Debates of March 29, 2023 (day 152)

19th Assembly, 2nd Session
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. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O’Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Rocky Simpson, Hon. Shane Thompson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong


Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 344-19(2): NWT Alcohol Strategy

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, good afternoon. As Minister of Health and Social Services, I am deeply concerned about the harm alcohol does in our territory. Alcohol misuse continues to have significant, even devastating effects, on individuals, families, and communities, resulting in poor health, social problems, and economic costs. We know that alcohol impacts NWT residents disproportionately compared to other regions in Canada and alcoholrelated hospitalizations and deaths remain several times higher.

In January, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction released new guidelines with the message that all Canadians who drink any amount of alcohol should consider the harmful effects on their health. The guidelines elaborate on the risk of violence and injury which increases with every drink beyond the low threshold of two standard drinks per week.

Mr. Speaker, this is a considerable reduction from previous lowrisk drinking guidelines. The new information is based on updated research about the links between alcohol and the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, and the relationship between alcohol misuse and the risk of experiencing or perpetrating violence.

In 2019, the Canadian Alcohol Policy Evaluation Report gave the Northwest Territories a failing grade on our alcohol policies and recommended the territory develop an alcohol strategy. The purpose of the alcohol strategy for the Northwest Territories, which I will be tabling later today, is to reduce alcoholrelated harm for the whole population of the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, this strategy was shaped by a thorough literature review and engagement activities, undertaken using a genderbased analysis plus lens. Multiple rounds of feedback collected from community and Indigenous leaders and advisory bodies with cultural knowledge and lived expertise helped us to validate the strategy. Addressing alcoholrelated harms requires the collaboration of several departments and agencies including health and social services; finance; justice; education, culture and employment; infrastructure, the Northwest Territories Liquor and Cannabis Commission, and the three health and social services authorities.

Mr. Speaker, the actions align with many of the calls to action published by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and will help to address the recommendations emerging from the Office of the Auditor General Report on addictions prevention and recovery services in the NWT. There are 15 actions in the strategy, focusing on communications, policy development, prevention, public safety, and treatment. The strategy is accompanied by a work plan developed collaboratively with the involved departments. It provides steps and timelines for each action, as well as monitoring and evaluation plan to track outcomes.

Mr. Speaker, work has already begun on several components of the strategy, and we look forward to working closely with communities to tailor these actions to their needs and priorities. We heard repeatedly that trying to get and stay sober was lonely. Many communities are "alcogenic", meaning there are few social activities that do not involve alcohol. A direct lack of social support was a common reason that people experienced a relapse in their drinking. We also heard that connections to family, community, and culture were important factors in lasting recovery and wellness. The actions in the alcohol strategy aim to shift the focus around alcohol in our communities and build communities that support recovery over the long term.

Mr. Speaker, we recognize that addressing alcohol misuse is a complex issue that requires a coordinated and collaborative approach. The Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to working with our partners, including Indigenous governments and organizations, communities, health organizations, and others, to reduce the harms associated with alcohol. The NWT Alcohol Strategy aims to engage everyone in the NWT in addressing alcoholrelated harms by reflecting on our own behaviour, celebrating those who are in recovery, and providing support to one another to improve wellness. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Honourable Premier.

Minister’s Statement 345-19(2): COVID-19 Lessons Learned Report

Mr. Speaker, the COVID19 pandemic challenged our entire society on a fundamental level, forcing us to grow and adapt in the face of unprecedented threats to the health and wellbeing of our loved ones and our communities. Three years since the outbreak of the pandemic, it is still easy for many of us to recall the fear and the uncertainty of those early days, as the world searched for answers amid reports of the rapidly rising death tolls. Almost every Northerner has a story to tell how the pandemic touched their lives in some way. Some lost loved ones or were forced to miss out on major life events. Some saw their businesses suffer while others had to rethink their livelihood altogether. All faced a sacrifice of some kind as we dealt with this deadly crisis together.

