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Last in the Legislative Assembly November 2003, as MLA for Sahtu

Won his last election, in 1999, with 61% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Minister's Statement 69-24(6): National Aboriginal Day June 13th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak about an important day to all aboriginal people and Northerners, June 21st, National Aboriginal Day. Last year was the first time that National Aboriginal Day was celebrated as a statutory holiday in the Northwest Territories.

There is some history to National Aboriginal Day, Mr. Speaker. In 1982 the National Indian Brotherhood proposed that June 21st be a national aboriginal solidarity day. It was not until 1996 that it was declared a national celebration by the former governor general, His Excellency, the Right Honourable Romeo Leblanc.

To date, the Northwest Territories is the only jurisdiction to recognize National Aboriginal Day as a statutory holiday. I am very proud to be a Member of the legislature that worked to pass the National Aboriginal Day Act as it gives recognition to aboriginal peoples and the diversity of their culture and heritage. Recognition of the rich culture and heritage of the Dene, Metis and Inuvialuit is important for this country and for our territory.

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to report that last year's celebrations across the Northwest Territories were a huge success. Communities across the North showcased pride in their culture through a range of events such as traditional games, drum dances and cultural displays. This year aboriginal peoples and their culture will again be recognized and celebrated June 21st. I ask all Members to join me in encouraging the people of the Northwest Territories to participate in National Aboriginal Day activities in their communities.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the many volunteers who have helped plan National Aboriginal Day events like canoe racing, traditional games, fishing derbies, music, artwork, scavenger hunts and storytelling. Mr. Speaker, not only has this holiday become a celebration for aboriginal people, it is also a celebration for non-aboriginal people across the country. As Governor General Adrienne Clarkson said, it is an opportunity for all of us to celebrate our respect and admiration for First Nations, the Inuit, the Metis, for the past, the present and the future.

Mr. Speaker, I hope we can join together to make June 21st a successful date. Thank you.

---Applause

Tabled Document 73-14(6): Support Manufacturing June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Minister Antoine, I wish to table the following document entitled Supporting Manufacturing and Value Added Industries in the Northwest Territories: A Report by the Northwest Territories Business Advisory Panel, December, 2002. Thank you.

Tabled Document 72-14(6): Status Of Women Council Of NWT Annual Report 2001-2002 June 12th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I wish to table the following document entitled Status of Women Council of the Northwest Territories Annual Report 2001-2002. Thank you.

Question 318-14(6): Government Sponsored Insurance Programs June 12th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will take that question as notice.

Item 4: Returns To Oral Questions June 11th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I have a return to oral question asked by Mr. Lafferty on March 11, 2003, regarding the Bathurst port and road project environmental review process.

The Department of RWED is funding this review and shares your concern regarding the impact on the people of the Northwest Territories, and most specifically to those in the Akaitcho, Tlicho and Yellowknife areas.

On March 12, 2003, at the 6th Session of the Legislative Assembly, Minister Antoine referred to a letter he had sent on March 6, 2003, to the Honourable Robert Nault, Minister of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. The letter asked him once again to review the Bathurst port and road project under the broader part 6 of section 12 of the Nunavut land claim agreement. This letter was a follow up to his initial letter sent to Minister Nault on August 19, 2002. A copy of this initial letter was also sent to the Nunavut Impact Review Board to be placed on the public registry.

Both letters stated similar concerns to those that you have expressed and also noted that our people depend on the wildlife of the area, especially the Bathurst caribou herd, and that many residents of the Northwest Territories, and other parts of Canada, benefit from business opportunities in the area. The notion of marine shipping in the Arctic has been raised as well, and is of particular concern to coastal communities such as Holman.

In mid-April 2003, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development referred the proposal back to the Nunavut Impact Review Board to request a new project proposal so that the department could make its decision based on current information. The Minister of the department cited various reasons for doing so, including transboundary issues such as marine transportation, the Bathurst caribou herd, and the established economics of the Western Arctic. In turn, the board referred the letter back to the proponent suggesting that a new project proposal be submitted by May 12th. The proponent was unable to do so.

