This is page numbers 1011 - 1034 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 indigenous.

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 1:31 p.m.

---Prayer

Members Present
Members Present

Page 1011

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Minister's Statement 48-19(2): One-Year Anniversary of the Release of the Final Report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Ministers' Statements

Page 1011

Diane Thom Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the release of the Final Report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. The previous Minister responsible for the Status of Women, the Honourable Caroline Cochrane, tabled the report entitled "Reclaiming Power and Place" in the Legislative Assembly on June 4, 2019. The report is split into two volumes with three main sections:

  • Section 1 presents a comprehensive person- and community-centered understanding of the crisis of violence experienced by Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ persons.
  • Section 2 takes a deeper look at topics that present distinct issues or perspectives. It also describes opportunities to demonstrate, within a distinctions-based approach, how culture, health, security, and justice can create particular challenges for specific groups, institutions, geographies, or other circumstances.
  • Section 3 focuses on different models of healing and Indigenous-led best practices.

The report ends with the presentation of the 231 calls for justice covering a wide range of topics and themes, including culture, health and wellness, and human security. The Government of the Northwest Territories prepared an initial response to the calls for justice entitled "Doing Our Part." While the GNWT did not respond to specific calls for justice in Doing Our Part, we did provide a list of thematic sections related to each of the calls for justice, highlighting the work we are already doing or can build upon. We also set out a number of high-level questions that will need to be considered more fully by our government. Then-Minister Cochrane tabled this report in the Legislative Assembly on August 22, 2019. To date, the GNWT remains the only jurisdiction in Canada that has prepared a response to the final report.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has also made a commitment to work with Canada on the development of a national action plan in a coordinated manner that involves all stakeholders. The Minister of Crown-Indigenous Affairs had committed to having the national action plan developed by June 2020. While that deadline has been pushed back due to circumstances related to COVID-19, the Government of the Northwest Territories remains committed to working to move this work forward.

The GNWT has set up an interdepartmental working group for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls to coordinate our response to the calls for justice. This working group is chaired by the special advisor to the Minister responsible for the Status of Women and includes appointed representatives from the Departments of Executive and Indigenous Affairs, Health and Social Services, Justice, Housing Corporation, and Education, Culture and Employment. Other departments are invited to meetings or asked for input, as required.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is aware that we cannot do this work alone. Our government is committed to working with all Northerners and with partners across Canada to support the work needed to address systemic causes of violence, inequality, and racism, so that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people are able to feel safe and empowered in our territory and also in our country.

According to Statistics Canada, the Northwest Territories has the second-highest rate of violence against women in the country. As a government, we need to take the necessary steps to address the systemic causes of violence, inequality, and racism that contribute to the problem in the Northwest Territories.

The final report shares stories we all need to hear; stories about someone's sister, someone's niece, someone's mother, someone's child. Sadly, Indigenous women and girls in the Northwest Territories continue to live these stories. Trying to put the pain that loved ones and communities deal with into perspective is difficult.

The Northwest Territories may be large geographically, but the events in one community can affect us all. That is why it is so important that we work together to address the ongoing violence being experienced by Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people. It will require many people willing to work together to explore ways in which we can end violence that continues to have a negative impact on the lives of many Northwest Territories residents. I recognize that change will not happen overnight, but change must happen.

Mr. Speaker, violence against Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ people is not an individual problem or an issue only for certain communities. This violence is rooted in systemic factors woven into the fabric of Canadian society, like economic, social, and political marginalization, as well as racism, discrimination, and misogyny. As the previous Minister responsible for the Status of Women so eloquently put it, "We must keep this issue at the forefront of people's minds and consistently convey another truth: that Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals are valued, loved, and worthy of justice."

To conclude, I would like to acknowledge the courage and strength shown by those who agreed to share their truths with the National Commission. I offer my thoughts, my prayers, and my gratitude. Quyanainni/mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 48-19(2): One-Year Anniversary of the Release of the Final Report of the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Ministers' Statements

Page 1012

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Item 3, Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Members' Statements

Page 1012

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, one year ago, I sat in the front row at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, while the report for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women was presented to the Prime Minister. Although he didn't use the term "genocide" that day, he told a crowd the next day in Vancouver, we accept the findings, including what happened amounts to genocide. The families and lost loved ones were acknowledged that day for the injustices against them. Last week, we learned that the federal action plan in response to this Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls final report has been delayed, Minister Bennet citing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mr. Speaker, while I can certainly appreciate that we've all been busy dealing with this pandemic, I must say I was terribly disappointed. I was insulted to hear the news of this delay for a national action plan and using COVID-19 as an excuse. They've had ten months since they received the report, and it's not as if they had not heard the request over and over again. The families and the victims across the country have fought hard to ensure that a national plan would be developed and that governments would implement the calls for justice outlined in the final report and take steps towards real lasting positive change. One aspect to this change was the federal government to develop this national action plan.

