This is page numbers 5679 - 5712 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 going. View the webstream of the day's session.

Topics

Cannabis Retail Privatization
Members' Statements

Page 5682

Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I want to commend this government on its move towards eventually allowing for the privatization of cannabis sales, production, extraction, and purification. It is clear that the public wants to see entrepreneurs empowered to thrive and prosper, as they are no longer accepting of Crown monopolies or the failed policies of prohibition that have made criminals out of our citizens for recreational use of a substance with substantially less harmful effects than alcohol, while empowering thugs, gangsters, bootleggers, and smugglers to exploit our youth and communities.

However, it has been brought to the attention of Regular Members that, even though there have been nearly 20 bids submitted for the tender to establish a retail cannabis store in the territory, this government has, at the last minute, extended the deadline for bids until June 30, 2019, without explanation.

Mr. Speaker, given this government's trepidation towards privatization when the Cannabis Legalization Implementation Bill was debated by this House, I wonder if the GNWT actually wants to see the establishment of this market?

Sudden changes public to tenders like this may not be noticed by the average member of the public, but it has been noticed by investors, both those already invested in pursuing cannabis retail opportunities and those considering investing in other sectors of our territory's economy. The North must be at all times open for business.

Northern companies and entrepreneurs have already put forward cash as part of the tender process, and they have covered their costs, both legal and for the registration and compliance of their prospective new ventures. Make no mistake, the regulatory requirements are still too onerous for my likings, but nevertheless, these entrepreneurs have provided everything required by this government to move forward.

Mr. Speaker, this uncertainty is not good for business, the public, and, most importantly, our economy that requires much needed diversification and growth of private-sector markets. Last-minute changes to the privatization scheme shake investor confidence and inhibit the realization of new economic activity. It is imperative that this government deliver on its promises of the privatization of retail cannabis, and not put it off for a future government.

Now is the time to invest in our economy and let the private sector lead. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Cannabis Retail Privatization
Members' Statements

Page 5683

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Declining Education Resources
Members' Statements

Page 5683

Michael Nadli Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. It is often said that children and youth make for a smart investment, and that the best way to effect change is by educating our young people.

Over the years, we've seen the Department of Education, Culture and Employment shift directions and invest more resources towards achieving better student outcomes. as evidenced by a school attendance advertising campaign, the Strengthening Teacher Instructional Practices initiative, junior kindergarten, more counsellors in schools, and. most recently, proposed legislation that could lead to the establishment of a polytechnic university for the NWT.

While it's great to see these changes, Mr. Speaker, more is required. Specifically, I want to raise the concern I've heard from communities in my region over the decline of school enrolment and attendance rates.

Mr. Speaker, attendance rates in small communities continue to be far below than in larger communities like Yellowknife. In 2008, the average attendance in small communities was 83 percent, compared with 91 percent in Yellowknife and 84 percent in regional centres. In 2013, average attendance was down to 79 percent in small communities, while it averaged over 88 percent in Yellowknife and 82 percent in the regions. Average attendance rates last year showed a drop across the NWT other than in Yellowknife.

Students in small communities averaged only 75 percent attendance in 2018, while the average was 89 percent in Yellowknife and 79 percent in the regions. These low attendance rates, combined with other realities, like the need for many students to upgrade post-graduation in order to pursue post-secondary education, tell me that we are not doing an adequate job of preparing our youth for the challenges that life brings. On top of this, I am hearing that low attendance could affect a school's funding, which could result in the school seeing a reduction in teachers or fewer extracurricular activities for students.

Mr. Speaker, if we don't invest in our young people meaningfully and sustainably and provide them with adequate opportunities, problems like low graduation rates, poor labour market entry, substance abuse, crime, violence, and risky behaviours will continue to rise, and there will be a significant economic and social cost. This need for investment includes finding effective long-term ways to maintain student enrolment and to encourage students to attend school every day, fully engaged in their learning and motivated to succeed. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE at the appropriate time. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Declining Education Resources
Members' Statements

Page 5683

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Housing Support for Released Inmates
Members' Statements

Page 5683

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to offer my thanks to the Minister of Justice for the detail that he provided yesterday on the programs offered to inmates at NWT correctional facilities. One highlight is that over 500 participants have completed programs that address substance abuse, violence, and other negative behaviours. Another is that the programs are offered in probation offices throughout the NWT to reinforce the new skills and copying mechanisms. The department staff is obviously doing good work in this area.

