This is page numbers 1055 - 1110 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

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 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 1055

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

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Lands.

Minister's Statement 51-19(2): COVID-19
Ministers' Statements

Page 1055

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to begin today by commending the courage and resolve of our front-line staff responding to this unprecedented public health emergency. From medical personnel, to the folks stocking shelves and keeping the grocery stores open, to the water and fuel delivery staff and the officers in our communities and at the borders, I am grateful to you all for this selfless work. It is because you are at work that others, in fact, much of the Government of the Northwest Territories workforce, have been able to work remotely through this crisis.

Mr. Speaker, it has indeed been a challenge with so many people working from home, many with added responsibilities, to ensure each department can continue to fulfill its critical functions. From processing applications for land leases, to issuing permits for wildlife and forestry, and to keep the lights on across the Northwest Territories, has required extra time and attention. For the Northwest Territories Power Corporation, this includes new protocols for entering communities and performing emergency work or required maintenance. Importantly, this also means working with the Emergency Measures Office to acquire personal protective equipment to keep those essential workers safe.

COVID-19 has changed the way we work, but the work to protect our land, water, and air must continue. Staff at the Departments of Lands and Environment and Natural Resources have worked diligently to develop new protocols to ensure the important work of protecting our environment and managing land use can continue in a way that is safe for our employees and residents. This includes new ways of carrying out inspections, research, and environmental monitoring while maintaining physical distance and respecting the public health orders that are in place.

Environmental assessments are a critical part of our regulatory system in the Northwest Territories and involve a high level of coordination between departments, agencies, and Indigenous governments. Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, I am proud to say that we are on track to meet the legislated timeline of June 6, 2020, to complete our response to the Review Board on the Diavik Environmental Assessment.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, many Northerners are going out on the land in response to COVID-19. As a result, Environment and Natural Resources and Lands officers have increased wildlife monitoring, enforcement activities, and inspections.

Of course, the way that we fight fires this summer will be unlike any other season before. Environment and Natural Resources has been preparing for months, reviewing best practices in other jurisdictions, and adapting our operations to reduce the risks to our staff and our communities.

On top of their regular duties, many of our Environment and Natural Resources and Lands officers have also stepped up to support the larger Government of the Northwest Territories-wide effort to combat the spread of COVID-19. These efforts are critical to keeping our families and communities safe and healthy.

Between Environment and Natural Resources and Lands, well over 70 staff have taken on extra duties or lent their expertise to other departments over the last couple of months, notably the Emergency Management Organization, the COVID Compliance and Enforcement Taskforce, and at border crossing check stations.

The level of collaboration and cooperation throughout the Government of the Northwest Territories has been incredible. At Lands alone, a full 25 percent of the department's employees are on redeployment or reassignment as part of the COVID-19 efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to give a special shout out to Environment and Natural Resources' Taiga Environmental Laboratory. The lab has been hard at work in recent weeks producing hand sanitizer for our frontline workers, including the officers I just mentioned.

Getting the supplies and the okay from Health Canada to produce took a lot of time and effort, but it is truly paying off. At last count, the lab has produced more than 4,000 litres of hand sanitizer.

Mr. Speaker, the physical distancing and isolation measures put in place to combat the spread of COVID-19 have created new and very real economic stressors on Northwest Territories residents, families, businesses, Indigenous governments, and communities. That's why the Department of Lands is helping to ease some of the burden by waiving rent for leaseholders on public land for the fiscal year 2020-2021. Looking forward, we hope to be able to open our regional and local offices to the public very soon under appropriate health order protocols.

That's not all. To help customers impacted by the crisis, Northwest Territories Power Corporation removed all load limiters and suspended disconnections and collection activity. At the same time, Northwest Territories Power Corporation is coordinating their response with its counterparts across the country and with the territorial Emergency Management Organization. Through it all, Northwest Territories Power Corporation is keeping its workers safe while maintaining optimum service levels for Northwest Territories residents.

