This is page numbers 6089 - 6140 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. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong

The House met at 1:31 p.m.



Page 6089

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Caroline Cochrane

Caroline Cochrane Range Lake

Mr. Speaker, homelessness is a reality that far too many people experience. The factors that contribute to homelessness are complex and unique to each individual who experiences it. The challenges and solutions vary by community and differ in the Northwest Territories compared to urban centres in the South. That is why we need an all-of-government strategy to address homelessness in the Northwest Territories.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, or even a suite of approaches that work for every individual and family. Multifaceted, person-centered approaches, sustained effort, and collaboration among governments, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector are all required to address the needs of individuals and families living without a stable, safe, and appropriate place to call home.

Mr. Speaker, later today I will table a draft of A Way Home: A Comprehensive Strategy to Address Homelessness in the Northwest Territories. The Government of the Northwest Territories' homelessness strategy is being released as a draft so we can continue to incorporate meaningful input from stakeholders prior to finalization. The proposed actions focus on individuals and families who are chronically homeless however the actions lend themselves to prevention wherever possible therefore residents in precarious living situations will also benefit from this strategy.

The homelessness strategy identifies nine areas of action and puts forward the ambitious goal to achieve functional zero homelessness. A functional zero target recognizes that homelessness will never be eradicated completely but that action can be taken to prevent it wherever possible, and homelessness can be brief, rare, and non-recurring.

The strategy recognizes the crucial role frontline service providers, both within Government of the Northwest Territories and community partners, serve in supporting vulnerable community members and the need for ongoing, solutions-oriented conversations, and actions. We recognize the need to ensure shelter services have appropriate resources, reflect the needs of their users, and identify potential solutions such as multi-year and better coordinated funding, on-going training, and Government of the Northwest Territories support.

We know there is a need for wraparound services and this strategy aims to improve access and use of culturally safe mental health and addictions services for residents, especially those experiencing chronic homelessness. This strategy also identifies the need for transitional housing and supported living arrangements as well as other actions that are already underway in this area.

Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes that we need to do a better job at coordinating the delivery of our programs and services aimed at addressing homelessness. This strategy is intended to create an environment for positive change and a shift in organizational culture towards more person-centered services and improved collaboration between the Government of the Northwest Territories and service providers. We want to ensure that our actions to address homelessness align with the needs of communities and Indigenous governments. Individual communities and regions may have their own solutions and the Government of the Northwest Territories has a role in supporting those initiatives. As well, we must review our own programs and policies, and the renewal of Housing Northwest Territories, as well as the review of the Government of the Northwest Territories Income Assistance Program are examples that promise to contribute to the desired outcomes of this strategy.

Mr. Speaker, we also recognize the need for better data collection, respectful information-sharing, and evaluated results. This strategy incorporates regular meetings with community partners and will be subject to periodic review and updating starting three years after its implementation.

Mr. Speaker, over the coming weeks, we will further engage with Indigenous governments, community governments, non-profits, researchers and academics, those with lived experiences, and the broader public, to seek their input and suggestions. Before the end of this government, we are aiming to finalize a strategy that reflects the wisdom and sets out the direction for community members who are experiencing homelessness to find a way home. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Madam Premier. Colleagues, before we continue, I'd like to recognize Mr. Robert C. McLeod, former Member of the 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Assemblies, former Minister and deputy premier. Welcome back to the Chamber. Also his wife Judy, welcome. And also Mr. David Brock, the NWT's former chief electoral officer, welcome.

Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Julie Green

Julie Green Yellowknife Centre

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. At a recent Council of Leaders meeting on mental health and addictions, I heard from Indigenous governments about what is working well in their communities as well as some of the challenges. There are many successes, and it is truly inspiring to hear about the programs and initiatives going forward in communities across the NWT.

One of the challenges leaders identified was the administrative burden of applying for multiple funding pots for mental wellness and addictions recovery funding. In response to this feedback, I am pleased to advise that the department will be combining the On the Land Healing Fund, the Addictions Recovery and Aftercare Fund, and the Addictions Recovery Peer Support Fund, into one fund called Mental Wellness and Addictions Recovery Fund.

This combined fund will continue to prioritize Indigenous governments and will help reduce the burden of compiling and completing multiple applications and reports. Bundling the funds will also provide Indigenous governments with greater autonomy over the kinds of mental wellness and addictions recovery projects they offer and how funding is allocated. This change will take effect on April 1st at the start of the new fiscal year.

