Debates of May 25, 2023 (day 154)

19th Assembly, 2nd Session
Members Present
Hon. Diane Archie, Hon. Frederick Blake Jr., Mr. Bonnetrouge, Hon. Paulie Chinna, Ms. Cleveland, Mr. Edjericon, Hon. Julie Green, Mr. Jacobson, Mr. Johnson, Ms. Martselos, Ms. Nokleby, Mr. O’Reilly, Ms. Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Ms. Weyallon Armstrong


Good afternoon, colleagues. Please join me in thanking elder Lillian Elias in leading us in prayer today.

Before we begin, I want to take a moment to acknowledge the wildfires and flooding impacting our communities across the territory. If you or your community has been impacted by the fires south of the lake, or by the flooding in my riding, please know that our thoughts are with you all. If you are impacted, I encourage you to work with local emergency officials.

I want to personally thank the leaders and staff, people who have been working tirelessly to help the affected residents. If you have not been impacted but you want to help those who are, I encourage you to make donations and reach out to those who are providing assistance. As Northerners, we help each other when and how we can. We are here for each other.

Colleagues, we have not been together in this House since March 30th, 2023, and I am pleased to welcome you back. It's great to be here. Although we have not met in this House in nearly two months, I know you have all been busy in our committees, have met numerous times, and have travelled and discussed legislation with residents. Cabinet Members have been busy with the ongoing operations of government. Each of us has been occupied with the needs of our constituents, the people who elected us and whom we represent in this Chamber. Colleagues, I hope you were also able to find time to connect with your family and closest friends, the people who support us as we work for the people of the territory.

Springtime in the Northwest Territories is a beautiful time. The days are getting longer, the birds have returned from the south, and the waterways are opening up. I know a lot of you and your constituents have been out on the land taking part in the spring hunt. I wish everybody success and safety on the land. And I hope you get a good tan like I did over the spring.

Colleagues, please join me in welcoming our pages to the Chamber. It is an honour to share this space with our youth. Mahsi.

Not only are we welcoming youth into this Chamber as pages for this sitting, but we also recently hosted our 19th Youth Parliament. It was inspiring to hear our youth read their statements and debate motions in this Chamber. Our Youth Parliament is a wonderful program that I am very proud of, and I want to thank the staff who made this successful again this year. I have said many times that I believe our youth are our future. Based on what I seen and heard during our Youth Parliament, I am confident our future is in good hands.

I would also like to welcome our interpreters back to the Assembly and thank them for their work. Our languages are vital to us as Northerners. They tie us to our culture and to the land and to one another. Our interpreters make it possible for us to use, strengthen, and honour languages. During this sitting, I am honoured that we will be able to provide interpretation into the following languages: Dene Suline Yatie, Inuvialuktun, Dene Kede, Dene Zhatie, Tlicho Yatii, and French.

Now, colleagues, it is my duty to advise the House that I have received the following message from the Commissioner of the Northwest Territories. It reads: Dear, Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise that I recommend to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories the passage of Supplementary Appropriation Act (Infrastructure Expenditures), No. 2, 20232024; and, Supplementary Appropriation Act (Operations Expenditures), No. 1, 20232024, during the second session of the 19th Legislative Assembly. Yours truly, Margaret M. Thom, Commissioner.

Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 351-19(2): Additional Financial Support during Extended Evacuation

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Premier to announce two new government policies on how the Government of the Northwest Territories supports resident who have been evacuated from their communities for extended periods of time and communities that support them. As of May 24th, nearly 2,000 people from Hay River and the K'atlodeeche First Nation Reserve have registered as evacuees in Yellowknife, with additional evacuees staying in other NWT communities including Enterprise, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, and Fort Smith. Currently, residents who must evacuate their home community receive transportation, meals, and accommodation at the evacuation centres. Income assistance clients are also provided emergency funds of $500 to $1,000. However, we know that not everyone is eligible for support through income assistance and being away from home can result in unexpected expenses that are particularly challenging for those who experience an interruption to their income.

Today, the Government of the Northwest Territories is launching two new programs to support registered evacuees and community governments: The Evacuee Income Disruption Support Program and the Community Government Hosting Evacuees Grant.

The Evacuee Income Disruption Support Program assists individuals who have lost income due to recent community evacuations. This program aims to provide targeted financial relief during evacuations. The Evacuee Income Disruption Support program is available to all NWT residents who are subject to an evacuation order over seven days and have suffered a loss of income because their employment has been disrupted due to the evacuation order. Eligible individuals will receive a onetime payment of $750.

With yesterday’s announcement from the Town of Hay River, many evacuees are now planning to return home. Still, I assure those residents that if their income has been disrupted, they will still be eligible for this program even if they returned home. Information on how to apply is available on our website and on the GNWT Facebook page.