I am grateful to the many individuals across my departments who have taken on extra duties to ensure we continue to protect our land, air, and water and to ensure the wise use of our natural resources. I appreciate your commitment to the important work that we do. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 51-19(2): COVID-19
Ministers' Statements

Page 1056

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

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

Minister's Statement 52-19(2): Aurora College COVID-19 Response and Beyond
Ministers' Statements

Page 1056

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When students at Aurora College left for March break, they were unaware of the uncertainty that the pandemic would bring to so many aspects of their lives, including if they would remain on track to achieving their education and career goals. I would like to share with you today some of the challenges and innovative solutions that the team at Aurora College implemented to support their students and their communities.

When the pandemic hit the Northwest Territories, all Aurora College programming was temporarily suspended while the college team planned and executed a fundamental shift in how they would teach. In a two-week period, Aurora College transitioned from classroom-based learning to a distance-learning format for all of its full-time certificate, diploma, and degree programs. Through innovation and determination on the part of instructors, the majority of students remained on track to complete their semester.

Mr. Speaker, students who previously relied on access to a shared computer lab faced the challenge of not having the technology typically required to learn from a distance. In response to this challenge, Aurora College collaborated with Computers for Schools to provide computers to students who identified that they needed one to continue their studies.

All throughout these changes to the program delivery, the college continued to consider how suspended and cancelled programs might restart, and the Aurora College team stayed in touch and followed up with affected students to support their continued educational journey, ensuring continued relationships between the students and staff during this difficult time of transition.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to a monumental shift in their teaching method, Aurora College was also able to assist with the broader Government of the Northwest Territories' response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student housing in Fort Smith was repurposed to accommodate travellers returning to the Northwest Territories who needed to isolate for 14 days. In addition, the Aurora College Centre for Mine and Industry Training facility became the solution to address the need for a drive-through COVID-19 testing site for the Department of Health and Social Services.

At the Yellowknife-North Slave campus, the Bachelor of Science in Nursing staff stepped up to inventory medical equipment and supplies used in that program and designated for use by health authorities if required. Aurora College engaged with the Department of Health and Social Services to determine how current students in the Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Practical Nursing Diploma, and Personal Support Worker programs could play a role in the emergency response at healthcare facilities. These students also participated in the emergency response either through casual employment or through their scheduled practicum.

There have also been engagements with Education, Culture and Employment to determine how students in the Early Childhood Development program could support the re-opening of daycare facilities under emergency conditions.

Mr. Speaker, at the Inuvik Campus, the Arts, Crafts and Technology Micro-Manufacturing Centre has been using 3D printers to make mask tension relievers for hospital workers and developing prototypes for door openers that allow you to open a door with your arm instead of hand. In addition, it has all the supplies and is on standby to produce face shields should they be required. As well, the single-student housing facility is being provided as a temporary solution to address the emergency isolation needs of the town's vulnerable population.

Mr. Speaker, as the college plans for how to deliver programming in the fall of 2020, their primary responsibility remains the health and safety of students, staff, and residents. In response to the Government of the Northwest Territories' Emerging Wisely reopening plan and to its ongoing commitment to student success, the majority of Aurora College programs and courses offered in the 2020 fall semester will be delivered entirely by distance learning. Acknowledging the importance of hands-on and face-to-face learning, Aurora College continues to determine how and when critical in-person programming can happen, based on advice from Office of the Chief Public Health Officer and the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.

Mr. Speaker, all of the challenges faced and changes made have strengthened the college and shown that the institution is ready and capable of making the changes necessary to transform into a polytechnic university. The transformation remains on target and is more important than ever for the Northwest Territories.

There are wide-ranging benefits to establishing a polytechnic university in the Northwest Territories, many of which could contribute to the social and economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The combined short- and long-term benefits could make the transformation a focal point for drawing post-COVID-related investment, primarily from the Government of Canada, but it may also draw attention from wide-ranging sources.

