Elders and educators across the territory have identified a need for more land-based education. What can the territorial government do to increase support for land-based learning at all levels of schooling?
A. I am a big fan of land based education. A number of Departments, including ENR, MACA, HSS and ECE have funding to contribute to this. The Take a Kid trapping program has had over 4,000 kids go through the program, ECE has the Dene Kede program. Elders are involved and kids learn how to trap and learn about living off the land. It allows our students to develop high self-esteem, learn life and survival skills and to learn how to be independent. Some students even trap to fund raise for school events.
2. Land claims
A number of unfinished land claim negotiations are long overdue for completion in the territory. What should the territorial government do to support the completion of the unsettled land claims in the territory?
A. All sides have to be prepared to negotiate, this is the only way a collaborative approach can work. For those claims that have been in negotiations for 20 years a different approach to negotiations will be required. Different negotiators and a review of mandates will be required to provide more flexibility. The new Federal proposal to establish a Federal Reconciliation Framework will be helpful.
Climate change is just one of the many threats to our water. What actions will you take to protect our northern watersheds?
A. The NWT has been very aggressive in protecting our watersheds and has developed a Water Strategy which is the most modern and progressive in the world. The NWT has negotiated Trans-boundary Water agreements with BC and Alberta, Currently negotiated with Saskatchewan and will begin negotiating soon with Nunavut, The agreement with Yukon is now outdated and needs to be renegotiated. With Devolution the GNWT now is responsible for water. The water agreements both provide water quality and quantity. The number of water monitoring stations have increased with a more public analysis of the results. The biggest challenge is low water levels caused by climate change.
4. Protected Areas
Given that a number of communities outside of Yellowknife have prioritized and invested in protecting land and culture, will you support communities’ wishes to establish protected areas, and how?
A. The GNWT has developed a draft NWT Conservation Areas Action Plan which will replace the Protected Areas Strategy once finalized. Northern Tools will be used and land use plans will be used to facilitate implementation.
Residents throughout the territory have doubts as to the effectiveness of our current consensus government model. How do you propose improving or refining the system to be better representative of Northerners while appropriate for our unique Northern context?
A. I have no problem with consensus governments which is based on the principles of the Westminster Parliamentary system and the Aboriginal Self-government approach to decision making. At the recent 20th anniversary of the Legislative Assembly building where all previous NWT Premiers were there participating in a forum. It became obvious that Consensus government allows us to keep building on the work that was done by previous governments until the work gets done. Whereas if you go to a party system, depending on the party, your lurching from one to another. There is nothing wrong with Consensus government which can’t be fixed by a little more transparency and teamwork.
6. Arts & Culture
Traditional arts are an essential part of life and culture in the NWT. As MLAs, what will you do to support artists and bolster the traditional arts and crafts economy?
A. The traditional economy is very important to all communities in the NWT especially when there is a downturn in the economy. This is a very good program to support as funding goes direct to people in the communities. We need to develop and maintain markets. For example China buys 80% of the fur we harvest. We need to treat it more like business by helping business loans and grants, assistance with travel, authenticity and support. We need to show the best way to maximize the value of the products produced.
Indigenous women are absent as Deputy Ministers and fill just 20 Senior Management Positions (8%) within the territorial government. What do you think needs to happen to ensure more indigenous women are acquiring leadership and management roles within the government?
A. We were able to have 50% of our Deputy Minster Cadre filled by women. We can do the same for Indigenous Women in Senior Management positions. The Affirmative Action Plan which also includes women for priority hiring gives us the tools. We need to set the proper environment for hiring Indigenous women. We need to expand the pool of talent, resort to head hunting, more training and greater use of direct appointments.
Indigenous people continue to be dramatically overrepresented in Canadian jails. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Office of the Correctional Investigator note legislation meant to help establish Aboriginal healing lodges and community-centered sentencing is not being utilized, culturally relevant programming is often unavailable and communities are disconnected from the criminal justice system. What steps can the Territorial government take to reduce the over representation of Aboriginal people in jail and improve the relationship between Aboriginal peoples and the criminal justice system?
A. It is important to continue to work towards reducing the number of Aboriginal people in custody. I support the TRC call for federal, provincial and territorial governments to implement and evaluate community sanctions that provides realistic alternatives to imprisonment of Aboriginal offenders. Greater use of Alternative and Wellness Courts is moving us in that direction. We need to continue to explore ways to best address the needs of offenders affected by addictions, mental illness, FASD and other cognitive impairments. This includes approaches which place a focus on the individual, – and which aim to address their underlying issues – while identifying and building on their strengths. It is important to recognize the independence of the judiciary in all cases.
The economy of the NWT has historically been dependent on non-renewable resource extraction, making us vulnerable to boom and bust cycles characteristic of oil, gas and mining. What strategies do you suggest for economic diversification in the north?
