Monday, November 21, 2005 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Withdrawal of motion
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House of a change that has been made to the Order Paper. Motion No. 510, standing in the name of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, has been removed because it is outdated.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of Doug Craig
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus. I understand my colleagues are also going to rise this afternoon to celebrate and honour Doug Craig.
Mr. Speaker, when the strong winds blow, it has a very special significance for some people. For some, strong, fierce winds have a negative connotation. Others might think of the expression, “A new broom sweeps clean.” In some cultures, there is a belief that an especially trusted and respected spirit has passed on.
A very strong and respected spirit with a particular relationship with the wind passed on this fall, Mr. Speaker, with the passing of Dr. Doug Craig. Although I didn’t have the pleasure of being taught by Dr. Craig at F.H. Collins, I did know him as a family neighbour and as a friend of our former Commissioner, Jack Cable. When I officially turned on the wind turbines on Haeckel Hill back in 2000 as the Energy minister, we had a wonderful conversation that was recorded in an official photograph that I have since passed on to the family. I learned a great deal in that conversation with Dr. Craig.
I learned a great deal, Mr. Speaker, as you can learn from someone who is truly passionate about the subject that they are speaking about at that particular time and sharing with you.
Dr. Craig has left a strong legacy to the Yukon community, through his conservation efforts and, of course, through the wind turbines. As I drive home each day and look at those wind turbines, I can’t help but think of Dr. Craig and thank him for his contribution to our community; it truly is appreciated. I understand that other colleagues are going to speak this afternoon and introduce our visitors, but on behalf of the Liberal caucus, I would like to express my condolences to Mrs. Craig, my neighbour, and her children and thank you for the tremendous contribution Dr. Craig made to the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: I am honoured to rise on behalf of the official opposition to pay respects to Dr. Doug Craig. Like many Yukoners, I knew Doug personally. I had the pleasure of working with him and his wife, Joan, on some energy-related issues over the years. Joan will no doubt recall the time when we all intervened at the Yukon Energy Corporation’s capital projects hearing, which was in the fall of 1992. I’ll always remember Doug’s tempered well-thought-out approach, which was an inspiration to the rest of us.
Doug was known internationally for pioneering the development of wind generation in our territory. Many Yukoners aren’t aware of the extreme sacrifice he made and the extra effort he made on their behalf to pursue this interest, all on a volunteer basis. I recall how he and Joan used to, on a regular basis, trudge up Haeckel Hill in the snow to check the wind monitoring equipment — I believe they’re called anemometers — and keep records of this data over the years, which was a very tedious and laborious process.
At this celebration of life, we heard about how Doug pursued many interests in life with this same vigour. If ever there was someone to commemorate with a volunteer award, it has to be Doug. He has done a lot for our territory, and his work will continue to benefit Yukoners well into the future. Doug will be sadly missed but never forgotten. Our condolences to his family and many friends.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I rise, too, on behalf of our caucus to pay tribute to a long-time Yukoner, the late Doug Craig. Doug was known to many of us in the community as being a loving husband, a doting father, a caring brother, a really neat uncle, an inspirational teacher, of course, and a brilliant innovator, a faithful Christian and a very, very strong and outstanding Rotarian as well as a good friend.
Today in the gallery we are joined by his wife Joan, their daughter Pauline and her husband Scott. Unable to be here today are Doug and Joan’s other daughter Marion and her partner Tanya; their son David and his wife Jill; his brother Donald and his wife Dorothy; his sister Gladys and their two grandchildren, Daniel and Katie.
Doug and his wife, Joan, moved to Whitehorse in 1969 for what began as a three-year stay, and like that of many Yukoners, it extended to become a lifelong commitment. Both Doug and Joan quickly became very involved in the community and contributed to new innovations and projects that were dedicated to improving their community for all Yukoners.
Dr. Craig, often known as “Doc”, had his Ph.D. in Geological Engineering, and after a career in government, left that position to teach. As a science teacher at F.H. Collins for about 13 years, he inspired many Yukon students to challenge themselves by exploring their textbook lessons further out of the classroom and to appreciate education as a really lifelong commitment.
He had the ability to recognize those students who would excel if they were provided the right guidance and motivation, and many of his students will remember Dr. Craig’s contributions as a leader and a mentor to them.
Doug’s enthusiasm for conservation and his dedication to society saw him work on many community projects. He worked hard to bring wind energy to Whitehorse, of course, and was influential in the introduction of the two wind turbines that are now located on Haeckel Hill. I can pretty well see them out of my living room window and it’s certainly something that I’ll very much remember Doug by.
He was also involved with the reintroduction of wood bison to the Yukon and he volunteered his time to construction of the bison compound in the Nisling River valley. The cosmic world must have known his commitment to those bison as, ironically, he regularly put his name in for a bison hunt permit and his name, I believe, was never actually drawn — something going on there.
Doug also organized lodgepole pinecone harvesting in the Carmacks area. The cones would be collected and sent to Prince George to have the seeds extracted, to then be sent to Sweden to establish lodgepole pine plantations. Doug enjoyed agriculture and although his experimental farm along the M’Clintock River valley was turned over to someone else to complete, he did design and install an irrigation system on a farm along the Hot Springs Road that each year grew a crop of potatoes that would be sold to raise money for the Braeburn Lake children’s camp.
These are just a few examples, Mr. Speaker, of some of Doug’s work and, of course, on and on with his involvement with Rotary. He truly had a passion for science and the environment. As well, his friendship and companionship with Joan lead him to support his wife on projects such as Recycling Organics Together Society — otherwise affectionately known as ROTS.
They also established the downtown urban garden located below the clay cliffs, near Ogilvie Street. They hauled numerous trailer loads of the superb Craig compost and horse manure. His efforts were recognized by being presented the Commissioner’s Award for community service. He was awarded the Paul Harris Fellowship from Rotary International for his service to the community. Doug was also on the board of directors for the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and a board member and president of the Yukon Agricultural Association.
Those who knew Doug will remember him for his kindness, compassion and persistence. He was truly an exceptional man. Even as he faced his own mortality, Dr. Craig agreed to participate in medical research in hopes that his own situation could help researchers find ways to ease suffering for future patients. His pioneering spirit never left him. Whether it was through pioneering new technologies, supporting the community or passing on his extensive knowledge to his students, he’ll be sincerely missed by all who knew him and all those who knew of him.
In recognition of the 33rd annual Geoscience Forum
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to join me and recognize the 33rd annual Yukon Geoscience Forum.
The latest in technology, exploration and research, as well as industry information, will be showcased at the annual forum opening in Whitehorse today and wrapping up on November 23. The forum is hosted by the Yukon Chamber of Mines. It is an information exchange among industry, government and academia on the latest in exploration, development and reclamation for minerals and oil and gas. About 300 participants from across Canada attend the Geoscience Forum, including geologists, scientists, service and supply companies, investors, prospectors, placer miners, various levels of government and mining and oil and gas companies. The Yukon government is a strong supporter of this event, which highlights the work of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Yukon geological survey branch.
We are forecasting mineral exploration to increase by 120 percent over last year. Pre-development spending is forecasted to increase over 200 percent this year. With the high demand for natural resources in China and Asia, we have every reason to believe that this trend will continue.
On the oil and gas front, for the first time in 20 years, two new wells — one exploration and one development — were drilled in Yukon. We expect more interest in our northern oil and gas resources as the demand for energy continues to grow with the world economy. We are preparing for that development when it does happen. The oil and gas industry is very young in Yukon, and we are slowly nurturing and developing this sector. Our geologists will be giving talks on their field results and what took place this year in hard rock exploration, placer mining and oil and gas.
Energy, Mines and Resources is also hosting a public workshop on the final draft of the mining reclamation and closure policy at the forum. This policy will play an important role in future mine developments. It will also fulfill government’s commitment to minimize public liability, foster responsible management and development of our mineral resources and create additional certainty for the mining industry.
I encourage my honourable colleagues to attend the presentations, poster displays and trade shows at the forum.
I want to say in closing, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon government is pleased to support the Geoscience Forum. I want to take this time to congratulate our team of geologists for their excellent work and recognize their central role in the forum. I also want to acknowledge the crucial role the Yukon Geological Survey plays in supporting management and development of our resources. Expansion of our scientific and technical information on the geology of the territory is vital. It is important for industry, development, land use decision making, and wise stewardship of our resources.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I would like to ask the indulgence of the House to give a warm welcome to Mr. Al Falle, former Member of the Legislative Assembly, and Mr. Bill Klassen, former deputy minister of this government and on the board of directors of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 10 — response
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am pleased to respond to Petition No. 10, as put forward by the honourable member Mr. Fairclough, ensuring the safety of our students is a priority for the Department of Education. We continue to provide the safest learning environments possible for all students. Roughly 40 percent of all Yukon teachers have some level of first aid. All schools have emergency plans that set forth a process to deal with different emergencies. All parents, students, and teachers are made aware of any severe allergies that students may have so that the proper accommodations are made in schools and the appropriate treatments are available should a student be exposed to a potentially harmful allergen.
At present, there is no requirement for teachers to have first aid training, except in specialized situations. The Yukon Teachers Association has stated publicly that they do not want first aid as a mandatory requirement for employment. Regardless, many schools have several staff members trained in first aid and many schools use professional development funds to train and maintain certification of staff in first aid.
I would like to thank everyone who took the time to sign the petition and bring their concerns to our attention.
Also, I would like to assure the members of the House that the level of Yukon teachers trained in first aid well exceeds the Yukon Workers’ Compensation Act safety requirements.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this time, I would like the House to help me welcome Marlene Dunsten, who is a member of Takhini Elementary School Council and who is a strong advocate of this issue. I thank her for all her efforts and input into this issue.
Speaker: Are there any further petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government not to implement any changes in the disposition process under the Yukon Oil and Gas Act until First Nations and all other Yukoners have been consulted about how to minimize the environmental, social and cultural impacts of oil and gas activity while also ensuring that Yukon people will derive the maximum economic benefit from such activity now and in the future.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Pipeline, federal aid package
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the big story last week came on Thursday, when the federal government lit a fire under the frozen Mackenzie Valley pipeline project in the Northwest Territories by announcing a new $2.8-billion aid package. Earlier this month, we called upon the Energy, Mines and Resources minister to muster up an all-party delegation to go to Ottawa to seek funding for our proposed pipeline project, but he has done nothing of the sort. Why shouldn’t the Yukon get a similar package from the feds? We’re part of Canada too. We’ve got a similar project on the horizon. In case the minister hasn’t noticed, the federal Liberals are giving away billions of dollars these days. Will the minister now agree to muster this delegation, or does someone have to light a fire under him too?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, we certainly are part of Canada. We have made two extensive trips to Ottawa, and we’re certainly looking at a third one on the horizon. I agree with the member opposite. It’s good to see Ottawa moving ahead on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, and we are part of Canada.
Mr. McRobb: We in the official opposition are certainly prepared to send a delegate on such an important lobby effort. I’m sure others than the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition are just as willing — the Association of Yukon Communities and so on. This is the best time to hit up the feds from this funding. The window of opportunity is now open. The federal government is prepared to implement a wide array of royalty and investment options for the N.W.T., but so far has come up empty-handed for the Yukon. What does this minister plan to do about this before the window of opportunity slams shut on his fingers?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working on this issue on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We are working with the Aboriginal Pipeline Coalition. As I remind the member opposite, we’ve made two extensive trips to Ottawa. Our Premier will be meeting with the Prime Minister this week. That is an issue that will be brought forward. We will have a critique of how the federal government perceives the Mackenzie Valley pipeline moving forward.
We’re doing our job, Mr. Speaker, and I imagine we will be going back to Ottawa to remind them — as the member opposite says — that we are part of Canada.
Mr. McRobb: Let’s try a different approach with this minister. Perhaps I should describe what the N.W.T. is getting in a grocery-list format. From the produce section, the feds have offered up $1.2 billion to the producers; from the meat and potatoes section, the feds have offered up $1.6 billion in loan guarantees for the N.W.T.’s aboriginal pipeline group; and from the bakery section, the feds have already delivered lots of bread for various committees and purposes related to that pipeline.
When will the minister finally be heading to Ottawa with our grocery list?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This is a meat-and-potatoes question, is it, Mr. Speaker? I’m reminding the member opposite that the makeup of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is different from the Alaska Highway. In the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, we’re taking a Canadian product to a Canadian market. I would remind the member opposite that the gas going through the Alaska Highway pipeline is foreign gas and it’s moving through our jurisdiction, just so we don’t get mixed up on the flexibility the federal government could have if, in fact, they realize we are part of Canada.
The Premier of the territory, along with First Nations, is in Ottawa as of today, talking to officials on many issues. One of the things on the front burner is the Alaska Highway pipeline, making it very clear to the federal government that we are part of Canada.
Question re: Oil and gas disposition process
Mr. McRobb: I have another question for this same minister. Without consulting widely with Yukoners or considering any other options, this minister is barrelling ahead with an industry-driven oil and gas disposition process. He confirmed this in a recent speech in Calgary when he said the new system for selling oil and gas leases will be more responsive to industry, but this may not be what Yukoners want or need. We don’t know, Mr. Speaker, because the minister hasn’t asked them.
