This is page numbers 6187 - 6288 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 public.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Glen Abernethy, 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 1:33 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 6187

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Good afternoon, Members. Item 2, Ministers' statements. The Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 233-18(3): Strengthening the Arctic
Ministers' Statements

Page 6187

Bob McLeod Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, international interest in the North has been increasing steadily over the past few years. As the effects of climate change increase access to the Arctic, the global geopolitical context for the region is changing.

With enormous untapped opportunities for shipping, research, and resource development, many countries are looking to influence the development of policies and international agreements that will benefit them and their interests in the region. Global powers like China, Russia, and the United States are deliberately ramping up their presence and level of activity within their own borders and across the circumpolar world in an effort to secure and further their national priorities.

Of particular interest to these nations is the potential for new and shorter shipping routes through the Arctic Ocean. There is also distinct interest in the resource potential of the Arctic as changing sea ice and climatic conditions make previously stranded resources more accessible.

Other countries are investing heavily in infrastructure, developing national plans, and trying to influence international policies in anticipation of new opportunities in the Arctic so they can better pursue their national interests. Canada, so far, has not kept pace with its own efforts to establish its role or interests in the Arctic, let alone ensure that the people of the Arctic have the same or even a similar quality of life as southern Canadians.

For its part, Canada has interests in the Arctic beyond simple geographic sovereignty, even if, as a nation, we are not entirely clear about them. Resource potential is maybe the most obvious one. We already know there are substantial reserves of onshore and offshore oil and gas in the region that are not being developed. These reserves are only going to become more strategically significant as China, for one, continues to look to lock in secure energy forces to fuel its economic growth.

We are also home to many of the minerals that will fuel the global green economy, including cobalt, gold, lithium, bismuth, and rare earth elements. The makers of batteries, solar panels, wind turbines, hand-held electronics, and computers rely on these minerals to make their products more efficient.

The North also has significant potential as a hub for international trade and transportation. The polar route can cut as much as 20 days off the time it takes to reach Asia from Europe, and airports in the territories are closer to Beijing, Tokyo, Moscow, and other European capitals than southern cities.

As a nation, Canada should be looking to capitalize on these advantages and start capitalizing on the opportunity to capture a piece of the global trade that is currently passing through our airspace and waters. These investments, if made strategically with proper consultation, consideration, and decision-making with Indigenous, territorial, and federal governments at the helm will be instrumental in bringing prosperity and jobs to our communities. They are opportunities to grow local and regional economies, build wellness, and shape the future of Canada from the Northwest Territories.

While the case for northern development might be clear to us here in the Northwest Territories, we are competing with a lot of other priorities on the national stage, and we need to make sure we are doing our part to promote our interests in southern Canada.

While Canada likes to think of itself as a northern country, Mr. Speaker, the North continues to be a bit of a mystery to many Canadians. Educating them and their leaders about the realities of the North, the people who live here, and our needs and priorities is an important part of generating support for national action to strengthen Canada's position in the Arctic. That is why I have been calling for the creation of a national plan for strengthening Canada's position in the Arctic in my meetings with my fellow Premiers. I have also been taking my message to the public and to influential academics and policy makers who are involved in thinking about the Arctic.

As part of these efforts, the Government of the Northwest Territories co-hosted a national mini-conference on this topic with the Institute for 21st Century Questions in Toronto. Speakers at the conference included Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, former Quebec Premier and federal Cabinet Minister Jean Charest, former Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of National Defence Peter Mackay, and former federal Member of Parliament Martha Hall-Findlay, as well as a number of leading academics. Attendees included a number of other political figures, business leaders, senior government officials, and academics. Later today, at the appropriate time, I will table a copy of remarks made by me and by Premier Savikataaq at the event.

The feedback I have been getting nationally, Mr. Speaker, has been positive. My fellow Premiers and others I have been talking to in the South are very interested in the potential of the North and agree that Canada needs a plan.

Turning the massive potential of the North into sustainable northern communities and jobs and opportunities for ourselves and all Canadians will take determination, commitment, and significant investment in nation-building projects. As Northerners, we need to keep the discussion going, Mr. Speaker, and do our part to make sure that our territories and our people are the beneficiaries of the new international interest in the Arctic. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 233-18(3): Strengthening the Arctic
Ministers' Statements

Page 6188

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice.

