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 health.


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

The House met at 1:30 p.m.



The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Finance.

Minister's Statement 163-19(2): Building Capacity with Indigenous Governments
Ministers' Statements

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to strengthening relationships with governments. We are also committed to providing opportunities to create a more diverse, inclusive, and representative public service.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Finance is launching Building Capacity with Indigenous governments, a new program to support up to ten two-way secondment arrangements between the GNWT and Indigenous governments each year.

The program will support the secondment of employees between governments for immersive experiences about how our respective governments operate.

Mr. Speaker, this program was developed collaboratively. Representatives from the Department of Finance worked with officials from Indigenous governments over a series of engagement sessions to learn more about the unique needs of their organizations, including human resources. [English translation not provided].

At its full potential, the program will provide opportunities for more direct exchanges of ideas, deepen relationships, and build greater trust and understanding as partners.

Mr. Speaker, we look forward to building on our relationships with Indigenous governments and learning from their experiences as this program progresses. I would like to express my gratitude for the collaboration in developing this program and look forward to reporting on the success of this program as it advances. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 163-19(2): Building Capacity with Indigenous Governments
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 164-19(2): National AccessAbility Week and Persons with Disabilities Accessibility and Inclusion Awards
Ministers' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, many NWT residents are living with some form of disability. They are our neighbors, co-workers, family members, leaders, and friends. We are grateful for the contributions that persons with disabilities make in the territory. For this reason, we continue to advance work to ensure all residents are able to participate fully in all communities, without barriers.

National AccessAbility Week runs until June 5th this year. It is the week where we celebrate the contributions of persons with disabilities and recognize the important work being done to remove barriers to accessibility and inclusion in all communities.

Mr. Speaker, this year's theme in the NWT is Inclusion and AccessAbility; Nothing About Us Without Us!

What does this mean for us as a territory or as individuals? It means it is the responsibility of each of us to work with, and include people who have disabilities, to ensure equal access to all the rights and freedoms each member of our society enjoys.

Working in partnership with multiple GNWT departments, the Department of Health and Social Services is currently fulfilling the objectives outlined in the NWT Disability Strategic Framework. The shared vision is to increase financial security and reduce poverty; to build awareness and knowledge through education and training; to improve transition planning and options; to encourage universal design and living options, and to improve access to and the quality of caregiver supports.

This is a significant undertaking, Mr. Speaker, and one that requires thoughtful insight into how best to create inclusiveness within the public realm, while also providing individual supports that assist in creating a foundation for success for persons with disabilities. For that reason, we just put out a call to hear directly from people with lived experience by creating an NWT Supported Living Review Advisory Group.

This group will be comprised of six to ten members of the public who either have a disability or who is the caregiver of a person with a disability. It will give NWT residents a voice to provide knowledge and advice during the review of our Supported Living services for persons with disabilities. This is an important step toward the government embracing the “nothing about us without us” approach that is so important to residents.

Mr. Speaker, while we as a government continue to work hard to achieve accessibility for all NWT residents, we also rely on others to provide assistance for persons with disabilities.

Every year, we have an award ceremony to recognize NWT individuals and organizations who contribute to making the lives of persons with disabilities more accessible and inclusive. At this year's Persons with Disabilities Accessibility and Inclusion Awards event, I will present awards as the Minister responsible for Persons with Disabilities, along with representatives from the NWT Human Rights Commission and the NWT Disabilities Council.

Due to COVID restrictions, this event is being presented in the form of a video which will be made available on June 4th on the Department of Health and Social Services website, as well as on social media.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate this year's award recipients.

Laurie McLean of Yellowknife is the recipient of the Minister's award for Accessibility and Inclusion. Samantha Morandin of Yellowknife is the recipient of the NWT Disabilities Council Community Champion Award. And the Zhati Koe Friendship Centre in Fort Providence is the recipient of the Human Rights Commission Accessibility Award.

These individuals are all deserving recipients. They have shown a true inclusive community spirit and their impactful work removes barriers for persons with disabilities in our communities.

Mr. Speaker, we all have roles to play in promoting inclusion and accessibility for every member of society and the government will continue to take meaningful steps toward a vision of equity, accessibility, and participation for persons with disabilities in the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 164-19(2): National AccessAbility Week and Persons with Disabilities Accessibility and Inclusion Awards
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Municipal and Community Affairs.

Municipal and Community Affairs Youth Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, the youth of today are the strong, future leaders of tomorrow. Through initiatives like the NWT Youth Ambassador program, youth are provided opportunities to develop life and job skills while building the confidence to deal with complex challenges.

I am pleased to inform the House today that the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs is now accepting applications for the 2021-2022 NWT Youth Ambassador Program - Virtual Edition for youth ages 16 to 22.

