Debates of February 27, 2024 (day 11)

20th Assembly, 1st Session
Members Present
Hon. Caitlin Cleveland, Mr. Edjericon, Mr. Hawkins, Hon. Lucy Kuptana, Hon. Jay MacDonald, Hon. Vince McKay, Mr. McNeely, Ms. Morgan, Mr. Morse, Mr. Nerysoo, Ms. Reid, Hon. Lesa Semmler, Hon. R.J. Simpson, Mr. Testart, Mr. Thompson, Mrs. Weyallon Armstrong, Hon. Caroline Wawzonek, Mrs. Yakeleya


I'd like to thank Karen Mitchell for the blessing today.

Ministers’ Statements

Minister’s Statement 24-20(1): Health Human Resources Recruitment and Retention

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories continues to work to address the national shortage of health care professionals that has led to service reductions and system impacts not only in the NWT but across the country. Postpandemic, this shortage has only intensified, with many health professionals resigning, retiring, or reducing their working hours.

The results of our internal staff surveys and feedback sessions indicate that employee recruitment and retention challenges persist within our system. To address this shortage and its impact on our staff, we have increased our focus on employee engagement and employee retention through the development of the NWT Health and Social Services system human resource plan.

While recruitment remains essential, it is equally important to recognize the hard work and dedication of our existing staff and thank them for their commitment to serving residents in the face of the many challenges experienced by our health care system over the past several years.

Multiple new recruitment initiatives were introduced in August 2022. These initiatives provide additional support to our existing health system, and include incentives to both recruit new employees and retain the valuable employees we currently have.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide an update on these initiatives. Expanding the use of paramedics has provided additional support to remote and isolated communities and to acute care emergency room operations. A contract for these services was issued in the summer of 2023, resulting in paramedics being used in multiple locations across the territory, including at both Stanton and Inuvik Hospitals, as well as in Fort McPherson, Deline, Aklavik, Tuktoyaktuk, and Ulukhaktok. Paramedics also supported emergency care operations at Stanton during the citywide evacuation order in the summer of 2023 and assisted in Hay River during a physician shortage and during evacuation last summer.

The Friends and Family Program reimburses travel costs for family members visiting the Northwest Territories while an eligible HSS employee works over the holiday period. Last year, Mr. Speaker, the program supported 114 applications from employees. While we are still confirming this year's numbers, there appears to be a similar number of supported applications this recent holiday as well.

Mr. Speaker, the referral program is available to all GNWT employees and offers up to $2,000 dollars for the successful recruitment of nurse practitioners, physicians, and registered nurses. Since the launch of this last July, there have been ten successful complete referrals. The international travel to and from the Northwest Territories incentive, which offers to cover the international travel costs of any Canadian physician, nurse practitioner, or registered nurse living abroad and wishing to relocate to live and work in the NWT, or work as a locum in our system, was taken up by six physicians since it began in 2022.

We also continue to reimburse licensing fees for locum physicians. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to report that 30 physicians were reimbursed in 2022, and 45 more in 2023. Additionally, four new positions were created to provide specialized support to new hires and as of January 24, all of these positions have been filled.

Mr. Speaker, aside from these initiatives we are actively recruiting for vacant family physicians and physician specialist positions across the territory. There was a small yet positive reduction in the system vacancy rate from June 2023 to September 2023.

The Health and Social Services recruitment team continues to work with hiring managers and Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority leadership to enhance our recruitment strategies. Scheduled monthly marketing campaigns for hardtofill highvacancy positions are underway, ensuring a consistent advertising presence on key job boards and association websites.

The improved consolidated hiring process for nurses has significantly reduced hiring times, down to an impressive sixweek turnaround for registered nurses and seven weeks for community health nurses.

Mr. Speaker, as a graduate of the Aurora College Northern Nursing Program, I am thrilled to share that all 16 Aurora College nursing graduates from 2023 have secured indeterminate employment with the Northwest Territories Health and Social Services Authority; 15 of whom have completed the Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing Mentorship Program created in 2022 in response to the national nursing shortage.

To support the recruitment of family medicine physicians, the NWT Family Medicine Medical Residency Training Program, launched in July 2020, has resulted in three of the four graduate residents currently working as permanent or locum physicians in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, efforts continue to expand our work to attract NWT students and youth to careers in health and social services. Some of the work on this front includes the recent release of the 2024 NWT Health and Social Services career guide earlier this month. We have also found many opportunities for direct engagement between students and health and social services professionals, and we are supporting these through our clinical observation and job shadowing programs, inperson and virtual participation in the annual Take Our Kids to Work Day each November, and by attending health and social services career fairs in communities throughout the territory.

