This is page numbers 79 - 104 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 housing.

Topics

Members Present

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

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 79

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

Colleagues, I would like to congratulate one of my constituents, Ms. JenniLee Vaneltsi-Pascal, on becoming a contestant on the Food Network's new show Wall of Chefs, which aired last night, February 10, 2020. Along with four other home cooks from across Canada, she competed in a cook-off for $10,000. Originally from Fort McPherson, JenniLee, a busy mother of three, is currently living in Tsiigehtchic overseeing the daycare. Taking part in this series, JenniLee has drawn awareness to the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd as well as the protection of the Peel River watershed. It is a great opportunity for one of our own to be selected for the Wall of Chefs. JenniLee has encouraged others to reach for their goals and will be using the skills that she has gained to further her cooking abilities. Once again, congratulations, JenniLee.

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

Minister's Statement 9-19(2): Climate Change Progress Update
Ministers' Statements

February 11th, 2020

Page 79

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Government of the Northwest Territories knows that climate change is an important issue to Northwest Territories residents and all Canadians. That is why strengthening the government's leadership and authority on climate change and ensuring climate change impacts are considered when making government decisions are two of the 22 priorities identified by the 19th Legislative Assembly.

Climate change affects our environment, our economy, and the traditional way of life. Our communities continue to face impacts to their winter roads, shorelines, and harvesting practices. A long-term and coordinated response in collaboration with all of our partners is needed to address climate change in the Northwest Territories. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is proud to lead this work.

The 2030 NWT Climate Change Strategic Framework sets out our government's long-term plan for addressing climate change. This includes actions in response to the 2017 report of the Auditor General of Canada. The framework was developed with input from Indigenous governments and organizations, NWT residents, and stakeholders, and is a government-wide response to climate change.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that this work is well underway. Last April, Environment and Natural Resources released the first five-year climate change action plan under the framework. Ninety-five percent of the actions led by the Government of the Northwest Territories are either on track or completed.

As well, in the last year, the Government of the Northwest Territories has:

  • released a Sustainable Livelihoods Action Plan to support access to country foods and being on the land;
  • funded a number of projects focused on climate change research, monitoring, and adaptation;
  • worked with our Indigenous partners to establish two NWT protected areas; and
  • delivered a course to bring climate change into community decision-making.

This is in addition to the Government of the Northwest Territories' work to implement the NWT 2030 Energy Strategy.

Mr. Speaker, these are important accomplishments that the Government of the Northwest Territories and our partners should be proud of. Still, we know that there is more to be done. That is why, over the next year, we will continue to work with our partners on the climate change action plan. We look forward to releasing our first annual progress report, alongside annual reporting on the 2030 Energy Strategy. Our government will continue to show leadership on climate change throughout the 19th Legislative Assembly, including the establishment of an NWT Climate Change Council with our Indigenous partners to help guide government actions.

Mr. Speaker, relationships are key to advancing this agenda. This means honouring our partnerships with Indigenous governments and organizations and sharing what we know about climate change across northern and southern jurisdictions. It also means continuing to advocate for federal funding to address climate change and build strong, resilient communities. Environment and Natural Resources remains committed to its leadership role on climate change. We will report on our progress and work together with Northerners to ensure our unique way of life can continue in a changing climate. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 9-19(2): Climate Change Progress Update
Ministers' Statements

Page 79

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

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Department of Health and Social Services Medical Travel Policy
Members' Statements

Page 79

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, for my Member's statement today, I would like to address the Department of Health and Social Services on their medical travel policy. In the past week, I have dealt with two separate cases for intervention; one case dealt with a stage 3 cancer patient, and another patient with possible serious outcomes. Both patients were approved for medical escorts by a doctor, and then overturned by the medical travel staff here in Yellowknife. This is a very concerning situation for the residents of the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, the policy is quite vague when it comes to medical travel escort criteria. Worry and trauma for a patient who is authorized for an escort by a doctor should not be interfered with. Providing the best care for people of the NWT should be our priority.

Compromising people's well-being is unacceptable. Many people, when facing serious medical problems, do not want to face and fight the department for what they believe is a right. Compassion and respect for a doctor's authority must be respected and honoured. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Department of Health and Social Services Medical Travel Policy
Members' Statements

Page 79

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

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Public Housing Rent Scale and Income Testing
Members' Statements

Page 79

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the Northwest Territories, there are 2,400 people living in public housing units across our 30 communities. Most of these people are good, hard-working people who require housing assistance in the most difficult circumstances. I believe that our job as a government is to lift these people up and to help improve their situations, not sit in judgment of them to contribute to the stigma that is attached to social housing.

Mr. Speaker, because public housing rent is geared to income, public housing tenants are required to prove their income to their local housing organization, or the LHO. A number of my Nunakput constituents in public housing are frustrated with the NWT Housing Corporation's practice of using T4 slips to confirm their income.

As you know, employers provide T4 slips once a year, Mr. Speaker. The purpose of that T4 slip is to show what the income was the previous year, and not the current situation that they are in.

The practice of using T4 slips has a result of clients being assessed at a much higher level on the rent scale, based on past income when unemployed or seasonal and not making nearly as much income as in the current time period. To make matters worse, if they want to appeal the LHO's decision, Mr. Speaker, it takes 20 days, in writing, before the decision can be made.

