This is page numbers 3721 – 3766 of the Hansard for the 18th Assembly, 3rd 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 women.

Topics

Members Present

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

The House met at 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Minister's Statement 53-18(3): Women In Leadership
Ministers' Statements

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, March 8th, today, is International Women's Day. On this day, I would like to highlight both the strides we are making in the Northwest Territories and the challenges faced by women in taking on leadership roles.

Our government has made mandate commitments to increase the number of women in leadership roles, both on public boards and in electoral politics. Since the beginning of the 18th Legislative Assembly, the Government of the Northwest Territories has appointed 172 persons to public boards, 95 women and 77 men. This brings the total composition of territorial government board appointments to 122 women and 120 men. Overall, we now have an approximately equal number of men and women serving on Government of the Northwest Territories public boards. This is cause for celebration, and we thank the well-qualified women who have stepped forward to serve as board members.

As important as this achievement is, we still have work to do. We need to increase the representation of women in leadership roles on these boards. Currently, only 36 per cent of our public boards have women serving in the role of president or chair. The picture is less encouraging when it comes to elected leadership positions. Women in the Northwest Territories have largely been underrepresented in elected leadership positions for many years, especially at the territorial level. You have only to look around this Chamber, Mr. Speaker, to know that this is true. Today, on International Women's Day, I would like to thank my

colleague, Ms. Julie Green, the MLA for Yellowknife Centre and the only other woman Member of this 18th Legislative Assembly, for being here.

There are many more women who could be here. We all know strong women in our communities who are working to ensure that everyone's families are secure and well-cared for, and that our communities are safe. I recently had the honour of meeting some outstanding women leaders at the inaugural Women's Caucus of the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, and I sincerely hope that they consider running for territorial election in the near future.

Women face many barriers; they may be paid less in their jobs than their male counterparts, and they may bear a disproportionate share of the workload of caring for children and aging or disabled relatives while still managing their households, and these factors make it harder for many women to enter politics, but I have met many strong women who want their communities to be healthy places to live, and they are holding governments accountable at all levels in all of the ways that they can, including through their own participation as elected leaders.

Unfortunately, many strong women who do seek, and win, elected leadership positions are often stereotyped or judged negatively. Women who make it into leadership roles are often second-guessed, left out of decisions, or even set up to fail, purely because they are women. Instead of being valued for the perspective they can provide, they often find themselves having to walk a tightrope of being just assertive "enough" to get their work done without being walked over or being so strong as to alienate those around them. All while facing superwoman-level expectations of balancing life, family, community, and work, not to mention standards of personal appearance that are only applied to our gender.

Too few people consider the consequences of these negative judgements and levels of burden on women in their public and private lives. However, they are a form of violence, that day by day and year by year crushes women's spirits, dampens our ambitions, and discourages our young women from taking the risks and acquiring the skills to become leaders.

All of us in this House, men as well as women, need to be active in our support of women. We need more women in decision-making roles at all levels, especially here in our consensus government. This is not only a matter of basic fairness; the inclusion of more women's perspectives means better decision-making and more balanced policy choices for everyone.

This is why our government, through the Women's Advisory office, has been offering Campaign Schools for Women. The first campaign school for 2018 took place this past weekend in Fort Simpson on March 3rd and 4th, and a second is scheduled for Yellowknife on the weekend of March 10th and 11th. Women throughout the Northwest Territories can come and gain the knowledge they need to run for elected office at all levels, from district education authorities all the way to the Legislative Assembly. The school also provides skills for those who would like to support women candidates by working on their campaigns, but our campaign schools can address only a few of the obstacles for women in the field of politics.

As a Cabinet Minister and a woman, I encourage everyone in this House to help us level the playing field. This is a time of change and opportunity. Listen to women, question stereotypes and negative judgments of women leaders, encourage talented women to lead, and offer them some real help, like donating to their campaigns or providing a few hours of child or other care. If you are a successful politician, mentor a woman to step into your shoes.

I am very confident that, with a level playing field, at least as many northern women will succeed as leaders as men do now, at every level, and we will all be better for it.

Happy International Women's Day. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 53-18(3): Women In Leadership
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Public Engagement and Transparency.

