This is page numbers 5441 - 5516 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, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., 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. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong

The House met at 1:32 p.m.



Page 5441

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Good afternoon, colleagues. Today, I am pleased to announce the addition of the Tlicho language to the self-guided Legislative Assembly audio tour in celebration of Indigenous Languages Month. The Tlicho audio tour was translated and narrated by elder and Legislative Assembly interpreter Maro Sundberg. This is a first step in having the tour being translated in all Indigenous languages and marks a significant step towards language revitalization and advancing reconciliation here at the Assembly. Members of the public can take the self-guided tour anytime the building is open in English, French, and now Tlicho. Thank you, colleagues.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Diane Archie

Diane Archie Inuvik Boot Lake

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of the 19th Legislative Assembly, this government established its mandate of 22 priorities set by all Members and based on what they've heard from their constituents. Two of these mandate priorities are to increase employment in small communities and to make strategic infrastructure investments.

Mr. Speaker, last week I had the opportunity to travel the Mackenzie Valley Winter Road and I witnessed progress toward meeting these two priorities. I am referring to the construction of the Prohibition Creek Access Road, which is currently well underway. We have divided this project into two phases. Phase one, construction began in November and includes building 6.7-kilometre all-season road just south of Norman Wells between Canyon Creek and Christina Creek along the existing Mackenzie Valley Winter Road alignment. By replacing this portion of the existing winter road with an all-season road, we are making our transportation system more resilient to climate change, increasing reliability for the shipment of goods and supplies in the region, and enhancing intercommunity mobility. This phase will also make it easier to access recreational and traditional harvest areas. Construction is expected to be completed in the fall of 2023. Mr. Speaker, phase two would see construction of a 6.3-kilometre all-season road from Christina Creek to Prohibition Creek. This phase is contingent on completing additional design work at the Christina Creek crossing, regulatory authorizations, and securing additional funding.

The GNWT has worked closely with Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations in the Sahtu to move this project forward and to continue to advance the proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway from Wrigley to Norman Wells. The Memorandum of Understanding the GNWT has signed with the Sahtu Secretariat is evidence of this.

The Prohibition Creek Access Road project is creating valuable employment opportunities in the Sahtu region. As of January 2023, 20 workers from the Sahtu have been hired as laborers, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, drillers and blasters, and supervisory staff. Five workers from other regions in the NWT were also hired as heavy equipment operators. As part of this project, Northerners are receiving training that will enhance their skills for future job opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, the investment in this all-season road by the GNWT and the Government of Canada, is strategic. The Prohibition Creek Access Road Project is a capacity-building project to help prepare businesses, workers, and residents to make the most of opportunities provided by the eventual construction of the proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway.

This project has not been without challenges. It is one of several infrastructure projects that has experienced cost escalations recently associated with supply chain issues, inflation, material and labour shortages, and rising fuel prices. Mr. Speaker, I continue to lobby for the needed additional funding with my federal counterparts and my department is also working on advancing these files at a bureaucratic level. The federal government is a valuable partner in meeting the infrastructure and transportation needs of Northerners and seem to be appreciative of these challenges we face and are receptive to making their funding programs to meet our northern realities. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission.

Paulie Chinna

Paulie Chinna Sahtu

Mr. Speaker, Northerners should be able to expect to return home at the end of each workday uninjured and healthy. In 2022, the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission received 1,722 reports of injury from workers. This represents a 2.1 percent decrease from the previous year. Awareness of the workplace hazards and safety trends in the Northwest Territories can help ensure that workers return home safe and healthy every day.

In support of their vision to eliminate workplace disease and injuries, I would like to highlight some of the steps that WSCC is taking to achieve that outcome.

The most at-risk demographic for workplace injuries in 2022 were individuals aged 25-34, representing 26 percent of all claims. Positive, safe behaviours must be supported as soon as one enters the workforce in order to make safety second nature. WSCC continues to develop their young workers program and resources for workers under 25 so that they could take the knowledge and awareness they develop as young workers and continue to apply it to their working environment throughout their careers.

