This is page numbers 2951 - 2988 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 public.

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Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, when we were elected into the Legislative Assembly by the people of the Northwest Territories, none of us got special rights by virtue of that election and by virtue of this post. None of us were put above the law, the rules, the policies whether they came from Assemblies before us, or whether they came from the legislators before us. Mr. Speaker, in my view it is quite the opposite. When we are elected it is a privilege. It is a privilege to serve, and it carries with it duties and obligations to the people who have placed their trust in us. It is always a privilege and it should be treated, in my view, as a gift.

Our code of conduct is what we use to ensure that we are providing a reasonable level of scrutiny. It's a higher level of scrutiny than what is used in many cases, and we are held to a higher standard. But in my view, Mr. Speaker, that is reasonable because we have a privilege to stand in this room. We have a privilege to be involved at the highest level of decision making. It's a gift given to us by our constituents.

Mr. Speaker, there has already been a fair bit discussed about the matter but I did, also, think very long and hard about this. And while I've tried to shorten my comments in light of all the many things already said, I do feel compelled to say something to my constituents about the reasons for my decision. I want to speak briefly about some of the facts and spend more of my time on the decision about sanction.

The facts have been very thoroughly reviewed, and I'm grateful for MLA Martselos for going through them. The adjudicator's reasons give a thorough review of the facts with respect to those matters. So just a few comments.

In the context of a time, Mr. Speaker, when we were still under a recommendation not to travel, the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh decided to travel. A lot of residents that I represent have struggled with their family and their personal needs in the face of births and deaths and made choices not to travel. On his return, the Member decided that what was supposed to be just a short breach, or certainly that's the way that he seems to be presenting it, to see his daughter was okay. A lot of residents, Mr. Speaker, have been isolated separately from their families, from their children, from their parents, and from elders for a full 14 days and in some cases more. Some of them have had to stay in isolation centres. But they've done so.

The MLA also thought it was fine to stop by the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Speaker, this is the seat of government. Members of government - staff, MLAs - come in on weekends. They come in all the time. And the idea that he has claimed to come in the evening as somehow making it less responsible, I disagree with. Although I would note, Mr. Speaker, there has been a noted absence of anyone wanting to use the word "lie." There seems to be a continual effort to say that the things that have been said simply were misleading or a mistake or a misunderstanding. But on this point, Mr. Speaker, of why someone would come to the Legislative Assembly when they should be isolating, I find it difficult to understand how you can be mistaken whether you are here at two something in the afternoon or whether you were here, in fact, in the evening. By the last day of what should have been the MLA's period of isolation, based on what the findings of fact were in the adjudication proceedings, it certainly seems that there was not a care at this point whether or not there should be further isolation or whether a number of errands could now be run.

Mr. Speaker, to me it is not a defense to say that you couldn't count the days or that you didn't understand isolation procedures at this point. These were not new rules. Moreover, as has already been I think very aptly described by my colleague from Kam Lake, in this role, having travelled somewhere with a place of high incidence of COVID, would suggest that it is incumbent on any resident to ensure that they are following the rules. But it is more incumbent on us as leaders to make every effort to follow the rules, at the very least to make some phone calls and ensure ourselves that we are doing everything right and, perhaps, simply take a cautious approach.

But it does not end there.

Now, the Member decides to make all of it public, to make the fact of his diagnosis public and, apparently, ignores the advice of our officials suggesting that he not mislead the public when he does so. And then proceeds to send public health on a goose chase of information, or lack of information. Mr. Speaker, these are the public servants tasked with keeping all of us safe, preventing community spread, and quickly identifying whether someone may or may not be a contact of COVID. This is what prevents our health care system from becoming overwhelmed and from community spread. This is what prevents risk.

Mr. Speaker, I was astounded that anyone would try to conceal their whereabouts in the midst of a global pandemic not seen in my lifetime. I am appalled that a Member of this House should behave that way.

Mr. Speaker, I am compelled to say a few comments further about constituents and their reactions. In my view, this entire debacle has showed a total lack of empathy and complete disrespect for the struggles of the residents of the Northwest Territories during COVID. These are people who have called and written to many of us in tears about the experiences that they have had making difficult choices and trying to navigate the system knowing the importance of doing so.