Mr. Speaker, hiring staff in an intensely competitive international labour market is one part of this work. The other equally, if not more important, is keeping invaluable staff we have. To this end, staff engagement at all levels has increased including through entry and exit surveys and participation in the GNWT Employee Satisfaction Working Group. The information gathered through this engagement supports efforts to evolve our retention strategies, develop hiring priorities, create career opportunities, and reinforce the programs that truly resonate with staff and are meaningful and supportive of their daytoday work.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to monitor our initiatives as well as the broader health sector employment trends while ensuring we remain engaged and connected with the dedicated professionals working within our system. We have learned throughout the past several years that there are simply no quick fixes to end this shortage, but we remain committed to the steady improvement of our work environments and to providing the best care possible for NWT residents. And I am confident that with the support of my colleagues in this Legislative Assembly, combined with the strategic allocation of resources, and thoughtful ongoing engagement with staff, we can, and we will continue to make progress in our recruitment and retention efforts. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Minister of Health and Social Services. Members' statements. Minister of ITI.

Minister’s Statement 25-20(1): Revitalization of the Great Slave Lake Fishery

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is committed to revitalizing the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery. The Northwest Territories has a long history of commercial fishing. From the 1950s to the 1990s, production varied between 750,000 to 2 million kilograms per year. But, in the last twenty years, production has declined due to several factors that reduced fishers' income while the cost of fishing went up. To reverse this decline, in 2017 the Government of the Northwest Territories released a strategy for revitalizing the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery.

This vision, which was developed through extensive engagement with fishers, aims to reestablish this oncepowerful sector and, with strategic investments and actions, maximize opportunities to grow and diversify our economy, create jobs, and increase the food security of Northerners while supporting selfdetermination.

Mr. Speaker, an important element of this strategy is the construction of a new fish processing plant in Hay River. This stateoftheart facility will have the capacity to process fish from Hay River and around the lake, including Yellowknife, which will help add value to the NWT economy. While the 2022 floods and 2023 wildfires have delayed the plant's completion, I expect the plant to be operational for the 2024 open water season.

Another action to advance this strategy is to enhance training, recruitment, and retention programs for fishers. Last summer, we piloted the Commercial Fishery Support Program, which offers fuel rebates, volume incentives, and income supplements for newly established local fishers and experienced outofterritory fishers. The program also provides financial support for implementing new technologies and sustainable practices, encouraging fishers to adopt innovative approaches.

Looking back at the disruptions caused by flooding, wildfires, and evacuations in the past year, it is remarkable that the Great Slave Lake fishery is exceeding expectations and growing. 2023 marked the highest recorded harvest since before COVID19. This output highlights the resilience, ingenuity, and hard work of our fishers in the Northwest Territories.

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories is focused on increasing participation in the fishery. We recognize the need to replace retiring fishers, to attract new fishers into the industry, and to empower existing fishers to increase capacity. Last year, the department's training sessions supported 20 participants to become certified commercial fishers, and the department plans more training sessions this year. Our longterm aim is to transition our fishery away from its dependence on the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation. The department is also actively exploring the possibility of developing a new Yellowknife harbour which would create opportunities for a new cohort of fishers on the north side of the lake. To support the existing Yellowknifebased commercial fishers and facilitate their operations, a collection station was opened last summer and again this winter for fish harvested in Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, revitalizing the Great Slave Lake commercial fishery is a longterm goal that requires investments in infrastructure, supports for new entrants in the industry, and changes in how we do business. With the dedication and resilience of NWT fishers, I believe the industry can thrive with a focus on ensuring a reliable food supply, creating income opportunities for residents, and promoting a stronger, more diversified economic foundation. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister of ITI. Ministers' statements. Minister for Finance.

Minister’s Statement 26-20(1): Government of the Northwest Territories Health, Safety and Wellness Policy

Mr. Speaker, one in five Canadians experience a psychological health problem or illness in any given year. Only 23 percent of Canadian workers feel comfortable talking to their employer about a psychological health issue. Today I want to share how the Government of the Northwest Territories is recognizing the importance of our employees' psychological health and safety.