After declaring a public health emergency in the Territory, the Government of the Northwest Territories continued to respond with urgency, launching what would become an intense, wholeofgovernment effort to protect the residents of our territory, especially those most vulnerable. We had to maintain our already limited health resources, redirecting and refocusing our services on the go, while avoiding the kind of systemic failures and social disruptions that were happening in other jurisdictions around the world. Through much hard work and sacrifice on the part of all Northerners, together we have largely succeeded in minimizing the worst impacts of the pandemic. Now, as a government, we need to take a moment to step back and learn from our actions over the last three years and take the lessons we have learned about our systems and processes and apply them to improve how we respond to a future public health emergency.

Mr. Speaker, later today I will table the COVID19 Lessons Learned Report. We are one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to initiate this kind of public review of our actions during the pandemic. We have heard from public servants most directly involved in responding to the COVID19 pandemic, and from residents, Indigenous governments, and other northern leaders, about the GNWT's operational management during the pandemic.

We learned a lot from this exercise about the need to better coordinate emergency responses specific to a longterm public health emergency. The COVID19 Lessons Learned Report includes 23 recommendations to assist the GNWT to better coordinate measures, improve accountability, and better serve the public and support employees in responding effectively to an emergency. We have already begun implementing some of these recommendations.

I want to thank all of those who participated in our surveys and our interviews. They described real challenges but also showed how people made their best efforts to respond to rapidly changing and unprecedented circumstances. These are lessons that we will carry with us into the future. I would like to take a moment to thank all the people who worked tirelessly within the Government of the Northwest Territories and across the Northwest Territories, responding with all their heart to the call to protect and care for their fellow Northerners. I also want to acknowledge my fellow Northerners for demonstrating resilience and resourcefulness as we grappled with unfamiliar and often frustrating realities. We were greatly challenged, but we met that challenge with strength, unity, and compassion. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Madam Premier. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Finance.

Minister’s Statement 346-19(2): Diversity and Inclusion Framework

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to creating a public service that ensures underrepresented groups are genuinely included, celebrated, and supported to meet their full potential. It is a public service that strives to be welcoming, culturally competent, and free of discrimination; one that serves in a way that respects and includes the diverse population of this territory. Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Finance is launching its Diversity and Inclusion Framework to help the GNWT not only improve the diversity of the public service but to work towards the full inclusion of all people. The objective is to create a public service that is representative of the communities we serve. Celebrating diversity and taking mindful actions towards inclusion within the GNWT will encourage the creation of inclusive and welcoming spaces for those that we serve.

Mr. Speaker, over the years the GNWT has implemented several diversity and inclusion initiatives in order to create safer spaces where all employees feel seen and valued. The GNWT antiracism campaign offers antiracism training and resources for employees to support the commitment to provide a diverse and inclusive workplace. The GNWT Advisory Committee on diversity and inclusion provides advice to the deputy ministers' human resources committee on improving access for designated employment equity groups in the public service. The Mitigating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace training offers GNWT employees the opportunity to develop practical tips on how to limit the damaging power of stereotyping and build inclusion in the workplace. We offer all employees a range of training opportunities that will assist them in ensuring our workplace culture continues to celebrate inclusion and that we maintain a physically and emotionally safe workplace for all GNWT employees.

The 2SLGBTQQIA+101 Inclusive Workplace Awareness Training;

Living Well Together;

Equitable Workplace: Cultivating Attitudes of Antiracism and Allyship for employees and managers;

Harassment Free Respectful Workplace Training for managers and supervisors;

Duty to Accommodate Training for managers and supervisors;

The Working Mind; and,

Mitigating Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

are just a small sample of the training the GNWT provides. Each of these programs provide tremendous benefit to our workforce and our territory.

However, I fully acknowledge there is room for improvement to ensure that we are providing our employees with a variety of learning opportunities to help them embrace diversity and explore other avenues of inclusion.

