The NDP Opposition has tabled a bill that would allow the Truth and Reconciliation Commission access to more information on children who may have died in residential schools.
As it currently stands, the Vital Statistics Act forbids the Yukon government from releasing a person’s cause of death until 100 years after they’ve died.
To help the commission, the Yukon government is releasing where and when someone died. But individual causes of death are being withheld. Instead, those numbers will be provided in a statistical summary.
NDP Justice critic Lois Moorcroft says that’s not enough. That’s especially the case when only a small change is required to give the commission everything it needs, she said.
Moorcroft’s bill, tabled Monday, would provide an exemption only for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission when it comes to that 100-year rule. In this one case, it would bump that wait time down to 25 years.
“We hope that this bill will get unanimous consent,” Moorcroft said. “It will make the work of the commission much easier and it would give them access to more information that they can’t get right now.”
In April, the legislature unanimously passed a motion urging the Yukon government “to take all necessary measures to expedite the release of data requested by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.”
From Moorcroft’s perspective that means this bill should pass.
“The government has already given unanimous consent to the motion that provides the basis to this… Doing everything we can includes changing the law so they can have access to the death records and the burial records,” she said.
No cabinet minister was available to speak to the matter before press time.
Earlier this month, Health Minister Doug Graham suggested that making the change to the act would not be simple.
“The changes to the one section of the act being requested would really require due diligence in not only analyzing the policy implications of such a proposed option, but how most to effectively implement the new approach and what impact this would have on all Yukoners,” he said.
The two parties have conflicting understandings of where the commission itself stands on this issue.
Graham said that the government “received a letter from the commission that it is satisfied with our efforts and that the information that Yukon provided enabled them to draw the conclusions that they needed in order to do the work.”
Moorcroft said she’s been told the commission would “absolutely love” to get its hands on the individual death records.
The News did not hear back from the commission in time for today’s deadline.
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