Whitehorse , Yukon
Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Motion ruled out of order
Speaker: The Chair wishes to inform the House that Motion No. 643, for which the Member for Porter Creek South gave notice on April 12, 2006, has been found to be out of order and has not been placed on today's Notice Paper.
We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the Celebration of Swans
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure today to rise to offer tribute to the many people and organizations, First Nations and government agencies that are contributing to the Celebration of Swans activities as well as to the protection of the Lewes Marsh Habitat Protection Area for generations to come.
The focus this weekend, of course, will be the events taking place at Swan Haven at M'Clintock Bay at what is generally the peak of the migratory bird population at Marsh Lake.
Swan Haven started as a wildlife viewing idea over 13 years ago and began to evolve with the support of the Yukon chapters of the Girl Guides of Canada and Ducks Unlimited. The idea emerged with the understanding that there was an amazing celebration of nature in spring occurring there every year, unbeknownst to the vast majority of Yukon residents. It has evolved from a one-weekend event to a month-long celebration with events at several locations around the territory that are enthusiastically embraced by a large segment of the Yukon population. The involvement includes Girl Guides, Ducks Unlimited, Yukon Bird Club, Canadian Wildlife Service, Yukon Energy Corporation, Yukon Fish and Game Association, Dean Turner Contracting Limited, Kilrich Industries, the Main Street Backerei Kaffee Haus, the Yukon Science Institute, Mary Jane Johnson and elders of Burwash Landing, artist Daphne Mennell, taxidermist Bob White, storyteller Ida Calmagne of the Tagish First Nation, and photographer Marten Berkman, among many others.
I also need to acknowledge and thank Dawson-born artist Mark Preston who donated his drawing for this year's Celebration of Swans poster, and the public involvement is - in a word, Mr. Speaker - spectacular.
Last year we recorded over 4,000 visits to Swan Haven alone. This includes people coming in the evenings and weekends and for the celebration events themselves.
We have estimated that as many as 2,000 people will visit Swan Haven over the course of the Celebration of Swans week, between now and Sunday, April 23. That is what happened last year.
We also offer special presentations for elementary students from grades 2 to 6. Needless to say, we have them coming in from as far away as Beaver Creek, Haines Junction, Carmacks, Carcross, Teslin and of course the Whitehorse area schools.
Over 800 Yukon students will visit the centre for these special school presentations. The high schools and Yukon College also visit the site. There is a special event for seniors to visit on Wednesday afternoon.
The Swan Haven location is important for a number of reasons - reasons that may very well extend all the way back to the receding of the glaciers some 10,000 years ago.
When we talk about biodiversity, M'Clintock Bay is a great place to learn about the concept and its importance to all living things.
The shallow, open water at M'Clintock Bay provides much-needed food as well as an escape route from predators that might wander on to the frozen lake in search of a quick meal.
The migratory birds have learned that M'Clintock Bay is the place to be for 50 kinds of waterfowl, over 3,000 ducks and 2,000 swans. They come from northern California, Washington State and British Columbia, and they are on their way to wetlands in the north and central parks of Yukon and Alaska.
The M'Clintock Bay Lewes Marsh is not only important from an international biodiversity perspective, it is considered important enough to be included in the First Nations final agreements for the Carcross-Tagish First Nation and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation as a special management area.
Special management areas are to maintain important features of the Yukon's natural and cultural environment for the benefit of all Yukon residents and all Canadians, while respecting the rights of Yukon Indian people and Yukon First Nations.
The area is culturally important to the First Nations because of the past use of fish and wildlife resources. The area is to be designated as a habitat protection area under the Wildlife Act. A management plan will be drafted before the official designation is put in place. This Easter weekend will be a great opportunity to experience this annual rite of spring, and I encourage each and every one of you to go back and read through the blue Celebration of Swans flyer that came to your mailbox last week so that you can plan your visits.
Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. Merci beacoup. Mahsi' cho. Günilschish. Mē duh.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of this side of the House to pay tribute to Swan Haven at Marsh Lake . I would like to thank my colleagues for allowing me the opportunity to pay tribute on our behalf.
I especially enjoy the opportunity to pay tribute to Swan Haven, because it is more than a cooperative initiative. It has some very special memories for me. I would like to briefly tell the story of how Swan Haven came about.
Swan Haven was born out of an idea of the Girl Guides of Canada - Guides du Canada - the Yukon organization. I was the provincial commissioner for the Girl Guides at that time. My former colleague, Mr. Eftoda, whom I am sure would permit me to announce his name in the Legislature as a former member, was the executive director of Ducks Unlimited at the time. Both organizations were housed in the TC Richards Building. The Girl Guides own the piece of property where Swan Haven now sits. We referred to it as the “Brownie hut”. We enjoyed many occasions when there would be Brownie or Guide camps or leader training at what is now Swan Haven - at the Brownie hut - in the spring.
There were conversations between Ducks Unlimited and the Girl Guides. Ducks Unlimited had a very, very good relationship with the Department of Renewable Resources and the public servants involved there, and out of our discussions came the idea for Swan Haven. The Guides' contribution was the Brownie hut - the Swan Haven building itself - and Ducks Unlimited and the Department of Renewable Resources contributed the knowledge.
This, most of all, is a story of public servants, of volunteer organizations, of Yukoners working together to share with one another and with the world an incredible spring event, and it has grown into, now, an anniversary and a month-long celebration of swans that many, many Yukoners and visitors alike have enjoyed. It grew out of, as I've said, Yukoners working together to share what we have. So I encourage all Yukoners to make their annual trip, or maybe it will be their first trip, to Swan Haven this weekend.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Pursuant to sections 3.1 and 3.2 of An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements, and sections 3.1 and 3.2 of the First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act, I have for tabling the Carcross-Tagish First Nation Final Agreement, the Carcross-Tagish First Nation Self-Government Agreement, and a copy of Order-in-Council 2005/218 dated December 15, 2005, which approves and gives effect to these agreements. Copies of the agreements will be provided to members when they are printed and available from Ottawa .
Mr. Rouble: I have for tabling the results of the Tagish volunteer fire department survey. The survey indicates there are 218 full-time residents and 313 part-time residents in the community of Tagish.
Mr. Jenkins: I have for tabling a letter from Energy, Mines and Resources, the director of the lands branch, addressed to C. & I. Construction in Mayo.
Speaker: Are there any other documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 112: Introduction and First Reading
Mr. Hardy: I move that a bill, entitled Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that a bill, entitled Act to Amend the Legislative Assembly Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 112 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the overuse of sole-source contracts by the Yukon Party government is eroding public confidence in the fairness of this government's procurement practices; and
(2) the overuse of change orders to extend sole-source contracts significantly beyond the initial contract amount often appears to breach the spirit of fairness and transparency that should characterize government contracting regulations, policies and practices; and
THAT this House directs the Government of Yukon to amend its contract regulations and procedures to require that details of any sole-source contract in excess of $25,000, or any change order that extends a sole-source contract beyond an initial amount of $25,000 or less, be tabled in the Legislative Assembly no later than 10 sitting days from the date on which the contract is issued.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice to immediately implement the recommendations contained in the final report of the corrections consultation regarding community support and training, public education and the problem-solving court.
I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Minister of Justice to make available to the building design team for the new correctional facility all documents and design work done previously and to establish a clear time frame for the team to complete their work so as not to further unnecessarily delay the building of a new correctional facility.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges all members to agree on a rule allowing the use of laptop computers within this Assembly following Question Period each day.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tuberculosis outbreak
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday we were very disturbed to hear that once again there is a tuberculosis outbreak in the Yukon . Ten new cases have been discovered. Last year that was an outbreak in one Yukon community, and we were assured by the minister then that it was under control. According to a Health and Social Services department spokesperson, public health officials are considering this latest outbreak as abnormal and concerning. A very clear question to the minister: what is the minister doing in response to the current outbreak?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the question asked by the leader of the official opposition, the Department of Health and Social Services employs experts in this field and in dealing with communicable disease control, they are very qualified - far more qualified than he or I - to deal with that. They have, as he will have noted, made statements in the press asking individuals to take the onus on themselves if they have any reason to believe that they could have possibly have come into contact with individuals carrying tuberculosis - or have any of the symptoms - and come forward for testing. It is certainly a matter that we treat with concern, but it is being handled by the appropriate officials and experts.
Mr. Hardy: That kind of answer doesn't necessarily instill a great deal of confidence in me, and I know the many people who have been calling us.
Historically, TB has had terrible repercussions in the north. Hundreds of First Nations were sent thousands of miles away for months and years of treatment. Some of them didn't return. Many families suffered the loss of parents and children to this disease, and the emotional upheaval of that time has a direct effect on how people react when they learn of new TB cases in their communities. They are afraid of being sent away from their families once again. They are afraid of the social stigma attached to TB. They are afraid of dying.
Will the minister assure the House that his departments will act on historical and cultural implications when dealing with the control of this disease?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I am disturbed by the tone of the comments from the leader of the official opposition. It seems he is questioning the competency of the officials who are dealing with this. I assure him that I have the utmost confidence in their abilities to deal with this. As minister, I have looked into it. I have sat down and been briefed by them on the procedures they follow when such cases occur. I am confident that these individuals are not only qualified to ensure that proper procedures are implemented and followed but that they are doing so.
Mr. Hardy: I wish the minister had listened closely to the question. I was talking about the cultural implications and the history of it, not about the officials. I am concerned about that allegation he made.
Surely the minister knows that TB is increasing across the globe and that the Yukon is not protected from it. Perhaps the minister wasn't fully aware of the fact that an outbreak of TB was possible in the Yukon . The latest cases seemed to have caught the minister's officials off-guard, and certainly that is what the statistics in this year's budget document seem to suggest.
Will the minister explain why the communicable disease control unit has estimated a decrease of 36 percent in the number of TB tests to be conducted this year, in light of what we are now seeing? Could he explain that?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again, I do not think the tone of questioning from the leader of the official opposition is called for. He is suggesting that the officials of Health and Social Services were caught off-guard, were not prepared, and implying they were unqualified in the estimates they made.
Mr. Speaker, estimates are just that. The member is correct in one point in stating that these cases are at a higher level than anticipated - that happens. The department is prepared for that. I can assure the member, having reviewed the procedures and having been briefed on the procedures that are followed, that the department is well aware that unanticipated outbreaks do occur. That's why they have procedures to deal with them. They are dealing with it, and I have full confidence in the staff who are doing so.
Question re: Literacy levels
Mrs. Peter: A recent international survey of adult literacy skills showed that the Yukon had the highest rate of literacy in the country, on the scale that Stats Canada used to define that term. We applaud that; however, the Yukon Literacy Coalition's analysis of these results shows a large disparity between the education and literacy levels of communities and Whitehorse . Rural Yukon, First Nations and Yukon-born adults have very low levels of literacy.
What is the minister doing about supporting adult literacy programs in rural Yukon ?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This minister is aware that there are literacy organizations throughout the territory. The government recently had a forum on the literacy strategy in the Yukon . People from right across the territory attended that forum, and a lot of recommendations will be coming out of that summit. We expect to address some of these issues through their recommendations.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, according to the Yukon Literacy Coalition findings, about half the population of First Nations do not have the skills necessary to advance into higher education or to compete successfully for employment. This is not news for those of us who live and work in rural Yukon communities.
One Yukon community, Beaver Creek, has taken up the challenge. The Beaver Creek Family Opportunities Foundation works alongside the White River First Nation. They have contacted me and my colleague, the Member for Mount Lorne , with a proposal. They don't have a college campus so they have started their own learning centre. Is the minister in support of this community-based effort?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, I think that every effort that is made from individual citizens throughout the territory is appreciated. The Government of Yukon supports literacy programming, because literacy improves quality of life for Yukoners, and education is a key to a strong economy and healthy communities. We're all aware of that.
In 2005-06, we contributed over $600,000 directly to improving student literacy and numeracy in the public school system. We will continue this level of commitment through the 2006-07 budget.
We structure the nature of our curriculum and class time to reflect an emphasis on creating strong literacy skills from a very young age. That's why at the school level we have implemented the following: the literacy action and math skills plan has been incorporated into every school plan; we have undertaken staff training in Wilson Reading, and Wilson Reading is a remedial literacy program to assist young students who need help acquiring reading skills.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this committed and forward-looking foundation met with the Department of Education's literacy strategy review team. The Beaver Creek people said their small population means they continually get lost when funding is distributed - out of sight; out of mind. They recommended to the review team that funding for literacy should come directly to them as the community organization. That way they could respond to their own unique needs.
Will the minister get behind this project with financial support so the dedicated people of Beaver Creek can get on with the literacy work this government has ignored?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe this government has not fallen short of the work they brought forward with regard to literacy. The full-day kindergarten is a good example. That's very important for improving literacy skills. The home-tutoring program is again another way this government saw fit to try to address literacy skills, and the list goes on.
This government has contributed a substantial amount of finances to education, and I believe it's the second highest amount of funding that went into all the programs within government. I believe this government has shown a very good example of the importance of education.
Question re: Granger-Copper Ridge school
Mr. Mitchell: I have some questions for the Minister of Education. The catchment area for the Copper Ridge subdivision is Elijah Smith Elementary School. With the large and continued growth in this area of the city, Elijah Smith Elementary has been filled to capacity, and the department is now turning students away from this excellent school. The problems resulting from the lack of a local elementary school in the Copper Ridge subdivision will worsen as an additional 200 homes become occupied.
As the predicted shift in the population demographics across Canada occurs over the coming years, the number of students will continue to increase, resulting in the need for more elementary school capacity. Last fall, two ministers of this government stated unequivocally that a new school was needed and would be built.
Will the minister confirm this is still the plan of his government?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the plan for this government has been stated on the floor of the Legislature prior to today. We have allotted $75,000 for the important initiative of planning for schools in Whitehorse. I believe that is the proper route to go at this point in time. We do understand that demographics and catchment areas are different. There are other schools within a short distance of Elijah Smith that have available space, and we will continue to try to make the best of the schools we have in operation.
Mr. Mitchell: I am concerned that this government has no plan for education, no vision as to future needs and no intention of honouring a pledge to the people of Copper Ridge, Granger, Logan, Arkell, Hillcrest and McIntyre. Can the minister confirm that the proposed school is not going ahead for an August 2008 suggested opening and that children will have to be bused to schools outside their communities, or will he return to his Cabinet colleagues and work to have the $700,000 that his department said was necessary for planning, design and inspections added to this year's budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I find it a little disturbing that the leader of the third party would make accusations that this government has no plans for education when, just yesterday, that very side of the House - the Liberal caucus - referred to a community development fund as a slush fund.
All these have to do with education and development in the communities. This government is far ahead of what that member has in mind.
Mr. Mitchell: The Yukon needs to be prepared to do planning and budgeting for future development. All indications from national and international sources are that the Canadian economy will remain strong. With continued high energy and mineral prices, there will be economic benefits for all Yukoners, but we must plan and be prepared. Part of that planning is to put in place the required infrastructure for the influx of people who will come. Part of that planning is providing a school system that can accommodate the demand when it is required.
I am becoming increasingly concerned with this government's IOU approach to planning and budgeting. Two ministers of this government clearly indicated that a new school would be built for Copper Ridge; yet there is no mention of that in this budget. Is this another item for a supplementary budget this fall, or is this just another in a long list of broken promises to the people of this territory?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: In terms of the economy, I am very pleased to hear the member opposite talk about the economy and how well we're doing, and the necessity to do proper planning and infrastructure. Planning is an integral part of that. We need to do that planning so that we have the optimal infrastructure in place for future development and needs. As the Yukon has done so significantly better than any other jurisdiction and done so much better while we do take advantage of world situations, we need to study all these projects and their needs.
We are often accused of not doing proper consultation, and now the member opposite accuses us of wanting to consult. I notice in the statistics that he read yesterday regarding the increase in population in so many different communities, and the decrease in population in ridings held by the Liberals and the NDP. Maybe there is a trend here we should look at.
Question re: Yukon College and Yukon Hospital Corporation pension funds
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the acting Finance minister. The government recently announced it was going to send the college $1.2 million this year and a total of $6 million over the next five years to cover a shortfall in the college's pension fund. That should be good news, Mr. Speaker. The problem is that the Yukon Party government did not put any money in the budget to actually pay this bill. At this point, it's merely an IOU from a government on its way out the door. It's a bill that the next government is going to have to pay. How does the Yukon Party government intend to pay the bill, or is the plan simply to leave it for the next government to find the money?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: We can't book something in the budget until we know the number. Now that we have been able to come forward with a number for what has to be done in conjunction with Yukon College's mitigation plan, we have booked that number. We have made the commitment, and that will, of course, be addressed. That is why it is not in this budget - that number was not known at the time.
