This is page numbers 2819 - 2866 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 mrspeaker.

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

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 2819

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Minister's Statement 170-19(2): Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Ministers' Statements

Page 2819

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, June 3rd marks the two-year anniversary of the release of the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and its demand for a world where First Nations, Inuit, and Métis families can raise their children in an environment that offers the same level of safety, security, and human rights as non-Indigenous families.

To mark this date, I will be tabling the first annual report addressing the government's actions to respond to the calls for justice.

Mr. Speaker, following the release of the final report by the national inquiry, the GNWT committed to review and analyze the 231 calls for justice and assess the current programs and services they offer. In the past 18 months, we have conducted a careful and thorough review of existing programs and services, and we are currently finalizing the details to carry out preliminary engagement with key stakeholders and partners in advance of the development of the GNWT's action plan to respond to the calls for justice.

While we work towards developing a comprehensive response to the calls for justice scheduled for release in the fall of 2021, the annual report I am tabling later today describes some of the steps already being taken by the GNWT to begin to address these actions that are called for in the calls for justice.

Some of these actions include: increased core funding to the Native Women's Association of the Northwest Territories and the Northwest Territories Status of Women Council; the establishment of a new gender equity division in the GNWT to expand the work of the women's advisory unit to address gender equity, gender-based violence, family violence, and women's economic empowerment; the creation of a gender equity grant program to complement the women's initiatives grant program, to enhance gender equity across the Northwest Territories; and provide support to community-based projects that benefit people of all genders; and, the development and implementation of the Indigenous cultural awareness and sensitivity training program which is mandatory for all GNWT employees and is available to the public free of charge.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT has also been collaborating with the Government of Canada, provinces and territories, by providing input into the development of a national action plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as on a national action plan to address gender-based violence.

A number of announcements and events commemorating this day will taking place across Canada today, including the release of a national action plan. The level of interest and participation by provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous governments, and Indigenous organizations and communities shows that the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will not be allowed to gather dust on a shelf. The GNWT commits to, and looks forward to, collaborating on the implementation of the national action plan.

Mr. Speaker, here in the Northwest Territories, we continue to have the second highest rates of violence against women in the country. This violence has, sadly, become normalized in our communities and it often leaves victims and their families to suffer in silence. This is a reality we are not proud of. It is one we have a moral obligation to work to change.

I had the privilege of attending the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and I heard stories of families and survivors from the Northwest Territories who experienced the tragedy of a missing or murdered love one.

At the hearings, many families and survivors not only bravely shared their truths about the loss of their loved ones but also presented recommendations on what they felt could be done so that others do not have to endure through the same pain they endured. It took immense courage to share their stories. We have a duty to honour that by doing all we can, individually and collectively, to create a society where all Indigenous women, girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people feel safe, respected, and have equal access to a quality of life.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to acknowledge and remember these women and girls and their families. Survivors and families deserve not only our respect but also our help, and the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to support them in their healing journey. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 170-19(2): Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Ministers' Statements

Page 2819

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

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

Minister's Statement 171-19(2): Marine Transportation Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 2819

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, five years ago the Government of the Northwest Territories took responsibility for the tugs, barges and marine facilities that have served our communities for decades. Since then, Marine Transportation Services, also known as MTS, has evolved and improved and provides reliable and professional marine shipping service while supporting the Northwest Territories' economy and workforce development.

In 2020, MTS delivered more than 6300 tons of cargo and 28 million litres of fuel to the communities on Great Slave Lake, the Mackenzie River, the Beaufort Delta, and the Arctic Coast. Millions of litres of fuel were delivered to 20 coastal north warning radar systems on behalf of the Department of National Defence.

Mr. Speaker, planning for the 2021 sailing season, our fifth season, is on schedule. The first barges are expected to depart Hay River in mid June. This is the first of 16 tows scheduled for the season. With a robust COVID-19 mitigation plan in place to protect our communities, residents can ship and receive their cargo safely. Thanks to funding provided by Canada, four new double-hulled barges joined the MTS fleet late last year. These barges will be in service this season, carrying deck cargo and petroleum products to our communities and customers.

For the past two summers, adventurous teenagers from Ndilo, Dettah, Lutselk'e and Yellowknife have joined a unique research expedition to help scientists conduct a bathymetric study of Great Slave Lake, the deepest of any lake in North America, and to install moorings in Christie Bay. These young people worked with researchers using cutting-edge technology and shared traditional knowledge of the water they grew up on. They shadowed the captain and the crew of the vessel, learning about exciting and fulfilling career paths they might never have otherwise considered.

This collaboration between young Northerners and world-class scientists took place on the MV Nahidik. The MTS vessel is leased to the Arctic Research Foundation, a non-government organization that collaborates with northern and Indigenous communities to support scientific research in the North.