Minister's Statement 234-18(3): Improving Access to Services for Residents of the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

Page 6188

Louis Sebert Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice, under the Community Justice and Policing Division, has been leading an innovative "whole of government" pilot program in Yellowknife called Integrated Case Management or ICM. This program has been designed to understand and fundamentally reform the way social envelope services are accessed and delivered in the NWT by identifying the barriers and challenges residents face when obtaining services. ICM works from a person-centered, strength-based approach, with strong equity-based principles that acknowledge that not all members of our community start from the same place. This means we may need to use different approaches to reach the goal of equal access to services for all community members.

Throughout the life of the ICM pilot program, our government has learned various lessons and identified systemic barriers to service provision in Yellowknife. In 2017, a third-party program evaluation was conducted and found success in the provision of person-centered services with significant individual positive outcomes for program participants. The ICM program is currently undergoing a second evaluation that includes a robust analysis of system-level impacts, including targeted data analytics and a social return-on-investment analysis. Although we know system change takes time, we are looking forward to this evaluation shedding some light on early indicators of success and providing recommendations for moving forward in our efforts to improve service integration and access in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, one of the biggest lessons learned from the ICM program and its "whole of government" approach is that complex social challenges cannot be addressed in a siloed, system-centered service-provision environment. It is not enough that our services are available. They must be accessible and delivered in a timely and supportive manner that ensures all members of our community feel respected and are treated with dignity. We need to do things differently. We need to work together to provide integrated, person-centered services that facilitate wellbeing and self-sufficiency for all community members, that create better opportunities for people to succeed.

To this end, I wish to advise Members of the Legislative Assembly that deputy ministers from the social envelope departments have committed to working together to look at the feasibility of reforming service delivery throughout the NWT through the development of a territory-wide Integrated Service Delivery model. This initiative will look at the findings, recommendations, and lessons learned from the ICM program, while also incorporating various service-reform efforts currently under way. The initiative will focus on addressing systemic and structural issues across all government departments and work to enhance the capacity of the system to respond in a timely, effective, integrated manner that meets the needs of all residents of the NWT.

It is time to commit to acting on a common agenda that puts the needs of our residents at its core. In fact, Mr. Speaker, this is the role of government. Officials are prepared to embrace the challenges that come with this commitment and present the next government with a roadmap for service delivery reform. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 234-18(3): Improving Access to Services for Residents of the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

Page 6189

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Ministers' statements. Minister of Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 235-18(3): Caribou Range Planning
Ministers' Statements

Page 6189

Robert C. McLeod Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This government has made a commitment at the beginning of this Legislative Assembly to support the effective co-management of our caribou herds. As you know, many of our herds are experiencing rapid declines, and it is our shared responsibility as a government and a territory to promote their recovery.

Range plans are a vital part of how we work together to co-manage our caribou herds and provide guidance to decision makers, developers, and communities to manage activities on the land in a way that supports healthy caribou populations.

Mr. Speaker, today, after years of work, I am pleased to officially release two new range-planning documents, the Bathurst Caribou Range Plan and the Framework for Boreal Caribou Range Planning. These documents provide important tools to protect the habitat of our vulnerable caribou populations and fulfill an important mandate commitment made by this Legislative Assembly.

Barren-ground caribou populations have historically experienced periods of highs and lows, but, of all the barren-ground herds, the Bathurst caribou herd has suffered the most dramatic decline, from a high of 450,000 animals in the mid-1980s to a current low of about 8,200 animals. This is despite extensive efforts to support conservation and promote herd recovery.

The Bathurst caribou range plan is a response to calls for action to help the herd recover and ensure its habitat remains healthy. It includes guidance for managing the overall disturbance on the land and tools to reduce and manage impacts to caribou and caribou habitat. It is also an attempt to balance these recovery efforts with the benefits of industrial development. Human activities and land use need to be managed carefully, Mr. Speaker, particularly when caribou numbers are low and more vulnerable to disturbance. Range planning helps establish certainty around land use, which is critical to achieving both conservation and development goals, and contributes to a strong and prosperous territory.

Twenty-one organizations and co-management partners worked together to develop the Bathurst caribou range plan over five years, Mr. Speaker. This included all levels of government and Indigenous organizations, as well as co-management boards, industry, and environmental groups. The plan is based on knowledge and perspectives grounded in both traditional knowledge and science, and I am very grateful to everyone involved for their hard work and dedication.

The range plan for Bathurst caribou looks to Northerners as caribou guardians and recognizes the shared responsibility for managing development to support the recovery of the herd. Applying this plan effectively as part of land use decisions will require a genuine commitment from governments, organizations, developers, communities, and individuals across multiple jurisdictions.

