consistent. Our exercise is to provide the highest consistent level of service across the Yukon. We have examined multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake, Dawson City, Teslin, and the memberís own community of Haines Junction.
The focus in this next $100,000 envelope for seniors facilities will focus on the needs in Whitehorse and some of the other outlying communities.
Mr. McRobb: The minister remains in a state of denial. Now, the fragile economies in our rural communities depend highly on budget allocations from the Yukon government each year. Unlike Whitehorse, their populations are generally stagnant or declining.
Earlier this week, I asked the minister questions about the special line item funding for the seniors group in the Premierís riding. After some persuasion, the minister finally said that all seniors groups are eligible, and that they would be treated fairly and consistently. Today, the minister would have received the letter from the Haines Junction seniors that I tabled earlier, requesting a similar funding arrangement. When will the minister be honouring his offer to those seniors?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to thank the seniors in Haines Junction for their letter I received today, but letís go back through history and see what has transpired. The member is referring to an original contribution made to the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake for some $40,000. That was done under the auspices of the MLA for Watson Lake, our Premier today. That was done under the NDP government. That contribution agreement has been further resourced, and it now stands at $43,000 to provide services to the seniors in Watson Lake.
In the community of Haines Junction, on the other hand, if we want to look at the service to the seniors in that community, there are currently 27 clients receiving home support provided by six home support workers. It is provided by the government. In the community of Watson Lake, Signpost Seniors deliver a lot of the services and at the same time there are five clients receiving services through the home support initiative of the Government of Yukon. There is the contrast, but if the seniors in Haines Junction want to undertake delivery of services in the same manner as the Signpost Seniors are doing it, weíd be happy to sit down with them.
Mr. McRobb: We went through this matter during budget debate. This is all new information. Itís just another inconsistency from this government. This government can pull money out of a hat to buy an expensive railroad study, but it canít deliver when it comes to being fair to seniors in rural Yukon. The seniors have responded to the ministerís invitation to contact him with respect to their budget request. These same seniors were ignored by the Premier during his budget tour in Haines Junction. That same day I heard their concerns while visiting the seniorsí drop-in centre. I canít imagine him ever doing that in Watson Lake. I can assure this government that providing funds to the Haines Junction seniors, as requested, will go a long way in helping the community overcome the budget suffering that is being experienced in that town. So letís be fair. When might I inform the Haines Junction seniors to expect their cheque in the mail?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iím not comfortable with the line of questioning the member opposite is posing. He is attempting to pit Yukoners against Yukoners. Our exercise as a government is very specific: where thereís a demonstrated need, we will meet that demonstrated need, and we have done so in Watson Lake through a model that encompasses government workers as well as the Signpost Seniors.
I just received this letter today from the Haines Junction seniors, and weíre more than willing to sit down with the seniors in Haines Junction and, if they want to deliver services the same as the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake are delivering services to the seniors there, weíd be happy to do so.
Currently in Haines Junction there are 27 clients receiving home support. At the same time in Watson Lake there are five clients receiving home support. The rest of the service is delivered by the Signpost Seniors in Watson Lake. That bodes well for the service delivery of our government.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
†Motion No. 451
Clerk: Motion No. 451, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Speaker: It is moved by the Premier
THAT, pursuant to section 18 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, the Legislative Assembly reappoint David Phillip Jones, Q.C., as a member of the Conflict of Interest Commission for a three-year period.
††††††† Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím pleased today to be moving the motion for the reappointment of David Jones as Conflicts Commissioner. Members will be aware that the appointment of Mr. Jones as our Conflicts Commissioner expires on May 13, 2005.
Since the Conflicts Commissioner is a House officer, the practice has been for the Membersí Services Board to discuss who should fill this position. The Membersí Services Board is chaired by the Speaker and has in its membership all leaders in this House, including the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the third party and me. The fifth member on the board is the government House leader. The board gave consideration to this matter at its meeting of April 7, 2005. At the conclusion of the boardís deliberations, I informed the board that I would bring forward a motion for the reappointment of David Jones as Conflicts Commissioner.
Members will note that this motion is being brought forward as a government motion and that it is being done to permit the House a timely opportunity to deal with the matter. It must be understood that the appointment of the Conflicts Commissioner is a matter for the House to decide, and it is not presented as a government initiative.
The Legislative Assembly, when it passed the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, made clear this point about the Houseís power by insisting that a normal majority vote would not be sufficient for the appointment of the Conflicts Commissioner. Rather, it required in section 18 of that legislation that the appointment of the Conflicts Commissioner must be supported by at least two-thirds of the members present for the vote.
I would like to now provide some information on Mr. Jones himself. He grew up in Calgary. He studied at McGill University in Montreal and was a Rhodes scholar at the University of Oxford in England. For 16 years, Mr. Jones was a full-time law professor at McGill and at the University of Alberta. He taught subjects such as administrative law, constitutional law, property taxation and government control of business. He was associate dean at both McGill and the University of Alberta and was twice acting dean at Alberta.
He is a co-author of Jones and de Villarsí Principles of Administrative Law. He is also the co-editor of the Administrative Law Reports. In addition, Mr. Jones is the author of numerous articles and comments in various law reviews and is a frequent lecturer. He was a member of the board of directors of the Alberta Law Reform Institute for eight years.
Since 1988, Mr. Jones has been in private practice in Edmonton with the firm de Villars Jones. The firm does considerable work in all areas of administrative law, acting for or against various government boards and agencies. This includes actions involving House officers of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, including the Chief Electoral Officer, the Conflicts Commissioner and the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
A significant part of Mr. Jonesí practice involves acting as a neutral arbitrator, either as a sole arbitrator or chairing boards of arbitration in both labour and commercial matters. More recently he has, of course, served this House for the past three years as its Conflicts Commissioner. I am most pleased to have been able to move this motion for his appointment and highly recommend its passage to this Assembly.
Mr. Hardy: The Membersí Services Board did meet in regard to the reappointment of Mr. Jones. Unfortunately there are some aspects around that meeting that I found to be of some concern. I have to indicate that I also have some concerns about the appointment of Mr. Jones. There have been some ó I donít know how to say it ó issues brought to my attention in the past that I feel should have merited far more discussion than just having a meeting and being told that Mr. Jones is going to be reappointed.
However, saying that, I also indicated at that meeting that at this present time I do not have a solution for some of my concerns and that the NDP caucus and I would be supporting the reappointment. I did listen very closely to some of the concerns that the leader of the third party had brought forward, and Iím expecting to hear some more today. I think her concerns are something that need to be taken into consideration and thought about.
This is not what I would consider a unanimous decision or one that is being made lightly by us on this side. Itís unfortunate, but I guess you could say that there is conflict with the Conflicts Commissioner from this side of the House. Again, it points to a way that the government has been acting in regard to just assuming that we will do as they see fit, mainly because they have the majority. Saying all that, I look forward to the comments made by the leader of the third party and listening closely to what she has to say.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to address the House with respect to this motion and Iím addressing the House and each member as an individual with respect to this particular issue.
In all frankness and fairness, I have to preface my remarks by noting for the public record that I was advised that this motion was being called moments before you took your place in this House at the time of 1:00. There was no advice given to me in the House leadersí meeting, nor by the assistant to the House leader who stood in front of me in line at the cafeteria at lunch, that we were in fact discussing this today, this afternoon at 1:00. Had I known, my remarks would be far better prepared; however, I will deal with them as best I can, and members will forgive me if I take a moment now and again to look at the notes I have on file with respect to this very serious issue.
The conflict-of-interest legislation is ours, and itís ours to uphold and live by. It guides all our actions. The matter of who serves as the Conflict of Interest Commissioner is a very serious one.
The conflict-of-interest legislation, as members know, was enacted in 1995 and amended in 1999 ó weíve lived with this legislation for 10 years. Up to until Mr. Jonesí appointment, we were served by Justice Ted Hughes, who made a number of recommendations to the Legislature. His annual report of 1997-98 resulted in the amendments we passed in 1999.
Itís useful to look back on the remarks I made when we passed that legislation ó for a number of reasons. In the most recent report of 1997-98, Mr. Hughes said, ďIt is noteworthy and speaks to the conduct of the Legislature. No investigation on the issue of compliance or non-compliance was necessary. The result was attributable to the efforts that all members were making at that time to honour and respect the requirements of the law.Ē
I went on to say, ďAt the risk of self-praise being no honour, I choose this opportunity to restate that point, as I believe that too often being a politician is not portrayed as an honourable profession. And when members of all parties take steps to ensure we act with integrity, that it should be noted in the public forum, as the Government LeaderĒ ó who was then Piers McDonald ó ďhad done today in noting that all parties worked to reach a consensus on those changes to the legislation.Ē
I recall those meetings very clearly with Mr. Ostashek and Mr. McDonald to reach the consensus on the changes that we made as a result, and they were passed unanimously. One of the items we discussed was that Mr. Hughes was recognized at the time as our sole source of advice. We had discussed in the past having other individuals work alongside in a mentoring position with Mr. Hughes to assist in the future. We didnít make progress on that matter. I said in my speech at the time that I had hoped there would be some progress on that particular sensitive issue. During that time, we didnít make progress on that particular issue.
Move forward to Mr. Hughesí appointment expiring, and we appointed Mr. Jones in 2000 ó I believe it was 2000 but I stand to be corrected, as I said. It was 2002, Iím advised by the Clerk. I apologize. As I said, I walked into this debate at 1:00, without notice.
We appointed Mr. Jones. That discussion took place at Membersí Services Board, just as this one did ó a discussion of who should serve as the Conflicts Commissioner. It was not unanimous that Mr. Hughes be reappointed; therefore, work was undertaken to find a suitable replacement.
Mr. Jones is eminently qualified in a number of areas of administrative law. He is not a conflicts commissioner for any other jurisdiction than ours. That poses some concern for me, given that a conflict of interest commissioner is a very unique and specialized position that we, in the past, have asked and repeatedly stated ó parties have stated their desire ó to have more than one individual available. Our legislation allows for it. We havenít made progress in this area.
And, Mr. Speaker, I believe we do need to make progress. Our legislation is only 10 years old, and I note that there is a journal that we all receive, Canadian Parliamentary Review. Each of us as legislators reviews it. In the spring 2005 issue, there is an article about parliamentarians and the new code of ethics. It notes that there has been an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act Ethics Commissioner and Senate Ethics Officer and other acts in consequence. That was amended in 2004.
I believe our conflict-of-interest legislation, while very good, could do with amendment and could do with work and could be improved. I believe that we would benefit from advice in that respect from an individual who serves as a conflicts commissioner elsewhere in Canada or serves in other capacities as a conflicts commissioner.
I am not for a moment disputing that Mr. Jones is very, very well qualified in the area of administrative law, and I supported his appointment. I do believe in considering this reappointment that we could do with additional expertise, we could do with doing our homework and following through on having additional people serve in a mentorship capacity, and we could learn from the experience in other jurisdictions.
