This is page numbers 1 - 68 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 know.

Topics

Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Mr. Edjericon, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek. Ms. Weyallon-Armstrong

The House met at 1:30 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 1

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 229-19(2): Strengthening Mental Wellness and Addiction Recovery
Ministers' Statements

Page 1

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, mental health and addictions continues to be a serious issue in the NWT, which is why this government has committed to increasing the number and variety of culturally-respectful community-based mental health and addictions programs. I rise today to update Members on the work to meet this mandate commitment.

Mr. Speaker, we adopted the Stepped Care 2.0 approach to mental health supports to ensure individuals and families have access to the right level of care when and where they need it. This approach provides both modern and traditional supports, like smart-phone applications, to offer residents options to choose from, regardless of where they live. The goal of this recovery-oriented approach is to empower residents to offer more choice and reduce gaps in service. We want to be responsive to the needs of clients entering the system.

With the implementation of Stepped Care 2.0, we have improved access to community-based counseling by reducing wait times and adding same-day services. Prior to this change, the median wait time for a counseling appointment in the NWT was 19 days. Mr. Speaker, with this shift to a Stepped Care approach, the median wait time is now just four days.

Since 2020, we have increased the availability of e-health options. The Strongest Family Institute supports individuals and families who are experiencing mild to moderate anxiety, depression, and behavioral challenges. BreathingRoom is an online program for youth that offers new perspectives and practical strategies to manage stress, depression, anxiety, and strengthen their coping skills. The Wagon app is a virtual addictions aftercare program that offers an abstinence-based approach to sobriety. It enables clients to develop a personalized plan for recovery and maintenance after they complete addictions treatment. It offers residents weekly two-hour virtual group therapy sessions with registered clinicians to build on the skills developed during treatment.

Mr. Speaker, offering effective and culturally safe programs and services is a priority for this government and for the health and social services system. Since 2020, we have enhanced the On the Land Healing Fund by increasing funding specifically for mobile addictions treatment aftercare. We have also added three new funds that support Indigenous governments and community organizations to deliver mental wellness and addictions recovery programming.

The Community Suicide Prevention Fund supports these organizations to deliver and develop culturally-safe programs by increasing community wellness and reducing stigma. The Addictions Recovery Peer Support Fund helps these organizations provide their own peer support programs such as AA or Wellbriety. The Addictions Recovery and Aftercare Fund funds the establishment of local community-based counsellors to support individuals working towards recovery and to provide addictions aftercare programming.

Mr. Speaker, we are also taking steps to create a territorial model for medical detox and managed alcohol, as well as establishing transitional housing for people returning from addictions treatment. The Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority has established a working group to lead the development on the medical detox model which will incorporate both inpatient and in-community offerings.

Lessons learned, through the distribution of alcohol during the pandemic, have been used to inform the development of standards to serve as the foundation of a Managed Alcohol Program in the NWT in the future.

An expression of interest for transitional housing programs was issued in December 2021. Four community organizations and Indigenous governments applied. Staff are working with these groups as they develop specific program models.

Mr. Speaker, to ensure that we are integrating cultural sensitivity into the delivery of services, we have also increased support and training opportunities for frontline staff in the community counselling program. Staff are receiving training in cultural safety, addictions recovery, and key components of Stepped Care 2.0.

Mr. Speaker, while I recognize that there is still a great deal of work to do, I also firmly believe that we have made and will continue to make progress. These initiatives will make a meaningful difference in the lives of NWT residents, and that is what this government strives to do every day.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for NWT residents. The public health restrictions have affected our ability to gather, to participate in the activities that bring us joy, and to travel and visit with loved ones, to the detriment of our mental wellness. The department has been tracking social indicators throughout the pandemic, and while the total number of people accessing services has not increased, the reasons why they are accessing services have changed. Lately, we are seeing that the reasons are more frequently related to anxiety, stress, and substance use.

Even as the public health emergency and associated orders come to an end, Health and Social Services recognizes the effects of the pandemic will not be short-lived. People are going to need support to recover from what has been a very difficult time. The health and social services system will continue to monitor trends, shift service delivery as required, and actively promote our programs and services so NWT residents understand how and where they can get the support they need. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 229-19(2): Strengthening Mental Wellness and Addiction Recovery
Ministers' Statements

Page 1

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 230-19(2): Rendez-vous de la Francophonie
Ministers' Statements

Page 1

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Monsieur le President, one of the beautiful things about living in the Northwest Territories is the diverse range of cultures and languages that reside here. Our Francophone community, made up of approximately 4,200 residents, is an important component of our society and a significant contributor to our social, economic and cultural development.

That is why I am proud to celebrate our Francophone community during the 24th Annual Rendez-vous de la Francophonie. This nation-wide event, held every March, is an opportunity for Canada's 10 million French-speakers, and all Canadians, to celebrate and promote French language and culture.

The theme for this year's Rendez-vous de la Francophonie is Traditions. This theme will highlight the ties that connect past and present generations, communities and cultures. Rendez-vous de la Francophonie gives us an opportunity to reconnect with ourselves and celebrate the richness of the Canadian Francophonie in all its diversity.

