This is page numbers 1197 - 1220 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 work.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake Jr, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Ms. Green, 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 10:03 a.m.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 1197

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Oh, God, I ask for your guidance today to give us clarity to help the people we serve to the very best of our ability. I ask that you help us maintain our resolve, no matter what obstacles we may face. I also ask you to keep our wits sharp and that we always keep our loved ones in mind while we do our work, with every keystroke, pen stroke, with every word. Amen.

Prayer
Prayer

Page 1197

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

Good morning, Members. As you know, today is day last. Have a good day today. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 59-19(2): COVID-19 and the NWT Economy
Ministers' Statements

Page 1197

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted every aspect of life in our territory. The Government of the Northwest Territories has responded to the pandemic in a variety of ways. In addition to the measures taken to protect the health and safety of our residents and communities, our government has acted to mitigate the economic impacts of this crisis on our economy and to invest in the economic well-being of Northwest Territories industry and businesses.

Mr. Speaker, we knew that, for our economy to recover, we would need our mines and supporting industries to be operating, small businesses to be open, and our people to be working. That being said, our first priority was to address the health and safety of entrepreneurs, business owners, and their employees. Following that, we acted to ensure that Northwest Territories communities and residents would continue to receive critical supplies. With so many remote and dispersed communities, we are acutely aware of the importance of the supply chain, perhaps more so that our southern counterparts.

Since these initial first steps, Mr. Speaker, the Departments of Infrastructure and Industry, Tourism and Investment have rolled out a sequence of measured and organized steps, in tandem with the federal government, to ensure that funding reliefs are available. Some of these reliefs include waiving fees impacting truckers and air carriers to provide nearly $2.5 million in economic relief. We have also continued to advocate regularly to the federal government on behalf of northern airlines facing unprecedented operating challenges due to the pandemic. Capital loans have also been made available through the Business Development and Investment Corporation to businesses that needed immediate liquidity.

Mr. Speaker, since March 20th, the GNWT has committed over $20 million in offsets and supports for NWT businesses. Collectively, our territory, its governments, business chambers, and stakeholder organizations have been able to deliver the message in Ottawa that we need specific and regionally appropriate support programs for our businesses.

As a supplement to Canada's national business relief plans, CanNor's Northern Business Relief Fund significantly expanded relief options for NWT and Indigenous businesses. On May 8th, the Minister of Finance announced $8.7 million for Northwest Territories airlines; the first of two phases of federal funding to help maintain the critical links that they provide. On May 12th, with support from the federal government, the GNWT then announced a $6.2-million plan to top up wages for workers making less than $18 per hour.

Through all of this Mr. Speaker, we have also worked with our mines and resource companies to ensure their safe and continued operation. We have taken steps to protect mineral tenure in the Northwest Territories by suspending payment and work requirements until the end of June, and will be extending this relief for an additional 90 days.

We will need our resource sector to anchor our recovery. Mining and exploration are the biggest source of private-sector jobs and income for our residents, and, as we get back to business, will be a major buyer of products and services from NWT companies. The Mining Incentive Program has been adapted to support Northwest Territories prospectors and company-led mineral exploration projects, and to ensure that their projects this summer will be in line with orders and conditions of the Chief Public Health Officer.

Mr. Speaker, much has been said about the need for economic stimulus and recovery, but it is only thanks to our investments in relief efforts that we are able now to look forward. As we do, an important component of economic stimulus and recovery will be investment in GNWT infrastructure projects. Not only will these projects inject money into the economy, they will provide business and employment opportunities for our residents.

In 2020/2021 the GNWT is planning to invest over $500 million in infrastructure throughout the Northwest Territories. This will allow us to deliver a total of 152 capital projects in 28 Northwest Territories communities, including schools, long-term care and healthcare facilities, and major transportation projects. Many of these projects are multi-year projects that will begin or continue this year. This investment continues to leverage significant federal infrastructure dollars.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT will continue to advocate and work with the federal government on infrastructure initiatives that lead to jobs, economic growth, and prosperity both in the NWT and Canada. Meanwhile, as Northwest Territories businesses begin to resume operations across the North, we have reintroduced our Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development Policy Program for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. It represents $4 million of potential investment into projects in which community employment is emphasized, and where the bulk of the funding will be spent in our communities.

