April 2, 2001 SOCIAL SERVICES COMMITTEE No. 2
The Committee met at 5:30 p.m. in Committee Room 5083.
CHAIR (Sweeney): Order, please!
(Inaudible) and Tom will join us as we progress.
Does everybody here know us, the MHAs?
I am George Sweeney, MHA for Carbonear-Harbour Grace, and I am the Chair.
MR. ROSS WISEMAN: Ross Wiseman, MHA for Trinity North.
MS S. OSBORNE: Sheila Osborne, MHA for St. John's West.
MS M. HODDER: Mary Hodder, MHA for Burin-Placentia West.
MR. MANNING: Fabian Manning, MHA for Placentia & St. Mary's.
MR. WALSH: Jim Walsh, MHA for Conception Bay East & Bell Island.
CHAIR: Before I ask the minister to introduce his people, there are just a couple of little formalities that we have to cover. When you speak, you have to press the top button, identify yourself, and then release. I think that is how it goes, Mark? Other than that, I guess we can start with the minister's opening remarks, in which he can have up to, I think, fifteen minutes, and then we can start our questions. We will start our questions under a heading and we will proceed from each head. We will call a head after the minister gives his remarks.
WITNESS: (Inaudible) call a head first.
CHAIR: Call a head first? Yes, okay.
CLERK: Head 1.1.01.
CHAIR: Head 1.1.01.
MR. PARSONS: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Committee members.
First, I will ask everyone here if they might introduce themselves so the Committee knows who is who exactly, and your position.
MR. MCCARTHY: John McCarthy, Assistant Deputy Minister, Civil Law.
MR. MCNUTT: Marvin McNutt, Director of Corrections and Community Services.
MR. MILLS: Tom Mills, Director of Public Prosecutions.
MR. CUMMINGS: John Cummings, Deputy Minister.
MR. PARSONS: Kelvin Parsons, Minister.
MR. ALCOCK: Ralph Alcock, Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Protection and Support Services.
MR. WHITE: George White, Director of Finance.
CHAIR: Okay, Minister, you may continue.
MR. PARSONS: Thank you.
First of all, I would like to comment: they say a day is a lifetime in politics. Well, we have had a year of it since I have been on this watch, and I would just like to make a few general comments. The first time I was here, last year, I was very, very new to the game of giving reports to Estimates Committees. There have been quite a few occurrences in the Department of Justice in the last twelve months and, if I might, I would just highlight a few of those. One would be: the Ryan escape was probably the most traumatic for the department, as well as for the public, not only from the escape point of view and the subsequent recapture but the effects that it had on our correction system, particularly at Her Majesty's Penitentiary, and various discipline matters that came out of that.
There have been lots of things happening as well in the policing field, which comes under Justice. We had unparalleled shootings involved. We had two: one by the RCMP, as everyone is aware, in Little Catalina, as well as two by the RNC, one here in St. John's and a fatal in Corner Brook, all of which, of course, became very high profile matters.
We have also had some very high profile and positive occurrences: for example, the collective bargaining initiatives with the RNC, particularly binding arbitration which went through the House in December. We have a new RNC chief, Chief Rick Deering, who was appointed recently. There has been lots of discussion in the public domain and government as well from the, I quote, "wrongful conviction" type issues that have been discussed in the media.
There have been several very positive initiatives regarding policing in Labrador, at Cartwright, Postville, Makkovik, and Rigolet. We had the advent in the Northeast Avalon of district policing model being introduced to the Northeast Avalon. It was a very troublesome matter for some communities in that particular area, particularly Conception Bay South. The implementation of the district policing model that happened last year in April is now seeing its first year.
In terms of the courts, we had a lot of appointments both in the Supreme Court level by the federal government as well as Provincial Court appointments, which all led to some drastic human resources issues, because many of these persons who moved on to be either Supreme Court Justices or in the Provincial Court came from the justice system; i.e. they were top level producers and very competent individuals in our system, whether they be from the legal aid field or from our Director of Public Prosecutions who moved on to a judge's position. So that had an impact, very positive occurrences in terms of the new blood in the judicial system, but it had consequences for the department from a how do you fill the spots perspective.
In terms of human resources, we also had some major changes. We had a new sheriff who was appointed in the Province. We had a new Director of Legal Policy appointed in the department. We have a new Deputy Minister, John Cummings, in the department, replacing Deputy Minister Spracklin of last year. We have a new Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr. Mills, here with me today, Tom Mills, who replaced Mr. Gorman who went to the bench; and we have a new Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions. We also had a new Superintendent of Prisons, Mr. John Scoville, appointed in the last year. We had a new chief for the RNC. We have a new senior general counsel in the department, and we have a new person responsible for strategic planning.
As you can imagine, these very senior positions turning over in the last twelve months took a lot of time and effort in terms of coordination and making sure that you had the right people in the right places so that you could function properly. That took quite some time in addition to all of these correctional policing issues and court issues that you had.
We also had a very active legislative agenda in the last twelve months. We had same sex legislation entered and passed in the House, when it came to the Family Law Act; we had the legislation concerning the RNC and collective binding arbitration; we are involved in the Ombudsman legislation that is being drafted and prepared for the House; we also had the creation of the Freedom of Information Committee back in December to review our Freedom of Information Act, and that is currently ongoing; we had some major changes and suggestions in the works concerning our Human Rights Code; and, of course, we had the tobacco legislation that was entered in the House in the fall, that did not see its way through but which we hope to re-enter, hopefully, in this session.
You can see from just that rundown of events, we have had not only a public year but a very active in-house departmental year trying to move things forward. I think there have been a lot of positive developments. We, of course, have our agenda that we have outlined for the next year as well, and it looks like there are quite a few things left to be done yet.
With that, I am certainly ready for any questions you might have. Hopefully I will be more informative this year than I was last year, when it comes to the details.
CHAIR: Sheila, you are the closest.
MS S. OSBORNE: Under General Administration, 1.2.02.05., is the amount of $166,500. What is the explanation for the difference in what was budgeted back in 2000-2001 and 2001-2002?
MR. PARSONS: Excuse me, I did not get the number of the heading.
MS S. OSBORNE: It is on page 208, 1.2.02.05.
MR. PARSONS: Professional Services?
MS S. OSBORNE: Yes.
MR. PARSONS: That is the funding that has been put in there for the forthcoming year for the Ombudsman's position.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
MR. PARSONS: We hope to have the legislation entered in this session. That will allow, at least partially, for some of the costs we anticipate in establishing that office.
MS S. OSBORNE: That office, obviously, will be away from this building will it?
MR. PARSONS: There are a lot of factors going into that, considering. We are not quite sure yet. I am sure it will be a matter of debate in the House as to whether it should even be on any government premises, whether it should be in the capital region, or whether it should be somewhere else in the Province even. There are a lot of factors to be considered. I am sure that will be debated in the House; but, as of right now, there is no definitive position taken on it as to where it might be.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
Under the same heading, 1.2.02.10., Grants and Subsidies, $190,000. To whom were the grants made?
MR. PARSONS: That concerns the policing initiatives that we undertook in Makkovik and Rigolet. It is basically federal dollars that we are going to be using there as well.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
Under 2.1.01.05., Professional Services, what cases would come under that $2,475,000 that was budgeted, and what cases came under the $2,832,700?
MR. PARSONS: In the last year, the funding was provided for a variety of legal matters. One of those was in the case of wardships. That was at a cost of approximately $380,000. There is a case that government is involved in, called the Roof Truss Case, of which $70,000 was involved in that matter. The Terra Nova oil ongoing project was $250,000. The Aboriginal land claims, and that includes expert involvement as well, was $450,000. The Nova Scotia boundary dispute was $400,000.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
MR. PARSONS: I want to give you both here. I am giving you what is anticipated for this year. I will go back, start over, and give you -
MS S. OSBORNE: What came under the $2,832,700? You were giving me what is anticipated to come under the $2,475,000?
MR. PARSONS: Yes.
Just to finish that one off under the anticipated ones -
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
MR. PARSONS: - we anticipate, in the case of Hibernia, $150,000; Voisey's Bay, $150,000; the health care cost recovery, $625,000.
In the case of legal services for outside persons, in the last year, 2000-2001, the Roof Truss matter was $547.58; the Terra Nova project was $195,000; the Aboriginal lands claims was $193,000; the Nova Scotia boundary dispute matter was $333,000; the Hibernia project, ongoing work in terms of some administration of the fiscal agreements, was $60,000; Voisey's Bay was $7,100; and the health care cost recovery was $758,000.
MS S. OSBORNE: So they are the same ones ongoing from -
MR. PARSONS: More or less, yes.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
What firms were retained?
