This is page numbers 929 - 964 of the Hansard for the 14th Assembly, 6th 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 communities.

Topics

Members Present

Honourable Roger Allen, Honourable Jim Antoine, Mr. Bell, Mr. Braden, Mr. Dent, Mrs. Groenewegen, Honourable Joe Handley, Honourable Stephen Kakfwi, Mr. Krutko, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Lee, Mr. McLeod, Honourable Michael Miltenberger, Nr. Nitah, Honourable Jake Ootes, Mr. Roland, Honourable Vince Steen, Honourable Tony Whitford

---Prayer

Speaker's Ruling

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

June 11th, 2003

Page 929

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Good afternoon, Members. Before we begin the regular orders of the day, I would like to provide my ruling on the Point of Order raised by the Member for Range Lake, Ms. Lee, during question period yesterday, June 10, 2003. Ms. Lee rose on a Point of Order under Rule 23(h),(i) and (j) with respect to answers given by the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Honourable Michael Miltenberger, to her earlier questions. Stating her Point of Order, Ms. Lee said, and I quote from page 2087 of the unedited Hansard: "Minister Miltenberger in answering my questions stated that I was sending out misleading information or falsehood or words to that effect, that I was unduly scaring the public out there when I was making a statement about what my constituent had said and she was interviewed in the paper."

Ms. Lee went on to reference a response Mr. Miltenberger made to a question from Mr. Bell. I, again, quote from page 2087 of the unedited Hansard: "he said there was a concern raised by the general practitioners about the specialist locum and that he has just dealt with that issue at noon today. So the Minister just admitted that there was a concern expressed."

Specifically, as clearly as the chair was able to ascertain from a review of the unedited Hansard, Ms. Lee contended that Minister Miltenberger had contravened Rule 23(j), which states that a Member shall be called to order if the Member charges another Member with uttering a deliberate falsehood. As I indicated, the chair has carefully and thoroughly reviewed the unedited Hansard and to put this matter into some context, I will refer to a number of quotes.

On page 2073 of the unedited Hansard in responding to Ms. Lee's question about the locum contingency for obstetrics and gynaecology, Mr. Miltenberger stated: "Every locum we hire who is qualified to practice in the Northwest Territories is registered as a medical doctor. There has been misinformation, deliberate or otherwise unfortunately it would appear, that leads people to believe that that is not the case. We've also had the unfortunate occurrence last week during Seniors' Week to have a locum's reputation and capability questioned because of his age."

On page 2074, Mr. Miltenberger went on to state: "I would just hope that people would put out the best facts they have, and not cause alarm and not make statements questioning the locums when we know in this House that we don't hire anybody but qualified doctors. We can't. Our rules are very clear. We should not be causing needless apprehension among patients and people, women and pregnant women."

On page 2074 and 2075, Ms. Lee asked the following supplementary question: "My question to the Minister is that we know, and I know, that he's been getting e-mail and correspondence that I have, that says that the family doctors in Yellowknife and the parents who are expecting babies have no faith in the locum contingent. I'd like to know what he has done, since this has been revealed, to accommodate their lack of faith in the locum contingent."

Mr. Miltenberger's response is found on page 2075 of the unedited Hansard, and I quote: "...first let me be very clear. I do not know these people Ms. Lee refers to. My comments were directed specifically at the Members here who have been making comments, who have been making these comments in this forum, in this House." Mr. Miltenberger furthered stated, again I quote from page 2075 of the unedited Hansard: "...there are a lot of forces at play here, and to come into this House and call into question the credibility of all the locums is, I think, unfortunate."

Very clearly this is a highly charged issue and it may be safe to say that at the very least, the facts may be in dispute. This is not an unusual occurrence in our line of work. In fact, it happens regularly because the facts of any matter are often in dispute, the parliamentary authorities recognize this and make allowances for it. I refer respectfully to Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, 6th Edition, Citation 494 on page 151: "It has been formally ruled by Speakers that statements by Members respecting themselves and particularly within their own knowledge must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible. On rare occasions, this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident."

It is evident to the chair, from the comments made by both Ms. Lee and Mr. Miltenberger, that there is a divergence of opinion and that the facts of the matter are in dispute. It is not for the chair to ascertain who is right or which interpretation is correct. Therefore, the chair will confine itself to a determination of whether any of the comments made constitute a breach of any of our rules, specifically Rule 23(j.)