The NWT Youth Ambassador Program is being offered virtually for the first time to fill the gap that the cancellation of major games events has created. By offering the NWT Youth Ambassador Program virtually, MACA is hoping to reach a broader group of youth and still provide valuable learning experiences while being safe and eliminating travel.

Mr. Speaker, elements of the program include online learning modules that focus on leadership and life skills. These modules include: Goal Setting; Healthy Eating and Nutrition; Resume Building with the NWT Career Centres; Learning Leadership Skills with Rec North; and Getting to Know Your Community with Rec North. In addition the program includes facilitated volunteer projects within each participant's home community, and the program is open to youth from all communities.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs also has additional programs that can assist with youth initiatives whether they are led by youth or youth supporting organizations.

I would like to highlight a few Youth Corp Projects MACA is supporting this summer. Organizations in the Deh Cho, Sahtu, North Slave, and South Slave will be participating in wilderness canoe trips designed for youth to explore and develop leadership skills in a safe environment. These trips are following the successful pilot project in the Deh Cho, where it is provided for youth with a strong foundation in wilderness and canoeing safety and skills for on-the-land trips.

FOXY/SMASH are a new and supported staple for youth programming across the Northwest Territories. Their Peer Leader Retreats use visual arts, traditional beading, traditional ceremonies, photography, digital storytelling, Northern games, and performing arts to educate and facilitate discussion about sexual and mental health, healthy relationships, and positive choices through a harm reduction through a trauma-informed lens.

Northern Youth Leadership works to empower and inspire a generation of courageous leaders. Their camps have many positive outcomes including inspiring confidence, supporting youth to engage in positive risk-taking, cultivating independence, building emotional resilience, developing leadership skills, promoting environmental stewardship, and instilling healthy relationship and lifestyle behaviors. They are currently accepting applications for their summer camps.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage youth and youth organizations to reach out to any Municipal and Community Affairs Office for more information on the opportunities available. Together we can lift youth up and create opportunities for our future leaders. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker

Municipal and Community Affairs Youth Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Summer Highway Construction Season
Ministers' Statements

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Our territorial economy has suffered the impact of COVID-19 like every other jurisdiction in the country. Bouncing back stronger means investing in areas that provide for the immediate participation of our communities and maximizing benefits for our residents. Investments and improvements in transportation infrastructure is one of the areas we know can have positive impacts on our economy. These investments connect our communities and ensure access to essential goods and services.

Regular maintenance of the Northwest Territories highway system creates the safest possible driving conditions, increases our territory's resiliency to climate change, and creates employment and training opportunities for residents.

Mr. Speaker, we can expect another busy construction season this summer. In fact, a total of $110 million in improvements will be made to our highway systems this year.

In the South Slave Region, rehabilitation work is planned for Highway No. 1 on 18 kilometers of highway. This work will include highway widening, replacing culverts and replacing chip seal. This will be part of a multi-year project, with work expected to be completed by September 2023.

On Highway No. 5, work is currently underway to repair chip seal surface on a 6-kilometer section of the highway, which will be followed by a granular crushing program this summer.

In the North Slave, Mr. Speaker, crews have already resumed work on the Tlicho Highway. Construction is on schedule to be completed this fall - with 52 kilometers left to be surfaced, one last bridge to be completed. This two-lane gravel highway will provide year-round access from Northwest Territories Highway No. 3 to the community access road to Whati. This year 168 kilometers of Highway No. 3 will be chip sealed and two kilometers of rehabilitation work will take place. This work will include right-of-way clearing, roadway strengthening, culvert replacement, and line painting, and is to be expected to be completed this fall. Residents will see construction zone signs along the highway where crews will be resurfacing the road, stockpiling materials, and conducting asphalt and chip seal repairs.

On Highway No. 4, the Ingraham Trail, roughly 5 kilometers will be rehabilitated. Work will include repair dips, widening the embankment, replacing culverts and chip sealing.

On Highway No. 6, the Fort Resolution Highway, chip sealing will be carried out roughly 20 kilometers.

In the Deh Cho Region, rehabilitation work will take place this summer on Highway No. 7, the Liard Highway. Crews will focus on widening the embankment and replacing culverts. This work is expected to be completed in September 2023.

Mr. Speaker, in our area, in the Beaufort Delta Region, some construction will take place on Highway No. 8, the Dempster Highway. The rehabilitation work including embankment, widening, and bush clearing will take place along three to four kilometers along the highway. Additionally, the marine bypass highway widening will also take place along the 3-kilometer highway.

As temperatures rise and construction season begins, I would like to thank dozens of dedicated workers who are maintaining and improving our highways every day. Your work is essential in the North. I would also like to remind drivers to watch for highway crews, slow down in construction zones and obey signs. I want all our Infrastructure employees and our contractor employers to return home safe to their families.