Specifically, which First Nations and stakeholder groups did the minister consult with before making this radical change to the disposition process?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In correcting the member opposite, YOGA is Yukon Oil and Gas Act. It’s an act. There is a process on how that act can be dealt with. We’re following all those processes, Mr. Speaker. YOGA is an agreement that was signed between the federal government, territorial government and First Nations on how oil and gas dispositions would be handled in the territory. We’re doing exactly that, so the member opposite again is off-track on that issue. There is no radical change to YOGA — nothing of the sort, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I wish the minister would get on the same page. I didn’t mention changes to the act. We’re talking about the regulations.
This new oil and gas disposition process could open virtually the entire territory to industry. Oil and gas companies should not be the ones initiating the process. Government should do this after consulting fully with Yukon people. Development needs better coordination with First Nations, municipal governments, land use planning commissions, private property holders and other government departments. A publicly driven process would also mean greater certainty, because industry would know right up front that some lands are off limits because of the residential, environmental, recreational or heritage values.
Why does the minister insist on catering to the oil and gas conglomerates and cutting Yukon people out of the loop?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is off-track. YOGA is a very important part of how we manage oil and gas in the territory. There is a process, and the process is followed. As far as surface rights are concerned, there are checks and balances in place for that. So, again, the member is creating something that is not there. YOGA works. We are working with YOGA, and we are moving ahead with oil and gas management in the territory.
Mr. McRobb: I think the minister is lost in that grocery store. He is talking about pineapples. We are talking about oranges here. The industry-driven model is plagued with problems, and it doesn’t provide the best return on investment to government or the public. For instance, Alberta only captures about $4 for every barrel of oil pumped out of its ground, yet it’s a public resource. There are better models, like Norway’s, that deserve closer scrutiny. Norway makes five times as much per barrel as Alberta. Alberta is facing clean-up costs of $9 billion but only has $20 million set aside for that purpose. On the other hand, Norway will soon have enough in its rainy-day fund to run all its government programs in perpetuity just from the interest off that fund.
When will this minister stop kowtowing to industry and put the interest of present and future Yukoners ahead of the oil companies?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the candour of the member across the way there. I would like to remind the member opposite about the investment that Devon and their partners put in southeast Yukon in the Kotaneelee field in one well. One well was drilled in the southeast Yukon. It went from almost zero — it was going down, down, down according to YOGA and how we share in the wealth. The territorial government this year realized over $2 million worth of revenue from one well.
The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations received a cheque for $116,000; Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in received a cheque for $92,000; Kluane First Nation received a cheque for $42,000; Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation received a cheque for $65,000; the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun received $61,000; Selkirk First Nation received $70,000; Ta’an Kwach’an Council received $51,000; Teslin Tlingit Council received $78,000, and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation received $80,000.
Mr. Speaker, we all share in the wealth out of that one well. It’s a pretty good well, I would say, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Coal-bed methane
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I also have some questions for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. It seems to be his day today.
On August 18 of this year, the minister wrote a letter to the president of Cash Minerals, a Vancouver-based company. I requested a copy of the letter under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and got back a very heavily edited version of the letter. This is what the first sentence said: “I appreciated our meeting of July 28, 2005, and subsequent correspondence respecting coal-bed methane rights.” The bulk of the letter, as I said — the key middle paragraph — is blanked out.
Now, I understand the company asked the minister if they have the right to proceed with coal-bed methane production on their Yukon property. Would the minister provide a complete copy of the letter so that the public knows what’s on the table or indicate to us in the House today what was said in that key centre paragraph?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess the member opposite could get access to that if they talked to the company. I don’t edit the letters, Mr. Speaker.
Natural gas from coal is a question for anybody in Yukon who has a coal claim, coal leases. So that is a question we answer on a regular basis. We have no regulations in place for how to handle natural gas from coal. It is one of the things that has to be done. I recognize that, and we will move ahead to put it into a regulation form so that we can manage it as a resource for the Yukon. But at the moment — through devolution, there was nothing in place to regulate natural gas from coal and divide them away from coal leases. So there is a question there. There has to be some work done, and we will go to work and do it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the reason the ATIPP office gave for editing the letter is section 24, that says a public body has to refuse to disclose the information if it reveals trade secrets of a third party. But the final paragraph, which they did let us see, says: “I’m advising other interested parties of the outcome of the discussions by copying them on this letter.” Why can he advise the Outside companies but he can’t advise Yukoners, and we can’t get this information?
Now, the coal-bed methane has a very checkered reputation. Several jurisdictions have introduced moratoria on its development until the environmental impacts are better understood. It seems we’re going in the other direction — permit first and ask questions later.
Will the minister confirm today that this August 18 letter gives Cash Minerals the right to proceed with coal-bed methane production on their Yukon properties?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I don’t have anything to do with ATIPP. In my department we get many questions on ATIPP and we answer them, I imagine, in a very business-like way. I can tell the member opposite, Cash Minerals, Division Mountain, has no plans at the moment for natural gas from coal. I told the member opposite that work has to be done. Part of that work is exactly what she talked about in her question. We will do the work, Mr. Speaker. This is one thing that was not done, was not covered by devolution, and it’s a thing that eventually will have to be done in the Yukon. But as far as Division Mountain is concerned, at the moment all they are looking at is extracting coal and exporting it to Asia.
So, Mr. Speaker, the issue about natural gas from coal is an issue because it is a resource, it is there, we can’t ignore that it is not there, how do we manage it as a government? We certainly are going to have a process and we will do that process to make sure we maximize the input of the general public and we move forward in time to address the question. The question is: what would you do with natural gas from coal if you had it now?
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of questions about this and the minister has been asked questions about coal-bed methane before. His response has always been, “Don’t worry — when an application comes forward, well, then we will talk about it.” Well, in an August 18 letter to industry, the minister appears to have told this Vancouver company to go ahead and apply. He says, “Thank you for your meeting and our discussions about coal-bed methane rights.” Then neither he nor his department — nobody — will tell Yukoners what the middle paragraph says, and then he goes on and says, “Further to your other letter, I am advising other interested parties of the outcome of our discussions by copying them on this letter.” Well, if you can advise the rest of the industry, why can’t you tell Yukoners — why can’t the minister tell Yukoners? It appears the minister has jumped in with both feet.
Will the minister make the full letter public so that Yukoners can see just exactly how far down the road he has gone?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I appreciate the question from the member opposite. There is no process on how you would apply for natural gas from coal in the Yukon government. You couldn’t go to a desk and put an application in for it. That’s what I’m saying to the member opposite. There’s work to be done, and the department will do its work. Eventually we will recognize the fact that we have natural gas from coal in the Yukon, and there will be some regulations in place to regulate it and answer those questions she just asked.
But there is no form, per se, where you could apply for natural gas from coal, either a permit or —
Question re: Anti-poverty strategy
Mrs. Peter: Last week we asked the Minister of Health and Social Services what he planned to do about poverty in the Yukon. He said he was not comfortable with my suggestion that crime was connected to poverty. We know that not all poor people are criminals, and we know that not all criminals come from poverty.
We don’t have to look far to see examples of upper-class crime all around us, even in the Yukon. Why is the minister ignoring well-documented evidence that poverty is one of the root causes of crime?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The fact of the matter is we are not.
Mrs. Peter: The minister does not understand poverty, if that was his answer. This government is refusing to increase social assistance rates and the minimum wage. They’re ignoring homeless youth wandering the streets. Some young people are selling their bodies for a place to sleep. Many parents can’t afford proper food for their children. They aren’t benefiting from this minister’s rose-tinted view of our economy. They are definitely not better off under this Yukon Party government.
For some of them, criminal activity seems to be their only option.
Will this minister commit his department to stop looking just at the symptoms and get on with fighting the poverty at the root of crime in a serious way?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I can point to so many examples of how our government is addressing the root issue of poverty. Let’s start with the first incorrect premise that we haven’t increased social assistance rates. We have increased SA rates. SA rates for single people here in the Yukon is the highest category of SA rates anywhere in Canada. They are almost twice those of Alberta, and they are at least a third higher than British Columbia.
In addition to that, for those who are disabled, that rate was increased significantly. It was increased by $125 a month. That is but one example. The individuals living in poverty are more likely the victims of crime, not the perpetrators of it. The crime statistics in the Yukon do not support the direction that the member opposite’s questions are taking. We have to look at the total package. We have done that. We have concentrated on NGOs and initiatives where there has been a demonstrated need. One of those demonstrated needs has been to increase SA rates. That has been done in consultation with our First Nation partners. The SA rate for those who are disabled has been increased.
Question re: Addictions programs
Mr. McRobb: Last week, we asked questions about a violent man with severe addictions who spent an entire year in jail without any addictions counselling. He was denied admission to the alcohol and drug services residential treatment program. Because he was taking medication, the treatment program could not accommodate him. Without treatment, this man and many others are at much higher risk to reoffend. The judge made that very clear in his reasons for sentencing.
When can people who need and request treatment for their addictions expect real help from this government, not just platitudes and band-aid solutions?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At the present time there is programming for those who suffer from addictions and are incarcerated. Again, Mr. Speaker, any government, regardless of which one it is, can provide funding for programming in the institution but, again, it is up to the individual to participate. This year, in the correctional facility, the government is funding a full-time mental health counsellor.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society recently provided a very clear response to the government’s substance abuse action plan, especially on the question of treatment. They say treatment systems are not working and are not culturally relevant. They want a facility to implement effective treatment at the local level. I quote from their letter: “All treatment systems in the Yukon require monitoring and evaluation on an ongoing basis.”
We’ve heard this before from other First Nations, yet this government has done nothing to support First Nation-run treatment and healing programs. Why isn’t the minister responding to First Nations communities that are calling for an effective response to their treatment needs?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the facts of the matter are that we have and we will continue to do so. The member opposite knows full well that the Department of Health and Social Services, drug and alcohol services, makes the counsellors available. They continually move around to the various First Nation communities when they’re putting on courses and camps, and they provide their services to those initiatives.
At the same time, our substance abuse action plan clearly identifies the area that we will be concentrating on. Under the treatment action items, we are expanding outreach services. There is a problem-solving court, tele-health addiction counselling, and a 24-hour substance abuse crisis line. They are but a few of the initiatives that are underway that we will be enhancing, Mr. Speaker, in partnership with those involved in service delivery from our First Nation communities.
Question re: Contract registry
Mr. Fairclough: Yukoners have a right to know exactly how the government is spending their money. People who do business with this government also have a right to know there is a level playing field. We’re all very aware of the Yukon Party government’s habit of bypassing the public tendering processes and handing out big sole-source contracts, but the government isn’t doing a very good job of making it possible for people to get information they need on contracts that have been issued.
What is the minister doing to improve the contract registry system to give Yukoners better access to timely and accurate information about the contracting habits of different departments?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are endeavouring to provide as much information as possible on all contracts the government is issuing. We’re open and transparent with all those items; in fact, we even publish a document on a quarterly basis and provide it to the House.
Mr. Fairclough: Let me continue with that, Mr. Speaker. The print summary of the registry only comes out twice a year. The on-line registry is designed in such a way that it requires someone to know all the information they’re looking for before they even start searching. Contract details provided are minimal and cryptic. Anyone who wants information frequently has to go through the access to information process and, even then, they’ll probably hit roadblocks because of commercial privacy interests.
A truly accountable government would be open to every single penny it spends, and contractors should know this information is public.
The minister has been tinkering with the access to information process. Will he now commit to improving the contract registry to make it truly open, accessible and informative?
Hon. Mr. Hart: If he’s having difficulty getting through the process, I’m more than willing to provide him with a briefing so he can advise my people of the difficulty he’s having.
Question re: Vehicle wash bay
Mr. Fairclough: This question is to the same minister. A little less than two years ago, this government built a new wash bay in the transportation maintenance area. The purpose was to reduce the environmental impact of salt and oil from its larger vehicles. A contract of $400,742 went to a local company through a public bidding process, unlike a lot of the contracts that this government is sole-sourcing.
I have a very simple question for the minister: in the 22 months since this wash bay was built, how many vehicles have been washed in it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I don’t have that information right at my fingertips.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister ought to. It’s their project. Maybe this would be of interest to the minister: the answer, Mr. Speaker, is none. Not one vehicle has gone through that wash bay — not one.
Another thing: one little detail that was left out of the planning was the fact that the wash bay uses water. Isn’t that something? For much of the time, this new facility has been sitting idle because there was no suitable water supply — none. Maybe this will be of interest to the minister now that two years have gone by, Mr. Speaker.
How much was added to the cost of this facility by having to find a source of water and install the necessary equipment to make the wash bay functional? Can the minister answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Difficulties arose with this particular project in respect to the time that took place — it also came in overbudget, because that’s what the tender process brought. In addition, we had some difficulties with regard to the heating system, which created further delays on the completion of the wash bay. That’s what we’re working on.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister does have some information. I’ll encourage him to continue reading his briefing notes.
