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In the Legislative Assembly


Crucial Fact

Historical Information Ronald Bonnetrouge is no longer a member of the Legislative Assembly.

Last in the Legislative Assembly October 2023, as MLA for Deh Cho

Lost his last election, in 2023, with 25% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Member's Statement 1658-19(2): Reflections on the 19th Legislative Assembly October 6th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to announce that I survived the last four years of the 19th Assembly. Mind you, it wasn't without its so-called battle wounds and paper cuts. It was a pleasure to serve with my colleagues on both sides of the floor, especially as history was made with the majority of women in the 19th Assembly; the first in the Northwest Territories and Canada.

Mr. Speaker, my time here has been a learning curve when dealing with legislation but well worth the lessons. Mind you, I've been in leadership roles for quite a number of years, so my past experience has served me well here in the Legislative Assembly.

There were many challenges in my role as an MLA, taking into account the two-year COVID spell and not making contact with constituents, especially the other communities in my riding of Kakisa, Enterprise, and K'atlodeeche, that coupled with floods in the couple of years and the recent wildfires that KFN faced twice in a short period of time.

I may not have seen many of my constituents, but I have always reached out to the leaders by e-mail, text message, or phone calls. I may not have received replies to many of my messages, but I am okay with that. It was surely challenging to address issues without that rapport; however, we still managed to move on.

At this time, I will let my name stand for re-election and can only promise to do a better job in consoling, visiting, and providing better communications to all residents of the Deh Cho riding. Mahsi for all your support through all these tough times and all the tough times wear on the constituents who managed to stay calm and let the authorities do their work.

To my colleagues, mahsi for making my experience here at the Legislative Assembly an enjoyable one. To all the staff in the Legislative Assembly, a huge mahsi for your support and assistance as I navigated my way around procedures and existing processes. Mahsi, and you guys rock.

I would be remiss if I didn't include the Dene Zhatie translators for providing your voice for the residents of both ridings Deh Cho and Nahendeh, Sarah Gargan and Mary Jane Cazon. And equally to all the translators for their time here at the Assembly.

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, for your diligence with me throughout my time here and appreciate your advice and assistance on many matters.

I have to extend my extreme gratitude to my family and grandchildren. I truly appreciate their continuous support.

Mahsi to all the residents of the Northwest Territories. Please stay safe in your future travels and endeavours. Mahsi.

Bill 85: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Implementation Act, Carried October 5th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, yesterday during debate during the Committee of the Whole, I expressed many concerns that I had with the process to getting where we are with this bill today. And a lot had to do with the lack of meaningful consultation that our Premier, our Cabinet, the Executive and Indigenous Affairs, did not attend many assemblies to present this to every First Nation group in the Northwest Territories and many times many of them were at the Dene Nation Assemblies. This government has never showed up to any assemblies whatsoever in the Northwest Territories with Indigenous groups to have meaningful consultation. That didn't happen because there were some concerns with certain articles within the document. And those are the things that they wanted to discuss. And after a consultation with the Deh Cho First Nations Grand Chief and after consultation with the Dene National Chief, who informed me that this UNDRIP was opposed at last year's Dene National Assembly. And having said all that, Mr. Speaker, I will abstain from the vote today. Mahsi.

Question 1626-19(2): Communications regarding Rapid Housing Initiative October 5th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. And mahsi to the Minister of housing for that. I'm not even certain I've seen $600 million in Housing NWT budgets. So I'm not sure. There's still severe shortage of housing. The Member from Nunakput is still crying for housing. And still nothing is happening up there.

Mr. Speaker, does the housing Minister and staff truly believe that offloading housing rental stock to Indigenous organizations is a profitable business venture? Mahsi.

Question 1626-19(2): Communications regarding Rapid Housing Initiative October 5th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. I think the Minister's really missing my point on this whole -- my Member's statement alluded to the Rapid Housing programs and the fact that the Housing NT Minister and staff didn't do enough to ensure that every community was going to get some units, because I'm saying everybody's been crying for housing, especially in the Beaufort Delta where there's really hard to get at the communities of like Sachs Harbour, Paulatuk, and Ulukhaktok. And these were 100 percent dollars for homes that could have been given to people. And I ask housing, you know, why were they not aware of the program? And they did say they hired somebody so why didn't they jump on that, CMHC, about the programs?

