This is page numbers 709 - 738 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 going.

Topics

Members Present

Mr. Blake, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Ms. Cleveland, Ms. Chinna, Ms. Cochrane, Ms Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Mr. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Ms. Thom, Mr. Thompson, Ms. Wawzonek

The House met at 10:00 a.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 709

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

Colleagues, pursuant to Motion 6-19(2), I hereby give notice that I will recall this House to sit on Monday, March 16, 2020, at 10:00 a.m. After consultation with the Executive Council and Members of the Legislative Assembly, I am satisfied that the public interest requires that the House meet earlier than the scheduled resumption of the House on March 24, 2020.

In light of the growing concern surrounding COVID-19, I believe it is in the public interest for Members of this House to consider and adopt an interim appropriation bill to approve routine government expenditures for the first three months of the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Sessions of the Legislative Assembly require the support of substantial Cabinet and public service resources and the suspension of our current sitting will free up these resources to focus on preparing for and responding to the potential spread of COVID-19 to the Northwest Territories.

Colleagues, the adoption of an interim budget is normal in the fiscal year following an election. The consideration and adoption of an interim appropriation bill will provide the spending authority for government departments and agencies to continue normal operations during the first quarter. This will not preclude further consideration of the main estimates that are currently before this House. Consideration of those estimates will resume when the Legislative Assembly reconvenes in May. Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 37-19(2): Rendez-vous de la Francophonie
Ministers' Statements

Page 709

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Monsieur le President, I am proud to celebrate the francophone community of the Northwest Territories during the 22nd Annual Rendez-vous de la Francophonie. This nationwide

initiative, held every March, is an opportunity for Canada's 9.5 million French speakers to promote the French language and celebrate the many ways it is expressed throughout the country.

The Rendez-vous encourages us to celebrate the strength in our diversity and cooperatively address the challenges we face as a territory. This year's theme of "Au centre d'un changement" is especially relevant as we begin the work to achieve the priorities of the 19th Legislative Assembly. It is a welcome reminder to embrace a spirit of unity aimed at improving the quality of life for all of our residents.

Monsieur le President, this government is committed to providing our French-speaking residents with quality public services and communications. That is why we launched our first annual Francophone Community Satisfaction Survey earlier this month. The survey, available on the Department of Education, Culture and Employment's website until March 31, 2020, will help us to determine the francophone community's level of awareness of the GNWT's French-language communications and how satisfied they are with those services.

We are partnering with francophone organizations in areas like immigration. During Francophone Immigration Week in 2019, the Government of the Northwest Territories launched the Welcome to the NWT resource book for newcomers at an event hosted by the Northwest Territories' francophone immigration network. This guide was designed to help attract, settle, and ensure the retention of foreign nationals to the Northwest Territories and connect newcomers with the services and resources they need to settle comfortably into their new home communities.

We continue to support and engage with College nordique francophone. College nordique francophone plays a significant role in ensuring diversity in the postsecondary education system, offering language courses and a variety of post-secondary education diploma programs in cooperation with southern institutions. To support this important work, we recently signed a new three-year contribution agreement with College nordique francophone that will begin in the new fiscal year.

Monsieur le President, our diverse French population contributes a cultural richness to our communities, not only through language, but through dance, art, food, film, music, ideas, love for the land, and, above all, a passion for interconnectedness and cultural exchange. I am grateful for the gifts we continue to receive from the members of our vibrant and growing francophone population. Let us continue to work together to celebrate our diversity and to strengthen the social, cultural, and economic landscape of the Northwest Territories. Merci, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 37-19(2): Rendez-vous de la Francophonie
Ministers' Statements

Page 709

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

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

Government of the Northwest Territories Regional Office in Behchoko
Members' Statements

