Debates of October 5, 2023 (day 167)

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


Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 392-19(2): Federal Partnerships

Mr. Speaker, as housing Minister, one of my main goals was to strengthen and develop partnerships and relationships. Now, as we come to the end of this Legislative Assembly, it is evident that partnerships have played a crucial role in our success. One of our most important relationships, of course, is with the Government of Canada. We have a number of programs and new projects that would not be possible without this partnership.

Mr. Speaker, in the past four years I have met with federal Minister Hussen, Minister responsible for Housing, Diversity and Inclusion; and Minister Vandal, Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, on several occasions, most recently with the new Minister responsible for Housing, Diversity and Inclusion, Minister Sean Fraser. I have also engaged on several occasions with the Northwest Territories Member of Parliament Michael McLeod and Member of Parliament, Mr. Chad Collins who is the chair of the national housing caucus.

Mr. Speaker, it is through these engagements with federal officials that we have the opportunity to outline and highlight the need for federal support to improve the housing situation.

Housing NWT staff have also been very engaged with their colleagues in the federal government, and it is through these partnerships that we have been very successful in securing resources for the North.

Mr. Speaker, as Minister responsible for Housing NWT, I am proud to say that through our partnership and relationships over the life of the 19th Legislative Assembly, over $600 million in federal funding has been announced to support housing priorities across the Northwest Territories.

We recently announced another partnership project with the City of Yellowknife at the Aspen Apartments. Through this partnership with the city and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Housing NWT has a budget of approximately $5 million under the cities stream of CMHC’s Rapid Housing 3 Initiative for safety upgrades and other required renovations. This project allows Housing NWT to acquire and modernize the Aspen Apartments, a 36unit building, which will further increase our number of owned public housing units in Yellowknife while freeing up leased units for private market rental needs.

Approximately a year ago, Mr. Speaker, Housing NWT assumed full ownership of the Nordic Arms apartment building in Yellowknife. With assistance from Canada, we were able to complete necessary upgrades and other renovations for the building so that public housing tenants could move in safely.

Housing NWT has worked hard over the life of this government to increase its stock of quality, energyefficient, and affordable housing for those most in need. With the Aspen Apartments and Nordic Arms, these buildings, Housing NWT is delivering its commitment to be innovative and provide sustainability.

In addition to these projects, we are also supporting the lowincome households through the CanadaNWT's housing benefit, a monthly subsidy up to $800 for families to cover rental costs. Any household paying more than 30 percent of their gross income on rent can receive this benefit with the eligibility being able to stay in the program for up to two years.

Mr. Speaker, the CanadaNWT housing benefit is entering its third year, and I cannot speak highly enough of this program. Housing NWT's mandate is to increase the wellbeing of individuals and communities by providing fair access to quality housing supports for people who need it the most. The CanadaNWT housing benefit just does this by providing muchneeded financial assistance to house people who are otherwise unable to afford it. Our staff have heard very positive feedback from community members who have accessed this funding. It is programming that allows residents to breathe at ease and save a little bit more.

Mr. Speaker, the accomplishments outlined today are only some of the most recent announcements of federal investment made over the life of this government. I am encouraged that through both mine and the department's partnership with the federal government and our colleagues throughout Canada, we have prioritized the Northwest Territories' housing needs and delivered by approving a wide range of projects under the National Coinvestment Program, the Rapid Housing Program, and the Reaching Home Program.

Mr. Speaker, Housing NWT acknowledges and celebrates how much this government and the Government of Canada has prioritized our housing needs as we continue to advocate for further supports through our recommendations to enhance and allocate funding through the national housing strategy and the urban renewal and northern Indigenous housing strategies that are being led by the federal government.

Mr. Speaker, during my conversations with the federal Ministers, I have made it clear that we would also be in support of funding going directly to Indigenous governments to support Indigenous housing for the North. And as outlined previously this session, this was indeed a huge success.

Mr. Speaker, this is significant federal funding that will continue to support and to increase affordable housing units throughout the North, additional market housing units, and repair opportunities also for private homeowners. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Health and Social Services.

