This is page numbers 5309 - 5352 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.


Members Present

Hon. Diane Archie, Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Hon. Caroline Cochrane, Mr. Edjericon, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O'Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong.

The House met at 1:30 p.m.



Page 5309

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Welcome Members. Ministers' statements. Minister of Housing NT.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Madam Speaker, today I would like to provide an update on the progress of Housing NWT's community housing plans, which is a comprehensive, detailed information document to better direct housing investments in the Northwest Territories' communities. Through partnerships with Indigenous governments, community governments, and stakeholders, over the last three years housing plans have been completed in Fort Good Hope, Whati, Paulatuk, Enterprise, Nahanni Butte, and the K'atlodeeche First Nation. These plans provide communities and stakeholders with the tools necessary to direct the future of housing in their communities.

A housing plan includes an assessment that combines baseline data with housing needs identified by the community. It also includes the housing plan itself, which identifies the community's goals as well as actions for the future in their housing investment. As set out in Housing NWT's mandate, we understand the importance of meaningful partnership with communities, and it is essential that these plans are the products of meaningful collaboration.

Madam Speaker, Housing NWT recognizes that each community has unique needs. The community housing plans initiative was developed in recognition of this and to give communities a voice to express their own housing situation, issues, and priorities. For example, Paulatuk's housing plan reinforces the need for home designs that recognize the community's location on the Arctic Coast. The K'atlodeeche First Nation's plan priority is energy efficiency, housing and innovative ways to share materials and expertise. In Enterprise, community leadership prioritize the need for improved communication, both internal and external, while Nahanni Butte has signified a focus on self-sufficiency and community development. In Fort Good Hope, priority was placed on building local capacity to be capable to support private home repairs. As of today, ten additional plans are currently underway at various stages.

As part of the development of the Hay River housing plan, Housing NWT and the Town of Hay River hosted a housing forum in the fall which brought together stakeholders from across the community to discuss solutions to housing issues in Hay River. Additionally, Housing NWT has partnered with the Town of Fort Smith and worked on their housing plan that began in December 2022. In the Inuvialuit settlement region, we have partnered with the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation to develop a regional housing plan. As part of this work, staff from both organizations have travelled to Sachs Harbour and Ulukhaktok to hear from community residents and leadership and will be visiting the other Inuvialuit communities in the coming months.

Through the community engagement process, various elements are reviewed and prioritized and one such example is when those community plans is underdeveloped, includes plans for local shelters to assist women and children fleeing violence.

Madam Speaker, with the arrival of federal distinctions-based funding to Indigenous governments and to avoid the duplication of work and housing is no longer proposing to develop unique community housing plans for all 33 communities. Instead, we are supporting the development of community housing plans where communities or Indigenous government leadership has expressed an interest.

Madam Speaker, strong partnerships are key to success and outcomes, and these community housing plans are proof of all of that work. We are excited to combine the work on the community housing plans, along with our work on the partnership with Indigenous governments, to improve our supports working on priorities that are important to the individual communities and regions. We will continue to reach out and work in partnership with Indigenous governments, community governments, and stakeholders to increase the well-being of individuals and communities as we continue to address the housing needs across the Northwest Territories. Mahsi, Madam Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Madam Premier.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Shane Thompson will be absent from the House today and tomorrow to attend the federal/provincial/territorial sport, physical activity, and recreation ministers' meetings in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

As well, Madam Speaker, I wish to advise Members that the Honourable Julie Green will be late for the House today as she is currently participating in a phone meeting with Indigenous Services Canada's Minister Hajdu. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Ministers' statements. Members, I'd like to draw your attention to the presence of former Member Daryl Dolynny, who was the Member of Range Lake in the 17th Assembly.

Members' statements. Member for Hay River South.

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, prior to 1989, this government recognized the inequity with respect to Indigenous representation in the GNWT public sector. In an attempt to address that inequity, the government of the day drafted the affirmative action policy. It was meant to place Indigenous people into public sector workforce. Madam Speaker, thirty plus years later we are still talking affirmative action and saying how it has not worked.