I do not believe that there has been an effort made to recognize the concerns that I have put forward in trying to reach consensus at Membersí Services Board. There has been no attempt by the government members or other members to sit down one-on-one and discuss this issue, as there was no notice given to me of the motion being put forward today.
As I said quite clearly on the record, I do not dispute that Mr. Jones is very well qualified in administrative law. I believe the Yukon could benefit from an individual who serves in a conflict of interest commissioner capacity elsewhere in the country, and I also believe that our Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act requires our vigilance, requires us to take a good hard look at it and, particularly in light of efforts made elsewhere in the country, I believe we could seek to improve it and that we could do that by working with a conflict of interest commissioner from another jurisdiction.
I recognize that this requires a two-thirds majority of the House to pass and that it is easiest to simply pass this motion and reappoint Mr. Jones for three years and weíll get to work on that. Unfortunately, I am not convinced, given that we havenít made progress to date, that we will get to work on it. We have had conflict-of-interest legislation drafted by others that has been put forward for debate but hasnít received a full and thorough debate in the House. We havenít had a meeting of the three party leaders to work on this. We havenít done anything to date on it, and I would like to see it happen because it is our legislation.
That being said, Iím more than prepared to look, should any other member in the House wish, at a suggestion such as an amendment for a one-year period with instructions to work, or simply put it to the vote as members wish.
I donít support the motion as it stands for the reasons Iíve stated. To be absolutely clear on the record, I believe we should be working with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner who also serves elsewhere in Canada. I believe we should be vigilant about our legislation. Itís ours; I believe it requires improvement. This is not denigration in any way, shape or form of Mr. Jonesí administrative law capabilities, but I believe we could work harder together, and I believe we should be working harder together.
I thank you very much for the time and for the attention of the members, and I thank them for giving fair consideration to my remarks today.
Speaker: If the Hon. Premier now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iíll be very brief. First, it is the case that we brought this to the Membersí Services Board. We discussed the issue at great length; a consensus was not reached. We all understand why, and it was at that meeting that the government informed all members of the board that we would then bring the motion forward to this House.
At no time in his tenure has Mr. Jones demonstrated in any way, shape or form a lack of understanding of our conflict-of-interest legislation or his duties. Furthermore, the third party makes representation that Mr. Jones is very versed at administrative law but fails to recognize that Mr. Jones and his firm also do a lot of work acting against various government boards and agencies, and that includes involving House officers of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, including the Chief Electoral Officer of Alberta and the Conflicts Commissioner and the Information and Privacy Commissioner in Alberta. That would suggest that Mr. Jones is well qualified. Thatís why we brought forward the motion for his reappointment.
I think itís important that we recognize that not always will we agree with the Conflict of Interest Commissionerís rulings, but that is not reason for us to go searching for a new one. Mr. Jones has served us well, and Iím sure heíll serve us well in his new tenure.
Speaker: Before putting the question, the Chair must draw membersí attention to section 18(4) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. That section requires that the motion appointing the Conflicts Commissioner be supported by at least two-thirds of the Members of the Legislative Assembly present for the vote. In order to ensure that the requirements of section 18 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act are met, the Chair will now call for a recorded division.
Speaker: Iíll ring the bell for two minutes.
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. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 14 yea, one nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried by the required support of at least two-thirds of the members of the Assembly present for the vote and that David Phillip Jones has now been reappointed as Conflicts Commissioner.
Motion No. 451 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee this afternoon is Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06. We are currently in general debate on the Department of Justice. Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 15 ó First Appropriation Act, 2005-06 ó continued
Department of Justice ó continued
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: † As I was saying when we finished debate Tuesday, I want to again acknowledge the extremely hard work of the staff to prepare all these good initiatives and to make them come to reality. In fact, Mr. Chair, there have been so many good things happening in Justice, I hope it doesnít create a rush to get into WCC to take the programming that is happening there.
Just to summarize a little, I would like to say that I am very proud to announce that over the past two years, the Department of Justice has seen an increase in their operation and maintenance budget of just over 12 percent. I believe it is particularly important to point out that this government is very serious about making our communities safe and healthy. As such, we are continuing to commit the resources necessary for initiatives that will enhance safe and healthy communities.
This is confirmed by the increasing trend and a discretionary program component of the Department of Justiceís budget, which has increased for the past two years to a combined total of just over 18 percent. The discretionary program budget consists of the part of the budget remaining after the personnel expenditures, police services and transfer payments have been allocated. In other words, this is funding that provides programs and services by the Department of Justice for the people of the Yukon.
In this budget we have allocated new funding for programs that will see offenders who are serving time either in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre or in communities receive better mental health services. The courts have told us that facilities and services for inmates who have mental health problems could be improved.
In keeping with our commitment to improve the conditions for both our staff and inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and for inmates who are serving their time in a community, we are allocating $174,000 for mental health services.
This allocation will result in more counselling services and treatment for inmates and training in the area of mental health for staff. These new resources are in addition to money previously allocated for renovating the medical dormitory to house mental health patients at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Mr. Chair, a recent national study outlined the need for stronger recognition of mental health problems and better options for treatment of those with mental health problems within our prison system.
Our government recognizes this as an issue among our prison population, and we are doing something about it. Again, it confirms some of my previous statements about the traditional belief that everyone is valuable. Mr. Chair, we are also very aware that the majority of our inmates within our Correctional Centre are of First Nation ancestry. The total population of First Nations persons at the jail can be as high as 90 percent at times. It is important to recognize this as an ongoing issue and to try to address this in ways that will be meaningful to our offenders. That is why we have also allocated $120,000 for First Nations programming at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Elders can have a great impact on helping inmates make better decisions in their lives and can give them the knowledge and tools they need to change their behaviour. The elders can also guide inmates back to the wisdom found in cultural traditions and help them find a more meaningful existence that doesnít involve ending up back in prison.
Our investment in First Nation programming will bring a slate of healthy First Nation elders into the Whitehorse Correctional Centre to provide First Nation cultural training and the teaching of traditional crafts, and to develop other programs to serve First Nation offenders.
The goal of this program would be to provide an opportunity for First Nation inmates to reconnect with their culture and to receive culturally appropriate programming. Funding will be used to develop sweats and other culturally relevant programs, as well as for supplies, tents, rentals, facilitators and elders.
The recidivism rate in Yukon is far too high, and we must be prepared to try whatever we can to stop the cycle of re-offending.
Dealing with mental health issues and creating culturally relevant programming are just two facets of the very complex issue of rehabilitation.
The inmates at the Correctional Centre often reoffend because they donít have the tools necessary to earn an honest living once they are released. Recently I attended a graduation ceremony at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre for inmates who had completed the industrial first aid course. This course gave a number of inmates a real-world skill that will help them gain meaningful employment when they are released. When I was leaving the facility, I was thanked by more than one inmate who said that they greatly appreciated the opportunity to do this while they are incarcerated.
That is not enough. As Education minister, I know that people who have a variety of skills are more likely to gain employment in the modern workforce. This past year, through the Education portfolio, the government funded the following 10 programs: computer fundamentals, traffic control, GED testing, flagging, welding, chainsaw safety, small-engine repair, H2S course ó sour gas ó and initial firefighting, and GPS mapping and compasses.
I am pleased to say that the same level of vocational programming will be offered to offenders at Whitehorse Correctional Centre this year.
The following seven programs will be delivered in 2005 by Yukon College at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre campus: introduction to log building; initial attack fire suppression training; introduction to small engine repair; introduction to welding; occupational first aid level 3; PITS training, and introduction to wrangling and packing. Again, I want to stress that the introduction to small engine repair was so well-received there has been a high demand to continue that specific program.
I am pleased to announce, therefore, that we have added $35,000 for a new shop that will be used to train offenders in trades programs. Again, this is an initiative where the offenders will be the ones who construct the building.
As this House will also remember from past budget discussions, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre also offers enhanced offender programming, including group counselling programs for substance abuse, small engine repair courses and other courses offered by Yukon College.
Our government feels that offering a strong combination of programming that deals with the problems offenders have when they enter our justice system, as well as giving them the tools they need to be successful when they have served their time, will eventually lead to a lower recidivism rate and safer Yukon communities.
A successful rehabilitation program also includes the physical health of the inmate population.
That is why we are renovating the skating rink at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The existing skating rink is old and has deteriorated despite ongoing maintenance, not to mention the Liberal government, when in the process of starting the construction of a new facility, having totally covered up the ballpark and the area that the inmates used for recreation.
The intention is to maintain the current location of the skating rink, where it is accessible to all inmates who have yard clearance. The skating rink will be used in the winter for hockey and in the summer for hockey and soccer. The total requested to complete this project is $22,000.
This government recognizes that the men and women who work at Whitehorse Correctional Centre do so under stressful conditions. The work they do each day directly contributes to the safety of Yukon communities. Mr. Chair, we are committed to having a professional workforce in our Correctional Centre with strong professional development and a work environment that is healthy and safe. This budget has a further $87,000 for staff training on top of the $83,000 announced last fall that created training plans for new employees and recertification of existing staff to ensure that basic safety and security is maintained for inmates and staff.
In the budget there is also $200,000 for a new modular office trailer. This trailer will be used to house administrative staff, and if it is found to be surplus when the new building is constructed, it can be sold or it can be reassigned to other government operations as needed.
Again, Mr. Chair, I would like to point out the balance that this government believes in, where there are improvements for the inmates but also for the employees, because this government respects the employees and is very appreciative of all the work they do there. We certainly will look at anything this government can do to improve the existing work conditions, and we will try our best to deal with it.
The consultations on correctional reform will provide the framework for the future of corrections in the territory. That is why we are taking the time to fully consult Yukoners. Again, we believe that a consultation process is very important and we will ensure that it happens.
This yearís allocation of $633,000 will see the consultation team begin the community-by-community consultation process that will focus on the relationship with our communities, families, victims, offenders and First Nations. We will then use what we learn from this consultation and what we learned from previous consultations, including the very important work of the elders, to design a new correctional centre, and most importantly to create a correctional system that is more than a revolving door.
Our government has also recognized that there is a prevalence of FASD among our offenders that must be recognized and dealt with. We have committed to tackling FASD not only as a public health matter but as a matter that directly impacts our justice system. In this budget there is an allocation of $50,000 to begin developmental work on the FASD housing project. The Department of Justice would like to work with local organizations to create stable, long-term housing and support for individuals with FASD who are on probation or who have recently been released from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
We would like to start by focusing on men who are repeat offenders. We believe that one common denominator for most of these men is the lack of housing. With stable housing, they would have a level of supervision and structure that will reduce the risk to the community of their reoffending.
Our government believes that a combination of housing and programming is desperately needed to meet the needs of their client group.
Another area of concern is inmates who are remanded into custody while they await trial, because they cannot, or are not, able to carry out the conditions of their bail. In this budget we have allocated $100,000 toward a new, intensive bail supervision project. Currently, about 30 or 40 inmates are housed at WCC who have not been convicted of a crime and sentenced. They are there because they are on remand.
