This is page numbers 5839 - 16 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 work. View the webstream of the day's session.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, Mr. Beaulieu, Mr. Blake, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, 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 1:31 p.m.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5839

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

O God, may your spirit and guidance be in us as we work for the benefit of all our people for peace and justice in our land and for the constant recognition of the dignity and aspirations of those whom we serve.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 5839

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Members, I would ask that you remain standing and join me in observing a moment of silence in recognition of the 75th anniversary of D-Day. Thank you. Please be seated. Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 207-18(3): Supporting the Northern Aviation Industry
Ministers' Statements

Page 5839

Wally Schumann Hay River South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is following through on its mandate commitment to strengthen connections with public and private sector partners in transportation infrastructure.

Given our vast geography and harsh climate, Northwest Territories communities and businesses rely on the aviation industry for the safe and reliable delivery of people, goods, and services. That is why the Government of the Northwest Territories has made supporting the northern aviation industry a priority. Our work includes focusing efforts on maintaining and improving aviation infrastructure; exploring ways to increase economic benefits in this industry; and working with our partners to take action to fill the aviation skills shortage.

Mr. Speaker, we have 27 public airports in the Northwest Territories, all of which are critical to the economic and social well-being of our residents. They provide essential services, including community resupply, air ambulance, search and rescue, forest fire response, and much more. Ongoing improvements to our airports allow for safe and efficient movement of these and other essential goods and services.

When it comes to investing in aviation infrastructure, some of the improvements our airports have received, or will be receiving soon, include:

  • airfield sweepers for the Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River, Inuvik, and Fort Simpson airports;
  • runway rehabilitation at the Hay River, Inuvik, and Yellowknife airports;
  • dust suppressant applications on gravel runways;
  • replacement of the Inuvik air terminal building; and
  • continued investment in improvements to maintain safe, secure, and prosperous airports.

The Government of the Northwest Territories also works closely with our federal counterparts and has received additional support to invest in our airport infrastructure, including:

  • airfield lighting in Fort Smith, Tuktoyaktuk, Aklavik, and Norman Wells;
  • surface overlays in Tulita, Inuvik, Yellowknife, and Norman Wells;
  • drainage improvements in Yellowknife and Sachs Harbour; and
  • emergency response and mobile heavy equipment at the Yellowknife, Hay River, and Norman Wells airports.

The Government of the Northwest Territories is also seeking federal funding to continue improving our airports, including funding from the Airport Capital Assistance Program for snow blowers for Fort Smith and Inuvik, new airfield lighting in Fort Simpson, and an overlay of the Hay River runway. We have also submitted applications to the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund for projects to make our airport infrastructure more resilient to climate change.

Mr. Speaker, our government is always looking for ways to increase the economic benefits the aviation industry brings to our communities. We continue to reach out to our potential partners and customers to ensure the longevity of the aviation industry in the North and to maintain its growth and success.

I have previously spoken in this House about the Yellowknife Airport Cold Weather Testing Group, who are working to capture economic opportunities and benefits for the local economy through cold weather testing partnerships. This past winter, the group partnered with Bell Helicopters to host 30 engineers and pilots for approximately 90 days in Yellowknife, infusing an estimated $2.3 million into the local economy.

In recent months, the Cold Weather Testing Group has also had discussions with Mitsubishi to test their medium-sized jets, and Korean Aerospace Industries has inquired about testing their helicopters here. Further planning efforts are under way to develop a preliminary competitor analysis, a marketing framework, and the decision to link the Cold Weather Testing Marketing Strategy to Destination Canada's Business Events Canada Marketing Program for the Aerospace Industry.

We know that our success depends on strong partnerships. The Government of the Northwest Territories is pleased to continue our collaboration with partners such as the Northern Air Transport Association. NATA is an organization that has worked for many years to ensure Northern Canada is well-represented in the decisions made about the industry. I would like to thank the NATA leadership for the opportunity to speak at their recent AGM and look forward to continuing to work together to ensure the safe, secure, accessible, and reliable movement of people and goods throughout the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, one of the issues discussed at the recent NATA AGM that is of great importance to supporting the aviation industry in the North was addressing the skills shortage the aviation industry is currently facing.

