This is page numbers 2163 - 2198 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 services.

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. Norn, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek

The House met at 10:02 a.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you. Item 2, Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 121-19(2): Communications and Community Engagement COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat
Ministers' Statements

February 26th, 2021

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Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, in a crisis, consistent and timely communications are crucial. The Government of the Northwest Territories understands the critical role of communications as part of our pandemic response. It helps create safer behaviours, greater community solidarity, and, in the end, improved health outcomes.

Mr. Speaker, we have said right from the start of the pandemic that our priority is to protect the health and well-being of residents. That is why the COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat is using every tool at their disposal to connect with residents across the Northwest Territories. In the early days of the pandemic, we launched aggressive public outreach and advertising campaigns aimed at engaging NWT residents, from our youngest to our elders. These campaigns continue today, evolving as the pandemic changes. Our comprehensive social media strategy allows our message to reach over 20,000 residents every week on Facebook and Twitter. Radio reaches residents in 31 of our 33 communities and is critical to respecting valued oral traditions. We are running radio ads, many translated into Indigenous languages, seven days a week. We have been investing in communications, but we have also relied on the northern media to share our message. Through regular media briefings and a relationship built on timely information sharing, residents are kept informed. I want to thank the media for their efforts as you have played an important part in our success.

An important part of how our government operates is building strong partnerships with Indigenous leadership and community governments. These relationships support our ability to educate and inform residents. The Chief Public Health Officer, the Minister of Health and Social Services, the Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, and I meet regularly with Indigenous leaders and community governments to share information and ensure we are hearing their concerns and working closely with them. Meetings like this are part of our communication efforts and play a valuable role. These partnerships allow us to understand what residents want to know so that we can better target our communications efforts and ensure Indigenous leaders and community governments can support their residents and help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Mr. Speaker, last month's COVID-19 outbreak in Fort Liard reinforced the importance of partnerships and communications at work in a pandemic response. Key information that residents needed to know was written in plain language and shared with community leadership, first responders, and health officials to ensure message consistency. A door-to-door campaign was launched and written materials in English and Dene Zhatie were left with residents. We ran radio ads and designed posters in both languages. The Government of the Northwest Territories partnered with CKLB Radio to run a programming, social media, and voicemail call-in campaign called Dear Fort Liard that inspired hundreds of people across the territory to post videos and messages in support of residents.

Mr. Speaker, just as important as our communications efforts is our approach to community engagement. In early January, we changed our approach to paying for isolation centres after hearing from Members of the Legislative Assembly, Indigenous leaders, community governments, businesses, and residents that we needed to reduce these costs. In response to this feedback, the Isolation Centre Policy was revised to require residents to pay for stays related to discretionary travel, which has reduced costs.

The secretariat recently coordinated check-in meetings with community government officials and key Government of the Northwest Territories departments to provide information about the GNWT's pandemic response and vaccines. These discussions also include pandemic planning in each community, potential funding opportunities, and community concerns. In response to suggestions made by community representatives at these meetings, the secretariat has produced a comprehensive community toolkit. This toolkit contains posters and plain-language fact sheets on recovering at home, safety protocols for out-of-territory essential workers, self-isolation, and many other topics. This toolkit is available online and has been provided to community governments and the Northwest Territories Association of Communities.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has been working with the NWT and Yellowknife Chambers of Commerce and NWT Tourism to address some of the concerns of the business community. In response to suggestions raised by the Business Advisory Council, the secretariat issued a request for tender for isolation centre services, which resulted in the issuance of 76 standing offer agreements for these support services.

Mr. Speaker, every day, we see the success of our communications and engagement work in changing behaviours. This work has normalized wearing masks and keeping a safe distance from others. People understand the importance of self-isolation and following public health orders, and vaccine uptake is high. We are travelling less and staying home more. The business community has adapted, with many offering new and innovative services. We are all safer as a result of our collective efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 to protect our loved ones and our communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 121-19(2): Communications and Community Engagement COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Honourable Premier. Ministers' statements. Minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Minister's Statement 122-19(2): Northwest Territories Association of Communities' Annual General Meeting
Ministers' Statements

Page 2163

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Good morning, Mr. Speaker. I'd just like to start off by wishing you a happy birthday.

Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Territories Association of Communities, or NWTAC, represents all 33 of the Northwest Territories' incorporated communities. The NWTAC promotes the exchange of information among community governments, working together to reach collective goals for our communities across the Northwest Territories. Together, they are an effective and passionate voice for community governments.

This year, due to the pandemic, the 2021 Annual General Meeting will be carried out virtually from February 25th to the 27th. If ever we had any question about the importance of building strong relationships with our community governments, this past year has clearly demonstrated how inter-reliant we are on each other. There has been a tremendous effort to work collaboratively and creatively to protect our residents and their communities against the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. These partnerships we have built are stronger because of the development of these relationships with our community governments. This year's AGM is another opportunity to further continue to strengthen those relationships.

Mr. Speaker, this is a time of complex changes in the world, especially with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic that we are all experiencing. This meeting remains an excellent networking, information-sharing, and collaboration to achieve our mutual goals and provide community governments with a platform to focus on common issues as well as to provide feedback on Government of the Northwest Territories programs and services. I want to congratulate the Northwest Territories Association of Communities on their ability to continue with the AGM, ensuring that information continues to be shared and the work toward common goals continues to be a priority, while doing so in a manner that keeps everyone safe.

The virtual agenda for this year's NWTAC AGM is set to include many interactive sessions as well as conducting their organization's core business, such as approval of financial statements and budgets as well as the election of new directors. In addition, members will have an opportunity to approve their 2021 resolutions as well as reaffirming the resolutions from previous years. One of the highlights of every NWTAC AGM is the ever-popular open discussions with the Premier and Cabinet. I know I am looking forward to these discussions, as I am sure my colleagues are, as well. It is an excellent opportunity to hear directly from the leadership of our communities on their priorities and their concerns. This better enables the government to make informed decisions that reflect on-the-ground realities in our communities.

On behalf of the Cabinet, I wish the NWT Association of Communities well with their upcoming AGM. I look forward to being part of these discussions and hearing from communities to better understand their priorities and concerns. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 122-19(2): Northwest Territories Association of Communities' Annual General Meeting
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Contracts for Northern Businesses
Members' Statements

Page 2164

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It has been a difficult year for many NWT residents and businesses, and as the vaccine is rolling out, it appears we are now moving in the right direction. It is now time to place our economy front and centre with the goal of ensuring northern businesses are provided every opportunity to be successful.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of economic recovery for the Northwest Territories has been a topic of discussion and rightly so. As such, my immediate concern is how this government will ensure that we can push out shovel-ready projects in businesses big and small that will provide benefit to northern businesses this construction season.

Mr. Speaker, northern-owned businesses are looking for our support when it comes to tendering and awarding contracts. It is important that this government uses the tools at its disposal to make every effort to award contracts to northern businesses. Whether we are using sole sourcing, obtaining quotes only from northern businesses, negotiated contracts, standing offer agreements, Business Incentive Policy or manufacturing policy, we must pull out all the stops and do everything possible to support northern businesses.

Mr. Speaker, everything that can be said about the need for this government to provide support to northern businesses has been said many times. What we now need is a commitment from this government not to give continued lip service to our real northern businesses but to provide our northern businesses with substantial work during the upcoming construction season. I do understand we are going through a procurement review process, but in the interim, we need to continue to find ways that support northern businesses in order to allow them to survive this pandemic. For Hay River, our businesses are the backbone of the community, and I expect that is true to many of the regional and small communities, and that is why we have to champion them. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will have questions for the Minister of Finance.

Contracts for Northern Businesses
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Cultural Training
Members' Statements

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Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I would like to bring attention to an all-important issue facing our communities. It must be understood that First Nations peoples have faced and continue to face many battles dealing with land rights issues, housing, education, jobs, and the residential school legacy. We must also be mindful that the Liberal government agenda of 1969 in which they wanted to wipe out the Indian in our people. First Nations people have faced many obstacles and will continue to do so where as long as this government and other governments ignore the facts and the plight of First Nations in this territory and this country.

