This is page numbers 4183 – 4224 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 services.

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The House met at 1:32 p.m.

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Prayer

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Good afternoon, colleagues. Item 2, Ministers’ statements. The honourable Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Abernethy.

Minister's Statement 50-17(5): Report Of The Auditor General On Child And Family Services
Ministers’ Statements

Great Slave

Glen Abernethy Minister of Health and Social Services

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Auditor General of Canada’s Report on Child and Family Services was tabled in this House. The Auditor General’s findings indicate that the health and social services system is not adequately meeting its key responsibilities for the protection and well-being of children, youth and families. This is a serious concern for all of us.

The conclusions in the report confirm the findings of the 16th Legislative Assembly’s Standing

Committee on Social Programs’ review of the Child and Family Services Act. As a participant in that review, I care deeply about ensuring that we take aggressive action to improve our supports to children and families. The department has accepted all of the Auditor General’s recommendations, and in many cases work has already begun. Although the Auditor General’s findings tell us that we have not made enough progress, nor moved fast enough, there has in fact been substantial foundational work already done to respond to the 16th Assembly’s report.

Mr. Speaker, that report recognized that most cases of child protection do not involve abuse, but involve neglect of children due to factors such as addictions and poverty. It emphasized the need to build stronger supports for communities and families and, in this spirit, provided eight essential recommendations that were seen as foundational for improving the system. We have made significant progress on some of these:

• We have completed an updated Early

Childhood Development Framework and Action

Plan that emphasizes support to families. The Healthy Family Program has been expanded to every region of the territory and work is underway to adapt it for smaller communities. We are funding early childhood programs at transitional housing in Yellowknife to support the most vulnerable families from across the territory. We will establish an early intervention service to provide direct support to families.

• We have made significant new investments to

address addictions by expanding the options available to our residents. We have listened to the communities and are putting in place on-the-land healing options. We have put in place a system to fast-track referrals to addictions treatment.

• Based on recommendations of both the 16th and

17th Legislative Assemblies, we have developed

an Anti-Poverty Strategy, and completed an action plan that includes supports for child and youth resiliency and programs to provide nutritious food.

Recognizing that 90 percent of children in care are Aboriginal, our new Aboriginal health and community wellness division is focusing their efforts on working with communities to support inter-agency committees and develop community-based solutions for supporting families.

Mr. Speaker, taken together, all these initiatives will help us to reach our ultimate goal of ensuring that no child needs to take advantage of child protection services.

But we know that day is a long way off, and the department has also worked hard to respond to many of the recommendations from the 16th Assembly that speak directly to improving our child protection programs.

Tremendous effort has been put into working with communities to try to establish child and family service committees over the past three years. Staff were dedicated to this project, and explicit direction was given to health and social services authorities to make this a priority. Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to report that, despite years of effort, there are no child and family services committees currently operational. What we heard from communities is that the model proposed in our current legislation simply will not work. Communities are concerned

about financial and legal requirements, about capacity and about the difficult task of engaging in making tough decisions about the lives of friends and family. We need to find a better way to achieve the goal of giving communities a role in supporting families in need.

But many other recommendations of the report have been addressed:

• Plain-language materials have been developed

and are available in Aboriginal languages to explain to families what services are available and how they can access them.

• Statutory training programs for child protection

workers have been updated to reflect best practices, and a new training program has been developed to target senior managers in health and services authorities, including chief executive officers.

• A business case was completed for a new child

and family information system, and funding is included in the 2014-2015 Capital Estimates. This project, estimated to be complete within three years, will greatly improve the authorities’ and department’s ability to monitor compliance with policy and regulation and ensure appropriate follow-up on individual cases.

• The report included recommendations for

numerous amendments to the Child and Family Services Act. A legislative proposal has been completed, drafting is underway and we intend to bring forward this legislation in February of 2015.

• Revisions to the Child and Family Services

Standards and Procedures Manual, which provides guidance to child protection workers across all regions, are nearly complete and will be distributed this summer. These amendments will include a new approach to child and family services committees, and potentially an expanded role for committees.

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General’s report speaks to the lack of accountability within the health and social services system. This is a bigger issue and affects our ability to guarantee consistent and effective program delivery in all our mandate areas. As I have informed this House, I intend to bring forward legislation to improve and enhance accountability.

Mr. Speaker, there has been progress, but I acknowledge that it is not enough. Since becoming Minister four months ago, I have directed the department to take immediate action to designate chief executive officers of authorities as assistant directors of child and family services under the act. This appointment will make them directly responsible for ensuring that our system does not drop the ball on any child welfare case. I will be

directing the chairs and public administrators of authorities to ensure that this is included in the CEOs’ performance objectives and that improvements are monitored.