MR. PARSONS: In the case of the Roof Truss Case it was McInnes Cooper. In the Terra Nova oil project it was Patterson Palmer Hunt Murphy. For the Aboriginal land claims, I do not have the particulars there, John.
MR. McCARTHY: With the Aboriginal land claims, basically it is in-house counsel. Most of the money we spent there for outside experts such as archeologists, historians, linguists, people of that nature, so it is not so much legal as it is these -
MS S. OSBORNE: Other professions.
MR. McCARTHY: Yes.
MR. PARSONS: In the case of the Nova Scotia boundary dispute, Professor Donald McRae of the University of Ottawa headed up the legal team; that was $12,600. He was assisted; he is part of the firm Gowlings in Toronto. That was $271,000. John Currie, who was an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa, was $49,000.
In the case of the Hibernia project, it was the law firm of Benson Myles, locally. In the case of Voisey's Bay, it was McInnes Cooper, locally. In the health care cost recovery, there were three lawyers involved: Dennis Browne, Graham Watton and Jamie Smith.
MS S. OSBORNE: That is in the health care costs: Dennis Browne -
MR. PARSONS: Dennis Browne, Graham Watton and Jamie Smith. That team has since been terminated.
MS S. OSBORNE: I noticed that in the paper the other day.
Over to Support Enforcement: what is the ratio of cases per counselor, employee, or person like that, in Corner Brook? Do you have the number of cases as compared to the number of clients that you would be serving and the number of people that would be working on recovering their money for them? I know some of them come in automatically, but I still get a lot of calls from folks who are having trouble having the money collected.
MR. PARSONS: My recall is, you have about 1,200 files per staff member, which is on a par with P.E.I., New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Each person handles about 1,200 cases per year. Now they are changing, of course. Some of them stay and some of them go. It depends on how -
MS S. OSBORNE: There is still a lot of trouble with some people who are calling in, having the enforcement done, the follow-up on it, and seeing to it that it happens.
MR. PARSONS: There are a variety of reasons for it. A lot of the problems we have are not in interprovincial. It is when the payer leaves the Province. Although we have a reciprocal enforcement of judgments, you are into the paper quagmire; and when you try to get personnel in other provinces to take an order from this Province and enforce it, say, in Calgary or in Vancouver, that is when it gets problematic and time consuming.
MS S. OSBORNE: I have an interesting local one. The ex-husband works at Revenue Canada and his deductions are made voluntarily at source. I do not know if there was trouble prior to that; I do not know if it was insisted that he make it voluntarily at his pay. They make the deductions. Revenue Canada is not always really fast to send it in. She is three months behind now. So, it is somewhere, whether it is Revenue Canada's fault or the fault of support enforcement, but if the money has been deducted then somebody should go after Revenue Canada and say: Get that money to that woman.
MR. PARSONS: That is correct, and it is a constant problem not only with Revenue Canada but some major employers, for example, who have dozens of these on their payroll that they have to send out, and the staff have to go back and insist to these employers that you be prompt and be punctual because the receivers of the funds are waiting for it, obviously.
MS S. OSBORNE: The deductions are made, because this guy speaks to his wife - you know, there is not that much animosity, I suppose, it is probably settled after these years - but he shows her the cheques. He says: Look, it was deducted. Three months later she still does not have the money. She is three months behind.
MR. PARSONS: It is a constant job of the support enforcement people urging....
MS S. OSBORNE: How much teeth do they have, then, to go after the employers?
MR. PARSONS: You have teeth. Legally, they are required to deduct it from the funds - the employers are - but, again, you get into some situations. You may have a particular company, for example, that has some slowdown in their work effort, and then when you go back to say we have a problem with you, they have excuses, for example: we have less staff or we have had (inaudible).
MS S. OSBORNE: But they have it deducted. They have it. Revenue Canada - I would like to see me holding Revenue Canada's money for three months and nobody calling me and rattling me, you know.
MR. PARSONS: You face the interest, yes. That is what happens, the slowdown. They deduct it but it does not get put, all the time, from Revenue Canada into the support enforcement agency in a timely fashion.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
I will pass for now. I would like to be able to come back later.
CHAIR: Anybody else?
MR. RIDEOUT: I just arrived, so if anybody else has anything they can go ahead.
MR. MANNING: I am concerned about protection of citizens who are held in hospitals, psychiatric wards, and I want to touch on, if I could, the situation with John Careen. I am sure you are quite familiar with it.
MR. PARSONS: Yes.
MR. MANNING: We have a family out here who has lost a member who attempted suicide before he ended up at St. Clare's, and they have gotten very few answers. You know, somebody walked over to a window and jumped out to his death and the family cannot seem to get any straight answers. I am wondering why there hasn't been a judicial inquiry?
MR. PARSONS: Well, you usually order a judicial inquiry depending upon the recommendations of the medical examiner. Dr. Avis reviewed that particular situation and he did not recommend a judicial inquiry. He felt that it was very straightforward as to what had happened and he did not feel that a judicial inquiry was warranted.
MR. MANNING: So, is there any avenue for the family to take after that judgment is made?
MR. PARSONS: Well, in terms of civil action, of course, any family who feels that there has been negligence by any part of any system, a government system or whatever, medical system, they obviously have their rights to initiate any action if they wish. They are not pre-empted from a legal action if they feel there was some negligence involved by someone. They certainly have those rights.
MR. MANNING: Yes. Is there assistance there from the Department of Justice, in a financial aspect? You know, what happens to a family, for reasons - very straightforward, I guess - who cannot afford the proper legal assistance that they need to combat what they feel is an injustice from a financial aspect?
MR. PARSONS: We do not have a general policy as to whether you would or would not appoint counsel for anyone who has an inquiry. I am sure you are aware of the shooting in Catalina, for example. In that particular case, Simon, Dr. Avis, did recommend that there be a judicial inquiry. We ordered a judicial inquiry and we sought the advice of the judge as to whether government ought to fund the family solicitor in that particular case. Judge Luther, who is the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court, indeed came back and said that he would recommend, because it was a matter of public interest in the case of that particular shooting, where the police were involved, that we should fund it. So, government did make a decision to fund the legal counsel for the inquiry in both the Catalina shooting as well as the Power situation with the RNC in Corner Brook.
There is no general policy. You generally look at each particular fact situation and decide, based upon the merits of it, whether or not legal counsel would be provided by government. As you are aware, the Careen situation was before these latest two took place.
MR. MANNING: Is the Chief Medical Examiner of the Province answerable to you as minister?
MR. PARSONS: He files his annual reports through here and, as you see from the funding here, he gets his funding through the Department of Justice, but he operates totally independently in terms of what he is authorized to do. There is a separate piece of legislation which outlines what his authorities are and what he is required to do.
He does report to, but he certainly does not take direction from. He is a medical examiner who is entrusted to make his own medical judgments.
MR. MANNING: The medical judgment, I am getting to the fact that justice - from a medical standpoint I know what he does, but from a justice standpoint he is still answerable to you as minister?
MR. PARSONS: Answerable, yes. He makes recommendations and we either follow or accept his recommendations, but we cannot tell him what to do. That is a medical call. I am not in a position to make a medical call. That is what he deals with.
MR. MANNING: Are you in a position to appoint the Chief Medical Examiner?
MR. PARSONS: I guess it is a Lieutenant-Governor in Council appointment, that appoints the Chief Medical Examiner. I am not sure. I think that is correct. There is a particular piece of legislation. He is appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council.
MR. MANNING: Okay.
I will pass for now.
MR. WALSH: If I could, in terms of answering the question, I guess there is no one in Newfoundland who is not somewhat familiar, or at least maybe in public life, with the Careen family and what they have gone through. I guess anyone driving along, at any point in time, would have heard either a comment on an open line show or newspaper articles, not knowing exactly what the family would be looking for. Aren't there a significant number of law firms now that would make their services available on a contingency basis, which is becoming more evident, I think, in the judicial system? Would that be available to a family like this if they were to go out, meet with various law firms on their own, to see if someone might want to represent them for some future liability or for some future settlement? Would that be available to them as opposed to coming to the government to look for assistance? Could that be available?
MR. PARSONS: It is an option, if some law firm is prepared to do it on a contingency basis. Some do and some don't get involved in it, from my experience.
CHAIR: Does anyone else have a question?
MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I apologize for missing the beginning of the proceedings. I was late getting here and I understand from my colleague that the minister made an opening statement. If I should raise anything that has been already dealt with either by the minister or by one of our colleagues asking a question, then I ask the Chair to rein me in and let me know that I am just turning over sod that has already been turned over, because I am not interested in wasting anybody's time in terms of going over things that have already been dealt with. That is not my purpose for being here.
