This is page numbers 1 - 52 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 (remote), Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland (remote), Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Mr. Edjericon, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O'Reilly, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek (remote), Ms. Weyallon-Armstrong (remote).

The House met at XX p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 234-19(2): Innovation Across the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

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Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT has a mandate to advance the knowledge economy in the Northwest Territories. In doing this, we have engaged with residents, and they have told us that the knowledge economy needs to be grounded in innovation. Guided by input from residents, we are working to expand both our understanding of innovation and the scope of action in this area. We will focus on an innovation action plan to facilitate growth, create opportunity, and diversify our economy. It is a new way of thinking, empowered and driven by new technologies merging with traditional practices.

While our vision of the knowledge economy may be new, its foundation in innovation is not. Northerners have long been recognized for their resourcefulness and resilience, but most especially for their innovation.

Historically, sustainable northern fur harvesting practices established the beginnings of our modern economy more than 200 years ago. And long before the first geologists arrived, Indigenous people used the oil seepages along the banks of the Mackenzie River to caulk their canoes. Inuvialuit kayaks have distinct shapes designed for the conditions of the western Arctic. And today, the blending of traditional and scientific knowledge plays a key role in projects like the planning and construction of the new Tlicho Highway.

This path of innovation continues today, Mr. Speaker. Our government has invested in a world-class fibre link which supported the development of the Inuvik satellite station facility where polar-orbiting satellites transmit data. The Aurora Research Institute at Aurora College applies scientific, technological, and Indigenous knowledge to solve northern problems and advance social and economic goals. The Innovate Centre for the Arts, Crafts, and Technology in Inuvik merges traditional arts and crafts with new technologies and supports community technology centres across the region. Research on permafrost is expanding, including in areas that are now more accessible through the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway.

Often, the challenges presented by our climate and permafrost can lead to innovation. Building hundreds of kilometers of ice roads is a painstaking but state-of-the-art process that connects communities and industries to wider transportation networks. Using technology to measure ice thickness with ground-penetrating radar has created space for pioneering research. Current testing is underway to use satellites to measure the thickness of the ice and identify where it is weakening and shifting.

In the natural resources sector, mining in a northern environment with permafrost also requires groundbreaking approaches. This includes engineering award-winning dike technology, blending knowledge and innovation that keeps the ground frozen to enable mining and testing new underwater remote mining systems to extract kimberlite with minimal waste.

Mr. Speaker, the private sector has always looked for ways to innovate and create efficiencies, and our government is adopting the same approach to strengthen the conditions for collaboration, discovery, innovation and ultimately create a more diversified and inclusive NWT economy. Part of this diversification will happen through Aurora College.

Through recent amendments to the Aurora College Act, our Legislative Assembly has taken the first legislative steps to establish an arm's length post-secondary institution. The polytechnic university's vision is to become a hub for researchers from across the North, Canada, and the world. The university will work to increase investments and build partnerships with governments, industry, and other post-secondary institutions. Opportunities in research have already been seen in recent years in northern organizations like Hotyi ts'eeda and Dechinta.

Mr. Speaker, we have creative thinkers and doers in the Northwest Territories. With emphasis on incorporating Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing, our territory will have even greater opportunities for development with an NWT innovation action plan and knowledge economy. These approaches will strengthen our entrepreneurial ecosystem across the NWT to bolster job creation, employ state-of-the-art technology, and establish investment opportunities for businesses, especially as we transition to a low-carbon economy. The possibilities are limitless. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 234-19(2): Innovation Across the Northwest Territories
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 235-19(2): Healthy Families Program Renewal
Ministers' Statements

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Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, the Healthy Family Program is a voluntary, home-visiting and knowledge-sharing program for pregnant parents, caregivers, and families with young children under six.

Over the last five years, the Department of Health and Social Services has worked closely with communities to renew this valuable program. Elders and other community members have shared their vision for this renewed program, where children thrive, caregivers are supported, and communities care for families so that future generations are stronger and stronger.

The robust renewal process included an evaluation of the existing program, research on successful parenting programs in other jurisdictions, and extensive engagement with over 180 staff, families, and caregivers from across the Northwest Territories. The new program is designed to include innovative practices successfully implemented elsewhere and encourages integration with other community programming. It also includes a change in approach, from risk-based to prevention.

Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action Number 5 calls on governments to develop culturally-appropriate parenting programs for Indigenous families, both as a commitment to reconciliation and to reduce the number of Indigenous children in care. Such programs are needed because government policy rooted in colonization has attempted to dismantle Indigenous family life and parenting practices for generations through assimilation and violence against children in residential schools. It is our responsibility to acknowledge this truth and commit to action. The re-design of the Healthy Family Program responds to this call as part of a system-wide shift to prioritize culturally-appropriate and prevention-based programming that supports parents and nurtures children.

Mr. Speaker, the renewed Healthy Family Program is available to all families and is responsive to their needs. It combines a traditional Indigenous approach to parenting with techniques and best practices learned through scientific research. It prioritizes children and families and provides a hub for support services and resources.

Healthy Family support workers work directly with families to develop their identity through a connection to community and culture. Workers encourage an active role for fathers, partners, extended family, and community in child development and well-being.

Implementation of the renewed program is taking place in all 14 original locations and is expanding to five additional communities. In the next year, we will focus on communication with families and staff, program delivery, and program evaluation.

Mr. Speaker, the Healthy Family Program staff have been the champions of this work from the beginning. They are dedicated to families they work with and always do their best to treat clients with respect and as the expert on their own family. Program staff are knowledgeable and experienced in the communities they serve and their expertise in early childhood development is vital to the success of this program. They apply the program's guiding principles daily and serve as coaches, facilitators, and community connectors.

The Healthy Family Program helps to create an environment where children feel loved and where parenting leads to healing. It can have lasting positive effects on children, their caregivers, and on the community they live in.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud of our achievements to date. I would like to thank the knowledge-holders who worked with us on this renewal project, including elders, families and caregivers, social services staff, Indigenous scholars, and the project team. The government is committed to improving early childhood development indicators for all children in the NWT and renewing the Healthy Family Program is an important part of honouring that commitment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 235-19(2): Healthy Families Program Renewal
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 236-19(2): Update on Winter Road Season and Community Fuel Re-supply
Ministers' Statements

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Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territories' winter roads are a very important part of providing much-needed access to and from communities. They are especially critical when it comes to connecting families and businesses.

Every year essential goods, like fuel for electricity generation, heat, and transportation, are delivered to communities and homes by way of the NWT's winter roads. I would like to thank all the highway and fuel delivery crews across the territory for their care, diligence, and commitment this season. Their work is vital for the day-to-day lives of residents in all NWT regions. The pandemic has created challenges and hardships but the highway and fuel crews have risen to the challenge and continue to deliver quality service, safely and reliably.

Today, I am pleased to provide an update on the 2022 winter road season and fuel resupply activities.

Each year, highway crews in the Beaufort Delta, Sahtu, Deh Cho, and North Slave regions build and maintain 1,399 kilometres of winter roads, ice roads, and ice crossings, connecting nine communities that are not served by all-season roads.

Mr. Speaker, fuel is an essential good for residents and businesses in northern communities. Many communities rely heavily on diesel and gasoline for electricity generation, heat, and transportation.
The GNWT is responsible for the purchase, transport, and storage of fuel for 16 NWT communities that are not served by the private sector. During the winter resupply season, seven communities receive dedicated resupply services while five communities are part of live supply activities. Local contractors then sell and distribute these petroleum products to residents and businesses.

This winter, the GNWT's first fuel delivery took place on February 2. It is expected that fuel resupply will be completed by mid-April, with a total of 9.7 million litres of petroleum products - diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel - delivered to 12 communities.

We are aware of the effect that recent world events have had on fuel costs. I want to assure you that the delivery and resupply of fuel to NWT communities continue to run smoothly this season.
Partnerships are an important part of this work. This year the supply and delivery contracts were carried out by the same two contractors as last year - Bassett Petroleum and Midnight Petroleum.

Mr. Speaker, our staff and contractors have worked diligently this season in keeping communities connected as well as supplied. Our government will continue to work with the public and private sector partners to maintain a dependable supply of goods and services to all NWT communities. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 236-19(2): Update on Winter Road Season and Community Fuel Re-supply
Ministers' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Member's Statement 1051-19(2): Mental Health
Members' Statements

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Jane Weyallon-Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I am going to be talking on mental health. Mr. Speaker, the pandemic has been a challenging time for all of us and now we go into the endemic stage. How are people going to move ahead?

Mr. Speaker, the biggest challenge in the Tlicho region are poor mental health, high rates of addictions and substance abuse, lack of housing, and unacceptable housing conditions. These were major issues before the pandemic and we know that isolation and other limitations imposed through COVID only worsen the situation.

