This is page numbers 4293 - 4314 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 services.

Topics

Members Present

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

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4293

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 98-18(3): Two New Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

Page 4293

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to a competent public service that is representative of the people it serves. As Members would be aware, the GNWT has a variety of tools to achieve this goal including the Affirmative Action Policy that offers priority hiring to candidates belonging to eligible designated groups that are under-represented within the public service. Recently, the Human Resources Branch of the Department of Finance added two new diversity and inclusion initiatives aimed at further shrinking the gap of under-represented groups and make it easier for Indigenous northerners to access training and gain valuable on-the-job experience with the GNWT.

The Indigenous Career Gateway Program is intended for the Northwest Territories residents who are designated Indigenous Aboriginal Persons under the GNWT Affirmative Action Policy and interested in careers with the territorial government. The Department of Finance will work closely with departments to create entry-level positions and to develop individualized training plans for applicants who may not meet all the qualifications for typical positions posted. These individuals will be provided with a training plan that will help them acquire the skills and qualifications to gain valuable work experience that is often required for long-term employment with the GNWT.

This initiative, Mr. Speaker, supports the GNWT's priority to develop and maintain a diverse workforce that is representative of all the people it serves. In order to make this program as accessible as possible, interested applicants will be able to apply directly through the GNWT Careers website.

In addition, the GNWT has launched the Indigenous Management Development and Training Program. This program will help provide current Indigenous Aboriginal employees with necessary skills, training and work experience for career advancement.

The Department of Finance will provide financial support to departments, beyond existing training and education programs, to further the career objectives of Indigenous employees. Interested employees will be encouraged to work with their managers to identify education and training opportunities that could be supported through this new initiative. This program will also be an important tool as we address the challenges of our aging workforce and the need for additional succession planning.

Mr. Speaker, our people are the territory's greatest resource. Investing in the skills and qualifications of Northerners provides employment for our people and benefits all residents of the NWT. We all share the goal of our public service being representative of the population we serve. The reality is that work within the public service is getting more and more technical. Growth areas like healthcare-related occupations and scientific and technology based jobs all require support to ensure residents have the skills and abilities to take advantage of these opportunities.

To achieve our overall goal, we need more than hiring preferences. We need to develop the skills and experience of our population and to focus on the development of our existing workforce to help achieve their career goals. These two new initiatives help build on our existing programs and services, including developmental transfer assignments, our Leadership Develop program, and other training and education supports, the internship program, the summer student program, and the regional recruitment program. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 98-18(3): Two New Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

Page 4293

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 99-18(3): Annual Report of the Director of Child and Family Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 4294

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, protecting our children from abuse and neglect and providing services aimed at keeping families healthy, safe and intact are fundamental priorities of this government. This is a priority for me personally, as well. Since joining the Legislative Assembly in 2007, both as a Regular Member and as a Minister, I have worked to ensure our Child and Family Services System is built around the philosophy that the best supports for children are strong and resilient families.

Our government has actively supported this philosophy through investments in early childhood development, strengthening our response to mental health and addictions, supports for on-the-land programming, addressing poverty, and engaging with communities in the development of community wellness plans. With the collaboration of our partners, we have also taken proactive steps to shape a better future for children, families, and communities served by the Child and Family Services System.

Mr. Speaker, the director of Child and Family Services, as part of their responsibility under the Child and Family Services Act, produces an annual report that details the activities undertaken over the year in this important program area. The report also outlines a number of key trends in the Child and Family Services System over a 10-year period. This offers a transparent process to track the progress and to help identify areas in need of focused attention. Mr. Speaker, later today I will table the 2017-2018 Annual Report of the Director of Child and Family Services.

Mr. Speaker, the 2017-2018 Annual Report shows a broad range of statistical data and trends relating to the number of children and families who have had interactions with our system through either child protection or prevention services. I would like to highlight some of these trends for you, which can be found in more detail in the report:

  • The rate of children under 16 years old receiving services is decreasing, whereas the rate of children 16 -18 years old receiving services is increasing;
  • The proportion of children removed from their home is decreasing;
  • The rate of voluntary service agreements is increasing; and
  • The rate of children in permanent care is decreasing.

Mr. Speaker, the report shows that, over the past 10 years, more children are remaining in the care of their parents while families receive services. For example, in 2008-2009, only 19 per cent of children were receiving services in the home, but in 2017-2018, 30 per cent of children received services while remaining in the care of their families. Supporting families to keep them together is a priority, and these figures show that we are successfully doing this more often now than we did before.

On April 1, 2016, as a result of changes to the Child and Family Services Act, extended support services agreements were introduced so that youth reaching the age of 19 who had been in permanent care could continue to receive needed support services as young adults, up to the age of 23. The number of youth taking up these services has steadily grown, and, in 2017-2018, 78 per cent of young adults leaving permanent custody chose to sign on to receive continued supports and services. In total there were 27 young adults who had voluntarily signed an extended support services agreement in 2017-2018.

