This is page numbers 659 - 708 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 community.

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. Diane Thom, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 659

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

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice.

Minister's Statement 35-19(2): Northwest Territories Policing Priorities
Ministers' Statements

Page 659

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Justice one of my responsibilities is to set the objectives, priorities, and goals of the Territorial Police Service. While the GNWT respects the operational independence of the RCMP, the intention of setting these objectives is to establish a broad strategic direction for the delivery of policing services in the Northwest Territories that incorporates the unique needs of our communities. Through past priority-setting exercises, the RCMP have been asked to place a focus on increasing public trust in policing services, working with partners to improve responses to vulnerable populations, being innovative in addressing community safety, and ensuring a culturally-informed, safe approach to service provision.

Mr. Speaker, the annual policing priorities have traditionally been set directly by the Minister. To ensure that I consider the diverse perspectives of the many unique communities in the Northwest Territories and that this process is undertaken with transparency, I have invited the leadership of Indigenous, municipal, and community governments to share their views with me on what is most important to their community when it comes to community policing services.

As leaders in their respective communities, I know they are best positioned to share this perspective with me. Seeking their input reflects Cabinet's commitment to support and enhance our relationships with community and Indigenous governments and to promote community self-sufficiency. Their contributions in this regard will be used to guide the development of the 2020-2021 broad strategic direction that I will set for the RCMP. It is my intention going forward to engage in this outreach on an annual basis.

These priorities help lead the RCMP and community leadership to develop annual policing priority action plans. This collaborative work supports the building of trust between RCMP members and the communities they serve, and formalizes the engagement efforts of RCMP detachment commanders across the NWT. The action plans are revisited annually and revised as necessary by the community and the RCMP, recognizing the shared responsibilities in addressing service provision. Through this process, communities have a direct role in making their community safer. I applaud the work that the RCMP and community leadership have accomplished together to enhance the quality of life in our communities.

Mr. Speaker, few services have as direct an impact on our citizens as the policing services provided by the RCMP. Although we are very fortunate to be provided a professional service by a national police force and by a division dedicated to community policing, it is incredibly important that we ensure that service reflects the unique context of our territory. The ultimate goal that we are all working towards together is safe communities where our citizens can thrive. I look forward to hearing and understanding the insights of community leadership in shaping the Ministerial priorities for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 35-19(2): Northwest Territories Policing Priorities
Ministers' Statements

Page 659

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

Thank you, Minister of Justice. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 36-19(2): Arctic Winter Games
Ministers' Statements

Page 659

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, today, I wish to give well deserved recognition to Team Northwest Territories who were scheduled to compete at the 2020 Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse, Yukon, from March 15th to 21st. At the same time as providing this recognition, we, of course, have to acknowledge the profound disappointment at the difficult but necessary decision to cancel the 2020 Arctic Winter Games due to the risk presented by the COVID-19 virus. The decision to cancel the games could not have been an easy one, but ultimately, doing what was in the best interests of the health and safety of all those involved had to be the priority.

Mr. Speaker, it is truly unfortunate that there will be no games. Team NT still deserves our thanks and our recognition. Mr. Speaker, I would like to provide Members with some information about Team Northwest Territories: at the territorial trials, 746 athletes, coaches, and chaperones from 23 NWT communities competed for the opportunity to represent the NWT. Of this, 344 were female participants and 402 were male participants.

The 2020 Arctic Winter Games Team consists of 355 participants, including athletes, coaches, and mission staff from 20 different communities. In addition, 17 officials from across the Northwest Territories were scheduled to be involved. Team Northwest Territories athletes were set to compete in all 20 sports. Team Northwest Territories also included a cultural contingent that was going to celebrate our cultural heritage. Seventeen NWT Youth Ambassadors, with representation from all regions in the Territory, were also set to go to Whitehorse as volunteers. The Northwest Territories Youth Ambassador Program has been in operation in the Northwest Territories for 12 years, and offers a guided and structured volunteer experience for Northwest Territories youth at major territorial, national, and international events. Participants have the opportunity to develop life and job skills, as well as to build the confidence necessary to deal with complex life challenges.

