This is page numbers 6417 - 6500 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 indigenous.

Topics

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, section 4 of the DFAA deals with the public sector expense eligibility. Section 4(1)(1) is in reference to provincial territorial eligible costs. If a province or a territory provides temporary relocation, shelter, etcetera to residents. The GNWT did provide evacuation support, including transportation, accommodation, and food. And so the GNWT will be making a claim for its cost for those eligible expenses under the DFAA. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege of being on the ground here in Yellowknife on those days when an evacuation was called. On the evening of Wednesday -- I can't even remember the date now -- August 16th, when it was called, the people who could get on a flight that night, they got themselves on a flight that night. The very next day, thousands of people lined up at Sir John waiting for flights, and if you drove out to the airport after going down and looking at the thousands of people waiting for flights, there were no planes on the ground at the airport. So people were worried. They were concerned. And if a flight came up, they got on it. So while there were on Friday numerous flights available for people, multiple people got up and left town if they could because there was a lot of fear in town. There was a lot of people with kids, with elders, people -- human beings that just wanted to get on a plane and get out of town. For -- what I don't understand there is I understand what the Minister is saying that there were eventually charter flights available but there was a lot of confusion around that, and there was a lot of waiting and a lot of people who wanted to do what they could to get out. So I don't understand why the government can pay for a charter flight but they can't pay for a resident. As we saw with the reentry flights, there was a lot of confusion, a lot of waiting. Some people -- I have some residents who have never received an email back from the reentry registration emails. Luckily, they are back in town. They paid for a flight and they got themselves home, but they had to get back to work, they had to be here so that the rest of us could enjoy their services and they could be here to serve the rest of town. So while people tried to support evacuation flights, it didn't always work out.

But my next question, Mr. Speaker, is in regards to hotels. Residents from Hay River were told get out now, go to Grande Prairie. They got out now. They went to Grande Prairie. They weren't set up and ready for residents yet. Red Cross said to them, go book yourself at a hotel. They later found out they didn't pick the right hotel, so they weren't covered. I have residents who went to the evacuation centre in Edmonton. They waited for five days before they received a hotel. So those are days that residents paid for out-of-pocket but they were following the rules of government. And I know I'm going on a lot, and I could go on more, Mr. Speaker, but I'll leave it there.

Why will the government not repay these costs for our accommodations? Why will the government not repay these costs for airfare for residents? Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's going to be a little bit of a longwinded answer. There was a whole bunch of information shared there that seemed to be messy. First of all, let's talk about the line-up. Yes, it was long. We understood that. There was planes. They were trying to get our crews in there. But the second day, as people -- we had people get on the planes that were told to go back home the first day. The second day they got onto the plane. They were able to do that. We had people registering and getting on the planes that way there.

In regards to the question that the Member asked -- there was a couple questions but -- I think there was three, but I will focus on her last one. It was about the Red Cross. I've heard that from other people. I've heard where people got into the host community, Red Cross didn't have them or told them to go find their own, to phone back. So what I'm telling people is to reach back out to us, to get back to us, tell us what happened, and then we will work on that. Because we've had that situation just not in Grande Prairie, we've heard it in Edmonton, we've heard it in other places there. So we're asking people to reach out to us, and we will work on that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. So what I heard there is that if somebody has registered with the Red Cross and they still had to pay for their own hotel that they can come back to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs and seek compensation for the cost of those hotels. And I'm wondering if the Minister can please let me know if I'm right on that, and also who they would contact in order to get that done. Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Yes, that's correct. The second thing is who to contact, reach out to the department, or give it to yourself as the MLA, reach out to them and then work with us. I can tell you the Member has given me a number of emails, and we've been working on those situations. So please get us those emails because we need to get -- fix this because it was unfortunate that situation happened. We have to rely on our host province, and that's what they did. Some of them had Red Cross to help them there, and they were working on it. So, again, if we missed those things -- and we're going to miss some of those things. Please reach out to us, and we'll work on it. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Kam Lake.