Mr. Speaker, it is also important to note that we support our community governments at this time; most notably, the Town of Hay River, the K'atlodeeche First Nation, and the communities that have welcomed residents since the evacuation orders were issued on May 14. We understand that some evacuees have chosen not to come to Yellowknife for a variety of reasons and were being supported by other communities in the South Slave and the Deh Cho. We commend these communities for taking in, feeding, and supporting evacuees during such a challenging period.

In order to assist communities who have been unable to secure funding from other sources, the GNWT is launching the Community Government Hosting Evacuees Grant, which is a grant designed to help eligible community governments cover costs associated with supporting registered evacuees, including staffing, lodging, meals, and the provision of essential services. Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Shane Thompson has already sent letters to relevant communities advising them of this funding, which is separate from what is provided to communities operating official evacuee centres. Communities seeking the Community Government Hosting Evacuees Grant will have up to 30 days from the date the evacuation order is lifted and/or community residents are able to return home to apply for a grant through this program.

We announce both programs today, and more information is available for residents and community governments on the GNWT website or our GNWT Facebook page. We know this wildfire season is going to be challenging. The evacuation event for Hay River and K'atlodeeche First Nation serves as a reminder to all of us to do everything we can to be ready for emergencies. This includes being prepared for evacuation on short notice and, wherever possible, having plans in place to safeguard personal health and safety as well as economic wellbeing, and your family members and pets as well, Mr. Speaker. This is an exceptionally challenging period for many NWT residents, and we must continue to lean on each other in the days and weeks ahead. NWT residents and communities have this government's full support.

The GNWT is incredibly grateful to the community and the residents of Yellowknife, who have welcomed so many evacuees with open arms and open hearts. I also want to thank everyone involved in supporting evacuees at the multiplex here in Yellowknife and in Enterprise, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, and Fort Smith, as well as any other communities that have welcomed evacuees. Your compassion and time have not gone unnoticed.

Further, on May 18, the GNWT announced its commitment to supporting fire evacuees from Hay River and K'atlodeeche First Nation through a donation matching program through the United Way NWT. The GNWT is matching donations up to $150,000 providing critical assistance to those affected by the ongoing community evacuations. One hundred percent of donations raised through United Way NWT's 2023 wildfire response fundraising campaign will go towards supporting evacuees. The community and corporate support we've seen for this campaign has been truly inspiring, and I want to thank the donors for their generosity.

On behalf of the Government of the Northwest Territories, I want to give our heartfelt thanks to the crews on the ground, the pilots, the air attack officers, and tanker base teams for their incredible support to combat these wildfires. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Deputy Premier. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Housing NWT.

Minister’s Statement 352-19(2): Memorial Scholarships

Mr. Speaker, today I want to extend my continued sympathy to the families of two men who gave so much to our territory and also highlight how our government will be honouring their memory for years to come. I am of course speaking about the loss of two exceptional men, former housing minister Alfred Moses and former Housing NWT president and CEO Mr. Tom Williams.

I have carried their memory in this portfolio, advancing our relationships with Indigenous governments and, most importantly, working directly with our communities. It is because of their leadership and support that we have been able to take the National Housing Strategy and convert it into successful relationships and funding for housing in the Northwest Territories. During the 19th Legislative Assembly, examples in this government include individual partnership agreements with Indigenous governments for housing, as well as direct funding from Canada to Indigenous governments for housingrelated infrastructure projects.

I am pleased to be a part of the success in this relationship, and all relationships throughout the Northwest Territories, that opened the door for Housing NWT to be successful in the Northwest Territories. I am still saddened by the passing of Alfred Moses and Tom Williams and during the time of this government in respect of their work and accomplishments for this government and this portfolio, today I would like to announce scholarships in both their names.

The two new scholarships that Housing NWT has recently introduced, the Alfred Moses Memorial Scholarship and the Tom Williams Memorial Scholarship, to recognize and celebrate students who have provided positive contributions to housing programs across the territory. These scholarships are in memory of Alfred and Tom, who demonstrated a profound commitment to addressing housing issues throughout the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, Housing NWT will offer six scholarships of $1,000 in the name of Alfred Moses and six scholarships in the name of Tom Williams. Both scholarships will award one in each of the five Housing NWT districts and one in Yellowknife, are available to students who are entering into the field related to housing. Applications will be open. The closing date is July 5th of this year.

Housing NWT already strongly supports the development of apprentices, which was a huge commitment of Mr. Williams, in the maintenance and trades and these new scholarships will provide additional support to widen our workforce and students to become interested as a complete postsecondary and secondary education programs.

Mr. Speaker, as we have previously shared with the Members of the Legislative Assembly, we will work with the Department of Education, Culture and Employment to promote and coordinate Housing NWT's apprenticeship program to secure additional candidates throughout the territory. Housing has a target of hiring 12 local housing organization apprenticeships positions every year.

