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

Members Present

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

The House met at 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 607

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

Colleagues, it is my duty to inform you of the passing yesterday of former Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, Mr. John Havelock Parker.

Mr. Parker was born and raised in Alberta and came north in 1954. He worked in the mining and exploration industry in various capacities over the years. His first step into public office was his election as a town councillor of Yellowknife in 1958. In 1965, Mr. Parker was appointed to the Carrothers Commission on the Political Development of the Northwest Territories. Its recommendations became a draft for the development of a more responsible government.

Mr. Parker was appointed as the Deputy Commissioner of the Northwest Territories in March 1967, and retained that position until April 1979. He also served as member of the NWT council and chair of the executive council. He became Commissioner on April 15, 1979, succeeding Stuart Hodgson. John Parker was considered the last Commissioner acting as Chief Executive Officer. He retired on July 31, 1989.

John Havelock Parker contributed significantly to the social, economic, and political development of the Northwest Territories. In 1986, Mr. Parker devolved the responsibility from the Commissioner's Office to the Legislative Assembly. What we now know as the Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly is a testament to his vision, hard work, and dedication.

On behalf of this House, I send our sincere condolences to his wife Helen, his children, and grandchildren. He will be greatly missed, and his contribution to the development of this territory can never be forgotten. We will now have a moment of silence for Mr. Parker.

---Moment of silence

Point of Privilege
Prayer

March 11th, 2020

Page 607

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

Good afternoon, Members. I would like to first address the Member for Monfwi's point of privilege raised yesterday. I will then return to the rulings I made yesterday.

Yesterday, the Member for Monfwi rose on a point of privilege regarding his ability to meaningfully participate in the proceedings due to a lack of Tlicho interpretation. He indicated that his ability to fulfill his duties as a Member was interfered with due to the lack of translation.

As we now have Tlicho interpretation available, I will hear debate on this point of privilege and will ask the Member for Monfwi to begin the debate. Thank you, Member for Monfwi.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

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Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] After yesterday's proceeding, I felt that I need to apologize, and I also would like to apologize to the people of the Northwest Territories. I apologize to all those who have ever had to go to court and have been unable to truly express themselves in their own language. I want to apologize to all my elders who have to go to the health clinic or hospital and are unable to describe their pains properly because they did not have proper interpretation or translation. [End of translation]

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the people of the Northwest Territories. I apologize to all those who have ever gone through court proceedings and have been unable to truly express themselves in their own language. I apologize to the elders, to all the elders in the Northwest Territories, who have gone to the health clinic or hospital and been unable to describe their pains properly because they did not have proper interpretation or translation. I apologize to the committee Members who can speak English but still need their first language to truly advocate for themselves. I apologize for all the times anyone has felt compromised for needing to speak their language.

Yesterday, I left this House frustrated because I was unable to do my job as an elected official. I was frustrated because I was denied my right to speak my language in the House; a right to choose to be deemed worthy of notice; a right that was worthy of notice, but not of action.

Mr. Speaker, I choose to speak Tlicho, one of the 11 official languages, because this is my first language. I think in Tlicho, also. Tlicho is the heart of who I am. When I speak English, these are already translated words. Every speech I make in this House, every idea I bring forward, is translated once by me and then again interpreted by a translator. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, it is condensed to fit into a time it would take the English language to say and rearranged to fit into an English way of doing and saying things. They're very different. My thoughts and ideas, my voice, is condensed every day I use my language in this system. I have been able to deal with that. Yesterday, though, was the first time I felt muzzled in this House.

For the past 16 years I have been able to serve in this government, both sides, and in your chair as well, Mr. Speaker, as MLA, Minister, Speaker, with a privilege of speaking the Tlicho language at every opportunity, because I have had my interpreters and translators available to serve me in this capacity. Throughout this time, I have also advocated for the language speakers to have the same privilege in this House.

Mr. Speaker, again, I apologize to all the speakers of the nine official languages for treating my language as a privilege. Our language is not a privilege. Our languages are a priority under a TRC Act call to actions and the UNDRIP. The NWT Language Act guarantees the right to speak our Indigenous languages and to receive the services as required.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be speaking Tlicho language, and I will continue to exercise my right to speak my language in the Legislative Assembly, in this House. Furthermore, I promise the people of the Northwest Territories that I will continue to advocate for what is right, and I will apologize only when I am wrong. I will continue to advocate for Indigenous languages. As you know, a lot of languages are depleting. Gwich'in is a prime example. I will continue to challenge this government to offer the resources and the services required to keep our languages strong. Our languages are our right. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

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

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Are there any other Members who wish to speak to the point of privilege? Member for Kam Lake.

