This is page numbers 1035 - 1054 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 health.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Frederick Blake Jr, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, 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 1:33 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 1035

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 49-19(2): Inuvialuit Day and National Indigenous Peoples Day
Ministers' Statements

Page 1035

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I know that renewing our government's relationship with Indigenous governments is important to all Members. That is why the 19th Legislative Assembly has established settling and implementing treaty, land, resources, and self-government agreements as one of its priorities. We have also made it a priority to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

On June 5th each year, we commemorate Inuvialuit Day to celebrate the signing of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement in 1984. In many ways, this agreement led the way for the future negotiation of land, resources, and self-government agreements in the Northwest Territories and perhaps all of Canada. The Inuvialuit Final Agreement was the first comprehensive land claim agreement north of the 60th parallel and only the second of its kind in Canada. The final agreement designates over 90,000 square kilometres of land as the Inuvialuit Settlement Region and includes close to 13,000 square kilometres of subsurface ownership and certain wildlife harvesting rights within the region. The agreement also established the Inuvialuit Development Corporation to support Inuvialuit self-reliance by providing a solid economic base that allows them to participate fully in the Canadian economy.

Just as importantly, the final agreement gave Inuvialuit a guaranteed right to participate in important decisions affecting the Inuvialuit Settlement Region: it established the Inuvialuit Game Council, ensured Inuvialuit participation on co-management boards, and led to the creation of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. To this day, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation remains one of this government's most important and valued partners. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation was the first Indigenous government to join with our government in signing on to the Devolution Agreement-in-Principle in January 2011, and their support and participation in the negotiation of the final agreement was invaluable to our government. The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation continues to be a strong supporter and ally as a member of the Intergovernmental Council on Lands and Resource Management. Following devolution, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation and our government jointly advocated to Canada for a start to Arctic offshore oil and gas accord negotiations as called for in the Devolution Agreement. These negotiations began in the spring of 2019, and the GNWT and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation share an interest in bringing more decision-making authority to the North as part of this accord.

Earlier this year, we celebrated Gwich'in Day. Later this summer, we celebrate two additional important landmarks for the people of the Northwest Territories. Sahtu Day on June 23rd will mark the 27th anniversary of the signing of the Sahtu Dene and Metis Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, and August 4th will mark the 15th anniversary of the signing of the Tlicho Agreement. We look forward to recognizing these accomplishments with our Indigenous government partners and continuing to build on the vision of reconciliation expressed in these agreements. On June 21st, we will also celebrate National Indigenous People's Day. This is a day to celebrate the first peoples of Canada, including the rich and diverse cultures of the Dene, Inuit, and Metis peoples. National Indigenous People's Day also serves as a reminder that we are stronger and more successful when our public government works in cooperation with Indigenous governments throughout the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, our collaboration with the Inuvialuit, the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, and the Tlicho are just three examples of the government-to-government relationships we are building with all Indigenous governments of the Northwest Territories. We look forward to continuing to build and strengthen these particularly important relationships. The future of the Northwest Territories depends on partnerships. One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated is that we are all connected. Everybody has been affected by this pandemic, and all governments have had to work hard together to protect the health of Northwest Territories residents.

Indigenous governments are a critical partner for us, and that is why our government has been meeting weekly with them throughout the pandemic to discuss our response and how we can work together to serve our people. While this pandemic will not last, I look forward to continued close collaboration between the Government of the Northwest Territories and Indigenous governments in the years to come. We ask all Members to join me in congratulating the Inuvialuit people on the 36th anniversary of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 49-19(2): Inuvialuit Day and National Indigenous Peoples Day
Ministers' Statements

Page 1036

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 50-19(2): Housing and Homelessness Response to COVID-19
Ministers' Statements

Page 1036

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We recognize that supporting vulnerable residents in need of housing or at risk of homelessness across the Northwest Territories is an essential part of the overall response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation has been working to ensure that we meet the needs of our residents during this difficult and challenging time. The need for social distancing due to COVID-19 has a significant impact on how we support our residents and highlighted the need for all of us to work together, respect one another, and be resourceful of hope in these trying times.

