This is page numbers 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 know.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek. Ms. Weyallon-Armstrong

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Finance.

Ministers' Statements

Minister's statement 185-19(2): Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Framework and Action Plan

Prayer
Prayer

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to improving Indigenous representation in the public service, and ensuring Indigenous employees are genuinely included, celebrated, and given opportunities to succeed. We are committed to creating a public service that is welcoming, culturally competent, and free of discrimination; one that serves in a way that respects and includes the Indigenous peoples and communities of this territory.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Finance is launching the Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Framework and Action Plan, by developing business practices that include recruitment and retention strategies. The framework will empower departments to recognize the importance of Indigenous perspectives within their policies, programs, and services. The framework will encompass and support existing GNWT programs designed to recruit and retain Indigenous employees while also providing opportunities for innovation to address recruitment and employment barriers for Indigenous residents, applicants and employees. By providing the tools to develop detailed implementation plans, this framework will support departments as they incorporate these valuable Indigenous perspectives into their teams at all levels and result in a workforce that is representative of the people and the population it serves.

The action plan will take a whole-of-government approach where each department and agency will work together and share the responsibility to reach the goals and action items to improve Indigenous peoples' success within the recruitment process and within the public service as a whole. Each department and agency will be required to create an Indigenous Employment Plan to address the objectives and set attainable benchmarks for success. The development of unique department-specific Indigenous Employment Plans allows departments to address barriers to employment, retention, and advancement of Indigenous people that are specific to their departments and communities.

Mr. Speaker, the Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Framework and Action Plan were developed collaboratively. Representatives from the Department of Finance worked with officials from Indigenous governments and utilized targeted internal engagement to hear firsthand what they identify as barriers to employment for Indigenous people.

The top barrier identified by Indigenous governments was the over inflation of job descriptions. We have listened to what we heard, Mr. Speaker, and our very first action item is to conduct a detailed review of all GNWT job descriptions.

We also heard that we need to ensure that we hold ourselves accountable to enact meaningful, attainable change throughout the public service. As I noted, each department will be required to complete department-specific Indigenous Employment Plans with specific Indigenous employment targets, and we will hold ourselves accountable by ensuring that those plans and targets are tied to deputy head and senior management performance appraisals.

Mr. Speaker, these are only two examples of the eleven action items we developed in collaboration with Indigenous governments. This collaborative approach ensures the framework and action plan will meet the concerns of Indigenous governments and the people we all serve. It will allow us to become more engaged, more responsive, more aware of the residents' needs, and provide flexibility in our responses and the development of programs and policies to ensure meaningful changes are made within the public service and felt within our communities and by our employees.

Mr. Speaker, the Indigenous Recruitment and Retention Framework and Action Plan will improve Indigenous representation and ensure that the public service is diverse and inclusive. It supports continual improvement in our recruitment and retention practices and provides opportunities to celebrate our progress as we move forward in setting our sights on new levels of success in Indigenous representation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

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Prayer

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to celebrate the award recently announced for the K'asho Got'ýnê Housing Society in my home community of Fort Good Hope. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation Gold Roof Award for Knowledge to Action was presented to the dedicated team representing the K'asho Got'ýnê Housing Society.
This award recognizes the work the K'asho Got'ýnê Housing Society has done in developing its own housing repair and maintenance program and includes a $10,000 contribution to help the society continue its work.

Mr. Speaker, this is an example of how communities can take a leadership role in increasing housing in partnership with the Housing Corporation. It demonstrates the effectiveness of collaboration and capacity building in the efforts to tackle the housing crisis in the northern remote communities. The success of the K'asho Got'ýnê and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is paving the way for the implementing of the strategic renewal.

Prior to this award, the Housing Corporation had been working in partnership with the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society on this repair program. Through the Housing Corporation's Community Housing Support Program, this will show we can do and we work in our community with partnership and respond together to the locally identified specific needs in a given community. This partnership began with a community housing plan, for which the Housing Corporation provided funding and it progressed on from there.

Mr. Speaker, when Premier Cochrane was Minister Responsible for the NWT Housing Corporation, she attended a town hall meeting in Fort Good Hope where it was noted that many residents had trouble accessing Housing Corporation's repair programs. It was during that visit that the Housing Corporation staff proposed that the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society develop its own community repair program that would allow the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society to select program, participants, and provide training opportunities for building trades helpers and apprentices. The Government of the Northwest Territories heard the needs of the community and acted in partnership with the community to address those needs.

