Minister Green talking to CBC about the high rate of suicide in the NWT. Click on the picture to read the story.

Minister identifies where we are failing

On October 5, 2022, Health Minister Julie Green told CBC, referring to the high rate of suicides among young people in the NWT: “So, you know, I could call it a crisis. I’m not sure how that would change the situation. I feel like it’s a word that when it’s applied to Child and Family Services, housing, education, graduation rates, it kind of loses its meaning.” I bolded the minister’s words. These are all very critical, longstanding issues the GNWT has to address.

Crises have meaning for families suffering

The word ‘crisis’ doesn’t lose its meaning for community residents and families trying to deal with daily and historical trauma. I will be working to determine how the GNWT has responded, or not, and is responding, or not, to the crises listed. Important to remember, the minister’s personal feelings may be distorted by a perceived need to defend her staff and department if not the whole GNWT. That’s what happens when MLAs are elevated to the cabinet. They are often put in a position of defending the indefensible: Representative of cabinet/GNWT first, MLA for the people second.

Healing and mental health

Minister Green left out one other crisis – Healing and addictions services in the communities. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who does not believe we to need to remedy mental health afflictions and addictions in the NWT. GNWT cabinet ministers and the upper ranks of health and social services don’t agree.

Send our afflicted south

After many failed attempts at addiction treatment facilities over the years, the GNWT leadership has given up, sending people needing help to Southern treatment facilities. First people must get through the complicated application process, hard to do when in a personal mental health crisis. Dene, Metis and Inuvialuit leaders and experts know what is needed but the GNWT does not follow their recommendations.

Housing problems are getting worse, not better

Here is the situation as reported by MLAs: Housing issues have grown eleven percent (11%) since 2009, with forty-three percent (43%) of the 14,760 households in the NWT having at least one housing problem, compared with thirty-two percent (32%) of households in 2009. – STANDING COMMITTEE ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT June 2, 2021 (You can see it here)

Smaller communities hit the hardest

The committee also noted: The most serious housing issues for smaller communities are the significantly high number of homes that require major repairs, from fifty percent (50%) in some communities to as high as seventy-seven percent (77%) in others.

Here's the real housing problem

Providing proper public housing in the Dene, Metis and Inuvialuit communities is an economic development and infrastructure issue critical to the future of the NWT. Instead, housing has been treated for decades as a social program and it is ranked among the other failed social programs.

Education levels determine employment, quality of life

The inability to deliver quality education to the children in the communities for the past three decades undermines many GNWT policies. All training programs require a basic education. Affirmative action is ineffective if the population you are targetting can’t meet the basic qualifications. Lacking job skills leads to poverty and dependence upon the system which aggravates mental health conditions and the trauma perpetrated by earlier, brutal instruments of colonization, namely residential schools. The education system must be changed before the GNWT’s socially progressive policies can bear fruit.