As he said, Mr. Speaker, even with the water and salt, there was no proper heating to keep this building from freezing up. The forced-air heating system was installed and a wall was knocked out between the wash bay and the welding area next door, but the forced-air heating system poses a health and safety risk because of fumes in the welding area.
The next idea was to install radiant heaters. Meanwhile, not one vehicle has been washed, not one cup of oil has been filtered out, and not one tablespoon of road salt has been recovered.
When will the wash bay finally be up and running, and what will the final cost of this boondoggle be?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We’re working with the contractor on covering off some of the deficiencies he so abundantly brought forth, and we’re working with him to ensure the bay is complete and will be doing exactly what it’s intended to do, and that is to wash vehicles.
Question re: Coal-bed methane
Ms. Duncan: I’d like to follow up with my questions about the coal-bed methane and the minister’s correspondence. On several occasions, the minister has answered the question with regard to coal-bed methane by saying, “Well, the government has regulations. Don’t worry, when an applications comes forward we’ll deal with it.” The problem I and others have is that the letter addresses the issue of coal-bed methane, but the copy we got from ATIPP doesn’t provide what the minister’s answer was.
What was the minister’s discussion with Cash Minerals about coal-bed methane rights? What was the substance of the discussion? Perhaps he could tell us that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Well, Mr. Speaker, it’s exactly what I told her in the last question. There is nothing in place in the territorial government as of today to apply for natural gas from coal permits. We understand the resource is there and we understand there is a demand — a question about that resource. We’re committed, as a government, to move forward and put some regulations in place so that, at the end of the day, there is a process that can address the issues that she brings forward. I can’t say any more than that. There is no application for natural gas from coal. There is nothing of the sort in front of our government today, and there wouldn’t be a process where we could accept it if there was.
Ms. Duncan: I would encourage the minister to hear the question as I am asking it and not necessarily the advice he is receiving from the Member for Klondike.
This is the question I am asking: I understand there is no application process right now. I also understand the minister, in his own correspondence, says, “I appreciate meeting with this company and subsequent correspondence respecting coal-bed methane rights.” If what he told the company was, “Look, we don’t have an application process”, why can’t he tell us that on the floor of the House? Why is that information blacked out of this ATIPP copy of this letter? It is a simple straightforward question. What did the minister say to Cash Minerals when he discussed coal-bed methane with them and why won’t he share that information with the House?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I don’t know how it could be clearer. There are no regulations in place for natural gas from coal. I am sure in my discussion with Cash Minerals, I made it very clear in this government that there is no process where you can apply for natural gas from coal. I am committed, from this side of the House, that we will work and move forward and try to address that issue, but there is certainly no process at the moment. There are no applications at the moment, and we have to move forward to make sure that we put regulations around it and do it properly.
Ms. Duncan: Then, Mr. Speaker, why won’t the minister share the rest of the letter with us then? All he has to do is provide us with the rest of the letter. The other sentence in the letter we were allowed to get says, “I’m advising the other interested parties of the outcome of our discussions by copying them on this letter.” If the other interested parties can get a copy of the letter and the minister says I didn’t say anything different from what I’m saying in the House, then will he commit that he will provide both opposition parties the full text of this letter to Cash Minerals on August 18, 2005?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I’m not involved in ATIPP. There is a process where you request this information. I am not going to go against the process, Mr. Speaker. What I’m telling the member opposite is there are no applications from natural gas from coal, there are no regulations in place where we would handle that application, and it has to be done in the future. That’s what I told the member opposite. That’s the crux of the story. There are no applications out there and there are no regulations to accept an application, and we’re committed to move forward and try to put those regulations to bed.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act.
Before we begin, do members wish a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We’ll take a brief recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 57 — Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act
Chair: The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be able to speak to this House about amendments to the Small Claims Court Act. After the initial request by the judiciary to review certain provisions of this legislation was made late last year, our government approved a consultation that would deal with amendments to the three areas we are looking at today. A consultation with Yukoners was undertaken by the Department of Justice to ensure that this legislation would be responsive to the needs of those who would be most likely to use it. It resulted in some very good input and generally positive feedback and helpful suggestions from the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Bar Association, members of the Law Society and various chambers of commerce.
I would like to begin our discussion today by setting out the framework for members of this House who may not be familiar with the Small Claims Court.
Yukon Small Claims Court is similar to other small claims courts across Canada in that it is a low barrier court that is user-friendly, and designed to be accessible to litigants who are representing themselves in court matters. When I say low barrier, I mean simply that the fees are much lower than those of the Supreme Court. The process of filing paper is simpler, there is the opportunity for free mediation by the senior justice of the peace and the costs are limited for both the plaintiff and the defendant.
This court differs from the Supreme Court because the recovery of costs from defendants or plaintiffs is specifically limited by the regulations of the court and because it only hears matters up to a certain dollar amount. In the Supreme Court, legal fees may be recovered as prescribed by a judge’s rulings, while in the Small Claims Court, that discretion is not available to the judge and costs are only as set out in the regulations.
Before the Yukon Small Claims Court Act and regulations were amended in 1995, it was usual in the early 1990s for up to 600 or more claims filed to be opened annually. Today, the number of files opened is around 200. Most of the cases filed before the regulations were changed did not proceed to trial. Today, the same situation is true. Although the number of cases that actually proceed to trial is less than half the number that proceeded to trial in the early 1990s.
Why the change in the number of claims that were filed? The large numbers of the early 1990s were due in part to a few large retailers and aggressive collection policies. Today, there are fewer national retail chains —
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Order please. Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, it’s against the Standing Orders to read from Hansard or deliberately repeat oneself. This is the same speech the minister gave to this bill in second reading, word for word.
Chair: Mr. Cathers, on the point of order.
Mr. Cathers: It is the Member for Kluane’s perception that this is an excerpt from Hansard; however, the Minister of Justice is reading from his speaking notes. That is not contrary to the Standing Orders, unless it is the view of the Chair that needless repetition is being engaged in.
Chair: Order please. The Chair finds that there is no point of order. I would encourage the minister to speak to the bill under discussion, which is happening now. We will continue with debate.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I understand that sometimes the opposition needs to hear things twice in order to catch on. The number of small claims filed has steadily declined since that time, in part because at least two of those retailers are no longer in business in Whitehorse, or retailers have adopted a different approach to credit than they had in the past.
Another issue related to the steady decline in small claims filed in Small Claims Court may be related to the maximum amount of debt that is allowed to be claimed. Currently, the maximum amount of debt that may be claimed in Small Claims Court is $5,000. As I have stated, this amount was established in the mid-1990s. At that time, the Yukon limit was in the middle range of small claims limits across the country. Since that time, other jurisdictions have been steadily raising their maximum amounts until, today, Yukon has the lowest small claims limit in Canada.
Mr. Chair, today B.C. and Alberta have already raised the limit to actions in their small claims courts to $25,000, with Nunavut not far behind with a proposed $20,000 limit. In B.C., they have gone one step further by stating that the limit could be raised to $75,000 over time.
So again, Mr. Chair, as you can see, it is relevant for this to come forward at this point in time, to raise that amount from $5,000 to $25,000, as it has been a demand from the general public.
Mr. Chair, there has also been a change seen in the amount of credit available to consumers, due in part to low interest rates, a strong economy and a trend by Canadians to spend more and save less.
Small business owners who might feel it uneconomical to hire legal counsel to pursue someone who owes their business money and who would prefer to collect the debt on their own in a low barrier court found that the low monetary jurisdiction automatically would bump many matters into the more formal and usually much more expensive Supreme Court.
Mr. Chair, I would be happy to hear any concerns or questions that the opposition might have at this time.
Mr. Cardiff: I thank the minister for his words. We on this side of the House, as was mentioned in second reading speeches, which we just heard again from the minister — don’t have much problem with this bill. I think the one area of concern that I have is to do with the erosion of democracy.
The fact is that this bill, while it makes some changes that have been requested by the judiciary to make the act more reflective of modern times by increasing the levels and making some changes to make the Small Claims Court more responsive, at the same time it takes away from democracy in that we’ll never see this act come through this Legislature again — for this purpose, anyhow. It’ll never happen.
The ability to raise or lower the threshold for a small claims court action will never be reviewed by members of the Legislative Assembly ever again in this territory if we pass this bill, and that’s the one problem that I see with the bill: that it is basically giving the responsibility and authority to the Commissioner in Executive Council to increase the monetary jurisdiction. I just feel that we’re not doing our job if we do that.
There is obviously a reason these things come before the Legislative Assembly and it is so that, as representatives of Yukon citizens — representing the 18 constituencies — we have an opportunity to see this and to comment on it. It’s not just the Justice minister and the Justice critic who have an opportunity to see it: the Member for Lake Laberge can look at it, the Member for Kluane can look at it and the Member for Riverdale South can look at it and, if they have concerns, they can express them.
That will never happen again in this regard. It will be a decision that’s made in Cabinet, there will be an order-in-council, and the Commissioner will sign off on it. To me, it is the one problem with the bill. I recognize the need to make the Small Claims Court more reflective of the times we live in. We’re basically doing what every other jurisdiction in Canada has done. We’re going a little further than some of them and coming up to par with a couple of jurisdictions by raising the threshold to $25,000.
I don’t have a problem with doing that; I think it’s a good idea. It’s more reflective of the way business is done in the Yukon Territory, but I do have a problem with the erosion of democracy. That’s what we’re here for: to oversee this type of legislation.
I don’t know whose idea it was to remove that from the legislative oversight it has traditionally had. I understand that sometimes it takes time to bring things forward but, for the Minister of Justice, I don’t know how long it took to prepare this bill, but I would think, if the minister really wants to, we can see this bill through the House here in a rather short period of time.
I know the minister is not going to amend this, but I think it’s valid, if nothing else, to point out that the legislative oversight for this will be gone after passing this bill. I don’t believe that there is a need for that. I think that we could leave the legislative oversight in there. The only reason to take it away would be if it were to take days or weeks to change it, but this afternoon will prove to the Minister of Justice just how fast we can do this. I look forward to his comments.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: You know, the opposition started out by saying that they didn’t want to hear this minister repeat anything, and in one of the first questions the opposition said, “I don’t know who asked for this review.” Well, that’s why I made sure I stated twice that it was an initial request from the judiciary, and then the consultation process took place. That’s now the fourth time that I am saying that to the members opposite. I hope this time they understand that it was a request to have this change.
I don’t see it as an erosion of democracy. The consultation was done. Again I must state that this change was recommended by the judiciary. The act can come back for other changes. There are another 11 sections in this act. The act has already had extensive regulations passed by other governments.
I think and believe that this increase is important enough to the citizens at large that there was a specific request for that change and this government just complied with that.
Mr. Cardiff: I understand that there was a consultation done for the changes to this act. What I said was I don’t know who proposed the changes to the act. I was talking about this specific change. The minister is so glad to get up on his feet. Can he tell us who specifically requested that the authority to change the monetary jurisdiction be removed from the Legislative Assembly and be delegated to Cabinet? Can he tell us who that was?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chair, the request came from the Department of Justice.
Mr. Cardiff: So the request to do this came from the department. If the minister supports this, obviously there must have been some rationale behind this particular clause being changed. Can the minister tell us what the rationale was for changing it, please? What I’d like to know are the reasons why the officials felt that it was necessary to take it from the Legislative Assembly and delegate it to Cabinet.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Probably one of the main reasons for the Department of Justice wanting to follow this particular avenue is because it’s complementary to other governments in Canada that have followed this same procedure. Secondly, it’s really a people’s legislation. It makes it simpler, and it is easier for the average person on the street to use.
Mr. Cardiff: Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me. What the minister just said is that it’s the people’s legislation. If it’s the people’s legislation, this is where we should deal with it — right here in the Legislative Assembly, not upstairs in the Cabinet office where the Minister of Justice gets his advice from the Member for Klondike or the Member for Watson Lake, and that’s where the decision is made.
If it’s the people’s legislation, the decision should be made right here. I’m not going to belabour this, because obviously I’m not going to get the minister to change his mind, so we might as well just move into the lines — I’m ready to move into the lines.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the member opposite for his comments. He’s right about one thing: I won’t be changing anything that’s suggested by the other side. I would entertain the thought of going into line-by-line debate.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will continue line by line.
Mr. Cardiff: I request unanimous consent to deem all lines and the title of Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming all clauses of Bill No. 57 read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Cardiff has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, read and agreed to.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: I would like to hear that again. Do you agree to give unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Title agreed to
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers that Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 58 — Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act
Chair: We’ll continue with Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I am pleased to be presenting this legislation to the Legislative Assembly for its consideration. The Yukon Supreme Court is a very important institution in our judicial system. The very able judges who serve in this court deserve our respect and, where possible, our recognition for the difficult task that they perform in our society. Supreme Court justices are highly qualified individuals who come to their positions with impeccable credentials and a history of many years of service as lawyers after they are called to the bar.
