This is page numbers 495 - 544 of the Hansard for the 15th 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 going.

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Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 539

The Chair Jane Groenewegen

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. To the motion. Next I have Mr. Villeneuve.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 539

Robert Villeneuve Tu Nedhe

Mahsi, Madam Chair. I also want to state my support for the motion that's on the floor right now for referral to the standing committee for all the good reasons that all of my colleagues have stated here today. So I'll just be brief with expressing my reasons for support.

One, most importantly being that the general public in the NWT is not really ready for this type, or prepared, I guess, for this type of legislation to be thrown on them along with the new Liquor Act and all other kinds of legislation that we've been passing here in this House. However, I have to really commend the Minister of Justice also and just as much gratitude has to be brought to the Social Programs committee for putting this type of report, a comprehensive report that it is, together to address the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act and the extensive consultative process that they went through to get this report together. I really have to commend everybody for all their work. Just to let it be known that I don't think all this work is going to be in vain because we're just referring it to the next Assembly and just like my colleague Mr. Ramsay has stated, the chair, that the 16th Assembly will be putting something in place that will address the issue of drug abuse and substance abuse here in the NWT. I do agree with him that we do have to take some action. It's a definite no-brainer that we know that, but I don't think we can take actions that will infringe on basic human rights of freedom and liberty here in the NWT and I think this is what the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act will do now as it stands.

I hope, and I'm confident, that the next Assembly here will put this Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act very high on their priority list. I'm sure a lot of Members here in the House will be returning and this is one piece of legislation that will be right at the top with the other ones that we have referred back and haven't even brought to the House yet. With that, again, I'd just like to say that I do support the motion here today and I do support the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods Act, but not today.

---Laughter

I hope to see something, I hope it's tweaked, it's revamped, and fine-tuned, and the public is well aware of what they're going to be supporting or not supporting. We've got to get more information out there before this legislation comes back to this House for passing in this House. I think the general public in the NWT will let us know when it's time to do that. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 539

The Chair David Ramsay

Mahsi, Mr. Villeneuve. Next on the list I've got Mr. Hawkins.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 539

Robert Hawkins Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Well, I guess I look around the room and it's pretty obvious where the numbers are so I'm going to have to say, first and foremost, I'm going to have to respect the Assembly's direction on this. There's no point in debating it at endless length and pleading when the decision has already been made.

Mr. Chair, one of the calls to action when I was in my election campaign in 2003 was to find solutions for the drug and crack problem. A number of people told me face to face that we had to come up with solutions. They were looking for something. If anything, they were looking for some leadership and some action on this problem because up until that point, not to say nothing was being done, but up until that point, there was a feeling of almost a surrender or a defeatist point of view. Mr. Chairman, I take this quite personally, this act, because I've had a number of constituents -- I happen to be the MLA for downtown and certainly if, God willing, the constituents choose to send me back, I hope to continue to be the MLA for downtown -- but, Mr. Chairman, the fact is the downtown has a number of crack houses and I've continually received calls from constituents regarding crack houses downtown. I've passed all of those on to the RCMP and rightly so, and in many cases it's taken quite a bit of time and quite a bit of pressure. In some cases, we've had very good tenants. In other words, we have crack dealers who know the law, they pay their rent, pay their power, you know, do all the right normal things, but they sell drugs. Some of these are located right next to Mildred Hall. Some are located right down next to our medical clinics. Some are located right next to our seniors downtown. All of that is sort of a mute point at this time. I mean, RCMP know.

Mr. Chairman, I am slightly disappointed, I'm not going to deny that. Even though I've said it twice now, but drug dealing is against the law. As long as we continue to find reasons to stall solutions, I mean, I will say I do respect many of the points brought forward. I've had a chance to read if not every one, almost every single one of the e-mails, and a few have come in especially as of late. I also have the right to disagree, too, as well as they have the right to disagree with me. But how are we going to solve this problem? Everything was sort of a doom and gloom position as opposed to how can we make this act work? I think the Minister has responded quite handily because committee came forward and said that they would like this, this, and this to address their needs and I think the Minister has come back. But that's neither here nor there because there's obviously a lack of will or interest to re-look at this to see if there's a way to possibly make it work.

