††††††† Whitehorse, Yukon
††††††† Wednesday, November 9, 2005 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Veterans Week
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in recognition of Veterans Week, November 5 to 11, and to pay tribute to our Yukon veterans. First, I would like to welcome all the veterans, service people and members of the Royal Canadian Legion who have joined us this afternoon in the gallery. Would you please rise and pay recognition to these special individuals.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Earlier this afternoon, I had the pleasure of presenting our veterans with a book of appreciation, signed by hundreds of Yukoners and recognizing the many who willingly endured hardship and fear so that we can live in peace. Also at the suggestion of veteran Wayne Wannamaker, our government will be presenting Yukon veterans with the official first day 25-cent coin commemorating veterans and peacekeepers, which was produced by the Royal Canadian Mint.
Veterans Week is an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on and be thankful for the quality of life we enjoy today, the life that all of those who fought in the wars helped to make possible.
Many of us never get the chance to talk to the people who were there, people whose memories are with them every day, not just on November 11 when we all reminisce, remember and reflect on the horrors and triumphs of the wars that affected their lives.
I urge you all to take some time to think about those people and consider that these were real men and women, with families and friends and jobs and homes, people who went to war not knowing if they would come home again. Some did and some did not. This week, let us remember them all, and give them thanks and recognition that they all so rightly deserve.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: The NDP also wishes to pay tribute to the veterans in the Yukon and around Canada.
I grew up in a family that had veterans. My father, my mother, my uncles, my aunts. their friends had all gone to war or contributed to the war, World War II specifically, and gave up so much of their youth, so much of their future and so many of their dreams for the country we live in today.
When I see a veteran, I see my father, I see my uncles. When I see a veteran, I see my mother and I see my aunts, who were also part of the effort, and thatís what makes it personal. Thatís what keeps the memory fresh and keeps reminding me of the sacrifices that were made by our veterans, by our families and by people we donít even know. We have to honour them; we have to honour them by remembering. We also have to honour them by our actions, by how we conduct our business as leaders, as elected members, as citizens, as fathers and mothers of children. We have to remember. So much has been given to us, and we have to pass that on.
Part of that is the memories, but itís also how we conduct ourselves today. How we conduct ourselves is our tribute to the veterans who went before and created the Canada and ensured the Canada we live in today is one we can be proud of.
So, on behalf of the NDP and myself, I thank the veterans, once again, for what they have given ó they have given so much.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to pay tribute to Yukon veterans and to all veterans during Veterans Week ó all those who have served our country in the cause of peace. Thanks to those who served in our Armed Forces, civilian support services and those who served by keeping life going at home.
We remember all those who have lived through and died in wars, in peacekeeping, in service to their country. We reflect on what they gave up in order to serve. We think of how their lives were changed and how their familiesí lives were shaped by their service.
We give thanks for peace and for freedom, and we remember the price that was paid by others for us.
Mr. Speaker, as the leader of the official opposition, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, has pointed out, this is very personal for many of us, and many of those who have joined us in the gallery today. We have fathers and mothers who served our country. I also had the distinct privilege of laying a wreath on behalf of the Yukon at one of our Canadian cemeteries in Germany as part of Team Canada. It struck me how young these air force men and women, whose graves we were visiting, were, and the ultimate price they had paid.
It is important that we give thanks this week to our veterans and that we remember, but it is also important that we never, ever forget, and that we each ensure, as leaders ó as my colleague has noted ó that our children remember. We must provide not only our thanks but our respect and appreciation to veterans ó not only this week, but all our lives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to ask my colleagues to join me in recognizing November as Diabetes Awareness Month here in the Yukon and throughout Canada. Diabetes is a growing epidemic in Canada, and the north is no different. About two million Canadian adults have this disease with 60,000 new people afflicted each year. In the Yukon, we know that our numbers are increasing. We also know that diabetes is four times higher among First Nations than among Canadians as a whole.
We are fortunate that we are a small jurisdiction, and through the auspices of the primary health care transition fund, we have been able to establish a new concept for dealing with diabetes: diabetes collaborative. The goal of this collaborative is to help physiciansí offices and health centres make practical and sustainable improvements to the care they provide to patients with diabetes. This collaborative includes family physicians, their medical office assistants in Whitehorse, nurse practitioners and clerks from the three health centres in smaller communities, home care nurses, dieticians and nurses from the diabetes education centre at the Whitehorse General Hospital, nurses from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation Health Centre, and two pharmacists from the private sector. This is a true partnership that will only benefit patients as we and the health care community become more proactive. Doctors, nurses and other health care providers are being supported to work together to improve the quality of care for people with diabetes.
Our government is also supporting the Recreation and Parks Association of the Yukon to promote active living, which will contribute to the prevention of diabetes or improving outcomes for the people who have it. Ultimately, we are all trying to approve health outcomes. A healthy diet and regular exercise is the best recipe for prevention. This is a goal we can all support.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
†Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the House once again to turn our attention to the gallery and make welcome our Senator, Mrs. Ione Christensen.
Speaker: Are there any further introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
†Hon. Ms. Taylor: †Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the 2003-04 annual report of the Yukon Geographical Place Names Board.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the 2004 Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board annual report.
Speaker: Any there any further documents for tabling?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon 911 Committee to examine the 911 public emergency reporting service, including expanding the coverage of the system to include the communities of Carcross, Tagish and other Yukon communities not currently served.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is of the opinion of this House that
(1) any changes at this time to the oil and gas disposition process would not be in the best interests of the majority of Yukoners;
(2) oil and gas development will also have lasting impacts on the Yukonís wildlife, lands and waters;
(3) opening all lands in the territory to oil and gas exploration and development with the only exception being areas specifically excluded by legislation would only escalate the conflicts among various land users; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government not to change the oil and gas disposition process until Yukoners have been fully consulted and a comprehensive land use plan is in place.
Mrs. Peter: † I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Peel Land Use Planning Commission is currently consulting with Yukoners about the types of development they want to see occur in the watershed of the Peel River;
(2) the unique ecosystem of this region is still largely intact and pristine, making it an ideal candidate for receiving environmental protection so future generations can enjoy its many beauties and wonders;
(3) a myriad of proposed industrial-scale developments threaten to destroy forever the lands, waters and wildlife of this area; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to cease issuing petroleum leases in the Peel River watershed until the regional land use planning commission has completed its work and submitted its recommendations to Cabinet.
Mr. Cathers: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the City of Whitehorse and the Department of Community Services to establish an arrangement to offer the domestic water well-drilling program within municipal boundaries, thus assisting residents of Whitehorse living in areas such as Hidden Valley, MacPherson and Forestview by allowing them to spread the cost of drilling a well over a period of up to 15 years.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government not to make any amendments to the Criminal Code or firearms legislation to increase sentences or other penalties associated with possession of an unregistered long gun.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to eliminate the firearms registry for long guns and redirect the money currently spent on this registry toward measures that effectively address the issue of violent, criminal misuse of firearms while respecting the rights of responsible firearms owners.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re:† Peel River watershed
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the Premier. The Peel River watershed is as large as Scotland. It is one of the largest intact mountain river ecosystems north of 60. It is a place of great beauty, abundant wildlife and many rare species of plants, but it is being threatened by major development, thanks to a government hell-bent on industrializing the region before any lands or waters are set aside for conservation.
The Peel Land Use Planning Commission has just started its work of determining what Yukoners want to see in this awesome area, the ancestral homelands of the Na Cho Nyšk Dun and Tetlit Gwichíin First Nations.
Will the Premier respect the process and let the commission complete its work before allowing his Energy, Mines and Resources minister to give away any more oil and gas leases in the Peel River watershed?
Speaker: Before the minister answers, for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, I donít believe the phrase ďhell-bentĒ is an appropriate phrase and I would ask the member to just keep that in mind in future.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, in our disposition process, the last disposition in that area was looked at through YOGA ó Yukon Oil and Gas Act ó the process was followed, and of course we took out parts of the Turner wetland and the Peel River.
The Peel River land planning group is working as we speak, and we are certainly going to listen to those recommendations, but for the member opposite to say weíre going to do anything but what weíre allowed to do in YOGA, again sheís wrong. As far as north Yukon is concerned, we are concerned about the Peel and Snake rivers and the Turner wetlands, and we addressed that in the last disposition.
Mrs. Peter: The government is putting the cart before the horse and making a mockery of the land use planning process by disrespecting the important work the commission is trying to do. This government is selling oil and gas leases to Hunt Oil to do damaging seismic and other exploration work in the Turner wetlands, which is used by hundreds of thousands of migrating song birds and waterfowl each year. I know this government will likely ignore the recommendations of the Peel Land Use Planning Commission just like it ignored most of the recommendations made by the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board. But the Premier or whoever answers could at least pretend they are listening to the people even though we know the petroleum and mining industries have their ear.
Will he promise this House and all Yukoners who care about our environmental heritage that his government will just say no to any more development in the Peel River watershed until a comprehensive land use plan is in place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I find it interesting that the member opposite, a member of the New Democratic Party, would bring up one of the components in north Yukon. The disposition was put out to Hunt Oil while the NDP was in power. They, themselves, put that disposition out. They, themselves, set up YOGA. For them to argue on the opposite side of the coin today, I find amazing.
Mrs. Peter: Yesterday, the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society told the Peel Land Use Planning Commission that a territorial park should be created in the Snake River drainage. The society also wants special conservation zones set aside in the rest of the region to ensure wilderness and wildlife are protected. These are excellent suggestions and a good starting point for further talks, Mr. Speaker ó not going back in history.
When will this government stand up and tell industry that there are some definite no-go zones that are off limits to development, because they are simply too beautiful and too important to be sacrificed to industry?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Let me share with the House a number of the great initiatives that our government is working on in this area. These are environmentally protected initiatives, some of which have been established already under our governmentís watch and many that we are working on. Thereís the Nordenskiold HPA, the Lhutsaw wetland HPA, the Ddhaw Ghro SMA, Lewes Marsh HPA, Pickhandle HPA, Kusawa Natural Environment Park, the Old Crow Flats SMA, Fishing Branch Wilderness Preserve, Fishing Branch Territorial Park, Tombstone Territorial Park, Asi Keyi Natural Environment Park, TaíTla Mun SMA, Horseshoe Slough HPA, Agay Mene Natural Environment Park and Tagish Rivers Narrow HPA.
Under our watch there will probably be more Yukon parks and HPAs created than under any other previous government.
Question re: †Land use planning
Mr. McRobb: Okay, Mr. Speaker, letís get real. In its quest for development at any cost, this Yukon Party government wants to move to the Alberta model for awarding oil and gas leases. Yukoners under that scheme would have much less control over the process, which would become more industry driven. This modified oil and gas disposition process would cause more harm to our environment and escalate conflicts with various land users, such as private land owners, municipalities, First Nations, farmers and even tourists. In effect, this government wants to open up the entire Yukon to oil and gas exploration and development with the exception of areas not specifically excluded by legislation. That would expose very sensitive areas to development that Yukoners want off limits. Why does the government now want to open up this Pandoraís box of problems and conflicts?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to correct the member opposite. YOGA, which was legislated under the NDP government, was modelled after Alberta. So as far as changing YOGA, thereís a process, and we work with YOGA, and we work with the components in the Yukon to address those issues. We certainly have responsibility for oil and gas in our jurisdiction. We got that in 1998. YOGA was set up under the NDP government, modelled after the Alberta process, and weíre proceeding with that program. I canít understand the argument from the NDP about something they themselves brought forward.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, itís this government thatís changing the established process. I wish the minister would get on the right page. Now, once again, this government has decided it no longer needs the consent of ordinary Yukoners, as demonstrated by unilateral actions such as spending millions of taxpayersí dollars on Murkowskiís railroad study. The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources stated in a letter to stakeholders that this process essentially will open the same land base to the oil and gas industry thatís available to the mineral sectors. I guess this means we can soon expect to see oil and gas rigs in backyards in Copperbelt or along the marge of Lake Laberge. Who, besides industry, was consulted before this minister gave his thumbs-up to this scheme?
Speaker: Before the honourable member answers the question, Iíd like to remind all members that the Chair would like to be able to hear the question, hear the answer, so those who are not speaking, please respect those who are speaking.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite on YOGA, we addressed the pertinent information ó that YOGA was started under the last NDP government and brought forward. Weíre working under those guidelines. Certainly YOGA is a public process but, of course, weíre looking at the opposition that, for industry, the magic words are ďJust say no.Ē So weíre not just saying no; weíre moving forward with the oil and gas industry in the Yukon.
Thatís what we were hired to do, that was our responsibility and we will work with YOGA to make sure that itís done in a responsible way.
Mr. McRobb: I wish I could get an answer to the question. The minister is still not on the right page. He has never said anything about the need to revamp the oil and gas disposition process that has been in place for a number of years now. All of a sudden, Yukoners are ambushed with this secret plan to change the awarding of oil and gas leases.
Before giving the petroleum industry access to the entire Yukon, the government should first complete comprehensive land use planning to avoid regrettable mistakes. Industry needs certainty, but so do Yukoners.
Proceeding down this path without proper planning in place is dangerous and foolhardy. So why is this minister choosing to act upon only some of the concerns theyíve heard and to take such a risky path?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is wrong. We are not taking any path. YOGA sets out a process that we follow, as government. We are certainly concerned about the social impact of any economic development in our territory, but it doesnít mean we donít do the job we were hired to do. We do more than just say no. We work within the laws of the land, which YOGA is, and we move ahead with oil and gas. Itís not ďJust say noĒ like members opposite say. Weíre moving ahead with industry and our constituents to make sure the impacts are mitigated. Thatís our job, thatís what we were hired to do, and thatís what weíll do.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility contract
†Ms. Duncan: † Yesterday in the House, the Minister of Highways and Public Works confirmed that the Yukon Party government has changed the contracting rules for highway equipment rentals. Changes, however, are only in effect in the Premierís riding. The result is that millions of dollars in benefits only apply to Watson Lake. Itís all part of the Yukon Party way of doing business. Together, some of us will do better.
Today I want to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services about another special change in rules that only benefits Watson Lake. A new health care centre is being built. So far, most of the contracts have gone to one individual. Now, the issue is not the person they went to, nor is it the company. Itís the fact that the contracts have been handed out with absolutely no competition. Does the minister think handing out $350,000 in contracts with no competition is an ethical way to do business?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All the rules and contracting regulations have been fulfilled and abided by. A lot of the contracts for the Watson Lake multi-level care facility have gone to Whitehorse firms ó Whitehorse-based firms and Yukon-based firms. That is the bottom line. If the member opposite is chastising the process, the process hasnít changed from when the leader of the third party was in government. It is there. We are abiding by all the rules and doing the good work of government. We are building a multi-level care facility in Watson Lake to serve the needs of that community.
Ms. Duncan: Yukoners are looking for ethical leadership from the government. They are not getting it. Yesterday it was highways. Today itís health care contracts ó special rules that only benefit one riding. The president of the Contractors Association said there is also the danger of creating the expectation that contractors need to be government friendly if they want work. That is the president of the Contractors Association. Once again, under the Yukon Party, some of us will do better.
A look in the phonebook shows the Government of Yukon has 11 project managers working in the department. There is no need to hire one for this project. However, that is the way the Yukon Party does business ó special rules for one riding. Will the minister comply with the request from the Contractors Association and ensure the remainder of this facility ó some $4 million ó will be publicly tendered according to the contracting rules?
Speaker: Before the honourable member answers the question, leader of the third party, the Chair is not comfortable with the direction that youíre taking in that. From the Chairís perspective, youíre casting aspersions on members of this Assembly, and I donít believe that is in order. Iím not going to interrupt you during your questions, because I understand theyíre important and you only have three; however, Iíd just like you to consider that in your subsequent questions.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The premise for the member oppositeís question is totally inaccurate and doesnít reflect what is transpiring. The Yukon has a number of project managers within the department ó yes. All of them are busy, very busy. We have a great number of contracts underway under our watch, which has never occurred before in the history of the Yukon to the extent that is happening now.
This is the largest capital budget ever in the history of the Yukon government. This is the largest O&M budget ever in the history of the Yukon government. This project in Watson Lake is proceeding in that manner inside the confines of all our policies, rules and regulations with respect to contract tendering, and the member knows full well that that is the case.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I respect your ruling in response to my previous question. I know of no other way to say this. The minister might be proud of his decision and in the way he has applied the rules; however, the contractors are saying they donít agree. In fact ó and I quote: ďThe governmentís decision to go the sole-source route for the Watson Lake project is a breach of standard protocol used by governments across North America to ensure taxpayers get the best value for their money.Ē
Thatís according to the contractor who built the Canada Games Centre. The president of the Yukon Contractors Association had this to say: ďThe decision to sole source this level of work is a significant departure from the normal bid process to ensure the public gets best value for its dollar.Ē
Mr. Speaker, I respect your ruling and your previous rulings that say we canít use quotes of others. I know of no other way to say that the minister has bent the rules. How else can I say it?
Does the minister intend to continue to hand out contracts for this facility? Itís not the normal way of doing business. Will the minister commit that the balance of the funding will be publicly tendered?