Many of my constituents, Mr. Speaker, have contracted COVID, particularly during the outbreak at NJ Macpherson School and they have experienced firsthand the impacts of the disease. And as for how hard self-isolation is, many people in my riding, again particularly during that outbreak, had to self-isolate not for 14 days but often for 21 days or more. I spent 14 days confined to my property during that outbreak, and it is successful, and it is tiring, and it is exhausting. But that is not an excuse and it is not an explanation. As an elected leader, I'm ashamed to think of all of the people in my riding who have made sacrifices in their choices, sacrifices they have made following public health orders despite being tired, despite being exhausted, and then for them to have to hear an elected leader blaming others for his failure to make those same sacrifices.

With respect to the matter of the threats that are before us, Mr. Speaker, this is directly tied to the matter that was referred to the Integrity Commissioner. Having seen and observed the behaviour and the language of the MLA to say anything he wants to the public, I took this threat very seriously that he was indeed prepared to come after all of us. I believed, and Mr. Speaker I continue to believe, that there is a very real possibility that the MLA will say anything to target any one of us, to target our reputations, or to make allegations or claim that may be without merit or without base and to which we will all be ill prepared to respond because there is no way to respond to that. We are now all facing that threat and continue to do so.

Having heard my colleagues yesterday and again today, Mr. Speaker, far worse to me - far worse to me - is that the MLA created an atmosphere of fear. Not only the possibility of silencing my colleagues but, has in fact - in fact - already impeded their ability to bring forward the matters important to their constituents.

The claim that we are doing something undemocratic by acting on the laws established by the Legislative Assembly is without merit. The MLA has himself done something, in my view, undemocratic by silencing those who are brought here by their constituents to speak on their behalf.

The apology that came yesterday is notable because it came only in connection with further deflection for actions and decisions, saying that the words were taken out of context. Mr. Speaker, we are the context. We were the context, and I do not accept that explanation.

Mr. Speaker, I want to finish by speaking about sanction and my views on what the proper sanction for conduct in this circumstance should be.

I've spent a decade of my life working in the criminal justice system, Mr. Speaker, and that certainly impacts how I approached this discussion and how I approached this decision. And in my view, I will say at the front end, sanction should never be for revenge and it should never be for punishment. Those are hollow. What I have learned in my professional experience is that we should aim to deter wrongful conduct of the individual and we should aim to deter others from the wrongful conduct in question. And in this context, I would add to that, that we should also ensure that we protect the integrity of the Legislative Assembly as the house of government.

Mr. Speaker, I will agree it is difficult to find precedent that captures the full range of actions that we are dealing with here today. But I do have a couple of recent examples from the situation from the context of COVID that I would like to refer to.

Kamal Khera was a Member of Parliament. She had volunteered at a nursing home as a trained nurse during the early stages of COVID. She was bathing and changing residents on an infected ward of a seniors' residence. Then her father died followed weeks later by her uncle. And so she flew to Seattle last Christmas break in order to attend family memorials. This of course was at a time when flying out of the country was contraindicated. Mr. Speaker, she did not break a single rule. She did not lie. She did come back and apologized for her travel and she then stepped down from her parliamentary roles.

Mr. Speaker, the Ontario Finance Minister also decided to go on vacation last winter. It was a sunny vacation with his family and he did seem to suggest by social media that perhaps he was at home sitting by a fire in a sweater. Well, when that came out, Mr. Speaker, he flew back early. He publicly accepted responsibility for bad choices. He publicly apologized, and resigned his Cabinet position. Neither of them broke a single law. Neither of them lied. Neither of them threatened their colleagues.

So as far as deterring others, I was left in a situation where it seems to me that there were few precedents, because I think as has already been noted, quite often politicians don't get this far. They do wind up resigning or being encouraged to resign by their parties or by their governments.

I would just make one last side note on this, Mr. Speaker. The number of other professions that also have to govern themselves - lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants, geologists, architect, and many many more all have codes of conducts and all are self-governing professions. They all sit in judgment of their colleagues. It is their duty. It is not easy but they are asked to do it. Self-governing professions deal with codes of conducts because they understand the role that is played by their colleagues. And of course in our case, as was I think amply and very ably described by MLA O'Reilly, that process is found in the Legislative Assembly and Executive Council Act. But on that note, Mr. Speaker, this is not just another job and it is not just another profession.

