This is page numbers 607 - 658 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

Motion 5-19(2): Referral of Point of Privilege Raised by Member for Monfwi on March 10, 2020, Carried
Motions

Page 609

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

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. To the motion. Motion has been called. All those in favour. All those opposed. And the abstentions. Motion is carried.

---Carried

This matter has been referred to the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures.

Speaker's Ruling
Motions

Page 609

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

Colleagues, I will now return to the rulings I provided yesterday. Yesterday, I ruled on the point of privilege raised by the Member for Monfwi and a point of order raised by the Member for Hay River North. Based on that ruling, I directed the Member for Monfwi to apologize and withdraw his remarks. Now that we have Tlicho interpretation available, is the Member prepared to do so? Member for Monfwi.

Speaker's Ruling
Motions

Page 609

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] What we're talking about for the last two weeks, each and every one of us that are in here, we know what had happened [translation ends].

Speaker's Ruling
Motions

Page 609

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

[microphone turned off]... Monfwi that I have ruled on the point of order and have directed him to apologize to this House fully and withdraw his remarks. Thank you.

Speaker's Ruling
Motions

Page 609

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

[Translation] Mr. Speaker, I am getting there. Whenever you're speaking your language, it's hard to get right to the point, but, if you're speaking English, it's totally different, but I will get there. The reason why I'm standing here is because I'm speaking my language. I will apologize now. I'll speak in English, Mr. Speaker [translation ends]. It was never my intention to scandalize this House. I am sorry if the word caused my fellow MLAs discomfort. Truth and integrity are important, however, than hurt feelings. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, for speaking the truth, I will not apologize this House.

Speaker's Ruling
Motions

Page 609

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

Thank you. The Member for Monfwi, Mr. Lafferty, has refused to fully apologize and withdraw his remarks. Mr. Lafferty, pursuant to Rule 26, you must leave the Chamber for the remainder of the day. Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Government House Leader.

Minister's Statement 34-19(2): Ministers Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

March 11th, 2020

Page 609

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Caroline Cochrane will be absent from the House for remainder of the week to attend the First Ministers' meeting in Ottawa, Ontario. Also, the Honourable Katrina Nokleby and Honourable Diane Thom will be absent due to personal matters. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 34-19(2): Ministers Absent from the House
Ministers' Statements

Page 609

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

Thank you, Government House Leader. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Support for Northwest Territories Friendship Centres
Members' Statements

Page 609

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our 2020-2021 operations budget has excluded continued funding for the NWT friendship centres. I understand the funds had a sunset date, but, like everything else, times and circumstances change, and we have to adapt. We are dealing with increased negative social influences while we see employment opportunities disappearing within a faltering economy.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT friendship centres secure and administer approximately $6 million annually in funding by leveraging the small amounts they receive from territorial, federal, and Indigenous governments. The centres support approximately 13,000-plus community members, of which more than half are women and 5,000-plus being youth.

The NWT friendship centres have developed and facilitated over 100 programs, services, and activities and have invested over $60,000 in professional development last fiscal year. In addition, they employ 100-plus Northerners and have over 500-plus volunteers. With all this success, friendship centres in the North still struggle with such things as the high the cost of living, aging infrastructure, creating competitive employee salaries, funding delays, funding barriers, and a lack of sustainable funding for long-term planning.

Mr. Speaker, we all understand the fiscal position this government is in. We all understand this government has limited funds to work with. Therefore, it is important we allocate what funds we have to places we receive the greatest benefit. Allocation of a small portion of these funds to non-profits, such as the NWT friendship centres, will result in the most vulnerable being provided with cost-effective and timely programming services.

The reality is that the council of NWT friendship centres is more than an NGO. It is a home for First Nations, Metis and others to gather; it is a place that provides solace to those who need it; it is a place that works to empower our youth at the darkest of times; and, it provides our elders with a purpose as it is their wisdom we rely on.

