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This is from 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 going.

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 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 10-19(2): Strongest Families Institute
Ministers' Statements

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Every year, one in five Canadians experience a mental health challenge or illness. Young people aged 15 to 24 are more likely to experience a mental illness or substance-abuse disorder than any other age group. Research also shows that 70 percent of mental health challenges begin during childhood or adolescence. These numbers are higher in the Northwest Territories with the impact of intergenerational trauma and the legacies of colonization and residential schools.

To help address these concerns, the Department of Health and Social Services released the mental wellness and addictions recovery plan in June 2019 to guide changes to our mental wellness and addictions recovery system. A primary goal of the action plan is to ensure services are person- and family-centred, recovery-oriented, trauma-informed, accessible, and culturally safe. We want people to experience a positive experience and effective support at any point of entry into the system and to remain engaged as partners in their care as they move toward healing and recovery in their lives.

As part of developing the addiction action plan, the department reached out to Northerners and key stakeholders. They made it clear that there is a need for more mental wellness and addictions recovery options and supports. One way to meet this need is to implement distance-based and eMental Health programs across the Northwest Territories. Launched in January 2020, Strongest Families Institute is the first of several mental health initiatives that are being implemented to complement in-person supports and options to residents. With our partners, Bell Let's Talk and Northwestel, we will invest $500,000 over the next five years to have Strongest Families Institute provide telephone-based distance support for individuals and families experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, depression, and behavioural concerns.

Strongest Families Institute provides individuals and families with weekly access to trained coaches and skills-based programming to support their unique needs, experiences, and goals. Because it is telephone-based, there are very few barriers. Once referred to the program, people can talk to their coach in the comfort and privacy of their own home at a time that works best for them, day or night.

Mr. Speaker, these award-winning, evidence-based programs have been shown to help with child mental health issues, academic progress, bullying, family relationships, and parental stress. Strongest Families Institute has been providing these programs to all of the Atlantic Provinces, Manitoba, and Finland for many years.

An important focus of the Department of Health and Social Services is to work towards building and supporting a more culturally aware and informed health system. To ensure that the Strongest Families Institute's programming is culturally respectful, it was co-designed with partners, including Indigenous advisors. All of their coaches are also receiving ongoing diversity training to gain knowledge and support of a variety of cultural traditions. Information specific to our territory's northern context has also been shared to help inform Strongest Families Institute coach and train staff.

Mr. Speaker, the Strongest Families Institute is one of many support options that the residents can access in the Northwest Territories. We are committed to increasing the number and variety of culturally respectful, community-based mental wellness and addictions recovery options. Giving people more choices, and in addition to things like the Community Counselling Program, the Northwest Territories helpline, and on-the-land healing, is part of our commitment to building better mental wellness and addictions recovery success in the Northwest Territories.

There is no single approach that will work for everyone when it comes to addressing mental health and addictions. By providing a variety of options based on the needs of the person seeking the support, we are more able to provide the right type of care, at the right time, by the right person. Going forward, we will continue to work with individuals and families who have first-hand experience with mental wellness and addictions recovery, as well as Indigenous governments, and other key stakeholders as we work to improve our system and better meet the needs of Northwest Territories residents.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Bell Let's Talk and Northwestel for partnering with us in supporting mental wellness in our territory. I also want to encourage individuals and families seeking support to reach out to their local community counselling program for more information on the Strongest Families Institute and its potential to provide some valuable support in their lives. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 10-19(2): Strongest Families Institute
Ministers' Statements

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

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

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, I stand in this House today to celebrate the nine official Indigenous languages of the Northwest Territories. How incredible that we have nine official Indigenous languages, unlike any other jurisdiction in Canada. Our languages are gifts to be protected, strengthened, valued, and promoted.

Mr. Speaker, it is our responsibility to keep our languages alive, to ensure we are a territory where Indigenous languages are supported, respected, and where they thrive. This is the vision that gives me hope, that gives us the energy and the drive to revitalize our languages, and that will help us ensure that our children and our youth retain a strong connection to their language and to who they are.

Mr. Speaker, each of our Indigenous languages, Chipewyan, Tlicho, South Slavey, North Slavey, Gwich'in, Cree, Inuvialuktun, Inuinnaqtun, and Inuktitut, articulate the ways of knowing, doing, being, and believing that are unique to their own communities and histories. They define who we are as people of the Northwest Territories.

Indigenous languages are the essence of our identity, our people, and our culture. Our Indigenous languages remind us of our relationships with each other, the land, and the spiritual world. It is through the oral traditions, legends, and stories of our ancestors, elders, and knowledge-keepers that we come to understand the history, geography, and ecology of this land. These stories remind us to work together through consensus and collaboration, which is the basis of how we govern here in the Northwest Territories. Our languages benefit all of our residents.

