This is page numbers 2525 - 2568 of the Hansard for the 19th Assembly, 2nd Session. The original version can be accessed on the Legislative Assembly's website or by contacting the Legislative Assembly Library. The word of the day was going.

Topics

Residential Schools
Members' Statements

Page 2527

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, March is National Social Worker Month, and I would like to thank the social workers in the NWT for the work that they do. I would also like to encourage the social workers in our territory to continue to look at our families under the lens of reconciliation and remind the non-Indigenous social workers who have not grown up in the NWT that our families have been under attack since contact.

The impact of what residential schools did on families, some never even got to live with their families from the ages of five to eighteen. This is evident on their families now as they struggle with parenting and addictions from the trauma that they experienced. Please show compassion for our Indigenous mothers and fathers who, just because they are Indigenous, are in constant fear of losing their children. Some are not even aware that the way that they are living is unacceptable because it's normal and the reality of how they grew up.

Mr. Speaker, the stats are almost 100 percent of children in care are Indigenous in the Northwest Territories, and this saddens me. Our social work program in the NWT was stopped and put under review. This was very concerning as it would decrease the amount of local and Indigenous social workers being trained in the NWT under an Aboriginal lens. I hope that this program will resume with a focus on prevention and not intervention. The more we focus on prevention, the less intervention we will have to do. Then, Mr. Speaker, we can look to a future with less broken families. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Residential Schools
Members' Statements

Page 2527

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

School Attendance
Members' Statements

Page 2527

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We know school attendance across our territory and especially small communities is lacking, Mr. Speaker. The Department of Education has talked about: missing just one day means a student has missed over two years of school before he hits grade 12. The pandemic has made it even more challenging as a shift to online learning challenges parents, teachers, students around the country. We are fortunate that students are still learning in our classrooms and the territory. I am worried about school attendances is low, and our education has to be made a priority for families across our territory in our small communities.

There are many reasons why some parents may not put a lot of importance to schooling. The impacts on residential schools is a big one because it's over three or four generations. Mr. Speaker, I'm glad those days are over and those days are behind us. Education is now focusing on keeping kids in the communities with their families and giving them the skills that they need to succeed in today's world.

Mr. Speaker, I hope the Minister is willing to come visit the communities and talk of the importance of staying in school, and meet with the local DEA and community leadership, and support and encourage them in regards to keeping kids in school, and making a plan for the community to -- such as pool trips or something for kids to look forward to coming to school. The community of Tuktoyaktuk, I know that they give food hampers out to 90 percent attendance and over, so something like that should be really looked at and promoted across our territory. It's really needed, Mr. Speaker.

Again, I want to thank our teachers, our staff, and our local DEAs, and our local community leadership for making our students able to attend school in our local communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

School Attendance
Members' Statements

Page 2527

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Member for Deh Cho.

Northwest Territories Power Corporation Strategic Plan
Members' Statements

Page 2527

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territories Power Corporation was established in 1988 and is the largest supplier of electricity in the Northwest Territories. According to the 2019-2020 annual report, they were to ensure continued reliability of electricity systems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Their mission statement is to generate, transmit, and distribute clean, reliable, and affordable energy to the residents of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, they also note having 26 diesel plants. NTPC announced new projects to include a refurbishment of the Taltson hydro-electric facility, construction of a new liquefied natural gas, or LNG, generating plant at Fort Simpson, and a new diesel plant in Lutselk'e. Fuel use in 2019 amounted to $30 million. In 2020, this amount increased to $31 million. Including the new facilities coming on line, we can see further increases in fuel usage, whether they be diesel or LNG. It makes one scratch their head and wonder how NTPC will ever meet the greenhouse gas emissions targets. After all, when the price of diesel goes up, so too do the power rates. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Northwest Territories Power Corporation Strategic Plan
Members' Statements

Page 2528

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Acknowledgement of Indigenous Leaders
Members' Statements

Page 2528

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today, I would like to acknowledge all of the Indigenous leaders across the NWT, and that includes all First Nations, Metis, and Inuit leaders within all the communities of the regions of the territory.

Mr. Speaker, as a former chief, I know very well all the challenges that being an Indigenous leader comes with. I know the level of work and stress that comes with the job. I also know how difficult a decision is to put your name forward as chief, and being a former chief, I consider most of the Indigenous leaders of the NWT as friends and former colleagues of mine. As most people probably know by now, I hold the Indigenous file, and all the concerns of Indigenous people very close to my heart. As a Dene leader, I know the importance of solidarity and standing up for one another, and I strive to do the best I can in my current role as MLA, just as I did as chief. It's important that we look out for one another and ensure that we all prosper together. That is the core philosophy and value within Aboriginal communities.

Mr. Speaker, I thank all the Indigenous leaders for the work they do for their communities. I would like to especially thank Dave Poitras, the current chief of the Salt River First Nation, as well as Allan Heron, the president of the Metis Council of Fort Smith. I have a good working relationship with all local Indigenous leadership of Fort Smith, and I will always do all that I can to fight for and stand up for the needs as their representative in the Legislative Assembly. I truly appreciate all the time, energy, and work that all Indigenous leaders dedicate to improving their communities. I hope our government will continue to foster healthy relationships with all Indigenous governments and communities across the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Acknowledgement of Indigenous Leaders
Members' Statements

Page 2528

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

House Calls in Communities and Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS)
Members' Statements

Page 2528

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Over the last couple of weeks and last couple of days, we discussed the Health and Social Services practices which prevents staff from attending emergency calls outside their health centres. Specifically, this directive was sent to all community health centre clinic services in the Territories on November 6, 2019. Since that date, if one were in medical distress, it made clear to our residents in the small communities without EMS services, they would have to be brought to the health centre by the RCMP, fire services, or a friend.