When a new project description is received by the board, it will be referred again to the Minister of DIAND. In the interim, RWED staff have contacted the Nunavut Impact Review Board and requested to be listed as an interested party and receive regular updates. RWED staff have also shared caribou data with the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee to investigate the number of route crossings that might occur in the vicinity of the proposed road. RWED can also provide similar technical assistance to other organizations that are reviewing impacts of the project.

RWED will continue to monitor this project and take action as required. In the meantime, I welcome comments from Members of the Assembly. As with all environmental assessment processes, our residents and agencies are encouraged to participate directly. Thank you.

Minister's Statement 61-14(6): Response To The Special Committee On The Review Of The Official Languages Act June 11th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to update Members on the government's plans for addressing the recommendations put forward by the Special Committee on the Review of the Official Languages Act in its report, One Land, Many Voices.

First of all, I would like to thank the Members of the committee for their efforts. The committee's report provides many recommendations on ways the Government of the Northwest Territories can help preserve and strengthen languages in the Northwest Territories. Some of these recommendations will be relatively easy to implement during the remaining term of this government. Others are more complex and will require further study.

One of the recommendations we believe we can accomplish now is to amend the Official Languages Act. The committee included a draft bill in its report for this purpose. Many of the proposed changes would clarify terminology and more clearly establish roles and responsibilities relating to the Official Languages Commissioner.

We recognize that the current act is over 10 years old and needs some updating. I would like to advise Members that the Government of the Northwest Territories will introduce a bill to amend the Official Languages Act and that this bill will adopt those recommendations that can be implemented at this time without further study. Minister Ootes will be introducing this bill for first reading later today.

Some other legislative changes may be required to implement some of the committee's recommendations. These include some of the recommendations related to education, which may require changes to the Education Act. The Government of the Northwest Territories believes it is important to address these changes in an orderly fashion and will consider further legislative initiatives as it considers how to implement the committee's recommendations.

Not all of the committee's recommendations will require legislative change. Many of the recommended changes can be accomplished through existing government programs and processes. However, some of the committee's recommendations are relatively complex and may have financial and organizational implications for the government. They may also affect the services and programs of a number of different departments.

Determining how to best address these recommendations will require an interdepartmental approach. It will also be important to address these in a careful and orderly fashion. Taking the time to study these changes will allow us to fully understand their potential impact before we undertake them.

Changes that will require significant reallocation of or new financial resources or changes to programs and services may best be dealt with through the government's business planning process. This will allow the government and Members of the Assembly the opportunity to consider how to best implement and finance changes recommended by the committee in the context of overall government priorities and our financial position.

Mr. Speaker, there is a Minister responsible for each piece of legislation passed by this legislature. Currently, responsibility for the Official Languages Act rests with the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment, the Honourable Jake Ootes. Minister Ootes will continue to take the lead in responding to the report of the Special Committee on the Review of the Official Languages Act and its recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to preserve and support the growth and use of all the NWT's official languages. During the remaining months of our term, the Government of the Northwest Territories will continue to strengthen our commitment and work on ways we can do this. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

---Applause

Minister's Statement 59-14(6): Report From Western Premiers June 11th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, for the past two days, I have been away meeting with my colleagues at the Western Premiers' Conference which was held at Kelowna, British Columbia. Before I left, I indicated to you there were three issues of particular importance to our government and the Northwest Territories: diamonds, devolution and federal economic development funding in the North. Today I would like to report on the progress made at the conference.

I am pleased that we secured the support of the western Premiers to work together to launch a national diamond strategy for the expansion of Canada's growing diamond industry.

In an effort to ensure that Canadians receive the full benefit of Canada's diamond resource, Premiers agreed that a national diamond strategy which addresses exploration, mining and value-added is required.

We also agreed to invite the federal government to join all the provinces and territories in the development of a Canadian diamond strategy including the open exchange of issues associated with the promotion of a Canadian secondary diamond industry.

