This is page numbers 2405-2428 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 2nd 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 road.


Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Hon. Jackson Lafferty, Hon. Bob McLeod, Hon. Robert McLeod, Mr. McNeely, Hon. Alfred Moses, Mr. Nadli, Mr. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne

The House met at 1:29 p.m.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Infrastructure.

Wally Schumann

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories made a commitment in its mandate to capture opportunities by securing funding for three new transportation corridors. Investing in the Tlicho All-Season Road, Slave Geological Province Access Corridor, and the Mackenzie Valley Highway will support sustainable communities while strengthening our economy. Each project will create significant job and training opportunities, helping develop our northern workforce. As more communities are connected to the highway system, essential goods and materials can be delivered more effectively, and the cost of living will be reduced for these residents. These corridors will also support northern industry and businesses by providing a gateway for increased trade and development.

The Department of Infrastructure is working with the federal government to identify new opportunities to fund these critical projects under the 2017 federal budget. Our message to Canada is that the time to invest in these projects is now in order to maximize the benefits to Northerners and all Canadians. Earlier this year, we received positive news with regards to the Tlicho All-Season Road when the federal government announced conditional funding for project construction under the P3 Canada Fund. The road will replace the southern section of the existing winter road, providing uninterrupted access to Whati and increasing the window of access to Gameti and Wekweeti. This is particularly important as warmer winters caused by climate change have increased our challenges by building and operating winter roads in the region in recent years. Resulting reductions in the cost of freight will improve the standard of life in these communities by making it more affordable to deliver a diverse range of essential goods, from food and fuel to the building materials for the houses and the construction projects. Lowering operating costs for local businesses will allow them to be more competitive in territorial markets. All-weather access will also help attract tourism opportunities and further interest from industry in exploration and development of natural resources in the region.

The Government of the Northwest Territories continues to work closely with the Tlicho Government and the Community of Whati as the project proceeds through the environmental assessment process. Project construction will maximize opportunities for Tlicho residents as well as Northerners from other parts of the territory, providing employment and training for our people. A request for qualifications was released in March and closes on June 9th. Now that there is significant movement on the Tlicho All-Season Road, the Department of Infrastructure is focusing on securing funding for the Slave Geological Province access road and the Mackenzie Valley highway.

The Slave Geological Province Access Corridor is a transformative project for our territory, enabling industry to better develop the high mineral potential of the Slave Geological Province. The current lack of access into this region is resulting in additional costs for industry that impact the competitiveness of our territory and the ability of projects in the area to attract investment. The long-term vision for this project includes construction of an all-weather road in the NWT that would connect an all-weather road to the port of Nunavut. This would result in the creation of an important economic development corridor and a gateway for northern trade and a supply that could involve opportunities to collaborate with the Government of Nunavut, industry, and Aboriginal governments.

With the challenges being faced by our mineral development industry right now, the timing for this project has never been more critical. Climate change is limiting the existing winter road access to the diamond mines, resulting in additional costs to industry resupply efforts and other operational difficulties. This is due to a combination of warmer temperatures, more unpredictable weather, and the increased traffic projected to resupply the region's mining industry. An all-weather road to the Slave Geological Province will stabilize the resupply system to existing mines while enabling new mineral exploration and development opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Infrastructure has conducted numerous studies on this corridor over the last two decades. Based on the results of mineral potential and route option studies, a corridor has been identified that will provide the greatest economic benefit to the region and the NWT, while minimizing impact on the environment. The Departments of Infrastructure, Finance, and Industry, Tourism and Investment are jointly conducting a P3 business case assessment of the chosen corridor. This business case will allow the GNWT to better estimate construction costs for this road, as well as determine the appropriate funding model.

The Department of Infrastructure continues to focus on advancing next steps, including undertaking environmental studies and finalizing engineering and design work for the first phase of the project from Tibbitt to Lockhart Lake. The Department of Infrastructure is also working with caribou subject experts from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to identify ways to mitigate impacts to caribou and protect this important resource while the project advances.