Fundamentally, in my view, Mr. Speaker, we are here because of actions and choices made by the MLA from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. But I still ask myself what is the minimum response that we could use that could deter any further conduct. Removal is the ultimate sanction. Mr. Speaker, I see no other path forward by which the MLA will accept any responsibility for anything that has occurred, for the harms done to anyone, including my colleagues, public servants, or damage to the integrity of the Assembly.

There have been four reasons offered, among many, but four in particular offered as to why there should be no sanction whatever. And so in conclusion I am going to run through quickly for you, Mr. Speaker, those four reasons and why I reject all of them.

MLA Norn has suggested that this process is politically motivated. There has been very little explanation as to what political gain any of use might have. If these recommendations are accepted, there will be a by-election and that is the political result. If anything, this drawn out process has been nothing but political embarrassment to every single one of us. That we've had to sit through such open disregard and disdain for the totality of the process contained within the Legislative Assembly Act is politically embarrassing. We are asking our residents to respect our authority for governance and for laws and policies and yet one of our own has shown nothing but blatant disregard for legal process created by this legislature. There is simply no political gain.

Second, Mr. Speaker, there's been a suggestion that this entire process is retribution because the MLA had previously made an unrelated allegation against the clerk of the Legislative Assembly. My own recollection of the events that began that incident, Mr. Speaker, began in the context, again, of all of us being witness to. Yet the allegation was serious, it was taken seriously, taken seriously to the tune of having hired one of the most respected and well-refuted human resource investigative firms in this country. Unfortunately, despite that very process, the MLA turned his back on the process thereto apparently failing to fully participate or complete the interviews and ignoring correspondence in regards to that investigation. The only threat of commonality I see between the MLA's complaint against the clerk and the complaints that bring us here today is this: It's the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's choices, actions, and decisions and his attitude about the rule of law and fair process and whether that should apply to him.

The third is that the sanction here is a product of a southern adjudicator who simply could not understand the context of the North. Mr. Speaker, there are a great many things different between North and southern Canada, between rural and urban Canada, between the east and the west and the three different oceans that surround us. Mr. Speaker, the role of a leader does not change based on your place of residence, your ethnicity, your party. The evidence that was called was from witnesses in this community within a process designed and made by this Legislative Assembly and the application of that law to those facts is what is now being scrutinized by Members of the Legislative Assembly. And so this line of defense, in my view, has no merit.

My fourth and last comment, Mr. Speaker, is again on that idea that nothing similar, no similar precedent exists, and nothing like this has ever occurred. Indeed, MLA Norn's counsel had the instructional latitude to go far as to tell all MLAs that we should be afraid, be very afraid should we act on this lawfully considered recommendation by a senior member of the judiciary in the course of our deliberations here.

Mr. Speaker, no MLA should ever be afraid to act in good faith on the advice of a senior official, or on the recommendations of a senior jurist in order to discharge our legal obligations as Members of this House. I find that threat from a member of the bar on behalf of the MLA to be repugnant, and I reject it.

Last, Mr. Speaker, in considering appropriate sanction is, again, to maintain the integrity of this House. Mr. Speaker, there are significant aggravating features to the breaches of the code of conduct that are before us. And one, again, is that the MLA has shown total disregard for the rule of law, democratic institutions including this Assembly, Members and staff, since the start of the process. I do not agree with every law, rule, or process or policy of government. That is why I ran to be in government, so that I could go about seeking change. It was sad to hear and see an elected official behave the way the MLA did throughout the inquiry having publicly maligned that process in making unsubstantiated claims of bias and impropriety against the adjudicator, the adjudicator's counsel, and at least one witness, all while still an elected legislator responsible to uphold the integrity of our democratic system, the rule of law, and the integrity of this Assembly.

Also aggravating is the MLA's apparent indifference to the context within which all of this began. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic. Twelve residents of the Northwest Territories have died as a result of COVID-19, Mr. Speaker, and many more have seen their lives deeply disrupted by this disease or by the measures that were put in place to keep this plague at bay. And for someone in a position of public leadership during this pandemic to be so careless with the orders is aggravating and dangerous to the cause of public protection during this worldwide crisis.

And so in conclusion, Mr. Speaker, I did ask myself if there was some residual reason or argument that might be mitigating, but there is nothing mitigating that I can find. The MLA's blameworthiness, lack of responsibility and deflection leave me feeling that I have no choice other than to stand today. I do not believe the MLA will come to any sense of understanding about any of these matters. I expect he will continue to cast the net of blame far and wide.