Madam Speaker, this government committed to a review of the affirmative action policy and in doing so set up the advisory committee on diversity and inclusion. Now this government is considering replacement of the current policy with two policies: the Indigenous employment policy that prioritizes the hiring of persons who are descendants of the Dene, Inuit, or Metis people, Indigenous to the present boundaries of the NWT; and

The employment equity policy that would provide preferred hiring status to Indigenous Canadians, racialized persons, persons with disabilities, long-term Northerners, and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community.

Madam Speaker, we are under the assumption the existing policy has not worked, and what I have not heard is the underlying reasons of why this would be true. If underrepresentation continues to exist, what are the factors that contribute to it?

Madam Speaker, prior to moving forward and replacing what we have, there must be a reasonable and measurable basis if we are to commit to implementing any new policies. If we expect to achieve success, then we need to conduct an analysis, both internal and external, to determine if the targets we have set are reasonable and, if not, why. We must follow that up with a reasonable action plan that supports accountability at all levels of government if we expect positive results on affirmative action.

Madam Speaker, what was once an immediate need to include an underrepresented Indigenous population in the government workforce has been expanded further with no clear metrics to justify the need for such a change or for a policy at all. When we cannot fill current government positions, then we need to get it right.

We should be targeting Indigenous and Northern post-secondary students for employment, developing an Indigenous and Northern recruitment, training, and retention policy. Madam Speaker, if we expect the North to grow, we must hold deputy ministers and management accountable to ensure all Indigenous people, long-term Northerners, and their children are a priority for this and future governments. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Jackie Jacobson

Jackie Jacobson Nunakput

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, elders in our communities need a facility to live in. We have spoken in this House many times about overcrowded homes in Nunakput. In many homes in Nunakput, large families, cramped in small spaces, includes elders and ones we are supposed to be taking care of. Madam Speaker, we're supposed to be making sure our elders age in our homes and with dignity in our communities and not getting homesick and not missing family.

Madam Speaker, many elders are living with extended family, cramped houses, living in our own public housing units that are difficult to maintain. Many of the elders are forced to leave communities and go to Inuvik and live in the seniors home and the hospital. This is not right, Madam Speaker. We should be able to do better for our elders.

Paulatuk and Ulukhaktok are very isolated communities on the Arctic Coast - elders in my communities living their entire life beside the ocean with a small group of families around them. This is all what they know. We shouldn't be forcing our elders to leave the coast to move to Inuvik because we don't have facilities to take care of them in their home communities, Madam Speaker.

Ulukhaktok and Paulatuk, we even have private secured funding to build the facilities and a private-public partnership with monies to build these elders facilities and this Minister's not giving us the opportunity. I want to work with my Minister, Madam Speaker. We're dragging our feet. It's been three years since I brought this up in the House, and it needs to be taken care of. We're in our last year of this government, and let's try to make a difference and work together. Let's get it done. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, the devolution agreement came into effect on April 1st, 2014. While five Indigenous governments in the NWT have signed on to devolution, there are still Indigenous governments who have not. I think there's more than five at this point.

Madam Speaker, devolution was intended to allow the NWT to take responsibility for public land, water, and resources. It was also intended to provide economic benefits. But, Madam Speaker, these benefits only flow to the governments who have signed on to the devolution agreement.

For those who are partners in devolution, there is a seat at the table, there is decision-making power, and millions of dollars in resource royalty payments. For those who are not partners in devolution, there's an opportunity to participate in lands and resource management but without decision-making authority. Chapter four of the devolution agreement describes post-devolution resource management, specifically, the Intergovernmental Council.

The Intergovernmental Council is intended to allow the public and Aboriginal governments to cooperate and collaborate on matters related to lands and resource management. Their intergovernmental agreement on lands and resource management addresses Indigenous governments who have not signed on to devolution. It states, under section 4.9, the council may invite observers to its proceedings and determine whether and to what extent they may participate. This may include representatives of boards, councils, co-management boards, regulatory bodies, or other entities established under settlement agreements or self-government agreements.