We believe that some of those offenders could be safely supervised in the community. The intensive bail supervision project will look at reducing the number of persons remanded to WCC because they are unable to follow their bail conditions. The focus of this project will be to provide programming that builds on life skills, community services and, possibly, recreation. Where possible, the clients will have their programming defined by their risk needs assessment.
The goal of this program would be to keep those individuals in the community, out of Whitehorse Correctional Centre and to be productive while awaiting the outcome of their charges while on a community disposition.
Access to justice is an important component to any vibrant legal system. For individuals who need to use our justice system but do not have the means to access it, there is no justice.
Our legal system is designed to allow people who may not have the means to hire a lawyer themselves to be represented by competent counsel for both criminal and civil matters. Our government is committed to improving access to justice through legal aid by extending coverage for persons seeking permanent child custody orders. This year there is $210,000 in the budget to support applications for permanent custody of children in Supreme Court applications to vary support orders in Supreme Court and representation in certain proceedings under the Family Violence Prevention Act.
I could continue on for hours about the good things happening in Justice, but I will stop now and try to answer any questions from the members opposite.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for providing us with that information, and thankfully weíre all limited in the time we can speak here in the Legislature when we get to this stage.
I would like to move this along as fast as we can, so Iím not going to make any speeches. Iíd just like to ask some questions. Can the minister give us a current breakdown, I guess, of how many vacancies there are in each area of Justice?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We donít have those exact figures with us right now, but we can get that information for the member opposite.
Mr. Cardiff: That would be helpful. It would maybe shed some light on areas where some concerns arenít being addressed as fast as some people would like, or as fast as some commitments have been made, so Iíll go directly to that, I guess.
There are some problems with regard to the developing of regulations, it would appear.
Iím just going to go directly to this one concern, and then I will get back on track, if I can. The Decision Making, Support and Protection to Adults Act provides a range of legal options for adults 19 years and older who need help in making decisions. The bill was passed, but it only comes into effect when the regulations are passed ó when theyíre completed and passed through an order-in-council. That was supposed to be in the fall of 2004. The other day, almost a week ago, I was at the Yukon Council on Aging AGM, and this was a concern that they had raised. This provides several important things for seniors and for all Yukoners. It allows for the provision of living wills. It provides for the parents or the guardians of disabled children to make provisions in their wills, and this is something that is needed. It was, according to what was announced after it was passed, supposed to occur in the fall of 2004. The Council on Aging is still waiting. They havenít heard.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for that concern, because this government also recognizes that concern, and we are actively working on that initiative. A lot of work has gone into the implementation of the adult protection and decision-making legislation by both the Department of Health and Social Services and the Department of Justice over the past year and a half. We fully intend to ensure that quality services are offered to those in need. As such, our budget will reflect this commitment.
The Public Guardian and Trustee Act will be implemented by the Department of Justice as a result of this new legislation. The 2004-05 O&M budget for the Department of Justice included funding for three-quarters of an FTE for the Department of Justiceís role in the implementation of this legislation.
Also included in the 2004-05 fiscal year was $16,000 for capability assessments training for assessors. This training was completed in March of this year.
In addition to the O&M funding, there was $75,000 in the 2004-05 capital budget to conduct a systems analysis and ultimately for the implementation of a new system. After careful consideration of buy or build, it was determined that the most efficient model was to purchase a packaged system.
A new system was recently purchased and implemented. This system is also in use by the P.E.I. and N.W.T. governments, jurisdictions that we feel will have fairly similar caseloads to what we are anticipating in Yukon.
This new system will provide both financial and case management administration to both the public guardian and trustee program and the existing public administratorís program. It is anticipated that over time this system will create some operational efficiencies in financial and case management processing, which will be somewhat offset by an increased caseload. However, we must remember that, because this is a new program, we cannot determine the actual number or complexity of the files that will be open until the office has been operational for a period of time.
The 2005-06 operation and maintenance budget includes an increase of .7 FTEs resulting in an increase to the program of 1.5 FTEs over the past two fiscal years. Also included in the 2005-06 operation and maintenance budget is $24,000 for incapability assessments for hardship cases. At this time we do not know how many cases will require incapability assessments that will require funding by the Department of Justice. As a result, we will be reviewing the funding for this service after the program has been operational for a period of time.
As the public guardian and trustee program will be operating within the existing public administratorís office, the increase to general operating expenses will be minimal and will be absorbed within the current Department of Justice budget. This is a much-needed service that will assist Yukoners and their families during difficult times. We are very proud to be part of this program and we will be making every effort to ensure a quality service is offered to those in need. We expect implementation of the legislation within the next few weeks.
Mr. Cardiff: That was a lot of information to take in, but the minister didnít tell me when the regulations that go with the act would be complete. Can he tell me that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I did, Mr. Chair. I said that we expect implementation of the regulations within the next few weeks.
Again, I want to again touch on some of the things that this government is doing with regard to looking after the inmates. I think that a lot of the things that come out of the Education department are issues that will help in these areas.
Seeing as how we have an awful lot of First Nations involved, this year we have a total of $4,143,000 that is being put toward First Nation educational programs that would probably assist people in the future with regard to being able to stay out of WCC.
Mr. Cardiff: I admit I got distracted; I was handed a note and I must have missed the part about the next couple of weeks, so I thank the minister for that.
Along the same lines, I thought I heard the minister commit to providing the number of vacancies in each area of the department. At some time in the future, heíll send that over as a legislative return ó and it appears that he will be.
Another area that seems to suffer ó and I donít know if this is because there isnít enough staff or that the staff who are there are overworked or we just donít have enough resources in the department to do this ó is around drafting the legal regulations and ensuring theyíre in the proper form and are translated. Itís more in regard to the legal drafting of regulations for other departments. The Department of Community Services has been drafting land use regulations for various hamlets and local area councils, and there seems to be a jam-up somewhere.
My understanding is that the jam-up is in the Department of Justice and that the regulations are being held up there.
My constituents and constituents in other ridings have concerns about this and Iíd just like the minister to enlighten me on whether or not thereís a problem there and if thereís something that can be done to move those things along.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can assure the member opposite that the staff in the Justice department is a group of very professional people. The workload is horrendous but there are five legislative counsel who do drafting. I guess most of it ó perhaps all of it ó requires both French and English legislation.
Mr. Cardiff: Normally when the workload becomes horrendous, maybe the minister could look to redirect the resources to where theyíre needed. Seeing as how weíre in the budget, maybe the minister could look to redirect some of the resources to where theyíre needed.
Iíd like to ask the minister some questions that go back to some discussions we had last December. From what I recall, we discussed last December ó I have the notes here somewhere ó the review of the Family Violence Prevention Act. He committed that there was going to be a workplan and that they would be moving on this in the new year. In reading through all †the materials on the corrections consultation that the minister has undertaken, it appears to me that the review of the Family Violence Prevention Act has been included in the corrections consultation. Can he confirm that, or is there still a different review going on?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The simple answer to that, Mr. Chair, is no, itís not being included.
Mr. Cardiff: So itís my understanding that the Family Violence Prevention Act review is a separate ó okay, because there is lots of mention of it in the corrections consultation. This is what the minister committed to and told me on December 14. He confirmed that they were considering and consulting various stakeholders about the changes ó that basically they were changes that were recommended by a review that happened in the fall of 2002. We have that document. But what he said was that a workplan for this consultation is now being developed, and consultation on the proposed changes will take place during the early part of this coming year with a view to tabling any amendments in the fall of 2005. Can the member provide us with a copy of that workplan and a description of the work that has been done to date on that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I would like the member opposite to clarify which consultation process heís talking about ó the Family Violence Prevention Act review or the corrections consultation project?
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the original question was about the Family Violence Prevention Act, and on December 14, he went on quite a bit at length about the Family Violence Prevention Act because I had asked questions of him the previous day or two days before. What he said on December 14, 2004 was in relation to the Family Violence Prevention Act and the review that had been done was: ďThere were other recommendations contained in the report that will require amendments to the legislation to bring them into effect. At this time, I cannot state whether all the proposed legislative reforms will be put forward. However, I can confirm that we will be considering and consulting with the various stakeholders on all of them. A workplan for this consultation is now being developed. I appreciate that the consultation on proposed changes of the act will take place during the early part of this coming year with a view to tabling any amendments in the fall 2005 sitting.Ē
This is about the Family Violence Prevention Act, and what Iím asking for is if the minister would provide us with a copy of the workplan and some description of the work that has been done to date on that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I might consider taking a request for a workplan under advisement.
Over the next few months, the department will be meeting with that committee and consulting with other interested parties to review the recommended changes. Our goal is to introduce amendments to this act in the fall of 2005.
The Family Violence Prevention Act review was completed and released in 2002. Since that time the Department of Justice has taken steps to address the recommendations aimed at improving agency cooperation, public education and awareness of family violence issues in the Yukon. For example, the victim services/family violence prevention unit conducts regular education sessions in communities with both community members and RCMP officers who are new to the Yukon about the nature and purpose of the act. One of the recommendations in the review was to look at some amendments to the legislation. These recommendations were considered briefly by the Family Violence Prevention Act Review Committee when the report was released in 2002.
Mr. Cardiff: Does a workplan exist? The minister said heíd take it under advisement, but Iíd like to know if a workplan exists.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I can advise the member opposite that a draft consultation plan has been developed. I believe the goal is to finalize that by the fall.
Mr. Cardiff: So, the workplan is going to be finalized just before we get the legislation. I almost think weíd better move on to something else here.
The minister mentioned that the family violence prevention unit was doing education in communities and providing training as well to community groups and the RCMP. Could the minister tell us how much resources, how often this training is delivered, and to which communities it has been delivered?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department provides training for front-line staff in government, other organizations and communities on prevention, intervention and management of family violence and the Family Violence Prevention Act.† The department offers formal training sessions in a variety of communities to shelter workers, JPs and the RCMP on such topics as: how to use the Family Violence Prevention Act; sexual abuse prevention; how to work with victims of domestic violence, and coping with vicarious trauma.
Victim services and the family violence prevention unit also provide peer support training to the individuals working with FASD victims with the A Little Help from My Friends project operated by FASSY and funded by the national crime prevention strategy.
An interactive CD-ROM training package has been developed that can be used by RCMP officers who are new to the Yukon and have not been able to attend the regular training session. The unit also provides a yearly, three-day training session for about 40 community members on skill development for community members interested in facilitating a working group as it relates to family violence. Any community that is interested in having a workshop or training session in their community should contact the family violence officer in Whitehorse. The unit works with a number of other government departments, such as the Womenís Directorate, Health and Social Services and Education. They also work with the RCMP, Justice Canada, First Nations, and with NGOs, such as Yukon Family Services Association, Kausheeís Place, FASSY and others on an ongoing basis. You can see that our commitment to supporting victims, their families and other vulnerable persons goes well beyond our support for VictimLINK. It includes a range of programs designed to address the concerns of Yukoners and to make Yukon communities safer for everyone.