Speaker: Just to refresh the leader of the third party to a Speakerís statement last week, the proceedings of the House are based on a long-standing tradition of respect and integrity for all members. The Chair appreciates the members having different views on issues of public policy, and we have to accept, as members, there may be two contradictory accounts of the same incident. That was the ruling, and I believe itís germane to this issue here today.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I am extremely uncomfortable with what the leader of the third party is suggesting in her questions. There are a whole lot of inaccuracies and suggestions that are not reality. One only has to look at what transpired under the Liberal Party leadership. We only have to look at the sole-source contracts and the hundreds of thousands of dollars issued by this government ó
Speaker: This isnít going to work. Two contradictory accounts of the same incident ó keep that in mind.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Personally, I havenít handed out one contract, Mr. Speaker. It has been done by the department, as it is required under the various pieces of legislation and the contract regulations. That is the reality of the day.
Mr. Speaker, we have been up front with what weíre doing. We have done an exemplary job of awarding the contracts and value for dollars ó itís probably one of the best values for dollars weíll receive in rural Yukon for any of the contracts that we have out there.
Question re: Land use planning
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. The Yukon has seen over 30 years of land claims negotiations, and a big part of those settlements is the Yukon Land Use Planning Council and the regional planning commissions. The council has been set up under the Umbrella Final Agreement to coordinate efforts by government and First Nations to conduct community-based land use planning. Planning is absolutely necessary to resolve land use and resource conflicts, and I know the members would agree that certainty comes from solid planning.
Can the minister assure Yukoners that the role of the Yukon Land Use Planning Council and the regional planning commissions is one that this government respects?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answer, yes.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, what we are seeing from this government is development of projects before land use planning takes place. That contradicts a bit of what the member opposite just said. The majority of Yukoners live in the Yukon because they value the land and this unique way of life here. This government puts industrial development ahead of proper land use planning. Decisions are made not in response to the majority of Yukoners, but to please big oil and gas industry and mining developers. Land use planning must take priority. Will the minister assure Yukoners that their wishes ó not industryís wishes ó will have priority when it comes to the use of their land?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Of course the member opposite is wrong. We certainly used the land use planning set out in the Umbrella Final Agreement. We are working on three or four of them as we speak, but again I remind the member opposite that economic development is part of land use planning. What are we going to allow on the land? Economic development is part of it. Of course, we are talking to the members opposite who say, ďJust say no.Ē
Question re: Roads to resources
Mr. Fairclough: † I have another question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Over a year ago, the minister responded to some questions about a document outlining a spiderweb of roads that might or might not be developed throughout the Yukon. We couldnít make sense of the ministerís answers then, and we certainly canít now, Mr. Speaker. Weíve heard next to nothing about whatís happening with the ministerís grand vision of roads to resources, so will the minister tell us how many roads on that spiderweb of roads are currently somewhere in the planning process within his department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the member opposite doesnít listen. Thatís the issue. Land use planning and access are all part and parcel of land use planning. Certainly we were conscious of the Campbell Highway, the Alaska Highway, the North Canol, the South Canol, the Dempster Highway, the north Klondike Highway. Those are all access for our Yukon jurisdiction. And by the way, Mr. Speaker, most Yukoners use those as a corridor of communication and access to get to and through the Yukon. But again the members donít listen. The facts speak for themselves. Access roads are all part of land use planning. Economic development is part of land use planning. Again ó just say no.
Speaker: Before you ask the next question, Member of Mayo-Tatchun, I would like to emphasize that there are two contradictory accounts of the same incident, so we have to assume that each side is being fair in their presentation. I would just like the members to keep that in mind when asking and answering questions.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like the minister to answer the question and not try to hide anything. Now, this government likes to brag about how it single-handedly revitalized the mining sector. It likes to brag about what itís doing to attract the oil and gas industry. It likes to brag about railways and pipelines and coal shipments to China.
Now, weíve seen seismic activity in my riding, Mr. Speaker, but we havenít seen the results or heard of the results. The government is using its so-called project champions, who are basically people paid by the taxpayer to lobby government on behalf of the private developer. Access roads are often a key part of lobbying. So will the minister give his commitment that no roads to resource developments will be punched into wilderness areas until Yukon people have been properly consulted and effective land use planning has been completed?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, I correct the member opposite. In Energy, Mines and Resources, we certainly are conscious of the economic backbone of our jurisdiction. In turn, we also understand our responsibility to mitigate any impact that it will have on Yukoners. We are balancing both of those, Mr. Speaker. Roads to resources, or whatever the member on the opposite side wants to call them, is just another tool that that member opposite uses to say no to any economic development in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Land development
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. Under this government weíve seen badly flawed consultations on subdivision developments that have ignored serious environmental and public safety concerns. Weíve seen a bunch of spot land applications go forward in the absence of land regulations, planning or clear policy on land dispositions. What is the Minister of Community Services doing to ensure that the concerns of Yukoners are properly addressed before this government undertakes any further land development projects?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite well knows that we are consulting with many of our communities on what they wish to have planned in their specific community. In fact, we were there in his particular community requesting information on what they would like to see for development in that particular community. We plan to do that with all of our particular developments as they go throughout the Yukon.
Mr. Cardiff: We have also seen many mineral claims staked in residential areas and even in areas where the government is pushing residential developments. That has caused a great concern to residents regarding their property rights ó which Iím sure the Member for Lake Laberge is concerned about as well. They are concerned about their desire to live in a wilderness setting as opposed to an industrial development.
The existing legislation that the Yukon adopted from the federal government badly needs updating to reflect the wishes of all Yukon citizens. What is the Minister of Community Services doing to ensure that his colleagues understand the need to get on with creating a made-in-Yukon legislation that will guarantee Yukon people a voice in how future development occurs?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, from Energy, Mines and Resources, the question about access to land and the devolution agreement and the mirror legislation that we did with the Quartz Mining Act is just that ó we didnít have an option. We had to mirror exactly what the federal government had in place. We certainly are committed to addressing that issue down the road, and we have a window of opportunity ó I think the figure is five years. But with devolution, we are working on many issues. One of those issues will be the Quartz Mining Act and how we address the issue in our own constituency.
Question re: Environmental consultation
Mr. Hardy: Well, we certainly are witnessing contrasting visions of the Yukon here this afternoon. On that side of the House we see a government going full steam ahead on a Murkowski vision of the Yukon ó development at any cost, as long as the money boys in Houston, Calgary or Juneau are happy. And, of course, the Yukon Party just says no to the environment. On this side of the House, at least someone is trying to stand up for the Yukon vision of the Yukonís future, so I want to put a very simple philosophical question to the Premier: why is his government denying the right of Yukon people to decide how they want a territory to develop?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the only answer is weíre not denying the right. In fact, this government is providing a lot more meaningful involvement of the Yukon public in partnerships with First Nations, in reaching out to the private sector and involving them further, in reaching out to our public servants and involving them further, in reaching out to stakeholders. When we came into office, we called that Team Yukon. Team Yukon has been very busy, and all we have to do is look at the stats. Our population is increasing. Our economy is getting better. Our unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country. We just met with one of the financial institutions who have stated they, in the last year, are lending more and more money. There is more equity out there from the private sector. Itís all because Team Yukon has been meaningfully involved in developing the future of the territory.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, yes, the Yukon Party vision of reaching out to the private sector is denying bidding. We just have talked about that. Public servants are investigated and attacked. Weíve witnessed that over the last three years. So thatís how theyíre reaching out.
But Yukon people want jobs. They want a strong and balanced economy. We know this. But I have news for the Premier. They want a little bit more than that. Iíve talked about this before. They want things that they value most about this wonderful part of the world to be here for future generations, and they want a government that listens to them and acts for them, not for certain leads who just see the Yukon as a place to exploit for profit.
In his throne speech three years ago, the Premier promised balance between the economy and the environment. He has shattered that promise and broken faith with those who believed in that promise. If the Premier believes in balance, why has he allowed Economic Development and Energy, Mines and Resources to dominate the public agenda while the Department of Environment has been neglected, understaffed and demoralized?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite is correct. We as a government were very focused and committed to bringing in a balanced form of governance to make the lives of Yukoners better. Under the NDP, that wasnít happening. They focused on the protected areas strategy but forgot about economic development.
So here we are, working with industry, working with the private sector, working with other jurisdictions to develop our economy, but at the same time we created Kusawa Park; at the same time, we created Asi Keyi, a natural environment park; at the same time, weíre working on eight habitat protection areas; at the same time, in a land disposition process in north Yukon, we removed the majority of the Turner wetlands; at the same time, we protected Lewes Marsh; at the same time, we continue to take a balanced approach to building this territoryís future. Thatís why itís working; thatís why people are moving in; thatís why we are preserving and conserving the beauty and the wilderness and thatís why our economy is growing; thatís why the Yukon is now firmly entrenched on the national and international radar screen.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier is wrong. Once again, heís taking credit for things that were not done. They didnít create those; those were through land claim agreements and through long negotiations by the people of the Yukon, not the Premier and not the Yukon Party.
The Premier takes pride in killing the protected areas strategy, just as his Yukon Party cronies demanded. He tries to claim credit for increased mineral prices ó we hear it all the time ó and maybe even the economic boom in China that might create a market for Yukon coal. Heís also taking credit for the upswing in the Canadian economy, of course.
But does he take pride in Yukonís unique environment? Not for one minute. Log it, mine it, drain it or pave it, then protect it: the Yukon Party concept of balance.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon people want in. They want Yukon values, the Yukon vision, to drive the agenda, not the Houston vision and not the Murkowski vision.
In the final year of its mandate, will the Premier provide the balance he promised three years ago by restoring the Environment department to its proper role by respecting mandated boards and committees and by ensuring that Yukoners are fully consulted and listened to in land planning and development decisions?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what is happening. But the difference under the Yukon Party governmentís watch and the New Democratsí and the Liberalsí, is that those that are in the economic sector are now involved. Members opposite continue to say no to the private sector, to profits, to the investment community, because they were totally focused on one thing. Thatís not this governmentís approach to governance. We have brought a balanced approach and this government is finally a government that has included the private sector and the investment community in building Yukonís future. Thatís what Yukoners want, thatís why they elected us, and thatís what we are delivering on.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 507
Clerk: Motion No. 507, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice to direct his officials to develop a bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation is ready to be considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Hardy: What is before the House today? The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. It is a motion to look at that, itís a request to direct the Minister of Justice to direct his officials to develop a bill following an act that is in place in two NDP provinces and has been introduced in another province by an NDP opposition member.† This act, this motion Iíve brought forward ó but the act that is being used in these other provinces is exactly what the people in the Yukon have been asking for.
I have been involved for the last two years, trying to assist people throughout the Yukon in dealing with substance abuse problems within their communities and within their neighbourhoods.
Many, many times, one of the biggest problems weíve run into, of course, is when there is a house that is active in illegal activities, such as selling drugs like crack cocaine, such as having extended periods when people are coming to the homes, in the middle of the night, during the day, and having to spill out onto the streets, and with the people in the neighbourhood not being able to do a single thing about it.
We have called the RCMP on many occasions. They have gone down and done what they could within the laws that they work under, and have still not been able to shut these houses down.
At the public meetings I have had ó and there have been over 100 people in attendance at some of them, which is more than were at the substance abuse summit in the evening, interestingly enough ó this was one of the biggest issues that came up: yes, absolutely, we need harm reduction, we need education, we need prevention, we also need enforcement, but what are we going to do right now, today, with the house that is right out there that has that activity happening in it? How am I going to protect my family? How am I going to protect my children? How am I going to protect myself when that kind of activity is happening and no one seems to have a law that can deal with it? That is the number one issue I hear constantly. It shouldnít be the only one that we target, but it is the number one issue.
I attended a funeral yesterday of a neighbour of mine, one house down, a friend of mine for 15 years. She had difficulty in her life. She was a beautiful person, wonderful, generous, kind, and she had faith, but she also had an addiction.
She went down a wrong path at some point in her life, and she struggled for years to try to get off it. And we all knew it, and as neighbours we were there to help her and assist her where we could. We were also her friends. A few months ago, some drug dealers moved into her house, and because of that, the medication that she was taking ó which she needed for her health, for her afflictions ó she stopped getting. I donít know what went on in that house. All I do know is I started receiving calls from my neighbours, who were very concerned about the traffic flow and the sudden increase in the activities happening out of that house. I called the RCMP and asked them to go in and make sure sheís all right ó at least do that ó because I hadnít seen her for a week, and they did that. But they werenít able to deal with the fact that there was illegal activity happening in that house, that drugs were being sold out of that house, because thereís no law.
She passed away. She passed away just over a week ago. From my perspective, she would still be here with us today if we were able to shut that activity down in her house, because I believe that she was overwhelmed by those who moved in with her. I believe that she was not able to fight back because of her addictions, and I believe that she was a victim in this. She didnít sell drugs out of her house when she lived there.
I have found out more about it. What had happened was another drug dealing house had shut down a few blocks away, and they had just moved over to her house. They probably knew her from years before, and they just moved in.
When I think of that and when I think of this motion that has been brought forward today, and the fact that if we had had this legislation developed ó and it could quite easily have been developed since the spring, since the summit ó we could have stopped that, we could have shut that down and she would have been here with us today.
That is just one example. Itís very close to me; itís very close to home. But I could walk three blocks over and see a home that has been in illegal operation for approximately 13 years and has still not been shut down. It has still affected that community, that neighbourhood, that street, those people who are trying to live there.
I can walk another two blocks and point to another home that has been in operation for three years. I can go down to the other end of town and point to another place and then point to another place that are in operation and are not shut down. I can go up into Copperbelt to two locations; I can go over into another section of that area, Copper Ridge. We only need to know about the bust that happened up there a month ago.
I can go up to Carmacks, and I have been in Carmacks. Iíve been told by the people in Carmacks, ďThese are the homes. This is where the activity is happening. What can we do about it?Ē
Iíve gone down to Carcross and talked to the people down there. They can show me where the activity is happening. And it continues to happen because there is nothing in place to deal with it and to stop it. I can go to just about any place in the Yukon and I could be shown a home or two that specifically have drugs, but also bootlegging, also gambling dens, and also, in areas, prostitution.
I can go down to Watson Lake ó and I have gone down to Watson Lake. I was down there a few months ago for a town hall forum in regard to substance abuse, and I was shown the areas that are of concern. We all know it. Itís in all our ridings. I think it was only a couple of weeks ago that the Member for Whitehorse West held a constituency meeting, and I believe the theme of her meeting was around safe communities. Obviously, she is hearing it.
Every single one of us in here have a responsibility to do what we can to address this issue. The motion that has been brought forward is to try to move this along a lot faster than what is happening to date. It is to develop a bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act. There are already two provinces doing it, and they are having tremendous results from it. The legislation has been drafted Outside, it has been developed and tested, and it is successful.
From my perspective, given the direction, if this government is willing to do that, that kind of legislation can be adapted for the Yukon and can immediately start addressing some serious issues, especially in time to save another person, to help another child, to prevent another tragedy from happening. We must move on this and not find excuses not to.
I do know that there are some concerns about consultation, and that may be brought up by the government today. I can assure this government that there has been massive consultation on this. I have just described the communities Iíve been to. Iíve been in Dawson City. I receive phone calls and letters; I get stopped in the street. Iíve been out consulting on this. I would have assumed the Yukon Party government, as well, would have been. All they need to do is hold their public meetings around this subject and bring this one up, and I can assure you over 90 percent of the people in that room would say that this is a good idea. But there is also a time to act. For two years Iíve been working on this.
Let me give you a little history, Mr. Speaker, because I do know some of the members opposite are very, very sensitive around this issue, and they are thinking about the substance abuse action plan that came out of the spring sitting.
Let me give a little history. A couple years ago, I received a phone call from a constituent in the downtown riding who told me what was happening on their street. ďWhat can you do? We phoned the RCMP. Weíve done this, weíve called the government, and nothing is changing. This house has been in operation for 11 years. I am scared. I am scared to go out at night. Iím scared about the traffic. I get awakened in the middle of the night. I see young people going in there. I see the drugs and needles around the street. The neighbourhood is scared. What can be done?Ē
I met with that person. I went and looked at that place, and I walked those streets. It was a constituent. The constituent was speaking for many, many people, not just in that riding, but all around. I hosted a public meeting. The room was filled. There were more people outside who couldnít get in. We brought Libby Davies up, since she was so actively involved in the downtown east side in Vancouver in bringing people together to try to come up with what everybody knows is the four-pillars approach, which the substance abuse summit adopted. I think itís a very good step forward; Iím glad to see they did it. She was very active in it. I brought her up as a guest speaker. That meeting was filled. There was tremendous interest. A lot was said there. Over 100 people were there, from all ridings.
Following that meeting, I had two more. Those meetings were filled. The Minister of Health and Social Services did attend one of those meetings, and many of the department people were also there to listen. We had panels, we had people talking about it, and that kept building and growing, and the voice of the people was very, very clear: ďDo something about this. Please, do something. Donít just give us excuses, give us some action.Ē
At that time, I realized that if somebody did not bring together the leaders at the various levels of government to talk about this and recognize how serious it was, we were not moving forward, because there was absolutely nothing on the agenda within the Yukon Party government at that present time, nor was there anything within the municipal governments ó so they were very conscious of it ó nor was there much within First Nation governments, and there was very little with the federal government. It just wasnít part of the agenda; it wasnít being taken seriously enough.