Mr. Speaker, I started off very angry some months ago about what was happening. I have come to a point today where I am very sad. I do hope sincerely that someone can get through to my colleague MLA from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh but it will not be any one of us here. I am left in the position I did not ask for, I do not like, but in my review of the code and considering my role as an MLA and considering my role as a representative of people, I see no option in the circumstances but to accept the recommendations of the adjudicator and to be in favour of this motion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife South. Colleagues before we continue I just want to remind the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh that the mover has the right to conclude debate at any time so if you want to do your statement.

The Member -- the mover has the right to close debate at any time so if you want to -- Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Steve Norn

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Well, here we are. This has been a long and harrowing road, a path, and I have a lot of sadness. I feel a little bit at peace but a lot of sadness today. I have some words prepared but, again, the time of blaming is over. Like, I have to respect all my colleagues and what their beliefs are. I have to respect their vote. And this has affected my family a great deal. And my three girls, I love them very much.

Throughout my life I've always been surrounded by powerful ladies, and my great-grandmother raised me. But when I leave here today, I got to still be a strong role model for my daughters and -- but life goes on. I'm resilient. I've always been resilient. I'm going to stay strong for my family and do the best thing I can to provide for them. And like I've always been taught, my ancestors before me, you know.

And like I said, it's been a long harrowing road. And I accept what's going to be said here, like, what's the vote going to be, but we are here. And one thing I will say, this is not any word of blame, this is not like I listened to some other precedents that have been set in other democracies. But I can't help but wonder if, you know, it would have went down in another part of the world, you know. As an aboriginal man, I've worked as a police officer in Saskatchewan, and I can't tell you how harrowing that job is to begin with. That's a scary job, to drive those farming communities and rural prairies, middle of the night. I've done that. I've dealt with the judge that let Colten Boushie go, the killer of Colten Boushie go. I worked with him before. He used to be a RCMP force lawyer.

And some of the things that are happening around the world right now, you know, a young Caucasian kid kills few people like in plain view, and he gets away with it. I'm not going to use my, the color of my skin anymore. I'm still going to go on. I'm still going to bat 60 percent of random searches at the airport, which I still do. I'm still going to be followed around the stores, make sure that I'm going to pay for my items. That's my life. That's what I live every day.

And with all this going on, I -- every single syllable that has left my mouth has been scrutinized, judged to the nth degree. And it probably will for some time. And I just, like I said life will go on. I apologize to the bottom of my heart for, if I caused any pain, hurt, fear. I would never hurt anybody. I would never hurt a fly. I would never hurt you. And apologize if I caused any fear and that's just -- I feel terrible, and that burns in my soul and this is something I will have to live with for the rest of my days.

But I will say that when I leave this Chamber, I will still serve where I can and when I can. I will still go out there and put my body, my mind and heart in harm's way because that's all I know. And I'll still hold my head up high. And I'll do the best I can for my family, and. And this is regrettable, and I will say that I will resign. I will prevent you from making this vote. I will save you that. I will do that and do you that honor. And that I could feel the will of the people in this room, and I will respect that. Mahsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Colleagues, we'll call a short recess.

---Recess

Colleagues, I wanted to check the record to ensure that I heard Mr. Norn's resignation clearly before we proceed. While I am confident that this was his clear intention, I regret to inform you that the legislation as it is currently worded, and at this late hour, still requires a decision of this House.

Are there others that still wish to speak to the motion. Member for Yellowknife Centre.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Yes, thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that opportunity.

I was one of the people who sat on the rules and procedures committee in the last Legislative Assembly. And to put it into some context, not only had we an unprecedented number at that time of new MLAs, we were also in the thick of the #metoo movement, and with that in mind, we decided to work on changes to the code of conduct that would make it more stringent than it had been in the past, and with the support of our Members at the time in the Legislative Assembly, that code of conduct and its commentary was passed.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that it would apply to a situation such as the one that we are discussing today where the behaviour of the Member is wholly unacceptable and for which the Member is taking no responsibility. This is a very different situation than we anticipated in crafting that code of conduct.

Just to reiterate a few things that I've heard before but I think they're important, this problem began a year ago. It began in this room in a confidential meeting, and it has persisted through an entire year in different forms and always with the same outcome, that the Member or soon-to-be-former Member of Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh was dissatisfied with the result, did not feel his concerns had been heard, and felt that he was being treated in a racist manner.

