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 public.

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 Lesa Semmler

Welcome, colleagues. Colleagues, before we continue with orders of the day, I ask that you be conscious of the interpretation service being offered and urge you to slow down when you're speaking. Our interpreters offer an important service to allow constituents to listen to the Assembly's proceedings in our territory's official languages.

Ministers' Statements. Minister for Health and Social Services.

Ministers' Statements

Minister's Statement 192-19(2):
Temporary Day Shelter

Prayer
Prayer

December 2nd, 2021

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I am pleased to announce the temporary day shelter will open next week at the site of the former visitors centre in Yellowknife. The day shelter is vital to keeping residents experiencing homelessness safe during the depths of winter.

Madam Speaker, the need for a temporary day shelter arose from the public health order to physically distance indoors during the COVID-19 pandemic. This order, while critical to keeping all residents safe, has reduced capacity at the day shelter and sobering centre on 50th Street, meaning that many individuals who need that service are unable to rely on finding space available during the cold weather.

The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority has been delivering additional temporary day sheltering services since the beginning of the pandemic. This service protects the health and safety of members of the community who are experiencing homelessness with shelter, bathrooms, food, laundry facilities, and program navigation.

Madam Speaker, providing this essential service is an important component of this government's commitment to reconciliation.

The City of Yellowknife's point-in-time count data collected in 2021 shows a significant overrepresentation of Indigenous people. Of those surveyed, 91 percent identify as Indigenous compared to just 23 percent of the total Yellowknife population. This data also tells us that 62 percent of the homeless population had at least one parent who attended residential school and 19 percent attended residential school themselves.

We can't ignore the tragic legacy of residential schools whose damaging effects are still felt today. Caring for and providing essential services to people experiencing homelessness and battling addictions is part of facing that legacy and advancing reconciliation. Despite the importance of this service, however, there have been significant challenges to secure a suitable option.

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to advise that through a concerted effort to find a solution, we secured the temporary day shelter modular through our partnership with the private sector. Contractors offered the use of their modular work camp units following the completion of the Tlicho all-season road. These units have been placed on the former Northern Frontier Visitors Centre lot. Use of the lot is made possible by a declaration of a local state of emergency by my colleague Minister Thompson as Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

The temporary day shelter will open in this location in the coming days and will provide safety and basic services to meet the needs of members of the community who are experiencing homelessness. The goal is to secure the required municipal permits for this shelter to remain in operation until the completion of the permanent Wellness and Recovery Centre in early 2024.

Madam Speaker, the opening of this temporary facility illustrates the importance of collaboration and is an example of what can be accomplished when we collectively commit to the needs of all residents, including those experiencing homelessness and addiction. I wish to extend my gratitude to Minister Thompson for using the Emergency Management Act to ensure timely access to the site; Kavanaugh Waste Management for notifying us of the camp unit option; Kiewit Construction for helping get the units on site; and local contractors for their work to prepare the units for occupancy. I also want to thank staff from the Department of Health and Social Services and the Health and Social Services Authority for their tireless work to find a suitable alternative for the temporary day shelter. Without the efforts, we would not have been able to make this solution a reality.

I would also like to recognize the City of Yellowknife for making the Yellowknife community arena available for use while the visitors centre site is being prepared.

Madam Speaker, I want to thank those community members who have voiced their support for this important work. The GNWT shares their commitment to the provision of respectful and dignified services for all residents. The temporary shelter represents another step in the path towards finding a permanent location for these services. We are working diligently on the design of the permanent Wellness and Recovery Centre and will continue to look for support from the community to make it a reality.

Lastly, Madam Speaker, and certainly not least, I want to acknowledge the good work done by all shelters, including Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Simpson, to address and overcome challenges presented by COVID-19. Especially in my thoughts right now are clients and staff impacted by the recent fire at the Inuvik warming centre. I appreciate the efforts to relocate these clients and ensure services to them continue. The perseverance shown by shelter staff, across the territory is commendable, and I thank each and every one of them for your dedication. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

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Prayer

The Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' Statements. Minister for our Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 193-19(2): Shelters
Prayer

The Speaker Lesa Semmler


MADAM SPEAKER: Thank you, Minister. Ministers' Statements. Minister for our Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 193-19(2): Shelters
Prayer

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Madam Speaker, winter has arrived, temperatures are dropping and will continue for the next couple of months. Dropping temperatures bring great concerns for under-housed residents, without a warm place to live, without comforts that many of us enjoy day to day. Our partners who provide shelter services have been planning for months.

I would like to speak about the vulnerable and the critical of non-government organizations that have come together and the shelter workers to do, and to try and work with those without a home and a safe and healthy place to live.