Mr. Speaker, the most commonly injured body parts last year included both the back and hands, representing 24 percent of all injuries; Sprains, strains, and tears continue to be one of the most frequently reported injury types; and, being struck by an object is one of the most frequent types of accident. Over the last year, the WSCC produced four seasonal campaigns designed to raise awareness on specific occupational health and safety trends. These campaigns were focused on lifting safely, hand injuries, sprains and strains, and being struck by an object. All campaigns, which are accessible on the WSCC website, provides further resources to learn more about common risks and injuries in the workplace and how to prevent them. In 2022, trades laborers and heavy equipment operators were injured more frequently than other occupations. Ahead of the construction season, WSCC ran a campaign highlighting the process of how to submit notifications on high hazard work sites. As a result of these efforts, WSCC received a higher number of notifications compared to the previous years which enabled occupational health and safety inspectors to prioritize high hazard inspections. WSCC continues to keep a close eye on the northern workplace safety trends to better determine where resources and support are needed to help workers return home safely every night. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Kevin O'Reilly

Kevin O'Reilly Frame Lake

Merci, Monsieur le President. I have closely followed and participated in the review of resource management legislation and regulations in the 18th and 19th Assemblies and have been reflecting on my experiences to date.

I sent a detailed seven-page letter with my thoughts to the Premier and Ministers of Environment and Natural Resources; Lands; and Industry,

Tourism and Investment. I tabled it in the House and the less-than-enthusiastic reply too.

I commend Cabinet and this government for its progressive and innovative approach to the co-development of resource management legislation and regulations with Indigenous governments. This is an accomplishment that we should all be proud of and a true expression of reconciliation and co-management that all NWT residents have come to expect. I support this co-development approach and want to make sure it has the time and resources necessary to do its work. From every report of recent activities, this process appears to be working well. There is still a need to provide more information and work with those Indigenous governments that are not part of this process.

I acknowledge that there has been some improvements since the 18th Assembly in terms of public engagement in post-devolution resource management legislation and regulations. However, the extent of information being shared by departments and timelines for public engagement have varied substantially and shown little consistency. In particular, I am alarmed and dismayed that GNWT has failed to embrace and implement an approach to resource management that includes meaningful public participation in both the development of resource management legislation and regulations, and in modifying and establishing new processes for decision-making about resources.

Public participation in these two significant aspects of resource management does not come at the expense of relationships with Indigenous governments but rather should be seen as an essential part of co-management. Public participation opportunities are what NWT residents have come to expect from responsible resource development and co-management itself.

It is not clear to me, whether GNWT continues to endorse and implement its own Open Government policy as signed by the Premier on January 8th, 2018. I offered other specific suggestions and it is not clear anything is going to change. I'll have questions later today for the Premier. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by wishing my daughter Keelan a belated Happy Birthday which was earlier this month while she was in Florida.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government's National Disaster Mitigation Program is a program that provides access to financial support for risk assessment, flood mapping, mitigation planning, and investments in nonstructural and small-scale mitigation projects. Municipal and local governments, public sector bodies, private sector bodies, Indigenous governments, and nongovernmental organizations can make applications to this program.

Mr. Speaker, apart from raising the road along Riverview Drive in Hay River, building up a short berm in the downtown area, and asking residents to take mitigation measures as outlined in the engineering reports each received, I ask what has been done to address overall mitigation for the West Channel, Old Town, New Town, Corridor, and Paradise Valley, because residents are concerned and are asking the question and wanting answers.

Mr. Speaker, the flood damage to Paradise was extensive. The only access road was compromised and the temporary one was constructed with no proper drainage. The embankment between the access road and the river had vegetation removed which diminished the stability of an already unstable bank. Residents are asking when the access road will be restored with proper drainage and when the bank stabilization measures will be undertaken.

