This is page numbers 4961 – 5000 of the Hansard for the 17th 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 communities.


The House met at 1:31 p.m.



The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. Honourable Premier, Mr. McLeod.

Minister's Statement 104-17(5): Government Of The Northwest Territories Taking A More Prominent Role On The National Scene
Ministers’ Statements

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, over the past few years, we have seen remarkable political development in the Northwest Territories. Land, resources and self-government agreements are being negotiated and settled. In April we concluded devolution and have seen the smooth transition of federal powers to the Government of the Northwest Territories. As a result of these efforts, Northerners have taken greater control over their social, economic and political destinies, have found new ways to work together and have greater national prominence than ever before.

Each summer, Canada’s Premiers meet to discuss matters of common concern. At this year’s meeting in Charlottetown, Premiers discussed the aging population and infrastructure, along with energy, developing a skilled workforce, and Aboriginal child welfare. At this meeting the Northwest Territories led the discussion on the benefits created by access to stable and affordable housing for Canadians, families and communities. Premiers called on the federal government to reinvest in social housing and emphasized the need for strengthened collaboration among the federal, provincial and territorial governments to address this important issue.

While there, Premiers meet with leaders from the five national Aboriginal organizations. Work with the national Aboriginal organizations continues throughout the year in the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group, which includes national Aboriginal organizations and Ministers of Aboriginal Affairs from all provinces and territories. The Northwest

Territories formally assumed the chair of this working group in Charlottetown and agreed to co-lead some progressive work on Aboriginal children in care with Manitoba.

I look forward to leading a national dialogue on issues impacting Aboriginal peoples across the country through the working group and sharing some of the successful ways that our government is engaging and partnering with Aboriginal governments in the Northwest Territories.

Missing and murdered Aboriginal women is an important area of concern for the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group. Through Canada’s Premiers, the Government of the Northwest Territories has supported a national round-table discussion on missing and murdered Aboriginal women, and we are encouraged by the federal government’s apparent willingness to participate. This initiative is being led by the national Aboriginal organizations, and our government recently agreed to help host a round-table in conjunction with Aboriginal Affairs Working Group meetings next February.

The overrepresentation of Aboriginal children in child welfare systems is another area where Canada’s Premiers and the Aboriginal Affairs Working Group has focused their attention. Together with Manitoba’s Minister of Family Services, we will develop action-oriented solutions that seek to reduce the number of children in care and improve the situation of Aboriginal children and families across Canada.

Other Ministers are also taking leadership roles at both the national and international levels. Nationally, Minister Lafferty co-chairs the Aboriginal Education Initiative on behalf of the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. This initiative is aimed at improving Aboriginal educational achievement, and Minister Lafferty’s position reflects both his experience and the groundbreaking work our government and the Government of Nunavut did on the residential schools’ curriculum.

Internationally, Minister Ramsay recently took on the presidency of PNWER, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region. This forum brings together government and businesses from several US states and Canadian provinces and territories in the Pacific Northwest to promote common economic

interests. Minister Ramsay’s leadership of this forum will be an important opportunity to advance awareness of the Northwest Territories’ economic potential and take advantage of the relationships and partnerships we continue to build with our neighbours of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region.

Maintaining a strong relationship with our neighbours, like the western provinces, is also important to ensuring that regional issues are identified and addressed. The Western Premiers’ Conference, held in Iqaluit this past July, gave Premiers from the seven western jurisdictions an opportunity to discuss Aboriginal child welfare, developing the labour market, exploring solutions for off-grid communities, disaster management and assistance, improving access to markets and modernizing internal trade. Given the importance of housing for Northerners, I was pleased to again lead the discussion on this topic.

Because we share similar circumstances and issues, strengthening pan-territorial relationships is a key intergovernmental relations activity. This year the Northwest Territories hosted the 12th annual Northern Premiers’ Forum. Discussion included how to move forward on a range of issues important to Northerners, such as mental wellness, housing, energy options for northern Canada, infrastructure, climate change and the work of the Arctic Council.

At this year’s forum we launched A Northern Vision: Building a Better North, which updates the collaborative vision of the three territories originally released in 2007. A Northern Vision outlines how our three territories will work together to develop the North as a region of vibrant, healthy communities with economies that offer sound investment and diverse employment opportunities, a flourishing private sector and protection of the environment for future generations. We also renewed the Northern Cooperation Accord, which formalizes our commitment to work together to advance shared northern interests.

