This is page numbers 1 - 28 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 --.

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.

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Speaker

Good morning, colleagues. The Member for Monfwi has asked to address the Chamber, and I will give the floor to the Member. Member for Monfwi.

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Jackson Lafferty Monfwi

Masi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker -- [Translation] Masi, Mr. Speaker. Today is a special day; it's a huge day. Yesterday as I spoke, I spoke in my language. The reason I said it, I said it in my language. Today we have Mary Rose here in the audience from CKLB. I spoke with her, and they report on everything that we say and do in this House. When we represent the people, we need to talk for them, and we relay those concerns to the government.

Yesterday, as I spoke in my language, I spoke in my language yesterday on the radio. But today I will speak in English. The languages are all equal. Today, as we meet here, I will be announcing a special report. I want to say to all the MLAs and the people of Northwest Territories, and also to the Tlicho Region, my people, I want to talk to them. As I stand here, I will read my statement. I will now speak in my language. Masi, Mr. Speaker. [Translation Ends]

Mr. Speaker, we've experienced a challenging year and a half from COVID-19 here in the Northwest Territories, in Canada, and also around the world. We have lost something dear and today we face a normal full of unanswered questions. And then, Mr. Speaker, comes devastating news last week from the former Kamloops Indian Residential School - news of a mass grave containing the bodies of at least 215 Indigenous children.

Mr. Speaker, challenging times like this tend to focus on person's thoughts, on what really matters. It gets you thinking about family, how very precious family is, and about the community and how precious that is. And this leads, naturally, to thoughts about your own life and what have you done with your time on earth that you've been given by Our Creator.

Mr. Speaker, that applies to me. That includes reflecting back on my 16 years - five terms as a Member of this Legislative Assembly. Mr. Speaker, when I walked into this building in June 2005, my oldest son, Jade, was only 12 years old. Today, Mr. Speaker, my son, Jade, is 28 years old with a son on his own and a family on his own. My youngest Ty was only just born when I became a MLA. Now he is 16, studying for his driver's licence.

Mr. Speaker, we take our oath of office as a MLA. We sign on to a demanding parallel of life - an existence away from home, removed loved ones, and away from family. Mr. Speaker, while I sat in this chamber, my five kids grew up around me. During my 16 years here, I've missed so much childhood while they were growing up - so their rites of passage. Of course, not just for me, Mr. Speaker. How many babies first words, first steps, birthdays, soccer tournaments, laughters, cuts, tears of each of us - missed because of our duties as MLAs.

But, Mr. Speaker, on the flip side, there's always a -- it has also been a wonderful 16 years serving here in this Legislative Assembly, in this House. I've visited just about every community in the Northwest Territories, just every part of Canada as a Minister, and then later as a Speaker, travelled to promote NWT internationally.

Mr. Speaker, when I was approached 16 years ago to first run as a MLA for Monfwi Region, it was at prompting of the elders. Now, those same elders, at least the new generation of them, have approached me again. This time, Mr. Speaker, they're asking me to come home back to my region, back to the Tlicho. They want me to take what I have learned here and put it to work within the Tlicho government system.

As tradition demands, I consulted with my family. My family, which stood by me in my journey as a MLA, as a Minister, and also as a Speaker. My family says the elders' right. It's time for a new direction. It's time to go home.

For that reason, Mr. Speaker, today I am giving notice to this House, to the Tlicho people, the NWT as a whole, that I will be resigning my post as a MLA for Monfwi effective today, Friday, June 4th, 2021.

In doing so, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to say a big masi cho to the Tlicho communities and the people, for the privilege of representing them for the past 16 years, for the past five terms. I'm humbled by the trust they placed in me. It makes a personal sacrifice more worth it. I love the Tlicho people and the communities. For their sake, I would do it all over again.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to masi cho to my former assistant Morgan McPherson who dedicated almost ten years to helping me in various elected roles. Without her, Mr. Speaker, I would have been lost. Thank you, Morgan, for your dedication and commitment, for being a friend that I could always count on. For that, masi cho.

Another constituent assistant, Mr. Speaker, is Richard Charlo. He has been my voice, my eyes and ears, in the Tlicho Region when it came to constituent issues. Thank you, Richard, for your enthusiasm, for your cheerfulness, hard work, and your dedication these past several years.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say masi cho to my family - my father, my sisters, brothers, aunties and uncles, for supporting me and encouraging me as I struggled to make a difference for my Tlicho people and my communities. During my 16 years here, I have lost so many close family. First my mother, 2014; then a year later, my grandma cho. Then just last year, my brother Troy. And this year, my loving auntie Therese. Their death made it more difficult in trying times but my family's love and support kept me going.