Having said that, Minister, I do not know if you had an opportunity in your opening statement or not to make any reference to the police shootings that have occurred in the Province in the last twelve months, or since we last met as a Committee. I heard you say in an answer that the government has agreed to fund counsel for a couple of those inquiries, and I commend the government for that. I want to move beyond that and ask what is happening, if anything, in terms of police officers and training and mental health? Two of the shootings, as I understand it - the Catalina shooting, which involved the RCMP, and the shooting in Corner Brook, which involved the RNC - involved victims that had a long known mental health history. Therefore, the police knew who they were dealing with and what they were dealing with. I am not asking you to prejudge the judicial inquiry process. What I am asking is: Is there anything in place now to train police officers to be more in tune and perhaps, should I say, better equipped from a training perspective to handle similar cases if they should arise?
I think we all find it abhorrent - and I say this not to cast reflection on a police officer trying to do his or her job - that a citizen suffering from a mental impairment of some sort or another finds himself or herself involved in a situation where somebody in the public might feel that their security is at risk, and they call the police only to find that the police come and, rightly or wrongly - which will probably be a decision for the judicial inquiry - but police find themselves in a situation where deadly force is used. That is pretty heavy stuff in a free and democratic society. It would seem to me that it would be the last thing in the world that you would want to do, and I am sure it is. Unfortunately in this Province, in the last few months, we have been subject to that - a couple of families have been subject to it - on at least two occasions. I am sure the minister and his officials in the department have thought about it. I just wonder whether or not you have been able to come to any decision as to whether or not it is possible to be able to provide some specialized training - if that is the right word - to those people who are called sometimes in very difficult circumstances.
I will leave it at that for now.
MR. PARSONS: I certainly do not think it would be appropriate for me to make any comments regarding the factual circumstances. That is the role of the inquiry. It is a fact-finding mission to determine what exactly the facts were, and to make recommendations. I think as a general statement, however, it is fair to say that the mental illness part of the shootings is of serious concern.
Our police forces here, the RNC and RCMP, do not operate in a vacuum vis-à-vis national type training. Like, we do - at least we are starting from the same premise here in this Province as any regional police force or national police force in the rest of Canada are trained, in terms of what they are trained with. So I would like to dispel any notion, for example, that our police forces are not as well trained as somebody in Ontario, or an RCMP who works in B.C. The RCMP we have here all receive the same level of training as any RCMP officer, and our RNC get the same type of training as the OPP in Ontario. So we are starting from the same platform or base as any other police force in the country.
The question of whether that it adequate or not obviously comes to light, and not only in Newfoundland, because we had situations in Ontario as well where there have been shootings and the persons involved have had mental illness. We are concerned, and obviously the judge who is conducting the inquiries. I think it is relevant to note here that the same judge, Judge Luther, is doing both inquiries and I think that in and of itself is going to be beneficial, because he is going to see the factual circumstances from each case, one in Little Catalina and one in Corner Brook. In addition to the factual circumstances that he is determining, he is going to get a look at both of the mental illness issues in both cases.
I notice from the directions that he has given, even in allowing, suggesting and recommending to government that we fund the counsel for the families, that, in and of itself, is a recognition that we need to know more about the connection between a police officer and the public when it comes to dealing with the public who have mental illness problems. It was certainly brought to the forefront with these shootings. No doubt it has been around a long time, but when you get a fatal shooting it comes more so to the forefront.
Yes, there is a recognition that there is a big problem in terms of how do police officers deal with persons who have mental illness. Yes, they have a certain level of training now in dealing with these people, the same as any other police officer in Canada. The question as to whether or not it is adequate, and I would not want to prejudge what his answer might be on that, I think it is safe to say that we can probably expect some recommendations from the judge in that regard as to what can be done to improve upon what we already have.
Another comment I would make here is that we are going to have a broad inquiry. We just have not limited the inquiry here, or the judge has not limited himself to finding the facts. He specifically has given standing to the Mental Health Association, for example, which, independent of the Medical Association, is going to bring their perspective to the table. I think that is what we need. We do not need just police officers saying what we have and whether it is adequate or not. We are going to have persons who deal not from a police perspective but from a mental illness perspective such as the Mental Health Association to give their input. So, yes, we do have some. The short answer is: Yes, we do have some training in terms of sensitivity training and dealing with persons whether it be physical or mental illness; but the question is: What more can we do?
MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you. I thank the minister for his answer.
Has any thought been given to employing the services of other people, other than police officers, when this kind of complaint is registered by a citizen? It would seem to me that perhaps social workers, people trained in other areas, along with police officers perhaps, might be in a better position or equally as good a position to handle those initial complaints, or be part of a team that responds to the complaint. Is there any thought being given to try and bring together various resources that would respond to - I mean, everybody in Catalina knew that this gentleman was a mentally ill patient. I would assume that many people in Corner Brook knew the person involved out there. It seemed by public comment anyway, following the incident, that many people knew the person had a long history of mental illness. So, when you get a call involving such and such a person whom the police and everybody else know has a history of not being stable, particularly if they are not taking their meds regularly, is there any effort to involve others in the approach, other than just the police?
MR. PARSONS: I think much of it depends upon the nature of the complaint that comes in to the police station. If, for example, it is a case of a parent who calls and says that Jack is having a problem, and they know who Jack is and what the particular problem is, and there is not a violence or aggression issue involved, in that case the police do enlist the support of the medical people and social workers because there is no violence involved; but in these cases the element of who responds and how quickly you can respond depends upon the nature of the incident. For example, if the police are called and someone makes a complaint that such and such is going to cut someone's throat, the police have a duty to respond quickly. It would be nice if we could mobilize a team of medical personnel, if we know the person they are talking about does have a mental illness, but the reality of the situation and the practicality of it is that you often do not have the luxury as a peace officer of saying, let's mobilize that force.
We may well end up suggesting that we overhaul the system. Maybe there is a need for a directory of persons in the Province who have mental illness, who have been known to have violent behavior or aggressive behavior, and who have had numerous contacts with the police for example, and in those cases you do have a unit of some sort ready to address it. Maybe that is probably going to be one of the things that the inquiry will look at; but, on the ground right now, these things happen usually because somebody calls the police and says there is about to be a violent occurrence, and the police have to respond whether they do or do not have the personnel there.
MR. RIDEOUT: I think another thing that certainly comes to my mind, and came to my mind very vividly as a result of those two instances that we have been referring to: frankly, I was shocked to learn via the public media that a police officer is trained in all circumstances when they make a decision to use lethal force, to use a weapon, to aim for the main body mass. I have a number of friends who are police officers. I asked them and, yes, that is their training. They will tell you, that is their training. If you are responding to what you know to be a case involving a mentally ill person, it would seem to me that other training ought to be appropriate, or there ought to be more than one area of training to respond to different situations.
The RNC, for example, in the situation over on Hamlyn Road here in St. John's last year, took out the individual by using force, but I think they shot this gentlemen in the leg or the hip or something and brought him down, and then were able to take control of the situation from there. I do not say this to be critical to police officers; please do not get me wrong. If that is what they are trained to do, that is how they will react, obviously. That is the appropriate reaction as far as they are concerned.
It seems to me that in responding with deadly force to a mental health situation, particularly once you get there and you have an opportunity to size up the situation, and you are not alone - certain facts are on the public record. Those situations were not a situation where the police officer was alone. I think it is a question of training. It is a question that has to be viewed in terms of training. Why is it that in all cases when a police officer makes a decision to use the weapon, that they are trained to shoot for the main body mass? We all know what that is, and we all know what that means. Some officers obviously use their discretion and do not do that, and we perhaps have seen a situation where that happened. Isn't that a legitimate public policy question that ought to be addressed?
MR. PARSONS: Yes, all police forces in North America and all police forces in Canada use their training in what they call a continuum of force. It is simply a circle, and it is outlined what force is appropriate given the individual's actions. It is not simply a case of we pull a gun and we shoot. Before that ever escalates to that position, there is a chart, actually, that all police forces use, that if an individual does such and such then you have to react in such and such a way. If it elevates to a certain point and you don't use the fatal resolution of the matter, which is to pull your weapon, before you ever get to that point when a weapon is pulled, you have passed through several phases before that ever comes about. You have tried to exhaust your talking, you have tried to exhaust your pepper sprays, you have tried diversionary tactics of using night sticks, for example, on them. So you never get to that point factually of just walk up and pull a gun. These other things are gone through; it is not simply a case of pull and shoot.