Mr. Speaker, Housing NWT understands that investing into our youth means a better future for our residents. Our values include innovation, stability, and collaboration. With the introduction of these scholarships, we are expanding our support to many students and apprenticeships across the Northwest Territories. We believe this will help strengthen our workforce with the more skilled workers and leads to a brighter future for housing solutions.

Mr. Speaker, Alfred Moses and Tom Williams have made a lasting impression on my life. As being a firstMember elect, it was saddening to see and hear the passing of these two individuals as I entered into my political career. Today I would like to welcome Pam Williams, the wife of Tom and their son Aurora and James, I'd just like to express my sympathy to the family as well, too. Your dad was a very great mentor and a strong colleague of mine. Mahsi. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Minister’s Statement 353-19(2): Ministers Absent from the House

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the House that the Honourable Shane Thompson will be absent from the House for today and tomorrow to attend the federal/provincial/territorial Ministers for conservation, wildlife and biodiversity meeting in Ottawa, Ontario.

I also wish to advise the House that the Honourable Caroline Cochrane will be absent from the House for today and tomorrow due to illness. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Members’ Statements

Member’s Statement 1510-19(2): Searching for Frank Gruben

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today, with the permission of Frank Gruben's mother Laura, I'd like to speak to everybody here, and throughout the Northwest Territories and beyond, to tell you about Frank who has been in Fort Smith attending college and was last seen on May 6th, 2023.

Frank is 30 years old from Aklavik. Frank is Inuvialuit and Gwich'in. He has a beautiful blended culture and is passionate about his traditional values he learned throughout his life. Frank loves learning and speaking the Gwich'in language. He had the most fun on the local radio station with his mentor elder Annie Buckle. He also taught Gwich'in to the children of the Aklavik Jordan's Principle Program. Frank has a beautiful smile that captures anyone's heart. His smile could light up any room, and he could make you laugh from your tummy with his silly gestures and his acting behaviour.

Frank loves taking care of his appearance with all his brand name clothing, always looking sharp the way he dresses. Frank is a kindhearted young man and is willing to help anyone who needs it or asks for help. Frank loves his elders, especially his grandmother Renee Stewart. Frank is such an inspiration to his baby sister Kimberlynn. She adores her big brother, and he loves her so much. Frank is also a big brother to Steven, and they both love to cook and try new recipes challenging one another. Frank has so many friends who are all posting their memories and stories of their best friend asking for answers to bring him home. So many are heartbroken. Many tears have fallen since he has gone missing. The people of Aklavik, friends, family, especially his parents Laura and Charlie, brother Steven, and especially his little sister Kimberlynn, are asking to help bring Frank home please.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to bring awareness of who Frank is, make a face, and turn him into a person for the rest of the territory and the rest of the world. Frank is an Indigenous man of the LGBTQ community, and when I heard of a statement released by the RCMP yesterday of no evidence of foul play, it shook me to my core. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Mr. Speaker, if there is no foul play, then where is he? He wouldn't just disappear. Something has happened to him and somebody knows something. Mr. Speaker, Frank's mother told me RCMP, what she felt is that they are not doing enough to find him. Mr. Speaker, it makes me think of all the work that we have done to raise awareness of MMIWG 2SLGBTQQIA and the inquiry and this House and the work that we've been doing as Indigenous people to raise awareness. If Frank was a nonIndigenous person from a wealthy family, would there be more done? That's what goes to my mind, Mr. Speaker. Would there be more to find him? Would there be animals, search animals that the RCMP can have throughout you see it on TV in the rest of Canada. Would they be out there searching for Frank? My understanding the RCMP has no tips from the public on Frank's disappearance. So on behalf of his family, please, if anyone has any information, no matter how small or unimportant they think it might be, to tell the RCMP, to reach out to Crime Stoppers, even if they're scared and want to do it anonymously, to 18002228477. What if this was your son? What if this was your brother? Your cousin? Your nephew? Your grandson? His family needs to find him, and they need to bring him home. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes. Members' statements. Member for Thebacha.

Member’s Statement 1511-19(2): Internet Connectivity in the Northwest Territories

Mr. Speaker, today I'm going to speak about the state of internet connectivity in the NWT and lack thereof.

Mr. Speaker, two months ago the Auditor General of Canada released a report titled Connectivity in Rural and Remote Areas, which stated that rural and remote communities are still lagging behind the rest of the country when it comes to internet. The report also stated that the NWT has the largest disparity of internet access in the country, with only 18 percent in small NWT communities that have access to highspeed internet. In comparison, 98 percent of people in larger NWT communities have access to highspeed internet. Mr. Speaker, this large disparity in internet connectivity for the people of the NWT is not acceptable.