I want to say that I appreciate Rylund Johnson going forward with the complaint on behalf of Caucus which started the -- first with the complaint to the Integrity Commissioner and then to the sole adjudicator.

I want to reject the commentary that the sole adjudicator was somehow not suitable to conduct the public hearing that we saw in October and November. He was a ten-year Conflict of Interest Commissioner in Saskatchewan and has a 50-year practice of law in many different capacities. There's no question in my mind that he had the expertise we needed to conduct the hearing and to come out with a result.

As he said in his own report, it wasn't an overly complicated two questions that he was asked to rule on. The first was whether the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh had broken his isolation, and what we know through the testimony is that, in fact, that happened five times; it wasn't just a one-off. It happened five times, and it was not inadvertent or minor. He did this knowingly and subjected people to the risk of COVID-19 infection knowingly, which is reprehensible.

Secondly, the sole adjudicator was asked to rule on the question of whether the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh had misled the public. And the short answer is yes. In many ways, shapes, and forms, he did not, in fact, tell the truth. He did not own his behaviour. And consistently throughout, he behaved as if there was a different law for himself than there was for everyone else.

I want to point you to a moment in the hearing where the Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh said to the deputy clerk that he had a political exemption that would allow him to be in the Legislative Assembly while he was in isolation.

What that demonstrated to me is that he thought he was above the law, the law that requires us to self-isolate during the pandemic. And in fact, nobody is above the law. There is no political exemption. The law is one in the same for everyone wherever they live in the NWT. Whatever their race, origin, hair color, it's the same rule for everyone.

So what we know is that he broke isolation and he lied about it, that he subjected hundreds of people to risk, even though it was a low-level risk, it was still a risk, with his cavalier attitude and we could have had a great number more cases in the third wave than we had. The third wave was particularly acute here in Yellowknife with the NJ Macpherson outbreak. But we could have had even a worse time than we did there.

Mr. Norn's rationale for misleading the public was exhaustion and stress. And the sole adjudicator, at paragraph 256, rejected that saying that he did not accept Mr. Norn's explanation and did not believe him in his reasons for not -- for misleading the public.

As other colleagues have said, the public expects a great deal from us in this Legislative Assembly. We've been elected, and as my colleague from Yellowknife South said, given the privilege and the honor of representing our constituents here. And they want us not only to acknowledge that we're above the law but to act in that way, that we are -- pardon me -- that we are not above the law, and they want us to act in a way that shows that we are not above the law. And because of the MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh's conduct, he actually brought us all into disrepute, and he brought this House into disrepute because he did not behave in a way that inspires confidence and trust from the public.

I want to thank all of my constituents who contacted me on this matter. It was quite a robust response. And I want to say that with one exception, the advice I received was that having gone through the process of the sole adjudicator, spent the money on the sole adjudicator, and dragged ourselves through the whole ordeal, that we needed to follow the advice of the sole adjudicator, and I totally agree with that. I think that having asked for this advice and received it, there is no way forward except to follow it and to acknowledge that vacating the seat given the level of betrayal he displayed in losing the trust and the confidence of us as his colleagues and the public that the right thing to do is to declare the seat vacant, and I will certainly be voting in favour of that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife Centre. Motion is in order. To the motion. Member for Inuvik Boot Lake.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I sincerely regret that we are in this situation and having to debate this motion of revocation.

As a Member of this Assembly, I have the right to be safe when doing my job. Our staff in the building have the right to be safe when doing their jobs. We have a right to be free of threats for doing our jobs within the rules of this Assembly, which my colleague from Frame Lake so eloquently outlined.

The Member from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh could have dealt with this in a measured, less antagonistic approached. He could have apologized immediately during the adjudicator hearings. He could have accepted the role of fellow MLAs in following the rules of this House. He could have restrained from lashing out with threats to myself, to my fellow MLAs, to our staff, and even the media.

I do not take this lightly. I trust -- the trust is broken but -- both with the public and the institution, and therefore, Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting this motion.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Boot Lake. The motion is in order. To the motion. I give the mover the opportunity to make closing comments if you wish.

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, my point of privilege and the sole adjudicator report both speak to this motion in its entirety. I would like to acknowledge and thank all my colleagues for their statements that came from the heart.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. Members, a recorded vote has been requested. All those in favour, please rise.

