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

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

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

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

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I, too, want to talk in support of the Member for Monfwi. As I had mentioned a few times, I don't know my language. As I sit here, I am proud of who I am, but I don't know my language. I have Lillian, who is here to interpret in Inuvialuktun every day when we are here. We have been lucky. When I go back home, I think about my grandmother who sits and watches. She has the opportunity to watch in her language. Our elders back home have the opportunity to listen in their language where they don't have to translate, so for Member for Monfwi, if this first language and knowing what I know is coming out in English when your first language is another language, you don't always get the message across right. When he gets to speak it in his language or if we were able to speak it in our language, we might be able to get that message out how we mean. I think that it's very important that we make sure that the territory is able to get the right message. If the Member is able to speak their own language, they should be able to do that. Thank you.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

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

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in support of the Member's point of privilege. Although this is not my birthplace, I've lived in the Northwest Territories long enough to have heard many awkward conversations between people who speak Indigenous languages fluently and people like me who only speak English. I have wondered in very important settings such as courts and health centres and the hospital whether, in fact, the two sides really understand one another. That really has impressed on me the importance of having interpretation services available and having people speak the language that is the one they know best. For that reason, I think it's important that this matter be taken up and investigated further. Thank you very much.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

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

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife Centre. Member for Nunakput.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I rise in support of my colleague, Mr. Lafferty, in regard to our languages, the 11 official languages across the territory. Yesterday, I think if it was English, if we couldn't speak, they would have shut the House down. With our languages that we do have, I think we have to support them, not only just to have translators here but, when something like this does occur, it has to be dealt with properly. What Mr. Simpson said, we should have walked out with him yesterday, too, because of that. I am in full support of him. I am in full support of your judgment and what's going to happen, moving forward for the people of the Northwest Territories to get the business done in the day. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

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

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Member for Yellowknife North.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would also like to rise in support of my colleague's point of privilege. I think, as a person who only speaks English, this is an issue I can never truly understand. I've worked in the courts, and I've seen people I struggled to understand, and I think the importance of interpreters in the Northwest Territories -- and this issue is so much bigger than us, and so much bigger than this House -- every step we take as leaders to support our Indigenous languages is the right step, Mr. Speaker.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 608

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

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Are there any other Members who wish to speak to the point of privilege? Colleagues, thank you for that discussion, and I am prepared to make my ruling.

Speaker's Ruling
Prayer

March 11th, 2020

Page 608

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

Yesterday, the Member for Monfwi requested an adjournment of the House due to the lack of an interpreter in his first language, Tlicho. The Member suggested the lack of interpretation impeded or prevented him from performing his parliamentary functions as a Member of this Assembly.

As Speaker, I must determine three matters:

  • first, whether a matter of privilege has been raised at the earliest opportunity;
  • second, whether there has been a prima facie breach of privilege; in other words, that at first glance, the matter appears to be a breach of privilege and warrants immediate consideration by the House; and
  • third, the extent to which the matter has infringed upon any Member's ability to perform their duties or appears to be a contempt against the dignity of the House.

Yesterday, when I delivered a ruling on a point of order raised by the Government House Leader against the Member for Monfwi, I asked the Member to withdraw his remarks and apologize to the House. When the Member for Monfwi rose to speak, he noted that Tlicho interpretation was unavailable and raised this point of privilege.

Clearly, this point was raised at the earliest opportunity.

Next, I must consider whether a prima facie breach of privilege has occurred.

Colleagues, the use and preservation of all of our official languages are issues of great importance to the people of the Northwest Territories, to this Legislative Assembly, and to me as Speaker.

In fact, this issue is of such great importance, it is written in the preamble of our Official Languages Act, which states: "...preserving the use of official languages, and enhancing those languages, is a shared responsibility of language communities, the Legislative Assembly, and the Government of the Northwest Territories."

This responsibility is one I take seriously. We have increased our capacity to provide interpretation in all of our official languages. Our languages are an important part of our shared culture and heritage, and their use and preservation is vital to reconciliation.

Compared with our recent past, this Assembly has greatly increased our investment in, and commitment to our official languages. We have more interpreters, representing more of our official languages, working longer hours. We are making efforts to share our interpreted proceedings via our broadcasting and social media networks. Although it can be quite challenging to find qualified interpreters in some of our official languages, yesterday we were able to provide interpretation in seven official languages.

I also note that a Tlicho interpreter was scheduled to provide service yesterday. However, due to an illness, they were unable to attend. We were provided notice of this illness less than an hour before the start of our proceedings. It was unfortunate, but I feel it is important to note that the lack of Tlicho interpretation yesterday was an exceptional circumstance.

I would also like to comment on the timing of my rulings. Due to the absence of the Member for Monfwi late last week and the absence of the Premier for the rest of this week, I made the decision to deliver my rulings yesterday.

Colleagues, the improvements related to interpretation in our official languages made in this Assembly are a continuation of the work done in the previous Assembly. The work was begun under the direction and guidance of the Member for Monfwi when he served as Speaker. I understand that this is an issue of great importance, and I thank him for being a champion for our languages.

A similar situation occurred during our 11th Legislative Assembly. On October 26, 1989, day 7 of the 5th session of the 11th Legislative Assembly, the Member Rae Lac La Marte spoke in an official language for which interpretation was not available. Another Member rose on a point of order. Then Speaker Nerysoo adjourned the House until such a time as interpretation could be provided. In his decision to adjourn for the day, Speaker Nerysoo noted that the rules of the Legislative Assembly at that time expressly provided that a Member had the "right to speak and be understood in his own language."

Our current rules are silent on the right to use and be understood in our official languages. However, the Official Languages Act provides that everyone has the right to use an official language in the debates and other proceedings of the Legislative Assembly. Colleagues, I find that there has been a prima facie breach of privilege in this case. In other words, at first glance, the matter appears to be related to privilege. Given this ruling, I will now entertain any motions. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

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

Page 609

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. I MOVE, seconded by the honourable Member for Hay River North, that the ruling regarding the point of privilege raised by the Member for Monfwi on March 10, 2020, be referred to the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures for their consideration;

AND FURTHER, that the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures provide a report to this House within 120 calendar days of this referral. Marsi cho.

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 Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. The motion is in order. To the motion. Government House Leader. Second.

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

Page 609

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm happy to second this motion. I was the deputy under the previous Speaker, who is now the Member for Monfwi, and I saw what he did in terms of expanding this Legislative Assembly's language capability. I think it's a point of pride for this territory. It's something that I talk about when I speak with legislators from other parts of the country. I think that this Legislative Assembly is the voice of the people, and the voice of the people needs to be understood. While we have made strides, clearly there is still a way to go. I believe that by referring to the Standing Committee on Rules and Procedures we can further develop our language capacity. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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, Government House Leader. To the motion. Member for Frame Lake.

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

Page 609

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I neglected to thank the honourable Member for Monfwi for his work as Speaker in the last Assembly, to promote the use of all the official languages. He often encouraged me to actually speak French in the House, and I want to thank him for that. I do support this motion and want to acknowledge the work that he did to increase the use of all the official languages in the last Assembly. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.