Shane Thompson: Flooding in the Northwest Territories

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — May 28, 2021

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Mr. Speaker, the recent floods have been devastating for many Northerners who have experienced damage to their community, property and to their livelihoods. 

I witnessed the anxiety and stress in the voices and faces of people in my own community as water levels rose and homes and businesses were threatened and many were affected.

In the face of this adversity, I also saw firsthand how communities, leaders and Northerners can rise to meet challenges they must overcome.

I am very proud of how our communities have met this challenge.

I am very thankful to local leaders like Mayor Whelly, Chief Sanguez, and Chief Masuzumi who remained focused and provided strong local leadership throughout this crisis.  

I am awed by the hundreds of volunteers from within our flooded communities and from across the territory  who have stepped up to help their neighbours in need.

I also take pride in how all levels of government, municipal, Indigenous, territorial and federal, continue to come together to keep folks safe and to provide assistance.

On behalf of Cabinet I want to say thank you to everyone.

We still have a long road ahead to recovery, but we have proven just how strong we are in the face of adversity. We should all take some comfort in the fact that we live in a place where people take care of one another.

Mr. Speaker, I am also proud of the role the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has played in the territory’s coordinated emergency response to date. I believe that many ENR staff went above and beyond during this emergency.

Department hydrologists have been instrumental in warning the territory of the unprecedented high water levels on NWT rivers this year. They have been assessing water levels all year long, and snow this past winter.

The team felt it necessary to raise awareness of the potential for floods in November, as well as in March and April, hoping to warn cabin owners, harvesters, and residents most at risk.

They continue to analyze radar imagery and real-time data to give regional and local emergency management officials the information they need to plan for flooding and to prepare communities about what to expect.  

Our regional offices and the staff within them played key roles in regional and local emergency operation centres in every region and community impacted by flooding. Coordinating with local leadership and community emergency management organizations, ENR gathered and prioritized the communities’ requests, providing relevant assistance and support wherever possible.

As a result, I am proud to say our wildfire crews were immediately redeployed to help with the flood response in Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson, and in Fort Good Hope. Fire crews continue to assist with clean up in NWT communities where flood risk remains.

Local officers, and those redeployed from other regions, continue to support affected communities, and have since the flooding began. 

At the request of local EMOs and leadership, ENR officers, fire crews and other staff quickly sprang into action to help out with a range of on-the-ground actions to help people affected by these floods. 

From the start, they helped folks that had to leave their homes and assisted with any of the community’s relevant requests and needs.  ENR provided tents, stoves and other supplies to people in Fort Simpson and Jean Marie River, and helped them set up these temporary camps.  To help keep residents safe during this time, officers conducted regular bear patrols around emergency camping areas, and set up a mobile station at Jean Marie River. 

After further assessing the needs of residents on the ground, ENR staff delivered food hampers and fish donated by the community of Deline to evacuees, and helped chop firewood for people’s camps while they waited to return to their homes.  The Department also assisted delivering donated supplies to the communities of Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson.

When flooding occurred at Little Buffalo River, fire crews and Renewable Resource Officers ensured residents were safe, and assisted in securing their cabins and retrieving their belongings.

As break up moves down the Mackenzie, ENR staff continue to support residents and fulfill critical emergency response roles, as part of the broader Government of the Northwest Territories coordinated effort. I want to thank the staff for their tireless efforts to date, and for the work to come.

Mr. Speaker, I also know that this Department and our government as a whole will not stop its involvement in this response. As the focus shifts towards rebuilding from these devastating floods the GNWT will continue to play its role by supporting communities and residents in various ways.

Mr. Speaker, we know there are harvesters and trappers who have had, not only their homes, but their livelihoods significantly affected. Their cabins, traplines, and the equipment they rely upon have been damaged.

Indigenous harvesters and trappers who have been impacted by the flooding, please contact your closest regional Environment and Natural Resources office, as compensation may be available.    

Mr. Speaker, the floods along the Mackenzie River have been devastating, but they have shown us that the northern spirit is alive and well.  We take care of our own and we make things happen when working together for a common cause is needed.

I have witnessed firsthand the amazing resilience of Northerners and our communities.  I have seen the sense of empowerment in residents, who know that we can work together to overcome events like this. I know we will continue to come together and rise to the challenge as we rebuild and recover.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.