I spent two months trying to get the leaders from those governments into the same room, and we were successful. We had the leader from the Council of Yukon First Nations, we had a representative from the City of Whitehorse, we had the Premier of the Yukon finally confirmed and he was able to attend; unfortunately, the Member of Parliament was not able to attend, but we ensured that what was discussed was passed on so he could pass it on to the federal government. Out of that meeting came the idea of a summit. Thatís where it came from.
Part of it, though, was that all levels of government would be involved. Thatís what was agreed to in that room. Unfortunately, over the next few months as the summit was developed, that didnít happen. I was invited to one meeting about the list of who was going to be invited. At that meeting, I noticed that the youth were not part of it. I was also concerned that there was no one who had been part of that drug world, or parents. I made mention of that. I was concerned about that. I was also concerned about the publicís involvement ó the very clear ability to be involved, the grassroots to be involved in the summit. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, that was an element that ended up being missed at the summit itself. I feel that because of that, the summit had some restrictions put on to it. It was by invitation only.
Now, saying that, I attended the summit. I know that not everybody in here attended it, but I attended it ó I was in and out and I listened to the guest speakers, who were very good speakers. I thought great discussion happened, and I believe that some really good suggestions came out of that summit. Unfortunately, there were some concerns as well. One is action. People donít want to talk and then have very little come of it ó a paper comes out of it, but no real direction, no real specific action being pointed to.
People contributed a lot. They put a lot into this summit. There were some great suggestions. Iíve read the discussion draft and have found it to be good in some areas. In other areas I found it unbelievably lacking, such as in treatment. I looked at the treatment section and was shocked at how little was placed there. Yet I do know that many people who went there were really concerned about that.
That was a good step. But what is really important is: what is the action? Now, I know the Member for Southern Lakes yesterday made this accusation that I had lifted something from the summit, with this idea. Well, itís not about lifting things; itís not about taking things from something else. If we want to say where it came from, it came from Saskatchewan. An NDP government brought it in. If we want to say where it came from, it came from before that, from Manitoba. An NDP government put it in place there. If you want to see where itís going, itís an NDP critic that has brought it forward in Nova Scotia. So you can do that, but does that serve any purpose? Does that help our people out there trying to deal with this situation, or is that playing politics in a way that doesnít have any rhyme or reason and that people get awful tired of?
We have brought this forward for a very specific reason, and I already have talked about that: the damage that is happening out there to our communities and the inability of the RCMP to address very clearly a house thatís operating, for instance. Civil law is what weíre talking about here, which would go to a community safety order that would allow that to be addressed. But I will get more into that in a bit.
The summit is part of the picture. It didnít identify this, but it doesnít really matter. It didnít point to some ideas that are happening Outside. One of the things Iíve always said is that we should look elsewhere on a regular basis and take the good ideas, take the ideas that are working, bring them back here, see if we can adapt them to the uniqueness of the Yukon and put them in place.
Thatís what weíve done. We looked around. What is happening out there to address a problem that my constituents and those in other ridings have identified very specifically and they have said that we have to deal immediately with this house? How do we do it? I want to see action.
I have heard vigilante talk ó people saying theyíre going to get a gun and shoot at the house, or theyíre going to do this or theyíre going to do that. Thatís not the way to do it. It doesnít solve anything. However, other provinces have looked at this and theyíve moved forward.
Mr. Speaker, communities have asked for this legislation. Theyíve asked for this to be brought forward. In our motion, we are asking the government to develop a bill, and if that involves consultation to develop it, to continue to broaden that consultation from what has already happened, then please, do it. If that means to task the Justice department as a priority to take that legislation and adapt it so it can be brought in as quickly as possible by the spring sitting, as legislation, then please, direct the Justice department to do it. Because I know, if itís put in place, it will have an impact, a very significant impact.
Mr. Speaker, there are aspects of this that are wonderful, but some people could say itís only punitive. Iíve been very clear that what I have liked is the fact that, in Saskatchewan, theyíve created a working unit that doesnít just address the complaint about the place and the investigation, but it also brings in social workers to try to help the people who are caught up in that lifestyle.
I really like that. I think thatís an essential part, because ultimately, we donít want this to just shift into another area of town and then another area of town. We want to start to turn peopleís lives around. It is essential that we do that. Many people get on these paths at a young age. They need help to get off it.
I am going to give you some examples, Mr. Speaker, of how this has worked Outside. These are general ó Iíve adapted them a little bit. Inhalants ó a complaint was registered with the unit about a property where they believe individuals were going to do drugs and, because there were a lot of young people, they felt there would be a lot of sniffing of glues and stuff like that. But it was probably pretty broad. The property, of course, was a concern in the neighbourhood. All kinds of traffic were coming in and out of the residence. Unfortunately, it had been going on for quite awhile and no one was able to deal with it. The people coming in and out of the residence were disrupting the lives of the people who lived nearby, and their behaviour and what was happening was really setting a bad example and was pulling in some of the kids who actually lived in that neighbourhood. The police were there all the time trying to deal with this. This was creating a negative atmosphere in the neighbourhood and deepening concerns of neighbours because of what was happening in their community.
When this legislation was passed and this unit was created in Saskatchewan, the neighbours called and the unit conducted an investigation, which included surveillance, because they needed to make sure that what was happening could be justified and supported, that it wasnít just a frivolous claim.
They gathered information and then they contacted the owner of the property, because it was a rental, and made him aware of the activities that were going on in the residence that he actually owned. The landlord agreed to sign a safe communities and neighbourhoods eviction notice, which is something that would be developed, which was served on the people living in the house where the sniffing had been going on. The owner continued to monitor the residence for a number of days to make sure they did move out. The immediate reaction from the neighbourhood was very positive. It had been a problem for a long time, and that was during the period when there was no legislation. Of course, if there had been no legislation, this problem would have kept on going. It wasnít changing. There was nothing you could do. Interestingly enough, to date, these people did not establish another place anywhere else. They did fall off with these people, and many of them recognized that this is not acceptable because of this kind of action that was finally taken against them.
Iíll give you a couple more examples. A person moved into a neighbourhood, and within three weeks, lots of parties were happening. Lots of fighting ó weíre talking about a bigger city. Gangs started showing up, heavy drinking and serious drug use. Now, Iíll tell you right now, I can think of a couple places around Whitehorse areas where that happens. The people in the neighbourhood were threatened by the partygoers, who often started partying outside in the yards and got quite violent. Yards were littered with garbage, and many of the homeowners were so intimidated that they were afraid to leave their homes at night. The owner received complaints from some of the residents, and they were feeling helpless, frustrated and scared, especially because they felt the police were not able to control the large number of people who were gathering at these parties.
Now, interestingly enough, in this case they felt that this was a little bit out of the jurisdiction of the unit, but they still decided to go ahead with it and the investigators approached the landlord and tried to seek a solution. They made the landlord aware of his rights to evict immediately under the Residential Tenancy Act and he did so. They also monitored the house after the eviction to ensure that there was official presence and to ensure the eviction was taken seriously ó because you may get an eviction but you donít necessarily leave. I can talk to landlords who have been in that situation ó where they have tried to remove somebody but they couldnít do it. They also gave the landlord some protection because they felt in this case that the landlord did need protection.
The overall reaction from the neighbourhood was immediate relief. Interestingly enough, by working with the landlord, they were able to resolve it. That neighbourhood was protected in that sense.
Another one ó a different one. There were complaints about a continual problem in the neighbourhood and the concerns were around constant, habitual traffic that had been going on for about a year, focused on one house. The unit set up surveillance and they found out there was a prostitution ring that was being run out of the house. Of course, there were also a lot of drugs involved in that. If you can believe it, traffic in that area averaged around 30 clients in a five-hour span. Again the unit approached the landlord with the evidence and this landlord happily worked with them. He had been trying to deal with this on his own and he just didnít feel he had the support or the backing he needed. He signed that eviction notice, and the tenants were given a few days to vacate it. They requested a few more days and they basically stalled and made excuses. Finally, with the support of the unit, the landlord said no, and they left. But the unit kept close watch on the situation; they followed up.
Interestingly enough, the tenants moved to another place and immediately set up again; they set up another place where drugs were happening. Fortunately, because a unit tracked it to make sure, tried to help the people, they stayed in contact with them and were able to recognize that they werenít changing, that they were just setting the whole thing up again just a little way down the road. In the new neighbourhood, of course the complaints started right away again.
Because the unit had a profile on this group of people, they didnít need to go through a long investigation. They were already prepared to take a preventive approach and were able to interrupt the activity until the people stopped. This has allowed them to keep track of problems and to also keep track of people engaged in this activity.
Hereís one that I think a lot of people would be aware of up here, and itís the unlawful sale of alcohol. Thatís a concern. Basically what happened was there was an illegal drinking establishment operating out of a residential home. The business ran late hours, and there was a fair amount of traffic happening. The people who complained said that this had been in place for a long time. Unfortunately, the neighbourhood had been forced to tolerate the activity when the police could not stop it, which is a situation we face, in many ways.
††††††† A single person lived there. They called him a ďminderĒ. He basically provided protection for the business. The landlords lived in a separate location but were actually involved in the operation.
This house was fortified. It has steel mesh over the windows and doors and the backyard was protected by a very large, high fence. The business moved a large quantity of alcohol in and out of the building, unloading vans of liquor, and they were making runs.
Often, there were parties there, and there was a question of whether there was liquor being sold to party-goers. When the neighbourhood found out about this new legislation, this unit and its functions, they contacted them. The unit set up surveillance, and they gathered enough information to confirm what the neighbourhood was saying. When approached, the landlord agreed to evict the minder, which would ultimately shut down the business. Interestingly enough, they also complied with the order for the removal of the fortifications on the house and since then, the landlord ó I should say ďlandlordsĒ because there was a group of them; it was kind of like a business-run operation ó have repainted and fixed up the house. Now they are going to sell it, because it is obviously not of any use to them any more. Again, the feedback from the neighbourhood was very, very positive and the unit was able to remove a chronic problem from that area permanently.
Mr. Speaker, doesnít this sound like something that your neighbourhood, your constituents, would like to be able to have access to? Wouldnít it be nice for anybody in here to receive calls from their constituents ó I tell you, Mr. Speaker, I receive a lot of calls ó and be able to say to them, ďYes, we can do something. Itís not just calling the RCMP. We have a unit set up here. I am going to put you in contact with them because, you know what? It works. We can do something. We can help you.Ē Wouldnít it be nice to say that?
I know, from what Iíve had to deal with, I would love to say that to my neighbours. I would love to do that.
Let me give an overview of what the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act in Saskatchewan is about and why the legislation was created. In Saskatchewan the legislation was created to improve community safety by targeting and, if necessary, shutting down residential and commercial buildings and lands that are habitually used for a specified use or are fortified to the extent that they pose a threat to public safety. Specified use or specified activities includes possession, grow, use, consumption, sale, transfer or exchange of alcohol, intoxicants or illegal drugs, child sex abuse or activities related to child sexual abuse, prostitution or activities related to prostitution.
I also believe gambling dens should be included as another section. Solvent abuse has been identified ó that would be an illegal substance, although you can buy some of that stuff right off the counters ó and the unlawful sale and consumption of alcohol.
Now, letís look at what this act will do. It will hold property owners accountable for specified activities regularly taking place on their property. It will give courts the authority to vacate a property, terminate a lease agreement, close a property for up to 90 days, or take any other action to prevent specified activities from occurring on that property. It will authorize the Minister of Justice to appoint inspectors to investigate complaints of fortified buildings. It could be bullet-proof material, explosive-resistant materials on doors or windows, protective metal plating, armoured or reinforced doors, metal bars on windows and doors, barbed wire fence, et cetera. You know what weíre talking about there, Mr. Speaker. If you go into the bigger cities, weíre talking about gang places.
That has popped up a lot. It would authorize a director of community operations to make an order that requires owners to remove the fortifications, in that sense. How does the process work? Concerned citizens make a confidential complaint to the director of community operations. The concerned citizen believes their community or neighbourhood is being negatively affected by activities on or near property in the community and that those activities indicate the property in question is being utilized for a specified use.
The director conducts an investigation to determine the validity of the complaint. If the complaint is determined to be frivolous or vexatious, the director may not act on the complaint. All attempts will be made to resolve the matter informally. At this time, the director may also send a warning letter to the owner of the property, its occupant or any other person the director deems appropriate. So I would say thereís a gentler step at first to try to resolve this.
If the complaint has validity and specified activities are an immediate threat to the health, safety and security of occupants or people in the neighbourhood or community, the director has the ability to resolve the matter informally or seek a community safety order from the bench.
What can a community safety order do? It requires the respondent to do everything reasonably possible to prevent specified activities from continuing or reoccurring on a property, including anything ordered by the court. It requires all persons to vacate the property on or before a specified date set by the court and prevents them from re-entering or re-occupying a property. It terminates the tenancy agreement or lease of tenants, and it can also require the director to close the property from use for up to 90 days maximum.
Now, the respondent has the ability to have that set aside if the activity has ceased and wonít likely resume, or if itís necessary to allow the property to be used again, once that problem has been dealt with. Again, thereís another level to allow some flexibility there.
What happens to occupants of problem properties? All occupants of a property that is closed by a community safety order will leave it immediately, even if they have not been previously served with an order that requires the director to close the property.
If an occupant does not comply with a request to leave, the director can obtain the assistance of a peace officer to remove them from the property. After leaving the property and while the property is closed, no occupant can enter or occupy the property without the directorís consent.
The respondent pays to the Minister of Finance the cost of closing, securing and keeping the property closed. The director is not responsible for the removal or the cost of removal of anything attached or erected at the property or the reversal or cost of reversal of anything done to or at the property to close it or keep it closed.
A respondent may appeal the costs set out in the certificate to the court, of course, but theyíre going to pay for it if thereís no action taken.
Very important for my neighbours and for many people Iíve talked to, because they live in fear, is that no person, including the director, can, without written consent of the complainant, disclose the identity of the complainant or any information by which the complainant may be identified to another person, court, government institution, local authority or law enforcement agency, disclose or produce the complaint or any other document or thing by which the complainant may be identified to another person, court, government institution, local authority or law enforcement agency.
Now, there are offences following that. What are they? No person shall remove, deface or interfere with a community safety order without the directorís consent, fail to vacate a property closed under a community safety order without the directorís consent, enter or re-enter a property that is closed under a community safety order without the directorís consent, or fail to comply with a community safety order.
There are penalties ó I think in Saskatchewan they start at $10,000 and then they go up for a second offence. Thatís for an individual. If itís a corporation that has been involved in this kind of activity, it starts at $25,000 and it goes up to $100,000, which is significant, I believe.
The interesting thing about it, and what you always have to ask whenever you propose stuff like this is: how is it working? Is it successful? Are we creating another program, another department, another action for which we canít measure the success, or itís not results-driven and you canít measure it? Well, it is working. It is working where itís being done. Like I said, I think it was introduced in Manitoba in 2002 and it was introduced in Saskatchewan in 2004. I think it might be 10 or even 12 months old now. It was introduced in 2005, so itís not even 10 months old. Over 40 properties have been shut down and they seem to be averaging an investigation a day ó a phenomenal success.
The unit that they have seems to be made up of city personnel, the police ó in our case, city personnel would probably be bylaw enforcement officers ó and fire officials are involved, social services personnel is involved. They meet every of couple weeks. They pool information about the properties that have been identified, and they develop a unified approach to dealing with it. They work with all agencies and respected community members and elders to investigate. They say neighbourhoods are being transformed because social services and other agencies go in after shutting down the house and offer help to change. I think thatís very significant. I think itís a very important part of the piece.
The feedback they have received: no cases have had to go to court. It has had very positive feedback.
When it was introduced, the opposition raised a few civil liberty concerns, but the government had assurances that the bill was legal and constitutional. Again, from that, nothing has been brought forward to court, so obviously itís standing up.
Those are pretty glowing terms, from what I can see. Manitoba has had the same reaction and same response to it.
Now, in doing this ó and I talked a little bit about the history of the summit. I talked a little bit about my history over the last couple of years in dealing with these issues and the fact that I realized the problem was far greater than just the downtown core. Downtown seems to be the most active in this area, with the illegal houses and that.
I did a bunch of travelling and, outside of Whitehorse, I have met many people, including some to the residents associations around Whitehorse, about this ó not specifically on this but about the whole problem of safe communities, for instance.
When I first started this, it started out on drug abuse ó crack houses, basically ó and drug activity. After a year I realized that it goes far beyond that. People werenít specifically talking about drugs when they were talking about this; they werenít talking specifically about enforcement when they were talking about this. They were very compassionate about our society and the situation we have. They made the link between crime and addictions without anybody having to do it for them.
The frustration level was huge; I have never dealt with an issue like this in my life and never have felt such a degree of frustration. I held two meetings at a church right in the downtown core. Across the street from the church and two houses up ó I could step out the front door of the church and look ó was a house that has been in operation for, I think now adding two years, would be approximately 13 years. For 13 years drugs have been sold out of that house and the cops have raided it and people have been sent to jail. It has never been shut down; theyíve never been able to remove it. The neighbours have had to live with it for all this time.† So, at that point you start to wonder: somewhere there has to be some way to deal with that immediate problem.
Now, it wasnít brought up at the summit, unless it was during one of those moments when I wasnít there, but I do know that the Justice department had looked around and was obviously aware of what was in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. What I donít understand is why something like this hasnít been brought forward, because itís an immediate fix to a very serious problem. Itís only one part of it.
