This is page numbers 4399 - 4434 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 family.

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. Nadli, Mr. Nakimayak, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. Wally Schumann, Hon. Louis Sebert, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Vanthuyne

The House met at 1:31p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4399

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 109-18(3): 2018 Auditor General's Report on Child and Family Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 4399

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the follow-up audit on Child and Family Services that was tabled in the House yesterday.

Mr. Speaker, our top priority is to ensure the safety and security of children and youth receiving services and care from Child and Family Services.

The Auditor General's report contains findings that are disappointing and concerning to all of us. While these findings align with what we have seen in our own internal audit work, they are difficult and serve as another reminder that we are not where we need or want to be, and we must do better.

The Department of Health and Social Services and I have reviewed and accepted without question all 11 recommendations in the report. I want to assure you that we take these findings and recommendations very seriously. We have already started implementing actions to fix the issues identified through this audit and our own internal audit. We also recognize that there is more that must be done.

Mr. Speaker, before outlining the actions we are taking it is important to remember the actions we took following the previous report of the Auditor General released in 2014. Members will recall that we created the Building Stronger Families Action Plan four years ago to transform Child and Family Services. Under this plan we took a number of actions to better serve and support children, young people and their families in the NWT.

We amended the Child and Family Services Act to help mature youth make a successful transition from care to living independently. We improved training for staff, implemented a new child and family services information system and Structured Decision-Making tools, updated the Standards and Procedures Manual, and got advice on how to better assess and manage caseloads, so that we could better support our staff in their work. We set up an internal auditing process, tabled legislated annual reports by the Child and Family Services Director and appointed Chief Operating Officers as Assistant Directors, so that we could be more accountable for our work. We also increased rates for foster parents to provide them with better financial support.

Mr. Speaker, the steps we have been taking are the right ones and they are the foundation stones needed to create better outcomes for children and their families. However, the Auditor General has concluded that some of the changes we have been making to the system have not been effectively implemented.

Mr. Speaker, these audits show us that while we have been doing the right things, we need to be more focused on doing these things the right way. As I have been acknowledging for some time, there is more to be done to improve Child and Family Services. Reflecting on these findings, we will be moving ahead with an improved focus on how we are managing and resourcing the changes we must continue to make.

Mr. Speaker, in January of this year I attended meetings hosted by Minister Philpott regarding the crisis of Indigenous children and youth in care in Canada. At this meeting we heard from Indigenous leaders from across the country regarding the need to create a child welfare system that is more focused on prevention and keeping children with their own families and in their own communities and cultures. I am proud that these are the things we here in this Legislative Assembly realized and have been working on for some time.

The Director's Report that I tabled here last week showed some trends that represent the kind of change that we want to see in child protection in the NWT and, indeed, within our country:

  • More children and youth receiving services are remaining in the care of their parents, while the proportion of children being removed from their homes and communities is decreasing.
  • The number of children and families receiving prevention services is rising, while the number of those receiving protection services is falling.
  • More families who are facing challenges in caring for their children are being helped through Voluntary Service Agreements.
  • The number of children in the permanent custody of the director has decreased by over 37 percent; 244 children to 152 since 2008-2009.

Mr. Speaker, while these are hopeful, promising trends, they do not diminish the importance of responding to the findings contained within the Auditor General's report. I want to share with Members and the public what we are doing as a system to ensure that we move forward clearly and decisively from this audit and our internal audits.

We have begun taking action in four areas to fix the system and address the issues identified by the Auditor General:

  1. Continuing to build a culture of quality;
  2. Investing in human resources;
  3. Building staff capacity; and
  4. Engaging with our partners.

First, we need to build on the work we have already started in creating a culture of quality. That is why in the spring we implemented a Child and Family Services Coordinating Team to collectively plan and address findings from our internal audits. We are also going to launch a System Quality Steering Committee to create a stronger quality improvement culture. Quality assurance processes that were developed by the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority are now being implemented across the territory to enhance key indicator monitoring and reporting, provide feedback to the regions and staff, and support quality improvement planning. In addition, we are upgrading standards in areas where there are still gaps in quality, such as permanency planning, foster care, as well as investigations.