Mr. Speaker, everyone who is part of Team Northwest Territories and the contingent who was going to the Arctic Winter games had worked hard for many months and, in some cases, years to prepare for these games. Team NT is built with the collaboration of so many people who deserve our thanks: volunteers, sport organizations, and the tireless efforts of parents. I want to say thank you to everyone for all their efforts in the early morning drives, the long hours of practice, and the lessons in fair play and determination. We know the life lessons that involvement in sports teaches are very valuable. What we hope our young people take away from this difficult lesson is that the reward and pride in accomplishment is in the journey.

Mr. Speaker, I want to advise Members that Team NT will be refunded for their deposits and to keep their uniforms. Unfortunately, due to the scope and magnitude that goes into planning events of this type, postponing the games or holding alternative events is not an option. To close, I would like to extend my thanks to Mr. Doug Rentmeister, Chef de Mission, Mr. Damon Crossman, and Mr. Bill Othmer, Assistant Chef de Missions for Team NT, and all the rest of their mission staff as well as the Sport North Federation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 36-19(2): Arctic Winter Games
Ministers' Statements

Page 659

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

Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Lack of Policing in Illicit Drug Trade
Members' Statements

March 12th, 2020

Page 659

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Minister of Justice's statement and respect it, but there are gaps in the system. Mr. Speaker, in my 13-plus years in leadership, I have constantly brought up the lack of enforcement in the drug trade in the community of Fort Smith. Members of the community have approached me on numerous occasions over the years and have stated that they have gone to the RCMP with pertinent information about suspected criminal activities taking place in the community but feel that nothing becomes of it.

There has not been a large drug bust in the community in about 20 years. Everybody knows who the drug dealers are. I have spoken about this problem at various Dene leadership meetings and with the present leadership of the RCMP, and there has not been a marked difference or positive results regarding this whole problem. Illegal drugs have inflicted our community and have brought many bearings on many families and must be addressed. The RCMP has a job to do, and as an MLA and leader of this community, I expect them to do their job.

There has been a sign that has gone up and down in Fort Smith and on the Internet, right under the welcome sign, the sign that says, "Welcome to Fort Smith," and this is what the sign says, "Fort Smith jobs wanted: Coke, crack, and meth dealers." The dealers we have are overworked and make too much money. The RCMP are okay with dealers and don't do anything about it. Residents shut their mouths. Apply with the RCMP, and then they give the RCMP phone number, 872-1111.

Mr. Speaker, see this type of signage, especially directly underneath the town's welcome sign is totally unacceptable. This message just underlines my point about the lack of policing enforcement in relation to the illicit drug trade. Even the drug leaders know they can get away with their criminal activities because of the RCMP inaction. Based on the sign, the dealers are literally laughing at the system that is supposed to enforce the rule of law and rein in on their criminal activities. I will have questions for the Minister of Justice later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lack of Policing in Illicit Drug Trade
Members' Statements

Page 660

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

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

Small Businesses in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 660

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The majority of businesses that operate in the North are mostly small businesses, and they are exactly that, small businesses. Most of the contracts for these small businesses would be government contracts and primarily with the NWT Housing Corporation or the Department of Infrastructure.

Small businesses operate in regional and isolated communities face hardships and costs associated with doing businesses. In the NWT, labour costs are generally higher than our southern counterparts. Although unemployment exists, these businesses experience labour shortages due to social policies that force local residents to turn down work. Businesses must then import workers which result in higher project costs. Small businesses also rely on barging and winter roads and air transport for delivery and material and equipment. This can make or break a small business if there are delays and payment is not timely.