Similarly, we will inject almost $4.4 million into parks infrastructure, tourism product development, and community infrastructure projects this summer, supporting local suppliers, contractors, and employees as we improve our tourism product for the future.

As we begin to emerge wisely from public health measures, Mr. Speaker, economic recovery will begin within our territory and will depend greatly on what we can do for each other. The importance of the "BuyNorth" or "ShopNWT" message has never been as true as it is today.

Our recovery will also have to be in step with the needs and capacity of our business community. The new Business Advisory Council will be the voice of NWT business in my office. It will ensure that the experience, talent, and resources of the Northwest Territories' private sector are considered in our decision-making, and, as we look ahead, I believe the collective world-wide effort that will be put into economic recovery will bring new opportunities.

If we can position ourselves to learn from the wave of innovation that I believe we will see, we can reimagine our own economy for the future; one that continues to promote our wealth of natural resources, but also encourages a more diversified and resilient economy that builds upon our natural strengths. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 59-19(2): COVID-19 and the NWT Economy
Ministers' Statements

Page 1198

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

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 60-19(2): Partner and Staff Appreciation for COVID Efforts
Ministers' Statements

Page 1198

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, increasing the number of affordable homes and reducing core housing need is a priority of this government. The difficult times that we are emerging from highlight that safe and secure housing is one of our highest needs. The delivery of housing services became more challenging, given our need to stay healthy in preparation of COVID-19 through physical distancing.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the individuals and organizations involved in ensuring that safe housing and affordable shelters are available to our residents. Many of these people work behind the scenes, delivering critical services for housing solutions and emergency repairs.

I am proud and grateful for the work being done by the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation staff and all of our community partners, such as local housing organizations and emergency shelter providers that help us to provide housing and homeless supports. These important front-line workers support approximately 2,800 units under Northwest Territories Housing Corporation programming and five overnight shelters.

Indigenous government partners worked diligently with the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation. When faced with the uncertainty of how COVID-19 would impact their communities, the Deline Got'ine Government and the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation had no hesitation in offering to take on the administration of some public housing units for the purposes of self-isolation. While, ultimately, these units were not required to address COVID-19, these communities and their leaders demonstrated to their people that they were prepared to do what it takes to keep their residents safe.

I want also to thank the private industry for their contributions during this time. Many landlords faced their own economic pressures. In the community of Hay River, I want to thank the owners of the North Country Inn, which was utilized to support some residents experiencing homelessness. Large industry also wanted to help out. In Norman Wells, Imperial Oil Limited offered the use of some of its staff housing units should it be required.

I want to recognize the work of staff at the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation who successfully continued to deliver essential services such as emergency repair programming, rent support, and the Homelessness Assistance Fund.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to thank our partners in delivering housing in the communities. I also want to express my gratitude for their commitment to housing our residents of the Northwest Territories and their professionalism during this time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 60-19(2): Partner and Staff Appreciation for COVID Efforts
Ministers' Statements

Page 1199

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

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

Minister's Statement 61-19(2): Planning for the Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 2020-2021 School Year
Ministers' Statements

Page 1199

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As the end of the 2019-2020 school year approaches, planning for how to safely reopen schools in the fall is well under way. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment is working diligently with its education partners to create a supportive and effective learning environment for students in the 2020-2021 school year, and beyond.

As we emerge wisely into more relaxed public health restrictions, I want to be clear: the upcoming school year will not be a return to normal. I understand that all of us want desperately to get back into our routines and have this crisis end. That cannot happen this fall, and the number one priority of my office and the Department of Education, Culture and Employment has to remain the health and safety of our students and education staff. Schools will be taking strong action to meet the recommendations of the Chief Public Health Officer, while providing junior kindergarten to grade 12 education programs and services starting this fall, and we continue to need the support of all our residents to make this happen.

Mr. Speaker, ECE and education bodies responsible for delivering education are working on a coordinated, system-wide approach for the coming school year, that is based on the detailed criteria provided by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer on how to safely reopen schools. This approach is focused on achieving the following priorities:

  • maintaining the health and safety of students, staff, and communities;
  • starting the school year on time;
  • maximizing in-person learning, as much as possible;
  • seeking equity across regions;
  • maintaining financial supports to schools and the programs they offer; and
  • supporting continuity of learning.