Mr. Speaker, plan-of-care agreements are also used by the Child and Family Services System with families in which there is a child protection concern and the family wants to work collaboratively to address the concern. In 2017-2018, 37 per cent of children receiving services were subject to plan-of-care agreements, and this number has remained steady over the past decade.

One area that has increased significantly over the past 10 years, Mr. Speaker, is the rate of children and families receiving support through voluntary services agreements. Voluntary services agreements are designed to strengthen families and support the healthy development and wellness of children and youth. In 2017-2018, 27 per cent of all children receiving services did so through a voluntary service agreement.

Mr. Speaker, over the past several years, we have been focusing on building a culture of quality and improving services and outcomes for children and their families in the Child and Family Services System by engaging in an internal audit process. The 2017-2018 Annual Report includes a summary of the most recent annual internal audit.

It is clear through our internal audit results that workers are focusing on prevention services, as we have a high volume of voluntary service agreements, support service agreements, and extended support service agreements. Child and Family Services workers have noted that these agreements build positive relationships with families and encourage them to reach out when they need support services.

The internal audit also shows areas where we clearly need to improve, as there were insufficient compliance rates on many audited items across the Child and Family Services System. Interviews with lawful caregivers and children are not consistently being done in accordance with our policies and standards. Critical information for assessing the suitability of foster care services is not always completed or up to date. File organization and documentation also needs improvement.

Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge our weaknesses, and we are moving towards improving the system and supporting Child and Family Services workers' capacity to effectively deliver services that meet the needs of children and families requiring child and family services.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the report includes a summary of major developments and future directions for the Child and Family Services System. This section of the report helps to inform our residents about the work going into system-wide improvement, including the implementation of new standards and practices.

Mr. Speaker, this work is primarily guided by Building Stronger Families: An Action Plan to Transform Child and Family Services, which was released in 2014 and is now going into its fifth year of implementation. The Building Stronger Families Action Plan was developed in response to an external audit of the Child and Family Services System in 2014.

Mr. Speaker, through Building Stronger Families, we have taken action to transform and improve the quality of child and family services for our children, youth, and their families. This includes the introduction of tools to support staff decision-making and case management, as well as improvements to system-wide information systems. These actions, as well as other work to train and support front line staff, strengthen our quality assurance processes to ensure that continuous improvement is embedded in our Child and Family Services System. While we have put in place the building blocks for a stronger system, I recognize that there are still significant challenges we need to address.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge the work of Child and Family Services workers. They are required to intervene in extremely difficult and complex situations, their workload is high, and staff is called upon to balance the overarching need to protect children and youth from abuse and/or neglect, while paying close attention to other critically important principles and values, including the importance of keeping a child within their family or extended family.

Child and Family Services workers need the support of supervisors, managers, and senior managers, and they also rely on an array of resources, including but not limited to foster families, extended families, and specialized care providers and supports. I would like to thank our staff for their work over the past year, which was well represented in the 2017-2018 Annual Report.

Mr. Speaker, while there are many challenges ahead for the Child and Family Services System, I have no doubt that we will continue to progress as a system, and as a society, to make a real difference in the lives of children, youth, and families in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 99-18(3): Annual Report of the Director of Child and Family Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 4295

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Yellowknife Sobering Centre and Day Shelter
Members' Statements

Page 4295

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Yellowknife voters have chosen strong, business-oriented leadership for their city council. I am looking forward to working with them for community prosperity, not only in economic terms, but also for healing and recovery for our most vulnerable residents. Previous city councils have been valuable partners with the GNWT and non-profit organizations offering services to this population, and I hope that will continue.

Services to the downtown population of intoxicated individuals took a huge step forward last month when the sobering centre and day shelter opened together under one roof in my riding. The new combined facility is more than just a place out of the cold. In addition to expanded services for bathrooms, showers, and laundry, it is the new storefront access to health and social services programs, offering help to those ready to deal with addictions and find a way off the street. This is a huge and welcome shift.

With additional staff on site, clients can access programs for healing, anger management, and healthy relationships, as well as take part in activities. The combined location provides a focal point for partnerships with the city's outreach program, the RCMP, and the Arctic Indigenous Wellness Foundation, among others. All of this flows from an understanding that our fellow citizens are suffering and that non-judgmental support can reduce the harms of addictions, poverty, and homelessness.

I realize that high levels of street intoxication are a concern to all of us. As the MLA for Yellowknife's downtown riding, I field a lot of public concerns. I want to remind people that these problems are not the result of the presence of the day shelter, and that services must be offered where clients are found. The first day shelter was created as an effective response to a lack of a safe place to warm up, eat, and use the bathroom. Since the opening of the new centre, efforts have been made to tune up coordination of services to effectively direct clients to the centre.

I congratulate the Minister of Health and Social Services for championing the need for continually improved services and getting the program resources that are so hard to find. I will have questions for the Minister on where we go from here. Mahsi.