Mr. Speaker, that brings me to my immediate family. If I had an amount of success as a politician, it's them I have to thank. They get the credit. My son Jade, his wife Jessie, our grandson Aries. My daughter Cheyenne, my daughter Sahara, my daughter Dené, and our youngest Ty. Without their constant love and understanding, I'd be nothing. Then, Mr. Speaker, there is a super woman I married - Diane Marie Lafferty. In every challenge, every time, every defeat, she has been there by my side. Through every trying times, absence, every inconvenient business trip, every sitting of this Assembly, she was there covering me with the kids, reminding them of my love. If I have accomplished anything in life, it's on account of my love Diane. If my path leads to success, it will be entirely because of her.

Mr. Speaker, finally, I want to thank this institution - the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories, and all their Members, past and present, I have had opportunity and privilege to serve with. Elected office is a true honour - a high calling. I will be grateful for the rest of my life for being given this opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, I will miss this chamber, the excitement, the debates as well. But new excitement beckons from outside this building, outside the city. They call me.

Mr. Speaker, it's been a blast. Mr. Speaker, good luck to all my colleagues around the room here. Continue to be the voice of the North. Do not forget who elected you. It's the people that you serve. It's their voice that should be heard in this House. So make a difference for NWT.

Masi cho and God bless.

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Speaker

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Mr. Clerk, please note the Member's decision to resign on the record of the Legislative Assembly. The Member for Monfwi's seat is now vacant.

Mr. Lafferty, before you leave the chamber, I want to thank you for your 16 years of service to the Tlicho people, the residents of the Northwest Territories and to the Legislative Assembly. You have served as a regular MLA, Member of the Executive also known as Cabinet, and as Speaker.

Throughout your time in the Assembly, you have been a champion for the Indigenous languages. Mr. Lafferty, you were the longest serving Member in the 19th Assembly. You have served as part of four Assemblies, first being elected by by-election in the 15th in 2005. In the 16th and 17th Assemblies, you served as Deputy Premier, Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, Minister of Justice, and the Minister responsible for Official Languages and for the Worker's Safety and Compensation Commission. In the 18th Assembly, you served as our Speaker. And it is in this chair where you left a legacy.

Your leadership reinvigorated the Assembly's use of Indigenous languages, expanding interpretation services, your use of the Tlicho language in this chamber every day while in the Speaker's chair set an example for those who follow you.

On a personal note, it has been a pleasure serving with you the last ten years. I still remember the 'good ol' days' when we used to travel --

---Laughter

-- and our trip to Fairbanks to visit the University of Fairbanks to see how they teach the Gwich'in and Inupiaq languages so that we can adopt those teachings in our education system.

Mahsi cho, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. Colleagues, we will take a short recess. Please join us in the Great Hall to say our farewell to Mr. Lafferty. Mahsi.

---Applause

---Recess

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Speaker

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Minister's Statement 173-19(2): Update on Community Access Program
Ministers' Statements

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Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, I would like to update Members and the public on the Community Access Program administered by the Department of Infrastructure.

The Community Access Program provides contribution funding to communities across the Northwest Territories for the construction and rehabilitation of transportation and marine infrastructure. The program is application-based with a bi-annual intake of proposals. These projects support the development of a strong northern workforce through construction activities, economic and training opportunities. Mr. Speaker, our regional superintendents work closely with the communities to support projects that meet local priorities. I am pleased to report that communities take advantage of opportunity.

In 2019-2020, there were 22 projects were supported across all five regions. This resulted in over $1 million invested into transportation and marine infrastructure. Projects ranged from building and maintaining ice roads, community trails and access roads, to completing necessary marine facility upgrades. In addition to employment, the construction and maintenance of these projects provided valuable work experience in the operation of heavy equipment, modern road construction and environmental protection techniques, and project management.

Mr. Speaker, the benefits of this program extend beyond the construction phase. These trail and dock projects improve quality of life for residents by increasing access for on-the-land activities like harvesting and educational programming, allowing for more convenient community and regional road transportation access for residents, and furthering economic activity like tourism. There is also a sense of community pride and accomplishment that comes along with delivering and completing these community-based priority projects.

The Community Access Program provides funding for construction projects to meet specific community needs such as: access roads to hunting, fishing, wood harvesting and community recreational areas; trails connecting to the community for walking, hiking and traditional activities; docks and wharfs to support boating and marine activities, harvesting, and recreational uses; also winter and access to granular sources.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Infrastructure is doing its part to support the 19th Legislative Assembly's goal of increasing economic and training opportunities across the Northwest Territories through this Community Access Program. We have seen great uptake in communities, and we are continuing to work closely with leaders to identify future projects to be considered under the Community Access Program in 2021-2022. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 173-19(2): Update on Community Access Program
Ministers' Statements

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Speaker

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

Minister's Statement 174-19(2): Senior Citizens Month and World Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15
Ministers' Statements

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, June is the month when we make a special point of acknowledging and celebrating seniors for their contributions to our families and communities. Seniors are valued members of NWT communities and they contribute by working, volunteering, and passing on knowledge and traditions through teachings, stories, and ceremonies. Seniors also sit on advisory councils and engage with governments and non-government organizations helping to develop strategy and policy. Seniors fulfill many vital roles within our society that enhances our quality of life. The NWT's population of seniors continues to grow. Our task is to work together to ensure we provide quality of life for them as they age.

