This is page numbers 149 - 175 of the Hansard for the 12th Assembly, 7th Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was chairman.

Topics

Members Present

Mr. Antoine, Hon. Silas Arngna'naaq, Mr. Ballantyne, Mr. Dent, Hon. Samuel Gargan, Hon. Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Koe, Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Marie-Jewell, Ms. Mike, Hon. Don Morin, Hon. Richard Nerysoo, Mr. Ningark, Mr. Patterson, Hon. John Pollard, Mr. Pudlat, Mr. Pudluk, Hon. John Todd, Mr. Whitford, Mr. Zoe

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 149

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Lewis. Good morning. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Pollard.

Minister's Statement 17-12(7): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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John Pollard Hay River

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good morning. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Premier will be absent from the House today to attend a youth conference in Fort McPherson. The honourable Kelvin Ng will be absent from the House today, Monday and Tuesday to attend to long-standing commitments in his constituency. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 17-12(7): Ministers Absent From The House
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 149

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Mr. Kakfwi.

Minister's Statement 18-12(7): Firearms Control
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, on February 14th, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada tabled new firearms legislation, Bill C-68, as he indicated he would when he announced, on November 30, 1994, the government's new firearm control program for the stated purposes of cracking down on the criminal use of firearms, by targeting firearms smuggling and by banning many firearms. The centre piece of the new program is its most controversial aspect: the creation of a national system of registration of all firearms.

Department of Justice officials have begun to analyze the bill in detail, but an early review indicates that there are few differences with the consultation package released on December 4, 1994. I had grave concerns when the consultation package was released and, if anything, the draft legislation tabled on Tuesday leaves me even more unhappy than I was a couple of months ago. While the provisions in Bill C-68 which will create serious consequences for real criminals who use firearms in the commission of offenses are certainly supportable, it has other features which the vast majority of northerners will not support.

When Minister Rock visited the Northwest Territories last October, Members of this Assembly expressed their concerns about new firearms legislation, and I and officials of the Department of Justice met with him on several occasions to educate him on the circumstances of life in the Northwest Territories. We achieved some success in demonstrating that measures designed to address the problems in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver were totally inappropriate in remote northern settlements where subsistence hunting is a way of life and firearms are a tool.

As a result, Minister Rock made adjustments in the December proposals to relax the rules on the purchase of ammunition to allow someone to buy ammunition on behalf of another person, to allow for aboriginal firearms officers in remote communities, and to adjust the requirements for training on firearms use to accommodate the special needs of native people. Our early review indicates that the improvements respecting ammunition are in the bill, but appears that the remainder of these modest improvements are not reflected in Bill C-68.

Minister Rock, against our best advice, in December and again in Bill C-68, has introduced the universal registration of firearms, which may be fine for Toronto, but is intrusive and offensive when applied in the Northwest Territories. Under these provisions, everyone will have to register every firearm by January 1, 2003, and the failure to do so could result in a criminal prosecution.

Over the past several months, officials of the Department of Justice and of the Department of Renewable Resources have worked extensively with the Department of Justice Canada representatives to try to develop a modified firearms safety training program designed specifically for NWT residents. Bill C-68 may place that work in jeopardy through its requirement that the Canadian firearms safety training course be the course used throughout the country. Further consultation will be required to determine whether there is a way to soften the blow.

Our legal advisors indicate that there is a serious question as to whether the universal registration of firearms can properly be done within the federal government's jurisdiction over the criminal law: It may infringe on the jurisdiction of provinces and territories over property and civil rights.

It also interferes with the rights of aboriginal persons to pursue traditional hunting activities, and as such may well infringe section 35 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the principles set down in the Sparrow case.

The governments of the NWT, Yukon, Alberta and Saskatchewan adopted a common position for presentation to Minister Rock at the meeting of Ministers of Justice in Victoria -- as I reported yesterday -- at the meeting in January 1995. Later today, I will be tabling that position as we gave to the Minister at that time.

At the Victoria meeting, I expressed our objections to these firearms proposals to Mr. Rock in no uncertain terms. Now that the legislation has been introduced, I will be writing to him to confirm the objections of this government. I will also be writing to Warren Allmand, the chair of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, suggesting that the committee come to the Northwest Territories as part of its deliberations on this bill. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 18-12(7): Firearms Control
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 150

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Kakfwi. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Dent.

