Nixon boasts Yukon’s Justice advances

After meeting with his counterparts in P.E.I.

After meeting with his counterparts in P.E.I. this week, Yukon Justice Minister Mike Nixon said he doesn’t think the Conservative government’s omnibus crime bill will be a problem for the territory.

The Safe Streets and Communities Act has passed the House of Commons and is scheduled to go before the Senate next week.

“We might see some nominal cost, but I don’t think it’s going to have an impact on the Yukon, as it may in a province like Ontario and Quebec,” he said in an interview from Charlottetown Thursday.

Much of Nixon’s participation in the two-day meeting included touting the progress the territory has made in areas like dealing with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder in the justice system, he said.

But critics say this trailblazing work is at risk under the proposed legislation.

For example, the territory’s ground-breaking community wellness court, which sees a lot of cases of FASD, is based on the offender first pleading guilty.

The crime bill, with aspects like mandatory minimums, is widely expected to reduce the number of guilty pleas.

“The bill contains necessary provisions to ensure that Canadians remain protected from criminals,” said Nixon. “We’re not talking about inventing new criminals. We’re talking about dealing with the revolving door and the criminals that keep coming back into the system.”

But offenders with FASD are considered highly likely to reoffend. Being unable to learn from past mistakes is an proven element of the disorder.

This was information largely circulated for the first time in justice circles because of research conducted by the department Nixon has recently taken over.

When asked again if he thought the crime bill could negatively affect the work being done in the territory, Nixon pledged his support for the wellness court. He said he’d love to see it continue and even get more funding.

After discussing some other elements of the ministers’ meeting, Nixon was asked a third time if the “revolving door” that the new crime bill would focus on would not be the same people who would benefit from things like the wellness court, predominately people with FASD.

“You bring up a good point,” he said. “The one item that, when we were talking about FASD that we didn’t get into, was correctional facilities. We’re talking after the fact, but hopefully while they’re in our care – because we both agree there is a revolving door – that when they’re in our care and custody, programming can be offered to them in hopes of a bit of prevention.”

He could not give actual examples of programming planned for the new jail despite the department’s constant promises that it will offer more and better programming.

“I kind of foresee specialized therapy or treatment for people with FASD for several aspects in their life that they’re struggling with,” he said.

Any more details about programming will “come out in the wash, in due time,” he said.

N.W.T. Justice Minister Glen Abernethy and Nunavut’s Daniel Shewchuck expressed interest in the work the Yukon has been doing, said Nixon.

“I’ve formed a very good relationship now with my northern counterparts,” he said. “We’re very interested and eager to sit down, just the three of us, and kind of have a bit more of a northern, united stand in Canada.

“There was a lot of interest expressed in our way of dealing with the community wellness court and with potential programming in the jail, in the new facility. They both expressed interest in coming over, looking at what we have to offer and then possibly – if they like what they see – going back and duplicating or doing their own version of the system in their own territories.”

No specific dates have been set for those visits yet.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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