A. The GNWT has developed an Economic Opportunities Strategy that focuses on developing local economies such as fisheries, community gardens, forestry and agriculture. Tourism continues to grow with increased visitations and new products. The Traditional Economy also plays a significant role in the bust periods and need to continue to be supported. A continued focus on economic Diversifications is also important. We will also need to take advantage of the Liberal Government investment of $200 million more annually to create sector – specific strategies that support innovation and clean technologies in the forestry, mining, energy, and agricultural sectors.
10. Food security
Food security is a national issue but a pronounced and serious issue for northern Canada. A conversation across various food related sectors has begun in Yellowknife about the systemic strategies we should initiate to tackle our regional food system challenges. What in the next four years would you be committed to working on to improve food security in the city of Yellowknife and in the NWT?
A. While growing up in Fort Providence our life revolved around making sure we had plentiful to survive independently. All families had family gardens, fishnets, snares, fall fisheries, spring hunts, and all animals harvested were consumed and processed to last for long periods. We need to revive that approach. Our Economic Opportunities strategy and Harvester Support programs help us do so. We need to develop a food strategy and reduce the cost of living by pushing Canada to increase the Northern Resident Tax Credit deduction by 33% and indexing the benefit to inflation and to increase their investment in Nutrition North Canada by $40 million over 4 years as promised.
11. Family Services
Over 90 percent of children currently in care in the NWT are Aboriginal. What solutions will you bring to the table in terms of supporting families and keeping children in their homes and communities?
A. 10 to 15 years ago the majority of apprehensions were forced. Since then the majority are voluntary apprehensions. Many of the factors that lead to children being placed in child welfare systems are rooted in events that have a harmful and endured impact on Aboriginal families, communities and individuals, including an ongoing cycle of poverty and social challenges for Aboriginal people. Addressing the root causes is fundamental and essential in promoting the health and well-being of Aboriginal children and families. By providing supports that address the root causes affecting Aboriginal peoples, it is expected that the number of Aboriginal people in care would be reduced over time and their overall outcomes would be improved. Access to a range of culturally relevant prevention and early intervention programs is highly effective in mitigating other factors that contribute to Aboriginal children coming into care. By facilitating family preservation, preventative programs promote the children’s safety and well-being. A supported, skilled and informed workforce is central to improving outcomes for Aboriginal children and families who are involved in child welfare systems. Programs most successful at reducing the number of children in care are well coordinated, culturally responsive and prevention focused. An emphasis on meaningful Aboriginal engagement and sensitivity to cultural appropriateness is important.
Indigenous leaders and communities across the territory are calling for a treatment centre in the North. What is your position on that issue, and what are your ideas for addressing the high level of addictions in the territory?
A. I would support a rehabilitation facility if we could be sure of its success. We’ve had to close facilities in the NWT primarily because of lack of use. If we go down this path we need to consult with the medical community and community based (outpatient) counsellors to learn what we must do to achieve success. In the meantime we refer patients to residential treatment centers in the south to ensure our patients receive the specialized services they need. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a solution that works for those who need and are willing accept help. We need to develop land based treatment programs to fill the gap.
13. Housing and homelessness
There is a housing crisis in many communities across the NWT, including in Yellowknife. Name the steps you will take to eradicate homelessness and create affordable housing options for the most vulnerable members of our communities.
A. We are doing a lot but not enough. We can’t do it alone we all need to be coordinated and collaborative. We need a city wide plan and need to adopt a Housing First approach aligned with business and embrace the Homeful Partnership. The new Liberal Government pledged to restore Federal Leadership in affordable housing by investing in a comprehensive National Housing Strategy. We need to ensure NWT housing and homelessness is prominently addressed in the National Strategy. They will provide $20 billion over 10 years in social infrastructure. They will also provide $125 million per year in tax incentives to help finance the construction of new affordable rental housing for middle and low income Canadians.
What will you do to ensure that the protection and promotion of indigenous languages in the north?
A. Indigenous language is integral to the distinctive culture of Aboriginal peoples and as such Aboriginal people have the right to use and promote their own languages. As such the role of Government should be to provide funding and decision making authority to regional Aboriginal governments, recognizing their right to manage their own language revitalization efforts. Each Aboriginal Government develops their own 5 year Regional Aboriginal Action Plan. ECE invests $15M annually of which $8.5M is set apart for K-12 Aboriginal Languages. It is up to individuals and families to make a deliberate decision to speak, learn and preserve their Aboriginal languages.
Yellowknife has a rather low unemployment rate as opposed to smaller communities in the north. What actions will you take to improve and increase employment in the smaller communities where there are no local businesses and lack of infrastructure?
A. This is a long standing issue in the NWT where it has proven difficult to match jobs with skill available in the smaller communities. There can be two approaches. Bring jobs to the smaller communities or train people there and bring them to the jobs. Decentralization is one solution. Increasing pickup points to smaller communities is another. However it will have to be coupled with training. Other possibilities are to train locals to do repairs and construction with support from the trades. As well training can be provided to work on large infrastructure projects like highways.