Mr. Speaker, this framework will take a wholeofgovernment approach to tackling barriers to a representative workforce and inclusion. It will serve as a blueprint as we set our sights on creating a public service that is welcoming and respectful to all its employees and the people it serves. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Members’ Statement

Member’s Statement 1490-19(2): Treatment Facilities

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, over the last three and a half years, I have been listening to this government provide reasons as to why we are not willing to move towards an addiction treatment centre specifically for the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, this, and previous governments, continually commit to doing better. Indigenous people are asking them to do better. Yet we continue to receive independent audits that say better is not happening. The Auditor General of Canada in its report on addictions, prevention, and recovery services in the Northwest Territories stated the following: "We found concerning shortcomings in the provision of addiction services, from ensuring equitable access to services for all residents to ensuring that services are culturally safe for Indigenous clients, and that aftercare services are sufficient to support client's recovery goals."

Mr. Speaker, it is important that we continue to strive for equitable access to culturally appropriate southern facilities, local outpatient services, on the land programs, and aftercare. We also need to understand that southern facilities provide mainstream colonial type treatment or that based on southern Indigenous culture. Does this work for Indigenous persons from the NWT? According to the auditor general's report, there's a lack of tracking on patient success so we may never know.

Mr. Speaker, while we are willing to send residents to southern Canada for alcohol and drug treatment, then why is it that we are not willing to entertain setting up a standalone inpatient alcohol and drug treatment centre in the NWT? We often hear the department referencing the treatment centre which was once located on the lands of the K'atlodeeche First Nation and how it did not work. It is time to put that excuse to rest and move forward with an evaluation to determine the feasibility of having an inpatient treatment centre in the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, we know that this government sends approximately 200 persons per year to southern treatment centres which confirms the need for such a facility. It is important for those that wish to be closer to home and closer to family to have access to a culturally appropriate treatment facility. The reality is that though we have access to cultural expertise, we are missing the licensed health component which is required in the treatment process.

Mr. Speaker, I will be asking the Minister of health to consider a NWT culturally appropriate treatment centre be established, if not on the ground in the NWT then in Edmonton or Calgary where staff are willing to reside and recruitment may be easier. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1491-19(2): Government Decentralization

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I want to talk about government decentralization. This is something that I have spoken about several times throughout this term and something that nearly all members have spoken about at one point or another.

Mr. Speaker, decentralization of government jobs and services is a priority of this Assembly. It is a concept and practice that is vital to strengthening small communities and regional centres. For far too long, the Government of the Northwest Territories has normalized and made it standard policy across all departments to centralize all or most government jobs and services to the capital. This has severely limited what type of services are offered or available in communities. This practice removes the option for all people who reside outside the capital from accessing most services from their home communities or regions.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, the decentralization of government jobs has required people, in most cases, to relocate to the capital to work in certain public service positions. And that's a point that was raised in the affirmative action committee report that was read in the House just yesterday. As deputy chair of the Standing Committee on Government Operations, I heard direct testimony from many residents across the NWT who mentioned that decentralization of public service jobs is a barrier for them seeking employment in that sector.

Fin closing, Mr. Speaker, all throughout this Assembly I have heard dozens of stories from people across the NWT who were forced to go to the capital whether for medical travel purposes or even to relocate in order to take a new job. In this day and age, people should not have to do that all the time but let's be honest here, it's cumbersome, it is stressful, and inconvenient for residents to have to travel to the capital for every little thing or for jobs that can be located in their communities and regional centres.

I could go on about this, Mr. Speaker, but I will leave it at that. I will have questions for the Premier later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Member’s Statement 1492-19(2): Project Assessment Policy Review

Merci, Monsieur le President. I have raised this government's faulty project assessment policy many times as an MLA, and here I go again.

Cabinet approved the project assessment policy on April 13th, 2017. The project assessment policy requires quote, "any technical advice and evidence provided to boards by the respective staff is in line with legislation, cabinet direction, and ministerial policies established under this policy." This policy reads like a way of muzzling our scientists and preventing presentation of evidence that may not be consistent with Cabinet's way of thinking. My concerns were borne out by the review board in its March 29, 2018 report on the Tlicho AllSeason Road. The board found that the socalled wholeofgovernment approach quote "has limited the ability of evidence and expertise from GNWT departments about potential impacts, concerns, and mitigation on issues within their respective mandates and jurisdictions."