In carefully reviewing unedited Hansard, I note that while Mr. Miltenberger does make a number of references to the dissemination of information contrary to the information in his possession, he does not go so far as to name any particular Member until he states that his comments: "Were directed specifically at the Members here who have been making comments, who have been making these comments in this forum, in this House," as taken from page 2075 of the unedited Hansard. This point causes the chair some concern in that while Mr. Miltenberger did not refer to a particular question, his comments did call into question whether a Member or Members were uttering falsehoods. When this is coupled with the fact that Mr. Miltenberger earlier, on page 2073 of the unedited Hansard stated, and I quote: "There has been misinformation, deliberate or otherwise, unfortunately, it would appear, that leads people to believe that this is not the case."

Taken together, these comments infer that there has been a deliberate attempt to disseminate misleading or inaccurate information by a Member or Members of the House and, therefore, I find that Ms. Lee does have a Point of Order under Rule 23(j.)

---Applause

Order, please. I am not finished. I want to take this opportunity to remind all Members, and to caution you, that while the House is prepared to accept more than one version of events or issues, or more than one set of facts as Members believe them to be, the House is not prepared to accept charges from Members that any misinformation is brought to the Chamber deliberately. I urge all Members to choose your words carefully and wisely, especially in dealing with emotionally-charged issues.

I am also going to take this opportunity to make a rather important point about your duty and responsibility to protect persons who are not Members of this House by refraining from making comments that could cause injury to persons outside the House.

I would like to quote a short passage from page 524 of Marleau and Montpetit's "House of Commons Procedure and Practice."

"The House has ruled that Members have a responsibility to protect the innocent, not only from outright slander, but from any slur directly or indirectly implied and has stressed that Members should avoid as much as possible mentioning by name people from outside the House who are unable to reply and defend themselves against innuendo."

The chair is aware that a member of the public was not named directly. However, it is also very clear that we are a small constituency and the medical community is a smaller one still. Naming a particular individual is not necessary for serious damage to result. I want to strongly advise all Members to refrain from further reference of this nature and encourage you to be extremely vigilant in this regard.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Member for the Sahtu, Mr. Kakfwi.

Minister's Statement 59-14(6): Report From Western Premiers
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 930

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, for the past two days, I have been away meeting with my colleagues at the Western Premiers' Conference which was held at Kelowna, British Columbia. Before I left, I indicated to you there were three issues of particular importance to our government and the Northwest Territories: diamonds, devolution and federal economic development funding in the North. Today I would like to report on the progress made at the conference.

I am pleased that we secured the support of the western Premiers to work together to launch a national diamond strategy for the expansion of Canada's growing diamond industry.

In an effort to ensure that Canadians receive the full benefit of Canada's diamond resource, Premiers agreed that a national diamond strategy which addresses exploration, mining and value-added is required.

We also agreed to invite the federal government to join all the provinces and territories in the development of a Canadian diamond strategy including the open exchange of issues associated with the promotion of a Canadian secondary diamond industry.

Another important topic of interest to all Premiers was how to improve the provincial and territorial relationship with the federal government. We agreed that improvements could be made without constitutional change. For example, annual First Ministers' meetings with jointly negotiated agendas would be an important first step to improving federal/provincial/territorial relations. I am proud to report to you that my colleagues have lent their unequivocal support to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to negotiate a fair devolution agreement with the federal government, which includes a fair share of resource revenues. All Premiers agreed that the territories, like provinces, should manage and control their resources and benefit from their development. Premiers also agreed upon initiatives on Senate reform and participation in international negotiations.

The three territories continue to be the only jurisdictions in Canada without a federally funded economic development program. Premier Fentie and I lent our support to Premier Okalik, who succeeded in securing western Premiers' support for northern economic development agreements.

A major issue for the western Premiers was BSE, mad cow disease. Premiers recognized that the closure of the American border has had an impact not only on the cattle industry, but also on the outfitting industry as the export of wild meat to the US has been banned. Premiers called upon the federal government to take immediate action to open the border as soon as possible. Our Ministers, federal/provincial/territorial, of Agriculture will meet in Vancouver on Friday, to continue discussions.

Mr. Speaker, healthcare funding also continues to be a priority issue for western Premiers and they called upon the federal government to increase its share of healthcare funding in line with what was identified in the Romanow report.

I was encouraged with the sense of cooperation among western Premiers to deal with difficult issues. I look forward to further advancing the interests of the NWT at the annual Western Premiers' Conference next year in Inuvik and as well at the beginning of July at the Annual Premiers' Conference which will be held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Thank you.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 59-14(6): Report From Western Premiers
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 930

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Premier. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister's Statement 60-15(6): NWT Disability Awareness Week
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 930

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, most of us do not give a second thought to starting a vehicle, running up a set of stairs or picking up a few groceries. These tasks, along with many others, are part of our everyday life, but that is not the case for 13 percent of NWT residents who are living with a disability. People living with a disability may often feel a loss of independence. However, proper programs, supports and services can help meet the challenges of daily life.

