This is page numbers 2383 - 2438 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 work.

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, Mr. Lafferty, 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 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 2383

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Item 2, Ministers' statements. Minister of Finance.

Minister's Statement 132-19(2): Indigenous Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity Training
Ministers' Statements

Page 2383

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to announce the release of Living Well Together, the online Indigenous cultural awareness and sensitivity training program for employees of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Developed by the Department of Finance in collaboration with the Departments of Education, Culture and Employment and Health and Social Services, Living Well Together replaces the GNWT's previous Aboriginal cultural and sensitivity training for its employees. It is a direct response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call for action with respect to professional development and training for public servants. Mr. Speaker, the commission has called upon all levels of government "to provide education to public servants on the history of Indigenous peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous Law, and Aboriginal-Crown Relations." According to the commission, "this will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism."

Living Well Together is built on the northern studies curriculum provided to our students within the Northwest Territories and includes diverse and authentic perspectives of Indigenous people from across the Northwest Territories. Many courageous Northerners shared their personal stories on a wide variety of topics, including the impacts of residential schools. Mr. Speaker, these are important stories that all Northerners, especially our public servants, should listen to and learn from. On behalf of Cabinet, I want to thank each and every Northerner who told their story so that we could develop this training. This includes many elders, Indigenous governments, community members, Indigenous artists, and GNWT employees who contributed to this training in so many valuable ways.

Living Well Together was created in the spirit of reconciliation and provides opportunities for our employees to reflect on ways to support reconciliation and decolonization as public servants and private citizens in the workplace and within the community. Through careful reflection and deliberate acts of reconciliation, we can make positive changes throughout the Northwest Territories and serve as an example for the rest of Canada. With this in mind, this training will be mandatory for all employees, and the Department of Finance will endeavor to support all current GNWT employees to complete this training within 12 months. My special advisor and I had the benefit of a sneak peek, and we have decided to act as one another's learning partners. We plan to schedule occasions over the coming months to work through the modules together.

Mr. Speaker, we expect this training will have an immeasurable impact on not only our public service but also on the communities we serve. We believe this training has the potential to benefit all residents of the Northwest Territories and will set an example, as I said, for the rest of Canada. As such, this training will be made available to the public. Living Well Together was developed in the spirit of reconciliation. I encourage all employees to begin this training with an open mind and to support one another during this process. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 132-19(2): Indigenous Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity Training
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Minister's Statement 133-19(2): Aurora College Research Mandate and Recognition
Ministers' Statements

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R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, one of the many exciting developments to expect as we get closer to the launching of the polytechnic university is increased capacity for northern research. We know that the work underway to increase the number of researchers and build effective research supports for college partners and stakeholders across the Northwest Territories will serve as catalysts for northern social and economic development.

In the areas of research, Aurora College is starting from a place of strength and great promise for the future. In December, it was again recognized as one of Canada's Top 50 Research Colleges for 2020. Aurora College improved its overall ranking among the nation's top research colleges from 48th in 2019 to 29th in 2020, where it ranked in the top 10 in two categories: research growth and in research intensity. Mr. Speaker, Aurora College recognizes the importance of ongoing collaborations and partnerships with other institutions, Indigenous and community governments, and non-governmental organizations. Leading efforts to ensure the success of research partners is an important part of the work already underway at Aurora College. During a year of significant public health restrictions that threatened long-term research initiatives, Aurora College found innovative ways to leverage its strong presence across the Northwest Territories and helped support the territorial, national, and international research community during these challenging times.

Aurora College continues to take steps to increase research capacity in advance of becoming a polytechnic university. In addition to adding seven new Aurora College research associates who will bring new perspectives and ideas, Aurora College also formalized research partnerships with Hotii Ts'eeda and the Institute of Circumpolar Health Research. These partnerships strengthen northern research capacity and increase the ability to access federal funding.

Mr. Speaker, over the coming year, Aurora College will continue building research capacity with the hiring of three new research chair positions. Aurora campus in Inuvik will see the establishment of a climate change adaptation research chair; Thebacha campus in Fort Smith will house the research chair for Indigenous approaches to environmental management; and the Yellowknife North Slave campus will see the addition of a health and community research chair. These positions are supported through the college's partnership with ArcticNet, a network of centres of excellence of Canada, and will help to strengthen the initial areas of teaching and research specialization for the polytechnic university.

