This is page numbers 1277 - 1298 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd 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 911.

Topics

Home Care and Language Barrier for Community Elders
Members' Statements

Page 1281

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. I want to point out that, during my constituency visits, I noticed some common themes in terms of gaps in our healthcare system, in particular dealing with the elders and mobility-restricted individuals who needed medical assistance. I am happy my colleague from Deh Cho mentioned helping our elders age in place with dignity, and it kind of follows with what I am about to say.

Mr. Speaker, I want to give this visual to you. If you could picture yourself as an elder in a small community, as an elderly individual who might not have English as a first language, and you have an immediate health issue, and you need to be assessed in your home. If you are in a small community, you will be told you will need a relative or an RCMP officer to get you to the local health centre. This is a problem. What happens if you are in this situation and are unable to call out to emergency services, i.e. an ambulance, or unable to get a hold of a relative to get you to a healthcare centre?

If I could just get you to turn on your headpieces, I want to say a few words in Chipewyan. If you're a nurse and I'm an elder, and I'm in trouble, I tell you, my nurse, "[English translation not available.]" How do you respond to that? It's something to think about. If there is a language barrier there, and that's my other point, that's where I'm going with this, Mr. Speaker, we need to fill some very glaring gaps in our small communities in terms of response for ambulatory services. Some of these issues, in my opinion, can be addressed by easily beefing up homecare and CHR staff.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend our new health Minister on addressing some of my immediate concerns that she and her staff have already addressed since taking on this new role. However, my constituents do have legitimate concerns that do need answers, and I will have some questions for the health Minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Home Care and Language Barrier for Community Elders
Members' Statements

Page 1281

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

911 Underfunding
Members' Statements

Page 1281

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. NWT 911 has answered almost 14,000 emergency calls. These calls come from every one of our NWT communities, even the smallest and most remote, such as Jean Marie River, Whati, and Ulukhaktok. What is more, NWT 911 has dispatched emergency services not just to NWT communities, but also to other jurisdictions such as Vancouver and Edmonton, even as far away as the Baltic States.

Mr. Speaker, we have all heard about two babies in Yellowknife and the one baby in Inuvik who 911 personnel helped to deliver, but due to the various privacy laws in the NWT, the public never really hears about the lives 911 helps to save, the real impact of emergency medical and fire services dispatched through 911.

I can tell you one story of a community member who would have died slowly and alone without 911. One foggy day, the person had a serious car crash on a low-traffic road about 30 kilometres from the nearest community. The driver was so badly injured that they had to be medevac'd to Edmonton. The driver had happened to connect their cell phone to the car for hands-free calling and to listen to a favourite playlist. This action saved the driver's life, because automotive telematics do not call 111 or 2222, and cars are programmed to call 911 in the event of a bad crash. In this case, the car called 911. Let me say that again. The crash was so bad and the driver was in such poor condition that the car called 911. I can tell you that 911 was able to send help and talk with the driver, who was in a state of shock, for several minutes before the driver lost consciousness. The 911 dispatcher stayed on the call for 12 minutes longer before losing connection. Had 911 not been an option, that driver most certainly would have perished in that crash.

Mr. Speaker, imagine being a 911 dispatcher answering calls from people in distress, the worst calls possible, for 12-hour shifts. Most of the time, the dispatchers do not know what happens to the patient once the first responders arrive. The call is done, 911 hangs up, and the dispatcher goes on to the next emergency call. Imagine not knowing what happened to that stabbing victim you told how to stop the bleeding, that parent you taught how to administer life-saving drugs to their overdosing teen. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to finish my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

911 Underfunding
Members' Statements

Page 1282

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

That parent you taught how to administer life-saving drugs to their overdosing teen, or that caller you walked through providing CPR to their family member for 23 minutes straight when first responders were already on another call. Did those people survive?

Mr. Speaker, I am truly worried about 911 dispatcher burnout. Only five staff are funded, so there is only one 911 dispatcher on duty per 12-hour shift, answering over 60 calls a day. The Med Response program dispatchers who are to provide support to 911 often are too busy on their own calls or don't have dispatchers on shift. As a result, the 911 staff have to do a lot of extra shifts or double shifts. At times, 911 has been so short-staffed that the dispatcher on duty doesn't get meal or break times and has to run to the bathroom hoping a call does not come in.

The last government, desperate to get 911 costs below the $1.70 per month subscriber fee, cut everything possible from the budget, even relief staff. The 911 program was directed to come back after the first six months of operation with a budget based on actuals, not projections. NWT 911 did return with a zero-based budget, asking only for two more staff, relief funding, and systems funding. The program would offer a total of seven full-time dispatchers. This right-sizing of the 911 budget was rejected by Finance, as 911 had not been operational for at least one year. As such, 911 continues with only five dispatchers, one dispatcher per shift. Besides answering 911 calls, 911 dispatchers dispatch Inuvik ambulance and Norman Wells fire; do officer safety with highway patrol; issue public safety alerts; monitor sea, land, and air emergency radio frequencies; and take 811 calls. That's right; when callers dial 811 and press number 5, they are connected to the 911 dispatcher providing an 811 scripted script.

