Debates of May 29, 2023 (day 156)

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


Colleagues, before we continue with our business before the House, I'd like to recognize Grand Chief Jackson Lafferty who is with us today. He was first elected in the 15th Legislative Assembly in July of 2005, reelected in the 16th and 17th Assemblies, where he served as Deputy Premier; Minister of Education, Culture and Employment; Minister responsible for Official Languages; and, Minister responsible for Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission. He was acclaimed in the 18th Legislative Assembly and was elected by many of us as Speaker. Thank you for all you have done with the House here, and we've had unveiling of his portrait here today. And thank you for all joining us. Mahsi cho.

I would like to recognize Mr. Ryan Yakeleya from Tuktoyaktuk. We all went to Grolier Hall. I'm sure Diane and Paulie remember him as well. Hope you enjoy the House today. Mahsi.

Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 358-19(2): Independent Legal Advice and Representation Program

Mr. Speaker, with funding from the federal government, the Department of Justice is enhancing access to free legal advice and legal representation for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence through the establishment of the Independent Legal Advice and Representation Program.

In 2019, the Government of the Northwest Territories commissioned the Aurora Research Institute to conduct an evidencebased study to use as a guide to better support survivors of intimate partner, genderbased violence, and sexual assault in the NWT. Concurrently, researchers contracted by the YWCA NWT completed a study on the experience of victims applying for emergency protection orders. Both studies highlighted the, sometimes, dizzying complexity of the systems encountered by survivors.

The findings from these studies were also consistent with the final report of the National Inquiry of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which calls on governments to provide vulnerable individuals facing the threat of domestic violence with to independent legal services and advice.

The department has completed jurisdictional research and consultation with a variety of stakeholders, including other independent legal advice and representation programs in Canada, the YWCA NWT, RCMP, health and social services, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada's sexual violence team, and the NWT Legal Aid Commission to support the design, development, and the implementation of an Independent Legal Advice and Representation Program in the Northwest Territories.

The department is excited to be working with the YWCA NWT to deliver this program. The addition of free legal advice and representation to the existing NWTwide delivery of emergency protection orders will ensure people are informed about whether they should obtain one, the ramifications of obtaining one, and how to access help in dealing with existing ones. The program also expands access to free legal advice and representation for survivors of intimate partner and genderbased violence and sexual assault to support their navigation through the criminal justice system and make informed decisions related to their unique circumstances.

The Independent Legal Advice and Representation Program supports service delivery with an independent legal advice coordinator who receives and coordinates program referrals from a range of service providers. Survivors may also selfrefer into the program through a 1800 number. The program has a panel of lawyers to provide survivors with up to four hours of free legal advice and representation.

The program coordinator receives the initial referrals, conducts client screening and intake, and matches survivors with a lawyer, and will conduct public awareness and training sessions to support program referrals, uptake, and information sharing. The goal is to increase informed decisionmaking and understanding about legal decisions.

Mr. Speaker, the Independent Legal Advice and Representation Program is now in place, and my hope is that it helps improve the safety, security, and access to justice for survivors of intimate partner and genderbased violence and sexual assault. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Environment and Climate Change.

Minister’s Statement 359-19(2): 2023 Wildfire Season

Mr. Speaker, wildfires are a natural part of the northern landscape and are important for forest health and renewal. However, we recognize that wildfires can pose a significant threat to our communities, our infrastructure, and other values at risk.

I want to start by recognizing the challenges faced by the K'atlodeeche First Nation and the Town of Hay River during a historically early start to our wildfire season. Our hearts go out to everyone who had to evacuate their homes and to those who had lost homes from this wildfire. I would like to thank the fire crews and wildfire management teams who have worked so hard on this fire and continue to work on protecting these communities.

Mr. Speaker, we have a tough wildfire season ahead of us. Temperatures are expected to be high and our forests are very dry, increasing the wildfire risk in the southern half of the NWT. We are still very early in the fire season, even though the events near K'atlodeeche First Nation make it feel like it has been a full season already.