In Inuvik, working the overall direction of many partners, including the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Gwich'in Tribal Council, the Town of Inuvik, and people with lived-experience, two shelters are providing much needed support for persons experiencing homelessness. The Inuvik Emergency Warming Shelter, which is open to anyone requiring a place to sleep and a meal; and the Inuvik Homeless Shelter, which supports persons that may be more stable and independent but do not have a place to call home.

With the recent fire at the Inuvik Emergency Warming Shelter, we know that services to our underhoused population is more critical than ever. We are actively working with our partners and various levels of government to ensure that the displaced that we are supports -- that we provide supports and can continue, and I am committed to keeping the House updated as we navigate a path forward.

In Hay River, the Hay River Committee for Persons with Disabilities operates an emergency shelter providing meals and a safe place to stay. In Fort Simpson, the Village of Fort Simpson coordinates the operation of shelters with the advice of community parties that includes the Liidlii Kue First Nation.

Yellowknife has long been a catchment area for people without a place to live. The Salvation Army provides shelter to men. The Women's Society Shelter provides a shelter women as well as offers semi-independent rooms and runs a Housing First program. The YWCA provides emergency rental housing for homeless families. The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation provides operational funding for all of these programs. As well, our partners delivering -- for the NWT Housing Corporation is the Northern Pathways. The Housing program provides important opportunities for housing stability in Behchoko, Fort Simpson, Aklavik, and Fort Good Hope. Our partners include the Behchoko Friendship Society, the Liidlii Kue First Nation, the Aklavik Indian Band, and the K'asho Got'ine Housing Society. The Northern Pathways is recognized by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness as a best practice and innovative model for addressing homelessness in rural and remote communities -- northern Indigenous communities.

Madam Speaker, the NWT Housing Corporation will continue to support all these operations by providing policy and procedural guidances where appropriate, supporting training opportunities for frontline staff, developing physical standards for facilities, and providing operational funding.

Winter is a dangerous time for people without a roof over their heads. I want to commend and thank all of our partners for stepping up when they are needed most. These are not simple jobs caring for the less fortunate amongst us. Often program participants may come with a number of complex issues including mental health, addiction, and physical health. Our partners and frontline workers provide supports focusing on people's strengths, not their weaknesses. I could not be more proud of the work that they are keeping and working with our residents and keeping them safe and secure.

I would also like to thank the Housing Corporation and the several staff that have come together in partnership and have created this partnership between the Housing Corporation and the non-profit organizations. Masi, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 193-19(2): Shelters
Prayer

The Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Madam Speaker, the other night I was watching the news and after years of Iran of failing to come to the table to negotiate a nuclear deal, I heard the lead negotiator on that file say they expected a deal within one year. And Madam Speaker, I thought let's hire that guy to settle some land claims.

Madam Speaker, the time, all across Canada in fact, not just the GNWT problem, to conclude a land claim agreement is getting longer and longer. They are becoming slower and slower to negotiate and as the time period gets longer, the number of leaders involved in each negotiating gets longer, only exasperating the problem.

I believe the root of this cause is many. There is a little bit of blame on all parties and probably a lot to blame on lawyers like me who have turned it into a largely technocratic exercise that can take years as opposed to a political one about nation building. Madam Speaker, but I do believe that if we had the political will we could move much faster in this area. In fact we negotiated devolution, the single largest land transfer in Canadian history, much quicker than we have negotiated any other agreement.

I note there are different factors all around but, Madam Speaker, I believe that we need to take a new approach and press reset. We need to look at all of our negotiating mandates in light of devolution, all of our government agreements in light of the powers we now hold, and have a whole scale rewrite. I believe that we need third party review of this, preferably a third party who has actually settled some agreements. I know there are a lot of ex-Chiefs and ex-negotiators in this territory who would love to see those mandates and provide some insight.

I believe it's worth noting that I have never seen a negotiating mandate. I have never been been at a negotiating table so everything I say is to be taken with a grain of salt. But there are people in this territory who know how to actually get these things done, and it has been far too long.

Madam Speaker, you we have a suite of policies, whether it be the land lease only policy, land withdrawals, and various other policies that are, in theory, meant to help us assist in settling the unsettled claims but I think that we have to ask ourselves if whether those are actually hindrance. If everything meeting that my Cabinet colleagues goes to is about cabin lease taxes, I think that a hindrance to actually getting these claims done. I believe we know need a wholesale review with third party and public input on what we are negotiating and what we are willing to give up in light of our implementation of UNDRIP and our commitment to get this done as an Assembly. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights

The Speaker Lesa Semmler

Member. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Member's statement on Housing Shortage
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Today I just want to thank all the people in my communities that -- I'm really proud to bring forward that our frontline staff are doing so well working together in all four communities, and thank the health care crew, our school teachers, our RCMP staff, and all our local leadership in Nunakput. But I believe the ability and the diligent work of everybody in the communities to keep us safe and hard work is not going unseen, and it is to keep our communities safe and I am so grateful for that, Madam Speaker.