In the Crane case you referred to here with the RNC, I say without hesitation, it is a matter of luck and not skill that Mr. Crane was shot in the leg. The fact of that case, again, was that the police officer, after you had gone through this continuum, numerous attempts to talk down from several people, numerous opportunities advising the person to lay down the weapon that he had, pepper spray applied to the person, throwing of a night stick at the person, and the officer in question was running downhill, being chased in a very rapid fashion by this individual when it was a case of the officer was going to be struck from behind with the weapon or the officer had to turn and defend himself. In that case the officer spun and, at a distance of about ten feet, shot and struck Mr. Crane in the leg. That is the fact. This was a case where he only got to that point where, on the continuum scale, there was no choice. It was him or Mr. Crane. Mr. Crane was very lucky that the guy missed, basically. That is the fact of the matter, that he missed in the Jody Crane case. If he had followed his training, he would have shot for the body mass, but because of the circumstances of running downhill and trying to turn, he actually got him in the hip. That is a case not where the police used their skill to shoot him in the leg. That is where the training, because of the factual circumstances, he had never gotten the opportunity to shoot - what he normally would have done. Mr. Crane, I understand, or at least his mother, to this day would be the first one to tell you that he is very fortunate to be alive.
MR. RIDEOUT: Well, that still begs the question of the training approach.
MR. PARSONS: I think the training has been recognized as very adequate training; they just do not get to the point where you shoot. Now, if there are other elements we have to add in order to identify when - do you back off? There are all kinds of factual circumstances that come in. What if the perpetrator is about to commit a violent act to someone who is in his custody? Like, if it is a person by himself, it is one fact situation that you can use A through Z type options. If the person is about to do damage or injury to someone else, that changes the whole complexion. Like, in the Corner Brook case, for example, there was someone else in the home who called the institution first and reported it, and said that they were going to suffer damages themselves. So, how many people are there, what particular facts are, makes a big difference. Even whether it is day or night makes a difference.
In one case in Catalina, it was daylight. In the case in Corner Brook, it was dark; so how the police or what options they have available to them depends on a lot of factual circumstances. I guess it is a case where one remedy cannot fit all situations, but you have to have the basic training to know what to do. If you follow the continuum, normally it works. They have been using the system successfully in North America for years and that is why, over the years, they have adapted it because they do not want a case of you just pull and shoot at the least provocation, that you must go through this system before you ever think of using your firearm; but when it reaches that point, when you have gone through every other option and you pull your firearm, you are pulling it then with the intention of making sure that person does not get at you and that you do shoot for body mass.
The reason you do not shoot for appendages - as a result of the Catalina shootings and the Corner Brook shootings, I asked the instructor at the Regina RCMP Academy those same questions: Why would you not train people to do that? The statistics and the studies have shown that you cannot train anyone under the circumstances normally when force is going to be applied from someone to be that accurate. Apparently, the psyche of the person holding the gun, you just do not have a deliberate time span in which to line up and take your opportunities; and in the past it has been proven that when they try to do that, the perpetrator who had a gun, for example, got off two or three more shots and killed two or three more people because the person tried to disarm them or tried to get an appendage. Over the years they have done it through these studies and through actual, not studies, but real life events, they found that if you do not disarm the person when you reach that maximum, you are likely to have more consequences after than if you got them in the body mass.
MR. RIDEOUT: Interesting.
CHAIR: Okay, who is next?
MS S. OSBORNE: I find that really interesting as well. Neither of the victims, I think, was armed with a gun, so maybe that all should be reviewed. I am not saying that it is the fault of this Department of Justice, but maybe when the training is happening - and I do not know - how much input does our Department of Justice have into how our police forces are trained?
MR. PARSONS: We do not dictate the training standards of the police forces. The police forces are trained to national standards.
MS S. OSBORNE: Yes, and I assumed that was what it was, but maybe we should have another look at - not us, but maybe they should have another look - at how they are trained, because the people here who were shot.... Jody Crane is lucky, but it also speaks to the fact that by shooting him in the leg he was brought down. It was accomplished that the policeman who was there, the police people who were there, were no longer in danger; because by shooting him in the leg he was brought down even though it was an accident.
While we are on the topic of folks with mental disabilities and how they are handled, has any improvement been made? Have there been any changes in the practices of when people are called and there are folks with mental disabilities acting out, or having a tantrum? I know I brought this up in the House of Assembly and I may have brought it up at Estimates last year of, for instance, a young fifteen-year-old girl who was developmentally delayed, and you spoke of enlisting the help of a social worker. Her mother called the social worker. The social worker called the police. The police went to her house. She was out of control somewhat, but she probably, at that point in time, should have been brought to a medical facility for people who have mental disabilities. She was brought to the remand centre, where she was handcuffed and strip-searched. This is a person, a girl, who is developmentally delayed.
There was another person who had an alternate care home, who had a young man there who was not mentally ill, but, once again, developmentally delayed. He was having some discomfort because he probably needed a medication change or whatever. The alternate care giver, of course, was not qualified to change the medication, called the Waterford and said, I have a patient of yours here who is very uncomfortable right now and probably needs to up his meds. Well, call the police. They will put him in the lock-up for the night.
Has that policy been changed? Has any improvement been made in how we treat our people who are suffering from mental disabilities? Have provisions been made in the facilities? These two incidents were here in the city. I suggest that maybe at the hospital, at the Waterford Hospital, or the psychiatric unit of one of the other hospitals, that they could be taken there. Why can't that happen?
MR. PARSONS: Again, we have to be very careful of the factual circumstances of which you speak here. The reference to strip-searching, regardless of a person's mental or emotional condition, whatever security precautions must be taken by the penal institution to ensure that the person will be safe to themselves and to anyone else who resides there will be undertaken. That has nothing to do with what your mental condition is, or whether you are male or female. The appropriate personnel, of course, would be involved if it is a female. That is a standard, basic security requirement that you undertake the searches because you don't want a person to be -
MS S. OSBORNE: The people are not criminally insane even. This is a girl who is developmentally delayed. She is fifteen years old, and she was acting out. Couldn't she have been brought to either the Waterford - when I suggested the Waterford in the House of Assembly, I was accused of wanting to put people back into the mental hospital. That is not true; but I think that people who are suffering from developmental disabilities should be treated with more dignity than either being taken to the remand centre in the first place - they did not commit a crime - or, in the case of the gentleman who was also developmentally delayed, a man about thirty-five or forty years of age - he was a patient of the Waterford Hospital - to have it suggested that rather than be brought to the Waterford Hospital for the evening and have the on-call doctor look at him until his doctor was available, that he be put in the lock-up. If he was having an appendicitis attack, or a heart attack, or anything, he would be allowed to go to either the Health Sciences or St. Clare's; but, because his illness is different than a physical illness, because it is a mental illness or a developmental disability, I suggest that we are discriminating big time against these people.
MR. PARSONS: Knowing the individuals I have had dealings with in the remand centre, in the penitentiaries, or in Whitbourne, I would not suggest that there is any insensitivities amongst them. In fact, the people that I have met there - and we do have medical personnel, whenever there is a medical requirement, whether it be a medical doctor or -
MS S. OSBORNE: Why is a mental illness different than a physical illness?
MR. PARSONS: I am not suggesting that they are treated any differently. You are starting from the premise that they get treated differently. What I am saying is -
MS S. OSBORNE: It is different. If a person phones the Waterford Hospital and says that a Waterford patient is in discomfort, because maybe the medications need to be increased or something, if that was a person with a heart attack or an appendicitis attack, which is physical, they would be brought to one of the medical facilities; but because the illness - and it is an illness, nothing criminal happening at all, just in discomfort, and very, very agitated -
MR. PARSONS: I am certainly not aware of any situation where a person who has not done anything of an offense nature is put into the remand centre.
MS S. OSBORNE: No, this was an adult person being told to be brought to the lock-up. If he is agitated, call the police and they will put him in the lock-up for the evening. That actually happened.
MR. PARSONS: In my experience and my knowledge, we do not incarcerate persons whether they be in the lock-ups or in the remand centres unless there was a reason for the police officer to justify their -
MS S. OSBORNE: There was absolutely no reason. There was no reason. The person was agitated. What I am saying is that this service was not available in the evening and there was no absolute reason. The person was agitated, very extremely agitated. A call was made to the Waterford Hospital: I have a patient of yours here who is extremely agitated. I am the alternate care giver. Can I please bring him in and have him looked at? No, if he is agitated, call the police and they will put him in the lock-up for the evening and you can bring him in tomorrow.
MR. PARSONS: Well, we may have a problem in the health care system if that is what the people at the Waterford are saying; but, from a justice perspective, we do not arrest people, to my knowledge, unless there is a reason.
MS S. OSBORNE: That actually happened. I happen to know the person who was involved, very, very closely.
MR. PARSONS: We have had situations -
CHAIR: Maybe, Sheila, if you wanted to speak to the minister in private and discuss that particular individual.
MS S. OSBORNE: Well, I do not think we should be speaking to particular individuals. If this is a procedure that happens, then I would like for it not to be just made better for this particular individual but for all the individuals who are residents of our Province who find themselves in that situation.
