This is page numbers 1111 - 1152 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

Chief Jimmy Bruneau School Replacement
Members' Statements

Page 1115

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation] In Edzo, the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School, about 50 years ago, I was in the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School. It has been quite some time. Fifty years ago, I was at the Chief Jimmy Bruneau School. The last time they did renovations was 25 years ago. The people from the community of Behchoko want a new school to be built. Even the chiefs are asking for a new school to be built. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to talk about this. [Translation ends]

When the government honours a community by building a new school, the students also feel honoured. They have a greater interest in attending classes, achieving higher education. Mr. Speaker, students learn better, are healthier and happier, and are more likely to participate in extracurricular activities when the school they attend is modern, attractive, and up-to-date.

Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Edzo is 50 years old. That's half a century, Mr. Speaker. When it was built, NASA's first moon landing was still making the headlines. Seriously, Mr. Speaker, Chief Jimmy Bruneau School is one of the oldest schools in our territory. The department of education has no option but to invest significant capital dollars into our school. The question is: will the money be used to give us a brand new school that generally serves the needs of our Tlicho students, a school that students are proud to attend, or will the department try to revive the existing worn-out school by patching it up yet again, hoping for the best?

Mr. Speaker, Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Edzo is five years older than J.H. Sissons School in Yellowknife, and J.H. Sissons School is currently in the process of being replaced with a brand new school. The students and parents in my constituency have a strong message for the Minister of education. They do not want their school to be patched up yet again. That was already done back in 1995, 25 years ago, Mr. Speaker. They want a brand new school, which the students need and deserve.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister and I already met with the Tlicho Chief's Executive Council, and their message was crystal clear: they want a brand new school. Community residents are also demanding a brand new school. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Education at the appropriate time. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Chief Jimmy Bruneau School Replacement
Members' Statements

Page 1115

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

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

Congratulations to 2020 Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 1115

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, my community is celebrating the achievement of the 2020 graduating class of East Three Secondary School by holding an outdoor ceremony and a public parade celebration. These students have had to complete their studies in a way that none of us have ever done or imagined. I would like to take this opportunity to first congratulate all of them on their graduation today and acknowledge all the hard work that they have put in to get where they are today. I'd also like to acknowledge their parents, guardians, and other family members, community members, educators who supported these East Three graduates today. They all have managed to be celebrating their graduation today. They have overcome challenges that were thrown at them with no face-to-face classes and only using technology to communicate with their instructors. I would say life has prepared them for this challenge.

Many of us have not been born into this world of technology and social media and are struggling, but they have overcome this and achieved their goal by graduating today. Congratulations to the East Three secondary class of 2020 on your accomplishments.

I would also like to take this time to congratulate all those students from my community who have also completed their post-secondary studies this year with all the challenges they had to overcome to complete. I congratulate all of those students who are currently in and finished their year, the ones who have graduated. They're all going home now. I just want to make sure that they're well appreciated. I want to celebrate with them today, but I'm here. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Congratulations to 2020 Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 1116

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

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

Addictions Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Members' Statements

June 10th, 2020

Page 1116

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to highlight the excessive use of alcohol and drugs since the onset of the coronavirus outbreak. This period of time, and the government's need to assist residents to prepare for self-isolation measures, brought huge sums of money into the hands of many residents. This period of time also brought a lot of idle time as many working class residents were off work and at home, bringing the whole of the Northwest Territories to a standstill.

Mr. Speaker, I nor anyone else can dictate what residents should or should not do with their time and money. Unfortunately, many chose to turn to the bottle and the assortment of drugs available to them. There are reports that the RCMP and health centre staff were run ragged during this period, all related to excessive alcohol and drug use. We are not out of the woods yet in relation to this virus as there may be a second and possibly a third wave.

Mr. Speaker, I can't pinpoint the reasons where all this excessive alcohol and drug use amongst the people of the Northwest Territories. I am almost certain many in our health care system can. The leaders in my riding have expressed concerns with the ongoing problems with alcohol and drugs. They see the GNWT having no regard to strict restrictions on alcohol sales and were quite taken aback with the dial-a-bottle program. Therein lies a major contributor to the alcohol and drug problems faced by many residents of the Northwest Territories and especially our Indigenous communities. I would also like to note that the many residents who do not use alcohol and drugs, lead a healthy lifestyle, are equally affected by this dilemma. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Addictions Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
Members' Statements

Page 1116

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

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Enforceable Benefits from Resource Development
Members' Statements

Page 1116

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. Members of the last Assembly and the public spent a considerable amount of time reviewing and improving proposed legislative changes to increase benefit retention from resource development. This work was long delayed and meant to start to fulfill the promise of devolution.

Amendments were also made to the oil and gas legislation to flip the secrecy onus, to make everything public unless there is a good reason not to. We are still waiting to have this new approach come into force. On the mining side, there is the potential for benefit agreements for Indigenous governments before a property can go into production, and possibly even the public may be assured of some benefits. The difficulty is that the Minister along with Cabinet have total and absolute discretion over whether any of this will happen, and this may be done on a case-by-case basis. Those holes are big enough to drive entire B-Train tanker trucks through as to whether Northerners can anticipate and realize enforceable benefits.

A recent May 1 Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories decision on the enforceability and relationship of community investment plans to regulatory requirements highlights how poorly our resources are actually managed in terms of benefit retention. The judge ruled that the secrecy of the oil and gas benefit plan system is the law. Community investment plans are separate from the benefit plans and cannot be enforced by the territorial government, even if there was the will to do so. There is no public review process for benefit agreements between the GNWT and oil and gas companies, and approval rests with the Minister alone. Although benefit agreements or plans may be required for mineral exploration and development through the Mineral Rights Act, all of this is again at the complete discretion of the Minister and Cabinet.

