Inmates may see human rights commission as last resort: Nixon

Yukon's minister of justice says he has no problem with inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre going to the human rights commission with complaints.

Yukon’s minister of justice says he has no problem with inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre going to the human rights commission with complaints.

That’s at odds with a position previously staked out by his department officials.

They have said that the Yukon Human Rights Commission can’t investigate several complaints launched by inmates at the facility. The department insists that its own internal procedures are able to handle any inmate concerns.

Minister Mike Nixon had declined interviews on the subject. But, when he was approached by a reporter at a constituency barbecue yesterday evening, he offered his comments.

“We’re having a legal look at the legislation right now and it seems a bit unclear whether that’s actually a step in there.”

Weeks ago, the Department of Justice issued a statement saying it believed the Yukon Human Rights Commission does not have the jurisdiction to investigate complaints where the law provides for another review or grievance process.

In the case of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, that’s the investigations and Standards Office, or ISO. The same statement went on to suggest people unhappy with a decision by the ISO could go to the ombudsperson or the courts for a judicial review.

Nixon said department lawyers are currently looking at the legislation to come up with some clarity.

“We are taking a look at the legislation, the wording, what it says and what it means.”

Nixon said it’s important that inmates take all the steps in the process, including going to the ISO, before going to the commission. If they’ve exhausted all of those steps and there’s no resolution, Nixon says he has “no problem with them going to the human rights commission.”

“We’re all human beings. Regardless of the fact of where we are, whether we’re living in the Yukon or Ontario or in a correctional facility or a child in a government group home, there are processes for everyone,” he said.

“We work in government, we need to go through the process of talking to management and going through the steps before talking to an ombudsman. It’s the same process for the human rights commission in a correctional facility.”

Documents suggest there have been multiple human rights complaints filed against the jail. Neither the government nor the Human Rights Commission is saying how many complaints have been made.

Both sides are also quiet about whether the inmates who have made human rights complaints first tried to go through the jail’s internal complaint system.

The only complaint that has been made public is that of Michael Nehass.

Nehass was brought naked to a video court appearance, shackled and pinned to the floor by jail guards.

His father has since filed a human rights complaint, alleging that his son has been kept in solitary confinement for 28 months.

The Department of Justice denies that claim.

Another politician at the barbecue was Premier Darrell Pasloski, who dodged a question about whether MLA Darius Elias was sanctioned by the Yukon Party for violating its code of ethics after he pleaded guilty to refusing a breathalyzer in May.

“I think you have to ask the party that question. I mean, that’s what we have a party and a president for,” he said.

“What we’ve said, Darius has said he’s got a problem, and he’s seeking help, and he’s asking for patience. And what the caucus has said is he’s getting help and we support him and that hasn’t changed.”

Elias was originally pulled over for talking on a cell phone and then charged with the other offence.

That same day he would vote on the territory’s budget.

Pasloski was asked whether there were any concerns about Elias’s sobriety that afternoon.

“I’m pretty focused in the House, where I am as well. That is a big day for me. As the finance minister, that’s my budget. So I’m in the front and I’m pretty focused on what we’re doing.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wyatt's World for Oct. 28, 2020.

Wyatt’s World for Oct. 28.… Continue reading

Yukon Child Care Board chair Amy Ryder says the board could be playing a bigger role in childcare policy making if they had more financial support from the Yukon government. (Submitted)
Yukon Child Care Board asks for larger role in annual report

The board is asking for a larger budget to increase outreach and advice

Yukon’s clocks will no longer change in March and November but will remain permanently on Pacific Daylight Saving Time. (Courtesy Yukon government)
Off the clock: Yukon prepares to end seasonal time changes

Starting on Nov. 1 Yukon will be one hour ahead of Vancouver and two hours ahead of Alaska

Dawson City as scene from West Dawson. Art Webster, the vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month over the Yukon governments unwillingness to pause speculative staking. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Vice-chair resigns from Dawson land-use planning commission

NDP warns that not pausing mining activity is the road to a second Peel decision

The opening ceremonies of the Canada Summer Games in Winnipeg on July 28, 2017. The 2021 Canada Summer Games have officially been rescheduled for Aug. 6 to 21, 2022, exactly one year from the date the national competition was originally set to take place in the Niagara region of Ontario. (Canada Summer Games/Flickr)
Canada Summer Games dates set for 2022 but uncertainty remains for Yukon athletes

Yukon athletes continue waiting to get back into schools

A proposed Official Community Plan amendment would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. Whitehorse city council passed first reading on a bylaw for the designation change at its Oct. 26 meeting, prompting an upcoming public hearing on Nov. 23 ahead of second reading on Dec. 7. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
Local contractors will be given an advantage on a contract for the design and construction services that will see a new reception building at Robert Service Campground decided city councillors during the Oct. 26 council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local firms will get advantage on contract for new Robert Service Campground building

Yukon-based companies competing for contract for new reception building will receive 20 extra points

Fallen trees due to strong winds are seen leaning on to power lines which caused some power outages around the territory on Oct. 26. (Courtesy of ATCO)
Wind knocks out power around the Yukon

High winds on Oct. 26 knocked out power to Faro, parts of Whitehorse and beyond

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over the Takhini elk herd be struck by the court. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Yukon government asks for Takhini elk lawsuit to be struck

The Yukon government is asking for all claims in a lawsuit over… Continue reading

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging the reduction of its caribou quota to zero. (Yukon News file)
YG replies to outfitter’s legal challenge over caribou quota

The Yukon government has filed a reply to an outfitter’s petition challenging… Continue reading

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this year, saying that with COVID-19, it’s “more important than ever.” (Black Press file)
Get flu vaccine, Yukon government urges

The Yukon government is encouraging people to get the flu vaccine this… Continue reading

Benjamin Munn, 12, watches the HPV vaccine in 2013. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available to all Yukoners up to, and including, age 26. Currently the program is only available to girls ages nine to 18 and boys ages nine to 14. (Dan Bates/Black Press file)
HPV vaccine will be available to Yukoners up to, including, age 26

Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine will be available… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read