In Yukon, the ranking Supreme Court Judge is currently referred to as the Senior Judge. This change will make the title of that position consistent with that of similar positions in the other two territories and will reflect a recent change to the federal Judges Act. The Yukon Supreme Court judges have requested this change because it will grant equal stature with the ranking senior judges in other jurisdictions. This is a minor, technical amendment. It only affects the operation of the Supreme Court and does not directly affect the public.
The federal government appoints Supreme Court judges, and it will also select the Chief Justice of the Yukon Supreme Court. The role of the Chief Justice is to establish court sitting dates and assign judges to sittings as it requires to carry out the business of the Supreme Court.
There is no cost to Yukon for this change.
Our institutions are important and it is incumbent on us as legislators to recognize and support our judiciary. I would like to remind this House that we amended this legislation several sessions ago, but at that time the change to the federal legislation had not yet occurred. As this House will recall, the previous legislative amendments allowed for an annual general meeting of Supreme Court judges, including the two sitting judges and the deputy judges. I point this out for the benefit of our members who may ask why we didn’t make this amendment at that time.
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Ms. Duncan: I have no questions with respect to this act. It’s very straightforward as the minister has presented it. I have no difficulty in supporting it. It is — I hate to use the term “housekeeping legislation”, but it is a relatively minor amendment that merely brings our legislation into keeping with the standard where it should be.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing no further general debate, we will continue line by line.
Mr. Cardiff: I request unanimous consent to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming all clauses of Bill No. 58 read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Cardiff has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, read and agreed to.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 5 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Mr. Cathers: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Cathers that Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 62 — Act to Amend the Jury Act
Chair: We will continue now with Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, these amendments are being put forward as part of a court reform initiative that will also see changes to the Small Claims Court Act and the Supreme Court Act. The Senior Justice of the Yukon Supreme Court and the Chief Judge of the Territorial Court jointly approached Department of Justice officials in December 2004 to ask the department to begin court reform related amendments on various statutes, with the Jury Act having the highest priority. The judiciary worked with members from the criminal bar and Department of Justice officials to identify possible amendments. The proposed amendments have the approval of the Department of Justice as they support the priority of improving access to justice for Yukoners. Further, the department benefits by being able to act on the opportunity to work collaboratively with the judiciary.
Mr. Chair, for many generations — in fact, many years — trial by jury has been a cornerstone of our justice system. Through participation in the jury system, citizens of the community play a direct role in the administration of justice. The jury system is also an important safeguard in preserving our democratic system of government.
The right to be tried by a jury that is made up of representatives of one’s peers in cases in which the punishment is imprisonment for five years or more is one of the basic legal rights set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Serving on a jury represents one of a citizen’s most important duties. By performing this civic duty, we help maintain our own rights and freedoms. Mr. Chair, there are both criminal jury trials and civil jury trials. Juries are also used in coroner’s inquests.
In Yukon we are currently experiencing a high number of criminal jury trials. Civil jury trials are relatively rare in the Yukon but they do occur from time to time. There are many factors that affect the number of jury trials in a year. These factors are not predictable but can include the prevailing crime rate and the number of accused who elect to be tried by a judge and jury and the number of cases that do not proceed to trial at all.
In 2004-05 there were five jury trials scheduled. Three proceeded to the jury selection process. Mr. Chair, to date in 2005-06, nine criminal jury trials, two coroner’s inquests and two civil jury trials have been scheduled. Of these, two criminal jury trials and one coroner’s inquest have proceeded to date. Three criminal jury trials did not proceed. One coroner’s inquest, two civil jury trials and two criminal jury trials remain to be held in the near future.
A further one or two criminal jury trials may also be scheduled before the end of March of 2006. Each time a jury trial is scheduled to proceed, the sheriff must summons a large group of citizens to report for jury duty in order to ensure there are sufficient numbers to obtain a jury that is representative of the community.
Recent practices have been to summons at least 75 citizens for jury duty, although the Jury Act states that a jury list of 48 must be produced.
Mr. Chair, since 1991, there have been various minor amendments to the Jury Act. The most recent amendment in December 2001 enhanced the information available to the sheriff when compiling the jury list. The amendments tabled today make changes to the Jury Act that support practices that have developed over time and that will contribute to improved operations and reflect current technology.
They are housekeeping amendments and will make the Jury Act easier to apply and understand. There are some sections of the Jury Act that are difficult to interpret. The amendments include changes that support the use of plain language and a more coherent organization of the act.
The amendments are intended to support cost-effective procedures and contribute to an overall effective administration of justice. Professionals such as judges, court staff, legal counsel and members of the general public who read and interpret the Jury Act will benefit from these amendments.
Mr. Chair, I will now begin to briefly review some of the amendments that are being put forward. The amendments are not controversial. Section 2(1) has been amended to allow 90 days instead of two weeks to prepare for a civil jury trial. In reality, two weeks is not sufficient time for any of the parties to prepare for such a complex matter or for the sheriff to summons a jury. This type of amendment supports current practice and will contribute to improved operations due to improved technology and changes in actual practices. Procedures that are currently in place differ from those set out in the act. This is not a desired situation.
Legislation and the procedure that carries out the legislation should be consistent. For example, while section 9 outlines that a jury list is to be produced annually, the current practice is to produce jury lists on demand. Compilation of the list has been made easier with access to computer databases. The sheriff can retrieve accurate and up-to-date data in a more timely manner by using this method. This section will be amended to reflect the actual practice of producing jury lists on demand.
Sections 14 and 15(1) are amended by replacing the word “precept” with “direction”. These sections refer to the sheriff receiving direction from the senior judges to summons a jury panel to appeal. Using the word “direction” is simply clearer.
These amendments support plain language use, which is accepted practice today. It is appropriate in legislation that is used by people of varying backgrounds, from lawyers and judges to members of the public, who are potential jury members.
We have also reorganized an important part of the act used by the public and made the language clear. Section 5, which outlines those persons who are not qualified to serve as jurors, and section 6, which sets out persons exempt from service, have been combined to make clear who is disqualified from serving as a juror. The new section 6 clarifies that members of exempted groups are not compelled to serve as jurors, but they may choose to do so if they wish.
For instance, it has been the practice of judges to excuse individuals who are over the age of 65 from serving as jurors, if they request it. This group will be exempt from serving as jurors if they do not wish to do so, but those who do want to sit on the jury will still have that opportunity. These amendments will contribute to a more efficient administration of justice in Yukon and will increase public confidence in the justice system. The amendments make the process for jury selection clear, further ensuring that the trial process is fair.
Further amendments are also being proposed in relation to the compilation of the jury list. Revising section 9(2) to allow for lists of no fewer than 75 names, instead of 48, increases the chance that a jury can be formed from a list. It has been the actual practice for some time to summons up to 200 people to obtain a jury for a major criminal trial.
As a result of compiling lists on demand and increasing the list numbers, more citizens are likely to be summonsed for jury selection and the chance for a representative jury increases.
Mr. Chair, once the amendments have been approved, the department will embark on a public education campaign about jury selection and jury duty. Both the interest in recent high-profile jury trials and the tabling of these amendments make it timely to talk about the jury selection process and the role of a juror.
These amendments are intended to clarify and update the jury selection process to ensure that plain language is used and addresses existing grammar and consistency issues. These amendments will not address certain issues, such as the challenge of developing an adequate jury list in a small community. Although we are fully aware of the issues related to developing a jury list and forming a jury panel, the department is not able to make changes to the legislation that will help address issues of jury selection in small communities.
The fact remains that the number of citizens in some communities in the Yukon from which juries can be selected is very low, and people in these communities may know or be related to either or both the accused or the victim.
The department is recommending these amendments as they support the core departmental objectives of access to justice for all and improved confidence in the justice system.
I will leave the floor to the opposition.
Mr. Cardiff: We talked earlier about how fast we could move these bills through the House today. This is basically a housekeeping act. The minister just repeated his second reading speech from last week when we gave our second reading speeches. We indicated at that time that we didn’t have a whole bunch of problems with this particular bill.
I would also like to bring the minister back to something else that he said last week, and that was he said something to the effect that God gave us two eyes and two ears and one mouth. I can’t remember exactly what he said about it, but my recollection is that we should use them proportionally — that we need to listen twice as long as we speak. The minister just repeated what he said, which means we should have listened to it four times, probably. But I don’t think that we could probably take that.
I don’t have any problems with the proposed changes to the Jury Act. It is unfortunate that we had to listen to the explanation of it all again. It’s the same people listening to the explanation we got last week as to why we’re making these changes.
I have no questions in general debate. I’ll leave that for the member of the third party, if she has questions in general debate. Otherwise, we’ll move on.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none we’ll go into line-by-line.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would request unanimous consent to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act, read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent re deeming all clauses of Bill No. 62 read and agreed to
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act, read and agreed to.
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: We do not have unanimous consent.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
On Clause 13
Clause 13 agreed to
On Clause 14
Clause 14 agreed to
On Clause 15
Clause 15 agreed to
On Clause 16
Clause 16 agreed to
On Clause 17
Clause 17 agreed to
On Clause 18
Clause 18 agreed to
On Clause 19
Clause 19 agreed to
On Clause 20
Clause 20 agreed to
On Clause 21
Clause 21 agreed to
On Clause 22
Clause 22 agreed to
On Clause 23
Clause 23 agreed to
On Clause 24
Mr. McRobb: Just before we clear this, I’m a little confused as to why the government side would force everyone in this Assembly through this procedure we just experienced of having to clear individually each of the 24 clauses and disagree with the motion on the floor preceding the 24 clauses that was meant to pass them all at once. But the Justice minister went over to the Member for Lake Laberge and obviously instructed him to do this, so he did, so we just wasted about five minutes of this House’s time for no reason — not one reason. Each of the clauses cleared.
I would urge the government to get on and be a little more productive with the time of this House.
Clause 24 agreed to
Title agreed to
Mr. Cathers: I move that Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: Mr. Cathers has moved that Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: The Chair seeks some direction as to where we’re progressing next.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: The Chair understands that we will now be continuing with Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. Do we need a moment?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: We’ll take a five-minute recess while we switch officials.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Bill No. 63 — Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act — continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe this act is a very important act for government to review, and I’ll state for the record again, it’s rather unfortunate that we even have to have such an act in this day and age; however, as the facts are, we will always need to be able to protect the vulnerable people. So we will continue to have to have laws in place that can deal with offenders with regard to the family violence that does exist across the country.
Again, I want to state for the record how important it is to seek understanding of such an issue as family violence. It is important to understand the history of the Yukon Territory. Traditionally, we believe that you learn from where you’ve been. We looked at this as teachings that we must deal with in the future. When we talk about settlers coming to the Yukon Territory, for example, we have to go right back to the fur traders and understand that era and what impact they had on the citizens who lived in the Yukon Territory, which was, to the best of my knowledge, predominantly First Nation people.
How did that impact all the people throughout the Yukon Territory? Again, there were a lot of different behaviours, different practices, brought to the territory that may have been good, and some may not have been so good.
Then we go on to the 1800s when the mission schools were introduced to the First Nation people. Again, I believe that the government of the day probably did that in good faith, believing that they would be helping the First Nation people and probably never imagining that it would cause so many years of pain and suffering and conflicts with the law for the First Nation people due to the apprehension of their children.
Again, one has to try to visualize what it would be like for someone to walk into your house and walk out with all your children. This happened to the First Nation people. Again, it created a lot of dependency on alcohol.
Why do people drink excessively? There’s a lot of theory behind the reasons, and one I know of that has been identified is the suppression of things.
We have to try to imagine how much disruption removing all the children from the home caused the families in the Yukon Territory. We have to try to understand or try to visualize what a home is like without any children.
All these things do play a significant role in the high rate of family violence that may exist in the Yukon today. From there, we find the home life, home style, culture — everything — was totally annihiliated or disrupted to the point where the First Nation people had to find a way to cope with it. Unfortunately, alcohol served that purpose.
When we go further on into the history of the Yukon and try to understand how family violence could have escalated in the territory to where it is today, we realize that the building of the Alaska Highway, for example, again played another major, major role in why there may be a high incidence of family violence in the Yukon Territory. I think everyone should actually read the document Together Today for our Children Tomorrow because there is one line in there that stuck with me in trying to understand why the Yukon Territory is where it is today with regard to alcoholism and drugs, family violence, spousal abuse — all of those horrible things that create so many problems in society. One line in that document said, “Overnight 10,000 men came to our community with no woman of their own.” That last line is very important to try to get an understanding of exactly what that means. I won’t go into detail about it in here today because I think everyone here is capable of figuring that out for themselves. It did — it created a lot of family problems, tons of them.
So I’m not going to go into too much detail on that, because it is quite hard on anyone who may not have ever dealt with any of the issues in their life to start hearing about the horrendous stories that come with the construction of the Alaska Highway.
