This is page numbers 81 - 106 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 1st 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 work.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Hon. Katrina Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Diane Thom, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 81

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Colleagues, this is a special day for a number of reasons. Obviously, it's the last day of the First Session of the 19th Legislative Assembly, and we will take some time to celebrate that later this afternoon. Before that, I'd like to take, first, a few minutes to shed light on the career of the Legislative Assembly's longest-serving and most deeply respected official, Mr. Darrin Ouellette. Early next year, Darrin will retire from a career of over 25 years with the NWT public service and the Legislative Assembly.

Prior to joining our team for the first time as operations assistant clerk during the 15th Legislative Assembly, Darrin served what was then known as the Department of Transportation. He also served in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, as it was then known. In these roles he had the opportunity to travel throughout the Northwest Territories and develop lasting connections with Indigenous and community leaders.

Darrin very quickly developed a reputation as someone who genuinely believed in the inherent right to self-government and the potential of northern families, communities, and governments to build capacity from within and find homegrown solutions to the challenges they faced. He is well known to have little time for fluff or for solutions that were made to gloss over root problems rather than tackle them head-on. Darrin is known as a proponent of real action, actions that actually helped communities to improve the lives of our residents.

In 2011, Darrin came back to the Assembly after a brief hiatus. He joined the senior management team as director of Corporate Services, and later as deputy clerk of Member and Precinct Services. On many occasions he served as acting Clerk of the Legislative Assembly. Darrin had many successes in these senior roles; too many to mention here today, but one that comes immediately to mind is the leadership he demonstrated following the shooting on Parliament Hill in 2014. While many legislatures went into lock-down mode, Darrin was able to step back and recommend improvements to our security systems that were both effective and responsive, but also consistent with the idea of our Assembly as the place of the people.

Darrin has been involved in the security and upkeep of this building since its inception. In his time as a director and deputy clerk, he has worked tirelessly to ensure this place reflects the culture and unique form of democracy of the Northwest Territories and that it is accessible to all residents and visitors from abroad.

Darrin, on behalf of the Members of the Legislative Assembly, I want to express my sincere gratitude for your many years of outstanding service to both the government and Legislature of the NWT. You have provided calm leadership through some rocky times and you will be very much missed; by myself, by the Clerk, and by all the current and former Members and staff you have worked with. We will miss your leadership and your wisdom, but most of all we'll just miss you, the great team-building events you organized, your laughter and humble sense of humour, your homemade bannock, golf tournaments on sand and snow, and your always calm and reassuring demeanour.

On behalf of the Members and staff of the Assembly, I wish you and Donna Marie all the happiness and adventures you so richly deserve in the next stage of your lives. I hope you will always consider this place a home away from home and know that you are most welcome to come visit us, early and often. Thank you, Members.

---Applause

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister for Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 8-19(1): Hunter Education
Ministers' Statements

Page 82

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Hunting has a long and honourable history in the Northwest Territories. At the heart of this tradition is a deep respect for the wildlife, the environment and the people of this land. Residents of the Northwest Territories have told us they want to make sure these values and practices are passed on to the next generation of harvesters.

During the 18th Legislative Assembly, this government made a commitment to the people of the Northwest Territories to develop a Hunter Education program for youth and new hunters. This new program promotes best practices for safe and responsible hunting. It also highlights how the Department of Environment and Natural Resources works with partners across the territory to manage and protect our wildlife.

Mr. Speaker, as we begin the 19th Legislative Assembly, I am pleased to announce Hunter Education is now available across the Northwest Territories. You can find it online, free of charge, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources website. For those who prefer to learn in a classroom setting, the course can be offered in communities, by request.

This program has been years in the making, and reflects a true partnership between:

  • Local and Indigenous governments and organizations;
  • Co-management boards and agencies;
  • Communities, elders, hunters; and
  • The Government of the Northwest Territories.

Hunter Education respects the treaty and harvesting rights of Indigenous hunters, and has been carefully designed to reflect input from Indigenous governments and communities.

Mr. Speaker, as of January 1st, Hunter Education will be mandatory for new hunters before they can get their hunting licences. This includes resident hunters, and non-resident hunters without a guide. Hunters who have been convicted of violations under the Wildlife Act may also be required to take the course.

Hunter Education is not a requirement for General Hunting Licence holders or for harvesters asserting their Aboriginal rights. Hunters who have had a hunting licence in the last five years, or have taken a similar course in other jurisdictions, also don't have to take the course. That being said, we recommend all harvesters take Hunter Education, regardless of experience. Even the most seasoned hunters can benefit from the wisdom of elders and long-time hunters that is reflected in this program.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources remains committed to working with Indigenous governments and organizations, renewable resources boards, and other partners to ensure the wise use and protection of wildlife in the Northwest Territories.

