Some community justice workers issued pink slips

Several community justice programs remain in limbo as the fiscal year end comes to a close. While the territory stepped up with bridge funding for…

Several community justice programs remain in limbo as the fiscal year end comes to a close.

While the territory stepped up with bridge funding for Dawson City’s Community Group Conferencing Society, the co-ordinators of eight other similar groups around the territory are still waiting for word on whether they’ll have jobs on April 1.

Some are already gone.

Kwanlin Dun’s Community Social Justice Program co-ordinators received their layoff notices on Wednesday afternoon.

As the oldest program hosting sentencing circles in the Yukon, the Kwanlin Dun program will celebrate its 15-year anniversary on March 29.

But it won’t be a joyous occasion, said co-ordinator Rose Rowlands on Wednesday.

“We kind of expected it, but we were hoping to have a transition period because we have so many clients.”

Kwanlin Dun offers three levels of support: an adult program that works with about 20 individuals a year; a youth program and a child-and-family program that helps more than 35 families a year.

“We have one individual that’s serving a 16-month sentence in the community.

“If we weren’t here he’d be in jail and it costs $300 a day to keep a Yukon inmate in jail.

“Add that adds up,” she said.

(It works out to about $140,000.)

The program, funded through the Aboriginal Justice Strategy, functioned on roughly $250,000 per year in funding from the territory and the federal government.

The money funds four full-time staff, and operates a justice committee, a child-welfare committee, a Healing our Spirit group and a drumming group.

Although the funding helped, it wasn’t enough, said Rowlands.

“It’s been underfunded for years — it’s always been funded year-to-year and that’s 15 years of uncertainty.

“I think Kwanlin Dun has made the right choice to say: ‘Enough, if we’re going to do this we’re going to do this right.’

“My optimistic self says that something better is going to come out of this.”

Meanwhile Dawson’s justice co-ordinator is breathing easier.

After months of worry and lobbying, Corinne Gaudet got confirmation of bridge funding from Bob Riches, the assistant deputy minister of community justice and public safety.

The territory is kicking in $25,000 to keep the community’s group conferencing society going while Ottawa decides whether to fund or cut the program when its coffers run dry on March 31.

“It’s a start,” said Gaudet on Wednesday.

It’s been a staple in the town since 1998, offering mediation, diversion and circle conferencing services, which involves the community.

“It gives an opportunity for the victims to have a voice in the process — in the court system that usually doesn’t happen,” said Gaudet.

“Everyone walks away feeling better about the situation. It gives them more closure than the court system.

“It’s something I completely believe in and it only took me sitting in on two circles to see that it really works.”

The bridge funding will allow the Dawson group to keep its doors open for about six more months.

“It’s given us an opportunity to continue, but without any other additional funding we’ll probably only last till August or September, depending on how tight we can pull the budget in,” said Gaudet.

Territorial and federal government officials did not return phone calls before press time.