However, it is progress and progress is always very hard to slow down or stop. The building of the highway was not a bad thing at the end of the day because it did make good access to the south and it created the possibilities and the reality of having an international airport here. So, at the end of the day, it did benefit, but when the booms were all over and done with, it left the territory with a lot of social issues and it took 200 years or more to get the society to the state it is in today in the Yukon; and on the social issue part, it’s probably unrealistic to think that within a matter of years any government can turn that around. It is going to take many, many years and many, many governments to be able to get something constructive happening on this issue, and I believe the federal Liberal government has actually made some good commitments to start to dealing with aboriginal issues right across Canada. At the recent justice ministers conference that we hosted in Whitehorse here, there was some very good discussion around the importance and the necessity of starting to get very serious about the overrepresentation of aboriginal people in the justice system and starting to look at solutions rather than incarceration, and there was also some good discussion around the under-representation of First Nation people working in the justice system, from right across the board on any job. It is a timely time.
I would say that it is timely to be making some amendments to this act. I know that emotional abuse is something that was sort of ignored in the past, but now it is part of the act. It is about time that it was included, because emotional abuse can be as devastating and damaging as any other form of abuse.
With that, I am going to invite the opposition to ask their questions and give their comments.
Mr. Cardiff: I just want to revisit a couple of things from the last time we were discussing Bill No. 63 in Committee.
The minister talked a lot about the Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court, and we had a discussion in here the last time around. I just want to confirm from our discussion last time. There was an evaluation being done of the Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court. It was supposed to be finalized in March 2004. I think, if I remember right, I asked the minister if he could provide a copy of that evaluation. I’m wondering if he could do that and when he could do that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I’m going to have to take the member opposite’s comment or request under advisement. I will try to confirm immediately whether that evaluation is now public or can be released to the public.
Mr. Cardiff: I think it’s important, if there hasn’t been an evaluation of this done, it would probably be an appropriate time to do it. If there has been an evaluation done, I think it should be made public. The public needs to know.
I’d like to go through some comments that appeared in Friday’s newspaper. This is where the minister was basically championing the Domestic Violence Treatment Option Court. According to what the minister said, apparently this treatment option does run the risk of allowing something drastic to happen, but each time individuals go through the program, they learn something new, and for some, it may take one time through, while others might need to go through five times.
When I read that on Friday evening, I was kind of shocked. I think that we need to deal with this, be a little bit more proactive for the sake of the victim, if nothing else. The way I read that was that we’re going to use the domestic violence treatment option to try to retrain people, to educate them that violence isn’t an appropriate way to deal with the problems of society, that there are more appropriate ways than being violent. From what I read, the minister said that they might need to go through this five times, which would mean to me five offences. If it’s not working — that’s what I’m saying, is we need the evaluation. We need to find out whether or not this is working. The minister is saying it’s okay to go through this five times or maybe more, and meanwhile people are being hurt out there. There has to be something else.
So I hope the minister will take these comments — and I would like to see the evaluation, if it’s available. I would like to know how this court is working. One of the things we have talked about around justice issues is recidivism. If the minister is saying that it’s okay to have offenders come back to this court five times without any substantial results, I think we have a problem and we need to make some changes somewhere in that program.
I’d be interested to hear the minister’s comments regarding that.
I only have a couple more questions in general debate, and then I would be prepared to hand it off to the leader of the third party.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, to start, I’d like to state to the member opposite that whenever we are dealing with criminal offenders there is always a risk element in place, and there always will be, whether it’s through home arrests or whatever process is being used.
Another important aspect of this DVTO Court to keep in mind is that most couples do not want to be separated. They don’t want to be separated, so with that in mind, the only other option that one has is to try to work with both the victim and the offender. One would have to ask themselves sincerely, what is more valuable: to go back to the DVTO Court three times or just keep going to jail repeatedly for the same offence, with no intervention?
I believe, quite frankly, that if someone is capable of learning a different way to do things and is being taught to do something differently, there is a better chance of having the family stay together, for example.
This is a big issue in trying to deal with the domestic violence because, far too often, by the time it gets to court, the charges are dropped. At least when you go through this process, you are planting the seed, you are making the offender think a little bit about what’s happening, and I believe the evaluation speaks for itself and it is beneficial to have this.
The evaluation is a public document now, I’ve been informed. We can provide it, so you will get a copy of the evaluation that you requested. I believe you will be quite impressed at the outcome of that evaluation.
Mr. Cardiff: I’m happy to hear there is an evaluation and it is public and we will be getting a copy of the evaluation on the DVTO Court. What I found unacceptable was that it appeared to me that the minister was saying that it was okay if they had to go back to the DVTO Court five times. I just think maybe there has to be a way to make some changes to make it more effective than that so that violent actions that lead to going there can be stopped.
I’ve got one more question in general debate. There was one other recommendation from the 2002 report on the Family Violence Prevention Act. They were issues that were identified for possible future legislative action. I believe one of those recommendations — I think I covered off the rest of them previously — was actually part of the government’s consultation, and I sent the minister a letter on October 5 asking him if there was a report that came out of that consultation and if he could provide that prior to debating this piece of legislation that we are debating today. I received a reply from the minister today — it was dated November 15 — basically offering me a copy of the 2002 report. In fact it said it was attached but it wasn’t but that’s okay because I’ve got a copy of it.
But what I would have liked to have had was the report that the minister read from the consultation that was carried out this summer so that I could work from the same piece of paper that the minister is working from and understand why the outcomes of the consultation were the way they were. But the specific piece in the consultation that I am interested in is the recommendation from the 2002 report to look, at some future date, at the inclusion of those involved in close personal adult relationships that do not include cohabitation. Now, I believe that was part of the consultation that they did this summer.
But I don’t see any changes in the legislation, and I’m wondering if the minister can tell me why that is?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To start out with, I’d like to respond to the comments the member read from Friday’s paper, made by me as minister. My message in Friday’s paper was quite simple, as a matter of fact, and that was we should never give up trying to deal with family violence. We should never give up trying to have the offenders change their patterns. That’s all I was saying. With regard to his question, I believe it is covered on page 2 of the changes, (b), under “Victims”, where it says, “an intimate companion who has been subjected to family violence by their companion”. I think it does cover one who may have been living with someone, for example, or even where there was a separation. I believe that under the victims section it does cover the basis that the member opposite was concerned about.
Ms. Duncan: I have a few questions for the minister in general debate of Bill 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act.
When this legislation first came to the Yukon and was first tabled in this Legislature, it was brought forward as a private member’s bill by the Liberal Member for Riverdale South, and the government subsequently brought in an act that was very, very similar. That private member’s bill was in a different legislature, and in a different space and time, but it moved with lightning speed from being a private member’s bill to a government act. The concern at the time was the consultation process.
That is what I would like to start to address in general debate with the minister on this bill this afternoon. What specific consultations took place on these amendments with individuals outside of government? Was there any discussion with, for example, the women’s shelter in Dawson City, or Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake, or Kaushee’s Place in Whitehorse, or the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre? Was there any consultation with those groups?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, to start with, there was extensive consultation with regard to the review of the act. I guess it would have started with advertisements advising the public of possible amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act that were placed in the print media. Additionally, information about the consultation was provided during the Morning Show interviews on CBC in August 2005.
A variety of stakeholder groups were consulted about possible amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act, meetings were held with representatives of the RCMP, the Territorial and Supreme Courts, justices of the peace, women’s shelters, women’s advisory and interest groups, victim service groups, disability advocacy and interest groups, senior advocacy and interest groups, community justice coordinators, First Nations, directors in Health and Social Services and other government departments, including the Women’s Directorate and Health and Social Services.
There were additional information packages sent out to First Nations, as well as interest groups and individuals. So one would have to assume that, when we say we have contacted different women’s organizations — that all the concerns mentioned by the member opposite were consulted. We have Anne Louise Genest, Kaushee’s Place; we consulted with the Dawson shelter, and Health and Hope in Watson Lake.
I believe they were all consulted.
Ms. Duncan: I just want to be very specific with the minister. Was that consultation specifically on the amendments before us, or is he referring to the consultation that was undertaken when the review of the Yukon’s Family Violence Prevention Act was done, which was completed in July 2002? Is it the 2002 report that was the consultation the minister is referring to, or is it this specific piece of legislation?
I understand the rules of going out with this specific act, but I just want to be very clear what the consultation was. Is he talking about the review of the act that was done and completed in 2002 as the consultation, or is he talking about these specific amendments? Did they go back out to the public and, if so, was it under the process he has just outlined?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The consultation was on the proposed amendments to the Family Violence Prevention Act before us today.
Ms. Duncan: I will review the Hansard then; I won’t ask the minister to table the documentation of the consultation; I’ll just have a look at the Hansard comments.
I would like to ask the minister about the review of the Yukon’s Family Violence Prevention Act. It was a document completed in 2002 under the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family and it reviewed the act. It also noted that there were — and the Member for Mount Lorne has discussed this and I would just like to ask the minister about it. The review says there was no data on the ultimate effectiveness of early intervention orders under the act in protecting victims of family violence or preventing further violence, and the authors didn’t review criminal case records to determine whether there were concurrent or subsequent charges. There was some impressionistic information but there wasn’t any detailed data. The follow-up review of the early intervention orders was done and it wasn’t part of this research, so has there been subsequent information? This element of the review that wasn’t done, has it subsequently been done? I’m seeing some confused looks so perhaps I could re-ask that question, Mr. Chair, or just elaborate on it a bit.
The report that was done that reviewed our act was limited in time and budget. There weren’t any interviews conducted with victims of domestic violence in the Yukon or people who responded to Family Violence Prevention Act applications. So the respondents and the victims — there weren’t any interviews done with the people who had been part of the system.
So we didn’t ultimately know how effective the order was if we didn’t go back and ask the people who had used the Family Violence Prevention Act how effective it was because of limitations of time and budget. Now, the minister said there was a consultation process on the act. Has the government at any given point in time gone back and consulted with these individuals, either the respondents or the victims?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will have to take that point of interest under advisement. I want to be sure that the information I provide is accurate, so I will ask the department to confirm whether or not that happened.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister is getting back to me on that. For the minister’s reference, it is in the executive summary, page V. It’s the next to last paragraph. It has not been done to date, and the minister is going to get back to me as to whether or not it has been done. Could he also address the question: if it has not been undertaken, are there any plans to do so or any budget monies allocated for this? If he could respond and let me know when he does with respect to that paragraph?
The minister is going to get back to me in writing on that.
I would just like to move on and just discuss with the minister this issue around training. This part of the report particularly leapt out at me. In the first two years that the Family Violence Prevention Act was in force, there were 52 applications for emergency intervention orders and 51 were granted. The report goes on to note that 37 were made with the assistance of the victim services worker and 12 with the assistance of an RCMP officer.
Now, 37 were also done in Whitehorse, where the victim services workers are, by and large, located. There are two issues around that. One, is there a possibility of expansion of the victim services workers — greater numbers or greater services being made available outside of Whitehorse? The other is this issue around training with the RCMP officers. We go to great lengths to work with justices of the peace. There are training sessions for them all the time. The minister has talked about training sessions for the RCMP and a DVD being made available to new RCMP officers. I think more than that is required. There is a significant number of transfers of RCMP officers. It is more than a DVD. It’s more than just saying here, “By the way, it’s different in the Yukon; you’ve got to watch this.”
I believe that, because this is new legislation in Canada — we are one of the few jurisdictions that have it — we should be a model in other ways as well. Because we make such a tremendous request — 12 instances where we have had the RCMP, as opposed to a victim services worker — we should be a model in providing more than simply a DVD for training. We should be going to model lengths in that respect, as we have done with the legislation.
I would like to ask the minister, if he could, to please outline in more detail what training we do offer and any suggestions he has for enhancing that training.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, we don’t have all the specific details on the training aspect of the DVTO Court, but I do know that there is training for everyone who is involved with the DVTO Court, right from the legal counsel to the RCMP to family support workers. So everyone is on the same page and all focused on the issues at hand when it comes to any intervention that happens in a family violence dispute.
Ms. Duncan: I would like the minister to consider that suggestion I made. I think it’s more than has been outlined by the minister. There’s a greater requirement and I would like the minister to consider that request, ensuring that whatever funding is required to enable that request to be fulfilled is lobbied for at the budget table.
The last question I have has two points. First of all, on emergency intervention orders, both opposition parties asked for current statistics. To the best of my knowledge, we never got them. That information should be readily available. Statistics we’re working with — the 51 emergency intervention orders — are three years old now, from July 2002. From July 2002 to November 2005, how many emergency intervention orders have been granted?
Again, what are the statistics? How many with the assistance of a victim services worker and how many with the assistance of an RCMP officer? And what’s the ratio of Whitehorse to those communities outside Whitehorse?
We have asked for this information and haven’t had it provided. Does he have it with him today?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We can comply with the request from the member opposite. That information and the stats are available. Around 100 of them have been advised, and we can get that information for the members opposite.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just remind the minister that we’ve asked for this since we had the briefing, and it seems to be a little delayed. He is aware there are around 100? Could we perhaps get that information sooner rather than later? The House business has moved on, and we would have liked the information for today’s debate.