I would like to remind all this week I brought some Member's statements forward that our housing in Nunakput is in a crisis, Madam Speaker. My riding of Nunakput, people are suffering. It has not been a priority of our government; it needs to be a priority, to put forward all housing for the people across the territory. We need to access more money from CMHC. We need to start societies like Fort Good Hope, and all our communities that we represent and I represent, everybody should have a roof over their head and enough proper housing for the people, Madam Speaker.

This year, barges in the communities before freeze up, they were delayed but there was a big concern but in some cases looks, we have to start focusing on the people that we represent and the contracts, but I know they go to the work done and I am thankful for that, and it could have been a bigger than what it was, and I would I like to thank MTS and the ministry again for working so diligently to get those boats into the communities.

Madam Speaker, I just want to encourage everyone in our communities and across the territory, in Nunakput, stay safe, take care of each other. If you have symptoms, stay home, get tested. And if you're not vaccinated yet, please consider getting vaccinated for your family and for the people, for our Elders. And keep our community safe and Nunakput's in our thoughts and prayers. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause

Member's statement on Housing Shortage
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights

The Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

member's statement on Caribou
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights

Jane Weyallon-Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Today I'm doing it on caribou. Tlicho people have lived with caribou since the beginning of time. Traditionally when the caribou moved, Tlicho people followed. They would move from their settlement area to the barren lands to follow the path of the caribou. The meat would be harvested, the hide tanned, the bone marrow boiled, and other bones used for tools. Every part of the caribou was used and an important part of the Tlicho way of life. Today, Madam Speaker, we know the relationship with caribou is changing because the numbers of the herd continue to decline, and a ban is in place to protect the caribou for future generations.

There is a concern about this due to conflicting information regarding caribou herds. The herds of the caribou that we heard of. Accordingly when the ban was in force, Tlicho people were told the ban would be for three months in 2010. It is now 2021 and the number of herds reported is still low. The ban has been place for over ten years.

Madam Speaker, there is concern that people who have always relied on caribou to survive are being separated from their traditional way of life. People identify themselves by their relationship to caribou. The current state of the herd and the ban on hunting impacts Tlicho way of life. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has a lot of on-the-land programs to support families to get out on the land. I recognize the department's efforts to support healthy relationships with the land. But, Madam Speaker, it is very difficult for Tlicho people to live as they always have since the herd is not easily accessible. Thank you, and I will have questions for the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources.

---Applause.

member's statement on Caribou
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights

The Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

member's statement on Northwest Territories Power Corporation Employee Position
Members' Statementsmember's Statement Onunited Nation Declaration On The Right Of Indigenous People And Land Rights

<Br>Ms. Smartselos

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, there is one issue that I have tried resolving off the floor OF THE HOUSE. But today, I have not had sufficient responses on. Perhaps here I can get some clearer answers. The issue is about a position within the Northwest Territories Power Corporation which used to exist but has since been changed or terminated. That position is the regional South Slave superintendent.

Madam Speaker, I have tried asking now two separate Ministers of NCPC to reinstate the South Slave superintendent position at the Fort Smith NCPC office. The last Minister told me that this position never even existed in Fort Smith or in any other of their regional offices. Well, that's odd, Madam Speaker, because I know a Fort Smith resident who is a former employee of NCPC whose title was superintendent and he worked there for nearly 20 years.

Madam Speaker, I asked oral questions about this on March 30th, 2021, but the Minister did not have any substantive answers. I have also sent emails January 25th, April 19th, and on May 10th, all of which went unanswered providing no responses at all.

Madam Speaker, I am asking that this position be reinstated and be based in Fort Smith just as it had been one time before. This might seem like a little thing to some people, but this position is important to Fort Smith. In fact, the entire Fort Smith leadership agrees with that and stated that to the Minister when she visited in March earlier this year. Especially with the expansion of the Taltson dam underway, a position like will be beneficial with the undertaking of this project, particularly because the largest hydro dam in the NWT is in the Thebacha region. Madam Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Lastly, Madam Speaker, I do not agree with the current management and reporting structure within the regional office of the NCPC. It is counter to regional decision-making authority. Also, it is not okay that all or most of the reporting of NCPC in the South Slave region began to be based out of Fort Simpson. The department has denied that but people have told me that, and there are other ways to avoid duplication of jobs too, since that was another excuse that the government has used to avoid reinstating this position and its former are reporting structure. I will have questions for the Minister responsible for NCPC later today. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

---Applause