Mr. Speaker, it's almost shameful. The COVID-19 secretariat 811 has nine operators, three nurses, four relief positions, and one manager position. They do not provide service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as 911 does. According to my constituents, callers can never get through to anyone, and I know that because I've called myself on somebody in my yard. Well, unless they press number 5 and get the 911 dispatcher. In fact, some community chiefs have called the 911 emergency line simply to get through to someone for answers, because they could not get through to anyone at 911.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of MACA about why this government continues to undervalue and underfund the 911 service, a service that is clearly saving NWT residents' lives while free-flowing funding to COVID 811. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

911 Underfunding
Members' Statements

Page 1282

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member. I know the importance of the topic, so I let you go on longer than usual, but in the future, a short supplementary extension there. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

COVID-19 Secretariat
Members' Statements

Page 1283

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, the majority of my constituents supported the swift responses of the Chief Public Health Officer that prioritized our safety in the face of a largely unknown virus. Today, we know more and know that our responses need to be sustainable, as COVID-19 has no end date. My constituents are becoming increasingly frustrated as COVID cases surge in the South and our COVID communications and policy implementation still struggle. The announcement of the COVID secretariat wasn't well-received. We've been told there are 150 staff members, most of whom are GNWT employees on transfer assignments, of which 131 are front-line staff working with ProtectNWT, border enforcement, 811, and isolation centres. These positions have largely been filled since April and May, and the projected first-year cost is $31.7 million, an additional cost of $2.6 million compared to previous COVID response efforts.

Mr. Speaker, the safety of Northerners is paramount, and so far, we have been lucky. We have not lost Northerners to COVID, but this year we have lost Northerners to suicide, addictions, inter-partner violence, and illness, so I want to remain conscious that we not become tunnel-visioned by COVID while our demons demand more funding.

Today, COVID is still a global threat, but we remain accountable for a fiscally responsible government. I ask that COVID secretariat be both responsive to Northerners' needs and fiscally responsible and that we remember that this is an opportunity to build a sustainable model for any future state of emergency. In doing so, I expect that the COVID secretariat:

  1. Be collaborative by working with local business owners, be fiscally responsible, and, moreover, empower business owners to act as COVID safety ambassadors;
  2. Be consistent with fair and consistent policies to triage volume to ProtectNWT;
  3. Be sustainable. Isolation centre policies must be reviewed to curb misuse, as they are our greatest cost; and
  4. Communicate. I commend departmental communication staff, but clear, consistent, and proactive public communication needs to extend to all levels of government during a continued state of emergency.

Mr. Speaker, I don't have the difficult job of deciding appropriate risk for the NWT, where over a quarter of our population is considered high-risk, but I do know that my constituents want to be empowered and informed to support fair COVID rules and restrictions, and that our collective responsibility is to build a fiscally responsible and responsive, prepared government. Thank you.

COVID-19 Secretariat
Members' Statements

Page 1283

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

COVID-19 Secretariat
Members' Statements

Page 1283

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] We now have COVID-19, but since there will be a secretariat created with 150 employees at the cost of $86 million, and I want to say a few things regarding that. [Translation ends].

The Premier's allowance of COVID secretariat with 150 new positions at a cost of approximately $87 million to date to the people of the Northwest Territories. Contrary to a sphere of consensus government, the Premier has done so without consulting with Members on this side at the initial stage, Indigenous governments nor the general public, and also the business sector, as well.

Mr. Speaker, the secretariat that averts scarce resources from the 22 former priorities of the 19th Assembly, including such major directives such as universal childcare, increasing student educational outcomes, increasing affordable housing, expanding the economy, reducing the cost of living in the Northwest Territories, increasing economic diversification by supporting growth in non-extraction sectors, reducing the cost of power, and increasing the use of alternative or renewable resource energy.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT's initial pandemic response right from the get-go, which utilized existing GNWT personnel working within the home departments, has proven very effective. The government's new COVID secretariat abandons this proven cost-effective approach in favour of a new burdensome bureaucracy that promises no improvement, Mr. Speaker, at a vastly increased expense. Mr. Speaker, with that in mind, I will have questions for the Premier at a later time. Masi.

COVID-19 Secretariat
Members' Statements

Page 1283

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Indigenous Procurement Policy
Members' Statements

Page 1283

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If there's one constant in the modern economic history of the Northwest Territories, that is monopolies and foreign ownership, whether it be Northmart, Northview or Northwestel, or sometimes it's Chinese state-owned entities and American billionaires. However, Mr. Speaker, I believe that tide is starting to turn, and it is being led by our Indigenous-owned businesses.

