This is page numbers 1945 - 1984 of the Hansard for the 15th Assembly, 3rd 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 program.

Topics

Members Present

Honourable Brendan Bell, Mr. Braden, Honourable Paul Delorey, Honourable Charles Dent, Mrs. Groenewegen, Honourable Joe Handley, Mr. Hawkins, Honourable David Krutko, Ms. Lee, Honourable Michael McLeod, Mr. McLeod, Mr. Menicoche, Honourable Michael Miltenberger, Mr. Pokiak, Mr. Ramsay, Honourable Floyd Roland, Mr. Villeneuve, Mr. Yakeleya, Mr. Zoe

---Prayer

Item 1: Prayer
Item 1: Prayer

Page 1945

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Good afternoon, colleagues. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development, Mr. Bell.

Minister's Statement 109-15(3): NWT Protected Areas Strategy
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1945

Brendan Bell Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as the Premier has already stated in this House, the Government of the Northwest Territories supports the Mackenzie gas project, and a pipeline built down the Mackenzie Valley to deliver NWT natural gas to continental energy markets. Our government is committed to ensuring that the Mackenzie gas project and other resource developments in the NWT are constructed and operated in a manner that recognizes our respect for and unique relationship with our land, water and wildlife resources.

Mr. Speaker, I believe we achieved a significant step in ensuring the protection of significant spaces with the funding of the Mackenzie Valley five-year action plan under the Northwest Territories Protected Areas Strategy. Mr. Speaker, the action plan is the result of a strong partnership, led by communities and land claim organizations and supported by the territorial and federal governments, industry and conservation organizations, including Ducks Unlimited, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the World Wildlife Fund Canada.

The budget currently before us identifies our commitment to provide $1.5 million over the next five years to implement the action plan. This funding, along with a $9 million commitment from the federal government and the $5.4 million provided by environmental organizations means we can continue proper conservation planning in the Mackenzie Valley, and allows us to develop our land in a sustainable manner.

Mr. Speaker, on February 21, 2005, Mr. Monte Hummel of World Wildlife Fund Canada presented a keynote address at the Nunavut teachers' conference in Iqaluit. Mr. Hummel stressed the pressing need to develop and implement protected areas strategies in the North. He drew attention in his remarks to the good work in progress by NWT communities to identify and reserve areas that are ecologically and culturally important to them. We believe this community-driven approach, the partners have embraced, will stand as an example for other jurisdictions.

Mr. Speaker, as we continue to move forward on construction of the Mackenzie gas project, we must also advance the designation of protected areas. The action plan will help us meet our goal of identifying, reviewing, establishing interim protection and evaluating areas for protection in the Mackenzie Valley. It will also ensure the biodiversity and cultural significance of the Mackenzie Valley is protected for all generations.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the commitment of our Protected Areas Strategy partners, particularly communities, regional organizations and land claim organizations, to working for a balanced approach to development and conservation. Together we can ensure the sustainable development of our natural resources. Thank you.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 109-15(3): NWT Protected Areas Strategy
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1945

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Bell. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Mr. Dent.

Minister's Statement 110-15(3): 50th Anniversary Of The Courts
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1945

Charles Dent Frame Lake

This week marks the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories. Before the court was established, justice was administered for the most part by lay magistrates. Serious cases were most often tried in Alberta.

When Justice Sissons became the first judge of the Court, he said that justice would be taken to every man's door and he meant what he said. Before he retired, Justice Sissons traveled an estimated 275,000 miles by plane and dogsled. The practice of the court going to the people so they can see justice being done and accused can be tried by a jury of their peers remains to this day.

Justice Sissons and his successor, Justice Morrow, were at the forefront of what is today an increased awareness of aboriginal rights in Canada.

  • • Perhaps the most important decision from this era, which significantly affected political aspirations of aboriginal people in the NWT, was made in 1973 by Justice Morrow in the Paulette case. A number of chiefs had applied to lodge a caveat with the registrar of land titles claiming an interest in an area of land comprising 400,000 square miles in the western part of the territory. They argued that treaties 8 and 11 did not extinguish aboriginal rights in relation to land. Justice Morrow agreed and so ruled. Although the decision was overturned in the Supreme Court of Canada, the decision had significant political consequences for the federal government and aboriginal people. Prior to this
  • • case, the federal government had claimed that aboriginal rights to land had been extinguished by the signing of treaties 8 and 11. Now the federal government accepted that there were serious moral and legal questions that cast doubt on their position and there began a perceptive and positive shift in the federal approach to aboriginal land claims.
  • • In 1961, despite fierce opposition by the federal government, Justice Sissons held that a marriage that took place in accordance with Inuit custom was a valid marriage in the eyes of the law. Later in 1965, he held that Inuit and Dene custom adoptions were valid adoptions recognized by the law.
  • • On the question of our political evolution, in the 1999 case of Morin v. the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, Justice Vertes concluded that the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories is "a separate and distinct legal entity" and not simply an "organ" of the federal government. This was an important decision that recognized the establishment of a fully responsible government in the Northwest Territories.