Mr. Speaker, our government is well prepared for this year's fire season. Our team of wildfire professionals work all winter long to be ready to go once the fire season started. A huge amount of work goes on behind the scenes to support our field operations. Like we do with flooding, our communications team put out a lot of proactive wildfire messaging in advance of the season, and we work with municipal and community affairs and the emergency management office who are ready to activate on any emergency, including fires, at any time.

As soon as we received the weather forecasts for the 2023 fire season, it became clear we should have an early start to the season. We brought on more resources and started them earlier than we have in the past. There are 34 fourteen crews positioned across the territory this year ready to fight fires on the ground, an increase of two from last year. We updated contracts to bring our longterm aircrafts on several weeks earlier and added some additional tankers to be added to the response to a hot, dry season. When the fire near K'atlodeeche First Nation and Hay River started, we already had air tankers and helicopters on the ground, brought on strength several weeks earlier, that were ready to respond the morning the fire started. We had an Electra working out of Hay River as well as helicopters bucketing water on the fires. Two other tanker groups were scheduled for an earlier startup for May 15th and started working on that fire that day. There were a number of days when aircraft could not land at the Hay River Airport due to smoke but the Electra continued to operate out of the Yellowknife as the next closest air tanker base. This proactive approach allowed us to have aircraft and crews onsite to immediately respond to our first big challenge of the season.

So far this summer, we have had 17 fires with a total of 18,364 hectares burned. Of these, eight have been human caused close to communities. The 10year average for this time is three fires and 17 hectares burned. Our season started several weeks earlier and is way ahead of what we normally expect to see in terms of timing, numbers, and humancaused fires.

Mr. Speaker, despite this challenging start, I am proud to say that we were prepared and ready for this season and our teams have responded quickly and effectively so far. Going forward for the rest of the summer, we have 100 people working in our fire program, from remote communication specialists to clerks to logistics personnel, to ensure firefighters on the ground have the supports they need every day. We also have a pool of approximately 200 extra firefighters we can call on to help mop up fires and take on other critical fire operation activities.

Throughout the K'atlodeeche First NationHay River fire, we have seen extraordinary skills and dedication of our wildfire team in action as they start work around the clock. People from across the territory have come together to help limit the fire's growth and impact to our communities. Fire crews and other wildfire staff from every region in the NWT have been coming together to provide a coordinated, effective, and tireless response. I want to reiterate what I have heard from many members of the public and extend a heartfelt thank you to all of our wildfire staff for their incredible work to keep our communities safe.

Mr. Speaker, we continue to work with communities to strengthen their protection against wildfires. With $20 million in investments leveraged by the NWT Association of Communities, work is going ahead to complete fuel breaks in communities at an unprecedented rate. Community wildfire protection plans are in place in all 29 forested communities. Our government will continue to provide advice to communities and work with them to increase their resilience and reduce the risk of damage from future wildfires.

Mr. Speaker, we are also making investments for people to get the tools they need to reduce their own risk at home. One important tool is the promotion of FireSmart practices around people's homes, cabins, and businesses. Taking steps ahead of time to remove things that burn around your home and property will help reduce the risk of damage when fires hit close to home. With much of the season still ahead of us, we want to remind people it is never too early to take these steps.

You can start by cleaning under your deck, removing firewood away from your home, keeping your gutters clean, and getting rid of bush and debris from around your yard. I encourage residents to search FireSmart NWT to learn more and follow the guide to FireSmart your property.

Given the hot and dry conditions we expect for the southern NWT this summer, it is critical that people take their role in preventing fires seriously. We will continue to do our part to provide public information and updates regularly to help people make good choices.

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear when I say this: Wildfires like the one near the K'atlodeeche First Nation can happen to any NWT community below the treeline. With dry forests and lots of natural fuel, it will only take one spark to start a wildfire. It then takes just a bit of a strong wind for it to spread and become a real problem for communities, for the people who live there, and for the firefighters trying to protect us.