Mr. Speaker, we see the future polytechnic university sitting at the centre of our knowledge economy and building a stronger future for our businesses and residents, including by empowering our youth to be research leaders of the future. The college accessed external funding this year to create youth and student positions in research, administrative, and logistic roles. This project encourages youth to pursue their interest in education and employment in science, technology, engineering, and math, or STEM. The journey to build research capacity will not end with the establishment of a polytechnic university in 2025; it will continue to empower students to understand and respond to the challenges they face for generations to come. All of this work will support the college's successful transformation to a polytechnic university, an institution where research will be a part of every aspect. Building on current research experience on topics such as climate change, permafrost, heavy metals in soil, renewable energy feasibility studies, intimate partner violence, and many others, the polytechnic university will work to forge stronger ties with Indigenous governments, communities, industry, and the business community to ensure we always look ahead to a stronger, more prosperous, and resilient future.

I want to commend Aurora College for the success it has achieved as they work to create the northern research leaders of tomorrow at an institution that will be built in the North, for the North, and by the North. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 133-19(2): Aurora College Research Mandate and Recognition
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister of Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 134-19(2): Celebrating Social Work Month
Ministers' Statements

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In March of each year, we celebrate social workers across Canada and in the NWT. This year's theme for Social Work Month is Social Workers are Essential.

Mr. Speaker, social workers play a vital role in supporting and maintaining individual, family and community wellbeing across the Northwest Territories. Social workers are trained to help people address personal and systemic barriers that negatively impact them from realizing their full potential. Social workers perform a variety of functions and roles in our communities. Some work in schools, helping children get the services they need to get the best possible education. Others provide mental health services, helping people overcome mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety as well as substance use disorders. When families are in crisis, social workers are there to help them rebuild healthy relationships. Social workers can be found in hospitals, helping patients get optimal care not only while in treatment but when they return to their families and communities. Social workers also help us to cope with the loss of loved ones.

Social workers also play an integral part in community organizations and in government, helping to create programs and policies to make our society a better and more equitable place for all. This type of work requires a passion for helping others and a commitment to making a difference in people's lives. These professionals have an ethical obligation to advocate for broad social change to address social inequalities that will benefit the marginalized members of our communities and, ultimately, all of us.

Mr. Speaker, Members of this House know the 19th Legislative Assembly made it a mandate priority to improve early childhood development for all children. There are a number of activities being implemented across government to support this priority, including efforts to improve the delivery of children and family services and health and wellness in the NWT. The Government of the Northwest Territories has invested a significant amount of funding to improve services for children, youth, and families in their communities. Social workers advance and provide these services across the NWT. In the last two years, we have funded 15 new social work positions and a number of supporting positions.

On February 1, 2021, the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority restructured the Child, Family and Community Wellness Division to better focus the work and bring staff under the umbrella of one team. This change in organizational structure will streamline processes for staff and allow for better collaboration and more consistent delivery of programs across the territory. These investments and new structures will better support social workers in the delivery of these important services.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Cabinet, I want to express how much our government appreciates the hard work and dedication of social workers. I am pleased to have this opportunity to recognize the commitment and positive contributions these individuals make in the lives of children, youth, and families in our communities and thank them for their continued efforts. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 134-19(2): Celebrating Social Work Month
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.

K'amba Carnival
Members' Statements

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Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to recognize the K'atlodeeche First Nation and the volunteers of this year's K'amba Carnival event, which took place this past weekend on the reserve. We have to appreciate the fact that this event has taken place during a period of uncertainty when it comes to celebrations, requiring social distancing and the many rules set out by our Chief Public Health Officer. I am certain that, to pull this event off, it required ingenuity, dedication, and countless hours by the committee, community, and group of volunteers. It required adapting a long-standing and proven event program to a new format during this unprecedented time.

