Glen Abernethy: Community Wellness Initiatives

Delivered on March 8, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has a mandate commitment to foster healthy families by focusing on wellness, prevention and improved nutrition.

To achieve this commitment, the Department of Health and Social Services has made it a priority to support Community Wellness Initiatives in communities across the NWT with funding provided through Indigenous Services Canada.

The Department is currently working with communities to renew their wellness plans to prepare for the new five-year funding cycle for 2019-2024.

Based on these community wellness plans, the Government of the Northwest Territories provides $5 million each year directly to Indigenous and community governments, and to organizations to invest in local wellness initiatives. 

The wellness initiatives that we support benefit residents directly and also allow our government to foster partnerships with many different organizations including Indigenous and community governments. These partnerships are key to how the Department of Health and Social Services is working to achieve our goal of Best Health, Best Care and Better Future for all NWT residents.

I would like to highlight some of these successful wellness initiatives.

Territorial initiatives that benefit residents across NWT include the On the Land Collaborative, the Take a Kid Trapping program, the Take a Kid Gardening program as well as Prenatal programs that are delivered in partnership with the Indigenous governments at boarding homes in Inuvik and N’Dilo. 

Regional initiatives include, Let’s Be Tobacco Free, in the Beaufort Delta, the recent suicide prevention workshop hosted by the Dehcho District Education Council in Fort Simpson, and Family Violence Awareness projects at the three Aurora College campuses in Inuvik, Fort Smith and Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, I recently attended the Northwest Territories Association of Communities Annual General Meeting along with many Members of this House. The highlight of this meeting for me was the opportunity to present the Healthy Community Award to the community of Gameti. Gameti built a greenhouse and community garden that not only distributed harvests to Elders and families, but also provided jobs, contributed to the mental well-being and happiness of the community, and enabled youth to gain valuable work experience with the satisfaction of knowing that the food they harvested was something that they helped to create.  This is an excellent example of the positive results that can be achieved by communities when working together to support healthy choices. A job well done by Gameti.

Finally I would also like to highlight the Community Healthy Living Fairs. Over the past three winters, our government directly supported 18 fairs in our smaller communities.  Over the next few years, we hope this will grow into an initiative where there will be fairs in all 33 communities.

As Members know, these fairs highlight information on healthy choices and include topics like breast and colorectal cancers, sexual health, healthy relationships, healthy eating, healthy lungs, early childhood development, breastfeeding, and oral health.

We’ve received great feedback from these fairs. One of the positive outcomes from these fairs is the opportunity for Health and Social Services staff to learn directly from community members through the Community Partnership Day. Community Partnership Day provides the forum for community members to teach resource staff about the healthy living activities that they are most proud of. For example, staff have learned to bead, make dry meat, ice fish, check traps, cook traditional foods, and walk and snowmobile on community trails.  They have also heard stories about the resilience of our people. 

I am proud of how we have been able to support communities to undertake creative ways to participate in community wellness and healthy living throughout the Northwest Territories.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.