This is page numbers 495 - 544 of the Hansard for the 15th Assembly, 6th 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 going.

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Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Brendan Bell Yellowknife South

I am pleased to come before Committee of the Whole to discuss Bill 7, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act. This legislation has received an extensive public review. Literally hundreds of NWT residents participated in the standing committee's public review and prior to that in the department's consultations. I think that this level of interest reflects a concern shared by residents throughout the territory about the kind and level of illegal activities harming our communities. By listening to residents' concerns, we can develop solutions that truly address their needs.

The Standing Committee on Social Programs has made a number of important observations regarding this bill, and I thank the committee for its thoughtful consideration of the issues. Members have recommended additional safeguards, and I am prepared to introduce five motions to amend this bill to do just that.

The first motion would automatically freeze a community safety order on an application by a tenant of a residential property to vary the order. This would allow occupants to stay in the property until the application was heard.

The second motion would ensure that when the director applies to court for a community safety order, the tenants or occupants would also receive a copy of the application. This notice would be in addition to any warnings they would receive as part of the informal process. This change reinforces the protections that are already available under the Rules of Court and ensure they have the ability to make their case in open court.

The third motion would allow a community safety order to be appealed on grounds other than a point of law. This provides additional protection for the occupants of the property.

The fourth motion would allow the director to seek a court order if information critical to the investigation is not provided.

The first and last motion would remove the penalties for members of the public who refuse to provide information to the director as part of a SCAN investigation.

These motions help to balance the rights of residents who may be afraid to give information with the needs of the investigator to collect information essential to the investigation.

These motions address concerns the standing committee has raised about the legislation. They strengthen the bill and provide additional protection for people who are affected by these destructive activities.

I think every Member of this Legislative Assembly is aware of drug houses, illegal gambling and bootlegging operations in his or her constituency. These operations disrupt community life and create unsafe situations for everyone who lives there. This government has often been asked to shut these operations down. SCAN is a way to do that, but it would only apply to properties where the illegal activity was ongoing and disruptive to the neighbourhood or community.

Madam Chair, safer communities legislation is in effect in Yukon, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia. Newfoundland has just passed a similar bill into law, and in Alberta a similar bill is at second reading. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. After a safer communities office is opened, investigators are able to move quickly to shut down problem properties. People often write to the SCAN investigators, their elected officials and even their local newspapers to say that they are relieved that something has finally been done to stop the activities affecting their neighbourhood. If we want a northern example, we have only to look to our Yukon neighbours. In the first seven months of operation, about 100 residents placed complaints with the office and actions were taken to stop disruptive activities at 20 properties. No applications for community safety orders were made.

As indicated in standing committee's report, questions still remain on how this legislation can and should work in NWT communities. These include:

  • • What will happen to families if the primary breadwinner is evicted?
  • • How will this program work with other social services and supports? With the RCMP?
  • • How will SCAN work in our smaller communities?
  • • How will the staffing model be developed? Can we consider a regionally-based, decentralized model?
  • • Will there be a toll-free number for people to use?
  • • What involvement will justice committees have?
  • • Will the Supreme Court travel to communities to hear applications for community safety orders? Will it hear applications by teleconference?

These are important questions that need to be answered as we develop the program. The bill provides the legislative framework for implementation, but it does not include these details of implementation. Extensive discussions need to take place with government departments, social agencies and local leadership. These details will take about a year to work through and would include developing policies and protocols with other agencies, producing communications materials, and hiring staff.

Education is also essential. It is clear there are still misconceptions about this new tool. I have addressed some of these in the document I tabled yesterday. The public needs to know how this legislation will work in their communities.

This bill provides the necessary legislative framework for the next critical steps to be taken. It provides the next government with the opportunity to decide what those steps will be.

It is my hope that the NWT will join the five other jurisdictions in introducing safer communities legislation. Like them, I believe it can be an effective part of the GNWT's effort to make communities safer places for everyone. I believe it is important to have the tools to take action against habitual destructive activities that undermine other efforts to achieve our goal of healthy, safe and vibrant communities. This new tool would be added to the actions we are already taking in partnership with other departments, agencies and communities to tackle these serious issues.

I would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have. Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you, Minister Bell. There will be no response from the Standing Committee on Social Programs as the report from the standing committee is already before the House. At this time, I will ask Minister Bell if he has witnesses he would like to bring into the Chamber. Minister Bell.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Brendan Bell Yellowknife South

I do, Madam Chair. Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Does committee agree?

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you. I will ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to please escort the witnesses to the table.

Minister Bell, for the record, could you please introduce your witnesses?

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

August 22nd, 2007

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Brendan Bell Yellowknife South

Thank you, Madam Chair. With me is Janice Laycock and Janis Cooper, Department of Justice. Thank you.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you, Minister Bell. At this time I will ask the committee if there are any general comments.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Clause by clause.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Bill 7, Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, interpretation, clause 1.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Clause 2.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Clause 3.

Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.