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N.W.T. MLA says gov't reversed its position on addictions treatment centre

Jackson Lafferty said the government’s refusal to consider establishing an addictions treatment centre in the territory is a reversal of its position just five months ago.

In May, deputy Health minister said establishing residential treatment centre in N.W.T. ‘not off the table’

'There’s no doubt in anybody’s mind that reconciliation includes healing from addictions,' said Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty on Tuesday. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

An N.W.T. MLA said the government's refusal to consider establishing an addictions treatment centre in the territory is a reversal of its position just five months ago.

"Why has the department not followed up on its promises to look into a residential treatment centre here in the Northwest Territories?" asked MLA Jackson Lafferty on Tuesday.

Last week, Health Minister Julie Green dismissed the idea, saying the government is planning to continue sending people south for addictions treatment.

Green said the health department is focusing local efforts on keeping people sober when they return.

According to the official record of the Legislative Assembly, on May 29, when pressed by Lafferty during the review of the Health Department's operating budget, deputy minister Bruce Cooper said a residential treatment centre "is certainly something that is not off the table. It is something we are going to be looking at as a range of options to incorporate lessons learned out of COVID[-19]."

At that time, Green was not Health minister. The Yellowknife MLA has been in the post for less than two months. She took Laffery's question about past promises as "notice" on Tuesday, meaning she would provide a response at a later date.

Customarily, when MLAs question cabinet ministers about specific items that require detailed knowledge of a topic, they notify the minister of the subject they wish to broach in order to get informed answers. In an email, Green said Lafferty said he provided no notice of the questions he asked about commitments the Health department made in May.

Lafferty said that in rejecting the idea of establishing a treatment centre here, the government is rejecting a call to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

"It's been more than five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued a call for a healing centre to deal with the emotional and spiritual change caused by residential schools," said the Monfwi MLA. "The TRC specifically referenced the Northwest Territories. There's no doubt in anybody's mind that reconciliation includes healing from addictions."

Lafferty later tried to ask again why the government reversed its position, but Green pointed out she had already taken the question as notice.

Speaking in his own Tłı̨chǫ language, Lafferty later talked about the importance of cabinet ministers answering questions, saying the questions about the treatment centre had come from elders in his constituency.

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