To support meeting the housing and shelter needs of Northwest Territories residents during this pandemic, the Government of the Northwest Territories announced $5 million in supportive initiatives that recognize the vulnerable residents who have limited ability to self-isolate safely. This included $1.4 million to create housing for persons at risk or persons experiencing homelessness to self-isolate and $3.6 million to bring on stream up to approximately 130 units across the Northwest Territories that are either available for occupancy or in need of renovations to meet the core housing needs. Now that these units are no longer required by the Emergency Management Organization, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is in the process of re-allocating these units to the corporation's rental programs: public housing, market rental, affordable rental, or to support homeownership. The re-allocation of these units will help to alleviate overcrowding in smaller communities. Sixty of these units are available for immediate allocation. These units will decrease the wait lists across the Northwest Territories and make us better prepared should there be a second wave of COVID-19.

Mr. Speaker, we also recognize that some residents are facing economic challenges due to the virus. To meet the needs, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation enhanced the Transitional Rent Supplement Program by extending the program to August, streamlining the application process, and simplifying the requirements for participants. Where there were approximately 40 applicants for the program, participants last year, this year we are helping 150 households. One of the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic is that the sudden loss of income could lead to residents being at risk of homelessness. In anticipation of this, we increased the budget for the Homelessness Assistance Fund from $125,000 to $300,000. This program provides financial assistance for the private rental market for people to find stable housing. We have been working to ensure that these applications are processed as quickly as possible, as we know that these times are extremely stressful for our residents.

Mr. Speaker, we have been working with community partners to access buildings to help serve as isolation centres for the vulnerable people who are at greater risk to be in contact with COVID-19. Under this action, we leased Aspen Apartments from the federal government to provide 36 additional units in Yellowknife; and we have accommodated up to 18 people to be sheltered that are experiencing homelessness at the North Country Inn in Hay River. During this pandemic period, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation continues to be accessible to residents even with the realities of many working remotely. As such, emergency 1-800 numbers were set up for homelessness assistance, emergency repair, and access to the Transitional Rent Supplement Program.

Mr. Speaker, as we begin recovery, the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation will be an important contributor to the economic recovery of the Northwest Territories. We will be working with communities to ensure that construction, renovation, and repair work is done in a safe and considerate manner, and bring in much needed economic benefits to our smaller communities. Lastly, even though we have entered into stage one of the pandemic recovery plan, I would like to remind our tenants that the risks posed by COVID-19 are not over. I know that with the easing of social distancing, we want to gather and spend time with family and friends, but we all need to follow the directions of the Chief Public Health Officer. Let us be considerate, helpful, kind, and keep washing our hands and following these orders.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation staff and the local housing authorities who have been creative, flexible, and responsive throughout this pandemic. They have gone above and beyond to provide direct, appropriate assistance to the residents of the Northwest Territories. Their time, energy, and countless hours are extremely appreciated. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 50-19(2): Housing and Homelessness Response to COVID-19
Ministers' Statements

Page 1037

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Monitoring and Enforcement of Public Health Orders
Members' Statements

Page 1037

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would again like to raise current issues surrounding the monitoring and enforcement of the COVID-19 orders established by the Chief Public Health Officer. I continue to receive numerous calls about persons, businesses, and visitors not following the Chief Public Health Officer's orders in the community of Hay River. I have been informed time and time again that we continue to have drug dealers and others snubbing the orders while we put these people up in hotels at this government's expense.

In addition, the community is experiencing an influx of southern workers who are not following the orders. A worker who attended a retail outlet in Hay River informed the owner he had just arrived in town and was not required to self-isolate and was only required to wear a mask, which he did not have on. Another was a visiting salesperson who was selling windows. That person was going door to door and interacting with residents, something I assume we want to avoid. A final example is that of a local retailer who required a certified relief worker in the health field who filed an application with Protect NWT. It took over two weeks to receive confirmation the person would be allowed in. The response was received too late, and the worker changed his mind. That put our northern business in a difficult position. The result is overworked health care workers.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that Protect NWT is probably swamped with calls. If they are understaffed, I expect this government to provide them with the additional support required to provide timely and consistent responses. When we open our borders, it is imperative that the responsible department have a plan to protect those communities closest to NWT entry points. If we expect to uphold the orders of the Chief Public Health Officer, then this government needs to support Protect NWT, monitoring, enforcement, and border security with additional staff. What we have in Hay River right now is not working. Mr. Speaker, in addition, northern businesses are finding the process for bringing in essential or supply chain workers to be not efficient. These businesses want to do the right thing, however, are finding the application process both confusing and time consuming. There are no clear answers when clarification is requested. The process must be clear and concise if we expect to retain those businesses in the North. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Monitoring and Enforcement of Public Health Orders
Members' Statements