CHAIR: I get the sense from sitting here that it is not a particular pattern. It seems as though it were an exception or whatever. Maybe it might be -
MS S. OSBORNE: No, no, it happens; you can check with the RNC.
CHAIR: On a regular basis?
MS S. OSBORNE: Absolutely; because I was so appalled by that, I checked with the RNC. I will tell you of another incident now. When the doctors were on strike at Agnes Pratt Home, a relative, my sister-in-law's mother was there, and she was having - she was in the secure unit there - she had Alzheimer's and they needed to bring her to St. Clare's to have a doctor there look at her. I think it was St. Clare's they were going to bring her. They told her there that if she did not get in the ambulance they would have to call the police. That is a fact. So, I guess it is medical, as you say, Minister.
MR. PARSONS: Again, facts, too: we have had circumstances, for example, where somebody who has been a resident at the Waterford, who was on their medication, gets released by their doctor, so they are deemed to be medically suitable to go home, because they have their medication. When they get out, they stop taking their medications. All of sudden, like you say, they become agitated again; the parents or fathers or mothers or sisters do not know how to react and oftentimes they do call the police. If the police go to the home, it is never with a view to discriminating or mistreating the person.
MS S. OSBORNE: Oh, I know that.
MR. PARSONS: You are trying to alleviate the situation that whoever is care taking for that person finds themselves in. Often it is a protection issue.
MS S. OSBORNE: You check with the police. They do not want to be taking young people to the remand centre; they do not want to be taking developmentally delayed people to the lock-up.
I had another one, one evening, and I worked through it with the police. This guy escaped, and I worked through with the police who were going around in their patrol car. Eventually they picked him up and I was still on the telephone. We worked it out and he called me back and said: Look, we are not going to detain him. We had the doctor look at him now, because the person was mentally ill and because I pleaded for him.
Especially on a Friday night, if you are mentally ill and you get picked up and put down in the lock-up, this is not a very pleasant place to be on a Friday night when they are bringing in the DIPs, you know. I do not need to get into that.
I do not think that we are treating our residents properly when we treat people who are developmentally delayed differently than we treat people who are having a heart attack or an appendicitis attack or gallstone attack. Those folks get to go to the regular hospitals, and the people who are mentally ill or whatever have to go to lock-ups or the remand centres. It has happened, and I can bring you those three cases and the people who were involved.
Anyway, as the Chairperson has said, maybe that is enough of that and it should be dealt with at another time.
MR. PARSONS: There is one other point, though. We do have psychiatrists on call at the lock-up, so even if the medical system is not providing it, the only reason a police officer would detain someone is if they feel there is a risk to that person or to someone else. If they determine that the person is mentally or emotionally disturbed, we do have a psychiatrist on call who would deal with that person.
MS S. OSBORNE: He does not get called in. He is called in the morning and the person spends the evening there. Unless the person is really bad, the psychiatrist is not called in. I can bring in names and folks.
MR. PARSONS: I would appreciate that.
MS S. OSBORNE: I really can.
MR. PARSONS: If we have persons on call who are supposed to be treating those persons and do not come in, I would love to know that.
MS S. OSBORNE: They do not get called. They are seen the next morning and released. Speak to the RNC. That is a fact.
MR. PARSONS: I tell you, you give me the name of the person you are referring to and I will undertake to have it investigated and find out who the doctor on call was that night and why he or she did not come in, because that is not good enough.
MS S. OSBORNE: They detain them and they were checked in the morning. The last time I dealt with somebody like that, the procedure was that the psychiatrist came in the morning.
MR. PARSONS: Again, in all seriousness, I would like to have the name; because that is not acceptable, it is not appropriate. The psychiatrist is on call for that reason. If they are called by the police to come in and see that person, they are supposed to respond, and then that psychiatrist has the right to get that person admitted immediately to the Waterford.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay, I am going to check on that for you.
The number of policemen on our highways: I understand there are 100 less RNC patrolling our highways than there were ten years ago, and RCMP as well. I do not have the figures in front of me, but I understand that the incidents of people who are arrested for drunk driving have also gone down. I suggest that we do not have any less drunk drivers; we just do not have policemen patrolling the highways enough to pick them up.
MR. PARSONS: I would not disagree with you, that there has been a decline. It was done again from a resourcing point of view as to what you could afford. I think we have come some ways in trying to correct that situation. Mr. Rideout and my officials and I have met with a group from their district to deal with an issue involving - and again, in that case, there are two things I would say: first of all, whenever there is a particular area that is having a particular problem, whether it be speeders, drunk drivers and so on, the police do use the resources that are there to put together a plan to deal with it as was done in this particular case in the Lewisporte district.
We have also been able, in the last two years - we added three back last year into the highway patrol, and in this year's budget we have made provision to add back four more. We did decline from what was originally thirty-nine some years ago, down quite substantially, I think, to thirteen, but we are now building back. In the last two years we have been able to put back in, that will be seven now total.
MS S. OSBORNE: What about the RNC? Are you putting more back in there as well?
MR. PARSONS: The big change in the RNC that I alluded to when we started was the district policing. We never had enough bodies and resources in the Northeast Avalon area to do what had to be done in terms of servicing all the needs. We were getting a lot of complaints from the Conception Bay South area in particular, and Mayor Smith, and we met with him several times. We implemented the district policing system whereby, instead of trying to duplicate the resources in every one of the four districts, there are certain things, for example, that could be used in all the districts, like the fingerprinting experts, the arson experts and so on. They could be used for all four, but then the rest of the area, geographically, was carved up into four districts. It is community oriented. It is not driven from the top any more. It is driven from the district. It is driven from the ground level up.
In the case of Conception Bay South, for example, if we had a vandalism issue, that was brought to the attention - well, the police usually knew themselves because they were getting an excessive number of reports for vandalism, for example. Any time that a particular issue, whether it was speeding, whether it was drug use in a certain area, or it was vandalism, the police would take the resources and zero in on that particular issue.
I know in Conception Bay South there was one particular park that was being vandalized and they did that. They zeroed in, used their undercover operations and, of course, they were quite successful.
The other benefit, albeit we cannot put back the bodies, we are doing better with the resources that we have through district policing. That has become very evident because the communities are telling us now that there is a sense of ownership from the police. You do not get the person who, for example, comes into work today, who lives Mt. Pearl, he goes to Fort Townsend, and this morning he is assigned to the South Side; he comes in tomorrow and he is assigned to CBS and so on. What is happening now is, they get an ownership because it is their district, their turf, their beat, and you are starting to get that feedback that the police officers know the people and know the groups. In fact, the people who usually cause the trouble, we are finding in the districts, know who is who. They are not conning anybody because if they had a problem with a particular police officer last Friday, he is back next Friday. He knows who the trouble makers are and so on, so it is working out quite well.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
I have a few more questions, but I will get back to that later. Somebody else might want to ask a few questions. Thank you.
CHAIR: Can we get back to the subheads?
MR. MANNING: Subhead 2.3.01., Legal Aid and Related Services. Minister, could you, for the record, explain the process there and someone that would require the use of legal aid from your department?
MR. PARSONS: Pardon?
MR. MANNING: Could you just run through the process for someone who would require legal aid from your department?
MR. PARSONS: Our legal aid system in the Province is geared principally toward the criminal legal aid system as opposed to the civil side. Almost virtually, the whole works of our funding into legal aid is into the criminal side.
If a person is charged with a criminal offence, we have offices throughout the Province with staff lawyers who were employed by legal aid. The individual would go in and make the staff aware of what they were charged with, and then you would go through a means test to decide if you were entitled to receive legal aid. It is not simply a case of you have to have an income of less than $12,000 or $14,000, or whatever; it is not that kind of means test. You may well make $18,000 a year but your expenditures may be far greater, so you may still be entitled to legal aid. Once you pass the means test, that lawyer is assigned to you to deal with your case.
In addition to that, we have what we call duty council. For example, you may have a plea day, which is the first day when all the charges get called in court on a certain day. There may be fifty people there on fifty different type charges. The individual may not know: Is this serious or not serious, or what are the possible consequences of this thing? Is it a traffic ticket? Is it a Criminal Code offense? Is it a poaching offense? That duty counsel is there so that you can get free advice at first instance before you go put in a plea as to what you ought to do, to determine the seriousness of what you are facing. Duty counsel can pretty routinely give you a fair idea of what you are likely to get in terms of a sentence if you were to plead guilty. That is the process, how it works, of course, and then you get your lawyer. That is in the criminal system.
The only way you would get a lawyer civically through legal aid in the Province is if you had a circumstance whereby a woman takes out a support application against her husband for child support, goes to court, and when she gets to court she finds out that her husband is there and he has a lawyer. In that case, if she were to say to the judge: Look, he has a lawyer and I do not; I would like to go get a lawyer. In that case, legal aid will give the lady legal assistance so that she is not at a disadvantage by not having a lawyer.