Strengthening relationships with Aboriginal governments is one of this Assembly’s priorities. Devolution has given us a new forum for building relationships in the Intergovernmental Council, which enables the Government of the Northwest Territories and Aboriginal governments who have signed on to devolution to collaborate on matters related to lands and resource management. This council allows Northwest Territories governments to share ideas and discuss common priorities and interests and will greatly benefit the Government of the Northwest Territories as it considers potential changes to lands and resources management in the Northwest Territories. This approach is unique in Canada.

The Intergovernmental Council held its first meeting on September 19th . Leaders and officials gathered

in Yellowknife and talked about processes for future meetings and priority areas for work in the coming year. With this first meeting of the Intergovernmental Council, we are seeing a new, and very welcome, era of cooperation between the Government of the Northwest Territories and Aboriginal governments.

Mr. Speaker, Northerners have worked hard to ensure they have control over their daily lives and to highlight the unique circumstances of the North at the regional and national levels. We are seeing improved collaboration and cooperation with Aboriginal governments through our work in the Northwest Territories. We have positive lessons to share with our partners at the national level. We do some things differently with made-in-the-North approaches and can offer a model for intergovernmental relations with Aboriginal governments other areas of Canada can learn from. We are seeing the results of hard work undertaken by the Government of the Northwest Territories, and we look forward to sharing our successes with a greater leadership role at the national level. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 104-17(5): Government Of The Northwest Territories Taking A More Prominent Role On The National Scene
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. McLeod. The honourable Minister of Environment and Natural Resources, Mr. Miltenberger.

Minister's Statement 105-17(5): Forest Management Agreements
Ministers’ Statements

Michael Miltenberger Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, supporting a diversified economy that provides all communities and regions with opportunities and choices is one of the main purposes of forest management agreements.

The first two agreements were signed this year with Timberworks in Fort Resolution and Digaa Enterprises in Fort Providence, jointly owned Aboriginal development corporations in each community.

Timberworks is owned by the Deninu Kue First Nation and the Fort Resolution Metis Council, and Digaa Enterprises is owned by the Deh Gah Gotie First Nation and the Fort Providence Metis Council

These are the first of several agreements this government hopes to sign with local Aboriginal corporations in areas where there is a sustainable supply of timber for harvest and a viable commercial use for the wood.

Mr. Speaker, this is a new concept in forest tenure for the Northwest Territories that provides for the kind of integrated, multiple use of forest land that is compatible with sustainable forest harvesting.

Forest management agreements give a local Aboriginal corporation non-exclusive rights to harvest timber from Crown lands for the purpose of

sustainable forest business development and growth.

Agreements respect settled land, resource and self-government agreements, interim measures agreements and land use plans. They do not affect the rights of persons to harvest or use the forest for subsistence or traditional practices. The agreements require the parties to follow all established regulatory processes and obtain necessary authorizations.

Forest management agreements benefit communities by supporting the development of profitable, locally managed businesses and increasing training and job opportunities for local people. Communities will be able to determine the growth of their business based on markets and their capabilities.

They also support the use of woody biomass as an alternative energy source and an economic opportunity for the community. An increased use of wood and wood pellets as an alternative source of energy supports the Government of the Northwest Territories’ goal of an environment that will sustain present and future generations.

The agreements also offer opportunities to transfer knowledge about forest management planning and operations, the sustainable development and cooperative management of our northern forests and long-term access to timber supply in support of forest industry development.

Mr. Speaker, communities wishing to develop a forest management agreement must establish an Aboriginal corporation to negotiate terms with our government. The corporation should be community-based and include engagement with local Aboriginal groups.

It needs to establish a wood fibre supply agreement with a wood products facility, and both the corporation and the community need to participate in the development of a timber harvest plan for the agreed area.

Aurora Wood Pellets, a wood pellet mill to be located north of Enterprise, is expected to create an annual demand for 125,000 cubic metres of wood.

More than 40 people will be employed at the Enterprise site, with the potential to create additional jobs in the region.

This northern owned and operated business will purchase sustainably harvested timber from Timberworks and Digaa Enterprises and contribute towards a sustainable northern economy.