From our perspective, bringing this motion forward is to compel this to happen, to try to work with all people here to address what their constituents want.
Weíve heard a lot in the last few days. Thereís a new mantra being said on the other side about ďJust say no ó thatís all the opposition says. Just say no to everything.Ē That worries me, that kind of aggressive attack and categorizing us on this side as saying no to everything. Weíve brought forward a multitude of bills in this Legislative Assembly, more so, I would suspect, than any other opposition has ever brought forward in the past. Every one of them has been rejected by the Yukon Party. Theyíve said no to every one weíve brought forward.
This is just a motion; itís not a bill ó I make that very clear. But this is an opportunity for us to all stand up and talk about the problems in our ridings and support this, because itís not a bill, first off. It shouldnít have to be rejected in that sense. Itís just to develop a bill.
Now, there are many good things that came out of the summit, but there are many areas that the summit didnít go into. This was one of them. Treatment was another area that I was very concerned about. As weíve already said in here, Mr. Speaker, if you remember, weíre concerned there are no timelines of when some of this is going to happen. I think it was three to five years before some of it develops. There was no money put toward this, toward any of the action plan. There was no identification of numbers of employees who would be involved in any of this. There were a lot of public education programs ó that is what was in there, and thatís good ó but little actual counselling and treatment, and thatís another one of the pillars that has to be part of it.
Now, Mr. Speaker, next week, I have a forum that is happening, and it is consultation. It is reaching out across the Yukon. CHON-FM will be broadcasting it. So anybody anywhere in the Yukon will be able to phone into this forum or send e-mails into it or attend up at Mt. McIntyre, where itís going to be held. Thatís a consultation process that weíre doing on this side around safe communities ó very specifically on safe communities. I have invited the Premier to be there, and I look forward to him being there, because I know he takes this seriously. At least, I hope he does. He hasnít been able to attend anything so far in this regard. This would be a golden opportunity for him to be there. Thatís happening on November 15, on Tuesday.
Iíve already received a lot of calls, some e-mails and faxes already about this and what they are facing, from other communities around the Yukon when theyíve heard about this ó not about this specifically, but about the forum. I wanted it to be broad but I want it to be grassroots. That grassroots was the element that was missing in the summit. The people and the neighbourhoods didnít have an opportunity to be as engaged as they could have been since the summit was by invitation only. Iím sure there were reasons for that, but it was an area that I felt was missing. So Iím having this one next week for them.
I do know there was an evening meeting at the summit, and I attended that. As I said, there werenít many people there from the public. Maybe it was the timing of the year, the advertising ó I donít know. It could have been a multitude of factors why there wasnít the big turnout that I had expected. I had more people in my little community meetings than were in there. Most of the people at the meeting were people who were actually involved during the day from NGOs, from the government agencies. That is something that I was concerned about as well.
I am going to sit down. I look forward to hearing from all of my colleagues in here. I am sure they will contribute a lot to this debate. I am hoping that politics wonít be played around it. It is being brought forward with the intent, as is written, to develop a bill and to make it a matter of priority and have it considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
As a note of caution, I think thatís what the people want to see happen too. I hope we act in accordance with their wishes and not in accordance with political posturing.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: †This is a very timely discussion, a discussion that is very important. I, personally, always rise to take part in any discussion or debate as to how we as residents of the Yukon and we as legislators of this Assembly can make our communities safer and healthier for all of us, to the net benefit of all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I think that each of us as members of the Legislative Assembly have all heard many concerns raised in all the communities and our own ridings, whether itís with respect to a bike being stolen from the back of a yard, or a vehicle has been broken into or one of our houses being broken into and vandalized, or vandalism, whether it be disruption of our neighbourhoods by having unsafe homes down the road that are participating in illegal activities ó there are numerous concerns and complaints that are raised with us on an ongoing basis, as they have been for many, many years.
The issue before us today surrounds a piece of legislation that is based on the Saskatchewan jurisdiction, which they put forward as the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. It has been in effect since 2004 and, as we heard from the leader of the official opposition, it has been very well-received within that province by its citizens. While there are always concerns raised, it has generally worked well for that province, as far as I can tell.
We on this side of the House are very much committed to making our communities safer and healthier, not only for ourselves, but on our constituentsí behalf and on our familiesí behalf. We all live in the Yukon for very specific reasons. As a person who was born and raised in the Yukon, I think it is a wonderful place to live; itís a wonderful place to be raised. There are so many positive attributes to living in the Yukon, compared to living anywhere else in the world, and I feel very fortunate and privileged to be a resident of the territory and to be able to contribute toward making our communities safer.
As the leader of the official opposition pointed out, I recently hosted a crime prevention forum in my riding of Whitehorse West and it was at the specific request of some constituents who had raised concerns in my riding this fall. They were looking for ideas on how to curb crime in the neighbourhood, on how to make their homes safer and things we could do to prevent these activities in our neighbourhoods. How do we come together as a community to work on these issues?
It was at that time that I chose, and I thought it was timely, in recognition of Crime Prevention Week ó which was recently held in the last week of October, I believe ó to bring together a number of organizations whose job mandate is to engage in crime prevention activities.
We had a pretty good turnout of individuals from my riding. We had a number of organizations such as Crime Prevention Yukon, Citizens on Patrol, Crime Stoppers, the RCMP and so forth. It was a pretty good discussion. Each of the presenters took time out to present an overview of some of the programs and services that they provide and gave residents ideas on how we can make our communities safer by working together. This is what it is all about: this piece of legislation, coupled with crime prevention initiatives and with a number of initiatives that are outlined in our substance abuse action plan and a whole host of initiatives that we as a government currently provide, whether it be in Education, Health and Social Services, Justice, Womenís Directorate, Youth Directorate and so forth. There is a lot of good work being done, but is there more to do? Absolutely, there is always a lot more work to be done. That is our job: to look at new ideas, new initiatives for consideration so that we can work together with residents of our communities to initiate and to effect change for the betterment.
I thank the leader of the official opposition for bringing forward this piece of legislation. I think that there are a lot of positive attributes with respect to the legislation, and it is recognized as one of many tools that was identified, and continues to be identified in our substance abuse action plan.
There has been a whole host of activities. I know that, Mr. Speaker, in your own riding, yourself as the Member for Riverdale North and the Member for Riverdale South have also taken it upon yourselves to become involved with the community residents in the Riverdale area to tackle crime in your areas. The leader of the official opposition has held a number of meetings in his area, as well, in the Whitehorse downtown core, to talk, to raise discussion, and to engage citizens in this very debate. I think that while itís very true that discussion is good, but action is better, I think we can never have enough discussion about things that we can work on together and how we can work closer and how we can work more collaboratively together to address and tackle some of these very serious issues in the Yukon today.
One experience that I think I have mentioned in this Legislature on a number of occasions is our governmentís experience. It was just over two years ago when we received a whole host of calls from community residents of the Town of Watson Lake. I recall it quite well. It was the summer of 2003. There was a flurry of crimes being committed in that town. There was an increased level of domestic violence in that town. There were property incidents involving vandalism and theft, and there was a cry for help from that community ó again, not knowing really where to go, but they had reached the level of frustration that they just were looking for anything and reaching for something to hold on to. They were looking for an area for change.
I recall that we did rise to the occasion at that time ó myself, as the previous Minister of Justice, together with the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Premier as the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the MLA for Watson Lake, and a whole host of department officials. We actually hosted, in unison with the Town of Watson Lake, a forum to discuss and air all these concerns and to talk about the problems and what we could do together to address some of these issues that had reached the boiling point in that community.
I remember that there was a whole host of individuals representing members of the Liard First Nation, members of Lower Post, members at large of the Town of Watson Lake and municipal councillors. Of course, I would be remiss if I didnít mention all the front-line workers from our agencies, non-government organizations and representatives of the Help and Hope for Families shelter. There were quite a number of individuals who gathered in the room, as well as members of the RCMP. I remember quite succinctly opening up that forum and how you could really almost cut the air because of the level of tension within the room.
People were clearly frustrated. Theyíd had enough. They wanted some solutions, and they wanted to take some action. I do recall that there was a lot of finger pointing, a lot of blame being placed at the heels of many individualsí feet. But by the end of the day ó and it was a very long day. There was a lot of discussion and a lot of worthwhile comments being made. By the end of the day, there was a recognition that if things were to change, that change could only really be effected not by government, not by politicians, certainly not by individuals working alone, but by working together as a community, in conjunction with one another, recognizing our strengths and recognizing our weaknesses in the areas that we needed to address, that change could come, and thatís exactly what took place. There was also a forum for youth that evening and, surprisingly, there was a very big group of youth, as well, who had a lot of great ideas and suggestions.
It quickly became apparent that that particular forum was just one step in a whole host of steps toward making that community more well. Since August 2003, the Town of Watson Lake and Liard First Nation representatives continue to talk, and they continue to work on areas of domestic violence, vandalism, substance abuse, crime, safety issues.
They come together on a regular basis, together in public forums. We as a government continue to assist with coordination of some of these meetings, providing resources where we can and being a resource for the implementation of some of the solutions that the community has identified. Itís really critical to note that, if in fact change is to be effected, it is the community that has to want to see change. The community also has to take responsibility and say, ďThis is what we want and this is what we need to do: provide resources and provide support services needed for those respective communities to recognize their goals.Ē At that time, we will effect positive change.
In this regard, we recognize that there is no quick fix to some of these dire issues that weíre facing. Rather, addressing issues such as substance abuse, crime, domestic violence ó all these issues require a long-term coordinated approach with the full support from many resources from both within and outside †the community and within and outside government.
I just wanted to reflect that the work of the Watson Lake community wellness planning initiative has come a long way, and they are seeing many changes for the betterment of the community. I think that when you see the community engaging, they have almost 30 volunteers who have come forward to participate in Citizens on Patrol. You also see auxiliary police members in that community. We have also worked with that community to extend the domestic violence treatment option.
These are all very positive initiatives that we are pleased to see in the community. I am very pleased to see the ongoing work of what has now become formally known as the Watson Lake Community Wellness Initiative. It just came to my attention yesterday that the national crime prevention strategy people have become very interested in what happened with Watson Lake and how Watson Lake has evolved over the last couple of years. They actually want to learn from the community of Watson Lake so that other communities can learn from and potentially apply their particular model and be able to share their experience across the north and Canada, so the National Crime Prevention Centre has contracted with a researcher to do some of this work in conjunction with community. I think that really bodes well, because there is no cookie-cutter approach to some of these complicated issues. They are very complex; there are a lot of underlying causes of crime in our communities, and I think the important thing to recognize here is that we do have a community that really took leadership, took the initiative to say, ďEnough is enough. We need to work together to see what we can do to turn things around in our community.Ē They have, and now we have national bodies such as National Crime Prevention Canada who is looking to the community to look at their model and perhaps be able to share it with other communities in the north who are also experiencing very similar issues.
So I commend the people of Watson Lake and those individuals who were working on this particular initiative. Their work is very well-received. Itís very much appreciated, and we thank them for their ongoing efforts.
Mr. Speaker, it was about a year ago ó actually, it was just shy of a year ago that there was unanimous consent in this Legislature by all parties for a motion. The motion was moved by the leader of the official opposition, and the motion was that this House call upon the Government of Yukon to work in conjunction with all other levels of government in the Yukon to convene a territory-wide summit to develop a comprehensive action plan to combat substance abuse, which is a destructive and growing force in both urban and rural areas of the Yukon. That was on November 23, 2004.
Now, there was a lot of history before then, and certainly this didnít just happen overnight that we decided to have a discussion and unanimous consent to this motion. In fact, the leader of the official opposition hosted, I believe, a couple of community meetings in his own area, the downtown area of Whitehorse, and it was from there that he was hearing concerns from constituents. He wanted to see things change for the better, like we all do. From that time, there were discussions held ó held with our Grand Chief, with our Minister of Justice, with the president of the Association of Yukon Communities. We also had our Premier, as well, and the leader of the official opposition. I seem to recall that prior to the motion coming forward on November 23, there was a meeting of the respective participants, and at that time it was requested that a coalition of people be formed and that a summit be held and an action plan be produced and that we identify short-, medium- and long-term plans for implementation.
Therein is what led to November 23, 2004, when a motion was put forward by the leader of the official opposition that received unanimous consent from all members of the Legislature. From that time, a whole host of activities have taken place. Primarily, I just refer you to the substance abuse summit that was held within the City of Whitehorse. It was held in June and a whole host of participants, representing First Nations, communities, non-government organizations, front-line workers and government public servants were in attendance, as well as a number of expert speakers who came to share with all of us their experiences and some of the models that have worked in other communities and jurisdictions in the country.
As the leader of the official opposition pointed out, there is no cookie-cutter approach but, really, the best solution to our challenges in the Yukon is to have a made-in-Yukon solution. So what took place in June at the summit were a number of discussions outlined in the summit report. I certainly wonít read from this report, but I believe all members have a copy and it is posted on the Yukon substance abuse summit Web site, as well, for Yukoners to view. It is an overview of all the remarks that were given, all the different presenters, some of the ideas put forward and some of the discussions that took place among citizens.
That evening, there was a public meeting so there was an opportunity for the public at large to come together to talk about some of the issues that were raised during the day during the summit and an opportunity to hear from residents at large about additional areas for action.
Many of these areas of discussion have resulted in what I would identify as a pretty comprehensive plan of action that is before us today. It is out for consultation. It was released in the last month, and there is another round of consultation with stakeholders ó again, First Nation communities, front-line workers, our non-government organizations, in particular those who work in the field of substance abuse ó so that we can hear from them their views and perspectives on these proposed items for action, just to give us a level of comfort that this is in fact what the community is wanting. They would like to see change occurring, and they would like to see these initiatives implemented.†
Going back to the summit, I think that, as we mentioned before, no matter how large or small a community may be, they are not immune to substance abuse, and all the activities associated with substance abuse, including family violence and crimes. We have to recognize that all of us as residents of the Yukon are particularly concerned about the use of hard drugs in our communities ó crack cocaine. We are concerned about drug houses in our cities and how these situations create significant unease, fear and distress because of the addictive nature of these substances and the volatile behaviour of people under its very influence.
We are concerned about a criminal element involved in its distribution and the criminal acts engaged to support the addiction, such as breaking and entering and stealing from our own family members.
Delegates at this summit recognize that substance abuse is, in fact, linked to unhealthy lifestyles, which can be passed on from one generation to another.
Delegates of the summit described a whole range of problems associated with substance abuse that often have permanent consequences, including illiteracy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, problems in our schools, poor nutrition, sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect. People who misuse drugs and alcohol are often both the perpetrators of harm to others as well as victims of harm from others. There is also, as we all know, a strong correlation between this abuse and family violence.
It is as a result of the hard work of each of the participants ó those who participated in the summit, the front-line workers, our government representatives ó that we are now before the public with what I would think, what I believe, is a very good document that will lead to enhanced policies and programs to deal with these problems in our communities.
When we talk about the substance abuse action plan, there are a number of key characteristics associated with the action plan, including flexibility, sustainability and community involvement. I think it is really important, as I said before, that in order to effect change, the action plan, any plan, must effectively address the diverse needs of our population.
Therefore, the programs and any initiatives that come forward must also reflect our different models of prevention and intervention and be sensitive to our cultures, to our age and to our gender.
The action plan details our governmentís response to these issues. I think itís worth noting that we have a broad-based plan to deal with substance abuse. Itís almost certain that the cycle of abuse in families and among residents will continue.
It isnít just in the Yukon that substance abuse occurs. It affects all our communities, just as alcohol affects all our communities in Canada.
The Yukon differs from the rest of the country in some important ways that we must recognize, and we must take these differences into account when coming together with proposed initiatives. As I mentioned earlier, solutions to substance abuse must reflect the cultural diversity of our Yukon and, in particular, our First Nation cultures and traditions. Solutions must also reflect the fact that our population is very small ó about 33,000 people ó although some of us would believe that perhaps too many people are here.
We do have a very small population and the geographical isolation of many of our communities is another integral point we must take into consideration when coming together with solutions to our many problems and in how we can respond to some of the issues before us.
For example, itís known that individuals with alcohol- or drug-related problems are likely to have a greater impact upon a community as a whole. Of course, the smaller the community, the greater the impact. A benefit, however, of having a small population is that solutions can be designed to address specific situations and there are more opportunities for effecting change at a more rapid pace. We are able to perhaps garner consensus more easily than we are within southern jurisdictions where there are greater populations to work with.
The small net population makes it possible to monitor the impacts of policies and programs that we do have in place, designed to alleviate substance-abuse related problems, and we can adjust our policies in response to some of these issues.
These differences suggest that while our government can learn from the experience of other jurisdictions, we have to be so sensitive to our very many differences among our communities. I just take members back to each of our communities I had the opportunity to visit this fall. There were over 20 communities in total, and I had the opportunity to participate in probably 80 percent of those community tours. It never ceases to amaze me just how unique we are as residents of the territory. A person residing in Pelly Crossing has many different issues than a person living in Teslin, for example. They have different priorities. At the end of the day, however, I think there is a general consensus that there is a basis that we want safe, healthy communities, we all want quality education for our children, we all want healthy lifestyles, we all want to work together. We all want to do well as citizens of our territory.
