This is page numbers 1471 - 1524 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 ---agreed.

Topics

Members Present

Mr. Allooloo, Mr. Antoine, Hon. Silas Arngna'naaq, Mr. Ballantyne, Hon. Nellie Cournoyea, Mr. Dent, Hon. Samuel Gargan, Mr. Koe, Mr. Lewis, Mrs. Marie-Jewell, Hon. Don Morin, Hon. Richard Nerysoo, Hon. Kelvin Ng, Mr. Ningark, Hon. John Pollard, Mr. Pudlat, Mr. Pudluk, Mrs. Thompson, Hon. John Todd, Mr. Whitford, Mr. Zoe

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Koe. Good afternoon. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Ms. Cournoyea.

Minister's Statement 106-12(7): 1950s North Baffin Bombing Incident Investigations
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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Nellie Cournoyea Nunakput

Mr. Speaker, I wish to update Members on the government's investigations into concerns raised by Mr. Pudluk and Mr. Allooloo about alleged bombing incidents that occurred in the High Arctic during the 1950s. This update will outline the nature of the incidents and address Members' concerns about the relationship between these incidents and illnesses among North Baffin Inuit during this period.

During the past year, the government has conducted extensive investigations, including written and oral communications, including senior federal government officials involved with the issue during the 1950s and Inuit, or the relatives of Inuit, who witnessed or experienced the alleged bombings.

Mr. Speaker, individuals from the federal Department of National Defence and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development have confirmed that military exercises, involving low-level "thunderflash bombing runs" were conducted by the United States Air Force near the Admiralty Inlet region of Baffin Island. These exercises only occurred in this area during the winter of 1955-56.

According to federal officials, these low-level exercises involved dropping magnesium flares by parachute to light up the earth for purposes of photographing targets. Military sources say that the exercises involved no explosions, concussions or shocks. Inuit who witnessed and experienced the exercises said the opposite.

Prior to the thunderflash testing over the Baffin, the United States Armed Forces received the necessary approval from Canadian authorities to conduct exercises in the Admiralty Inlet area.

From the evidence gathered by the government, it is apparent that neither Canada nor the United States were aware of Inuit camping in this area. It is also apparent from the government's interviews with Inuit hunters and/or their relatives that neither the families camped in the Admiralty Inlet area, nor Hudson Bay officials at Arctic Bay, wore given any advance notice that the tests would be conducted. As a consequence, Inuit camped in the Admiralty Inlet area were naturally terrified by the thunderflash bomb tests.

After being advised that Inuit were camping in the Admiralty Inlet area, military authorities relocated the testing to an unoccupied region of the High Arctic.

Mr. Speaker, the government's investigation, including a review of relevant medical records, has provided no evidence of injury or illness that could be directly linked to the thunderflash tests.

I should also note that during the course of the GNWT's investigation, evidence concerning unrelated biological warfare tests in different regions of the United States, including Minnesota and Alaska, as well as Canadian tests in Manitoba, were examined.

Although the United States Armed Forces has admitted to biological testing in these areas, there is no evidence indicating that the thunderflash exercises in the North Baffin region involved biological agents.

Mr. Speaker, I noted earlier in my remarks that Inuit who witnessed or experienced the thunderflash exercises have different memories of their impact, which may mean that other types of testing took place in the Admiralty Inlet area. The government will continue its investigations to determine if there is any proof to this statement.

In conclusion, the nature and conduct of this type of military activity is as unacceptable now as it was at the time the tests were conducted.

In the 1990s, while we still have to encourage the Department of National Defence to provide NWT residents with plans for military activities, procedures are now in place to ensure that these activities are no longer conducted without proper consultation with the government and communities.

Finally, the government has made representations to federal committees on national defence and foreign affairs to ensure that the views of NWT residents are part of the public record in establishing new federal defence policies.

