This is page numbers 6787 - 6868 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

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for asking the question as well too. Within the housing portfolio, I did create a position that was specifically -- would conduct the engagement between the Indigenous governments and the communities as well, and to be working with us, the stakeholders, NGOs, so they would have an opportunity to apply for federal funding. To date, we have been quite successful. There has been 17 applications throughout the Northwest Territories. And one of them had actually been submitted by the Member's riding, the Deh Gah Gotie Nation. They're receiving $4.8 million to construct 18 units and to be also looking at six duplexes from Housing NWT, and we'd be looking at transferring the six units over to the community. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and mahsi to the Minister for that. She's mentioned only one community. And I've asked why, you know, it was for the whole of the Northwest Territories because there was many communities that were missed as per my Member's statement.

Mr. Speaker, although this may have been a federal program, shouldn't Housing NT be aware of any programs initiated by the federal government and received a head's up from the Liberal Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories and also from the NWT senator? Mahsi.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member, and I wish I got that information as well too. I wish we had the direct contact that as soon as those federal programs are announced that we would be first on their list for them to contact. But unfortunately, we're not. So that's why the position was created so they can provide that communication between myself and the CMHC and Canada to work with the Northwest Territories so we know what programs are out there and what programs we actually can apply for. But to date, we have received funding directly to Housing NWT and then also to the Indigenous governments.

In my earlier statements, there is $600 million throughout the Northwest Territories that has been allocated to Indigenous governments with working with housing, with the federal government, in order for us to put houses on the ground. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I think the Minister's really missing my point on this whole -- my Member's statement alluded to the Rapid Housing programs and the fact that the Housing NT Minister and staff didn't do enough to ensure that every community was going to get some units, because I'm saying everybody's been crying for housing, especially in the Beaufort Delta where there's really hard to get at the communities of like Sachs Harbour, Paulatuk, and Ulukhaktok. And these were 100 percent dollars for homes that could have been given to people. And I ask housing, you know, why were they not aware of the program? And they did say they hired somebody so why didn't they jump on that, CMHC, about the programs?

I would like to know if the Housing NT Minister and staff had any contact with CIRNAC regional director or the CMHC office to have serious conversations about the severe housing shortages in all our communities? After all, it is a treaty right for most and a relocation right for others. Mahsi.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you to the Member for the question. I just want to reiterate $600 million is here in the Northwest Territories for housing. Housing has travelled into the surrounding communities as well. We have established our community housing plans, which engages every single community in the Northwest Territories and looking at what their specific housing needs are. Right now in the Member's riding, Enterprise has completed their housing plan. Kakisa is in progress. And K'atlodeeche is completed. Fort Providence has not yet begun. And the reasoning for these community housing plans is a direct communication document between us and the federal government as well, Mr. Speaker.

And I want to say that within this portfolio, I've had several trips to Ottawa to specifically meet with Minister Vandal, Minister Hussen, and just recently Minister Shawn Fraser, and looking at the drastic needs for housing in the Northwest Territories. I feel that we've done significantly well throughout the North and working with Indigenous governments, also creating the Council of Leaders housing working table. Just want to say $600 million that has never been established in any of the years of this government and as long as we've existed. The last time we had a replenishment of housing units, Mr. Speaker, was in the 1970s. We made great progress. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Deh Cho.

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. And mahsi to the Minister of housing for that. I'm not even certain I've seen $600 million in Housing NWT budgets. So I'm not sure. There's still severe shortage of housing. The Member from Nunakput is still crying for housing. And still nothing is happening up there.

Mr. Speaker, does the housing Minister and staff truly believe that offloading housing rental stock to Indigenous organizations is a profitable business venture? Mahsi.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I just -- I want to correct the Member as well too. I don't want to say we're offloading units to Indigenous governments and to the smaller communities. These are business partnerships that we've engaged in conversation. The community is interested in some of our units. They want the unit transferred. And I am about working in partnership. Housing cannot solve the housing crisis on its own. We need the Indigenous governments at the table as well too.

And, Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that looking at what we've done so far, we've had a number of engagements throughout the Northwest Territories in addressing housing differently. If we're looking at repairing fuel tanks, if we're looking at repairing stairs, we do have a community housing initiative program there that the communities can apply to. Housing has been very active throughout this government, and I commend the work that housing has been doing. And there's -- believe me, there's a lot of work that still needs to be done. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in my Member's statement I talked about the federal Indian day school class action lawsuit. This lawsuit was based on physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, and culture genocide. You know, this class action lawsuit covered 650 First Nations throughout Canada and 33 communities in the Northwest Territories. Those compensations that were paid out were anywhere from level 5 to level 5, or $10,000 to $200,000.

Mr. Speaker, I've been getting a lot of calls, and constituents in my riding that were talking about how about the students after 1969. Because when you make application with the federal Indian day school class action lawsuit, you only could apply to April 1st, 1969. And then after 1969, the students were left out. But after April 1st, 1969, the GNWT took on the control of the education from Government of Canada, but the abuse continued for 16 years thereafter and the last residential school and day school ended in 1996.