Mr. Speaker, this delay in the development of the action plan concerns me deeply. We, as Canadians, as a government, as an Indigenous woman, as a mother, as an aunt of Indigenous women and girls cannot afford any more delays when it comes to the safety and protection of our women and girls and to 2SLGBTQQIA people. I truly hope that the Prime Minister will rethink this delay and give our women and girls and everyone waiting for this action plan the respect and justice that they deserve. I urge this government to push the federal government to develop an action plan now, not later.

Mr. Speaker, while this is occurring, I fully expect and encourage this government not to wait and to develop our own action plan and lead the way and make this a reality. As I mentioned, we cannot afford to wait any longer, have any more blood on our hands, lose any more loved ones, violence in our homes and our communities, silence of the issues of our Indigenous women and girls and 2SLGBTQQIA faith at the rate higher than anyone else in Canada that will continue as a result of not implementing the calls for justice. I will keep this issue at the forefront for everyone, in everyone's mind, and I will have questions for the Minister responsible for the Status of Women. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Members' Statements

Page 1012

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Artisans
Members' Statements

Page 1013

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have noticed on social media the availability of Indigenous traditional artisan products has diminished, and I am not sure why this is. For myself, I do not have the talent or vision that these traditional artisans possess. However, the creativity of these artisans truly amazes me. It is important that this government provide meaningful support to the artisans of the NWT. Not only do they create beautiful products, they keep Indigenous history alive.

Mr. Speaker, over the years I have had the privilege of meeting many of the artisans whose creations are displayed, not only in this building, but in buildings throughout the NWT, Canada, and the world. Many artisans attend my office, and I am always grateful to listen and talk with them. Many of them are unassuming and go about their business but are always willing to share their stories. You can sense the passion as they discuss their creations. They want you to know who they are as an Indigenous person. They want you know the cultural significance of keeping their artistry alive.

For Indigenous peoples, education means much more than sitting in a classroom, it includes developing on-the-land knowledge and preserving artistic traditions through art. Many people appreciate the work created by the Indigenous peoples of the NWT, and it is sought after by many collectors throughout the world. There are many who may not appreciate the time, work, and passion that go into each creation, and we have a responsibility to change that line of thinking.

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned that this creativity will be lost if we do not seriously address some of the shortcomings with respect to the support we provide. Artisans are willing to pass their knowledge on to their children, grandchildren, and others. It is these artisans that need our support. This government, in cooperation with Indigenous governments, needs to take a collaborative approach with the artisans to ensure this history and art is not lost.

Mr. Speaker, it is time for all governments in the NWT to engage with those in the communities who are keeping Indigenous culture and history alive. What better time to support our artisans while developing our youth who may be out of school for an extended period due to COVID-19. With school out, let's take the opportunity to expand our artisan base by teaching our youth. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Artisans
Members' Statements

Page 1013

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Thanks to Chiefs and Frontline Staff during COVID-19 Pandemic
Members' Statements

Page 1013

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. For my Member's statement today, I would like to take the time here to thank all my constituents in my riding, in Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. COVID-19 has caused a lot of grief and disruptions for people all across this country, and in the North, there's no difference. As I mentioned before, we as Northerners are resilient and came together and helped those who were in need and made sure that our basics necessities were all covered.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to personally thank all the chiefs and councils in my riding, and please notify me if I leave anybody out. I want to recognize the chief and councils of Ndilo, Detah, Deninu Kue, and Lutselk'e. Also, I want to thank all the Metis leadership, the Hamlet of Fort Resolution along with the Mayor, Pat Simon, and his staff. As well, a big thank you to some companies such as the Deninu Kue Development Corporation, Denesoline Corporation and Deton Cho Corporation and its subsidiary companies for helping to give back to the community.