While details on specific health and safety measures will vary from school to school, Mr. Speaker, there are some general measures that will be enacted in schools across the NWT to help maintain physical distance. These include:

  • limits on class size;
  • enhanced cleaning and disinfecting practices;
  • strict hand-washing routines;
  • designated entrances and exits;
  • staggered breaks, drop-offs, and dismissals;
  • use of personal protective equipment by staff and students when physical distance cannot be maintained;
  • spacing of desks and other furniture;
  • restricting and managing flow in hallways and common areas through floor markings and/or physical barriers;
  • encouraging activities to take place outdoors, when possible;
  • restrictions on assemblies, choir and music classes, drama, team sports, and other gatherings where physical distancing is not possible; and
  • limited access to schools for parents, guardians, and visitors.

Education will be delivered based on factors such as school size and layout, grade level, the number of students and staff, access to technology, and the unique needs of each student. Individual schools will be making adjustments to student transportation, food programs, and scheduling in order to accommodate public health recommendations.

In our smaller schools, it is likely that students will be safely accommodated within the existing space and will not need to rely as much on distance learning. However, larger schools with more staff and students will have a harder time delivering the full extent of education programming within the school space. In these situations, schools may access space outside of the school, provide a blended learning approach that will prioritize in-person learning, or continue to support at-home distance learning if necessary.

Mr. Speaker, this is a dynamic situation, and plans for the coming school year may need to change as new information or public health and workplace safety requirements are identified. Public bodies are taking a flexible approach to their planning, to account for a potential second wave of COVID-19 in the fall of 2020, to ensure schools are able to open and remain open. The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to providing regular updates to the public as plans move forward for the upcoming school year.

Each school will need to have its reopening plan assessed and approved by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer and the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission. All schools are working to have their detailed plans submitted before the end of the current school year, and details of these will be made available to students, parents, guardians, and staff once those plans are reviewed and approved. In addition, ECE will be publishing a territorial plan on reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year later this month.

Mr. Speaker, the health and safety of residents and communities of the NWT is our primary concern. As we near the end of this school year, ECE remains committed to providing support to education leaders, students, parents, guardians, and teachers as we truly work together to meet public health and safety requirements while supporting the critical learning and well-being of all NWT students. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 61-19(2): Planning for the Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12 2020-2021 School Year
Ministers' Statements

Page 1200

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

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Justice.

Minister's Statement 62-19(2): 2020-2021 Ministerial Policing Priorities
Ministers' Statements

Page 1200

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the Northwest Territories, we entrust the RCMP with the responsibility to support every citizen's rights to safety and security, and we also entrust them with the right to take away a citizen's liberty in response to unlawful activity. That is a tremendous power and responsibility. We are fortunate to have the service of a professional and experienced national police force and an RCMP division dedicated to community policing. However, it remains critically important that we ensure our policing services reflect the unique context of our territory and the diversity of our people, and respect the trust that we are all placing in them every day. The ultimate goal we are all working towards together should be safe communities where our citizens can thrive.

The Minister's Policing Priorities for 2020-2021 have been under development since April, and they were already in their final form when the ongoing challenges of systemic racism within law enforcement took centre stage around the globe.

As we are all acutely aware, the world has changed drastically over the past few months. While it may initially have been a global pandemic that illustrated the need for out-of-the-box thinking as it pertains to our justice and policing systems, it has been society's recent awakening to the reality of racial injustice that has driven this home. It has become apparent that innovation and reform are necessary in these systems and that the status quo is no longer acceptable.

We considered not presenting these priorities today through this statement but decided we cannot shy away from the painful reality of racism and a potentially difficult conversation about policing. I will proceed to present the policing priorities today, and I look forward to engaging in more conversations with the RCMP and with the Members.

For 2020-2021, the four themes of policing priorities are: first, promote confidence in policing services; second, adapt to changing enforcement and community policing landscapes; third, continue to improve the RCMP's response to vulnerable population; and lastly, operational and fiscal innovation.

Regarding the first priority, the need to build confidence and trust in those whom we have trusted with our safety is foundational. Confidence will come from trust; trust requires a relationship and mutual respect. It is also something that must be constantly and consistently nurtured and protected.