Ms. Duncan: While I appreciate the Acting Minister of Finance's attempt to answer that question, the difficulty is that he didn't fully answer it. The Yukon Hospital Corporation is in a similar situation. They have a pension shortfall. The government has agreed to help cover the cost. Again, there is no money in the budget, no contingency fund to cover this IOU to the hospital. It will be left to the next government. The government is talking to the hospital now about funding the shortfall. How big is it going to be? What's the estimate? The bill for the college is $1.2 million, and that cost will be paid by the next government. How big is the bill going to be for the hospital?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: We are working with the Yukon Hospital Corporation right now to come down to finalization of the cost that's involved. As with the Yukon College, the requirement is that the organization - the body, as it is their pension plan - does have to take steps and come up with a mitigation plan. We are working with them to address the areas that they cannot and to assist them in ensuring that employees' pension plans are protected. We are firmly committed to protecting those plans.
I point out to the member opposite that this is part of the general order of finance, as she should be well aware - costs go up, costs go down. It's part of the general course of business within a year, and we are fully confident in the ability to deal with this matter within the Yukon government's budget and financial plan.
Ms. Duncan: The minister didn't answer the question. We're talking about a $1.2-million bill from the college this fiscal year alone and millions more to the Yukon Hospital Corporation, and the Yukon Party government has not set aside a single dollar to pay these obligations. They have no authorization from this Legislature to pay these bills.
There is a way to ensure that the bills get paid by the current government, and that is to bring in a supplementary budget either this session or this fall. Given that this government's mandate runs out this fall, it is very unlikely they are going to bring forward a fall supplementary; it is still possible though. What does the Acting Minister of Finance, in the Premier's stead, plan to do? Will we see these IOUs covered off this fall in the supplementary budget, or is the minister prepared to admit that the Yukon Party is going leave these costs to the next government?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: In answer to the Member for Porter Creek South, unlike the previous government we don't plan to leave unanticipated and unannounced costs to the next government. We are firmly committed to moving forward with the hospital and with the college. We have announced, and fully disclosed, the numbers as we know them and as they have come up. Those will continue to be disclosed to the Yukon taxpayer, but we cannot disclose a number that we do not yet know. We are working right now with the Yukon Hospital Corporation to come to a resolution regarding the extent to which they are unable to address their pension liabilities, and we will be announcing that number and how we are assisting them once that is known.
Question re: Mayo land application
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. On April 10, my question to that minister was on a land application for 1.3 hectares in the Mayo area that was fraught with government errors. The minister blamed those errors on the federal government prior to devolution. Now, that's not the entire case, Mr. Speaker. I tabled a letter earlier today from the director of Yukon's lands branch admitting that errors were made and the land application was increased in size by one-third because of a mistake in internal mapping.
This additional 0.7 hectares covers a quarry pit, then leased to a third party. My question to this minister: why has he allowed his department to proceed with granting this enlarged parcel of land, knowing full well it is being done through incorrect process, in error and may even be illegal?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would remind the member opposite that, through devolution, we acquired the management for land from the federal government. The member opposite knows exactly what the process was. We were obliged to finalize the arrangements the federal government had made. We honoured those agreements.
Mr. Jenkins: They honoured the agreements but didn't honour the process nor the outline of what is supposed to transpire. Let's run through this again: the original application was for 1.3 hectares. It goes through all the process, and the gravel pit was noted by the gravel pit lessor that it was outside the area indicated on the maps that were presented. Then this parcel of land is legally surveyed in at two hectares, including that gravel pit.
This is unprecedented in that the area that was originally requested was enlarged by over a third. Many land applications are reduced; I couldn't find one that had been enlarged, especially by a third.
Mr. Speaker, this smacks of collusion; it may even be illegal.
Why doesn't the minister ensure that this cannot take place, and what efforts will he make to remedy this situation and remove the quarry pit from this area?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite is talking about an issue that was created by the federal government and done by the federal government. At the end of the day, we were committed to finalize the arrangements that were made. We don't live in a perfect world. Through devolution, we acquired the responsibility for land. That piece of land had been finalized; the agreements had been made; the federal government had made those arrangements and we, as the landowner after devolution, have a responsibility to honour that commitment made by the federal government.
Mr. Jenkins: This is but another example of this minister not following due process. When it was brought to the minister's attention that due process had not been adhered to, that it had been circumvented either by collusion or major errors, that it was, in fact, improper, the minister should have rectified the situation before he proceeded to title.
Now the department is saying that if the party feels aggrieved, it should refer the matter to the courts. Why do all matters of this nature have to be resolved before the courts?
Speaker: Order please. Before the hon. member answers the question, the Member for Klondike's suggestion that there is collusion seems, from the Chair's perspective, to indicate that the minister is condoning an illegal move. I would ask the member not to suggest that.
You have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite knows exactly how the process works. For him to stand up in this House and make those comments is very inappropriate. We follow the letter of the law. We have lawyers on staff. The transaction was done before this government took responsibility. Our obligation was to fulfill the work that DIAND had done previous to our taking over the responsibility. We did just that.
Question re: Watson Lake care facility
Mr. Hardy: I've given the Minister of Health and Social Services several opportunities to tell this House when the multi-level care centre in the Premier's riding will be finished and how much it will actually cost. Perhaps the minister didn't hear my questions clearly, because his answers were more about some problems with the Watson Lake hospital.
So, Mr. Speaker, I am a fairly patient man. I don't mind returning to this question. I am willing to give the minister another opportunity to provide that information - he has now had time to get it.
When does the minister expect a multi-level care centre in Watson Lake to open, and what will the final bill be?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Again, to the leader of the official opposition, we are moving forward on this project and we are moving forward on the final designing details. As I stated to him before, there were some unanticipated design issues that came up with regard to the hospital. Those did cause both some delays and some additional expense.
Mr. Hardy: I'll put on record that the minister did not answer the question. But listening to what he said, I take it that the centre won't be open during the life of this government and we have no idea what the final cost will be.
Let me congratulate the minister and his colleagues. At least they are very consistent around that. Nothing this government has done so far has been on time or on budget - not the Carmacks school, not the Dawson health care facility, certainly not a Dawson bridge, not the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, not the athletes village. For that matter, none of its consultations are on time either. We can only guess how much some of these costs are going to be for the next government.
If the extra costs of the Watson Lake project are largely due to structural problems in the existing hospital, why is the cost of structural engineering work the only factor that hasn't escalated significantly, or are there more nasty surprises in store for the taxpayers?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The member opposite questions the amount of money spent for design and architectural work on this project. I have been clear on this matter many times. The additional design and architectural work is simply due diligence. The Watson Lake hospital will require work in the future, and we know, as a result of our due diligence, the scope of this work. Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is not only attacking us when he makes these comments, he's suggesting that the professional individuals who are involved are not doing their jobs.
The Auditor General of Canada audits the Yukon government's books every year, Mr. Speaker. As the member opposite may recall from the Auditor General's report from the Liberal sponsorship scandal, the Auditor General takes a very dim view of payments made for which insufficient work is performed. The work is being performed, and it is being performed well.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite may also recall that the Auditor General complimented our government on the improvements made to the Government of Yukon's accounting practices under our watch. I have confidence in the decisions our government has made regarding the Watson Lake multi-level care facility. I am confident the facility will open, that it will be an excellent facility for the community and, at the end of the day, that the Auditor General will review it and have a positive opinion of how we have conducted ourselves.
Mr. Hardy: I am quite offended that this minister, once again, has accused me of attacking officials and professionals. I have not once attacked them. That is almost out of order, Mr. Speaker.
The sole-source contracts for design work are now up to $910,000 plus. That's a fact. It's out of line. At an hourly rate of $165, it would take five senior professional architects working full-time for 28 weeks to run up a bill that high. Is that reasonable? Of course it isn't.
It is my understanding the company that received the lucrative design contract for this project is not even an architect's office. So, what gives here? What are the costs? What is happening with this project?
Taxpayers need to know they are getting value for their money. Isn't that the reason this government commissioned a forensic audit in Dawson City? Didn't they use that method for that case?
So, before this project goes even further out of control, will this minister commission a forensic audit on all the work done to date on this project to determine if we are getting what we are paying for? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Cathers: The member opposite is implying wrongdoing, not only on the part of government, but on the part of the professionals who are providing the services. I state again that the Auditor General of Canada has shown very clearly federally with the former Liberal government that she takes a very dim view of work being paid for, for which insufficient service is performed. We fully respect the Auditor General, as anyone in their right mind would today. We are performing the work and doing it in accordance with the Auditor General's requirements. We are conducting the project in full accord with the government's contracting rules and regulations.
I will repeat myself again for the member opposite: the seniors of Watson Lake have been trying to have this facility built for more than 15 years. The community of Watson Lake was involved in the design of the project and the selection of the project manager, who is an individual and company they know very well and had confidence in. It was a community decision. This company has an exemplary reputation, which the member opposite is impugning. All contract rules and regulations were followed to the letter with regard to the Watson Lake multi-level care facility.
The member's suggestions to the contrary are misleading, misguided and inaccurate.
Speaker: Order. Minister of Health and Social Services, those comments are clearly out of order, and I would ask you to retract them, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe you're referring to the comment “misleading”, which I will retract.
In closing, I would say to the member opposite that, when he speaks of ethics, he may wish to question his own as he attacks and impugns the reputations of Yukon citizens on the floor of this House.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Jenkins: I would ask all members to help me in welcoming to the visitor gallery constituents of mine from Dawson City , Bill Bowie and his daughter, Atlin.
Bill No. 67: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 67, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Edzerza.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I move
THAT Bill No. 67, entitled Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice
THAT Bill No. 67, entitled Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This bill we're introducing today is one of great importance to all citizens in the Yukon Territory. Before I start, I would like to point out what may be a point of interest to the Members of the Legislative Assembly - this point being a cultural clash between one who speaks from the heart and one who speaks as a politician.
It was once stated by a very respected elder from Pelly that, when you speak from the heart, you don't have to remember what you said, but when you speak as a politician, you had better remember everything you said.
I will start by speaking from the heart.
Mr. Speaker, this bill will help address a common theme with everyone in the Yukon , and that commonality is basically the negative effects that substance abuse has on everyone in this territory. It has a drastic affect on all of those who are involved with it, and it doesn't affect those who are not.
There's another thing that we all strive for in the Yukon Territory and across Canada, I would say, and that is to be able to live in a community where we feel secure, safe and are respected. This bill is going to address part of that - not all of it, but part of it. This legislation, Mr. Speaker, is part of the government's Yukon substance abuse action plan on working together for healthier communities.
I will begin now by talking about this plan. It is important to seek understanding of the big picture and why the government feels this legislation is a necessity in combating the substance abuse in the Yukon. The Yukon substance abuse action plan responds to the harm caused by alcohol and other drug abuse by offering Yukon-based solutions. It is informed by current research on substance use and abuse patterns in the territory and by input from front-line workers, community leaders and concerned citizens who attended the Yukon substance abuse summit in June of 2005.
The key characteristics of the action place are flexibility, sustainability and community involvement. The action plan must effectively address the diverse needs of the Yukon population. Therefore, the programs and initiatives of the action plan reflect different models of prevention and intervention that are sensitive to culture, age and gender.
In addition, because there are significant health and social costs associated with substance abuse, the action plan provides a strong commitment to the reduction in legal and illegal substances that compromise the health and well-being of Yukoners. The action plan will succeed to the extent that it has the active support of all sectors of the Yukon community. I would also like to point out at this time, Mr. Speaker, that all the involvement of the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party - the Member for Porter Creek South at that time - was well-noticed by the government. Their involvement was well-appreciated. I know that I attended some meetings with the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party, members from the municipal government in Whitehorse and the Grand Chief. The discussions were done in collaboration to start dealing with the big drug issue in the territory.
I would also like to talk about a message that came from the Premier. Our government is committed to a robust economy and healthy, vibrant communities. We envision a territory in which individuals in all communities live healthy and prosperous lives and are able to pursue their dreams and aspirations. We are committed to working with Yukoners to build strong communities that support individuals and their families. This is our hope for today and for the future.
Substance abuse touches most aspects of life in Yukon. It undermines the health of individuals and communities. It leads to illness, addiction, accidents and violence. It creates psychological harm among those who are addicted.
Substance abuse is often associated with crime and social disorder that diminishes the quality of life for all Yukoners. There is a strong link between substance abuse and family violence, which adversely affects the quality of life of many women and children. Substance abuse also harms the economy. Sustainable resources are spent on combating the illegal drug trade and enforcement.
There is also economic harm to individual users and society, such as costs of decreased and lost productivity, workplace accidents and increased use of the health care system. Our Yukon substance abuse action plan is a concerted effort to combat substance abuse in the territory. The action plan is a framework document that will guide how our government responds to drug and alcohol abuse. The action plan focuses on increasing public awareness of substance abuse, and through education and prevention efforts it will lessen the harm it causes to individuals and their families. The action plan recognizes that treatment will be most effective when it is accessible, flexible and targeted to those who require it most. Strong enforcement is also a key to reducing the availability of illegal drugs.
The action plan also recognizes that government must work in partnership with communities, First Nations and other levels of government in a coordinated fashion. The action plan will provide further support to dedicated health care education and justice professionals who are currently working in our communities. I would like to thank all Yukoners who provide input into the action plan. This is a draft action plan, and commitment and feedback are welcome. It is by working together that we can create healthier communities, and it is our hope that we can make the Yukon a place where every individual has the best possible chance of living in a healthy, prosperous and safe community.
That sort of set the stage for where the government is going and why this legislation is sitting before us today.
A bit of background for some of this - substance abuse affects all communities in Canada and Yukoners' use of drugs and alcohol is similar to the rest of Canada. The Yukon differs, however, from the rest of the country in some important ways concerning substance use. An action plan must take these differences into account.
First, as a northern region, First Nation people comprise about 25 percent of the Yukon 's population. The Yukon consists of many First Nation and non-First Nation cultures and traditions. Solutions to substance abuse must reflect the cultural diversity of the Yukon and, in particular, First Nation cultures and traditions.
Second, the population of the territory is small - about 33,000 people. This small population and the geographical isolation of many communities influence both how substance abuse surfaces in Yukon communities and how the Yukon government can respond to those who require assistance. For example, individuals with alcohol- or drug-related problems are likely to have a greater impact on the community as a whole. The smaller the community, the greater the impact.
A benefit of having a small population is that solutions can be designed to address specific situations. Providers of social services have more opportunities to understand why some individuals or communities are more prone to substance abuse and, more importantly, to develop ways of responding to those individuals and communities to address their particular needs.
The small population makes it possible to monitor the impacts of policies and programs designed to alleviate substance-related problems and where to make appropriate adjustments. These differences suggest that, while the Yukon government can learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions, its policy responses and programs must be tailored to the unique features of life in the Yukon.
I would sincerely like to thank Saskatchewan and Manitoba for allowing the Yukon to use their safer communities legislation. I believe that consistency across Canada is a good thing. If it's really working well in other jurisdictions, there's no reason why it can't work right across Canada . I sincerely hope that someday this will be legislation that's consistent right across Canada.
In 2005, the Government of Yukon conducted a survey on the use of alcohol and other drugs. The following are some of the highlights of the survey.
Yukoners as a whole use alcohol and other drugs in much the same way as do those living in the rest of Canada. Most Yukoners drink alcohol with no permanent negative consequences. Rates of cannabis use are lower in the 10 provinces than in the Yukon. The rates are not available for either Northwest Territories or Nunavut .
Many Yukoners find it easy to access illegal drugs, such as cannabis, heroin and cocaine. The survey also included a special sample of high-risk individuals, in order to assess the patterns of consequences of substance abuse among individuals who are more likely to suffer negative health consequences as a result of using alcohol and drugs.
High-risk respondents tended to be heavy and frequent drinkers and multiple drug users. They reported drinking an average of more than 10 drinks on a typical drinking occasion, and those occasions occurred more than once a week. Alcohol is the most frequently misused substance, but there has been a recent increase in the use of illegal drugs. High-risk individuals use a range of illegal drugs with cannabis, cocaine and crack cocaine reported most frequently. Compared to respondents in the greater general population, high-risk respondents reported high rates of harm to themselves and from others as a result of substance use, indicating that self-harm and victimization are frequently experienced in situations where heavy drinking and drug use is frequent.
This snapshot shows that substance abuse in the Yukon is not uniform. Rates of substance abuse in the general population are similar to the rest of Canada. What distinguishes the Yukon is the presence of a core group of high-risk individuals who consume alcohol and drugs at a rate much higher than similar high-risk users in the rest of Canada . Strategies designed to combat this issue must be flexible enough to respond to a diversity of needs. A continuum-of-care approach is necessary in order to proactively address substance abuse experienced by individuals and communities.
Surveys provide valuable data on the extent of substance abuse in the general population as well as in the high-risk population, but they do not always address the more complicated issues of why some individuals are more affected by substance abuse than others, the effects of substance abuse on communities and how we can effectively respond to their addictions. Surveys also do not capture the public's concern about alcohol and drug abuse in their communities.
For example, when surveyors talked to a special sample of high-risk individuals, they were told that marijuana use is widespread. Despite this, it is the increased use of crack cocaine that seems to be responsible for the recent escalation of concerns about community safety.