The Mackenzie Valley Highway will connect several of our remote communities to the public highway system. The project provides an opportunity to reduce the cost of living by replacing the Mackenzie Valley winter road with an all-weather highway that is more resilient to impacts of climate change and allows for more effective delivery of goods to communities. Improved mobility will allow residents better access to services that may not be immediately available in their own community. Businesses will be connected to other markets, supporting economic growth.

Mr. Speaker, more than ever, we need to invest in projects that generate employment and reduce the cost of living in the Sahtu region. The Mackenzie Valley highway is critical to unlocking much of the still untapped resource potential of the region. Improved access will reduce costs for industry exploration and development, opening up new areas for mineral potential and increasing the attractiveness of continued petroleum production and the development in the Sahtu. An important incremental step in converting the existing winter road to an all-weather road is under way with the Canyon Creek All-season Road Project, a 14 kilometre access road south of the town of Norman Wells. The contractor started work clearing the right-of-way in March and construction will continue over the summer. The project, which is expected to be completed by the fall 2018, will provide employment opportunities in the region and result in access to granular resources and traditional Sahtu lands, which may be used for recreation, tourism, and business development.

The Department of Infrastructure continues to lobby the federal government for funding toward the Mackenzie Valley highway and to pursue further engineering and environmental studies. Engineering work is also under way for the Great Bear River Bridge, which represents a critical project component and would extend the winter road access into the Sahtu. All three of these new corridor projects are at various stages in their development; but while the Department of Infrastructure is working hard to bring each closer to construction, we are nearing completion of another very important project. The Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk Highway will open to traffic November 15, 2017, becoming the first public highway to the Arctic Ocean and achieving a Canadian vision of connecting our country by road from coast to coast to coast.

The last winter construction season on the project consisted of completing the final two bridges, crushing and stockpiling of surface gravel. Construction this summer season will focus on grading, packing, and shaping the base of the highway in preparation for gravel surfacing. Signage and guardrails will be installed this fall. I believe we will soon be entering a new era of improved access for our territory by expanding the highway system to the remote regions of our territory. Through these projects we can help strengthen our territory and develop it as a land of new opportunities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice.

Louis Sebert

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, as a government we have committed in our mandate to improve access to justice by making family law duty counsel services available to assist people representing themselves in court. Today, I would like to provide an update on how this government is meeting and exceeding that commitment with an initiative to assist residents involved in civil or family justice matters. As Members are aware, the Legal Aid Commission piloted an initiative to provide basic legal advice on civil matters. The outreach lawyer held weekly clinics in Yellowknife and delivered service clinics in 19 communities. Residents did not have to make an application, nor meet a financial means test for this service. Anyone who would benefit from speaking with a lawyer on issues such as housing, landlord and tenant disputes, disability or employment issues, child protection, or elders' wills, was eligible for a limited consultation. This service proved to be very successful. It became clear that there was a greater need than could be addressed in the 15 hours per week available under the pilot project.

Based on this success, the Legal Aid Commission has launched a full-time Outreach Legal Aid Clinic. This new clinic now offers free confidential legal advice for up to three hours on any single legal issue through a staff court worker and an outreach lawyer. Additionally, for the first time, staff will provide duty counsel service in family law matters and coordinate public legal information on behalf of the Legal Aid Commission. Again, these new services are available at no cost and do not require a formal application. In Yellowknife, the Outreach Legal Aid lawyer holds three weekly clinics; one for child protection issues, one for family law, and one general clinic for other civil matters. Each clinic operates on a first come, first served basis. Clients can also make appointments at other times depending on their circumstances.

In-person clinics will be held in other NWT communities on a regular basis or, if need be, phone appointments may be arranged. Over the next few months a schedule of regional clinics will be developed in partnership with the communities and the court workers of the Legal Aid Commission. Throughout Canada and here in the Northwest Territories, courts have seen an increasing number of people representing themselves in both civil and family courts. Unfortunately, self-represented litigants face barriers, and many do not receive equitable access to justice. Many of these people are interacting with the justice system for the first time, and it is not surprising that they experience difficulties stemming from a lack of understanding of potential remedies or court processes.

