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 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 1:32 p.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Colleagues, before we begin today, I just got a reminder from the interpreters to please slow down, they're having a hard time to keep up with everybody so just be mindful. Take your time; we have all day. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Minister's Statement 227-19(2): Cultural Safety Update
Ministers' Statements

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Mr. Speaker, eliminating anti-Indigenous racism in the health and social services system is an urgent issue in the Northwest Territories and across the country. I rise today to reaffirm our government's commitment to advancing cultural safety for Indigenous residents. This is a commitment we will continue to act on and today I will provide an update on the progress we have made in the past year.

The principles of cultural safety and anti-racism are widely recognized as best practice when it comes to providing services in health and social services settings. The Department of Health and Social Services began this work in 2013, partnering with Indigenous communities to establish a strategic vision and action plan based on the information gathered from consultation with Indigenous residents and through research.

Mr. Speaker, I believe we have made significant progress in this area. I want to recognize the cultural safety and anti-racism training initiated in June 2021. A team of Indigenous staff designed this made-in-the-North training over a four-year period. They took a "nothing about us without us" approach by piloting 13 different training sessions and seeking regular guidance from the NWT Health and Social Services Leadership Council and Indigenous Advisory Board. Over 200 staff participated in the pilot training program.

Mr. Speaker, since the launch of the final mode last summer, approximately 100 staff have taken the training. Monthly sessions will be offered in 2022-2023, beginning with Fort Smith and the Beaufort Delta. The training is delivered in-person over two days and includes a mix of guest speakers and activities to build the knowledge, skills, and self-awareness of staff. The goal of this training is to enable staff to better understand anti-Indigenous racism and improve cultural safety for Indigenous clients.

Mr. Speaker, training is an important component of this work, but it is not enough. That is why we have established the new cultural safety and anti-racism unit within the Department of Health and Social Services. They will lead our efforts to embed the principles of cultural safety and anti-racism throughout the system.

I am pleased to advise this unit is now fully staffed. These positions focus on priority areas, including Indigenous knowledge and wellness, child and family services, and training and content development. The people in these positions will also serve as expert consultants within the system, ensuring that our commitment to cultural safety is present in guiding all policies, programs, and documents. This new team is comprised almost entirely of Indigenous staff from the NWT and uses a decentralized approach that allows staff to work from their home community.

Mr. Speaker, we know that Indigenous staff within our system often experience anti-Indigenous racism themselves and have ideas about how to make things better which are not always heard. A community of practice for Indigenous staff is being planned. It will provide a supportive peer network and a safe forum to share innovations, wise practices, and offer solutions to address anti-Indigenous racism.

Mr. Speaker, cultural safety has been at the heart of the development of the new Indigenous Patient Advocates Program that will launch next fiscal year. This team of regional Indigenous staff will provide direct support to Indigenous residents to help them access services in Fort Smith, Hay River, Stanton Territorial Hospital, and Inuvik. This team will also help to inform and drive this work being done to promote cultural safety and address anti-Indigenous racism.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, we are committed to this important work and expand on these programs when and where possible. We will continue to collaborate with Indigenous partners, communities, and staff to ensure this work is being driven by Indigenous people as we strive for every Indigenous person in the NWT to experience a culturally safe environment every time they interact with the NWT health and social services system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 227-19(2): Cultural Safety Update
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' Statement. Minister responsible for Environment and Natural Resources.

Minister's Statement 227-19(2): Cultural Safety Update
Ministers' Statements

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, as the weather warms, we are seeing more hunters heading out on the land, including many who are traveling up the winter road to harvest caribou. Most are harvesting safely, respectfully, and following traditional practices. Unfortunately, a few hunters' illegally and disrespectful harvest puts unnecessary pressure on the barren-ground caribou herds. These herds are already facing challenges related to changing climate which can impact their habitat and food sources.

Today, I would like to talk about this year's caribou hunting season along with the Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter road, and how we are working with co-management partners to encourage a safe and respectful harvest. This is particularly important given the significant decline in many barren-ground caribou herds including a 99 percent decline in the size of the Bathurst herd since 1986. The Bathurst herd is now comprised of at least 6,240 caribou.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of caribou for the food security and know that current harvest restrictions have been hard on Indigenous people. ENR is working closely with Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations to support the conservation and recovery of the Bathurst herd while also supporting harvest from healthy caribou herds and other wildlife species.

As a Minister, I have been working with leaders from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, the Tlicho government, Lutselk'e Dene First Nation, North Slave Metis Alliance, Deninu Kue First Nation, Salt River First Nation, and the Northwest Territories Metis Nation to support the recovery of the Bathurst herd. An important part of this effort is the mobile zone, which was created in 2015.