In the Northwest Territories and all across Canada, there is a shortage of pilots and aircraft maintenance workers, and we expect this shortage to continue to increase. Addressing this gap in the Northwest Territories will require support from government, opportunities for local training, and industry champions.

Mr. Speaker, this past month, Transport Canada certified the Terry Harrold School of Aviation as an approved flying school. The school is located in Fort Smith and was created by Northwestern Air Lease, Ltd. to help northern residents achieve their pilot licence.

We know from experience that many Northerners want the option to train at home, and this will give them that option. We also know that flying in the North is unlike anywhere else. This flying school will give students a true sense of what it's like to fly in our northern skies. I want to congratulate Northwestern on their new school and wish them all the success.

The government also has a role to play, and I look forward to continuing to work with my colleague, the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, on implementing the Skills 4 Success initiative to improve employment success for NWT residents, close skill gaps for in-demand jobs, and more effectively respond to employer and industry needs.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue with the efforts I have described today and continue to work with our public and private aviation industry partners to strengthen and support the aviation industry in the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 207-18(3): Supporting the Northern Aviation Industry
Ministers' Statements

Page 5840

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

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

Minister's Statement 208-18(3): Health and Wellness Enhancements in Schools
Ministers' Statements

Page 5840

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, a high-quality education system is one that ensures that student wellness and the development of a positive sense of identity are promoted and embedded in school experiences, programming, and environment.

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment values diversity in our school communities. We recognize the unique challenges experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, and two-spirited, or LGBTQ2S+ people, including being possible targets for discrimination and bullying.

In support of these students, staff, and families, the Department, as part of its Safe and Caring Schools model, has developed Guidelines for Ensuring LGBTQ2S+ Safety and Inclusion in Northwest Territories schools.

Mr. Speaker, according to studies from Canada, the United States, and New Zealand, LGBTQ2S+ youth are three to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. Those who have been rejected by their families are more than eight times more likely. The rates of LGBTQ2S+ youth reporting harassment, in general, ranges between 57 and 92 percent.

These rates are unacceptable. We have a duty to do everything we can to provide a safe environment and defend the well-being of these students, so that experiences during their formative years help them develop a positive sense of identity.

The new guidelines provide educators in the Northwest Territories with 13 promising practices that can be incorporated into school environments of every size. These practices are evidence-based, tangible calls to action developed in collaboration with members of the Rainbow Coalition of Yellowknife and the youth sexual health programs, Fostering Open eXpression among Youth, and Strength, Masculinities, and Sexual Health, better known as FOXY and SMASH. The work was also guided by feedback from youth who attended the inaugural NWT Youth Rainbow Conference held in March 2017 and feedback from board and education council superintendents. All agree these are necessary guidelines that will be welcome when they are introduced in schools in September 2019.

In addition to these guidelines, planning is under way for the second Northwest Territories Youth Rainbow Conference in the upcoming school year. We will also be supporting NWT participation in Canada's second annual survey to measure discrimination toward LGBTQ2S+ students. These statistics will inform future development in this area.

Mr. Speaker, the LGBTQ2S+ Guidelines are a part of the Education Renewal initiative and the Safe Schools Regulations that require every school to have a Safe School Plan. Safe school planning is more than having procedures for emergency evacuations and lockdowns; it includes protecting our school communities with policies in place on bullying and discrimination.

We have also developed a new health and wellness curriculum that is being integrated into grades four to nine. We are changing our focus from simply delivering health information to providing students with the tools, knowledge, and ability to gather and evaluate health information themselves. In that way, we are contributing to their well-being, and we are equipping them to contribute to the well-being of their community throughout their lives.