Something that needs to be said also is the fact that the regulations have not been drafted on this bill. So what do regulations mean? Well, I mean, we've got the structure of the bill and we've got possibly a year, maybe even two years to design the mechanics of how it actually works. Even if, again, I'm fortunate enough to return and find that civil liberties are put to the test that they're just truly unacceptable, I'd vote for the removal of the money in the budget. Essentially, as I've said earlier today, I'll pull the Conservative trick on the gun registry: choke the money, don't kill the gun registry, just take the money away. So I would take the same principle in the future on this, which is if it doesn't find a balanced approach. What we're voting against, or, sorry, referring back today is the structure that I thought was a solution. I'll concede that the greater Assembly feels at this time that it isn't the solution and I'll respect that. I won't take the Assembly's wisdom on this in vain; I'll take it with respect that a little more work needs to be done.

I just want to say one more thing, which is Mr. Ramsay did highlight the need to focus, I mean really focus on the fact that drugs in our community are a problem and we are fooling ourselves if we can find a way to defend this by slowing any process down that tries to hone in on that problem and deal with it. I am a strong and absolute committed believer in the fact that fighting drugs is only 50 percent of the problem. We also have to offer treatment so then there is nobody interested in buying them because they don't feel the need to have that desire fulfilled. So it's a two-part process. I've never, never thought otherwise for a moment. So I wouldn't want anyone to think that I don't believe that. I highlighted today my concern about not getting an additions centre here in Yellowknife in this term and I'm hoping that that will be a success the next term. But the fact is, I think it's a two-part process.

So, Mr. Chairman, although this is a referral, deep down inside I think it's more of a recycling bin referral. It's really up to the next Assembly whether they decide it's a priority or not. We should really say what it is today, which is it's the Assembly's refusal to consider this or to modify this to go forward. I'll accept that and I'll put faith in the next 16th Assembly to possibly re-examine this and see if they can accommodate some of the needs, and I'll say the very good needs and suggestions brought forward in many of the e-mails that I've seen. I do agree with some of the intent; sometimes maybe I was just so excited to see something come forward that I was willing to accept the product being offered. Maybe that was my excitement of a solution being put forward today and maybe by all of us stepping back, including myself, we will have a better product in the end.

So, Mr. Chairman, with that, I want to thank committee's time. I definitely want to thank the Minister, who I know has worked hard; there are a lot of staff that have worked hard and, of course, committee has put a fair amount of time and energy into this bill. So respecting all that, thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 540

The Chair David Ramsay

Thank you, Mr. Hawkins. Next on the list I have Mrs. Groenewegen.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 540

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I will try to be brief but this is a very important matter, a very important motion and I feel I do need to speak to it. Like other Members, first of all, I would like to thank Minister Bell for his foresight and his call to arms, so to speak, to deal with this whole issue of drug dealers and bootleggers in the Northwest Territories. As other Members have said, as well, we are being ravaged by this and in some ways I think we're afraid to stand up to them. We have grown complacent. We talked about that when we talked about the denormalization of alcohol abuse and substance abuse. We have grown complacent. We have learned to co-exist with it. It has become a part of the fabric of our communities to understand that there will be drug dealers and there will be bootleggers. If we are going to make progress, we need to stand up to this, but we need to find the best way to do that.

I respect the work of the Social Programs committee. They are the ones who went out and went on the road and consulted and have spent a great deal of time and work on this particular piece of legislation and I do thank them for that. I'm going to tell you, I think in my community there is a lot of support for legislation like safer communities legislation, but we work in a consensus government here; we do not try to railroad each other. I have been involved in votes that were passed by one vote before and I tell you, at the end of the day, when you win at a vote by one vote, it really, in our consensus style government, doesn't leave a very good taste. If I can give you an example. I remember one day driving back here in a snowstorm to get into the House, barely, to run in and support and just be pressured and lobbied about this motion not to give Yellowknife an extra MLA. I have to tell you, many times since then I've regretted that because that spawned that whole Friends of Democracy court action, and that was one vote. That was my vote. I was on my way from Hay River and I was late and I got here and the Premier of the day, I won't tell you who it was, but anyway...

---Laughter

You know, there was a big pressure and it was all riding on me. I have to tell you...I'm telling you it is not in keeping with the sense and the style of consensus government to ram something through on one vote. So we could possibly have pushed this through, but you know the thing is that it would go to the next Assembly and it would need a lot of modification and a lot of support. It's kind of six of one, half-dozen of the other. We can either take the time now and as Members have committed, and I'll tell you, if I'm back in this government in the next Assembly, I am going to save the Hansard of this discussion here for the day that Members committed to the principle of this particular legislation. I will remember then, too, that it was Mr. Bell who has the foresight to make sure his department got this on the road and we will not forget about it.