As a result of this harsh criticism of GNWT, the Department of Lands commissioned a "lessons learned" report on the Tlicho AllSeason Road environmental assessment. That report concluded that quote "a wholeofgovernment approach is not necessarily best suited to all projects where the GNWT is the proponent and should not be the default approach for future projects where the GWNT is a proponent". It also said quote, "a wholeofgovernment approach, particularly in the context of a public review process, cannot be successful without an explicit commitment to greater transparency and evidencebased decisionmaking."

The formal response from the Department of Lands committed to reviewing the project assessment policy by the end of the 19th Assembly. I am still waiting, Mr. Speaker, and there's not much time left. This work is increasingly important as GNWT is likely to become a proponent for large infrastructure projects that will require very careful scrutiny.

I asked written questions on this topic in March 2022, almost a year ago. I was told there would be no public engagement or work with Indigenous governments in revising the policy. That's a big disappointment. I will have questions for the Minister of Lands on whether this work is really going to get done by the end of the 19th Assembly. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Member’s Statement 1493-19(2): Income Assistance Clawbacks

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today my Member's statement's on income assistance clawbacks. Today I rise and bring attention to the clawbacks on income assistance in my riding. Over the last weeks, I have received concerns that income assistance recipients that are penalized because of the federal benefits that were received during the COVID pandemic. These benefits include the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit, CRBC, Canada Recovery Benefit. Mr. Speaker, many Nunakput residents are in need of these benefits and now it's they're being clawed back. They're being penalized. They claimed these benefits, most of the residents had to call an automated number to punch in their information, then the federal government gave direct deposits right into the people's account. But the automatic deposit did not often give a printout to the benefits. Recipients had nothing to give for income assistance officers so now the people are getting their T4s, and the GNWT is penalizing people and cutting them off for 60 days at a time. I have a mother of four in Tuk being cut off for two months that has no job, and that's unacceptable. I can't imagine the hardship that dependent on income assistance that we give payments to take away payments for two months that the GNWT is pushing people into poverty. It's unacceptable. There are families having trouble putting food on the table, having to ask their siblings for help, they're falling behind on their rent, they're being forced out to living daily essential items like toilet paper, other care products, diapers for kids. It's a shameful situation. Our residents shouldn't have to make these kinds of choices. The federal government says that they're not responsible for what the GNWT does. The GNWT says that the people should have declared their income sooner. But like I said earlier, many recipients never got a printout of the benefit. I hope the Minister hears me when I say he should not penalize people today for administrative problems from two years ago. The Minister might say ECE is following regulations but has a cruel effect on most vulnerable people. We're taking our and we're talking about our elders, disabled people, low income people, illiterate people, people who don't understand why the federal benefits for two years ago are being applied against their income assistance.

Mr. Speaker, I'm asking the Minister to look into this issue for positive solutions. This case is a bad benefits administration should not punish residents in my riding and people across the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1494-19(2): Small Health Centre Diagnosis Concerns

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I believe I brought up health centre concerns related to ailments of residents that were not diagnosed at the initial visit but rather looked at and sent home with a Tylenol. Mind you, these were all serious concerns having to do with ailments that weren't diagnosed in time, which most times were serious in nature, serious enough that patients had to be medevaced out to Yellowknife or Edmonton.

Mr. Speaker, recently a young resident went to the health centre for an ailment believed to be gallstone inflammation. I believe the nurse concurred with the ailment and gave medication and sent the patient home. Six days later, and in pain, it was decided to medevac the patient out to Stanton hospital. The doctor at Stanton informed the patient his gallstones were too inflamed to consider surgery and was given more medication for the pain and was told of the possibility of being sent home while waiting for the inflammation to subside. The patient notified me of the situation and was very puzzled by what was transpiring and all the while in pain. This added more stress on the patient.

When I followed up with the patient of his situation in which the hospital was releasing him to be sent home, the patient stated the operation did take place and was now mending. That was a quick turnaround and has me puzzled as well.