Second, we are focusing on human resources to make sure that we have the right people in the right roles to meet demand now and into the future. We are assessing caseloads and workloads, and stepping up recruitment, retention, and development of Child and Family Services staff. We will be proposing the establishment of new frontline positions and examining whether we should include new roles, such as family support workers, to improve prevention services, as well as early intervention. Positions to better support the screening and review of foster homes have been assigned and will be recruited this year. The Out of Territory Program is currently under review in order to ensure that we have the proper complement of staff to effectively manage and support this program.

Third, we are building on the capacity of our Child and Family Services staff. We have made sure they have the core training they need, including enhanced training on Structured Decision-Making tools, and created an internal training team. We also know we need to improve our training for assistant directors, so we will be delivering the new training program for them later this year.

Finally, we are engaging with our partners and drawing on their knowledge to improve outcomes. We are continuing meetings and engagement with staff started several months ago to discuss quality issues and get their input on actions required to improve compliance. We are also working with Indigenous communities and leaders to continue to develop more culturally-responsive approaches. We are also working with the Foster Family Coalition to strengthen our relationship with foster families and engage them to understand the training and support required to better serve children under their care.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, we have laid the building blocks to improve the quality of Child and Family Services for children, youth and families, but it is clear we continue to face significant challenges, and there is much more work we must and will do.

As part of our ongoing commitment to quality improvement, we will continue working with Members here, our staff, stakeholders, communities, Indigenous leaders, and, of course, the families we serve, to make the changes needed for a stronger Child and Family Services system here, in the Northwest Territories. Our work with our partners must continue to strengthen the Child and Family Services system, making sure it is child, youth, and family focused, and focused on providing high quality care and support in a way that respects culture.

We will continue working in partnership with Indigenous communities and leaders to meet the government's commitment in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to transform Child and Family Services in a direction of a more collaborative and family-centered approach.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Office of the Auditor General of Canada for their insights and for their contribution to improving services for children. I also want to thank all of our Child and Family Services staff, who work incredibly hard in extremely difficult and complex situations. We are committed to working with them in partnership and support them in their quest to provide the best services possible to ensure children, youth and families are protected and supported. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 109-18(3): 2018 Auditor General's Report on Child and Family Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 4401

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 110-18(3): Renewing the Northwest Territories Education System
Ministers' Statements

Page 4401

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we are continuing with our mandate commitment to implement the Education Renewal and Innovation Framework and Action Plan. I am pleased to report that the education system is improving to meet the needs of the students, educators, and families of the Northwest Territories. We are at the mid-point of our 10-year strategy, and we are seeing numerous successes and further opportunities for action.

Mr. Speaker, there are many challenges in delivering education in the Northwest Territories. We are taking a made-in-the-North approach, recognizing the unique nature of the communities our schools serve, with their many languages and cultures, their small size and remoteness, as well as the legacy of residential schools. Our initiatives and strategies form a continuum of learning and training. Each of them builds upon and complements the others.

Our initiatives and our challenges start with the early childhood level. We have more work to do to address the issues emerging from the Early Development Instrument, or the EDI. The EDI is a population-level tool that reliably assesses the developmental health, skills, and behaviour of children at the age of developmental transition from early childhood to school age. We have not been surprised at the rates of vulnerability identified in the Northwest Territories since the baseline was established in 2014. However, we are seeing some promising results with those communities that have early childhood learning programs through licensed daycares and day homes and from those running the junior kindergarten program.

We will continue to administer the EDI and the MDI, which is the Middle-years Development Instrument, because they highlight gaps that we need to address. We now have actions in place to address each of the domains covered by the EDI. In the EDI domain of physical health and wellbeing, we provide funding and nutritional advice to all schools in the Northwest Territories through the Healthy Foods for Learning program. We are addressing the domains of social competence and communication skills and general knowledge through our junior kindergarten and kindergarten classrooms with exploration, group work, and inquiry-based learning. We are giving parents and caregivers consistent information and resources to help with language and cognitive development, which is also furthered in our classrooms. We are employing self-regulation techniques and funding resources for self-regulation in all of our classrooms, starting in junior kindergarten, to assist with emotional maturity and behaviour.

We will continue to share EDI data with Health and Social Services, and we will continue to work with them on initiatives now underway or in development through the Early Childhood Development Strategy in order to close gaps and meet our ongoing challenges.

