(YELLOWKNIFE) Thursday, April 14, 2016 – Following strategic planning sessions in Aklavik and Inuvik held from April 3 - 6, the Standing Committee on Social Development identified housing, family violence, and services for vulnerable populations as their work priorities for the 18th Legislative Assembly. These three priority areas guide the Committees’ oversight of the government’s ‘social envelope departments’ and the government’s work towards fulfilling its mandate.
The Committee sees housing as the NWT's most pressing social issue: “Access to appropriate housing helps residents realize their full potential,” says committee chair Shane Thompson. “Secure housing enables people to pursue work and education, and care for their own mental and physical health, and that of others. Constructing, maintaining, and providing housing will create jobs in small communities, where much-needed employment is vital to public dignity and wellness.”
Persistent family violence further prevents NWT communities from flourishing. In the NWT, rates of spousal assault are nine times the national average and Aboriginal women apply for the majority of Emergency Protection Orders: “We require a fundamental shift in our attitudes,” says Mr. Thompson. “The legacy of gendered violence toward women and girls, compounded by unemployment, addictions, mental health issues, and low education rates, is unacceptable, and holds all Northerners back.”
The committee also highlights growing and unmet demands for services to seniors, both in their home communities and in territorial facilities: “The NWT will be short 259 long-term care beds by 2026, and we know that more supports are needed for seniors and elders who want to age in place by staying in their own homes,” says deputy chair Julie Green. “As for other vulnerable members of our communities, the territorial continuum of housing is broken. It must be fixed.”
The committee oversees the departments of Education, Culture and Employment; Health and Social Services; and Justice; the NWT Housing Corporation; and ministerial portfolios respecting homelessness, seniors, the status of women, persons with disabilities, and youth. While in the region, Members visited various community facilities including the Inuvik Emergency Warming Centre, the East 3 elementary and secondary schools, the Children First Society, and the Inuvik Homeless Shelter to see first-hand the types of services offered to residents.
These three Committee priorities place the health and wellness of NWT residents at the forefront and guide future committee discussions.
“People must be our top priority,” says Shane Thompson. “Northerners are already impacted by the NWT’s economic slowdown, and the benefits of future economic development can only be enjoyed by healthy communities empowered to act in their own best interests. To get there, we must act on territory-wide housing shortfalls, intolerable family violence rates, and inadequate services for seniors and the homeless.”
Committee members include Shane Thompson (Nahendeh), Julie Green (Yellowknife Centre), Tom Beaulieu (Tu-Nedhé Wiilideh), Frederick Blake Jr. (Mackenzie Delta) and Michael Nadli (Deh Cho).
For further information, please contact:Shane Thompson, Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Development P: 867-767-9143 F: 867-873-0276 E: Shane_Thompson@gov.nt.ca Julie Green, Deputy Chair of the Standing Committee on Social Development P: 867-767-9143 F. 867-873-0276 E: Julie_Green@gov.nt.ca