This is page numbers 1153 - 1196 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 seniors.

Topics

On-going COVID-19 Pandemic Precautions
Members' Statements

Page 1158

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It has been three months since COVID-19 lockdown. Getting used to the new normal of wearing masks and not able to hug or handshake anymore is a new normal. We have been really fortunate that the fast acting of our communities widespread are extremely lucky that no lives have been lost in the Northwest Territories. All the hard work that our staff have been going through.

Mr. Speaker, I am worried about the people who will become complacent. Today, as a reminder to my constituents of Nunakput and across our territory, not to let your guard down. When it comes to this deadly pandemic, you have to keep social distancing, hand-washing, self-isolating, and if you have to travel, you should be avoiding large crowds, any situation, socially distance yourself, and wearing a mask.

To date, 97,000 Canadians have caught COVID-19. Approximately 8,000 Canadians have lost their lives to this pandemic. Worldwide, over seven million people contracted the virus and 400,000 have died. Now is not the time to be careless. We still are in this pandemic. Experts say there is a chance that there will be a second wave of COVID-19 this fall. There's a risk that the virus could spread to our governments who start to relax restrictions. I encourage the people of Nunakput and across the territory to continue to be careful. Remember, if you've travelled, to isolate yourself, especially if you visit vulnerable children or elders. Keep sanitizing your hands and hand-washing. Keep a good supply of dry goods just in case. Remember, call your local health centre if you feel sick or have a fever. Out there on the land, our summer weather is the best kind of social distancing there is.

I know that there has been some confusion this week around our travel, whether our borders are closed or not. I understand that, if someone wants to come to the NWT, they can, but they have to have an isolation plan. Friends and relatives who want to visit, they need a plan to self-isolate for two weeks when they get here. If not, they shouldn't come at this time. This goes for travelling south. The disease is still out there. Some places have widespread community transmission. Please don't travel if you don't have to. Use caution. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent given

On-going COVID-19 Pandemic Precautions
Members' Statements

Page 1158

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Premier and Cabinet, please remember to stay visible to the public and also to keep the promise that we made to our communities: no evictions and no power limiters or cut-offs. Help our people at this time. Don't forget how much our people are hurting. Help our communities when asked upon. I want to wish the constituents and all residents in the Northwest Territories: have a happy, safe summer. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

On-going COVID-19 Pandemic Precautions
Members' Statements

Page 1158

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

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

National AccessAbility Week and Accessibility for Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 1158

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Last week was National AccessAbility Week in Canada, which is an annual occasion for Canadians that brings attention to the issue of accessibility and recognizes the efforts of individuals, communities, and workplaces that actively work to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of accessibility across the NWT has become an increasingly pressing issue for those with less-able bodies, and the longer our government does nothing to change things, the longer we will continue to marginalize those with disabilities. This has been said by numerous territorial organizations, such as the NWT Disabilities Council, the NWT Human Rights Commission, and the Yellowknife Chapter of the MS Society of Canada, to name a few. To put it into perspective, according to the 2017 Canadian Survey on Disability, the NWT has a total of 6,350 people with a disability over the age of 15. Furthermore, according to the NWT Human Rights Commission 2018-2019 Annual Report, in total, 66 percent of all new complaints were allegations of discrimination based on disability.

I would like to also add that, even those without disabilities can have troubles accessing certain spaces across the territory. I say that from experience, Mr. Speaker, because even for myself, I am at a point in my life where I must consider my own accessibility needs before I travel to most places. I do not have a disability, but if someone like me, an elder with minor mobility issues, cannot access certain spaces adequately, consider what it is like for someone in a wheelchair or a walker entering those same spaces.

Mr. Speaker, part of the problem with the NWT and accessibility is that our jurisdiction is one of 10 other provinces and territories who do not have any legislation on accessibility. Absent of any legislation, our territorial building codes have no frame of reference, no standards to follow in constructing buildings as barrier-free. By comparison, Ontario is one of the three provinces with accessibility legislation, and they have set the goal to be barrier-free by 2025, setting a standard for designing public spaces, transportation, and other customer services. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

National AccessAbility Week and Accessibility for Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 1159

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Accessibility is an issue that must be addressed and advanced with greater substance during the life of this Assembly. The Government of the Northwest Territories has already released a Disability Strategic Framework in 2017, along with a Disability Action Plan the following year. Let's build on that and put in the work to pass legislation on this very important issue of accessibility. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

National AccessAbility Week and Accessibility for Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 1159

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

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

Elder Abuse
Members' Statements

Page 1159

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. The abuse seniors go through is lost on the public, as most people don't see or hear of it. It is not just the physical abuse that should be concerning, but the mental abuse, as well. Most seniors put their trust in immediate family, whether they be a son, daughter, brothers, or sisters, and even the caregivers who are trusted to provide services for them. Many seniors will lose faith in their loved ones at some point, should that trust be broken. They may lose faith, but still have the love they so dearly want in return.

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Yellowknife Centre will be tabling a motion on behalf of the seniors of the Northwest Territories, requesting supports that will enable them to live in dignity. I will support that motion. Mahsi.

Elder Abuse
Members' Statements

Page 1159

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

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

Aging in Place and Accessibility for Seniors
Members' Statements

June 11th, 2020

Page 1159

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. In my Member's statement today, I am going to join with my colleagues and discuss the importance of caring for our elders and people with mobility issues in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, most of our elders have worked hard all their lives. They have paid their dues and helped lay the foundation of the road before us, so we as a government owe it to them to let them thoroughly enjoy their golden years with peace of mind. When I say they have worked hard all their lives, it's not just in the traditional 9:00 to 5:00 jobs. A lot of our elders worked hard out on the land. My great-grandfather hunting, checking fish nets, providing for the family; my great-grandmother used to tell me stories about going out in 50 below at Little Buffalo River with a shawl and checking rabbit snares for food, and still set in her ways. Even late in life, when I was in school, we bought her a washer and dryer. She refused to use it, and she still stuck with her old ways and had a washboard, because she wanted to get my socks just the right way. I still think about that, and it makes me smile. Hard-working, and I wish we could teach our youth some of that hard work ethic. I'm still trying, and hopefully, we can get there.