Everyone has a part to play in preventing wildfires. During the K'atlodeeche First Nation and Hay River fire, the impacted communities stepped up to play a large critical role in coordinating the response, and we commend them for their work and will continue to be there for their support. Individuals can do their part by not starting campfires or any other burns when the danger is high or extreme, as it has been for most of May, and will be for some time to come. Choices, like never leaving fires unattended and always soaking them, stirring them and soaking them again until they are cool to the touch before leaving. It is also important to be spark aware by cleaning out mufflers on ATVs, never park on dry grass, and checking your chains before taking your trailer down the highway.

Mr. Speaker, as leaders, we have the responsibility to make good decisions and be models for this behaviour. I call on everyone in this House to take these messages to your communities to help reduce the alarming number of personcaused fires we already have seen this season. We will all be safer for it. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Industry, Tourism and Investment.

Minister’s Statement 360-19(2): Update on the Great Slave Lake Commercial Fishery Revitalization

Mr. Speaker, the revitalization of the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery has been a goal of the Government of the Northwest Territories since it was first proposed in the 2014 NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy. This goal continues to be supported by our own government's mandate to increase food security through locally produced, harvested, and affordable food.

Central to our efforts has been the construction of a new fish processing facility in Hay River capable of processing and packaging Great Slave Lake fish for market. I am happy to advise Members today that this new plant is now in the final stage of construction and commissioning. I can confirm that the building envelope is complete and all processing equipment is installed. Plumbing, painting and electrical elements are being finalized, including freezers and filleting equipment.

Meanwhile, specialized technicians are setting up and calibrating processing equipment using various species from the Great Slave Lake and training for plant operators and fish processors is anticipated to begin this month. Notwithstanding delays due to fire evacuations, the plant will be in operation for the 2023 open water season. The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment will be collaborating with the Freshwater Fish Market Corporation and relying on their expertise to move things forward this summer.

An agreement is in place that will see the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation operate the plant for a threeyear period of transitional training and capacity building with the intention that the facility will ultimately be run as an independent, northernbased business. In order to arrive at that goal, we need to start strong. Therefore, the immediate goals are to ensure the plant gets operational, to hire and build local capacity, and to operate the plant with a plan for systematicphased transition.

To ensure the plant receives sufficient product volume, there are several actions that have been identified under the revitalization strategy and are being implemented to support increased production. The strategy includes plans to open remote receiving stations in the North Slave region, the training of new fishers and helpers, investing in new technologies, as well as in summer and winter fishery development, and also in longerterm recruitment efforts for new fishers.

A winter fish training program was delivered in March, both in Hay River and Yellowknife. The program gives new fishers the skills and knowledge to have successful winter harvests and presents an opportunity to expand fishing operations yearround once fishers get established. Summer training programs are scheduled in June for Hay River, Fort Resolution, and Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, once certified, the Hay River Fish Plant will increase the reach of territorial fish products to southern markets in addition to being a local and secure source of nutritious and culturally significant food within the territory. The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is also working on a plan to generate higher returns for fishers. This will include finding viable markets for bycatch such as fish fertilizer, roe, collagen, and canning. In the shortterm, increasing fishing production levels will be the essential driver of the plant's longterm profitability.

That means supporting fishers. So importantly, we also continue to work with the Tu Cho Fishers Cooperative and have recently identified a list of action items to support our shared goals around fish production and towards raising the price of fish for Northwest Territories fishers including opportunities to speak with one Northwest Territories voice to another key player in the success of this industry the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

During this transition period, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation continue to monitor operating costs, revenues and expenses, to ensure that maximum value is returning to Great Slave Lake fishers.

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is also currently revising the Commercial Fishery Support Program and considering additional programs that might contribute to the growth and modernization of the Northwest Territories commercial fishery with funding and incentives.