Minister’s Statement 393-19(2): Addictions Recovery Supports

Mr. Speaker, substance abuse continues to challenge residents, family, friends and communities in the Northwest Territories. The health and social services system has a range of options to help Northerners recover their health and wellbeing. I am going to summarize a few of those options that have taken shape in the 19th Assembly.

An approach called Stepped Care 2.0 has transformed the community counselling program by offering sameday or dropin support, resulting in a 79 percent decrease in wait times. Community counsellors can also help residents gain access to more specialized services such as facilitybased addictions treatment.

Mr. Speaker, we now have six facilitybased addictions treatment programs. The department has recently contracted Sunrise Healing Lodge in Calgary to provide culturallysafe, recoveryoriented, and person and familycentered services. Sunrise Lodge responds to the request from residents for an Indigenousled treatment option.

Even before individuals return from addictions treatment, the community counselling program offers aftercare planning and support. This is part of our response to the 2022 Auditor General's recommendations to improve addictions services.

Mr. Speaker, we understand that the availability of safe, sober, housing close to home is another important component of support to individuals in their recovery. The department is taking steps to establish communitybased transitional housing options in four different communities. Work is progressing well in Inuvik and Yellowknife. The next step is to work program delivery costs into the next budget.

The department also continues to support the delivery of a managed alcohol program in Yellowknife. This program began during the pandemic as part of a comprehensive system of support for people living with addictions. This program takes a harm reduction approach by providing participants with a set dose of beverage alcohol in a safe setting, limiting intoxication levels and the consumption of nonbeverage alcohol. The program is delivered in combination with housing, health care, counselling, and life skills.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize the leadership role Indigenous governments and community organizations have in delivering addictions recovery supports. Following a request from them, the department recently merged three existing funds into one. This combined fund will help reduce the administrative burden on Indigenous governments while providing them with more flexibility in determining the types of programs needed in their communities and how they will be funded.

I am pleased with the direction that our work is taking and the supports available to NWT residents, yet I recognize there is still more to do.

We are planning for a combined community counselling satisfaction and addictions recovery survey for early next year. This combined survey will seek feedback on people’s experiences with all the available NWT addictions recovery supports and services, including the types of supports they used, any challenges or barriers they encountered, and what needs to be improved.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to conclude by discussing the ongoing dialogues initiated between myself, the department, and Indigenous governments. Our primary objective has been to enhance our collective efforts in addressing the addiction recovery requirements of NWT residents. I deeply appreciate these exchanges and their influence on shaping our course of action. Our shared goal is to help residents, and I firmly believe that the most effective solutions can be achieved through working together. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister. Ministers' statements. Minister responsible for Infrastructure.

Minister’s Statement 394-19(2): Transportation Update

Mr. Speaker, today I want to focus on the Government of the Northwest Territories' in accomplishments in road, air, and marine transportation during this 19th Assembly.

Enhancing our allseason highway system has been a top priority. In November 2021, the GNWT opened the Tlicho Highway for traffic for the first time, adding to the territory's roster of allseason highways. This 97 kilometre allseason road was advanced in partnership with the Tlicho government and will reduce the cost of living in the region.

The GNWT is also nearing completion of the phase 1 of the Prohibition Creek Access Road just south of Norman Wells. This 6.7 kilometre allseason road along the existing Mackenzie Valley winter road alignment is expected to be substantially complete in the fall of 2023. Not only is the construction of this allseason road making our transportation system more resilient to climate change and providing access to recreational opportunities, it is also providing employment and training opportunities for Sahtu residents in advance of the proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway Project.

Advancing the Mackenzie Valley Highway and the Slave Geological Province Corridor are two projects that are at the forefront of our mandate commitment to make strategic infrastructure investments. We have established partnerships with the Indigenous governments and the Indigenous organizations and have undertaken significant work to prepare the developer’s assessment report which is required for this Mackenzie Valley Highway environmental assessment. We continue to be on track for submission of the report during the life of this government.