I have directed the department to fill the gap with respect to annual reports which, as the Auditor General noted, have not been provided to the Minister for over a decade. Beginning this year, I have directed that I receive a report by October of each year, which can be tabled in this Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General’s website tells us that the purpose of their reports is to achieve positive change. I intend to use this report and recommendations to do just that. I intend to work with the Standing Committee on Social Programs not only to build on the recommendations in the Auditor General’s report but to build a system of supports for children and families that ensures every child in the Northwest Territories is safe and that their families are supported. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 50-17(5): Report Of The Auditor General On Child And Family Services
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Abernethy. Minister of Justice, Mr. Ramsay.

Minister's Statement 51-17(5): Report On Efforts Of The Legal Aid Outreach Lawyer
Ministers’ Statements

David Ramsay Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, our Legal Aid program is one of the best in the country. We are pleased that the Department of Justice and the Legal Services Board have expanded their scope of coverage to provide legal support for civil law matters through the services of a legal aid outreach lawyer. We realize people in need require additional support to deal with family or other civil law matters to reach their full potential.

Mr. Speaker, the Legal Services Board started the Legal Aid Outreach Program as a pilot project in 2010 and it has run continually since that time. Outreach services address legal issues that can affect someone’s livelihood, physical or mental health. It’s a streamlined, simplified service that provides direct support and appropriate referrals.

These services may be accessed by anyone in several ways. In Yellowknife, clinics are run every Tuesday for anyone who needs to receive some free basic legal advice. Additionally, the legal aid outreach lawyer travels to NWT communities in order to allow people to have access to justice through clinics or information sessions.

The legal aid outreach lawyer helps residents with issues relating to employment and disabilities, preparation of wills, housing and landlord-tenant disputes, mental health and guardianship applications as well as child protection and elder abuse.

Working closely with court workers, sessions are tailored to take a community’s interests and needs

into consideration. For example, we have heard from the court worker in Fort Good Hope that the elders there are very interested in the preparation of wills and powers of attorney. The legal aid outreach lawyer will be delivering a presentation on wills and then scheduling individual appointments for those who are interested. A general clinic will be scheduled for people who have interest in other legal issues. That trip is planned for the last week of this month.

Earlier this year clinics were provided in Fort Simpson and Wrigley. Services will be available in Fort Smith next week and the legal aid outreach lawyer is planning a visit to Deline in the near future.

We are committed to improving access to justice. Through this program, we are providing support to those who need it the most and building on the strengths of Northerners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 51-17(5): Report On Efforts Of The Legal Aid Outreach Lawyer
Ministers’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Ramsay. Item 3, Members’ statements. The honourable Member for Sahtu, Mr. Yakeleya.

Condolences On The Passing Of Sahtu Residents Michael Kochon And Craig Scott
Members’ Statements

Norman Yakeleya Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning I received some sad news from the Sahtu. I stand here with a heavy heart with my people in the Sahtu.

I guess I’m trying to say something that’s in my heart that’s so sad it’s hard to be written down. We have lost two people in the Sahtu who are very good people, two men, one from Colville Lake and one from Norman Wells. These two men were very loved by their people. They did a lot of good things in their communities.

One fellow is from Colville Lake and he grew up on the land, he knew the land, he came from the land and now he has returned back to the land. He provided for his family from the land. With skill, he put food on the table for his children. He taught his children. This young fellow will greatly be missed in Colville Lake. I ask Members to help with the prayers sent to Colville Lake. I saw him last Friday in Norman Wells. His name is Michael Kochon.

Also, I want to say to the family and friends in Norman Wells, we lost a very good man also, Mr. Craig Scott. He also provided for his family from the oil and gas industry. He was well loved and we send prayers to his family and to the people of Norman Wells.

We’re in mourning right now because of our great loss. We may be few in the Sahtu, but when we’re

together as a family we’re very powerful. I want to say, also, that the Legislative Assembly Members, I know from time to time you go through these hard and difficult times and send prayers to the people.

I asked my wife what’s different between these two men. One lived on the land and one worked in the oil and gas industry. They both did well to provide food for their families and they were good people. Mr. Scott always teased my wife and always asked my wife, why did you marry that old man. He had that kind of humour and he will be thoroughly missed.

People of Colville Lake and Norman Wells are in shock. Please send prayers out to them in their time of mourning. Thank you.

Condolences On The Passing Of Sahtu Residents Michael Kochon And Craig Scott
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

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

Gymnasium For Ecole Boreale
Members’ Statements

Jane Groenewegen Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last night there was a public meeting held in Hay River. It was sponsored by the local district education authority, our DEA, which is elected members of our community who are mandated with overseeing education issues.

A number of months back, my colleague Mr. Bouchard and I were brought into a briefing with the Department of Education to talk about how the Government of the Northwest Territories was going to solve the issue of there not being a gymnasium at the Ecole Boreale French school.

Ecole Boreale is a French first language school that was built in Hay River, and at the time that it was developed and planned for, there was no gymnasium associated with it. It does introduce another dynamic option for education in the community of Hay River, but the fact is that these students, as other students, require a gymnasium.