The public is particularly concerned about the use of crack cocaine and drug houses in residential neighbourhoods and small communities. These situations create significant unease, fear and distrust, in great part because of the addictive nature of crack cocaine, the volatile behaviour of people under the influence, the criminal element involved in the sale and distribution, and the criminal acts engaged in to support the addiction such as breaking-and-entering and stealing from family members.
The Yukon substance abuse action plan provides a framework for policy and programs designed to reduce harm and the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. The action plan provides options for working with individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs, addresses the needs of their families and provides meaningful ways for community members to make a positive contribution. The action plan explicitly recognizes the need for the reduction of both supply and demand of alcohol and other drugs. The action plan has been developed after careful consideration of the input received from delegates to the Yukon substance abuse summit. The action plan is a framework document that will help guide the Government of Yukon's policy responses to problematic substance use in the territory over the course of the next five years.
This is a living document that will be reviewed regularly. The focus of the action plan is on problematic substance use and its effects. Problematic substance use refers to the use of alcohol or other drugs that have negative consequences for the user's physical, mental or social well-being. It also refers to substance use that has negative consequences for people other than the user.
The terms “substance” or “alcohol” and “other drugs” refer to any material that is used for non-medical purposes or a misuse of medical purposes. This includes alcohol, tobacco, prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, illegal drugs, solvents, inhalants and so on.
The action plan includes two key components: coordinated service delivery among all service providers, government and non-government, and a continuum of services that respond to the unique substance of individuals and communities.
Having given a bit of background on the substance abuse action plan, I will now talk about the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, which is referred to as Bill No. 67.
I am pleased to introduce today legislation that seeks to invest in one of our most valuable resources: the communities and neighbourhoods in which Yukoners live and work. The government has heard from Yukoners that they are concerned about residences where illegal and dangerous activities are taking place, and these residences create significant unease, fear and distrust in communities.
And again, I mentioned earlier, but I will mention it again, I'd like to thank the leader of the official opposition and members of the third party for their contribution toward supporting this legislation and being involved with making sure that the illegal drug actions in the territory are addressed. The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act responded to these issues. It was by unanimous consent on November 14, 2005, that this House passed a motion to develop a bill to create a safer communities and neighbourhoods act, or SCNA, as the staff at Justice refers to it, for Yukon . Our draft Yukon substance abuse action plan released in October 2005 also identified exploring the development of this legislation as one of its key enforcement-related activities. This action plan provides a framework for programs and services and is shaped by four strategic directions: harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement. Our intention is for this legislation to be a part of a broad and comprehensive strategy to prevent the abuse of drugs and to reduce the harms associated with substance abuse.
Mr. Speaker, the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act is civil litigation that will be administered by Yukon government officials. The legislation is made up of two parts: safer communities and neighbourhoods, and fortified buildings.
The safer communities and neighbourhoods part is intended to improve community safety by targeting residential and commercial buildings and lands that are regularly used for specified activities, including the activities of producing, selling or using illegal drugs, prostitution, solvent abuse or the unlawful sale and consumption of alcohol. The fortified buildings part authorizes government officials to investigate a complaint of a fortified building and to make an order requiring the owner to remove fortification.
The safer communities and neighbourhoods act provides Yukoners with additional options that support efforts that foster safer and more welcoming Yukon communities. This will be accomplished in cooperation with the RCMP, municipal governments, First Nation governments, other Yukon government departments and non-government agencies.
Mr. Speaker, in planning for the development of this legislation, we met with and spoke with members of the public, First Nations, municipal governments, women's groups, non-government social services agencies, the RCMP and community associations. We faced some tough questions, and there are a few people who may not see the reason for another piece of legislation. There are some who have expressed support for the legislation but have expressed concerns regarding the resources available to support it.
As a matter of fact, my office had a call just today from a citizen of Whitehorse who was overjoyed to hear that this legislation was actually going to be coming into effect.
We are continuing to work on the development and coordination of the appropriate resources. There are already significant resources and services in place that have been a part of our planning. There are also new resources and partnerships in the process of being developed.
First Nation governments have been supportive of this legislation; however, they too have expressed some concern. We are working with First Nations to address these concerns and to come to implementation arrangements that reflect the needs of each party.
First Nations as landowners and landlords are essential partners in the administration of this new legislation. Our government is sensitive to the concerns that have been raised. Many of the concerns raised are being addressed through the development of protocols that will guide various working relationships.
Mr. Speaker, the legislation also has checks and balances throughout and provision for discretion. This gives officials room to be flexible and it makes it easier to work collaboratively with partners. In general, support for the safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation has been positive, and people are relieved that they may soon see a safer community to raise their children.
We received a very important letter of support for the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. This letter was signed by six Whitehorse community associations. The letter speaks of residents being fearful of leaving their homes, of not getting a good night's sleep because of traffic to and from certain houses, and of being the target of thieves who need money to buy drugs.
I would like to thank those community associations for looking at the legislation early in January and for working together in expressing support for the safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation. Mr. Speaker, this new legislation can be applied to addressing these concerns. As I mentioned earlier, this new legislation is a civil process, separate and apart from the existing criminal law and municipal bylaw operations currently available. The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act allows for a flexible and responsive approach to complaints of certain illegal activities that are regularly occurring and adversely affecting a neighbourhood. The RCMP will continue to do their work in targeting the criminals and enforcing criminal law matters.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation has been drafted based on similar, successful legislation in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. We have had overwhelming support from both Manitoba and Saskatchewan governments in our efforts to date. They have shared their experiences; they took part in our consultation meetings; they have shared their public information documents, and they both took the time to work with our staff to prepare for implementation. I would like to sincerely thank my provincial colleagues for responding to our requests for information and support. Their response has been well beyond the usual intergovernmental collaboration. This legislation seeks to hold property owners accountable for threatening or disturbing activities that regularly take place on their property. As I mentioned earlier, the legislation will improve community safety by targeting and, if necessary, shutting down properties that are regularly used for a list of specified activities.
The specified activities listed in the legislation are the unlawful use, consumption or sale of alcohol; selling alcohol without a licence; possession, production, use, consumption, sale, transfer or exchange of illegal drugs; solvent abuse; and prostitution.
Mr. Speaker, this legislation authorizes a government to set up a law enforcement unit. We expect to staff the unit with two investigators and will be looking for investigators who have extensive law enforcement experience with a focus on vice, drugs and investigations. We will also look for persons with experience working in partnership with other agencies, the public and First Nations. The process of investigation begins when one or more residents of a community make a confidential complaint to the safer communities and neighbourhoods investigation unit. The complaint is kept entirely confidential, and the identity of those who file a complaint cannot be revealed at any time. Information that would identify the complainants cannot be released at any time. If a matter proceeds to the court process, complainants are not required to appear in court. All court matters are dealt with by officials.
Once a complaint is received, the director conducts an investigation to determine the validity of the complaint and to compile the evidence necessary to prove that the unlawful activities are occurring. It is at this point that the director also rules out any unfounded complaints.
Mr. Speaker, our counterparts in Manitoba and Saskatchewan tell us these types of complaints are actually few.
With respect to the investigation, we are aware that our communities in the Yukon are small, but we are confident that experienced investigators will be fully able to conduct and complete investigations as required. Once an investigation is complete, the director has discretion when considering the appropriate response. The director can dismiss the complaint as unfounded, send a warning letter to the owner or occupant, attempt to resolve the complaint by agreement or informal action. Informal action may include serving an eviction notice on the tenant, applying to the Supreme Court for a community safety order - this is the formal process - or deciding not to act on the complaint.
We expect that following an investigation, the majority of the cases will be managed by informal agreements between parties and by evictions based on agreements between tenants and landlords. When a landlord proceeds to serve an eviction notice, if requested, the director can serve the eviction notice on behalf of the landlord.
In the event there are safety concerns for a landlord, this provision will reduce some of the pressure. Investigators will be designated as peace officers and will be authorized to carry weapons. By designating the investigators as peace officers and allowing them to carry weapons in the same way the government has designated conservation officers, investigators will have greater authority to carry out their work and the means to defend themselves if the situation becomes dangerous in an investigation.
Investigators are designated as peace officers in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Investigators have been armed in Saskatchewan since the enactment of the legislation, and Manitoba has recently passed amendments to their legislation, approving their officers being armed.
In the event that the property owner is unapproachable or not willing to resolve the matter informally, the director has the option of applying to the Supreme Court for a community safety order. Based on the evidence presented, the court must be satisfied that activities are occurring that support habitual use for an identified specific use and the neighbourhood is being adversely affected.
When making a community safety order, the court may include provisions such as a notice to vacate the premises or the director closing the property for up to 90 days.
Mr. Speaker, the court has a number of opportunities for involvement in this legislation, both at the application of the director and the application of the respondent or a person affected by the order. For example, there is provision for emergency orders, for varying an order, for making an order for part of a property or a particular person.
I mentioned that included in the legislation are various checks and balances. One of these is the opportunity for a resident to apply for an order varying a provision in the community safety order, where that order directly affects their tenancy and rental property. The court may make an order varying conditions of this community safety order. The resident must satisfy a number of conditions, among these is that the person who causes the illegal activity is no longer present at the property and the resident, or a member of the household, will suffer undue hardship if the order is not varied.
There are also provisions for the complainant to apply to the court for a community safety order when the director has decided not to act or to continue with a complaint.
Mr. Speaker, the legislation allows for appeals on a question of law. A common question during the last few months has been about dislocation - the movement of a drug dealer from one house that has been closed down to another house in the same neighbourhood or a different community. Dislocation is a possibility, but not a certainty. The legislation is intended to deal with one house at a time. If the illegal activity moves to a new location, officials will respond to any new complaints filed. If it is often one house that accounts for a disproportionately large number of police calls in the neighbourhood, the residents who live in these houses must not be permitted to burden our communities.
Part 2 of the legislation deals with fortified buildings. Fortifications are defined as unreasonable security measures that exceed what is common for residential dwellings, such as bullet-proof material or armoured or reinforced doors. Fortified buildings are not currently an issue in Yukon. However, if this does become an issue, fortification creates three significant security concerns: one, they hinder the ability of law enforcement to enter the property; two, they hinder the ability of emergency services to enter the property when necessary; and three, they hinder the ability of the residents to get out of the property in the case of an emergency. The legislation provides for consideration of a number of factors before proceeding. These could include the number and types of fortifications, whether they impair access for law enforcement or emergency personnel, and whether the fortifications are necessary, given the purpose for which the building is used.
Mr. Speaker, not just any building will be designated a threat to the public safety. If a building is simply fortified in a manner that is normal for that type of business or residence dwelling, this legislation won't apply. With this initiative, the government is making a commitment to working with our communities to make it clear to owners and occupants that such activities will not be tolerated in the Yukon . As I have already mentioned, the substance abuse action plan outlines the government's commitments toward combating substance abuse in the territory. I would like to go over the substance abuse action plan to refresh the memories of this House as to why we have proceeded with this legislation and where it fits into the overall government in taking on the substance abuse issue.
Again, Mr. Speaker, this action plan is a framework document that will guide how government responds to alcohol and other drug abuse in the territory for the next five years. As I stated, this financial commitment represents how serious we take the problem of substance abuse in the territory. With this commitment and the money that the government is already spending on substance abuse along with initiatives like the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, we aim to achieve for Yukoners a better place to live and raise families.
Mr. Speaker, our government has committed to making our communities safer, and the elements of the substance abuse action plan will do that. There are four pillars to the action plan, and I mentioned those earlier. Again, I believe that all the effort that the government has put into addressing this issue is a clear indication that the government is very serious about combating the substance abuse issues in the Yukon Territory.
We also know there's a strong link between substance abuse and family violence, which hurts women and children in particular, which is why we are taking steps in the implementation of the safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation to ensure that innocent victims of substance abuse are considered and looked after, wherever possible.
The abuse of alcohol and other drugs also harms our economy, as I stated earlier - quite extensively, through all the negative effects that come from substance abuse.
Last June, the substance abuse summit that was held in Whitehorse had almost 200 delegates attending, well over the number we anticipated. The delegates represented community organizations, First Nations, front-line workers and governments. They came from across the territory and held meaningful discussions on the problems they are seeing in their communities and about possible solutions.
Less than four months later, we responded to what we heard at the summit. We developed a draft action plan with the full intention of beginning the implementation of some of the items immediately. The safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation was part of that action plan and we are here today to see that vision carried out. This action plan responds to what Yukoners told us and it reflects current research on some of the best practices across the country in reducing substance abuse.
This plan creates more options for effective treatment and incorporates harm-reduction principles into new programs and services. This plan provides more prevention and education tools that can be used by schools, families and communities. Finally, this plan strengthens enforcement activities, including the safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation.
Over the next three to five years, the action items in this plan will be rolled out. As I stated earlier, it is a living document.
Within three to five years, Yukon and Canadian society will change and, with it, the fact of substance abuse in the territory. This plan will be adapted to the changing needs of Yukon society and change as best practices in the field of substance abuse evolve.
New programs and services will be budgeted on an annual basis, like other government programs, having to prove that the benefits justify the costs. Each program will be evaluated based on its ability to reduce the harms associated with substance abuse. If the program isn't working, it won't continue to operate. Suffice it to say that I'm very proud of this action plan and what it sets out to do. This plan emphasizes collaboration - collaboration within governments, between governments and with communities. With that collaboration I am confident we will see a decrease in the number of alcohol- and other drug-related problems in our communities.
Above all, this is an action plan that is based on research and consultation, but focused on actions - because the time to act is now. Yukoners are looking to the government for direction and leadership on how to address substance abuse, and this plan provides it. Yukoners want to see action being taken on reducing the harm of alcohol and other drug abuse. With initiatives like the safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation, that is what we have delivered.
I would like to close by saying that this government is committed to a robust economy and healthy, vibrant communities. We envision a territory in which individuals in all communities live healthy and prosperous lives and are able to pursue their dreams and aspirations.
We are committed to working with Yukoners to build strong communities and to support individuals and their families. Safe communities and neighbourhoods are one of the foundations of a prosperous society. When we feel safe to let our children play in our neighbourhoods without fear of harassment by drug addicts or the possibility of stepping on needles, then we have achieved one of the pre-conditions for healthy generations to come. The Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act adds one more tool to our toolbox, helping us to get to where we want to be as a society.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to go over some questions that were asked around the legislation, and which I will try to clarify. One of the questions asked was, what are the significant changes in the Yukon legislation from the Manitoba and Saskatchewan legislation? The answer to that is there is some difference in the legislation that reflects our ATIPP act. We have also not identified child sexual abuse as a specified use. The Saskatchewan legislation does identify this as a specified use. Another question was, does the act identify consequences for people who make frivolous complaints? These frivolous complaints have not been an issue in Manitoba and Saskatchewan . The legislation does not have a provision making it an offence when a complainant submits a frivolous complaint.
Reviewing the Landlord and Tenant Act was not required as part of this initiative.
How will this legislation interact with the RCMP? The RCMP have been a partner in the development of the legislation. They are concerned with the same problem the legislation will address, so the relationship has been helpful and positive. This is a territorial civil piece of legislation and will be enforced by Yukon government officials. We have an information sharing agreement with the RCMP that will be updated to guide this working relationship.
Will the act apply to First Nation lands? This is a law of general application, so it does apply on settlement lands. First Nations will be affected as a landlord and as government. First Nations may decide to draft their own similar legislation to take over their responsibilities in the future, but none of them have exercised this power yet. We have been working with First Nations to determine how this legislation will be administered on their settlement lands.
Are there regulations? There are no regulations being considered at this time.
When will implementation begin? The implementation planning is already in progress. We are hoping to open the office in the fall of 2006.
Will this legislation be administered in communities outside of Whitehorse ? Are there concerns with doing surveillance in small communities? The legislation is a Yukon law of general application and will be administered throughout the Yukon. Conducting an investigation in a smaller community may present some challenges, but we expect to be able to carry out the duties.
Does a First Nation have to be notified of a complaint? Upon receipt of a complaint, the First Nation would not normally be notified. Once the investigation unit has evidence of a specified use activity occurring regularly, on a habitual basis, and there is an adverse effect on the community, the investigator would contact the First Nation as a landlord, and discussions will proceed.
In the other jurisdictions, have landlords filed court actions opposing the legislation? There have been no court applications by landlords in opposition to this legislation.
Outstanding rent: will landlords be able to get the money that is owed to them? If a tenant has paid for the month, will they have money returned to them? There is no provision in the legislation to compensate landlords for rent loss due to action under this legislation. If a tenancy agreement or lease is terminated as a result of the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, the landlord will no longer receive the income, no matter what provisions are in the tenancy agreement. There is a possibility of the landlord being unable to collect payment. Landlords could consult their lawyers, seeking advice to protect them in this situation.
Are there costs for filing in the court? There will be minor costs related to filing these actions with the court. Implementation planning will address the issue.
Does the legislation provide for assistance to a landlord when a landlord is fearful of serving an eviction notice? One of the strengths of this act is that landlords are not required to take action by themselves. The investigator can accompany the landlord when serving an eviction notice, or the landlord can request the assistance of the director to serve notice on a tenant.