For the most part Yukoners are not so different from the rest of Canada when it comes to substance abuse; however, it could be argued that perhaps we have more high-risk users than perhaps other jurisdictions in the country. In fact, it was identified by a recent survey that we as a government had to coincide with a summit that was released at the beginning of June, I believe. The surveyís look at high-risk individuals was really in order to look at the patterns of consequences of substance abuse among individuals who are more likely to suffer negative health consequences as a result of using alcohol or drugs.
We do know higher risk respondents tend to be heavy and frequent drinkers, multiple drug users; they reported drinking an average of more than 10 drinks on a typical drinking occasion, and these occasions occurred more than once a week. We also know alcohol is the most frequently misused substance, but there is also a recent increase in the use of illegal drugs. We know that these individuals use a range of illegal drugs. Cannabis, cocaine and crack are reported most frequently. Compared to respondents in the general population, high-risk respondents reported high rates of harm to themselves and from others as a result of substance abuse, indicating that victimization and self-harm are frequently experienced in situations where heavy drinking and drug use is frequent.
What distinguishes the Yukon is the presence of this group of high-risk individuals. Hence, we really need to find strategies specifically tailored to the needs of these individuals and individuals at large. Therefore, strategies to combat this issue must be flexible enough to combat or respond to a diversity of needs.
A continuum of care approach is also necessary in order to proactively address these issues experienced by our communities.
Mr. Speaker, the draft substance abuse action plan is our governmentís response to this serious issue. Itís not only our governmentís response, however; I have to say that the government worked with 200 stakeholders who participated in the summit. We listened and have now come forward with a draft action plan for Yukonersí consideration.
Itís really important to look at the elements of the draft action plan for the benefit of all members so we can see that we do take the link between substance abuse and other social ills, such as family violence, seriously and that we are acting on a plan to deal with these very issues, that it is a collaborative effort, that it requires a lot of coordination and the participation of all members of this House.
The substance abuse action plan provides a framework for policies and programs designed to reduce harm from the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. It provides options for working with individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs. It addresses the needs of our families and provides meaningful ways for community members to make a positive contribution.
The action plan explicitly recognizes the need for the reduction of both the supply and demand of alcohol and other drugs. As I mentioned earlier, it was developed after careful consideration of the invaluable input we received during the summit that was held in June. Itís a living document, also ó a very important element to be recognized and so does require flexibility, and it will be reviewed regularly. We need to regularly review all our policies and programs in order to ensure they meet the needs of our citizens and are delivering what they are supposed to deliver and are making change for the betterment possible.
The action plan includes two key components. I just mentioned the coordinated service, as well as the continuum of services that respond to many of the unique circumstances in each of our communities. For the RCMP, courts, social workers, alcohol and drug counsellors, itís absolutely necessary that we all work together to provide coordinated help to individuals or families in need of assistance.
Itís absolutely critical that the services that we deliver are culturally relevant and we also need to ensure that the services and interventions must address age- and gender-related concerns in order to be effective for our general public.
The Government of Yukon plays a key role in this regard. We are not only a service provider providing services relating to harm reduction, prevention, education, treatment and enforcement; we are also a significant investor investing sources of funding to a whole host of non-government organizations, ensuring that services are adequately staffed and funded. The Government of Yukon also acts as a facilitator providing the tools for communities to deal with these issues, whether that be in Whitehorse West, in the Town of Watson Lake, or in the Whitehorse downtown centre. We have been able to provide resources to communities who request assistance by way of providing technical assistance, assisting with community planning, drafting proposals, and helping to convene meetings.
Of course we continue to work with other levels of government, including First Nations, provinces and territories as well as the federal government, to enhance innovative policies to combat substance abuse, one of which I would just refer to ó we look at innovative ideas initiatives to address some of these issues. One only has to look to the family violence treatment option, which has become a model of service delivery for not only the offender by also for victims of abuse. It has become a model of care and services for individuals clear across the country.
In fact, members of our family violence prevention unit, within the Department of Justice ó I really canít say enough about their work. Theyíre showing leadership across the country and showing the rest of the country that we are effecting a lot of great things in our communities, and we are able to show some leadership by providing a different model that perhaps could be used by other jurisdictions. One area that is within the action plan, that I will speak to a little bit later on, is a peopleís court, one of the key initiatives that is raised within the substance abuse action plan. It is somewhat similar to the domestic violence treatment option, in the sense that it combines treatment ó it is treatment based, but it is court ordered, so you still have the court process, but it is a combination of resources for the offender in ensuring that the individual receives the treatment that they need, the follow-up, the aftercare, as well, in order to effect change.
It is important that we work together. It is important that we recognize the complexities and challenges that exist clear across the board. It is also important that we recognize the jurisdictions of our respective orders of government and levels of government: the Government of Canada, First Nation governments, and their responsibilities for also providing alcohol and drug programming. There certainly is no shortage of partnerships and collaborations in this area, as well as potential partnerships and collaboration.
The action plan addresses new ways of delivering services that respond to the unique needs and circumstances of the people they are designed to serve. In short, services must be flexible and delivered at the time and in places that are easily accessed by those who are looking for help at that time. So by having a continuum of services, targeted in large part to the needs of communities and individuals who are most in need, we will do better, and by recognizing the barriers to services due to poverty, homelessness or isolation.
The action plan speaks of seven pillars. Itís important to recognize these pillars, including the community health perspective. Policies, we know, will be most effective if they support and are supported by education, prevention and enforcement measures. Health promotion and prevention strategies have to be flexible enough to respond to a number of factors associated with substance abuse issues. We also know the strategies will be more effective to the extent that they involve community partnerships. Again, certainly tailoring programs and services to the needs of individuals in communities is absolutely pertinent.
The second pillar is the comprehensive policy approach. Again, I referred early to how it has to be a long-term, coordinated, collaborative effort on all of our parts to ensure that we do our homework, that we do provide a comprehensive approach to these issues and that we should view substance abuse as a symptom of social and individual problems as well as a cause of these problems, so we have to recognize barriers such as poverty, unemployment, dysfunction within our families, discrimination and also personal values.
The third pillar is partnership and integration. I mentioned earlier that government involvement or government intervention is only about one piece of the equation. Itís only a partial solution to what is a very complex issue. Whatever solutions we do come up with to address substance abuse problems in our communities must take the collaborative effort of all of us, and that requires ongoing partnerships between our government, the federal government, First Nations, municipalities and communities and that we recognize their roles and that we recognize that there is a need to work together.
The fourth pillar is evidence-based interventions. Again, the fact that policies or programs that we currently have in place must be subject to ongoing review and evaluation so that we can identify areas of gaps in service delivery and areas for improvement. So we do need to provide these interventions based on facts and based on reviews.
The fifth pillar is being culturally sensitive. As I mentioned, Yukon is very different ó perhaps very different from many jurisdictions to the south, particularly in terms of First Nation experiences, values and goals. So whatever we deliver, itís important that program services be sensitive to cultural values and perspectives as well.
We have to incorporate these views and values of our populations we wish to serve and to incorporate solutions, cultural traditions, the use of stories, traditional healing, the involvement of elders and, again, take up the expertise from First Nation elders.
The sixth pillar is being gender sensitive and age appropriate. Again, we must be sensitive to differences in our genders, in our ages. For example, research in other jurisdictions identifies a number of barriers for treatment for women: child care, access to childrenís services, residential programs that can accommodate mothers and their children, transportation to and from addiction services, safe housing, and services that are sensitive and meet the needs of our populations that are underserved.
We certainly know the links between substance abuse and women at risk, children at risk, and we need to be very mindful of these challenges before us, and we need to ensure that we do present appropriate programs that meet the needs of our women, particularly those women who have FASD, for example, and the needs of aboriginal women who we all know are subjected to spousal assaults three times the national average.
We need to recognize the risk factors women experience, compared to men, and that service providers are aware of how to respond to these issues before them through enhanced training initiatives and additional resources.
As I mentioned earlier this month in recognition of the month of November being Women Abuse Prevention Month, itís important to recognize that young women tend to be at much higher risk for sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies and substance abuse. We have to be mindful of the needs of these young individuals and, as a result, we need to provide programs and services that meet the needs of this sector of our population.
Mr. Speaker, thereís a whole host of initiatives outlined in our substance abuse action plan. I can go through some of them, and I do want to take just a few minutes to recognize that there has been a lot of work done here over the last several months to come up with an action plan that is chock full of initiatives that are sound, very reasonable and do address areas of harm reduction, prevention, education, treatment and enforcement.
This is really a comprehensive document, and I know that often when Yukoners hear about action plans, their eyes glaze over thinking, ďHereís another report that is going to be on the shelf, and itís a lot of words that may put me to sleep at night.Ē But I think itís important to recognize that this report actually makes a lot of sense, and it is an easy read. I have read it. There are specific, concrete initiatives in this plan, and I have to pay a lot of tribute to respective departments, including the Womenís Directorate, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the Youth Directorate and the Department of Health and Social Services, which have especially been involved in this initiative. They are to be commended for the number of areas we are looking to address.
The community harm reduction fund will provide assistance to communities that wish to deliver projects focused on aftercare treatment, harm reduction and/or prevention. Again, the fund must be flexible. It would be flexible and easily accessible. This is a good thing. This is something that communities such as the Watson Lake perhaps could access. This is something that they are working on toward their wellness initiative, providing healthy activities in their community and learning how to help kids with FASD in schools.†
The Department of Education will enhance its existing FASD project that offers training and support for educators. I have to mention, as I mentioned in Question Period the other day, that it is really important to recognize that the substance abuse action plan proposes 30 programs and services. Thirteen of these proposed services and programs are new; 17 are expansions of existing services that address substance abuse issues. Learning how to help kids with FASD in schools is certainly one of these initiatives where we have provided enhanced training to our educators in our schools to work with children who are afflicted with this disease. So this is an enhancement or an expansion of this particular program ó a program that I think is very well-received and is to the benefit of the educators and the students ó both those who are afflicted with FASD and those who are not.
The No Fixed Address Outreach van ó again, this is another proposed initiative in which we would provide support for this van. I know that there has been a tremendous amount of discussion in this Legislature over the last number of years. This has been a very worthy initiative. It has received the support of many community residents, and it has helped. It has provided much-needed services to youth, to adults and to children, both First Nation and non-First Nation. And the van brings a whole host of services that provide the bare essentials ó food, clothing and blankets, counselling, education and referral services ó another great initiative, Mr. Speaker.
When we look at support for high-risk young women, this is something the Womenís Directorate brought forward for consideration. Essentially, itís a fund to assist NGOs and First Nations to look at harm reduction initiatives for young women living in high-risk situations. As I mentioned earlier, young women aged 15 to 24 are especially subject to being at high risk of a number of factors.
By working with our stakeholders to develop projects that are designed to work in favour of young women, particularly those at risk, who may be experiencing violence in the home, sexual assault or teen pregnancy, this is another tool ó as you would say ó in the toolbox so we can assist our communities to provide support services for that particular sector of our population.
Mr. Speaker, we talk about public education campaigns. I know there has been a lot of criticism from the other side of the House on education campaigns. I am of a different mind. We share the value of education, prevention and intervention at early ages. Itís really key to raise awareness of our problems, to raise awareness of how we can assist and target these campaigns aimed at young women at risk and aimed at individuals who are in violent situations. By providing more education materials, campaigns focus on delaying the age of first use, for example, in terms of alcohol or substance abuse. It also just provides us with the ability to make informed decisions.
So on education, we are very pleased to provide proposed initiatives that would see more enhanced awareness through targeted campaigns that would address these very issues, including education in our schools. Again, this is building upon the programs and services that we currently already deliver in our schools.
Again, on counselling for kids ó this is another key issue that I heard on the road in many of our communities as a need. I heard it from a number of residents, whether they were on school council or just parents at large. This is an initiative that would provide counselling services to children in homes where there have been incidents of violence. Again, it is providing additional resources to those in need to help children, who find themselves in these situations, to find ways of responding to the violence, who to go to and what to do at those particular times.
Community training and addiction issues: again, providing training offered to our communities through alcohol and drug services. Whether it is providing training through counselling, providing support and aftercare to resident members of our communities, there is a great amount of training already provided, but I think that individuals at large, whether they be employees of our respective governments or community members at large, making available more training is a good thing, to talk about services being delivered and services available ó making the tools available for all our public residents to know where they can go and what they can obtain.
The DARE program, which has been in existence for a number of years and has worked very successfully in two or four of our schools over the last few years, is a collaboration between the RCMP and the Department of Education. It is an acronym for drug abuse resistance program, primarily targeted at grade 5 students. Again, it talks about drug use in our communities, abuse and the consequences and implications of our actions.
I earlier referred to the problem-solving court ó itís a specialized therapeutic court, very similar to the domestic violence treatment option although very different in its content and its goal. It combines the treatment with the judicial process and has seen tremendous positive changes. With DVTO, we have seen a tremendous collapse in the cases not going forward. It has proven to be very effective. It not only has been able to meet the needs of our victims of abuse but also the offenders in question.
Tele-health addictions counselling is an expansion of a program that is already in existence in many of our communities and would see additional counselling positions and necessary ó I guess you could say ó hardware that would link many of our communities to benefit from this counselling available.
When we talk about enforcement, there is a whole host of ideas through the community enforcement campaign. I referred earlier that we have a whole host of crime prevention initiatives in place, and they are all to be given tremendous credit and big thanks for their work on our behalf, day in and day out, whether it be Crime Stoppers, Crime Prevention Yukon, Citizens on Patrol or the auxiliary police. Something Iíve heard about from the crime prevention community is a need to collaborate and work more closely as a community to address some of these issues, by working together, by pooling resources and having more targeted campaigns to meet some of these areas of need.
Again, another initiative that was put forward and is already being acted upon is restricting access to certain cold medicines, something that we will continue to work on with our local pharmacists, as well as working with other provinces and territories to move to get rid of cold medications that contain sources that contribute to substance abuse.
I havenít gone through all of them. Those are just a few initiatives, but they will give members opposite an idea of some of the concrete initiatives that have come forward. I sincerely hope that members of the official opposition and the leader of the third party will work with the Government of Yukon and all the respective stakeholders in making some of these come to fruition.
Of course, this brings us to the safer communities legislation. This is something that has been identified in the substance abuse action plan, and it does talk about exploring the possibility of developing legislation that would improve community safety by targeting and, if necessary, shutting down residential and commercial buildings that are used for illegal activities such as producing, selling or using illegal drugs or the unlawful sale and consumption of alcohol.
Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Looking at this legislation, one only has to look at jurisdictions that do have similar legislation in place ó one being Saskatchewan and the other being Manitoba. It is really important that members opposite recognize that we do see a recognition of this legislation and that we think that it could be a very good, useful tool and, again, one of many tools within a coordinated and collaborative approach to cracking down on substance abuse in our territories and addressing some of the root causes of crime in our territory and recognizing the underpinning issues associated with these problems in our communities.
So, when we talk about any piece of legislation, it is important to know that we do require consultation on this particular act, or any bill, for that matter, with Yukoners. It is a good thing to do. As I referred to earlier, just as it is so important to reflect the cultural sensitivities, the sensitivities to gender and age, sensitivities to the fact that we have a number of high-risk users ó more so than any other jurisdiction in the country ó the fact that we do have a lot of heavy drinkers, heavy use drug users, the fact that we do have a lot of factors that are somewhat different from the rest of the country ó simply to just table this piece of legislation and, I guess, scratch out the name and put ďYukonĒ is perhaps not the most sensible thing to do.
I commend the leader of the official opposition and members opposite for bringing this motion forward. Any time we can talk about substance abuse problems and, more importantly, bring forward ideas and concrete initiatives to tackle some of these issues, itís always a good thing. This proposed safer communities piece of legislation is a very good initiative.
As I mentioned earlier, we are prepared to move forward with the legislation, but we need to fully explore how this type of legislation could work in communities, particularly in the context of our First Nation communities. We need to give consideration to the factors I raised earlier: all the specific factors that are relevant to the Yukon and less so for the rest of the country.
Itís for this reason that we need to have that full dialogue with communities, our stakeholders, so we can build consensus on how this legislation could and would work here.
Let me be very clear that we are in full support of looking at this piece of legislation and exploring its merits and seeing how we could tailor this legislation to make it Yukon legislation that would work for Yukon and would meet the needs of the Yukon.
This initiative, in addition to the whole host of initiatives within this plan, which is coordinated and is a collaborative approach, is really the way to move. So, in addition to offering our support to move ahead with looking at this legislation, I urge members opposite to also give consideration to the rest of what is detailed in this substance abuse action plan.
We are fully committed on this side of the House to working with members opposite to look at other ideas and at what has been completed here at the request of the community. We actually compiled this with over 200 stakeholders, I should add.
I think there are a number of merits within this piece of legislation that should be given full consideration. I think weíre very much willing to proceed with looking at consultation and moving forward in working with our community stakeholders, our respective governments, and First Nations in looking at the merits, and also just to see how this piece of legislation can work in the Yukon.
There have been some things: for example, some of the questions that we have to look at. I believe the bill says that all complaints are confidential. We need to look at how we ensure the anonymity of individuals coming forward. How is the information protected? There are also questions like at what level of security does a building become fortified, for example. Some businesses, for example, require additional security, versus others. These are things that we need to flesh out. They are certainly able to be fleshed out; that is what takes place in forums.