As an employer, the Government of the Northwest Territories is responsible for safeguarding the health, safety, and wellbeing of territorial public servants to ensure we have a strong workforce. Traditionally, eliminating occupational and physical hazards in the workplace has been guided by an occupational health and safety policy and efforts to create and maintain the psychologically healthy workplace have, until now, focused on training. Designed to address and promote mental health and reduce the stigma around mental health in the workplace, the Working Mind Program is available to all GNWT employees and is mandatory for all managers and supervisors. While training is a good start, it is only one part of supporting employee wellness.

Mr. Speaker, the GNWT has taken steps to incorporate the national standard on psychological health and safety in the workplace into how we do business. Published by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, this standard provides a systemic approach to developing a psychologically healthy and safe workplace with the aim of improving recruitment, retention, productivity, financial performance and risk management. To this end, the Department of Finance has enacted a new corporate health, safety and wellness policy that allows the GNWT to give equal consideration to both physical and psychological hazards by creating training and resources that supports employees.

By covering occupational and psychological safety of our employees and guests in the workplace, this new policy reflects the GNWT's commitment to implementing the national standard. Broadening our efforts to include psychological health allows for the GNWT to better understand the psychological risks of our work environments and how they impact employee mental health.

Mr. Speaker, the 2021 GNWT Employee Engagement and Satisfaction Survey showed that only 52 percent of GNWT employees felt they worked in a psychologically healthy workplace. As an employer, we must do better. By replacing the existing occupational health and safety policy with one that includes employee wellness, we are making a statement that the GNWT supports a psychologically healthy and safe workplace and that our approach must support the wellbeing of our employees. In the coming months, we will be engaging with employees to assess where we need to focus our work to meet their needs.

Mr. Speaker, I encourage all employees, managers, and senior leaders to participate in these engagement sessions. Establishing and maintaining a psychologically healthy and safe workplace is a shared responsibility and cannot be accomplished by the employer alone. Collective and intentional action is crucial to actively promote, prevent, and mitigate both physical and psychological hazards in the workplace.

Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that this new health, safety and wellness policy sets us on a path towards creating and maintaining a workplace culture across the territory that is genuinely supportive of employee wellbeing, ensuring a resilient and thriving workforce for generations to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Minister of Finance. Ministers' statements. Member from Range Lake.


Mr. Speaker, I move, seconded by the honourable Member for Inuvik Boot Lake, that the Minister of Health and Social Services' Minister's statement, Health Human Resources Recruitment and Retention, be referred to Committee of the Whole for consideration. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you. The motion in order. To the motion.



Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Question has been called. All those in favour? Opposed? Abstentions? Motion carried. The statement moved into Committee of the Whole.


Members’ Statements

Member’s Statement 117-20(1): Pharmacists’ Scope of Practice

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm adding my name to the growing list of MLAs who have risen in this House in the recent past to speak to the potential benefits to our health care system of expanding pharmacists' scope of practice.


I need to finish this, you guys.

The Member for Yellowknife Centre beat me to it during oral questions yesterday, but I certainly don't mind joining the chorus because I have also been hearing about this one from Frame Lake residents who are looking for anything we can do to help create efficiencies in our critically overburdened primary care system. To summarize the issue, most other jurisdictions in Canada have expanded the scope of practice for pharmacists to include basic primary care functions such as managing prescriptions, initiating lab work, administering vaccines, which has been shown in research to have the potential to reduce pressure on emergency rooms by as much as 35 percent.

Mr. Speaker, I think we enjoy support from both sides of the House for this idea. As the Member for Kam Lake said herself less than a year ago that pharmacists continue to be an underutilized health care resource in the Northwest Territories. When they can't practice to their full scope, Mr. Speaker, it means that patients aren't receiving the best possible care and the system can't work to its full potential. The Member made a strong case, Mr. Speaker, and tabled a document comparing pharmacists' scope of practice across Canada and, indeed, our jurisdiction falls second to last on the list. There is a lot of room for improvement to bring us in line with neighboring jurisdictions.