The agreement goes on to explain how an Indigenous government can become a party to the agreement with the consent of the GNWT. It also states that nothing in the agreement shall affect existing obligations of the GNWT in relation to any Aboriginal government that is not a party. Madam Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mahsi, Madam Speaker, and mahsi colleagues. Madam Speaker, the devolution agreement created the Intergovernmental Council. The Intergovernmental Council is the body that cooperates on all lands and resource matters but how can Indigenous governments, who have not seeded their inherent right to their land, not have any decision-making authority when it comes to land management decisions?

The IGC has a legislative development protocol. This protocol does allow non-IGC Indigenous governments to potentially participate with the drafting process of any particular legislation.

Madam Speaker, devolution was supposed to increase northern control over lands and resources, but the aftermath of devolution divides Aboriginal governments between those signed on and those not. The creation of the IGC and the roles of Indigenous governments at this council demonstrates more divide and conquer by the GNWT than cooperation and collaboration. I will have questions for the Premier at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, the government's housing policies are not working for Indigenous people. There are too many barriers in place for Indigenous people to succeed in being a homeowner. These policies are working against our people, not for them.

Madam Speaker, the territorial government receives funds from the federal government to provide housing for Indigenous people however more of our people are homeless. Housing NWT has a homelessness specialist to fix the problem, but the solution is simple: Give public housing houses to current tenants to be homeowners and build more houses to eliminate homelessness.

Madam Speaker, Housing NWT policies and procedures are not serving Indigenous people. They are developing a manual on how to be a good tenant. This is an insult to the Indigenous people who live in housing. Our ancestors did not need policies and procedures or guidelines on how to live and be a good steward on their land. Colonialism changed this. It created more problems and barriers for our people to live and exist in our homeland. The Indian Act, residential schools, the 60s Scoop, all interfered with our ways of life and living. Madam Speaker, we were seen as not civilized but have lived in an organized responsible manner for thousands of years. We do not need Housing NWT telling us how to live or controlling the funds given to solve the housing problems caused by colonization. The money received from CIRNAC for Indigenous funding should be provided to Indigenous governments to address housing consistent with self-determination, our land claims, and our self-government agreements. Madam Speaker, we should not be begging Housing NWT for accommodation in our homeland. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Lucy Fabien was born on August 26th to the mother Eda Fabien and father Angus Delorme. Lucy was survived by siblings Warren and Richard Delorme. Lucy had three children - Melissa, Scott, and Jamie; two grandchildren, Shanelle and Serena; and her small bosses Lila and Drake Delorme. After Lucy passed, they had many tributes on social media for Lucy and all of them depict a wonderful human being filled with love and positive comments which shows the impact Lucy had on anyone she had reached out or was part of her life. She would give her shirt to help anybody.

Lucy was also full of humour and laughter and would remind friends of certain milestones that occurred in friendships were developed and nurtured. Lucy had nicknames for many people. Some I've seen on social media, but I won't say who the real persons were, nicknames like Matilda, Hamburger, Cupcake, CKLB, Chum, AJ, Mary Football, Lyndom, critical minerals Punk, Ed Muffin, Senai, and so on. Lucy loved to laugh, play pranks, and joke around. She always showed love and affection to her family and friends.

Lucy joined her mom, dad, brother Kenneth Tinker, grandparents, and family and friends on her final journey. The world was a better place with her in it but Heaven gained an angel on November 16th, 2022.

As her friends and family would say, I love you Lucy. Farewell My Friend, and condolences to the family and all her friends.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Member's Statement 1365-19(2): Cabins
Members' Statements

Page 5310

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Madam Speaker. I do not believe that this territory can move forward on settling land claims without first sorting out the issues of rights-based cabins. And, Madam Speaker, this is a bit of a catch-22 in that the cleanest solution to settling rights-based cabins is settling land claims, because once an Indigenous government has their land and their cabins are on it then they can sort that out with their membership. Yet, Madam Speaker, we have heard time and time again, in many meetings with Indigenous governments, on no matter what the subject, quite often it comes back around to complaints about cabins. And, Madam Speaker, I want to point out just how inconsistent we are in this.