As a result, timber will be harvested, turned into pellets and directly supplied to residents and businesses right here in the Northwest Territories.

The timber harvest plan provides a framework for the sustainable management of the timber

resources and takes other values, such as biodiversity, into consideration.

Work is underway now to help Timberworks and Digaa Enterprises develop a strong business model and to work together in building a timber harvest plan.

Forest management agreements are a major tool that will help us encourage and support a viable forest industry that encompasses the full range of forest values. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 105-17(5): Forest Management Agreements
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Miltenberger. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Deh Cho, Mr. Nadli.

Supporting A Local Mushroom Harvest
Members’ Statements

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territories has an opportunity to cater to the world. Morel mushrooms that fetch hundreds of dollars on the international markets thrive in areas burned by forest fires and attract harvesters from far and wide.

It was encouraging to see residents tap into the local resource this summer and finally the government step up with some response. ITI held workshops and orientation meetings in the Deh Cho this past spring, including walking workshops where participants go out in the field and learn the steps involved in harvesting morels, from locating the species to processing them for markets.

ENR provided maps to help target productive areas, and ECE supported the Fort Providence entrepreneurs’ efforts to train local harvesters. The government was aware of as many as seven buyers active in the region this summer. Best estimates suggest that this year’s harvest was worth approximately $1 million to $1.5 million. An anecdotal report suggests a family in the Deh Cho may have earned as much as $25,000 from their harvest this year. At the outset, local residents imagined they might easily match experienced pickers, but quickly discovered it takes at least two full seasons to develop the skills.

Draught was also a killer this year, and due to the summer’s hot, dry conditions, the harvest didn’t reach its maximum potential. A constituent had a total of 41 people working with him this summer, and in spite of the setbacks, many of them are eager to come back next year and pass on their skills to family and friends. Communities all around Great Slave Lake were affected by forest fires, and the government is planning to help residents capitalize on what could be a bumper crop of morels next year by distributing information booklets on mushroom harvest and offering more orientation visits and workshops throughout the

winter and spring. This is a great start, Mr. Speaker, and the GNWT needs to regulate mushroom harvest in a way that benefits residents of the NWT.

Aboriginal organizations should be encouraged to step in to help their community members. One of my constituents recommends including the harvest of non-timber forest products in the Fur Program, noting that the sale of mushrooms can generate enough profit to make this policy initiative well worthwhile.

We need to ensure buyers have business licences, that species are not overharvested and that people harvest species that they can correctly identify. We need to follow the example of other jurisdictions that have already carved a path through the fungal jungle and are using mushrooms and other timber forest products to diversify their economy. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Supporting A Local Mushroom Harvest
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Junior Kindergarten Implementation
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I’m the first one that will stand up in this House and say that I’ve made a mistake, and I would like to retract a thought and a theory that I put forward in this House last Thursday.

The Minister’s plan and the Department of Education’s plan for Junior Kindergarten is not only going to hurt the regional and large communities, it is going to be a disaster in all communities, including small communities.

You cannot move an initiative like this forward with no resources. I know I may be repeating myself, but you can’t do it. You can’t throw $15,000 at a small community and say, here, invite all the four-year-olds into your school program.

The Education Renewal Initiative, which the department touts as a great document and a great piece of work, the very principles of this particular document are that the community and the school are connected. The active involvement and role of all partners, students, families, communities, school staff, educators, Aboriginal governments and business are highly valued in the learning that occurs in and outside of the school walls. Mr. Speaker, I would like to suggest to you that this principle of the Education Renewal Initiative has not been adhered to by the department or considered by this Minister when talking about the implementation of Junior Kindergarten.

I hate, as a legislator, to see things torn down that people have toiled and volunteered and struggled to build for years and years and years. I had a chance to be home in Hay River this weekend. It is not just the regional centres, I heard from Kakisa; I

heard from Lutselk’e; I heard from Deline; I heard from Fort Providence; I heard from all of these communities who have existing early childhood development programming which is working.

When we had the folks from Education come to Hay River and we had our workshop about the Education Renewal Initiative, we talked about the importance of things being driven from the community up, not from the government down. This Junior Kindergarten program is a prime example of the government dictating to the communities what they’ll have.