Mr. Speaker, most seniors want to remain in their own homes or communities. We must ensure services and supports are available to them, including home and community care services, accessible and affordable housing, and transportation and supports for their caregivers to enable them to continue to age in place with dignity.

We are implementing recommendations from the Home and Community Care Review based on the Department's response to the review that was tabled at this time last year. We are implementing a comprehensive and internationally recognized system of assessment of vulnerable persons within home care programs early next year. This change will allow us to improve areas of service that have been identified as being inconsistent or inadequate.

This year, we are also expanding hours that home care services are available in Hay River, Behchoko and Inuvik. We will expand hours in additional communities over time. We are also engaging Indigenous governments to improve the responsiveness of home and community care program to the needs of Indigenous residents.

Mr. Speaker, when seniors are no longer able to stay in their homes with the support of home care, we must ensure that our long-term care facilities can provide quality care for them. We have updated our bed projections and determined we will require fewer beds than previously anticipated.

The department has engaged with stakeholders in Hay River and the Beaufort Delta Region to discuss the new projections. We have shared our plans and received feedback from community partners on how we can enhance services in home care and work with other government partners to enhance aging in place.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has a mandate commitment to support seniors and as one, I am personally invested in. The department is collaborating with the departments of Education, Culture and Employment, Municipal and Community Affairs, and the NWT Housing Corporation to help advance this mandate work. Together, we can ensure seniors continue to get the services and programs they require in their communities. We are also developing a Northwest Territories Seniors Strategy that will reflect a whole-of-government approach and assist in coordinating programs and services for seniors.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I recognize World Elder Abuse Awareness Day comes up on June 15th. We acknowledge that seniors are a vulnerable sector in society and can be at high risk for abuse and neglect.
To help address this prevalent issue, the department provides funding each year to the NWT Seniors Society which is specifically directed towards supporting the Network to Prevent Abuse of Older Adults. The NWT Seniors Society has taken the lead on elder abuse initiatives by providing awareness workshops in a number of communities and by providing the toll-free seniors information line. Furthermore, this fall we will be launching an elder abuse awareness campaign and planning is underway to increase training for GNWT staff to identify signs of elder abuse.

Mr. Speaker, we see where gaps exist in the services our government must provide to ensure seniors have good quality of life through the stages of aging, and we are working to address them to ensure seniors are able to enjoy comfortable and dignified lives in the NWT. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 174-19(2): Senior Citizens Month and World Elder Abuse Awareness Day June 15
Ministers' Statements

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Speaker

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

Minister's Statement 175-19(2): Community Housing Support Program
Ministers' Statements

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Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Every community in the Northwest Territories is different and has different needs and priorities. I am pleased to say that our Community Housing Support Program recognizes these differences and puts the priorities of local people right in the center of the planning process.

We recognize the local people that have clearest understanding of their needs and often of the best solutions. For this reason, the Housing Corporation works in partnership with Indigenous governments and community agencies to develop an innovative community-driven housing projects of their own design. This helps ensure local priorities are met with a variety of support options such as grants and other contributions such as -- may also be in the form of policy and program design, material packages, technical expertise, land management, or surplus units when appropriate.

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken about this program in the past in the Legislative Assembly and would like to provide an update today. Previously, I spoke about this program adding affordable housing in Salt River First Nations, implementing a repair program in Fort Good Hope, and a log project in Colville Lake among other successes.

Today I would like to note even more recent successes for this program. The K'atlodeeche First Nation has used the Community Housing Support Program to implement a repair program for homes in the community. Programs like this give the community the ability to locally prioritize any repair work they want to get done.

Mr. Speaker, the hamlet of Aklavik has used funding through this program to connect to biomass heating systems. Innovative, forward-thinking, locally-driven projects like this are why we believe this program is very valuable to the communities across the NWT.

In Inuvik, the Community Housing Support Program has been accessed by Teepee Housing in order to renovate multiple buildings. Being able to modernize affordable housing units is another example of the program being used to turn local ambition into reality.

Mr. Speaker, one of my priorities as Minister is partnership, and this program is a great example of how by listening to each other and working together, we can make progress towards many of our shared goals. We all look forward to seeing these new projects being provided in accordance with community aspirations and recommendations.

I look forward to speaking about the Community Housing Support Program in later sitting of this Legislative Assembly, sharing even more success stories. I also want to acknowledge and thank the hard work of the staff of the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation for implementing this program and being able to develop a community-driven program and their aspects. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mahsi.

