Social assistance resistance

The Yukon Social Assistance Act is being amended without consultation, say stakeholders. The government held consultations with miners and mining…

The Yukon Social Assistance Act is being amended without consultation, say stakeholders.

The government held consultations with miners and mining organizations before amending the Quartz Mining Act.

And it held consultations — although many argue not enough — with forestry experts, before creating the new forestry act.

But it chose to fly solo on the proposed amendments to the social assistance act.

“If the government wants to be a fair and equitable, why not consult with groups that deal with people on social assistance, like the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition?” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

The amendments give more power to the director and the department, he said.

Currently, individuals appealing decisions concerning social services go through a two-tier process.

Their complaints are heard by a review committee and then proceed to an arm’s-length review board, if necessary.

The proposed amendments do away with the review board, leaving all decisions in the hands of a hand-picked, three-member review committee.

And the ultimate decisions rest in the hands of the director — the same person that denied assistance in the first place, causing the review, said Mitchell.

“So it appears to be less of an arm’s-length review,” he said.

“There is concern it’s less independent and more under control of government.”

There is also concern that the new amendments make the mandatory, monthly social assistance application more stringent, said Mitchell.

The Anti-Poverty Coalition was quite upset, he added.

“They just heard about the changes, and were given no briefing on the bill.”

“The Anti-Poverty Coalition is concerned with changes to the act to the point of requesting a special meeting with the minister to discuss it with him,” said coalition director George Greene.

For people on social assistance, any change is a drastic change, said NDP Social Services critic John Edzerza.

“Often there’s not much structure in the lifestyle they’re leading — so it upsets the apple cart, so to speak.”

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com