This is page numbers 4497 - 4544 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. C. Cochrane, Mr. Edjericon (remote), 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 10:02 a.m.

---Prayer

Prayer
Prayer

Page 4497

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Minister's Statement 258-19(2): Distinctions-Based Funding Announcement
Ministers' Statements

Page 4497

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to acknowledge the efforts of Indigenous governments and the federal government on their approach in addressing housing and infrastructure needs.

I would like to congratulate the Gwich'in Tribal Council, the Tlicho government, and the Deline Got'ine government, on the recent federal funding announcement of $78.6 million for community infrastructure and housing. This funding includes:

  • $11.4 million for the Deline Got'ine government;
  • $25.1 million for the Gwich'in Tribal Council; and
  • $42.1 million for the Tlicho government.

Mr. Speaker, the success of these Indigenous governments in accessing this funding directly from Canada is to be celebrated. It will allow them to chart their own course and address the areas they decide are their top priorities.

Mr. Speaker, this funding does not in any way reduce Housing Northwest Territories' obligation and commitment to providing housing supports in the regions receiving funding. This funding is in addition to Housing Northwest Territories' unprecedented new public housing delivery across the Northwest Territories.

If and when called upon, Mr. Speaker, I want to confirm that Housing NWT looks forward to working collaboratively with these Indigenous governments to realize their housing-related goals, whether this involves sharing blueprints, expertise, or other assistance.

We also stand ready to support Indigenous governments with applications for other available funding that can be accessed for housing priorities, such as the Rapid Housing Initiative and the National Co-Investment Fund.

Mr. Speaker, consistent with Housing NWT's strategic renewal, we support all approaches to increase the total funding for housing to serve citizens of the Northwest Territories. The GNWT will continue to advocate for direct housing funding to all territorial Indigenous governments for funding.

We cannot address the territories' extensive housing needs alone. In collaboration, we need Housing Northwest Territories to stand to work with our partners, whether that be Indigenous governments, the federal government, private industry, or non-governmental organizations to address the housing needs of the territory.

Mr. Speaker, it is my hope and expectation that I will have the opportunity to highlight and celebrate the successes of other Housing Northwest Territories partners here in the Legislative Assembly in the future. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 258-19(2): Distinctions-Based Funding Announcement
Ministers' Statements

Page 4497

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 259-19(2): Update on Health System Human Resources
Ministers' Statements

June 3rd, 2022

Page 4498

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Good morning, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to update Members on the work being done to recruit and retain health and social services staff in the Northwest Territories. This work responds to the mandate commitment of the 19th Legislative Assembly to increase the number of resident healthcare professionals by at least 20 percent.

The recruitment and retention of health and social services professionals has become increasingly high profile over the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has made shortages of health and social services personnel across Canada worse. The department has identified several reasons for the shortages we are experiencing here in the NWT, and they are working hard to address these issues.

Mr. Speaker, the market for nurses and other health professionals has become increasingly competitive across the country. The result is staff shortages and service reductions or closures in many jurisdictions, including our own.

Within the Northwest Territories, these challenges became more serious last summer and led to the temporary closure of the obstetrics unit for three months for the first time in 20 years.

Despite these challenges, I am pleased to report that the most recent vacancy rate data is trending downward for positions that the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority is actively recruiting. These positions include child and family services positions, licensed practical nurses, and registered nurses. Still, we recognize that the recruitment and retention of health and social services professionals requires a sustained effort.

The health and social services system human resources plan, which will be tabled later today, provides a roadmap for how we will continue and enhance recruitment and retention efforts over the long term. Several of the plan's initiatives are specifically designed to attract Indigenous and northern residents to pursue careers in this field.

Mr. Speaker, our vision is to establish a robust and representative workforce supported by strong leadership and an organizational culture rooted in the principles of cultural safety and anti-racism. I believe achieving this vision will allow our workforce to thrive and, in turn, support continuous improvement in the delivery of health and social services to meet our goal of best health, best care, for a better future for NWT residents.