Our hope is that the knowledge shared through hunter education can help keep our wildlife populations healthy and sustainable so the people of the Northwest Territories can harvest now and into the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 8-19(1): Hunter Education
Ministers' Statements

Page 82

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice.

Minister's Statement 9-19(1): Opening of the New Fort Smith Correctional Complex - Women's Unit
Ministers' Statements

Page 82

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am very pleased to announce that female inmates have moved into the new women's unit at the Fort Smith Correctional Complex. I had the pleasure of touring the new unit last week. I was impressed by the care and attention that has gone into designing a facility that is tailored to meeting the needs of female inmates in our care and specifically in the Northwest Territories.

The new unit, which has beds for 23 women, is the first correctional facility designed from the outset to meet the needs of women in the Northwest Territories. It offers dedicated areas where women can receive education, training, counselling, and have better access to northern-developed and northern-specific programming.

More importantly, Mr. Speaker, by keeping female inmates in the Northwest Territories, they will have the opportunity to stay closer to their family supports, which we know is invaluable to their overall rehabilitation.

Functional program space was central to the design philosophy, to provide inmates with access to social and educational programs that give them an opportunity to turn their lives around. For example, inmates continue to help prepare daily meals, but they can do so now in the new teaching kitchen, where they can work with elders to prepare traditional food together.

Female inmates also now have access to spiritual and cultural spaces in the unit. The new ceremonial room is available for cultural activities like traditional crafts and to hold sharing circles. It is the only correctional facility in the Northwest Territories with a functional air-venting system to allow for on-site smudging. Elders have expressed their appreciation to having dedicated spaces inside and outside the facility where their valuable services can be more respectfully shared and received within a natural landscape that was considered during the building of the facility.

The new women's unit also has a resident nurse who is now on site and makes it possible for female inmates to come into the facility with infant children. This allows a mother to bond with her child and have appropriate facilities to care for her infant while serving her sentence.

Mr. Speaker, while I was touring the facility, I had the opportunity to meet and talk directly with staff. As someone with extensive background within the legal system, I was pleased to hear the positive response from inmates and staff to the new communal spaces, program rooms, and more natural grounds.

Before the new unit officially received inmates, Department of Justice staff held a public opening in late August, which included tours inside and out. I know that my colleague, the Member from Thebacha, attended those ceremonies along with over 100 other people who took advantage of that opportunity to see inside the facility in their own home community.

This correctional complex has a long history in Fort Smith and has had the benefit of great community support over the years. I would like to thank the residents of Fort Smith for their continued support. This new unit, built with local C.A.B. Construction, will help women with their rehabilitation for years to come.

I would also like to acknowledge the very hard work of the correctional service. They provide an essential public service in our communities. We know that many people who come into our correctional facilities may themselves be hurt, traumatized, or vulnerable. Yet, each day, our dedicated corrections staff work to help inmates in their care become stronger, with the life skills needed on their path of recovery. They are a critical part of helping those who are ready to make positive changes in their lives. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 9-19(1): Opening of the New Fort Smith Correctional Complex - Women's Unit
Ministers' Statements

Page 83

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 10-19(1): 911 Implementation
Ministers' Statements

Page 83

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am pleased to rise today to provide an update to the House on the launch of the territorial-wide 911 system. On November 4th of this year, the new NWT 911 service will enhance our ability to connect residents and visitors with emergency services such as police, fire, and ambulance.

NWT residents and visitors are now able to use the universally recognized number, 911, to access the existing emergency numbers in 33 communities of the Northwest Territories. NWT 911 is fully bilingual in French and English, and callers can be connected with interpretation services for NWT Indigenous and other languages. For callers who have hearing or speech communication impairments, technologies are available to ensure the service is accessible.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT 911 program service includes over-the-phone pre-arrival emergency medical instructions such as basic first aid. I can confirm NWT 911 has already provided life-saving medical care over the phone on a number of calls, including:

  • instructions on what to do for a heart attack;
  • how to address CPR;
  • how to stop the bleeding from a serious wound; and
  • telling callers how to administer Narcan for drugs and overdoses.

Mr. Speaker, since the previous government committed to implement 911, a great deal of work and collaboration has gone into making NWT 911 a reality. In 2019 alone, there have been several important milestones, including:

  • the establishment of new legislation and regulations;
  • the creation of an emergency communications centre;
  • meeting with all community governments on emergency response plans;
  • the recruitment and training of 911 staff; and
  • the launch of a public awareness campaign to inform residents and visitors that 911 is now available in the NWT.