Minister's Statement 54-18(3): Progress On Transparency And Accountability Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to update this House on our government's progress in advancing our mandate commitments for increasing government transparency and accountability.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce today our government's release of an Open Government Policy. The Open Government Policy was developed based on input we received from Northwest Territories residents through a public engagement campaign, as well as collaboration with GNWT departments and research on open government initiatives in other jurisdictions. I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Government Operations for their work to review and provide feedback on the Open Government Policy, which enabled us to improve it for the benefit of our residents.

This policy represents an important step toward openness and transparency by providing definitions, principles, and a framework to guide the development of directives, guidelines, and tools that will allow our government to fulfill its commitment to openness in a more consistent and predictable way. This will improve the way our government shares information and data with the public, and how we engage with the public to ensure residents have the meaningful opportunities to provide input on government decisions that affect them. All Ministers are accountable under this policy, Mr. Speaker, and will ensure that their departments and agencies implement its provisions for open data, open information, and open dialogue.

Mr. Speaker, the concept of open government is not a new idea for the Government of the Northwest Territories. The principles of accountability and transparency that guide open government are consistent with those that guide our consensus system of government, including the importance of collaboration and participation from all Members through standing committees to strengthen our government policies and programs.

Government departments have been doing their part for years through public engagement and other information and data sharing initiatives, including the regular publication of reports and release of information on government decisions and activities.

The Open Government Policy will bring all of the existing practices and ideas across government together and help us establish clear and consistent approaches across government. This work has already begun and will be coordinated by an Open Government Steering Committee of senior government officials.

This work includes, for example, identifying the information and data of departments already released and finding ways to make it more accessible to the public; coordinating with other government initiatives aimed at increasing government openness, such as the review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Service Innovation Strategy; developing guidelines for a consistent approach to public engagement; and developing processes to report on progress on the of implementation of open government.

One of the first new actions is the launch today of an open government website that acts as a central location for open government initiatives and links to the various data, information, and public engagement resources across government.

Our government has made progress on a number of other initiatives in support of improved accountability and transparency. I am pleased to announce that, before the end of this sitting, we will be, by March 15th, launching a new web portal with information for residents, businesses, and organizations on how to file an appeal or complaint related to a government decision or action. This will fulfill our government's mandate commitment to make residents aware of the mechanisms available to appeal government decisions.

As Members know, Mr. Speaker, we are also in the process of drafting legislation to establish an ombudsperson office in the Northwest Territories, following consultation with the Standing Committee on Government Operations. An ombudsperson would be an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly who would investigate complaints about the administrative fairness of government practices and services and provide an additional venue to ensure fair, reasonable, and equitable government administration. We plan to introduce proposed legislation later this year.

Mr. Speaker, I continue to believe that increasing government accountability and transparency by improving the way we share data and information and engage with residents is an ongoing process, not a destination. We continue to make progress to this end through these initiatives, as our government remains committed to continuing to improve the way we do business to fulfill our mandate commitments and advance the priorities of this Legislative Assembly through the remainder of our term. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 54-18(3): Progress On Transparency And Accountability Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 55-18(3): Acknowledgement Of Firth Sisters
Ministers' Statements

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, today, on International Women's Day, I am very proud to rise and recognize Ms. Sharon Firth, who has joined us in the visitors' gallery. Ms. Firth, a four-time Olympian, a northern hero and role model, was recently recognized by Canada Post, along with her sister Shirley, as two of Canada's greatest women athletes.

Earlier today, Ms. Firth proudly presented me with a framed set of stamps. Each stamp features one of six Canadian women athletes in a moment of celebration, as well as a full-colour, freeze-frame action shot representing a defining moment in their sports careers.

Mr. Speaker, Ms. Firth and her sister Shirley competed in four consecutive Olympic Winter Games and four World Ski Championships. Sharon and Shirley captivated the North and Canada from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s with their incredible sporting exploits. Together, the sisters amassed a total of 79 medals at national championships, including 48 national titles.

Although Shirley is no longer with us, Sharon continues to be a role model and an inspiration for thousands of young people as a youth and leadership specialist with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Since attending the Olympics, Ms. Firth has been recognized and awarded the Order of Canada, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal, and the National Aboriginal Achievement Award. She has been inducted into the Northwest Territories Sport Hall of Fame and Canada's Sports Hall of Fame, and she has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta, among numerous other awards and distinctions.