The plan's overall success will be measured through improved employee engagement and satisfaction, decreased vacancy and turnover rates, and increased representation of Indigenous and northern employees.

To attract more Indigenous people and Northerners into these careers, we have created the Annual NWT Health and Social Services Career Guide, with the 2022 edition launching this month. We are also rolling out the Graduate Transition Program to support new graduates moving into permanent positions within the health and social services system. The clinical observership and job shadowing programs will provide additional tools to encourage youth to explore health and social services careers.

The Family Medicine Residency Program begins its third intake of doctors this July, with our first two residents graduating from the program this month. This vital program is helping to develop, recruit, and retain local family physicians committed to living and working in the Northwest Territories.

To better understand why staff are leaving, we began conducting exit interviews and staff movement surveys over the past year. We also began sending new staff entry surveys three months after their start date to help us understand their experiences and address their concerns early in their career with us.

Using the data and insights gathered from these interviews and surveys, we have been able to prioritize certain action items within human resources that focus specifically on employee engagement and are key to addressing a decline in staff morale and overall staff retention.

This summer, we will launch an updated orientation program, as well as a strategic onboarding framework for all new staff, as well as for those who are new to their position. These programs welcome new employees and help them integrate into their role and environment. They also provide new employees with development opportunities and mentorship.

The launch of a system-wide learning management system to support equal access to mandatory and job specific training is still on track for this summer.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to the launch of the Elsevier Clinical Solutions in November 2021, two new programs have recently launched to support nursing and nursing development.

The Specialized Nursing Transition Program will assist registered nurses who wish to expand their scope of practice into specialized areas. It will start as a pilot program within the obstetrics unit at Stanton, and then expand to all specialty areas within the system.

The Community Health Nursing Competency Program provides training to nurses to develop the competencies required for practice in a community health nurse setting.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would once again like to express my gratitude to the staff within the health and social services system for their continued hard-work and dedication to the well-being of residents of the Northwest Territories. The entire health and social services leadership team recognizes and appreciates their tireless efforts during challenging times. We remain committed to providing the tools and supports needed for our workforce to thrive and succeed. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 259-19(2): Update on Health System Human Resources
Ministers' Statements

Page 4499

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for the Status of Women.

Minister's Statement 260-19(2): Update on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Ministers' Statements

Page 4499

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, today is the third-year anniversary of the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. I wish to honour the Indigenous women and girls and gender-diverse people who have lost their lives or who have experienced or continue to experience trauma and violence.

Mr. Speaker, most people in the Northwest Territories, and certainly everyone in this room, knows someone who has attended a residential or day school, whose grandparent lost a family member during the 50s and 60s tuberculosis outbreak, or whose sibling was taken away during the 60s Scoop. We may also know someone whose friend, sister, or mother, suffered from violence or who was taken away from her family too soon.

Rooted in systemic factors, this violence is often the results of economic, social, and political marginalization, as well as racism and discrimination. The emotional and psychological effects of these events and actions manifest into the present day, with multi-generational and intergenerational trauma continuing to impact Indigenous people in the Northwest Territories and across Canada.

I have said this before, and will continue to say, violence against Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people is a crisis that demands an urgent response. Those words come from the Native Women's Association Northwest Territories' first of four core recommendations to the national inquiry calling on all levels of Canadian leadership to acknowledge this crisis.

Mr. Speaker, despite the increased attention being paid, the crisis is far from over and, therefore, we must continue to meaningfully and sincerely acknowledge.

In December of 2021, I tabled the GNWT's draft action plan in response to the Calls for Justice on the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people. Entitled "Changing the Relationship," the draft action plan aims to transform the GNWT's approach to service delivery and begin to undo the effects of colonialism and racial and gendered discrimination from all levels of government and public institutions.

The gender equity unit is expected to begin visiting communities in the spring to talk to people about our draft action plan and how we propose to respond to the Calls for Justice. Our territory's gradual emergence from the pandemic stalled our progress in gathering people together, but we are making important progress.

