Working toward safe homes, safe communities

Brad Cathers
As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, June 17, 2016

by Brad Cathers, Minister of Justice

Our Yukon Party government is committed to ensuring all Yukoners feel safe and secure in their own homes and communities. Whether it be through RCMP presence, reliability of emergency medical services (EMS) or the development of community programs, we have made the safety of Yukoners a priority.

My colleagues and I have been working continually to support and expand EMS and 911 service across the territory. This year, an important step toward improving services has been the Yukon government’s investment of $334,000 with an additional contribution of $142,000 from the Government of Canada to relocate our 911 call centre to the Emergency Response Centre on Two Mile Hill.

The call centre, our new Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), was opened in February of this year. It is operated by the RCMP and has the necessary equipment to allow an easy transition for the upcoming expansion of basic 911 service Yukon-wide. Additional funds have been allocated to hire more RCMP operators to accommodate an expected increase in 911 calls when the expansion is complete.

We also recognize that Yukon-wide 911 service will require enhanced response coordination, particularly in Whitehorse and the surrounding area. We have a new EMS station located on the Whitehorse General Hospital campus, which houses two ambulance crews and the Yukon Emergency Response Coordination Centre. The Centre dispatches ambulances within the Whitehorse service area and coordinates medevac and patient transfers for the territory.

Brad Cathers opens the new EMS station on Hospital Rd

Minister Brad Cathers at the March 2016 official opening of the new emergency medical services station on the Whitehorse General Hospital campus.

In addition, Yukon EMS received two new ambulances this year and a total of eight since 2011. The Yukon government has also committed funds to purchase 12 new fire vehicles since 2011.

Improving emergency medical services and their response times are key to maintaining the well-being of Yukoners, while a strong enforcement sector plays an important role in security. In this year’s budget, the Department of Justice is providing $385,000 to the RCMP to fund five additional officer positions, which will add capacity for the first responders who are providing round-the-clock public safety coverage. This will allow our members the flexibility of focusing their resources on engaging the community, while still being able to build on proactive policing and crime reduction strategies.

In regards to further proactive strategies, we are also providing $21,000 in start-up funding for the return of an improved Crime Stoppers program, which will be led by community volunteers and will be based on an anonymous tip and reward system. This valuable tool helps promote citizen engagement in responding to criminal activity and encourages members of our community to take responsibility for keeping their neighbourhoods safe and crime-free.

Finally, in addition to EMS and crime prevention, partnership between our government, municipal governments and Yukon First Nations is another key element in providing the best possible service in keeping Yukoners safe. Partnerships in communication and enforcement allow all parties to coordinate programs and work toward shared goals.

Together with Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) Chief Doris Bill, the Premier and I were pleased to announce more than $1.4 million in territorial government funding over three years to the KDFN for its Community Safety Liaison Officer pilot program. This was in response to the numerous calls to increase safety measures in KDFN community and is aimed at building KDFN capacity in providing accessible, sustainable and culturally-relevant justice services, while promoting community accountability, responsibility and respect for the law. We are proud to be partners in this community-led initiative and look forward to seeing tangible results from its implementation.

This government remains dedicated to the safety and well-being of citizens in all our communities. We will continue to demonstrate that through funding and partnerships with other governments and organizations across Yukon. Thank you.