To serve communities effectively, it is critical to acknowledge, reflect, and learn from a past that has not always been characterized by mutual respect and to use those lessons to improve understanding, empathy, and cultural safety in how policing is done today. Some progress in establishing trust has been the creation of the Commanding Officer's Aboriginal Advisory. In addition, the NWT has an Aboriginal Policing Services unit within G Division, and the division's commanding officer has directed that all new members to a community must complete a personal biography to be presented to the community. They are required to attend a cultural orientation specific to the community where they have been placed, which includes meeting with local Indigenous organizations and elders. Such steps should be recognized, but that does not mean the work is done, and so promoting confidence in policing remains a priority.

Northwest Territories communities have made it very clear how much harm they witness in their communities, harm from alcohol misuse, drug trafficking, and bootlegging. Bootlegging and substance abuse have been identified on almost every community's community policing plan. In addition to further cracking down on illegal alcohol and drug trafficking, we've also identified the need for more effective enforcement of impaired driving legislation as a means to keeping our communities and streets safe.

The RCMP must continue to foster trust within communities to help residents feel more comfortable reporting illegal alcohol and drug trafficking and impaired driving, which will allow the RCMP to implement more effective crime prevention and enforcement strategies. Although we know that root causes underlying the misuse of alcohol lie in areas beyond the influence of police, their enforcement efforts are integral to the disruption of the illegal networks taking advantage of people who are living with mental health and addictions.

The Department of Justice and the RCMP are a first point of contact for the diversion of suitable matters to local restorative justice options such as the community justice committees. Restorative justice practices and principles have long been linked to more positive outcomes for both offenders and victims. By increasing the use of more restorative practices, the RCMP will play a vital role in identifying matters for youth and adult diversion early in the justice system process.

The second priority, adapting to a changing community landscape, is linked to the third, and this is to improve the RCMP's response to vulnerable populations.

The RCMP play a critical role acting as the first point of contact for many people experiencing family violence, by informing victims of their rights and connecting those victims to community supports. Recognizing that family violence rates remain consistently high in the Northwest Territories, it is essential that RCMP members and victim services workers continue to collaborate so that victims' rights are recognized and respected.

Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Minister's Statement 62-19(2): 2020-2021 Ministerial Policing Priorities
Ministers' Statements

Page 1201

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We also recognize the challenges that victims face in reporting sexual assault. We look to the RCMP to continue working with stakeholders and partners, including the Department of Justice, to implement solutions that would ensure a thorough investigation of a complaint in each and every case. Implementing trauma-informed investigative tools remains a best practice of our police officers and, in turn, is an area of focus we've identified for the coming year. This lessens the impact of crime and trauma on victims and their families, while also aiding in healing and recovery. Proper training and accurate use of investigative tools go a long way to improving the quality of the response provided to survivors of violence.

Our last remaining priority, again, with connection to the third, is operational and fiscal innovation. Mr. Speaker, the world is experiencing an unprecedented challenge with the COVID-19 pandemic. Policing is a critical piece of our emergency planning. The RCMP should continue careful planning to support safe communities and the safety of their members throughout this evolving situation. They should continue to participate in emergency planning within their scope at the territorial and federal level and collaborate wherever possible with territorial departments and agencies to help keep Northwest Territories residents safe.

As we continue to work through the added challenges that we face as a result of this pandemic, as well as addressing racism within law enforcement, it is more incumbent than ever on the Government of the Northwest Territories and the RCMP to work collaboratively to leverage our efforts for the benefit of our communities. While this might require some ingenuity, I am confident that we have appropriate and rigorous checks and balances that will hold our organizations accountable to operate innovatively within the financial limits of our contract.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I reiterate that annual Ministerial police priorities are part of a much wider conversation that includes acknowledging both a past and present that still needs much healing. It is about building trust and finding a way forward so that police services are partners in upholding and protecting the safety of all people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 62-19(2): 2020-2021 Ministerial Policing Priorities
Ministers' Statements

Page 1201

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

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

Congratulations to Hay River Graduates
Members' Statements

June 12th, 2020

Page 1202

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to congratulate each of those students who are graduating from Ecole Boreal, Diamond Jenness Secondary School, and Aurora College. I know that these graduates will not forget the year they graduated, nor will they forget the unique events of COVID-19 surrounding their graduation.