As for the Slave Geological Province Corridor, we have also established relationships with Indigenous governments and undertaken work required to inform the future regulatory application of the proposed Lockhart AllSeason Road, the first segment of this corridor.

Along with building new roads, the GNWT continually invests in existing highway infrastructure. This fiscal year, we have invested $62.8 million in highway, bridge, culvert planning, design and construction, to more than 195 kilometres of highways, bridges, culverts, and access roads.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT is responsible for operating and maintaining 27 public airports in the territory, especially vital in our communities without yearround road access. In this fiscal year alone, we are investing $40 million in airport improvement projects, including several improvements to the Mike Zubko Airport in Inuvik. At our busiest and largest airport, we continue to advance Yellowknife’s 20year master plan, which will guide the airport’s growth and development.

In 2022, we also selected a new board for the revitalization of the Yellowknife Airport Economic Advisory Committee, which provides strategic advice on the issues and future business decisions to the airport’s management, GNWT senior management, and Minister of Infrastructure.

Mr. Speaker, waterways like the Mackenzie River and Great Slave Lake have long been essential transportation routes to move people along and essential goods to the North. Marine Transportation Services and fuel service division staff did a tremendous amount of planning this year to give us the best chance for a successful sailing season. Even with the best laid plans, significant challenges arose across the season, including two evacuations of staff and contractors from Hay River and low water levels across the Mackenzie River. These low water levels have caused us to adjust our sailing schedules, regrettably cancel the third and final supply trip to Norman Wells and Tulita, and pivot to a hybrid model to move cargo and fuel to the communities. Marine Transportation Services staff have been quick to problem solve in support of the essential supply to northern communities.

Speaking of marine accomplishments made by this government, I am happy to say work on the Hay River Harbour Restoration Project is ongoing. To create an emergency navigational channel for vessels, the GNWT is removing approximately 84,000 cubic metres of sediment from the Hay River harbour. Work is expected to be complete on October 7th.

As evidenced in the recent evacuations and reentries of the NWT communities, the importance of access and transport by air, road, and water is paramount. The GNWT continues to invest in our road, air, and marine transportation infrastructure to improve the quality of life, lower the cost of living for residents, and support the expansion and diversification of the economy. But our success hinges on the hard work of the staff across the territory, including those involved in the safe evacuation and return of residents this month. Their efforts are greatly appreciated. Quyananni, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Minister’s Statement 395-19(2): Progress on the Mandate Commitment to Maximize Government Procurement Benefits

Mr. Speaker, when we started the 19th Legislative Assembly, Members put forward, as one of its priorities, ensuring that government procurement maximizes benefits for Northwest Territories' residents and businesses. We knew that procurement policies had not been meaningfully updated for several years, and we wanted to make sure we were getting as much value out of every dollar as we could.

In January 2021, I appointed an independent advisory panel to engage with Indigenous governments and Indigenous organizations, elected leaders, the business community, stakeholders and residents, on government procurement. In June 2021, the panel completed its engagement and provided a comprehensive report including 50 recommendations. The panel’s report, as well as our discussions since with Members of the Legislative Assembly, residents, businesses, and Indigenous governments, has informed work by the departments of Industry, Tourism and Investment; Finance; and Executive and Indigenous Affairs, to fulfill our mandate commitment.

The report on the review of GNWT procurement policies and practices, including the Business Incentive Policy , P3 projects, and the Northern Manufactured Products Policy, the report presents a carefully formulated plan for improving government procurement to maximize benefits for Northwest Territories residents and businesses. Additionally, the report includes data that demonstrates that the number of government contracts awarded to Northwest Territories businesses has increased over the past three years.

Mr. Speaker, government procurement and contracting is a major source of economic activity throughout the territory, and our residents and businesses should benefit from this as much as possible while balancing the need to ensure projects are undertaken in a timely and fiscally responsible manner. One key tool to try and achieve that balance is by incentivizing contractors who commit to using local and Northwest Territories labour and buying Northwest Territories goods with a benefit in the form of an adjustment to the bidding process, which is why we have introduced a Vendor Performance Management Policy that holds contractors accountable for these commitments.