I have brought forward many times the need to do evaluations of health centres, which would include evaluations of staff, evaluations of diagnostics and medications administered, availability of programs and services for residents dealing with chronic diseases, and so forth. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the health minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Member’s Statement 1495-19(2): Seniors Housing

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, between 2003 and 2021, the senior population in the NWT rose from 2,787 to 6,920. Although we should continue to focus on attracting people of all ages to the Northwest Territories to live and work, we must also focus on supporting our seniors and their ability to age in their home communities within the Northwest Territories. We have many benefits for seniors, including resources to help access medical care and medication which makes the Northwest Territories an attractive place to live, work, and retire for seniors. However Mr. Speaker, I worry that the government is not reacting fast enough to our growing rate of seniors.

One area we need to continue to support is housing for seniors. I look at the Avens pavilion as a piece of infrastructure which will help support a key demographic that brings so much to our community. The goals of the expansion of Avens include providing Northwest Territories seniors with:

Increased residential living choices, including:

(92) onebedroom units; and,

(10) twobedroom units.

Adequate, accessible and affordable housing;

Energy efficient homes;

A sense of community within a multifamily complex; and,

Support seniors so they can move seamlessly through the continuum of care without leaving the Avens community.

This critical piece of infrastructure must be complemented with aginginplace services, resources for seniors, and a strategy from the government to systematically ensure our seniors have what they need so they can continue to play the vital role they do in Northwest Territories society.

More work is needed as the NWT's population continues to age. We must ensure services and programs are in place that encourage our most precious resource, our seniors and elders, to stay in the North.

I want to thank Great Slave constituent Daryl Dolynny and the staff at Avens for advancing their pavilion project and the myriad of community members who worked tirelessly and raised funds to support them. I would also like to thank the Yellowknife Seniors’ Society for the important work they do, the programs they run, the information they provide, and the overall support they give to this important group. And I want to congratulate their recently elected board and I look forward to collaborating with them in the future. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1496-19(2): Taltson Hydro Expansion Project

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. How much is the Taltson project going to cost? Where is it going to go? Who are we selling the power for? Mr. Speaker, people in this House have been asking those questions for two decades. In 2004, Joe Handley said that a line to the diamond mines was expensive; it was going to cost us $170 million, Mr. Speaker. Well, Mr. Speaker, if we could get a line to the diamond mines from Taltson for $170 million, I'd build it tomorrow. However, Mr. Speaker, what happened in 2014 is after spending $18 million in studying, we found out the diamond mines didn't want to buy our power, Mr. Speaker, and they were not willing to enter into a longterm purchasing agreement. So we scrapped that iteration of the project. And then we looked to see if the southern provinces would buy our power, Mr. Speaker. And the Minister announced in this House well, they weren't really interested because they had some hydro projects on their own. And so, Mr. Speaker, for two decades we have been asking for a public business case on the Taltson Hydro Project, a clear evidencebased business case to see whether our power corporation can actually make a profit off of this project, Mr. Speaker, because if they don't, all of our rates are going up, Mr. Speaker. We need a clear, evidencebased decisionmaking project that tells us how much power are we trying to sell, who are we selling it to, Mr. Speaker. If it's not the diamond mines and it's not the provinces, I don't know who it is, Mr. Speaker. And at what rate are we selling it?

Mr. Speaker, the reality is our current power rates are more expensive than it is to burn diesel, and mines have to make a decision. Is it really worth their shareholder investment to get into Taltson power and is there even a route to where they're going because we have, for 20 years, been trying to figure out where exactly this transmission line is going. Is it going north, south, east, or west, I don't know, Mr. Speaker, and I hope the Minister of Infrastructure does before she goes and asks for any more money from this federal government. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Tu NedheWiilideh.

Member’s Statement 1497-19(2): Public Inquiry into Environmental Impact of Cosmo 954 Crash

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the headwaters is the life and blood of our homeland in the Mackenzie River basin. Throughout the years, we have been forced to adjust to a confluence of industrial threats upstream from us, a toxic cocktail of deadly contaminants flowing past our camps, communities, and impacting our waters sorry, cocktails impacting our waters, lands and animals and the people. The health of the water and the land is connected to the wellbeing of our people. We face increased health problems from a rare disease and a climb in cancer rates throughout the North but, in particular, around the Big Lake in the riding of the Tu NedheWiilideh riding. People are dying. We need answers to understand why this is happening.