†Mr. Cardiff: The people who deliver this training from the family violence prevention unit ó I have a couple questions about the training, I guess. Are there any First Nation counsellors involved in this training? Iíll ask my questions one at a time; that is probably easier.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think I would like to have the member opposite clarify exactly what it is that the member is looking for. It appears to me that this is a question that could probably have two requests. I am not certain if the member wants to know if we have First Nation training in this area or if the actual presenter is a First Nation person.
Mr. Cardiff: I was asking if there were First Nation people delivering the training.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe a lot of the information is culturally sensitive and there are First Nations who are readily involved in this. However, at this point in time, there are no First Nation facilitators or trainers.
Mr. Cardiff: That would be a good objective. Family violence affects every facet of society. There are a lot of First Nation families who are affected by this. There are some culturally sensitive issues around family violence.
I have some other questions around the training. Are these just specific classroom-type training sessions? I guess, specifically, when the minister mentioned new recruits to the RCMP coming to the Yukon, depending on where theyíve come from ó if theyíve come from Toronto or Halifax, or anywhere south of 60 in a lot of instances, they arenít as aware of the local First Nation culture.
I think thatís important to relate ó especially as this is an important piece of legislation. The people who work with it on a daily basis and administer it need to have a good understanding, so is there anything like a culture camp that would help increase the knowledge of people who are new to the Yukon and are required to work with this legislation, something along the lines of either a culture camp or some sort of a group activity where they could get a better feel for the community theyíre working in?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that one of the responsibilities of the RCMP and a part of the program is to recruit First Nation officers. The department does offer training in this area to RCMP and, in turn, the RCMP train any new recruits that they may obtain. The auxiliary constable program is an excellent example of how the RCMP and community members can work together to help prevent and respond to crime. The program demonstrates the shared commitment of the Government of Yukon, the RCMP and Yukon people to enhance community safety. The program is intended to complement the RCMPís community safety and crime prevention efforts with the assistance of volunteers. The auxiliary constables are members of the community who volunteer their time to work with the RCMP. There are a total of 18 auxiliary constables in Yukon, located in Whitehorse, Dawson City, Pelly Crossing, Old Crow and Watson Lake. Teslin is in the process of recruiting one of these constables.
I would like to also state for the record that, being of First Nation ancestry myself, I know that a lot of First Nations are not readily available to go into policing or go into becoming a part of the justice system, whether itís through the counselling field, or what have you.
However, I believe that there have been a lot of improvements in this area with regard to First Nation involvement, and I am quite pleased to report that, when coming back from the south just last week, I met a couple of First Nation constables at the cafť at the Highway 37 junction. I recognized one of the young fellows who was a citizen of the territory, and I know several other First Nation, individuals who are now becoming interested in this field.
Again, the opportunities are there, and it is basically a choice, an individual choice, of the citizen as to whether or not they choose to go into this field. The Government of Yukon actually has two funding agreements with Canada. The first ensures that there are at least 12 First Nation RCMP officers working in the Yukon, and the other is with the Liard First Nation community tripartite policing agreement, which allows the Liard First Nation greater say in the delivery of policing services in that community.
So this government does take the inclusion of aboriginal people very seriously. Could there be improvements? Possibly. I can tell you this government will continue to strive for improvements in this area.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister has three reviews underway ó three consultations that I know of, anyhow. Hopefully, he will listen to some of the information that comes out of those reviews and make improvements.
If you look at the statistics, even the statistics that he provided last December, it would appear to me that the public isnít that comfortable with the way that emergency intervention orders are administered and the people theyíre dealing with, which would be those in the RCMP or the Department of Justice, because they decreased substantially.
From what Iím hearing from some people in some communities, theyíre not comfortable ó theyíre uncomfortable with calling the police and asking for an emergency intervention order because theyíre just uncomfortable with the service they get.
The minister is right, to some extent, but he said that maybe there could be some improvements. I think there definitely could be some improvements.
I have just a couple more questions with regard to the Family Violence Prevention Act and the victim services/family violence prevention unit. Can the minister tell me if there are any suicide prevention workshops being held in communities?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Before I answer the last question, Iíd like to assure the member ó he should try to get some sleep and not worry too awfully much about this government because this government does listen to the citizens. Thatís why weíre having the corrections consultations review.
I believe that suicide prevention is something that would be covered under Health and Social Services; however, the Government of Yukon has a commitment to provide assistance to victims of crime and other vulnerable persons, such as family members of victims and children who witness violence. The victim services and family violence prevention unit offers support services and professional help to victims of crime and abuse, as well as treatment programs, such as the spousal abuse program and the sexual offender risk management program. Every community has counsellors assigned to work directly with both victims and offenders. They are two separate, but integrated and complementary, programs.
One, the victims program offers short-term services to victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Two, the womenís program offers longer term individual and group counselling services to women who have experienced, or are experiencing, violence in intimate relationships.
In addition to these direct services, our government has negotiated a partnership with the Government of British Columbia to allow Yukon residents to access the VictimLINK crisis line at no cost to Yukon.
In exchange, the Yukon Department of Justice provides victim services to the communities of Lower Post and Atlin. The provision of victim services to these two communities is 100-percent recoverable from the Province of British Columbia. VictimLINK was made possible through the Government of Yukon and the Government of British Columbia establishing a formal agreement that allows the Yukon to provide victim services to residents of Atlin and Lower Post, B.C. The agreement also allows Yukon residents to use a crisis line service in B.C. known as VictimLINK and fulfills a platform commitment. There have been two intensive public information campaigns, as well as ongoing information, made available to the public about VictimLINK.
The following are the latest statistics available. Between the period of December 1, 2004, and February 28, 2005, VictimLINK received 22 calls. Of these, two were identified as crises; 32 percent, or seven of the calls, were related to spousal abuse. Other calls were made because of sexual assault, assault, break and enter, and general information. The vast majority of callers were women ó 86 percent or 19 out of the 22 callers. Only one caller was under the age of 13.
Most of the callers ó 36 percent, or 8 callers ó were aware of the service through VictimLINK publicity posters, brochures, et cetera. Other sources included the blue pages, five community-based services, two police, and one in the yellow pages. Over 75 percent of the callers ó 17 of them ó warranted either a referral or information and a referral to a community-based service such as the police. The remaining calls warranted information only.
About half of the calls were from the individuals to Whitehorse ó 12 ó while the remaining 10 calls came from locations throughout the territory.† So we can see that VictimLINK is being used, mainly by women, on incidents including domestic abuse and sexual assault. Calls come throughout the day and during all days of the week. The service is being used well outside Whitehorse, and VictimLINK promotion is the primary way people are finding out about the services. I would say that having read this information, itís obvious that no suicide attempts were phoned in. However, it is there. The professional counselling service is available to the individuals if they phone VictimLINK.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Chair, I would appreciate it if we could speed this up a little bit. I asked a simple question: are there any suicide prevention workshops? And the minister made a speech. It was a yes-or-no answer, and then we could have asked how many. Instead we got a speech about the VictimLINK service that is provided by B.C.
I would like to move on ó and I donít mean that I want to move on because I want to make light of the situation. Itís a serious situation; itís a really serious situation when a person gets so depressed with their life that they would actually take it. I wonít go there, because weíll end up in a long, drawn-out discussion.
While weíre dealing with reviews and policing issues, the minister recently announced that the department is beginning a review of RCMP services in the Yukon. I believe itís funded by the Government of Canada. Iím just wondering what the minister hopes to be able to improve ó I know heís probably going to get up and make another speech ó short, concise points for the goals that the minister hopes to achieve through this review.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím rather disappointed that the member opposite is constantly attempting to steal my thunder. Iím anxious to give them information but, oh no, they donít understand the magnitude of work this government is doing in Justice. All Iím attempting to do is inundate them with information. Iím anxious to do that, so Iím going to continue on.
The Yukon has received $100,000 from Canada to conduct a review of policing services in the Yukon. That review will be starting within the next few weeks and will be concluded by September 2005. Weíll be asking Yukon citizens what they think about the RCMP policing services that are being delivered in their community. We will also ask them to identify their policing needs and the top three priorities for policing services within their community.
The Yukon policing review will be led by a consultant provided by the federal government and completed with the assistance of Department of Justice staff. The Department of Justice staff have met with the RCMP to inform them of the review and they were positive about this initiative.
They will travel to each of the Yukon communities and meet with stakeholders to discuss what they think about the policing service that is being delivered in their community. They will also host a community meeting for the general public to come and provide their views on the police service. The public can also provide input through written submissions and by filling out a questionnaire.
Now, I must state for the record that the members opposite have constantly criticized this government about a lack of consultation, and I believe that it is clearly demonstrated that this government does and will continue to consult as much as we have to in order to have input from the citizens in the territory.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister has three consultations going on and I hope he can keep all the balls in the air, so to speak. I have had some concerns raised on a variety of issues with regard to policing. Hopefully, some of those will be caught up in the review, and I just wanted to put some of that on record. I thank the Superintendent of the RCMP for meeting with me with his staff regarding the concerns that have been brought to me by constituents and other members of the public around the use of Tasers, and I have been promised statistics regarding the number of times the Tasers have been used. I just wanted the Minister of Justice to be aware that that is a concern. All you have to do is go to your computer and Google ďTaserĒ and there is a ton of information there ó everything you ever wanted to know about a Taser, the information provided by companies that produce them, agencies that use them, and also different agencies that have lots of concerns, from Amnesty International and a variety of others, and some real concerns out there about the use of Tasers.
Iím hoping some of that comes out in this review. There is also the ongoing concern about the enforcement and the problems around drug use, both in Whitehorse and in the communities, and the need for the RCMP to respond to that in an effective manner. I note in the paper that recently there was some action taken, but we need to be vigilant about that.
Another concern is the accessibility to complaints against the RCMP ó the RCMP Complaints Commission. One of the suggestions that has been made to me and that I raised with a reporter the other day was the idea of a local independent police commission where complaints could be raised and dealt with at a local level as opposed to having to deal with the RCMP Complaints Commission in Ottawa. Itís a long process, and itís a distant process. I think people here in the Yukon would feel more comfortable if they were dealing with a local, independent agency. I am just wondering if the minister has heard this and if he has given any thought to the idea of an independent police commission here in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: A simple answer to the question is, no, it hasnít been an issue that we have started to deal with at this time; however, Mr. Chair, I would also like to talk a bit. The member brought up concerns about the Taser, and it is recognized that it is a serious issue. The RCMP do have ongoing training for their officers in this area.
With regard to complaints from individuals with regard to the RCMP, they will be dealt with in the review.