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. So that's great news. That's very good news. So anybody in the territory who was registered with the Red Cross, was unable to get a hotel for whatever reason, reach out to your MLA, and we can advocate on your behalf. So that's really good news.

Mr. Speaker, the last question I have is in regards to insurance deductibles. A number of residents quickly learned that insurance policies are not all built the same. Some residents had insurance deductibles waived.

Whereas others had significant, significant, insurance deductibles that they had to pay in order to receive any support from their insurance companies. And so I'm wondering if MACA plans to apply for reimbursement of resident deductibles through the DFAA. Thank you.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. She's probably not going to like answer. Unfortunately, when people have their insurance, that's the program that they have to do and they have to look into it. Unfortunately, I have insurance and I haven't even looked at mine until after what we've been dealing with. So unfortunately, the disaster financial assistance is last resort. If you have insurance, you need to go to your insurance company. And I am sorry to the residents that have higher deductibles or don't have the same supports, it's unfortunate, but that's the insurance companies that you have to deal with. Thank you.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

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

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, communities are dealing with the unprecedented wildfire crisis gave a lot to the efforts to save their homes, residents, and municipalities, and property. Mr. Speaker, my questions are going to be the Minister Shane Thompson, Environment and Climate Change.

Mr. Speaker, what has been done to recognize the sacrifices made by the communities under evacuation order and the frontline workers who stayed to fight the fire? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Yes, it's more of a Municipal and Community Affairs question. So we do have a hosting grant available to communities. We have identified communities as evacuation centres, like Fort Simpson was for Kakisa and Jean Marie. The reason we identify these evacuation centres is so that we don't burden the community on there, so. But we've noticed that some of the communities have been working or getting evacuees into the communities. So we did establish a hosting grant, and the communities can apply for the hosting grants on that there. In regards to if he's looking for equipment and that, we are working with the communities on those things as we move forward. Thank you.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, this fire that happened that impacted the residents of the Northwest Territories, including Yellowknife and the smaller communities, in particular Lutselk'e, Dettah, N'dilo, and Fort Resolution, you know, when this evacuation order went ahead, we had evacuees that came to Fort Resolution, that over 105 people there showed up to that community that came in from Fort Smith, Hay River Reserve, Fort Smith Reserve as well, and Yellowknife. So, Mr. Speaker, we -- the communities of Fort Resolution have incurred costs as a result of the additional people coming into the community on accommodations, food security, etcetera. Mr. Speaker, the cost involved with an emergency operation are enormous. The community governments I represent do not have deep pockets. How will the Minister ensure the costs related to the wildfire are not disproportionately placed on municipalities and designated authorities? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So, Mr. Speaker, like I said, we do have a hosting grant that's up to $40,000. We -- again, that's why we're telling people with evacuation centres there are certain communities that are host friendly and those ones that aren't. We understand that we seen people go into communities, so we provided that. We did -- our superintendent reached out to Fort Res, worked with them. We also had the food security with ITI working with them to see if we needed to do those things. So I can also tell you that I've reached out to the federal government, Indigenous Service Canada, talked about designated authorities and how they're being impacted. These are some of the challenges that we're seeing that we need to get fixed up on. So if it's a designated authority, if they're created by the Indian Act, then we're trying to get the funding for them to help us move forward. So we've reached out to Indigenous Service Canada on that, but we are -- and, again, we did set up a hosting grant this fiscal year because of the situations where people were going to hub communities that were not hosting. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The $40,000 grants is just not going to be enough. For our community of Fort Resolution, you know, that community council and the Metis council paid out monies to their evacuees, some -- that all from -- are all scattered across Canada. And also in YKDFN, they spent a lot of money out of their IBAs that they want to see back, and also the community of Lutselk'e. Not including the work that they have done to fire smart the community as the fire would start to happen. They incurred a lot of costs to date. And, Mr. Speaker, they want to see some kind of monies back to their communities. So it's clear we need to improve on our emergency preparedness on both the territorial and local levels. What is the Minister doing to ensure we are better prepared for the next fire that might happen maybe in my region probably next year? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So two departments, Municipal and Community Affairs and ECC, are doing an after-action review. So that's part one. We are reaching out to the municipalities, working to see that there. We're also setting up training events. We're looking if there are -- the emergency plan, how it worked, where we can improve on it, set up training, tabletop exercises so people are better prepared on that. We're also working with ECC to come in and work with the communities on their fire smarting -- or their fire smart to the communities. But also when the Member talks about, you know, fire breaks and stuff like that, NWTAC got over $20 million for eight years and communities can work on there. My understanding is the funding doesn't get there next -- until next year, but people that spent money on fire breaks and that, they can hold that this year, and then bring it -- and bring forth those expenses for next year as eligible expenses. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Final supplementary. Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh.