In terms of walking off the street and saying, I want a lawyer for my divorce, for example, that usually does not happen in the civil side of things.
MR. MANNING: What you are saying is that for the majority of the budgeted amount here, you are dealing with criminal cases. For the majority of cases, you are dealing with criminal cases.
MR. PARSONS: Yes. In fact, the funding for the legal aid, for the record, it is funded cost-shared between the federal government and the provincial government. The federal government contributions to the legal aid system have declined from where they were putting in about 90 per cent down to where they are putting in about 50 per cent. So we have had to make up the difference, of course, in order to keep the same level of service out there.
MR. MANNING: Is there much of, I will call it a backlog for the sake of a better word, in regard to applications for legal aid support?
MR. PARSONS: We are doing quite well, actually; in fact, very, very well. A few years back, the system used to be that if a person went into legal aid and you were charged with an offense, you could pick your solicitor. That had two consequences, but usually the consequence was that it was very costly. So what the system evolved into was, instead of getting private outside counsel of choice, because of the funding issues, we used the funds we had and hired staff solicitors and they are all around the Province. For example, they just do not stay in one area because we have a lot of circuit courts in Newfoundland. The court in Corner Brook, for example, goes on circuit to Port aux Basques, and the legal aid person from the Stephenville office would go to Port aux Basques on that morning of court. So, we have very good, well-staffed offices around the Province. In fact, we have an additional, I think it is 300,000 we were fortunate enough to get this year into legal aid that will help us provide a few more staff members.
MR. MANNING: I want to get back to the questions I asked earlier because I have, along with being a constituent of mine, a major concern I have. From a civil action point of view here in the Province, any individual or family who feels they have been done an injustice by the Department of Justice, really there is no financial recourse for them within government circles unless you do as you have done for the shooting case in Catalina: you make an announcement or you decide that you are going to pay for legal support. There is no other avenue within government, is what I am trying to get at, I guess, in relation to anybody who is seeking justice through civil action?
MR. PARSONS: Not within government other than, say, if you qualify for legal aid you would get assistance through legal aid.
MR. MANNING: Wonderful.
I would like to get back to, just down below, subhead 2.3.03., Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, on Salaries we went from a budget amount of $138,600 to an increase of $156,800 and this year we are back to $139,300 on Estimates. Could you explain the $20,000 plus difference?
MR. PARSONS: The increase there was to cover costs of additional clerical requirements, the medical examiner, as a result again of the shootings principally. Besides the normal workload that took place, these shootings were quite extensive and there were additional clerical staff involved; because I believe in both shootings - sometimes the medical examiner has the authority to leave it to someone outside to do it, but I think in these cases where there were fatalities involved he actually got involved and did it himself and there was additional clerical required.
MR. MANNING: Okay. The reports of the Chief Medical Examiner, once they are completed, are presented to you as minister?
MR. PARSONS: Yes.
MR. MANNING: Are they public reports?
MR. PARSONS: What happens is, once they come to the minister with the recommendation, the way the system works is, if he makes a recommendation of a judicial inquiry, I would contact the Chief Judge of the Provincial Court and say that we have been notified by the medical examiner that he is recommending an inquiry; you need to appoint someone to do this inquiry.
He may do it himself, as he did in the Catalina case and as he is doing in the RNC Corner Brook case, Power, or he can pick any other judge, who is a provincial court judge, to do it. Once he notifies the Department of Justice who that judge is, we will forward to that judge all the information we have, including the medical examiner's report, and it is within the parametres and the authority then of that examining judge to decide if he wants to make it public or not.
Normally, it does become public in the course of the hearing or the inquiry because the Chief Medical Examiner is routinely called as one of the witnesses at that inquiry. So that information would come out, but the process to bring it out is not through the minister getting it and making it public. I would pass it on to the judge who is appointed to do the inquiry.
MR. MANNING: What happens if there is no recommendation and there is no judge to do the inquiry?
MR. PARSONS: Other than that, to my knowledge, it has never been released no more than you would release a police report (inaudible) investigation.
MR. MANNING: It is not something that is available under the Freedom of Information Act?
MR. PARSONS: I am not sure. I do not think it is.
MR. MILLS: It has never come up, has it? I am not aware that it has ever come up.
MR. PARSONS: The family would be notified of what it is, for sure.
MR. MANNING: The family would receive a copy of the report?
MR. MILLS: I am not positive about that, but I believe the families are often advised of the results. I doubt if they see a copy of the report. When you refer to a report, as the minister knows, it is actually usually just a letter with one, two, three, or four recommendations in it. It is not like a big thick report that is presented. That is all I can advise on that.
MR. PARSONS: If there is an autopsy, he does the autopsy and does his investigative, pathological type of testing that he does. Usually what the minister would get is, as Mr. Mills says, a summary of that in a letter form saying that we do or do not believe that an inquiry should proceed and for what reasons.
MR. MANNING: I really have a problem with it, because if I am reading correctly, and correct me if I am wrong: number one, from a legal aid point of view there is no support; number two, there has to be a report. They don't just decide on one sheet of paper what is going ahead and what is not going ahead. There has to be some more backup to that letter that he sends to you. Yes, he may send you a one page letter, but I am sure he has documentation to back up his letter.
MR. PARSONS: Yes.
MR. MANNING: What I am trying to get at is: that report that was completed by the chief medical officer, if it does not go to a judicial inquiry, that report is not available to the family?
MR. PARSONS: In the case you refer to, the Careen case, if that is what you are referring to, my understanding is that Dr. Avis did, in fact, have extensive meetings and discussions with the family and discuss with them everything that he had. I do not think there is a case here of any non-disclosure elements or anything. My understanding, from what Dr. Avis has told me, is that he had extensive meetings with the Careen family and discussed the outcome, the results, the findings that he had in his inquiry.
The inquiry made by the medical examiner, basically he would determine the cause of death. As to the circumstances surrounding the death or anything, he would not have delved into everything that led up to the particular death, but he will identify the cause of death.
MR. MANNING: Fair game.
The medical examiner decides the cause of death. The man in this particular case jumped out a window. He either landed on his head or he landed on his feet, so we come to a cause of death. The circumstances surrounding that, the circumstances leading up to it, the circumstances one hour before it, who determines them?
MR. MILLS: My understanding, Mr. Manning, is that aside from the Chief Medical Examiner's report there was also a police investigation by the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary regarding the circumstances surrounding Mr. Careen's death. The police reached the conclusion that there were no grounds to lay charges. At the request of the Careen family, the police then sent a report on to the Crown prosecutor's office here in St. John's, which is an unusual situation because normally we just stop at that. The Crown prosecutor's office had an opinion prepared which assessed what the police had looked at and the Crown prosecutor reached the conclusion that the police were right, that there were no grounds that there was any criminal activity here, or any criminal negligence by any medical officials. Although it is the policy of the department not to release legal opinions, in the particular case of Mr. Careen we made an exception and we actually provided the prosecutor's written legal opinion directly to the Careen family so that they would understand the reasoning by the prosecutors and the police, even though that was contrary to the policies of our department.
MR. MANNING: If there are not grounds for criminal wrongdoing, or whatever the case may be, who decides, where would it be decided? As an example, I will just use the locks on the windows at that particular time. That is not a criminal offense; I know that. Am I with the right department here? Those kinds of things here, who answers those for the next person? It is too late for John Careen, but I am wondering about the next person that goes.
MR. MILLS: Those types of examples that you used would, in fact, be addressed by Dr. Avis.
MR. MANNING: Okay.
On head 3.2.01., we had a budget of $4,540,800 for Salaries for Provincial Court; it went to $8,059,100. I know they are busy, but that is really busy. Can you explain that one to me?
MR. PARSONS: Actually, there are twenty-four provincial court judges and that has been pretty standard for the last number of years. What happened here is, back in 1992 there was - judges' salaries, for example, are not set by the normal course. They are set by a tribunal. What happened was a commission -
MR. MANNING: Almost as good as Members of the House of Assembly; they can set their own.
MR. PARSONS: Almost.
The Whelan report in 1992 set about saying what the judges' salaries should be. The short of it was that government did not accept the Whelan report and it went to court. The Provincial Court Judges' Association took the matter to court. It went through the Trial Division, wherein Judge Roberts decided that the Whelan report had to be implemented and the retroactive pay and the salary range that the judges were entitled to had to be paid by government.
We appealed it to the Court of Appeal, because we did not agree with Justice Roberts. In the meantime, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the same type of argument in several other provinces - P.E.I., New Brunswick, Alberta - that government cannot interfere in how judges' salaries are set and that we had to implement the Whelan report.
Our Court of Appeal, in addition, came down last September 4 and decided as well that the Supreme Court of Canada was indeed right, Justice Roberts in the Trial Division was right, and government should not be interfering in judges' salaries.