In all of this, Mr. Speaker, the development of the Hay River fish processing plant is representative of the commitments that our government has made to addressing concerns about food security and economic development. I look forward to seeing the Hay River processing plant eventually support the sustainability of the fishing sector, improve the livelihoods of fishermen, and increase local food production and economic value for the territory.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Minister’s Statement 361-19(2): Advancing Treaty, Land, Resources and Self-Government Agreements with Indigenous Governments

Members’ Statements

Member’s Statement 1527-19(2): Fire Response

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the last two weeks for many residents of K'atlodeeche and Hay River has been emotional and traumatizing. Residents of K'atlodeeche had little time in which to evacuate as the fire approached quickly. As well, Hay River residents were also asked to leave in the early morning hours.

Mr. Speaker, many have expressed their appreciation for the work done by firefighters and emergency measures personnel throughout this distressing ordeal. They are the ones on the frontline, and I would like to say thank you to all of them.

Mr. Speaker, it is also important that we acknowledge, and must not forget those many volunteers, communities, NGO's, evacuees, and residents who stepped up to provide immediate supports to those displaced from their homes and communities. This included financial and moral support, gift cards, temporary accommodation, transportation of people and supplies, meals, clothes, bedding, and boarding for pets. And I say thank you for everything you did for all the evacuees, firefighters, and emergency personnel throughout.

Mr. Speaker, this is an event where we need to analyze what we did and find solutions to do better. This includes:

Identifying risk factors;

Actively fire smarting our communities, property, and homes;

Having an effective evacuation plan;

Identify transportation requirements for evacuees;

Identify evacuation routes, centres, and accommodation;

Fair and equitable compensation package for evacuees; and

Providing relevant information to residents routinely so they are prepared.

Mr. Speaker, during flooding and fires, we as government must do more and that more needs to be done prior to, during, and after such an event. We as government talk about what will be done to prevent damage to communities but tend to soon forget what we promised and revert to doing little or nothing at all. When, in reality, we can, in cooperation with residents, communities and Indigenous governments, identify and implement preventative measures to minimize or eliminate any disaster.

Mr. Speaker, homes and community infrastructure has been lost; however, we have been fortunate that there has been no loss of life in the fire and flooding that occurred over the last two years. But our luck will soon run out which is why it is ever so important we review our processes for addressing disasters, update our emergency plans, and develop a communication plan that provides timely and relevant information. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1528-19(2): Tar Sands Spills and Discharge Regulation Development

Merci, Monsieur le President. It's great to see one of our Ministers working to protect the environment. I am aware of some activity by the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on transboundary water issues with Alberta and Canada since we last met.

The Minister met with the Alberta Minister of Environment and Protected Areas on April 19th to discuss the continuing failure of the Government of Alberta to comply with the transboundary water agreement following two secret spills from the tar sands. Our Minister of Environment and Climate Change appeared virtually before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development on April 24th as a witness on their study of the toxic leak of tailing ponds, and I watched that proceeding recently. And it was very interesting, Mr. Speaker. He also met virtually with the federal Environment and Climate Change Minister Guilbeault the same day. It appears there may have been some commitments made towards better communications and compliance with the transboundary water agreement. These may include:

Notifying our government of any spills as soon as Alberta is aware of them;

Discussing improvements to communication and notification between Alberta and the GNWT on the new notification and monitoring working group;

Being supportive of the inclusion of the AlbertaNWT bilateral management committee of Indigenous representation on this new federal working group; and

Briefing the GNWT on findings of knowledge gap reports.

I would also like to know whether there was any progress on opening up the secret processes of developing discharge regulations. I will have questions later today for our Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Frame Lake. Members' statements. Member for Yellowknife North.