Mr. Speaker, I am one of the countless Indigenous people who never acquired the language that was spoken by my ancestors since time immemorial, so I understand the importance of fostering Indigenous languages and commit this government to do so through the many revitalization initiatives currently in place and those planned for the future.

February is Indigenous Languages Month in the Northwest Territories, and I am proud to be a part of a territory that acknowledges and celebrates the diversity of language and the rich culture of its peoples. The theme of this year's celebration is Say It With Me. This is a call to action that focuses on the importance of using Indigenous languages at home, at school, in the media, at work, and in the community. These are the words of encouragement that the next generation of speakers need to hear.

This month, we are supporting regional Indigenous governments to celebrate Indigenous Languages Month through community activities and events. As a government, we are also celebrating the bilingual Government of the Northwest Territories employees who provide important government services to the public in Indigenous languages.

Next month, we will continue these celebrations by honouring 14 students graduating from Aurora College with the University of Victoria's Certificate in Indigenous Language Revitalization.

Mr. Speaker, there are many exciting Indigenous language revitalization initiatives underway right now within the territory. We have:

  • awarded 29 Indigenous Languages Revitalization Scholarships to postsecondary students;
  • piloted the Northwest Territories Indigenous Languages Mentor-Apprentice Program in partnership with three regional Indigenous governments, which is helping 60 community participants build language fluency;
  • delivered training for 20 community Indigenous language instructors to support capacity building and give communities the tools they need to keep the languages vibrant and strong;
  • provided training for over 100 Indigenous language teachers on instructional strategies and resources to use in school programs; and
  • we will be launching the new JK-12 Our Languages curriculum in our schools beginning in the upcoming school year.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the work that we have done to support Indigenous languages. Recently, on an education tour, I saw a wonderful example of this in action when I came across an Indigenous Language scramble game. The game started as a project by students learning Chipewyan at Paul William Kaeser High School in Fort Smith. This Indigenous-language teaching tool became so popular that the South Slave Divisional Education Council invested in its commercial production, printing copies and distributing them to schools throughout the South Slave. It was not long before other school divisions began asking for copies in other Indigenous languages. In response, the game was redesigned to accommodate additional languages, and hundreds of copies have since been distributed to schools and libraries throughout the North, with the hope that children, parents, and grandparents come together to explore their language through a fun and exciting family activity.

Mr. Speaker, mahsi cho to the elders, community leaders, language advocates, and teachers who continue to promote Indigenous language revitalization efforts across the Northwest Territories. Mahsi cho to all of the language learners who have the courage to Say It With Me in the Indigenous languages of the Northwest Territories. Most importantly, I want to encourage our young leaders and adult learners to take up the torch and become the new champions of Indigenous language revitalization across the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

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

Mahsi, Minister. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Members' Statements

Member's Statement on
Fulfilling Mandate and Priorities of the 19th Legislative Assembly through Collaboration with Indigenous Governments

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This morning, I sat in front of my computer and compared our proposed budget with our priorities in this government's mandate. No matter which angle I looked at it from, the reality is that we are cash-poor and have limited chances of fulfilling our priorities in the mandates set by Cabinet.

Our reliance on the mining sector and the federal governmental revenue is all that is sustaining our territory. The federal government fails to provide adequate funding to the North. The mining sector is becoming questionable as a source of sustainable revenue. We are basically giving our resources away. Our population is too small to really make a difference when it comes to generating revenue for the GNWT. We have squeezed all the money we can out of northern residents and businesses.

Mr. Speaker, we continue to increase our borrowing limit with the federal government as our debt keeps climbing. We need to do something bold. Canada has to do something bold to ensure that we, as a territory, survive financially. We need to do the unexpected, and that unexpected does not require making our residents pay, nor does it mean reducing services or staff. What this government has to do requires the support and buy-in from legitimate landowners of this territory, the Indigenous people. In collaboration with Indigenous peoples, we must make the federal government understand the importance and potential of this territory in terms of sovereignty, in terms of national security, in terms of the economy, and in terms of the resource that it yields.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT is one of the last frontiers. We cannot give away our resources while we get very little or nothing in return. We need projects that provide maximum benefits such as jobs and contracts for the people and businesses of the North. If we are looking at major projects, then such projects must be fully paid by the Government of Canada and industry. It is Canada and industry that has reaped the benefit of resource development.

Mr. Speaker, the bold solution we need is for this government, with support from the northern Indigenous governments, to demand that Canada forgive the outstanding debt we have with them. Let's not fool ourselves or our residents in thinking we can dig ourselves out of the financial hole we find ourselves in. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

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

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

Member's Statement on
Improving Income Assistance Administration

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, I spoke in this House of the stigma of social housing, and the government needs to help the people improve their lives, not kick them when they are down. The same can be said for income-assistance clients. Just like social-housing clients, many of these people are good, hard-working people who live near poverty, no fault of their own, and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

Unlike the Housing Corporation, at least Education, Culture and Employment has policies posted online, Mr. Speaker. That way, the requirements for income assistance are available to applicants, so called, as long as they have Internet connection.

