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

Frank Channel Bridge Replacement
Members' Statements

Page 660

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

We're having a technical issue. It keeps cutting out. Is everything okay? If we could start over, please. Thank you.

Frank Channel Bridge Replacement
Members' Statements

Page 660

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker, I'll do it for a third time. Mr. Speaker, last August 14, the territorial government announced that it had secured a $30 million contribution from the federal government's National Trade Corridor Fund. This contribution coupled with a corresponding $10 million from GNWT to fund an environmental assessment and planning for the Slave Geological Transportation Corridor. The planning component of $40 million investment will, among other things, bring the first section of corridor to a "shovel-ready" state. Mr. Speaker, that section is running from the end of our existing Highway 4 to Lockhart Lake.

Mr. Speaker, the previous government is to be commended for acquiring federal support for Slave Geological Corridor. However, Mr. Speaker, it is regrettable that the territorial government has not had the same success with the Frank Channel Bridge, which the Minister of Infrastructure acknowledges is in dire need of replacement, Mr. Speaker, which is also the subject of an application for National Trade Corridor funding, and which is vastly more critical to the people of this territory than the Slave Geological Corridor. It's ironic, Mr. Speaker, that, without the Frank Channel Bridge, the Slave Geological Transportation Corridor won't see a single truck axel, won't carry a single stick of freight. That is, of course, because one must cross the Frank Channel Bridge in order to reach that corridor.

Mr. Speaker, this department's "cart before the horse" logic makes me wonder if the Minister's department has given sufficient priority to the Frank Channel Bridge. It makes me wonder, also, if perhaps this department has been too busy pandering to the whims of mining industries rather than providing the real meat-and-potatoes infrastructure needs of our people. I will have questions for the appropriate Minister at the appropriate time. Masi.

Frank Channel Bridge Replacement
Members' Statements

Page 660

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

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

COVID-19 Concerns in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

March 12th, 2020

Page 660

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to share some remarks regarding the ongoing situation on COVID-19, and I just want to add a little bit to what my colleague from Nunakput has already said regarding that. It is a pandemic, yes, and we need to be proactive as a government. I want to remind everybody, the general public, that there have been zero confirmed cases of this virus in the NWT to date, and officials within the Department of Health and Social Services have remained adamant that the risk of contracting this illness in the NWT remains low because of time. As well, our territory's Chief Public Health Officer said just yesterday during a press conference that the NWT has already been treating the situation as a pandemic for two weeks. I want to make sure that everybody puts their mind at ease in my riding that our territorial government is actively monitoring the situation and responding accordingly.

However, Mr. Speaker, for all people in the NWT, they must remain vigilant and be cognizant and accepting of the fact that cases of this COVID-19 could very well occur in the NWT. This is a fluid situation that continues to unfold and change on a daily basis. As of this morning, Canada had one death, along with 149 confirmed cases of this virus, spanning across several provinces. As of this morning, this has resulted in dozens of planned public events being cancelled or postponed across the country, and around the world, as a precautionary measure to try to limit the spread of this virus.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, there was a travel advisory by our government for non-essential workers to not leave the territory, and I advise that our Indigenous governments and our industry should follow suit, as well, just to help contain this problem. Yesterday, our federal government has responded to the outbreak by responding with a $1-billion spending package to help our country's healthcare system and economy cope with this outbreak, and about half of this money is being transferred to the provinces and territories directly to prepare and react to this virus.

Overall, Mr. Speaker, I just want to reiterate to the public that it is important to remain calm and not to panic. As a territory, as a country, as a global community, we will hopefully get through this together. I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services afterwards. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

COVID-19 Concerns in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 661

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

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

Agricultural Land in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 661

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think every day there are more and more reminders that we are living in an increasingly globalized world. Whether it be a pandemic or the crashing of oil prices, we are not immune from global forces, Mr. Speaker, none of which is greater than climate change. I increasingly think it needs to be stated that we are not doing enough, nor is any other government. Consistently, scientists are reporting that we will not meet our targets.

I would like to speak to one aspect of climate change adaptation that I think we must take swift action on, Mr. Speaker, and that is food security. Consistent reports have said those who will be affected first by food security due to climate change are those in rural areas, those on low income, those who are already food-insecure. I don't believe I have to tell this House that that falls to many of our people. No one in this House would deny the importance of food security for the North; in fact, our mandate includes increasing locally produced food as a priority. As we face the challenges of adapting to climate change, it is key for us to be swift in our attempts to build a network of food producers in the North.