In addition to the proposed combining of funds, the department will be revising the application process in 2024-2025. Applications will be accepted prior to the start of the next fiscal year so Indigenous governments can receive early confirmation of funding which will support program planning, provide stability, and enable funds to be spent earlier.

Mr. Speaker, this is a positive step forward in our ongoing partnership with Indigenous governments, and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them to meet the mental wellness and addictions needs of NWT residents. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Lands.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to provide an update on the ministerial mandate and commitments to review the Government of the Northwest Territories Land Lease-Only Policy.

Mr. Speaker, the Land Lease-Only Policy was initially established in 1987 to ensure ongoing Aboriginal rights agreement negotiations were not impacted through the sale of land. Since then, our territory has changed in many ways. Our population and economy have grown, our communities are more developed, and the GNWT is responsible for most of the land and resources. While this progress is welcome, this growth comes with an increased need for land for housing, businesses, and community development, including in areas with ongoing Aboriginal rights agreement negotiations.

Despite these changes in our territory, the Land Lease-Only Policy has not been updated since the mid-1990s. The recent review of the policy concluded that the policy prevented the GNWT from meeting the land needs for housing, business, and community growth.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure everyone in this House would agree that government policies should be dynamic and responsive to the needs of all our territory. I share this belief.

Following the initial review, the Department of Lands engaged with the Intergovernmental Council Secretariat, Indigenous governments, and standing committee to resolve issues found during the review. I thank everybody who participated for providing valuable feedback. I can confirm that the department has reviewed all the feedback and completed updated that necessary all views and needs.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that effective April 1st, the Land Lease-Only Policy will be replaced with the Limitation of Land Sales Policy. This new policy will continue to meet the intended goals of restricting the sale of the most vacant land within and outside communities in the areas with continuing Aboriginal rights agreement negotiations. It will also support other policy goals of the GNWT related to housing, business, and community growth by changing the outdated conditions for titled land. Going forward, I am confident the new Limitation of Land Sales Policy reflects feedback received through the engagement process. The revised policy will also meet the needs of many of our residents and communities now and into the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Caroline Wawzonek

Caroline Wawzonek Yellowknife South

Mr. Speaker, the availability of healthy, affordable food is a fundamental requirement for a good quality of life and a strong, healthy territory. The Government of the Northwest Territories mandate reflects this and commits to addressing food security while also investing in Northwest Territories agriculture as a growing sector of our economy.

Since 2003, the GNWT has partnered with the federal government to provide financial resources and cross-jurisdictional supports to encourage the growth and sustainability of the agricultural and agri-food sector in the Northwest Territories. A succession of formal five-year agreements has resulted in renewed agriculture development in the Northwest Territories, evidenced by the growth and diversity of producers and processors, and a rise in local production and sales.

On April 1st, the fifth such bilateral agreement will come into effect, titled the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership, or the Sustainable-CAP. The Sustainable-CAP will see an investment of $7.6 million in the Northwest Territories agriculture and agri-food sector over the next five years. Canada will provide 60 percent of this funding annually with the GNWT making up the rest. Overall, the new agreement represents a 25 percent increase in the government's investment in agriculture across Canada, with funding organized in five priority areas:

  • Climate Change and Environment;
  • Market Development and Trade;
  • Building Sector Capacity, Growth and Competitiveness;
  • Resiliency and Public Trust; and,
  • Science, Research, and Innovation.

The Sustainable-CAP emphasizes a commitment to strengthening relationships and increasing Indigenous participation in the sector while improving access to funding. As with previous multilateral agriculture partnerships, the Sustainable-CAP confirms the exemption of the Northwest Territories from requirements of proportionate spending and from the accounting of federal attributed funding, where required.

Mr. Speaker, the summer flooding of 2022 was devastating for many residents in the South Slave and Deh Cho regions and, among them, members of our territory's agriculture sector. With that in mind, and in response to what we heard from engagements with the Northwest Territories agriculture community last year, the GNWT, with this new agreement, will leverage its participation in the Sustainable Canadian Agriculture Partnership to provide access for Northwest Territories producers to two key business risk management programs.