Establishment Of Ombudsman Office
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 150

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I was looking forward to the report of the Standing Committee on Legislation on the office of the ombudsman. Having heard from many of the public that they feel such an office is very important and should be established; and having attended some of the Standing Committee on Legislation hearings in December where I heard presentations in favour of such an office, I expected the report would provide guidance to the government on how to proceed with establishing the office of ombudsman.

Mr. Speaker, I was very surprised and disappointed to hear in the report yesterday that the committee feels it best not to proceed right away. I know the committee gave this idea careful consideration and I understand the rationale for their decision, but, Mr. Speaker, I think the office of the ombudsman is important enough that we should proceed with establishing it concurrently with the office of Access and Privacy Commissioner.

Along with the usual duties of an ombudsman, Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the ombudsman for the NWT being given a role as children's advocate. Too often our kids are slipping through the cracks in the system and they have no one to watch out for their interests.

During the Standing Committee on Legislation hearings, I had asked the Minister of Justice if the department had examined the situation in BC where the ombudsman was charged with the role of acting as a child advocate. This is not the perfect solution, Mr. Speaker. The role of an ombudsman and child advocate is different, but in BC they found that assigning limited advocacy for children to the office of ombudsman was an effective way to start the office. They have since established a separate office called the Child, Youth and Family Advocate.

Mr. Speaker, I note the committee report does not recommend the office of the ombudsman not be established, only that it follow the establishment of the office of Access and Privacy Commissioner.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude by statement.

Establishment Of Ombudsman Office
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 150

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. The Member for Yellowknife Frame Lake is requesting unanimous consent. Are there any nays? Conclude your statement, Mr. Dent.

Establishment Of Ombudsman Office
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 150

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, honourable Members. Mr. Speaker, since it is not expected that the Access and Privacy Commissioner office will be a full-time position, I strongly urge the government to proceed with legislation as soon as possible to establish the office of the ombudsman at the same time as the Access and Privacy Commissioner and, most importantly, Mr. Speaker, to assign a child advocacy role to that office. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Establishment Of Ombudsman Office
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 150

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Dent. Item 3, Members' statements. Ms. Mike.

Attogoyuk School Graduation
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 150

Rebecca Mike Baffin Central

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. On December 17, 1994, I had the pleasure in joining Attogoyuk School students on their graduation ceremony. This was a very special graduation ceremony in more ways than one. Pangnirtung had the highest number of graduates in the Baffin communities. The graduating class was a total of 11. For all of the graduates, it was an especially happy occasion, and for the parents and their teachers. The ceremony was special as one of the graduates, Eena Daisy Sowdluapik, was one of the graduates who received the Governor General's award for top academics in the NWT.

Although I have already stated how proud I am of her and her graduating colleagues, I would once again like to say congratulations to Eena Daisy Sowdluapik and how proud I am of her for having top academics, and to thank her parents for the effort, encouragement and guidance they provided to their daughter.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to share this good news from my riding with my colleagues, and to encourage the students across the NWT and their parents that hard work pays off in the end. Qujannamiik.

---Applause

Attogoyuk School Graduation
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 151

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Ms. Mike. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Patterson.

Proposed Firearms Legislation
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 151

Dennis Patterson Iqaluit

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I must admit I was taken in by Justice Minister Allan Rock when he visited and met with Caucus last fall. He is a fine-looking, smooth-talking, intent man, and he disarmed me somewhat by admitting he was from Toronto, he had no experience with firearms, and I was even more impressed to learn that he even had gone to a shooting range to find out what it's like to fire a gun.

I was very impressed with the unanimous and eloquent views of all Members -- Metis, Dene, Inuit, non-native -- in Caucus on this new firearms legislation, as expressed very forcefully to the Minister when we met with him in Caucus. I remember clearly telling him and warning him politely that even the present laws on safe storage of firearms are largely ignored and, judging from what he was proposing, there had to be a way of exempting northern hunters from the impact of this legislation, just as GHL holders are now at least exempted from the fee for applying for a firearms acquisition certificate.

"I'm hearing you," he assured me. So I was somewhat reassured. I now think that maybe this was a polite way of telling me, "I don't agree with you, but I'll hear you out." Or, "This will never fly in Toronto, but I will listen politely and even intently to what you're saying."

Now I don't know if Mr. Rock is still hearing me or listening, but I would like to tell him something again -- and I think I'm going to need more time to do so, Mr. Speaker, so I would request unanimous consent to conclude my statement, please.

Proposed Firearms Legislation
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. The Member for Iqaluit is requesting unanimous consent to complete his statement. Do we have any nays? Mr. Patterson, you can conclude your statement.