This is page numbers 793 - 819 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 7th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was services.

Topics

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Tony Whitford

Thank you. Mr. Minister.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Don Morin Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'd like to thank the Members of the Legislative Assembly for passing the budget and I would like to thank the Housing Corporation staff for putting the budget together. Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Minister and thank you, witnesses, for assisting the committee in this matter.

Department Of Justice

Now we shall move to the Department of Justice. Is the honourable Minister Kakfwi prepared to make some opening comments? HON. STEPHEN KAKFWI: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Tony Whitford

Proceed.

Minister's Introductory Remarks

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to present the Department of Justice budget for consideration by the committee. Members will note that there is an overall increase of $5.211 million from the original 1994-95 main estimates. Almost all of the increase relates to forced growth, particularly within the areas of policing and corrections. The pressure has not allowed for the inclusion of any new initiatives within the Department of Justice.

This budget has been a most challenging one to develop as significant demands continue to be placed on the justice system. At the same time, there are few resources available to support rising costs. The major emphasis recently has been placed on exploring new ways to develop services that will have a positive impact on society. An example of this is the creation of the envelope committee process.

The social envelope committee, as has been discussed with Members, has allowed for an opportunity to improve communication and working together on areas of common interest. This harmonization should not only improve efficiencies and economies, but also improve the level of service in meeting the needs and expectations of the residents of the Northwest Territories. We need to work more effectively with what we have collectively. There are strong indications we may have less to collectively work with in the not-too-distant future.

With respect to forced growth, the restoration of appropriate funding levels to the RCMP is a priority. Events over the last years have demonstrated the limitations of the existing ability of the RCMP to respond to current operational demands. This was an area of significant concern to Members in the fall of last year. Members will recall the RCMP presentation that was given to members on RCMP health and safety issues. The need to restore RCMP resource levels to the "base level" contemplated in the RCMP contract is clear.

There are other initiatives ongoing which could affect the policing budget and how services are delivered. There are two pilot projects under way, one in Coral Harbour and one in Fort Good Hope. These projects depend on local community members, trained by the RCMP, to assist the RCMP in carrying out their policing duties. A related initiative being negotiated with the federal government is the First Nations community policing initiative. This program requires greater participation at the community level in the expectations of policing services in the community.

In the area of the provision of legal aid, there is growing pressure to open a legal aid clinic in Inuvik to service the Gwich'in area. The legal services board has approved this initiative and it makes good sense, both fiscally and from a service delivery perspective, to open a clinic. At the same time, despite many efforts to control costs, additional resources are needed to cover the costs of legal aid services to clients.

Increased funding is needed to sustain the existing operations with the court system. The needs of the courts are not controllable, at least over the short term. For the medium and longer term, means to streamline the existing court process are being explored. Ways to reduce or eliminate unnecessary work and control costs generally, are under active discussion with all interested parties, including the police, the judiciary and prosecutions. Also being discussed are the implications of expanding the role of the justices of the peace court. Most importantly, significant partnerships are emerging in relation to community justice initiatives, with linkages to the community wellness initiative. These partnerships could, over the long term, help control the escalation of court-related costs.

Our objective, realistically, is to work towards trying to make sure things don't get worse. There is some potential for reductions, but only if the community significantly buys into a process for change. The funding in corrections is needed to sustain existing conventional correctional facilities at acceptable levels.

Members will recall discussions during the review of capital estimates about the intention to move towards a community-based facility model. This will be the most significant step towards achieving increased aboriginal responsibility for justice administration in the north. Communities have consistently indicated that dealing with offenders is where the most significant community contribution can be made. The government is still very committed to this course. However, institutional responses will remain appropriate for many inmates.

A review of the corrections program has now been initiated to address the most appropriate mix of resources between existing conventional facilities and new community-based initiatives. This will be done simultaneously with preliminary work commencing on establishing the community-based initiatives.

The intent of this approach is that offenders would remain part of the community, and the community would share in the responsibility of teaching them how to learn more appropriate behaviours. Where possible, facilities and programs developed under this initiative will be broadly designed to address the needs of people in conflict with the law, with their communities and with themselves. This, hopefully, will result in a positive approach to respond to communities that have expressed interest in multiple use for facilities and programs.

Expenditure reductions proposed the following total $224,000.

Under the criminal injuries compensation program, compensation is paid to individuals who have been victims of criminal acts. The program was initiated 20 years ago on the instigation of the federal government. It was set up on a cost-shared basis. Three years ago, the federal government unilaterally withdrew its funding from this program right across

the country. Since that time, some other jurisdictions have decided to cancel their programs.

Under the circumstances, I feel I have no option but to recommend this program be cancelled. This cancellation will require an amendment to the Criminal Compensation Act.

Current recipients of periodic payments would continue to be paid. Outstanding applications and applications received up until the effective cancellation of the program would be dealt with in the regular manner.

The funds at issue with respect to the interpreters training program are Vote 1 funds. These have been specifically budgeted in support of the Vote 4 court interpreter training budget that has recently been significantly reduced by the federal government.

With respect to resources for the implementation of the community wellness initiative, there are no new resources specifically labelled "community wellness" in this document. However, there are resources within the department -- in particular, resources devoted to community justice -- directly related to wellness. The approach underlying community justice, that of supporting communities in assuming responsibility and devising their own solutions to problems, is exactly the approach of the wellness initiative.

Further, the proposed community action fund, previously discussed with members of the social envelope committee, would be established to respond to the need to provide resources to community-initiated projects. It is significant that the members of the social envelope committee are proposing the creation of a single fund that could fund projects as diverse as school-linked early intervention services for children on one hand, and family violence specific initiatives on the other. The common characteristic of the projects would be that they are both the result of a specific community identifying their own specific priorities for their community. This is an approach that I support.