We all appreciate and acknowledge the commitment, sacrifice, and hard work that these students put in to achieve their status as graduates. These students started their educational journey as young children and have now finished as young adults. That chapter has now closed, and it is time to take that next step, whether it be to further their education, join the workforce, or travel. It is only the beginning of life's journey.

The only advice I would have for each student is: listen to others, show respect for others, and most importantly, follow your dreams.

Mr. Speaker, I, along with the Member for Hay River North, am proud to announce the 2020 grade 12 graduates from Ecole Boreal: Megan Buhler, Reegan Jung-kind, Justin Morais, and Victoria Tweedie-Pitre.

Mr. Speaker, I, along with the Member for Hay River North, am proud to now announce the 2020 Grade 12 graduates from Diamond Jenness Secondary School: Trey Beck, Brad Belanger, Shyla Boyce, Caleb Brockway, Jared Chocolate, Geronimoe Constant, Ceiara Flaherty-Mckay, Elisha Gill, Nicole Griffiths, Conner Hoffman, Alice Jensen, Hunter Lafferty, Tarek Leahy-Chicot, Layne Leonard, Dylan McWhinnie, Tenielle Patterson, Angus Smith, Bryce Smith, Julie Squires-Rowe, Zoey Walsh, and Danielle Havioyak-Kolaohok.

Mr. Speaker, I, along with the Member for Hay River North, am proud to announce the 2020 Hay River graduates from Aurora College: Fredelle Deneyoua, who received a Business Administration Diploma, and Dana Webster, who received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing.

For the graduates to achieve the success each celebrates today, we must recognize the parents, caregivers, family, and those teachers who supported and encouraged them to succeed. One day, each graduate will look back and understand the importance of what they achieved and hopefully convey the importance to their children and others. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I congratulate all the 2020 Hay River graduates and wish them all the success for the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Congratulations to Hay River Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 1202

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

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Congratulations to Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh High School Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 1202

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Today I want to speak about our most important resource in the NWT. You might be thinking, yeah, we've got diamonds, which are valuable; we have gold, yes; and let's not forget the oil and gas industry; but that's not what I'm referring to today.

Mr. Speaker, the most importance resource I am speaking about is our youth. Our youth are our future. Without them, the work that we are doing right now will be for nothing. It has been said that it takes a village to raise a child, and I firmly believe that we must put as much support as possible from all of us to teach our children and give them as strong a foundation as possible to prepare for adult life. Let's face it, some of these students will be sitting here one day, in our chairs.

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, high school graduates everywhere had to endure unique and unusual challenges in their final year of high school. However, and I am speaking to the students now, I know that this whole experience will make you stronger and wiser as you continue on your journey.

With that, Mr. Speaker, today, I would like to celebrate and honour all of the high school graduates in the constituency of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. I have reached out to the principals in each school, and their names include: Tamara Enzoe-Dagg from Lutsel K'e Dene School; Kiana Lafferty from Lutsel K'e Dene School; Lillyan Lockart from Lutsel K'e Dene School; Greg Villeneuve from Deninu Kue; Aaron Flunkie-Mantla from K'alemi Dene School; Caylynn Crapeau, Dettah, St. Patrick's High School; Darian Erasmus, Ndilo, Sir John High School; and Ethan Black, also Sir John High School.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I would like to end on a quote from a really good book that I plan to give to the graduates. It's called "The ABCs of Adulthood," and here's an excerpt from this book: "Risk. 'Nothing ventured, nothing gained' has been around since Chaucer, but just because it's become a cliche doesn't mean it's not still as true today as it was in those times. In just about every realm in your life, love and work in particular, you must take risks. Yes, you might speak your love out loud and have it not reciprocated, or you might try to cure cancer and fail. You might go on 50 dates that suck, but kids, you cannot reach the summit of Mount Everest until you have stumbled over a whole mountainside of rocks and ice."

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all the teachers, principals, and staff for helping these kids move along their journey, and I want to finish off by saying we're all very proud of you, and we wish them all the very best in their future endeavours. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.