N.W.T. will dedicate special representative to flood recovery: premier

·3 min read
N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane at a briefing on Sept. 8, 2020. The premier says they will be dedicating a special representative to coordinate the flood response in the Dehcho.  (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)
N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane at a briefing on Sept. 8, 2020. The premier says they will be dedicating a special representative to coordinate the flood response in the Dehcho. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada - image credit)

N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane said her government is going to dedicate one person to coordinate flood response in the Dehcho and Beaufort Delta.

"We will be bringing in somebody on the ground that can actually help people navigate these systems," Cochrane said in an announcement Friday at the Legislative Assembly.

"It's horrible to lose your home and then have to figure out the bureaucracy, is not acceptable."

Cochrane said the position is just one way the territory is committed to creating a more coordinated, human approach to the destruction on the ground.

Cochrane responded to questions from Thebacha MLA Frieda Martselos, who summarized a conversation she had with Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation Chief Gerald Antoine, who lives in Fort Simpson.

An image of the Fort Simpson flood.
An image of the Fort Simpson flood. (Mario De Ciccio/CBC)

Martselos told the legislature that Antoine said the representative needs to be "consistent" and in "direct contact" with community leads on both the immediate flooding needs, and the restoration to come.

The dedicated representative, Martselos continued, should have authority and direct contact with the premier's office.

"This would improve the effectiveness ... of all communications of those on the ground and through the premier," she said.

Cochrane did not say when this person would be appointed, nor who could be taking on the job. She committed to following up with Chief Antoine after session to figure out the details.

Ministers double down on N.W.T. flood response

The territory has been criticized in the past by local leadership in Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River for not communicating what they've been doing on the ground to help flood victims.

The premier's statement came shortly after two of the territory's most visible ministers defended the government's response to the flood, in lengthy statements.

Environment Minister Shane Thompson started his first minister's statement by reassuring N.W.T. residents, and his fellow MLAs, that the territory has been pitching in from the start.

Thompson, who lives in Fort Simpson, N.W.T., was on the ground during the first few days of the flood.

"I witnessed the anxiety and the stress in the voices and the faces of the people in my own community, as water levels rose," he said.

Shane Thompson, minister of environment and natural resources, said teams from his department sprang into action as soon as the flooding started.
Shane Thompson, minister of environment and natural resources, said teams from his department sprang into action as soon as the flooding started. (Mario De Ciccio/Radio-Canada)

He said he wasn't the only one: firefighters and local Environment and Natural Resources staff "sprang into action from the start" he continued, setting up temporary camps, providing supplies and food hampers to people in Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson.

Paulie Chinna, the minister of municipal and community affairs, echoed Thompson's tone in her statement, defending the record of the department after she was met with a barrage of questions in the first day of the session.

"The emergency management organization was active during the spring months, and has been and continues to provide assistance to communities as our flood season continues," she said.

Territory waiting on flood assessment results

Assessment teams were in Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River this week, Chinna said in the Legislative Assembly.

They are still waiting on the results to figure out how much money needs to be set aside for repairs.

Martselos said Łı́ı́dlı̨́ı̨́ Kų́ę́ First Nation would also like to hire their own assessors, but its not clear whether they would be reimbursed for doing so.

The territory will also apply for federal disaster relief once the extent of the flooding is known in Fort Good Hope, and other communities in the Beaufort Delta, who are bracing for breakup.

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