Yukon RCMP 'a little surprised' by new money from gov't

RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard says he's both pleased and surprised by the hefty budget increase for the police force included in this year's territorial budget.

Yukon Party leader pleased by budget increase for police, NDP less so

An RCMP official in uniform sits at a table and speaks into a CBC microphone, before a back drop of Yukon flags.
Yukon RCMP Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard at a news conference in September 2022. Sheppard said this week that the police service needs additional funds to deal with the rising costs of policing as the territory grows. (Jackie Hong/CBC)

The head of the Yukon RCMP says he's both pleased and surprised by the hefty budget increase for the police service included in this year's territorial budget.

The Yukon budget, tabled earlier this month, includes an additional $3.5 million per year in core funding for the police. That's nearly as big an increase in one year as the government gave to the force over several years prior.

"Honestly, I have to say I'm actually a little surprised, you know, at a time where there's still a lot of background noise about [defunding] the police and diverting resources away from the police," said Yukon Chief Supt. Scott Sheppard.

"I'm quite happy to say that you know, this government has had the courage to see where the needs are in a growing Yukon and to provide adequate policing for it."

Some of the funding will go toward 7.5 new full time staff positions, as well as things such as lab costs and modernizing some equipment. Sheppard said some of the new funding will simply cover the rising costs of policing due to inflation.

"We've certainly felt those pressures," Sheppard said. "Policing is an expensive enterprise to keep running."

Sheppard said the police service will boost its Crime Reduction Unit, to target the drug trade, among other things. He said there are "several" organized crime groups operating in Yukon and involved in drug trafficking. 

"The Crime Reduction Unit is targeting that mid-level drug trade and prolific offender base that is driving a lot of crime in Yukon," he said.

"You speak to people in Yukon, and they will relate to you that the level of violence, the level of crime, feels a little bit more intense than it might have felt 10 or 15 years ago. So are these resources needed? Absolutely."

'Holding my nose and voting yes,' says NDP Leader

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Official Opposition Leader Currie Dixon said he was also pleased to see more resources for RCMP, especially if it means more officers on the frontline.

"We've been pushing for increases to the RCMP funding for some time now, going back over the last number of years," Dixon said.

"It's sorely needed. The crime in the Yukon unfortunately has been increasing dramatically."

NDP Leader Kate White, however, was less enthusiastic. Her party's 2021 campaign platform addressed policing with a promise to "reallocate funding to community partners," for things such as mental health and addictions.

A woman stands talking in the lobby of an institutional building.
NDP Leader Kate White. (Julien Gignac/CBC)

"In listening to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour) people, it is imperative that Yukoners understand that policing has not been equitable or effective for all Yukoners and in many cases, has been damaging to communities," that platform reads.

Nevertheless, White said her party has committed to support the budget as part of its confidence and supply agreement (CASA) with the Liberal government.

"There are a lot of really good things in that confidence and supply agreement that are worthy of me holding my nose and voting yes," she said. 

"We're, you know, advocating for women's organizations to get more funding ... we're advocating for other organizations to get more funding. You know, it's a complicated math, and it's not an easy answer."

With files from Ethan Lang and Joseph Ho