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.

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Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

March 13th, 2020

Page 712

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I rise again in regard to COVID-19, and the concerns that I have for my constituents in Nunakput and across the Beaufort-Delta, and across the territory. Will the Minister be giving direction to the district education authorities to shut down two weeks after the kids are back from their spring break? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

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

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This government is following the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer, and the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer is not to shut down the schools. I don't even have the authority to shut down the schools. I can't tell the DEAs or the DECs to shut down the schools. Legislatively, it's just not in my toolbox. The DEAs and DECs do have the authority, though, to close schools temporarily for public safety issues, so if they believe that there is a public safety issue, then they have that ability, but it's not being recommended at this time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

That's not what I want to hear. We have [inaudible] like they do in the South, here. We have to make a stand in regard to this COVID-19. People are worried; people are panicked. The thing is, I'm not trying to put people into a panic, but I'm just making sure that, when the teachers are coming back from the South, or anybody coming back from the South for spring break, if the DEA says, okay, we're going to shut down the school for two weeks after, making sure that the teachers get paid and the Minister supports the local DEAs on that call.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

It doesn't matter if I support them or not. They have the right to do that. I just want to let everyone know that this is a very serious concern. I take this very seriously, as do all the Cabinet Ministers. This has been our lives for the last little while, now. This is what we're focused on, is making preparations for this. There are a lot of concerns about blanket closures of schools. It can't be overstated, the types of socioeconomic impacts that closing a school can have on a community. There are childcare concerns. It would mean people would have to stay home from work. Some of those people might be healthcare workers, and they might not be able to go in and do the work that they need to, right now. So there are a lot of factors to consider, and I don't want to say that schools will be open forever. There are situations where they could be closed, but that is not my call to make. We are relying on the advice of the chief public health officer.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Well, I'm making a stand right now. As MLA for Nunakput, I am going to be talking to my local DEAs and requesting them to shut down the school for two weeks for the self-isolation when the people come back from the South, to self-isolate. Will the Minister commit today that there will be no harm in pay, or anything? Will the Minister support this? Thank you.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

I can't overreach my legislative authority. Education is delivered by the education councils. That's one of the reasons why I'm looking at reforming the Education Act so that, perhaps, if this happens again, I would be able to stand up here and say I have the authority to do some of these things that the Member is asking.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

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

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Nunakput.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

Page 712

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Mr. Speaker, I didn't get the answer I wanted. Will the Minister support the local DEAs on their decision that they make? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Like I said, we are relying on the advice of the Chief Public Health Officer. If the DEA makes decisions in line with that advice, then I would fully support it. If not, we'd have to look at it on a case-by-case basis. This is not something I can just stand up here and say, "yes" or "no." There are a lot of variables here. This is not a black-and-white situation. My number one concern is the safety, not just of the children, but of the community, because it's not necessarily the children who are affected by COVID-19; it's the elders in the community. I think that, as a government, the discussions we've had, we are doing everything in our power to ensure the safety of the residents of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 198-19(2): COVID-19 and School Closures
Oral Questions

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

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Question 199-19(2): COVID-19 and Department of Education, Culture and Employment Planning
Oral Questions

Page 712

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm going to continue on some of the questions for the Minister of ECE. I just want to know if the department of education has reached out to the Beaufort Delta Education Council and the DEAs or their staff to have a plan for next week when the teachers start returning, and the families. It's not just teachers. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 199-19(2): COVID-19 and Department of Education, Culture and Employment Planning
Oral Questions

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

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Question 199-19(2): COVID-19 and Department of Education, Culture and Employment Planning
Oral Questions

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. There is a meeting today, I believe at 1:30. The deputy minister and the departmental staff are going to be having a meeting with all of the superintendents, including those from the Beaufort-Delta. There has been contact over the past few days, as well. Those conversations are happening. I'm making sure they're happening.

Question 199-19(2): COVID-19 and Department of Education, Culture and Employment Planning
Oral Questions

Page 712

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Can the Minister also tell me how the department will ensure, if the schools aren't closed, that the most vulnerable are kept safe? For example, we have a lot of elders who work in our school. We have a high number of people who have chronic illnesses, students and staff. What the plan is for them, as well, if they're working in the school?