  • AgriStability is a whole-farm margin-based income stabilization program that aims to protect producers against large declines in farming income due to production loss from unpredictable weather, crop or animal disease, poor yields, increased costs, or adverse market conditions.
  • AgriInvest is a self-managed producer-government savings account designed to help manage small income declines and make investments to manage risk and improve market income.

Coming out of last year's tragedy, Mr. Speaker, we hope that the addition of the AgriStability and AgriInvest programs will serve to increase the confidence of Northwest Territories producers and agri-food businesses as they look to rebuild what was lost.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT's support for regional agriculture programs is doing more than encouraging local food production. It is promoting economic development and diversity and, in time, will help us to address food security especially in our small and remote communities. The sustainable agriculture partnership will help us realize this vision. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rocky Simpson

Rocky Simpson Hay River South

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday we voted to continue collection and administration of the carbon tax on behalf of the federal government. Although it divided this House, I believe we are all in agreement that the tax itself is bad for the NWT and should be eliminated or an exemption provided.

Mr. Speaker, we heard a passionate plea from the Member of Nunakput who's constituents, and who I believe are the most impacted by this tax - a tax that only increases the cost of living for residents and drives away development. The people who live in and make the northernmost communities home, have been forced to rely heavily on both this and the federal government just to survive. This tax pushes residents' reliance on government even further and as the cost of living increases, many are forced to go without.

Mr. Speaker, our reliance on fossil fuels continues and will continue well into the future while this tax continues to punish a limited population who have limited to no immediate choice for cheaper green energy. As the carbon tax increases, it only works to strand an important resource which is northern oil and gas. This tax, coupled with the moratorium placed on northern oil and gas development, is only strangling any opportunity northern residents have for employment or business opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, this government cannot sit by and watch the unfairness unfold without our own backstop to assist the most vulnerable who will feel the greatest impact. We may not be able to change the tax itself, however, we do need to change the mindset of those in Ottawa when it comes to the reality of living in the North. Southern and federal politicians need to realize that our presence in the North has value.

When one talks about Arctic Sovereignty, we are talking about residents who are on the frontline. When we talk about the untapped resources, we are talking about potential benefits for all Canadians. When we talk about Indigenous people, we are talking their homeland.

Mr. Speaker, stranded resources not used should be recognized as keeping our carbon footprint in check. Our forests and peat lands capture more carbon than we produce. So when the government discusses targets and carbon tax with the federal government, they must consider natural carbon capture and by not using stranded oil and gas in the Beaufort Sea, we are not adding to carbon increases. And this should be enough to eliminate or reduce the carbon tax for NWT residents - otherwise we may have to wait for the Conservatives to axe the tax.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Rylund Johnson

Rylund Johnson Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When the Department of Lands set out on their unauthorized occupancy quest, we were told that anyone with an Indigenous right would be put in a separate category and dealt with later. And, Mr. Speaker, recently one of my constituents, who is an Indigenous fisherman, was kicked off of public land. And I'm trying to understand why this happened. I don't want to get into specifics of this one case, but I would like the Department of Lands to give us some guidance here. And, Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I think we all have to recognize how complicated Indigenous rights are. This case raises a lot of questions. It raises questions such as when does an Indigenous right end? Does it end when there's commercial activity? Does it end when there's a cabin built and it becomes a permanent structure? Do the Metis have rights on this side of the lake? Do the YKDFN have rights on that side of the lake? These are messy questions, Mr. Speaker, and they're questions best left to the courts and land claim processes. They are questions that the Department of Lands said they would not be answering and should not be answering, Mr. Speaker. I'm going to have questions for the Department of Lands on what exactly they are using as a test for Indigenous rights to harvest on Great Slave Lake. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Katrina Nokleby

Katrina Nokleby Great Slave

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Spring has sprung. According to some calendars, spring arrived last week however to those of us living in the North, it usually waits a little bit longer. We are blessed with the return of longer days, and spring is a beautiful yet challenging at this time of year. As the snow melts on the streets and in our yards, on community trails and on ice roads, it reveals how we weathered the winter season.

Spring can be a metaphor of the past season. Potholes are a given. It is a right of passage of living here however as the snow slowly melts away, we see our beautiful Mother Earth littered with garbage and illegal dumping in the night that is akin to the illicit drugs that are after our most vulnerable. Abandoned items lean against garbage bins like the unkept promises to those suffering from trauma, addiction, and homelessness. Fast food containers and plastics are strewn about like the unhealed careless comments to family and friends and the endless trail of broken glass, cigarette butts, and dog waste, like the demands, wants, and needs of the entitled and privileged.