We are all aware that the funding previously in place was only temporary, that it was intended to assist in developing long-term capacity. However, it would be to this government's benefit to provide the NWT friendship centres with an additional $250,000 contribution for this fiscal year because I know they will not only multiply what they receive but provide services this government is not capable of. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Support for Northwest Territories Friendship Centres
Members' Statements

Page 609

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

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Child and Family Services
Members' Statements

Page 609

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm going to talk about Child and Family Services. Child and Family Services has been continuously criticized by the Indigenous families for years, by the Aboriginal groups, not just in NWT but throughout Canada, as well, by the past two Auditor General reports.

This system is broken. I have walked with people through this system, and what I have found is a system that says they are there for reunification, but, in reality, they are forced to check boxes by what is best practice instead of meeting people where they are at to assist them and support them.

Mr. Speaker, whose best practices are these? Because they're not Indigenous best practices.

I think of what happened long ago, if there were people or families who struggled with their children, it was the stronger people in their family who supported them, or other people of the community. They taught them, they encouraged them, and, only if everything else could not work for those family members, they would care for them; but, Mr. Speaker, they were always there to welcome them back and give them the opportunity to try again when they could.

Mr. Speaker, I know and understand there are those cases where it is in the best interest of the child to be in a safe space and with another family, and I do support this. I do know that the department is doing what they think is best. Knowing that there are around 1,000 kids in care in the NWT and that they are all Indigenous, how do we educate those who are new to our territory, non-Indigenous social workers who have never grown up in a small, isolated community and have not lived through the trauma that our people have lived through, even to begin to understand and meet people where they're at?

What I would like to suggest is that we need traditional support workers and/or advocates for family members to be present when meeting with the child and family services department to ensure that they are being heard and that they have support to know what their rights are and if and when they are not being provided with all the information, as well as to acknowledge when the visit goes well, and may be able to support the parent through the system to access what they need to work toward reunification with their child or children, and this does not become a "he said, she said" scenario, which we know who will be believed in this circumstances, Mr. Speaker. Thank you.

Child and Family Services
Members' Statements

Page 610

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

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

Public Housing Rental Arrears
Members' Statements

Page 610

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have talked about the challenges in Nunakput and the small communities across the territory for rental arrears. The housing clients who live in our communities, so many of them are struggling with rental arrears. Arrears can accumulate for reasons beyond the tenant's control. Illness, unemployment, seasonal employment, and rental charges that are too high based on the former T4 system; now the Minister fixed that for us last week. These things, or a combination of them, can put a person into arrears.

Once someone is in arrears, it is really hard to climb out of that hole. Many public housing residents are living paycheque to paycheque need every cent of every cheque on a daily basis, let alone finding money to pay off debt that we put them in. The higher arrears get, the lower the chances that the tenant is going to be able to pay them off. The consequences of being in arrears cause people a lot of worries and a lot of sleepless nights.

A recent housing study done by a researcher from the NWT found that "rental arrears with the Housing Corporation make it impossible to access public housing in the Northwest Territories, and affect one's references when trying to access private rental housing." Which we don't have in our communities, Mr. Speaker.

Still, many people do their best, but it can be discouraging in trying to get ahead. Some people give up, Mr. Speaker, because it feels like they will never be free from arrears, which puts them in a vicious cycle they can't get rid of.

To help these people, I would like to see the Housing Corporation put a rental arrears abatement program in place, modeled on the Department of Finance's Property Tax Arrears Program. This program would help someone who is doing their best to pay off their arrears by forgiving a portion of them, not the total arrears, but, every payment that they do, a portion comes off it, as well, in kind. This would provide an incentive to people who have arrears and are not making back payments, to start it off. It would give positive encouragement to those who are trying their best to pay off arrears, by enabling them to reach their goal more quickly. It would also demonstrate that the GNWT is not using arrears as a means to punish the ones who have not paid their rent.

Public Housing Rental Arrears
Members' Statements

Page 610

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

Member for Nunakput, please seek unanimous consent to conclude your statement. Thank you.

Public Housing Rental Arrears
Members' Statements

Page 610

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted