A Canadian think tank’s recently-released “report card” on justice systems in Canada that ranked the Yukon’s as the worst in the country doesn’t present a complete picture of what’s happening in the territory, says Yukon’s minister of justice.
However, she added she’s “keen” to have a conversation about justice issues in the territory.
In an interview March 8, Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said that the scoring system used by the MacDonald-Laurier Institute for its report card, which relied on data from Statistics Canada, didn’t take into account areas of justice where the Yukon is a national “leader.”
“The Yukon justice system has been, and continues to be a leader in areas of restorative justice, reconciliation and innovative services,” she said.
“There are lots of examples of Yukon’s justice initiatives that are serving our community that are really not measured in this report.”
Among those initiatives, McPhee said, are the use of circle sentencing, peacemaker and wellness courts, negotiations with Yukon First Nations on administration-of-justice agreements, and victim support services like the Sexualized Assault Response Team (SART) and the child-and-youth focused Project Lynx. The territorial government also recently announced funding for a pilot project to train people to write Gladue reports.
On the criteria that the Yukon was scored and graded, McPhee said that because the data came from Statistics Canada, some portions were missing due to the fact that the federal agency doesn’t collect certain information from territories, and numbers that are available aren’t always adjusted for population.
The report card graded the Yukon poorly on its level of funding for legal aid, but McPhee pointed out that the past two territorial budgets have increased spending for the service. The 2018-19 budget shows a $50,000 spending increase on legal aid compared to the 2017-18 budget, but McPhee said the increase is actually closer to $300,000 “because we’re funding some additional requests from the legal aid department.”
“I have worked in this justice system for more than 25 years — I know exactly, from personal experience, the importance of legal aid to all of our communities,” she said. “It is certainly something that I want to support, not only with funding but in other ways if at all possible.”
McPhee said the justice department has reached out to the Macdonald-Laurier Institute so it can “have conversations about the statistics, about information that we can provide to them that perhaps they can take into account, but almost more importantly, we want to make sure that we learn from their comments.” She and the justice department will also be reviewing the report card more thoroughly to determine if any lessons can be learned.
“Really, it’s about starting a conversation here in Yukon and making sure that our justice issues are being addressed,” she said. “I mean, I don’t think it will have surprised anyone, having worked in the justice system here for 25 years, that these issues are very important to me…. These are conversations and issues that we work on every day, all the time.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org