Yukon government seeking to increase scope of illegal activities covered by SCAN Act

·3 min read

The Yukon government is seeking to update the territory's Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods (SCAN) legislation so that its investigators can look into a wider range of illegal activities.

Documents obtained by CBC show Yukon's Department of Justice is proposing to amend the act so that the SCAN unit can also investigate complaints about child sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, criminal organizations and illegal firearms.

Under the current act, investigators with Yukon's SCAN unit can look into complaints about drug trafficking, prostitution or illegal alcohol and cannabis sales.

If complaints are valid, the unit can then turn to the civil court system instead of the criminal justice one to try and disrupt the activity — typically, by asking for a court order prohibiting entry to certain addresses, or barring specific activities from taking place. The unit can also turn evidence over to police as needed.

The amendments will be tabled in either the spring or fall of 2021 depending on whether the government does engagement sessions first, according to the documents.

Increased crime stats behind amendments, spokesperson says

Justice department spokesperson Patricia Randell confirmed in an email that the government is "considering" amending the SCAN Act.

She cited statistics from Statistics Canada and the RCMP's Canadian Firearms Program as the reason behind the proposed amendments — there were a total of 114 reported sexual violations against children in the Yukon between 2015 and 2019, and 71 illegal firearms seized in the territory between 2015 and 2018.

As well, the SCAN unit reported that 31 per cent of the complaints it received in 2019 "were related to suspected organized crime," Randell wrote, an increase from about 26 per cent in both 2018 and 2017.

The SCAN unit has also received more complaints overall, getting 90 in 2019 compared to 76 in 2018 and 61 in 2017.

"Yukoners deserve safe, healthy communities wherein the possession, use and trade of illegal firearms, organized crime and child exploitation does not exist," she wrote.

"... The amendments being proposed reflect best practices followed by other Canadian jurisdictions."

Some opposition expected

According to the documents, the Department of Justice is anticipating a "risk" of the "media, opposition or the public" perceiving the amendments as "subverting RCMP with a lower evidentiary threshold."

"The SCAN Unit's mandate has previously been a source of concern from members of the public and community organizations for the potential to create unintended victims," reads one page, noting that in the past, local harm reduction organization Blood Ties Four Directions has criticized the act for causing innocent people, including children, to be evicted from their homes as part of overarching no-entry orders.

It also flags "developing concerns" from Yukon First Nations that the SCAN unit operates mostly in Whitehorse and not in other communities, and the possibility that gun owners may view the amendment as the government "encroaching on the rights of law abiding citizens and infringing on civil liberties."

However, an audience reaction chart shows the government expects communities and municipalities as well as the RCMP to be supportive of the proposed changes, as well as some members of the public and political opposition parties who "will not want illegal activity and violence to continue."