Our government needs to work at a faster pace with the federal government, along with the private industry, to bolster internet access across the board if the NWT hopes to meet the federal government's goal of providing 100 percent of Canadians with access to highspeed internet by 2030.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission, CRTC, has held a series of public hearings over the last year to receive consultations on the status of telecommunication services in the far North. During the last couple of hearings, there were several NWT witnesses who provided some great ideas for the CRTC and internet service providers to consider. For example, one person rightly stated that it's mostly Indigenous people who don't have access to internet services and as a result internet service delivery should be considered within the text of reconciliation. I agree with that because increasing access to highspeed internet will work to advance economic reconciliation for Indigenous peoples and communities. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Moreover, Mr. Speaker, another big issue on this subject is the lack of competition of internet service providers in the North. In the NWT, we have a monopoly over internet delivery from NorthwesTel. Without some degree of competition, prices remain high and the speed of internet continues to remain low as well. In fact, NorthwestTel itself has admitted that increased competition in recent years from Starlink satellite service has motivated them to expand and improve their own internet access. NorthwesTel admits that it has lost some customers to Starlink already, which is pushing them to expand fiberoptic lines in more northern communities, which is great to see.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on about this but I will leave it at that for now. I will have questions for the Minister of finance at the appropriate time. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Great Slave.

Member’s Statement 1512-19(2): Northwest Territories Emergencies and Preparedness

Thank you. Good afternoon, Mr. Speaker. I welcome you and my colleagues back for another productive session. I rise today to give thanks to all the hardworking and dedicated people who have spent the last few weeks fighting fires in the South Slave, dealing with the flooding in the Beaufort Delta, and supporting evacuees barely one year after they coped with the devastating floods.

My heart breaks for the people of the K'atlodeeche First Nation. Not only did they suffer from the flooding last year, with some of them still not in their homes, but now they've also lost significant infrastructure in their community, the extent of which is not yet fully known. Thankfully, I hear several historical and cultural artifacts were spared, items that are irreplaceable, however, people have lost their homes. We can never replace the mementos and the photos, the family heirlooms passed down from generation to generation, and for that I am truly sorry.

This has been a hugely stressful time for all residents across the territory. We are a small community. We all have loved ones, friends and family, that have been impacted by the recent emergencies; emergencies that are only increasing in frequency as the earth's climate continues to change. Storms that once only occurred every hundred years are now coming more regularly, and we must figure out how to adapt if we hope to survive.

One thing about Northerners is that we are resilient, and we are strong.

Do I like that we're constantly challenged by the environment around us? No. But what it has done is given us the ability to persevere when the going gets tough. And it is that perseverance that will help us to adapt to the change around us.

Mr. Speaker, we must stop being reactive to disasters and start to plan more accordingly. The GNWT has a dismal track record in this area, choosing to wait until it is too late and the emergency has begun. The Minister of MACA has told me that his department doesn't have the capacity to deal with emergency situations or project management as it's a very small department. That it is the responsibility of the underfunded communities to prepare and deal with a climate change driven disaster. A scary thought, Mr. Speaker, given the lack of resources and money in most communities.

Mr. Speaker, when is this government going to get proactive and stop leaving our communities to pay outofpocket for situations created by lack of adequate funding or investment in our communities? I would have had questions for the ECC Minister, but he has chosen not to be here today. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Members' statements. Member for Frame Lake.

Member’s Statement 1513-19(2): Climate Emergency

Merci, Monsieur le President. In December 2019, I called on this Cabinet to declare a climate emergency. I tabled a draft motion, I got resistance from Cabinet; what's happened since?

I confess I gave up on a motion with the COVID pandemic which seems to have overtaken everything we do as a government. However, there are now over 650 Canadian governments that have made a climate emergency declaration including the federal, territorial, provincial, municipal, and Indigenous governments. This government's climate emergency failures and lack of leadership has got me going again.

On April 1st, 2023, the Premier finally fulfilled one of her leadership campaign promises, to change the name of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. That's great, but it doesn't get this Cabinet off the hook from an astoundingly bad track record on the climate emergency.

Look no further than the socalled establishment policy for this new department that the Premier signed off on. The definition of climate change doesn't even acknowledge that climate change is the result of human activities. The new department is charged with helping us to understand and adapt to climate change. There is nothing about mitigation or complying with national and international commitments and targets. This policy is so weak it doesn't even incorporate the statement of environmental values or state that climate change presents a crisis or an emergency situation for the Northwest Territories. Maybe Cabinet hasn't been paying enough attention during the recent unprecedented floods, fires, and extreme weather events.

In fact, during my more than seven years in this Assembly, I've only heard one senior government official use the words climate crisis or climate emergency. Only once, Mr. Speaker. Not from this Cabinet or any of its Ministers. It's all about using these events to leverage federal money for infrastructure for adaptation rather than doing anything about mitigation or changing our business as usual trajectory.

This government is on a clear path of failure to achieve its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This government doesn't even acknowledge that our carbon tax is a tool to help with those reductions as there is nothing to link the climate emergency to a carbon tax in that legislation.