Member’s Statement 1529-19(2): Cabins

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would really like to leave this Assembly with changing our approach to cabins. Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to address concerns around pricing. It's impossible to have any stakeholder engagement on cabins without the first thing you're hearing about is the complaint that cabin fees went up 600 percent about five years ago, Mr. Speaker. And we still have not done anything to address that. Additionally, Mr. Speaker, our pricing and taxation, it does not make sense. Right now under the taxes, a squatter is paying the same amount of tax as a million-dollar mansion on the Ingraham Trail as is a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere used for hunting and trapping purposes. These are three different things. Clearly, they should be paying different taxes and be in different categories.

Additionally, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make some progress on rightsbased cabins. I believe these also need to be put in a separate category where there are different fees, different rules, and different types of tenure. Next, Mr. Speaker, I believe we need to have a path for title where appropriate. Next, Mr. Speaker, we need to sort out the rules around leases. We have hundreds of people illegally living in their recreational leases. We all know we are not going to kick hundreds of people out of their home inside a housing crisis. So let's do something about this and legalize them living there and figure out who is actually allowed to live in a cabin out in the woods and why we're making that illegal in the first place. Next, Mr. Speaker, there is insatiable demand for cabins. We know this. The last lottery had hundreds of applicants for every single lease out there. We know there are hundreds of people who have decided since they can't get a cabin, they will squat illegally. On one hand, we're trying to kick them off but there is nowhere for this pent-up demand to go. It is instead increasing the price of a cabin to an absolutely ludicrous price. We have artificially inflated the cost of leases in this territory. We need to review all of this. We need to implement our Public Lands Act, and we need to do it before this Assembly ends. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1530-19(2): Addictions and Treatment Centres

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, last week I met with the RCMP to discuss concerns that my constituents have been raising with me. There is a fear to walk downtown or on the Frame Lake Trail in the evenings with residents reporting an escalation in property crime radiating out from the downtown core throughout the city.

I belong to two neighbourhood groups from my riding on social media and in both, I see an increasing number of posts and comments regarding people casing out their neighbourhoods, rifling through vehicles for loose change, or brazenly stealing from their yards in the middle of the day. The RCMP told me that in one month, they average about 1300 calls in Yellowknife; of those, 500 are in the immediate downtown core.

While this may seem like the others are not a result of the growing social issues in the downtown, this is not the case. Often these are reports of groups of thieves that are targeting specific neighbourhoods in order to find enough easy cash, or items to sell, to feed their addictions, whether that be alcohol or crack.

Mr. Speaker, crack is an epidemic in our territory but you rarely hear the Minister, or the government, speak of it. They will talk about drugs tainted with lethal opioids and issue emergency warnings for that; however, where is the acknowledgement of the crack crisis we are facing? Where is the action plan to deal with the crack that is ravaging communities?

A friend recently pointed out that for the first time ever during the spring community cleanup, they found numerous broken crack pipes around the downtown and in the forested areas around it. Crack and alcohol addictions are destroying our communities. Mr. Speaker, not just in Yellowknife.

On Friday night, I witnessed an extremely disturbing situation involving a young child, barely a toddler, on the streets at midnight and in the company of some people very obviously in the throes of addiction. It broke my heart and I have to question what is going on in this territory?

Mr. Speaker, this should not be happening, not in Canada and not in the 21st century. When is this government going to stand up and start taking treatment seriously and stop making decisions based on money? One only has to look at the loss of the Poundmaker's contract to know where their priorities lie. Saving money and asserting control, Mr. Speaker; that is the priority of this government. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1531-19(2): Disaster Response Policy

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, for my statement today, I want to speak once again about the Disaster Assistance Policy under the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, last May the Government of the Northwest Territories completed a comprehensive review of MACA's Disaster Assistance Policy following the NWT flooding in 2021. I initially agreed with that review primarily because the policy was outdated and needed to be modernized to account for the changing nature of natural disasters within the context of climate change. I hoped that the review would produce new results addressing some of service gaps that the old policy did not cover. But I was disappointed with the end result that came out last May.

