MLA Report - Nov. 22, 2019

Crime and justice in the North

Crime in the North has been increasing. We know when crime spikes, that it is a greater sign of deeper social and economic inefficiencies. The current government’s cuts have put community safety at risk and there is a need for an emergency response system and long-term investments which will deal with the underlying causes of crime.

Rather than simply focusing on a policing model we need to begin focusing on socially based approaches and community resolutions to help deal with the root causes of crime. We need to empower our community organizations to offer their services and programming that help to address poverty, trauma, housing inequalities and mental health and addictions.

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For this to happen that means that the provincial government must provide community organizations with stable long-term funding to ensure the continuity of their programming. Sadly, the government have made it more difficult for community organizations to access funding to staff and offer critically needed programming and supports through their new Building Sustainable Communities grants and operating grants – this needs to change.   

Investing in education ensures  that every child has the  best possible start and an opportunity to succeed in the future, helping to end the cycle of poverty. I am afraid that the government does not share these values. We have already seen a decrease in funding to public schools, teachers' wages frozen and class sizes grown, and this is all before their K-12 education review is completed. With this government, review means cuts, and I will continue to stand for the families of the constituency of Thompson in the legislature to ensure that our children’s education is not compromised.

When services and supports are not there to help individuals in a time of need, many turn to crime. But those who have gone down the wrong path because they lacked supports shouldn’t be further victimized by our justice system. Issues pertaining to justice and the court system have been highlighted in the North lately. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” has been switched around for “guilty until proven innocent” – especially when it comes to Indigenous people.

This is evident in the recent cases of Lesley Ann Balfour and Dwayne Gregory Young. They were charged with Criminal Code offences.  Though their cases were nowhere near related, they had challenges with bail applications that resulted in them spending lengthy amounts of time in jail.

The delays in their bail applications were unconstitutional in that according to the Criminal Code, all individuals must be brought before a judge in a timely manner, and have a bail hearing within three days of their first court hearing.

This led Justice Chris Martin to make an appeal for a review of the justice system, with a greater focus surrounding the northern bail system. He admits that the current justice system marginalizes people taken into custody, has a debilitating lack or resources, and is slow to deal with issues.  The deficiencies in the system need to be addressed. I, along with my colleagues at the legislature, will call on the government to undertake this review.

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