Did the RCMP raise any concerns? The RCMP are very supportive of this legislation. Initially there were discussions related to privacy legislation and sharing of information and the question of whether or not investigators would be designated as peace officers. There is an information-sharing protocol in place. The protocol will be updated to reflect current needs. The act, as proposed, allows for investigators to be designated as peace officers and the investigative unit as a law enforcement unit. This meets the concerns of the RCMP.
So, Mr. Speaker, in closing, I say the answers to the questions that were asked about this legislation are very reasonable and understandable. I believe this legislation will be a great asset to the Yukon Territory. I do strongly recommend that all members support it.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister was baiting us earlier. He said about 10 or 15 minutes ago, “In closing”, then proceeded to read the Premier's opening remarks to the Yukon substance abuse action plan discussion draft for the second time, and then he proceeded to go on for another 15 minutes.
I appreciate getting the answers twice. I'd like to take the opportunity now, before I forget - not that I would forget - to thank the officials who gave us the briefing the other day. It was a very thorough briefing and they answered our questions quite well. The minister provided the answers to those questions again just a few minutes ago.
First of all, I guess I should put our position on record, Mr. Speaker. We will be supporting Bill No. 67. This initiative was embraced and brought forward by members on this side of the House, and the leader of the official opposition, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, played a major role in that. We will be supporting it. We have had a chance to have a pretty good look at it, and there don't appear to be any substantial changes from the Manitoba or Saskatchewan legislation. There are a couple of things that were changed, but nothing untoward. They are all things for the benefit of Yukon people and Yukon communities.
The minister opened his comments by talking about how the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act was part of the Yukon substance abuse action plan. He went on at quite some length about the substance abuse action plan. I'm glad that he did, because this is another initiative that my colleague, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, really initiated. He held this government's feet to the fire on this and got them moving. We proposed that the government look at strategies to deal with substance abuse and drug abuse and this issue around homes and businesses that were being used for illegal activities, whether the illegal sale of alcohol or drugs or the production of drugs. The Member for Whitehorse Centre, I believe proposed in a motion - I don't have the motion in front of me - that the government take a look at approaches and strategies that had been used in British Columbia, particularly in Vancouver.
To that end, the Member for Whitehorse Centre hosted several meetings downtown. He hosted a forum where he brought the former mayor of Vancouver, Mr. Philip Owen, and Libby Davies, the Member of Parliament for Vancouver - I can't remember the exact designation of the riding, but the area in the downtown east side of Vancouver. She has represented that riding for quite some time and represented it quite well.
They came up and spoke about the four pillars approach. My recollection of the response from the government when the Member for Whitehorse Centre proposed that was that the government said, no, we're not going to just take what somebody else did and drop it into the Yukon; we need to make something that's made in Yukon. I can't agree more but, at the same time, there is no need to reinvent the wheel.
It's quite obvious in the Yukon substance abuse action plan that the minister didn't reinvent the wheel, because the four pillars approach is right in the substance abuse action plan. The four pillars are harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement. That was the approach taken by the City of Vancouver in British Columbia.
So we're happy that the Minister of Justice and the Premier saw fit to take the advice of the Member for Whitehorse Centre and the advice of people like Philip Owen and Libby Davies. Seeing as how I'm talking about Libby Davies, I would just like to let people know that she provided such great advice to the government and the territory that there is an opportunity to come hear Libby Davies speak again, in less than a week. On Saturday, April 22, Libby Davies will be here in Whitehorse and speaking at the Nakwataku Potlatch House on Saturday evening. If anybody would like to come, they can see me, and I'll sell them a ticket to come to the event. We're looking forward to hearing what other sage advice Ms. Davies has to offer to us here in the Yukon , because she's a very bright, hard-working and intelligent woman who knows a lot about things. We could all learn something from what she has to offer.
The objective here is to discuss the safer communities legislation. The substance abuse action plan is the discussion draft that came out in October 2005, and there were a number of directions in which the government wanted to go, and they listed them under those four pillars that were recommended to the government.
What I find unfortunate is that the minister is telling us today that it's going to take three to five years to roll out - and we don't even know that it will be all the programs and services that are in the report. I'm just wondering whether or not it is a lack of resources or if it's about the priority of the government and what their budget priorities are with regard to these programs. This is a pretty important issue, and I think it deserves to be placed a little higher on the priority list, and I'll tell the minister why I think that is important. It is disturbing that it is going to take so long to get into that whole budget-planning cycle to roll out a lot of the things that really need to be done that have been lacking for a number of years. A lot of the things in the report about the substance abuse action plan need to be addressed in a more timely manner. They weren't new things to the public here - things like the No Fixed Address Outreach van are in existence - and more funds are needed to make that more accessible so that it runs on a regular basis.
What it needs is stable funding. It needs things like public education campaigns. There is a community training and addictions issue, counselling for kids. There are a lot of these programs and activities that need to be funded and moved forward in a more expeditious manner.
I think the safer communities legislation was one of the items that was identified in the enforcement portion of this discussion draft. I will just read what it says under the safer communities legislation heading. “The Department of Justice will explore the possibility of developing legislation that would improve community safety by targeting and, if necessary, shutting down residential and commercial buildings that are used for illegal activities, such as producing, selling or using illegal drugs or the unlawful sale and consumption of alcohol.”
The key word there is “explore”. Right around the same time as this document came out, we actually proposed that the government look at the Manitoba and Saskatchewan legislation. It's good to see that the Minister of Justice stepped up the activity from “exploring” to actually “doing”. I think that's a good thing, and we're proud to have been able to play a role in bringing the minister around to seeing the light, and that this was actually a good thing.
What is our view of the safer communities legislation? Our view is that the safer communities legislation is about empowerment. It gives the public and communities a tool to have more control over activities in their community, to make them feel like they can make a difference in their community, that they can make their communities safer for both themselves and their neighbours.
I told the minister I would let him know why I thought it was pretty important that the safer communities legislation happen and moving the substance abuse action plan forward in a little bit more expeditious manner. One of the things this government is proceeding on -and it's not necessarily a bad thing - is pursuing more economic development. More economic development is a good thing and can lead to healthier communities, providing that economic development provides jobs where people actually make a living wage. Some of the projects the government is talking about - the mines, the pipelines - are well-paying jobs.
But what comes with some of those megaprojects - and you just need to look at other jurisdictions where these activities take place. I can tell you from my experience, having worked in mining camps, that substance abuse is a problem. It's not a problem for everybody, but it is a fairly prevalent problem.
When people are away from home and living in camp situations, some can go to the TV room and watch TV, go to the cafeteria, play cards, go out and enjoy nature, go for walks, but substance abuse is also prevalent, because not everybody relies on those activities to occupy their time when they're in those situations.
It is sad to see. I've had some personal experiences in camps where I've seen quite a bit of alcohol and drug abuse. What I think we are going to see by promoting this type of economic activity is an increase, especially if we see a megaproject, like a pipeline, come through the Yukon, where there will literally be thousands of workers coming to the territory to participate in this project. Typically in boom-type situations like that, there is a lot more alcohol and drug abuse and it does cause a problem for our communities. It's not going to just cause a problem here in Whitehorse; it's going to cause a problem in the smaller communities. This is going to be a tool that those communities can use to ensure those types of activities don't go on and their communities feel safe in the knowledge that there is some protection for them, their children and their grandchildren.
Substance abuse does negatively affect many families and many communities here in the Yukon . We support anything like this that can work to improve the situation and to empower people to do something positive in their community.
So, I'm not going to bait the minister again and say, “In closing”, and then talk for another 15 minutes, because I think I've probably spoken enough on this subject. But I will reiterate my support and our support on this side of the House.
Once again, I'd like to thank the officials for their briefing and for answering our questions. I look forward to this bill getting into Committee of the Whole because we actually still have a few questions for the minister. I'm sure he will accommodate us in answering those questions fully when we get this bill into Committee.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Once again, we will support this piece of legislation.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise again today in support of this bill. I had to admit when it was first proposed I had a few misgivings about it and some of the ways that it could potentially be misused. Certainly, the information I have got so far is very encouraging - that there are enough checks and balances that it would be okay. I've certainly seen enough of the necessity for something like this; it is very essential to have something like this in place.
I managed to get a rather interesting and somewhat unique view of the world with about eight and one-half years' experience with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their auxiliary unit - an amazing unit that I highly commend to anyone to get involved in. We certainly had a great deal of involvement with the members and very open access to things that went on within the police community and you do get a view of the world that you never expected. You see a lot of things that you never expected. One of the things we had a lot of time to do, and I think is under utilized, was to work with citizens in their homes and work to make a safer community by increasing security. This is a service that is available through the auxiliary unit and through community policing with the RCMP. To anyone listening and to anyone in this House, I certainly recommend giving them a call; they would be more than happy to come by and take a look at your home or business and make suggestions. It is really quite amazing some of the things that you see. Businesses are concerned about break-and-enter and then use a large rock to keep the door open through the summer, and when they close the door at night they leave the rock sitting out on the sidewalk. Why not put a sign on it? Bring the rock inside; put it inside the door, for goodness' sake.
People who have the habit of taking their wallet out or their keys out of their pocket and setting them on a table just inside the door and then prop the door open during the summer - we knew one person who invested in, I think, one box of chocolates, or I think it was actually a box of Girl Guide cookies, and sold them for an outrageous sum of money. Of course, most people didn't do anything. But when he knocked on the door and no one came to the door, there sits the wallet. Guess what? When they left, so did the wallet and then people were upset about that. So there are a lot of things that you can do to plan within your own home, your own business and your own community. That certainly is part of what this legislation is all about. There are lots of ways of making things safer and design principles and such.
There's an interesting project through the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in conjunction with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. I got the information on it through the Yukon Housing Corporation. There are a number of different things that are mentioned in there that are good. Neighbourhood Watch is another excellent program that can be set up through the community policing and the auxiliary units. That started when a resident of Porter Creek was broken into at about four in the morning while she was asleep. Actually, they came in right through a window, and it turned into a rather ugly situation. When the police actually looked at what happened and interviewed neighbours, one of the neighbours said, “Well, yeah, we saw him going through the window at 4:00 in the morning.” Her reaction was, “Well, you've been my neighbour for 10 years. Have you ever seen anyone going through the window at 4:00 in the morning?” Well, no. “Well, wouldn't that sort of prompt you to call the police?” It's neighbours looking out for neighbours and looking at what goes on in homes around you and taking advantage of that.
The Neighbourhood Watch program, as well for rural residents - and I know we spoke a long time ago to some of the residents of the beautiful Southern Lakes, as an example. And there is a rural watch program, as well, to try to organize. It's really quite amazing what some of these programs will do. There are a number of parts of the city and, I hope more rural areas will adopt this.
Simply looking at the home and giving a visual to someone who was concerned about break-ins and then plants these marvellous big hedges and trees around the house so you can't possibly see any windows. It looks very nice but it's a marvellous way for someone to sit there for 20 minutes and work on a window without anybody ever seeing it. If you have that concern, think about where you plant things. That's another good example.
Utilize public space the way it should be - in other words, if there is a park nearby, encourage people to use it and encourage the planting of trees or fences around there, or whatever, that would support the uses and allow people to use those things, but to do it in a safe way.
Simply delineating private space from public space - real or symbolic boundaries are something that is going to mark an area where things change. Certainly under discussion right now are ski trails past private property, and now that the private owner of the property wants to develop it, this has become a problem. That's going to be something that will certainly be discussed in the city and likely in this House. Who is to blame for that? The people who want to continue to use the trails or the person who actually owns the property? That's a conflict that should have been worked out many, many years ago.
Security devices and some of the simple things like motion-detector lights and that sort of thing helps - tamper-resistant material, so-called bullet-proof glass, which really isn't bullet-proof, but it certainly is going to slow somebody down in going through something like that.
Also, concerns with adjoining properties - and I think this will come up as this legislation comes into effect. If you want to observe something, don't plant a big hedge there and be upset when you can't see it. The visual aspect is something that always has to be taken into account. That was mentioned the other day in the House here about our wonderful new chairs. Everyone is so comfortable in these chairs, except with the Table Officers there, it blocks our view, and half the time we can't see anybody who is on the other side. I've discovered that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has become a great deal shorter now that she has moved down into the front row.
I think she's over there sometimes, but I'm usually blocked from that. Think about your line of sight. Think about all the surrounding areas and the environment that you are putting things in. Keep things well maintained and clean. Keep it free of graffiti. One of the groups that I've worked with a little bit is the Blue Feather Youth Centre. I have to admit when they first started some of their projects, and I saw kids up on ladders, spray painting away, I was a bit horrified until I realized that it was darned good. They have some very talented artists there, and that's maybe a good way to empower people and keep down the silly graffiti, and keep them in something that is going to be useful. It's another way of keeping the community a great deal safer.
Block Parent is another one that I have scribbled down here. It is a very good program. Block Parent is the use of a sign. RCMP security clearances are done so that the people involved have been checked out. It is a safe place for children. It is a safe place for anyone. If you suddenly feel concerned and you see a Block Parent sign, for goodness' sake head to it, because you know it is a safe place to go and that people are home - because the signs are placed in the windows only when people are there.
You have to apply all these things as you go along and keep in mind what is going on in your neighbourhood. The first thing about that, of course, is to get to know your neighbours, get to know who is around you. I can remember on Tool Time, with Mr. Wilson on the other side of the fence and you only saw the top of his head - you never did see his face - it is worthwhile at least getting to know the neighbours. Know who to call if you see something strange happening in the middle of the night and for goodness' sake give a call. Several times now we have had to call the police because there is a carload of people going over a fence into one of our neighbours' backyards at 1:00 in the morning. It's a safe bet they are not out for a walk. It's worthwhile to find that out.
There are a variety of ways you can work within a neighbourhood. You can minimize the entry and exit points. This is one of the ideas of doing cul-de-sacs and that has a great deal to do with design - designing roadways to discourage through traffic, the usual conflicts of the real estate agents who want to sell you a home and say it's on a greenbelt. Isn't that great, and then you look at it from the burglar's point of view, and yes, greenbelts are really nice because you can be in and out of there in seconds and gone, and there ain't anybody going to find you.
In many areas of Porter Creek, you can almost pick out the houses that are going to have problems. In our area, we've actually picked out four or five houses and, when I talked to the owners, yes, they've had terrible problems. Then you pick out the other ones and go to them and talk and, no, they've never had a problem. If you have good places to hide and good places to disappear to, it maximizes its desirability for someone who wants to go in.
Know who comes to the door, know what happens. If someone continually comes to the door and asks for somebody who doesn't exist, the chances are fair - not necessarily high, but they're certainly there - that you're getting checked out. Don't make it so you can stand at the door and chat with somebody and have all your valuables laid out so they're visible from the front door. That's a really dumb thing to do. Some people want to do it, but it's a risk that you're taking.
You want to have areas lit. In the summertime, that's not a huge problem. I can remember the first time I came to Whitehorse, some 18 years ago, coming down the South Access - typical Yukon, you sort of name things. You can tell how long people have been here by what they call them. It's the TraveLodge or the Ben-Elle; it's not the Gold Rush. We came down the South Access and there were a number of softball diamonds there. I remember at the time thinking this was kind of a silly design because there were no lights and why would you put up such a nice facility and have no lights to get maximum use. Of course, then we went back up the South Access at 1:30 in the morning and the games were still going on, and I realized that was a great southern view of a new land.
Appropriate lighting is certainly there - paths, alleyways, lighting around parks. Sometimes we have problems with that. In Porter Creek North, we have one park where we actually had to control the lights on the park because they were driving the neighbours to the park crazy. The city was very, very good in working with us on that.
These are all things that you can do. You can do it even in other areas in terms of apartment buildings and multiple family units, and look at common spaces and encourage the tenants to interact down there and get to know each other - residents associations. There are a lot of things that you can do with that: light the hallways, look at deadbolts. I have to admit that some of the easiest houses to get into - you look at them, and frankly, for all the rest, there's Mastercard. And trust me, you can go into a fair number of houses with Mastercard, quite easily. If you're going to do a children's area or play area, make sure that it's visible. And if you have concerns about a house in the street before this legislation, don't put the play area right next to there. Again, think about what you're doing.
These are all sorts of things that you can go through, and people should be looking at this when they buy or when they rent, looking at ways they can modify their homes and ways that they can work with that. As I say, if there are any concerns on anything like this, please, by all means, call the community policing office at the RCMP detachment. That includes all of the rural areas - call your local detachment, because there are auxiliaries in most if not all rural detachments who would be very happy to come by and give you a hand with some of those things.
A lot of these principles, of course, can be put into design and original building of homes. I know in our own home, it was beautifully set up with nice big windows in the front doors. Just simply by putting a more opaque or translucent material in there, we get as much light but you don't get a clear view of everything.
There are a number of different groups, and Canadian Criminal Justice Association is certainly another one that you can consult. They have a good Web site; they have good information.