Mr. Speaker, under the banner of Education Renewal and also in partnership with Health and Social Services, the Child and Youth Care Counsellors initiative is underway in the Tlicho and Deh Cho regions. This initiative gives youth, both students in school and those who may not be attending, access to mental health counsellors. As well, we have contracted a travelling team of mental health counsellors to visit the smaller communities in these two regions to ensure they are also served. This is a critically important initiative. Many of the requests we get for support from our educators concern mental health needs of children and youth.

The High School Pathways initiative is also under development with comprehensive engagements planned and piloting beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. The renewed High School Pathways model aims to ensure that high school students and their parents are better informed about and prepared for high school. Through the Pathways approach, we expect students will be more engaged in their learning, as each student's pathway will be designed to emphasize their competencies and their skills. We hope this approach will help improve student attendance and lead to fewer students dropping out. Communications and career planning tools are also being developed to make sure our students are better prepared for the world after completing high school.

Students are also made aware of the history and legacy of residential schools through our Northern Studies 10, which is a mandatory requirement for students to graduate. Every year at the New to the North Educators Conference, new teachers are also offered training to understand the complex and difficult history and legacy of the residential schools system in the Northwest Territories. We have made that same training available across the Government of the Northwest Territories and at the municipal level, and we have also had other Canadian jurisdictions participate.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that all teachers and students moving through the education system understand the impact residential schools has had on generations of Northerners. Many of our students' communities are still dealing with and healing from the effects residential schools have had on individuals and families. The legacy is complex and very personal and manifests in many ways. This is why we embedded the program into the education system. As Justice Murray Sinclair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission stated, "There can be no reconciliation without education."

One of the most successful initiatives of Education Renewal, Northern Distance Learning, has expanded to 11 communities this year. This program offers students access to academic level courses not regularly offered in their community school. Since 2015, 45 students have taken at least one course, and some as many as 10 through the Northern Distance Learning and have graduated. I cannot emphasize enough how delighted I am that students are able to graduate in their home communities, prepared to enter a post-secondary program of their choice.

Mr. Speaker, we are also taking steps to ensure the safety of students and staff. This is why we are revising the school funding framework to provide resources to ensure no less than two full-time teaching positions are allocated to each school. This change impacts our smallest schools in Sachs Harbour, Jean Marie River, K'aagee, Nahanni Butte, Wrigley, and Wekweeti, which, up to now, have only been allocated funding for one teacher position only. Although this may have been sufficient in the past, an increased focus on physical safety, mental health, and student and teacher supports has highlighted the need for this change.

In order to capture our successes and challenges of the whole system change, beginning this year, the department will be undertaking a formal evaluation of Education Renewal. The report will be released during the next fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, there are tremendous changes taking place in education in the Northwest Territories. We have been describing Education Renewal as a holistic system shift. There is no single initiative that will provide the critical change required to meet the needs of the 21st-century learners and those that teach them. It is a sum of all the parts. Through all of these changes and initiatives, we are building a more responsive system to address the ongoing challenges of students dropping out of school, attendance, wellness, readiness, competency, and opportunity. While we are certainly seeing some successes, I intend to make sure we continue to innovate and adapt to address to the needs of our students and educators. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 110-18(3): Renewing the Northwest Territories Education System
Ministers' Statements

Page 4402

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 111-18(3): Investing in Diversity
Ministers' Statements

Page 4402

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, the sustainability and growth of the NWT economy requires strategic investment and diversification. The mandate we set for our 18th Legislative Assembly highlights the importance of investing in renewable resources, agriculture, arts, fisheries, forestry, manufacturing, tourism, traditional harvesting, and the knowledge economy.

The foundation of much of this work was set out in the 2014 NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy with its goal to establish an environment in which NWT businesses and entrepreneurs can take the lead in identifying, pursuing, and realizing economic opportunities. In addition to providing individual livelihoods and jobs, these opportunities will contribute to the grass-roots growth and diversity we need to maintain our territory's overall economic health and sustainability.

Mr. Speaker, in the coming weeks, I will be releasing a Progress and Performance Measures Report on the Northwest Territories Economic Opportunities Strategy. Of the 117 recommendations included in the 10-year plan, almost all have now been actioned or completed. Many were directly incorporated into our government's mandate.

Thanks to performance measures laid out in the strategy, Mr. Speaker, we can say with assurance that our investments and diversity are already helping our economy to moderate what has been a tough time in commodities markets. As the results of our investments and initiatives take hold, they are also confirming that our mandate is meeting the economic goals and objectives set out by our Legislative Assembly.