Mr. Speaker, the Firth sisters were trailblazers for women, for Indigenous Canadians, and for all Northerners in Canada and around the world. Thank you, Sharon, for all you have contributed to sport and for creating positive legacies for the years to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 55-18(3): Acknowledgement Of Firth Sisters
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 56-18(3): Community Wellness Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has a mandate commitment to foster healthy families by focusing on wellness, prevention, and improved nutrition. To achieve this commitment, the Department of Health and Social Services has made it a priority to support community wellness initiatives in communities across the NWT with funding provided through Indigenous Services Canada.

The department is currently working with communities to renew their wellness plans to prepare for the new five-year funding cycle for 2019-2024. Based on these community wellness plans, the Government of the Northwest Territories provides $5 million each year directly to Indigenous and community governments and to organizations to invest in local wellness initiatives.

The wellness initiatives that we support benefit residents directly and also allow our government to foster partnerships with many different organizations, including Indigenous and community governments. These partnerships are key to how the Department of Health and Social Services is working to achieve our goal of best health, best care, and better future for all NWT residents.

I would like to highlight some of these successful wellness initiatives. The Territorial initiatives that benefit residents across NWT include the On the Land Collaborative, the Take a Kid Trapping program, the Take a Kid Gardening program, as well as prenatal programs that are delivered in partnership with the Indigenous governments at boarding homes in Inuvik and Ndilo.

Regional initiatives include Let's Be Tobacco Free in the Beaufort Delta, the recent suicide prevention workshop hosted by the Dehcho District Education Council in Fort Simpson, and Family Violence Awareness projects at the three Aurora College campuses in Inuvik, Fort Smith, and Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, I recently attended the Northwest Territories Association of Communities annual general meeting, along with many Members of this House. The highlight of the meeting for me was the opportunity to present the Healthy Community Award to the community of Gameti. Gameti built a greenhouse and community garden that not only distributed harvests to elders and families, but also provided jobs, contributed to the mental well-being and happiness of the community, and enabled youth to gain valuable work experience with the satisfaction of knowing that the food they harvested was something that they helped to create. This is an excellent example of the positive results that can be achieved by communities when working together to support healthy choices. I would like to say, "A job well done," to Gameti.

Finally, I would also like to highlight the Community Healthy Living Fairs. Over the past three years, our government directly supported 18 fairs in our smaller communities. Over the next few years, we hope this will grow into an initiative where there will be fairs in all 33 communities.

As Members know, these fairs highlight information on healthy choices and include topics like breast and colorectal cancers, sexual health, healthy relationships, healthy eating, healthy lungs, early childhood development, breastfeeding, as well as oral health.

We've received great feedback from these fairs. One of the positive outcomes from these fairs is the opportunity for Health and Social Services staff to learn directly from community members through the Community Partnership Day. Community Partnership Day provides a forum for community members to teach resource staff about healthy living activities that they are most proud of. For example, staff have learned to bead, how to make dry meat, how to ice fish, check traps, cook traditional foods, and walk and snowmobile on community trails. They have also heard stories about the resilience of our people.

I am proud of how we have been able to support communities to undertake creative ways to participate in community wellness and healthy living throughout the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 56-18(3): Community Wellness Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

March 8th, 2018

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Colleagues, today is International Women's Day, and I invite you, all of you, to join me in recognizing the important role that women play in our lives, our workplaces, and our communities.

International Women's Day, which has been observed since the early 1900s, is a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. It is important as friends and colleagues to encourage the continued participation of young women and girls across the territory in anything they aspire to do.

I have been inspired by my wife, with whom I have three beautiful children, three talented daughters, and we are very much equal partners together in our journey through life, and we want everything that life has to offer for our children, our girls, no matter what gender they are.

I have also been inspired by the contributions of women who have served in this Assembly past and present, who have been pioneers in demonstrating just how much of a difference they can make, that there is nothing that cannot be accomplished. Above my head is a carving done by Inuvialuit artist Angus Cockney. In this carving is a braid. This, colleagues, allows us to remember the importance of women and family as we conduct our work in this Chamber for the people of the Northwest Territories.