Another important topic of interest to all Premiers was how to improve the provincial and territorial relationship with the federal government. We agreed that improvements could be made without constitutional change. For example, annual First Ministers' meetings with jointly negotiated agendas would be an important first step to improving federal/provincial/territorial relations. I am proud to report to you that my colleagues have lent their unequivocal support to the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to negotiate a fair devolution agreement with the federal government, which includes a fair share of resource revenues. All Premiers agreed that the territories, like provinces, should manage and control their resources and benefit from their development. Premiers also agreed upon initiatives on Senate reform and participation in international negotiations.

The three territories continue to be the only jurisdictions in Canada without a federally funded economic development program. Premier Fentie and I lent our support to Premier Okalik, who succeeded in securing western Premiers' support for northern economic development agreements.

A major issue for the western Premiers was BSE, mad cow disease. Premiers recognized that the closure of the American border has had an impact not only on the cattle industry, but also on the outfitting industry as the export of wild meat to the US has been banned. Premiers called upon the federal government to take immediate action to open the border as soon as possible. Our Ministers, federal/provincial/territorial, of Agriculture will meet in Vancouver on Friday, to continue discussions.

Mr. Speaker, healthcare funding also continues to be a priority issue for western Premiers and they called upon the federal government to increase its share of healthcare funding in line with what was identified in the Romanow report.

I was encouraged with the sense of cooperation among western Premiers to deal with difficult issues. I look forward to further advancing the interests of the NWT at the annual Western Premiers' Conference next year in Inuvik and as well at the beginning of July at the Annual Premiers' Conference which will be held in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. Thank you.

---Applause

Item 5: Recognition Of Visitors In The Gallery June 6th, 2003

Mr. Speaker, I rise as the humble husband of Marie Wilson to recognize our friends Bob and Menna Weese of Toronto. Both are former senior civil servants having served the governments in Saskatchewan, Ontario and the federal government. Bob is currently director for intergovernmental relations for General Electric Canada, taking part in the Canadian Chamber of Commerce meeting here. It's Bob and Menna's first trip to Yellowknife. Their sons Dylan and Bryn are both seasonal constituents of mine who work at Great Bear Lake. They are both qualified fishing guides and Dylan is a fish biologist. They are long-term friends.

As well, attending with them are friends of theirs, Mr. and Mrs. Bishop. I would like to welcome them also. Welcome.

---Applause

National Seniors' Week June 6th, 2003

Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to share something on a personal side. My father-in-law who has been coming here to the North since 1982, he came to Fort Good Hope in the middle of the winter, he's been here, Hay River, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson. We've taken a river trip down the Mackenzie River together. In 1998, Neil and his wife Ellen Wilson, brought for the first time Neil's younger brother Cec, along with his wife Lois, from southern Ontario. One day he remarked to his younger brother with tremendous pride and humour, he said, "Cec, here we are elders, back home we are nothing but a couple of old guys." I just wanted to share that with you because people have been picking this up, the rather high esteem with which we hold people who are in their senior years and elders in our society. Mahsi.

---Applause

National Seniors' Week June 6th, 2003

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. This is National Seniors' Week and as a Member of the Legislature for the Sahtu, I wanted to add a few comments as well. In our language, in the particular dialect of Fort Good Hope, the word for elders or seniors is denehisha, which means somebody held in high esteem. In the other dialects of the Sahtu, it is odah, which also means the same thing. It's somebody held in high esteem. This is a value that is shared with the Inuit, with the Inuvialuit, with the Metis and all northern peoples. It's something that many of us have been raised with and this is something I believe that all of us should be very proud of and try to support this rather unique tradition.

Last night, there was a gathering elders, seniors, from across the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Yukon, as well as every province across the country. They have a rather unique evening of entertainment. Mr. Speaker, as you know, no other jurisdiction in this country could possibly see an event take place like that where the Speaker of the Legislature would actually be the master of ceremonies. As well Members of the Legislature Jane Groenewegen and Mr. Paul Delorey were amongst the many people who came to show the seniors and elders that we are close to our communities, close to our people. The commissioner, Glenna Hansen, and I provided some entertainment, as well. The remarks were very well received that people across the country came to see that this is a very unique and different jurisdiction. I wanted to share that with people because I think this is one of the many elements as to why people will continue to come here.

If I could ask unanimous consent, Mr. Speaker, to conclude.