The Yukon RCMP’s federal investigations unit has been running with two fewer investigators since the 2018-19 fiscal year, when the Yukon RCMP saw a $254,000 reduction in its federal funding.
But while the situation isn’t “ideal,” the unit, which handles investigations involving things like money laundering, organized crime and national security, is still “managing” and working through its cases, according to Yukon RCMP Supt. Brian Jones.
The issue of the funding reduction and its impact on the unit was raised by Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers in the legislative assembly on March 28.
“At a time when the Yukon is dealing with an increase in drug-related crimes, including the opioid epidemic, we need increased resources for policing, not a reduction,” Cathers said, addressing Department of Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee.
“… We know that the funding was a federal cut to the budget for the Yukon RCMP federal policing program,” he said. “What we are asking is whether or not the Minister of Justice will stand up to her federal counterpart and impress on him the need to restore this funding.”
The Yukon Party later shared a copy of an email exchange between Cathers and Yukon RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard from January, in which Sheppard says the reduction of $254,000 “effectively represents 2 investigator positions” and associated costs.
The unit has a full roster of 11 investigators, meaning that currently, only nine are funded.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, McPhee said that the Yukon government was made aware of the situation in the fall of 2018 and “immediately” began speaking to federal officials about the impact the reduction could have on the territory.
Those conversations are still ongoing, she said.
“RCMP, of course, are organized as (a) federal police force, but they are our only police force here … So absolutely, we have a huge role to play in this conversation,” McPhee said.
“The federal RCMP might make those decisions on a national basis, but the opportunity for us to explain to them what that means here in the territory is absolutely critical and we took every opportunity to do that,”
In an interview the afternoon of March 28, Jones said that the Yukon RCMP hasn’t yet received its federal funding for 2019-20, but doesn’t anticipate a dramatic change from the previous fiscal year.
The role of the federal investigations unit is “a little different” than those of other units, he explained, and it typically focuses on long-term, project-based investigations.
“It doesn’t mean that there’s less police officers in their police cars driving around Whitehorse,” he said of having two fewer investigators.
“…(There are) very different pressures on the unit in terms of, they’re not responding to immediate calls for service or homicides, so in that sense, you can predict the workload with a higher degree of certainty. So in that sense … I would say this situation is more sustainable, although not ideal, given the type of work that this unit does.”
With files from Julien Gignac
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org