Going on with what I was saying, in our list of 22 priorities of the 19th Assembly, one of them is to enable seniors to age in place with dignity; the key word there being "dignity." This priority item is also expanded upon in this Assembly's mandate.

Mr. Speaker, our mandate says that this government commits to increasing supports for seniors to remain in their own homes in their communities; to protect our elders from abuse and neglect; and to fund actions that enhance inclusion, safety, and removal of community-level barriers to aging in place.

As we recover from this pandemic, I will work as best I can to ensure that this government will stay true to these commitments. As well, Mr. Speaker, for the reasons I have just mentioned, I will be supporting today's motion, or any motion about supporting our seniors here in the NWT. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Aging in Place and Accessibility for Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 1159

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

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

Aging in Place
Members' Statements

Page 1160

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, my mother is my favourite senior. I might get in trouble for referring to her as that, but she is a feisty and fabulous 74-year-old. She loves to travel, kayak, create, and she is affectionately referred to by my girlfriends as the original diva. Those of us with seniors in our lives are truly blessed. Our elders and seniors are powerful, but it is not a power that is physically exerted over us. Their power comes from the knowledge and wisdom gained over decades of life experience. It is a power that teaches us to sit, breathe, and listen.

Mr. Speaker, aging isn't just a biological process; it is a cultural one. Different cultures have varying attitudes and practices around aging, and these cultural perspectives shape our individual experiences of getting older. Many cultures celebrate the aging process. In Zimbabwe, they train grandmothers to help treat depression. In Greek culture, old age is honoured and celebrated, and respect for elders is central to the family. In places like China, South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam, in the practice of Confucianism, filial piety or caring for one's parent is considered a prime virtue. As a result, we see cultural practices, like in China, where employers provide time off for workers to visit elderly parents.

Here, Indigenous people also hold an attitude of respect and reverence for their elders. When starting a new beginning, elders are often asked to open the celebration with prayer, by feeding a fire. Indigenous elders are viewed as knowledge keepers and stewards of centuries-old language and traditional practices. In the North, as in Japan, we see multiple generations living under one roof, but Japan does not suffer the same housing and equitable access to healthcare crisis as the NWT.

Conversely, in Western cultures, we celebrate youth, strength, and virility, and do not emphasize the care and comfort of our elders and seniors at the same time. We need to ensure that we do all that we can to honour, respect, and support our elders. This includes ensuring that they have the opportunity to age in place close to family, with support, resources, and connections in their own language, safe from violence and neglect. We need to ensure that our programs and services do not have unintended barriers preventing seniors from accessing them.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy that our Premier continues the tradition of naming a Minister responsible for Seniors, because seniors and elders matter. However, I am generally concerned about the practice of assigning portfolios lacking fiscal resources and departments of capable staff to do the necessary work. What does it mean to be a Minister responsible for an issue without adequate resources to do the work or plans in place for affecting change?

As Northerners, we need to reflect on our own views on aging and how we are supporting our elders. As a government, we need the resources to ensure we are providing seniors with the supports they need to live meaningful lives. Collectively, we must embrace our seniors and elders and recognize all they do to enrich our lives. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Aging in Place
Members' Statements

Page 1160

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

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

Impacts of COVID-19 on Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 1160

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will repeat it again: June is Senior Citizens' Month, and June 15th is World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Today, I would like to talk a bit about how this pandemic has affected some of our seniors in my community that I have observed.

Since March, programs have been cancelled, like the Elder Day Program, and orders to social distance have been put in place. No visitors for our elders in our long-term care or the elders that are in our homes. This pandemic is also keeping seniors out of the loop of what's happening in our territory during this pandemic, so it increases what's going on. What they're seeing on TV and what's actually happening in their territory, they haven't been able to observe, because GNWT has had a web page, Facebook posts, and most of the information shared by this government on the radio may have only been in English or in French. Those who speak other Indigenous languages may not have received the message. Our newspapers went digital, so they didn't even have the newspapers to read about what was going on in our territory.

Mr. Speaker, the only information that a senior who lived at home alone, with them alone or with a spouse, would get is word of mouth over the phone for the six weeks of this pandemic, if they had family to call, that is. They can watch the news, like I said, but only see what's going on in the rest of Canada. I know what it's like to have elderly grandparents that are living alone at home. Some are lucky and get visits every day, and phone calls all day, but there are those who have family that have their own issues they're dealing with, or they have work, kids, and other things that they're trying to manage. I'll be honest, when my grandparents lived alone at home, as a young mother, I could hardly get to see them.

Our elders don't like to ask for help as well, so they could be more at risk for loneliness, and that can lead to depression. Mr. Speaker, I just want to make sure our elders and seniors know they are important, and we must remember that they need to socialize. I'll ask for unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Impacts of COVID-19 on Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 1161

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you. We must remember that they need to socialize. They need to be informed in ways that they can understand. They did not grow up in a world of technology. Heck, some of them never had power or running water, let alone a computer or a smartphone. Moving forward, we need to make sure that, when we do make decisions, we are making decisions for all Northwest Territories residents, and we are providing material in more than one piece of information in our mailboxes so that they can be part of this Northwest Territories as well. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Impacts of COVID-19 on Seniors
Members' Statements

Page 1161

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

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