This is page numbers 5293 - 5320 of the Hansard for the 16th Assembly, 5th 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 language.

Topics

The House met at 1:42 p.m.

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Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Good afternoon, colleagues. Welcome back to the Chamber. Orders of the day. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Mr. Lafferty.

Minister’s Statement 68-16(5): Aboriginal Language Strategy Update
Ministers’ Statements

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. [English translation not provided.]

Mr. Speaker, later today I will table the Government of the Northwest Territories Aboriginal Languages Plan - A Shared Responsibility. The plan was crafted after reviewing the Standing Committee on Government Operations’ report Reality Check: Securing a Future for Official Languages of the Northwest Territories.

Over 200 delegates at the Aboriginal Languages Symposium held in late March 2010 offered their thoughts, concerns and ideas for this plan. As well, a number of community meetings were held to discuss the future of aboriginal languages. Other guiding documents, such as the Review of the Current Aboriginal Language Strategy, informed us. Over 300 people contributed and committed to the making of the Aboriginal Languages Plan.

This incredible level of commitment and participation is indicative of how vital aboriginal languages are to our people.

We believe the plan we all developed will improve the condition of our official aboriginal languages. It is reflective not only of the priorities of people of the Northwest Territories but of the recognition of this Assembly that languages strengthen our society and are critical to our culture and heritage.

The plan being tabled later today sets out a framework for strengthening aboriginal languages over the next decade. The plan recognizes and supports the concept that, as delegates at the

languages symposium clearly told us, individuals, families, language communities, governments and society as a whole share responsibility for language.

There have been a number of studies on aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories over the years. We’ve learned much from this work and weigh and considered it in the development of our actions.

There are over 70 actions called for in the plan. We know that some actions will take longer to implement and that we need to identify resources to support various actions. However, there are also actions in the plan that we can implement now using our existing resources and we will begin action on those items right away.

In my travels through the communities of the Northwest Territories I had the opportunity and pleasure of discussing aboriginal languages with many people. It is clearly an issue on people’s minds and is one of great importance to them. Our leaders and elders have said that if we lose our language, we lose our identity and lessen who we are as a people. The actions identified in the plan help to address this concern by revitalizing and strengthening our official aboriginal languages.

I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Government Operations, including the committee’s chair, Mr. Kevin Menicoche, for their commitment to this issue and for their guidance in developing this plan. I also want to thank all the Members of this Assembly and this House, who provided encouragement and support for this important work.

Minister’s Statement 68-16(5): Aboriginal Language Strategy Update
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Lafferty. The honourable Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs, Mr. Robert McLeod.

Minister’s Statement 69-16(5): A Clear Path Forward: Municipal And Community Affairs’ Strategic Plan
Ministers’ Statements

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Later today I will table A Clear Path Forward: The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs’ Strategic Plan 2010-2015. This strategic plan was developed through an inclusive process involving staff, partners and stakeholders. It is in sync with the 16th Assembly’s priorities and

embraces the goal of healthy, sustainable communities.

MACA has a broad mandate involving a variety of stakeholders. The department aims to provide relevant, effective programs and services reflecting innovation, learning and excellence.

Given the many changes of the past three years, it was time to review the achievements and milestones that MACA has achieved in collaboration with community governments, their representative organizations, sport organizations, and other partners. A Clear Path Forward identifies current and emerging issues and positions of the department to continue the positive momentum into the future.

The strategic plan highlights four key themes that will guide the work of the department in implementing its diverse mandate over the next five years.

The first theme, A Foundation for Leadership, recognizes that competent and effective elected leaders are necessary for community governments to function. Financial policies, programs and partnerships encompassing sound financial management need to be in place to support community governments in making solid decisions on their way to a sustainable and vibrant future.

The second theme, Moving Forward, recognizes that MACA needs to ensure it has the tools and resources to support community governments effectively. These tools include:

up-to-date comprehensive legislation and

policies;

meaningful communications tools for

connecting with clients;

strong partnerships; and

a skilled workforce that proactively supports community governments.

The third theme, Stronger, Safer Communities, speaks to MACA’s role in supporting community governments to address infrastructure planning, land management and public service. Fire protection, emergency management, clean drinking water, environmental planning and stewardship are all part of this theme with the ultimate goal to create stronger, safer communities.

Invest in People, Build Communities encompasses capacity building as a fourth theme. It speaks to the need to improve community government public safety by building the skills of community government staff. The department knows that healthy, active people contribute to the quality of life in our communities. Culturally relevant physical activity programs are supported to promote healthy lifestyles and positive choices. MACA continues to support the development of an active volunteer

sector that in turn contributes to community well-being.