The policy provides that Government of the Northwest Territories, with tools needed to accurately assess, monitor, and enforce vendor performance consistently across all government departments and Housing NWT. This will first start with the monitoring and enforcement of obligations made under the Business Incentive Policy.

Mr. Speaker, we must also find and put into practice real practical solutions and give Indigenous businesses support to maximize their opportunities for growth. We are working with Indigenous governments through the modern treaty and selfgovernment partners and the Northwest Territories Council of Leaders so the Northwest Territories can become a leading example of how to achieve economic growth amongst one of the fastest growing cohorts of business in Canada, that of Indigenousled businesses.

With a unified set of modernized procurement objectives and principles, and a framework to monitor and enforce refreshed procurement tools, we are now set to capitalize on this stronger foundation. These ongoing efforts will help make government procurement more transparent and better able to maximize benefits for Northwest Territories companies while ensuring a balance between value for public dollars and maintaining as much public money as possible stays in the North. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Members’ Statements

Member’s Statement 1642-19(2): Expanding the Scope of Health Care Practitioners

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I've spoken in this House many times about the vital importance of equitable and accessible health care provided by supported health care workers. Canadians en masse are working to access health care. They are waiting for elective surgeries, access to specialists, testing, and treatment requirements of cancers, chronic disease, and STIs, and a surge in addiction and mental health support needs. In addition, special treatment programs like audiology, speech pathology, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy appointments put off over the pandemic further bottleneck our already fragile health care system. The catchup, Mr. Speaker, will take years, and some national experts speculate that the Canadian health care system may never catch up under its status quo approach.

Here in the NWT, we're even farther behind with reliance on Alberta's health care system and the fact that many of our existing health care workers are practicing through a scope much more narrow than their southern colleagues.

Pharmacists in southern provinces can prescribe some medications or adapt a prescription to suit the needs and reactions of a patient, give injections like vaccines or flu shots, or work with patients to sort out medication amounts, or recommend alternatives. My concerns about the limitation of dental hygienists are longdocumented in this Assembly as well as their importance to preventative care and longterm impacts on the health and wellness of residents. And, third, Mr. Speaker, many Northerners are still delivering babies far from home and without their support system. Many families stop work early to leave their home community to travel for the arrival of a little one. This means less income, removal from the safety of their community and support system where they will potentially deliver without their partner, potentially be left with no support for older children, and then expected to travel home with a brandnew baby. Work on implementing the midwifery program and expanding access to doulas need to continue.

Mr. Speaker, our health care system has a regulatory backlog, and I believe that by working to expand the scope of some health care professionals, we can alleviate even some of the demand on our system. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1643-19(2): Affirmative Action Hiring Policy

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, for my statement today I want to revisit a topic that I have spoken about many times during the 19th Assembly, and that subject is the Affirmative Action Policy.

Mr. Speaker, I know That the Minister of finance just tabled a What We Heard report last week regarding the government's review of the Affirmative Action Policy. I understand that the report concluded that the Government of the Northwest Territories should repeal affirmative action and replace it with a new policy that prioritizes the hiring of Indigenous people connected to the NWT first; and, then priorities all Indigenous Canadians at large.

Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to state plainly and clearly that I welcome all Indigenous people that were not born in the NWT but are living and working across the territory today. These individuals are most welcome. The point I am getting at here, Mr. Speaker, is that with any repeal and replacement of the Affirmative Action Policy, the government must keep in mind several key aspects of the policy as well as the original intent on whom the policy was meant to serve. Those were Priority 1s, 2s and 3s.