Point of Privilege
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Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to start off today by acknowledging the hard work done by the Legislative Assembly's public relations group, who have made sure that our interpreter booths are generally quite full. Interpreters are a huge part of our family here at the Legislative Assembly and are part of our day-to-day operations in the House. They are a very important part of the day-to-day operations in this House. Language preservation is important. Language allows us to see the world differently, to open up our interpretation of the world around us, and to re-evaluate the way we are working. Language is also a part of the beauty of our diversity in our group of MLAs who sit here today. Not only does language support language resurgence across the Northwest Territories, but it can also affect someone's ability to thrive or even survive. Our MLAs use question-and-answer period to draw out information about our programs and services from our Cabinet, about how they work, and about how maybe we can change them for the better. Without access to that information, we are doing a huge disservice to the people of the Northwest Territories. Lastly, I believe, Mr. Speaker, that we are leaders, and we need to be leaders when it comes to supporting Indigenous language. We need to put government dollars behind our intent to revitalize language, but our actions are stronger than our dollars. Thank you.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

Page 607

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

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Next, we have Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Point of Privilege
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Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. I would like to say a few words in my language. Mr. Speaker, [English translation not available]. I am going to go back in English now. What I said there was: for me [microphone turned off] ...and that we should always respect that. I know that for our interpreters in Dene Zhatie, if they weren't here, I would request that the House be suspended. I think that on the flip side of that, if we all spoke Dene Zhatie, Tlicho, or French and we all spoke that primarily in here and we didn't have an English interpreter, if you could think of that in those terms, if we couldn't translate to that, the record would show nothing in English. We'd see nothing. That is how we'd go forward with that. To me, that's not right, so I support the Member for Monfwi from that standpoint. Those are my thoughts going forward. I am hoping that we can move forward now and have some sort of understanding now. If we ever encounter this in the future that we know how to deal with it. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

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

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Next, we have Member for Frame Lake.

Point of Privilege
Prayer

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. [Translation] There are instances I recall for French in this, like in August 2019, my statement was in French, and it was not interpreted, but I gave an English translation for the Hansard. [Translation ends] The honourable Member for Monfwi, his point of privilege, he has no reason to apologize. It's his right to speak any official language in this House. I support his point of privilege and the ability of any of our Members to speak in any of the official languages. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, I do want to acknowledge that there have been significant improvements in interpretation services in this Assembly since I started in 2015. I do want to recognize the hard work of the Assembly, all of us working together with our staff, the interpreters, to improve the availability of interpretation services, but I still think we have a long way to go. I remember the days when all of the official languages were available. There was a language bureau, numerous interpreters, and all of the official languages were used regularly in the House. I think we need to make better efforts to bring back a lot of that, which will mean extra costs for this Assembly, but I think, if we are serious about promoting all of our official languages, that is a cost that is well worth it. I do support the point of privilege. I want to thank the honourable Member for Monfwi for bringing it forward. I look forward to further discussion on this issue. Mahsi, Monsieur le President.

Point of Privilege
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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Member for Thebacha.

Point of Privilege
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Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As a former chief of Salt River First Nation, I don't speak the native language because my father was a very strong leader within the Indigenous groups up in the Northwest Territories. He developed the first Aboriginal organization in the Northwest Territories in the early years and very, very strong and spoke the Chipewyan language. I never got the privilege of learning that because he always thought that he didn't want us to speak it so that, when we went to school, that we did very well in school because he always thought it would be a burden to us. I only wish that he did that and made each of us speak the language. I stand up today in support of the Member from Tlicho because it is an official language, and I only wish that I had the privilege of also knowing my official language. Therefore, I support his stand on the point of privilege. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Point of Privilege
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The Speaker (Hon. Frederick Blake Jr) Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Member for Hay River South.

Point of Privilege
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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our Indigenous languages are official languages here in the Northwest Territories. As such, each of us, if we are able to speak an Indigenous language, we have that right. It's a right. Also, if we can't speak it and we don't understand it, we also have a right. We have that right to be able to understand what another Member is saying in his own language or her own language. Most importantly, as well, is that the people of the NWT have a right to understand what's being said. We denied them that right. That should have never happened. In hindsight in what happened yesterday, what I should have done as a Member was to walk from this Chamber with the Member for Monfwi because that would have been the right thing to do. If we expect the people of the Northwest Territories to recognize that Aboriginal languages are important, then we have to make sure that we walk the talk when it comes to it. We have it as a priority to make sure that they are kept alive. It is up to us to lead the charge. In the point of privilege, I support the Member for Monfwi. Thank you.