Our success in having cruise missile testing stopped is a case in point. Thank you.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 106-12(7): 1950s North Baffin Bombing Incident Investigations
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Koe.

National Aboriginal Solidarity Day
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Fred Koe Inuvik

Mahsi, giikhii. Today is June 21st, the longest day of the day of the year, and the day celebrated since 1982 as National Aboriginal Solidarity Day. Solidarity means unity based on a common interest.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to see a growing solidarity among aboriginal leaders in the western Northwest Territories. The leaders of nine aboriginal political organizations met as an aboriginal summit two weeks ago in Yellowknife. The groups involved were the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, Gwich'in Tribal Council, Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, Deh Cho First Nations, Dogrib Treaty 11 Tribal Council, Treaty 8 Tribal Council, the South Slave Metis Tribal Council, Dene Nation and the Metis Nation of the Northwest Territories.

They had hoped to appear before us in committee of the whole to discuss their positions. Some of them oven hoped such a meeting might lead to a real partnership with the Assembly. That will not happen within the life of this Assembly. The leaders of the nine organizations have asked me to state on their behalf, their common positions.

1. an inherent right of self-government. To reach an agreement on the implementation of the inherent right must be a priority for all governments.

Mr. Speaker, the leaders have a legitimate demand that progress on public government in the western Northwest Territories must be matched by progress in a separate process leading to the implementation of the inherent right. We have come a long way in recognizing the inherent right. The leaders are asking us to help them keep self-government near the top of the federal agenda.

2. impact on the implementation of division of the Northwest Territories.

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

National Aboriginal Solidarity Day
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Inuvik is seeking unanimous consent to conclude his statement. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Conclude your statement, Mr. Koe.

National Aboriginal Solidarity Day
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Fred Koe Inuvik

Mahsi cho. All aboriginal peoples in the western Northwest Territories should have more meaningful participation in the process leading to division.

Mr. Speaker, I note that the aboriginal leaders sought and obtained support from the executive of the Northwest Territories Association of Municipalities on this position. They had asked if the municipalities also wanted representation on their committee and received the assurance that this was not necessary.

I will also note that this statement should not be taken to mean the Deh Cho First Nations or the Treaty 8 Tribal Council are now willing to join in on the Constitutional Development Steering Committee process as anything other than observers. The Deh Cho and Treaty 8 are pursuing a different direction in the development and implementation of governments in their territorial areas. These groups do, however, wish to protect their legitimate interest in such areas as division of the Government of the Northwest Territories assets and liabilities.

The participation of the Government of the Northwest Territories in negotiations between aboriginal peoples and the Government of Canada is also a source of concern. The leaders of the aboriginal peoples believe that the Government of the Northwest Territories should not have third-party status in any such negotiations, unless the aboriginal peoples concerned consent to such status.

Mr. Speaker, different aboriginal peoples have somewhat different interests, as well as different histories and positions before the law. None of the nine groups want the Government of the Northwest Territories to have third-party status. They believe it is wrong to insist that all should have the same position on this issue before our government revisits the matter. A bannock-cutter approach to self-government will never work.

4. The devolution of authority to the Government of the Northwest Territories is another issue impairing relationships between the aboriginal peoples and the Government of Canada. The leaders of the aboriginal peoples believe that there should be no further devolution from the Government of Canada to the Government of the Northwest Territories without the consent of the aboriginal peoples concerned.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the nine leaders believe that we would support their positions if we took the time to hear them out. They look forward to the establishment of a mechanism for ongoing formal consultation with the Legislative Assembly on these and other issues. Perhaps the next Legislative Assembly will demonstrate more solidarity with the western aboriginal leaders and the people they represent. Mahsi cho. The inherent right will have a significant and lasting ---Applause

National Aboriginal Solidarity Day
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

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

4th Annual Pokiak River Music Festival
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Richard Nerysoo Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to have an opportunity today, through you and this forum, to advise people of the Northwest Territories of an annual event that occurs in Aklavik; at least, for the past four years. This, Mr. Speaker, is the year of the 4th Annual Pokiak River Music Festival. It will occur from June 23rd to 26th. This event is intended to bring together musical talents of people from the Mackenzie Delta/Beaufort region; it's intended to bring together musical talents from throughout the Northwest Territories, from the Yukon and even other parts of Canada.