Many rights-based cabins right now do not have leases or taxes, and we have posted notices on them that they are squatters. Some Indigenous governments have shared which cabins they identify as Indigenous rights. Others are saying they will not do that because they do not trust the government. Some rights-based cabins, many years ago someone was told they had to get a lease and then they were instructed by their Indigenous government not to pay those lease fees or taxes and so they're now in collections with the GNWT. Some rights-based cabins, Madam Speaker, are unauthorized occupants but are paying taxes because we tax squatters. Some Indigenous rights-based cabins have actually applied for tax exempt status. There's about eight different scenarios you can be in with your rights-based cabin. Part of the problem is saying every rights-based cabin needs a lease is then you are going to pay lease fees, you're going to pay taxes, and quite often these hunters and trappers cabins are not actually in compliance with our cabin regulations. They may be too close to the water. They may not be up to building standards. All this results in multiple infringements of what is a clear Indigenous right to have cabins to hunt and trap, Madam Speaker. I do not believe we are going to make any progress until we settle this. And there are things we can do.

One is to create some form of tenure so that those who have rights-based cabins can be protected knowing that is their cabin; they have exclusive use to it. There's different ways of what that tenure can look like but I propose it is not the traditional lease that we're requiring for everyone else.

Secondly, we need to have some consistency on when a rights-based cabin has to pay lease fees, has to pay taxes. I propose most of those should be a nominal fee, at best, and we certainly shouldn't be sending our hunters and trappers, or our elders living in their cabins, to collections, Madam Speaker. I think it is losing trust with our residents and, ultimately, we're not going to make any progress on many of these issues until we solve this. I will have questions for the Premier about what we're doing to solve this issue once and for all. Thank you.

Member's Statement 1365-19(2): Cabins
Members' Statements

Page 5311

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

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

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Madam Speaker. Madam Speaker, in December 2022, the NWT recorded the highest employment rate in Canada. But like the rest of the world, NWT employers, including the GNWT, struggled to fill many positions critical to our success. But our population growth is not keeping up with our needs. By the 2040s, our population is projected to grow by only nine percent while Canada's at 25 percent.

Madam Speaker, the bureau of statistics projects that by 2035, the population will decline in 18 of 33 NWT communities, including Inuvik, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Whati, Fort Providence, and Tuktoyaktuk.

Sustaining and growing our population would benefit our economy and society in so many ways, Madam Speaker. It would help boost economic opportunities and growth. Employers, including our government, would be able to fill vacant positions and provide needed goods and services. We know we're facing acute labour shortages in the next decade. We will need almost 14,000 people for new job openings in the next decade, including 270 nurses and 140 other health occupations. Population growth will fill jobs and reduce the cost of living, Madam Speaker.

Higher population would also support more and better social programs. Federal transfers are directly linked to our population growth. More residents mean bigger tax base and making it more feasible to maintain and expand our social safety net and our infrastructure.

Population growth would also help address our mounting demographic challenges. We have a rapidly aging population. Many people, especially young people, leave looking for better opportunities elsewhere. A larger population would provide more opportunities for our young people to stay and work here. It's also about supporting residents of small communities to be empowered to stay in small communities.

The need and benefit of sustaining and growing our population is clear. That's why last June, this House, with the support of every Regular MLA, passed a motion calling on the GNWT to create a comprehensive strategy to match Canada's population growth. At present, the GNWT lacks the unified framework to address demographic challenges and opportunities. The GNWT's response tabled last fall was disappointing. It pointed to the failure of the GNWT's last population growth strategy and declined this Assembly's recommendation to develop a new unified strategy.

