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Liberals unveil justice, mental health platform

The Yukon Liberals have presented their plans to improve the territory’s mental health and justice systems.

The Yukon Liberals have presented their plans to improve the territory’s mental health and justice systems.

Earlier this week, Liberal Leader Sandy Silver and Mountainview candidate Jeanie Dendys laid out some of the key points in the party’s platform.

After running through multiple reports commissioned by the current government, all of which identify better mental healthcare as a need in the Yukon, Silver promised his government would work to improve things if elected.

“Yukon became the last jurisdiction in the country to release a mental health strategy in 2016, late in the legislative session of 2016,” he said. “The Yukon Party treated it like a box to be checked off before an election.”

But Silver was short on big projects or budget allocations.

The Liberals have maintained since early in the campaign that they won’t be making any grandiose promises without knowing what kind of budget they’re working with.

“We see these promises without the funding attached. We won’t do that, we won’t commit to specific funding until we actually know that the money is there. That’s the biggest piece for me,” Silver said.

Silver said the Liberals would support existing mental health, addiction treatment, and healing centres and work with First Nations “to establish and operate other healing centres in the communities and to help to co-ordinate the delivery of these services,” he said.

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation has been running the Jackson Lake Healing Centre, located about 30 minutes outside of Whitehorse, for the last seven years.

The centre helps people through First Nations cultural traditions combined with more clinical methods.

“We would like to see programs like the Jackson Lake land-based healing be part of a continuum of services that would be used by the Sarah Steele centre,” Dendys said, referring to the new alcohol and drug services building that opened earlier this year.

Dendys, who was the Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s justice director, pointed to efforts in that community to clean up as a way of preventing crime.

Last year, the First Nation mapped the entire area to apply what’s known as crime prevention through environmental design.

The idea is that if the community is in disrepair, it creates an atmosphere that encourages more crime.

Kwanlin Dun removed 2,000 pounds of debris, 800 litres of hazardous waste and 150 abandoned vehicles from the community last summer.

“We would expand this crime prevention program to all interested urban, rural and remote communities,” Dendys said.

The Liberals are also promising a legislative, policy and practice review to ensure the Yukon government meets rules and standards to prevent discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

“Yukon has been slow to recognize the rights of the LGBTQ community and have largely reacted instead of proactively addressing our policies and practices,” Dendys said.

“This work will begin as quickly as possible under the Liberal government.”

The Liberals are promising to develop programs to assist victims of violent crime and sexual assault in Yukon, and to recruit an adequate number of in-patient and out-patient mental health workers.

They’re also promising to adopt a housing first strategy for vulnerable populations. That means housing that wouldn’t require a person be sober in order to qualify. The NDP has already made the same promise this election.

Silver said there needs to be better co-ordination of services for people in need.

“What we want to do as a government is allow the system to implement what they think is going to work. Whether that be in housing strategies or in detox or in aftercare,” he said.

“Then we as a government, we’re supposed to assess what works, what doesn’t work and champion our bureaucracy for the courage to try.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at