Mr. Speaker, sections of the corridor were not spared from flooding and will require some form of berm and vegetation between the river and homes. The downtown core and Cranberry Crescent areas will also require some form of berm for flood protection. The West Channel area, situated along the lake, requires repairs to a berm between the airport and the residential area. In addition, there is an issue with the water course known as the Oxbow, which also allows water to flow inland from the lake during high water levels which results in flooding. A flood gate should be installed as a preventive measure.

The Old Town itself has minimal flood protection. Consideration must be given to raising the road running along the perimeter of the island. Mr. Speaker, throughout the winter, this government has been silent on what the overall flood mitigation plan is for Hay River. I understand, or am hoping, that this government is working with the Town of Hay River and Indigenous governments but any discussion, barriers, and solutions concerning flood mitigation is not being replayed to the general public. Communication and transparency is needed otherwise we may well be asking ourselves, once again, what went wrong, what are the lessons learned, and who is responsible for future costs. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Further to my statement from yesterday, I am going to carry on with the same subject with focus on Breynat Hall at Aurora College.

As I said yesterday, Breynat Hall is a structure in Fort Smith that has a heavy history of colonialism and abuse, and that's because Breynat Hall is a former residential school. And, again, the structure is one of the last remaining former residential school buildings that is still in active use in the Northwest Territories today.

Mr. Speaker, Breynat Hall was built in 1958 and was run by the Catholic Church as a residential school until 1975. And according to the National Centre For Truth and Reconciliation, at least one student died there in 1960. From 1975 onward, Breynat Hall has been use by Aurora College as a single student residence in Fort Smith.

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear about this, and I know the Minister of education is already on side with this, but Breynat Hall must not continue to be used when Aurora College transitions into a polytechnic university. There is far too much historical baggage attached to that building. Therefore, it must be inappropriate for it to be continued to be used for the future headquarters of the polytechnic university. And it appears that the need to dispose of Breynat Hall is understood by the university transition team because it was stated in the polytechnic university master plan released in September 2022 that Breynat Hall would be removed and replaced with a new student residence.

Also I strongly hope that the future student residence building will have Indigenous accents built into its architecture.

Mr. Speaker, during its time as a residential school, Breynat Hall was used by students from various NWT communities including Lutselk'e, Behchoko and Fort Res, among others, and over the years numerous constituents have told me that they feel uncomfortable and even disturbed by the continued use and existence of Breynat Hall at Aurora College in Fort Smith. There has also been several former NWT politicians who attended Breynat Hall, and most have all agreed that it has had a very troubled past and it must go. I am sure there are even some students attending Aurora College in Fort Smith today who are descendants of former residential school survivors who attended Breynat Hall in the past. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

In closing, Mr. Speaker, for these reasons it is essential that the new headquarters of the future polytechnic university in Fort Smith be built without Breynat Hall on its grounds. I think it also might be a good idea to have a memorial placed near or on its former site to act as a permanent reminder about the history that occurred there. I will have questions for the ECE Minister later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, every year students walk across NWT graduation stages with a spectrum of stories of what it took to accomplish this milestone. In my graduating class, a handful of my peers who walked the graduation stage just a few blocks from here had the most special dates to honour the effort they made to get there. Mr. Speaker, their dates were their babies.

Since 2016, an average of roughly 36 babies are born to teen parents in the Northwest Territories. That is 36 young parents potentially working to achieve a pivotal milestone with their peers. Pursuing education as a parent at any age is an accomplishment but doing it as a teen is a monumental accomplishment, Mr. Speaker. While there are champions that helped keep the doors to education open for those parents I graduated with, barriers to their success that existed then persist today.

Mr. Speaker, supporting the education of teen parents is not a foreign concept in schools. Here in Yellowknife, before my time, Ecole St. Patrick High School had an in-care daycare where students could drop off their child as they ran to class. Paired with child care, parents took family life health, a full credit class that provided support, financial literacy, and healthy family learning to teen parents. Decades ago, Inuvik's Samuel Hearne Secondary School, now East 3 Secondary School, also had an in-school child care and supports.