The new curriculum is flexible and gives teachers the opportunity to engage with crucial topics immediately, as they arise, while engaging local expertise and knowledge.

Mr. Speaker, the new LGBTQ2S+ Guidelines and the new health and wellness curriculum are some of the building blocks of the high-quality education system we all want. They will help ensure our schools are safe places for all students, places where all students can develop a positive sense of identity and skills to improve their physical and mental wellness, today and in the future. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 208-18(3): Health and Wellness Enhancements in Schools
Ministers' Statements

Page 5841

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 209-18(3): Government of the Northwest Territories Disability Action Plan Updates
Ministers' Statements

Page 5841

Glen Abernethy Great Slave

Mr. Speaker, last week was Disability Awareness Week in the Northwest Territories, as well as National AccessAbility Week across the country. It is a time to promote inclusion and accessibility in our communities, and to reflect on what we can all do to make sure that everyone is able to contribute to and be a part of community life. With that, I'd like to provide an update on the Government of the Northwest Territories Disability Action Plan 2018/2019 - 2021/2022, which was tabled in October 2018 and is the final deliverable of the Disability Program Review and Renewal Project.

Work is under way across multiple GNWT departments on the five key objectives in our action plan to increase income security and reduce poverty; build awareness and knowledge through education and training; improve transition planning and options; encourage universal design and living options; and improve access and quality of caregiver supports.

The action plan represents a shared vision and partnership between the Departments of Health and Social Services; Education, Culture and Employment; Justice; Finance; Municipal and Community Affairs; Infrastructure; and the NWT Housing Corporation. It is helping our government pursue new avenues and resources available to promote more equity, accessibility, inclusion, and participation in all aspects of economic and social life for persons with disabilities in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, we are accountable to persons with disabilities and all residents on the progress on this action plan. While the first update on our actions is anticipated later this summer, I can speak to some initiatives currently under way:

Our government has made investments in increasing rehabilitation supports for children, and is establishing a territorial FASD Adult Diagnosis and Support Program in partnership with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority.

The Department of Infrastructure has developed an Accessibility Toolkit to assist in implementing accessible design in government office space. This has been tested on a recent renovation project in Yellowknife, and will be used in designing the new airport in Inuvik.

The NWT Housing Corporation has begun its Housing Support Worker pilot in the community of Behchoko. This strengths-based and trauma-informed initiative includes supporting adults with disabilities to maintain stable housing.

The Department of Health and Social Services is reviewing supplementary health benefits programs, as the current program structures do not cover all disabilities. We are also planning for a review of supported living services.

As you can see, this action plan is broad-reaching, reflecting our shared commitment across government to fully address disabilities. I appreciate how each department is taking on implementation and evaluation of their respective action areas and collaborating with disability partners in this important work.

Mr. Speaker, Disability Identity in the North was chosen as the theme of this year's Disability Awareness Week, and it is fitting to recognize and thank our disability NGO partners, including the NWT Disabilities Council, Yellowknife Association for Community Living, NWT Seniors' Society, Hay River Committee for Persons with Disabilities, and the NWT Foster Family Coalition, for their ongoing input and participation. We continue to work with our partners as we implement the action plan to make meaningful and measurable change that will reduce barriers for persons with disabilities.

While we work hard on making change, we can also celebrate what is already happening to encourage more inclusive communities across the Northwest Territories. On May 31st, I hosted the annual Disability Awareness Minister's Tea and was pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Minister Responsible for Persons with Disabilities Award, Mr. Dean McLeod of Aklavik. Dean has been a committed resident of Aklavik for 47 years and a strong advocate for persons with disabilities in order to ensure inclusive participation in his community. Mr. Speaker, his dedication and his passion as the community recreation coordinator and as an active community volunteer have made a significant difference in the lives of Northerners.

We also recognized Tina McNeil of Fort Smith as this year's NWT Disability Council Community Champion, and the Hamlet of Aklavik as this year's Human Rights Commission Corporate Champion.