There are a number of things we can do within the community. I agree with the Member for Mount Lorne and the Member for Whitehorse Centre that a lot of these things did come out of NDP initiatives. We are certainly ready to admit that. I often have problems with NDP ideas because I don't see ready ways to pay for them sometimes. But, hopefully, a blend of working together on this will work - things like the No Fixed Address Outreach van, which certainly I support. I think it's a good idea and it should be more available. That's something that we will be working on.
Some of the things are very controversial. This is a hugely controversial area - some of the ideas that came out of the Yukon substance abuse summit. The idea of support for needle or crack-pipe exchange programs, needle drop-off boxes, free condom distribution - we haven't gotten into safe-injection sites here. Abstinence is always the best - there is no doubt about that - but the reality is that harm reduction is certainly a reasonable strategy and a way to start.
Develop programs particularly with youth that lead them into harm reduction or making better choices. I am very, very pleased in my capacity as minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation that I had the good pleasure a couple days ago of sending cheques out to all the high schools in the Yukon for their safe grad opportunities, and I look forward to working with them. They've made great strides with that. Of course, some of the parties - particularly the bush parties - do get a little out of hand. Again, I have worked with the RCMP and I highly commend them for some of the strategies. Why break up the party? Why not park on the way in and just confiscate all the booze and let the party go on, because you are going to have more success with that.
Some of the programs, et cetera, that you have to work with, in terms of the poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment and health - these are all things that are part of it. They are also part of the things that are going to involve drug houses and these sorts of things. They are all problems.
I am very pleased to agree that the NDP has some very good ideas in that way. With a Yukon Party government that can actually pay for the programs, I think there is a lot of room for us to work together on that, certainly within this act and legislation, which I do support.
Sports and alternative things to get people involved in that - I mean, there's nothing better than to set up a diversion program of some sort, and I don't really care what the diversion program is - anything that's going to get the kids and people involved in something else. People sometimes have fairly bizarre hobbies, but if they're not harming anyone and they draw people's attention away from drugs and crime, then, for goodness' sake, do it.
I had the good fortune of working with VISTA, the Volunteers in Service to America, or the domestic peace corps of the United States. One of the projects we worked on in the State of Colorado was a county jail. The deputy sheriff we worked with was this fairly old fellow who sat there in his uniform and guzzled coffee. I'll tell you, he had the respect of everybody in that place. We found out later he had just finished serving 25 years for second-degree murder, and the sheriff, who had taken a great deal of flack over hiring this guy as his deputy, said, “Who better to understand the problems in that jail than somebody who had just come out of it after 25 years.”
When you look at corrections reform, there may be some things that come out of the corrections reform that will be unique and controversial, but I'd be willing to bet they work.
With those comments, we support the safer communities legislation and look forward to lively debate, no doubt, and its passage in this House.
Mr. Mitchell: I would like to begin by saying the Liberal caucus believes this act is a good idea. It's an idea whose time has certainly come and we fully support the minister and the government in tabling this legislation.
We would also like to thank the Member for Whitehorse Centre for his work in bringing this model forward, based on the Saskatchewan and Manitoba legislation, to address what has become a very serious problem in many of our communities.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I would especially like to thank the officials in the department for their hard work in developing this legislation and having it ready for us to debate in so timely a manner. We know there must have been some long days in moving forward so expeditiously. We thank everyone involved for their good work.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this legislation, as the minister has well stated in his remarks, is not the be-all or end-all to addressing the problem of substance abuse and other criminal activities in our neighbourhoods and in our communities. But it will hopefully be one more tool in the toolbox or one more weapon in the arsenal to fighting the scourges of drug addiction and the criminal drug trade and the associated other criminal activities, including prostitution, that are inevitably associated with substance abuse and the sale of illegal drugs.
Mr. Speaker, we have all heard the complaints within our communities about how, as fast as the police can do their job and arrest drug dealers, they seem to be replaced by an endless supply of new drug dealers. We have seen this past year a series of arrests resulting from good police work done by the RCMP to shut down grow houses in Arkell, in Copper Ridge and in Spruce Hill. It is not likely that these were independent home-based businesses. They are evidence of organized criminal activity, something that we once would have expected to see on television news stories about Toronto or Vancouver, not Whitehorse .
We have heard the MLA for Whitehorse Centre talk about the problems of long-standing drug houses in his riding. We have also heard about the problems in many of our rural communities. So no community or neighbourhood is immune. These are very serious problems.
Mr. Speaker, every Yukon resident should be entitled to the safe enjoyment of their homes and their neighbourhoods, but too often in the past, despite the hard work of the RCMP, this was not the case. The RCMP, under the Criminal Code of Canada, operate under very strict guidelines and rules of evidence, as they should, in arresting people for criminal activities. The bar is set pretty high, and they have to be certain that they have probable cause before they can get a search warrant to enter a residence or a business. Even when they do, they have to have sufficient evidence to give a likely outcome in court for them to pursue court action.
While they can arrest the offenders, they've had in the past little power to deal with the problems of the locations - particularly when the homes or businesses are not owned by the offenders, but rather have been rented by someone else. This legislation will allow for an anonymous complaint to be made to a director regarding the anti-social behaviours being carried out on a property. It will empower neighbours to address the problems in their neighbourhoods - to take action that will lead to an end to the revolving door of criminals who have occupied some of these homes for years and have really destroyed the sanctity and peace of our neighbourhoods. Responses can range from informal resolution to applications for court orders to be enforced by the director and peace officers.
This initiative will involve what some people will say is the sacrifice of their traditional rights in order to stop some of the anti-social behaviour. This is probably a very worthwhile trade-off in order to protect people, protect our children, protect our neighbourhoods. We do think this is a good and worthwhile experiment.
We have some questions for the minister. These questions are genuine in seeking additional information and not intended as criticism in any way, because as I've said, we do support this legislation. The first question that comes to mind is - and I know the minister will take notes and can respond later - if the minister can tell us what he and his officials think the total implementation costs will be. I believe that $340,000 was announced in the budget speech for implementing the legislation for the partial year, and I'm wondering if the minister can advise us on what the expected annual cost of implementing this legislation is expected to be. We would also like to suggest that perhaps the act be reviewed in 12 or 24 months to determine if it has been effective and, if not, what needs to be done to improve it, and to determine if it has been found to be a reasonable trade-off between individual rights and group rights - which I know is what the minister is looking to achieve.
Does the minister intend to review the success of the act and provide that information to the public?
One question that comes to mind is, will legal aid be available and will there be sufficient funds? Or will this be something that landlords and owners could apply for to fund possible court costs on behalf of owners who are unintentional landlords of houses that were being used for criminal activities. When I say that, I've heard some concerns expressed by some property owners that landlords can be unwitting and unwilling victims of their tenants. They rent a property in good faith and find out that it has been abused. I know personally of one such case where someone did rent a property in good faith and then left on an extended holiday, and came back to discover that they had been victimized, so they too were victims.
There may be situations where these landlords have, in fact, been intimidated by criminal tenants. I think I'm probably not the only person who has heard of that. I want to make sure that we provide for people who are not participating in criminal activity, but rather are also victims of the activity, because this legislation can put the onus on paying for the shutting down of things on landlords. In some cases, it can be problematic for landlords, since they will cease receiving the rent and may have ongoing mortgage obligations. It's just something for us to think about.
One question I have is, how will information be shared between the RCMP, who may be undertaking criminal investigations, and the director, who may have undertaken an investigation under this act? Are there any Charter or other legal issues that may prevent the RCMP from sharing information with the director and the department? Also, of course, presumably there has to be coordination done, because we wouldn't want the director's investigation to be tripping over an investigation the RCMP could already be undergoing.
So there's just the question of how that communication would occur because, when there has been a complainant, it involves giving some answer to the complainant as to why there isn't immediate action being taken by the director.
Sort of ancillary to the question I asked the minister as to whether this would be reviewed in 12 or 24 months, or whatever period of time seems reasonable, would the minister commit to publishing a report in 18 or 24 months on how often the act has been used, what the full implementation costs have been and suggestions to improve the process or the act?
I did have some questions regarding how this act will apply to First Nation lands, but I think the minister and his officials have pretty much answered those questions in terms of this being a law of general application, so I won't take time repeating them here today.
I'm curious whether First Nations themselves will have the opportunity to actually begin an action under this legislation. Can they be the complainant, or does it have to be an individual landlord? I'm just a little unclear on that process. I know the minister probably has that information.
In summary, Mr. Speaker, we do have some questions on how this act will work, but we are extremely supportive of the process. We are encouraged by the minister's actions in bringing this legislation forward, along with the substance abuse action plan. The minister has spoken to the fact that they will work hand in hand. We will support this legislation when it comes to a vote.
With that, I will leave time for others to speak to this.
Mr. Hassard: I am pleased to rise today to speak in support of the safer communities legislation. As the Minister of Justice said earlier today, this legislation seeks to invest in one of our most valuable resources - the communities and neighbourhoods in which Yukoners live and work.
Mr. Speaker, some may ask why this legislation is necessary. I know I certainly did at first, because I'm not one that's ready to jump up and down and support legislation. I sometimes wonder if we're not legislated to death. But based on what we were hearing from residents of the territory - and I will add, Mr. Speaker, that what we heard from members opposite, from what they were hearing and bringing forward, it became quite clear that something needed to be done. When we started hearing that people were not feeling safe in their own communities, we have to begin to wonder if there is not a serious problem. It is well known that there are properties in the territory that are used for distribution of illegal drugs and alcohol. Many times the police force can remove individuals from the property; however, the illegal activities continue. So something had to be done.
I believe legislation is the first step. This legislation provides for a number of things, including a complaint-driven process, which allows residents to bring forward their concerns, and they can take some comfort in knowing that things will be done. I think they can take comfort in knowing that their identity will also remain confidential. It provides for the closure of properties associated with illegal activities. It allows for the targeting of activities rather than just the individuals involved. As I mentioned earlier, removing the individuals often does not solve the problem. It provides for the court to make property owners take responsibility for activities occurring on their property. People tend to be a little more serious about things if they know that the law can step in and hold them accountable.
It also allows government to deal with the fortification of buildings. Now, if you have watched the news reports from British Columbia and other provinces, it's quite evident that there are some problems. Some of the police forces are dealing with some serious issues across Canada .
Now, as I mentioned earlier, I'm really not one for imposing legislation on people, and I like to think the Yukon is a very safe place. I want it to remain that way. It's where I want to see my children grow up. I want them to see the same sort of a Yukon that I grew up in and for that reason I can support legislation such as this.
As a concerned parent I am pleased to know that this legislation will list illegal activities that can be investigated, such as illegal consumption or sale of alcohol, illegal consumption or sale of other intoxicants, drug use or drug trafficking, prostitution and related activities. I'm sure that all or most parents in this territory would agree with me.
One of the key points that I would like to mention is that this legislation focuses on the balance of probabilities versus criminal law, which focuses on beyond a reasonable doubt. This legislation is not criminal legislation; officials within the government will investigate complaints. Officials can and will maintain communication with the complainant throughout the investigation as desired. I guess my point, Mr. Speaker, is that this legislation, while not putting everyone in jail, will allow us to make our streets and communities a place to be proud of.
Now, I'm not going to go on at great length repeating what the minister has already said. However, I think it is important to mention that in planning for the development of this legislation, there was a lot of consultation with members of the public, First Nation governments, municipal governments, women's groups, non-government organizations, the RCMP and community associations. I would like to thank all the staff, the Minister of Justice, and all members of this Assembly for their roles in getting us to this point.
I truly hope that by passing this legislation we can make our communities safer. I realize the legislation can't do that on its own; however, as citizens, it's our responsibility to ultimately make it work.
With that, I will wrap up and listen to the comments of the members opposite.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to put my comments on record in support of this legislation before us. When we talk about substance abuse, more especially in our communities, it has been a problem that has been there for a long time. I am very happy to have this legislation on the floor of the Legislature today because it will help us to move forward in addressing this very serious issue.
There has been a lot of history, like I've said. In looking back on my own community when I was growing up there - I've mentioned it here before and I'll mention it again - it was to see a community thriving without alcohol, and then witnessing alcohol in our community and seeing the devastation among my own people was very heartbreaking.
However, it was in 1995, I believe, when the plebiscite was put in place for our community to become alcohol- and drug-free, and that was the beginning of a good journey for many of the people in Old Crow.
It helped us to take responsibility for own lives, first of all, and to try to make sure that the future was a healthy one for our children and our grandchildren. That is why we as a community took that step back then, and it was a very important step. The legislation was supported by a majority of the community, and we are in a place now, in the community of Old Crow, where we have to take another look at the next step in becoming an alcohol-free community. It is not an alcohol-free community, because there is a lot of underground activity happening. Everybody is aware of that. How do we address the problems that stem from that? How do we address issues of people who are bootlegging in our community? How do we address the people who are peddling drugs to the young people in the community, and to the people who cannot afford to purchase alcohol and drugs from somewhat of a black market?
From that, Mr. Speaker, there are also a lot of issues that still impact our community, even though on one hand we are trying to address issues in the community so we can look toward having a healthier lifestyle - whether it is in the way we look at our diet or the way we look at prevention and incorporating that into our education system in the school. We are also looking at our health care issues. We held a health forum last night, and a lot of the concerns came out that I can identify with, and many people from the communities can identify with. When we think about addressing certain issues like alcohol and drugs, we have to think about how many parts of our lives they impact.
We have to think about the four parts of our lives that help us to stay healthy - whether it be our mental, physical or emotional health - not only for ourselves, but for our children. I'm really happy to say that the community of Old Crow has been looking in those areas for a number of years and trying to help to change the attitude of the people in our community. We are doing that through education and bringing resource people from outside - whether it be through the Yukon government or people from our own community - to help encourage a healthier lifestyle, being alcohol and drug free, and helping to encourage the youth to look toward sports and recreation so they can have somewhat of a choice about how they live their lives.
Having said that, on the other hand, we have very few resources in our communities. We need the financial resources in our community so that we can move forward in this area. The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has signed a number of agreements with the Yukon Party government and the previous Liberal government. I'm not sure how much progress has been made in those areas. One of the key issues for us - in order to deal with some of the social impact and effects that we see from alcohol and drugs - is that we do need to see the resources.
It's like that in Old Crow, and it's like that in many rural communities across the Yukon . We do need an extra social worker position in Old Crow. We've been asking for that position for over 10 years, and now there are other services that are badly needed. We are just going to have to continue to ask for those resources, and hopefully one day we will see a government in place that will show some willingness to take that chance and help us so that we can make progress in these areas.
When we are talking about safer communities, Mr. Speaker - safer communities are, I think, one of the priorities that we as leaders and community members would like to see happen. Many types of issues concern us in our communities, one of them being substance abuse - another being the breakdown of families. Mr. Speaker, as First Nation people in the Yukon Territory and across Canada, it comes down to history. Our families are the most important part of our lives. After that, it is how we become responsible members of our community, and how can we empower our families and our communities so that we can be a united community and able to provide a good, basic life for everyone involved. The breakdown that we've witnessed within our family structures over the years has been very devastating.
Now we're at a time of change. We're at a time where we're standing up in our communities and saying that we can't have this any more. It's time that we take responsibility and stand up for ourselves and for our families and work toward a healthier environment. That has been a priority for our leaders for the past 20 years.
When I talk about breakdown of families, we're talking not only issues surrounding the residential school, but also people dealing with their own addictions and people dealing with their own health issues. I believe this legislation before us today will help us move in that direction, because there are people who have always had that kind of vision for the children of today.
When the whole land claims process began some 30 years ago, I remember attending some of the meetings that happened in my own community and listening to some of the elders who were speaking at that time. That's all that they had envisioned for their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren: to be able to stay in their own homeland and make their life within their traditional territory. I remember hearing elders speaking in our own language and stating very strongly that there is no amount of money in this world that can purchase the lifestyle we have today.
When you stand on top of Crow Mountain and you look out toward Crow Flats and you see the beauty in that land, and more especially at this time of year, in the spring, when everything comes to life, then you know what the meaning of life is, you know what our ancestors had to do to keep that land the way it was so we can enjoy that today. That is our responsibility so our grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and generations after, can have what we experience today.
That whole vision, the document called Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, was so that our people could have a lifestyle that our ancestors experienced. That would be the experience they had within their communities and out on the land, without any kind of substance to interfere with their life.
When I say that, Mr. Speaker, I can't help thinking about one of my aunties in my community. I used to spend a lot of time with her. When she passed on, she was 103 years old. When we talk about alcohol and drug abuse and what a challenge it is for our people today, more especially the young people - when she passed on at 103, she had never experienced even the taste of alcohol.
From having someone like her in my life - the strength, guidance and wisdom she had and shared with me and the vision she had for her own grandchildren and the hope she had for her family and her community are still with me today. If I can help to make one small difference to help encourage people in our community to move toward changing their attitudes about living a healthier lifestyle today so their children can be healthier tomorrow, then we are making a difference - especially with legislation such as this before us.
