Community groups lay down priorities for new government

After the Yukon Liberals’ victory last week, non-profit and community groups are hoping the new government will consult them to work on some of the territories’ most pressing social issues.

After the Yukon Liberals’ victory last week, non-profit and community groups are hoping the new government will consult them to work on some of the territories’ most pressing social issues.

“We aren’t looking for quick fixes but good fixes,” Kristina Craig, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition’s coordinator, told the News on November 8th.

“In the short term the priority for the government is to take some time to learn the ins and outs of some of these issues.”

On top of working with their respective departments, Craig said it’s crucial for MLAs to collaborate with groups like hers who work on the ground and know first-hand what the situation is like.

The new government will have to deal with issues around high housing and food costs in the territory.

Craig said she hopes the government “will take a good long look” at how to reduce the cost of living in Whitehorse.

In June, the Anti-Poverty Coalition released its estimate of a $19.12-per-hour living wage.

The wage is calculated based on what a family requires to meet its basic needs, once government transfers and deductions have been taken into account.

On the issue of food security, Craig wants the new government to continue the work done on access and cost. The Yukon government released a food strategy last year, but it didn’t come with any funding, Craig said.

The territory is also grappling with high rates of addiction, especially to alcohol.

Emily Jones, acting director for Blood Ties Four Directions, wants the new government to look at the services offered for people suffering from both addiction and mental health issues.

“If someone had psychosis and addiction, they can’t receive treatment here,” Jones cited as an example.

“They’re often sent to B.C. which is taking them out of their home, their community.”

Because of the high rates of alcoholism in the territory, Jones said the government should look at a harm reduction approach, including monitored doses of alcohol.

“The only treatment available (here)… is abstinence-based programs,” she said.

The current model that requires people to stay sober first doesn’t work, she said.

“We have a huge alcohol issue,” she said. “And people are dying because of it.”

The government should also look at housing-first initiatives, Jones said.

Housing-first approaches provide temporary housing to people in need without requiring them to be sober. The idea is to provide a stable environment to start dealing with their own issues.

Blood Ties ran a housing-first program, the Steve Cardiff house, that had to shut down this fall because they couldn’t find new land to put the house on.

But the program proved successful, Jones said.

Like Craig, Jones hopes the Liberals will continue the work the previous government did when it comes to consulting local groups.

On the language side, l’Association franco-yukonnaise (AFY) hopes to meet with premier-designate Sandy Silver in the coming weeks.

During the campaign, the Liberals committed to building the French high school, which the Yukon Party government had started, AFY president Angelique Bernard said.

AFY also asked that the new government look at providing more mental health services in French by creating a bilingual health centre.

“Mental (health) is a big issue in any language,” she said. “If you want services in French, sometimes the wait list is twice as long (as in English).”

Bernard made a point of thanking Elaine Taylor, the outgoing Yukon Party minister responsible for the French Language Services Directorate, for her “tremendous support” to the community.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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