I would rather see them pool the resources, if there are any, and it’s very little, but pool the very limited resources for Junior Kindergarten into some kind of a pot of money and then allow communities that don’t have early childhood development on a community-by-community basis to apply for, make a case for that and what they can do. Is it better in the school? Is it better in some other infrastructure within the community? Is it better in a church basement? Where could we best deliver early childhood development in those communities, instead of dictating to everybody? So, it’s a no win. It’s bad for the communities that already have something established, and it’s not enough resources for the people who don’t. It’s a lose-lose all around.

Mr. Speaker, may I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement? Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Junior Kindergarten Implementation
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, like I said, I hate to see things regress; I hate to see things torn down; and we are going to throw away federal money for Aboriginal Head Start; we’re going to throw away the community participation and the dollars, the volunteers, because we’re saying we’re going to take over educating the four-year-olds, and we’re not going to do a very good job with the plan that we have in hand.

I’m going to ask the Minister today, later on, if he will go back to the drawing board. Let’s start again, let’s find out where the need is, let’s identify the resources, and let’s come up with a much better plan. Take it back to the drawing board. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Junior Kindergarten Implementation
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. Member for Frame Lake, Ms. Bisaro.

Junior Kindergarten Implementation
Members’ Statements

Wendy Bisaro Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last week we heard several Members’ concerns around the new Junior Kindergarten program which started in small community schools this fall. We’ve again heard from Mrs. Groenewegen today.

This year, in both the winter and spring sittings, Regular MLAs spoke out very strongly against beginning Junior Kindergarten without new funding. The Minister steadfastly refused to consider any suggestions for change, and he and the department forged ahead to implement the program at the start of this school year.

As with any new program or service rushed into implementation, problems are beginning to surface. But all is not lost with this program. The Junior Kindergarten program initiative is a good one. It can be a great one with a few changes, as the second and the third phases of the Junior Kindergarten rollout are implemented.

The Minister wants to provide Junior Kindergarten in communities without any existing daycare or preschool programs. Great, let’s do that, but let’s not at the same time force Junior Kindergarten on communities which already have daycare and/or preschool programs for four-year-olds.

The Minister wants the Junior Kindergarten to be free and optional. Great, let’s do that in one of two ways. The Minister can subsidize existing four-year-old programs to make them free to clients, or he can provide subsidies to parents who now pay market rates for preschool or daycare so the program is free.

The Minister gets his wish for a free optional program for four-year-olds no matter where they live. Daycares and preschool programs in regional centres and Yellowknife, like Montessori, Treehouse in Hay River and Aboriginal Head Start in eight communities will not be decimated but will thrive and be able to expand their programming. The Minister’s goal can be met without destroying businesses and NGOs. The goal can be met by focusing on the communities that need programming for four-year-olds. By doing so, the Minister can ensure that the children who most need early childhood development do actually get it.

What say you, Mr. Lafferty?

Junior Kindergarten Implementation
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Ms. Bisaro. Member for Hay River North, Mr. Bouchard.

Junior Kindergarten Implementation
Members’ Statements

Robert Bouchard Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is not a theme day, but I will speak about Junior Kindergarten as well.

It is frustrating on this side. We have talked about this; we have all talked about this from this side of the House. We’ve made motions. We’ve talked in committee rooms about Junior Kindergarten and how it’s being rolled out and how we’ve heard concerns from our education leaders, from our constituents on how this Junior Kindergarten program is being laid out. Still, we get the same

responses, and I know we’re getting frustration from this side. Some Members don’t even want to ask questions anymore. They don’t feel like we’re getting any results on this side.

We cannot paint all of the education systems in the Northwest Territories with the same brush. Like my two colleagues earlier talked about the Head Start program, talked about junior programs in the communities, we need to look at each community and how it’s being implemented.

The frustrating part is we’re supposed to be a consensus government. How is this type of process being implemented on consensus government? All the Members over here have talked about Junior Kindergarten and support the content, but not the way it’s being rolled out, not the way it’s being jammed down and bulldozed over other organizations.

My questions today will be for the Premier of the Northwest Territories. How can an issue like this continue to not be respected and not see results in a consensus government? I hope all of my colleagues from the Cabinet side are listening, because we need Cabinet, I know they’ve had this discussion, I know they’ve talked about Junior Kindergarten. They need to find a better way to roll this program out. Thank you.