Mr. Cardiff: One other issue ó and this is more in regard to statistics and the collection of statistics ó is that weíve had a really difficult time getting accurate statistics from the Yukon Liquor Corporation on licensed premise checks. Part of the difficulty is that the RCMP ó the Yukon Liquor Corporation, for the ministerís information, have liquor inspectors who do licensed premise checks to ensure that the establishments arenít over serving, to ensure that theyíre not overcapacity. The RCMP also do that, but Iím not sure on how regular a basis. They go into the bars and other establishments and do those checks as well. They donít always provide that information to the Yukon Liquor Corporation, and Iím just wondering whether or not that could be included as well in the policing review. This is important. Itís important to monitor Liquor Act enforcement. Weíve got two groups of people doing it. Weíve got the staff and the liquor inspectors, and the RCMP also has a responsibility to do that. Itís about monitoring the Liquor Act and enforcing it and ensuring that thereís compliance with that act. Itís a public safety issue.
Could the minister put that on the list as well for the policing review?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would say to the member opposite that itís true that the RCMP do drop in occasionally to the different liquor outlets within the territory; however, I believe thatís just on regular policing duties. A lot of the points the member opposite has raised today will, I believe, be covered by the review.
Mr. Cardiff: I wanted just to identify them here now so they can be included in that review. Iíd like to just ask a couple of questions around some other statistics with regard to the adult resource centre, better known as ARC.
Iím just wondering if the department has the statistics for the number of inmates that are at the ARC, as opposed to Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, the government does have a contract with the ARC for 10 beds. The number of beds that are filled could change from day to day. Sometimes it might be full; sometimes it might not be. There are always 10 beds available.
Mr. Cardiff: I believe itís a $400,000 transfer ó is that right? Does using this service provide considerable savings to the department? Do they have any measurement of the success rate with respect to recidivism? Is there any measurement of that ó the savings and the success rate?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The ARC is not a cost-saving initiative for the government. Itís merely an organization that is used to implement the transition of inmates back into the general population of the citizens at large.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister didnít say anything about how successful it is. That leads me to the next question. Is there any planned evaluation of the services that are being provided there and whether or not theyíre successful?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It appears the member opposite is somewhat confused. One minute I give too much information, and the next I donít give enough. However, the ARC is more or less an alternative means of sentencing. People go there to be allowed a little more freedom so they can adjust to being out of Whitehorse Correctional Centre or a penitentiary Outside, or whatever the case is. But again, I believe it does serve a very important role in being able to have an individual readjust to being outside the walls of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister obviously doesnít get it. Iím not critical of the service thatís being provided.
I understand the type of service that is being provided. It is an important service. You donít just come out of a big institution. In some instances, if youíre in an institution in the south, there are hundreds or thousands of people in detention, so it is a valuable service.
The minister has said on many occasions thatís why weíre doing the corrections consultation: to ensure the services being provided in Whitehorse Correctional Centre are adequate and appropriate and that weíre giving the best service we can. All Iím asking him is a very simple question.
Obviously there has been an evaluation done, and thereís a big consultation going on. Iím not suggesting the minister of consultations needs to do another consultation. All Iím saying is, is he evaluating whether or not the programs at the ARC are successful, or could they be improved? This is the minister who wants to improve the services and programs at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre; why wouldnít he want to improve the services and programs at the ARC? To do that, you would think youíd do some sort of evaluation.
Iíve asked if there has been or if there is an evaluation, or if there is any evaluation planned.
Acting Chairís statement
Acting Chair: Before the minister replies, the Chair would remind all members of this House to refer to members by their proper title and not to invent names for ministers. The minister should be referred to as the Minister of Justice, not as the minister of consultations.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the issue that the member opposite is concerned with will be part of the corrections consultation.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you. Itís too bad we couldnít have got there a little earlier. We would have liked to have tried to speed things up.
I have some questions for the minister with regard to probation services as well, while we are dealing with corrections. There was an incident last year ó I raised this with the minister in Yellowknife. It was a tragic incident where a probation officer lost their life. I asked the minister at that time what measures were being taken or what measures were planned to be taken. Could the Minister of Justice tell us what measures have been taken in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Justice department is aware of that very serious concern and there was a review of the protocol. It is now the case where two probation officers will do a home visit of a federal parolee if there is a high-risk case there.
Mr. Cardiff: Are there any probation officers in any of the communities in Yukon ó the outlying communities? Whitehorse is a community too? Are all the probation officers based in Whitehorse or are there probation officers in other communities as well?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, there are probation officers in some of the communities. They also travel to the communities from Whitehorse.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís my understanding that when they do travel to the communities itís usually a pretty well-known fact that theyíre coming because they travel with the circuit court. Everybody knows that, when the court comes to town, the probation officer comes to town. Iím just wondering how effective that is in checking up on people who are on probation. If they know youíre coming, itís pretty easy to get your act together. Iím just wondering why they donít travel at other times.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With the probation workers, there are two dedicated persons situated in Watson Lake and Dawson City, and the rest of the communities have constant visits from the officers in Whitehorse.
Mr. Cardiff: Okay, so there are two probation officers in Watson Lake and two probation officers in Dawson? Thereís one in Watson Lake and one in Dawson.
Do the probation officers who visit the communities travel at times other than with the court?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The probation officers travel as needed.
Mr. Cardiff: Can the minister provide the statistics with regard to the number of charges that are laid in a fiscal year for breaches of probation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíll have to take that request under advisement and Iíll get back to the member.
Mr. Cardiff: While heís at it, thereís one other statistic Iíd like ó or maybe there are a couple, actually. What are the statistics for, on average, how often a person whoís on probation is seen by a probation officer? Does the minister have any statistics that would show how probation works to prevent recidivism, that show if it is in fact effective? Would he have access to those and could he provide them? He doesnít have to do it today; he can send them over.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That information can be sent over; however, I want to put on record for the member opposite and I would quite readily say that part of the corrections consultation would probably have a lot of questions with regard to probation and whether or not itís effective, or what other solutions may be recommended by the citizens at large.
Again, I hope the members opposite can understand and appreciate now the importance of the corrections consultation, because we will have a lot of the data and information that the member opposite is asking for right now.
Mr. Cardiff: I look forward to receiving the information from the minister when he is able to provide it.
Iíd like to ask a couple of questions about the courts. Can the minister tell me if there is any kind of training for Yukon Territorial Court judges or JPs with respect to best practices, especially in things like addictions and family violence? Is training provided for judges and JPs?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer is yes. There is ongoing training for JPs through the Judicial Institute.
Mr. Cardiff: Has any consideration been given to having something like the southern jurisdictions have? They break courts up to deal with different problems. Iím just wondering if there has been any consideration given to having something like a drug court, where they would deal strictly with those offences?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time, there is one option ó the domestic violence treatment option. The individual has a special court process where they can agree to do a treatment option rather than be sentenced to an institution. At the present time, the department is looking at a problem-solving court to deal with people with potential FASD, drugs or other mental issues that might give them a bit of a disadvantage going into the conventional court system.
These are in a preliminary stage right now. Thank you.
Mr. Cardiff: If the minister has some ó any information he can get on that, I would appreciate getting it. Anything would be helpful. Itís just a matter of, I guess, learning more about the justice system. I learn more as I go along, and I learn it by asking questions and getting answers. So I would appreciate that.
I would like to ask the minister some questions about the corrections consultation. We knew we would get there sometime today. The corrections consultation got underway recently, and I just would like the minister to confirm that it is still going to be on schedule, and could he give us the completion date of the consultation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, Iím rather pleased that the member opposite got to this one, because we do have lots of information we can give him here. For his earlier requests about information on the different court options, we can provide him with some information on the different court options. When we talk about the corrections consultation project, as you know, Mr. Chair, the corrections consultation is a 15-month public consultation on the future direction of the corrections system in the Yukon. The consultation is co-chaired by the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations. A project team representing the Yukon government and the Council of Yukon First Nations is conducting the consultation.
An executive committee will provide direction to the project team. Public consultation meetings started in February 2005 and will continue through the summer. A public consultation document and questions for consideration will be released in the new year. The information gathered by the project team during the consultation will help shape an action plan for delivering corrections programs and services in the Yukon. All Yukoners are affected by the corrections programs and services, and that is why Yukoners are being asked how the corrections system can be improved.
During the consultation, Yukoners will be asked for their views on challenges facing offenders, victims and communities, opportunities for meeting those challenges and suggestions for improving the corrections system. The information developed during the consultation will be used by the project team to develop a draft action plan to guide the delivery of corrections programs in communities and in a new correctional centre. The draft action plan will be discussed at a corrections summit and reviewed by the executive committee before it is finalized.
The project team has now entered into phase 2 of the consultation. This phase involves two rounds of consultations and will conclude with the corrections summit in November or early December. This stage will include pre-consultation information sessions with each chief and council and mayor and council, round 1 consultation meetings followed by a report on what was heard, round 2 consultation meetings followed by a report on consultation findings and a draft action plan for corrections, and the corrections summit for representatives from First Nations, communities, non-government organizations and other areas.
Phase 3 will start in November 2005 and end in February 2006. This phase involves finalizing the action plan on corrections and concludes with the minister and chiefs round table on corrections. We have included in this yearís budget an amount of $633,037, which will be used to fund the consultation. Given the enormous task that is before the project team, this money is well spent.
The results of the consultation will provide a road map for the future of corrections in the territory, and this government recognizes the importance of this task and has therefore made a commitment to provide adequate resources and time for the consultation team to do its job to the best of its ability.
Mr. Cardiff: That was a long way of saying that he hopes itís going to end in February 2006, but I thank him for the information. I read the documents, but I just wanted to ensure that it was still on track. Can the Minister of Justice tell us whether recommendations from previous consultations ó specifically a previous consultation that included the elders a few years back when there was a planning process in place to build the jail ó will be included in this consultation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to start by making a comment about the member oppositeís comment referring to answering questions the long way around. Well, Mr. Chair, itís a traditional belief that some individuals come into your life for a reason. I believe that the Member for Mount Lorne has come into my life to teach me patience and tolerance. I will say at this time that the answer to the question from the member opposite is, yes.
Mr. Cardiff: I am glad that Iím making a difference in the ministerís life.
I would like to ask the minister some questions about the jail facility. Can the minister tell us how much money has been spent on planning the new facility, including the work done by the previous government? There was a previous design done, ground work done, services provided and there is a big pile of gravel. The Member for Klondike is looking to have a bridge named after him. The Minister of Justice has beaten the Member for Klondike, because I understand this gravel is now called Mount Edzerza. That was placed there at a cost to the taxpayers.
How much of the taxpayersí money has been spent to date? I guess he could break it out as the money spent on the renovations, because there was a lot of money spent on renovations they felt needed to be done. I would like the figure on those renovations as completed. They were budgeted at about $600,000 and I think weíre over $1 million now. How much money has been spent on that facility? All we have are underground services and a pile of dirt.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I didnít realize that there is a mountain named after me, but I know there is one in northern B.C. that is named after the Edzerza family, so weíre doing all right.