When we talk about health care, when our thinking and attitudes are changing about how we take care of ourselves, that will lessen some of the costs on the health care system. We look at the budget that is before us, and it's one of the biggest budgets in the history of the Yukon. Many of the resources that we require to address the concerns of our communities are just not there.
It takes the political will of our community leaders and our community members, and it takes the willingness and responsibility of families, to stay united and strong.
We can't always depend on government to walk with us, and we've seen a lot of examples of that. I believe we are going to be successful, because there are a lot of people I have had the pleasure to meet in our First Nations' communities who have taken that step and have come a long way on their journey, and many of them are making a huge difference in our communities. They are the drivers of the legislation that is in front of us, because we have listened to them - the leader of the official opposition, my colleague, has listened to the people of the communities. We've had a lot of phone calls. He was one of the key people in bringing this legislation forward, and I would like to acknowledge him for that. With that, my time is very limited, and if I have another opportunity, I will speak to this again.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today in support of this piece of legislation. I'm very encouraged to see the implementation of the substance abuse action plan - to see concrete steps and action being taken on the four, strategic directions - that of harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment, and enforcement. We're all aware that we have a problem in the territory. We've all acknowledged that in this Assembly. We all know that it is not a problem that is only in downtown Whitehorse, but it is a problem that stretches into every community - probably into every neighbourhood - throughout the territory.
Alcohol abuse, drug abuse and substance abuse are a serious problem in our territory and a serious problem that needs to be addressed if we're to have a future. By “we” I mean all Yukoners. The surest way to destroy our communities, our way of life, our cultures, our families, our children, is by not doing anything about substance abuse. If we all just turned a blind eye and didn't make any effort - well, I shudder to think of where we'd head. It isn't an issue that is simply a government responsibility, but one that faces all aspects of society. It's one that we as individuals have a responsibility toward our community, our not-for-profit organizations, our non-government organizations, our charities and our churches. We're all involved in this, and we all have a role to play - whether that role is to say, “No, I won't do drugs,” or “No, I won't buy beer from a booze can,” or “No, I won't get involved,” or you can turn them in, or take action to help with the other aspects, with harm reduction, prevention and education or treatment.
I think the government does have a role to play. We need to find a way to empower Yukoners to get involved and to take action - and to take action without becoming vigilantes. That's what this piece of legislation does. It allows Yukoners to get involved, to take action, to address a problem, in our own neighbourhoods. We can do something about what's going on next door.
Now, I know a lot of citizens have felt helpless to address this issue. They tried phoning the police and watched the operation just start up the next day. They've tried phoning us. They've tried phoning different government departments, and many have become very frustrated. Some have turned the other way. Some live in fear of retaliation. Some are simply afraid of the situation. Now, I'm not trying to create any fearmongering here, but this is the reality.
I know - I lived next door to a drug dealer not too long ago, and I certainly know what it's like to have people drive up at all hours of the day, come to a screeching halt in front of your house, bang on your door by mistake and demand to talk to their normal contact. It doesn't always make one feel safe and secure in their own home when someone is stopping there trying to buy illegal substances.
So, this piece of legislation allows people to do something. It allows them to get involved. Sometimes the solution isn't just to move. That's certainly not a solution that everybody can take or should be forced to take. Instead, we need to deal with the situation and address it, and stand up and say, “No, this type of behaviour will not be tolerated in our community.”
That's what this piece of legislation does. It publicly says, “No, you, the drug operator, you, the booze can operator, you, the owner of a bawdy house, you are doing something wrong, and it has to stop, and get out of here.”
That's what this piece of legislation allows to happen. We've heard about how it works and the steps that are involved. A complaint is filed, which can be done anonymously so there is no fear of retaliation or retribution. A warning letter is sent to the occupant and they are given an opportunity to change their behaviour, which I think is the number one objective. We want to see the behaviour stop; we want to see the behaviour corrected. We want to go on living in a nice, peaceful community where we are not afraid of the behaviour happening next door.
And if it escalates past that - well, then there is the opportunity - if it gets to that where a community safety order can be executed, which will tell those occupants of that house, if it's beyond a balance of probabilities that they are indeed doing something wrong, that it is time to move. “You are not welcome in our community; get out and get out now.”
We didn't invent this piece of legislation. We are certainly not going to take credit for that. There has been a lot of good work done throughout the country - indeed, internationally - on how to address a situation like this. There have been some great models to look at from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I would again like to thank the officials from those two jurisdictions who did come up to work with the government and the different officials - and with all of us - to help draft the legislation.
I know this is an issue that many Members of the Legislative Assembly feel passionate about. I recall one of the public meetings - several were held throughout the territory - held here in Whitehorse where representatives from Saskatchewan and Manitoba came up to discuss the legislation and how it worked in their jurisdiction. I think we had enough members of the Legislative Assembly present that we had quorum. There were members from all sides of the Assembly present at that time. I believe that you were there, Mr. Speaker. We could have reconvened an emergency meeting, and with the number of members who were already there, probably could have passed a motion to adopt this legislation.
I know that we are all behind this. We all want to see something done in the community, and this is one more step in addressing it.
It empowers the citizens to take civil action to see that a situation which is unacceptable is stopped in their neighbourhood. It respects the rights of the accused, and it takes steps to protect the innocent.
Mr. Speaker, I'm satisfied that there are enough checks and balances in this legislation that there isn't the opportunity for it to be abused or to be used with any kind of malicious intent - and that it does indeed protect the rights of all citizens. One of the things that it does is help the innocent take steps to get the guilty out of their communities. I was happy to hear about the legislation. I looked at the legislation from the different jurisdictions.
It was a good piece of work, and there certainly was an impact from having the consultation here in the territory. There were changes made to this piece of legislation that makes it different from the legislation in other jurisdictions - and that is to recognize the unique situation we in the Yukon live in - our unique context.
I'd like to thank the Minister of Justice and his departmental officials for looking at a good model and then specifically crafting it to fit the Yukon context - and working with our partners in governing the territory - Yukon First Nation governments. They played a role in this and indeed will play a role in working and using this piece of legislation. Some of the changes that were included in the Yukon's legislation were that the director can share information with other departments, governments and NGOs. I think that is an important thing to include as it allows Health and Social Services to get involved if there are innocent children involved, for example.
It allows a better solution to be developed to offer, if it is requested, assistance to the accused. I mean, we want to correct their behaviour too, so there needs to be something in place that can help them.
Also, the legislation includes the power to consult with other agencies to ask them for assistance and guidance and other information.
Another feature that was added to the legislation is that the landlord is not compelled to rent to offenders. So this means that if a tenant is a member of a First Nation or is using Yukon Housing or Whitehorse Housing or one of the other housing authorities, then there isn't a specific obligation to offer them a new residence if they are evicted from their old residence under this old legislation. Otherwise we could have just a revolving situation where the offender goes from one house to another to another. It doesn't say that they can't rent to the offender in the future, but it just says that they are not compelled to rent. That will be a pretty strong and powerful message. I think that will be a welcome message in a lot of our communities where there is a pretty high risk now that, if you run a booze can or a drug house or a bawdy house and you are convicted under this, you won't have a place to live in the community any more. That can be a heck of a motivator to encourage someone not to do that in the first place. Indeed, that is what we are trying to do - to change this behaviour so that it doesn't occur in our communities so that we indeed do have safer, healthier communities in which to live.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I just want to share with you a phrase that was taught to me about getting things done. That is, Mr. Speaker, that you can get almost anything done if you don't care who gets credit for it. Now, it might be a bit Machiavellian, but some of my best successes in solving problems have happened when I've helped others by leading them to discovering a great solution to a problem. It's okay if I don't get credit for it, just as long as the problem gets addressed. That's the big thing. And I think that's what we're all here in this Assembly to do - to see that the problems get addressed.
Now, I will agree with others in the Assembly that it is a perceived trait of all politicians that they want to take credit for everything, but I for one, Mr. Speaker, feel uncomfortable with that. I'm more worried about getting things done than not getting them done. I think it's more important to get the objective accomplished rather than the picture in the paper. Maybe that doesn't put me in good stead as a politician, but that's just the way my personality works. I'd rather get the work done that we're supposed to do, rather than being perceived as getting it done.
With that being said, Mr. Speaker, I'm in full support of this legislation. I think that it empowers citizens in our community to take and initiate action. It will make our communities safer. I don't think it will solve the whole problem. I think there are many other steps that need to happen in order that the bigger and broader and larger problems in our society get addressed, but it is one more tool in the toolbox, one more arrow in the quiver, one more piece that we can use to get the job done. I'm encouraged to see that all members so far have been in support of the legislation, and I look forward to its quick and expedient passage through the Assembly.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Hardy: I'm going to be very brief. I don't think we need to talk a lot about it. I don't need to talk a lot about it. I think I've probably talked too much about it over the last while. Basically I'm standing here today to say - I'm making a great assumption on this. I'm assuming everybody in the Legislative Assembly will support this bill. I'd like to thank the public who believe in this, who stood beside and behind all the politicians in here and encouraged them to work on this very difficult issue, going back a few years. For many years, drugs and alcohol have affected people's lives.
The passing of this will have a significant impact on the quality of life on the streets and in the neighbourhoods, for the children, families and seniors. I think it's going to benefit the overall quality of life.
I'd like to thank my constituents who have been behind this - behind me anyway - in trying to make changes in a riding that suffers a great deal from this issue, probably more than any other riding in the Yukon. Whitehorse Centre is one that has significant problems and, as a person who lives in that riding and right down in that area where there are a lot of problems and who raised my children there, I feel this will have a positive impact.
I'd like to thank the two NDP provinces that have moved forward on this legislation and, in many ways, brought it in and tested it for us, I guess. It seems to be working well, which makes our job a lot easier up here in implementing it. I think that's what made its development this quick and to hopefully be up and running as soon as the departments and Justice can put it together. I'm sure it will be brought along fairly quickly and I have great confidence in that and in the people there.
I'd like to thank my colleagues in here - I'd like to thank the independent Member for Klondike, the independent Member for Mayo-Tatchun, the Member for Kluane, the Member for Copperbelt, the Member for Porter Creek South, the Member for Mount Lorne, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, the Member for Lake Laberge, the Member for Watson Lake, the Member for Whitehorse West, the Member for Porter Creek North, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, the Member for Riverdale South, the Member for Porter Creek Centre, the Member for Southern Lakes, the Member for Riverdale North, our Speaker, and most of all, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini - for bringing forward this legislation as a promise that was made last fall in our fall sitting and fulfilling that promise so that we have it before us today.
We can expect to see it up and running before the end of the year, and the benefits, I think, are going to go a long way. It will be one of the little legacies from the four-year term of this government. It is a small one, but it could be extremely significant for many people in many neighbourhoods, in many communities. I would like to thank everybody for that.
Just as an aside, I have a couple more ideas I would like to bring forward too. Thanks are owing to all of you who have brought this about and everybody else I have mentioned. That is all I have to say.
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I thank all the members this afternoon who have made comments on this. I would like to thank the previous speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and recognize the role that he has played in participating in these efforts and the role that he has played in initiating discussions in this regard. That is work that he has done as an MLA and is to be commended.
The involvement of all members and all parties with regard to the substance abuse action plan and participation and support for safer communities legislation is very important and I think it is commendable and shows that we can get down to some areas of important business, at least, and move forward with unanimity and with the recognition of the importance of the work that needs to be done.
From coast to coast in Canada, people are increasingly concerned with the use of illegal drugs and the effect it is having on society. They are concerned with the effects that drugs have on individuals and their health. They are worried about their kids getting involved. They are worried about their kids falling in with a bad crowd, getting hooked, perhaps, on something small or something perceived to be small, such as marijuana, and then progressing to harder drugs and perhaps getting to the situation where a pretty decent kid has their life ruined and becomes a no longer functioning member of society but someone who is disconnected from their family and is in fact a safety risk in many situations to their family.
People are also concerned with the impact on society from the activities associated with drug houses. The criminal activities such as beginning with the run-of-the-mill ordinary addict who turns to crime such as break-and-enters and mugging to get money for their habit - those actions, those thefts, the violent behaviour and experiences that can happen to ordinary citizens are a cause, certainly, of great trauma when they do occur and a cause of great concern when people see them happening in society around them.
Of even more concern, of course, is the involvement and connection of organized crime to the sale and proliferation of illegal drugs. Those groups and those gangs bring with them other activities, such as violence and prostitution, which cause additional harm to the communities.
This issue related to substance abuse and the elements related to addressing it have been brought forward by MLAs from all parties and is certainly not something that any one party or any one of us, as an MLA, can claim all the credit for. More important, is the recognition of the involvement that ordinary Yukoners have had in the development of the substance abuse action plan and in the support for safer communities legislation.
Credit is certainly due, in large part, to the front-line workers and individuals who have become involved and stated their support, and provided us with the benefit of their knowledge and who have involved themselves in this entire issue.
In June 2005, the Yukon government hosted the Yukon substance abuse summit in Whitehorse . About 200 participants from throughout the territory listened to presentations and held round-table discussions on the topic of substance abuse and substance abuse prevention. The participants included community leaders, law enforcement and Justice officials, counsellors, social workers, addictions and medical service providers, educators, representatives of NGOs and medical and health services.
Most of the summit participants were people who worked in service delivery positions, which brought them into contact with alcohol and drug problems on a daily basis.
The content of the action plan relied a large part upon the discussions and the suggestions that those individuals shared at the summit. Delegates to that summit recognized that substance abuse is intimately linked to unhealthy lifestyles and the fact that those lifestyles can in fact persist throughout more than one generation, be passed on and create a systemic problem within a community and within a family unit.
They described a range of problems associated with substance abuse that often have permanent consequences such as illiteracy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, problems within schools, poor nutrition, sexual abuse, and child abuse and neglect. People who misuse drugs and alcohol are often both the perpetrators of harm to others as well as the victims of harm from others. There is a strong link between alcohol, drug abuse and family violence.
The substance abuse action plan established four strategic directions in four areas - strategic pillars, for lack of a better term - under the plan, those being harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement.
The substance abuse action plan had, as one of its recommendations, looking into the feasibility of developing safer communities legislation.
The substance abuse action plan is a framework. It is a framework for policies and programs designed to reduce harm from the abuse of alcohol and other drugs. It is intended to be a living document. It would be ill-advised for anyone to suggest that right now, here today, we can come up with the final perfect strategy for combating substance abuse. We are living in a changing world. The impact of transportation and the flow of some of these illegal activities has resulted in areas that previously were rural and have very little in the way of substance abuse problems or criminal problems suddenly finding themselves as virtual hotbeds of this type of activity, simply through bad luck - involvement of criminal elements within their area and the proliferation of drugs.
Mr. Speaker, the substance abuse action plan provides options for working with individuals who abuse alcohol and drugs, addresses the needs of their families, and provides meaningful ways for community members to make a positive contribution. The action plan explicitly recognized the need for the reduction of both supply and demand of alcohol and other drugs. The plan was developed after careful consideration of input received from delegates to the substance abuse summit. As I said, it's a framework document that will help guide the Yukon government's responses to problematic substance abuse in the territory over the course of the next five years.
Important elements outlined under the plan include coordinated service delivery and the continuum of services. Principles included the need for a community health perspective, that the intent of the plan is to promote and protect community health, and it noted it was very important that strategies will be more effective to the extent that they involve community partnerships. The interest in areas such as this legislation and the involvement of Yukoners - and the discussion around this - is very heartening. I am a firm believer that legislation and initiatives are most effective when they are implemented and supported by Yukoners, not by government alone.
The health promotion and prevention strategies we have must respond to the social health, criminogenic and economic risk factors associated with substance abuse problems. Programs and policies have to be designed to minimize the harm experienced by individuals and communities by the actions associated with alcohol and drug abuse and drug trafficking. A key goal of the substance abuse action plan is to have a comprehensive policy approach and to work together in addressing these, targeted on the four themes of harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment and enforcement/justice.
Partnerships and integration are key to the success of a substance abuse action plan, as government interventions are only a partial solution to problematic substance abuse. Solutions to substance abuse require ongoing partnerships between the territorial government, the federal government, municipalities and communities, and from the NGOs within our communities.
Other elements outlined under the principles and substance abuse action plan are the need for evidence-based interventions, the need to be culturally sensitive and the need to be gender sensitive and age appropriate. Ultimately, with any investment in any area, cost effectiveness is always a concern. We need to be sure the dollars we're investing are achieving a result and, if those dollars are not achieving the most effective result in that area, we need to look at what other areas we can make that investment in to achieve the result.
Safer communities legislation, as stated, is an element that flows under the substance abuse action plan, and it's a very important part of that. As has been stated by previous members, it is legislation that we have borrowed from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It has been used there to significant effect. It has been changed to some extent to accommodate Yukon-specific concerns. When we reviewed the legislation and drafted it, there were some areas where we made changes to the lines and the details to try to ensure it reflected the Yukon needs, not simply the needs of Manitoba or Saskatchewan.