It is also good to see ECE has published its service standards. I would encourage the Housing Corporation to do the same. ECE's standards make it clear that, among their things of income assistance, clients have the right to be treated with respect, expect services without delays, get help with a friend or family member, and ask to see their own file or how do they lodge an appeal. Despite these standards, too many of my constituents are made to feel diminished as human beings when they seek income assistance. They do not understand the information that they need to bring with them sometimes. Even if the report from income is incorrect, Mr. Speaker, they can be penalized for up to three months, and they feel judged by the worker, who is supposed to be there it help them with their applications.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of income-assistance clients would rather seek jobs than income assistance. That is why they keep saying this government has to do more for small communities. Economically, there is nothing happening in my riding of Nunakput, Mr. Speaker. It is frustrating for me to hear my constituents complain about poor treatment by government when the government is failing them in the first place. Mr. Speaker, while I am the MLA for Nunakput, I am going to continue to speak up for the people of my riding and to bring the jobs and economic opportunities in my riding of Nunakput. I am challenging this government to put its game on. It comes to providing service to the public, no matter how rich or poor. Mr. Speaker, we work for the people. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

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

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

Member's Statement on
Supplementary Budget Appropriations and Public Information

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

February 12th, 2020

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. As a new Member of this House, I have a steep learning curve, and I know a few of our other Members do, as well, mainly in regards to the budgeting process of the GNWT. One area in particular that stands out is our Assembly's usage of supplementary budget appropriations. Now, this terminology is just fancy language to mean additional government funds being allocated to certain departments due to unforeseen circumstances or unforeseen expenses that were not anticipated during the original development process, or new federal funding which was not previously included.

Mr. Speaker, sometimes there are extenuating circumstances which more funds are needed by some departments, like in 2014, for example, when the Department of Environment and Natural Resources required supplementary appropriations due to the severity of the wildfire season that year, which necessitated allocation of an additional $47 million to ENR once that fire season was over. There is no doubt that those extra funds were needed in that instance.

Mr. Speaker, overall, during the 18th Assembly, there were a total of 29 supplementary appropriations brought forward by the last government, over four years. These were split between infrastructure and operations. To put that in perspective, that amounts to about seven appropriations bills being passed each year during the last Assembly.

We've only begun the 19th Assembly, and already we have passed our first supplementary appropriations bill. I've heard many questions from my constituents over what these supplementary appropriations bills are for, and I will have questions for the Minister on how we can better inform the public about how the government spends their money. It's really important that we spread that message of being transparent and make sure that the government shows that they're being transparent in how we do our business. With that, that will conclude my statement. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker, and I will have questions for the Minister of Finance shortly.

Minister's Statement 11-19(2): Fostering Indigenous Languages
Ministers' Statements

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

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Child and Youth Advocate
Ministers' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I rise today to revive a discussion started in the 14th Assembly about creating an office of the child and youth advocate for the Northwest Territories. Children and youth need our special attention and support, particularly when they are being cared for by people other than their immediate families. Since the NWT started discussing this issue in 2003, Yukon has created an advocate office, and so has Nunavut. In fact, we are now one of only two jurisdictions in Canada without an office dedicated to protecting the rights of children on both an individual and systemic basis, as well as providing public awareness about those rights.

Mr. Speaker, Yukon has had a child and youth advocate office since 2010. The mission of the advocate is to provide services to children and youth up to 18 years of age, by protecting and asserting their rights and ensuring their voices are heard in a safe and supportive way. The office advocates for children who are receiving or who are eligible to receive government services, including help with mental health and addictions, education, and justice. The advocate is also involved in all aspects of child and family services. A total of 154 children accessed services in Yukon in 2018.

In Nunavut, the representative for children and youth was appointed in 2014. The office supports young Nunavummi youth by giving voice to their concerns and ensuring that the government protects and advances their rights and interests. An elders' council helps guide the work. In their last annual report, the office reported opening 76 files.

Mr. Speaker, it is time for the NWT to offer the same service to children and youth here. First, there is a big population of children accessing government services, an average of 1,000 children per year in each of the last 10 years. Second, the work of the Office of the Auditor General revealed that health authorities have not maintained regular contact with many of the children they have removed from homes and placed in foster care or other places. We know that contact with children and youth out of territory was also lacking. This is obviously a very vulnerable group, ranging in age from six months to 18 years, who have rights, including the right to be heard and to be treated fairly. The child advocate can provide the linkage between different players in the child's life to further his or her interests. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Child and Youth Advocate
Ministers' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

It's time for the GNWT to provide better services to children and youth. Creating a child and youth advocate is the place to start. I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.