In answer to the memberís question from the opposite side of the House here, I know what we spent. We spent $633,000 †plus to determine what kind of a facility would suit the needs of the Yukon people. I guess there was previous discussion on this issue and, again, people are different. People see things differently. Obviously this government wasnít prepared to just go out and build another facility, so the monies this government is putting into it now are well justified and, at the end of the day, weíll be able to tell the member what kind of facility this government is going to build.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the minister didnít answer the question, and we were trying to speed things up. I was asking about the figures for what has been spent on the renovation project that was started by the previous Minister of Justice and where weíre at with that budget figure and how much money has been spent in total since we started planning for a new correctional facility some five or six years ago. How much money in total has been spent on that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government has spent approximately $900,000 on renovating the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Cardiff: Okay, now we have the renovation figure from the minister. Weíre making progress. The other information Iím asking for is the amount of money that has been spent since we started planning this facility. That planning was started some time ago, under a previous government. We have underground services; we have a big pile of gravel, and weíve had designs. All the money that has been spent on planning and infrastructure to date ó can the minister provide us with that figure?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I try not to make a habit of reconstructing everything that a previous government went through. No, we donít have that figure.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister doesnít have that figure. I find it hard to believe that the minister wouldnít have that figure ó that he wouldnít know how much money has been invested up there to date.
Can he break it down? Does the minister know how much money has been spent on planning alone? Maybe we have to break it down a little bit smaller for the minister. I was asking about planning and infrastructure. Maybe if I do it one at a time, I can get the figure.
How much money has been spent on planning to date, exclusive of the $633,000 thatís going into the consultation? Can the minister answer that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I donít have those figures.
Mr. Cardiff: Then could I ask the minister to obtain those figures and provide them through a legislative return or a letter. The minister knows that all the information that we request in here goes to both parties as well.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíll take the member oppositeís requests under advisement.
Mr. Cardiff: Iíd like to ask the minister a question about the construction of a new jail. When the consultation is complete and they make a decision around the construction of a new jail ó thereís a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun. Can the minister tell us what his intentions are with regard to the construction of the facility and what role the Kwanlin Dun First Nation will play in that? I will leave it at that; thatís a good start.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That would be kind of like putting the cart before the horse here. The main endeavour that has to be completed before any of that can even be discussed is the consultation process.
Mr. Cardiff: Thereís a memorandum of understanding in place, and my understanding of it is that itís to allow the participation of Kwanlin Dun in the design and construction of the new facility. Am I correct in that understanding? Can the minister tell me that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, there was an MOU signed. Again, the corrections consultation must be completed before there will be any further discussion with regard to implementing that MOU.
Mr. Cardiff: Could the minister tell me if he would be considering, at some point, a P3 arrangement for the building of the new jail?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís not for this minister to decide.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís not up to the Minister of Justice to decide how heís going to have this new facility built and the process that would take ó I find that hard to believe.
Thereís a good question. Who would decide? If itís not the Minister of Justice who decides the method of construction, who is it that does decide? Is it the Premier? The Minister of Economic Development ó he is responsible for P3s? Maybe the minister could tell us who makes that decision.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Certainly, the Minister of Justice does not go around managing capital projects. That responsibility would fall under the Department of Highways and Public Works because that is the department that manages the capital projects.
Mr. Cardiff: Is the minister expecting to reduce the costs of the correctional facility, both in the actual infrastructure and in the delivery of programming, by putting more emphasis on community justice initiatives or restorative justice initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that those questions will more readily be answered by the correctional consultation process.
Mr. Cardiff: Maybe I will put something on record for the correctional consultation then, and I will let the minister know what I am hearing as well with regard to that.
I do have some other questions that I would like to get to. We only have so much time.
I will move on to community justice initiatives in a little while. I would like to stay on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre while we are there.
I know the minister is probably going to tell us that this is going to be the result of the consultations that he hasnít completed yet, but has the minister given any thought to the location of a new facility? Has he given any thought to any other locations? Have any other locations been raised with the minister and could he tell us what those locations are?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite has two weeks to ask these questions so there is lots of time.
I believe that the member opposite is right again. Heís good at predicting. When he asks questions that are hypothetical, then thatís what kind of an answer he will get.
The location of the facility will be part of the correctional consultation discussions.
Mr. Cardiff: So the minister hasnít had any discussions with anyone about other possible locations at all?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, as previously stated, that will be part of the consultation discussions.
Mr. Cardiff: With regard to corrections and other methods of delivering those services, does the department have any other method of community supervision, such as, say, electronic monitoring, or are they considering that, as opposed to incarcerating people?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: † It just happens to be that there is the intensive bail supervision project. This is to reduce the number of persons remanded to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre because they are unable to follow their bail or probation conditions. So the community corrections will be designing and implementing an intensive supervision program to monitor these high-risk individuals. The goal will be to keep them in the community, out of Whitehorse Correctional Centre and productive, while awaiting the outcome of their charges or the community disposition. The focus will be on programming that builds on life skills, community services and possibly recreation. The clients would have their programming defined by their risk/needs assessments, where possible.
The benefits will include a reduction of Whitehorse Correctional Centre admissions, and community safety crime prevention will be enhanced as these individuals will be in a structured environment for most of the day and not left to their own devices.
This project is targeted to start up in September 2005 with an O&M of $100,000 for one FTE to work on this project, as well as $15,000 for contract services.
Chair: Members are obviously aware of the situation that we seem to have. I understand that there are officials from property maintenance branch here to look at it. Would members mind if we recess now in order to give them an opportunity to look at the situation?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 15-minute recess now.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
We will continue debate on Vote 8, Department of Justice.
Mr. Cardiff: I would like to continue with some questions about the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Does the minister have numbers, statistics, for the recidivism rate for the correctional facility and are there any comparisons with other jurisdictions that he could provide?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: † The answer to the member opposite is no.
Mr. Cardiff: I find that really hard to believe. This was something important for the Member for Watson Lake ó the Premier now ó to ensure that we didnít have repeat offenders. It was dealing with the problem and the problems of the offenders so they could go on to participate in society. The Minister of Justice doesnít have statistics about recidivism? That was the Member for Watson Lakeís favourite word for some time. The minister must have some figures.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government is thoroughly interested in doing what it can to address the recidivism rate at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and one of the great improvements at Whitehorse Correctional Centre has to do with Correctional Centre programming.
In the coming year, the government will introduce significant improvements to inmate programming at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Our government will introduce the following new initiatives this year. We will add $120,000 to fund a First Nation elder program. The goal of this program is to increase the amount of First Nations cultural training and teachings of traditional crafts and will bring First Nation elders into the centre. We have added $174,000 to provide increased funding for mental health services at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. This new money will be used to hire additional staff to provide mental health counselling to those inmates who require it. Now, Mr. Chair, this is a very important initiative, because part and parcel of someone reoffending and getting the revolving-door syndrome at Whitehorse Correctional Centre has a lot to do with mental health issues.
An example may be someone who has gone through the mission school system, for example, and has never had intervention in their life to deal with the trauma they went through. This mental health initiative component this year is a very important one.
We have also added $50,000 to begin developmental work on stable, long-term housing and support for offenders with FASD. This will allow us to provide better services to those offenders when they are released from the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Again, this is another very important initiative to recognize, because this government does recognize that there are issues of citizens with potential FASD who are involved in the justice system.
We have also allocated $100,000 toward the intensive bail supervision program. This program will provide intensive supervision to high-risk offenders who are on bail. The goal would be to keep them in the community, out of Whitehorse Correctional Centre and productive, while awaiting the outcome of their charges or on community disposition.
These improvements will go a long way toward ensuring the safety of Yukoners today. These programs reaffirm our commitment to ensuring the safety of all Yukoners. Over the past two years, we have worked hard to ensure that offenders receive appropriate training when they are serving a sentence at Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Whitehorse Correctional Centre has a number of programs that directly address the root causes of crime. For example, the substance abuse management program is offered four or five times per year and helps offenders come to terms with their substance abuse issues. ďCommitment to ChangeĒ is a program to address criminal thinking and behaviours and how to change them. A variety of volunteers offer programming for inmates at the centre, including Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. The centre maintains a contract for chaplaincy services through the Whitehorse Ministerial Association.
In addition to these programs, Whitehorse Correctional Centre also offers academic and vocational training. For example, in 2004, inmates at Whitehorse Correctional Centre were offered a number of courses, as Iíve already mentioned. I know the member opposite wants me to repeat them; however, he also wanted to speed things up, so Iíll skip over repeating all that section.
These programs demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that offenders are held accountable for their actions. These are concrete initiatives to make Yukon a safer place to be.
This government also has an eye on the future. We want future generations of Yukoners to live in peace and prosperity. To this end, our government has launched a consultation on corrections. There are several things the government has acted upon to hopefully reduce the recidivism rate and to start giving the inmates who repeatedly come into WCC a different frame of mind or thought as to seeking some kind of a trade that would ensure that, once they are out of WCC and in the communities or the vicinity of Whitehorse, thereís always the opportunity they could seek a job and actually obtain a job.
I know the first aid course is a very valuable ticket to have. The more the government and the staff within the Department of Justice provide the different initiatives for offenders, I believe it really increases the possibility that an individual may divert their activities into something thatís more constructive and positive for the communities.
†Mr. Cardiff: I will appeal one more time. I hope we can speed things up. I asked the minister a simple question and he read a couple of press releases, and itís not helpful at all to getting the information that we on this side of the House and that the public would like.
Iím going to ask the minister a question. The Whitehorse Correctional Centre obviously has a job to do. One of the most important things is to evaluate whether or not itís achieving its objectives. Can the minister tell us: how does the correctional facility measure its performance with respect to recidivism? Can he tell us how they do that? If they donít do it with statistics, they must do it somehow.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite appears to have an issue because this minister appears to answer a lot of questions he has in his little notes to ask. I like to provide lots of information whenever I give answers. I donít believe in just focusing on yes-or-no answers.
However, with respect to whether or not things are productive at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, I believe that the department has done their job by providing numerous programs for inmates. I believe the member opposite is well aware of the fact that itís an individual choice of whether or not one will participate in programming.
Therefore, I believe that the more programs that are available where the inmates have gained an interest, the better chance for recidivism.
One important thing that happened at WCC was the fact that the Justice department asked the inmates what their interests are, as we are open and accountable and everybody knows about that, and that we do consult. The inmates chose the programming that they were interested in. Quite frankly, I would say that has an awful lot to do with the programs being filled to capacity.
Therefore, in the future, I believe it would be very interesting to see which ones do repeat offences and come back to WCC. We would also have an opportunity to maybe monitor which ones really utilized what they learned from the programs at WCC.
Mr. Cardiff: Let the record show that the minister didnít answer the question. What I asked for was how the Department of Justice ó or the staff at the correctional facility ó measures its performance with regard to recidivism. Surely the minister can understand that organizations have a purpose. The correctional facility has a purpose. All organizations have a purpose. You set objectives and goals. Somehow you have to measure whether or not you are achieving those goals.
The minister stood up and made a speech, saying something about a better chance for recidivism. I donít think thatís a goal that the correctional facility has. Instead of a better chance for recidivism, what he meant to say is that there would be a better chance that we would not have people coming back to the correctional facility.