Monsieur le President, as we celebrate Rendez-vous de la Francophonie, I would like to acknowledge the work done by the Francophone Affairs Secretariat. In the last year alone, the secretariat translated more than 3 million words that have allowed Francophone residents to access important information in French. [Translation Unavailable] Merci, Monsieur le President. [Translation Ends]

[Audio Unavailable]

Member's STatement 1028-19(2): Ukraine Support
Members' Statements

Page 1

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

MR. ROCKY SIMPSON. ...service facilities, military installations, hospitals, communication infrastructure, residential buildings, airports, utility infrastructure, and much more. There have been approximately 18 attacks on healthcare facilities with the latest assault being a children's hospital and maternity ward.

Mr. Speaker, an attack on a hospital is a war crime under the Rome Statute the International Criminal Court provided they are not military objectives, which come with consequences.

Mr. Speaker, an unnecessary death toll is mounting on both sides of the conflict. Destruction of infrastructure is growing, the number of people displaced is rising, there is no indication it is about to let up. Because of this, Ukraine requires supports from other countries, which include military equipment, medical staff and supplies, temporary shelters, emergency funds, and basic supplies such as food, drinking water, and clothes - support required not only for Ukraine but those bordering countries taking on refugees.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier announced that this government would match donations up to $50,000. This is a fantastic way to encourage people to donate and support the needs arising from the conflict in Ukraine. However, the $50,000 in matching donations, if not received, then my expectation is for this government to contribute the $50,000 regardless. Although it may appear to be a small amount, it will help efforts in Ukraine and show our support as Northerners.

Mr. Speaker, what else can this government and the people of the NWT do in support of Ukraine - people forced to flee from their homes and country.

We must continue to denounce the action taken by Putin government against Ukraine and encourage the federal government to do everything in its power to support Ukraine while not ruling out military support. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this government must be willing to welcome Ukraine refugees to the NWT. We must continue with the boycott of Russian-made goods coming to the NWT and not just limited to alcohol products. For the people the Northwest Territories, we can provide financial support directly to organizations delivering humanitarian efforts on the ground. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Premier at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Member's STatement 1028-19(2): Ukraine Support
Members' Statements

Page 2

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1029-19(2): Land Leases
Members' Statements

Page 2

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today, I'm going to speak about the land lease fees for people who own cabins on lands in the NWT. This is a topic which I have discovered that the Minister of Lands seems to enjoy speaking about. In fact, the Minister asked me recently if I was going to ask him questions about this anytime soon. Well, here it comes.

Mr. Speaker, I once pointed out that the Minister stood up 72 times during the 18th Assembly, talking and asking questions about land leases. He later told me that it was likely more times than that. Well, I went back and checked Hansard, and he was right. I would like to amend that number to 83, that he stood up and mentioned land leases in the previous Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I have not done a Member's statement on this topic since November of 2020. That has given the Minister of Lands and his department plenty of time to work on the Public Lands Act and enough time to hopefully advance the whole issue into a positive direction for the people of the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, the last time I spoke about this, the Minister admitted that the main reason lease rent fees had increased was to create more revenue for the government. Therefore, the previous government had decided to increase user fees for rent on leases rather than cut costs elsewhere or find revenue from other sources. So in essence, these fees and lease rent increases are a money grabber for the government. It's time we be honest and say that.

Mr. Speaker, at the time when inflation is at a 31-year high, these increased land leases are hurting regular people more than ever. It was nice that the lands department had waived all lease fees for the fiscal year 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic as that did offer some reprieve for people; however, I think that same offer should have been extended for another year for the fiscal year 2021-2022 as the pandemic was still ongoing during that time.

I did ask the Minister to consider that via email but he declined to pursue that. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the Minister of Lands knows in his heart of hearts that the new rent minimum for cabin lease costs had gone up too much and too soon for the people of the NWT. To get up 83 times and talk about cabin leases and lease fee increases, I have to believe the Minister shares my concerns that the increases were too much for people to absorb in such a short time span. I understand that lease rent and fees had not increased in 20 years, but I urge the government to have some compassion for people's pocketbooks.

There are some people who are on very fixed incomes, and there are others living paycheque to paycheque, so these high cabin-rent increases are having a very negative impact for many people in my riding and across the NWT. I can go on, but I will leave it at that for now. I will have questions for the Minister of Lands later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1029-19(2): Land Leases
Members' Statements

Page 2

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1030-19(2): Regulation Making in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 2

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I made a statement almost two years ago about the lack of a clear process for developing regulations by this government. I had to dig deep, very deep - in fact, to appendix 4.11 of the executive council submissions handbook - to find anything public after repeated requests to the Premier on this subject. In that three-page appendix that was signed off by the Premier on March 11th, 2021, there are some vague guidelines on leaving virtually all of the discretion over any public and even standing committee engagement around regulations to each individual Minister and agency.