Mr. Speaker, I have always cared deeply about the health and wellbeing and advancement of Indigenous people, but I also care about nonIndigenous people. And within the existing Affirmative Action Policy, nonIndigenous people who were either born within the NWT and who live in the NWT more than half of their life will qualify under the policy. That is an aspect of the policy I have always been in favour of and will continue to be in favour of. However, in the future when a policy is initiated and made official, I hope it will consider any person who has lived at least ten years or more within the Northwest Territories and that secondary priority hiring will be provided to them.

Ultimately, Mr. Speaker, priority hiring in the NWT comes down to human resources doing their job right. Managers and hiring teams cannot continue to hire their friends or their family members. The appeal board also needs to be a neutral, fair, ethical, and transparent body that is approachable by the average person.

I could go on, Mr. Speaker, but I will leave it at that for now and hopefully the next Assembly, if I do return to this House, I will continue to address this topic down the road. 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 Monfwi.

Member’s Statement 1644-19(2): Emergency Management

Mr. Speaker, on August 28th, 2023, the day of our emergency sitting among the wildfire crisis, I introduced a Private Member's public bill, An Act to Amend the Emergency Management Act. The bill passed second reading that day and was referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations. The purpose of the bill is to require the GNWT coordinate its emergency response activities with Indigenous governments affected by the emergency.

Mr. Speaker, requiring the GNWT to coordinate its emergency response with Indigenous governments should not require a law. It should be a given. Unfortunately, this has not been the experience of Indigenous governments. Due to a lack of coordination by the Government of the Northwest Territories with Indigenous governments during the evacuation of Yellowknife, Indigenous people, many with language barriers and unique needs, were uprooted to cities in the south in which no one knew their language or knew how best to help them with their unique needs. This has led to our most vulnerable populations at risk, such as elders, the homeless, and those struggling with addictions. This does not reflect well on this government.

Indigenous governments and organizations asked to be involved from the start and were told no. This has to change. Decisions about Indigenous people must be made by the Indigenous people, not by the Government of the Northwest Territories alone.

A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from the Standing Committee on Government Operations. They stated they recognize there are many problems with the Emergency Management Act. They also shared my dismay at the gap in support for some Indigenous evacuees and disruption of essential services for nonevacuated communities. The committee believes Indigenous government needs to be engaged as true partners in emergency management at all stages. I agree. Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Sorry about that; I thought I had enough time to just conclude. But while I am disappointed that committee has not to proceed with the bill because they said there is not enough time to study the bill, they indicated this work should be a priority for the 20th Legislative Assembly. I call on all my colleagues in the next Legislative Assembly to support this important work to ensure this avoidable tragedy never happens again. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1645-19(2): Reflections on Housing NWT

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unanimous consent granted

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

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

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

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1646-19(2): Arsenic Remediation Guidelines

Merci, Monsieur le President. I have been waiting patiently for about 20 years for GNWT to finally review its arsenic remediation guidelines. Yesterday I talked about the flawed environmental guideline for contaminated site remediation with its very short public comment period.

Buried in one of the appendices are new arsenic remediation guidelines that significantly lower the acceptable limits for arsenic in soils for various land uses. This appears to be based on new research and background studies. The research shows the background levels of arsenic are significantly lower than what was originally set and, also, that most of the arsenic contamination in the Yellowknife area is a direct result of mining activities. The background studies were only recently made public following my request on August the 7th to the Minister.

The new arsenic remediation guidelines would significantly lower the acceptable limits for all land uses from what was set in 2003. A few examples, residential land use is lowered from 160 to 120 parts per million arsenic, and industrial use has gone from 340 to 163 parts per million with no explanation. The most alarming part is that areas outside Yellowknife have much lower limits, at 47 parts per million for residential use and 90 parts per million for industrial use. It's not clear why it is okay to expose Yellowknife residents to three times more arsenic than those who live outside.