The purpose of the correctional facility is to provide a safe environment for both the inmates and the public when people have committed offences. The purpose is to rehabilitate and provide services to help these people move on with their lives. If thatís a goal of the correctional facility and itís a goal of the Department of Justice, there have to be some measurable benchmarks. We need to be able to look at them and say, weíre doing really well here. Some of it may have to do with nutrition, so thereís a benchmark for the type of food you provide. Thereís a benchmark for programming to evaluate whether or not the program is achieving its goals.
One of the goals of the program and the purpose of the programming at the correctional facility is to reduce recidivism. How does the minister measure that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I think the member opposite has to understand that there are many different contributing factors to evaluate any progress of inmates in the jail.
One of the things that I know for a fact is that, from 2001, the budget for Whitehorse Correctional Centre was $34,369,000 and today itís at $38,156,000. Thatís quite a substantial increase ó actually, a 14-percent increase for programs to assist in meeting needs of victims, offenders, et cetera. So this government is aware of the revolving-door syndrome and this government is going to continue to do whatever it takes to make improvements in this area.
Mr. Cardiff: Let the record show that the minister measures the performance of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre by how much money they spend. Thatís how they measure the performance, and I guess the performance is better: the more money you spend, the better the performance. So by that account, you know, we could be doing a better job if we spent more money, which goes directly against the ministerís argument about why we have to do a corrections consultation and spend more money on a corrections consultation.
So I guess by doing that, weíre providing more services to inmates at the correctional facility. But the minister doesnít have any interest in looking at the statistical information around recidivism or anything else. The minister probably canít even tell me how many inmates graduated from programs at Yukon College while in the facility.
Letís move on to something else. I donít have a lot more. I want to give the leader of the third party an opportunity to ask some questions today too. Hopefully, she wonít become as frustrated as I have.
Could the minister tell us how the Department of Justice and the corrections officials are responding to a statement made last fall by the acting superintendent of the facility? How is the department responding to the fact that inmates are younger, more violent and have more drug issues and create more disturbances than they have in the past? How are the minister and the department responding to that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Let the record show that the Member for Mount Lorne appears to have some issue with this government spending lots of money on programming. This is a very important initiative to address. Coming from a member of the NDP, I find it rather amusing that one wouldnít be applauding the amount of money that is being spent on programming. With respect to the question from the member opposite, I can confirm that the Department of Justice is continuing to work on stabilizing the staffing at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre by implementing positions and providing training and working conditions for staff.
†This is a necessary step that will help us to ensure that offenders receive the help they need now. The biggest changes will be permanently staffing all the vacancies that exist and changing some job descriptions so they have more of an emphasis on case management, programming and community integration.
With regard to all the things that happen in society, itís unfortunate that we have younger people involved in crime. Iím sure that the department will continue to seek new programming and ways to deal with that very issue. Again, providing a lot of intensive training for supervisory staff and team leaders and everyone who works in the correctional facility is an important part of this issue.
Mr. Cardiff: When inmates are released, is there any follow-up counselling or treatment that gets suggested by corrections officers for those inmates, and is that monitored after they leave the facility?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The only time someone has conditions they must abide by is if they are released on a probation order. Obviously, if their sentence is completely over, they are released back into the community.
This government has started an FASD housing program. Again, this will help address some of this. Offenders suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome and its related disorders present a significant challenge within correctional settings. We know that. The behavioural and learning characteristics associated with these disorders make it difficult for affected individuals to function effectively in the aggressive and often uncertain environment of a prison.
The presence of affected individuals creates issues for institutional correctional staff, those who deliver programs and those involved in community supervision. The problem of FASD offenders has not been addressed in the past. This population of offenders has largely gone unnoticed. Indeed, we do not even have an accurate count of the number of offenders who are affected by this condition.
How we address these issues is dependent on the number of affected individuals within the correctional system. Unfortunately, to date, nowhere across Canada has a study been undertaken to estimate the incidence or prevalence of affected individuals within the offender population.
Across Canada, corrections systems in all jurisdictions are just now starting to come to terms with developing programs for this population.
In this sense, the Yukon government is a leader in the field. We are one of a few jurisdictions beginning to look at specialized programs for FASD offenders. In this budget, the government has made a commitment to develop stable, long-term housing and support for low-functioning adult males, on probation and beyond. This project is aimed at low-functioning adult males on probation.
For example, I personally know that there are at least a dozen men who are affected by developmental delays and are brain-damaged. These men are well-acquainted with the justice system. They all have considerable involvement with Justice, Health and Social Services, and Indian and Northern Affairs. Most of these individuals have been convicted of sexual and/or violent offences at one time or another, and their developmental delays seriously impact their ability to safely manage themselves in the community.
As a result, community safety is also compromised by a lack of appropriate housing or supervision. These individuals cycle in and out of Whitehorse Correctional Centre, committing serious offences on a regular basis, receive relatively short sentences and are always returned to the community with limited supervision provided by adult probation.
The common denominator for most of these men is the lack of housing that could provide a level of supervision and structure that would reduce the risk to the community. Our government has made a commitment to help these individuals and others like them.
There is a desperate need for a combination of housing and programming to meet the needs of this group of clientele. We know that individuals with FASD respond well to structured environments. Sadly, the only structured environment that many of these men and women have had is in prison. Their routine is regimented according to the schedule of the institution. Once they get out of prison, they return to their unstructured lives, which oftentimes put them into situations where they might commit crimes.
†Our new money is geared toward providing programming that will target those offenders who display the symptoms of FASD. The programming will build on their strengths, provide appropriate life skills and counselling that will focus on the area that put them at risk by committing crime. The housing will need to be long term and provided in a supervised setting. The housing and programming should be designed to be the least onerous on the client to provide the necessary structure and supervision. This project also has the potential to reduce the number of young incarcerated individuals at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and could be an alternative to custody at the Correctional Centre. This type of program certainly will provide a safe and secure environment for clients, and it should be noted that this group is also one of the most victimized groups that are dealt with in corrections. We have committed $50,000 to begin the developmental work on this project. Should this developmental work be successful, this government will continue to fund this project in years to come.
Again, it is quite obvious that when this government looks into programming of this nature, we are very concerned about what happens to individuals once they leave Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Probation is one part of it, but in some cases there is no probation. These individuals in particular will now have a chance to adjust themselves back into the community in a positive manner.
Mr. Cardiff: † I thank the minister for all that information. There is a lot there. It appears that theyíve already decided some of the direction in which to go prior to the conclusion of the consultation. Thatís how it appears to me. I have a couple more questions. Can the minister tell me why the cost per inmate at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is so high compared to other facilities in other jurisdictions?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think itís no secret in the territory that the price of fuel, for example, is one issue that the citizens donít have control over. The price for heating has risen dramatically. There are high fixed costs of the institution. For example, when there is a decrease in inmates, it appears that the cost is very high per inmate. Otherwise, I think that the cost per inmate fluctuates quite often. I canít see any real stabilizing cost per inmate in the near future.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister cited heating costs. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the facility is so old and was built to a standard when heating fuel was a lot cheaper and the cost of heating wasnít as much of a concern. Thereís also the fact that the facility is old and it costs more to maintain. Maybe they should move on with building a new facility.
I am going to ask the minister one more question. It is getting close to the end of the day and I want to give the Member for Porter Creek South an opportunity.
In the memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun it states that the Yukon shall provide Kwanlin Dun financial resources to enable it to engage in consultations and negotiations contemplated under this memorandum of understanding in accordance with a budget and a workplan to be negotiated and agreed to by the parties.
Can the minister tell me how many dollars were provided to Kwanlin Dun to participate in the corrections consultation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to remind the member opposite ó he made a comment about the facility being old. Thatís one of the reasons that this government will probably be building a new one during the next mandate. We need to remind the member opposite that we have schools in the territory that are older than Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Everything must progress at a pace that is affordable.
The member asked questions about financing Kwanlin Dun. This government has not financed anybody, and they do have a member on the executive committee. That is the extent of their involvement in the consultation process.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the Member for Mount Lorne. Iíve listened to the debate this afternoon, and it has been very enlightening.
Iím just going to follow up on the last point. The memorandum of understanding between the Yukon Party government and the Kwanlin Dun is crystal clear. It says that the Government of Yukon shall provide ó not ďmayĒ ó financial resources. That was signed when the Yukon Party was first elected. It was January 2003.
Now, the money was provided, but weíve never been told how much. Did it come out of another department? It hasnít been accounted for, and the minister has stood on his feet and promised accountability. Where did the money come from, and how much was paid?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again Iíll repeat myself and state for the record that the memorandum of understanding will not come into effect until after the corrections consultation has been completed.
Ms. Duncan: Iím just going to get the memorandum of understanding in front of me, if you donít mind.
I didnít bring my copy in with me. Itís dated February 17, 2003. The signatories are the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Premier. Section 8 of the memorandum of understanding states that ďYukon shall provide Kwanlin Dun financial resources to enable it to engage in the consultations and negotiations contemplated under the memorandum of understanding in accordance with the budget and workplan, to be negotiated and agreed to by the parties.Ē Was the budget and the workplan ever negotiated by the Department of Justice, or was it left with the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That budget was never negotiated.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the information from the minister. So there has never been a budget or a workplan negotiated. We do have a cancelled project, though, and hundreds of employees continuing to work in a facility that the fire marshal condemned two and one-half governments ago ó at least.
The behaviour of the minister and the Yukon Party with respect to cancelling that facility, which is long overdue and was ordered by the fire marshal, is reprehensible at best. To sign a memorandum of understanding that they failed to live up to is appalling ó absolutely appalling.
The minister could answer the following question: what was the population of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre this past winter?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I certainly am aware that the member opposite is entitled to her own opinion about things. I want to put on record again ó and this is not meant to show any disrespect whatsoever to the member opposite. I want that to be crystal clear. However, when we look at what happened when the correctional facility was going to be replaced, to the best of my recollection, the Liberal government of the day decided to build a new facility. They built what was referred to by the Member for Mount Lorne as Edzerzaís mountain and put this humungous pile of dirt out in the exercise yard that the inmates used consistently. I believe it even had a community garden of some sort planted there.
And then the leader of the day decided to call an election. Now, I believe that to try to say things are appalling on how this side of the House conducts business is really questionable. I mean, the opportunity was there for the Liberal government to complete an infrastructure that they started. It was their choice to do what they did, and that has to rest with the Liberal government.
I must say that this government has full intentions of building a new facility; however, this government chose to not put the cart before the horse. This government chose to do its homework, to do its consultation on seeking input from the community as to what kind of a facility would best suit the Yukon Territory ó what kind of a justice system.
I want to point out for the record that the grave difference in the consultation process that this government has undertaken versus that of the previous government is that, with the previous government, the consultation appeared to be from the administration out, while this government is seeking to have the consultation process go from the outside into the administration. It is going to be a justice system and a facility that is going to be orchestrated by the citizens in the Yukon Territory.
