Minister’s Forum on Addictions - Nov. 1, 2012

November 1, 2012
Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Mr. Speaker, in my travels across the Northwest Territories, meeting with communities, attending assemblies and numerous board meetings, I have heard one constant theme. Addictions are destroying our families and communities.

This government spends millions of dollars on addictions services. But our people are still drinking in large numbers.

Almost, every family in the NWT is touched by alcohol addiction. I will not deny that drugs and pharmaceutical abuse is an issue but alcohol is the drug that is breaking apart families, keeping young people from doing well in school and preventing many people from getting and keeping good jobs. This is not news to anyone in this House.

Mr. Speaker, we offer addictions counseling through community wellness workers, mental health workers, detox programs and a Territorial Treatment Centre. We support communities and NGO’s to provide community-based programs and send people to southern Canada to attend treatment programs.   But we have seen little change as a result of this investment.

Mr. Speaker, we need to stop and ask ourselves, not whether we are doing enough, but whether we are doing the right things. What works? What makes a person want to get sober and stay sober?  There are people in the Northwest Territories who know the answers to these questions.

In order get these questions answered, I have established the Minister’s Forum on Addictions.  The Forum will convene tomorrow in Yellowknife.

Mr. Speaker, the Forum will hold discussions in every region and will make recommendations on future directions for community-based addiction programs in the NWT. The focus will be on what works for our people and our communities. We will talk to people who are sober, people who are struggling with addictions, family members who experience firsthand what living with alcohol addiction is like. I want to know what will make people stop drinking and want to live a healthy, happy life.

It’s a simple question with complicated answers.

Mr. Speaker, the Forum will be chaired by Mr. Paul Andrew and will consist of community members with direct experience. Forum members will meet with community leaders, NGO’s, and community members. I expect to have their recommendations by March 2013. The final report will provide advice about community-based addictions programs. 

Mr. Speaker, the Minister’s Forum on Addictions is an important first step in the implementation of our mental health and addictions action plan, “A Shared Path Towards Wellness”.   This is a critical early step in making best use of our resources by helping us identify priorities for investment through the business planning process.   I look forward to reporting its results to this Assembly.

Thank you.