I will have questions later today for the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment on what was learned as a result of the Acho Dene Koe First Nation court case and when the promises of devolution, including enforceable benefits for NWT residents, will be finally delivered and brought into force. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Enforceable Benefits from Resource Development
Members' Statements

Page 1116

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

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

Access to Education
Members' Statements

Page 1117

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, our schools don't only provide traditional learning opportunities like reading and writing. Schools are where children learn to interact, and where many children depend on for food and emotional support. COVID-19 has shown us that education of our northern youth is fragile and that access to education is not equitable. When I talk about equitable access, I am talking about access to the physical resources like hardware, software, Internet, and phones needed to access and communicate with schools. However, I am also talking about the capacity of the child's home to support learning, such as the ability to navigate apps, to stay on top of school work, and to maintain a work-school life balance.

NWT schools closed their doors in mid-March, and since then, NWT parents have struggled to balance childcare, teaching their children, full-time jobs, and self-care. Some parents have had the capacity and resources to prioritize school. Some have had to accept that working full-time and home schooling is not a reality that they can achieve. Still others, have had no access at all. We have heard stories of no interaction between parents, students, and teachers. Even here in Yellowknife, I have spoken with people who cannot afford Internet, and do not have access to the hardware required for virtual learning.

Although school boards have created paper-based learning packages, many parents use pay-as-you-go cellphones, making the packages difficult to reach. Other parents still are confronting their own unique challenges, making it difficult to lead their children through homeschooling. I learned from some educators that the combination of access and capacity have resulted in one school saying, roughly, a one-third participation in school assignments.

Mr. Speaker, I do not share this out of judgment. I feel we just need to honestly understand where we are before we can talk about where we want to be and what we need to get there. We have closed schools, relying on an expectation that all children have equitable access to education, yet we also know that we are in an infrastructure deficit that is inhibiting the quality of access. Sadly, our socio-economic disparities are such that this is disproportionately affecting our lower income families to a greater degree. Our schools are the foundation of equitable access to education. Learning fuels pride, resilience and social connection. We always tell our children to prioritize their education because no one can take it away, yet here we are, Mr. Speaker. Without schools, our equitable access to learning supports creates barriers that may be insurmountable by some.

I believe the GNWT is going to need to take extraordinary steps to ensure that the 2020-2021 school year does not become the year that drives a further wedge between our privileged and underprivileged students. I look forward to hearing from the Minister of education about the work his department is doing to overcome the challenge of inequitable access to education supports. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Access to Education
Members' Statements

Page 1117

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

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Communications within Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly
Members' Statements

Page 1117

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Due to COVID-19, we in this House and in government have gained an audience, many paying attention to us for the first time in their lives. This is an opportunity to educate people on our processes and work to improve them. As an example, yesterday, we passed Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditure) 2020-2021, and today, we've just received assent from our Commissioner. Admittedly, Mr. Speaker, when Bill 7 came up on the order paper, I had to double check what it was. That was us passing a billion dollar budget, and for the first time in this House, it received unanimous consent. In years, that has not occurred, Mr. Speaker. I think to the average person watching, they didn't notice that happen.

Mr. Speaker, there are many things we can do to just simply change our processes to make them more accessible. The vast majority of my meetings are done in camera, another one of these terms originating from England that means "in the room" or "confidential or private." I think most of us understand what in camera means, but why don't we simply just call it confidential? This is a problem because it requires us as Members to know things or to pretend we don't know other things, and it creates this cognitive dissonance. I think it is even worse on the Cabinet side, where Ministers are unsure what they know, what they're supposed to know, and communicating this at times can become very difficult. I, myself, have information I know and have been trying to get to a constituent for a number of months but have yet to get it confirmed in a public manner.

I don't think there is anything nefarious going on in the lack of transparency. Often, as government, we just do things simply because that's the way it always has been done, but I think, Mr. Speaker, that it is time that we take a deep look at our processes and how to make them more accessible and transparent to the public. Of course, government needs to operate behind closed doors at times. We deal with legal advice. We deal with very personal health information. We conduct tough negotiations and we hold information that, if released the wrong way, can have wide-reaching consequences. I'm not presuming we get rid of all confidential meetings, but I am asking that all of us in this House, before we do anything, ask: can this action be made public and accessible?

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend much of the work our comm staff do in making information more accessible and converting documents to plain language, but I ask myself: perhaps we could just operate in plain language in the first place. Mr. Speaker, I am seeking unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Communications within Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly
Members' Statements

Page 1118

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Consensus government is a model that has many strict rules of how our information can flow, and often our own processes are fighting against our need to be transparent. I will have questions for the Honourable Premier about how we can change some of the institutional barriers that limit us from communicating in a straightforward and timely way. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Communications within Northwest Territories Legislative Assembly
Members' Statements

Page 1118

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

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Item 4, returns to oral questions. Item 5, recognition of visitors in the gallery. Item 6, acknowledgements. Item 7, oral questions. Member for Thebacha.

Question 314-19(2): Salt River First Nation Claim Implementation
Oral Questions

Page 1118

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Government of the Northwest Territories is a signatory to the Salt River land entitlement claim, and thus has a vital role in implementation. Can the Premier explain why the implementation of this claim has not been fully implemented yet, despite being signed 18 years ago? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 314-19(2): Salt River First Nation Claim Implementation
Oral Questions

Page 1118

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

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Honourable Premier.