Mr. Speaker, the impact K'amba Carnival has on the K'atlodeeche First Nation spills over into the town of Hay River, where it generates much excitement. I know the people in Hay River look forward to this event as great entertainment and recognition that spring and warmer weather is just around the corner. Therefore, as the MLA for Hay River South and on behalf of the MLA for Hay River North, I would like to send a big thank you from the people of Hay River to the K'atlodeeche First Nation, the K'amba Carnival committee, and the many volunteers who made this event a reality. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

K'amba Carnival
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Arts Funding
Members' Statements

Page 2384

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, in today's market, the art we hear about the most are often the one-off pieces that garner million-dollar price tags, but everyday art can also generate significant economic value. Art is cultural expression and a powerful conduit for healing, wellness, and economic development. Art is essential for individual and community success.

When we look at the global art scene, we marvel at infrastructure like New Zealand's Te Papa, artist-in-residence programs like Fogo Island, and events like Burning Man, but grassroots initiatives just like these exist in the NWT. Our Northern Arts Centre is lush with renowned and passionate artists from the salt plains to the pingos. We just need to be ready to support them.

In 2019, many northern artists, myself included, participated in the NWT Arts Strategy public engagements. Today, we eagerly await for the Arts Strategy that we hope will not only renew this government's commitment to arts and culture but also actively pursue a robust arts industry through education, funding, marketing, infrastructure, and policy work that supports the success of NWT arts.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to a plan, this government needs to reconcile where the arts belong. Today, the responsible for culture and heritage, along with the NWT Arts Council, sits within Education, Culture and Employment, but Industry, Tourism and Investment drives the NWT arts brand, economic diversification, festival funding, business grants and loans, and tourism. You cannot separate art from culture, and you cannot deny the economic potential of either. Supporting the arts is not just about culture or employment or history or community health or self-discovery; it is all of those things. This government needs to own the responsibility of properly housing and fostering its arts and culture to generate employment, expand economic opportunity, and foster community wellness.

Arts in the NWT is at a crossroads. It is time to reset its importance to value the role of all artisans and recommit to art as a foundation to community well-being and our economic future. In its fall 2020 economic statement, the federal government announced $181.5 million in additional funding for Canadian heritage and Canadian Council for the Arts. We need to ensure that we are well-positioned for this funding as a territory through clear, strategic support of NWT arts that elevate our world-class artists to its rightful place on a global stage. Money is ready to flow to propel the arts, Mr. Speaker, but are we ready to receive it? Thank you.

Arts Funding
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Husky Energy Significant Discovery License
Members' Statements

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Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. The former Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment issued 10 significant discovery licences for oil and gas during the last Assembly. This was a huge post-devolution resource giveaway. The area covered by these licences is almost 2,200 square kilometres, an area about 40 percent the size of Prince Edward Island. Our government will get no revenues, no taxes, no employment, and no benefits from these areas that are now tied up virtually forever.

Significant discovery licences arose in the federal legislation that we inherited for petroleum resources. They allow companies to have exclusive ownership of oil and gas rights without having to do any work or pay any fees forever. Companies used to be able to get these licences without doing anything except being near another significant discovery licence. A Minister could require drilling to take place, but that has never been done.

Our current Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment has an opportunity to get it right. We heard last week about the buried $45 million windfall in the main estimates that is a work deposit forfeiture from Husky Energy. We also heard that Husky Energy is asking to convert its Exploration Licence 494 to a significant discovery licence.

Changes to the Petroleum Resources Act made in the last Assembly finally came into force on July 29, 2020. Significant discovery licences are now limited to 15 years but can be renewed forever. Most importantly, the licences "may contain any other terms and conditions... as may be agreed on by the Minister and the interest owner of the significant discovery licence." It's not clear whether that means the Minister can impose work requirements or annual fees that could even rise over time, all to implement the principle of "use it or lose it" and generate some benefits for us. What about the future? Will the Minister consult with Sahtu communities or even regular MLAs before issuing this significant discovery licence to Husky Energy? Will the Minister impose exploration requirements that would create jobs and economic activity for the NWT or will Husky Energy have a veto? I will have questions for the Minister of ITI on what she is doing to protect the public interest in issuing the first significant discovery licence under our amended Petroleum Resources Act. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Husky Energy Significant Discovery License
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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