Mr. Speaker, within the GNWT and no matter which department, our northern businesses expect to be treated fairly and with respect. Every so often, we will find a department or a government employee who, for one reason or another, strays from this practice of fairness. To give an example of where fairness is paramount would be the placement of a contractor on a suspension list which may or may not be for legitimate reasons or, for that matter, be based on factual information.

I know the use of suspension lists are a practice of both the NWT Housing Corporation and the Department of Infrastructure. Being placed on a suspension list with the GNWT could result in a business being forced to close down. It may result in layoffs of local employees. It may result in families going without financial resources to put food on the table or pay basic living costs.

Mr. Speaker, as it is this government's practice to place northern business on suspension lists, as such, I would expect that this government has policies in place that establish a fair and objective process with reasonable criteria in place. A decision such as this must incorporate factual information and/or circumstances from the person who is qualified to provide such information. The circumstances surrounding the suspension must be clear and unambiguous, and the business must be provided due process in a timely manner.

A northern business being placed on a government suspension list can immediately bankrupt the small business, the very reason we need fairness and opportunity for due process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Small Businesses in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 660

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

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

COVID-19 Plans for Small Communities
Members' Statements

Page 660

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Preparing for the coronavirus in small communities. Mr. Speaker, I'm reluctant to talk about the coronavirus a the second day in a row because it is important to let the people know not to panic, but knowing that good plans are in place to help reduce panic, so that's what I want to focus on today. Knowing that yesterday, the World Health Organization confirmed that the coronavirus outbreak is a pandemic. There's 149 cases in Canada today. There is no universal definition. There are three general criteria of the pandemic, Mr. Speaker. A virus that can cause illness or death, sustain person-to-person transmission, and evidence of spread throughout the world.

Yesterday's announcement sent a signal to many countries to shift focus on trying to stop the spread of the virus, trying to slow it down. In some countries, containment is not realistic in point, however, the remote location where our communities could take advantage of that, Mr. Speaker, in stopping the spread. We need to be clear communication from this government today about the illnesses. What are we doing? Is the NWT to confront this illness, Mr. Speaker? My phone is blowing up from my mayors regarding when are we going to start hearing from our Municipal and Community Affairs?

I want to know: where are they going to put all the people if there's illness in the communities, Mr. Speaker? What is the government considering on closing the highways or halting travel or checking people at the main airport in Edmonton or here in Yellowknife before they go north? Will there be more healthcare providers put in the community, and when? How is Health and Social Services marshalling respirators to send into our communities? How will the food supplies to get into our communities if there's a sustained outbreak, Mr. Speaker? They also need to know, when can we trigger the emergency plans? Can we do that now, or do we have to wait until people are getting sick? We have to be proactive, not reactive, Mr. Speaker. We need emergency plans that have to get acted on. As I said, because of the remote location, we might still be able to stop the spread of the virus in or communities, but we'll have to take action fast, Mr. Speaker.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

COVID-19 Plans for Small Communities
Members' Statements

Page 660

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, I want the Deputy Premier to provide assurances that Health and Social Services and MACA are working together on emergency plans for the coronavirus that will be communicated to the public as quickly as possible, and be proactive, not reactive. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

COVID-19 Plans for Small Communities
Members' Statements

Page 660

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

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Frank Channel Bridge Replacement
Members' Statements

Page 660

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] Sorry, it was not English. I'd like to apologize for that. Okay, I've got it. [Translation ends]

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] I'd like to talk about the bridge, the Frank Channel Bridge.

Mr. Speaker, last August, the territorial government announced that it had secured a $30 million contribution from the federal government's National Trade, and also a $10 million contribution will fund environmental assessments, and also, I would like to talk on this issue. [Translation ends]

Mr. Speaker, [microphone turned off] ...million contribution from the federal government in the National Trade Corridor Fund. This contribution coupled with a corresponding $10 million from the GNWT to fund the environment assessments and planning for the Slave Geological Transportation Corridor. The planning component of this $40 million investment will, along with other things, bring the first section of corridor to a "shovel-ready" state.