The Yukon government is going to amend its labour laws in order to provide leave for those fleeing domestic violence.
The move would give victims more time to access medical supports, legal advice or report to police, said John Streicker, minister of community services in the legislative assembly on Oct. 29.
“Across the country, governments are changing labour laws to give victims of domestic violence additional leave to receive the help they need,” he said. “All 10 provinces have enacted some version of leave for domestic violence, family violence, and, or sexualized violence. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut are also considering implementing domestic violence leave.”
Making changes to the Employment Standards Act is in a preliminary stage — policy has yet to be crafted, so details are vague at this point.
A spokesperson with the department said something will be ready in 2020.
Community services and the Women’s Directorate are to work in tandem when engaging Yukoners on the issue, the latter of which has strong connections to non-governmental and women’s organizations in the territory.
Streicker said domestic violence rates are three times higher in the Yukon relative to the rest of the country. For Indigenous people here, he continued, it’s up to four times higher compared to their non-Indigenous counterparts.
“Even still, this crime is often underreported due to many complex and systemic barriers, which sometimes include a lack of support in the workplace,” he said. “Reducing job and financial insecurity as a barrier that victims face will help to support long-term healing and stability of victims of domestic violence.”
MLAs with opposition parties questioned the timing of the statement when other parts of Canada have already enacted changes to their labour laws. The Yukon Party’s Geraldine Van Bibber and NDP Leader Kate White both suggested the Yukon is approaching the issue belatedly.
Van Bibber urged the Yukon government to visit the communities during its engagement phase.
In response, Streicker said legislation to support employees was introduced in the spring. It was after engaging Yukoners, he said, that the federal government came forward with new rules regarding leave.
“So, we felt that the important thing to do was to go out and talk with Yukoners again,” he said.
“So that is why it was — I don’t want to call it ‘unfortunate,’ but the timing was just — we had already just finished talking with Yukoners about it. We believe that it is important to engage with Yukoners and hear their perspectives on this because there is a lot of detail here that is very important and will make a difference for those suffering from domestic violence.”
Paid leave, Streicker continued, ranges from two to five days; unpaid is two to 10 non-consecutive days and 15 to 26 continuous weeks. He noted that only three jurisdictions provide unpaid leave only.
Federal leave legislation permits five days of paid and unpaid time away from work for domestic violence victims.
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