In February 2023, in response to questions in the House, the health Minister at the time stated that the department was planning to draft regulations to bring pharmacists into the Health and Social Services Professions Act and to do that work early in the life of the next Assembly. Time has flown, and we now find ourselves early in the life of the very Assembly the previous Minister was referring to. If there's one thing I can seek to achieve today by raising this issue in the House yet again, Mr. Speaker, it is to help convey a sense of urgency and hopefully get a commitment from our health Minister to act quickly on this and make good on the commitment of her predecessor. To that end, I'll have questions for the Minister of health later today. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

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

Member’s Statement 118-20(1): Daylight Savings Time

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That's a hard act to follow but I'm going to try, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring back the animus, the spirit, nay the gumption of a previous MLA Mr. Rylund Johnson. Though I'm delighted to work with the current MLA for Yellowknife North, I'm a bit sad the previous MLA didn't stick around so we could be coworkers once more, Mr. Speaker. And what better topic to bring forward the ghost of Yellowknife North's past than the evergreen topic of daylight savings, Mr. Speaker. The DMV opening on Saturdays will have to wait for another day.

Let's focus on the issue that saw the highest number of NWT residents participating in a GNWT engagement to date, Mr. Speaker. Other 3,500 people responded to the survey on daylight savings time. Of those people, 87 percent professed their hatred of daylight savings time. Let's listen to residents who are overwhelmingly in favour of ditching spring forward and fall back down. Let's stop losing sleep, getting into car crashes because of that lack of sleep, and calling in sick so we can get some more shut eye, Mr. Speaker. And I'll have questions for the Minister of holidays I mean the Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker, at the appropriate time.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Great Slave. Members' statements. Member from Tu NedheWiilideh.

Member’s Statement 119-20(1): Housing Priorities and the Future of Housing Northwest Territories

This is just making me tired now.


Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on my statement yesterday concerning our new housing priorities and speak to the future of the Housing NWT. As we move towards a future government on collaboration, I mentioned yesterday how Indigenous governments need to take control over the new housing programs at the local level. Today I want to expand upon why the government's current housing and policies does not work for Indigenous people here in the Northwest Territories and to see what the government is thinking for longterm solutions so that we can transition Indigenous housing into the hands of Indigenous governments.

Housing NWT is not working for Indigenous people. Too many families are being evicted or are forced to live in overcrowded poor condition housing. Many more are awaiting for a buy low renovation and the waitlists for homes is far too long.

Indigenous governments would not let this happen to their people. They want the ability to make housing work for them with the money that is allocated for Indigenous housing by the federal Government of Canada. There's a lot of anxiety over the fact that in 2038, federal housing corporation, Canada Mortgage Housing Corporation, will cease with funding through Housing NWT. That's just in 14 years. We'll have to find a whole new way of delivering housing in the Northwest Territories. This is a challenge but also an opportunity to create a collaborative government approach as spoken by this Premier.

There are many creative and cooperative ways we can change the housing system for Indigenous people and their communities, but we need to start working together towards this goal now. Regardless of how fixed our delivery of housing is today, we know that just 14 years to get a solution in place. I hope when I ask the Minister of housing later today that this Assembly will get a clear picture of their plans to deliver on housing after 2038. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Tu NedheWiilideh. Members' statements. Member from Inuvik Boot Lake.

Member’s Statement 120-20(1): Government of the Northwest Territories Position Vacancies

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, I'm concerned about a trend in government operations. There appears to be a high number of vacant positions and positions that have gone unfilled for an inordinate amount of time. Mr. Speaker, I understand there's staff turnover and for a variety of reasons, it can be hard to fill positions. Maybe the position is specialized which makes filling the position difficult, especially in the more northern and remote communities.

Mr. Speaker, how is the GNWT monitoring this trend across the government? Is the number of vacant positions being monitored over time? Is the government tracking the vacancy rates of positions overall by department or by region?

Mr. Speaker, unfilled positions can also provide surplus funding on unallocated spending dollars for regions or divisions. Unfilled positions can provide slush funds for upper management, and this is a concern.

Mr. Speaker, we are in a time of fiscal restraint. As Members, we all agree this Assembly needs to exemplify good governance. We need to tighten up how government does business and address vacant positions. Why are these positions going unfilled, Mr. Speaker? Can the GNWT address the root cause of these vacancies?

The GNWT needs to identify where these positions are located by position, by department, and start to uncover why they're going unfilled. The GNWT needs to dig into this to determine what positions could be filled and which ones are more challenging to improve operation of government and to improve efficiency in government service. Mr. Speaker, the GNWT also needs to ensure the senior positions in the regions are adequately filled, such as the regional director position in the Beaufort Delta, Mr. Speaker, and other senior positions throughout all of the Northwest Territories. These positions are integral to ensure all regions have a voice and that decisionmakers are located in the regions that these decisions affect the most. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Inuvik Boot Lake. Members' statements. Member from Range Lake.