I will have questions for the Deputy Premier on Cabinet's climate emergency failures later today. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Deh Cho.

Member’s Statement 1514-19(2): K’atlodeeche First Nation Reserve Fire

Mahsi, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Sunday, May 14th will go down as the day the residents of K'atlodeeche First Nations will never forget. That is the day a fire was started by unknown sources close to the old village and new site of K'atlodeeche. By late afternoon, the fire gained momentum and grew by the minute. That for the safety of KFN residents, they were evacuated across the river to Hay River.

Mr. Speaker, that fire became known as the KFN fire. The month of May has always been considered as having moderate temperatures, but this spring was like no other as we were facing very dry conditions and a heat wave. So dry, even a spark could ignite a fire.

Mr. Speaker, this spring, the residents of KFN were spared from a major flood as in all previous years in which they were evacuated to points beyond, including the Yellowknife multiplex. It is with heavy hearts we had to hear of another catastrophe faced by the K'atlodeeche First Nations residents. Heavy hearts as they were still dealing with the effects of last year's major flood and the ongoing remediation work to many homes.

Mr. Speaker, the major KFN fire affected the town of Hay River as evacuation orders were issued for both the town and KFN. Residents were scattered to Enterprise, Fort Resolution, Fort Providence, Fort Smith, Fort Simpson, and Yellowknife in the NWT. Many other residents went south to stay with family and friends. Many residents were put up in hotels and available buildings where they were available, cots, couches and what have you, to provide as much comfort as possible during these difficult times.

Mr. Speaker, many of the evacuated residents are very thankful for everyone opening their doors to them and providing meals and hospitality. It always goes without saying that we should be helping our neighbours through their difficult times, as trying as the situations may be, to provide the necessities of life. Mahsi to all the communities involved and the numerous volunteers involved to assist in the KFN fire of 2023. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member for Tu NedheWiilideh.

Member’s Statement 1515-19(2): Support for Northwest Territories Tourism Operators

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territories is renowned for its aweinspiring landscapes, pristine wilderness and warm hospitality, so no one should be surprised that our tourism industry has become a vital pillar of our economy and source of pride for our people. However, the same industry is now under grave threat by the suffocated excessive red tape, unreasonable demands from our own government. In recent years, the Northwest Territories has emerged as a soughtafter destination for travels from all over, from corners of all of the globe. Our remote lodges, tucked away in the heart of our nature, have been a haven for adventure seekers, nature enthusiasts, and those seeking a respite from the hustle and bustle of southern city life.

They have provided not only employment opportunities for our residents but also showcase the unique beauty and culture richness of our land. Yet, instead of nurturing and supporting this thriving industry, our government has chosen to burden it with a web of bureaucracy of obstacles. The excessive red tape imposed on remote lodges have reached unprecedential levels stifling their growth and endangering their very existence. What was once a thriving industry, contributing significantly to our economy and fostering community development, now faces an uncertain future. It is astonishing that these burdens and regulations have been thrust upon tourism operators without any corresponding changes to the territorial regulations. Our hardworking lodge owners and operators find themselves caught in a web of everincreasing demands demanding tens of thousands of dollars of unnecessary expenses.

This is a gross injustice as it places burden on our entrepreneurs and jeopardizes their livelihood of countless families across the Northwest Territories. Our government must be reminded of our duty to support and promote our own local business, not to suffocate them with unreasonable demands and standards. We demand transparency and accountability from our elected officials. They must provide a valid justification for these excessive regulations and explain why they are necessary to maintain the safety and integrity of our tourism industry. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my Member's statement. Thank you.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. I'm calling upon the Minister of ITI to work with her colleagues to reevaluate their approach and support the hardworking lodge owners and operators who have poured their blood, sweat, and tears into creating a unique experience of our visitors. Their dedication, passion, and unwavering commitment have brought the wonders of our land to the world. We need a government that fosters an environment conducive to growth and innovation, not the ones that stifle it. We cannot allow excessive red tape to strangle our tourism industry and rob us of our opportunities it brings. It is time that our government respects the needs of our tourism operators while ensuring the safety and satisfaction of our visitors with a fair and supportive environment for our tourism industry. I would have questions for the appropriate Minister at the appropriate time. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Tu NedheWiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Member’s Statement 1516-19(2): Department of Justice Corporate Registeries Transparency

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, my Member's statement is regarding the corporate registries division of the Department of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to compliment the Department of Justice's corporate registries division for the accessibility of information of all societies registered in the NWT. Each society's constitution, financial statements, and list of directors' information is available to all simply by accessing the information for a modest fee. However, Mr. Speaker, when it comes to corporations, the access to important information is not available. The ownership of each privatelyheld company registered in the NWT is hidden from the public. The province of Alberta and other jurisdictions have made ownership disclosure mandatory for all registered private corporations. The NWT should do the same.