Mr. Speaker, 45 years ago the entire globe was transfixed on us here in the North. That's when the cold war aired nuclear power Soviets by satellite fell out of the orbit and crashed in the Northwest Territories.

The story of the Cosmos 954 were something out of a science fiction story that fascinated the world by terrorizing our people. Cosmos 954 was a Soviet spy satellite designed to look for US nuclear power submarines in the ocean. The radar on board was the most powerful in the late 1970s. The powerful radar required a nuclear reactor for the satellite. The reactor contained over 100 pounds or 50 kilos of uranium 235. Scientists at the time estimated that it's a reactor containing the power of about a hundred thousand tonnes of TNT to fix into context. That's five times the force of the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima.

On January 24th, 1978, Cosmos 954 and its nuclear reactor crashed over the frozen Great Slave Lake. The crash scattered an enormous amount of radioactive debris over 124,000 square kilometers; some large pieces but most peppercorn sized bits of radioactive black soot that rained down. Over the frozen land and lake, recovered pieces emitted a radiation level of 500 rad tonnes per hour, enough to kill a person in a few hours. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my Member's statement.

Unanimous consent granted Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. For the first time in the North, a massive international military joint task force of United States and USA joined up. It's what they call a clean up and recovery. The extensive multiyear mission was called Operation Morning Light. After the crash, phase one of the operation was able to recover 12 large pieces, ten of them which is radioactive. As the operation continued, international tension was warned and was eventually nearly forgotten. The cleanup effort is estimated to only have recovered .01 percent of radioactive raining core. The rest melted in the water and lands when spring eventually turned into summer. The half of the enriched uranium 235 is 700 million years.

Mr. Speaker, the crash left this mark, and there is a strong concern that the source of the drastic spike in cancer around the lake in the early 1980s that continues to this date. 45 years later after the crash, there are still only questions. Over the decades, there is growing urgency for answers from the people and communities in my riding. We need answers. We want them.

Nearly two years before the crash of Cosmos 954, the country was focused on the North and typical work on the Berger Inquiry. It was the first time a government funded commission operated in that way. Listening to intently and truly, the DeneMetis and Inuit people of the North. The report funded a northern frontier northern homeland changed the course of history. This type of work that needed to be done once again for the health of our lands and water, for the health of our communities and people, we need answers. We need government and the country to listen. We need them to care.

Mr. Speaker, that is why I'm calling for a public inquiry into the crash of Cosmos 954 but only to address the confluence of industrial threats flowing past us every day. This is a real concern about lasting health effects from the crash which may be the reasons for increased rates of cancer or other illness.

The people of Fort Resolution, Lutselk'e, Dettah, and N'dilo had been left to deal with the consequences of this incident for far too long without receiving any compensation, public apology, or support they deserve. Mr. Speaker, I'll have questions for the Premier at the appropriate time. Mahsi.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Tu NedheWiilideh. Colleagues, let's be mindful of the time. “To conclude your statement” is to conclude, not to do another. But I'm in a good mood today so I'll let it slide.

Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Member’s Statement 1498-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Indigenous Languages System

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, we are in year two of the UN's decade of Indigenous languages. Here in the Northwest Territories, we have 11 official languages, nine of which are Indigenous languages. Half of our 6,800 Indigenous language speakers are over 50 years old and onefifth are over the age of 65.

Mr. Speaker, the UN considers all nine of our official languages endangered. During the standing committee's engagement on official languages, committee heard that young people are losing their traditional language and language teachers shared concern over students being able to maintain language learned when language is not visible or actively used around communities.

The GNWT, Mr. Speaker, can play a significant role in building language speakers and a system for residents to access services in an Indigenous language by creating a meaningful system of public servants able to provide services in any official language across the Northwest Territories. But, Mr. Speaker, why is building a territorywide system important to equitable access to service and language revitalization?

Mr. Speaker, one out of ten Tlicho speakers are not Tlicho beneficiaries in the Northwest Territories right now. More than half of all Chipewyan speakers are not Akaitcho territory government beneficiaries. Mr. Speaker, a significant amount of Gwich'in speakers are not Gwich'in Tribal Council beneficiaries in the Northwest Territories right now. But all of these language speakers have rights in the Northwest Territories regardless of their membership to a beneficiary.