The last question I have relates to a discussion between the Member for Mount Lorne and the minister. We’ve talked about physical, psychological and emotional abuse, and there was quite a bit of discussion about dealing with the individuals — the victim and the offender. My concern is the children, who may or may not be witness to any of these forms of abuse. Where is the cooperation and coordination between, say, the Department of Education or the organized groups that deal with children, and where is the cross-pollination point, for lack of a better term? How do we help the children who may witness abuse? What resources do we have, and how do we ensure that those resources are used where they should be?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, with respect to that last question from the member opposite, I believe most of the programming that is available does fall under a Health and Social Services program. Having said that, we do have a developed document now called Working Without Boundaries. It’s an interdepartmental collaboration agreement between Health and Social Services, Education, Justice and the Women’s Directorate. The purpose of this document is to ensure that the best interests of everyone are going to be looked after — in particular, the children. We need to know, for example, with FASD issues, how Health and Social Services, Justice and Education can all work together to try to ensure that there is sufficient funding and that the different departments are not duplicating services but are enhancing the ones that are already in place and ensuring that the best possible service is going to be directed toward the victims.
Ms. Duncan: If I could just elaborate a little for the minister — we have a program that I see advertised in the paper quite regularly that’s called “For the Sake of the Children”. When parents are divorcing, there is a specific program that reminds the parents about the children involved, because children don’t get divorced, parents do. I’ve heard that expression used in the advertising.
At the school level there is a program called “Rainbows” for, I believe, children of divorce. Divorce isn’t the only impact upon family. This isn’t just physical abuse we’re talking about here; there is emotional and psychological abuse, which is much harder to quantify and much harder to deal with, and I would suspect, much more difficult for children as well.
I understand and appreciate that Working Without Boundaries is a document to deal with this. What programs do we have like For the Sake of the Children and like Rainbows that would deal with family violence?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Justice department really doesn’t have a whole lot of programming to deal with the children whose parents are separating, but I think the member opposite mentioned already, For the Sake of the Children” for separating and divorced parents. I believe that that particular initiative is run at least three times a year. It provides information for people who are divorcing. But there are a lot of different programs and I can’t name them off the tip of my tongue. I know even in Education, there are a number of programs, and again they have to deal with substance abuse, and this is all part of it.
I know there’s one program that’s becoming quite popular, and that’s one called “Baby Think It Over”. It involves students that are caring for computerized dolls.
Again, I don’t have all the different programs right at my fingertips here, but I do know that there are a number of programs that would be focused on the children. I believe that the children are probably one of the most important aspects of family violence. They are, in my opinion, paramount to both adults — to ensure the safety of the child and that the child is well looked after.
Ms. Duncan: The minister and I agree on that. I don’t disagree also that there are a number of programs out there. My concern is, with the vast array of programs that we have for children who witness to family violence or abuse — psychological or emotional — that that particular element of the programming is falling through the cracks, that that was one area where we weren’t providing for them.
We have programming to educate our children about drugs, about substance abuse, about unwanted pregnancies, about sexually transmitted diseases. We have just about every program you can name. Do we have a program, or is there an element of existing programming, that deals with children who are not just in physically violent situations but in emotionally and psychologically abusive situations?
In this regard, I note in some of the media interviews and discussions done around this topic there has been an effort to educate young women at the high school level — I believe it is — on what abuse is exactly and, in so doing, to help sustain and provide courage in speaking out.
I would encourage the minister to take the comments and the question. Perhaps if he would care to write to me and provide some more information about the programming, I’d appreciate the time. I would also appreciate the opportunity to review the statistics, if the minister would see that we’re provided with those sooner rather than later.
I understand we’re going to have a line-by-line discussion, so I’ll leave the general discussion for now, Mr. Chair, and look forward to going through the lines with the minister.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to thank the member opposite for all the comments. They are very legitimate concerns. I also believe that children do have to have all the protection that can be made possible to ensure that their safety is well looked after. I know there is one program called CATS within Family and Children’s Services that sort of works with abuse issues. However, again, as the member opposite has stated, that is a little bit different than what the real topic is. With that, I will entertain the line-by-line requests.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will continue with clause-by-clause examination.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Mr. Cardiff: I was in a little bit of a quandary about how to go about doing this. I sought some assistance from the Clerk in how to do this.
The first thing that struck me when reading through the Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act — actually even earlier, before I knew that we were doing this, last fall, when I read through the Family Violence Prevention Act and was asking questions about it, I realized that in the definition section there is no definition of “family”. There is a definition of “cohabitants”, there is a definition of “designated Justice of the Peace”, there is a definition of “emergency intervention order”, there is a definition of “family violence”, and there is a definition of “intimate companions”. There are other definitions in here: “residents”, “respondent”, “tribunal”, “victim”, but there is no definition of “family”.
I think we need to recognize in society that violence touches many, many people: just listening to the discussion earlier and the concern that has been expressed about children who witness violence in their family relationships. But I think that it even goes further than that to a large degree.
There is a concern — one of the things that struck me when I first moved to the Yukon was the fact that I was lucky to have some family here. I had the good fortune to have an aunt and an uncle and a couple of cousins who lived here. So I didn’t feel like I was all alone in the north. It was new to me to be here — I think I was 18 or 19 years old. But what I quickly realized was that, in the Yukon, you develop an extended family as well, and a lot of those relationships become very personal — probably not intimate in the way that a husband and wife would be, but you develop these relationships, and there is a trust involved. There is a trusting relationship that develops there.
As well as that, we do have our other families here in the Yukon. In my mind, the act seems to speak to — the definition of “cohabitants” is persons who have resided together or who are residing together in a family relationship, spousal relationship or intimate relationship. The other definition of “cohabitants” is persons who are parents of one or more children, regardless of their marital status or whether or not they have lived together at any time. The definition of “intimate companions” is persons who have or have had with each other a continuing relationship of intimate companionship. A “victim” is either a cohabitant who has been subjected to family violence by another cohabitant or an intimate companion who has been subjected to family violence by their companion.
I would argue that there are family relationships that don’t fall into any of those categories. The one that is of most concern to me is what we see occasionally and what is often referred to as elder abuse. What we’re talking about is one example of where I’m heading with this.
The fact that there are family relationships out there in which violence occurs — I think that it’s a good idea that we are making the change to include in the definitions a balance that includes psychological or emotional abuse. I would argue that that type of abuse takes place outside of those intimate or spousal relationships, that it takes place in the larger family relationships. In the act, an emergency intervention order “may contain any or all of the following provisions:” and at the top of the list is “granting the victim or other family members exclusive occupation of the residence regardless of ownership.” In this instance when we are talking about relationships — whether it be grandparents and grandchildren, parents and children, or aunts and nieces or nephews or uncles — all I’m saying is that a lot of times you will see that psychological and emotional abuse dealt out in those family relationships and that there should be an option for those persons who are feeling threatened to be able to obtain an emergency intervention order.
It may not be for that provision of the exclusive occupation of residence, regardless of ownership — but there are some others. It may be that the person who is the offender is living with their aunt, uncle or grandparents, and they need to go live somewhere else. Maybe they need to be removed by the court or a justice of the peace or the RCMP. So, some of the other provisions are directing a peace officer to accompany, within a specified time, a specified person to the residence to supervise the removal of the personal belongings, in order to ensure the protection of the victim. I think that is something that would be useful, if a victim — a grandparent, uncle, or an aunt — could get an emergency intervention order to have that occur.
A provision restraining the respondent from communication or contacting the victim and other specified persons is another provision of an emergency intervention order that could be beneficial, especially when we are talking about emotional or psychological abuse.
The other provision of an emergency intervention order that could apply here would be any other provision that a designated justice of the peace considers necessary to provide for the immediate protection of the victim.
If they feel that they’re threatened and they don’t feel safe, then that’s the option that’s available to them. If there is one thing I don’t like to do it is admit defeat before we start. I would like to propose what I believe is a friendly amendment, and I hope the minister will see his way fit to at least look at this and consider it. If he wants some time to look at it, I’m prepared to entertain that. We’re approaching the customary time for a break, so he would even have time to look at the amendment that I would be proposing.
What I said earlier was that I was in a bit of a quandary about how to go do this, and I needed some guidance in how to do it, because procedurally to amend Bill No. 63 so that it actually makes sense isn’t easy. I have prepared three amendments, and I will only present one, unless the minister would like to get unanimous consent to try to move this forward so that it actually would be a little bit clearer. What I would like to do is amend the act by providing for a definition of “family member” so that it includes persons who are related by blood, marriage, adoption or convenience, including other relatives besides the nuclear family not necessarily living in the same household.
The other thing I intended to do was amend the definition of “victim” by adding a clause where the definition of “victim” would be “any person who has been subjected to violence by a family member as defined above”, which is the definition I just read, whether or not that person is a cohabitant of the victim.
When I sought guidance, I found I couldn’t do that because we’re talking about Bill No. 63, and I can’t do that.
Mr. Cardiff: I move that Bill No. 63, entitled Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, be amended in clause 2(3) at page 1 by amending the new paragraph 1(b.1) to read as follows:
“conduct that, considered reasonably in the context of all relevant circumstances of the relationship, constitutes psychological or emotional abuse, [for the purposes of making determinations about the relevant circumstances of relationships, a person who has subjected a family member (meaning persons who are related by blood, marriage, adoption or convenience, including other relatives besides the nuclear family) to violence —
So it actually reads — that’s why I was having a problem, but this is the only way procedurally to do this. I have to apologize.
“ — shall not be excluded simply because they do not happen to be a cohabitant of the victim];”
Chair: Mr. Cardiff has moved that Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, be amended in clause 2(3) at page 1 by amending the new paragraph 1(b.1) to read as follows:
“conduct that, considered reasonably in the context of all relevant circumstances of the relationship, constitutes psychological or emotional abuse, [for the purposes of making determinations about the relevant circumstances of relationships, a person who has subjected a family member (meaning persons who are related by blood, marriage, adoption or convenience, including other relatives besides the nuclear family) to violence shall not be excluded simply because they do not happen to be a cohabitant of the victim];”
Is there any debate on the amendment?
Mr. Cardiff: I hope I explained clearly that the intent here is to broaden the application of the Family Violence Prevention Act to include family members other than those who are included in the act. As I said earlier, procedurally, because of what we are faced with, Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act — without the unanimous consent of the House we can’t actually go to the actual Family Violence Prevention Act and make those changes, so procedurally this was the only way to do it. The intention is to broaden the act and the application of it so that emergency intervention orders would be available in instances of elder abuse, or where people who weren’t necessarily involved in spousal, intimate or cohabitating relationships would have access to a speedy process whereby they could gain an emergency intervention order and the protection that that would allow.
Now, an argument against that may be that, you know, those people may be able to go and get a restraining order. But a restraining order is a little bit more — it’s not as easy to get. It’s my understanding that emergency intervention orders can be obtained, if necessary, over the phone by phoning a justice of the peace — going to the RCMP, getting in touch with the justice of the peace, and an emergency intervention order can be done over the phone. The process for getting a restraining order is somewhat more complicated and time-consuming as well.
So, that’s the intent of this amendment. It’s intended to be a friendly amendment. I would like to think that the Minister of Justice will consider this — I know we’re close to the time for a break, and hopefully he’ll take some time to think about this and consider it. It’s about looking after all members of society and ensuring that they have access to these same provisions, whether or not they’re in an intimate or spousal co-habiting relationship.
I think that it’s important to recognize that there are times when it may not be violent abuse, but there is that psychological and emotional abuse that occurs within families. As I said, it might be a nephew and an uncle or a grandchild and a grandparent. Violence is violence and abuse is abuse. We have an opportunity here to afford the protection of an emergency intervention order to those people by changing this act. So I would be interested in hearing the minister’s comments, and I look forward to discussing this further with him.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I would like to make a brief comment to the member opposite that these amendments to this legislation have been looked at off and on since the review of 2002. I am certain that, over the last year, it has been consistent work done by the officials in the department.
There have been countless hours of work done on these amendments, but I would like to know from the member opposite if there are any more suggested amendments before we take the break so the officials can review them during the break.
Mr. Cardiff: I don’t have any further amendments. As an explanation for the minister, what I did was try to draft amendments to Bill No. 63, the one that’s before us. It was explained to me that, procedurally, without the unanimous consent of the Legislative Assembly to basically open up the act — what I would prefer to do, as opposed to this amendment I proposed today, is to use these other two amendments and just go in and amend the definition section of the act itself, as opposed to amending Bill No. 63.