As an MLA, I am getting mighty tired of hearing complaints from my constituents who are running into bureaucratic red tape. The Minister says a lot of nice words about the GNWT and how it is working for the people, but in the front lines, Mr. Speaker, it's a different story. This government acts like it has the authority to sit in judgment of the poorest, most vulnerable citizens of our territory. It seems like everything can try to prevent people from accessing services, rather than helping them.

Mr. Speaker, it's time for the Ministers sitting across the floor to commit to putting the concept of service back into the public service. I urge my Cabinet colleagues to show the leadership needed to ensure that all GNWT employees put public service first and remember at all times that they are working for the people of the Northwest Territories. That's who we serve, is the people of the Northwest Territories, and not the other way around. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Public Housing Rent Scale and Income Testing
Members' Statements

Page 79

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

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Accessibility of Information on Public Housing Programs
Members' Statements

Page 80

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has a number of housing programs for the benefit of residents. If you have access to a computer, one only needs to look on the internet to find the NWT Housing Corporation website and continue navigating to see the various programs and services available. This is, if you have access to a computer and are computer literate.

Mr. Speaker, for the people who don't understand how to navigate the internet, or even have access to a phone, it is very trying and frustrating, to say the least, in finding what the NWT Housing Corporation has to offer in terms of their programs and services. I understand that, a few years ago, the local housing organizations were funded by the corporation or a programs advisor position. This person assisted people with information on the programs available, the services, and provided assistance with the various applications and forms. Sadly, the positions were phased out of the small communities, at the same time losing much-needed local employment.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the housing Minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Accessibility of Information on Public Housing Programs
Members' Statements

Page 80

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

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice
Members' Statements

Page 80

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are closing in on nine months since the final report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls was released. In that report, Mr. Speaker, are calls for justice that are crying out to be fully implemented and for real action to be taken by all levels of government in order to have the calls for justice realized.

The final report speaks to many issues that we have already been discussing in our 19th Assembly:

  • Indigenous rights in section 1; our priorities list settling land claims and implementing UNDRIP.
  • Indigenous culture and language, in section 2; we are losing our language and our own people are being forced to answer the phones in our government departments in French.
  • Health and wellness, in section 3; equitable access for all in our communities.
  • Human security, in section 4; we have a lack of shelters and transitional housing in our communities, with the North having the highest rate of violence against women.
  • I'll jump over to section 11, which talks about education and educators to be teaching Indigenous history, law, and practices from Indigenous perspectives, and the use of Their Voices Will Guide Us with children and youth.
  • Section 12 speaks to child and family services, which at this time has 100 percent Indigenous kids in the care of the NWT.
  • Correctional service; in this section, 100 percent of the women incarcerated in the NWT are Indigenous and, from the recent CBC, we know that over 80 percent of the males incarcerated are Indigenous. How can we integrate them back into the community with supports?

Mr. Speaker, the full implementation of the calls for justice is key to helping to ensure that our women and girls are safe and protected in Canada and here at home in the NWT. The report on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls cannot and will not be put on a shelf or referenced with just words, Mr. Speaker. It demands full implementation and respect to those families who put their trust in this inquiry, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the Status of Women later.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Calls for Justice
Members' Statements

Page 80

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

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Social Inclusion Program for Seniors in Yellowknife
Members' Statements

Page 80

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. The largest population of seniors in the NWT lives in Yellowknife, and their numbers continue to grow. In fact, elders are the fastest-growing segment of our population. Services for them have not kept pace with growing needs. As an example, we are now in our fourth year without a social inclusion program for older adults.

I am going to provide some background on this issue. Loneliness is a major issue for older adults. For all kinds of reasons, including health, mobility, income, and transportation, seniors may spend a lot of time at home alone. Some may choose to feel more connected to their community by taking part in social activities. Providing social activities is a key support for elders who want to stay in their own homes. Assisting seniors to age in place is a priority of this Assembly, but they need additional supports to make this a reality.

Adults who need this service are generally divided into two groups; elders who are physically frail are one group, while those with cognitive issues such as dementia comprise the other group. Avens used to host a program that got elders out of the house to enjoy activities and companionship and gave their caregivers a few hours off, but Avens found it difficult to serve both groups at once and decided to close their program in 2016.

Since then, the Department of Health and Social Services has been working on a replacement. One non-profit offered an adult day program for a few months before deciding it wasn't feasible for them to continue. The department has advertised twice for a service provider but got no takers. The latest initiative was a survey of seniors about their social activities that took place in August.

I am part of the target group, so I completed the survey as well. The questions were simple and focused on how much social activity I wanted and what activities interested me. As I was sitting at my computer, I wondered how many older adults, who may be much older than I am, have a computer and filled in the survey. I also wondered how many with dementia would be able to complete the survey.

Mr. Speaker, the previous Minister was committed to finding a solution to helping older adults meet their social needs. I am hopeful that the new Minister will make that same commitment to Yellowknife seniors. I will have questions for her. Thank you.

Social Inclusion Program for Seniors in Yellowknife
Members' Statements

Page 80

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

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife Centre. Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.