I recognize that there is a forum. Members of the opposition will be hosting their own forum next week and I think thatís great. I commend them for doing that as well. We also continue to have our own forums in our own areas and continue to engage the public. I think that the more discussion we can have on initiatives like these and others that are addressed within our action plan, the better off we all are.
By doing a bit of research in Manitoba, I know that there were questions centred around the qualifications for the director. Again, these are all points that we need to look at to clarify and sit down with our communities and stakeholders to talk about the finer details of this bill and how it can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of Yukon citizens.
The action plan is undergoing consultation, as I mentioned earlier. We are working to get feedback from a number of different organizations and communities, again, to get their feedback with respect to this. I know that members opposite ó every single MLA ó received a copy of the draft action plan for their consideration. To date, I donít think we have received any feedback from members opposite. We certainly want to work together to ensure that the plan that moves forward is comprehensive and collaborative, and that it moves ahead in a coordinated approach.
I would just like to mention that there is quite a comprehensive consultation going on right now, from which we will be hearing about this particular piece of legislation as one of a number of initiatives that is being put forward in this action plan. It includes our womenís organizations, service providers ó particularly those who deal with substance abuse issues ó community associations and organizations ó there must be 20 of them here ó and we are working with our advisory committee to the substance abuse action plan, which is comprised of FASSY, the Yukon Family Services Association, Council of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon Status of Women, the RCMP, Health Canada and the Association of Yukon Communities.
So I think that this plan is a good step forward, and we look forward to hearing the input from the members opposite and working together with members opposite to move forward on these initiatives. Like members opposite, I have also heard that residents of our community do not want to see politics being played with these initiatives being proposed. The issues at hand are on our doorsteps, and theyíre knocking, and we need to address them. So we need to, again, work with our stakeholders to identify the priorities, identify the short-term, medium-term and long-term recommendations for implementation, which includes the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act for full consideration.
So I wonít go on any further. Again, I would like to thank the leader of the official opposition for bringing forward this motion. It is a very timely motion, and again I will give my support toward moving forward with the legislation for consideration by our stakeholders, our communities and First Nations, but also within the context of the substance abuse plan that was put in effect as a result of all the discussions and feedback and input from many stakeholders, going back earlier this year.
So I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I look forward to hearing from members opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker and thank you to the Acting Justice minister for leaving some time in the debate for other members to talk. I note that she spoke for more than 50 percent longer than the mover of the motion did.
I would like to start by making a bit of a public service announcement. Viewers of the proceedings will have noted that last night it didnít make the regular television slot and last nightís proceedings will be televised at 10:30 tonight. So itís a double header out there, Mr. Speaker. Maybe the health officials should be warned to be on standby and get the defibrillators ready.
Todayís motion is a very serious topic. One thing the Acting Justice minister said was that people really donít want politics to be played with these matters. They want to see action. I am wondering just how seriously the government side is taking that request? I think the main point I would like to make in my 20 minutes is: why are we wasting time reinventing the widget when we have one before us now that could be implemented? People want to see action, not more talk and process that delays that action. I believe that if the legislation tabled in the House from Saskatchewan were voted on, it would probably receive unanimous support from members in this House. Itís something that can be enacted immediately. As a matter of fact, if the government wanted to really take action, we could probably unanimously agree to bring it in before the end of this sitting.
But the substance of the motion is as follows ó and I do want to repeat this because the previous speaker talked all about the draft discussion paper on the government substance abuse action plan. The motion is a bit different than that. The motion reads as follows: ďThat this House urges the Minister of Justice to direct his officials to develop a bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation is ready to be considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.Ē
Well, thatís what itís about. Itís not about talking about this draft discussion paper that this Yukon Party government has finally come up with after three years, and all the good things that it might lead to years down the road. Thatís not the point. The point of the debate this afternoon is on the motion I just read into the record. The debate this afternoon should be focused on whether the government side is willing to do this, because itís only the government side that has the assistance of the officials in the Justice department and so on. Itís only the government side that has the budget to consult Yukoners, and itís the government side that must take the lead on this issue. So weíre prepared to give the government that lead, and thatís the essence of the motion.
People want to see action. We have heard nothing from the government side in terms of timing to bring the legislation in. I want to speak to that in a minute. We havenít heard anything from the government in terms of any variances to the Saskatchewan act that it would like to see. All weíve heard from the government so far is about an 85-minute broadcast commercial for its draft discussion paper. Thatís not hitting the nail on the head. That is diverting the topic of discussion to something other than the real purpose of today.
All members, when they get up to speak to this, should be very mindful of the purpose of this motion. Letís talk about the Saskatchewan act; letís talk about the timing; letís talk about doing it, not delaying it. I said I would talk about the timing aspect, so letís do that now.
We are into the final year, maximum, of this Yukon Party governmentís mandate. It could be shorter. We may not even have a spring sitting. My guess is that we will have a spring sitting and probably an election next fall. There is opportunity here for the government to finally do some work on legislation and bring in a bill that matters to many Yukoners.
Over the past three years, all the legislation brought in by this government has basically been housekeeping legislation.
There were mirror acts for the devolution accord. There were a number of acts that were paper thin and just very slight changes, but nothing of substance. What are we facing now?
Well, here we are. After three years, we have one sitting left, and itís a budget sitting. Next yearís budget is bound to be in the same league as far as spending numbers are concerned as the past two because of all the lapses and the money from the federal government. So there will be a lot to review in the spring sitting. There will be other things to review, as well, because all the pieces of legislation that are considered more than housekeeping have yet to be tabled in this House. Those pieces of legislation include the Childrenís Act. They include the Education Act, which is long overdue. They include the Workersí Compensation Act. And there is other legislation, as well. Itís going to take time to review each of those, and the Yukon Party government has decided to leave them for the last minute.
We could have been debating it this fall, Mr. Speaker, when there is ample time. Instead, weíll probably have about 20 days to review the supplementary budget. About half that time is really needed, and the other half could have been spent dealing with some of the legislation this government should have had on the floor by now. Instead, weíre looking at a jam-packed spring sitting because the government side hasnít done its work.
Now, weíre suggesting bringing this act, but weíre not suggesting itís going to require a lot of time. It could immediately be brought to a vote, unlike some of the other acts that are bound to be tabled for the spring sitting.
So it wouldnít take a lot of time, in terms of sitting time, and itís something that would likely be supported by all parties, especially if there arenít too many changes to the Saskatchewan bill.
Thatís the substance of the motion. Do people agree with that or not? Will we even see a vote on it this afternoon, or will the government side try to amend the motion? Whatís the plan over there? I guess weíll have to wait and see. We should know sometime in the next hour and 40 minutes.
I did mention that after three years, all we have in terms of dealing with substance abuse from this government is a discussion paper draft. Obviously the Yukon Party hasnít given this matter enough priority. Many Yukoners have declared that substance abuse should be our highest priority. Iíve gone to many funerals and potlatches over the years where the deaths were blamed on drugs and other forms of substance abuse. When members of the family or close friends have gotten up to speak, they have called for drastic action to be taken to fight these dreaded addictions that are causing deaths in our communities. I have taken that seriously. I have heard it from constituents, and we should all take it just as seriously. It is a very serious matter.
The previous speaker mentioned a motion from about a year ago that received unanimous approval to fight substance abuse. Well, Iím pleased to see that it has finally spurred this government into doing something but a draft action plan at the three-year mark doesnít cut it. It would have been reasonable to expect some quick action to accompany the release of a draft discussion paper at this time. It should have been the government who was recommending that quick steps be taken to address this crisis, such as bringing in the crack house bill, if I can refer to it as that. But there is nothing.
Instead Yukoners heard the Premier on the radio last Friday morning blame the official opposition for trying to copy what the government was doing. He referred to the discussion paper and said weíve copied the government. Well, Mr. Speaker, thatís not the case. Itís not the case at all. If you refer to page 17 in the discussion paper, I believe the wording is ďThe government would explore the possibility of developing legislation.Ē Thatís what it says: explore.† Well, thatís at about the bottom of the totem pole in terms of priority; thatís the language the government uses when it doesnít give priority to something. It will ďexploreĒ or ďconsiderĒ or will ďinvestigateĒ or ďlook intoĒ. Those are all types of words that fit into the language of a government that doesnít give something high priority.
If indeed it were a high priority, there would have been a stronger word, such as ďintroduce,Ē which would have meant something, but there wasnít. So the government side was caught not giving priority to something that should have been given priority. For those of us who heard the Premier Friday morning, he was clearly trying to make up for some deficiencies. But we know what the facts are, and the government side should be trying to address the needs of Yukoners.
So, Mr. Speaker, the previous speaker invited some feedback on the plan. I would like to give some feedback now but, first of all, I would like to offer our thanks on behalf of the official opposition to those who did contribute to the plan, especially the members of the public organizations such as FASSY and so on, because we know theyíve worked very long and tirelessly in their efforts for their causes ó in the case of FASSY, for reducing the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome in the territory.
The previous speaker, the acting minister, indicated that she supports this initiative within the context of the substance abuse action plan. Now, we would like to take her at her word on that. She also said Yukon people donít want to see us playing politics with things this serious. Again, we would like to take the minister at her word.
Our only concern is with the wording in the substance abuse action plan, which says the government will explore safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation. Once again, we see no reason to delay, and Yukon people see no reason to delay. Therefore, letís take it a step further, Mr. Speaker. Letís cut to the chase because I donít know if the members across the way are ready to do that. I think they want to get up and each try to give a 20-minute commercial for their discussion paper.
Letís cut to the chase. Iíll put a challenge out there. On this side of the House, weíre prepared to stand down the rest of our speakers on this very important subject and bring this motion, as written, to a vote right now in the expectation of getting unanimous agreement for this motion. If the Acting Justice minister is serious, if the others are serious, then letís cut to the chase. Letís get to the vote.
Mr. Speaker, I propose the question be now called.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Minister of Health and Social Services.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of what is being proposed in general terms and would like to speak to the motion and add substance to the motion. The motion, as it is presented, Motion No. 507, basically takes a piece of legislation from another jurisdiction, brings it into the House, and itís what we probably need, in part. But what we need here is a made-in-Yukon solution. We need a made-in-Yukon solution that would entail consultation with a number of people.
In order to add clarity, I would suggest that the motion be amended to include those groups of people who should be consulted. They are, of course, the Department of Health and Social Services and the minister, the Minister of Education, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate. Those groups need to go forward on this initiative and work with non-government organizations and First Nations, front-line workers, stakeholders, municipalities and all other parties to develop what we envision to be a made-in-Yukon ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, this is highly out of the ordinary. The member is speaking to the amendment without the other members having the privilege of knowing what the amendment is. He should first table the amendment and then speak to it. Thatís clear.
Speaker: Minister of Health and Social Services, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thereís no point of order.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in response to what the Member for Kluane said, he has pointed out quite correctly that the Member for Klondike is speaking at length about an amendment we havenít even seen. Normally, when someone is amending a motion, they read the amendment into the record, there are copies made, the motion is amended, and then the person speaks.
Correct me if Iím wrong, but it seems to me that there is some kind of a gap in procedure here. There was a question about a vote, and the next thing we know, weíre talking about an amendment. Should we not have had a vote on that question? Mr. Speaker, you said that the question had been called, and then the member spoke to read an amendment in. Would you outline for me, Mr. Speaker, how that procedure goes? If the question is called, doesnít the question have to be asked before the amendment is read?
Speaker: Minister of Environment, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím sorry, but I think historically the Speaker has certainly called a question and the next speaker has stood up. This has happened many, many times. In fact, we are now having what would appear to be a debate on something that has nothing to do with the point of order.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Hardy: On the point of order ó I can stand to be corrected, but from my many, many years of experience, when a question is called, that question needs to be voted. There is no more debate on that. That question has to be dealt with before you proceed with any more debate.
Speaker: Firstly, on the point of order with regard to calling the question, when a question is called, members can stand up because that is their opportunity to participate in debate if they havenít yet done so. From that perspective, there is no point of order. With regard to the member speaking to the amendment, the way the Chair heard it, the memberís speech was the rationale for the amendment. Thatís my perspective. So there is no point of order.
You have the floor, Minister of Health and Social Services.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Again, does not the amendment have to be proposed and read into the record before the member begins to address all the parts of the amendment?
Speaker: Procedurally, there is no amendment before the House. As I said earlier, from the Chairís perspective, the Minister of Health and Social Services was addressing the need for an amendment, not the amendment in itself.
Once an amendment is formally proposed, all members will get a copy and all members will have time to speak to it.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what I will be doing in due course is addressing an enhancement of the motion that we are debating here today. What I will be doing is reinforcing it and pointing out what we should be doing in order to take something and adapt it to the Yukon situation. What I am suggesting is necessary is a series of consultations with all stakeholders on this very important aspect.
Our government has in place a substance abuse action plan, and part of that action plan is the issue of addressing safer communities. It can be done in a number of ways. You just canít go out, Mr. Speaker, and legislate safer communities. It just is not going to happen. This is an initiative that has to have the support and the cohesiveness of all members of society in the community in order to be achievable. We can move forward on that initiative, and I would suggest itís in our best interest to do so. If we were to take the motion as it is presented and bring it forward, it would basically be a piece of legislation that would be taken from another jurisdiction. No one in Yukon would be aware of it, save and except those to whom it was circulated, and we wouldnít have the opportunity to develop that piece of legislation as normal legislation is developed here in the Yukon.
Probably the first criticism that would come our way as a government is weíre just ramming another law down the throats of Yukoners. That is why consultation with all the stakeholder groups is extremely important, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, the draft substance abuse action plan that we are proposing is out for public consultation right now, and it would be a simple matter to add into that program a consultation on such a piece of legislation, given that the substance abuse summit identified this as an area in need of being dealt with.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Letís get to the crux of the issue. I would move
THAT Motion No. 507 be amended by deleting the words ďto direct his officials to developĒ after the words ďMinister of JusticeĒ and replace them with the following: ď, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate to work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on the collaborative, coordinated approach to addressing the problem of substance abuse in the territory and making our communities safer, including specific steps to address harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement as detailed in the Yukon substance abuse action plan, such as the development ofĒ and then follow through with the balance of the motion, to develop an act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority.
Speaker: The Chair feels that the motion is in order, and it has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services:
THAT Motion No. 507 be amended by deleting the words ďto direct his officials to developĒ after the words ďMinister of JusticeĒ and replace them with the following: ď, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate to work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on the collaborative, coordinated approach to addressing the problem of substance abuse in the territory and making our communities safer, including specific steps to address harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement as detailed in the Yukon substance abuse action plan such as the development ofĒÖ
The motion then continues on, ďa bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation is ready to be considered and passed in the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.Ē
The Minister of Health and Social Services, on the amendment.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you for enlightening the official opposition and the third party on the intent of the amendment to the motion. It is basic English as far as I can see, Mr. Speaker.
This amendment would serve to provide the necessary background, research and consultation that the Yukon is recognized as doing before any piece of legislation is developed. This proposal dovetails into what is currently underway with our substance abuse action plan. As I said earlier, that draft substance abuse action plan is out in the public for consultation right now. Itís also on the Web. There should be no reason why one couldnít get a copy of it. If the members do not have a copy of it, they could let me know and I would be happy to send a copy over.
We all know that probably one of the biggest challenges facing the Yukon is substance abuse. Drug and alcohol abuse is really at the root of a lot of the major social problems we have. It steps over that boundary into crime and a number of other areas. It has been the demise of many households.
It has been a major contributor to family violence here in the Yukon. If we look at what our government committed to, Mr. Speaker, we committed to working with all members of the opposition last fall to have that substance abuse summit here in Whitehorse in response to the critical situation of substance abuse issue here in our territory.
After that commitment was made ó and the leader of the third party and the leader of the official opposition were in attendance with our Premier, discussed the matter fully ó we went forward last June with a very well-attended summit, with over 200 participants from Yukon communities, from our First Nations and from a number of individuals that work in the area of substance abuse. They all came together and that proved invaluable as to providing some of the information from which the substance abuse action plan was crafted. If we look at the summit itself, there were community leaders, law enforcement, justice officials, counsellors, social workers, addiction workers, medical service providers, educators, many representatives from NGOs from not just here but elsewhere that dealt with the field of addiction, and also officials from medical and health services. A number of the summit participants did work in the service delivery positions that brought them into daily contact with drug and alcohol problems. As I said earlier, this made-in-Yukon action plan relies a very large part on the efforts of these individuals that came together and upon the discussions and suggestions that these individuals shared during that summit.
There are a number of issues, Mr. Speaker, that the general public is concerned about. Crack houses ó we all know the address on Wheeler Street is one of the crack houses, or drug houses. We know that the residential neighbourhoods in small communities ó the drug dealers are well known. Itís information that is readily available. We can ask ourselves, why is this happening?
Well, Mr. Speaker, these are addictions. These are major, major addictive products ó the biggest one being alcohol. From there, every community appears to have a different choice. For some, itís cocaine, for some itís crack cocaine; crystal meth is becoming prevalent; amphetamines ó there is a whole series of drugs that are readily available. In fact, Iíve said it before and Iíll say it again, Mr. Speaker: itís usually easier to go downtown and find a supply of marijuana or crack cocaine than it is at night to buy a six-pack of beer. Thatís a sad state that weíre in.
