Horne proposes victims’ rights bill

The territory is preparing a new law to help victims of crime, Justice Minister Marian Horne announced Thursday. The law would serve as a "bill of rights" for victims, said Horne.

The territory is preparing a new law to help victims of crime, Justice Minister Marian Horne announced Thursday.

The law would serve as a “bill of rights” for victims, said Horne. Among other things, it would ensure victims are aware of when abusers are released from prison, put on parole, or during temporary absences.

The law would also “codify” relationships between the department and other agencies, such as the RCMP, to ensure the smooth flow of information, said spokesperson Dan Cable.

The Yukon is the only jurisdiction in Canada without such a law, said Horne.

A draft law is to be released for public consultation this autumn, she said. Legislation would be tabled in the legislature in the spring of 2010 at the earliest, she said.

The draft law is Horne’s “number one” priority of tasks described in “Moving forward together: a victims of crime strategy,” released Thursday.

The 12-page paper is pretty thin gruel. It mostly promises that the Justice Department will continue to do what it’s already doing.

But, aside from the victims-of-crime law, it proposes the Justice Department produce two new pilot projects.

One, aimed at “higher-risk offenders,” would “include a focus on the victim’s needs, safety and voice in the case management process.”

This support “could be anything,” said Cable.

“It could be housing. It could be sufficient money to feed them,” he said.

The other, a “family reconciliation pilot program,” aims to help victims who have returned to living with their abusers.

Horne acknowledged that victims in rural communities sometimes face pressure to not report spousal abuse to police, but she said that partnerships with First Nations and other types of community outreach could improve the situation.

“There’s something wrong. That’s why we’re working on the strategy,” said Horne.

There’s no quick solution to these problems, said Leah White, co-ordinator for victim services, but “we can offer support.”

Yukon’s violent-crime rate is more than one and a half times that found in Saskatchewan, which ranks as Canada’s most violent province, according to a 2006 Statistics Canada study. Nine per cent of Yukoners reported themselves to be victims of spousal abuse in the study.

However, the territory’s violent-crime rate remains less than half of that found in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Justice’s new strategy will be used to create an implementation plan. It’s unclear when the plan will be released.

“We’ll have more information on this in the fall,” said Cable.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.