This is page numbers 1 - 16 of the Hansard for the 20th Assembly, 1st 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 assembly.

Members Present

Ms. Cleveland, Mr. Edjericon, Mr. Hawkins, Mrs. Kuptana, Mr. MacDonald, Mr. McKay, Mr. McNeely, Ms. Morgan, Mr. Morse, Mr. Nerysoo, Ms. Reid, Mr. Rodgers, Ms. Semmler, Mr. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Ms. Wawzonek, Mrs. Weyallon Armstrong, Mrs. Yakeleya.

The House met at 10:00 A.M.

---Drum Prayer



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The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

I guess I'm supposed to recognize former Members in the House here; I'd like to recognize Cabinet Minister -- former Minister Paulie Chinna from the Sahtu, and my favorite MLA from Hay River South, presently, Mr. Rocky Simpson. So welcome to our Chamber.

Thank you, Members, for the trust you have afforded me as your Speaker. So far in our preliminary meetings as the 20th Assembly, I can tell this group is thoughtful, solution orientated, and most of all motivated to make this territory the best it can be be. It will be my honour to serve as Speaker for the 20th Assembly of the Northwest Territories.

I want to those watching to know that while most well-known role of Speaker is to uphold the rules of decorum of the House, there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. As Speaker, I will also chair the Board of Management, which makes decisions and policies for the Legislative Assembly. I will also be responsible for educating residents about what it is that we do here, and I am energized to do this because I believe in this institution. Most importantly, I will continue to advocate for my constituents back home. My priority will always be the needs of my constituents. It is where I come, it is my home, and I will make their needs are met. Colleagues, I promise to do everything in my power to be a Speaker that enables in-depth debate of ideas and legislation, a Speaker that enforces the rules that allow us to exercise our freedom of speech while respecting privilege, order and decorum, and a Speaker that carries myself with the same tact and resect that I expect from each of us in the Chamber.

As you know, today we start a new generation of doing things differently. We started off with a prayer using our traditional language and this will be continued every of our session. I will be talking to each Member to see if we have elders that we would like to bring in to come in and do opening prayer to make this a more inclusive Assembly for people in this House.

Mr. Clerk, would you please ascertain if the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, the Honourable Margaret Thom, is prepared to enter the Chamber and open the first session of the 20th Legislative Assembly.

Commissioner's Address
Commissioner's Address

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The Commissioner Of The Northwest Territories Margaret M. Thom

Mahsi, please be seated.

[Translation] I would like to say thank you for seeing everybody with all my heart. There are a lot of people that live in here in the Northwest Territories that I'm working on behalf of and representing. So I'd like to say thank you to each one of you. [Translation Ends].

It is once again an honour for me to be in this great House, and I'm pleased to welcome each and every one of you to the first session of the 20th Assembly of the Northwest Territories. I wish to acknowledge that the land on which we gather are treaty lands and the home to many Indigenous people, including the Dene, the Inuvialuit, Metis, and Inuit. We are grateful to be on this great land.

I begin by extending my sincere congratulations to the returning Members, three of whom were acclaimed. By being acclaimed or re-elected, it shows that your constituents have great confidence in you, and they know you will continue to serve them to the best of your abilities. I also extend congratulations to the newly elected Members of this Legislative Assembly and welcome you to our consensus form of government.

We must also take time to extend sincere thanks to the past Members who have served their constituents and our territory in this House. We thank them for their hard work and contributions to the betterment of the quality of life for residents of the Northwest Territories. I know they are making plans to enjoy much needed time with their families and friends.

To all those who ran and were not elected, please know that your desire to serve the people of the Northwest Territories is greatly appreciated. I encourage you to continue to find ways to work for the benefit of all NWT residents.

I would like to welcome all guests in the public gallery and those who are watching these. Proceedings on television. In the public gallery and in the communities are spouses, families and friends who should be thanked for their continued love and support. As MLAs you will all need their support to carry out the important work that you will do for the people of our territory.