Just this week, the GNWT and the Native Women's Association of the Northwest Territories co-hosted an Indigenous language terminology workshop with interpreters and elders on common terms related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls and gender-based violence. The purpose of the workshop was to address potential language barriers that may prevent residents from providing feedback on the draft action plan.

The terminology workshop was an important first step ahead of further community engagement on the action plan. Over the summer, we will visit communities throughout the Northwest Territories to engage with Indigenous governments, community governments, and all Northwest Territories residents about the Calls for Justice and our draft response. The work done at the terminology workshop will be incorporated into the development of Indigenous language materials for community discussions, leading to more meaningful engagement with elders and people with lived experience. Materials will also be available online and distributed in advance of all public engagements.

Earlier this week, I had the honour to share lunch with the participants at the translators' workshop. It was a deeply moving experience. When I walked in, the room was almost literally buzzing. Groups of elders, knowledge-keepers, and language experts representing almost all of the official languages of the Northwest Territories were each gathered at tables. They were not merely asking how to explain a particular word in a different language. They were discussing the root meanings of those words and the cultural understanding or expression underlying it.

When I was there, the group was wrapping up discussion around the translation of 2SLGBTQ and QIA peoples. Representatives from several tables stood to summarize their discussions.

From one table, I heard that historically sexuality, sexual preferences, and gender expression was more fluid and that discrimination against 2SLGBTQQIA peoples was something taught or imposed by colonialism.

I learned that there were traditional words for people whose genders had changed after birth and there was no disrespectfulness associated with this. Rather, it reflected the individual as a person.

From more than one table, I heard sadness and frustration at the cultural loss of the traditional esteem once accorded to two-spirited people. The speakers described that people who were gifted with elements of both genders were revered because having gifts incorporating both genders placed them closer to the Creator.

Mr. Speaker, imagine the impact as communities reclaim this kind of knowledge. Imagine the impact when leadership and governments reflect these kinds of cultural and social understandings. This is a reminder of why our draft action plan must be more than a collection of discrete actions department by department but, rather, a way of thinking and serving that builds on seeing people as they are, where they are, and builds trust.

Mr. Speaker, the release of the final report of the national inquiry was momentous and brought to the forefront the need for change in all levels of leadership, all governments and across society. Social change takes time, but we have an opportunity to take an active role in a process of change to improve the safety and well-being of Northwest Territories Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Minister's Statement 260-19(2): Update on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Ministers' Statements

Page 4500

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Minister's Statement 261-19(2): Acknowledging Education Hall of Fame Inductees and 2022 Grade 12 Graduates
Ministers' Statements

Page 4500

R.J. Simpson Hay River North

Mr. Speaker, as another school year comes to a close for students across the Northwest Territories, I would like to recognize this year's graduates. Whether they are graduating from kindergarten, high school, or a post-secondary institution like Aurora College, the territory's graduates have a lot to be proud of.

---Applause

The pandemic has created unprecedented disruptions in every sector of society. The last two years have posed great challenges for residents, with the impacts of COVID-19 taking an emotional, mental and physical toll on the health and well-being of NWT residents, communities, businesses and industries, and these impacts extend to NWT's students and educators.

Mr. Speaker, during the pandemic many educational institutions in the NWT closed their doors for in-person learning with lessons moving online and in-person exchanges replaced with virtual interactions. Teachers had to change the way they taught and students had to change the way they learned. It was a challenging time, Mr. Speaker, and this year's graduates persevered and have shown resiliency and dedication, skills that will help them achieve even more success in the future.

Despite the excitement of graduation, it is important to acknowledge that the impacts of COVID-19 on students and educators are still very real and may be felt for months and years to come. The Department of Education, Culture and Employment has been compiling information on school closures and remote learning to inform future decision-making. We are currently using existing wellness data, referrals for school-based mental health and wellness services, and academic progress reports provided by education bodies to monitor the needs of NWT students and guide future decisions and supports.

While there is not a single solution to the challenges that result from school closures and remote learning, ECE provides support services that can help, including mental wellness counselling through the child and youth care counselling initiative and career and education advising to help our students prepare to take their next life step. In addition, the annual territorial teachers conference this fall will focus on how to best support learning and instruction post-pandemic.