All of us have roles to play in promoting inclusion and accessibility in our communities. I look forward to seeing the progress we achieve over the life of our action plan, together with our partners, to improve the lives of NWT residents living with disabilities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 209-18(3): Government of the Northwest Territories Disability Action Plan Updates
Ministers' Statements

Page 5842

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 210-18(3): The De Beers/Yellowknife Women's Society Partnership
Ministers' Statements

Page 5842

Alfred Moses Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak about a new partnership between the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and the De Beers Group, a partnership that will help house some of our most vulnerable citizens.

De Beers Group has invested heavily in the Northwest Territories over the years through the development of its two mines. These investments have provided numerous gains for the residents of the Northwest Territories in terms of jobs and procurement. In addition to the economic benefits, De Beers Group has indicated that they want to support lasting social improvements to communities.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and the De Beers Group have discussed potential legacy housing projects, consistent with the De Beers Group's commitment to supporting Northwest Territories communities involved in diamond mining. The De Beers Group is especially interested in projects that address the long-term needs of vulnerable people in their operating region.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that the De Beers Group, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, and the Yellowknife Women's Society have agreed to improve shelter housing for women who are homeless.

The Yellowknife Women's Society shelter on Franklin Avenue will be reconfigured to provide 16 single-room suites for homeless women. The De Beers Group is making a generous contribution of $250,000 to the project. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation will provide the project management expertise and a $350,000 contribution under the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation's Community Housing Support Initiative. The Yellowknife Women's Society will administer a smaller emergency shelter section of the building. They will continue to provide supportive services to residents in the new suites.

These new spaces will provide better privacy, safety, and security for women. The shared living arrangement offers the safety of living with others, as opposed to being isolated in a rental unit on the private market. Residents will have a safe, stable home where they can start to address some of the other challenges in their lives, without having to worry about housing.

This initiative supports the mandate commitment of the 18th Legislative Assembly on increasing the availability of safe, affordable housing and creating solutions for addressing homelessness. It is also consistent with long-term planning to address homelessness in Yellowknife. This project is one step towards what our communities, this government, and all of our partners want; healthy, sustainable communities with safe, adequate, and affordable housing.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation's partnership with the De Beers Group and the Yellowknife Women's Society is an exciting opportunity. It is a great example of how a corporate citizen can work with governments and other partners to create tangible outcomes and make our communities better places for all of our residents. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 210-18(3): The De Beers/Yellowknife Women's Society Partnership
Ministers' Statements

Page 5843

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 210-18(3): The De Beers/Yellowknife Women's Society Partnership
Ministers' Statements

Page 5843

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to waive Rule 34(6) so that all Ministers' statements filed with the clerk can be delivered today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Unanimous consent granted

Minister's Statement 211-18(3): Addressing the Caribou Crisis
Ministers' Statements

June 6th, 2019

Page 5843

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, this Assembly made a mandate commitment to improve food security in the Northwest Territories through the effective co-management of wildlife, including caribou. Our government is therefore taking significant steps with our co-management partners to support the recovery of our struggling barren-ground herds, including investing an additional $6.8 million over five years for conservation and recovery efforts.

The Bathurst and Bluenose-East herds have traditionally been an important food source for a number of our communities, and are central to the culture, identity, and way of life of many Indigenous Northerners. Despite extensive actions by the Government of the Northwest Territories and our co-management partners to support caribou conservation and promote herd recovery, both herds continue to decline, and in just the last three years they have been reduced by half.

Mr. Speaker, since receiving the latest population results last fall, our government has moved quickly to put a number of initiatives into place in an effort to slow the decline.

Environment and Natural Resources has worked closely with the Tlicho Government to submit two joint management proposals to the Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board, one for each herd. These management actions are being reviewed by the board, and we expect to receive their decisions in the coming weeks. We continue to work with the community of Deline to support their community-based caribou plan for the Bluenose-East herd, and are supporting other communities interested in forming their own conservation plans for barren-ground caribou.