Mr. Speaker, currently, we have many unknown companies operating in the NWT. Many do not bother to obtain local community government business license. We have concerns about some of the business practice of these companies. If they do not pay their bills, how can we follow up? We would like to know who these companies are and who owns these corporations. Mr. Speaker, I will have question for the Minister of Justice at the appropriate time. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Monfwi. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Member’s Statement 1517-19(2): Government of the Northwest Territories Procurement Policy Review

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I grow increasingly concerned that the procurement review is never going to end, Mr. Speaker, and I don't mean in a good way, that will continue to review our policy and make sure we are improving procurement for the residents. I mean that we will never actually complete it and change the policies that define GNWT procurement. And this isn't just a suspicion, Mr. Speaker. In the GNWT's own work plan, they say by the end of this Assembly they will identify potential policy mechanisms to support enhanced Indigenous procurement. Mr. Speaker, what this should read is that we will create an Indigenous procurement policy with set out targets by the end of this Assembly.

I do not know whether we will have an Indigenous procurement policy in this Assembly or the next, Mr. Speaker. I do not know whether our P3 policy will be amended. I do not know whether we will create a consolidated purchasing policy as recommended by the procurement review. We say we are going to finally make changes to the definition of a northern business in the business incentive policy by the end of this government, Mr. Speaker. Well, time is ticking to get that policy through Cabinet approvals. I have not seen that, Mr. Speaker, so certainly not enough time for Regular MLAs' feedback.

Additionally, Mr. Speaker, there was recommendations for targets for negotiated contracts. There were recommendations that the GNWT consider its approach to leasing. I have repeatedly asked in this House to change the leasing of improved real property policy from 1998, Mr. Speaker, and what I'm told is that we have to wait for the procurement review to be done. But the procurement review work plan makes absolutely no mention of leasing. So why am I being told that that has to be done when it's not doing anything to do with leasing, Mr. Speaker?

Mr. Speaker, at this point, this government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on procurement all while talking about how we're going to improve procurement but not actually changing the policies. These are executive level policies; they take time to get through Cabinet - I get that. But let's get them done before this Assembly is done and put a bow on procurement so we can end this review once and for all. I'll have questions for the Minister of Finance. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member for Nunakput.

Member’s Statement 1518-19(2): Condolences on the Passing of Nunakput Residents

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to pay respects to the constituents who have passed since our last sitting. You know, Mr. Speaker, when I bring their names up in the House, their names will never be forgotten because it's in Hansard and the history books of the NWT for all my constituents in Nunakput.

I just want to pay my respects to the deceased Harley Sam Tedjuk, Adam, young baby, son of Jeffrey Adam, Suzie Tedjuk of Tuktoyaktuk. Harley is survived by his parents, his grandparents, and many siblings and relatives.

Edith Tutsliloot, daughter of Eddie and Alice Gruben of Tuktoyaktuk, survived by her children Erika, Ariel, Bobby Lou, Alissa, Alecia, and Alice and many grandchildren and sisters and relatives.

Billy Pankaktoluk of Tuktoyaktuk, son of Bob and Mable Pankaktoluk, survived by partner Barbara Pankaktoluk and daughter Lynette Pankaktoluk and many brothers and sisters and grandchildren and relatives.

Buddy Gruben of Tuktoyaktuk, son of Charlie and Purses Gruben, survived by daughter Heavenly Gloria Elias and grandchildren, his brothers and his sisters and relatives, and he will be sadly missed, and a lot of good hunting with Buddy when I was younger.

Catherine Kategiyuk, daughter of Richard and Winnie Kategiyuk, survived by son Gilbert and many family, friends, and relatives.

Alison Ratti passed of Tuk. Her sister Betty, survived by sister Betty, Leslie, Tony, and Vincent.

In Inuvik, my uncle Scott Kasook. To all the family, thoughts and prayers are with you all.

And whoever lost loved ones across the Delta, across the Northwest Territories, thoughts and prayers are with you all. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Nunakput. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family and communities at this time. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Member’s Statement 1519-19(2): Youth Homelessness

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I've had the privilege of listening to NWT youth speak about mental health, addiction, access to sport, climate change, reclaiming language, family violence, living in care and, the piece that links so much of this, housing.

One fifth of Canadians experiencing homelessness are youth between 13 and 24. More youth experiencing homelessness identify as male, Indigenous, and a significant number identify as 2SLGBTQIPA+. Youth experiencing homelessness are six times more likely to be victimized and nearly every youth that spoke to social development on homelessness prevention was or is involved with child and family services and has experienced homelessness. Every single one.

In the NWT, youth age out of care at 23, which is higher than other Canadian jurisdictions; however, increasing the age without supports still leaves youth vulnerable to experiencing or being at risk of homelessness. Youth aging out of care may not be prepared or ready to live independently. And, in addition, youth and all residents are faced with serious housing barriers. In many communities, there is zero percent vacancy rates for affordable housing. In addition, a lack of resources and high costs of living leave youth vulnerable to homelessness.