Recorded Vote
Motions

November 23rd, 2021

Page 2959

Deputy Clerk Of The House Mr. Ball

The Member for Thebacha. The Member for Frame Lake. The Member for Nunakput. The Member for Kam Lake. The Member for Yellowknife South. The Member for Range Lake. The Member for Yellowknife Centre. The Member for Great Slave. The Member for Hay River South. The Member for Monfwi. The Member for Yellowknife North. The Member for Deh Cho. The Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. The Member for Nahendeh. The Member for Sahtu. The Member for Inuvik Boot Lake. The Member for Hay River North.

Recorded Vote
Motions

Page 2959

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

All those opposed, please rise. All those abstaining, please rise. The results of the recorded vote: 17 in favour, zero opposed, zero abstentions. The motion is carried.

This matter is now concluded. Colleagues, I'll call a short recess.

---Recess

Recorded Vote
Motions

Page 2959

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Orders of the day. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to entertain everyone. Mr. Speaker, it's becoming more common for people to be asked to prove that they've been vaccinated against COVID-19, and as a result, the GNWT has worked diligently to make sure that NWT residents have a safe, secure proof of vaccination document that is accepted across the country and internationally.

We've been working with governments across the country to develop a standardized vaccine certificate that NWT residents can use to show they've been vaccinated against COVID-19, including for air travel, as new federal regulations come into effect.

The NWT proof of vaccination credential has been tested and accepted by the Canadian Border Service Agency. Through this work, Mr. Speaker, residents now have easy and secure access to their own health information. With the roof of vaccination credential, we are able to resume some semblance of pre-pandemic life.

The process for getting the certificate was designed to be as convenient as possible while ensuring that people's privacy is protected and health records are secure. We encourage all residents who can do so to download their proof of vaccination credential online.

The GNWT has also made in-person options available in all communities across the territory. You can now request your proof of vaccination by filling out the online form on the GNWT website, submitting a request by e-mail, or requesting it through your health centre.

I want to give a very large thanks to the staff from the Department of Finance, Information Shared Services, Health and Social Services, and the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority for their excellent work on the design, delivery, and implementation of this important tool.

Vaccination is a vital resource for public health management. It's still our best weapon in the fight against COVID-19. Since the COVID-19 vaccines have been available here in the territory, our government has and continues to encourage all residents to get vaccinated. Of course, if a resident of the Northwest Territories does not want to get vaccinated, that is their choice.

For those who have chosen to help protect themselves and their community, the proof of vaccination credential gives them the tool to prove their vaccination status wherever it may be required, whether it is in the gym, community hall, airport, or their employer.

The NWT wide gathering order currently in place provides the opportunity for businesses and community organizations to use the proof of vaccine credential to increase the number of people who can access services or activities. This program provides confidence to residents who have chosen to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.

Like many governments, businesses, and organizations around the world, the GNWT and many other employers in the territory have introduced vaccine mandates to protect employees and those they serve. Thanks to this new credential, residents can quickly, reliably, and securely prove their vaccination status to anyone who requires it.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I want to encourage all eligible residents to get the COVID-19 vaccine and the booster shot when available. It is the best protection against the virus, and it's readily available in every community health centre or public health unit in the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Alcohol Delivery
Members' Statements

Page 2959

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, this week is national Addictions Awareness week. Addictions and substance abuse is a major issue in the NWT and has been for many years. Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has only intensified the existing struggles of addiction and substance abuse. The pandemic has increased feelings of isolation, stress, and anxiety and has severely limited the availability and accessibility of services for people with addictions and mental health issues.

Despite these challenges, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made several questionable changes to liquor regulations over the course of this pandemic.

Most recently on October 19th, 2021, the Department of Finance amended liquor regulations to enable residents to order liquor from liquor stores and have it delivered to their home via taxis. While this amendment is only in effect temporarily until December 31st, 2021, this decision has potential to cause devastating effects for those with addiction issues.

Mr. Speaker, according to a May 2021 report from the Canadian Institute for Mental Health Information, Canadians with past and current mental health concerns reported greater increases in substance abuse during the pandemic and those with past and current substance abuse concerns reported more mental health symptoms.