Mr. Speaker, the key to any agricultural endeavour, whether crop or livestock, is land. We currently have no leasing process which is regulated specifically for agricultural purposes in the North. Most jurisdictions around Canada allow you to apply for agricultural land at a small cost in order to promote the industry; in fact, the Canadian agricultural industry is largely subsidized as a recognition of the importance to a nation's sovereignty in having locally produced food.

Typically, agricultural land gives you a number of benefits, including allowing you to reside on that land, allowing you to have dwellings for caretakers. We do not have that set up in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Speaker. The agricultural strategy identifies land as a key pillar to the success of our agriculture industry and identifies that the GNWT will establish and review land tenure policies and procedures around this. I'm glad to hear this, but I am afraid that we are moving too slowly. The Department of Lands is going to take years to do this work.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Lands is at the middle of a Gordian knot that is land use in the Northwest Territories. There is an over-complicated process, and we need to simplify it. I believe, if someone comes to us wanting to produce agricultural land, the first thing should be: how can we make this happen swiftly and now? Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister of Lands.

Agricultural Land in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 661

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

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

Gladue Reports
Members' Statements

Page 661

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am continuing with my Justice issues theme week. The Yukon is piloting a new approach to the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in corrections. The Department of Justice there is funding a three-year pilot program to train people to write what are called Gladue reports. A Gladue report provides detailed information about the offender's background, including time spent in residential schools, in the care of child welfare, family and community history, as well as struggles with mental health and addictions; essentially, accounting for the traumas and tragedies of colonialism. The reports are named after a Supreme Court of Canada decision given 20 years ago, which asked judges to consider unique factors when sentencing Indigenous offenders.

A Gladue report is a piece of a toolkit for the courts to consider when sentencing the offender. The intention is to encourage the consideration of restorative approaches to sentencing, rather than jail time or fines. During the first year of Yukon's pilot program, Gladue writers produced 37 reports for use during sentencing. What is new here is that the Yukon has formalized the production of these reports. Instead of someone doing them off the side of their desks, there is now a group of staff experienced in writing the reports. Further, the reports have been standardized so that the information is consistent and readily available to the judiciary.

Mr. Speaker, there are some noteworthy aspects to the Yukon's pilot project. First, it's collaborative. It includes both the Yukon Legal Services Society and the Council of Yukon First Nations. Second, there has been a focus on training Indigenous people as report writers because of their innate understanding of the context of the convicted. Third, the cost of the pilot project is $530,000 over three years. To me, this is a reasonable investment, considering the higher costs of jailing offenders and continuing the cycle of trauma.

There is no equivalent to the Gladue reports in the Northwest Territories. Pre-sentence reports are written by probation officers and focus on risk and risk management. In short, they serve a different purpose. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Justice. Mahsi.

Gladue Reports
Members' Statements

Page 661

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

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

Beaufort Delta Youth Declaration on Climate Change
Members' Statements

Page 661

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our youth are our future, and we need to ensure that we hear what they are saying, because the decisions we make today will affect them when we are no longer here. We continue to hear from our youth, and we need to be mindful when making decisions that we represent them when we are here in this House. Although many of these youth cannot vote, they are looking to us to ensure that, as NWT residents, they are being heard and listened to. I will therefore read the Youth of the Beaufort-Delta Declaration on Climate Change, as well as table the document in this House today. Our Climate Our Arctic - Beaufort-Delta Declaration made on March 8, 2020.

As the youth of the Beaufort-Delta, we are one with the land, the water, and the animals. We stand up for what we believe is right and consider the future of our environment while trying to understand the past and carry forward and value the knowledge of our ancestors.

We recognize that climate change is a worldwide problem; however, the rate of change in the North is much more rapid. Our region is a preview of the effects of climate change. The climate crisis is affecting every aspect of who we are. Our communities need to be less economically driven and more environmentally driven. We can't escape our changing climate, but we can adapt. We don't control our environment, but we are a part of it. We need to ensure that we have effective resources in order to implement our ideas for change into action. We encourage collaboration with the intent of creating a sustainable future. We want to ensure that we as youth, and our future generations of youth, are able to maintain and expand our connection to, and respect for, the environment. We are trying to set a sustainable and well-cultured example. Our voices as youth are powerful and valuable, and we need to be heard.