There are some different scenarios. We agreed to step back and let the Department of Education deal with the DEA and talk about options. So the MLAs stood back and let those communications go forward. They have gone forward and there has been offerings back and forth, but it would appear by the public input that was acquired at that meeting last night in Hay River that there is not support for the concept of swapping one of our other public schools for the French school. It still leaves a school and a body of children at a disadvantage, unfortunately.

This government places a lot of emphasis on healthy choices, healthy living and activity. Physical education is an integral part of the education system. So today, now that we have heard from the DEA and they have had these discussions, as MLAs, I and Mr. Bouchard, we would like to start to

begin a dialogue, including what we’re saying in the House today, on this very important issue.

It puts Ecole Boreale in an awkward position as well. Certainly, people are very attached to their school facility, that’s where their children go to school, and it puts them in an awkward position, but we certainly do understand the input of all of our residents and all of our constituents.

I think our government has spent a fair amount of money, fighting having to build a school at Ecole Boreale, in the courts. I think that money would be better spent into some planning to get a gymnasium built for that school.

Later today I will have questions for the Minister of Education of other options of how we can move forward to address this very important need in the community of Hay River. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Gymnasium For Ecole Boreale
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mrs. Groenewegen. Member for Hay River North, Mr. Bouchard.

Gymnasium Facilities For Hay River Schools
Members’ Statements

Robert Bouchard Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Like my colleague, last night I attended a meeting on the Hay River school swap. I’d like to thank the DEA for hosting this meeting; it has been a meeting long time coming. The community was glad to hear all the information.

I can probably sum up the message that should be sent to the Department of Education and maybe my colleagues across the way. From Facebook, a comment from one of my constituents: “It’s a bad idea, just a quick fix, but it puts more students out without a gym. They should just pony up the dough and build a French school gym.”

The whole concept of the meeting was to discuss the percentages; if they made the swap; do they swap; if the DEA takes over Ecole Boreale will they put their JK to three there; will they put six and seven there; some of the occupancy levels of when the French school takes over, if the French school takes over Harry Camsell, what the percentages would be, so it was very informative. But I think the message was clear that the community would like to see other options and other considerations being done.

Obviously, Hay River wasn’t just there to complain, they rallied together and said, as a community we can do this, we can find the solution here. They talked about doing fundraising; they talked about – you know, we put a bid together for Arctic Winter Games – if we received that money and we won the bid, maybe some of those funds could be used there to have a gymnasium for the Arctic Winter Games, also any other ideas, such as federal funding.

We would like Cabinet to reconsider their process of what they’re doing with the French school gym and reconsider what they’re doing to the community of Hay River. They’re dividing up the two organizations, two great organizations in Hay River. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Gymnasium Facilities For Hay River Schools
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Bouchard. Member for Nahendeh, Mr. Menicoche.

Schools In Small Communities
Members’ Statements

Kevin A. Menicoche Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Today I stand together with my band of small community brothers and we will be asking for attention and asking questions for our poor, outdated schools in the small communities.

Our constituents are mainly Aboriginal people. We’re calling on the government to ensure the quality of small school facilities are on par with the likes of the new East Three in Inuvik and the rebuilt Mildred Hall in Yellowknife.

The quality of small community schools is pitiful compared to the quality of schools in the regional centres. It is time for a change.

Our constituents are fed up with the double standard. Numerous times I’ve declared in this House that my constituents in Trout Lake need a stand-alone school. Officially known as Charles Tetcho School, it is currently housed in the multi-purpose community hall. The school portion essentially consists of a single classroom. The school is overcrowded and the facilities are inadequate. The Minister of Education toured the school and he witnessed the problems firsthand.

Trout Lake has grown in size in recent years and school enrollment has grown with it. Enrollment is expected to rein steady or even increase in the coming years. Recent upgrades were made to the community hall, but that was just a band aid solution. Upgrades don’t address the fundamental problem. The school isn’t big enough and it has no autonomy.

According to the department’s capital planning schedule, improvements are likely to be made to Trout Lake’s school by 2018, but we have no assurance of that. In any case, four years is too long of a wait.

The quality and feel of a school facility has enormous impacts on student morale and the calibre of their work. Indeed, the quality of school facilities should be a consideration of government’s well publicized goal to eliminate the achievement gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students.

Every single NWT student deserves a quality education regardless of where they live. Planning studies should be undertaken to guarantee a level

playing field across the Territories. Indeed, with the Education Renewal Initiative on the horizon and junior kindergarten, now is the right time for a concerted territorial effort to enhance school facilities for Aboriginal children in our small communities. Thank you.

Schools In Small Communities
Members’ Statements

The Speaker Jackie Jacobson

Thank you, Mr. Menicoche. The Member for Mackenzie Delta, Mr. Blake.