Today, decades after these programs have disappeared, Sir John Franklin High School has revived some programming for young parents. Thursday afternoons, the school hosts a support group for moms, dads, and parents-to-be who are continuing their high school education. Here, people can access peer and experience supports, public health visits, cooking classes, and guest speakers. But access to education for young parents relies on a parent's ability to access both the space and funding for child care. Space is a big barrier especially in today's child care landscape and given the short turnaround between birth and return to school. But accessing the child care funding is a barrier this government can address today.

Funding through income assistance requires that a person be an NWT resident and over 19 years of age. This criteria closes the door for teen parents. The second funding option is a voluntary service agreement with child and family services. The historical stigma closes this door for so many parents. For some youth, child care is a significant barrier to education. Today I am asking education to create a safe, accessible door where teen parents can get funding. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to address you today on the issue that is a critical to the well-being of our society. As well, all known Indigenous elders in the Northwest Territories are an integral part of our culture and heritage. They have contributed significantly to the development and growth of our communities over the years, passing down their traditions, traditional knowledge and customs and values, from generation to generation. However, in recent years many of these elders have found themselves in a difficult situation due to various reasons such as substance abuse, mental health issues, or other social problems. Some parents are unable to take care of their children. In these situations, grandparents have to step in to raise their grandchildren often without necessary financial resources.

This has become a critical issue in the Northwest Territories where many Indigenous elders are living on poverty and struggling to make ends meet on a fixed elders' monthly income and, in some cases, a single fixed income. They may lack access to necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, let alone the resources needed to provide for their grandchildren's education, healthcare, and other needs. As a society, we have responsibility to ensure that our elders are taken care of in their later years of their life, especially when they are providing care and support to the next generation. It is not just a matter of compassion or respect but also an investment in our collective future. These children will be the future leaders of our community, and it is essential that they receive support and guidance they need to succeed. Therefore, I urge all of you to consider what we can do to support these elders who are raising their grandchildren. This could involve providing financial assistance, access to healthcare, social services funding support, or simply offering emotional support and recognition for their invaluable role they are playing.

In conclusion, let us remember the importance of the role Indigenous elders play in our society and the challenges they face raising their grandchildren. We owe it to them and to the future of our communities to provide them with support they need and deserve. I would have questions for the Minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, every year the Aurora College heavy equipment operator program graduates, on average, 16 new students per year. Many of the graduates dream of a job working with the various machinery that they were trained on, such as a dump truck, loader, grader, excavator, and caterpillar. The AGO training only allows students to choose two pieces of machinery and most times there are no other options but only a dump and a loader combination.

Many Northerners went through the AGO program and went on to full-time employment and, if lucky, to get a GNWT position and they can work until retirement, which is typically 30 years. Mr. Speaker, a lot of times newly graduated heavy equipment operators do not have the required number of years of experience on certain pieces of heavy equipment and therefore are usually never hired.

Mr. Speaker, when I see road construction, whether new construction or resurfacing, I typically see our trained heavy equipment operators operating a packer. If they're not driving the packer, then they are used as flaggers. All the AGO trainees come out with air brakes endorsements and a class 3 driver's license. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the infrastructure Minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last week I was lucky to participate in Grow NWT, an agri-food industry conference hosted by the Territorial Agri-food Association here in Yellowknife. The conference kicked off Thursday afternoon with the blue sky brainstorming session on how to foster the agri-food sector for the future. This event saw roundtables of growers, processors, chefs, government, subject matter experts, big thinkers, and others interested in tackling the barriers and issues facing food production and food security north of 60. The conference got into full swing on Friday with opening remarks by MP McLeod and Minister Wawzonek, as well as by Kevin Wallington, president of the association. What followed was likely one of the most inspiring conferences I've ever attended. The passion in the room was palpable and the air of excitement contagious.