Mr. Speaker, this is still unacceptable in my eyes, and it has come to my attention that house calls have started in one of my communities in my riding. In seeing that, I firmly believe that this policy, this directive, can be easily revisited and re-worded as such, that NTHSSA staff can make discretionary calls to assist those in distress outside of our health centres. Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I think that this definitely is a matter where one department can meet another department again, in this case, MACA, to help close this gap further, and we've discussed this a little bit already. The end goal here is to have our volunteer firefighters, or any volunteers in the communities, immediately trained up in first responder training or first aid training and have their training upgraded or renewed. I am hoping that, by the end of all this, we can properly serve our residents better.

Saying that, Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to see that the Department of Health and Social Services has made strides in other areas, like mental health. They made that recent announcement where they are reinstating mental health first aid. I am really hoping that they can make similar strides to help close this gap for the quality of health services overall.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak a little bit about the STARS program. That's the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service that they have in Alberta in certain communities. This is a program that is a partnership -- again, keyword: partnership -- approach using both private and public funds. It allows for air ambulance services for places like Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, and Grand Prairie. I think, ideally, we could have a deal where we would see service like this in the territories, but it's very expensive to put together. Just to make a quick note, again, STARS is a society. It's an NGO. They gather funds, and they work really hard with their community to get this service up and running. I would love to have that up here in the North.

Lastly, Mr. Speaker, a constituent shared some images about a job description for a community health nurse in Fort Resolution. In the job description, it was highlighted, a section that reads, "The CHN must have the ability to provide emergency care and treatment in the position and is required to perform transfer medical functions beyond normal hospital training." Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

House Calls in Communities and Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS)
Members' Statements

Page 2528

Steve Norn Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker. Marsi cho, colleagues. In this policy, it also states that nurses or NTHSSA staff must have the ability to legally operate a motor vehicle in order to drive to and from clients' homes. In reading that, this job description is contradictory to the policy in my statement earlier. What are the true duties of our staff in our small communities? I will have questions for the Minister of Health and Social Services at the appropriate time. Marsi cho, Mr. Speaker.

House Calls in Communities and Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS)
Members' Statements

Page 2528

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Extended Care Beds
Members' Statements

Page 2528

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to talk about seniors and, more specifically, to those seniors requiring care. I was pleased to hear the Minister of health commit to having "seniors age in place with dignity as loved and valued members of our communities." Currently, our extended care facilities are becoming a place to house parents of southerners. This is taking away beds from our Indigenous and northern seniors who are then forced to live in substandard accommodation with limited care. We must revisit the residency requirement if we are planning to revise the number of extended care beds required. Furthermore, the department better be prepared to defend those numbers based, not only on sound and relevant data, but on real community needs.

Mr. Speaker, I was initially focused on the jobs that may be lost if Hay River loses some of the 48 beds it was promised. I almost lost sight of what was important. It is not about jobs as much as it is about quality of life for seniors. I was reminded of this by my son who reflected on his grandmother, my mother, who spent her last years in an extended care facility. He reminded me she would have preferred to be at home. If we focus on quality of life and providing support to those who are able to want to age at home, then that is where this government must provide that support.

Some will be up in arms due to the fact that fewer long-term beds may be realized in some communities. However, if we support seniors to age at home, then we will see an increase of homecare jobs. If we expect seniors to live out their final years as they wish, then we must provide the supports, and if it requires increased homecare staffing, then that is what we must do.

Mr. Speaker, the seniors in these facilities or those remaining in their homes need social interaction. They need to be physically active; they need to feel like they can still contribute; they need to be shown they matter; and they need to know they are loved. This is not about infrastructure for a community. This is not about jobs just because. It is about taking care of those who have taken care of us over the years. If this requires a shift in our thinking, then that shift is welcomed by me, but let's be clear. I and the residents of Hay River are prepared to fight for the 48 beds proposed for Hay River. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Extended Care Beds
Members' Statements

Page 2528

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Polytechnic Science Program
Members' Statements

Page 2528

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As we look to build more homes in the North, and the GNWT's Best Building Practices become more complex, we will become more beholden to the building sciences. It's not news that the way we build in the NWT requires more effort, more time, and significantly more consideration, not to mention cost, Mr. Speaker. However, if we decide to skip any steps, the cost is borne by our residents for decades. Put simply, if we build buildings not designed for our climate, it costs us more in the long run. Our infrastructure is aging, and we need people to rebuild it.

Beyond the labour needed to construct new facilities and homes, we also need people to design them. Many of our buildings in the NWT are just not holding up to our northern climate anymore. They're leaky and expensive to maintain. This is a well-known problem, and the $60 million utility bill this government gets every year doesn't let us forget, not to mention that the $600 million deferred maintenance deficit lets us never forget the importance of good infrastructure the first time.

If we are going to build new infrastructure with a life span of at least 40 years, northern people should be designing it who know our climate. There is no question that jobs in the building sciences will exist in five or 20 years. It is an industry that is seeing growth as more people understand the value in green building technologies. We have included skill trades and technology in one of our areas of specialization for the northern polytech university, and to date, the words I have seen are saying the right things. We are still a long way away from actually increasing enrolment and graduating people ready to design the next generation of northern buildings.

Mr. Speaker, I am not asking for a full-fledged engineering or architectural program. A two-year technical program is probably more our capability, but it needs to be exciting enough to attract people from across Canada and the world. The North has a very specific climate, which is ideal for learning how to test the extremes of building science. There is increased interest in this area every day across the circumpolar world. Green building programs are slowly cropping up all around Canada. Northern building technique courses are appearing in universities across the world, but I want to make sure that we capture this momentum and lead the trend. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE about whether we can see the development of a building science program as key to the new polytechnic. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Polytechnic Science Program
Members' Statements

Page 2529

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.