Those who reported poorer mental health were more likely to have increased their use of substances such as cannabis and alcohol. The report also states that more Canadians received substance related hospital care during the COVID pandemic than in the previous year.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Alcohol Delivery
Members' Statements

Page 2959

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Mr. Speaker, the data speaks for itself. More people turn to alcohol and drugs during this pandemic than they did in pre-pandemic times. This is a disturbing trend which I certainly hope will not continue any further; however, when I see a policy -- when I see policy decisions that only enables addictions and makes it easier for people to access alcohol while still having difficulties to access addiction or mental health services, I have a problem with that.

Using COVID as a justification for this liquor policy change, whether temporary or not, is not okay. Overall, Mr. Speaker, addictions and substance abuse affects people in all walks of life, all nationalities, all income levels, and all ages.

For these reasons, it is very concerning to me that our government is now permitting alcohol to be delivered to people's doorsteps. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Alcohol Delivery
Members' Statements

Page 2959

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Lands
Members' Statements

Page 2959

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

[Translation]. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to bring up the issue about -- about the land administration and property tax in Tlicho communities.

Constituent had reached out to me asking what we can do to make it easier to transfer property into their names. Many had -- are living in a House registered in a late family Member's. The process is very legal, overly complex, and it's just too difficult for the land officer to resolve on their own.

So now under programs and services because we can maybe do something and make it out for them, so -- so for that reason, I just -- so under the working for the people in the right direction, I would like to also work well with the land administration because it's under the community government and the people that's employed there.

We should also have a legal terms of having the land or all that information passed on to them. [Translation Ends].

We own the homes they are living. And that effects their eligibility for other government program. For example, many of my constituent in this situation are not eligible for major, minor, or emergency housing repair through the Housing Corporation. This situation is not acceptable, especially because Tlicho communities have a housing crisis, which I spoke about yesterday. This is according to the NWT statistics. Tlicho communities have the most household in all of the NWT that are not suitable, which is sitting at 39 percent.

Mr. Speaker, people want to transfer the file of their late family home and -- House and land in a quick, affordable, and uncomplicated way.

At this time, some of the -- my constituent were told that in order for them to transfer the file for the land transfer, they were told to go to Department of Justice, get a lawyer, to go through court, to settle all this through court. And in order to get a -- to hire a lawyer, it's going to cost $10,000 to settle this claim, in which many cannot afford. There's not too many jobs in small communities. If we are faced with this in my constituents, I'm sure there are other constituents that are in the same situation as myself here.

So for -- so I just -- I want to ask the government if the government can do anything to make things better. Maybe the legal team, maybe they can send a legal team to Behchoko, Whatì and Wekweètì and Gamèti to settle this outstanding land issues. And there is a lot of back -- back -- sorry -- backlog of outstanding land issues.

The legislation could be amended so that bylaws can be implemented that would require, that would ensure that people wills are properly recognized. These issue are not going to go away anytime soon. So thank you. So I will be asking a question to the Minister of Justice after. Thank you.

Lands
Members' Statements

Page 2960

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Obstetrical Care
Members' Statements

Page 2960

Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, by April of this year, my office began hearing from residents regarding the escalating burnout, stress, and fatigue amongst nurses in the NWT. Issues raised included understaffing, the preferential treatment of locums, stress due to working closely with southerners, and having to use leave time to isolate for two weeks if they should travel out of the territory.

Over the subsequent months, we continued to be contacted by several constituents and other residents with personal concerns regarding the conditions they had encountered at Stanton that they saw as resulting from burnout and stress.

In early November, all Members of this Assembly received a letter from several healthcare professionals stating that these issues were reaching critical mass which would likely result in decreased healthcare capacity.

This letter echoed the earlier concerns that had been brought forward to my office's attention highlighting burnout, loss of vacation, feeling overworked, and a lack of compensation for the increased hazard faced due to COVID.

Yesterday while we were sitting in this Chamber, Members were informed that birthing in Yellowknife would now be redirected to Edmonton despite our brand new, state-of-the-art hospital meaning that several families would now be extremely disrupted with very little notice expected to travel during a global pandemic.

Yesterday the Minister of Health also tabled a document that highlighted the concerns of nurses and answered some of their questions; however, what the document also highlighted is what one of the barriers to providing nurses with the accommodations they are asking for is the collective agreement.

In the Northwest Territories, nurses are part of the same collective agreement as any other GNWT employee. Therefore, it is difficult to accommodate the special circumstances that only nurses encounter. All civil servants are considered the same under the Public Service Act. This puts the Department of Health and Social Services in an awkward position. They have been tasked with increasing the number of healthcare professionals by 20 percent as per the 19th Assembly's list of priorities.