Mr. Speaker, Aurora College currently serves a student population that is 75 percent Indigenous and oversees several academic and research programs in partnership with Indigenous governments. Engaging our Indigenous partners in a meaningful way in transformation is critical to its success. That is why I have written to Indigenous leaders to collaborate on an approach to how and when they are engaged in the transformation, based on the principles of United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It is also important to highlight that what we are building is a post-secondary institution that reflects the values and interests of our residents. Beyond the simple mechanics of economic stimulus, residents must be inspired by new short- and long-term opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to say that, despite the additional challenges Aurora College students have faced, it has been heartening to see their continued dedication to advancing their education. I also have to congratulate all of the Aurora College graduates of 2020 who, in the face of adversity, successfully completed their programs. They should be very proud of their achievement. Their commitment to success will serve them well throughout their lives. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 52-19(2): Aurora College COVID-19 Response and Beyond
Ministers' Statements

Page 1057

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

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

Racism in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 1057

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to discuss the issue of racism, as the death of George Floyd has placed it front and centre in the news. When I look at what is happening, not just around the world but in Canada and the Northwest Territories, I am deeply disturbed at what people of colour are being subjected to. It is easy to think of this as an American problem, that Canada is somehow better or that we don't have this problem in the North. The truth is that, if you were to ask any person of colour in the territory, or even this room, whether they have been subjected to racism, the answer would almost certainly be, "Yes."

Mr. Speaker, racism takes many forms. It is not always outright or violent. It is often quiet and whispered, but what all forms have in common is that they are specifically directed at people because of the colour of their skin, their culture, or their nationality.

If we truly believe racism is wrong, then we must speak up against it: challenge people; speak up when we hear those so-called jokes and people laughing at them; speak up when we see these things being done at our workplace or in our departments that perpetuate it. It is not enough to see these things as wrong but then sit and stay silent. If we do nothing, then those with racist attitudes feel validated in their thinking and beliefs. This feeling of validation is what leads to some police officers knowing that they can, in broad daylight, with people watching, kill an innocent man or shoot an innocent woman and not face repercussions. It leads to ordinary citizens feeling they have the right to hunt a man down while he is out for a jog, shoot him multiple times, and it being a defensible action.

Mr. Speaker, my only grandchild is of mixed race. I do not want her or any other person of colour to face violence or prejudice because of the colour of their skin. I do not want people of colour to have to continue to fight for respect and equal treatment. Our responsibility is to be the stimulus of change so that fighting and protesting is no longer necessary. I know that, as long as I am alive, I will protect my granddaughter and those of colour against racism and the hatred it breeds. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Racism in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 1058

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

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

Policing in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 1058

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Policing across our territory: in the wake of Mr. George Floyd's death weeks ago, people across North America are taking a stand that black lives matter. Of course, police brutality cannot be condoned in any way. It is unacceptable under any circumstance. It's not acceptable that people of colour, including, in Canada, Indigenous people, are frequently victims of this brutality.

High-profile incidents like George Floyd's case also put a spotlight on the RCMP. Today, Nunavut is calling for a systemic review of the RCMP services provided to their territory. Understandably, anti-police sentiment is spotlighted in the media right now. Listening to the radio this morning, I really feel for them. I wonder how much this is being influenced by the fears of COVID-19 on the lockdown, Mr. Speaker. People are anxious about new powers and authorities that have dictated how we should be living in these times.

I want to take a moment to remember all the hard-working RCMP officers out there who put their lives on the line daily to keep our communities safe. With a group in any profession, there are unfortunately some bad apples who cast a shadow on the good work being done by others. Police in the North are hard-working members in dangerous situations, including that they work by themselves half the time. Our correctional officers, our highway patrol officers, our territorial park officers, our municipal enforcement officers, our police, our peace officers, regularly work in difficult environments, dangerous situations, times of crisis. They respond quickly with personal danger. Many RCMP officers work alone, with little or no backup. They put their lives on the line every single day and they pay the ultimate cost. Let us not forget the sacrifices of Constable Christopher Worden, who was killed on duty in Hay River in 2007, or parole officer Louise Pargeter, killed in the line of duty here in Yellowknife in 2004.