Page 709

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] Today, on behalf of Behchoko, I am going to be talking about some of the emotions about the Behchoko. There are more houses. There is a huge population in the community of the Behchoko. It is one of the largest native communities in the Northwest Territories. I am talking about the regional office. I will be talking about the regional office. I will ask questions, Mr. Speaker. [Translation ends]

[Microphone turned off] ...town in the Northwest Territories. It is the territory's largest Indigenous community. It is the centre of one of the most dynamic and vibrant regions in the territory. Yet, Mr. Speaker, the territorial government has no regional offices in Behchoko. It maintains regional offices in Inuvik, Norman Wells, Hay River, Fort Simpson, and Fort Smith, two of which actually have fewer population than Behchoko. Meanwhile, the Behchoko regional office is located in Yellowknife.

This is a disservice to the people of the Tlicho region. They observe Norman Wells and Fort Simpson, and wonder why they don't have the same access or decision-making powers, programs, employment, and career development as those communities that enjoy it by virtue of their regional government offices.

Mr. Speaker, the regional delivery model brings government closer to the people. It makes programs, policies, and services more culturally sensitive. The regional delivery model builds public buy-ins and makes communities more self-reliant. It has been 17 years since the Tlicho agreement was signed, making the Tlicho Nation one of the most progressive self-governing Indigenous nations in the world. It is time that this territorial government is recognized by giving the Tlicho a regional government presence to match. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Premier at the appropriate time. Masi.

Government of the Northwest Territories Regional Office in Behchoko
Members' Statements

Page 709

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

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

Corrections Act Implementation
Members' Statements

Page 709

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. In the last of the week of statements on justice issues, I want to reflect on the journey of developing the new Corrections Act. This was a journey I took with the Standing Committee on Social Development last year. Mr. Speaker, the committee was dismayed by the bill presented. It didn't reflect the many changes in approach and practice since the original Corrections Act came into force more than 40 years ago. It didn't compare well to new legislation in other jurisdictions such as Nunavut, which provided for more rehabilitation and re-integration of offenders. As well, the bill didn't reflect changes in case law around solitary confinement or provide for procedural fairness with the complaints process. Last but not least, too many issues that are rights-based were relegated to regulations and policies rather than being found in the bill itself.

I reached out to subject-matter experts, and we benefited from the advice from the BC Civil Liberties Association; the former Director General of Corrections for Canada; the Canadian Bar Association, NWT Chapter; the former ED of the John Howard Society; and the Information and Privacy Commissioner. With all this analysis, we were able to refocus the bill away from administration of corrections and make it more inmate-centric, so to speak. We looked at how we take care of inmates when they are in one of our correctional centres and how we can assist them in turning their lives around so there is hope for a better future.

It was really beneficial that the Minister of Justice in the last Assembly and his staff worked so well together with the standing committee and our staff to accomplish very extensive and useful changes to the bill. The new NWT Corrections Act is equivalent to corrections acts anywhere in the country. This process demonstrated the strengths of consensus government. I used to say to people while this was going on that this was the bill that kept me up at night. After waiting 43 years for it to be thoroughly overhauled, we needed to do a really good job so that it would last another 43 years. While I was initially doubtful that could be done, it was done. I am very proud of the result. I will have questions for the Minister of Justice on the next step, implementation of the act. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Corrections Act Implementation
Members' Statements

Page 710

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

Thank you Member for Yellowknife Centre. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

COVID-19 and Spring Break
Members' Statements

Page 710

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm pleased. Yesterday, we brought up the COVID-19. I am pleased this government is working so hard to get this pandemic for the people across the territories sorted out on a plan to go forward. I want to know this plan for our schools, Mr. Speaker, and our small communities. Yesterday, Ontario announced the unprecedented decision to shut down their schools for two weeks after their spring break to try to slow the spread of the virus.