Today I would like to share and celebrate some notable successes. We have seen growth in almost every one of our renewable resource sectors over our four years of investment. It is no surprise that this growth has been led by our booming tourism sector. Investments in marketing, tourism facilities, parks infrastructure, training, and various local operator supports have helped drive tourism to new levels. Since 2014, every indicator has improved. Visitor spending is up 37 percent; 30 percent more people have visited; 28 percent more tourism licenses were issued. It means that our approach is working, that our strategic investments are having a tangible impact across the board.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my Minister's statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Minister's Statement 111-18(3): Investing in Diversity
Ministers' Statements

Page 4403

Wally Schumann Hay River South

The arts sector has also surged with a 78 percent growth in artists registered through the Northwest Territories Arts Program. Registered film and media practitioners, in particular, have increased by more than 150 percent. They are contributing to a film industry now worth around $6.7 million, a 38 percent increase spurred in part by an investment plan recommended by the strategy.

The centre of our commercial fishery is also on the upswing. Compared to four years ago, we have issued 27 percent more commercial vessel licenses. Harvests for our fishers are up by 42 percent, and they are collecting 55 percent more for those fish. These positive results underpin the importance of continuing to invest in diversity. We will do so through the strategies and plans that we have in place, our Agriculture Strategy, Film Strategy, Great Slave Lake Fish Revitalization Strategy, Immigration Strategy, and Tourism 2020. We will also be adding to our suite of investment plans with a new Manufacturing Strategy and a renewed approach to supporting and advancing our arts sector.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the Economic Opportunities Strategy Governance Committee who oversaw the development and implementation of this strategy and who has now fulfilled its mandate. I would like to extend my appreciation on behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories for their guidance. The collaborative approach taken to implement the strategy confirms that all government departments, strategy partners, and stakeholders have a key role to play in developing economic growth and diversity in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 111-18(3): Investing in Diversity
Ministers' Statements

Page 4403

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 112-18(3): Improving Emergency Management
Ministers' Statements

Page 4403

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is working to improve emergency management in the Northwest Territories so that we can better serve communities and help ensure the safety and security of residents.

Today I wish to report progress on the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs' efforts to update the Northwest Territories emergency management system, including how government departments work collectively to support communities during emergencies. Communities in the Northwest Territories have experienced natural, technological, and human-caused hazards in the past, and they will continue to do so in the future. Wildfires and floods are of particular concern to Northwest Territories residents. The risks associated with these hazards are expected to become more frequent and more severe due to climate change.

Emergencies can occur at any time and in any place, with or without warning. Improvements in the Northwest Territories emergency management system will help our government keep pace with a changing risk environment and build resilience in our communities to deal with emergencies.

Our government committed in the mandate to work with stakeholders to develop and propose amendments to modernize the Civil Emergency Measures Act and to revitalize the Territorial Emergency Response Plan.

We have done better than that, Mr. Speaker. With the anticipated passage of the Emergency Management Act at the end of this sitting and a new territorial emergency plan already developed, the Northwest Territories will be well-positioned to respond to current and future hazards and threats in the Northwest Territories.

The new act and plan will also align us better with best practices from across Canada and help clarify roles and responsibilities for communities and the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Creating an Emergency Management Organization through the new legislation, commonly referred to as an EMO, is an important part of these changes. An EMO will clarify roles and responsibilities for emergency management and focus experience and knowledge in the areas of mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery. It will also support capacity building in emergency management and enhance our ability to maintain readiness to respond when a community needs assistance.

The EMO, as a centralized point for emergency management issues, will work with key partners to build the relationships of trust which are so important when faced with major emergencies. The creation of a territorial planning committee will ensure involvement, oversight, and participation in emergency management activities by all departments and other key stakeholders.

Over the past several years, community governments have made significant progress in improving their emergency plans and response capabilities. Changes to emergency management legislation build on this work. They will allow communities more discretion in structuring their emergency plans and programs to reflect their unique operational realities.

Community plans will be shared with the Emergency Management Organization to create a more collaborative environment, provide visibility on the level of preparedness in communities, and allow improved planning and prioritization of support efforts in this area.

Recent Government of the Northwest Territories participation in the military-led Operation NANOOK exercise provided important validation for many elements of the new emergency plan and act. Operation NANOOK demonstrated how these two instruments would work together during a major emergency.