With the introduction of family law duty counsel, residents who attend court for family law matters will receive advice when they need it most. Much like the duty counsel provided to those criminally charged, this will allow the outreach lawyer to attend as duty counsel for appearances on family matters in the Territorial and Supreme Courts. By providing expanded hours, and a dedicated court worker and outreach lawyer, the Legal Aid Commission is helping clients to access legal advice and referrals more quickly through the new Outreach Legal Aid Clinic. Through this expansion, we expect that the number of court appearances required to complete a case is going to be reduced. In addition, staff will be utilized more efficiently, and technology will be better leveraged under this new model. Finally, better legal education and information for residents will lead to better outcomes for all involved.

Mr. Speaker, this initiative not only continues to deliver legal outreach services to our residents, but it also represents a significant step in meeting our commitment to improve access to justice. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Member for Environment and Natural Resources.

Robert C. McLeod

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, the FireSmart program is an important tool in mitigating risk and improving community protection in the event of a wildland fire. Applying FireSmart principles increases human safety, decreases property loss, and enhances wildland fire suppression success. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources continues to encourage communities, agencies, and home and cabin owners to promote and implement FireSmart principles.

Information on FireSmart for communities, cabin and homeowners is available from the regional and local ENR offices or at

. ENR headquarters and regional staff have been meeting with the emergency measures organizations, Municipal and Community Affairs, Lands, and Industry, Tourism and Investment to confirm roles and strengthen relationships to mitigate risk in the event of a wildland fire. The department is also finalizing its Community Hazard and Risk Mitigation Project with Municipal and Community Affairs, as well as working together on critical infrastructure assessment and resiliency planning.

Mr. Speaker, this project is expected to result in updated recommendations for communities to include in their emergency plans. Community wildland fire protection will now be integrated into existing emergency management processes. ENR is continuing to pursue additional funding opportunities to help advance community-supported wildland fire risk management objectives. Should communities secure funding for mitigation work, the department will continue to assist communities with technical advice.

Mr. Speaker, as we prepare for summer and another wildland fire season, I encourage all residents to make the effort to plan and prepare for potential emergencies. FireSmart works to help individuals and communities make our fire response more effective and increases the chance of saving property and protecting lives. Reducing risk increases safety. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Colleagues, I'd like to draw your attention to people in the gallery. We have with us here some of my constituents.

We have Ms. Alestine Mantla. She is a teacher at the elementary school, Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School, along with her grade six students here today. We have a couple of resource staff as well. I'd like to thank them for coming, exploring the Legislative Assembly. Also, with us, Mr. John Zoe. He's the bus driver for a number of years. I'd just like to say thank you for looking out there for our students. One more, Tony Rabesca, this year from Behchoko as well. I'd like to recognize him as well. Masi for coming. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in the past four months, we've witnessed five tragedies that have deeply saddened the families, friends, our communities, and myself. Unfortunately, these types of tragedies happen across the world daily. I know it's very difficult to talk about, but it needs to be spoken about here today. Mr. Speaker, mental illness has long been misunderstood and unfairly judged. We need to strive to break this stigma. Mental illnesses are not a choice. They often make life difficult for those who suffer from them, as well as their family and friends. When looking at this topic, there seems to be some confusion between mental health and mental illness. People often think that the terms are interchangeable. However, mental health and mental illness are not the same thing, but they are not mutually exclusive.

A fundamental difference between mental health and mental illness is that everyone has some same level of mental health all the time, just like physical health, whereas it is possible to be without mental illness. Mental illness is extremely prevalent in Canada and around the world. However, the main burden of the illness is concentrated in much smaller proportions. Around 6 per cent, or one in 17, suffer from serious illness. It is important to remember mental health and mental illness are not static. They change over time depending on many factors. Some of the factors that affect mental health includes a level of personal and workplace stress, lifestyle, and mental behaviour, exposure to trauma, and genetics.