The major concern, though, was the drug houses in our residential areas that had an exposure to all of the people ó our children walk by them. That type of situation creates a fear in society and distrust.
Also, there is the violent behaviour that is associated with a lot of drug use. There is also the criminal element involved in its sale and distribution and the subsequent criminal acts that people are engaged in to support their addiction, such as breaking and entering. Even today, vehicles that are parked downtown in certain areas, if there are coins visible in the tray between the driverís seat and the front passenger seat, windows are constantly being smashed just for the value of these coins. These are some of the results of the problems weíre faced with. These are some of the areas that were clearly identified at the summit.
There was also an issue of the delegates linking the substance abuse to unhealthy lifestyles and the resulting range of problems associated with substance abuse that have permanent consequences in society, such as drug and alcohol use, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, illiteracy, problems with our schools, poor nutrition, sexual abuse, child abuse and neglect, and the sad thing is that the people who misuse drugs and alcohol are often both the perpetrators of harm to others as well as victims of harm from others. Thereís an extremely strong connection between alcohol and drug abuse and family violence.
Now, our side of the House is not denying that a safe communities piece of legislation may be necessary. In fact, it might serve to our advantage. But letís go out, let us consult, let us come to an understanding with society on how weíre going to proceed. That is but one component on the substance abuse action plan that is being proposed, that is out there now. Letís not sidetrack what is underway. Letís reinforce the good work thatís underway. We can do that in the manner that I have set out in this amendment to this motion brought forward by the leader of the official opposition.
This action plan has a number of key characteristics, the major ones being flexibility, sustainability and community involvement. If we donít have a buy-in from the community at large in any of these initiatives, weíre not going to succeed. Thatís the bottom line. So itís best if we engage with the community as a whole, up front, and move forward. It might well be that this motion, as amended, will serve to reinforce the substance abuse action plan. It may be one of the major steps to come out of it.
We also have to recognize that there are significant health and social costs associated with drug and alcohol abuse. This action plan is a recognition of those, and itís a strong commitment to the reduction of legal and illegal substances that compromise the health and well-being of Yukoners.
I believe itís extremely worthwhile to note that without a broad-based plan to deal with the substance abuse, this cycle of violence is just going to repeat itself in our families here in the Yukon.
I look forward to hearing what the members of the opposition have to say on this amendment to the motion. We believe itís in the best interest of all to have this as a part of our overall substance abuse strategy, and weíre prepared to work with the official opposition and the third party to develop this kind of an approach.
We started off on a good foot in this area with an all-party committee that recognized the importance of it and that convened the summit. Out of that summit, we have an action plan. Letís not detract from the good work that has already gone on. Letís move forward together.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Duncan: I rise to address the amendment. I would just like to say a word about the opening comments about the amendment that the Member for Klondike made.
There was a comment about the English abilities of the leader of the official opposition and myself, which I take exception to. I found them offensive. I would suggest to the Member for Klondike, who regularly utters such phrases as ďrespects toĒ without being chastised by this side, that perhaps he would consider that his amendment, as brought forward, does give cause for concern. The comments about the English abilities of other members of the House were completely unnecessary to his argument.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment to Motion No. 507 now asks us, as a House, to urge ďthe Minister of Justice, the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate to work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on a collaborative, coordinated approach to addressing the problem of substance abuse in the territory and making our communities safer, including specific steps to address harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement, as detailed in the Yukon substance abuse action plan, such as the development of a bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act of the same name that has been in effect in the Province of Saskatchewan since November 15, 2004, and to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation is ready to be considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.Ē
Say what? If you were to go home and your children were to ask you, ďWhat did you do today, Mom?Ē and you read them that particularly run-on sentence, they would be ó ďWhat?Ē They would be absolutely confused. ďWhat did you do? What are you trying to say?Ē
I look at the amendment and I say, well, who is left out? Gee, all the other members of the Legislature who arenít those Cabinet ministers, the Minister of Community Services, and we have heard many times that this isnít a Whitehorse issue, this is a Yukon issue.
There are people left out of the amendment; there are groups, there are individuals, there are concerned citizens. So what are we trying to do? You could forgive the average Yukoner, never mind the dinner table tonight when we finally get home; you could forgive the average Yukoner who read that and was totally ó well, made a reference to, and Iím sure this word is not unparliamentary ó bafflegab. Because there is no way that itís clear what we are asking the House to do, what we are asking us as legislators to do, with this amendment.
What are we trying to do? The Member for Whitehorse Centre has raised and provided public profile to a very important issue. Egos and party politics aside, as Yukoners we have to look at ourselves and say, ďYes, there is a member of this Legislature who brought the issue to the table and raised the profile of this issue.Ē Credit where credit is due, and I do give credit to the Member for Whitehorse Centre: the leader of the official opposition, the leader of the NDP, raised the profile of this issue.
Thank goodness he did, because there is an issue. There are many issues in the Yukon. There is a major concern, and not just with crack houses, but with grow ops, with crystal meth, with drugs, with alcohol, with substance abuse of all kinds, with domestic violence and with physical abuse. These are all issues ó I apologize if Iíve left something out ó they are all issues that have to be dealt with and we as a community ó by that I mean the whole Yukon ó have to deal with them. We have to do something.
So, what is our job as legislators? What do we do? What is our role in this community of Yukon? One of our roles is to bring the issue up, to get us talking about it, to be the kind of catalyst where we roll up our sleeves and we do the work as a community. Thatís one of our roles as leaders in our community. Every member of the Legislature is a leader in our community.
We also have a role as legislators to look at the laws, to look at what is on the books that sit in front of our Clerk and Deputy Clerk, and to ask: are they what they need to be to make our community a safe place? Do they give the judiciary the tools they need to impose the penalties that should be imposed upon the people who deal, traffic, grow and produce and cause this kind of harm? Do they give the judiciary the tools?
Now, not all those laws are in our purview of this small part of the overall legislative framework. Many of those are in the Criminal Code. Thatís not our job.
That doesnít prevent us ó we donít pass the changes to the Criminal Code, but that doesnít prevent us from making representation about them. I think back to a number of years ago, certainly the fact that a registry of sex offenders wasnít necessarily a provincial jurisdiction didnít prevent Premier Klein from making that a national issue and seeing it happen, from garnering support from other premiers and ministers of justice and making it happen at the federal level. He wasnít, of course, the only one. He received support from others, but the point is, as a legislator, he took an issue ó albeit outside his provincial purview ó made it a national issue, got results, took action. He did his job as a legislator.
Our job in the territory, with respect to the amended motion, deals with another legislative initiative, an idea from Saskatchewan. All the original motion asks the government to do is to do the hard work and bring it forward in the spring. It didnít criticize the substance abuse action plan. It didnít rule out consultation. It didnít try to make a political point with the government in terms of chastising them for work that, in the view of others, they may or may not have done. It simply directed the Minister of Justice to bring forward a Yukon version in the next legislative sitting.
I find the amendment ó because it takes a simple request and makes it so convoluted and complicated as to be incomprehensible for the average Yukon voter, let alone being able to explain it to those who arenít able to vote yet. It takes a simple action and it makes it incomprehensible. And that is really unfortunate, because what weíre trying to do is whatís within our ability to do: have legislation in the Yukon that will help us deal with the issues of substance abuse at hand.
You know, Iíve spent a fair amount of time in this Legislature ó not as long as some of my predecessors. If ever there was an issue ó and there have been a few ó but if ever there was an issue where it was time for us to come together and say, ďLook, letís deal with this in the way we can, in the way we know how ó with legislation,Ē this is a good one.
I donít see the harm or the foul in looking at a piece of legislation from another jurisdiction. We do it all the time. In fact, youíd be hard-pressed to name a bill that has been brought forward to this House and passed by this House where the minister responsible, or a member of the Legislature, hasnít said, ďWhat do they do in other jurisdictions?Ē or ďHow do we compare with other jurisdictions?Ē We do that all the time. Itís how some of our legislation is better ó and made better.
Bringing forward this bill is no different from the Family Violence Prevention Act that was brought forward by the Member for Riverdale South. It was a bill from Saskatchewan, a private memberís bill. It was brought in, the government changed it and brought it back, and now this current government is taking a lot of credit for it when it has survived many governments.
The point is that it has been around for awhile. This hasnít even been introduced as a private memberís bill. Itís a motion. Why canít the government side see their way clear to passing this motion in a cooperative manner? Instead, we had to have an amendment that makes it in incomprehensible. One canít even say it in one breath, Mr. Speaker, let alone try and explain it. Thatís unfortunate. It really is, because itís not about politics; itís about our community. That is what motivates all of us to be here. That is what should motivate changes to legislation. It should be what motivates us, because that is what we do. We do, or should do, good legislation.
A reason why I think that this has been encouraged and why this time frame has been set in the amended motion ó and the time frame kept ó is because we have seen a great deal of delays on good initiatives. They have been lost because of these delays. For example, there is the Childrenís Act, correctional reform, the construction of a new jail ó which was on the radar screen for the construction community before the multiplex and now, since the multiplex, would be a good one.
Justice delayed is justice denied. There have been a number of delays and, as a result, we arenít going to see this legislation in the life of this government. As a result, the members opposite have very few initiatives that they can point to and say, ďOur government did thatĒ.
And itís too bad, because they were given a gift in this one. Instead, the amendment ó I canít support it. It doesnít strengthen the motion. As I said before, it makes it incomprehensible.
I would just like to make one other point about the issue of our role as legislators in terms of giving the judiciary the tools. I know we have to be very conscious that we canít criticize the judiciary. I am very concerned that we arenít tough enough on substance abuse in our communities. We donít give the judiciary or the enforcement agency ó the RCMP, in our case ó the tools to deal with, for example, the grow operations.
We canít expect the enforcement agency to do a great deal of work and put their lives at risk and attempt to close down crack houses or grow operations if the accused then gets to court and nothing happens. There is a disconnect now ó or thereís a public perception of a disconnect. There needs to be greater collaboration or some method whereby the judiciary and the enforcement agencies are provided with the tools they need to deal with these issues. The tools they need, in part, come from the Legislature. That is our job, and I think we should do it and do it well.
This is not a criminal remedy. Iím not a lawyer ó none of us are ó but I understand it offers a civil remedy. Another tool ó a citizen tool opposed to an enforcement agency tool. The more tools you have at your disposal as a community the safer your community can be and the greater ability we have to deal with these issues.
In closing ó I know my time is coming to a close ó I would just like to say that I believe the amendment makes the motion incomprehensible. That saddens me as a member of this Legislature because I believe there was an opportunity to deal with and discuss legislation in a manner that would enable the Yukon to become a safer community, enable all of us as citizens to have the tools to deal with some of these substance abuse issues that we see going on and that horrify all of us. Itís unfortunate that the government did not see fit to recognize that it was another member that put it forward, to give credit where credit is due, and move forward on it, and instead to attempt to amend it until the motion is incomprehensible.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Leader of the official opposition, on the amendment.
Mr. Hardy: Did we forget something in the Legislative Assembly today? Did we forget that there are people out there that are afflicted with addictions, that are being abused by other people, that are damaging themselves daily, that communities are being destroyed? Did we forget that?†
Did the members across the way ó the Yukon Party members ó forget that their constituents and even their party would want a clear motion to immediately bring in a safer communities and neighbourhoods act? Did we forget the humanity necessary to deal with this and put aside party politics and egos? I say we forgot that.
This was a very clear motion, as the Member for Porter Creek South identified, and it was not a criticism of anyone. It was a motion to get working on something that would help the people of this territory immediately. We have already seen five months go by since the summit forum and nothing done in this area. Did we forget that? Some good ideas came out of that summit, but there were also some serious holes. No money was identified. No timelines were identified. We have concerns about that. We have concerns about who was involved in that. However, one thing that could happen immediately, that is in the power of the Yukon Party government and the power of the Yukon Party members over there, is to get this working immediately, and it has not happened. This was, pure and simple, politics at its worst.
There is nothing in this motion that is offensive or confusing ó nothing. What does it say? The House urges the Minister of Justice to direct his officials to develop a bill to create a safe communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect as the act of the same name ó onward and onward and onward ó in Saskatchewan, to do so as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation can be ready and considered and passed during the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
We needed a direct focus. We did not need the addition, the political addition, that has been brought forward by the Member for Klondike that adds, ďthe Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate to work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public to move forward on a collaborative, coordinated approach to address the problems of substance abuse in the territory and make our communities safer, including specific steps to address ÖĒ ó I canít do it in one breath. Like the member said, I canít do it. I started partway through, and I canít finish this ó ďÖ to address harm reduction, prevention, education, treatment, enforcementÖ.Ē
Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? We already had this. There was a motion brought in about the substance abuse summit. Weíve already had this motion. Why was all this piled on top of a single, direct motion that would empower the departments to work to develop legislation and involve consultation ó whatever. Thatís their choice. Thatís the governmentís choice to do it, however they want. You donít have to name every single ó well, actually, pardon me, Mr. Speaker. What really upsets me is not only is it almost impossible to read and understand now ó this is not about clarity ó but it actually eliminates people.
Again, Mr. Speaker, when you start to name specific people, you are actually eliminating others.
What about the Minister of Community Services? Is that minister now cut out of the operation? That minister has nothing to say on this? Does that mean the representation from the rural communities is now going to be cut out?
What about every single MLA in here? Starting to name people cuts other people out. This is nothing new.
I heard the Acting Minister of Justice say they do not want to play politics around this. This is politics of the worst type. Was I surprised? No, I was not, because this has happened every time weíve brought forward anything substantive. This is a party that says no to everything the opposition proposes ó everything. Every bill weíve brought in, the Yukon Party has said no to. They sit on the other side and accuse us of saying no. I hope they keep using their little mantra. Iíve heard the Member for Southern Lakes say it half a dozen times in the last couple of days. Iíve heard other members say it. Iíve heard today the Member for Porter Creek Centre say it at least 10 times in Question Period. Look in the mirror. Look at how youíve treated the ideas coming from the opposition benches. Look how youíve treated us on this side.
Speaker: Would the member please address his remarks through the Chair.†
Mr. Hardy: Right. Thank you.
Look at that, Mr. Speaker. Once again, politics have been played around something that the people want, and they are not behind on this. The people know about this and it will be discussed on Tuesday night, Mr. Speaker. I will tell people what happened.
This motion was brought in, in good faith. It was non-political; it didnít chastise or criticize anybody, and it did not take credit. I am not pounding my chest like the Premier does on everything. I am not taking credit in my motion for anything on this. My credit comes from the people I talk to ó or, the credit I will direct is to the people I talk to, the people who have identified this as a crisis, and the people who are not scared to stand up, who donít play politics around this. Because they are willing to be on the streets and fight for change and not play politics in this little Chamber. Itís a disgrace ó an absolute disgrace.
What does the word ďdevelopĒ mean, Mr. Speaker? All we asked was for the Minister of Justice to develop a bill ó and it would be a made-in-Yukon bill, but it would borrow heavily from what is happening in other provinces and having phenomenal results. As the Member for Porter Creek South indicated, we do this on a regular basis. Thatís good legislation, when you find something thatís working somewhere else; thatís good governance, when you find something thatís working well somewhere else; to take that idea, bring it here, make it fit and adapt to the north, and introduce it. Thatís good stuff. Thatís being a good minister ó good governance, good government.
It was the time to act. This almost says that you donít have to act now ó what leads up to this now, to move forward on a collaborative, coordinated approach. Do you know what, Mr. Speaker? I recognize that language. I recognize that language from the election campaign of 2002.
After three years, I know that language is not what that government is doing. We only need to ask the First Nation if they are working in collaboration in a coordinated manner ó absolutely not with this government. I see those ďcĒ words coming back in again, so I have no faith and no trust that this is going to be followed.
Mr. Speaker, I would like the members opposite to stop laughing and reading their newspapers and withdraw this amendment. I would like to see them rise up above their egos, above petty politics, above who can pound their chest the loudest over some program, and think of their constituents. Think of those children on the streets. Think of those families who have complained about crack houses or other illegal activities happening in houses or businesses around town. Think of them first and not about their own political future. Withdraw this amendment. Allow the original to stand. Letís vote on it and move forward on it.
Will this government do that? Thatís the question. Will they accept a simple motion from the opposition side without playing politics? Thatís the question it really comes down to. Could they put aside their own self-interest and say, ďYes, itís a good motion. We can work with it.Ē Or is the underlying issue that they donít want to do this; they donít want a safe communities and neighbourhoods act.
They donít want it for ó what reasons? Because they didnít think of it? Because they didnít bring it forward? Is that the only sound, fundamental reasoning that I can get out of this? Or are there other reasons? They donít believe in it. Maybe the Yukon Party members do not believe in safe communities. And there might be some truth behind that, Mr. Speaker, because it is only NDP governments that have done it Outside. Itís not the Liberal governments or the Conservative governments that are out there, and maybe that offends them. But is it because itís not their idea, that itís somebody elseís idea? Itís not my idea, Mr. Speaker. This is not my idea at all. We looked around and found it, and it could have come from any province. It didnít matter if it was NDP or Conservative or Liberal to us. It made sense. It spoke to what the people I have been talking to are asking for. Thatís all it did. So bring it forward. Letís do it. But why ó why would they resort to such crass politics and add an amendment like that? Is it to say that you have to consult, and thatís why they brought it in? Thereís nothing in our motion, Mr. Speaker, that denies consultation ó nothing whatsoever. As a matter of fact, next week, weíre going Yukon-wide on more consultation ó us, the opposition. Now, the Yukon Party could be doing this, but theyíre not. Why? Our motion has no restrictions in that area. The only restriction our motion has is a timeline. Thatís the only restriction, because we recognize the severity of the problem, the necessity of getting this in as quickly as possible to start to stem the damage thatís being daily, weekly, monthly, yearly.