First, Mr. Speaker, I suggested to the Minister of MACA on many occasions that the updated policy must be expanded and eligible to more people during unique natural disaster occurrences. I urged that the new policy must account for novel and extraordinary events that may occur in our communities, especially given the ongoing effects of climate change that brings a greater livelihood of extreme events. However, Mr. Speaker, I was disappointed when I read the updated policy which did not go far enough to help victims of natural disasters.

The first red flag was the definition of disaster, which read: An emergency caused by a natural phenomenon of unusual proportion affecting a large number of people which threatens loss of life, injury, property damage, and economic disruption.

The second red flag was the list of emergencies that may be eligible for assistance, which had no reference of tornados, which was odd because by now I'm sure everyone recalls the tornado that struck Fort Smith four years ago.

The third red flag was a section on excluded situations where disaster assistance is not eligible, which includes an event affecting a single sector or property. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to state that I believe it's been both MACA's policy, and lack thereof, combined with ineffectual policies within Housing NWT that have indirectly contributed to the housing crisis which is only being compounded by recent natural disasters in the NWT. Because if a wildfire burns down only one home in one community, then under the disaster policy they will not be eligible for disaster assistance. And the same goes for replacing or repairing a home built in a designated disasterprone area and help will only be provided to a single property a total of three times.

These are facts that most people do not know about and should be aware of, and the Government of the Northwest Territories needs to make that very clear to communities and people who experience multiple natural disasters. I will have questions for the MACA Minister later today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Members' statements. Member for Monfwi.

Member’s Statement 1532-19(2): Tlicho Adminstration Region

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Tlicho Land Claims and SelfGovernment Agreement was signed in 2003 by representatives of the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council, the Government of the Northwest Territories, and the Government of Canada. Through the Tlicho Agreement, the Tlicho gained the tools and resources to strengthen our economy and protect and promote Tlicho culture, language, heritage, lands and resources. Currently, the Tlicho Community Services Agency delivers a number of programs and services including from the Government of the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, the 19th Legislative Assembly set out 22 priorities, including advancing regional decisionmaking authority. According to the February 2022 and January 2023 annual status report, this priority focused on empowering regional and community staff through providing training to ensure staff are aware of their decisionmaking authority. This priority has been marked as fulfilled but it did not go far enough.

Mr. Speaker, in 2016, Deline Got'ine government signed their selfgovernment agreement. Currently, there are a number of other Indigenous groups that are negotiating selfgovernment agreements. As more and more selfgovernment agreements are signed and Indigenous governments draw down jurisdiction for programs and services, the government of the NWT needs to adapt and reevaluate the current administrative region.

To better serve Tlicho residents, the Tlicho needs a new and separate Tlicho administrative region that serves the communities of Behchoko, Gameti, Wekweeti, and Whati. The regions need to be consistent within all the departments so there are no confusion. This is real regional decisionmaking authorities. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the development of a Tlicho administrative region aligns with the spirit of the United Nation Declaration on Indigenous People to, quote, "freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development."

Mr. Speaker, a Tlicho administrative region would provide Tlicho greater financial authority to provide additional programs and services that respond to the needs of Tlicho and for the people in the Tlicho region. Additional employment opportunities would be created with positions in the region. A Tlicho administrative region is more accountable to the Tlicho people.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make corrections with reference to population I said on Friday, May 26th, 2023. According to Stats Canada 2022 the population in Tlicho region is about 3,200. Thank you. Mr. Speaker, I will have questions for the Premier.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1533-19(2): Homelessness in Inuvik

Mr. Speaker, today I'd like to bring attention to the homeless shelters in Inuvik as I have many times in this House. Early on in this Assembly, I raised the concerns of the emergency warming shelter and the issues that they were having and having to close its door due to internal issues just as the temperatures were dropping. Mr. Speaker, the Minister's response at that time was to assume control over these shelters, and both shelters were dissolved the shelter boards were dissolved. I have asked the Minister what is the future plan of these shelters in Inuvik many times since then. What will happen with the current staff that are now government employees? What is her department doing for a longterm plan for the residents that utilize these shelters? Mr. Speaker, there was a request for proposal at one point to have a nonprofit organization run the shelters. Nothing has come of that. And her department is still running the shelters. The Minister also met with leaders in my community. Did they come up with a plan? I'm not sure.