Mr. Speaker, so why is understanding the demographics of language speakers across the territory important? Well, Mr. Speaker, the highest number of all Chipewyan speakers in the Northwest Territories live here in Yellowknife and N'dilo. More Cree speakers live outside of the Fort Smith area than in it. Most of them live in a combination of Hay River, Fort Simpson, and Yellowknife. And the third highest number of all NWT Gwich'in speakers live in Yellowknife and N'dilo area. And NWT Gwich'in speakers who live in each of the nonGTC settlement area communities of Fort Smith and Hay River than in Aklavik alone. And more than onequarter of all NWT Gwich'in speakers live in nonGTC settlement areas or communities. So, Mr. Speaker, it is really that we understand that regardless of where language speakers live, that revitalizing language and caring for language speakers is a GNWTwide issue. Mr. Speaker, language revitalization is possible but it will take targeted meaningful funded solutions that consider our territory as a whole and the members of the public service itself, supported by its employer, have the opportunity to play a significant role. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Nahendeh.

Member’s Statement 1499-19(2): Nahanni National Park Agreement

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the new agreement that gives Nahanni Butte more control over the Nahanni National Park Reserve. It has been a work in progress with the Government of Canada. This agreement will boost the community's economy by creating ten new jobs. Beside the new jobs, the community will see three new buildings being built. The three building are a Parks Canada office, a guardians program office, and a lodge for elders and tourists.

In speaking with Jayne Konisenta, a longterm councillor, she was very happy to see the commitment made by Parks Canada fulfilling a request by the elders. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that she spoke to a lot of the elders throughout the years. Unfortunately some have passed away and some felt things were not going the way they wanted. She told them it's not going to happen overnight; it's not an overnight process; it's going to take years. She advocated for these facilities when she was younger, and now she is becoming an elder and she still at the table but the different is that we have come to a good place.

Mr. Speaker, when speaking to Chief Steven Vital, he stressed this agreement is for our past elders, it's what they wanted, and it's for our future generation.

Mr. Speaker, could you imaging ten new jobs coming to any community let alone a community the size of Nahanni Butte? These jobs are going have a huge impact on the residents and the community. We will see young people wanting to stay in their home community now. This agreement is a new and innovative model for cooperative management. In practice, that means reshaping the existing comanagement where Nahanni Butte has a larger role in the Nahanni National Park Reserve. The beautiful thing about this agreement, the band will now have the resources to bring their traditional knowledge and to collect scientific knowledge to bring it to the table on their own terms. It was a true partnership with Parks Canada.

Mr. Speaker, part of the agreement is funding for a new on the land guardianship program which will operate within the park reserve. More on the land programming will be opened to the local youth and elders. Mr. Speaker, the Nahanni National Park Reserve is a giant park, the thirdlargest in Canada, spanning everything from canyons and mountains to waterfalls. Virginia Falls and the Cirque of the Unclimbables are among its treasures.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the community, chief and council, and Parks Canada for this signing.

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With us today we have Mr. Matthew Miller, the president of the NWT Teachers Association, and Mr. David Murphy, the executive director of the NWT Teachers Association. They're joining us today for the rest reading of the Education Act bill that I'll be moving forward later. And Mr. Speaker, I also want to recognize my mother Bayline's in the gallery, as well as my spouse Chantelle Lafferty. Welcome.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Hay River North. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Inuvik Boot Lake.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to recognize two pages from Inuvik Boot Lake, Cayley Rueben as well as Angelina Wainman. And I'd also like to recognize Mr. Matt Miller who used to be a teacher at the East Three in Inuvik. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Great Slave.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, earlier in this session I rose to acknowledge my page, and I realized I did not use their preferred name. So I would like to recognize my page Andy Sieben who is here from Great Slave, and all of the pages who have done a wonderful job. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Yellowknife South.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to have a page from Yellowknife South here again, Cayley Ibusosch is with us. If we could recognize her today, please.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife South. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Hay River South.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I won't recognize my wife who is in the gallery, but I will recognize the Minister of education's mother. Thank you.