This is page numbers 917 - 956 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

Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Martselos, Hon. Katrina Nokleby, 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 1:35 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 917

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 46-19(2): COVID-19 Response
Ministers' Statements

Page 917

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The COVID-19 global pandemic has had profound effects on people around the world, including residents across the Northwest Territories. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment has been working tirelessly to adapt its programs and services to help lighten the economic, social, and emotional weights of the pandemic, and I would like to provide an update to the public about those efforts.

We recognize the essential role that licensed early learning and childcare programs have for our youngest residents and their families. As a result, ECE has continued to flow existing funding for licensed programs to daycares and day homes, regardless of whether they have chosen to close or remain open, since the start of the pandemic. In addition, ECE helped coordinate with the NWT health authorities to match parents working within the healthcare system with childcare as well as coordinating an online list of open licensed early learning and childcare programs throughout the NWT.

To provide further support during this challenging time, we responded with an additional $5.1 million in temporary subsidies, including a 33 percent subsidy for parents who are essential workers and an additional wage top-up of up to $1,000 a month for childcare staff or family day home operators providing care during the pandemic.

Mr. Speaker, ECE continues to work closely with licensed early learning and childcare programs to pass on regular information updates from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, including best practices for early learning and childcare, to ensure programs that are open remain operational and ones that have closed are able to reopen quickly.

In our junior kindergarten to grade 12 education system, significant efforts have been made by educational staff, students, parents, and guardians to accommodate the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation. On March 24, 2020, based on my recommendation and the initial recommendations from the CPHO, all elected NWT education leaders made the decision to keep schools closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year and to proceed with plans focused on a distance-education approach for the continuity of learning for all junior kindergarten to grade 12 students.

On March 30, 2020, we released the NWT Education Bulletin, which set the framework for continued learning. Since releasing the NWT Education Bulletin, ECE has provided additional support to teachers on all aspects of at-home learning, including providing distance supports for students with complex needs, course completion processes for high school students, and at-home Indigenous language learning, amongst others.

ECE is providing guidance to support Indigenous language instructors during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of our ongoing support for continued learning. Some language instructors have been collaborating with other-subject teachers to incorporate language into their units, and many schools are using social media and school websites to promote and teach language and culture during school closures.

Mr. Speaker, on May 12, 2020, the Emerging Wisely plan was released, which contained a recommendation for the reopening of schools. On May 13, 2020, education leaders, with my support, decided that the challenges faced by schools due to the pandemic would make it impossible to reopen now and that the focus needed to be on planning for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. The Department of ECE continues to work closely with education bodies and the NWT Teachers' Association on continued learning for all NWT students for the 2019-2020 school year and on planning for the fall.

Mr. Speaker, for grade 12 students who have worked so hard towards graduating and planning their next steps for them, career and education advisors are reaching out to students by telephone, email, and video conferencing to ensure they are aware of the supports available to them. These advisors will continue to offer their support to all interested grade 12 students from now until September, to support those dreams of where their adult lives would take them. I send my congratulations to all NWT high school graduates. You have worked hard, and you made it.

For post-secondary students accessing student financial assistance, their funding continued for the remainder of their winter semester, and for those repaying loans, we deferred all payments to the end of September 2020, with no interest accrued during this time period. Student case officers also reached out to every single student receiving student financial assistance to ensure they had information on how to return home safely, including contacts for travel agencies, information about self-isolation requirements, the self-isolation plan, and the orders of the Chief Public Health Officer. For students who will not have the opportunity to work to repay loans or save, the Student Financial Assistance program provided information on accessing income support and federal benefits.

Mr. Speaker, to ensure the most vulnerable residents have enhanced supports for themselves and their families, the Income Assistance program made a number of temporary changes beginning in March.

  • We provided a one-time emergency allowance for income assistance clients registered in March. Individuals received $500 and families received $1,000 in order to ensure they could purchase the necessary supplies to self-isolate for two weeks, if necessary, and to encourage physical distancing.
  • Monetary donations, such as gifts from friends, family, benevolent organizations, or Indigenous governments intended to provide support during the pandemic have been exempted from the calculation of income assistance benefits, through the end of June. We also made the decision to exempt the one-time Special GST credit for low and modest income residents, the one-time special old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments for seniors, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and the Canada Emergency Student Benefit for students.
  • Administrative processes were streamlined to focus on quick responses and turnarounds for clients, including payrolling all clients through the end of June so that they do not have to report each month.
  • The "productive choice" reporting requirement was also removed, and all clients were directed to engage in only one productive choice: taking care of themselves and their families.
  • Finally, all clients were automatically assessed for both basic and enhanced needs.

Seniors receiving the Senior Home Heating Subsidy received a modest increase to their benefit beginning in April 2020 and automatically had their applications renewed for the 2020-2021 year to allow them to maintain physical distancing.

Mr. Speaker, labour development and standards programs and services at the department include the labour market programs; apprenticeship, trades and occupation certification; employment standards; and the NWT Nominee Program. These programs provide a range of financial supports to students, apprentices, employees, employers, communities, and organizations. Clients have been advised that funding will continue as planned until the end of their programs, tuition refunds would be provided as required, training costs reimbursed, and funding for community and organization training and employment projects would continue.