We were left in the situation of: do we appeal the Court of Appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada who had already decided on it in three cases where they were going to settle? Once the dust settled, it was a matter then of government sizing up what it cost to implement the court decision, and what it cost in terms of salary increases and retroactive pay to these provincial court judges, twenty-four of them, that is what it added up to. The exact figure was about $4 million, somewhere around $4 million.
MR. MANNING: So this increase here is retroactive pay to the judges, is it?
MR. PARSONS: The court ruled that the pay to the judges was retroactive back to 1992, the Whelan Commission. In fact there were judges, depending on their seniority and how long they had been with the system, who got retroactive pay up to $150,000.
MR. MANNING: I guess they are not looking for legal aid.
Head 4.1.01., Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, 05., Professional Services, it went from $75,000 up to $215,000 and back to $75,000 this year.
MR. PARSONS: That is a result of the two investigations that we had the OPP conduct in regard to the shootings, because the RNC have a policy - in fact, we have a Memorandum of Understanding with the OPP - that if there is a shooting by the RNC they do not conduct their own investigations. The most they do is secure the scene, right at first instance, and immediately a team comes in from Ontario and does the investigations. We had here the Crane shooting in St. John's plus the Power investigation out in Corner Brook, so that is the fees for that.
MR. MANNING: Under 06., Purchased Services, $293,700 up to $395,000, an increase of $100,000. Would that be along the same lines?
MR. PARSONS: Principally, that related to the Ryan escape; and included in that, even, is the $25,000 reward that was posted, and printing costs. In fact, it was the first time in the Province that the reward system was utilized. It was quite effective, actually. The reward was sanctioned on Friday -
MR. MANNING: It put him back behind bars, so that is okay.
MR. PARSONS: - and by Saturday morning they had the information they needed.
MR. MANNING: It is too bad we do not have more money for that purpose, if you ask me.
Under 07., Property, Furnishings and Equipment, $474,000 up to $975,000. Somebody got-
MR. PARSONS: We got twenty new vehicles for the RNC, and I am sure that anybody who watched the media last year saw the reports that they were driving them with 500 clicks on some of them. We have managed to secure funding part way through the year for about $600,000 that we got extra out of the Treasury for vehicles.
MR. MANNING: I was just wondering. I have no problem with that. I was just wondering, when you look at an increase like that.
Under 2.1.02., Sheriff's Office, 01., Salaries, again, an increase of $1.5 million to $1.6 million.
MR. PARSONS: That resulted from a reclassification of eleven employees there. As well, there were additional security requirements for long-term trials that we had. We had several major murder trails and so on, so additional staff had to stay on. We had one case, I believe, in Grand Bank, that was an instance where we did not have all the facilities and personnel we needed in Grand Bank to do it, so you incurred extra cost getting them there.
MR. MANNING: I did not see it here, but maybe I missed something - the Witness Protection Program. Is there a dollar value behind that in regard to: are there people in this Province held under the Witness Protection Program?
MR. PARSONS: That is a federal program.
MR. MANNING: It is federal, is it? Okay. That is why I did not see it.
I will pass back and finish up.
MR. RIDEOUT: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Just a quick question before I ask a couple of questions on the subheads, Minister. At some point last year, I recall, the House of Assembly passed a resolution that was unanimous regarding ignition interlock devices and the use of those in this Province as far as tracking, I think it was impaired drivers convicted perhaps the second time.
Did the department take the unanimous resolution of the House seriously? What has the department done about the resolution?
MR. MILLS: There is a committee made up of different government departments and also of interest groups like MADD, as well as a prosecutor, who have been looking at that. It has not been implemented to date because I believe in that committee process there have been a number of concerns raised of a public protection nature. For example, there was concern that you would know who was in fact blowing into the device so that you could be sure that it was in fact the driver. Those were some technical concerns that way, so I believe it is still being looked at by that committee. The answer to your question is: It is not currently implemented, but they are still looking at it.
MR. PARSONS: In fact, as well, since that resolution I had a meeting with not only the local MADD representatives but the executive director nationally, and those were the concerns raised. The initiative is good, but there are some bugs that we have to iron out from a technical point of view.
MR. RIDEOUT: When we debated that resolution, wasn't there some information before the Legislature - I believe it was in Alberta where they were using those devices - that they were personalized. They would only kick in if they recognized your thumb print, or something of that nature, but they were personalized to the individual.
MR. MILLS: I do not know all the ins and out of that technology, but I believe there is a degree of personalization to it. There were also concerns raised that they could get around that. I am not sure exactly how the technical thing works, but the concern, as I understood it, was that I could put my print here but you could lean over and blow in, or something along those lines. That is the stage that it is at. This is an issue not only in Newfoundland but across the country. You are correct. Not only Alberta but at least one other province has done it, but it is still at a preliminary stage in other provinces.
MR. RIDEOUT: What do we have an interdepartmental committee that is looking at this? Works and Services, I assume?
MR. PARSONS: Government Services.
MR. RIDEOUT: Government Services. Do they have a mandate to report at a certain time?
MR. PARSONS: I do not know if we have any mandate to report; we still trying to get the technological information. We know that there are loopholes. I compare it to the old big game tags that you used to collect. As fast as they invented them, somebody found a way to beat them.
MR. RIDEOUT: That is the ingenuity of Newfoundlanders.
MR. PARSONS: That is the kind of reports that we got back. It was a great idea but they found ways to beat it, so we are still trying to refine it. You cannot put a deadline on when we are going to perfect it.
MR. RIDEOUT: Just as a suggestion, Minister, since it was a resolution that was passed by the Legislature, it might be useful at some point, maybe, for a Ministerial Statement so the House can be informed as to what is taking place, and through the House the public.
I just have a couple of other questions and then I will be finished. Did anybody ask any questions on the Minister's Office? Because if they did, I will not.
MS S. OSBORNE: No we did not.
MR. RIDEOUT: I just noticed in the Minister's Office a couple of amounts that are noticeable. Transportation and Communications in the Minister's Office, the budget last year was $43,400, the same as this year, and the actual spending was $66,700. That is a significant increase above budget and we would like to have that accounted for. No doubt every cent of it is justified, and perhaps more; but, of course, the obvious question then becomes: Why is $43,400 deemed to be an adequate number this year if it was not an adequate number last year?
MR. PARSONS: Well, most of the expenditures, or a lot of it, came from being, the first time around, I went to a lot of places other than the additional travel. I had not seen all the correctional facilities around the Province. I did not know what the court houses around the Province were like. So, the first year, a lot of it was initiation as to familiarizing myself with what exactly the Department of Justice has in the Province, who works where, who is looking after Clarenville, Botwood, Bishop's Falls and so on. That would have been in addition to what would normally be done.
Also, a couple of the expensive ones: I did travel to Regina, again in conjunction with what is going on in the shooting angles and what our police forces are doing in terms of training, so I was in Regina. The Attorney Generals Annual Convention was held in Nunavut this year, which in and of itself was a cost factor that is not normal. It is in Nova Scotia next year, so we trust it will be somewhat less.
MR. RIDEOUT: So you think $43,400 was adequate for this year?
MR. PARSONS: I do not know if that is adequate. I actually did not come up with that figure, either, of $43,400. I guess it depends on what arises in any given year. There may be issues, for example, that I will be required to go to. I had some things last year in terms of organized crime meetings that I did not anticipate having to go to, but things happen in other venues that you are expected to be a party to. Some of the travel that comes about, you cannot ever plan what it is going to be.
MR. RIDEOUT: Purchased Services, Minister, you budgeted $4,500 and you budgeted the same amount this year, but you actually spent $18,000 in Purchased Services last year. Can you tell us what transpired there?
MR. PARSONS: First of all, I think it is widely acknowledged that the $4,500 is not sufficient. The department has made representation to Treasury Board for years that it should be increased and Treasury Board won't allow them to put any more there, but there are certain realities of running a department and so on that exceed the $4,500. For example, in the case where we had a photocopier, a photocopier alone was $5,000; a fax machine was purchased, for example, another $1,100.
In terms of the minister's entertainment, it was actually less than one-third of the total amount of $18,000, for ministerial expenses, in terms of my entertainment fees. That included several initiatives besides meeting with groups. Because I was new to the game, I made a point last year of making sure that everybody I could meet with, I did meet with, whether it was in Corner Brook, or - there was one incident in Goose Bay with the Crime Prevention Association, for example, and I attended the annual general meeting of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Municipalities because they asked me to participate in the forum they had in terms of justice issues. I do not think it is adequate, in the first instance, and Treasury Board will not let us put any more there.
MR. RIDEOUT: They will allow the transfers, but they will not allow you to increase the amount.