I’d be more than willing to spend some time with the minister and the officials on the break to explain that situation.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I don’t believe that that will be necessary, Mr. Chair, for us to sit down to have this proposed amendment before us explained. We will look at it during the break.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, could I just ask the minister to reconsider the offer from the Member for Mount Lorne? Perhaps I could suggest that the three parties meet just to discuss this, because the essence of what the Member for Mount Lorne is saying is that there are cleaner ways to do this than with this amendment. But the cleaner ways to make better legislation require more complicated House legislative processes. Much as I appreciate that officials have looked at the amendments for the last two years and there has been a process, nobody is perfect — another parenting program that is out there — and it’s entirely possible that the Member for Mount Lorne, who is outside of this, has come forward with some really good suggestions that would make for better legislation. I would just ask the minister to reconsider and that he and his officials meet with the Member for Mount Lorne. If they don’t want me involved, I’m happy, as the third party in the House, to go with the report of the meeting, but I would like to ask the minister to reconsider that, in the spirit of consensus and collaboration, and he and his officials meet with the Member from Mount Lorne to discuss other elements of the legislation — just to reconsider that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe it would not be necessary to have anyone other than myself and the officials review this proposed amendment, and we’ll get back to them after the break on this issue.
Chair: We have reached our normal time for a recess. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We’ll take a recess.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue now with Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. Currently under debate is an amendment proposed by Mr. Cardiff.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I’d like to start out by thanking the member opposite for that proposed amendment. However, the amendment being proposed is far beyond what had been discussed during our consultation period. Therefore, we are not in agreement to accept this amendment on the spur of the moment.
I hope the member opposite can appreciate the fact that we cannot deal with serious amendments of this magnitude on the fly. This proposed amendment would be a fundamental change to the whole act. So, with that, I will not be making any amendments to this bill on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Cardiff: It’s unfortunate. I offered the minister an opportunity prior to the break to go through the other amendments that could have been proposed. Procedurally, we can only amend what is before us, so the only option for me was to amend section 2 of Bill No. 63, and the only place to try to broaden the application of the act was in this particular clause.
From what I can gather from the ad that was run in the newspaper, this is actually part of the consultation that they held.
I don’t have the ad right in front of me, but when they put the ad in the newspaper, this recommendation, which is where this stems from, in 2002 — and I read this earlier. But in the report from July 2002, it said, “There were a number of issues that were identified for possible future legislative action but that require further consideration or were outside the mandate of this review. These include…” — and one of them was the inclusion of those involved in close personal adult relationships that do not involve cohabitation under the act. That was part of the consultation; the minister is saying that it wasn’t part of the consultation. It was in the advertisement that was in the paper and he’s saying that it’s not.
I know that the Yukon Party government thinks that they have cornered the market on good ideas, but I am here to tell you that they haven’t. There are other ideas out there. We have talked with people who think this is a good idea. I would encourage the minister to reconsider and maybe, if necessary, he could take me up on the offer I made earlier.
Right now it’s Monday, November 21. This legislative sitting is scheduled to go until December 19. There is almost a month in which to deal with this matter. As I said earlier, I believe there are cleaner ways to deal with this.
It may involve the unanimous consent of the House to bring in another act that could be called — I’m not sure where we are in the numerical order — Bill No. 80, another act to amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. We could broaden the definition of “family” and redefine the definition of “victim” so it would reflect the amendment the minister finds so hard to accept.
I’m more than willing to admit that the way we have to go about this is kind of convoluted. Would the minister consider standing down this act for a period of a couple of weeks so we could discuss this and maybe find a way to resolve this matter?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the department has done its work with regard to these amendments. As I stated earlier, I’m not prepared to start developing amendments to this act on the floor of the Legislature.
Having said that, I would not agree with what the member opposite is requesting.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I’d like to just try again with the minister, and if I could just share with him the view from this corner of the House. I can understand the minister’s reluctance to accept an amendment on the floor when it comes to dealing with legislation. The amendment as proposed by the Member for Mount Lorne is very convoluted, and I’m sure the legal draftspersons asked what we are really saying with this?
The problem is that, with the best of intentions, the Member for Mount Lorne has seen and discussed with people outside of the House ways we could enhance and improve the act. He couldn’t bring those forward except in this convoluted way. We asked before the break for the minister and the legal drafts people, who are accompanying him today, to examine that idea. The minister was asked, in the spirit of consensus and collaboration that the Yukon Party espouses, to have a look at how these amendments might be brought forward and what is being proposed. The minister has flat-out refused to do that.
Now, we’re having this discussion on the floor of the House, and the Member for Mount Lorne has brought forward another suggestion: with unanimous consent, we could bring in a bill that has his amendment that, in a clean way, deals with the suggestions he has proposed. The minister has stood up and said, “I disagree, I won’t do it.”
Why are we here? We are here to produce the best legislation we can for Yukoners — to argue it, to debate it, to look at it. Now, we have rules that say you have to have unanimous consent to bring in bills after the five-day period in our new House rules. The government has come to the opposition parties for this session before Christmas for unanimous consent to deal with an issue for all Yukoners. That’s outside of the floor of this Legislature, Mr. Chair; however, it is germane to this discussion.
That side has asked for our cooperation on an issue that is important to Yukoners and that will make Yukoners’ lives better. Absolutely, after some homework, the leaders, as I have understood it — and certainly I have said, “Yes, I will look at it. Here are some questions I have. I am more than willing to cooperate and to work toward better lives for Yukoners.” I don’t understand why the minister is not extending the same cooperation to this side of the House.
I will apologize for speaking for the Member for Mount Lorne. As a participant in this debate, that’s how I’ve watched it unfold. From my experience in the House, I’ve seen situations where there have been amendments proposed and the government has stood up and said exactly what the minister has said: “I’m not prepared to accept the amendments on the floor of the House.” I understand that position.
There has been another alternative proposed. Will the minister examine the amendments so we could bring them forward with unanimous consent? Instead of recognizing that the government has asked the opposition benches for exactly the same thing, and they have been met with, “We’ll look at what you’ve got,” the minister is saying, flat out, “No.”
Now, it could be that he has been unaware of these discussions. That’s entirely possible, and I absolutely believe that’s the case. These discussions usually are between leaders or House leaders, so the minister may have been unaware of them.
In that case, I’d like to give the minister an opportunity once again — in light of this new information, or what might be new information to him — to reconsider and say, “No, we’re not prepared to consider the amendment as written but, absolutely, we’re prepared to consider and discuss with you the intent of the other amendments and to bring forward a bill,” and doing it this session — not with a vague promise of another legislative session because we heard this morning from the Premier on the radio that this is the last kick at the cat for legislation. Sorry, that was a violent term. This is our last opportunity for legislation with this government, and it takes awhile for a new government to get all their legislation in order and so on.
It could be done, and I would encourage the minister to consider that idea. We can adjourn debate on this particular bill, stay in Committee of the Whole, and move on to the finance bill and allow the minister and the officials to meet with the Member for Mount Lorne and have a look at what they were trying to do — have a look at what the proposal was.
Yes, it’s outside the act. It’s outside these specific amendments, but the proposals have been discussed with people outside the Legislature, and there has been a consultation process. They are cleaner than the amendment, so they do what we should be doing legislatively.
Or the members opposite, the minister and his staff, could offer the legal reasons on what is wrong with them. I would just ask the minister to extend the same cooperation that has been extended to the members opposite.
The last I checked, the minister was fond of saying that communication works both ways. There is an opportunity here to do even better work and I would just encourage the minister to take it.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I was listening to the member opposite explain the amendment, it almost appeared to me that it was crossing over into the Children’s Act. I think, for the record, I want to state that the Children’s Act deals with adult-child relationships and it protects children. The Family Violence Prevention Act is adult relationships; it is not intended to deal with child abuse — it protects those who cohabitate and are in intimate relationships.
Mr. Chair, I take the advice of officials very seriously and, when one suggests that this is a very fundamental change, with the amendments that are here today, then I definitely respect the advice that we do not accept the proposed amendment today.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister and I were on the same page on that issue, in that the amendment was convoluted. What the essence of what the Member for Mount Lorne was trying to do is strengthen our act elsewhere. The problem was the procedure in the House.
Will the minister examine the second point I made, which was that the members opposite have asked for this side’s cooperation in bringing a bill forward later this session with unanimous consent because we’re past the time for dealing with bills? Will the minister consider the Member for Mount Lorne’s offer to take the essence of what he was trying to do and bring it forward in amendments in the way that they should be done as opposed to this convoluted way? The amendments address the issues that strengthen the act. So all the minister has to do at this point is agree to take this issue under advisement, meet with the Member for Mount Lorne with officials and go through what might require the unanimous consent of the House in another bill for this session?
They’ve asked for our cooperation. All the Member for Mount Lorne is asking for is the government’s cooperation, and I would just encourage the minister to agree to that. It’s entirely possible for the minister to say to the Chair, “I would like to adjourn debate on this bill and on this amendment and meet with my colleague across the way.” That’s all he has to do.
That extends the same cooperation that that side has had from this side of the House. It’s also demonstrating for Yukoners that the side opposite can collaborate with other members of the House. I would strongly encourage the minister to do that.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: As I stated earlier, the Justice department has been reviewing this since 2002, very steadily over the last year. I believe they have covered all the bases to this government’s satisfaction. The members opposite have stated repeatedly on the floor of the House that they’re going to be the next government, so I suggest they wait and implement it when they so choose.
Mr. Cardiff: I’d just like to make a few brief comments. It’s unfortunate that members on that side of the House are unwilling to reciprocate with the cooperation, when that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to do this in a cooperative manner.
The minister said a couple of things. He said he thought this had been developed on the fly. Well, it hasn’t been developed on the fly. This is something I’ve given a lot of thought to over a number of months. I’ve talked about it to quite a number of people who work within the system — whether they work as social workers in transition homes — and deal with these instances of violence.
It was my understanding that this was part of the consultation. So the minister should have some information about it but he wants to be uncooperative and not deal with it.
I look forward to, as the minister said, being in government and having an opportunity to make these, what I consider to be, good changes. I’m not saying that they are perfect; maybe they do need some work, but that was what the offer was about: the offer to stand down this Bill No. 63 for a period of time while we are still in this legislative sitting, and to work cooperatively — the minister and me together, and the leader of the third party could be involved in that as well.
All we are trying to do is make the legislation the best that it can be.
Now, the minister said something else about how he thought that I was delving into an area that involved child protection and the Children’s Act and I don’t know how he got there. Yes, I was talking about grandchildren and grandparents and nieces and nephews and aunts and uncles, but I would like to inform the minister that I am almost 50 years old and I actually have aunts and uncles. It’s not about kids; we are talking about adults. Yes, they may be young but they are adults. They might be 18. I know lots of 18-year-olds who have aunts and uncles and grandparents, and maybe they don’t get along.
If the minister had been listening, I think the key part of the message — what I was concerned about — was elder abuse. I’m not saying it couldn’t be physical violence, but it was the psychological and emotional abuse that I was concerned about, which is what we are discussing today in this section.
Now, I proposed an amendment to the act, to Bill No. 63. The minister is intransigent. By the sounds of it, he will not entertain the motion. That’s pretty much what I expected when I started my comments. That’s about all you can expect from this government and the way they work.
I will put this on record now that, even though we are going to vote on this amendment probably within the next couple of minutes, after I sit down, and it will be defeated by the members opposite — it looks like they probably have the numbers or they are going to have the numbers — the offer will still stand. I would still be willing to meet with the minister and discuss the other amendments that can’t be proposed today in Bill No. 63, where we do have the opportunity to bring this forward and make the act better.
I’m not going to become locked down because the minister wouldn’t accept the motion as I proposed it. I will leave the door open, so to speak, and if the minister is willing to meet and talk about what my intentions were with respect to proposing these amendments, that door is open, and I will still meet with him, and we can discuss this and, hopefully, come to some resolution. So, I look forward to the minister’s comments.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the minister wishes to respond, I can wait to make my comments.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I hear what the member opposite is saying. I guess one of the questions I would have for the member opposite is: if in fact the statement he made that he has been working on this issue for a long time and it’s not done on the fly — then I would have to question why my department was not contacted before it’s being put before the Legislature. There may have been time to talk four months ago. But certainly, why would one expect cooperation at the eleventh hour on an issue like this?
I mean, the department has been working on this for an awful long time, and they have done considerable work on it and, through their consultations, drafted what they felt was appropriate.
At this point in time, Mr. Chair, the member opposite is right — that as the minister I won’t be accepting any amendments on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, I’d just like to quickly respond to the minister about why I didn’t approach the officials. The minister and the Department of Justice never once approached me and asked me what I thought should be in the Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act. Not once was I contacted and asked about that. In fact, I had a hard time finding out from the minister about the workplan and what the schedule was for a consultation. When I saw the ad in the paper, it talked about how this portion was going to be in the consultation. So what I did was I waited to see what the minister was prepared to bring forward. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see that until the Legislature has been called back. Within the first five sitting days we get the proposed legislation. But until we sit here in this Legislature, this is a closed document that we’re not allowed access to. The government won’t share this with us. So how would I know what was in Bill No. 63 before the minister stood up on the second or third day of the sitting and read in for first reading an Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, Bill No. 63? The minister didn’t share with me anything that was in this document until we came into this Legislature and he proposed it, and then we even had to wait a half an hour or an hour before it even appeared on our desk.
I wasn’t approached about any consultation, and he wants to know why I am out there doing my work separately. He wasn’t extending any olive branches to me, asking me what I thought should be included in that. So, I think the minister needs to reconsider — and the government probably needs to reconsider — how it drafts legislation.