At this time, I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to the new Premier, Mr. R.J. Simpson, and his newly elected Cabinet:

  • Mrs. Lucy Kuptana,
  • Ms. Lesa Semmler,
  • Mr. Jay MacDonald,
  • Mr. Vince McKay,
  • Ms. Caitlin Cleveland, and
  • Ms. Caroline Wawzonek.

I would like to congratulate Mr. Shane Thompson as his acclamation as Speaker. The Members of this Legislative Assembly will be well served by the fair, good judgment, and experience you bring to this vital position. I wish you the very best and have every confidence that you will be successful in your role as Speaker. Mahsi cho.

As Members of this Legislative Assembly and of this House, you will be faced with many challenges during the next four years. Therefore, it is very important that you maintain a healthy balance in your life between work and family. Mental health is of the utmost importance. You will need to weigh your time, family, commitments, and important work that you will be involved in. Take care of your physical, spiritual, emotional, and mental health so that you can carry out your duties as Members of this Legislative Assembly.

My good wishes are extended to each and every one of you, and I am confident that you will serve your constituents and the people of the Northwest Territories with fairness and to the very best of your abilities. As elders say deliberate respectfully, be attentive, and listen to each other and to your constituents. Share information and your knowledge so that you can make wise decisions.

Mr. Speaker, before declaring open this first session of the 20th Legislative Assembly, I would like to invite all Members and visitors in the public gallery to a reception in the Great Hall after the swearing in of the Executive Council, which will take place at 3 p.m. this afternoon.

As we approach this blessed festive season, I encourage you all to spend quality, meaningful, and joyful time with your family and friends. Participate in and enjoy all the festivities in your constituency as I am sure your presence will be welcomed and appreciated.

From the Office of the Northwest Territories Commissioner and on behalf of my family, I extend to you a very merry and safe Christmas. Safe travels as you journey home to your loved ones.

As Commissioner of the Northwest Territories, I now declare open the first session of the 20th Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories. Thank you. Merci Beaucoup. Mahsi Cho. Quanani. Koana.

Commissioner's Address
Commissioner's Address

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The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Members. We will now continue with the orders of the day. Item No. 3, Members' statements. Recognition of visitors -- oh, Members' statements; you're too slow, Member from Hay River South. Member from Hay River South.

Vince McKay

Vince McKay Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. December 5th recognizes International Volunteers Day. I express my gratitude to all the volunteers of the Northwest Territories; however, today I wish to take a moment to appreciate and extend my thanks, our thanks, to the emergency services across the region. A significant number of our fire departments in the Northwest Territories rely on volunteers who respond to local emergencies in a moment's notice, whether facing 30 degree temperatures, minus 30, plus 30, or dealing with emergencies of a variety of severity, these community Members willingly volunteer to answer the call of duty. It is imperative that our government acknowledge these individuals formally at some point and not rely solely on word of mouth.

Over the past weekend, I attended the 65th Annual Firefighters Ball in Hay River, the longest running annual event in the community. This event serves as an opportunity to recognize the efforts of the local fire department and ambulance service. This year was particularly unique with the events of the past year, and it was shared with approximately 30 Alberta structural firefighters and representatives from the Yellowknife airport fire department. These individuals at a moment's notice came to Hay River to aid and assist in the wild land fire fight, contributing significantly to saving the community. They were duly recognized and appreciated for their commendable work.

Another exceptional moment was a recognition of one individual with over 40 years of service. Ross Potter, having served as a firefighter, a retired full-time chief. He continues to serve as a volunteer firefighter. Ross has played a pivotal role in the development of the training of the Hay River fire department and has been involved in training with local communities throughout the Northwest Territories. His dedication has earned him the title of Firefighter of the Year in Hay River which he last earned in 1984. On behalf of myself, I extend heartfelt congratulations to Ross and express gratitude for his service and dedication to the Northwest Territories.

And I would also like to take this time to thank all our emergency services throughout the NWT who protect us. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Hay River South. Member from Thebacha.

Jay MacDonald

Jay MacDonald Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I would like to thank the constituents of Thebacha. I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to each one of you for your trust and support in electing me to be your representative in the 20th Assembly. This journey has been made possible through the dedication and the hard work of my incredible election team whose commitment has been unwavering.