In the areas of culture and heritage, Mr. Speaker, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre and NWT Archives closed to the public on March 16, 2020, due to the serious health concerns posed by COVID-19. Focus was placed on ensuring the public was aware of the museum's extensive virtual exhibits and online resources. Staff worked hard to ensure delays in funding to NWT artists have been minimal and that accommodations are in place for arts projects impacted by the pandemic, and archaeological permitting and land reviews have continued with minor delays. Phase 1 of emerging wisely recommends museums and art galleries reopen. While reduced hours and reduced public programming are expected, the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre is gearing up to open its doors to the public before the end of the month.

The Francophone Affairs Secretariat worked quickly to streamline services available to our francophone population. Services TNO positioned itself as a hub for all non-health-related information for our French-speaking residents and provided them with a single point of contact for all requests. The secretariat also provided 24/7 translation services to ensure that our francophone residents had timely access to the vital information being shared by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, the Department of Health and Social Services, and every other GNWT department involved in the COVID-19 response.

I want to thank the staff of ECE and the NWT education authorities for their incredible work in adapting to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The situation created by the pandemic has been unprecedented and so has the response from our staff. I want to personally thank them for all their efforts and hard work.

Mr. Speaker, everything we have responded with over the last few months has come about through an imperative to support Northerners, to make sure all Northerners had answers to their questions quickly, and critical programs were modified to meet their needs. As we move to adapt our programs further, the residents and communities of the territory are our primary concern, and we commit to continuing to provide the supports and services residents need during this difficult time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 46-19(2): COVID-19 Response
Ministers' Statements

Page 919

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

History of Indigenous Government in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 919

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territories is home to approximately 45,000 people, with just over half of the population being Indigenous. The other half of the population consists of people who come from elsewhere.

For thousands of years, the Indigenous people of what is now the NWT governed themselves. Indigenous people possessed governmental jurisdiction over lands, including property rights. European settlement, colonization, and commercial interests resulted in the erosion of those rights. Fortunately, those rights were never extinguished, and yet today the Indigenous people are forced to negotiate for much less. This injustice has to be corrected, and it requires this government's support.

Mr. Speaker, the point I want to make is that, prior to contact, Indigenous people survived in the harshest of conditions and governed themselves. It was only after European contact did the tide turn, when the government of the day decided they would make the lives of our ancestors better. In reality, the eradication of a people and a history was nearly realized. A way of life was almost lost, children were scooped up, languages were beaten out of those in residential schools, and communities were relocated for various reasons, all to the detriment of those whom Canada and this government had promised to protect.

Today, many Indigenous people are living in poverty, living with addictions, finding themselves homeless, are being incarcerated at elevated rates, losing their children to the system, looked at as government freeloaders, passed over for employment and procurement opportunities, and being beaten down at every turn. Life is not getting better.

Mr. Speaker, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms allows for special consideration of disadvantaged individuals or groups. Based on that, this government has adopted policies that give priority to Indigenous peoples of the NWT. However, it does not go far enough. We need to extend that same preference to our procurement policies, to our healthcare and housing system, to our education system, and to ensure Indigenous people are treated fairly and provided every opportunity. It is imperative we start to fulfill the promises that others have neglected to do.

Mr. Speaker, when I look around this Chamber, I know all of the Members consider the NWT home, but, when I look deeper, I see those who look at the NWT as more. It is their history; it is their way of life; it is the place their ancestors are buried; and knowing that, one day, it will become their legacy to their children and future generations. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

History of Indigenous Government in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 919

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Local Leadership Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
Members' Statements

Page 919

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I want to talk about my leadership in my riding of Nunakput over the past COVID-19, the 40 days that we went through as a leadership in our communities. It has created unprecedented challenges to our government and the people across Nunakput. Our remote communities fear the community spread of the virus is limited to our medical support made the challenge for COVID-19 even more daunting in our riding. Today, I would like to acknowledge the leadership of my work to keep my community safe for my leadership.

I want to acknowledge the hard work of the following mayors and their hamlet councillors, Mr. Speaker. Mayor Erwin Elias, Tuktoyaktuk mayor, thank you for all the hard work you have done. Ulukhaktok Mayor Laverna Klengenberg, Paulatuk Mayor Ray Ruben, Sachs Harbour Mayor Norman Anikina, you did a lot of hours and a lot of concern for the people, and you really showed awesome leadership during this pandemic. The pandemic is still on, also. I also want to acknowledge the community corporations, the chairs in our government, and our federal government for helping assist people to get through this pandemic and providing food and the extra funds they were getting through the federal government and through our ECE. Thank you very much. These leaders have kept the level of hardship during this crisis, the recommendation to the Chief Public Health Officer and so on.