The NWT Housing Corporation is also working with the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society on a men's transitional housing initiative. The Men's Transitional Housing Initiative Program is a mandate and provides unique programming for men who are homeless or have insecured housing. Through a holistic approach, this is strongly rooted in the Dené and Metis culture. Given the award-winning track record of the Housing Corporation Society, I would not be surprised if I would be standing here again in the future if they may receive an additional award.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to use this opportunity to express our appreciation to the commitment and dedication of the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society and look forward in building our partnership to address housing needs for all Fort Good Hope residents. I would like to thank all Fort Good Hope residents and for your tireless work in providing a model for other communities. I would also like to thank the Housing Corporation staff for their dedication and their work into such a unique approach. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this government needs to do more to help the artisans of the NWT in accessing traditional tanned hides.

Mr. Speaker, over the last several years I have met with numerous artisans who have voiced the same concern - that concern is the lack of access to traditional tanned hides which they require to make a variety of products. Many of us here are familiar with these products which include earrings, slippers, crow boots, gauntlets, mitts, vests, jackets, gun cases, and more.

Mr. Speaker, when those who purchase Indigenous fashions that require hide and fur, they want the appearance; they want the touch; and, most importantly, they want the smell of the traditional tanned hide. What people may not know is the amount of work that goes into the traditional tanning of hides, such as moose and caribou.

Mr. Speaker, I have had a number of artisans explain to me the process of traditional tanning to me. There are up to 13 steps that include skinning, soaking, stretching, fleshing, scraping, thinning, braining, wringing, drying, softening, and smoking. This process can take up to 3 weeks consisting of many hours to complete.

Mr. Speaker, tanning requires access to raw material, special tools, patience, and a lot of hard work. The practice of tanning hides is a long tradition with Indigenous people. Mr. Speaker, this skill may be in jeopardy of being lost if this government, and Indigenous governments, do not provide the support to those few who have retained the knowledge that was passed on to them and who now want to pass it on to others.

Mr. Speaker, we have a Hide and Fur Program in place which was, in part, meant to support the need for artisans to have access to raw materials, such as hides and furs, at affordable prices. Either it does not have sufficient product, is not well advertised or, may be unaffordable for artisans. We need to do more in this area.

Mr. Speaker, I would challenge the Minister of Responsible for ITI, the Minister of Responsible for ECE, and the Minister responsible for ENR to collaborate and develop a standalone program that would provide financial compensation to those that are tanning their own hides and to those harvesters who bring the hides out after a successful harvest.
I will have questions for one of the foregoing Ministers at the appropriate time. Thank you.

---Applause

Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's statement on tlicho All-Season Road Preparedness
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. As I understand it, the Tlicho All-Season Road is supposed to be completed and opened tomorrow. It is clear that the road has been supported by various Tlicho governments and that it will undoubtedly bring some benefits. However, there does not seem to be a coordinated approach from this government to ensure those benefits are maximized and adverse impacts are managed.

I was also surprised to learn a few months ago that the road doesn't even go into the community of Whati and that extensive work costing a further $9 million will be required on an access road. I'm not sure how that was overlooked in the planning of a development that will ultimately cost this government over $400 million over the next 30 years. Like the Inuvik to Tuk Highway, the community at the end of the road does not appear to be adequately supported by this government.

There is also some question about this government's unfulfilled measures on the environmental assessment of the project. There are concerns about the adequacy of GNWT's adaptive management of the road's wildlife impacts.

A number of recently submitted plans, including the Interim Wek'eezhii Boreal Caribou Range Plan, a Tlicho All-Season Road Wildlife Management and Monitoring Plan, and a permit application for boreal caribou and wolf monitoring, all remain unapproved. A report on woodland caribou was recently released and it recommended that there be a limited or no resident harvest in the area around the Tlicho All-Season Road and that further research is needed on the Indigenous harvest.

I continue to raise the potential need for sport fishing restrictions on Lac La Martre where there is already a small but successful fishing lodge. No Minister for GNWT seems to want to follow that up on that in any way.

There doesn't seem to be any funding in the GNWT capital budget for park or campground planning or business development for Whati to get better prepared for the road opening. You'd think we would have learned some lessons from the Inuvik to Tuk Highway, Mr. Speaker.