Yes, there is a "but," Mr. Speaker: but what about housing for inmates when they are released? There was no mention of it. My concern is that, without a plan for housing, some former inmates will be at loose ends. They may have been homeless before going to jail, and so they are likely to be homeless when they come out. They end up staying in shelters, couch-surfing, or sleeping rough.

How hard must it be for homeless people to maintain their resolve to stay sober in these situations? Once they go back to using drugs and alcohol, much of their learning about violence will go out the window; then they will be caught up in the justice system again, and the cycle will repeat itself.

Mr. Speaker, in his statement yesterday, the Minister responsible for the Housing Corporation said, "Research tells us that the chances of addressing the issues that lead to homelessness, mental health, addictions, and other social issues, are better when you have social housing." I concur, and I wonder if the Minister of Justice took note of this point.

When the Standing Committee on Social Development visited the Nanaimo Correctional Centre 18 months ago, we met with inmates who were taking part in a unique program. Guthrie House offered a peer-led 12-step program to help inmates conquer their addictions that had contributed to criminal behaviour. One feature of this program is that participants started looking for housing months before being released. They talked about how important housing was to their discharge plan. I also learned that some graduates of these programs stay in the south rather than coming back here, because they don't want to be homeless.

Mr. Speaker, the lesson for NWT corrections is that people who are released from jail need to have housing in place. Discharging people to a couch perpetuates the chaos that they have worked so hard to put behind them. Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but I am going to seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Housing Support for Released Inmates
Members' Statements

Page 5684

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, colleagues. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. If we truly want to benefit from the investment that we are working in programming and reduce the chances of people returning to jail, former inmates need a stable place to live. I will have questions for the Minister of Justice. Mahsi.

Housing Support for Released Inmates
Members' Statements

Page 5684

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Sahtu.

Regional Leadership Training
Members' Statements

Page 5684

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am very encouraged by the Minister's statement earlier, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, which leads me to a limited number of questions later on. However, Mr. Speaker, we are approaching June, graduation month. I am grateful to see that our Sahtu region is supporting approximately 35 graduating students in our communities, from the three Aurora campuses and institutions outside the NWT. This is very encouraging. However, there still remains a lack of post-secondary transitional supports.

Mr. Speaker, transitioning and planning are critical elements remaining in our term. Last year, the Department of Education tabled the Aurora College Foundational Review, a report that included 2018-2023 schedules, community consultations, engagements with 13 Indigenous governments, and recommendations. Education is a valued strength in our continuing efforts for a stable future workforce, community, and more importantly, youth capacity-building. It is our fiduciary obligation and responsibility to initiate regional leadership progress report engagements. This process will ensure continued improvements and create partnerships.

Mr. Speaker, leadership engagements can include, but are not limited to, progress on the foundational review and, in particular, funding options for the polytechnic university 2018-2019 academic year, and fundamental principles in developments for a renewed and tailored education system. Later, Mr. Speaker, I will have questions to the appropriate Minister. Mahsi.

Regional Leadership Training
Members' Statements

Page 5684

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Sustainable Employment in Remote Communities
Members' Statements

Page 5684

Cory Vanthuyne Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The 18th Assembly has done good work and has had success in promoting economic diversification, but it is fair to say that the challenge of creating employment opportunities, especially in smaller communities, remains a big challenge.

Smaller communities, by definition, have fewer opportunities and bigger challenges. There is less economic activity and less of a base to build from. At the same time, employers are having a hard time recruiting and retaining northern employees. They sometimes feel that there is no choice but to turn to the larger fly-in labour market from the south. That doesn't serve anyone's interests, Mr. Speaker.

A recent report of the Conference Board of Canada suggests an approach to resolve the impasse. It is clearly in the interests of employers to engage with Indigenous communities. It is mandated by land rights agreements. It provides better working relationships with communities and can lead to a stronger workforce, higher quality of work, and, of course, happier employees. Employers know that failing to engage positively with communities will create obstacles for their projects moving forward.

Mr. Speaker, at the same time, the private sector recognizes the importance of the broad movements towards reconciliation and the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The private sector recognizes that one of the TRC's calls to action, number 92, urges it to conform to UN declaration. The Government of Canada is currently moving in that same direction through Bill C-262.