This approach holds the most promise for turning things around. We are satisfied that community action is the key to reducing the numbers of people going through the justice system. Our goal is to develop community partnerships that will reduce the threat of continued forced growth in this area.

The Department of Justice is actively working in concert with other departments within the social envelope and with other organizations, to develop common approaches to dealing with social problems, to eliminate artificial barriers and, as much as possible, move increased responsibility into the hands of communities who demonstrate the desire and capacity to undertake a measure of control that has been, over the years, removed from them.

Mr. Chairman, I invite Members of this committee to examine in detail the 1995-96 budget of the Department of Justice, and I will answer any questions with the support of my staff. Thank you.

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Minister, for your opening comments. Does the Standing Committee on Finance

have some opening remarks? The chair recognizes the Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Antoine.

Standing Committee On Finance Comments

Bill 1: Appropriation Act, No. 2, 1995-96Committee Report 4-12(7): Report On The Review Of The 1995-96 Main Estimates
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Victims And Offenders

The key issue noted by committee Members in the review of this department was the apparent relative priorities of victims of crime and criminal offenders. The total spending on correctional centres and young offenders' facilities in 1995-96 is budgeted to increase more than 10 per cent from the 1994-95. Yet spending to assist victims of crime and those injured by criminal acts is being reduced due to the planned elimination of the criminal injuries compensation program.

The standing committee is concerned that these proposed changes give northerners the wrong message. The implication is that criminals are more important than victims; an implication strengthened by the observation that the total budgeted for victims' assistance in 1995-96 is less than two per cent of the expenditures budgeted for correctional centres and young offenders' facilities.

Committee Members feel that the Justice department has to re-evaluate its priorities. It is very expensive to imprison offenders; therefore, the department should be making every effort to use alternatives to imprisonment where possible. When the standing committee visited Iqaluit in September 1994, committee Members visited the Isumaqsunngittukkuvik Young Offenders Facility there, and also visited with local residents who provide on-the- land programs for young offenders. Members noted that the land-based programs were much less expensive on a per-offender basis, yet appeared to be more effective in rehabilitating young offenders and preventing them from offending again. This reinforces the idea that community-based solutions in the justice system are generally preferable to institutional solutions. While there are some offenders who must be imprisoned to protect the public, there are many more who will benefit more from rehabilitative community-based solutions than from southern-style jails. The committee prefers to see initiatives such as the plans for community-based corrections project that should help rehabilitate offenders, in their own communities where possible, and in a less expensive and more effective manner than in traditional correctional centres.

The proposed increase in funding to correctional centres and secure young offenders facilities is particularly upsetting when contrasted with the cuts in funding to assist victims. The committee feels strongly that the department must reassess the relative priorities of victims and offenders in their estimates.

Mr. Chairman, I have a recommendation here and a motion, at this time.

Committee Motion 34-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 5, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

April 4th, 1995

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Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee recommends that the Department of Justice reallocate $300,000 in expenditures within the community justice and corrections activity, from correctional centres and young offenders facilities to the victims' assistance task; and further, that the funding for victims' assistance be integrated into the community wellness strategy. Thank you.

Committee Motion 34-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 5, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Antoine. There is a motion on the floor. The motion is in order. To the motion.

Committee Motion 34-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 5, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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An Hon. Member

Question.

Committee Motion 34-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 5, Carried
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The Chair Tony Whitford

Question has been called. The chair does not recognize a quorum. I shall ring the bell. The chair now recognizes a quorum. We have a motion on the floor. Question has been called. All those in favour of the motion, please signify. All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Thank you. Mr. Antoine.

Committee Motion 34-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 5, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. A related issue is the department's recent announcement which suggests that a new facility for violent young offenders -- a subject of a committee recommendation -- will be built in Inuvik. Committee Members were surprised at this announcement. When the standing committee recommended that the department consider such a facility, they assumed that the department would appreciate the need for adequate support services to be available. Violent young offenders often have significant problems, such as: alcohol and drug abuse; sexual, physical or emotional abuse; psychological or psychiatric disorders; or learning disabilities. Effective rehabilitation will not occur without the resources necessary to address these problems being available to those in the facility. If such a facility is to be built, the department has to ensure that the necessary resources will be available in the NWT to assist the clients of that facility.

Committee Motion 35-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 6, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Jim Antoine Nahendeh

Mr. Chairman, I have another motion here. I move that the committee recommends the Department of Justice evaluate the availability of psychological, psychiatric, alcohol and drug treatment, and counselling services for any proposed facility for violent young offenders in the NWT; and further, that the department submit a report on the availability of these services for such a facility to the Standing Committee on Finance of the 13th Legislative Assembly, prior to consideration of the department's capital plan during the review of the 1996-97 capital estimates.

Committee Motion 35-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 6, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Antoine. I have a motion on the floor. The motion is in order. To the motion. The chair recognizes the Member for Inuvik, Mr. Koe.

Committee Motion 35-12(7): To Adopt Recommendation 6, Carried
Item 19: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Fred Koe Inuvik

The preamble to the motion says that a new facility for violent young offenders will be built in Inuvik and then, the indication in the preamble is that these services are not available within Inuvik, from what I see here. I would just like to comment that for any facility, wherever they go, these things have to be done. So I am going to vote for the motion because it calls for an evaluation; but, for the record, I would like to assure Members that there are alcohol and drug counsellors, there are family violence counsellors, there are very adequate health and social service organizations in Inuvik that would support any correctional facility that would be built in Inuvik. Thank you.