For three years this government has been in power and it has brought forward nothing along these lines. Here is their opportunity, over the next five months, to work on this. They can consult as much as they want ó absolutely, not a problem there. Nothing in our motion says they canít. They can work with other jurisdictions ó Manitoba brought it in first, Saskatchewan followed, and Nova Scotia, where the bill is before the government now and they are looking at it. They can work with them to bring it in.
But, I guess what we face now is what weíve faced on every bill weíve brought forward ó this is not even a bill, by the way. The Acting Minister of Justice often got confused in her discussions around this being a bill and a motion. It is a motion. Out of the motion would be a bill. That would be developed by this government. We are leaving it in the hands of the government, and we will contribute our contribution initially. I do thank the Member for Porter Creek South for help on this. But our contribution is just a motion to get this going.
So here we are. It looks like a delay tactic to me. It looks like a government that doesnít want to do this kind of work. Itís interesting ó I heard a comment that this was already part of the substance abuse action plan. I did look very closely at that but I didnít find it. I didnít see it identified. I didnít see any provinces or anything, but thatís not the point.
I did see an indication that the government would explore options, but thatís not the point either. No one needs to take credit around this ó no one. Credit will be spread quite well among every single MLA in here if we go ahead with this. Every single MLA can go back to their ridings and say that they did a good thing in the Legislative Assembly and this is the work they are bringing forward. Then if an election is not called in the spring, we could be debating the actual bill and voting on it.
I see, on that side, so much desperation to get some kind of credit for this. If this would make it go forward, I would stand here today and say, ďItís yours; take all the credit you want.Ē The Yukon Party can take all the credit it wants. Yukon Party members can stand and beat their chests as much as they want. They can take all the credit. All I did was take someone elseís idea, not mine, and bring it in here.
They can stand up and say, ďThis is our initiative. The summit was our initiative. Everything that came out of it was our initiative. This safe communities and neighbourhoods act is our initiative.Ē I would give it to them, if it were mine to give, but I donít think it is. If theyíre worried about that, itís theirs. Just put aside the politics here. Put aside the politics, withdraw the amendment, allow the original motion to go forward, let us vote on it and let us pass it with its timelines and recommendations for development. Let the officials and the ministers decide how the consultation around it will happen. Let it all happen, then stand up and say that they did it.
I will not say anything ó not a word. I will quite happily step aside and let other people take all the credit they want because, ultimately, itís not about me, itís not about my colleagues in here on my side, itís not even about the Yukon Party. Itís about our neighbourhoods, itís about the children, itís about the people who are addicted and need help, and itís about the people who are selling the drugs or are involved in gaming dens or involved in alcohol problems or any of the multitude of illegal activities that weíre trying to address. Itís about friends Iíve lost. I donít want to see any more lost, Mr. Speaker. I just want to move forward with this.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would obviously want to vote on the amendment because it does a great deal to strengthen the original motion, and Iíll make the points as to why the government side says that. But I do take exception to any assertion that this is somehow about politics. There are no political boundaries in this area, in this ill in society ó none whatsoever.
When this all began for this territory and this House and the government, it began with the government and the opposition benches unanimously moving forward to deal with this issue in our society.
It started with a discussion between us, the leader of the official opposition, the Grand Chief of the day, and representatives of the City of Whitehorse municipal council. It moved to where we sat down with the opposition and reached an agreement on moving toward what was called the summit. This is an important fact here, because it is now the NDP who have suddenly decided that the substance abuse action plan that came from the summit, that they agreed to and they participated in, is no good. No good for anything ó it canít work. The only way this can work is if we photostat a piece of legislation from another jurisdiction, bring it to this territory and implement it. That flies in the face of the memberís very statements here today that this whole process must be grassroots.
Letís talk about the original process we agreed to. Letís talk about grassroots. As per agreement and the creation of the summit for substance abuse, we held that summit last June. It was very well-attended. Nearly 200 participants from Yukon communities, from First Nations and people who work in the field of substance abuse, all came together along with expertise ó counsellors, justice officials, law and enforcement, the RCMP, counsellors, social workers, addictions and medical service providers, educators, representatives of NGOs and medical and health services ó all coming together.
If that isnít grassroots, I donít know what is, Mr. Speaker. It was grassroots because our fundamental approach was that, if we are going to be successful in improving this area of our society, it must be community-driven. Thatís the exact process that this government, in collaboration with the opposition members of this House, undertook.
The result of that whole process and the summit and the expert advice and recommendations received and the input from grassroots people, front-line workers like NGOs, First Nations and community representatives was that we came forward with the Yukon substance abuse action plan. This action plan, Mr. Speaker, includes safer communities legislation, but it also includes page after page after page of much more.
In beginning with harm reduction, which is agreed to by all involved as one of the main pillars and objectives of any initiative to address substance abuse, it must include community harm reduction. That is grassroots. It must help kids with FASD in schools. It must address the No Fixed Address Outreach van. Yes, we agree we are going to deal with that. It must have responsible server training, substance abuse management certification, support for high-risk young women. This all falls under the object of harm reduction ó every one of these areas has come about because of grassroots input and the input of professionals and NGOs and law enforcement and medical providers, counsellors and so on. This was a collaborative effort that is probably one of its kind. Frankly, this integrated approach that happened in another community ó in this case, Watson Lake ó was so effective and so recognized in the rest of the country that the community will be receiving an award for their efforts to deal with these kinds of societal ills.
It also goes on to another objective ó prevention and education ó which means a public education campaign. How much more grassroots can you get than a public education campaign? Thereís an aboriginal shield, which is involving the RCMP with First Nations. Alcohol and drug education in public schools is grassroots at our childrenís level.
The leader of the official opposition, in his statement, says this is about children. Yes, and through the pages of this action plan, it is all about children. Itís not about politics at all. Be prepared to talk to your children about drinking. The Liquor Corporation, under the leadership of the minister, is going to be involved in substance abuse.
Community planning and development is all about grassroots and engaging our communities in this issue. Thatís how we will improve and start to find solutions. Thatís how we will address substance abuse in the Yukon and its communities.
Counselling for kids is here in the action plan. What the member has demanded on the floor of this Legislature is written in these pages as an action item. Community training and addiction issues are in this action plan and are another element of what all of us seek, including the citizens of this territory. There are the DARE program, healthy lifestyles, work experience project, the resource directory for Yukon communities, support for students at risk, and the womenís health forum.
Mr. Speaker, it moves on to the third objective: treatment. There are expanded outreach services, problem-solving court. Why are we putting people who have this affliction in jail? How does that help society? How does that rehabilitate? How does that treat an individual who needs help?
Tele-health addictions counselling ó using technology to reach out into rural Yukon and help them address these issues.
Access to a 24-hour substance abuse crisis line ó for those who want to seek help, there is a place to go, a contact that can be made.
It includes enforcement. That is another main objective out of the four ó the fourth main objective. A community enforcement campaign ó now, if the members opposite are saying that the only way weíre going to have safer communities is to photostat Saskatchewanís legislation, I ask you: what does ďcommunity enforcement campaignĒ mean? Itís all about making our communities safer.
Getting tough on drug dealers ó are the members saying that this is not going to help make our communities safer, only Saskatchewanís safe communities legislation? Getting tough on drug dealers is about making our communities safer.
Reduce the availability of drug precursors ó weíve already done that. We didnít need safer communities legislation to do that. These types of drugs are now behind the counter here in the Yukon Territory.
Restricting access to certain cold medicines ó same thing.
Making our communities safer ó that includes safer communities legislation.
Reduce bootlegging, secure identification cards, targeted enforcement ó all these items contribute to making communities safer. And safer communities legislation ó another component of the action plan.
Why wouldnít the government side amend this motion? We have helped the NDP move beyond politics, move to a threshold that we are now achieving in this territory to address this issue.
The amendment strengthens the motion because it targets exactly how we must get to safer communities. Not only do we have to implement the elements of the action plan wherever we can and as quickly as possible, we must include an integrated approach. It must have the Minister of Education, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate and the Youth Directorate work with non-governmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers, municipalities, stakeholders and the general public.
I ask you, Mr. Speaker: how much more grassroots can you get?
But how can you simply implement safer communities legislation without all these other components going with it? Iím going to let Yukoners judge who is best able to deal with this issue in our society: the Yukon Party government or the political approach that the NDP and the official opposition have taken? I remind everybody here that they were involved in the development of this very plan that speaks to all those areas of making communities safer, of dealing with addictions, of getting tougher on drug dealers, on bootlegging, of involving communities and front-line workers, of reaching out to help those in need through problem-solving courts.
It goes on to say that we would include the development of safer communities legislation as early as, if possible, the next sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Thatís months away, and the members opposite are suggesting we are doing nothing. Thatís the problem here, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon Party government is trying to do as much as we can with all the resistance and the impeding and the constant, constant approach by the opposition benches to promote this territory in a negative light.
Thatís not going to solve problems like this. Thatís not going to help build our economy. Thatís not going to help make the lives of Yukoners better. Itís the way that we as a government are trying to lead this territory through collaboration that we can do all those things.
It wasnít us ó we didnít break ranks on this issue. It was the NDP, followed by the third party. One could only wonder why they have done that after, as they said to us and to the Yukon public, they were totally committed to deal with this issue. There are no political boundaries. Itís something we all must work together on. Weíre not saying no to their legislation or their motion.
And the member says nothing ó nothing they do is accepted by this government. Well, were we on a different planet two days ago, or last week, when we passed two motions tabled by this side of the House as amended by that side of the House ó the nonsense must stop, Mr. Speaker. The nonsense that we go through in this Assembly must come to an end. This is about Yukoners, itís about their children, and itís about their future. I would call an election right now, Mr. Speaker, if there was any reasonable alternative across that floor to help make the lives of Yukoners better. There is not, and therefore we will stay in this mandate as long as we are mandated to do.
Mr. Speaker, as long as the opposition continues to approach this territoryís issues and concerns and its future in the manner that they are, by presenting us negatively, by constantly, constantly showcasing themselves to be totally out of touch with whatís going on in todayís Yukon, as long as they promote the territory as a place of madness and misery, they will never, ever be an alternative to the Yukon Party. And thatís a good thing in our estimation, because the Yukon Party has, through its hard work, its efforts, its vision, its plan, actually improve the lives of Yukoners, and when it comes to substance abuse and the ills of our society, we intend to do more in that area. Thatís why we have tabled this plan.
Thatís why we have proposed an amendment to the motion of the NDP, to make it better. Thatís why we are going to move forward as a government, with them or without them.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Member for Mount Lorne.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can agree with one thing the Premier said and that is that the nonsense must stop. What is happening today is nothing but nonsense. Look at what the Member for Klondike did to the motion.
I would also suggest that maybe the Premier didnít actually read the motion. I donít think the Premier did read it. What he said was that we were suggesting that he just photostat it ó I donít believe that photostatting has happened for some time. I think itís now a photocopier ó so we just photocopy the bill and expect them to introduce it and pass it. Thatís not what the motion says.
The motion urges the Minister of Justice to direct his officials to develop a bill ó to develop a bill ó to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act for the Yukon that would be closely similar in spirit and effect to the act that we presented in the Legislature. We didnít ask them to take the piece of legislation that we tabled and just introduce it. We asked the minister to direct his officials to develop a bill ó a made-in-Yukon bill. So the Premier is way out of touch on that.
Now, letís talk about the amendment as the Member for Klondike introduced it. The amendment, as the member introduced it, suggests that the Minister of Justice ó and then it goes on to mention a whole bunch of other ministers and a whole bunch of other groups, such as nongovernmental organizations, First Nations, front-line workers and so on. If the Minister of Justice directed his officials to develop a bill to create a safer communities act, I sure hope that the minister would direct his officials to consult with all these people and probably a few more.
As the Member for Whitehorse Centre said, maybe the Minister of Justice should also consult with the Minister of Community Services, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Minister of Economic Development ó maybe heíd like to consult with the Member for Porter Creek South, or he might even want to consult with you, Mr. Speaker. I know that youíre concerned about this. I know that youíre doing work toward making communities safer for our families and for our children ó to try to address these needs.
The Premier seems to also think that weíre critical of the work and that we donít support this document here, the Yukon substance abuse action plan. It was actually interesting to get this document this morning because it hadnít been provided to us before and it includes action items. Maybe the Premier should actually read what it says about safer communities legislation in the action plan.
It says, ďThe Department of Justice will explore the possibility of developing legislation.Ē What the motion said was directing ó it was urging ó the Minister of Justice to direct his officials, not some willy-nilly smokescreen about exploring ďthe possibility.Ē
What weíre saying, and what the members opposite are saying no to, is to actually take some concrete action, to get the minister to do the work. I donít understand why that is so hard to take, because the only thing that I disagree with on this document, and the only problem I have with this document, is that I donít think itís a fair representation. If you look at the budget, it shows some of the things that the government is doing. It has some new ideas that came out of the summit, but there are no timelines and there is no commitment in the budget. There is no money in the supplementary budget, Mr. Speaker, for any of the new items that are in this substance abuse action plan. There is a need, Mr. Speaker.
I know our time is limited, but I will just try to touch on a few of them. Community harm-reduction fund: there is a commitment here of $10,000 in that fund that would be available to municipalities, First Nation governments and NGOs. Up to $10,000 would be available.
Is that $10,000 total? Is that $10,000 ó itís not very clear, Mr. Speaker. To take all the Yukon communities, take all the Yukon First Nations, take all the NGOs and divide $10,000 up between them ó Mr. Speaker, I think that would be a pittance; thatís what it would be. It deserves more. It deserves a lot more. Thereís a lot in this plan that deserves a lot more.
In the last little while weíve seen people dying from drug overdoses, weíve seen grow operation houses ó there was even a grow operation house in my riding. And people are concerned about that. Talk to the people on the street. Theyíre concerned about that, but thereís nothing in this action plan ó it says get tough on drug dealers, but it doesnít really say what theyíre going to do, I donít believe. There is a lot more that could be done. All weíve done, all we tried to do today, Mr. Speaker, was to propose some concrete action that this government could take.
Weíre trying to assist the government with their legislative agenda, which has been pretty light in the past three years ó to actually bring in some substantive legislation, something that really means something and can make a difference, can make a difference in my riding of Mount Lorne, can make a difference in your riding, can make a difference downtown, can make a difference in Teslin, Carcross, Mayo, Old Crow, Dawson. What does this amendment do to that?
The Premier and the Member for Klondike are basically directing the Minister of Justice and his officials in how they should do their jobs. Well, I should hope that after three years, the Minister of Justice would know how to do his job. Obviously the Premier and the Member for Klondike donít have any confidence in the Minister of Justice doing his job properly. They have to actually direct the Minister of Justice as to whom he should consult. Strangely enough, the second one on the list is the Member for Klondike himself. In fact, the Minister of Justice is supposed to consult with the Minister of Education, and they are actually one and the same person. Imagine that. Iíd like to be present for that conversation.
Now, the other thing that the Premier said about the amendment was that it strengthened the motion. Well, I disagree. I donít think that it did strengthen the motion.
In fact, if you read in the Blues tomorrow what the Premier said ó toward the end of the motion when he was reading it ó he was talking about how the legislation would be created as a matter of priority so that the proposed legislation be considered and passed during the next sitting of the Legislative Assembly. The Premier added a list postscript to that: if possible. Thatís what this amendment is all about, Mr. Speaker. Itís about delaying.
The Member for Klondike, the opposition House leader and the Minister of Health and Social Services is not committed to what the motion said originally. He is trying to water it down. He is trying to extend the process so that they donít have to bring in a safer communities piece of legislation. Thatís what heís trying to do. Heís trying to expand the process.
It would be very easy with what we presented in this House to take that legislation from Saskatchewan, put it into the Department of Justice and have them draft a piece of legislation that was made in the Yukon and put it out for the required consultation with all the people, and more, that the amendment speaks to ó to more people ó and still have it back in time for discussion in the next sitting in this Legislature.
What the Member for Klondike is trying to do is delay that so that they donít have to do it. I donít know what the Member for Klondike is afraid of in bringing forward this piece of legislation.
Now, the Premier said we were playing politics. Well, I disagree. If anyone played politics with this, it was the Member for Klondike and the members opposite. I think itís a disservice to the people who have participated in many consultations. They participated in the consultations on the Yukon ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the member opposite is imputing false motives to this side on this motion. Furthermore ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Furthermore, it is probably our intention to bring back this motion as amended.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order. Make it quick.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the government House leader did not cite the example; he only cited the clause from the Standing Orders. I suggest that this is not a point of order.
Speaker: From the Chairís perspective, there is no point of order.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 507 and the proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 9, 2005:
Yukon Geographical Place Names Board: 2003-04 Annual Report† (Taylor)
Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board 2004 Annual Report† (Jenkins)