Yellowknife Sobering Centre and Day Shelter
Members' Statements

Page 4296

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Skills Gap for Future Innovation and Technology Employment
Members' Statements

Page 4296

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we live in a time when technology is changing many aspects of life. In many areas, this is beneficial, but elsewhere it is causing significant disruption, in particular the loss of jobs. Mining is a good example. What was once a dirty industry by every measure is now cutting-edge through the use of innovation and technology.

Mr. Speaker, some of the world's largest mining companies, including Rio Tinto, are moving to what is termed "intelligent mining." Automation is taking over underground excavators, and electric vehicles are being used. A process called X-ray diffraction is replacing core drilling to conduct metallurgic sampling to follow mineral veins. At the surface, the ore is being sorted by both sensor- and magnet-based applications, which separate the valuable product from the waste.

So what does our future look like, Mr. Speaker? As we look ahead, we need to embrace and fulfill our critical infrastructure needs, but we also need to look beyond traditional bricks and mortar and invest meaningfully in our future workforce.

Significant effort has already been undertaken by the Department of Education, Culture and Employment through the Skills 4 Success program. It identifies thousands of jobs that will be required in the coming years. In order to match the innovative ways of industry, these jobs will require a new assortment of skills.

More than half the occupations in the NWT as we know them today will undergo a significant skills overhaul in the next 10 years.

The gap between the demands of the future workplace and the skills of our current workforce is daunting. The NWT as a whole, including other orders of government along with business and industry, need to recognize this shared challenge. We must address it in order to equip our next generation workforce with the skills they need to find the jobs of tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, our future economic prosperity is not simply about retraining. It's about cultivating lifelong learning. This is how we will build a future for the next generation of Northerners. As technology and innovation continue to evolve, our willingness to understand, adapt, and inspire must follow.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that investing today in the skills that will unlock future prosperity is the smart way to prepare our young people for the future. At the appropriate time, I will have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Skills Gap for Future Innovation and Technology Employment
Members' Statements

Page 4296

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Sahtu Regional Health and Long-Term Care Facility
Members' Statements

Page 4296

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Advancing our Sahtu healthcare, Mr. Speaker, the official opening for the Sahtu Regional Health and Long-Term Care Facility by Minister Abernethy for Health and Social Services and Minister Schumann for the Infrastructure Department was held on August 27th in Norman Wells.

Mr. Speaker, over the past couple of months our region's medical clients and elders have come to realize improved primary healthcare and a modernized single accommodation. Mr. Speaker, the region has seen significant positions from this modern building, and the long-term care wings will accommodate 16 clients with two reservations.

Mr. Speaker, to date, one wing is fully operational. It is truly overwhelming to see the smiles of our elders when visiting this nice facility. More importantly, as we draw closer to the winter road season, neighbouring community relatives can easily visit their loved ones.

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of operational progress, later I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services on the second wing. Mahsi.

Sahtu Regional Health and Long-Term Care Facility
Members' Statements

Page 4296

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Celebrating Women in Politics
Members' Statements

Page 4297

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I rise to recognize the contributions of candidates to our local elections. Yesterday, many communities in the Northwest Territories had their polling days, and it was amazing to see the results, particularly because so many women were elected. The Legislative Assembly has made getting women into politics and changing our dismal statistics a key priority of our mandate and a key priority of the 18th Assembly; and if yesterday's results were anything to look at, I think we are starting to turn the corner in the Northwest Territories and seeing more women rise to positions of leadership within their communities.

Mr. Speaker, I will highlight a few of our newly elected women leaders in the territory. Here in the city of Yellowknife, Rebecca Alty was elected mayor of Yellowknife. She is joined on the council by Shauna Morgan, Cynthia Mufandaedza, and Stacie Smith. That represents three out of eight total council seats, which is 30 per cent of the council, which meets the goals that many democracies have put for themselves in transformative change for women's leadership in politics. I really commend all those councillors for coming forward.

It doesn't stop in just the capital city, Mr. Speaker. In Fort Smith, Mayor Lynn Napier-Buckley has been re-elected, another woman leader. Jessica Cox, Ann Pischinger, and Louise Beaulieu are all elected to council as well; another 30 per cent margin. So they have met their goal, as well.

In Hay River, Kandis Jameson has been acclaimed, and Linda Duford, Emily Chambers, and Sandra Lester have all been elected to council. That's another three out of eight, so we're doing really well, Mr. Speaker.

In Fort Simpson, Liza McPherson, Marie Lafferty, and Celine Antoine have all been elected, and in Inuvik, Nathasha Kulikowski has become the new mayor, along with Alana Mero and Reygan Solotki on council.

Mr. Speaker, these are great results and really encouraging for our future, and I hope we can look forward to a 19th Assembly when we see more women being successful in contesting ridings and bringing their input, their views, and their diversity and inclusion into this Chamber. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Celebrating Women in Politics
Members' Statements

Page 4297

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.