Members will be aware from the presentations given to us by the individuals who came up on behalf of Saskatchewan and Manitoba of some of the experiences they have had with regard to their legislation of this type and that it has in large part ended up being an area where the severe end of the legislation - the extreme end - of actually closing a property is very rarely used. The most significant use of the act is in areas of investigations, which often result in the owner who is engaging in illegal activity curtailing the activity of their own free will prior to having enforcement action taken. The next step to that - before the closure of a property - is an order for certain activities to cease and to desist. That is something that is important to me, that was a concern of mine in looking at this legislation, and it certainly is an idea to which my initial reaction was interest. We have to be concerned any time we implement new legislation that the legislation is not creating an unintended consequence. We have to be very concerned about civil rights - the rights to use our property, to use our houses and to ensure that we do not go too far down the road of restrictions. Restrictions certainly take place in society. There are zoning bylaws that can restrict sometimes what an individual can build on their property. There are noise ordinances. Another area is, of course, the fact that we can drive down the highway and some individuals would claim that they can drive perfectly well after having six beers.
Fortunately, we don't see as much of that activity as we used to, but the rationale behind drinking and driving is not primarily due to the individual's own safety but due to the fact they are creating an unreasonable risk to the lives of others. This legislation is based on that same principle, that we are creating the ability to restrict activities that individuals take that create unwarranted and unreasonable risks to the lives of others and have unreasonable impacts on the safety of communities and the residents of those communities.
Other recommendations under the substance abuse action plan that we have gone to work already on implementing include the healthy lifestyles programs - we have worked to encourage that - outreach services of the Department of Health and Social Services, telehealth counselling. I am pleased to announce to members that this year's budget includes an increased allocation and the first specific allocation for telehealth programs. We are expanding that and no longer trying to cobble it together from other resources, but identifying it as a specific area that is worthy of increased investment.
Another area under the substance abuse action plan is reducing the availability of drug precursors and working with other provinces and territories to call upon the federal government to take steps to reduce the availability of these illegal drugs and restricting access to certain cold medicines. As members are aware, in cooperation with the pharmacy association, certain cold medications have been moved behind pharmacy counters.
Although we heard concerns expressed the other night about the perfection of how that has been implemented, it is an important step forward.
And, of course, finally, Mr. Speaker, the safer communities legislation was a recommendation in a substance abuse action plan.
I see that my time is short and I'm running out of time to go through the notes that I wanted to go through, but I'll try and touch on some of them briefly. The issue of the revolving-door of jails and criminals coming in and going out quickly is a problem that many Yukoners and other Canadians are concerned about. The problem in the past in dealing with these criminal activities is that an indictable offence to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is a very important requirement under criminal law. It is not appropriate for people to be put in jail too easily. We have to be very careful, and we have to follow that long established principle. That has created a problem, of course, in the difficulty of charging drug dealers, of charging people who are engaging in organized crime and gang activity, and has created a new challenge that we face in today's society as it changes and drug use becomes more available and crime becomes more organized and more capable of travelling thousands of miles, out of the reach of where the police are looking.
This legislation does take a different approach. It takes the approach of focusing on activities rather than on the individual. It does not provide for incarceration of individuals for the activities. It does provide the ability for the courts to require that certain activities cease and ultimately, if that order is not complied with, for the premises to be shut down for a certain period of time.
This is a key and critical distinction because the legislation is focused on the balance of probabilities. The fact that individuals are not losing freedom, but simply the ability to engage in certain activities which are illegal, is very important and critical to my comfort level with this legislation. I am satisfied that the legislation has adopted the necessary balance and does not unreasonably impact on the freedoms of individuals.
It is an area that I would encourage all members to look at. Hopefully, they have. I believe we have support from everyone for this legislation. In pointing out to members -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Cathers: I understand I'm right at the end of my time, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to close by commending the Yukoners who have been involved in the development of the substance abuse action plan and the support for the safer communities legislation and to commend this legislation to the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I would also like to speak to this bill, as presented by the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, the Minister of Justice, Bill No. 67. I'll try to be brief, and I'm hoping not to take up the 20 minutes.
The problem communities have that has been recognized by the minister has been there for a long time. How do you make your community safe? Is this piece of legislation going to do it? I think that, if you look over the years that we've been producing bills in this House, a lot of the time - and it was to my surprise, Mr. Speaker, and I said it before in this House - governments do not enforce portions of certain bills in government.
I was really surprised and I went through that experience as a minister myself. For example, Mr. Speaker, there were a lot of people who asked why bars in the community of Whitehorse were overserving people. How come it is always crowded? Why aren't we doing anything? What can we do?
Well, in talking with the department - it's all there. It's in the Liquor Act. Well, why don't we enforce the act? That was a simple direction and I think it should be something that is automatic within government, to enforce the acts that we do have. Unless of course, they are so outdated that they need to be brought back to this House for another visit to either be scrapped or have something else brought in.
I think the Minister of Justice has heard a lot of the issues that have been brought up by all members of this House. Some of them are exactly what we have been talking about here this afternoon. Some communities are taking action. I wanted to bring that up because we are going to pass a bill here and I hope that people don't just relax and think that, just because the government has passed a bill here, this is going to take care of the issues in the communities. I'll give an example here with my own community, within the First Nation.
Everybody is talking about the whole issue of substance abuse, drugs and so on. What do we do over the years - has it gotten worse or are we actually recognizing it more? I want to get into what they have been doing but, first of all, I'll also go through a little bit of experience that I had. I've said it before in this House and I think it should be said again. As a leader of a First Nation, this problem came up - the issue of drugs - so how do you resolve that?
One of the things we did was work with the RCMP to see if we could catch the drug dealers. Surveillance cameras were put up. We knew that there was a trail straight from the school to this home. In the wintertime, this trail was well used. Well, this went on for awhile. The RCMP, I think, did a really good job in doing their surveillance work. They figured they were going to get a bust, a shipment coming in. Well, they went and busted the person and charged them. They went through the court system. Here's the problem, Mr. Speaker - this was a serious thing because our children were involved. We have the ability to do things under this act, but what can we do through the justice system here? Part of the problem is that the dealer really got off lightly. For all the money that was made, for all the drugs that were sold to the community people, to the kids and so on, he got off lightly. That person, I think, got an $800 fine and some community work. That was it. And business was happening soon after again.
The RCMP were frustrated with this because they spent many, many hours wanting to follow the community lead on this matter. It became frustrating when, you know, you bring it forward and you do all the work and you bring it to the justice system, and that was all that happened. It was business as usual later.
Now, we're getting into a time where we're seeing new drugs in the communities here, the Yukon being hit by crystal meth and ecstasy and so on.
It's affecting people differently. Some communities are hit harder than others. The First Nations have really, really seen alcohol abuse particularly - but drugs too - in their members and in their communities. They see it when there is development that takes place - mining and so on. They see the increase in drugs and alcohol peak when that happens.
First Nations have been dealing with this matter, talking to other First Nations trying to find out ways to handle this problem. Last summer, Mr. Speaker, at a general assembly, they decided to do something as a community. The very first thing they did - and with support from a lot of the community people - was to park their vehicles in front of this drug dealer's house and blow their horns. They did this for a long time, and these people knew that the community was on to them. They weren't very happy about it, but then the First Nation followed by putting up signs around the community. Drive through the community of Carmacks and you will see them. They are big, four-foot by eight-foot signs and they say, “Drug dealers not welcome here; we are watching you; we value our children” - that type of thing. That had a tremendous effect on the amount of drugs that ended up flowing into the community. There's not just one drug dealer in the community; there are all kinds of them. They started recognizing these people and putting pressure on them to get out of the business. What the community wants to do is continue to do this - whether there is a bill put in place by the territorial government or not - they are continuing to do this.
Others have caught on. Pelly Crossing, for example, wants to do the same thing. I think the community of Carmacks is probably typical of many communities in the territory. They're seeing the impact in the schools and they want to take action because it's their children. It's all about the future.
If the minister would really like to see and hear first-hand from the community, come down to some of the general assemblies. They speak quite openly about it and I think they really want to do something, regardless of whether or not it could be done by the laws we have in place. It's by putting pressure on people.
Drunk driving, drinking - here's one I think the minister, as Minister of Education, is quite familiar with: the communities voicing their need to keep their kids safe, and so on. One of the things they brought up - whether or not it could have happened in the future - was to ensure the adults weren't mixing with the kids in the school. That was the whole issue. I'm talking about the community dealing with this for a good number of years now. That's why it was brought to the minister's attention in regard to building a new school in Carmacks.
We've seen crack and crystal meth come into the communities. This is the other thing: the First Nation members took it upon themselves to start educating people on what it means and what effect the drug has on people, and they started bringing in some experts to talk about the permanent impacts of using this drug. They brought the whole community. They had the First Nation, all the staff people and all the community members come to this workshop and learn about it a bit more.
Since then, I've seen this other workshop has gone to other communities. It is now, I think, part of some of the - even some of the government workers are taking this workshop. I think it's really important for people to know the effects of that, and I really have to, I guess, take my hat off to some of the people in Carmacks for having this effect across the territory.
I really think that the impact of drugs in the community is felt by the innocent people too, because people are witnessing, and are victims of, those who are wanting and need to have their fix. What it means is that people's homes are being violated by break-ins and so on, and theft.
We all know, Mr. Speaker - we've heard it on the news here - how one house here in Whitehorse had all kinds of stolen goods in it, and it was all about dealing drugs - people trading goods for drugs. Many items from the community of Carmacks - well, some items from the community of Carmacks were there. So, it could have been from all over the territory.
Living in Riverdale, I've had my home broken into three times, for example. I've gone down to the police station there and looked in their garage for the goods that had been stolen out of my house, but I couldn't find them. This is a tremendous violation, I think, when you go through that experience, and more so for kids than it is for adults.
I heard some of the members opposite talk about the neighbourhoods having to get together and start watching out for one another. We had things in my neighbourhood, things like a barbecue, stolen out of someone's backyard. These are big items.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Was that yours? Hopefully, the steaks weren't still on there.
Since then, I have received letters in my mailbox about keeping an eye out for people you don't normally see around your neighbourhood and so on, and we do that. Now, more than ever, neighbours are watching out for one another. In the smaller communities, this is a huge problem, particularly with drugs and alcohol - bootlegging, for example. Being able to purchase alcohol after-hours is a major concern, and drunk driving and so on.
My direction to the minister on this bill is this: let's try to find ways of making it work. Just because we have a bill in front of us doesn't mean that things will be okay now. The best way to deal with this matter is to meet with the communities, educate people and make them aware of what they can do when this type of thing happens in their own home or with their neighbours.
It's a serious matter, keeping people safe in their communities. One, for example, that you don't hear very much about is elder abuse. That happens in every community and it's very difficult to deal with. I've heard some other people say how maybe this will make it easier for authorities to go into a home or something but, in small communities, it is very difficult. People are very tight and loyal to one another. So we need to find community solutions to these matters, and I think that's the way the minister should approach this, with the aid perhaps of this bill.
I'd like to thank the minister for bringing it forward. It's one of the good works that he has done, and it is recognized by me, and I thank you for the time.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this bill, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. Probably if you were listening in the House today about the pros and cons of this act, I think you would find that we are probably all in support of it. It is an act that makes our communities safer. It is also an act that realizes the fact that there are issues, that individuals or groups get around the law by technicality. Mr. Speaker, it's very important for our communities to not only be safe but feel safe, so our children can live and prosper in the areas they live in.
I would like to compliment the Minister of Justice for the work that not only he but also his staff did to work on this act, to bring the people into Whitehorse who had the experience from Saskatchewan and Manitoba and also to blend this act so that it would fit into our society, understanding that our society is different from other societies. In other words, we have different issues here than they have in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.
I don't think there's a question about law and order in either jurisdiction, ours or theirs, but it has to fit not only our governance but also into our communities - being smaller. I understand the member opposite talking about the issue of people getting around the law in smaller communities - which means selling liquor after-hours or bootlegging or doing the things that don't build a solid community. In a lot of our smaller communities, it seems to be a situation where we don't have the will or the flexibility to answer some of these questions because of the size of the community. It's important that we stop these activities, but it is also important to understand that, when you are living in a small community, there's a burden in the community of a stigmatism - of becoming a victim yourself.
If you are seen to be doing things to others in the community, you can be pointed out in such a way that the community will ostracize you. That can happen because, at the end of the day, some of these people who deal - whether it's drugs; mostly the drug situation; and the amount of money and the size of the community - these people become very powerful in the community and they could become pretty ruthless. So, without the independence of being able to pick up the phone and have a conversation and being kept in the background - in other words, you are not out in the face of the situation - you are questioning the actions of these individuals and you are also looking at a situation that is sometimes bigger than yourself and the community.
Law and order is a very, very complicated thing, and as we go through this act and you see the unlawful use, consumption and sale of alcohol - are you running a booze can? What are you doing? All of our communities have experienced it. I've lived in small communities. I've lived here, I grew up here. I understand all about booze cans. They are a fact, they do happen. But how do you minimize the impact on the community? How do you police those things? Selling alcohol without a licence - how do you police that? We have laws in place and we can say this and we can say that, but in fact, when I know there is a booze can somewhere, it is a long way down the line from the justice system. I live a long way from that situation and yet Joe Blow and I know that practice is going on. I think this act will address those things - the possession, production, use, consumption and sale, and the transfer and exchange of illegal drugs. We have a horrendous - I guess, because of course I'm not in it. But I guess we have a horrendous drug situation. It is throughout our communities - guess what, it's throughout Canada. The other day we saw a motorcycle gang in Toronto where there were eight individuals executed in some fashion and - if you can believe the media on this - it is drug related. When they had a conversation with an individual from Quebec who was talking about it - he's a writer who follows drugs - he made a comment that, oh well, in the Yukon there is such and such a gang. How would he know that, Mr. Speaker?
Well, guess what, crime travels right through the country. Then there's solvent abuse. And, of course, then there's prostitution that comes along with it.
So without this kind of bill - and like the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, I worry about legislating ourselves out of existence. I tend to think that in some situations we do, but some of these situations have to be legislated. People have to have management, and neighbours have to understand that if they have something going on that they can pick up the phone and make a phone call about - that doesn't mean anybody's going to jail. That just means there is a question out there, and they see the traffic build up and what is going on. People are very observant. I mean, most people live on their block but they know what's going on in the block. So when an odd thing goes on, or an odd car pulls up or an odd fleet of cars pulls up, all of a sudden it twigs your imagination, or it twigs your interest, and you start watching that situation. Out of that grows a question. Now, I understand the third party's interest in a guy who rents a home that turns out to be one of these illegal buildings, whether it's for drugs or alcohol or prostitution - what do you do? Well, this act will put something in place that gives you some support. Now, he's looking for economic support, and I guess that's a debatable item. I'm saying just the support of being able to pick up the phone - because, again, I can't imagine the pressure on individuals who are just renting a home or renting an apartment or renting a cabin and who finds out that they're using it for illegal things, they find out who's using it, and then all of a sudden having to go to a victim.
That is a big job, and that job will not be minimized by this, and it will also give that victim - because he is a victim; he does own the home - and give him the help he needs to get rid of the tenant. Now, if somebody owns a home and carries on in a fashion, and knowingly carries on an illegal act in that house - in other words, what we talked about - at the end of the day we have something in place so we can address that issue too.
Now, in the United States, if you're caught with drugs in your possession - in your vehicle or boat or airplane - they seize the vehicle immediately. You really don't have a rebuttal. They just take it. Now, they finance a lot of their drug enforcement by auctioning off those items, but it's a pretty unbending law in the United States. If you're caught with drugs in your possession, and you're in a vehicle, it's seized; if they have reason to believe the drugs have contributed to your home - in other words, you bought an eight-bedroom home from the resources you got from drugs - that can be seized too.
Now, is that the answer? Well, not really. I think that what we have to do in our small community - and the minister went ahead and got some resources to make sure that this wasn't something that was going to be underfunded - is go ahead and get the expertise in place that this will need. It's not going to need a lot of people; it's going to need a staff of probably three or four people who will work on this and also address the issues the population is going to have out there.
I guess we'll have the people we need, but we have to make sure that the people we have are the right people. This is a form of policing. This is a form of investigation. At the end of the day they will have some people skills. These people might have a lot of friends, or there might be a noise factor. They might have a teenage child who had a very loud party. Well, there are laws for that, Mr. Speaker, but you need people skills to make sure that these people who come in to address this issue understand that there has to be communication, and there has to be that people skill that goes along with the communication.
The First Nations understand that this is very important for them, because in most of our First Nation communities the homes are owned by the First Nation. That is an issue because a lot of these communities have a shortage of homes. It's 52 below zero, and all of a sudden we have an incident where something is going on and it is proven that this is being used for these purposes, and we have an eviction. What do we do with those people? Of course the family is a different issue. In other words, there are other issues out there that we have to address. I think the director is going to get complaints. What's a legitimate complaint and what isn't? Those kinds of things are going to be done at the director level, and I imagine he will be receiving complaints on a pretty regular basis, so what is the process when you get a complaint?