I would like to know if the Housing NT Minister and staff had any contact with CIRNAC regional director or the CMHC office to have serious conversations about the severe housing shortages in all our communities? After all, it is a treaty right for most and a relocation right for others. Mahsi.

Question 1626-19(2): Communications regarding Rapid Housing Initiative October 5th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and mahsi to the Minister for that. She's mentioned only one community. And I've asked why, you know, it was for the whole of the Northwest Territories because there was many communities that were missed as per my Member's statement.

Mr. Speaker, although this may have been a federal program, shouldn't Housing NT be aware of any programs initiated by the federal government and received a head's up from the Liberal Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories and also from the NWT senator? Mahsi.

Question 1626-19(2): Communications regarding Rapid Housing Initiative October 5th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my questions are related to my Member's statement on housing and are for the housing minister.

Housing NT did not notify communities, nor residents, of the Rapid Housing Initiative Program despite the cries for help from all communities dealing with severe housing shortages. Can the Minister apprise this House, and the residents of the Northwest Territories, as to why Housing NT were not involved in the rollout of the Rapid Housing initiative in the NWT? Mahsi.

Member's Statement 1645-19(2): Reflections on Housing NWT October 5th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I have a few observations of Housing NWT that I would like to share with the House, and it helps to ease my mind for the time being.

Housing of residents is a major issue for all communities in the Northwest Territories, whether it be in the city, regional centres, or the smaller communities. Equally, and perhaps more important, are the isolated communities in the Beaufort region - Sachs Harbour, Ulukhaktok, and Paulatuk.

I can only imagine the mental health of a tenant when they are evicted from a housing rental unit, have no place to stay, and most of these people have families. This is prevalent across the vast Northwest Territories. Yet, the housing minister has not reached out nor visited these communities enough to truly understand their housing issues and to offer some kind of comfort and possible concrete solutions.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government offers the housing program with 100 percent dollars for Indigenous housing. That program is the Rapid Housing initiative. When this program rolled out in November 2021, there was a very short window to get the applications in. 30 days. I guess many of the communities in the territory didn't have the capacity to fill in the applications and to do it within that very short time period. Many communities were challenged with human resources and missed the golden opportunity for free housing. On top of it all, the federal government kept silent and sent out letters rather than make a huge announcement of an initiative that would have, at the very least, solved most housing shortages, including to the Beaufort region.

The Central Mortgage and Housing corporation, CMHC, has an office in Yellowknife but may as well be back in this Ottawa since no one knows of their existence in the North and what role they can play in addressing our dire housing needs.

When I had conversations with the CMHC representative regarding the initiative, they would not provide me with any information as they state it is all confidential. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

---Unanimous consent granted

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and mahsi, colleagues. It is ironic the Rapid Housing initiative is a confidential program while spending public dollars.

I also had conversations with the Crown Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, CIRNAC, regional director which, like the conversation with CMHC, went nowhere.

Mr. Speaker, that was my experience with the federal government representatives stationed here in the North and in Yellowknife. Many of our residents don't have easy access to these representatives. Mr. Speaker, the housing minister and staff should have played a crucial role in ensuring all communities have access to the Rapid Housing Initiative Program. Mahsi.

Committee Motion 500-19(2): Committee Report 55-19(2) Standing Committee on Government Operations Report on the Review of Bill 85: United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Implementation Act - Guidelines for Statements, Carried October 4th, 2023

Mahsi, Madam Chair. I want to express a few concerns I have with this bill. I know at the outset when UNDRIP was being discussed, for quite some time, even in 2019, I think there was high hopes that it would be implemented by all levels of government across the country which would give a lot of autonomy to Indigenous governments. That's what I saw then. But then being in this government -- or not the government, I should clarify that.