I believe the Minster of ECE should be doing the same here, Mr. Speaker, across our territory. In every district, give the local DEAs the authority to shut our schools down for the teachers. Everybody has a timeline when their spring break ends. The day it ends, it should be shut down for two weeks for self-isolation, because we know all the teachers in Nunakput where I represent, Inuvik, all the Beaufort-Delta, took off that day south. This will give our teachers who travelled south a chance to get back to our communities, self-isolate for a two weeks' extended period, with pay. I also want to know if the school staff will be making sure that their school staff is paid regardless if they are self-isolating or not.

Today, I am asking the Minister of ECE: is he planning to extend spring break across the territory, say, Yellowknife, South Slave, Nunakput, Mackenzie Delta, the day that they come back, two weeks after they get back in the community to self-isolate and shut down our schools for the safety of our kids? Because, in the communities, we don't have access to medical like they do down south, Mr. Speaker. Make sure the Minister of education gives our local DEAs the authority to do that and let it be their choice in the matter. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

COVID-19 and Spring Break
Members' Statements

Page 710

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

Thank you Member for Nunakput. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

COVID-19 and Spring Break
Members' Statements

Page 710

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think my colleague and I sat down and wrote our Member's statements together. Spring break is a time for families and teachers to escape the cold, dark weather for a couple of weeks. The spring break in my community started March 6th; therefore, everyone should start returning from their vacations from all over Canada and the rest of the countries by next weekend. This has people concerned. In other provinces, they are taking precautions by way of closing down schools for an additional two weeks after the spring break to reduce the possible spread of the virus.

Mr. Speaker, we have to remember there is no vaccine for this virus. There are people who are healthy and will risk being sick and do not mind taking the chance, but what happens, Mr. Speaker, to those who are immunocompromised, like our elders, our babies, and those with chronic diseases? Inuvik is the hub for all travel back to the smaller communities, and, therefore, we need to have a plan for when everyone returns to the Beaufort-Delta. In light of the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, my community is worried about what will happen if the families and teachers return with no plan. We also have no relief healthcare staff in Inuvik, and, therefore, if we get hit with the virus in my community or one of the smaller outlying communities in the Beaufort-Delta, they will deplete the staff in my community. We need to have a plan. We need to have the resources to protect the people in my community and the rest of the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE. Thank you.

COVID-19 and Spring Break
Members' Statements

Page 710

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

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

Support for Shorter Sitting
Members' Statements

Page 710

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to rise in support of your decision to end this session early and pass an interim appropriation bill. I had a number of concerns about taking up the department of health's time, and all of the senior management, in questioning them over their budget while they have much better things to do.

I just wanted to speak briefly on this COVID-19 thing. I think the main priorities here are continuity of government and protecting our most vulnerable people, Mr. Speaker. I would like to commend all of the departments on the work they are doing, even without a confirmed case in the NWT as of yet. I've seen departmental response plans, and I have seen people really kick into action, just the power of what government can do. I think it's important here to reassure citizens that it's a matter of preparation, not panic.

I would like to in advance just provide some of my suggestions to Ministers that I will continue to press them, even without the House sitting. I think we must protect our most vulnerable. If we have a full-blown pandemic in the Northwest Territories, I would like to see the Housing Corporation stop evicting people. I think the idea that we would put people in self-isolation and then evict them is inhumane. I would like to see the Power Corporation stop throttling power on people who are self-isolating, Mr. Speaker. I would like to see our homeless and most vulnerable provided housing if they have to self-isolate. I would like to see those in corrections make sure that they can be protected in this.

Mr. Speaker, during this time, even though this Assembly is not sitting, I want to assure the public that all MLAs will be in contact with government and that we will be continuing to have open communication with all of our citizens. Most importantly, this is about making sure that our healthcare system is prepared and not overwhelmed, and so I would like to in advance thank all of our healthcare workers, who are already overworked. Things are going to be harder for them, but I know that we are all there behind them, all of our healthcare workers, and so I just want to thank everyone in advance. Let's get through this together. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Support for Shorter Sitting
Members' Statements

Page 710

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

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