These four broad themes reflect the department’s high-level strategic directions over the next five years. Supporting actions and strategies will roll out to balance needs with available resources. Many of the items in the strategic plan are long-term in nature and the department’s intent is to report on the progress of the achievements annually.

Mr. Speaker, community governments and MACA’s other partners are facing a range of challenges and opportunities. The department is striving to maintain and improve meaningful partnerships with community governments, to meet shared goals and celebrate important milestones. I look forward to providing regular updates to Members on the activities undertaken to implement MACA’s strategic plan. Thank you.

Minister’s Statement 69-16(5): A Clear Path Forward: Municipal And Community Affairs’ Strategic Plan
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Tu Nedhe, Mr. Beaulieu.

NWT Aboriginal Languages Plan
Members’ Statements

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker...[English translation not provided.]

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to talk about aboriginal language programs in Akaitcho, which Tu Nedhe is a part of, and the need to increase support for these programs.

Mr. Speaker, in the riding of Tu Nedhe there is a combined aboriginal population of around 95 percent. However, the actual number of Chipewyan-speaking residents is becoming less and less every year. Mr. Speaker, speaking the language is important for keeping the culture alive. Speaking the language allows elders to pass on important traditional practices and knowledge to the next generation.

Mr. Speaker, this government recently developed the GNWT’s Aboriginal Languages Plan yet provides very little financial resources to support the communities. As I said, most of their money comes from the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year the Minister stated that the department is taking the lead in the revitalization to enhance and support official languages. He also talked about the government’s approach to languages being a shared responsibility. Mr. Speaker, if you ask the Deninu K'ue First Nations and Lutselk'e First Nations they will tell you that receiving only $17,000 is not enough and they feel the GNWT should do more to support the program.

Mr. Speaker, there are programs and services in place to preserve the Chipewyan language in Akaitcho. There are elders, workers, volunteers, teachers and professionals dedicated to keeping the language alive, but this is not enough and more support is needed. Mr. Speaker, these programs are crucial to keeping the language alive.

Currently, the Deninu K'ue First Nation and Lutselk'e First Nation receive $17,000 each. I believe the bulk of that money comes from the federal government through the Canada-NWT Cooperation Agreement for French and Aboriginal Languages. Seventeen thousand dollars is not enough to support a meaningful language program, Mr. Speaker. When you take into account the need to hire staff, run an office, cover admin, pay for travel, per diems, promotion and advertising, there is little left to promote the language program. Thank you.

NWT Aboriginal Languages Plan
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Beaulieu. The honourable Member for Hay River South, Mrs. Groenewegen.

Sustainable Economic Development For Hay River
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier today we had a chance to meet with some Ministers and I am pleased that for the first time in his term we have been able to welcome the mayor of Hay River here today, His Worship Kelly Schofield, and our town manager, Terry Molenkamp.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to talk about Hay River a bit today. Hay River prides itself in being a diverse economy, diverse culture, a long-standing community with a lot of resiliency. Mr. Speaker, the mayor reminded me this morning in your office of a phrase that I really like. That is that the cup is half full. I try to stay positive about these things, but I need to be honest with my colleagues here today and tell you that Hay River is in need of some serious attention in terms of our economy there.

We went through, and have gone through, very difficult times in Hay River. I think back to the closure of the Pine Point Mine when we had 2,000 residents that just lived within an hour’s distance to the east of us. A lot of their trade, commerce and activity, services that they required came out of Hay River. When we heard that the Pine Point Mine would shut down, it was quite devastating news for Hay River. Then along came the timely decision of the Government of the Northwest Territories to locate the headquarters for NTPC in Hay River and how that decision went a long ways to mitigate the negative impact of the loss of Pine Point as our neighbour.

Mr. Speaker, we are at a time again now where we have seen a change and an evolving in our community. The headquarters of Northern Transportation, a long-standing, large corporate citizen in our community, were relocated recently to Edmonton along with the senior jobs that went with that. This was not good for Hay River.

Again, I don`t want to paint a really dire picture, because sometimes that can backfire as well. At the same time, we are happy with the long-awaited and anticipated construction of a trades shop in Hay River, the construction of the assisted living facility which is up and operational now and all the jobs involved in that operation, the renovation of our school and, of course, the new hospital for Hay River on the horizon in our capital budget.