Our territory needs and deserves a better plan. Our incredible, culturally and mineral rich, diverse North has so much to offer, Madam Speaker. I hope we can share it with more of the world. Thank you.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Madam Speaker, the Northwest Territories has a resource-based economy. Mining has driven our development for decades. It has built roads and power lines, provided high paying wages, apprenticeships, and other opportunities for Northerners. Mining has also driven significant secondary business development throughout the territory, including within the service industry and through contracting. NWT communities benefit from socio-economic agreements, and Indigenous governments who have signed onto devolution share in the resource royalties our primary industry creates.

Madam Speaker, without resource development, the Northwest Territories would be a very dismal place, with little opportunity for residents to better themselves financially. It is with this in mind that I want to recognize and celebrate the mining companies that are driving business development in our territory. At every opportunity, we should be encouraging junior companies to continue exploring and help them to expand their operations.

In January, the GNWT, along with Indigenous governments and MLA Weyallon Armstrong, attended the AME Roundup conference in Vancouver. Roundup is a long-established conference that I attended way back when I was a student at UBC and continues to be one of the largest resource conferences in Canada. It is a great opportunity for the GNWT and Indigenous governments to build relationships, establish partnerships, and attract business in the NWT.

When I attended Roundup in 2020 as the Minister of ITI, I was thrilled to witness the partnership announced by Det'on Cho Nahanni Construction, a corporation owned by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and Cheetah Resources, to manage the operations of Nechalacho rare earth mineral project. This partnership was the first time in Canada that all mining operations were contracted to an Indigenous firm, enabling them to be miners on their own lands.

So today, Madam Speaker, let's recognize and celebrate the value of mining in the NWT. And especially the progressive and innovative partnerships that are emerging, showing a new way of doing business where Indigenous people are the decision-makers and the beneficiaries of the rewards.

And, Madam Speaker, I'd like to take a moment to wish MLA Weyallon Armstrong a happy birthday. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Madame la Presidente. That's a tough act to follow.

This is the 14th time I've raised midwifery as an MLA. Based upon an update received recently from the Minister of health, some good progress appears to have been made. Although I would say it's been a long road. Work on creating a full midwifery program began a decade ago in 2013. Here's a summary of where I'm told we are now.

  • Work has gone ahead under the coordination of a territorial midwifery program implementation working group. Staffing has and continues to be a big challenge but, again, good progress appears to have been made. I'm told that a territorial manager is staffed and tasked with overseeing midwifery care through the NTHSSA regions and in cooperation with the Tlicho Community Services Authority and Hay River Health Authority.
  • A territorial midwifery specialist is staffed in Yellowknife, providing postpartum care through Stanton Hospital. The Yellowknife team has two of four midwives hired, also providing outreach services in Behchoko since 2022.
  • A lactation specialist was staffed in September 2022 with federal funding for one year, supporting Stanton Hospital and the regions.
  • Fort Smith was fully staffed with three midwives although a recent staff departure has cut service, with patients having to travel to Yellowknife.
  • Hay River has full services while recruiting continues.
  • The work of the implementation group is apparently being carried out under a project charter. That's news to me, and I'll have questions.

With these actions, I am told that full implementation of midwifery services for the NWT is moving into its final phase. One aspect of implementation that I don't see referenced is the rollout of program structure and design through consultation with the Midwives Association of the NWT. That group expressed concerns in late 2021 with the model of central nodes of midwife expertise providing remote services to clients and community health nurses, not midwifery services located in all regions. The update provided to me noticeably lacks references to midwifery service delivery in the Sahtu and Beaufort-Delta and I'll have questions there as well, Madam Speaker.

That said, it looks like the long road from 2013 has an end in sight, and I'll have questions for the Minister of health on what remains to be done and how we're going to begin evaluating what we do. Mahsi, Madam Speaker.

The Deputy Speaker

The Deputy Speaker Lesa Semmler

Thank you, Member. Members' statements. Returns to oral questions. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Great Slave.