So far, we have been fortunate. We have stopped COVID-19 in our communities, and we have to keep making sure that we stay vigilant in regard to this, Mr. Speaker. I want to remind the people in my riding that we are still in the midst of a pandemic. Do not let our guards down because round two is coming. Governments across Canada are bracing for a possible second wave for COVID-19. We are washing our hands, practising social distancing, being careful to prevent the spread of this virus, and watching for upcoming weeks, what that brings us. I want to extend my thoughts to my elders. Thank you for your guidance and wisdom on the impacts of COVID-19. This made life difficult for our elders, and they are not alone. I want to let them know that. Thank you to the family members who did watchcare for our elders. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Local Leadership Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
Members' Statements

Page 920

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Again, I want to thank the family members who took watchcare over our elders during this pandemic. I am here for the people of Nunakput, and I encourage you to keep reaching out to me so I can bring your issues and concerns to our government and so we all work together and get through this pandemic. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Local Leadership Response to COVID-19 Pandemic
Members' Statements

Page 920

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Good Leadership
Members' Statements

June 1st, 2020

Page 920

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, today, I want to speak about the attributes of good leadership. "Leadership is lifting a person's vision to higher heights, the raising of a person's performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations," a quote from Peter F. Drucker, who is an author and expert on management.

Mr. Speaker, that quote is from the book titled "Leadership, a Practical Guide to Leadership Principles and Strategies." That book was gifted to me by someone in my community after I entered into leadership as chief of the Salt River First Nation about 13 years ago. I found many of the concepts outlined in that book to be very useful and accurate, both in theory and in practice.

Mr. Speaker, the reason I am sharing this with you is because I want to see good and strong leaders in our government. I want to see the attributes of great leaders to be present in our leadership here in this House, whether on the Cabinet side or the Regular Members' side. For that reason, I want to highlight some key attributes outlined in the book which I just referenced, which I consider most important in leadership.

Mr. Speaker, good leaders have a strong platform to stand on, which includes five integral pillars that all great leadership rests on. These pillars include vision, authenticity, integrity, influence, and self-confidence. Great leaders also have humility, focus, people skills, and communication skills. Other aspects of a good leader which I consider very important include forgiveness, not taking things personally, not dwelling on issues too long, and being open to constructive feedback.

Mr. Speaker, for some, these types of skills and attributes may come natural, but for many they must be learned and practised. They must be constantly improved and modified as time and experience dictates. To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I will end with a quote. This was a quote that was given by my father, who knew this man. His name was Harold Cardinal. He was a great Metis leader of Alberta. He said, "We must be able to set aside the principles of division, the principle of meanness, and the principle of greed. We must replace them with our traditional values of generosity, inclusion, sharing, and love. All of us people must be, should be, and ought to be able to work together." Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Good Leadership
Members' Statements

Page 920

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Reflections on the Legislative Assembly from a Dene Perspective
Members' Statements

Page 921

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I would like to reflect on the actions of last week in which there was a motion put to the floor of the House to remove the Cabinet Minister. While I am six months into my term as a rookie MLA and still learning the ropes as to procedures in the House, procedures for committee meetings, procedures for dealing with Cabinet Ministers, and a host of other procedures, policies, regulations, and legislative acts, Mr. Speaker, of course I am not new to the political arena, having served terms on local government counsels, the Dene Band, and hamlet councils, but nothing can prepare you for life in the big House. This arena has one collaborating with colleagues from all the regions of the Northwest Territories on a host of issues affecting their respective ridings. One thing is for sure: we even agree to disagree. At times, frustrations and anger take the place of common sense. Perhaps it's the pressure of knowing that the whole of the Northwest Territories is watching our every move. Are we going to be rock stars and solve all our territorial problems overnight? Or, failing that, perhaps we can take it out on a Minister or two, or three, or four.

I shared with my colleagues an event in my past life while attending the Deh Cho First Nations assemblies during the summers. At the beginning of the assemblies, there's a fire feeding ceremony. The significance of the fire feeding ceremony is the release of unhappy memories, fears, negative emotions, anger, and anything that you are holding onto that doesn't serve you well. Fire also keeps you warm. The event that I recall is an elderly Dene woman speaking before feeding the fire to tell all the leaders that they should not fight amongst each other. "You have work to do for your people." Those are powerful words spoken by an elderly Dene woman, especially in that setting, the fire feeding ceremony. Perhaps we need to adopt more of the Dene culture and traditional practices here in the territory.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke to two Dene women who broke the glass ceiling effect in their bids for top leadership positions. They both do not have an easy ride in their roles but are strong in their convictions and will not be bullied. I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Mahsi.

---Unanimous consent granted

Reflections on the Legislative Assembly from a Dene Perspective
Members' Statements

Page 921

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and mahsi, colleagues. Having told my story to my colleagues and the fact that this Assembly is the first in Canada to have a gender-balanced government, and the fact that we now have more women in Cabinet positions, and the fact that they are working tirelessly, I stated I do not support the motion to remove the Cabinet Minister.

Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the House for the disruption caused by the past week's activities. The harm this has caused the Members on the other side of the House. I truly look forward to getting down to business and the deliberations for the benefit of all the residents of the Northwest Territories. Mahsi.

Reflections on the Legislative Assembly from a Dene Perspective
Members' Statements

Page 921

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.