This Hansard has not been finalized - this is the "Blues" in Parliamentary speak, or unedited transcript in regular speak.

In the Legislative Assembly on February 9th, 2024. See this topic in context.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

February 9th, 2024

Shauna Morgan

Shauna Morgan Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My questions are for the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Following up on my Member's statement, my first question is why did the government move forward with changes to the child and youth counselling initiative in the fall of 2023 instead of waiting for the results and recommendations from the independent evaluation that was already underway? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Member from Yellowknife North. Minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, a review of this program was launched in the last Assembly, and this review was jump-started based on feedback that was received by education bodies along with the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association. And what it was responding to ultimately was the need for the unique instances in each of our communities to be acknowledged and, really, for us to be able to acknowledge, along with education bodies, that the needs of our communities are different from Yellowknife to regional centres to small communities and the ability of education bodies to respond to their differences needed to be respected and that one size really doesn't fit all in our territory.

Mr. Speaker, it also addressed the concerns of prolonged recruitment and retention challenges. That's something that on both sides of the House in the 19th Assembly, we heard about quite frequently, was that some communities weren't able to hire the clinicians that were required of the program. And included in that was a real call for need of intervention and prevention supports for our children and our youth.

Mr. Speaker, I think it's fair for me to say that a number of our youth in the North are suffering right now and that we really need to be able to respect the autonomy of our communities and our schools by providing them with options. Thank you.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

Shauna Morgan

Shauna Morgan Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So most jurisdictions in Canada seem to be moving towards more integrated service delivery. And integrated service delivery is also something that this government in other ways seems to be moving towards and yet this change appears to be a step away from that. Can I ask for a clarification whether clinical counsellors are still available in the schools or only in locations outside the schools? So has the -- yeah, I'll leave it at that. Thank you very much.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, for the specifics on kind of what schools have who in them, that would definitely be a question that would be best directed towards health and social services, but I can say that it really is regional dependent. Some regions have -- all regions now have the ability to have different setups and are in the process of putting those setups into place.

What I can speak to and what schools do have is schools have the access to not only be using clinical counsellors for their children, but they also have access to Indigenous counsellors in schools now. They have access to personal support workers in schools now. They have access to wellness counsellors in schools now.

And so just in reflection on the Member's comment about integrated service delivery, what some of these personal support workers are doing are actually connecting families from the schools to different government support workers so that that's another member of our communities that is really helping act as connecters and connection points to the different programs and services that we have available. And so while not all schools are -- and all school systems are built the same, this provides schools with the opportunity to hire different people and, should schools want, they can also use their 55 percent of that funding to access more clinical counselling services if they so choose. Thank you.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

Shauna Morgan

Shauna Morgan Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So it sounds like there was a sense of urgency last fall to make these changes to allow more school -- to allow schools to hire the counsellors that they need. Can I ask the Minister, have these changes that were implemented in the fall of 2023 resulted for this school year in more counsellors, personal support workers, mental health workers being hired in schools; has it achieved that goal for this school year? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I can answer that by saying absolutely yes, because the funding didn't exist before for schools to be able to hire the personal support workers unless they were getting funding through Jordan's Principle. And so just that alone means that schools who are having those recruitment and retention issues for our clinical counsellors can now turn around and go get personal support workers, wellness counsellors and Indigenous counsellors that are more responsive to the cultural needs of the school as well. Some schools have even been able to hire elders and Indigenous knowledge-keepers in order to bring them into the school to provide students with daily access to elders. Thank you.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Thank you, Minister for Education, Culture and Employment. Final supplementary. Member from Yellowknife North.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

Shauna Morgan

Shauna Morgan Yellowknife North

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would request that the Minister perhaps follow up with more details on the effect that these changes had on schools versus previously in terms of detailed numbers around the number of clinicians available in schools before versus now and the number of other personal support workers, Indigenous counsellors in schools before versus now. I would love to see those numbers, so I request that the Minister could follow up and provide those on a later date. Thank you.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

Caitlin Cleveland

Caitlin Cleveland Kam Lake

Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. And thank you for that. I can honestly share with the Member that I am, as a parent and as a member of the community, very much committed to ensuring that the mental health of our students and our youth and children is supported and would appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak with any Member of the House about where this program is going. This program with many education bodies is still rolling out. They're still looking for people and deciding what this looks like. So not every education body hasn't absolutely hundred percent, you know, set in stone what it looks like. But there is also an accountability framework as part of this that is being developed, and I look forward to being able to share that with Members of this House. Thank you.

Question 44-20(1): Child and Youth Counsellor Initiative
Oral Questions

The Speaker

The Speaker Shane Thompson

Minister of Education, Culture and Employment. Oral questions. Member from Monfwi.