I have lots of questions around GNWT's preparedness and support for communities at the end of new roads. I'll put some of those to the Minister of Environment and Natural Resources later today. Merci, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Member's statement on tlicho All-Season Road Preparedness
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

member's statement on Territorial Policing Services Agreement
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we are living in an age of heightened public awareness and interests in police accountability and transparency. And rightfully so, because this is a matter of public safety. It is our duty as legislators to hold the government to account, and policing services falls within that purview. We must ensure that our justice system, specifically our territorial police services, are being run above board at all times. Therefore it is extremely important that our policing services have proper oversight, including financial accountability for public funds.

Mr. Speaker, policing in the NWT is carried out by the RCMP. The RCMP, however, is a federal police force and is guided by the NWT Territorial Police Service Agreement. That agreement was signed between the Government of Canada and the Government of the Northwest Territories on April the 1st, 2012, and is set to last for 20 years - until March 31st, 2032.

Upon review of this agreement, I noticed some areas of concern that I find troubling and lacking.

Firstly, Mr. Speaker, this agreement states each fiscal year the territories will pay to Canada 70 percent of the cost providing and maintaining the territorial police service. According to our 2021-2022 main estimates, policing services accounts for 36.1 percent of our total operating expenditures, amounting to $48.2 million. What I find problematic, Mr. Speaker, is that there are no requirements for the RCMP to provide public financial statements of this expenditure. The RCMP commanding officer's obliged only to provide the NWT Justice Minister with a multi-year financial plan for the territorial police service. However, there is no mention of any financial accountability to the Legislative Assembly of this expenditure breakdown.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, there is a contract management committee within the Territorial Police Service Agreement and it is not accountable to any public body. It is not obliged to submit any public reports of its discussions, there no mechanism for legislative oversight or transparency. It would be nice to know what our public monies are being spent on in this area.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, there is also the issue of jurisdiction of policing services in the NWT. Since the RCMP is a federal agency, its internal management and administration of police standards and procedures remain under the control of Canada. Thus, the Government of the Northwest Territories is very limited in authority over the RCMP. Our territorial Minister of Justice only has the authority to set objectives, priorities and goals of the territorial police service. This only furthers the lack of transparency and accountability of the RCMP in the NWT.

I will have questions for the Minister of Justice later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

member's statement on Territorial Policing Services Agreement
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

member's statement on Education Renewal Framework
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak to our education system and my concerns that we are not providing our youth with the tools needed to succeed in life.

Mr. Speaker, eight years ago, the Department of Education, Culture and Employment published the Education Renewal and Innovation Framework. It was a ten-year strategy guiding the department's activities until 2023. The intent was to radically change the NWT's junior kindergarten to grade 12 education system.

In 2020, the Auditor General of Canada published a report called Early Childhood to Grade 12 Education in the Northwest Territories, which gave the GNWT a failing grade on education in our schools. The audit found that the GNWT needs to.

Better monitor the performance of the education system;

There are problems with data collection and analysis including graduation rates;

The GNWT needs to monitor the education authorities on their compliance of policies and accountability frameworks;

The department needs to do more to meet students' needs; and .trades should be a focus in schools.

The Auditor General made 77 recommendations and the Department of ECE accepted them all, including providing additional supports to principals of small schools and teachers of multi grade classrooms, which are common in our small communities.

The department did a mid-term evaluation of the Education Renewal and Information Framework in 2018. The evaluation found that graduation rates are lower in smaller communities and that a considerable number of students in high school are not advancing to the next grade level.

In response to both the audit and internal evaluation, the department prepared an action plan to improve JK to 12 student outcomes in the NWT 2020-2021 to 2023-2024.

Mr. Speaker, now in November 2021 we are waiting for a proposal to modernize the Education Act. We are also waiting for

  • The labor force analysis;
  • The department's updated skills for success strategy; and,.
  • The transformation of Aurora to proceed to a polytechnic university.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and mahsi, colleagues.

Mr. Speaker, we know what the problems are. We understand that many NWT residents do not have enough schooling to meet NWT job demand in the immediate future. The 19th Legislative Assembly mandate includes increasing student education outcomes to the same level as the rest of Canada. Mr. Speaker, I'm afraid we are out of time to reach this commitment. I will have questions for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

---Applause

member's statement on Education Renewal Framework
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onaccess To Traditionally Tanned Hides

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.