In the next few days, we will also be releasing a framework for boreal caribou range planning. This document will guide the development of five regional range plans for boreal caribou in the Northwest Territories. These are the caribou that live in the forest east of the Mackenzie Mountains. They are listed as a threatened species under federal and territorial legislation.

The framework was developed with our co-management partners, and includes a "made in the North" approach to managing boreal caribou and their habitat. While the Northwest Territories population of boreal caribou is currently considered stable overall, careful management of habitat disturbance will be important to maintain a healthy and sustainable population for the future. The regional range plans developed under this framework will help ensure there is enough forest across the Northwest Territories to support a healthy and sustainable population of boreal caribou.

The framework is a critical step, but is just the beginning. Work to develop regional range plans can now get under way and will begin in the southern Northwest Territories and Wek'eezhii regions, where there is wildfire and industrial activity, followed by the Sahtu, Gwich'in, and Inuvialuit regions. Each plan will be developed in collaboration with our co-management partners, and is expected to take at least two years to complete.

The Government of the Northwest Territories remains committed to managing the land and natural resources of the Northwest Territories in a way that is sustainable, responsible, and responsive, relying on shared tools like this framework and range plan to make effective decisions within our strong co-management and regulatory system.

I am confident both of these documents provide effective tools and approaches for protecting caribou in the Northwest Territories, and I look forward to seeing them in action as we work with our partners to help implement them successfully. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 235-18(3): Caribou Range Planning
Ministers' Statements

Page 6190

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

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

Minister's Statement 236-18(3): Early Childhood Development: Access, Affordability and Inclusion
Ministers' Statements

Page 6190

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, the early years, from birth to age five, are among the most critical for a child's development. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment recognizes the need to support safe and high-quality early learning environments for children to grow into healthy adults and fulfill their potential as capable people.

We know that parents and caregivers have the greatest responsibility and influence on their children's development. An effective and integrated early childhood system that provides the necessary services, supports, and resources to families with young children is essential to ensure that our children have the best support possible to help them succeed.

Accessible and affordable early childhood services in every community are a critical part of the department's mandate and necessary to support working caregivers. We have been enhancing our programs, services, interactions, and support for early childcare operators and working with communities to ensure that there are options available for families.

As all families with four- and five-year-old children now have the option to access early learning programming within their local schools, there is now a focus on childcare for children from birth to three years old. We know the level of childcare required across the territory varies from year to year depending on birth rate, employment status, and the needs and preferences of families. Understanding unique community needs for childcare is an important factor for developing approaches across the territory; a one-size-fits-all approach will not serve our families or our communities.

Mr. Speaker, the Supporting Access to Childcare Action Plan provides a vision for accessible childcare in the Northwest Territories and outlines a phased-in approach to making childcare more accessible and affordable for families throughout the Northwest Territories. I will be tabling this document later today.

As Members of this House know, the department received funding through a bilateral agreement under the 2017 federal Early Learning and Childcare initiative. Our new plan expands upon the right from the start early childhood framework and action plan. It provides an overview of six key elements, with goals and actions that contribute to accessible early learning and childcare in the NWT. The plan highlights current work and provides additional actions specifically related to infrastructure and affordability.

Mr. Speaker, in spite of efforts to increase the number of communities with licensed early childcare programs, there remains 11 communities without them. We are currently working with the communities of Colville Lake, Detah, Enterprise, Jean Marie River, Kakisa, Lutselk'e, Nahanni Butte, Norman Wells, Sambaa K'e, Wrigley, and Tsiigehtchic to determine their needs and what the community can support. For some, sustainable early childhood programming may take the form of parent and child drop-in opportunities or support groups; and for others, there may be a need for and interest in opening licensed early childhood centres or family day homes. We have invited representatives from each of these communities to the early childhood symposium happening August 21st to 23rd to discuss their specific needs and how we may help. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my Minister's statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Minister's Statement 236-18(3): Early Childhood Development: Access, Affordability and Inclusion
Ministers' Statements

Page 6190

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Although we continue to face challenges in this area, I know that the work done during this Assembly will have a lasting positive impact. We have increased rates for all licensed spaces, from infant to preschool, increased the number of early childhood scholarships up to 30 this year from 10 and remodelled our funding programs for licensed early childhood programs.

The supporting access to childcare action plan outlines our way forward. It addresses challenges and suggests solutions to meet childcare needs across the territory. We are focusing on community-driven programs, increasing available spaces, exploring infrastructure potential, stabilizing parent fees, increasing the number of early childhood staff with postsecondary credentials, and providing specific funding to support children with complex needs, including those with developmental challenges.