The mobile zone is based on the current location of Bathurst herd by using satellite collars. It provides a buffer around the herd, which is kept as small as possible, and offers protection to the herd by prohibiting harvesting within this zone. This zone is maintained using a collaborative approach by the GNWT, the Tlicho government, and the Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board. It is also supported by various co-management partners.

Weekly maps are posted at ENR and community offices, online on the ENR website, and along the winter road to let people know where the mobile zone is. Officers along the winter road provide information to hunters and can help them load the map on their GPS.

ENR continues to have a strong enforcement presence along the winter road, including regular patrols by vehicle, snowmobile, and helicopter. So far this year, we have had three ongoing investigations of illegal harvest involving a total of 22 caribou. We are also working with community-based monitors and guardians established by some Indigenous co-management partners. They work with harvesters to provide up-to-date information about the mobile zone and about where caribou harvesting can be done legally.

But Mr. Speaker, enforcement is just part of the equation. We want to encourage traditional practices that will help sustain wildlife populations and support recovery of the Bathurst herd. ENR has many programs designed to encourage communities and individuals to get out on the land and to harvest, including the Community Harvesters Assistance Program and the Take a Family on the Land Program.

For many years ENR has provided funding to communities on the range of the Bathurst herd. This funding is intended to support harvesting from other healthy herds, and other species. I am pleased to hear from several successful community hunts which have provided meat to communities, including moose and caribou from the Beverly herd.

Last year we learned of the accessible Beverly caribou in an area outside the mobile zone where they had not historically been found. We worked with partners to provide harvesters with the appropriate authorizations to legally harvest in that area. Last December, we worked with the Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations to hold a gathering with respectful harvesters to listen to their advice on how to encourage safe and respectful harvesting practices.

In January, I met with Indigenous leaders to consider eight recommendations that came out of that meeting. We used "what we heard" from those harvesters to develop messaging, and we have improved our overall communications to reach a broader audience.

Mr. Speaker, respectful harvesting is a cornerstone of traditional values. The GNWT, and the support of co-management partners and Indigenous leaders, is working to encourage friends, family, and community members to harvest respectfully and legally. If you know anybody who may have wasted their harvest or hunted illegally, remind them that our collective goal is to ensure that there are caribou for our children and grandchildren. Encourage them to follow the Indigenous knowledge shared by leaders, elders, and respectful harvesters. Remind them to take only what they need from the area where harvesting is allowed, to take bulls and leave cows, and to share their caribou meat with elders and people in need.

Respectful harvesting is an important part of ensuring that these caribou herds remain healthy for generations to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 227-19(2): Cultural Safety Update
Ministers' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Member's Statement 1018-19(2): Tourism in Small Communities
Members' Statements

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'd like to begin today, Speaker, by acknowledging how good I look in my new vest, Mr. Speaker. And I'd like to thank the artisans who made it, Georgina Franki, a very talented seamstress, known to many of us as a Tlicho language instructor and to more of us in this House, particularly as our clerk, Jen's mom.

In addition, this beautiful beadwork, Mr. Speaker, is second to none and some of the best work I've ever seen and made none other than the Member for Monfwi, Mr. Speaker.

And there's a bit of a point to my fashion acknowledgement, Mr. Speaker, and that I would like everyone in this House to do everything they can to support our local artisans. And with March 1st and the return of tourism, Mr. Speaker, I'm proposing operation shakedown, where we do everything we can to get the money out of the hands of tourists and into the pockets of our local artisans, Mr. Speaker.

I'd like to see the Minister checking bags at the airport to make sure as people leave, they got enough furs, enough moccasins, enough carvings, and enough paintings, and they get on that plane and went what just happened?

In addition to that, Mr. Speaker, Yellowknife North, I'm starting to see tourists back already and it -- when you walk around Yellowknife North, you see lots of tourists, and I understand that; it is the best place on earth. But I often think, Mr. Speaker, that just coming to Yellowknife is not truly seeing the North. We all know that, that you have to get out into our communities and experience that. So, in addition to operation shakedown, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to propose operation get outta town.

And Mr. Speaker, I believe with a targeted approach and partnership with operators in our communities, we can get some of those visitors to make sure that when they visit the North, it's not just Yellowknife. I believe even a small percentage of those visitors who come to Yellowknife, if they tack on another destination, that is good for business for the small communities. It means jobs in those communities, and it really means an all-around better experience for those tourists.

I'll have questions for the Minister of ITI on what we can do to support our artisans and tourism in our small communities. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1018-19(2): Tourism in Small Communities
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Member's Statement 1019-19(2): Post-Pandemic Health Supports
Members' Statements

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, after that Member statement I think that we should just move on to oral questions.

Mr. Speaker, as we move from pandemic to an endemic response, our small communities will continue to be susceptible to COVID outbreaks and will require ongoing support and resources. Mr. Speaker, subject to weather conditions and location, several small communities are not easily accessible. With limited housing options, many families are experiencing overcrowding in homes which may create an unhealthy environment.