Mr. Speaker, over half, like 56 percent, of residents in the Tlicho region consider their mental health less than very good. We know across the NWT, residents struggle with mental illness and this is the greatest in some of the regions, particularly Tlicho region.

Mr. Speaker, people are drinking and doing drugs at alarming rate. We even have crack cocaine in our communities. At one time we know this was unheard of. But Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult to improve people's mental health or address addictions without appropriate housing. Without a safe place for people to call home, where they are comfortable and can make healthy choices, people will continue to struggle. Throughout the Tlicho region, people are crammed into housing units. People wait for years to get into housing. Many of our elders still live in rundown and condemned housing, desperately in need of refurbishment and renovations. How are we doing this to our old people?

Youth and young adults alike, who are the future of our regions, are struggling to get ahead and stay ahead because of mental health challenges. Drugs and alcohol abuse and lack of safe places to call home. All of these things are destroying our regions. Not just our regions, there are other regions as well.

Mr. Speaker, these are desperate times and we have to act fast in awareness of this situation. What we have been doing is not working. We need a community-centre approach. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the health and social service Minister at appropriate time. Thank you.

Member's Statement 1051-19(2): Mental Health
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Member's Statement 1052-19(2): Small Community Cancer Screening
Members' Statements

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Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I was struck by a CBC North article dated March 11th, 2022, in which a Dene says local health centre failed to detect tumour that nearly killed him. The elder stated he [audio] died because of his local health centre failed to diagnose the problem. The elder had gone to the local health centre multiple times for abdominal pain only to receive Tylenol medication. The elder then ponders the question as to why he was treated this way. And [audio] if it was because he was an Indigenous Dene.

Mr. Speaker, the saving grace in this story is the actions the elder took upon himself to get to Yellowknife and check into the hospital. I believe it was a CT scan that confirmed his worst fears. It was colon cancer and the tumour was the size of a pop can. The doctor told the elder if he had waited longer he would not be with us today.

Mr. Speaker, that CT scan is not in every small community health centre. I will questions for the health minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Member's Statement 1052-19(2): Small Community Cancer Screening
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Member's Statement 1053-19(2): Child and Family Services
Members' Statements

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Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Mr. Speaker, no one is more precious than our babies, children and youth.

Every child deserves to live and grow in a healthy home where they are cared for in a stable learning environment. I do not doubt that all parents, grandparents, and caregivers want to give their children the best But not all have the means to do so. In the language of child welfare, the difference that emerges is not what parents and caregivers want for their children; it is what resources they have available to fill those wants and needs.

For too many, safe and adequate housing, nutritious food, health supports, and stable income are out of reach. This puts children and youth at risk. Often exasperated by poor mental health and addictions in the home, babies, children and youth experience hardship that is unfairly placed on their young shoulders.

But raising children is not an individual responsibility, and it never has been. For decades we have repeated "it takes a village to raise a child", because it's true. We are not built to go it alone; caring for children is a collective responsibility.
We need a whole-of-government and, furthermore, a whole-of-territory response to pull us out of a crisis that continues to separate Indigenous families. To lift up every family, child, and youth who call the NWT home demands that every person, leader, government department, and civil society organization work together to keep families together raising children that grow to not only be healthy but thriving, creative, self-determining Northerners.

Mr. Speaker, we declared a public health emergency two years ago to change the trajectory of COVID-19 and keep communities safe. The NWT came together. Now, here we are, with a public health crisis that continues to separate Indigenous families needing the same all-of-government resolve to change the life trajectory of children in care. Our children need us to come together again.

COVID-19 proved that all-of-government responses are possible. We watched as the government acted through a public health lens that controlled our borders, identified available housing, and put extra dollars in families' pockets. And I get it, Mr. Speaker - this public health emergency has been life or death but the NWT is also losing vulnerable children through the child welfare system. This loss is a slow decline of the health, cultural continuity, and creative potential. It requires an integrated approach to provide a continuum of care and support for all families throughout the territory's 33 communities.

With 98 percent of children in care being Indigenous, the GNWT must work respectfully and generously with Indigenous governments to ensure that all children have the opportunity to thrive.
Because, Mr. Speaker, no one is more precious than our babies, children and youth. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1053-19(2): Child and Family Services
Members' Statements

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The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Minister of Thebacha.