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

Public Housing Rental Arrears
Members' Statements

Page 610

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. It would also demonstrate that the GNWT is not using arrears as a means to punish the ones who have not paid their rent, but rather that the GNWT is doing everything in its power to encourage responsible tenancy.

Mr. Speaker, I am encouraging the Minister to seriously consider this proposal. It will give people in public housing a way to move forward and maybe even towards the goal of eventual home ownership. I have been encouraged by this Minister's willingness to work with Members on this side of the House. I'm sure she will recognize the merit of the idea, and I do want to say that I feel strongly about this and will make a motion in this House to direct the work, if necessary. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Public Housing Rental Arrears
Members' Statements

Page 610

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

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

Support for Small Business and Self-Employment
Members' Statements

Page 610

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I want to speak a little bit about small businesses and self-employment in the NWT and the state of our economy, and our unemployment rates. Last week, on March 6, 2020 the NWT Bureau of Statistics released a report on the labour force activity in the NWT. As of February 2020, the employment rate in the NWT is 63.5 percent and appears to be trending downwards. This is concerning to me.

I feel that, as a government, we need to ask three main questions when we observe a statistic like this. First, what are we doing in each of our government departments to help keep employment numbers up? Secondly, what are we doing to assist business and industry to help them retain and train their employees? Last, what are we doing to help the public gain meaningful business and employment opportunities?

Mr. Speaker, in my reply to the budget address last week I mentioned that business, particularly small business, will be the key to getting us through this financial and economic stagnation or decline we are currently going through. To put it in bush terms, I feel like we are slowly moving through the slough water financially, right now, and I feel there are definitely a lot of things we can change and improve on.

If one wanted to start a small business, they would need to be aware that there are many resources out there to help them realize their dreams. For example, the BDIC is a great resource to help start-up businesses to grow and be sustainable. There are loans for financing and training available for those who wish to go out there on their own and start a new business.

Mr. Speaker, there are also options out there for those who wish to be self-employed. Our economy needs more tradespeople out there in the workforce. We need to see more plumbers, electricians, mechanics, cooks, hair-dressers, etc. These trades I mentioned are transferable skills and can be used anywhere in the world, and they are crucial to our economy and we would be helpless without them. I want to applaud all these tradespeople and I am hoping that our government will do what they can to keep people in these trades in the territories.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like the see the people of the North know that there are resources out there to help them to be employed through not-so-traditional methods. We want to give people hope and for them to know that many successful businesses all started with one simple idea. Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. I am tongue-twisted today.

---Unanimous consent granted

Support for Small Business and Self-Employment
Members' Statements

Page 610

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

As I was saying, we want to give people hope to help them know that there are a lot of businesses out there that were successful in the past, and they all started with one idea. With that, I would like to ask some questions to the Minister of ECE. I would have liked to ask the Minister of ITI, but she's not here today. Marsi cho.

Support for Small Business and Self-Employment
Members' Statements

Page 610

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

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

Student Loan Remission Public Reporting
Members' Statements

Page 610

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. For years, now, the GNWT Public Accounts published the names of NWT students who have received remission of their student loans. The schedule contains the individual students' names and the amount of each remission. Since the review of the 2014-2015 public accounts, the Standing Committee on Government Operations has recommended that the Department of Finance stop this practice. This information used to be published in a Schedule of Bad Debt Write-offs, Forgiveness and Student Loan Remissions.

The Information and Privacy Commissioner questioned this disclosure of personal information in correspondence with the Department of Finance that was tabled in the last Assembly and said: "Is it necessary for the program and/or for public accountability for students to be required to give up their financial privacy to take advantage of a program designed, by its very terms, to accommodate the forgiveness of debt in certain circumstances?"

Finance undertook an internal privacy impact assessment that did not seek outside views or assistance. The Information and Privacy Commissioner was not consulted, despite committee's requests. Finance separated student loan remissions into its own schedule beginning in 2018 but continues to publish individual names and amounts. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment now requires students to agree to have their identities and loan remission amounts published as a condition of getting such loan remissions; hardly free, prior, or informed consent, Mr. Speaker.

I sought advice from the Legislative Assembly's law clerk on this matter. The clerk found that there is no legal basis to continue to disclose the identities of students getting loan remissions and the corresponding individual amounts. I believe strongly that the Department of Finance is subjecting NWT students to an inappropriate level of disclosure that is inconsistent with standards applied elsewhere in government. I intend to continue to press Cabinet to modify this practice as soon as possible. Mr. Speaker, I do want to recognize that there is a new collaborative spirit and approach from the current Cabinet, and I have been pleased to work with them on this issue. I will have questions later today for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Student Loan Remission Public Reporting
Members' Statements

Page 611

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

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Third-Party Reporting and Oversight of Sexual Assaults
Members' Statements

Page 611

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My statement today is about some important work done near the end of the last Assembly and which I hope will continue. I'm talking about third-party reporting of sexual assaults and third-party oversight of sexual assault files. Mr. Speaker, here in the NWT, we have high rates of sexual assault, especially for Indigenous women, and low rates for reporting that crime. Statistics Canada found that only one in 20 sexual assaults are reported to the police. The reasons for not reporting are diverse, ranging from shame and guilt to the perception that sexual assault is not a crime. In order to increase rates of reporting, some jurisdictions have set up third-party reporting, where someone who has experienced sexual assault can go to a non-profit organization, for example, and make a report rather than go directly to police.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice brought a group of people together to discuss this issue over two days last June. They came from all regions of the NWT and from non-profits, victim services, health authorities, the RCMP, and the GNWT. According to the What We Heard report, the group anticipated there would be a high volume of sexual assault survivors who would use this third-party reporting service if it was implemented. They saw the major benefit as giving survivors a barrier-free opportunity to tell their stories and feel heard. This change may also help to improve service delivery to survivors. They identified the major challenge as whether NWT non-profits with paid staff have the capacity to take on this responsibility. It may be possible to train staff in existing organizations to provide this service when protocols are agreed for collecting and passing on the information.