Mr. Speaker, June 8th to 14th is NWT Disability Awareness Week. This week's theme is Access Benefits Everyone. We know people with disabilities have a right to access the same services and facilities as non-disabled individuals. To ensure this is being done, I ask Members of this Assembly and NWT residents to consider what they can do to enhance the lives of the disabled in their community.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is also taking action to address the needs of persons living with disabilities. The Disability Steering Partnership was created in 2001 to develop a draft NWT disability framework and companion action plan. This partnership is made up of representatives from the departments of Health and Social Services, Education, Culture and Employment, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and Municipal and Community Affairs, as well as representatives from non-government agencies including the NWT Council of Persons with Disabilities, Yellowknife Association for Community Living and the YWCA of Yellowknife.

The partners prioritized key areas to guide the development of effective programs and services for persons with disabilities in the NWT. Those five building blocks are: education; employment; income; disability supports; and, housing.

The draft framework was released in November 2002 and subsequent focus groups were held in Yellowknife and Inuvik in December to review the framework and action plan. The feedback has been positive and the working group has been lauded by non-government agencies and steering committees as a model of a successful partnership.

Mr. Speaker, the framework and action plan will be ready for final approval this fall. These two documents will be our guide to ensure people living with disabilities in the NWT enjoy greater independence in our communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 60-15(6): NWT Disability Awareness Week
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 931

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Mahsi, Mr. Miltenberger. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Member for Sahtu, Mr. Kakfwi.

Minister's Statement 61-14(6): Response To The Special Committee On The Review Of The Official Languages Act
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 931

Stephen Kakfwi Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to update Members on the government's plans for addressing the recommendations put forward by the Special Committee on the Review of the Official Languages Act in its report, One Land, Many Voices.

First of all, I would like to thank the Members of the committee for their efforts. The committee's report provides many recommendations on ways the Government of the Northwest Territories can help preserve and strengthen languages in the Northwest Territories. Some of these recommendations will be relatively easy to implement during the remaining term of this government. Others are more complex and will require further study.

One of the recommendations we believe we can accomplish now is to amend the Official Languages Act. The committee included a draft bill in its report for this purpose. Many of the proposed changes would clarify terminology and more clearly establish roles and responsibilities relating to the Official Languages Commissioner.

We recognize that the current act is over 10 years old and needs some updating. I would like to advise Members that the Government of the Northwest Territories will introduce a bill to amend the Official Languages Act and that this bill will adopt those recommendations that can be implemented at this time without further study. Minister Ootes will be introducing this bill for first reading later today.

Some other legislative changes may be required to implement some of the committee's recommendations. These include some of the recommendations related to education, which may require changes to the Education Act. The Government of the Northwest Territories believes it is important to address these changes in an orderly fashion and will consider further legislative initiatives as it considers how to implement the committee's recommendations.

Not all of the committee's recommendations will require legislative change. Many of the recommended changes can be accomplished through existing government programs and processes. However, some of the committee's recommendations are relatively complex and may have financial and organizational implications for the government. They may also affect the services and programs of a number of different departments.

Determining how to best address these recommendations will require an interdepartmental approach. It will also be important to address these in a careful and orderly fashion. Taking the time to study these changes will allow us to fully understand their potential impact before we undertake them.

Changes that will require significant reallocation of or new financial resources or changes to programs and services may best be dealt with through the government's business planning process. This will allow the government and Members of the Assembly the opportunity to consider how to best implement and finance changes recommended by the committee in the context of overall government priorities and our financial position.

Mr. Speaker, there is a Minister responsible for each piece of legislation passed by this legislature. Currently, responsibility for the Official Languages Act rests with the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, the Honourable Jake Ootes. Minister Ootes will continue to take the lead in responding to the report of the Special Committee on the Review of the Official Languages Act and its recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to preserve and support the growth and use of all the NWT's official languages. During the remaining months of our term, the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to strengthen our commitment and work on ways we can do this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 61-14(6): Response To The Special Committee On The Review Of The Official Languages Act
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 931

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, Mr. Steen.

Minister's Statement 62-14(6): Community Fire Service Award Winner 2002
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 931

Vince Steen Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Good afternoon. Mr. Speaker, 2002 was the first year of the fire service merit awards program.

This program was designed to recognize important contributions of community firefighters and fire departments in protecting individual residents and communities from the devastation caused by fire.