To my esteemed colleagues of the 20th Assembly, your trust and support mean the world to me. I am honoured and humbled to serve alongside each dedicated individual in this Assembly.

To my beloved family - my wife Karen, my children Jaycee, Shawn and Kurt - your unwavering support has been my anchor and I thank you for standing by me on this journey.

I am excited about the opportunity to contribute to our territory's well-being and, particularly, to working with all of the Members of this House. With your commitment and support, I am eager to work collaboratively with all Members, the Indigenous and municipal governments of the Northwest Territories, and all of its residents, to bring positive change and progress not only to Thebacha but the whole NWT. Thank you, all. And Seasons Greetings. Mahsi cho.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Thebacha. Member from the Sahtu.

Daniel McNeely

Daniel McNeely Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I too would like to acknowledge the voting outcome of November the 14th and respectfully thank the voters in putting their trust in me from the Sahtu region and also thank the Members of the House here on their voting outcomes of yesterday. And in closing, I wish everybody a safe holiday season with their families and safe travels to wherever your destinations may take you and also recognizing the staff of the House and the people in the gallery, safe holidays. Mahsi cho.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from the Sahtu. The Member from Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying congratulations to our new Premier-elect and Executive Council elected Members. I look forward to working with you all to advance our common interest in making changes to improve the lives of NWT residents, especially those in small communities; we have to remember them.

As we get to business in the 20th Assembly and establish the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, I want to make sure we take steps to establish a new administration region for the Tlicho. Over the past few years, I have raised this concern several times in the House. The Tlicho Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement was signed in 2003 by representative of the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council and the Government of the Northwest Territories and Government of Canada.

The government -- the GNWT recognizes the Tlicho are distinct. We have distinct language, culture, and way of life. Through the Tlicho agreement, the Tlicho gained the tools and resources to strengthen our economy and protect and promote Tlicho culture, language, heritage, lands and resources. Currently, the Tlicho Community Services Agency delivers a number of programs and services including those from the Government of the Northwest Territories.

As more self-government agreements are signed and Indigenous government draw down jurisdiction for programs and services, the Government of the Northwest Territories need to adapt and reevaluate the current administrative region. Creating a separate region would allow us to make better decisions on behalf of Tlicho people and more authority to support Tlicho peoples' needs especially during times of emergency.

During the wildfire emergencies over 2023, it took days before the GNWT had meaningful discussions with this region and its leaders. We need to move away from centralized decision-making structures that fail to consider the needs of residents outside of Yellowknife. Mr. Speaker, I speak unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, the development of a Tlicho administrative region aligns with the spirit of the NWT's United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Implementation Act, quote, The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to taking effective measures, including legislative and policy and administrative measures in collaborations and cooperations with Indigenous people to achieve the objectives of the declaration, end quote.

To better serve Tlicho residents --

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

I'm just concluding.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

I will give you 30 extra seconds. Thank you, Member from Monfwi. Member from Range Lake.

Kieron Testart

Kieron Testart Range Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to start our first sitting, at least from my point of view, with some good vibes. I think we all had a long day yesterday but it's great to see we have a new Executive Council in place and Regular Members who are finding their roles to provide accountability and oversight for the next years of governance. And I want to congratulate Premier-elect and the Cabinet-elect.

I too would also like to thank my constituents. It's a joy to be back in the Legislative Assembly speaking for my friends, my family, and my neighbours, my neighbourhood, and being able to be a strong voice for Range Lake after a period of time [indiscernible] at the Cabinet table. I think it is going to allow us to raise some issues that are important to my constituents and put some much-needed attention on areas that need to be addressed. But I do think the collaborative spirit here is strong. I think this Assembly is still on track to move mountains and address the challenges we have, again with hope, hard work, and spirit of collaboration and friendship. And I very much look forward to getting to work. And now that we've put the elections out of our way, our last round of elections for a while I hope, we can start that process of getting to work.

I'd also like to thank my family - my wife Colleen, my children Corbin, Eve and Leander. They were here with me every step of the way on the campaign trail. They were attending in the gallery during the last speeches that were made and the elections that were had. And I would not be here without them, and what I do is for my kids and for all of our kids, and it's a constant reminder of who I serve and why I am in this place.

