This is page numbers 793 - 819 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 services.

Topics

Concerns With The Labour Standards Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 795

Charles Dent Yellowknife Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, honourable Members. Mr. Speaker, such a panel could review that report and further review standards across Canada and then make recommendations for immediate action to change our current Labour Standards Act. Such a panel could also advise on what further action might be necessary.

With the proper terms of reference, such an approach could ensure that essential amendments to our Labour Standards Act could be ready for consideration, perhaps by our June session; at the latest, by the new Legislative Assembly before the end of this calendar year.

Mr. Speaker, the panel which reported on the Labour Standards Act in 1990 found much of our existing act too ambiguous and open to varied interpretation and inconsistent with current practise in other jurisdictions. As they said in their report, an employment standards act must be clear, concise and simply written, and must fulfil the expectations and requirements necessary for the decade of development that appears to be coming in the 1990s.

Mr. Speaker, we are now more than half way through this decade and nothing has been done to update our labour standards. It is time to get on with the job. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Concerns With The Labour Standards Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 795

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Koe.

Canadian Space Agency Tour
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 795

Fred Koe Inuvik

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today marks the start of the Canadian Space Agency tour in the western Arctic. This is a voluntary event sponsored by Canadian North, Aklak Air and the Northern Air Transport Association, plus contributions from other corporate sources. One of our Canadian astronauts, Julie Payette, will be touring Yellowknife plus the communities of Aklavik, Inuvik, Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic, Tuktoyaktuk and Norman Wells. She will be visiting most of the educational institutions in these communities.

This tour will be promoting that children and adults stay in school and also encourage them to study science. I wish Astronaut Payette all the best on her tour and encourage all school children and members of the public to attend and participate in the events scheduled in each community. I also wish to thank all the organizers, the volunteers and the corporate sponsors of this tour. Mahsi.

---Applause

Canadian Space Agency Tour
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 795

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

Implementation Of Custom Adoption Recognition Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 795

Dennis Patterson Iqaluit

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Custom Adoption Recognition Act was assented to on November 10, 1994. Hundreds, if not thousands of people of all ages are waiting for a mechanism to be put in place to implement this act. They are waiting for birth certificates, they are waiting for social insurance numbers. I know some young people in my riding who were adopted by custom, who haven't been able to go through the terribly convoluted procedures required by the courts to get their adoption recognized. They feel that they won't be able to work until they have a social insurance number. And some people feel even more strongly that their very identity is in question until they have a birth certificate.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the act is very simple, it's elegantly simple. All we need to do is appoint native custom adoption Commissioners in every one of our communities. Their role would be simply to confirm that adoptions which have taken place conform with customary adoption law. The Commissioner would receive a fee for each certificate they issue. The certificate is then filed with the courts; it automatically becomes a Supreme Court order. Then vital statistics automatically issues a birth certificate.

As I said, Mr. Speaker, the bill was passed last November. However, the act has not yet been proclaimed in force. As of this date, no Commissioners have been appointed. As of this date, the proposed new forms for adoption commissioners have not yet been finalized.

Mr. Speaker, many, many people in all our ridings are waiting for this bill to be implemented. All we need to take are some very simple steps. For heaven's sake, Mr. Speaker, let's get on with the priority and next simple steps required to implement the Custom Adoption Recognition Act already passed by this House. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Implementation Of Custom Adoption Recognition Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 796

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you. Item 3, Members' statements. Mrs. Marie-Jewell.

Mercy Killings
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 796

Jeannie Marie-Jewell Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to comment on an issue that has been brought to my attention by the Fort Smith Society for Disabled Persons. The issue is "Mercy Killing." As you know, Mr. Speaker, the society is highly respected by the residents of my constituency, as it's volunteers contribute countless hours towards helping those who must struggle with physical and mental illness and disabilities.

The society has been active in encouraging improved wheelchair accessibility to local buildings and business places. Board members and volunteers have worked hard to enhance the quality of life for the disabled by providing personal support and fostering community acceptance.

Mr. Speaker, the Society for Disabled Persons is also respected as a voice for those individuals whose physical limitations have made it difficult to speak out. From time to time, the board offers comments on issues of importance to disabled people, not only at the local or territorial level, but nationally.

Mr. Speaker, recently I have received correspondence from Sister Sutherland who is the president of the society. On behalf of the entire board she raised their serious concerns about apparent trends for its mass approval of what had been described as mercy killing of the severely disabled.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share her words with my colleagues in this House, and I quote from her letter, "This society believes that persons with a disability should not have to live at the mercy of anyone who does not respect them and support them as they are. Disabled persons have much to offer family, friends and care givers and deserve their love and respect at all times. We believe that life is sacred for all and is a gift of God which no one has the right to take away. The Great Creator and Father of all will come for each one of us when he decides it is the right time. We ask you, as our MLA, to speak out and ask all northerners for their compassion, their love and their respect for all, before it is too late for someone in the Northwest Territories who lives with a disability."