This exercise also included participation by the community government of Behchoko. I would like to recognize the community government for their excellent work to improve community emergency management capacity. They have set a great example of how the Government of the Northwest Territories and community governments can work collaboratively to ensure the safety and security of residents.

Mr. Speaker, emergency management involves a continual cycle of planning and capacity building to reach and maintain an appropriate level of readiness for emergencies. Having an Emergency Management Organization supported by new legislation will help us to ensure that there is a coordinated response to community and territorial emergencies. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 112-18(3): Improving Emergency Management
Ministers' Statements

Page 4404

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Family Violence Awareness in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4404

Tom Beaulieu Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today in the House we are bringing attention to the issue of family violence. First off, I would like to begin by reading the definition of "family violence" as per Canada's Department of Justice website. It reads that "family violence is when someone uses abusive behaviour to control or harm a member of their family or someone with whom they have an intimate relationship [...] It may include a single act of violence or a number of acts that form a pattern of abuse [...] There are many forms of violence, which include physical, emotional, financial, sexual abuse, as well as neglect."

Mr. Speaker, Dene men have a lot of respect for women, whether she is a mother, sister, aunt, or spouse. Over the years, there has been ongoing change within the communities that I represent regarding the perception of violence. Today, men and women are equal, and the people who use violence, whether perpetrated by men or women, are frowned upon by the communities.

Mr. Speaker, when I was a child growing up in my hometown, I had seen many cases of family violence throughout the committee, but, today, I am noticing far fewer cases of family violence than has been seen in the past. This is anecdotal evidence, and it is also backed up in the various crime statistics in relation to the communities I represent. For example, in Fort Resolution between 2007 and 2016, violent crime dropped by 38 percent; in Lutselk'e, 43 percent; and the numbers for Detah and Ndilo are included in the Yellowknife stats, which dropped by 5 percent overall over the same period. At this rate, we can see an end to violence within our lifetime.

Mr. Speaker, it is evident that, over time, people have begun to understand family violence is not acceptable under any circumstance or form. I believe that a part of this shift is largely due to the work done by organizations such as the Coalition against Family Violence, the Status of Women Council, the Native Women's Association, crisis phone lines, the RCMP, and awareness campaigns on family violence, among others.

Mr. Speaker, education and awareness drives have become an integral part of reducing rates of family violence in the NWT. Mr. Speaker, we must continue to work on ourselves, and strive to improve our society and eliminate family violence. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Family Violence Awareness in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 4404

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Family Violence Awareness Week - Bringing an End to Violence
Members' Statements

Page 4404

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yes, Mr. Speaker, it's Family Violence Awareness Week in the Northwest Territories. That's a time to call attention to the tragedy of family violence and try to take steps to discourage and eventually end it.

Family Violence Awareness week is focused on creating awareness of the problem and promoting a change in attitudes and behaviours. The goal is to address, reduce, and bring an end to family violence.

Mr. Speaker, families can be our greatest source of love, confidence, and trust. When that trust is violated, the consequences for the vulnerable people can be severe. Family violence can manifest in many forms: emotional abuse, neglect, financial abuse, or physical or sexual abuse. Family violence can happen to anyone.

Mr. Speaker, in coming to grips with family violence, it is important to understand the cyclical nature of the problem. A simplified view is that hurt people will hurt people. That's a simple phrase, but it contains a lot of layers. It tells us that someone who inflicts family violence was probably the victim of violence at another point in his or her life. It tells us that the best way to resolve current family violence will require trying to fix unhealed wounds of the past. Sometimes, those wounds may not even be known by the person who suffered them and who has transformed into the abuser. It is a complex scenario. No wonder solutions are difficult to find.

Precisely because of its cyclical nature, Mr. Speaker, we must be relentless in confronting family violence. We know that today's victim of family violence may become tomorrow's perpetrator. We know that today's victim may become tomorrow's statistic. There are a lot of hurt people in the world, Mr. Speaker. They may be hurt from any number of factors: colonialism, residential schools, substance abuse, societal violence, or other causes. Many people need help to heal.

At the same time, while we have compassion for past victims, we must be relentless in confronting family violence happening now. We must support front-line workers and provide resources to those taking on this difficult challenge.

Mr. Speaker, family violence is not a part of anyone's culture. It is not justified or defensible in any way. Violence should have no place in any family, community, or society. At the appropriate time, I will have questions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.