In the past few months concerns of the pandemic have taken a back seat to the challenges of debt, finances, cost of living, employment, addictions, mental health, housing, homelessness, violence, and premature death. Once again, we will spring clean as we always do. We will continue to take care of ourselves, our families, our communities, and our Mother Earth the best we can. We will discard that which is no longer useful and donate that which others can use. We will encourage that which will bring us together, to watch out for each other, to listen and be kind if that is all we can offer. We know that what we do to each other, we do to ourselves.

The opportunity is ours in this new season, to get out of our own way and create more meaningful relationships with each other, to engage in mindful and respectful dialogue. We can make the foundation, the ground, clean again as we intentionally prepare for the planting of seeds, seeds of growth and change. Our collective consciousness, connected like a dream catcher or a spider web, will set in motion how this upcoming season will be for everyone in our communities. How we choose to do this will be evident in the new growth that comes with the melting of next spring's snow. I wish everyone the best in this changing of the seasons. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I want to talk about trust. We are in a mental health crisis. The NWT has some of the highest rates of substance abuse and intimate partner violence in Canada. Young people are losing their lives to suicide.

In October of last year, we passed a motion on suicide prevention, asking for each region to have $250,000. This is $1.75 million for our youth, families, and communities. This represents seven regions, including Tlicho. It is upsetting because this government said no and decided to ignore the motions to provide additional support for our young people. Their life is priceless, and they are our future generations. We are the people of this land, and this is what we have asked for. When we say no to support, we are saying no to our youth. They already have limited resources in the communities. It is very sad we are losing young people to addictions and suicide.

This motion would have helped our young people. A regional fund would have given each region the power to make their own decisions on how the money should be spent and where it should focus. The Government of the Northwest Territories is supposed to be a consensus government. The Cabinet needs to listen and work with us, not against us. We all have common interests serving the people of the NWT and in our regions. When we, the majority of the MLA, vote in favour of something, we are representing the view of the people. It should be respected and acted on. This is how consensus government works. It works together in collaboration.

Mr. Speaker, we are elected into being an MLA to serve our people. Our people want funding at the regional level to provide mental health support and prevent losing our youth. Mr. Speaker, can I have unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

---Unanimous consent granted

Why does the Government of the Northwest Territories keep preventing this? Whenever we ask for this funding, the Financial Administration Act, legislation and policies, are always referred to as why we can't. We have to answer to the people, not to the bureaucrats, and find ways we can work to make this happen. This can happen. The Government of the Northwest Territories just has to do it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Frieda Martselos

Frieda Martselos Thebacha

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, of the many things I've discovered as a Member of this House, there's one thing that sticks out to me all the time, which is the slow pace of conducting government business. It takes so much time to simply make a decision about anything and to get things done in this building, which can be frustrating at times because I'm a very busy MLA and I'm used to getting things done at a faster pace. But regardless, I persevere, and I continue to press forward because I know that the work we do here is important and it does impact the people of the NWT, whom we represent.

Partially for that reason, Mr. Speaker, I feel that my work here at the Legislative Assembly is not yet complete, which is why I will take this opportunity to publicly announce my intention to run for re-election as the MLA for Thebacha in the 2023 territorial election. Mr. Speaker, if I have the privilege to be re-elected as the MLA in the 20th Assembly, I will continue to work hard, as I always do, for the constituents of Fort Smith, as well as all the people of the NWT. I take my oath of loyalty very seriously. So as a Member of this Assembly, I will always be loyal to the people of the NWT, and I'll always honour and respect the treaties and land claims signed with Indigenous peoples.

Mr. Speaker, as we near the end of the 19th Assembly, I want to take a moment to thank all my colleagues in this House, both on the Regular side and on the Cabinet side for all the work we are able to do throughout this term. It was difficult at times; there's no doubt about that. But we were still able to get many things done for the people of the NWT, which is a very good thing. I want to wish all my colleagues good luck in their re-election efforts this fall. However, for those not seeking re-election, I want to thank each of you for your service in this House, and I wish you all well in your future endeavours. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement

---Unanimous consent granted

Also, Mr. Speaker, today this Assembly is going to lose a very special person. Today marks the last day of employment of our long-time clerk, Mr. Tim Mercer, who after today will be retiring from the Legislative Assembly. I want to thank Mr. Mercer for all his 20 years serving this House. His presence will most certainly be missed in this building. I wish him all the best with whatever life brings him next.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all my amazing constituents of Thebacha for their continued support. I also want to thank all the Indigenous leaders throughout the NWT for their continued support in me and for them always reaching out to me to share their concerns. And lastly, I would like to thank my family for always supporting me in my work, which includes my husband Peter, my two sons Jerry and Mickey, and my dog Rambo. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Ronald Bonnetrouge

Ronald Bonnetrouge Deh Cho

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, spring is in the air, the sun is out in full force. Well if it isn't, it will be once I part the clouds. It won't be long before we have to don our Comashores, the old gumboots, as we traverse the many potholes.

Mr. Speaker, the Fort Providence Bison Jamboree is in full force and has been running all week filled with daily activities to welcome the spring. This yearly carnival gets everyone out of the house, and people are encouraged to participate in any event of their choice. There's three-on-three basketball, three-on-three volleyball, poker rally, and everyone's favourite cribbage tournament. Mr. Speaker, there are events for toddlers and tots at the school gym, youth movie nights, and youth outdoor events. Of course, all this activity brings on hunger pains so they will host a hot dog eating contest. If that is not enough to settle down the tapeworms, then check out the outdoor barbecues throughout the weekend along with the pancake breakfasts.

Mr. Speaker, this year they will introduce the Ultimate Bush Person contest, which is a traditional carnival event in which contestants will have to saw a log, haul and split the wood, and boil the tea. The winner will be crowned the 2023 Ultimate Bush Person.

No carnival is complete without an adult talent show and dry dance. So pull out your favorite uptown shoes and jig like your life depended upon it. Mr. Speaker, I'm all tuckered out and I haven't even entered an event yet. So come on by, don't be shy, make new friends, buy arts and crafts on Saturday, try out the three-on-three hockey out on the river, and there's something for everyone. So be sure to check out the Bison Jamboree at Fort Providence. Mahsi.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. And I'm sure you'll get some very nice pictures over the weekend. Mahsi.

Members' statements. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today the Vatican development and education office released a statement formally reputing to the doctrine of discovery. These theories, backed by 15th century Papal Bulls, legitimize colonial era seizure of Indigenous lands and formed the jurisdiction for the forceful disposition of sovereign Indigenous nations from their territories. The doctrine of discovery interbills are based on the presumed racial superiority of European Christians people and has been used for the -- to dehumanize, exploit, and subject Indigenous people and dispose Indigenous peoples of their land and rights for over 500 years. This statement said was right to recognize these errors and acknowledge the long-lasting effects of colonial era and assimilation of policies of Indigenous people and asked for their forgiveness. This statement recognizes at least these Papal Bulls or decrees did not adequately reflect the equal dignity and rights of the Indigenous people and that the documents had been manipulated for political purposes of colonial powers to justify immoral acts against Indigenous people that were carried out at the time without opposition of -- from ancestral authorities.

The Catholic Church therefore repudiates in these concepts that fail to recognize the inherit right of human rights of Indigenous people. In reviewing this release, this is not quite the level of relocation of the doctrine of discovery that was requested by the survivors during the Papal visit in 2002, visit to Canada, during which he apologized to Indigenous people for the church's role in the residential school system. Of course, the path of reconciliation is long and winding, and this is just one small step. However, this is without a doubt a breath of fresh air for over 500 years that's overdue. Our people have experienced relentless and deliberate attempts of colonization over hundreds of years, the intergenerational impacts of our brothers and sisters, our parents, and our children are significant and long lasting. But together we can make a rapid stride towards addressing historical injustice and moving forward in meaningful truth and reconciliation. While we cannot change the past, we will live in present; we must look forward to creating a future for our children and that will walk that we can all look forward to. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. We will continue to call on the Government of Canada to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada 94 Calls to Action in order to redress the legacy of residential school and advances the process of Canadian reconciliation. We must be steadfast in confronting these truths in order to find a better way forward. In the words of the Dene National Chief, Gerald Antoine, who is the AFN national portfolio holder for the residential school, family, like a branch on a tree, we all grow in different direction, yet our root remains the same. Let us find comfort and strength and shared values, nourish and strengthen our root and reconnect with energy and determination to this critical work. I would have questions for the Premier at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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