Mr. Speaker, many GNWT employees are being hired from out-of-the-territory to deliver programs and services for many First Nations peoples and communities of this North. The majority get placed into our small communities without a thought as to who they are actually dealing with. They do not know the struggles of our people, how we operate as a family system, how we operate as a community. This issue and practice has become common place with this government. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Cultural Training
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Aftercare
Members' Statements

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Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The time most individuals spend in a southern residential treatment facility represents a small period of time when you compare the many years a person has taken to get themselves to the recovery stage. Going to a treatment facility is the biggest and most important step for many in their journey to recovery from addiction, but it is only one step that is part of their healing journey. When we look at our communities, we lack the supports required to help them remain in recovery. This creates endless cycles of homelessness, family violence, and trips to southern treatment facilities. The government's current approach to addiction treatment stops at step one. Sending people to receive treatment but does nothing to ensure people remain in recovery when they come home. This has been a longstanding barrier for as long as anyone can remember.

Mr. Speaker, this is an example of a poor investment, a one-off, fragmented, and unsustainable approach that demonstrates little progress. We are spending the money for people to go out to treatment, but we need to continue that investment in aftercare. If people have nowhere to live and there's no way they can maintain any type of sobriety, no amount of on-the-land programming or community counselling will help. NWT research on family violence, integrated case management, and people leaving correctional facilities all tell us the issue that is a lack of client-centred supports, a lack of suitable housing, and more resources to stay in housing are needed. Good investments that have seen progress focus on providing community-based recovery and support services. It moves the focus away from one-off crises and emergency management responses towards longer term community-based addiction prevention and support.

Mr. Speaker, we know lack of programming that combines client-centred services and housing is at the centre of the long-standing challenges. Focused investments into individuals that support them to remain addiction-free according to their needs has demonstrated longer term and better outcomes. Not addressing this issue is what's holding the NWT government and our residents back from progress in their addictions. This is evident in our NWT statistics related to addictions that demonstrate these issues are growing. They are not getting better. Recovery starts with support. Permanent housing is the most important aspect of recovery to address these addictions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Aftercare
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Indigenous Languages Month
Members' Statements

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Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to fulfill a promise I made at the Dene Nahjo Forum while still on the campaign trail. In honour of Indigenous Languages Month, I would like to attempt to speak some of the language of my colleague from Monfwi. [Translation] Good morning. I am grateful to be here on this beautiful day to work with my colleagues for the betterment of the people of the Northwest Territories. [Translation ends] What I tried to say was: Good morning. I am grateful to be here on this this beautiful day to work with my colleagues for the betterment of the people of the Northwest Territories.

Today, I also wanted to represent the Indigenous people of the area in which I was born, the Sto:lo of southwestern B.C., so I wear a coat designed by Haida artist Dorothy Grant.

February is Indigenous Languages Month in the Northwest Territories. We are once again unique in that we are the only political region in Canada, which recognizes 11 official languages, nine of which are Indigenous: Chipewyan, Cree, Gwich'in, Inuinnaqtun, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, North Slavey, South Slavey, and Tlicho.

Indigenous Languages Month is another opportunity for the Northwest Territories to celebrate our unique culture and heritage. It is important that we preserve and revitalize Indigenous languages through their use and education as well as implementing new technology to ensure these languages will survive for generations to come.

Between 1989 and 2014, the percentage of territorial residents aged 15 years and over who spoke their Indigenous language declined to 17.1 percent. Currently, that number stands at 38.5 percent speaking their traditional language, and while this increase is great news, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure northern Indigenous languages are no longer at risk of endangerment. We must continue to support and fund language revitalization programs to increase the use of Indigenous languages by all of our residents.

One such program is ECE's recently launched Mentor-Apprentice Program, or MAP. The goal of MAP is to connect those wanting to learn an Indigenous language with a fluent Indigenous speaker for instruction. The MAP is recognized worldwide as a successful method of reviving endangered languages. This program provides over 100 hours of training for the apprentice and the mentor, and compensation is based on the completion of progress reports, incentivising both parties to be successful.

Another strategy we need to explore is the use of partnerships with established technological giants, such as Google Translate, to make use of existing services, platforms, and apps to ensure northern language is captured digitally in order to aid in its preservation. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE in this area at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Indigenous Languages Month
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.