Mr. Speaker, the residents, staff, and the community of Inuvik want and need to know what is the short and longterm plan.

Mr. Speaker, according to the information I have, the staff contracts are until August 31st, 2023. That is also the beginning of fall when the temperature begins to drop. If we don't have a plan now, we'll be making drastic decisions again come August. And I want answers, and I will be questioning the Minister responsible for Homelessness. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1534-19(2): Kosmos 954 Crash

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, in March 2023, I rose in the House to bring light to the Kosmos 954 incident, a disaster that left deep scars on our lands and the people in the Tu NedheWiilideh riding. Mr. Speaker, to recap the benefit of those listening here today, in the winter of 1978, Kosmos 954 and its nuclear reactor crashed over Great Slave Lake. The crash scattered radioactive debris over 124,000 square kilometres over the frozen lands and lakes and recovered pieces emitted the radiation level of 500 rad tonnes per hour, enough to kill a person in a few hours.

Mr. Speaker, it takes more than 700 million years for uranium to fully decay. Exposure to radioactive material can pose serious health risks. Depending on the level or duration of exposure, it can lead to acute chronic illness, including cancer, genetic mutation, organ damage, and in the NWT rural and remote communities our people have limited access to health care facilities making it difficult to detect and treat radiation related to health issues. Radioactive contamination can have long lasting effects on the environment. It can contaminate soil, water sources, vegetation and wildlife, disrupting ecosystem and food chain. This contamination can persist for many years making it difficult for Indigenous people to use their natural resources for agriculture, fishing or hunting.

Mr. Speaker, I must stress that the radioactive contamination can create a sense of fear stigma within our communities. People may experience anxiety, stress, and mental health issues due to the concerns about their safety and the future of their community. For decades, this has been the case. And the literal fallout from Kosmos 954 has continued to affect social relationships and the psychological wellbeing of individuals and communities.

Mr. Speaker, prompt and effective management include monitoring, cleanup, and community support is crucial to mitigate the impacts and facilitate recovery of rural and remote areas affected by the radioactive contamination. While initial efforts were carried out swiftly during their operation Morning Light, there are still strong concerns about the drastic spike in cancer in the Tu NedheWiilideh riding around Great Slave Lake in the early 1979. That continues today.

Mr. Speaker, 45 years after the crash, there are still questions, and later today I hope the Premier will be able to provide further answers to my questions, so I gave comfort to to give comfort to my constituents in the Tu NedheWiilideh riding. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Tu NedheWiilideh. Members' statements. Member for Kam Lake.

Member’s Statement 1535-19(2): Student Financial Assistance Regulations

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, Wednesday is the deadline for getting feedback to the GNWT on the student financial assistance regulations. The regulations call for an increase to unlimited semesters for Indigenous students, and this is great news. But why stop there? The draft regulations maintain the six year or 12 semester basic grant cap for nonIndigenous students. Mr. Speaker, this does not keep pace with postsecondary or labour market trends or make sense given how SFA is used today.

Today, the average time to complete a bachelor's degree is almost five years, and the NWT labour market needs predict the most indemand jobs as management positions. The GNWT's own recruitment calls for master's degrees for these positions. The NWT also needs lawyers, specialized health care workers and veterinarians, among other professions, all of which require education past a bachelor's degree. In addition to limiting semesters, the regulations also set a $60,000 cap on the total student loans.