Other jurisdictions are preparing youth by developing legislation to support their transition from care, allowing youth who have exited care to reenter, funding transitional housing, and providing youth with selfadvocacy resources in the transition process.

As the government finalizes its homelessness strategy, this government needs to prioritize youth and youth aging out of care. The homelessness strategy does not make commitments to prevent or reduce homelessness experienced by Indigenous youth in care and does not address creating safe spaces for 2SLGBTQIPA+ youth. These were both recommendations social development included in its review of child and family services, neither of which received adequate response. This territory needs to stop perpetuating the cycle of discharging youth and children involved in child and family services to homelessness. These youth need preventative supports and wraparound services. The NWT needs legislation making the provision of suitable housing for youth leaving care mandatory. The GNWT must immediately give child and family services the staffing and resource development capacity to proactively keep youth in care from homelessness like selfadvocacy tool kits, accessible websites with working links to support this. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you to my colleagues. Entering adulthood, Mr. Speaker, seems harder than ever these days. Youth transitioning out of care need the GNWT to immediately give child and family services the people and resource development capacity to proactively keep youth leaving care from homelessness. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Kam Lake. Members' statements. Member for Hay River North.

Member’s Statement 1520-19(2): Hay River and K’atlodeeche First Nation Reserve Evacuation

Mr. Speaker, there's no place like home. And I think that the residents of Hay River know that as well as anyone. For the second year in a row, the entire community of Hay River, as well as KFN, have been evacuated in the middle of the night. And finally today, the majority of residents of Hay River can go back to the community and I am sure many of them are on the road right now. I am sure many of them were on the road yesterday. Unfortunately, our neighbours, our friends, our family, our coworkers, at KFN, they don't have that same luxury and so our hearts go out to them. I want to take this opportunity to thank a lot of people and I might miss some, but my intention is really to thank everyone. It is a big deal when two entire communities evacuate, and they have to go somewhere, and so a lot of people have to help.

And first and foremost, I want to thank those fighting the fires on both sides of the river. We have over 150 wildfire firefighters working on it, we have the structural firefighters in Hay River patrolling that side of the river, we have a number of first responders, and they are doing their part, and they have been working full out for the past ten days. So we are so appreciative of their efforts. Because of those efforts, the fire that damaged KFN and threatening Hay River has now been downgraded to being held from out of control. And Mr. Speaker, from what I've heard, the comments from firefighters who have been around for 50 years and those who are brand new, they have a lot of, I guess, respect for this fire. I mean, it's big; it's powerful; there's a lot of fuel out there for this fire. And so while it may be being held now, it is still threatening. So I want to make sure that even though we are allowed to go home, we are going home, that residents are prepared to leave on a moment's notice if they need to because that fire, it's only six kilometres away from my community. That's a few hours if the winds shift. So it can come back, so I want to make sure everyone has their gas tank full and a bag packed.

I want to thank all the communities, the individuals, and the businesses that opened up their arms to the residents of Hay River. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Thank you.

Unanimous consent granted

It's no small feat to house and feed 4,000 people, and that's exactly what happened. I want to thank the staff and volunteers who are providing support at all of the evacuation centres. I want to thank everyone who's made donations. I want to thank all of my colleagues here as well. Every time I had to call one of my Cabinet colleagues, they answered the phone, a number of the Regular Members that reached out and offered their support. So personally, I want to thank them as well.

Mr. Speaker, this is the second year in a row that this has happened now. For those of us living on Vale Island, I believe it's the fourth year in a row we've had to evacuate. Residents were scattered all across the Northwest Territories, and Alberta, some went to British Columbia, I'm sure there's some elsewhere. I was here in Yellowknife, and I spent my days at the evacuation centre speaking with constituents and residents of KFN, and I want them to know that I did listen. I heard what they had to say, and I relayed those messages to Cabinet every single day. They talked about their accommodations. They talked about their safety at the evacuation centre. They talked about challenges housing their pets. They talked about their finances and the challenges, you know, affording to evacuate. And so I did bring those to the Ministers every single day, and I want to thank Cabinet for coming forward with a new evacuee financial support program; the first time it's ever been done in the territory. So that's very much appreciated. It's not going to make anyone whole. Not everyone's going to be eligible. But it will help those many of those in need.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that this was this was a tough one. There was a different feeling this year from last year when we evacuated from the flood, and that's because we were still recovering from the flood. We're recovering from a number of drug poisonings. There's been an explosion in Hay River. It's been a tough year. People are stretched financially, emotionally, and nerves really are frayed. So I know yesterday when we got word we could go home, everyone breathed a sigh of relief, you know, we got to relax our shoulders a little bit, and you could see it walking around town there was a different mood. So I just want to make sure everyone who is home stays safe and is prepared in case the worst happens again. So thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Returns to Oral Questions

Return to Oral Question 1353-19(2): Impacts of COVID-19 on Education

Mr. Speaker, I have a Return to Oral Question asked by Member for Inuvik Twin Lakes on February 13th, 2023, regarding the Impacts of COVID19 on Education. The question is:

What is known about high school attendance rates through COVID19, the attendance rates in small communities versus regional centres, and Indigenous students' attendance?