Mr. Speaker, the other issue discussed was third-party oversight of the RCMP files. The point of this initiative is to increase public confidence in the way police respond to sexual assault complaints, by reviewing their files. The review team could make recommendations about conducting more interviews or ask questions. The RCMP has already completed the privacy and security work required to make this kind of advocacy feasible, and review teams are in place in Ontario. Mr. Speaker, I am grateful that the Department of Justice has completed this step, and I hope to see it implemented without any delay. Thank you very much.

Third-Party Reporting and Oversight of Sexual Assaults
Members' Statements

Page 611

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

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

Carbon Offsets
Members' Statements

March 11th, 2020

Page 611

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to speak about carbon offsets. Firstly, a carbon offset is a credit for greenhouse gas reductions achieved by one party, that can be purchased and used to compensate the emissions of another party. Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of carbon-offset schemes, and some have proved to work better than others. Today, Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about not just simply buying carbon offsets but the possibility of selling them and using what is an increasingly larger and larger market with billions of dollars to access and fund projects in the North.

The Northwest Territories is extremely well suited to access carbon offsets and to purchase them, for the same reason, Mr. Speaker. Getting all of our communities off diesel is not an easy task. It will require significant investment in infrastructure. The whole point of carbon offsets is to allow energy organizations and communities to find funding for projects that would not otherwise be feasible. As governments around the world start to wake up to the reality of climate change, we are seeing an increase in the purchasing of carbon offsets. More and more companies are being faced with regulatory requirements to lower their carbon or greenhouse gas emissions. I hope, Mr. Speaker, we can get the air regulations in place during the life of this Assembly and make that the case here. I see carbon offsets as a pivotal tool in growing our renewable sector in the North, as well as a safeguard for a number of our protected areas and our boreal forest. We've seen the Department of Environment and Natural Resources begin to access federal money for replanting.

There is plenty of opportunity for the Northwest Territories to become a leader in selling carbon offsets. We've seen these used in the Amazon rainforest. I see no reason why they can't be used in the boreal forest, Mr. Speaker. There is significant amount of money on the table to be invested in carbon offsetting, and, with more and more projects meeting the qualifications for certification, I believe it is prudent for our government to take advantage of that market and to assist our constituents in doing the same. We have seen the federal government begin to take these steps. I don't want to leave that money on the table. I want the Northwest Territories to be a leader in carbon offsets. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance, Mr. Speaker.

Carbon Offsets
Members' Statements

Page 611

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

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Repatriating Patients with Disabilities
Members' Statements

Page 611

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday the Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes questioned the health Minister about repatriating NWT residents with disabilities currently living in southern residential placements. These are long-term care arrangements that displace persons with disabilities. More than two-thirds of these men, women, and children are living with cognitive disabilities. Over the last seven years, the cost of southern placements has increased by 77 percent, to $30 million per year. Over this sitting, we have heard Members speak about how Indigenous persons represent 99 percent of children in foster-care, upwards of 85 percent of the inmates in correctional centres, and 90 percent of our homeless population. Mr. Speaker, the sad fact is that 90 percent of residents in southern residential placements are Indigenous. Recognizing the negative impacts caused by removing people from their families, culture, communities, and lands, we must not support the continued dislocation of Indigenous people out of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, continuing the removal of NWT residents living with disabilities reinforces and legitimizes systems of care that perpetuate the dislocation of Indigenous people from the territory under the guise of care. It does not allow for the integration of these people into our communities, which is a benefit to our society. In some instances, families have reported being too fearful to seek help for the care of a loved one living with a disability for fear of losing that family member. Southern travel from our remote communities is expensive and means that some families suffer permanent segregation.

If we continue to increase spending on out-of-territory residential southern placements as we have in recent years, program spending could reach $50 million per year by the next Assembly. This isn't only about the government's bottom line or even about human connection; this is about rights, Mr. Speaker. The United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous People Article 9 states that Indigenous people have the right to belong to an Indigenous community or nation, in accordance with the traditions and customs of the community or nation concerned. No discrimination of any kind may arise from the exercise of such a right.

Mr. Speaker, this Assembly has committed to implementing UNDRIP. One way to do this is to minimize the use of southern placements to those cases where no other alternative is possible and to instead develop approaches that invest in territorial supports, community care networks and training, and made-in-the-North care models that support keeping our Indigenous residents with disabilities at home while increasing northern caregiver employment opportunities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Repatriating Patients with Disabilities
Members' Statements

Page 611

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

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. 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 Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Question 177-19(3): Support for Trades Employment
Oral Questions

Page 611

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Just going back to my Member's statement on self-employment and trades, I have questions for the Minister of ECE. My question is: what programs are available in the NWT for those interested in the trades vocation? Marsi cho.

Question 177-19(3): Support for Trades Employment
Oral Questions

Page 611

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

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.