When a demand is placed on any individual that exceeds these resources and coping ability, their mental health will be negatively affected. Mr. Speaker, I believe we need to get more people trained in this area. The Minister for Health and Social Services spoke about mental health first aid as a good step, and I agree with him. However, I'd like to encourage the government to look at other programs such as the program being offered by the NWT Recreation and Parks Association, Strengthening Children's Mental Health. This program provides tools and suggested activities to use with staff to help improve and understand interaction with people. We need to use all tools to help our people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Cory Vanthuyne

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, everyone can think of at least one person who has been seriously injured or even killed in a motor vehicle accident, or maybe as individuals, we have experienced such a traumatic incident first hand. I know I have. The recent fatality in a car crash on the Ingraham Trail is a stark reminder of the consequences of dangerous driving. My sincere condolences go to the family and friends of the individual who passed, those who were injured, and all those otherwise affected by this tragic accident.

This accident, and recent stats on increased drinking and driving, highlight the ongoing need to emphasize road safety and public education. The government has a Road Safety Plan and a Drive Alive program, encouraging drivers to take responsibility for their own safe driving, awareness of road conditions, and so on, but the Ingraham Trail is a far busier road than it used to be, with many more residents living there, tourists, and truck traffic, more than ever before. Last ice road season alone, there were seven truck rollovers and three cab fires.

Mr. Speaker, the department is to be commended for the improved road conditions on the trail, the Twitter updates, and mobile signs reminding people to drive safely, but ongoing steps to support road safety are also necessary. Re-engineering certain corners and the addition of guardrails would go a long way to improving safety and making Highway No. 4 more accessible to all users. If you have driven the trail in any season, you have likely encountered people driving too fast to stay in their lane, heavy equipment, B trains and other large vehicles, and people towing snowmobile trailers, campers, and boats, all in variable driving conditions. Passing can be extremely hazardous and is only possible in a few sections.

Regular patrolling and check stops beyond Yellowknife city limits would help control drivers' speed on the trail, and would go a long way in discouraging people to drive while under the influence. On our part, capital investment is needed to promote safe driving on the Ingraham Trail and, frankly, in all our roadways, but efforts to prevent drinking and driving cannot be overemphasized. Many more motor vehicle accidents can be avoided through an optimal combination of good driving practices and infrastructure that supports safe highway transportation. I want to see this government supporting both. I will have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Procurement Policy Reform
Members’ Statements

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to support the many businesses in my riding of Kam Lake, and many of these businesses rely on government contracts to keep their operations viable and create employment for our communities. This government has a responsibility to northern entrepreneurs to make sure government procurement is efficiently administered, easy to access, and creates a competitive edge for those companies that choose to do business in the North and call the NWT home. I have spoken on this issue in the House before, Mr. Speaker, and though the Minister of Infrastructure remains confident that there is no need for a reform or even a review of such policies on procurement, Northerners know that simply isn't the case.

There is no question the governments can always improve, and procurement reform is needed to ensure a strong and stable private sector exists in the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses counts over 250 members here in the Territories. The federation works hand in hand with its members to understand the economic needs for small and medium-sized businesses in every region in the country.

In their most recent survey of Northern businesses, the CFIB asked for the priority issues of Northern business owners, and 86 per cent of respondents stated their most serious concern was government over-regulation and complexity of procurement, otherwise known as "red tape." For the average small business with fewer than five employees, annual regulation costs per employee in Canada is $5,942. For larger businesses in the five to 100 employee range, the fee starts at $3,133 and tapers off at $1,456 per employee. With our already high cost of living, how can we expect our business community to get ahead under such high regulatory burdens?

Kam Lakers have an abundance of experience in dealing with the slow and inefficient pace of government procurement policies. In one case, a Kam Lake firm saw an approval for a manufactured project, ensured all their documents were correct, and then had to wait 15 months before the government responded to the application. Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear such a state of bureaucratic limbo is unacceptable. Even a rejection to the application would have been preferable to forcing our businesses to "hurry up and wait," when economic opportunities need to be accessed and are on the line. Mr. Speaker, I am going to have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure, and I hope his response will not be, "We don't have a procurement problem." Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Procurement Policy Reform
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Daniel McNeely

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Through continued restorative justice programming, our Department of Justice and this 18th Assembly mandate on healthy goals to educate people, and safe, vibrant communities.