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun and I have just been discussing this issue about amendments. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun was sitting where the Member for Porter Creek Centre is sitting now, and it was another long afternoon of debate in the Legislature. The member at the time was the Minister of Environment. He was presenting and debating the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act, and in the gallery there was a member — the president of the Wilderness Tourism Association.
The act had come before the Legislature and we had gone through it. The way the act was worded, it violated the principles of natural justice; there was a glitch in the legislation. The Member for Riverside and the leader of the Yukon Party at the time and I stood here all afternoon and argued with the Member for Mayo-Tatchun to make an amendment to the legislation.
Finally, at the break — the point to my story is that the president of the Wilderness Tourism Association met with the minister at the break, the legal draftspeople also looked at it, we reached a compromise and we ended up with far better legislation. That’s the job we’re supposed to do.
Unfortunately, right now, we do not have a lawyer among the members of the Legislature — fortunately or unfortunately, depending upon your point of view. However, had we a legal draftsperson, we might have avoided all of this. Had the Department of Justice met with members of the opposition and briefed them on the legislation before it came, we might have been able to avoid all of this.
The minister’s argument of the “eleventh hour” — “we can’t accept an amendment,” I’m not buying because it has been done before. We have been able to amend it, and we made better legislation as a result.
This particular amendment, I think we’re all in agreement, isn’t the best legislative wording we’ve ever seen. That’s a problem. The way around that problem is to take the amendments the Member for Mount Lorne wanted to propose — that are simple and straightforward and that he’s engaged in some consultation on — take those, separate them out, put them in a stand-alone bill, and get unanimous consent to bring it forward while we’re still in this sitting.
The way to do that, to give assurances that it will happen, is for the minister to simply adjourn or ask for an adjournment on the discussion on this line, meet with the Member for Mount Lorne and resolve the issue. That’s all that’s being asked for.
There is a compromise position, there is a consensus-building position, being put forward here. If you would like, I could put it more simply, Mr. Chair: I’m offering the minister an out — to say, all right, yes, I understand the amendment.
The minister says he doesn’t want out, he’s staying.
Well, we will leave that to the voters in the next election. I am offering the minister a compromise on this bill and a consensus-building position. Simply stand down on the bill at this point in time — we are quite prepared to move into debate on other issues in the Legislature — and meet with the Member for Mount Lorne. Members on that side have asked for our cooperation; would they please extend the same courtesy?
This Legislature, in spite of an eight- or nine-seat majority over on the opposite benches, has been able to amend legislation before with the support of the public, the groups involved and finally — it was a very long afternoon — the support of the minister of the day.
So, I would please ask the minister to reconsider his position and stand down and meet with the Member for Mount Lorne and with both officials. The Member for Klondike keeps suggesting we should just clear this item and the comments that anybody on this side is making — or entreaties to the Minister of Justice — are somehow without value. Not everybody has been in this House for as long as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun or the Member for Klondike or myself.
It’s useful to remember those debates. It’s useful to remember where we’ve been and where we’ve gone before. At the time, there was a lawyer in this Legislature who couldn’t read the legislation and say there has been an error here. Sometimes when you’re so close to a product that has been produced in a department, even though there has been consultation, those suggestions haven’t come forward. Or for one reason or another, unbeknownst to this side of the House, they were not included.
That sort of information could be shared in a meeting with the member who has proposed it. But to be so dismissive as to simply clear it without thinking about what we’re doing and giving reasonable consideration outside the confines of the debate to the suggestions put forward by another member — it does us all a disservice, Mr. Chair.
There is no reason why there couldn’t be a stand down on this legislation and have a look at, or at least hear out the other individuals outside the confines of debate. So I would ask the minister once again to please adjourn the debate on this particular act in Committee of the Whole. We will come back to it, we can come back to it. Take a short time and meet with the Member for Mount Lorne on these amendments and see if there is a compromise position that could be filled and a consensus reached.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment?
You have all heard the amendment. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: I believe the nays have it. The amendment is defeated.
Chair: Is there any further debate on clause 2?
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Mr. Cardiff: I believe that was basically the only area where I wanted to see some changes to Bill No. 63. I have no problems with the further clauses of Bill No. 63, so I would request unanimous consent to deem all further clauses and the title read and agreed to.
Unanimous consent deeming all clauses of Bill No. 63 read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Cardiff has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all remaining clauses and the title of Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, read and agreed to.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Clauses 1 to 10 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will continue with Bill No. 17. Members have requested a few minutes for officials to arrive.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and continue on in general debate.
Bill No. 17 — Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06 — continued
Mr. Hardy: I have a couple of questions I’d like to ask, going back to Bill No. 17. One of the first is that there were pre-budget tours around the territory this fall, once again, and the question I have with respect to that is: were all of the communities visited and, if so, who attended at those community meetings?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The Premier attended at all of the meetings. Ministers attended at a number of the meetings, and various ministers were in attendance at a number of the different meetings — it wasn’t the same minister at all times. Further to that, there were officials, at all times, from Finance and Executive Council Office.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member opposite supply us with the information on all the communities that were visited, the dates they were visited — I think there were only one or two changes in dates. I know that there was a change in Haines Junction for some reason or another. Could he supply me with a list of all the communities that were visited and the dates they were attended and the people who represented the government — elected ministers or MLAs who were actually part of the entourage with the Premier at each of the meetings? Could he also provide a breakdown of the costs — if he is willing to just have that sent over to us at a later date, we would be quite happy with that.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can confirm that the government attended at all Yukon communities. The only community where there was a change of date as to when the meeting was held was Haines Junction, due to scheduling difficulties. We will get back to the member opposite with a breakdown of the costs for the total community tour.
Mr. Hardy: I just wanted to focus that a little bit. I would like to have a breakdown of the costs of each of the meetings in each of the communities, not just the total cost. It’s important for us to understand how much these tours costs and how much was spent in each of the communities. If the minister would be so willing, we would be quite happy to get that information at a later date.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we’ll endeavour to provide the member opposite with a breakdown, but I can share with the member in the House that one of the largest costs was the charter associated with visiting the community of Old Crow and subsequently coming down into Mayo. That was probably the largest single cost that was incurred travel-wise in the whole community tour business, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: Moving on to the immigrant investor fund, can I get an update on the immigrant investor fund, where it’s at, how much is left, the investment to date in that area and what timelines are existing around those types of investments and whatnot?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the member opposite asked the same question last year. It has not changed at all from last year at this same time, when the question was raised by the leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Is the member opposite telling me that there has been no change in the financials at all?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There hasn’t been any access to that fund, so there hasn’t been any change in the fund’s balance since —
Mr. Hardy: Is the minister telling me that there have been no funds accrued with investments at all? Meaning in one year there has been absolutely no change whatsoever? It’s a financial question.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Details of the exact financial position — I don’t have them here, Mr. Chair. We’ll provide them to the third party as well as the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: Just to confirm, will the minister also give us how much has been paid back into it on the investments, as well?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: We will provide the overview of the fund, as to where it stands today.
Mr. Hardy: Has the department been in any discussions around changes in the tax structure, tax reform, with any groups or organizations, at all?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer, Mr. Chair, is no.
Mr. Hardy: The simple question is: why not? There are always discussions within the business community on tax structure, there are always discussions with individuals about the amount of taxes they have to pay and what they feel they are getting for their taxes. Is this government planning to entertain establishing a tax round table in the future, similar to the one the NDP had established when they were in power?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can assure the member opposite that it won’t be similar to what the NDP established but it may be a similar type of undertaking. That said, our government committed to no tax increases and no fee schedule increases of any sort, and we’ve held true to that, Mr. Chair, save and except a couple of areas over which we have no control or jurisdiction. That said, Mr. Chair, on the issue of total taxes, the member opposite knows full well that the federal government levies, when they look at personal income tax, the tax structure in that area, and the Yukon is a percentage of that total tax, which has been reducing.
Our government made some significant changes and strides in enhancing the tax regime for low-income individuals and not clawing back a number of the dollars that are advanced to that category of wage earner here in the Yukon.
As well, we’ve made changes in a number of other programs so that initiatives such as support payments received by single parents from their spouse or partner are no longer calculated in the rent calculation for Yukon Housing social housing.
At the same time, we’ve extended the program for tax relief for small business. That has been lowered. So, there have been a couple that the member opposite indicated that he recalls.
So, across the board, the tax regime here in the Yukon can be improved. We’ll be examining that in due course but, overall, we have committed to no tax increases. In some areas there have been tax decreases, and in some areas we’ve eliminated clawbacks in various programs for those in the lower income category.
So, overall today, there is a feeling of optimism here in the Yukon that hasn’t existed under the past two governments, as a consequence of the economic policies and programs that our government has implemented. We have restored investor confidence here in the Yukon. We are committed to rebuilding the Yukon economy. There is an inward migration of people today because of the enhanced economic opportunities here in the Yukon. When you couple all that together, the light is on.
The Yukon is a great place to live. It has wonderful social programs and wonderful economic benefits. At the same time it also has some of the lowest taxes in Canada.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I’m glad those members on the other side have finally recognized that the light is on. It has been on for a long time in the Yukon. There are a lot of reasons why people live here. I can assure you that if the light was off all the time, they would have left, and they haven’t. Though we do know the Premier’s position on the Yukon — he has called the Yukon a winter of seven months and mosquito-infested swamp the other five months. He has done that on the national stage, so we do know that his outlook and perspective of the Yukon is well-established throughout Canada wherever it is broadcast.
But we on this side have always looked at the Yukon as being a desirable place to live — bright, beautiful, with a great environment as long as we look after it, clean water, good weather, and great, great people. We will always keep that outlook and not one of gloom and doom that the member opposite just painted, with lights on and lights off.
However, there are a few other issues here. One of them, of course, is around the tax.
I’m disappointed with this government. I’m very disappointed in how they’ve not engaged the people of this territory in many of the areas that need to be looked at and really need the broad opinions and expertise that lie within the communities throughout the Yukon.
One of those areas, of course, is the tax round table that the NDP had put together. Now, the member opposite said that they weren’t planning to do one but, if they did one, it wouldn’t be similar, but it would be similar in another way.
I would recommend, first off, that the minister figure out what he’s actually saying around that. Is he going to engage the private and public sectors, the unions, businesses, the communities, First Nations, other levels of government in a true assessment of the taxes we pay, how we pay it, where they go, what benefits we get for it, how we can maximize the most from the taxes that are paid, how we ensure that money goes back to benefit people’s lives, but also how we can ensure that those taxes don’t go up and create a burden on people and make their lives far too difficult? It’s not the Yukon way, doing it that way.
So one recommendation I have for the member opposite is that he engage the people of this territory in another look at the taxes, not just doing it in the back rooms with a bunch of old friends but actually do it out in public and really engage people.
Another area that has been talked about, not just around taxes though, of course, is the pipeline. There hasn’t been much for the public to get their teeth into in regard to the pipeline. If we didn’t have the Legislative Assembly sitting right now, this government would be dead silent on it.
And that’s a shame because a lot of people out there are wondering what the heck is going on with the pipeline. What the heck is going on with the financing, or the lack of it, from the federal government? And how come N.W.T. seems to have the money pipeline flowing straight from Ottawa straight to there but, for some reason, there’s no branch that comes to the Yukon, though we have a pipeline that’s estimated to be almost four times the size and probably four times the cost? So, why are we not benefiting from Ottawa in preparing for a pipeline? And if we’re not preparing, then, of course, we’re going to have some serious problems up here.
But this government has to take the lead in that. We’ve heard discussions around that today, and we’ve been asking questions around it for the last few weeks. And what’s really a problem that I have here is, if we weren’t sitting — if we didn’t have this forum to sit in and work and to ask questions — it would be almost impossible for the public to challenge this government on anything.
And this pipeline is extremely serious. It’s not all roses. It’s not all going to be beautiful, and money will just fall out of the trees. This pipeline will come through, and everybody will be happy and retire in splendour after it — not at all. Anybody who has been around pipeline construction and doesn’t just stand back and talk about it — anybody who has been around pipeline construction can tell you there has a lot of side issues that need to be prepared for.
If this government cannot get money from Ottawa because they do not have a good relationship with them or whatever the reason is, I’d like to know why, and I think the people in the territory would like to know why there is such a difference between N.W.T. and the work they’ve done and the Yukon and the lack of work that has been done on this side.
But if they are not, then maybe they had better start spending some money here. The Yukon government had better start preparing in some way, shape or form, instead of $3 million being thrown at a railway feasibility study that is a long, long way away from happening in the Yukon — if ever.
I would like to report progress on Bill No. 17.
Chair: Mr. Hardy has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins has moved that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 17, Second Appropriation Act, 2005-06, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 57, Act to Amend the Small Claims Court Act; Bill No. 58, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act; Bill No. 62, Act to Amend the Jury Act; and Bill No. 63, Act to Amend the Family Violence Prevention Act and has directed me to report them without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.