Furthermore, as reduced monitoring enforcement of CPHO orders begin, combined with increased number of workers, visitors, and residents entering the NWT, I am concerned for the health of those in small and remote communities. I do not want to see anyone forgotten once we are in our endemic response and beyond. Therefore, it is imperative that this government develop a well thought out plan that incorporates health supports to address any COVID or potential COVID outbreaks in any community going forward.

Mr. Speaker, as a start, one of the tools I would like to see provided to remote and small communities at no cost is antigen rapid test kits. These test kits must be made available through grocery stores, health centres, community governments, RCMP detachments, and NGOs. This would make certain that anyone who may require a test can access them in a timely manner which may help to reduce potential COVID outbreaks. It may not be the ultimate solution, but it allows one to monitor themself and family members.

Mr. Speaker, another tool we have is communication. Communication is an important aspect to providing health services in the NWT. At times, we disappoint in this area. We rely on professional healthcare staff in those small communities to do more than initially asked of them. That includes communicating this government's healthcare initiatives, programs, and limitations to residents.

Mr. Speaker, to provide comfort to residents, healthcare staff, communities, and Indigenous governments, we must effectively communicate to them that health supports will be provided post-COVID. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Minister of Health at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Member's Statement 1019-19(2): Post-Pandemic Health Supports
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1020-19(2): Allocation of Budgets
Members' Statements

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I'm going to talk about the funding gap between the small communities, regional centres, and that of the capital. Mr. Speaker, as an MLA representing a regional centre in the NWT, it is challenging at times to constantly have to fight for funding to be allocated to my community for certain initiatives, projects, or programs. I find myself getting frustrated and discouraged at times because it is always a battle between the capital and other regional centres and small communities for who or what gets funding. The rationale for where and what gets funding is sometimes unclear, unreasonable, and not logical.

Mr. Speaker, some communities are always taken care of no matter what. It's just a matter that the allocations of the budgets do not seem to be fair and do not address the needs of regional centres and small communities. The majority of these allocations almost always come at the expense of smaller communities and regional centres.

Mr. Speaker, I often wonder how budgetary funding allocation decisions are made by Cabinet. Is it broken down on a percentage basis, or is it allocated to each region and community based on population, on a per capita basis? Is it based on the needs and priorities of the government? Or is the budget based on the subjective views and opinions of Cabinet alone? These are very open questions.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that budgets always need to be negotiated. And being an MLA, it is not an easy job. However, I do not think this process needs to be as demoralizing or hostile as it can sometimes be. I also understand that regional politics has always been a factor in our democracy on both a national and territorial scale. That is the nature of our system. However, we also need to be able to bridge that divide and work together to find a mutual solution for all communities and regions. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to complete my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted.

Mr. Speaker, the small communities and regional centres seem to always be fighting over crumbs within our territorial budget. That does not seem fair at all and does not seem to be in line with the values of consensus government in my eyes. In fact, I sometimes question the effectiveness of consensus government given the way that some things are done in this building.

Overall, Mr. Speaker, I think our territorial budgetary process needs to be reevaluated as it currently stands. In my opinion, funding in our budget is allocated unevenly and is leaving the smaller communities and regional centres with less. I will have questions for the Minister of Finance later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1020-19(2): Allocation of Budgets
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1021-19(2): Positive Change Required for Small Communities
Members' Statements

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today our theme is focusing on small communities.

Small communities of the NWT are a major part of the identity and the uniqueness of the Northwest Territories. We have many beautiful communities and cultures from Alberta border all the way up to the Arctic coast, and our territory covers vast distances.

Mr. Speaker, our small communities also have a lot of needs some of the other largers take for granted. Some small communities have no doctor, and few don't even have a nurse full-time in their community. Some have no RCMP. Schools struggle for teachers in their community due to many reasons but one we've heard numerous times is the lack of housing. If someone is injured in a small community, they can't call an ambulance to bring them to the health centre. The graduation rates in our smaller communities are lower than the rest of the Northwest Territories. The unemployment rates are high in the small communities. Our residents in all communities struggle with mental health and addictions but in our small community, there are less support for them in their community. There is lack of housing available, which leads to family overcrowding. With overcrowding, Mr. Speaker, we have seen in the past years, like TB go through our communities, and then most recently COVID-19 hit some of our small communities very hard.

Mr. Speaker, these are things that I've heard from residents of the Northwest Territories coming from small communities and my colleagues here in the House.

Mr. Speaker, with the pandemic hopefully behind us now, it's time for us to get back to work on these and other important issues for our residents that they deserve. So, I look forward to working with my colleagues here today to really try to bring positive change for the people of small communities. Thank you, colleagues, and thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1021-19(2): Positive Change Required for Small Communities
Members' Statements

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.