I wanted to advise the people of the north and certainly Members of this Assembly, that all people are invited and encouraged to attend. The intention is that it's a time to reflect upon the good days and to create joy among people. This event, Mr. Speaker, is an event that is drug and alcohol-free, and is intended to make people aware of the importance of festivities; particularly when it brings together people and families.

This year's event, Mr. Speaker, is entitled "A Tribute to our People, Past and Present," and it is intended to honour their contribution and their guidance to the development of the community of Aklavik and the Mackenzie Delta. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

4th Annual Pokiak River Music Festival
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Nerysoo. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Whitford.

Failures Of Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Tony Whitford Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon. Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories first introduced affirmative action as the native employment policy in 1985. This policy was meant to address the lack of aboriginal representation in the public services of the Northwest Territories.

In 1989, the affirmative action policy was introduced to replace the native, employment policy. This new policy included provisions for disabled northerners, women and indigenous non-aboriginals who had lived in the north for more than half of their lives or wore born here.

In 1985, the public service had about 30 per cent aboriginal employees. By 1989, however, the native employment policy had brought this figure to just over 32 per cent. This was still far short of the percentage of northerners who are of aboriginal descent; 61 per cent, according to the 1991 census. So, many northerners had high hopes for the affirmative action program.

Well, in 1994, five years later, there had been an increase in percentage of aboriginal employees in the public services from 32 per cent all the way up to 35. This was not the kind of spectacular increase that would be necessary to obtain the goals set by the developers of this policy. Meanwhile, we are losing many of our best and brightest non-native university students who grew up in the north and hoped to return, but who have instead decided to stay in the south. They can't find summer jobs here while they are at school, and they are very pessimistic about their chances of finding permanent employment with the government. Unless they have job prospects in the private sector, they will not return.

The affirmative action policy has also been a trigger for racial tension. These are tensions which I had not seen before the introduction of this policy. But now well-qualified, non-native northerners find it easy to become resentful when they cannot find jobs while less-qualified aboriginal candidates can. While there are many skilled and qualified aboriginal northerners who deserve employment with the government, it is very unfortunate that the existing policy has the effect of turning away the many skilled and qualified non-aboriginal northerners who have as much of a desire to contribute to their home as anyone else.

I seek consent to continue.

Failures Of Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

The Member for Yellowknife South is seeking unanimous consent to conclude his statement. Are there any nays? There are no nays. Conclude your statement, Mr. Whitford.

Failures Of Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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Tony Whitford Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to see the government has established an affirmative action policy review task force group. This policy is obviously in desperate need of revision. I remember high and lofty promises that affirmative action would lead to a government workforce that was 52 per cent aboriginal by the year 1990.

Well, here it is five years later and we are still nowhere near that goal, and, in the meantime, we have lost many who could, and who want to, contribute to the north.

The goal of having a public service whose make-up reflects that of the entire population of the north is a valuable one, but this policy has not brought us much closer to that goal. In fact, I dare say that the negative effects of this policy have outweighed as benefits.

As this Assembly draws to the close of its mandate, I regret that we will not be able to change things for the better right now, but it is my sincere hope that the task group reviewing this policy will have developed effective and useful recommendations for the next Assembly. I don't know whether this policy should be improved or can be improved, replaced or even scrapped in favour of an increased focus on education. I do know that it is not working now and it needs to change. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Failures Of Affirmative Action Policy
Item 3: Members' Statements

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The Speaker Samuel Gargan

Thank you, Mr. Whitford. Item 3, Members' statements. Mr. Ballantyne.