Perhaps the detail are in those documents that were only recently released. I tried to look at them last night, Mr. Speaker, but way over my head. But it is not explained in the guideline itself anywhere. I always thought that arsenic soil remediation guidelines were set far too high to protect human health. The new proposed guidelines seem to bear that out. The biggest implication may be for the Giant Mine Remediation Project that used the old 2003 arsenic soil remediation levels which may no longer be safe for human health. So of course the rhetorical question, Mr. Speaker, is will Giant Mine remediation now adopt the new lower arsenic levels? I will have questions later today for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change on the new proposed arsenic soil remediation levels. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1647-19(2): Federal Compensation for Indian Residential School survivors

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Today I stand before you and this Assembly with a crucial matter that I have spoken of before and demand immediate attention. It is an issue that pertains to the rights and wellbeing of our Indigenous people who have attended schools under the purview of the Government of the Northwest Territories after April 1st, 1969.

As many of you are aware, a landmark battle was fought by Indigenous survivors who attended the federallyrun day school. This battle resulted in the federal day school class action lawsuit wherein compensation was made available to those who had suffered mistreatment, culture alienation, and during this time in these institutions.

While this is a significant step in addressing historical injustice, there is a grave troubling admission that cannot be ignored. The GNWT, during the period under question, continued to operate schools, some of which were residential boarding schools and day schools. Many of these institutions were run by religious organizations, organizations notably by the Anglican Church, Catholic Church. It is crucial to emphasize that the GNWT received funding from the Government of Canada to support the operation of these schools after April 1st, 1969 the cutoff date for the federal day school class action lawsuit.

This funding was acknowledged by the federal Government of Canada of its responsibility to support the education of Indigenous children in the Northwest Territories. Therefore, it is only just and fair that the Indigenous students who attended these GNWToperated schools after April 1st, 1969, be allowed to seek compensation through the federal day school compensation program. It is a matter of quality and justice that we cannot afford to overlook.

To provide specific examples, the chief Jimmy Bruneau School, residential boarding school, St. Patrick's School, a day school, operated within our jurisdiction during this period. Students who attended these schools, like their counterparts in federallyrun institutions, experienced the same systematic issues and culture erosion. Therefore, I call upon this government to recognize the urgent need to get ahead of this issue and extend a list of eligible institutions under the federal day school compensation program to include those GNWToperated schools that received federal funding. These students should be given the opportunity to seek the redress and compensation that is rightfully theirs from their government. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my Member's statement. Mahsi.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, colleagues. Our commitment to the truth and reconciliation requires us to correct this oversight and ensure that no Indigenous students who suffered the consequences of attending these schools is left behind. We have a moral obligation to pursue justice for all regardless of where these injustices occurred. Not to mention there is continued risks from similar class action lawsuits if the government continues to do nothing. It should not take the courts to make this government act and do the right thing.

I implore my honourable colleagues to support this crucial endeavour and join hands in advocating for the inclusion of these students in the federal day school compensation program. Let's stand together in the pursuit of justice, healing, and reconciliation for the Indigenous people of the Northwest Territories. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll have questions for the Premier shortly. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1648-19(2): Reflections on Role as a Member of the 19th Legislative Assembly

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, it has been four years since I was first elected and not many, if anyone, can say they served with their son in any government legislature in Canada, and I am proud that happened here in this 19th Legislative Assembly. Together, I would hope that myself and my son R.J. were able to provide respectful, unbiased, fair, and timely representation to all our constituents in Hay River, something they all expect and deserve.

Mr. Speaker, over the last few years I have asked myself, did these last four years change who I am as a person? I believe it has not, and I am grateful for that.

Throughout my life and career, while encouraging my children and others to do the same, which is to show respect for all people, be available to hear their stories, and providing help to those who need a helping hand. I hope that those principles had a positive influence on those we represent.

Mr. Speaker, as a political representative, it is never about you. It is about the people one serves. I would recommend to all who are elected in the next Legislative Assembly, before you walk through the doors of this building it is important that you check your ego in at the door and pick up some respect, compassion, understanding, commitment, and be prepared to challenge the system when it is wrong and support it when it is just.

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that when I stand here on the floor of this House, or when I go down the hall to talk about a Minister about constituent issues, I know I have a strong and committed team behind me, and that team is made up those constituents of Hay River. And I thank each of them for having placed their confidence and trust in me to represent them over these past four years, most of which has been very trying times.