Page 1037

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Celebrating the Graduation of Nunakput Students
Members' Statements

Page 1037

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I'm rising in the House to recognize Nunakput's class of 2020 graduates in our communities. There is nothing better than hearing parents and teachers celebrating the accomplishments of our students who have completed their school studies and onto new endeavours. Graduating in high school is a big deal. It takes study and a commitment. Graduation in the North is a bigger deal than what it is because of what we have to do is travel outside of our home communities in our riding. Sometimes, travelling and living outside the communities for our studies, graduation also marks entry to our young people into the adult world to begin their bigger dreams by pursuing trades, moving to post-secondary education, or entering the workforce.

Today, I want to congratulate the students of Nunakput on this monumental achievement and wish them all the best in their future endeavours. From Helen Kalvak Elihakvik School in Ulukhatok, congratulations to Mitchell Inuktalik, Lucy Ann Okheena, and Alexandria Bankskand. From Mangilaluk in Tuktoyaktuk, I want to congratulate the following graduates: Eriel Lugt, Shaeli Pokiak, Jewel Keevik, Carmen Kuptana, Gabrielle Nogasak, Demaris Elias-Noksana, Anna Panaktalok, and Roslyn Rogers. Out of Sachs Harbour, Alexis Lucas, who had to graduate in Inualthuyak; and Paulatuk Angik School, Shannon Green, Jorgon Ruben, Gracie Nakmaik, and Figuris Krengnaktuk. We are all very proud of you and wish you all the best in your future endeavours, and to keep continue in school, and all the best to them in 2020. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Celebrating the Graduation of Nunakput Students
Members' Statements

Page 1038

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Edzo Highway Maintenance Camp
Members' Statements

Page 1038

Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. Yesterday, I spoke about the lack of cell service coverage between Ray Junction and Yellowknife. Today, I'm going to speak about the maintenance camp along the highway. Mr. Speaker, our government's highway maintenance workers are some of the most critical public servants in the territory. Without them, the travel in the Northwest Territories will grind to a halt, and where would we be, Mr. Speaker? In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, I want to thank all the maintenance workers for their dedication to their duty. They are the unsung heroes of the supply chain that keeps our territory operating through good times and bad times. In light of their importance in the territory, I find it ironic that our highway maintenance workers are so badly disrespected by the government. I refer to Edzo highway camp, which is understaffed and ill-equipped that it's a wonder our workers don't go on strike. I will have questions for the appropriate Minister later on today. Masi, Mr. Speaker.

Edzo Highway Maintenance Camp
Members' Statements

Page 1038

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

COVID-19 Pandemic Border Restrictions
Members' Statements

Page 1038

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Since March, a lot of my questions that I have been receiving have been in regards to COVID-19. I've heard from my constituents about their thoughts as well on the Emerging Wisely plan. There are some residents who support the closed borders and the strict rules in place, and there are those who want to know why, since we've had no cases since April, we are under such strict rules at the borders and the borders remain closed. Mr. Speaker, with our neighbouring territory, the Yukon is planning on opening up a lot faster than us. This has increased the questions of concern for those who are against opening up and those who are wanting to have loosening of the restrictions. They would like an explanation as to why we cannot return to normal, at least within the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, you're well aware the ferries will be opening up to the Yukon this weekend in our region, and many of my residents are asking when they will be able to travel without isolating when they return. With the recent news of the Yukon possibly opening up to BC by July, is travelling even a possibility for the NWT residents there? For those who do not want to stay home and want to go camping overnight, I'm glad to hear that we may be going into phase 2 by next Friday, according to Dr. Kandola's announcement. It will, at least, give the residents some freedom. I will have questions for the Minister of health. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

COVID-19 Pandemic Border Restrictions
Members' Statements

Page 1038

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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