What was already set to be a difficult task has only become near impossible as we deal with COVID and the ensuing pandemic. Throw in mounting concerns raised by those same professionals, we are now poised to actually have less healthcare workers at the end of this Assembly than we started with.

Perhaps it is time that we treat our healthcare professionals with the care that they deserve, time to look at what can be done in order to ensure that we are always looking after them the way that they have always looked after us.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Obstetrical Care
Members' Statements

Page 2960

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Health Care Providers Shortage
Members' Statements

Page 2960

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, after receiving the notice that Stanton will be suspending service for the obstetric unites, I had many mixed thoughts about this. I thought of my past experience as a nursing manager and trying to recruit obstetric nurses throughout the year. It was always a struggle to secure indeterminate OBS nurses and I had to rely on term contracts. This upset a lot of the other nurses, but not only in OBS, emergency and OR nurses, trying to keep the positions staffed became way more challenging during peak vacation time, Christmas, summer, and spring break. There were times when there was discussions that possibly having to suspend services to a specific area. These discussions come up more than the public gets to know.

But patient safety is always top priority, and no one makes this decision lightly. You're trying to juggle your staff's holidays over patient safety. Mr. Speaker, staffing shortages throughout the country are impacting the North. Our health care staff have been heavily relied upon during this pandemic. The nurses have been reaching out to MLAs for support with their concerns even before the pandemic but more so now during the pandemic.

Mr. Speaker, this government needs to see that what we're doing is not working. We have heard that they're burning out; their work environment is toxic; their concerns are not being addressed.

We now have families being impacted by this closure, having to do what families from 29 other communities have to do when they are 37 weeks, leave their home, their support, their lives until after they deliver. It's not fair for this to happen to anyone, but it is what has to be done for them to have safe deliveries. And it's unfortunate that this shortage has come to this.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the NWT has a lot to offer for families for family work life balance if fully staffed. And "if" is a very important part. We have salaries that match our southern provinces, if not more. But, Mr. Speaker, the cost of living is getting more expensive, and in some communities, there is even the lack of housing. Mr. Speaker, we need to look at other ways that will make the NWT a place that people want to come and work and live.

As a registered nurse myself, I have received from Registered Nursing Association a recruitment and retention survey which is opened from November 10th to November 28th, and I encourage all registered nurses to complete this survey so that they can voice their concerns and be heard. I look forward to the results of this survey and what it will re-enforce that we may already know as well as bring to light the issues of our staff in the nursing area. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Health Care Providers Shortage
Members' Statements

Page 2960

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

COVID Accommodation Measures
Members' Statements

Page 2960

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

The Government of Canada is working with provinces, territories, Indigenous organizations, and local authorities to develop accommodations to appropriately address the needs of remote communities.

What are remote communities? In this instance for the NWT with the exception of Yellowknife, the remaining 32 communities are considered remote communities.

Mr. Speaker, air travel in the North supports our residents' medical and health needs, and it allows for one's well-being, and it supports community infrastructure of those remote communities. When I reflected on the answers received yesterday from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Infrastructure, access to air travel appears to be, in part, at the heart of why unvaccinated people in the North will lose their jobs.

Mr. Speaker, for the past year and a half, the vaccine has been front and centre, and for good reason, while the issue of the need to accommodate workers has been pushed to the back of our discussions. It is the lack of this consideration for accommodation that will determine if some workers have jobs come December 1st. I understand we can accommodate those workers in jobs where travel is not required. However, we have workers who may be long-term employees with families that will be without an income, may lose their home, and be forced to relocate or find a position where being vaccinated is not a requirement.

Mr. Speaker, we allow those that are vaccinated and who are also potential carriers of the virus to travel into remote communities without self-isolating or being tested. On the other hand, we have unvaccinated persons who would require PPE and a negative test prior to travel.

It seems a bit like putting a gun with a single bullet in the hand of the vaccinated while we put one that we know is not loaded into the hand of the unvaccinated person who has tested negative and using PPE and send them into the community.

This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's to make the point that testing along with the PPE is important. The federal government has indicated a willingness to be flexible in developing accommodations for the unvaccinated and make timely adjustments as the situation changes. Including in this willingness is the use of a local molecular COVID-19 test by airlines at the gate. So there are options.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I will have questions for the Minister of Finance. Thank you.