Mr. Speaker, it is important that one represents all of their constituents equally based on government policy, legislation, and laws to get to what is right and just. To accomplish that, it requires all the skills, experience, education, and outside networks one has. If you find that any of the policies or legislation has been unfair, unbiased, or just do not make sense, it is up to you to work towards making change. You will find the system to be cumbersome and untimely but that should not stop you as there are experienced and dedicated researchers and staff to assist you and you can make a difference. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my constituent assistant Leanne Campbell for the work that she has done for all constituents over the past four years and for answering their calls 24/7 throughout these four years.

And most importantly, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my wife Bette and our family for supporting me during these last four years, including all the highs and lows that came with it. And again, thank you, Hay River.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1649-19(2): Future Location of Yellowknife-North Slave Campus of Aurora College

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, time and time again I have heard from constituents and residents of their concerns with the proposed location of the polytechnic university. Although the Minister pointed me to the Facilities Master Plan Engagement Report to explain how he chose Tin Can Hill, I feel as if he engaged on the criteria of a site without really thinking of the operational and, more importantly, the emotional implications of this site. Mr. Speaker there are real, practical concerns with the Tin Can Hill site.

Traffic to the campus would be directed along School Draw Avenue or cut through Copper Sky Apartments. Neither of these entry points are prepared to handle the volume of traffic that would be involved with a university and pose serious safety issues for my constituents living there. Housing will be seriously impacted given the limited Yellowknife rental market. The apartments in my riding are sitting at practically zero vacancy with overcrowding issues. How do we intend to house students while also ensuring that residents, who live in my riding, are not pushed out given the plan calls for 50 percent of students to find market housing?

I worry for my constituents, including many longterm pensioners and lowincome families residents who are already struggling to keep up with our skyrocketing cost of living. I worry that they will be forced from their homes due to rising rents and neighbourhood gentrification.

The Minister has said the Tin Can Hill MOU is not legally binding and that things will be flushed out with consultation. However, Mr. Speaker, I think we need to be more innovative and forward thinking with the selection of the university site. One option I want explored is the capital site which encompasses this Assembly as well as the museum.

The capital site represents a more sustainable and strategic parcel of land for the university, not only from a traffic, growth, and housing perspective but also from a recreational land use perspective; that emotional piece I was mentioning earlier.

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight that the Facilities Master Plan Engagement Report does not transparently reflect how the Tin Can Hill site was chosen and how engagement occurred. It is a flawed plan that does not adequately address the practical realities of the area, the limited accessibility by road, and the potential emotional and physical impacts on residents' health and wellbeing at the loss of such a treasured, valued green space in the backyard of my community that I love, Great Slave.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1650-19(2): Benefits of a Single Service Office Model

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The benefits of a Service GNWT model or single service window model are pretty obvious. There's Service Canada. Service BC. Service Alberta. I actually don't think there's a single jurisdiction in Canada, other than us, that doesn't have a single service window. And we actually kind of have one. We have service officers in the communities. But the Premier throughout this government has refused to bring them in to Yellowknife, refused to even consider a single service window, and seems to think it's impossible. But in reality, Mr. Speaker, it's one of the few things we could do that could create efficiencies. For example, a Service GNWT office would do things such as help with income assistance, housing, you could get your birth certificate there, you could pay fines there, you could apply for a lease, you could get your marriage license typical things that the government does that, right now, are scattered through about 12 different offices in Yellowknife with a multitude of workers.

And the benefits to a service window model, Mr. Speaker, are numerous. Firstly, it allows you to buy one piece of Eservices software. Right now, we are spending tens of millions a year on software licenses. Every year that software budget line just goes up and up, and there seems to be nothing we can do about it. Right now, Eservices is housed in the Department of Finance despite the fact that all of the services it's providing are kind of scattered across the GNWT. And in some cases, there's actually the Eservices platform and then another piece of software within the department being used for the same thing and they don't talk to each other. And never do the workers in the other department. We've heard multiple stories throughout my term of housing asking for your employment records, then income assistance asking for your employment records, and then sometimes the workers get in a fight. This is all well documented by integrated case management in the Department of Justice which basically gave up trying to get GNWT departments to work together. And, Mr. Speaker, I think we have made negative progress on this issue.