Mr. Speaker, the government will continue to work closely with our public and private sector so we can continue to build a transportation network that meets the current needs of our citizens and the needs of generations to come. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Summer Highway Construction Season
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Funding of the Hay River Ski Club
Member's Statements

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Hay River Ski Club has been receiving financial support from the Hay River lottery terminals for the past 30 years. For the last five years, the Hay River Ski Club's share has been $33,655 annually. This funding is vital to the club. The maintenance and operation of the current facility is the sole financial responsibility of the Hay River Ski Club, which is operated entirely by a group of volunteers using proceeds from the lottery fund.

Mr. Speaker, this funding came through the Legacy Retailer Grant Program Agreement that was in place with NWT Sport and Recreation Council from 2016 to 2021. What started as a change to address a potential tax liability issue in 2014 and now, with government involvement, has caused a situation where the club will lose 100 percent of their operating grant that has been provided through lottery proceeds collected in Hay River. With this agreement now expiring and, going forward, if the Hay River Ski Club is expected to survive they will require continued and ongoing funding.

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the dedicated executive, board of directors, and volunteers, they were able to successfully host many different events, including
learn to ski lessons, waxing clinics, social ski and snowshoeing, educational programs, Pat Bobinski memorial ski races, Biathlon Polar Cup, Arctic Winter Game trials and Arctic Winter Game events.

Mr. Speaker, the group of volunteers were able to reopen all of their trail system for the first time in several years. This included the Brendan Green Olympic Trail. Yes, the Hay River Ski Club helped develop an Olympian, something that must not be lost in all this. This system includes 15 kilometers of groomed trails of which seven are lit and opened at the end of October to mid-April. This past winter, the Hay River Ski Club had approximately 260 members on top of youth programs in Biathlon, Jackrabbits, and Ski Bunnies.

There has been a significant growth in membership, which includes many youth and families. The GNWT promotes a healthy lifestyle for children and NWT residents. The Hay River Ski Club, on a limited budget, which may now disappear, is trying to support that ideal.

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

---Unanimous consent granted.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the government would be remiss not to support an opportunity to promote sports and healthy lifestyles, of not only Hay River youth and residents, but those residents from around the NWT who continue to benefit from trails and programs managed by a volunteer board and workers of the Hay River Ski Club.

Mr. Speaker, if this government truly wants to support the mental and physical well-being of our youth, then it is important we find the funds to support the Hay River Ski Club this year and into the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Funding of the Hay River Ski Club
Member's Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Concerns with the Office of the Fire Marshal
Member's Statements

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Fire Marshal, where dreams go to die. Whether you or the GNWT's building a health centre for your patients in Norman Wells or you're the North Slave Correctional Centre who built a beautiful healing room that the fire marshal won't let them use or you're an Indigenous government trying to open a remote lodge in your newly established protected area or you're simply a private business trying to sink your hard-capital to retrofit a building up to code, the Office of the Fire Marshall is sure to make your life difficult, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we are the only jurisdiction in Canada without a Building Standards Act. And after decades of MACA reviewing the Fire Prevention Act, I'm not confident we're going to end up with a Building Standards Act. But in the interim, Mr. Speaker, there are some things we can do to improve the Office of the Fire Marshal. I understand that Code compliance has to be arm's length. We need experts to make decisions on the National Building Code. They need discretion when to apply the Code to more stringent standards or to make exceptions for the old decrepitating infrastructure we have in the North and issue occupancy permits. But that discretion does not mean the process has to be unpredictable and lack transparency.

Mr. Speaker, there are things the Minister can do to tomorrow to make sure the GNWT stops taking itself to court.

Firstly, Mr. Speaker, customer service standards for the Office of the Fire Marshal to make sure they respond to their emails on a timely manner.

Mr. Speaker, previously, the Office of the Fire Marshal had a number of bulletins on the different interpretations of the National Building Code that they will take. Not only did they stop issuing bulletins, they removed all the old bulletins. Jurisdictions across Canada tell you the different interpretations they will take of the National Building Code. Many have annotated National Building Codes which are great and excited to have documents to work with that provide everyone in the process predictability.

Mr. Speaker, for years people have been asking for an appeal mechanism to an independent tribunal. Right now, those Ministers, if made at a lower level, go to the Office of the Fire Marshal or the Minister. We need an independent panel of experts to review National Building Code things.

Mr. Speaker, the Office of the Fire Marshal, for whatever reason, does not like to work in draft construction documents, yet this is good enough for the architects, the contractors, the gas inspectors, the building inspectors, who are all involved in project management from the start. But it's too much to ask the Office of the Fire Marshal to look at a fire evacuation plan until the building is already standing.

Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister about what we can do to get the Office of the Fire Marshal to serve the public. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Concerns with the Office of the Fire Marshal
Member's Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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