Seeing the actions of this government and how they deal with First Nations governments in the Northwest Territories, I sense that there's lots of disrespect when dealing with First Nations that haven't settled their self-government agreements. And what I see happening leading up to this was -- I think it was the year 2014, the devolution agreement and the creation of the Intergovernmental Council. When the creation was there, what was dangled in front of everybody was money. I mean, large chunks of cash. Some were getting, you know, $200,000 or $300,000. And they all signed on the dotted line.

The unity that the Dene people had, Indigenous organizations had, was broken at that point. It was all because of money. Prior to that, all First Nations within the territories were unified. It was one nation, and that was witnessed through the birth of the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories which brought all First Nations groups together. And that included the Metis. It went on to create the Dene Nation. Because of some dispute and some wanting to settle their claims, the comprehensive claims agreements, there was splintered groups, and everybody went on their own. But I wanted to express that the DFN, the Deh Cho First Nations, is not at the IGC table. They are still currently in negotiations which have been stalled for quite some time. And they are working on their own lands and resources and that's the big sticking point in any negotiations.

The Dene Nation, in the summer of 2022, the Wiilideh site, voted down the UNDRIP because they needed more clarity and a lot of it was the stickler with article 46.

I can't explain that article 46 very well. I think I would need a lawyer to really decipher and disseminate all that for me. I think I've asked the Premier's office to, but I wasn't getting any answers there.

You know, I'm just wondering what the rush is to implement this when all First Nations are not on board. There was no, you know, going out to the communities to talk to all First Nations, even at the Assemblies, which is the important part where everybody -- where the Premier and her party should have been at the Assemblies. They were never there. Never. Not at any of these Assemblies. That's, you know, a shame that that didn't come to fruition. When you're going to bring about something that's highly important, if you figure it's highly important for the First Nations, you're controlling them, you should have been there. You weren't at that Dene Nation meeting.

And I'm just wondering, you know, you always operate on critical mass. It's majority votes that you get. That's all you operate on. And I'm not even sure if we even looked at what are the ramifications to the GNWT legislation and financial resources. There's concerns there. You know, it's good to move on this, all right, but, you know, there are -- there wasn't a lot of informed and meaningful dialogue, meaningful consultation. I think there's federal legislation in that regard. There was nothing of that happening. And I don't want to just see it as a -- you know, our Premier leaving a legacy for herself saying well, we've introduced UNDRIP. That's what I did. You know, if that's all what it's about. Because the whole thing wasn't fleshed out with all groups, all Indigenous groups. We're leaving out the DFN and the Akaitcho.

And the Premier knows since I started my concerns with that, with this whole IGC first, where's the DFN? They make the Deh Cho First Nations look like the bad group but in fact they're not. They are strongly stating they are on unceded unsurrendered territory and will not give up their treaty rights. And after consultation with Deh Cho First Nations grand chief, I'll be voting to abstain from this motion. Mahsi.

Question 1613-19(2): Imperial Oil Tailing Ponds Seepage October 4th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and mahsi to the Minister. I'm just curious to know if the Minister's department has any reports or minutes of meeting that they may have had with the counterparts that I mentioned in Alberta, and if they could share that with the House or with the Members.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister, as being part of Cabinet who controls all of government, have they reached out to the Premier of Alberta to strongly urge dialogue to discuss grave concerns regarding the mines tailing ponds, seepage, and quite possibly breaching the enclosures? Mahsi.

Question 1613-19(2): Imperial Oil Tailing Ponds Seepage October 4th, 2023

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker, and to the Minister also. I think my Member's statement has clearly pointed out, from all news reports and whatnot, that we can't trust the Alberta government to work with our territorial government in providing any notices or advanced notices of the contaminants. They clearly don't have any control over what is happening at the tailings ponds at the tar sands mine sites. It's just run amuck right now.

In light of that, Mr. Speaker, the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Mikisew Cree First Nations of Fort Chipewyan, south of us in Alberta, have dealt with this issue since the development of the tar sands mining projects. Has the ECC Minister and department staff reached out to have a meeting with the two group to hear their concerns with the tailings ponds? Mahsi.