North

N.W.T. Mental Health Act lacks youth strategy: standing committee

MLAs scrutinizing the Northwest Territories' new Mental Health Act say the legislation is missing a crucial gap by not specifically addressing youth, as the standing committee held its second public consultation in Inuvik last night.

Standing committee currently on 6-community consultation tour for proposed act

A standing committee of four MLAs were in Inuvik yesterday, holding their second public consultation in the community on the proposed N.W.T. Mental Health Act. (David Thurton/CBC)

MLAs scrutinizing the Northwest Territories' new Mental Health Act say that the act is missing a crucial gap by not specifically addressing youth, as the standing committee held its second public consultation in Inuvik last night.

The new act, meant to replace the territory's existing but outdated Mental Health Act, underwent two readings in the legislative assembly earlier this month. It may undergo third reading during the fall sitting.

"This is going to affect each and every one of you," said Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya to the gathered public, a nod to Inuvik's history of residential schools and the prevalence of suicide in the community.

However, Yakeleya, as well as Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Alfred Moses, Frame Lake's Wendy Bisaro, and Range Lake's Darryl Dolynny, drew attention to the fact that the proposed Mental Health Act doesn't have specific strategies for young people.

The committee asked territorial health minister Glen Abernethy if the department would develop a mental health strategy for youth, "and the answer was: 'no'," said Bisaro. "The mental health act covers everybody, therefore we don't need something specific to youth.

"And the rest of the room went: 'We don't like that answer.'"

Moses echoed Bisaro's sentiments, saying that "all provinces have developed mental health strategies for youth and children except us."

"I'm a bit concerned it was bit of a miss," said Dolynny. "The Northwest Territories still lags behind, and I think that's a critical piece. And hopefully the communities feel as strong [about it], and through submissions we might be able to get that back to the minister."

The standing committee's consultation tour will continue this week, visiting Norman Wells on Wednesday night and Tulita on Thursday. Six committees will be visited in all. 

​The legislative assembly will reconvene for its final sitting on Sept. 29.

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