Minister's Statement 175-19(2): Community Housing Support Program
Ministers' Statements

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Speaker

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister's Statement 176-19(2): Mining Week 2021 and Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

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Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, today's mineral resource industry in the NWT is innovative, collaborative, environmentally conscious, and has the highest standards of safety. It collaborates with the GNWT and with Indigenous communities to enhance resources for capacity building and supports Indigenous participation in, and benefits received from, the mining industry.

The resource sector directly employs over 3,000 people in the Northwest Territories and contributes over $800 million in spending each year. It accounts for nearly a third of the Northwest Territories' gross domestic product. A healthy and vibrant mineral resource exploration and development sector is critical for the Northwest Territories, its people, and our future prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment has a mandate item to increase resource exploration and development, and I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge some of the initiatives underway to support this anchor industry.

As with other industries, mineral resource exploration has experienced a downturn in activity and investment over the last year. The department has provided mineral tenure support and has acted as a liaison for industry with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer to ensure the industry was able to continue its planning and operations during the pandemic.

The Work Credit Program provided a one-year one-time relief on work requirements for 189 mineral claims in 2020-2021. We also provided a one-year deferral of mineral lease rent payments for mineral tenure interest holders. This enabled 39 clients, with a total of 548 leases, to defer payments until 2021-2022.

We continue to hear concerns from industry, and in response I am pleased to announce that mineral tenure relief will also be available in 2021-2022. This will provide additional relief for those claim holders that are unable to work their claims as the pandemic continues.

The Mining Incentive Program was also adjusted in 2020-2021 to accommodate the impacts of the global pandemic. Most of these changes are being continued for the 2021-2022 year. Changes implemented include: An increase to the maximum funding of corporate projects to 60 percent of eligible expenses, to a maximum of $240,000; Northwest Territories expenses related to self-isolation, expediting, and program logistics are eligible for MIP funding; and, the reporting deadline has been further extended for some projects that were significantly delayed due to the pandemic.

As of January 2021, 12 prospector and seven corporate 2020-2021 projects were funded in the North Slave, South Slave, and Sahtu Regions for a total of $1,094,000. From its launch in 2014 to 2018, the Mining Incentive Program directly leveraged $11.8 million in company and prospector exploration spending in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, there are some bright lights on the horizon in mineral resource development. After a tumultuous 2020, the Ekati Mine has reopened under the new ownership of Arctic Canadian Diamond Company, and recalled its workers. Gahcho Kue, under De Beers Canada and Mountain Province Diamonds, continues operation and has established itself as one of the top diamond mines in the world. In December 2020, a 157.4 carat diamond was discovered at this mine. Cheetah Resources and Rare Earth Minerals Projects at the Nechalacho site is in the demonstration phase as it advances to be the first rare earth mine in Canada with innovative environmental standards, comprehensive training programs, and strong partnerships with the Indigenous groups in the area. The anticipated outputs are extremely promising, with the potential for a multi-generational operation providing materials for the clean energy economy.

As well, in the past few weeks, Arctic Star has confirmed five kimberlites discovered around Lac de Gras on its Diagras diamond project, concluding its spring exploration. Their ongoing activities will include assessing diamond content and the ongoing testing of targets.

Mr. Speaker, this is exciting news and only scratches the surface of the Northwest Territories mineral potential. There is a wealth of resources in the North, and as new projects successfully move into production, we can expect increased exploration and renewed investor interest in Northwest Territories mineral resources.

In anticipation of this, the established Polar Bear Diamonds trademark has a new, polished look as it works to reintroduce branded Polar Bear Diamonds into the global marketplace. A 2018 review determined that the brand remains highly recognizable in the market, and reflects a unique, authentic, and ethically-sourced product.

We will be highlighting some of these recent successes and continue to further build public awareness and interest in the sector during this year's Northwest Territories Mining Week in July. I look forward to sharing the plans for what will remain a largely virtual program this year. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 176-19(2): Mining Week 2021 and Initiatives
Ministers' Statements

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Speaker

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister's Statement 177-19(2): Dene National Memorial Walk
Ministers' Statements

June 4th, 2021

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Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, today, Northwest Territories residents will come together to march through the streets of Yellowknife to honour the 215 Indigenous children found at the Kamloops Indian Residential School last week. This is an important opportunity for all of us as residents of the Northwest Territories to come together and show our support for people during this difficult time. It has brought to the surface painful memories for many, and with the strength of the community we will get through this, together.

In a show of solidarity, two Members of Cabinet and two regular Members of the 19th Legislative Assembly will be attending the memorial walk, fire feeding, and water ceremonies.

I want to thank the Dené Nation for organizing this memorial. It's important that we all stand together as a territory for those whose lives were impacted by the residential school system, and those who never came home. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.