Member’s Statement 121-20(1): Economic Impacts of Upcoming Closure of Northwest Territories Mines

Mr. Speaker, it is often said that history has a way of repeating itself and, surely, we can agree that's the case with our territory's mining industry. Just as we did 30 years ago when the gold industry began to wrap up, we are facing another round of mine closures.Today our diamond mines have at least past the halfway point to their operations with Diavik slated to close in 2026. It's not just our diamond industry either. Norman Wells is due to cease operations in 2026 as well. Those are two big hits to our economy that are just 24 months away.

The NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines recently published work analyzing the impact these closures will have on the territory. And it's frightening, to say the least. They see a leaner future ahead with thousands of jobs and therefore a government without millions of revenues. This will affect across our economy with farreaching consequences as the demand for goods and services related to the mining sector disappear as does the disposable incomes made possible by good mining wages. The best in the world I might add, Mr. Speaker.

A future without mining is a future of fewer business, poorer services, and less Northerners as many will be forced to look elsewhere for opportunity. This is a future we do not accept, Mr. Speaker. Here in the Northwest Territories we move forwards, not backwards. The government must be up to the challenges posed by these closures and work with the mining industry to look beyond oil and diamonds. The pivotal aspect of this challenge is not the lack of resources. We know we have many exciting new opportunities to pursue with minerals such as cobalt, nickel, lithium, and rare earths. This challenge, instead, rests on how we make stronger partnerships with new industries and build the economic environment these partnerships can thrive in.

This work needs to start now, Mr. Speaker, and a good place to start is exploration. The government can retool our regulatory system to match regulatory needs, the size and the risks of projects, and stop holding earlystage exploration to the standards of advanced projects. A muchneeded boost to exploration could be achieved by doubling the Mining Incentive Program and building new infrastructure to fuel clean energy at mine sites. These are just a few key suggestions, Mr. Speaker, but it's up to this new government to come up with a concrete plan to reinvigorating and restarting our mining sector for future generations. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Range Lake. Members' statements. Member from Yellowknife North.

Member’s Statement 122-20(1): Giant Mine Remediation Project Workforce

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So last week we announced the priorities for the 20th Assembly, and one of those was building a strong economic foundation. One major area of economic opportunity that we are currently letting slip through our fingers is remediation. Now, I want to say upfront that I don't want us to promote the idea of remediation as this economic growth opportunity that will be our longterm ticket to prosperity. I believe that would send the wrong signal to industry that we actually want them to leave a big mess behind so that we can continue spending billions in taxpayer dollars cleaning it up. But our unfortunate present situation is that we do have billions of dollars’ worth of work to do cleaning up mud sumps in the Beaufort Delta, old oil and gas wells at Cameron Hills, Ptarmigan Mine, and hundreds of other contaminated sites.

Now, the Giant Mine Remediation Project has an estimated cost now of $4.38 billion over the life of the project at least over the next 30 years, and maintenance on the site could run in perpetuity. To quote the Giant Mine Oversight Board's latest annual report, the Giant Mine Remediation Project will be one of the largest, if not the largest, single economic project in the history of the Yellowknife area.

Increasing participation by residents, Indigenous and nonIndigenous workers and businesses will bring about greater financial prosperity and set the NWT on a path for a stronger and more integrated economy in the future. However, as of last year, only 24 percent of the employees of the Giant Mine Remediation Project were northern. The person hours was at 36 percent however the target was for at least between 55 and 70 percent. 10 percent of employees were northern Indigenous although that was 16 percent of person hours and the target was at least 25 to 35 percent. And to put this in perspective, the number of northern Indigenous employees have actually gone down slightly since 2018.

So while the GNWT does sit on the Giant Mine socioeconomic advisory body, it's not clear what results we've achieved from being part of this group. The proposed polytechnic university could be a great venue to develop partnerships to train Northerners to work in remediation. Mr. Speaker, I ask for unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So our task here is urgent. We have to train and equip more Northerners to work in remediation and offer pathways for them to continue upgrading their skills to match the technical requirements of the work that needs to be done. This task was urgent 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and I don't see evidence that the GNWT has devoted the necessary attention and resources to such an urgent task. I will have questions for the Minister of ECE. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you you Member from Yellowknife North. Members' statements. Member from Sahtu.