So my question to the Premier would be given the compelling argument for extending the federal day school compensation program to include Indigenous students who attended GNWT operating schools after April 1st, 1969, can you provide a stance on this matter and your government's willingness to advocate for these students' rights to seek compensation? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Madam Premier.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to say how old I am, but I know I was in school in 1969 here in the Northwest Territories. So if former students though, Mr. Speaker, feel that they've suffered the same abuses as those in federally-run schools, then, Mr. Speaker, they need to seek legal advice to look at any recourse that they can get through the courts. I'm not saying that abuses didn't happen. I was a student there. I seen some things. I experienced some things. But I'm not aware of any specific allegations that have come across my desk as Premier so I can't state on that. I do understand that the Member feels that the schools that were run by the GNWT after 1969 operated under the same principles as the federally-run day schools but this contention needs further examination. What I do know, Mr. Speaker, is that under legislation established through this Assembly, schools have not had their purpose as systematic assimilation of Indigenous people since the GNWT take over it. It was not about cultural genocide. It was about educating students, Mr. Speaker.

And I think the other point that needs to be made is that schools in the NWT have been operating with considerable community involvement. It's not the same way that the federal day schools or the federal residential schools were operated. So I think that having the community involvement, the different priorities of educating our students, is in itself different from the federal day schools or the residential schools. But, Mr. Speaker, again, anyone that feels that they have been abused in any school, right up to today, should seek legal advice in my opinion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And, yeah, I agree that, you know, the schools have changed from then to now where it is today. You know, after April 1st, 1969, the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church have assumed the contract for 16 years with the GNWT and then the last school ended in 1996, so.

Also, Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank the Premier for tabling this document, you know, looking into my questions that I had put forward back in June.

In light of the fact that the GNWT received federal funding to operate schools after April 1st, 1969, the cutoff date for the federal day school class action lawsuit, what steps is your government taking to ensure that Indigenous students who attended these schools - GNWT school run such as Chief Jimmy Bruneau School, St. Patrick School - are not excluded from seeking compensation from the injustice they endured? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This litigation was filed against the federal government. So my understanding is that membership in the class of former students covered by the federal day school class action lawsuit is determined by the particular requirements of that litigation. I don't have that on hand. That was against the federal government. But, again, I do recommend that any student that feels that they've been abused in any way at any time should seek legal advice. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, Premier. Could you please elaborate on your ongoing discussions or collaboration between the GNWT and the federal government to address the historical mistreatment and cultural alienation and experience by Indigenous students in the NWT operating schools after April 1st, 1969, particularly in light of the federal government's responsibility in funding these institutions? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I don't remember what sitting it was, but the Member did ask me to bring it forward, the concerns to the Premier of Nunavut and to the federal government. I did make a commitment in the House that I would do that, and I'm pleased to report that I have had discussions with the Premier in Nunavut and I have brought the concern to the federal government as per my commitment. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Madam Premier. Oral questions. Final supplementary. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And thank you, Premier. Premier, what measures is your government considering to support Indigenous survivors who attended GNWT-operated schools after April 1st, 1969, in their pursuit of justice and healing, and how can we ensure that their voices are heard in this critical matter of truth and reconciliation? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I've said numerous times in public events, etcetera, that I believe in my heart, I truly believe, that part of the healing process is actually being able to share your story. I experienced that when I practised social work myself, and I always found that the more people can share their stories the load just comes off somehow. It is part of the healing journey. So I do know that we have various counselling supports in the NWT, some through the health and social services, but also some that aren't recognized. Supports that people don't see as traditional. I know when I worked at the Yellowknife Women's Society, I spoke a lot to people that were Indigenous and went through residential schools. I know Native Women's is there as well, the Salvation Army. So the key, Mr. Speaker, is if you have any trauma of any sort, please seek help, whether that be through recognized counselling supports or family or friends or agencies that are there to support you. Don't tackle it on your own. Speaking is healing. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Madam Premier. Oral questions. Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I mentioned in my Member's statement, my questions are for the Premier. On a mandate, we said increased regional decision-making authority was a priority. The mandate stated that there will be a departmental review. What came of that departmental review and if any significant changes that were made? Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Madam Premier.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I actually had to pull my notes for this one. It's been a while since I got questions on this so -- but it's good that the Member brought it up because it shouldn't be forgotten.

So I do know that in 2021-2022 that we engaged with regional senior managers and headquarters to look at the perceptions around the decision-making authority in the regions. We did an internal review as well of the job descriptions to make sure that there wasn't any differences. Within that review, we found there was no difference in the job description between a regional senior manager and a headquarters regional manager. So then it told us that probably the likelihood is training. So we initiated some training courses that'll be ongoing to be able to give senior managers in the regions more training and what is -- the powers that they do have.

We also had discussions with the deputy ministers of all departments to make sure that they understood as well, Mr. Speaker. And then we also hired a consultant to actually get more information. So I think, Mr. Speaker, we got the engagement. We got suggestions. We listened to them. We implemented training. We talked to DMs. But hearing the conversations from the Member, clearly, there's still an issue. And so clearly, this needs to be looked into again, and we need to do more. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Lesa Semmler

Lesa Semmler Inuvik Twin Lakes

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you to the Premier. I guess, yeah, that -- when we made this mandate -- or this priority, my envision when we all agreed is that it would increase our powers in the region and just, like -- I don't know, I haven't heard anything. Is it all -- has it increased if somebody can approve somebody's annual leave? So I'm asking the Premier if there was any significant changes from these reviews and all of this stuff and training that gave power to the regions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, in reviewing the job descriptions, in theory the regional senior managers should have the exact same authority as managers at headquarters. So, again, it's something, like I said -- I'm hearing it's more than just training. We need to make sure that our deputy ministers are aware. We need to make sure that every department, every Minister, is aware that this is an issue and speak to your deputy ministers, speak to headquarters because we are -- deputy ministers are headquarters -- to make sure that the regions have the autonomy, the authority that is vested in them, that is granted within their job descriptions, to make sure that they have the abilities to make decisions for their residents as outlined in their job descriptions. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.