So for the next Premier, do something about this, adopt a Service GNWT model. It's not that complicated. Every government does it. It saves you a bunch of money. It really is a winwinwin situation.

And another thing it does, Mr. Speaker, is it allows you to be a little bit more flexible with your operating hours. Most service offices are open evenings and weekends. You could, perhaps, renew your license at the DMV on the evenings or weekends, which I have been asking for four years, Mr. Speaker, and have made no progress at all. So I give up. Next Premier, do better. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1651-19(2): Exemption of Federal Income Sources from Income Assistance benefits

That's pretty hard to beat that one. So, Mr. Speaker, today the residents are accessing a variety of government support programs housing, income support, and disability supports, across the it territory, and especially my riding. This is due to a variety of reasons but the main reason that we do not have the sustainable income in Nunakput region there's no jobs and nothing to sustain families. I have told this House to be compassionate, flexible about the needs of our people, particularly those in small communities.

But, Mr. Speaker, today my residents are facing claw backs, withholding of their income support payment. The ECE took steps in March 2020 to exempt from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, CERB, from the calculation of benefits on income assistance, the applications. However there are other payments that our residents received, including CERB, CRCB, that's disabilities, and CRSB and CWLB, are now being accounted as assessments when applying for income support.

Mr. Speaker, we need to remember that the residents do not have much support and much resources and are trying to get as much as they can to support their families. I already and we're already not providing enough. We're pushing them to obtaining other supports during this unprecedented the pandemic that we went through.

The money is not a huge sum of money, Mr. Speaker. People are struggling on high costs of living, high cost of food, just barely getting by. I call again and again we need some compassion here, Mr. Speaker. We need to show we care. COVID feels like forever ago, and we're all worried about the impacts and the supply chain issues, the vulnerability of our residents. People are trying to do whatever they can do to take care of their family. I will ask questions of the Minister of Education, Culture and Employment to make sure that the CERB payment and the disability payment are not being calculated on the income support program and seeing if we could for the next government to take off. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1652-19(2): Regional Decision-making Authorities

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, one of the priorities of this government was to increase regional decisionmaking authority. I am unsure how much of that we actually have done in this government. We have decisions continuously coming from the capital. In my region, you know, the thing is that we have certain land claims, we have certain things. You know, we're waiting for decisions on cabins and how we're going to have you know, people are going to be able to establish a lease on a cabin if they're Indigenous. But we can't deal with it in our region.

We have procurement issues in my region. I have heard nothing but procurement issues. I know the Minister has stated that things are going to change. But I'm hoping that they're going to get better in my region.

Mr. Speaker, housing. Housing has impacted my region significantly. You know, the thing in our region, we've lost when we lost the housing or the territorial housing for our staff, this impacted our children's education. This impacted the health of our people. We cannot get jobs, people to come there. The cost of living is too high. That, and we get brand new graduates. I'm not saying that they're not great people but new grads teaching our children. You know, they're dealing with many issues, especially in the smaller communities in my region.

A lot of these decisions, the health authority, you know, that one of the reasons that I left GNWT was the centralization of the health authority. All the decisionmaking, the things that we could do in our communities different and tweak the programs, those kind of went away because we have to get permission from Yellowknife.

We made this a priority. We've had things come through us. You know, we had confidential little documents saying what they're going to do. So I am going to have questions for the Premier as to what decisionmaking authorities have been given to the regions and have they changed and have they impacted and made positive changes. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 1653-19(2): Eulogies for Barb Tsetso, Sarah Lennie and Don Fabien

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member for Nahendeh. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and at this time.

Recognition of Visitors in the Gallery