Richard Edjericon

Richard Edjericon Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I've reached out to the Indigenous governments and Dettah and N'dilo, Lutselk'e, and Fort Resolution. I've asked them to provide a letter to me on the costs that they incurred as a result of this fire evacuation that happened. And once I get that information, I will forward it to the Minister to let them know that what we incurred in the communities as a result of the trigger being pulled in this evacuation here in the Northwest Territories.

Having said that, Mr. Speaker, also, you know, the emergency plans for the communities need to happen. Right now, I've approached the Minister about trying to get something going in Fort Resolution because of the fire near Hay River. Also, the community of Lutselk'e, they also need a plan and we need help on that area. So if we don't start fire smarting our communities even this fall, then we're going to have the same problems maybe as early as springtime. Where the fire could be next year. So I guess my question to the Minister is that what can we do to work with the communities to make sure that we have adequate resources provided so that they can make decisions and start fire smarting the communities even as early as this fall? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh. Minister responsible for MACA.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I guess first and foremost, each community should have their own emergency management operation plan. They should have it in place. And if they don't, we as the regional -- our regional staff will be in there working with them. We created five new positions for emergency management. So -- that we can help work with them. One of the after-action review things is that I'm looking at -- we need at least another five more positions at the regional level to do the recovery and work with these communities. So that's part of the conversation that we're having.

In regards to fire breaks and fire smarting the communities, as I said, last -- with the last question is NWTAC has money. Each community of the 29 communities have money that they can access through NWTAC. Unfortunately, the money that NWTAC got, they don't get it until next year from the federal government. But what they have said, and they have worked with the federal government, that they can do the work that needs to be done now. If they want to do -- fire smart the community and reach out to the community -- or NWTAC to see what their share is, what they get from that, and then they can do the work this year and then as of April 1st can then give the invoice to NWTAC and they get reimbursed back that way. So we're all working together for this. And as, again, we are doing an after-action review with MACA and ECC. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Monfwi.

Jane Weyallon Armstrong

Jane Weyallon Armstrong Monfwi

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Minister Thompson, this is for the ECC department.

Minister Thompson, has the department, ECC, ever considered the impact the existing fire management policy is going to have on our Indigenous language, culture, and way of life? Did the ECC -- I mean, I'm just saying, what I'm trying to say here is that has the department considered the impact the existing fire management policy is having on Indigenous language, culture, and way of life?

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Before we continue, Members, please refrain from using names. Just use the Minister or Members' ridings or department they're in charge of. Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change.

Shane Thompson

Shane Thompson Nahendeh

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we take that into account. We have -- our fire crews are very much Indigenous. We work with them. The fire crews and people we brought back were Indigenous. These people have been in the system for 20, 30 years or 40 years, and we've worked with them. I've had conversations with them. We've had -- that they talk about it. In the old days where people would use to -- like, burning was part of the ecology of the landscape. It would then help them regrowth and stuff like that. The problem is if we don't do those things, we get these tinder boxes that are -- that go on forever. And what we've seen in Hay River and that fire that went from Kakisa into Hay River was a tinder box. Within four hours that fire travelled. So these are all these things. We work with Indigenous governments. We have those conversations. And I'm very proud that ECC does have those conversations and the people that we bring back are of Indigenous heritage. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Speaker

The Speaker Frederick Blake Jr.

Thank you, Minister. Oral questions. Member for Monfwi.