The Department of Education, Culture and Employment, or ECE, has publicly shared attendance data for 20202021 through the JK to 12 Performance Measures Report. In the 20202021 school year, many students returned to school only on a parttime basis and a few schools experienced closures due to COVID19 public health orders announced by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

The Northwest Territories school system was able to adjust the collection of attendance data to capture remote learning; however, the effects of the pandemic impacted and continue to impact the ability to compare current attendance rates to prepandemic rates.

Additionally, attendance rates for the 20192020 school year only reflect the portion of the school year that included facetoface and inclass instruction from September 2nd, 2019 to March 13th, 2020 prior to the schools closing. As a result, data for the 20192020 and 20202021 school years remains incomparable to previous school years.

ECE publishes attendance data by grade, education body and community type, but not ethnicity. Further detail regarding the 20202021 attendance data can be found on pages 47 to 49 of the JK to 12 Performance Measures Report.

Overall, attendance in the NWT for the 20202021 school year was 79.9 percent. In Yellowknife, it was 85.3 percent, in regional centres 75.5 percent, and in small communities, 76.3 percent.

The 20212022 attendance data is currently being verified and will be included in the JK to 12 Performance Measures Report for 20212022, which is tentatively scheduled for release in June 2023.

In October 2022, ECE released the COVID19 Impact Indicators Report. This report examined available data on the effects of COVID19 on the NWT JK to 12 education system. The report found that attendance was difficult to properly maintain in 20192020 through to the 20212022 school period and that inferences from this time are therefore difficult to make. ECE will continue to collect, analyze, and report on data related to the impacts of COVID19 to better understand the pandemic's effects on education and improve student outcomes.

Question: Does the department identify and support students to complete their high school education that did not graduate and are ineligible for postsecondary studies?

Once students have entered high school, they begin taking courses and earning credits toward graduation; a total of 100 credits are currently needed to graduate. Although there are generalities around the order in which students take courses, there are no strict rules around courses and years. As such, students can continue to take high school courses year after year until they complete the 100 required credits for graduation. For some students, this can take only two years and for others, this can take upwards of five years.

The Career and Education Advising, or CEA, Program exists in schools to assist Grade 9 to 12 students through a career exploration process. The CEA Program supports them in making career or education development and transition choices and accomplishing related tasks, such as work experience, career, postsecondary or other training, and community living.

There are eight Career and Education Advisors with three based in the Yellowknife Region, one in the South Slave, one in the Deh Cho, one in the Tlicho, and one in the Sahtu, and one in the Beaufort Delta.

Full funding is available for students up to 21 years of age, with partial funding available for students older than 21 years of age, to continue taking courses in high school. Students can choose to leave high school before graduating but they are never removed from high school for not meeting graduation requirements. If a student contacts the department or the Divisional Education Council, support will be provided so long as they are under the age of 21. If they are older than 21, individuals are able to seek supports through Aurora College's Community Learning Centres.

Question: Is there a funding cap through the SFA program for students who might need multiple years of university PREP?

The Student Financial Assistance, or SFA, Program offers fulltime and parttime assistance to Northwest Territories residents attending accredited, postsecondary programs at an approved postsecondary institution. The SFA program supports eligible students who attend the Aurora College Occupations and College Access Program, or OCAP, and the University and College Access Program, or UCAP. There is no funding cap for students who access OCAP or UCAP. As long as the students remains eligible, they are able to access SFA funding for these programs.

While the SFA program offers assistance to students enrolled in OCAP or UCAP at Aurora College, the program does not provide assistance to students enrolled in other academic upgrading at Aurora College or any postsecondary institution.

ECE has completed the SFA program review and is proposing changes that will help to reduce the barriers students face in pursuing postsecondary education such as removing all semester limits for Northern Indigenous students and expanding remissible loans to all NWT residents. ECE believes these changes will better support students who need additional time to complete their postsecondary studies, including more time completing PREP. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'd like to recognize Jamie Linington, the interim general manager of the Tu Cho Cooperative and president of the Freshwater Fish Harvesters Association which is a newly incorporated entity that is looking to transform the national entity into a harvesterled one. Jamie is also an intergenerational Metis fisherowner operator and is unfortunately one of the evacuees from Hay River, which was good news for me because I got to catch up with her in person. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Great Slave. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Frame Lake.