This appendix called Cabinet operational guidelines, publishing proposed regulations, was finally posted publicly in April 2021 with no public announcement and no consultation or engagement with standing committee before the fact. I contrast that with Cabinet taking more than a year to negotiate the legislative development protocol with the intergovernmental council to develop regulations and legislation. This came after repeated calls for involvement in the development of regulations and post-devolution resource management legislation from the last Assembly that left most of the details to the regulations and whims of future Ministers with no checks or balances.

I will give this Cabinet some credit as there have been a little over ten public engagement opportunities on proposed regulations since the beginning of this Assembly. These can be seen on the "Have your Say" web pages. However the first, and perhaps only time in this Assembly when a standing committee recommended public engagement on a proposed regulation, the response from Cabinet and the Education Minister was "no".

The Standing Committee on Social Development recommended, based on public input, that the Department of Education, Culture and Employment undertake public consultation to develop prescribed emergency provisions under the Employment Standards Act. The department went ahead on its own and took three months to develop these so-called emergency regulations that did not come into force for another months. Four months is hardly the kind of emergency timeline that should have precluded public engagement.

I will have questions later today for the Premier on how our government is going to put into practice its open government policy with regard to regulation-making going forward and public engagement. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1030-19(2): Regulation Making in the Northwest Territories
Members' Statements

Page 2

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1031-19(2): Importance of Living Well Together Training
Members' Statements

Page 2

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Mr. Speaker, I woke this morning, had my coffee as I do, began to read the news as I do every day, and I was saddened to see the article about the NWT woman files lawsuit claiming doctor sterilized her without consent.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to speak to the details of this case as it's before the courts; however, it's unfortunate reality, Mr. Speaker, that Indigenous people in Canada have a history of medical experimentation and sterilization without consent.

Mr. Speaker, in this House my colleagues and I continue to raise the issue about the mistrust and the treatment of Indigenous people when accessing services in the NWT. That is why, Mr. Speaker, it is so critical for the GNWT to implement the Living Well Together Training Program. The Living Well Training Program provides Indigenous cultural awareness and sensitivity training to all GNWT staff to assist them in their job, as well to give them space while they're learning or taking this training as it may be difficult for some.

On December 1st, 2021, the Minister of Finance publicly stated to everyone in this House to my answers, the GNWT, except for new hires, would have this training done by March 31st, 2022. The Minister also committed to discussing with Cabinet prioritizing the training among frontline service for staff.

Mr. Speaker, if you are a GNWT worker in the medical field, the healthcare field, correction service, child and family service system, you are in a position of power. The Living Well doc training needs to be prioritized among frontline workers dealing with Indigenous people when they are most vulnerable. And we are ensuring that locum doctors, locum nurses, all frontline staff also receive this training.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to stress the importance of hiring the Indigenous patient advocate. It is really important for the GNWT to fill these positions because there are so many stories we hear out there about the injustices from the healthcare field, and we don't ever want to see headlines like we did this morning. I will have questions for the Minister of Health later today. Thank you.

Member's Statement 1031-19(2): Importance of Living Well Together Training
Members' Statements

Page 2

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1032-19(2): Drug Decriminalization
Members' Statements

Page 2

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Just two weeks ago, our own Department of Health and Social Services put out an advisory of laced cocaine after two overdose deaths. And, Mr. Speaker, this certainly wasn't the first time. In fact, every few months the public, both across Canada and across the world, is warned of an increasingly toxic and poisoned drug supply. And Mr. Speaker, the sad reality is we are only going to see more deaths in this area unless we take serious action. And there is no enforcement way out, Mr. Speaker.

The Northwest Territories spends more per capita on policing than anywhere else in Canada. We've spent millions of dollars on very sophisticated wiretap drug operations, and all that we see is new drug dealers emerge with a more poisoned and toxic drug supply each time, Mr. Speaker.

It is long overdue that Canada decriminalize drugs, Mr. Speaker. And Mr. Speaker, the conversation around decriminalization is not complete without mentioning the Portugal model.

Over 20 years ago, Portugal decriminalized drugs. It stopped arresting and putting people in jail for possession of drugs. Instead, it made an administrative penalty and provided them with treatment, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this model is proven to work. The number of HIV cases went down. The number of hepatitis cases went down. The number of drug users went down, Mr. Speaker. And they have consistently remained lower than their European counterparts in Portugal, Mr. Speaker.

Now, Mr. Speaker, decriminalization is a federal responsibility, and it is not a silver bullet solution. Any decriminalization must be paired with increased treatment options and a safe supply where the drug supply is poisoned. However, Mr. Speaker, a government cannot arrest addicts on one hand and then ask them to come to that same government for treatment. Decriminalization removes the stigma and encourages people to get help.

Mr. Speaker, the Association of Canada Chief Police have asked for decriminalization; countless public health officials have asked for decriminalization; the Premier of BC has asked for decriminalization. There is safe supply operating in BC, Ontario, and Yukon. We have years of experience with providing people with methadone treatment, Mr. Speaker. This is not a new area. It is long overdue. If we want to save lives, we have to add our voice for the call for the decriminalization. I will have questions for the Premier whether she will join that voice in asking Canada to partner with us and decriminalize drugs. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.