Member’s Statement 123-20(1): Developing Remediation Skills in Sahtu

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, developing remediation skills in the Sahtu, Mr. Speaker, it has been documented that Northerners have not fully benefitted from environmental cleanup and remediation sites across the Northwest Territories. In the Sahtu, we can see a major remediation project is on our horizon. It is expected the Norman Wells oil field will stop producing recoverable oil, and the site will need to be remediated.

Imperial Oil has submitted their closure and reclamation plan to the appropriate authorities. It must be noted the oil field is owned by the Government of Canada, Mr. Speaker. This presents a unique opportunity for both levels of government on joint collaboration. Imperial Oil is well underway to determining the objectives for progressive reclamation and the eventual end of life activities at the Norman Wells oil fields. Closure and reclamation is moving forward in Norman Wells, but how are the regional residents prepared to benefit from this activity?

Mr. Speaker, we only have to look at the federal administration of contracts for the Giant Mine site to see local labour and businesses are missing an economic opportunity in remediation. The Giant Mine Oversight Board 2022 Annual Report states disappointment by the lack of local activity from the project. The board continues to urge the proponents to implement improved access to remediation work for the local small businesses and to create more employment and training opportunities for residents.

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the GNWT is responding to the remediation opportunity by developing two remediation focused courses at Aurora College through the Industry, Tourism and Investment department, supporting a pilot program designed to support Indigenous business capacity in the remediation sector. The GNWT is also working with the federal government to explore the viability of a remediation economy in the Northwest Territories. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement. Mahsi.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. This, Mr. Speaker, raises more training, a trades training readiness for remediation and reclamation workforce opportunities authored and, most importantly, supported by myself, but how does all this benefit the residents of the Sahtu? What is the GNWT doing to ensure benefits has the local labour force and business capacity to take advantage of the Norman Wells oil field

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Member from the Sahtu, your time is up. Members' statements. Member from the Mackenzie Delta.

Member’s Statement 124-20(1): Alcohol and Drugs in Northwest Territories Communities

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to bring the concern of alcohol and drugs within our communities. This issue is nothing new to the residents of the Northwest Territories and this government. The legalizations of marijuana, the dealers from the southern region of Canada have had to resort to hard drugs to keep their business going. Unfortunately, these hard drugs have made their way into our communities within the NWT.

Mr. Speaker, when I was the interim band manager for the Tetlit Gwich'in Band Council, we dealt with the influx of alcohol and drugs on a daily basis. We would have interagency meetings, and the common denominator of all the community problems was alcohol and drugs. We had resource people invited to our meetings in hopes of finding a solution, but their hands are tied with policies and procedures. We have concluded that these people, whether they are from the community or not, seem to have more rights than the lawabiding citizens of our communities.

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that we have our own people within our own communities involved in these illegal activities our own people killing our own people. It is the amount of money that one can make without being worried about the consequences that is being imposed on others.

Mr. Speaker, as a band manager, and now as an MLA, I have been contacted by residents who are worried about the future of their community and their families. Some of these residents have lost members to alcohol and drugs. In the past few years, there have been local members of and others from the south who have been caught conducting these illegal activities and, to this day, these same people are still in this illegal trade.

Mr. Speaker, we have worked with the RCMP and they too are exhausted, both physically and mentally. This is a nowin situation. We have been requested to help the RCMP with tips but the offenders are detained for a day or so and released with a promise to appear. Mr. Speaker, I seek unanimous consent to conclude my statement.

Unanimous consent granted

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Thank you, colleagues. Mr. Speaker, I believe that we have taken the wrong approach. We need to target the persons who are addicted to these substances and get them help therefore the bootleggers and drug dealers have no customers. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Mackenzie Delta. Members' statements. Member from Monfwi.

Member’s Statement 125-20(1): Supports for Persons with Disabilities

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I would like to talk about people who are unable to work because of a disability. I have constituents in my riding who have progressive deteriorating conditions. For these people, it becomes even more difficult to work as they age.

Mr. Speaker, as you are aware many families in the NWT, especially in small communities, are very large. Many households in small communities are multigenerational families with children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews.

Mr. Speaker, I want to acknowledge the government created a new income assistance for seniors and persons with disabilities program that is intended to reduce barriers to accessing income assistance. But, unfortunately, even with the new program in place, constituents in my riding are still unable to access support. Mr. Speaker, in many cases, we know that people with disabilities can be at risk of abuse. Luckily for the constituent in my riding, there is a loving and supportive spouse that provides care; however, as people age and grandchildren become part of the family that is cared for, it is more difficult to make ends meet on a single income. Yet this constituent who is aging with a progressive disability and caring for many children and grandchildren is ineligible to access support through income assistance.