Mr. Speaker, over the course of the day it became evident to me what a large role the agri-food industry can play in the future of our territory. Growing our food locally will pay economic dividends by creating a robust new industry to help with our diversification mandate. Items would cost less to transport, decreasing greenhouse gas emissions and reducing our carbon footprint. But what struck me most about the presentations and discussions from last week was how much this sector could play in our mental well-being and physical health. When I have personally dealt with depression, one of the things my doctor always said to me is to get out in nature, that this was the best medicine I was going to find. If we could create an industry that allows people to be outside, with their hands in the dirt, while also paying them a living wage, I am sure we would see a drop in stress and depression affecting our communities. We would see people reconnecting with the land and we would see the land healing them in return.

One of the barriers raised by the entire group was the idea that there needs to be a shift in how we look at the food sector industry. We need to create agricultural land designations and all levels of government must return land to the people. Not only is this necessary for reconciliation, it will give residents of this territory control over their own future. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I was never so worried as when I sat on the agricultural federal/provincial/territorial table as Minister during the pandemic and realized just how far at the end of the supply food chain we really are. I never want to have that worry again, Mr. Speaker, so now is the time to get behind our food growers and agri-industry and start taking food security back into our own hands. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. $20.1 million a year. That is the amount of money we provide every year to Northview, more than we spend on community water and sewer services. According to Northview's own 2020 prospectus, the funds, they own approximately 50 percent of the rental market in Yellowknife. 50 percent of our town, Mr. Speaker, is owned by one company and we are their single largest landlord. You think this might be a problem we would like to address. However, Mr. Speaker, during the life of this Assembly, that number has grown every single year as we add more and more office space to one landlord. And, Mr. Speaker, this is not a hard problem to solve. Step one, remove them from BIP. They no longer need to be a BIP'd company, Mr. Speaker. This company is a pinnacle of everything that is wrong with GNWT procurement.

It started in the '80s by a former deputy minister who went and got a handful of sole source contracts from the government and made themselves rich. And here we are continuing to line the pockets of now southern and foreign billionaires, Mr. Speaker.

Second, change the leasing of improved real property, which has not seen any change since 1998 and is, in fact, the policy that is responsible for growing this company. Follow our own policies conduct a lease to own analysis of all of our buildings.

Third, commit to publicly tendering all of our leases. You can trace many of our leases back all the way to 1998 when they were originally sole sourced. They have not been tendered in any meaningful way since. Many we inherited from the feds on devolution and we did not publicly tender them.

Finish the procurement review, Mr. Speaker. We have spent three and a half years reviewing procurement and not one penny that has gone out this door has changed with regards to procurement because we will not finish this review, Mr. Speaker.

Secondly, let's approach some local developers and some local people with this $20 million a year we spend and get a little creative. See if someone will build us some buildings, build us some housing, anything other than giving this money to Northview. I'll have questions for the Minister of Infrastructure on whether she is going to accomplish anything at all in regards to this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Ariel Mary Lynne Duntra was born at Fort Liard Health Centre on March 25th, 1991 to Jimmy Deneron and Molly Duntra. Ariel was the middle child, right between her sister Angeline and brother Jamie.

Ariel attended the Echo Dene School where she was active in sports. This is where I got to meet her. She was very competitive and at the same time being a sportsman-like athlete. Other athletes liked to play against her. Beside school, she enjoyed traditional activities, especially participating in ecology camps throughout the Deh Cho.

Ariel was never afraid to roll up her shelves and get to work. She started working in the oil and gas field and in the construction industry as a cook's helper and camp attendant. As well, she worked at the Liard Hot Springs as a cashier and gas attendant. On top of this, she took the introduction to mine training course.

Ariel was very close to her siblings and especially her two nephews Maddox and Xander. She enjoyed spending time together cooking, watching movies, and barbecuing outside in the gazebo with them. As a good auntie, she bought Xander his first bike last year and then bought Maddox one. I can tell you she enjoyed hanging out with her family and friends, especially when it came to being out on the land and enjoying a traditional meal cooked over the open fire.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that Ariel had a heart of gold and an awesome sense of humour. Because of these attributes, she had many many nicknames that she cherished.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately Ariel passed away on September 8. Ariel was a shining star to everybody that knew her and was a very special person. I can tell you her parents, siblings, extended family, and friends will sadly miss her dearly. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and community.

Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.