You don't rush down and throw somebody on the street. What we have to do is there has to be a process. There has to be communication, whether it's by a letter or some other form, to make sure that people are being warned of what goes on.
Now, with this act - again, in a perfect world - this would be something that would be a tool, a lever per se, to straighten out incidents that are happening. Hopefully, the communities understand when they get the letter, when they get the inquiry on issues like these, and they stop what they're doing. They stop the illegal acts they're doing in the house and realize at the end of the day that the gig is up. Hopefully, on the scale of complaints - in a perfect world - that's how it would end up.
In other words, as the act says, we could contact these people, work with these people and resolve it - hopefully, by a letter to a landlord for example. I don't think anybody in here, if they were a landlord, would like their house used as haven for any illegal act. If I got a letter of complaint and was the landlord, I would be very concerned. But that landlord also has a tool. He can go back and say, “Okay, what's the reason for this communication? What was your reason for sending this communication?” and, at the end of the day, there's some support when the landlord goes to talk to the tenant - in other words, if an eviction has to happen.
So these kinds of things in a smaller community, where you have different issues from Whitehorse - you know, the drug issue, drunks, prostitution, all of these things that go hand in hand is an issue throughout the fabric of our community. At the end of the day in our smaller communities this is going to be a very, very contentious thing because we're going to have to work with them, not differently. I think the minister and his staff are going to have to look at this as sort of a pilot project in some of the communities and as an education tool, to make sure that people in the community understand what the act is about.
I know that the minister and his staff have been out and talked to the communities but it's a little different when you put the act out there. I think the next step is walking through the act with our communities, making sure that all the First Nations understand the ramifications of the act if in fact this act is triggered and it's their selected land and their communities. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin was talking about her situation in Old Crow, and again I say that Old Crow is not Whitehorse . Pelly is not Whitehorse. Ross River is not Old Crow. So we have a dynamic here that we have to go to work on and at the end of the day come up with something that we can all live with but make sure that the act is flexible enough, and as we move through the act and as we move through the communities you will find the dynamics change a bit, but at the end of the day we have to have something in place to answer these questions that are out there.
When we talk about this in the House here - and the word came from the leader of the official opposition and then our minister and everything else - we are doing this for the community. We heard this on the street. We didn't just hear it here in the House, Mr. Speaker. The people in my riding, the people on the street were asking for a tool that they could feel comfortable with to make sure that they are protected. It's our job to protect them.
In closing I would like to thank the minister. The minister went to bat for this and shepherded it through a very busy time, and of course his staff is to be commended - all the meetings he had and all the people he worked with and the insight to bring up people from other jurisdictions and the work it took to flesh out what works in the Yukon, bring this act forward and go forward on exactly that - safer communities and neighbourhoods legislation that will hopefully make our communities that much safer.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I just love those long good-byes. I'll be brief, and I just want to add a few points that perhaps haven't been made. There have been a number of very good points made this afternoon by all members who spoke. I think it's safe to say that we pretty well all see eye-to-eye on this bill. It's a good thing, because it sends the right message; it gives power to the people, and it builds safer, cleaner neighbourhoods and communities. So of course I'm speaking in support of the bill.
As someone who represents rural Yukoners, the problem this bill addresses certainly does exist across the Yukon, not just in Whitehorse. There is an aspect of it whereby this bill will apply equally to every community across the territory. That will be interesting to see how that equality is applied, because in some communities there are no RCMP stationed, and in some communities, the presence of people conducting surveillance would be noticed right away.
There are some unique challenges that face the people who will be enforcing this act, and I'm sure they're the first to realize those challenges. It will be interesting to see how the enforcement of this act does unfold in the months and years ahead.
Certainly it acts as a deterrent to existing houses that perpetrate illegal activities, as well as to people who want to move in to our Yukon neighbourhoods to do the same. It helps to clean up the neighbourhoods and evict people who are breaking the law. I think what else needs to be said here is that society must recognize it needs the capacity to help the people evicted to find the right path in life. A lot of them are good people who just took a step backward or sideways and found themselves on the wrong path. Society has a role to play in helping those people get back on the right track and recover from their problems and challenges and turn themselves into people who contribute to society, rather than detract from it. Otherwise, we are only dealing with part of the problem.
Of course, trying to rehabilitate people who are evicted certainly would require more resources being applied toward drug counselling and treatment, to name a couple of the primary areas. Aftercare, education and prevention are all important aspects.
I want to thank the departmental officials who worked on this bill and gave us the briefings and responded to our questions. I think we asked some quite good questions. It might have gotten a little intense at times, but we wanted to test the soundness of this bill with the officials. I think it's safe to say they passed the test. As far as the mechanics of the bill go, I personally don't have difficulties with it. It will be interesting to see what issues come up when we go into Committee on this bill.
So I want to thank those officials. During the briefing, one other matter that came up was the need for the Yukon government to address another piece of legislation that really dovetails into this area quite a bit, and that's the Landlord and Tenant Act. This is something I identified last year in this House, Mr. Speaker. I speak both as a landlord and as a tenant, and I can tell you there are deficiencies on both sides with respect to that act. This is not just my opinion. I've talked to people who work with the act and other tenants and other landlords. There is a general feeling that this act is archaic, and there are all kinds of ways to improve it. I was hoping this government would have gotten around to updating that act by now, especially since it really dovetails into this area to a great extent.
When it comes time for a future government to amend the Landlord and Tenant Act, I do have a suggestion. I don't think it should be done just by whoever happens to be in government at the time. I think a committee should be struck very similar to the committee that was struck to amend the Municipal Act. The name of that committee was MARC. It was the Municipal Act Review Committee. I think, more specifically, a committee can be comprised of people from one end of the spectrum to the other, people from the business community and people who represent poor and needy families and tenants and that sort of thing - include everybody. Get all the best ideas in. The departmental people can see what exists in other jurisdictions. Let's try to be creative as well. I will get back to that aspect in just a moment.
I'll be looking forward to the day when that other primary piece of legislation is dealt with.
As has been mentioned, this bill originated from other provinces. That's fine; this is the easy way to do it - just tailor it a bit for its applicability here in our territory. It's a good idea. Why not? But it raised the question: if the need existed here, why didn't we create this bill ourselves?
The Yukon is full of creative people; we know that. We also know that necessity is the mother of invention. So, if there indeed was a real need here, why wasn't this invented before by Yukoners? Does our system not provide for that type of creativity when it comes to legislation? I think that is a question we have to wrestle with. Perhaps there is an opportunity for government to do something to foster this type of creativity.
Now, in Canada , similar jurisdictions like the Yukon Territory have historically been experimental labs for undertakings that include programs, initiatives, policies, laws, et cetera and, if successful, they are then applied in broader jurisdictions. I will give an example: many community initiatives have been developed in small jurisdictions like the Yukon. When successful, they are applied on a larger scale, even nationally. I think the land claims process is probably the biggest example we can point to, where it was incubated in the territory, fully developed and applied, and then other territories used that template. Now it is being used in other provinces.
I know, from attending meetings in Haines Junction in recent years, there are similar programs under smaller communities' initiatives and so on that have been developed and test-driven in the Yukon, if you will, and that are now being applied elsewhere in Canada.
It makes me wonder what other needs there are out there. Are there inventions waiting for discovery? Well, of course there are. Sometimes, those inventions are created at the political level; sometimes, they're created at the departmental level; sometimes, they're created by other agencies on the front line, such as the RCMP, and perhaps people such as social workers and so on - there are also private citizens and organizations. All those people and groups come into contact, on pretty well a daily basis, with issues and people who have needs. I call upon everyone to try to identify those needs and be creative, in terms of inventing solutions.
After all, we all love the Yukon Territory - otherwise I presume we wouldn't be here - and it's a way we can all contribute to make it a better place.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I am very pleased to speak in support of this bill. I would also like to commend all those who spoke in favour of this bill. I'd especially like to commend those who attended public meetings on public safety - not only on this particular issue but other issues related to making our communities safer.
It's an important bill for the Yukon, because it recognizes the problem in the Yukon. It recognizes the problem throughout the Yukon - not just in Whitehorse but as the member opposite said, it identifies it in the rural areas. As he indicated also, there will be a bit of a challenge in some of the smaller communities when it comes to this. The independent member also came up with solutions that his community was coming up with when dealing with it, and I think that they were kind of unique. So, that may be one issue of how they can deal with that in a smaller community.
I believe that it's really about the community coming together and being able to address the situation directly themselves. I also believe this is another very important tool for the local RCMP to address the situation - something they aren't able to do currently. I believe this bill will really enable them to come forth in that particular venue.
This bill is really about caring for the neighbourhood. It's also about caring for children. It's caring for our youth, for the prevention of addiction, prostitution, alcoholism, et cetera.
It's really about the community having the ability to take action against drug dealers, pimps, and all those involved in illegal activity, shall we say. I think that it's a very important bill in that manner, because it does get us back to protecting our children and our youth as well as providing some important protection for those who can't protect themselves, as the member opposite indicated.
The main focus of this is driven by a complaint or a concern from a community member with regard to activities going on in his or her community. It provides for protection of that individual when they make their concerns known to the director because, quite often in these cases where, for example, a neighbour is aware of the situation, the proponent of the illegal activities is usually someone who is very intimidating. There may not be an opportunity normally for a neighbour to make a complaint about the person next door. I believe this legislation allows that to take place, and as my colleagues stated earlier, the director will follow that process through in ensuring that the appropriate action takes place and justice can be forthcoming.
I am very encouraged by the representatives from Manitoba and Saskatchewan who indicated that, in very few cases, they have to take the action right to court. From my recollection, in Manitoba there was only one particular case, and in Saskatchewan I believe there was one also.
In essence, many of these situations are resolved once the owner of the facility is made aware of the situation and action is usually taken, and we are able to resolve the situation to the benefit of all members of the community in question.
I am very much looking forward to this legislation going forward. As members indicated, I am looking forward to the implementation and enforcement of the program. Like the members opposite indicated, I believe it is an important aspect. We will have to follow through to ensure we get the product at the end. The product is satisfaction for those who make the complaint with regard to their concern - whether it's concern for themselves, their children, or their neighbour.
The other aspect I think will be important for us on this issue is dealing with the children of the people who are performing the illegal activity, because they are not, shall we say, directly involved. They are there because they are the children of those people. We will have to look at ways to assist in taking care of those children. That is something that is going to be under the process. We will be looking at all kinds of ways to assist those children and look after them.
In essence, those are the bigger plans. One of the key ideas, I think, that I'll look for is providing an opportunity for us to provide education for all Yukoners to look after their own personal security, look for ways in which they can take care of themselves - making sure that they lock their house, lock their car, making sure they walk down the street, making sure they know where they're going, making sure somebody knows where they're going, and also looking at ways to improve our home security. Mr. Speaker, as you know, we had several meetings in our constituency with regard to home security, as well as security for our youth in that particular area. I am also looking at the great opportunity that this would provide for further education in our community for ensuring that your kids are safe, ensuring that you know that your kids understand what they have to do if they are approached by somebody, what we have to do to protect our children, ensuring that they understand, for example, what they should do - that they should travel with friends, they know how to talk to adults other than us. I think that those are important items. I think these are issues and this legislation will allow us to get closer to providing that education for greater safety in our community.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you and I look forward to the bill.
Ms. Duncan: It's a pleasure to rise in debate this afternoon, and it's always an honour to rise on behalf of the people of Porter Creek South.
The debate this afternoon has been a very good one, Mr. Speaker, and I'm sure you've enjoyed it as well. It's been - dare I say - a refreshing change from some of our debates in this House. Nobody has been blamed 180 percent for anything this afternoon and a lot of credit has been given where credit is due, and I appreciate that. I appreciate the work of all members - the leader of the official opposition in encouraging a public debate and other members who have held public debates in their ridings.
Members this afternoon have spoken about their communities and the impact of illegal activities in their communities, and I'd like to speak about my community. One of my first acts as a member of the Legislature and even as a candidate was to attend a formation committee for Neighbourhood Watch in the riding of Porter Creek South.
Over the course of my terms in office, I've worked with a single mother who has come to me who had a child with a substance abuse issue. This mother and child were non-First Nation. It was very, very difficult to find any help for that child, and we're still short in programming for children with substance abuse issues.
I've had meetings with residents, with the Porter Creek school council, with the administration at Porter Creek high school, and with neighbours around the issue of misuse of the Porter Creek school grounds in the summertime, in particular - squealing tires, loud parties, loud youth, the exuberance of youth in the neighbourhood.
The RCMP were also involved in that meeting, and we have worked together and the Government of Yukon officials and Department of Education staff have - the Government of Yukon has worked very hard to ensure that our schools and our school grounds are safe all year and that we minimize the impact and minimize the misuse of the school grounds. We have worked together as a community. I would be remiss if I didn't mention such individuals and organizations as Citizens on Patrol and the auxiliary members of the RCMP. All these community-minded individuals have ensured that we have tried to lessen the impact and try to deal with the infamous bush parties that happen as spring arrives - so we've seen some of those activities arise as well.
Bush parties have been a fact of life in the Yukon for a long time. However, it's a far, far more dangerous concept than it was many years ago. I'm not condoning this behaviour, but it occurs and it is something we need to deal with, and it is a dangerous situation. As bush parties have been around for a long time, so have drugs in the Yukon Territory .
I've had occasion several times since January to go to Alaska for one reason or another. In January, I picked up a copy of the Juneau Empire and the Capital City Weekly, which is southeast Alaska 's largest distributed community paper - the January 18 to 24 edition. I don't want to quote at length without providing all members with the document. There are two articles in these newspapers that I provided to the Minister of Justice as well as the leader of the official opposition that made reference to drug use. I would be happy to give members a copy, but I would just like to highlight two points.
I was speaking about drugs in the Yukon and how they had been around for a very long time, and this article in the Juneau Empire noted that Governor Frank Murkowski was working on a bill in the Senate to overthrow a 31-year-old court precedent to allow marijuana in the home for personal use. The reason he brought forward a bill to try to deal with this long-standing precedent was to curb home laboratory productions of methamphetamines.
The second article talks about the meth epidemic in southeast Alaska - this is our neighbour. In 2004, the Alaska Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Enforcement seized 62 methamphetamine labs in Alaska. That's a very high number.
Drug availability and substance abuse in the Yukon scares the - I'm going to delete the unparliamentary word - out of all of us, me in particular, not only as a member of this Legislature - because I care very much about the community, as all of us do - but I am a mom as well. We try as hard as we possibly can to protect our children from everything and to help our children, to guide them and encourage them to make the right choices. All of us, as mothers and fathers, listen and talk to our children. There isn't a parent out there who doesn't do their absolute level best. Even sometimes our level best isn't good enough. That's when we have to try harder and harder.
It's not just our own children - we've passed laws, we work as a community. There is an old, I believe it's an African saying, about how it takes a village to raise a child. It takes a community to stand up and say that enough is enough. We do not want drugs in our community. We want to help people who have substance abuse issues and we do not want the drugs. We want to close the drug houses.
This legislation is about making our communities safer. All of us who grew up in the Yukon , and those who are still growing up in the Yukon , recognize it as a safe community. We want it to be safe for our children and our grandchildren, and this is a powerful piece of legislation; it's a good piece of legislation. I am proud to join with all members in supporting it. It's one tool in a toolbox.
I would also like to take a brief moment and commend the community members who aren't necessarily in the public eye but who have gone and sought out another tool to deal with substance abuse, in particular in our schools. Residents of Porter Creek have lobbied together and sought out the program - dogs for drug-free schools - from Alberta and brought the model up here on their own initiative and are working to see it implemented. They're working with the government to dedicate the resources that are necessary to it to ensure that it's put in place. I'd like to compliment them on their community activity and activism, and express my support again for that program. I was not able to attend the public meeting; however, I was please to help facilitate the visit of the handler for the dog, Fiddler, and bringing the program example to the Legislature.
I was pleased to support that initiative. I am very pleased to support this legislation. It doesn't end here. It doesn't end with our vote on this legislation. With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, we will ask and ensure, as all members will, that the government must now put the resources to make sure it's in place. It's not good enough to pass the legislation. We have to walk the talk, put the money where it's needed and ensure the resources are in place. And we will certainly be asking the questions in the Department of Justice debate to ensure that those resources are put in place to support this legislation.
Motion to adjourn debate
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in the interest of ensuring the participation of all members in this debate that is particularly important to the future of the Yukon and the safety of our communities, I would move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: The Member for Porter Creek South has moved that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 67 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Cathers: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Tuesday.
The House adjourned at 5:35 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 13, 2006 :
Order-in-Council 2005/218, An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements and First Nations ( Yukon) Self-Government Act (dated December 15, 2005 ) and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation Final Agreement (Edzerza)
Carcross-Tagish First Nation Self-Government Agreement (Edzerza)
The following document was filed April 13, 2006 :
Quarry Pit (Km 49 Silver Trail): letter re (dated July 16, 2004) to C. & I. Construction from Lyle Henderson, Director, Lands Branch ( Yukon) (Jenkins)