Changes would help grieving families: minister

The Yukon government wants to make it easier for grieving loved ones to receive financial damages when a family member is killed.

The Yukon government wants to make it easier for grieving loved ones to receive financial damages when a family member is killed.

Public comments are being accepted on proposed amendments to the territory’s Fatal Accidents Act.

Changes to the legislation would allow families to also seek compensation for grief and loss when a close family member is killed and another person is at fault because of a wrongful act, neglect or default.

The Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions in the country that allows damages for out-of-pocket expenses only, according to the Department of Justice. This means things like funeral costs.

If the changes are approved, the Yukon would be the first territory to have this type of legislation.

“As a parent myself, I couldn’t imagine getting that phone call (when a child is killed) and I can only imagine that I won’t want to even be close to work. I would need time to recover from such an event,” said Justice Minister Mike Nixon.

“With our legislation, it’s similar to British Columbia, N.W.T. and Nunavut, the only cost that can be recovered are expenses. I don’t think our current legislation gives families the right amount of time to heal from such a loss.”

Suing someone civilly is an expensive option, Nixon said.

“A family that lost a child in an accident needs to go find a lawyer, pay $20,000 for a lawyer to go to court and hopefully recover the cost not just from the legal but anything additional.”

According to a discussion paper prepared by the Department of Justice, there are two common approaches to bereavement damages in Canada.

The first approach requires relatives to testify in front a judge. Then damages are left up to the court.

The other option, “which the Department of Justice is examining closely,” according to the discussion paper, is to make damages a fixed amount once fault has been established.

“This would spare family members the distress of having to give evidence of their grief in court, while still providing fair compensation,” the officials write.

In most cases, damages are paid for by the wrongdoer’s insurance.

The Yukon public is being asked to comment on the two options. The fixed amount being suggested is payments of $75,000 for a spouse of the deceased, $75,000 for a parent or guardian and $45,000 for each child, according to the government’s comment form.

Or those numbers could be adjusted.

Benefits could also be extended to family members, such as siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, step-relatives, aunts and uncles.

Nixon said he has no personal preference as to which option is used.

“I think that’s why we want to put this out to a public process. So we can talk to people, talk to organizations to get their input on this.”

The public can submit comments, either by email or regular mail, before March 1.

More information and a comment form can be found on the Department of Justice website.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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