We contribute to achieving these goals by offering a wide range of programs and services that give individuals the tools and support they need to address the challenges and poor choices that often result in criminal charges and incarceration. Mr. Speaker, in a lot of ways, we are continuously looking to better improve our efficiencies on delivery. First, we must look at where we are, and reset on where we are going.

Carry the Mase on Corrections, Mr. Speaker. The 17th Assembly seen an Auditor General's report on the NWT corrections in the NWT system. The report seen 14 recommendations. Later, Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the appropriate Minister on the report. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Mackenzie Delta.

Frederick Blake Jr.

Frederick Blake Jr. Mackenzie Delta

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Aklavik ice road closed about one week earlier than normal this year. This raises major concerns about how supplies would get into the community, and also about the lack of consultation with residents.

Mr. Speaker, Aklavik's 85 kilometre winter road is a vital link for the community, connecting people, goods, and services to the region. Goods and services are very expensive in Aklavik, like they are in all our remote communities. The ice road is used to transport things like heavy equipment and fuel that cannot be brought in during the rest of the year. This year, government inspectors noticed open water on the side of the road and closed the road early, without advising or consulting the community.

Mr. Speaker, the department didn't listen to the contractor with years of experience or consider traditional knowledge of the area. The open water that inspectors saw is well known by the ice road builders who have dealt with it for many years. They know that there is a sandbar in this area and that, in the spring, this thaws faster in this spot. The ice road was still over four to five feet thick at that time. In that one little section, people just pulled further over to the side of the road when they passed by. There is nothing wrong with that, Mr. Speaker. Instead, the ice road was closed with very little notice. People were counting on the last part of the ice road season to bring supplies in from Inuvik. The hamlet also had supplies en route to the community, including a steamer that would be used to unplug culverts around the community. Mr. Speaker, ice roads will continue to be important in our region. The government and communities need to work together to sustain their operation in the best way possible. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Michael Nadli

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Last week, a Member of Parliament for the Western Arctic, Michael McLeod, on behalf of Honourable Melanie Joly, Minister of Canadian Heritage of the federal government, announced $19.6 million in funding for the next three years for Aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. [English translation not provided.]

Mr. Speaker, the role that the government plays in providing resources is good. What is more important is being able to assist in ensuring that all levels of government and Aboriginal groups work together and make use of the funding resources effectively. We all need to revitalize, preserve, and enhance the Aboriginal languages in the Northwest Territories. I look forward to possibly seeing initiatives such as these local Slave Research projects and projects like that, where young and old work together and create a healing environment so that our languages can flourish. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Carbon Pricing
Members’ Statements

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. It is another sitting of this House and time for my third statement on carbon pricing. The federal government released its backstop plan for a national carbon pricing scheme on May the 18th. It shows that a national scheme would see a carbon tax on the most commonly used fuels in the Northwest Territories at no more than about three cents per litre in 2018, going up to no more than about 16 cents per litre in 2022. The federal plan is laid out in a transparent and understandable manner that lets Canada meet its international obligations and make significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Some reports in the media quoted an unnamed federal official as stating that this plan will not apply to the northern territories, but there is nothing in the plan itself to indicate this. My reading of it shows that this is indeed a national backstop. The paper says, "The backstop will apply in a province or territory that does not have a pricing system that aligns with the benchmark." As a Regular MLA, I have no idea what our government is doing on the issue of carbon pricing because of the poor communications from Cabinet on this important issue. Little seems to be under way beyond continued resistance and some sort of a deputy ministers committee. The Premier promised on March the 1st to provide a carbon pricing report from a consultant hired by GNWT. Here we are almost three months later and we still do not have that report, let alone any indication of what our government is doing. I will have questions for the Premier, as the Chair of the Ministerial Energy and Climate Change Committee of Cabinet. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Carbon Pricing
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Seniors Day Program
Members’ Statements

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the mandate of this 18th Assembly commits the government to take action so that seniors can age in place, and this is also a priority of the Standing Committee on Social Development. Mr. Speaker, when we talk about aging in place, we most often talk about housing, particularly renovations that make it possible for elders to remain in their own homes. However, in addition to meeting seniors' physical needs, we also need to consider how to meet their mental health and well-being needs.