With regard to the number of inmates, which the member opposite asked about, it has gone as high as 70 and as low as 40, so the average is around 50.
Ms. Duncan: The member opposite, in suggesting that the government decided to do their homework, perhaps should take a look at the homework and read the Barr Ryder report. We didnít decide to build a new facility. The previous government had been ordered to by the fire marshal: build it or Iím shutting it down. We campaigned on it, we did it, we started it, and we turned the dirt. And this Legislature, including the Member for Klondike, had allocated $4.2 million to that construction to complete it. That government cancelled it. They have the responsibility and nobody else.
The minister wants to talk about correctional reform and reform of the justice system. The justice system is far bigger than the facility, any way you cut it. Any way the member chooses to speak about the previous government or speak about the facts as he knows them to be, there is going to be the requirement for a new facility.
Now, I will sit down as the Member for Klondike coaches the minister.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: †The facility was not originally intended to house as many as 70. There has been considerable money spent by the government and considerable time spent in trying to address these very severe building deficiencies and trying to buy some more time from the fire marshal. Apparently we have been able to sign it off for another year maybe ó who knows? In the capital budget, a very limited amount is going to be spent on the facility. How long has the fire marshal okayed the building for this time?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have to make some reference to the member opposite making comments about building the jail. I certainly hope that building this capital project wonít be as hard as building the school in Carmacks. I can anticipate that there are going to be many people who do not want an infrastructure such as this in their backyard. If anyone believes for one second that it is going to be an infrastructure with no concerns whatsoever, we will wait to see that day. I certainly hope that this government is able to proceed with and complete this infrastructure in the next mandate.
With regard to the fire marshal, the report was done in December 2002, and he had given a window of five years.
Ms. Duncan: So that report was signed off before all these renovations were completed and before the government spent in excess of $500,000 ó closer to $1 million. Is 2002 the fire marshalís most recent report, or do we have another one through the building? Iím talking also of the fire marshal and the building and safety inspector. Have there been any other inspection reports that the minister will provide to us?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The original recommendations came in 2002; however, as renovations take place, so do the inspections. There are ongoing inspections of the facility as the renovations take place.
Ms. Duncan: Prior to us continuing in the line-by-line on Monday on capital, will the minister send us over the latest inspection report of the facility? Can we get that from officials before Mondayís debate?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The inspections that Iím referring to are the regular building inspections, not a fire marshalís report. The regular building inspections would include such things as wiring and making sure that all the things are done to code.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like that information before Monday. Could we have the last fire marshalís report and can we get it before we continue the debate on this on Monday? Can we get a copy of it? Itís a straightforward yes or no.
It should be a public document. The Member for Klondike shouldnít be able to advise the minister that no, they canít provide it to us. Thereís no reason why we shouldnít be able to get it. Itís a public building. It should be a public document. Can we have it before Mondayís debate?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The department will take this under advisement and do its best to get that information to the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the assistance of the department with respect to providing us with that information.
The minister indicated that the population has been as high as 70 at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and as low as 40, with an average of 59, I believe he said. How many of those are women? Are they housed in a separate facility or are we making use of other facilities for housing our women inmates?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The number of women is between three and seven. They are housed in a separate portion of the facility. There is no contact with the male population, except maybe in an occasional program, such as a first aid program or things of that nature.
Ms. Duncan: I was interested if we were making use of any other facilities, but the minister has indicated that no, weíre not.
Iíd like to speak about the mental health aspect of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There was quite a disturbing case that occurred since our time, during the session of this Yukon Party government, wherein weíve had an individual who was housed in a manner in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that wasnít acceptable to the courts. There are issues around those who are incarcerated under the Criminal Code for mental health reasons. The resolution after the judge spoke out with respect to this ó and there was a human rights ruling ó the manner in which it was resolved was to send those who are charged under the Criminal Code, and who require psychiatric or mental health assistance, out of the territory. There was an arrangement made.
Is this still the case? Are we sending people Outside? Did we get rid of what was called ďthe holeĒ? Is it still being used, and at what cost are we sending people Outside? What inter-provincial agreements are in place, and what is the cost?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, the government is not sending these individuals out. In addition to this, a new medical dorm was added to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre during the 2004-05 fiscal year, at a cost of approximately $30,000. The funds for this project were reallocated within the 2004-05 budget due to efficiencies within our Justice projects. The addition of this medical dorm is part of the Department of Justiceís commitment to deal effectively with any inmates we see who are suffering from various types of mental illnesses.
Mr. Chair, Iím going to read into the record some of the mental health services that are at Whitehorse Correctional Centre to increase the mental health services available to offenders, whether they are at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, serving conditional sentences or on probation.
Many of the inmates at Whitehorse Correctional Centre suffer from a variety of mental illnesses. We are now better at diagnosing these issues; however, counselling services are required on an ongoing basis. To deal with these issues, the department will be hiring one FTE to offer ongoing counselling. As well, there will be an increase to contract services for psychiatric and psychological services and other operating costs associated with offering these services.
Some steps that have already been taken are renovations of a med dorm to provide a humane safe place to keep inmates who are suffering from psychotic episodes, and increased psychiatric and psychological services. These resources will provide consultation on cases and provide direct services at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and to special needs clients in communities. This will be in addition to resources we already have dedicated to mental health service provisions.
We look at a cost for increased services: O&M, ongoing, one FTE at about $85,000; an increase in contracting for psychiatric and psychological services by $74,000; and operating costs, medication, supplies, et cetera, associated with providing these additional services at $15,000. So itís quite obvious that what this government did immediately was to recognize and take the concerns of inmates with mental health issues very seriously.
This government will continue to try to address the recidivism rate. Again, this is all connected. This government sees the need for mental health counselling. I believe that itís going to be a real asset to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility in general.
Ms. Duncan: I want to be clear with the minister that I am talking about two distinct issues. There is one issue where an individual was incarcerated, and there were issues of being held criminally responsible with mental health issues and then there is the issue of addressing the overall mental health of those incarcerated at WCC. There are two different issues. I am thinking back to an issue that came up in this Legislature where an individual was incarcerated. What I heard the minister say was, after that occurred, there was $30,000 found from within the budget to have a special facility built so we wouldnít be using ďthe holeĒ ó for lack of a better term ó any more, and that the department has gone further and allocated a certain amount of money to deal with the overall mental health of those incarcerated. I see officials and the minister nodding. My understanding is correct; so we dealt with that issue.
My question then: this money that we are putting into dealing with the mental health issues for those who are incarcerated ó is that a contract that our resident psychologists and psychiatrists who are in business in the territory can bid on? Is it a publicly tendered sort of contract or are we sole-source contracting any specific individuals to provide counselling services? What is the process for that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That contract was sole-source due to the fact that it is very difficult to find the expertise to fulfill the needs of this specific area.
Ms. Duncan: Was that sole sourced to a psychologist or psychiatrist, or was it sole sourced to a counsellor? What were the qualifications of the individual whom it was sole sourced to?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This was sole sourced to a psychiatrist who has a long-standing record, and he provides psychiatric services at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. He comes in three or four times a week, and he also advises and consults with the physicians who provide medical services at Whitehorse Correctional Centre and with the corrections nurse on many other inmate files.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the additional information in that regard. Before we wrap up here for today and this week, I would like to ask the minister about the training programs. I have some specific questions about the training programs. The minister has spoken about them at length, but my specific questions are these: what is being offered ó what courses specifically?
I noted with interest the ministerís reference to first aid. If I might make a small aside, the minister no doubt will be attending, in his other capacity, the Yukon Teachers Association convention this weekend. The issue of first aid is likely to arise there as well ó first aid training for teachers. Itís not mandatory for our teachers, yet itís mandatory for school bus drivers and daycare providers. The minister said that was one of the courses being offered at Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Iíd like to know what else is being offered ó a detailed list.
In response to the Member for Mount Lorne, the minister said that the programs are very effective.
He also said that there is no measure of recidivism being undertaken, that he canít provide any figures on that. Then how is the minister determining that the programs are effective? Did everyone pass? What are the accountability measures and how do we know if thatís the right selection of programming? These are very key questions.
Fundamentally, where are the programs being offered? The training room is a very real problem with the lack of a new facility. The ability to offer the courses is an issue. In that regard, there are very specific court-ordered courses that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has a problem getting inmates to. Thatís an issue. If one is ordered to take an anger management course and one is serving time, and the anger management course is offered outside the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, how do you then get an inmate back and forth to the course? If you can, does that pose additional difficulties?
There are situations that have arisen in that regard. I would like the minister to outline how that particular issue is handled and how weíre looking at being able to provide the courses at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre instead. The minister said that weíre offering them.
I would also like some detailed information on staffing when we return on Monday. There has been quite an issue with staffing at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre ó seven superintendents in seven years. I think that speaks volumes about that particular facility.
I would like to know how many auxiliaries there are and what the current use of auxiliaries is and what positions we have unstaffed. So perhaps the minister could start on those questions. I know he has some information at his fingertips on the training programs, and we could continue with the staffing.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think Iíll start out by commenting again that, as I stated at the beginning of this debate, there are so many programs happening at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, I hope people donít go in there just to get involved in those programs.
This year, there are seven programs that will be delivered by the Yukon College at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre campus. As many of these as possible will be done on-site. However, for some programs that may take place down at probation services, for example, the inmates will be transported to the probation facility downtown.
So this year, we have introduction to log building, initial attack fire suppression training and introduction to small engine repair. And again, this appears to be a very popular program for the inmates. Itís in high demand and requested constantly. Introduction to welding is another one that appears to be very popular with the inmates. Occupational first aid level 3 ó again, these individuals, to the best of my knowledge, all passed in the last first aid course that was given.
PITS training ó this is another one that may be very popular, and thatís the introduction to wrangling and packing. Now, when we look at all of these courses offered by Yukon College and in conjunction with Yukon College, there is a passing standard. It would be quite hard to evaluate or determine how effective these courses are because I believe this government took an initiative to implement a lot of these courses. My take on it is that ó the amount of interest that was there. I think itís quite safe to say that anyone who has an occupational first aid level 3 ticket obviously has really worked hard at what was being provided to be able to pass that course. For many of the jobs that happen today, a first aid ticket is a very valuable asset to have.
I think that by providing these many options the inmates do have something to be able to attribute their time to in a positive fashion. Again, I stated earlier that these programs being offered were the ones that were requested by the inmate population. I believe that has a real bearing on why the programs are basically filled to capacity.
Seeing the time, Mr. Chair, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Edzerza that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Cathers: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 15, First Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 28, 2005 :
Dawson City, Town of the City of Dawson, Yukon: Supplementary Report Addressing Responses to the Report of Forensic Audit and Financial Review, prepared by Doddington Advisors Inc. (dated April 26, 2005)†† (Taylor)
The following document was filed April 28, 2005:
Seniors funding, letter (dated April 28, 2005) from Joann Graham and Marion Wakefield to Hon. Peter Jenkins, Minister of Health and Social Services, Government of Yukon† (McRobb)