Out of respect for other Members, we need to consider a made-in-the-North solution. I could not agree with Member McLeod more. We need a made-in-the-North solution. We are not like other jurisdictions. We need to give our communities the tools to deal with these problems; maybe a different model. Cookie cutter legislation doesn't always work in the North. Our communities are very diverse. We've got Colville Lake and a place like Yellowknife. How do you enact legislation that can address the needs of both of those communities? Maybe we need to do a pilot project. Maybe we need to do a prototype. Maybe we need to roll this out in one community or maybe a large community, a small community, and see how it works.

When we did the WCB legislation, because of the complexity of it, we approached it in a workshop kind of environment. We didn't just do it on our routine kind of process that we move legislation along on, because we understood that we wanted to get it right and we wanted to have that dialogue and we wanted to think it out amongst ourselves in collaboration also with the stakeholders.

So I think that it's just very unfortunate timing. This government is drawing to a close; we have run out of time. We could sit here for the next 10 hours and debate these amendments and everything. I don't think that, at the end of the day, we are still going to do justice to a piece of legislation as important as this.

Like I said, the Social Programs committee say they have heard the cries of the communities. We all have, and we need, to respect that and we need to listen to that.

I just want to say one other thing that might be slightly off the topic of the motion here, but we need to think a little bit broader and a little more outside the box. We have been taking about drugs and alcohol in our communities. We can clean up the drugs and the alcohol, but there is a reason why people are enslaved to these things. As a government, and I have said it before and I will say it again, we pay very little attention to the spiritual conditions that give people that meaning of life, that purpose of living. There is no reason...You want to talk about a made-in-the-North solution, why can't we pay attention to that? Why can't we recognize that having a healthy spirit is part of the whole person and a well person? Why can't we do that? We stay away from it; we avoid it; we say that's somebody else's business and we don't want to get involved in that, but our people are dying. Our people are getting caught in things that they cannot get themselves out of and we are trying, as a government, to deal with it.

I will support the motion here today and again thanks so much to the Minister of the Department of Justice for the work he's done on this. It will be back. Thank you.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 541

The Chair David Ramsay

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. Next on the list I have Minister Bell.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

August 22nd, 2007

Page 541

Brendan Bell Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, committee. Mr. Chairman, I do have a few comments to make concerning this motion that, if passed, effectively means the end of this piece of legislation unless it's taken off and introduced by another Assembly, possibly the 16th or maybe the 17th. First of all, I want to thank all Members, particularly those who are representing small communities and have personally spent a lot of time over the last few days to come to me to explain their position on this bill, on these issues. While I may disagree, I want to say that I respect the positions they have taken on this bill. As such, Mr. Chairman, the Premier has asked that I inform the committee that government will not vote on this motion and will respect the will of the House.

Mr. Chairman, I also want to recognize the work done by the MLA for Yellowknife Centre, Robert Hawkins, on what I consider a very important initiative. Mr. Hawkins represents downtown Yellowknife. I know he understands too well the horrible impact alcohol and drugs is having on this community. In fact, he spent a number of hours over the last few months talking to me in my office about this various issue in the hopes for this piece of legislation; sometimes with kids in tow, as he mentioned earlier.

Mr. Chairman, as the sponsoring Minister, I support the bill. More than that, Mr. Chairman, as a member of this community and a long-time northerner, I personally believe that this legislation is another important tool we need to fight the scourge of alcohol and drugs in our community. I find it more than just a little ironic, and Members probably will too, that I am proposing legislation that was championed by the NDP governments in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. I guess on this one debate on this one issue I stand with Premiers Calvert and Doer.

Those provinces, along with others like Yukon and Newfoundland, tell us that this type of legislation works, works in their urban areas, works in the more remote communities where the circumstances are similar, in many respects, to the small communities in this territory.

Mr. Chairman, in my eight years in this House, every community I have travelled in in the NWT, I have heard the same stories. Indeed, we have all heard the same stories. Leaders, elders, youth and our residents tell us about how a few people in our communities are preying on others in the community by illegally selling alcohol and drugs. In this community in Yellowknife, there are crack houses operating that the police do not have the time, resources or ability to shut down. These crack houses are having a very real and negative effect on the people in our neighbourhood, in our communities, especially our children, our most vulnerable citizens.