Mr. Speaker, there have also been a number of private citizens who stepped up during this pandemic. For example, I'll give some names to this: Joanne Tsetta of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation for donating food hampers from Ndilo, Detah, and Lutselke. People like Grace Shearing (ph), Saniz Catholique, and Becky Broderick-Basil who all worked on monthly food hampers. In Deninue Kue, Bess McKay who worked tirelessly to help maintain community morale by hosting a talent show on Facebook. I think the town should remind us it's important for us to keep us entertained, laughing, and remain in good spirits as we can, and laughing is the best medicine. In our language, we call it nineteenezo (ph) because laughter is the best medicine. It really is, and let's not forget that. Through that, I just have some questions later on for Madam Premier regarding the funding of checkpoints in the Deninue Kue. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

Thanks to Chiefs and Frontline Staff during COVID-19 Pandemic
Members' Statements

Page 1013

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Health Service Concerns
Members' Statements

Page 1014

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I would like to point out that the Minister of Health and Social Services filed away my healthcare services issues letter and notified the House yesterday of such. I am disappointed to say the least, specifically disappointment to the residents of the Northwest Territories that no actions will be taken to address health centre concerns. I did receive a copy of that letter dated June 1st after answering my question about the healthcare services in my community of Fort Providence. Those questions were raised on February 28, 2020, related to my Member's statement of the same concern.

Mr. Speaker, my Member's statement at the time was a concern that patients were being misdiagnosed for their ailments. There had to have been a level of misdiagnosis. The patients kept going back to the health centre three, four, and even five times for the same ailment. Each time, they were given a pill and sent home. Only when their condition was at a critical stage, then the medevac crew was summoned. I know of one instance where a patient never came home alive. God bless her soul.

My question raised at the time was: does the department conduct investigations into complaints made against health centre staff? The reply from the Minister was, "Absolutely, we do." During a recent Committee of the Whole session with Health and Social Services, I stated the same issues and the fact that a former complaint was made to the Registered Nurses Association of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. I should note, the complaint at the time was copied to the Health and Social Services chief executive officer. The CEO had requested a copy. This was back in November 2019, and to date, nothing has come of it. Health and Social Services does have a copy of all of the complaints. The only ones they do not have are all the other complaints sent through RNANT/NU and to the chair of the health leadership council. It was at this forum, at Committee of the Whole, that we understood that Health and Social Services was detached from RNANT/NU, so there is no mechanism in place to follow up on complaints made to anyone. I believe this is a very serious problem within the department and needs to be addressed. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker

Health Service Concerns
Members' Statements

Page 1014

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Summer Student Hiring
Members' Statements

Page 1014

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In any normal given year, by this point in time, the Government of the Northwest Territories would have already hired hundreds of students within the Summer Student Employment Program, employing students from all across the territory from mid-April until the end of August. However, COVID-19 has derailed virtually all employment opportunities that would normally be afforded to our northern student population. Mr. Speaker, according to a News North article from May 18, 2020, the Government of the Northwest Territories has so far hired only 98 summer students for the 2020 year. That is quite a difference from the 351 who were hired in 2019, the 344 in 2018, or the 306 in 2017. The reason for this hiring shortfall is because of the decision by the Department of Finance to initiate a hiring freeze for summer students due to COVID-19 disruptions.

Mr. Speaker, as we approach phase 2 of Emerging Wisely, I would certainly hope that our government makes it a priority to increase and to fast-track the number of students hired for summer 2020. COVID-19 or not, our students need to continue to be supported with employment opportunities and work experience. All NWT students, whether high school age, those of Aurora College, or those returning from southern institutions, they all deserve equal employment opportunities as residents of the NWT. I will have questions for the Minister of Human Resources later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Summer Student Hiring
Members' Statements

Page 1014

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Emerging Wisely on the Land
Members' Statements

Page 1014

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Emerging Wisely across the territory: the Chief Public Health Officer recommended residents of the Northwest Territories spend time out on the land to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 as part of the Emerging Wisely plan and the current COVID-related health restrictions, to strengthen family bonds, to improve mental health, and participate in traditional lifestyle out on the land. The schools are closed. Hunting season is going on right now with goose hunting back home and fishing. The season started.

Dr. Kandola's orders are to spend time in the great outdoors. However, that costs money, Mr. Speaker. People in our communities spend three times as much more for gas or food to go out and sustain themselves out on the land while hunting traditional foods. Mr. Speaker, remote communities in Nunakput pay $1.71 for gasoline, and it's a $1.17 here. It all adds up. Our Community Harvester Assistance Program funding to local communities, to renewable resources councils assist local hunters and trappers to defray the capital operating costs of their harvesting activities.

Mr. Speaker, since we are still under COVID-19 and now it's going into summer, in regard to that, are we going to be getting any more assistance from the federal government for funding for traditional hunting and keeping people out on the land, at their cabins, so they will not get sick with COVID-19? Alternatively, the additional funding can provide for community governments and to the municipal and community affairs to provide assistance for the neediest residents to get outside. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Premier later today. Thank you.