I had an opportunity to visit the vessel and meet some of the students when it docked at the end of last season. I toured the vessel, was given a demonstration of some of the equipment they used, and most importantly met some of the students who had just completed this exciting expedition. Our association with the Aurora Arctic Research Foundation supports infrastructure projects and northern youth, and by advancing northern science we may better understand the effect of climate change on northern waters.

MTS also supports the Canadian Coast Guard's navigational aid program in NWT waters, performing annual inspections, overhaul, repair and maintenance to the Canadian Coast Guard's vessels Dumit, Eckaloo, and the GNWT Hay River shipyard. This essential program places and maintains buoys and range markers each year, facilitating the safe passage of commercial marine traffic on the Mackenzie River and the Great Slave Lake.

Through the Marine Training Centre and with the support of Transportation Canada, our partnership with the Nunavut Fisheries and Marine Training Consortium supports marine-related education and training in the Northwest Territories creating long-term and fulfilling employment opportunities for NWT residents.

Mr. Speaker, through MTS, the GNWT will continue to pursue opportunities with public and private stakeholders, and our hardworking MTS crew will continue to deliver essential supplies to our communities. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 171-19(2): Marine Transportation Services
Ministers' Statements

Page 2819

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

Thank you, Minister. Minsters' statements. Minister responsible for Northwest Territories Housing Corporation.

Minister's Statement 172-19(2): Training and Apprenticeships
Ministers' Statements

Page 2820

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, like all of us here today, I recognize the importance and value education and its role in creating long-term success for our residents and our territory. I am pleased to say the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation, through its apprentice program, also reflects this value while also working hard to improve housing for many Northwest Territories residents.

It is important to highlight providing opportunities like the apprenticeship program does not happen without collaboration. The NWT Housing Corporation works with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment on this initiative, providing an opportunity to highlight successes that can be achieved.

Mr. Speaker, the NWT Housing Corporation aims to hire 12 apprenticeship positions to work with the local housing organizations across the NWT. These apprentices are obtaining valuable classroom training while also being mentored by certified trades professionals. These apprentices are already making valuable contributions to the people of the NWT. They are working diligently to learn and build up their skills.

In addition to supporting apprenticeships, assignments at the local housing authority organizations, the corporation is also asking general contractors bidding on new housing contracts to support at least one apprenticeship over the lifetime of that project. From April 2020 to May 2021, this approach has already supported 13 apprentices working on a variety of construction projects throughout the Northwest Territories.

I am a firm believer in the work these apprentices do and I have seen the impact of their work firsthand in many small communities across our territory.

Being an apprentice is often one of the first steps in a lifetime of work in the trades. Since 2007, 19 apprentices that have worked with local housing organizations are now journey certified. This includes a plumber in Behchoko, an oil burner mechanic in Deline, a carpenter in Fort Smith, and a housing maintenance serviceperson in Paulatuk.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of the role the Housing Corporation has played in the careers of these journeypersons. I want to see more of this important work, I am pleased to note that under the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation four-year business plan, we intend to increase the number of Northwest Territories journey-certified apprentices by ten through the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation continued partnerships with ECE, our general contractors and others.

I look forward to coming back to the House and providing an update on the apprenticeship program to further highlight the successes of this program. I am confident that we will continue to increase the number of certified apprentices and celebrate the skilled tradespersons of the Northwest Territories. I also want to thank the staff in the local housing authorities and associations of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation who have worked diligently to develop and insure the certification is acquired and the maintenance of these programs to further extend the lifetime of our public housing units. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 172-19(2): Training and Apprenticeships
Ministers' Statements

Page 2820

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Pandemic Anxiety
Members' Statements

Page 2820

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to discuss pandemic anxiety. Mr. Speaker, I have been receiving numerous calls from constituents who are feeling overwhelmed by the pandemic, are tired of self-isolation, tired of the relaxation of public health orders that appear to benefit others but not them, those that are in extended care that are feeling isolated and alone, grandparents and children and grandchildren feeling the anxiety of not being able to visit family outside the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, anxiety, tension, apprehension, concern, fear, change and hope are all aspects of this pandemic that need to be recognized and dealt with in a manner that allows one to continue on with living. It is difficult when one finds that what was once predictable is not any more, what was once controllable by each of us is not any more; and, what is important and accessible to each of us is just out of reach now.

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of this pandemic, fear set in and most of the world agreed action had to be taken as people were being hospitalized and dying. Our CPHO and this government took swift action by limiting travel in the NWT and providing public health orders that were there to protect us all, and we praised her for that.

Mr. Speaker, now Northerners watch the news and hear that southern Canada is planning to loosen restrictions and provide more freedoms. Sentiment is now changing on how our CPHO and government is handling this phase of the pandemic. Many of our residents, who have been vigilant throughout, want to see further relaxation of restrictions. The people in the northern part of the NWT now have access to the Yukon while people in the southern NWT, who have done their part and who are fully vaccinated, continue to feel the impact of the restrictions and want to know why not us?