It is often said that government should not be in the private sector and should not be in the business of business, and I believe that. However, there is an exception for our Indigenous governments. Built into many of their land claims are preferential contracting and procurement clauses. Our Indigenous development corporations, their private arms, are some of the largest private employers in the Northwest Territories. Much of our GDP flows out of this territory, and we fail to capture the resources. The more we can do to support Indigenous businesses in capturing the GDP, that is a good thing, Mr. Speaker.

However, Mr. Speaker, we have failed to do that. We presently do not have an Indigenous procurement policy. We, as a government, have often failed to capture and uphold those land-claim clauses. Federal contracting allows non-competitive processes for Aboriginal businesses. However, we have failed to lobby the feds to make sure such contracting follows those guidelines. Our internal free trade agreements make exceptions for Aboriginal businesses, and the protectionist inclinations of many of us in this House are limited due to those free trade agreements, but not for Aboriginal-owned businesses, Mr. Speaker. There is much room to grow, and hopefully, those Indigenous-owned businesses can capture more of our GDP.

Mr. Speaker, the last census data showed that 50 percent of Indigenous residents had a job compared to 80 percent of non-Indigenous residents. Our Indigenous development corporations and businesses naturally prioritize hiring Indigenous people. Additionally, when they are successful, they don't pack up their headquarters and move south because they are inherently in it to support Northerners and support Indigenous people.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Finance about how we can implement a proper Indigenous procurement policy to capture more of our GDP and grow our Indigenous businesses to truly have a northern economy for Northerners. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Indigenous Procurement Policy
Members' Statements

October 16th, 2020

Page 1284

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Eulogy for Sharon Pierrot
Members' Statements

Page 1284

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Sharon Grace Pierrot was born in Fort Good Hope on January 12, 1962, to Jean Baptiste Gully and Alice Masoonee. Sharon lived with her mother, Alice, until her brother got sick at the age of five. Then, she moved to live with her dad in Colville Lake. She lived with her dad until she reached the age of eight when her father moved Sharon and her sister back to Fort Good Hope to attend school. Each summer break, she would be taken out of the Fort Good Hope school and return home. She attended school in Fort Good Hope until June of 1997. Then, she went to school in Inuvik in 1979.

Sharon and Ronald Pierrot married in September of 1986. They have five children: Darren, Lisa, Matthew, Kelsey, Terrence, and five grandchildren. Sharon did various jobs in the community to support her children, including teaching in the school and working with the Gashnu Nahanni band office. Sharon and Ronald fostered many children, and this helped Sharon decide that she wanted to make a difference. She moved to Fort Smith to take the social work program. With the diploma, she worked as a corrections officer, a probation officer, a native customs adoption officer for the Sahtu.

In 2009, Sharon was diagnosed with breast cancer and fought it to beat it. In 2010, she was victorious in this battle. After the battle, she decided to go to Colville Lake to be a haul truck driver. After a while she decided to pursue a career goal and become a child welfare officer in Fort Good Hope. In 2017, she took a job in Fort Simpson as a child wealth officer where she mentored a number of new graduates, ensuring she passed on the knowledge she had for the betterment of the children under her care.

Sharon embraced her culture. Sharon could sew, hunt, trap, and do whatever necessary to live on the land. She wanted to teach those around her the importance of keeping our culture alive. She loved being out on the land, and she said that is the place you heal and find yourself. She was no stranger to hard work. She empowered those around her, encouraged those to use their voice for change if they wanted it. Sharon was the person that encouraged people to be kind, good to one another, and be there for those that needed help. She stressed we do not know what a person is going through.

On May 9, 2019, cancer came back. Through this battle, she was fearless and courageous, and she stayed positive throughout, continued to be selfless, preparing those around her for what may come. Her body succumbed to the disease, but her spirit and mind did not. To the very end, she fought, but in Sharon's words, "I cannot wait to see what heaven looks like. It must be beautiful. I get to see my parents and those who left before us. I can celebrate with them." She will be sadly missed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Eulogy for Sharon Pierrot
Members' Statements

Page 1284

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Item 6, acknowledgements. Item 7, oral questions. Member for Thebacha.

Question 353-19(2): Housing
Oral Questions

Page 1285

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation issued a public announcement stating that all evictions from rental housing units will not be carried out unless there is a significant matter involving risk to other tenants or the NWT Housing Corporation's buildings. My question is: will the Minister consider amending this policy to mandate a freeze on all evictions in the NWT until this pandemic has ended? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 353-19(2): Housing
Oral Questions

Page 1285

The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.