Mr. Speaker, there needs to be a more holistic approach to delivering income assistance for people with disabilities. We know these people are more challenged to complete paperwork and also are some of the most vulnerable people in communities. How are we protecting and supporting seniors with disabilities? I will have questions for ECE Minister. Thank you.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Monfwi. Members' statements. Member from the Deh Cho.

Member’s Statement 126-20(1): Holistic Healing for Indigenous Communities

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, today I wish to speak about a topic of holistic health and the need for our communities to heal from historic traumas. Mr. Speaker, most of the social issues that Indigenous communities face today, such as health inequities, lack of education, high crime rates, and higher rates of homelessness, are because of colonialism and residential schools. I myself have gone to residential school, as have many others, and now our communities are dealing with the multigenerational effects of that collective experience. That is why, Mr. Speaker, the NWT has some of the worst crime statistics in the country.

For example, the NWT has the highest whole crime rate in the country per capita and also has the second highest rate of violent crime in the country per capita. Additionally, according to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, the Deh Cho region, my region, has some of the highest rates of property crime and violent crime in comparison to the capital region. And the rate of unemployment is several times higher compared to Yellowknife as well.

Mr. Speaker, as a Dene woman representing mostly Indigenous constituents, I can say confidently that we come from strong people. Despite past governments trying to take the Indian out of the child and trying to make us forget about our cultural teachings and depriving us of who we are as Indigenous people, we remain resilient. We cannot allow governments to continue setting us up to fail any longer, and we cannot keep making excuses preventing us from advancing ourselves and making a better life for our families and our communities.

Mr. Speaker, as elected leaders in this House, it is our duty to do what we can to help our people get back on track. It is very important that our government, all levels of government, support or traditional way of being. If our communities truly want to be selfsufficient, then we must begin standing up for ourselves in a respectful and assertive way to create better lives for ourselves and successive generations. Mahsi, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from the Deh Cho. Members' statements. Member from Yellowknife Centre.

Member’s Statement 127-20(1): Extended Health Benefits

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Before I begin, I want to say they must have been serving Happy Meals at lunch time because there's a lot of enthusiasm on this side of the House today.

Mr. Speaker, Tommy Douglas would be rolling in his grave if he saw the changes to the extended health benefits to Northerners, Mr. Speaker. Health care is a Canadiana promise, Mr. Speaker. It's a promise all Canadians will take care of you in your time of need. Mr. Speaker, those folks in the ivory towers downtown in Yellowknife coming up with these policy maven ideas about how to concur and change the world at the expense of Northerners, shame on them. Shame. Health care is for all, and that should be a mandate of this government. It's certainly a mandate by me, and I have not ever heard of a Member say cut health care, take away. Well, that seems to be the government, Mr. Speaker. So as they chop up policies and try to find groups to support one policy over the other, it's a divide and conquer, Mr. Speaker. And I don't care what the old Assembly came up with as a policy idea. I don't care what they think this Assembly should do. It's this Assembly, the 20th Assembly, should be making choices about the extended health care.

Mr. Speaker, as those who have suffered through many problems, the burden is not theirs to share alone. It's ours to help them collectively. So as they see the burden or the financial tsunami of expenses coming their way, where is this government? No, it's takeith away, Mr. Speaker.

The report of What We Heard clearly said expand health care and drug coverage, Mr. Speaker. It said don't take it away from granny in Nahanni and give it to Tommy in Tu Nedhe; it said share, help, help, help, help others. But no, those people in the downtown ivory towers are turning a fiscal financial knife into Northerners. This is unacceptable based on the northern spirit of helping all, working for other, collectively working, working, working, because we care about Northerners, Mr. Speaker.

I'm telling you right now in this age we are living in and we're struggling with the cost of living, it is a slippery slope. What's next? This government goes from copay to private health care? Shame on this government, because I know they're looking at it, Mr. Speaker.

So let's turn let's not let this government turn the report What We Heard into what we're now ignoring. Mr. Speaker, I'll have questions later today for some lucky Minister. Perhaps the health Minister. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: MR. SPEAKER

Thank you, Member from Yellowknife Centre. Members' statements. Member from Hay River South.