Climate change is an overwhelming subject, and it's hard to fight the lack of hope. We will work toward our goals, even if they won't be achieved in our lifetime. We are resilient in the face of the challenges we encounter. And they were Maddysen Kingmiaqtuq, Helayna Cockney-Goose, Kata Kuhnert, Kyla Goose, Sienna Gordon, Davonna Kasook, Nicholas Cockney, Olivia Inglangaskuk, and Eriel Lugt. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Beaufort Delta Youth Declaration on Climate Change
Members' Statements

Page 661

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

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

Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board
Members' Statements

Page 661

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Last week, I raised some concerns around the continued funding for the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board. There are some great people on that board and their work seems reasonable, but there are zero disputes that have come forward in the seven years since enabling legislation was passed. In light of this, I question the need for such a body. It also entrenches the antiquated free-entry system for mineral rights acquisition, a regime that seems out of step with even the Mineral Resources Act passed by the last Legislative Assembly.

The Harper government's Bill C-47, the so-called "Northern Jobs and Growth Act," lumped together a number of land rights agreements implementation provisions, including the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board. GNWT's Surface Rights Board Act simply mirrors the federal legislative provisions including:

  • setting mining as highest and best use of the land. Mining trumps any other land use, even Aboriginal rights-based use. Land owners or users are only entitled to compensation in the event of a conflict; and
  • the Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board duplicates and overlaps with existing provisions for surface rights and access disputes resolution.

If GNWT needs to explore ways to modernize this legislation, it should do it in consultation with Indigenous governments and it should be along the following lines:

  • The Surface Rights Board should have the power to deny access where and when appropriate;
  • The legislation should not apply within municipal boundaries and municipalities should have the ability to control or prohibit mineral rights acquisition within their boundaries;
  • "Access" should be re-interpreted broadly to include air-only access through the use of aircraft;
  • The board should be given the power to require financial security to ensure compliance with its orders;
  • A co-management model should be adopted in terms of the board composition where Indigenous governments appoint half the members; and
  • The board should have the discretion to hear from those other than the parties to the dispute.

I will have questions later today for the Minister of Lands. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Northwest Territories Surface Rights Board
Members' Statements

Page 662

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

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Mental Health Care for Children
Members' Statements

Page 662

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If a child broke their arm, we would immediately take them to the doctor, where they would have an x-ray, a cast applied, and given pain medication; but what happens when a child's injury is mental and not physical?

First, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the work being done by organizations like the Rainbow Coalition of the NWT and FOXY/SMASH. However, recently I learned of the journey a child travels when they disclose mental health challenges. A family was contacted by an adult at their child's school advising them that the child had disclosed intent to self-harm and had a plan to end their life. As you can imagine, Mr. Speaker, this was devastating for the family.

The parent called the Primary Care clinic to request an appointment with a counsellor. As Yellowknife residents know, same-day appointments are highly sought after but rarely found. Next, the parent called a local private therapist. They could see the child in a month, at a rate of $200 an hour. The parent again called the Primary Care clinic and insisted on seeing a family physician. The family physician identified the child as urgent, meaning that the child would be seen by both a counsellor and a child psychiatrist.

Mr. Speaker, this is what the journey to care looked like from the perspective of the child. First, the child told their story to an adult; a brave first step. Second, the child told their story to the family physician. Third, the child was expected to tell their story to the intake counsellor before they would then, if found to be in need of mental health support, share their story with the counsellor. Fifth, Mr. Speaker, this child would speak to the child psychiatrist's intake nurse and then, as a sixth step, would see the child psychiatrist. All while the parent assured the child that they are important, that they matter, that they have a place in this world, and that, yes, the adults are listening.

The wait times children experience while working their way through a six-person triage is not realistic or responsive, and to be honest, Mr. Speaker, the family never made it to territorially funded mental healthcare. Because, just as we would not expect a child to continue through life with a broken arm, how can we expect them to heal without mental health supports? Mr. Speaker, expecting anyone, let alone a child, to share their story six times is not care. We must review our mental health triage processes, and we need to ensure that mental health is accessible and responsive. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mental Health Care for Children
Members' Statements

Page 662

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

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Item 4, return to oral questions. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Nunakput.