I want to thank all those involved in putting the program in place, especially the community governments, for their commitment to improving public safety and security across the NWT. Now that we have launched 911, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs will continue to monitor this initiative. The Northwest Territories 911 program includes ongoing quality control procedures, such as improvement and program evaluation to ensure the program continues to meet national standards and accreditation.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that NWT 911 is part of an integrated system that includes community dispatch services, first responders, organizations in communities, and volunteers across the territory. I wish to commend all officials and first responders for their work in keeping our residents and visitors safe.

Mr. Speaker, I am looking forward to speaking to the Standing Committee on Accountability and Oversight to provide a full briefing and update on the implementation of the NWT 911 program. I will be inviting all Members of the House to the 911 call centre for a tour of the facility.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 10-19(1): 911 Implementation
Ministers' Statements

Page 84

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture & Employment.

Minister's Statement 11-19(1): Amendments to the Employment Standards Act
Ministers' Statements

Page 84

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our greatest northern resource is our people, and it is our responsibility to invest in and take steps to ensure their health and well-being.

On January 1, 2020, Northwest Territories residents will be able to access new and enhanced types of employment leave to protect their jobs when faced with important or challenging moments in life.

These challenges align with the Government of Canada's amendments to the Employment Insurance program and the Canada Labour Code and allow the Northwest Territories to remain competitive with other jurisdictions by offering employees the flexibility to balance personal responsibilities while maintaining their employment status.

Mr. Speaker, employers understand the complex needs of their employees and are increasingly looking for ways to support them and their responsibilities outside of work.

The birth or adoption of a child into a family is an exciting event and one that should be cherished. To better support parents and provide them with more flexibility, we have extended the length of time an eligible employee can take parental leave from 37 weeks of unpaid leave to up to 61 weeks. Two-parent families, including adoptive couples, will also be able to access an additional eight weeks of unpaid leave for the second parent.

Families sometimes face challenging circumstances, and one of the most difficult times in life is when a loved one is critically ill or injured. When faced with the added responsibilities of providing support for a family member, residents should be able to both care for their family and protect their job. A new family caregiver leave will provide up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave for eligible employees to provide care or support for an adult family member who is critically ill or injured, and up to 37 weeks for a child family member.

Compassionate care leave will also extend from eight to 27 weeks of unpaid leave each year, to allow employees time to provide end-of-life care for a family member who is gravely ill or at risk of death.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories has a domestic violence rate approximately eight times higher than the national average. Family violence is a serious issue that affects too many of our residents.

In addition to the work by other departments and partner organizations, this legislation is also introducing new family-violence leave to protect employees and allow them time to seek help. This new leave will provide five days of paid and five days of unpaid annual emergency leave for employees experiencing domestic violence. Up to 15 additional unpaid weeks will also be available with prior written notice. This leave could be taken to seek medical attention, attend counselling or legal appointments, access victim services, and for a variety of other purposes.

Introducing family violence leave is an important part of protecting and supporting workers in times of need.

Mr. Speaker, the changes to the Employment Standards Act also include new definitions to recognize family-like relationships and to clarify and better protect youth, those in the construction industry, and domestic workers. Domestic workers, such as nannies or housekeepers, will now be included in the scope of the Employment Standards Act, providing them with an employment-standards minimum and ensuring job protection.

Mr. Speaker, we know many employers are already supporting and encouraging their employees during important life events. It is our intention that these new and enhanced types of leave will provide recognized and consistent guidelines for employers to achieve their goals as they invest in their employees and the Northwest Territories. As well, we want to ensure that employers have the information they need to apply this new legislation to their workplace. We will be conducting an advertising blitz in the new year to inform and update employers throughout the Northwest Territories and ensure a successful transition.

By introducing and strengthening types of leave, the Government of the Northwest Territories is reinforcing worker protection, making it easier for northern residents to take time off work to care for themselves and their families. At the same time, we recognize the work that employers are already doing, and will continue to do with the support of this legislation, to make the Northwest Territories a competitive and attractive place to work. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 11-19(1): Amendments to the Employment Standards Act
Ministers' Statements

Page 85

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Minister's Statement 11-19(1): Amendments to the Employment Standards Act
Ministers' Statements

Page 85

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to go to item number 4 on the orders of the day. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

Page 85

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to recognize Michele Thoms, vice-principal of Ecole St. Patrick High School, teacher advisor to Students Against Destructive Driving, formerly Students Against Drinking and Driving, and the person who started our NWT chapter of SADD 25 years ago. With Ms. Thoms today are a number of her SADD students, including Kam Lake residents and youth activists Victoria Hamm and Jaslynn Menton. I would also like to recognize in the gallery today Kam Lake residents Sara Minogue and Sarah Kalnay-Watson. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

Page 85

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr)

Thank you, Member. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery
Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery

Page 85

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to recognize my niece, Alexis McLeod, who actually is a resident of Yellowknife, and one of my relatives, Jennifer Mager. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.