Some of the conservation and recovery efforts led by the department include doing population surveys every two years instead of three, so we can detect changes sooner and, if necessary, adjust our management approach. We are increasing the number of satellite collars we use to give us better information about how caribou use their range. We are also keeping a close eye on the health of the herds through regular composition surveys and by providing financial support for on-the-land caribou monitoring programs, such as the Tlicho Government's Boots on the Ground program and the Ni Hat'ni Dene Rangers run by the Lutselke Dene First Nation. In addition, the Government of the Northwest Territories continues to support community-based harvest monitoring programs in a number of communities across the Northwest Territories.

This winter we also introduced a new incentive program targeting wolves on the winter range of the Bathurst and Bluenose-East herds. A total of 57 wolves have been harvested under this program to date, Mr. Speaker. That is an increase over the average of 40 wolves per year harvested in the North Slave Region since 2010. It is also important to note that all of the wolves caught under this program were in the area where barren-ground caribou wintered this year, rather than around communities and landfills, which was the case in the previous eight winters.

Mr. Speaker, the pressures facing caribou also include habitat loss in critical areas on their winter range, mostly due to wildfire. The department plans to establish a new fire crew in Wekweeti to allow us to detect and respond to fires more quickly in the heart of the Bathurst caribou herd's traditional range. We are working closely with elders and land-users in the North Slave region to help us identify key caribou habitat and corridors that we will aim to protect as values-at-risk during the upcoming fire season.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, we are very close to approving a range plan for the Bathurst herd. This plan was developed together with 21 organizations and agencies, including Indigenous governments, industry, and wildlife management boards from across the Bathurst range, in response to community concerns about the impact of development on caribou. Through this range plan, we are working together to support the Bathurst herd in a way that recognizes the importance of conservation and economic opportunities for Northerners.

Mr. Speaker, as I have said many times, protecting caribou is a shared responsibility that requires the commitment and action of multiple partners, across multiple jurisdictions. Our co-management system here in the Northwest Territories is strong, but caribou are not confined to our borders. We need to work with our neighbours in Nunavut, as well. That is why I travelled to Kugluktuk in April and met with the Honourable Joe Savikataaq, who is both the territory's Environment Minister and Premier.

Our governments discussed the Bathurst and Bluenose-East herds, which calve every year north of our border in Nunavut, as well as the Beverly herd, which was also surveyed in 2018. Premier Savikataaq agrees the current declines in these populations are alarming, and that immediate and strong action to support herd recovery is needed.

As a result, our governments have agreed to host a meeting of key co-management partners from both jurisdictions to discuss how we can work together to support the recovery of these herds. We will work together on wolf harvest incentive programs in both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut and continue to support each other's research and monitoring activities, including on-the-land and community-based programs to improve our understanding and management of caribou.

Mr. Speaker, the last few months have seen a lot of positive work to support our caribou, but this is just the beginning. It will take a commitment from each and every one of us to do our part to give caribou the support they need to survive and thrive. In the next few months, engagement will begin on the development of a recovery strategy for barren-ground caribou. This strategy will bring together the efforts of all management authorities across the Northwest Territories to protect barren-ground caribou under territorial Species at Risk legislation, and will guide our actions going forward.

I would like to thank all of our co-management partners for their dedication and hard work, and for helping to make what have been some very difficult decisions in order to support our caribou herds. The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to continuing this work with our partners to ensure that, together, we make effective decisions about managing wildlife so our communities can continue to enjoy harvesting opportunities now and into the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 211-18(3): Addressing the Caribou Crisis
Ministers' Statements

Page 5844

The Deputy Speaker R.J. Simpson

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

Minister's Statement 211-18(3): Addressing the Caribou Crisis
Ministers' Statements

Page 5844

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Kam Lake, that Minister's Statement 210-18(3) addressing the caribou crisis be moved into Committee of the Whole for discussion later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.