The types of quality early childhood experiences available will vary greatly across the territory, but we are committed to working with all communities to improve access and ensure a tailored approach that will meet the needs of families and children. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 236-18(3): Early Childhood Development: Access, Affordability and Inclusion
Ministers' Statements

Page 6191

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Colleagues, I'd like to draw your attention to visitors in the gallery. We have with us Mr. David Ramsay, former Member of the 2015, 2016, and 2017 Assembly. Welcome to our Assembly again. Of course, we have with us Morven MacPherson, my EA, my CA, as part of my office. Welcome. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Recognition of Leo Konge, Western Canada Summer Games Medalist
Members' Statements

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Kieron Testart Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to speak on the Team NWT's recent participation in the Western Canada Summer Games.

First off, I would like to congratulate all members of Team NWT for their performance. Our athletes were excellent ambassadors of our northern spirit and territory, but I want to specifically celebrate the outstanding accomplishments of Leo Konge, one of my constituents. He pushed hard and brought home gold in 50 metre butterfly, as well as two bronze medals in the 100 meter and 200 meter butterfly, at this year's games in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. Leo's dedication to sport, teamwork, and personal excellence serves as a model example of what we can achieve when we dedicate ourselves to realizing our goals. Leo has literally set a gold standard.

The Western Canada Summer Games were first held in Regina in 1975 and provided western and northern athletes the opportunity to compete at a high-performance level, and meet and interact with fellow athletes their age. Every four years, the year before the Summer Olympics, nearly 2,300 athletes representing the four western provinces and three territories meet to compete in 23 summer sport disciplines.

I want to recognize all Team NWT volunteers, officials, parents, and support networks. They have all demonstrated a dedication to go that extra mile to ensure that the athletes have the best experience possible and who all support their athletic pursuits. Their dedication of time and monetary support to the training and skills development of our next generation is so very important.

All of us have an obligation to build the foundation for future generations by promoting healthy and active living among children and youth. Sports and physical activity have a proven effect of improving the physical and mental well-being of participants. The NWT will be hosting the Western Canada Summer Games in 2027, and I hope that we all play our part to ensure that we send the biggest team yet from the NWT to these games.

Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to congratulate all of Team NWT on their fine performance, and I am sure the Members will join me in acknowledging how proud we are of Leo and his teammates. We wish them all the very best as they progress in their chosen sports and in future competitions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, Leo.

Recognition of Leo Konge, Western Canada Summer Games Medalist
Members' Statements

Page 6191

The Speaker Jackson Lafferty

Masi. Congratulations. You make the NWT proud.

---Applause

Masi. Looking forward to more medals. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Family Violence
Members' Statements

Page 6191

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. In our mandate, we describe community and family violence as a crisis and determined to take action. Four years on, it's still a crisis, and our efforts have flagged. According to Statistics Canada, the national incidents for intimate partner violence is 313 people per 100,000 population. In the Northwest Territories, the rate is an astonishing 2,906 people per 100,000 population, or about nine times as high. These are 2017 numbers, but they have been at this level for 10 years.

When the Coalition Against Family Violence was still active, it had three priorities. The first was to prevent and address the normalization of family violence. The ask here was to make intimate partner violence as unacceptable as drinking and driving, or smoking, or deciding not to wear a seat belt. My pleas to repeat the Family Violence Survey conducted in 2007 fell on deaf ears. A new survey would have produced valuable and updated information about prevailing attitudes to family violence so that messaging could be targeted to specific groups of residents.

The second priority of the Coalition Against Family Violence was to ensure an adequate emergency response. I am pleased to say that there has been some movement in this area. Funding for family violence shelters has increased, and operating standards are going to be rolled out this fall. I advocated for a safe house pilot project in one of the 11 communities without police, but to no avail. If you are a woman looking for safety in one of these communities, help may still be hours away.

The final Coalition Against Family Violence priority was healing. Women have asked for healing for their partners because they believe that the whole family will benefit. The evaluation of the A New Day men's healing program said it was effective, but that didn't stop the Department of Justice from revamping it and narrowing its scope. As a result, a fraction of people are enrolled compared to number who took part in the previous Tree of Peace program. I am disappointed with this outcome. We need more healing, not less.

The government has taken an important step by creating an interdepartmental committee on family violence. They need to start by looking at the priorities outlined by the Coalition Against Family Violence. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Mahsi.

---Unanimous consent granted