Minister Day offers crime prevention funds

Federal Public Safety minister Stockwell Day wants to deploy 1,000 new RCMP personnel across Canada. The deployment will cost $161 million over five…

Federal Public Safety minister Stockwell Day wants to deploy 1,000 new RCMP personnel across Canada.

The deployment will cost $161 million over five years, Day said during a visit to Whitehorse Thursday.

But he couldn’t say what kind of new resources the Yukon could expect.

“(The government) won’t say, one officer here, one officer there,” said Day.

“But we’ll be recognizing the challenges and opportunities in Whitehorse. It will have an effect.”

Day did not commit new federal resources to aid Whitehorse police in the ongoing drug war that has sparked retaliation in recent weeks from non-violent vigilante groups.

“We’re telling people who are frustrated with what they see as an apparent lack of justice to be encouraged (that) the new government is taking these issues head on, dealing with serious crime in a serious way,” he said.

“We’ve already applied mandatory sentencing when it comes to serious crime, violent crime, drug offences and gun-related offences.

“We’re going after gang activity and other related offences, both on the muscular side, in terms of provisions within the criminal code, and also on the social side in terms of prevention.”

Day was in Whitehorse to publicly commit $737,468 from the federal budget to crime prevention programs in the Yukon.

Since its election in January 2006, the federal Conservative government has taken a slightly different tack in its tough-on-crime approach, focusing on crime prevention and addiction treatment as well as mandatory minimum sentences for serious and repeat offenders.

On the prevention side of the criminal justice equation, the government needs to “intercept” people — especially youth — who are being drawn into criminal lifestyles, said Day.

“Kids — especially those facing significant problems, young people who have seen and witnessed violence and may be drawn into cycles of violence — need to have available to them at noon hours through the year and after school and in summer camp situations (exposure) to opportunities in the arts, in culture, to be able to express themselves and have a sense of who they are.”

The lion’s share of the federal endowment — $566,700 — will fund a “community court” until March 2009.

Community court is a therapeutic alternative to offer offenders with substance abuse problems, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder or other diagnosable mental health problems that have contributed to their offence.

Those who choose the community court route will have to face their addictions and adhere to an individualized treatment plan in order to qualify.

“The community court is one of the priorities identified in the Yukon government’s substance abuse action plan,” said acting Justice minister Elaine Taylor.

Taylor was the Yukon Party’s original Justice minister a 2004 cabinet shuffle, when the Justice portfolio was handed to John Edzerza.

Edzerza resigned from caucus last week. Taylor re-assumed the Justice portfolio.

“It’s often said that those afflicted with addictions or illness are often vulnerable to victimization, and in turn they re-victimize as well,” she said.

“This court is a very important step towards addressing the ills associated with crime in our communities and providing attention in the follow-up where it is very much direly needed.”

The Yukon’s community court initiative could be a hallmark for the rest of Canada to follow, said Day.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the results over the next three years of this alternative court process,” said Day.

“It’s a model. Nobody else has done anything like this in the rest of North America.”

Day also announced that the Yukon Family Services Organization is receiving $120,768 from Ottawa to fund its Parents’ Voices program with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation until June 2008.

“The program provides support for parents through regular drop-in circles,” said program co-ordinator Marilyn Wolovick.

“It provides a safe place for parents to discuss their challenges and discover that they are really not alone.”

Parents’ Voices is a program designed strictly for Kwanlin Dun.

But the Extremely Moving Youth Society is available to all at-risk youth attending public schools in Whitehorse.

The society is receiving almost $50,000 from Ottawa to provide lunch-hour and after-school recreational arts and culture programs at Whitehorse public schools, as well as summer camps, for one year.

“These camps started as one-week camps for at-risk teenage girls and now they’ve evolved to month-long camps and they are for children, boys and girls, as well as youth,” said society spokeswoman Sue Garland.

Kids and youth who have suffered a family loss or from low self-esteem learn to trust their peers and express themselves through choreography and dance, said Garland.

“A week isn’t long enough,” she said.

“There is such a need for these kids and youth to be at these camps, and they would not be able to do so without this funding.”

Government officials and funding recipients thanked Day profusely for spending federal taxpayer dollars in the Yukon.

Day accepted their gratitude with magnanimous nods and murmured replies.

“The first responsibility of any government is the safety and security of its citizens,” he said.

“Across the country we hear that citizens expect and deserve communities that are safe, communities that are secure, communities that offer hope.

“We have responded to that.”