The department recognized the contributions of four individual firefighters on October 10, 2002, with the announcement of the first regional winners of the individual fire service awards, as well as the first territorial service merit award winner.

The department also called for nominations for the 2002 community fire service merit award. The community fire service merit award is presented to one community to recognize the efforts of the fire department and the entire community to improve the local fire protection system. The deadline for this award was extended to December 31, 2002, to ensure all nominations for communities could be included in the selection process.

Five communities have been nominated for this award. They are: Fort Smith; Fort Resolution; Hay River; Fort Simpson; and, Norman Wells.

The process of determining the winner of the community award involves completion of an assessment by the office of the fire marshal in cooperation with regional fire service officials.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce at this time that the 2002 winner of the community fire service merit award is the Town of Norman Wells. The Norman Wells Fire Department was nominated for improvements to its training program, its organizations, command and control, emergency planning and public education activities.

Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of this House please join me in congratulating the Norman Wells Fire Department for being awarded this prestigious honour in the first year of the program. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 62-14(6): Community Fire Service Award Winner 2002
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 932

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Steen. I would just like to ask the Members of the House, if you have a conversation you want to carry on, do it in another room. It's difficult to hear the speaker, and the chair is interested in what all Members have to say, except those in private conversations. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Frame Lake, Mr. Dent.

Teenage Homelessness In Yellowknife
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 932

Charles Dent Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in early May of this year, we had in this Chamber the NWT Youth Parliament. I think this is a great program. I congratulate the Legislative Assembly staff for the work they do in putting this on. During the NWT Youth Parliament, the constituency of Frame Lake was represented by a young gentleman from St. Pat's by the name of Matthew Harvey, who is today in the audience. He made a statement on teenage homelessness. Mr. Speaker, I think this statement is extremely appropriate and I would like to read his statement into the record.

Mr. Speaker, incidents of teenage homelessness in Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories are becoming more and more frequent. Many teenagers are forced to leave home for various reasons, two examples being violent and abusive parents or parents who are alcoholics or drug addicts.

These teenagers are having to live out of backpacks either on the street or moving from house to house, trying to find friends willing to give them a safe place to sleep. If no such place is available, then the teens have no alternative other than to sleep on the streets. As a result of existing in this way, numerous teens drop out of school to work so they can afford food, clothing and housing. This is a less than satisfactory outcome as we are losing valuable human resources for the Northwest Territories' future. However, Mr. Speaker, those who drop out to seek jobs can be seen as success stories, as the other side of the coin is that many of the others resort to less favourable choices of income such as prostitution, theft and drug dealing.

Mr. Speaker, many of us have heard the term "throw-away generation," and maybe thought it referred to materialism and possessions, but it also aptly describes how Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories actually view and treat abandoned teenagers. Mr. Speaker, these "throw-away" teens are between the ages of 16 and 18 years. The reason for this is that once a young person turns 16, child protection services no longer classifies them as a child. They are classified as an adult and are, therefore, too old to fall under the Child Protection Act. The catch-22 comes in when the young person who has now been labelled an adult attempts to find shelter in an adult homeless shelter. The shelter has no option but to turn them away. Why? Because under the act that the adult shelters fall under, persons under the age of 18 are classified as children and children may not be housed with adults who are not relatives. Mr. Speaker, I seek consent to continue my statement.

Teenage Homelessness In Yellowknife
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 932

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you. The honourable Member is seeking consent to conclude his Member's statement. Are there any nays? There are no nays, Mr. Dent. You may conclude your statement.

Teenage Homelessness In Yellowknife
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 932

Charles Dent Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and honourable Members. So, Mr. Speaker, in the Northwest Territories, what do we do with these non-adults who are no longer children? The answer is nothing. We pretend they do not exist. We hope someone else will deal with the problem. In fact, our laws allow them to slip through the cracks.

Considering the emotional devastation, humiliation and aimless void that is caused by these appalling circumstances and the feelings of utter worthlessness and abandonment, we should not be surprised when these castaway teens turn to drugs, alcohol and violence themselves. Is it any wonder that these teens feel like nothing and have little respect for the older generation when in reality they are treated worse than garbage? You see, when you throw garbage away, it at least goes to the dump. But when we throw away these young lives, where do they go? The sad truth, Mr. Speaker, is that they have nowhere to go and that is completely unacceptable. Thank you.

---Applause

Teenage Homelessness In Yellowknife
Item 3: Members' Statements

Page 932

The Speaker Tony Whitford

Thank you, Mr. Dent. Item 3, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.