Day programs, like the Elders' Circle at Avens, gave seniors who lived in their own homes an opportunity to socialize in a structured program, and it gave their families caring for them a break. Daycare for seniors and daycare for children is built around the same concept of providing a safe and stimulating environment that promotes socialization and skill development or, in the case of seniors, retention. It also provides vital respite for families. Unfortunately, Avens shuttered their program last December. The Yellowknife Association for Community Living stepped in for a few months, but that program was never meant to be more than a temporary solution. Now there is no program at all. A constituent of mine, who is 97 years old, attended the Elders' Circle for over 15 years. She made friends with other participants and staff, but now she spends most of her days home alone while her family is at work. Her friends are not able to come to see her, and she is unable to see them. She is lonely and isolated, according to her son. Of course, he is very concerned about her and the decrease in her quality of life. There were seven other seniors in the Elders' Circle program who now have nowhere to go. No doubt there are others who, as they age, would benefit from a program like this to promote their social well-being.

Mr. Speaker, the need for this kind of program to provide socialization for seniors and respite for their families is going to increase as our population ages. I do not want elders who choose to age in place to be lonely and isolated. Keeping elders in their own homes is a more cost-effective option for government than creating long-term care beds for them, as the Minister knows, but there is more to life than having a bed to sleep in. The government must step in immediately to ensure that there is daytime programming available for the growing population of seniors in Yellowknife. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for Seniors. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Seniors Day Program
Members’ Statements

The Speaker

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Hay River North.

R.J. Simpson

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this morning, the Regular Members had the pleasure of meeting with the board and the executive director of the NWT/Nunavut Council of Friendship Centres. This is the territorial board that represents the seven friendship centres in the Northwest Territories, located in Hay River, Fort Smith, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Behchoko, Yellowknife, and Inuvik. It was an opportunity for us to learn about what these organizations do for our communities and about how much more they could be doing with just a little more support.

Some of us are very familiar with the good work that these centres do. In addition to regularly meeting with the executive director of the Hay River Friendship Centre, I actually served on the board of my local friendship centre just as other honourable Members and former Members of this House have, like yourself, Mr. Speaker, our Honourable Premier, and our Member of Parliament. However, Mr. Speaker, not everyone is aware of the services these organizations offer. I do not have nearly enough time to give you an exhaustive list, but I will name a few.

Many of the services that they provide just fill the gaps that the government does not cover. Sometimes it is something as simple as helping a client fill out a government form to apply for income assistance or attending court with an individual who is not equipped to do so alone. In addition to picking up the government's slack, the slack is often forced upon the centres. The GNWT often mandates that those convicted of a crime perform community service hours at a friendship centre. While well-intentioned, but this often means that centre employees are pulled from regular duties to help supervise these people. The income assistance office also mandates their clients to attend programs offered at the friendship centre. Mr. Speaker, these are two examples of the GNWT forcing clients on the friendship centres without compensating them for their assistance.

In addition to providing social programs and services, more and more friendship centres are providing training designed to put people to work. I can attest that, in Hay River, there have been dozens of individuals who have received training and employment as a direct result of these friendship centres. There are also common misconceptions about the friendship centres, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to dispel. The first is that they only service Aboriginal clients, and this could not be further from the truth. The friendship centres are mandated to assist anyone who walks through their doors. Another misconception is that the friendship centres are a federal organization and should be funded federally. While it is true there is some federal government money, this barely covers an executive director. There is no money for O and M. There is no money for future capital investments, and the fact is most of what they do is picking up the slack where the government cannot fill those roles. I will have questions at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.