So with that I will say, because we're not sitting again after -- until after the holidays, I'll say Happy Holidays to my constituents and to all of you, and I hope you have time with your loved ones over the break. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Range Lake. Member from Nunakput.

Lucy Kuptana

Lucy Kuptana Nunakput

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I'd like to echo my colleagues' comments here. There's a lot of hope in this Assembly, and we're all willing to work together and work hard and lead.

I just want to offer my appreciation to the constituents of Nunakput for electing me. And like I've told them before, I am willing to work and work hard for them, recognizing all the challenges we have, especially in the vast and remote riding that is Nunakput.

Many of us are going through the holiday season and going into this thinking of Christmas and spending time with our family, but I also want to offer condolences to the family, the Chicksi family, the Kasook family in Tuktoyaktuk, the Koudluk family in Ulukhaktok, and also the Taylor family who are experiencing a loss right now, and I want to express my condolences to them. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Nunakput. Member from the Deh Cho.

Sheryl Yakeleya

Sheryl Yakeleya Deh Cho

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank all my constituents. I am honoured and humbled to be here to serve all my constituents and all my riding of the Deh Cho.

I would like to thank my family, especially my husband Norman and my children for supporting me, as well as my sisters. I have six sisters, and they all supported me and my brother, and all the constituents.

I would like to congratulate the Premier-elect and all the Members of the Cabinet. I wish them all the success in their new roles. I look forward to working with each and every one of you.

And I also want to wish my constituents a Merry Christmas. May you enjoy a safe and happy holiday with your family. I look forward to seeing you all in the new year and getting to business. Mahsi cho.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from the Deh Cho. Member from Frame Lake.

Julian Morse

Julian Morse Frame Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all, congratulations to our new Premier-elect and to our new Cabinet. I am very excited to work and collaborate with you.

Frame Lake, thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting your trust in me. I am deeply humbled by the election results and promise you I am going to put everything I possibly can into working to represent you, your best interests, and those of the territory. This is not something I take lightly in the slightest and the importance of staying grounded and focused on constituency work is something I am strongly committed to. I want to thank everyone who took time out of their days and evenings to speak with me at the doors, send me messages, and share deeply personal stories about what is important to you and what you want your MLA to achieve.

Thank you to the other candidates who put their names forward. It was a great campaign, and I appreciated how respectful the tone of things stayed while we debated and fought to be the voice for this riding.

Thank you also to all the volunteers who helped me behind the scenes, to those who donated to my campaign, and everyone who voiced their support. I couldn't have done it without your help.

And an extra special thank you to my beloved partner Rheanna who has been my rock and brought so much peace into my life during the most intense and all-consuming thing I have ever done. And I would like to pay special tribute to my trusty dog Jake who stayed by my side for 13 of the best years of my life and passed away the day after the election. I will deeply miss you, my friend.

Again, thank you so much. I love this territory and care so much about this work. I can't possibly help but throw all of myself into it as I have already been doing. I am looking forward to getting down to business. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Member from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to say congratulations to you as Speaker. In the early days we used to play hockey when we were young and good looking, now we're just good looking.

Also I want to say congratulations to the newly elected Premier R.J. Simpson, and Minister Wawzonek, Minister Cleveland, Minister Kuptana, Minister Semmler, and Minister MacDonald. And I want to say congratulations to all my colleagues, MLAs. I look forward to working with you.

I would like to thank all my constituents, my family, my friends, to represent you as the Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh MLA for the 20th Assembly. I will continue to work hard and then to advocate your issues to the newly elected Premier and Cabinet and to work together to look for solutions.

Again, I want to say small communities do matter. And I ask that we could work together to help address my own housing issues in my community, ice roads, capital infrastructure needs, and most importantly I need money for doing housing inspections so that we could start working together to address these emergent housing issues in my community.

Also I wanted to recognize all the legislative staff that are here and also the translators. And I want to say Season's Greetings to everybody here and to our home communities. To everybody in the, House I want to say mahsi. I look forward to working with everybody. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Member for Great Slave.