Mr. Speaker, as part of the NWT's graduation ceremonies, in the coming weeks eight deserving individuals will be inducted into the NWT Education Hall of Fame for 2021 and 2022. Reading the nomination letters was a wonderful reminder of the important role that educators play in students' lives and careers. Not only do they equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to pursue their education and career goals, but they also help students build the confidence to dream big and set high expectations for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, pursuing any level of education is never easy, but we do it because it is important. It is important to each of us as individuals, and it is important to all of us as a community. The knowledge and skills we gain through education benefit everyone, and create a stronger and more resilient territory.

Mr. Speaker, congratulations to the graduating class of 2022. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 261-19(2): Acknowledging Education Hall of Fame Inductees and 2022 Grade 12 Graduates
Ministers' Statements

Page 4501

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Member's Statement 1140-19(2): Congratulations to Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 4501

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I just wanted to let you know I wrote that statement for the Minister.

No, just kidding.

Mr. Speaker, as this school year ends, I would like to recognize and congratulate all those students from Hay River, Enterprise, West Point First Nation, and K'atlodeeche First Nation, who are graduating from Ecole Boreale, Diamond Jenness Secondary School, Chief Sunrise Education Centre, and Aurora College. I know that each of the graduates will not forget the year they graduated. This year it will not because of COVID but it will be remembered as the year of extensive flooding.

Mr. Speaker, we can all appreciate and acknowledge the commitment, sacrifice, and the years of hard work these students put in to achieve their status as graduates. These students started their educational journey as young children and have now finished as young adults. That chapter has now closed and it is time to take that next step, whether it is to further their education, join the workforce, or travel the world. It is only the beginning of their new journey.

Mr. Speaker, the only advice I would offer each student is show respect to others, show compassion to others, and always be open to new ideas. And most importantly, follow your dreams and passion as it will be each of you who will shape the future.

Mr. Speaker, for the graduates to achieve the success each celebrates, we must recognize the parents, caregivers, family, and those teachers who, throughout the years, supported and encouraged each of you to succeed. In the future, I hope that each graduate will look back and understand the importance of this achievement and, in turn, convey the importance of education while sharing their experience with others as they move forward in life.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I congratulate the graduates of 2022 and wish them all a bright, successful, and healthy future. Thank you Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1140-19(2): Congratulations to Graduates
Members' Statements

Page 4501

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Here, here. Members' statements. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Member's Statement 1141-19(2): Hunters and Trappers Disaster Assistance
Members' Statements

Page 4501

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in June of 2020, I raised the impact of flooding that caused many of my constituents and at that time, I was advised that the hunters and trapper disaster compensation could help. This program, harvesters must earn at least 25 percent of their gross income from renewable resource harvesting to be eligible, and they could be eligible up to a maximum of $4,500 per occurrence for damage or loss by natural disaster other than forest fires according to the guidelines by ENR at this time.

Mr. Speaker, on February 12th, 2021, there was a news article quoting that the department has increased its harvester disaster compensation and in this article, the article stated that the residents that were impacted by the Taltson River flood could be eligible for up to $40,000 in financial relief.

On March 4th, 2021, the Minister committed to a commitment to review the hunters and trappers disasters compensation as well. Mr. Speaker, this year, the water in Inuvik area is higher than any previous year. So those ones that were not affected two years ago by the flood were pretty much all were affected this year. And now we're in the process of assessing the damage.

I would like my residents the same opportunity that was given to the residents impacted by the Taltson River flooding to ensure that ENR regional office in Inuvik has clear direction from the deputy minister's office and the Minister's office that they will be given the same consideration.

Mr. Speaker, with the cost of building supplies and the increased fuel costs, as well as inflation, $4,500 is not going to go a long way.

I will have questions for the Minister of ENR. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Member's Statement 1141-19(2): Hunters and Trappers Disaster Assistance
Members' Statements

Page 4502

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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