It is our responsibility as decision-makers to ensure that the contributions of women are celebrated and utilized to ensure that the opportunities for women continue to grow into the future. We, as elected leaders of this territory, have the ability to act as role models and also supporters to change the status quo. We must encourage female participation in all aspects of work and life, but especially within our own legislature.

I know that, as we have in the past and as we go forward, we will push for equality in our day-to-day lives. Masi. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, on International Women's Day, we pause to celebrate the advances we have made as a society in advancing women's equality, and it is the day we take stock of the inequality that persists and rededicate our resolve for improvement.

A lot of improvement still needs to be made. A quick glance at employment occupation and income figures for the NWT shows that the rate of employment for women and men are about the same, but the rewards of pay, the inclusion in higher-paying occupation, and the proportion of sexes in senior positions are anything but equal.

Mr. Speaker, let's take a look in the pay envelope. On average, university-educated women make almost 20 per cent less annually than men with degrees. Women with high school diplomas make 10 per cent less than men with the same education, and there is more. While women are more likely to have degrees or diplomas and might be expected to have a higher rate of employment in occupations requiring advanced education or to be equally represented in high-paying trades, the fact is they are not. They remain predominantly represented in the lower-paid occupations, many of them low-paid for being so-called "women's work."

So what is to be done? In Iceland they say, "Equality won't happen by itself." They are getting tough on the gender gulf in earnings. There has been an equal pay law in Iceland since 1961, but women were still making up to 20 per cent less than men for equivalent work, so Iceland passed a better law. Within four years from now, any public or private body in Iceland employing more than 25 people that has not been independently certified as paying equal wages for work of equal value will face daily fines. France has introduced a similar law.

In the NWT, we have no similar protections for all workers, and, although the GNWT is protected by an Equal Pay Commissioner complaint system, I have seen no effort to promote or market this safeguard. Annual reports blandly observe that nobody is complaining.

Mr. Speaker, gender as equality is a right established by a United Nations convention. Fulfilling this right is the best chance we have in meeting some of the most pressing challenges of our time.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Mahsi.

---Unanimous consent granted

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, from economic crises and lack of healthcare to climate change, violence against women, and escalating conflicts, women are not only more affected by these problems, women possess ideas and leadership to solve them. The gender discrimination still holding too many women back holds our world back, too. For me, International Women's Day remains a bittersweet celebration, but a celebration nonetheless. Please join me and my sole female Legislative Assembly colleague in commemorating this day. Mahsi.

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

International Women's Day
Members' Statements

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today celebrates International Women's Day. This year marks the 109th global commemoration for women, as International Women's Day was first celebrated in 1909. This day was meant to celebrate the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This day is about calling out the many injustices that women are faced with every day, such as gender discrimination, gender violence, and the constant battle to fight for and safeguard women's rights.

While it is important, Mr. Speaker, to be informed about many struggles that women must deal with on a regular basis, I would like to celebrate this International Women's Day by sharing a story about a woman from my constituency. The woman I am speaking of is Tishna Marlowe of Lutselk'e. Tishna is a fashion designer who has her own clothing line, of which she sells and sews all the clothing herself. Her company is called Dene Couture and sells both traditional and modern clothing for men and women alike. Mr. Speaker, Tishna has been considered by many to be one of Canada's top 150 Indigenous artists and has been recognized by organizations such as the REVEAL Indigenous Art Awards. She has also received the visual art grant from the Alberta Arts Foundation. Additionally, Tishna has been an Indigenous art juror with the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and she had three dresses worn at the 2017 Juno Awards. Moreover, in the last two years, Tishna has attended 22 fashion shows and has made over 50 beaded garments and countless parkas, mitts, moccasins, hats, and corsets.

Mr. Speaker, Tishna has truly reached an incredible and inspirational height. In addition to her success in the fashion industry, she is a high school graduate, she has a diploma as a legal secretary, she has an undergraduate degree in archaeology and First Nations studies. Tishna volunteers for many organizations and she donates art and shares knowledge whenever she can.

Tishna has been sewing and beading all her life, Mr. Speaker, and she credits what she has learned and the skills she has from her mother, her grandmother, and her great-grandmother. Upon asking if there is a recipe for success that other women could learn from, she told me, "Stay sober, stay kind, and dream big dreams, because hard work and sobriety will get you there." Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.