But, Mr. Speaker, at this time, I really do feel that we need to draw our government`s attention to the fact that Hay River, to be sustainable and to continue on the way we have, these projects are good, but we need something long term. We have mining on our doorstep. We have potential of Avalon. We have the potential of what Tamerlane can bring there. We have also the ability to accommodate these activities.

I would like to thank the mayor and the town manager for meeting with Ministers today to draw this to their attention again. We will work together. We will improve things. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Sustainable Economic Development For Hay River
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. The honourable Member for Kam Lake, Mr. Ramsay.

Rising Health Care Costs And Health Authority Deficits
Members’ Statements

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have spoken at length about the growing deficits of our health authorities and question the Minister about her lack of attention on addressing these issues that are just not going away.

On Monday, when I asked Minister Lee about the deficit at Stanton and the system-wide deficit, she answered that it was $10.1 million at Stanton and $16.8 million system-wide. These totals, Mr. Speaker, are only for the fiscal year 2011. What I was looking for was the Minister to state the accumulated totals for Stanton and system-wide. These numbers, Mr. Speaker, are much, much higher.

Somewhere these deficits have got to have our Department of Finance and the Finance Minister hearing some very loud alarm bells.

Mr. Speaker, my belief is that the biggest factors are chronic underfunding and unfunded positions. Government has never managed these issues effectively. With the ever-growing cost to deliver services to our residents, the inaction of

government is magnified and manifests itself in these large deficits.

I am not sure what world the Minister lives in, but where I come from, if you have a problem that you can clearly see, you take action to fix it. For seven years the government has done nothing but to simply bail out the department and authorities.

At times, in order to placate some Members, they might look like they are interested in doing something like hiring a new CEO or senior staff, developing deficit-fighting plans that are never acted on and saying they are greatly concerned when questioned.

Mr. Speaker, words alone are not going to fix the problems. Nickel and diming patients for television, parking and telephone is not going to fix the problems. It will take a concerted effort by the Minister and department to present proper budgets before this House, not something they know is inadequate.

Given the fact it will need to maximize how each and every dollar is spent, we will need to vigorously pursue purchasing partnerships with our neighbours in western jurisdictions across Western Canada. We will need to commit ourselves to reducing our costs and searching out more efficient ways to buy health care supplies, procure services and manage our health care system,

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Rising Health Care Costs And Health Authority Deficits
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. The honourable Member for Frame Lake, Ms. Bisaro.

Homelessness In The NWT
Members’ Statements

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Homelessness is spreading in our Territory. Where it used to be an issue or a problem found only in the capital or maybe in our regional centres, it is now evident in our smaller communities.

Homelessness has many forms. Absolute homelessness is living on the street, staying in a shelter on a regular basis, or living in places not meant for human habitation. Relative homelessness is living in spaces that don’t meet basic health and safety standards; condemned buildings, for instance. Hidden homelessness refers to those who are temporarily staying with friends or family -- it’s called couch surfing -- or those who are staying with someone only to obtain shelter, and that includes those living in a home where they are subject to family violence. There’s at-risk homelessness; those who are one step away from eviction, bankruptcy or family separation and thus the loss of their home. Finally, people living with core housing need are considered to be homeless. Their housing does not meet the standards of adequacy, affordability and suitability. We’ve heard

much about GNWT’s failure to provide enough housing that meets these standards before and we will no doubt hear Members’ concerns again.

All of these descriptions of homelessness affect residents of all ages of children as well as adults. Late in 2007, early 2008, the report of a research study into women’s homelessness north of 60 was released. The report was comprehensive and informative, but the content was disturbing, Mr. Speaker, and pointed the very real need for action to address the precarious situation of homeless or near homeless women across the North. There is a need in any community for a continuum of housing services.

Here in Yellowknife we have several gaps. We have transitional housing for single women being the most notable one. There are transitional spaces for families and for single men, but not for single women. We’re lucky to have a number of organizations who provide services and shelters to the homeless in Yellowknife, but there’s a particular need here for services for homeless women and the need for a permanent transition home for homeless women.

In February of 2009 the city’s Homeless Coalition opened the Bailey House, a transition house for single men. It’s proved to be very successful. Since its opening, 14 men have transitioned from Bailey House to their own home and we now badly need to provide the same opportunities for single women here in Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, I do what I can to support the Yellowknife Homeless Coalition as they work on the Women’s Transition Home Project.

Homelessness In The NWT
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Paul Delorey

Ms. Bisaro, your time for your Member’s statement has expired.