So, while condemning police brutality, let's also remember that not all police officers are the same. Many are caring, giving members of our communities. I want to encourage all northern leaders to reach out to detachment commanders, sergeants. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Policing in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 1058

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I encourage all our leadership across our territory, all 33 communities, to reach out to detachment commanders and dialogue on policing, how can it be improved in our communities. I also want to thank all those who serve and keep our communities safe, the RCMP officers, the persons who stay on call 24 hours a day. In our small communities, they also have to be the ambulance drivers. I want to thank them for their sacrifices and appreciate their services. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Policing in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 1058

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

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

Recognition of 2020 Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 1058

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Each year, we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduating students with best wishes for the future in their chosen field of study. This is no small feat, but a monumental task for the graduating students, as they endured many years of homework and studying to prepare them for the next steps in their journey, postsecondary education.

Today, on behalf of the community of Fort Providence, we congratulate and recognize the graduating class of 2020 from Deh Gah School: Rainla Bonnetrouge, Nyssa McKenzie, Anthony Betsaka, Kelly Leischman, Julia Gargan, Jacob Gargin, Shannan Bonnetrouge, Grace Allison, and Alex Canadian. We support you as you follow your dreams.

Mr. Speaker, further to this, I would also like to acknowledge the accomplishments of a postsecondary graduate of 2020, Ms. Caroline Minakosh of Fort Providence. Caroline completed a four-year Bachelor of Arts program with a major in Political Science and a minor in Indigenous Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. We wish Caroline all the success in finding work within her field of study.

The community of Fort Providence would like to provide encouragement to the following students in postsecondary institutions: Brandon Thom, Bachelor of Sport and Fitness; Elainie Bandel, Nursing Program; Mikaila Bandel, Bachelor of Arts; Nanette Saffron, Hospitality Management; Patricia Bouvier, Indigenous Teacher Education Degree; Lindsay Landry, Bachelor of Fine Arts and Design; Edmund Gargan, Motorcycle Mechanic Program; Nonda Canadian, International Baccalaureate; Derek Vandel, Parts and Materials Technician Program.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Fort Providence, we wish them all the best for what the future may hold for them. Mahsi.

Recognition of 2020 Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 1059

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

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

Great Potato Collaboration
Members' Statements

Page 1059

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I had a chance to get my hands really dirty on the weekend. We drove down to the Northern Farm Training Institute, or NFTI, near Hay River to volunteer. On the first morning, we built trellises for pumpkins and squash, but in the afternoon we each bagged about 1,000 pounds of potatoes.

The Great Potato Collaboration is now under way. NFTI put out a call for potatoes for the NWT during the pandemic to help build food security. The Potato Growers of Alberta helped identify one of its members, Sunnycrest Farms, that could help. John and Marlene Ekkel own Sunnycrest Farm in Lacombe, and answered the call by agreeing to give 50,000 pounds of seed potatoes to NFTI. That's more than a pound of seed potatoes for each person in the Northwest Territories. What a tremendous gift, thank you.

When we were at NFTI, we bagged potatoes for Aklavik and brought some back to Yellowknife for the Inuvik Greenhouse. Virtually every community will get some of the seed potatoes, and several transport companies have agreed to carry them for free. Our staycation at NFTI included a comfortable yurt and some meals with volunteers from France, Germany and Canada. NFTI is doing a fantastic job of building food security and deserves greater investment from this government.

While we were in Hay River, we christened the brand new Porritt's Landing picnic area and fire pits with some whitefish provided by the Honourable Member for Hay River South. He was right as the lake shore proved to be too cold for us with ice near shore, but we still had an excellent dinner.

During our travels, we visited Fort Providence where huge candling ice slabs flowed down the Dehcho, tinkling along the way. We would like to thank Russell Chase who showed us his rabbit farm near Enterprise. We also had a chance to discuss how GNWT could better support food security. We had a quick tour of Kakisa, which I had not visited in over a decade. Black bears, bison, sandhill cranes, and other birds were spotted along the way.

More seriously, Mr. Speaker, our trip reminded me of what a great place we live in and the tremendous tourism opportunities we should better promote this summer. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.