Mr. Speaker, we are at a moment in time where we have to look at our legislation and ask if we are reaching a point where we may be subjecting this government to potential court challenges now that a vaccine is available, data is available, and the majority of people are conscious of safety protocols.

Relevant wording we have to look at in the Public Health Act states that a public health emergency means the occurrence of imminent threat or a public health hazard or disease that presents a significant risk to the public health. It further states that the public health officer may take reasonable measures as he or she considers necessary.

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

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The questions this government has to ask are based on the fact that a majority of people in Canada and the NWT are vaccinated and restrictions in many parts of southern Canada are being lifted. These two questions are:

Do COVID-19 and known variants pose a significant risk? Do the orders continue to provide reasonable measures based on the current risk? Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Pandemic Anxiety
Members' Statements

Page 2820

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

Thank you, Member for Hay River South. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Nursing Human Resources
Members' Statements

Page 2820

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

MS. SEMMLER; Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Nurses are the course of the NWT health care system. Without nurse, we would have no one in the communities, no one to care for our patients in our hospitals, no one to provide nursing care for our elders, no one to assist our new mothers, no one to provide health education to our youth in many communities, as well as many other things that they do. Nurses are essential. Our health care system absolutely could not function without them. What does it mean -- this mean, Mr. Speaker? It means that there -- when there is a pandemic, the entire territory is ordered to stay home; nurses have to continue on like nothing has changed. It means that if working in a hospital and they wish to request time off from work, it gets denied due to operational requirements if there's no one to cover for them. This happens on normal times and not just in pandemics. It is unfortunate that given how much nurses do, they are not treated the same. It was recently raised that indeterminate nurses are tired of being treated differently than short-term locum nurses. It causes a weaker morale in the workplace, as mentioned in the same article. Yes, there is a nursing shortage in the country, and, yes, it's hard to attract people to the North due to the cost of living. Many may not know that term nurses do receive the northern living allowance as it's added to their hourly wage. They also get their flights and their subsidized rent. Indeterminate staff don't. Some say well, they get a pension plan. Well, in my experience as a past manager, that wasn't on the top of the list for many. The world is changing, Mr. Speaker, and our younger generations don't think like the past - to work, work, work, get that pension and retire. It's more about work-life balance. Work, work, work for the things you want to do, and enjoy life.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister stated in a news article on May 25th, 2021, that the health authority is meeting with the UNW to investigate those concerns. The nurses are not going to complain to the hand that feeds them, and the health authority needs to send out independent persons to hear from them so that they can voice their concerns without feeling like they may get retribution for saying the truth. This government is committed to increasing the number of resident indeterminate health care professionals. I know that many will speak up in confidence given the opportunity to do so, to-- the real issues are brought-- so the real issues are brought forward, and only then will we be able to fix the issue. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Nursing Human Resources
Members' Statements

Page 2820

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

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

Government of the Northwest Territories-NWT Chamber of Mines Working Group
Members' Statements

Page 2820

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. On March 4th, 2021 during the review of the ITI main estimates, I asked questions about the core funding received by the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines. The ITI deputy minister said “we meet with the Chamber every two weeks in a working group. We are working on our competitiveness. We are looking at actions. They are contributing to the critical metals action plan. There is a lot of good work.”

This got me thinking. What could the Chamber of Mines and ITI senior staff possibly be talking about that requires meetings every couple of weeks? I'm not aware of any other economic sector that has that kind of privileged access to this department. So I filed an Access to Information request to find out what was happening.

What I got back appears to be an incomplete set of GNWT-Chamber of Mines COVID-19 recovery working group meeting summaries with numerous redactions that I tabled in the House yesterday. I encourage all of my colleagues, the media, and the public to review these meeting summaries. What was supposed to be a working group focused on economic recovery from the impacts of the COVID pandemic has transitioned into a high-level bimonthly lobbying campaign behind closed doors.

Notes reveal ITI taking actions well beyond economic recovery, or COVID. The economic and financial interests of the mining industry appear to be driving actions by ITI. Regular MLAs don't get this kind of access.

Working group members have been reviewing and editing ministerial correspondence, including letters to co-management boards, reviewing and changing work contracted through public procurement processes, and pushing for land withdrawals that support land rights' negotiations to be lifted or stopped. Political advice in dealing with the federal government is freely shared and exchanged. Efforts are being coordinated on a federal minerals plan with GNWT pushing to have diamonds and arsenic considered critical. Nothing seems to be off limits in these lobbying meetings.

This is not about whether mining is good or criticism of the Chamber of Mines. The chamber does a very good job representing its interest. However, these interests are not the same as the public interest. This is about the appropriateness of these meetings, held behind closed doors, that have expanded well beyond economic recovery. I will have questions later today for the Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Government of the Northwest Territories-NWT Chamber of Mines Working Group
Members' Statements

Page 2821

The Speaker (Honourable Frederick Blake Jr.)

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