Mr. Speaker, SFA needs the ability to respond to labour market demands and allow funding beyond the current cap on a discretionary basis. Graduate studies, aviation and medical school are all in demand, cost more, and have demanding workloads which limits student ability to selffund their education. This policy limitation also doesn't make sense when held against SFA's own usage trends. The program is not fully subscribed. Over the last decade, the number of SFA students has declined while funding for students has remained constant. Less than 10 percent of students access more than four years of funding, and only 4 percent of SFA recipients are graduate students. So increasing the cap for all students schooled in the NWT does not stand to drastically change the cost of SFA. While the SFA regulations will continue to limit semesters for some NWT students, the regulations now remove one of the NWT's strongest population retention tools for the remissible loans in one sentence, quote, "eligibility will no longer be based on whether the student was schooled in the NWT," end quote.

Mr. Speaker, every week I hear from families that SFA is what keeps them here in the face of a high cost of living. The NWT has too much to lose by changing the eligibility requirement without a postgraduation residency requirement. But the NWT does, however, absolutely stand to benefit from increased education levels of NWT students and increased incentives to return north for loan forgiveness from extending remissible loan limits. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1536-19(2): Retirement of Pat Rowe

Thank you. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to talk about the village of Fort Simpson's deputy fire chief, Pat Rowe, who retired from the volunteer fire department after 40 plus years of service. Upon returning home from his tour with the army, Pat joined the department in the 1980s. As he said, it was a natural fit, especially after being trained to fight fires in the Armed Forces. As well, it was his way to give back to the community. As he has been quoted in several news articles, it's a job that needs to be done; I just happen to have enough training to make a difference. That's a pretty good feeling when you're able to help.

Like most things in life, you start working your way up the ladder and before you know it, he went from being a firefighter and up to the top as a fire chief. It was a position he held until 2013 when he had some medical issues, that all the diagnosis was him moving into the role of deputy fire chief and keep on serving our community. As he would say, you have to live every day for what it is or if you stop, life stops.

Mr. Speaker, Pat grew up in Hay River, Northwest Territories, but moved to Fort Simpson with his family when he was a youngster. It's a community he cares a lot about and whether it's volunteering or donating to a cause, it is home. Pat said the decision to step down as the chief was hard, but the department supported him.

Pat is very proud to be part of the NWT firefighter family. He has told me numerous times it's a good group of people whether you are from Yellowknife as a fulltime firefighter or from one of the communities' volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters of the North is a unique experience, and people need to be thankful for them.

Mr. Speaker, I want to use some quotes from his best friend and fellow firefighter to describe Pat: He's always led by example. He is an inspiration to everyone and has done a lot for this community. Pat must have responded to thousands of fires and ambulance calls during his 40 plus years. Biggest void for the fire department is all the years of knowledge and experience that goes away with his retirement.

Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank Mr. Pat Rowe for all his hard work and commitment to the village of Fort Simpson and the residents. Please join me with thanking him. Mahsi cho.

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Earlier today I did a Minister's statement on the Independent Legal Advice and Representation Program, and so I'd like to recognize some representatives from the WYCA here today. We have Hawa DumbuyaSesay, the executive director of the WYCA; Nomazulu Khumalo, the organizational development manager; and, Farah Rajan, the independent legal advice and representation coordinator. So we're happy to have our partners in the gallery with us today. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Hay River North. Recognition of visitors in the gallery. Member for Thebacha.

I'd like to recognize Dr. Sharma's Indigenous and global health research group with the University of Alberta. They're doing community visits in the North. And especially my friend of that group, Rachel Austry, Indigenous community project lead. And I'd like to say hi today. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Thebacha. Recognition of visitors in the gallery.

I'd just like to take a moment to recognize two of my pages from Fort McPherson, Brody AlexieBenoit and Brenden Vittrekwa; they'll be here for the week. And, also, I'd like to thank Desmond Benoit for being the chaperon. It's always good to have lots of help in the Chamber here. Mahsi.

Oral Questions

Question 1524-19(2): Fire Response