--Applause

Clearly, the Supreme Court has been an important institution in recognizing the rights of aboriginal people and the constitutional status of the Northwest Territories.

We are honoured to welcome a number of our former judges and lawyers back to Yellowknife to attend a conference this week celebrating this important anniversary. As well, legal counsel and judges joined us from Nunavut and the Yukon.

Mr. Speaker, a number of them are in the gallery today and I will hopefully be able to introduce them later.

The Sissons-Morrow carving collection is on display all this month at the Yellowknife Courthouse. It is representative of the most important cases from the first two decades of the Supreme Court. I would like to invite the Members of this House to visit our courthouse to view the collection. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 110-15(3): 50th Anniversary Of The Courts
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1946

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Dent. Mr. Dent, I just want to mention that I recognized you as Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. It would have probably been more appropriate as the Minister of Justice.

---Applause

I certainly want to join you in recognizing our guests today in the gallery. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, Mr. McLeod.

Minister's Statement 111-15(3): Northwest Territories Games Pilot Project
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1946

Michael McLeod Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today and share with Members information on the inaugural Northwest Territories Games being held in Fort Smith, March 18th to 21st.

This exciting pilot program will provide an opportunity for youth from all communities to participate in and experience the benefits of a multi-sport games competition.

Host organizers are expecting close to 400 participants from all Northwest Territories communities. They will be participating in curling, cross-country skiing, ski and snowshoe biathlon, snowshoeing, snow soccer, Dene games, Inuit games and some ice sport clinics.

It is our hope that they will enjoy this experience and take away from it a lifelong interest in physical activity and making healthy lifestyle choices. Some may even choose to go on to higher level events such as the Arctic Winter Games or the Canada Games.

The total Government of the Northwest Territories contribution to the NWT Games is $100,000. The departments of Education, Culture and Employment, Health and Social Services, Justice and the NWT Housing Corporation, along with Municipal and Community Affairs, have contributed financially because each recognize the future benefits to supporting events like this. I would like to extend my sincere thanks to each of those Ministers for agreeing to support this worthwhile event. The balance of the funding for the games has been derived from Western Canada Lottery revenues and the Government of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to recognize the tremendous effort put into organizing the Northwest Territories Games by the Sport North Federation. Within a short time frame, they have managed to coordinate and plan this event and have partnered with us to make this happen.

For those Members of the Legislative Assembly who have decided to attend the games, I am certain that you will see youth from communities have a great experience that they will treasure for the rest of their lives.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize the outstanding contribution from Fort Smith. The community, their volunteers and businesses and many local organizations have all come together to make this event a reality. Without their efforts, these games simply would not have been possible. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 111-15(3): Northwest Territories Games Pilot Project
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1946

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Premier, Mr. Handley.

Minister's Statement 112-15(3): Progress On The Deh Cho Bridge Project
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

March 10th, 2005

Page 1946

Joe Handley Weledeh

Mr. Speaker, I would like to give the Assembly a status report on the progress of the Deh Cho Bridge project.

It was a little over three years ago, in February 2002, when the Fort Providence Combined Council Alliance first brought forward its proposal to form a public/private partnership that would build a bridge across the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence. The government of the 14th Assembly gave the proposal a careful review and found that the proposal was not only feasible but, in many ways, quite attractive. First and foremost was the prospect of a permanent, all-weather highway link across

the Mackenzie River that would eliminate, once and for all, the seasonal interruptions in highway service.

Secondly, bridges are expensive pieces of infrastructure. Amongst the many competing demands on the public purse, the government could not have considered a public expenditure of that size for many years to come. The mechanism of the public/private partnerships offered a way to raise the capital for the bridge without adding to the government's debt. The government was definitely interested in the alliance's proposal and authorized the beginning of negotiations to work out the proposal in greater detail.

By November 2002, the partners had turned the initial proposal into a memorandum of intent that spelled out all the steps that would have to be taken to form the public/private partnership that would finance, design, construct, operate and pay for the Deh Cho Bridge. Having signed the memorandum of intent, work then began on the Concession Agreement. The Concession Agreement is the legal document that actually establishes the public/private partnership and, in every aspect of the project, defines the respective duties, responsibilities and obligations of the partners. The Concession Agreement is a long-term, 35-year agreement covering the initial planning and design of the bridge through to the last payment and the transfer of ownership to the Government of the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that the partners have agreed to the Concession Agreement and, subject to final approval, we have a document to govern the bridge project.

In April 2003, the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation made formal application to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board that initiated the regulatory approvals process. On its part, the 14th Legislative Assembly passed the Deh Cho Bridge Act in June of 2003 authorizing the Minister of Transportation to enter into a Concession Agreement and to collect the tolls that would pay for the bridge.