Those thoughts were communicated to me in a letter from the Fort Smith Society for Disabled Persons, dated March 15th. Mr. Speaker, I think we are all aware that recent instances surrounding the termination of life for disabled persons does evoke powerful legal, political, and particularly moral questions.

I seek unanimous consent to continue with my statement.

Mercy Killings
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 796

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Thebacha is requesting unanimous consent to conclude her statement. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Mrs. Marie-Jewell, conclude your statement.

Mercy Killings
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 796

Jeannie Marie-Jewell Thebacha

Thank you. Mr. Speaker, like many Canadians, I know that I've found myself drawn to contemplate the circumstances of Susan Rodriguez, who chose to end her life with her physician's assistance, and may God bless her soul. More recently, similar questions have arisen from the trial of Robert Latimer, a Saskatchewan grain farmer convicted of killing his 12-year-old daughter who suffered from severe cerebral palsy. The court's decision to find Mr. Latimer guilty of second-degree murder is now under appeal.

Mr. Speaker, those are not remote, irrelevant issues for northerners. They confront us as we talk, think and pray about the sort of society we want to have. Indeed, I recall that a similar matter came before the Bourque commission for constitutional development, and the commission's first report, Working Towards a Common Future, even recommended, and I quote, "A new western territory constitution should establish the right of a competent person of majority age to refuse medical treatment to prolong life for themselves or their minor children." Ideas about entrenching such rights bring us face to face with questions about the sacredness of life, Mr. Speaker, and will require careful thought and open discussions in our homes, in our communities and the forums from which our draft constitution will emerge.

I'd like to thank Sister Sutherland and the board of the Fort Smith Society for Disabled Persons for bringing this important subject to our attention, and I applaud their continuing commitment to improving and safeguarding the dignity in life and the quality of life among the disabled. Thank you.

---Applause

Mercy Killings
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 796

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mrs. Marie-Jewell. Item 3, Members' statements. Ms. Mike.

Member's Statement Re Government's In Action In Fulfilling Requirements Of Official Languages Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

April 4th, 1995

Page 796

Rebecca Mike Baffin Central

(Translation) Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With the Northwest Territories 1984 languages legislation, and with significant amendments in the 1990s, speakers of aboriginal languages across the Northwest Territories had high hopes that they would be able to use their own languages in more of their communications with government offices, but I'm afraid these high hopes have not been realized.

Here is an example: section 14 of the Official Languages Act covers communication to the public by the government and its offices and institutions. Subsection 14(1) refers to services in English and French, and came into force on December 31, 1990. Subsection 14(2) refers to services in all other official languages and came into force on December 31, 1992. Both sections say any member of the public has the right to communicate with and to receive available services from the government or any of its offices or institutions where there's a significant demand or due to the nature of the office. It is reasonable that communications with and services from that office be available in the relevant language.

The First Annual Report of the Commissioner of Official Languages was tabled in this House on December 14, 1993. In chapter three, the Languages Commissioner notes that the government did not make any public announcement of the coming into force of subsection 14(2) at the end of 1992. A brochure...

Member's Statement Re Government's In Action In Fulfilling Requirements Of Official Languages Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 797

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Your time has run out, Ms. Mike.

Member's Statement Re Government's In Action In Fulfilling Requirements Of Official Languages Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 797

Rebecca Mike Baffin Central

(Translation) I seek unanimous consent to conclude my Member's statement.

Member's Statement Re Government's In Action In Fulfilling Requirements Of Official Languages Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 797

The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Baffin Central is requesting unanimous consent. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Conclude your statement, Ms. Mike.

Member's Statement Re Government's In Action In Fulfilling Requirements Of Official Languages Act
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 797

Rebecca Mike Baffin Central

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and colleagues. A brochure which was to describe the act and the rights of NWT residents under the act was referred to in that report, but the brochure itself was not ready until December 1994. Most importantly, the government has not yet produced any specific regulations, policies, directives or guidelines to assist the departments and other government institutions in the delivery of services under section 14.

During the review of 1994-95 main estimates in the House in February 1994, the honourable Premier said that the drafting of such directives would be a priority for the official languages unit of the Executive. On April 6, 1994, the Premier answered the question regarding those directives by saying I believe the work is almost complete. The planned directives eventually became known as the official languages handbook. When the Standing Committee on Agencies, Boards and Commissions reviewed the first annual report, they recommended that the government publish its official languages handbook by December 31, 1994.

This recommendation was adopted by the House on November 4, 1994, Mr. Speaker. I understand that the draft handbook has been developed and has gone to the departments for their comments. However, it is now more than three months after the deadline set by the Standing Committee on Agencies, Boards and Commissions and almost exactly a year after the Premier believed the work was almost complete. Meanwhile, residents of the NWT, government departments and institutions still have no specific guidelines concerning how the government will meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act.

Mr. Speaker, I find this state of affairs unacceptable. Speakers of aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories have the right to communicate with the government in their languages, but these rights are not being met because of the government's in action. I intend to pursue this matter further by questioning the Premier on this issue later today. Thank you.

---Applause