In this context, Mr. Speaker, we can encourage the private sector and our small communities to seek solutions together. Community challenges may include education and skills attainment, and family and community obligations. Employers' challenges are improving community inclusion and cultural awareness to create effective outreach, offer appropriate skills development, and guarantee fair compensation practices.

Mr. Speaker, our government needs to take up this mission. We need to connect employers with communities to work together to improve outreach and recruitment, balance work with community obligations, enhance educational opportunities, and match candidates to suitable jobs. We need to be the incubator that grows these initiatives with education, encouragement to business, and through leading by example.

Mr. Speaker, there are solutions to the challenge of creating employment and successfully growing the economy in small communities. We need to encourage creative thinking and collaboration to keep things moving in a positive direction. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Sustainable Employment in Remote Communities
Members' Statements

Page 5685

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Ferry Service Employment and Training Opportunities
Members' Statements

May 30th, 2019

Page 5685

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Department of Infrastructure in Fort Simpson really should be commended for the work that they are doing to build capacity of residents in Nahendeh. They are hiring local residents and providing the requisite training to obtain the skills, knowledge, and ability to do the job competently.

Mr. Speaker, I have personally heard positive feedback from community members and visitors alike of the exceptional service done by these young people. A prime example of this are the following Fort Simpson residents who were hired as deck hands on the MV Lafferty in 2017: Ivor Norwegian, Cindy Edda, and Travis Hanna. I have had the pleasure of watching them work and interact with passengers on various trips across the Liard. They are always so positive and knowledgeable of the surrounding area.

It is my understanding that these employees continue to work with the department throughout the winter and are receiving training on the ground-penetrating radar ice measuring equipment facilitated by Sensors and Software. The training, along with experience gained through auger flooding and use of the new ice-spraying equipment throughout the season, will continue to benefit the community of Fort Simpson in the years to come.

Job-specific training has continued to be offered so these employees can continue to grow into their roles and accept more responsibilities related to their areas of interest. Opportunities for growth will include small-vessel machinery operators, boat captain, as well as various other marine certification, depending on each individual's interest. I am happy to say these three individuals are back to work on the Lafferty and use the knowledge they gained.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to recognize these efforts by the Fort Simpson regional office to build local capacity. Training younger generations to succeed in a dynamic working environment with the necessary skills will ensure the efficient operation of the department's operation for years to come.

In closing, I would like to thank the department for being forward-thinking in this area of development. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Ferry Service Employment and Training Opportunities
Members' Statements

Page 5685

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People
Members' Statements

Page 5685

Herbert Nakimayak Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My first statement on the floor in this House in 2015 was on the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories was the first jurisdiction in Canada to support UNDRIP and continues to do so today, which I am very pleased. Also, the Government of Canada has now signed onto this agreement.

Given the importance of the Arctic coast and seas to Inuit people, culturally, historically, and economically for sustenance, it is essential that Inuit are engaged in any development of laws or regulations for Arctic coastal waterways. Canada should be engaging with Inuit in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut on any work done in the Northwest Passage under UNCLOS, or United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, following the UNDRIP principles.

There should be a culture shift in Ottawa, Mr. Speaker. Indigenous people are not a Liberal-Conservative issue, nor an NDP-PPC issue. We should have consistent engagement from Ottawa on issues that impact our way of life, regardless of who is in power. We must continue to implement at all levels of government to ensure our rights and our land-claim agreements, which are not only ours but are the responsibility of the Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government, as well.

Mr. Speaker, I will quote Senator Murray Sinclair, who has been advocating for Indigenous people throughout his career. He states, "The Senate is still debating this, and it seems to be stalling with some senators. People who use the concept of veto and the concept of free, prior, and informed consent as though they are the same thing are totally missing the point."

Last week, our Premier also stated, "I also think it makes sense that residents of Canada's three northern territories have a leading say in determining Canada's plan for the Arctic. We are the ones who live here. We are the ones who are repeatedly affected when decisions are made for us, rather than with us. We are an obvious partner for Canada when they begin to discuss what should happen next."

Mr. Speaker, if anyone in our territory should be leading and implementing UNDRIP, it should be our Premier. Being an Indigenous person myself, I am proud of the work that he and his team have done in collaborating with Indigenous governments and the federal government on projects from planning to implementation. The rest of the country and other countries should take note and follow suit. We have come a long way, but we have a lot of work to do together.

Mr. Speaker, later, I will have questions for the Premier. Thank you.

United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous People
Members' Statements

Page 5686

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.