The Mackenzie Land and Water Board referred the Deh Cho Bridge project for an environmental assessment in January 2004. This has caused a delay in the original project schedule, but I am pleased to report that the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board has provided a positive recommendation. It is hoped that in the next week or two, the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development will approve the project proceeding to the regulatory phase. This issuing of permits and authorizations should proceed in relatively short order.

I am also pleased to report that the Department of Transportation has accepted the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation's conceptual design for the bridge. It remains to produce detailed engineering plans from the concept that contractors will use to prepare their tender bids and ultimately to construct the bridge. TD Securities has indicated that it is prepared to finance the project. The sum of the tender bids, the corporation's development costs to date plus the financing charges will put a final price on the bridge. It is on the basis of this final price that the Executive Council will decide whether or not it is in the best interest of the Northwest Territories to sign and enter into the Deh Cho Bridge Concession Agreement.

That decision, Mr. Speaker, is still some months away. If all goes well, we hope that actual work on the construction of the Deh Cho Bridge might begin as soon as this summer. I know from everyone I have spoken to about the bridge, we are all looking forward to the day when it opens for traffic and the disruptions of freeze-up and breakup are a thing of the past.

Mr. Speaker, it may seem like we are taking our time in formally entering into the Concession Agreement, but we need to ensure that the agreement is the right one for all parties. The three years it has taken to get where we are today have slipped by quickly. Consider for a moment that the alliance first brought forward its proposal in the term of the 14th Assembly. If we commit to go ahead in the next few months, it will take until the term of the 24th Assembly to pay for the bridge. We want to be sure that between now and then, the people of the Northwest Territories will agree that the government of the 15th Assembly made the right decision. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 112-15(3): Progress On The Deh Cho Bridge Project
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1947

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Handley. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister of Justice, Mr. Dent.

Minister's Statement 113-15(3): Community Justice
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1947

Charles Dent Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to provide this House with more details about the NWT justice system and in particular how this government works with communities to meet their needs and aspirations.

One of our guiding principles has always been that an effective justice system is one that is accepted by the communities it serves. Community involvement leads to acceptance and a justice system that meets the needs and aspirations of these communities.

The department encourages communities to increase their involvement in the administration of justice through community justice committees and by using local justices of the peace. We also maintain effective management of offenders using the least restrictive measures possible and promote community involvement in offender rehabilitation and reintegration through such programs as wilderness camps, spirituality programs and elder counselling.

Our community justice committees work with elders and community leaders to develop innovative solutions. Over the past three years, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases being diverted to the 30 active community justice committees. In 2001-02, there were 186 cases diverted. This number grew to 250 to 2002-03 and 373 in 2003-04.

These committees make decisions that directly affect residents in their communities. Justice committees are engaged in dealing with a wide variety of cases and have many options for innovative solutions at the community level. They deal with youth and adult cases using a restorative approach to justice. They promote abuse-free and crime-free lifestyles and activities that lead to healthier relationships between individuals and their communities. They may also administer the Fine Options Program, Community Service Order Program and after-care programs.

This next fiscal year, 2005-06, funding will be available to every community in the NWT to hire a part-time justice coordinator. Additional funding will also be available for program delivery. These funds will assist communities in developing a justice system that meets their unique needs and provides them with a safer environment.

Our justices of the peace have seen their roles expanded over the years. We now have 42 JPs in 19 communities and they are being utilized more and more. JPs will play a key role in taking preventative measures to protect victims of family violence under the Protection Against Family Violence Act.

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the continued cooperation between communities and the Department of Justice as we develop our NWT justice system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 113-15(3): Community Justice
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1948

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Dent. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The honourable Minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Board, Mr. Krutko.

Minister's Statement 114-15(3): North American Occupational Safety And Health Week
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1948

David Krutko Mackenzie Delta

Mr. Speaker, North American Occupational Safety and Health, or NAOSH, Week will be held from May 1st through 7th this year. The goal of NAOSH Week is to focus the attention of employers, workers, the general public and all partners in occupational safety and health on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace and at home. NAOSH Week was first launched in June 1997 marked by an agreement between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

For many years, responsibility for NAOSH Week activities in the North fell to the WCB. Six years ago, the WCB extended an invitation to several parties in business, labour and government to join them in promoting this important event. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that this partnership has proved to be very successful. These organizations, along with members of the youth committee, have brought new perspectives and fresh ideas to the event and it continues to grow in importance.

The theme for this year's NAOSH Week, "Equip, Educate, Empower" draws attention to the ever-present need for ongoing safety and training in the workplace. This is especially critical in the North with our young and ever increasing workforce.

The 2005 NAOSH Week organizing and youth committees have several events planned: an employer contest, video launches and safety demonstrations, to name a few.

This year will mark the first national launch north of 60. We are proud to announce that the ceremonies will be held here in Yellowknife at the Great Hall, May 2nd. I encourage all Members to get involved in NAOSH Week this year and strengthen their commitment to occupational safety and health. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 114-15(3): North American Occupational Safety And Health Week
Item 2: Ministers' Statements

Page 1948

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Krutko. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.