MR. PARSONS: That is right.
MR. RIDEOUT: Talk about one hand not knowing what the other hand is doing.
Thank you, Minister.
I mentioned this last year and I am going to mention it again this year, and that is probably where I will end. In Provincial Courts, page 214, I don't notice any capital head at all in there for provincial courts. Are we going to try at all to improve the lot of our citizens who have to appear in provincial court? Some of the provincial court facilities around this Province, it is criminal that citizens have to appear in them, let alone anybody else: a judge, lawyers, press people. I cannot get out of my mind the basement of the Anglican Church in Baie Verte, for example, where, when I was in private life, I had to conduct a major criminal matter that lasted for months, in the Anglican Church in Baie Verte, with no heat, with no security, everybody and his dog in town had a key to the place. It is just atrocious, some of the facilities that provincial courts operate under in this Province. Some areas like Gander have beautiful facilities, and Grand Falls, but I am talking about the rural parts of Newfoundland and Labrador where those courts have to circuit. I am not suggesting that we have to have a monument to justice in every rural community in Newfoundland, but I am suggesting that justice is more than just having the judge come in, have a trial and throw somebody in jail. There is more than that. In many parts of rural Newfoundland and Labrador we have very, very inadequate court facilities. Recording facilities, for example, in that place in Baie Verte, you could not even get a transcript. I suppose we could have talked about arguing for mistrials. It is scandalous, some of the facilities: the court stenographer, or whatever you call it, coming along with their own little pocket recorder for recording.
This is happening in the year 2001 in provincial courts in our Province. It is not adequate; it is not good enough. I mentioned it last year, and I really do not see any improvement, by looking at those Estimates, Minister. The provincial court is the workhorse of our court system. That is where the work is done, by and large. That is where the major case load is, by and large. You leave the provincial court down on the first floor of the Sir Richard Squires Building in Corner Brook, which is not bad compared to Baie Verte, but go up to the Supreme Court, go up to heaven, up on the ninth or tenth floor, where those people are operating. It is a different world altogether. You know; you have been there more than I have.
I think it is just totally inadequate what is happening with regard to facilities for courtrooms in the rural parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and I would like to hear some indication that over time you are going to try to correct that.
MR. PARSONS: Well, you are speaking to the converted as to what is needed. I will be the first to agree with you. I do not know if I agree, necessarily, when it comes to the circuit courts; because, again, in terms of resources, you have - I am quite familiar with doing circuit courts in places like Burgeo, as well, in the parish hall, places like that up in Port au Choix and so on. Again, it is a matter of funding and what the priorities are.
In terms of provincial courts, the next provincial court in the Province scheduled to be replaced, and it is actually second on the priority list in terms of courts, the first one being the Supreme Court in Goose Bay. My comment would be that it is not only the Supreme Court in Goose Bay, it is the provincial court in Goose Bay as well. It should be one initiative to try to accomplish the same thing as we have in Gander and Grand Falls where you have both courthouses in the same complex. Up there, you do not have rooms for witnesses, for example.
This is even in the Supreme Court. The provincial court, the same thing, you do not have room for the staff. If a lawyer wants to go talk to a client, you do not have the adequate facilities. If you are in the courtroom doing your presentation, the walls are paper thin and anyone who walks by can hear what you are doing. Now that is not such a problem because it is deemed to be public or ought to be public anyway, but it is a big problem when the judge's chambers are not soundproof and some of that stuff should not be public. That is the number one priority, to replace the supreme and provincial courts in Goose Bay.
In fact, I have suggested to Minister McLean, the Minister for Labrador & Aboriginal Affairs, that if we cannot approach it from the perspective of justice and capital funding, we do not have, as a Province, a provincial facility in Labrador. We do not have a Sir Richard Squires type place in Labrador. I suggested to him that instead of having the seventeen different rental situations that we have - because we are renting a provincial court, we are renting a supreme court, we are renting victim services, we are renting Crown prosecutor space, we are renting HRE space; everything you can imagine, we are renting all over Goose Bay and Happy Valley - my recommendation to him was, why not approach it from a provincial perspective, a provincial building, and put all of them in the same building? That is what he is promoting right now and, of course, I am using it as an avenue to accomplish what we need to in justice.
From a provincial perspective, the worst courthouse in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, bar none, in a situation where you have a full-time resident judge is Clarenville. If you are in the Clarenville court, and the judge is sitting there in the Clarenville court, if the clerk wants to go to the washroom, she has to walk behind the curtain behind the judge in the courtroom. When she uses the washroom, it is right there in the corner. You can imagine the privacy that you would have in such a situation. It is simply atrocious. There are low ceilings. There is no room for lawyers to meet. That is, from a provincial perspective, the number one priority to get replaced as a courthouse.
Again, coming back to the resources issue: do we use the dollars that we have to put into civil legal aid? Do we use the dollars to put into having more police officers on the highway because of impaired drivers? It is simply a matter of resources, and where we put them, but it is a priority. Like I say, there is a certain amount of respect that goes with a courtroom in any community. It has just been a matter of prioritization in terms of where we put the funding right now.
MR. RIDEOUT: Anyway, I have made my annual pitch and I will rest my case.
CHAIR: Are there any other questions?
MS S. OSBORNE: I just have a couple of questions around the remand centre. I know that you are not going to be building the new centre, so what are the plans now? Is the old one going to be refurbished? Because Dr. Linda Inkpen, in her report, said it was bunker-like, et cetera. I was just presented that report, so I have not had a chance to have a look.
MR. PARSONS: There is no doubt that the old remand centre, we had to do something with, and Dr. Inkpen had indeed recommended that. Just for some background here, initially the government had agreed to $ 5.5 million expenditure to build a new Pleasantville facility. In fact, about $1 million of that is spent in terms of water, sewer, site improvements.
MS S. OSBORNE: And all the aggravation that went with all those hearings.
MR. PARSONS: And the public upset about where it was going to be located. It is not good money gone bad, because the land is still now improved for any other kind of government infrastructure that you might want to build.
Once the decision was made to build and actually start to do the site work, it was determined that we had a very substantially declining inmate population, very substantial, to the point where I think it is a sixty bed facility normally and sometimes we were less than half utilized. The question is: Why would you build what was anticipated if you never had half the bodies to put into it?
We had John Abbott do a study to decide what was appropriate to satisfy the needs that we had. Was this a fluke? Were we seeing these figures? Was this just a blip, and next year we might be up again to numbers to justify it and so on?
There is no doubt from the study that the demographics that we had: number one, we have a declining population anyway, particularly a declining youth population. We also have a decrease in crime, which is not a bad thing. Since the early nineties, we have declined substantially in the criminal offences, which is another factor. There are just less people being charged and being incarcerated.
Another big factor was the method of sentencing. Instead of judges putting people in jail, the focus now is on conditional sentencing. Most people now, instead of being incarcerated, judges are giving them community service work, conditional sentences and so on.
All those factors led to a reason why you did not need what you had, so the question then becomes: What do we want?
He recommended a couple of changes: number one, an expansion down at the RNC.
WITNESS: A lock-up at the RNC, yes.
MR. PARSONS: Put a lock-up on side of the RNC headquarters at Fort Townsend, to improve the facilities that we had vis-à-vis transport back and forth from Whitbourne, and a holding facility that would be down at Atlantic Place.
MS S. OSBORNE: Okay.
MR. PARSONS: What we did when we got his report - we have not finalized a decision as to whether his report is going to be accepted, or what parts of it. We are still analyzing it. What we did was, we invited NAPE, Mr. Hanlon and Mr. Puddister, plus the people who work at the facility and said: Here is a copy of the report. We want you to look at it. This is not simply an employee issue. This is an issue of: what do we need to accommodate the youth there? We want you to know up front.
We gave that to them within a couple of weeks of getting the report and we are still waiting to hear back from them.
MS S. OSBORNE: They are busy.
MR. PARSONS: We want their input into it as well.
Instead of the facility that was anticipated up at the current site, we are looking at improved transportation shifts back and forth from Whitbourne, a lock-up at the RNC, and holding at Atlantic Place with improvements there.
The other problem we have here is, Whitbourne is not utilized. We have a facility there that is not near capacity, nor Salmonier Line.
MS S. OSBORNE: Which is good. That is a good thing.
MR. PARSONS: Very good, but it causes some problems on the employee side; because if you start looking at how do you restructure your infrastructure, that leads to negative employee consequences.
MS S. OSBORNE: That is all I have for this evening.
Thank you very much.
CHAIR: Are there any more questions?
Elizabeth, would you please call the subheads?
CLERK: All inclusive?
MS S. OSBORNE: All inclusive.
On motion, subheads 1.1.01. through 4.2.03. carried.
On motion, Department of Justice, total heads, carried.
On motion, Committee adjourned.