Mr. Chairman, the problems caused by alcohol and drugs is tearing apart families, communities and our territory. As a member of this community, a long-time northerner and as a father, I wanted to do something to stop it and that's why I sponsored this legislation and why today I still consider it an important tool to deal with these problems in our communities.

To be clear and to be fair, this legislation is not meant to be the entire answer. Obviously, as members of the public have pointed out, we must do more as a government and as a society to provide treatment, to provide healing for our people who are struggling with issues related to alcohol and drug abuse. During this debate and over the last little while, there have been many issues raised about how this new tool will be used. I believe that many of those issues are based on misconceptions about the legislation. As well, I think there were a number of specific issues we were prepared to address here today or through the implementation process. But, Mr. Chairman, I think Members know I had a lot personally invested in this and a number of people commented and asked why the rush. I can tell you that personally I didn't want to feel as if I had gone through another Assembly and hadn't don't enough to deal with this issue or we hadn't done enough.

So thank you to the members of the committee. Again, I certainly appreciate all the calls and e-mails I received. I appreciate MLA Hawkins' time on this issue and the discussions that we had. I apologize again that I wasn't able to bring this home, but, Mr. Chairman, if it's the will of the House that this legislation not proceed during the 15th Legislative Assembly, I obviously must, and am certainly willing to, respect that decision. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

---Applause

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 541

The Chair David Ramsay

Thank you, Minister Bell. To the motion. Ms. Lee.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Sandy Lee Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. When I introduced the motion, I tried to follow the rule of making a statement that is quite narrow and to the motion, but I do appreciate the nature of the discussion by necessity and, more importantly, took on wider statements on the part of the Members. I appreciate very much all the comments and the points the Members made. I think we are doing good work here. I respect everybody's opinion with regard to that.

Mr. Chairman, I think it should be made very clear that at no time during discussions of this bill in the committee or in the public hearings did we ever hear anyone suggesting that we need to do more or that anyone suggested that we ought to do more to address the drug situation as well as alcohol and drug bootlegging. The question here and the

support of the motion is not against all those important issues. I think that should be made very clear.

The question here is whether or not the SCAN legislation is the one that will address those issues and do it in a way that makes sense to people and that is applicable to the North. The question is whether or not the SCAN legislation, as written, is going to do that and I think we have received overwhelming input that this is not going to do that as written. Many people support the spirit of the bill, but they would like us to bring it back and work on it more.

Mr. Chairman, let me just remind everybody here, and Mr. Yakeleya suggested that, the Workers' Compensation Act, the Liquor Act, Employment Standards Act, Public Health Act, all of them took years and years of work. I am not saying you should work for years and years to delay it, but these are complex pieces of legislation. SCAN legislation has a wide vision and a very big scope and it's going to set up a whole new infrastructure for dealing with the issue at hand and I think it needs a lot more detail. Even Bill 13, Change of Name Act, which is a simple procedure on changing your name, had about 12 clauses on how to address that step by step. So surely we need to do a lot more work on that.

As the committee chair, I recommend to the House here that we will write a detailed report on the findings that we heard and I will make sure the next government will look at that.

Another thing is we don't have party politics here, so it's not like a new party comes in and they wipe out the old party politics clean and they introduce a new party system. The new consensus government will look at all the unfinished business, and obviously this is going to be accompanied in that and I am sure it will be thoroughly addressed and I am sure it will be spoken about during the campaign as well.

Mr. Chairman, I want to tell the RCMP officers all over the Territories, who I know have supported this legislation, who I know felt this was a useful tool, I respect the work the RCMP do and this should not be taken as anything against what they are trying to do. I think we have civilian rules here and we have responsibilities to make sure the powers we give to the RCMP and other RCMP-like officers are written in a way that are clear and have sufficient checks and balances. I just wanted to state that I look forward to working on this. Thank you so much.

---Applause

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 542

The Chair David Ramsay

Thank you, committee. To the motion.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 542

Some Hon. Members

Question.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

Page 542

The Chair David Ramsay

Question has been called. All those in favour? All those opposed? The motion is carried.

---Carried

Does committee agree that Bill 7 be recommitted to the Social Programs committee?

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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Some Hon. Members

Agreed.

Committee Motion 23-15(6): Refer Bill 7 To The Standing Committee On Social Programs, Carried
Item 20: Consideration In Committee Of The Whole Of Bills And Other Matters

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The Chair David Ramsay

Thank you, committee. Does committee agree that consideration of Committee Report 4-15(6) is concluded?