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Glen Abernethy: Weaving our Wisdom Gathering – March 3-5, 2015

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health & Social Services is pursuing the 17th Legislative Assembly’s goal of healthy, educated people by investing in prevention, education awareness, and early childhood development. By working in partnership with community and Aboriginal governments, non-governmental organizations, health professionals and other stakeholders we can achieve our vision of Best Health, Best Care, for a Better Future.

To help all partners align their efforts, we are holding a Territorial Wellness Gathering from March 3rd to 5th at the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife.  We are partnering with the NWT Association of Communities to host this event, and I would like to thank the Association for their assistance.

Community leaders, Elders, and youth from all 33 communities will come together, along with representatives of Aboriginal governments and non-governmental organizations, staff from the Health and Social Services Authorities, the Government of the Northwest Territories and Health Canada, to take part in the Gathering.  

Participants will learn about how social determinants and economic factors influence people’s health, and explore how we can work together to improve the overall well-being of our residents. The Gathering will focus on three themes: Closing the Gap; Healthy People and Communities; and Building Stronger Families.

It will be informative and inspirational, with compelling presentations from prominent experts. It will provide opportunities for participants to actively engage on the three themes and share ideas on how they can improve residents’ quality of life. It offers individuals and organizations a venue to learn from each other, share their wisdom, and exchange knowledge on best practices that enhance the well-being of our communities.

The sessions will also be available through live webcast so that all residents have the opportunity to hear these presentations.

A number of key speakers from across Canada will be attending the Gathering, along with our own local experts and residents. They will share their wisdom and stories and will be a valuable resource that participants can learn from.

I look forward to hearing from respected professors, researchers, and physicians such as Dr. Janet Smylie, one of the first Metis doctors in Canada, and Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, there are many factors that negatively influence the health and well-being of our residents. These include struggles with income, education, early childhood development, food insecurity, and housing. Other issues include mental health, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, diabetes and even the impacts of climate change.

The Gathering will offer participants an opportunity for open and honest dialogue about these issues and help foster awareness and understanding, and will give participants ideas for addressing issues in their communities. It will also provide information and real life experiences from Northerners on successful efforts to improve the well-being of our residents.

Aboriginal people in the Northwest Territories have an increased burden of chronic disease and the trends will continue to worsen unless we intervene. We know that better promotion of healthy lifestyles is one of the keys to improving this situation.

Because so many NWT residents are Aboriginal, especially in the smaller communities, improving the health status of the Aboriginal population is one way the Department of Health and Social Services is working to accomplish our goals.

We continue to develop effective, culturally-appropriate prevention and promotion programs and work with our health centres to create a welcoming environment where Aboriginal people feel respected and supported. The Northwest Territories has an opportunity to become a leader in culturally-sensitive approaches to care.

Improving the health of all NWT residents will require the cooperation and effort of many groups and organizations, Mr. Speaker. We need to continue to develop strong partnerships with community and Aboriginal governments, non-governmental organizations and health and social service providers to form an integrated approach in order to have a collective impact.

This is why having events like the Territorial Wellness Gathering is important. We hope that from the Gathering we can collectively develop solutions that give residents greater opportunity to enjoy the benefits of healthy lifestyles.

Mr. Speaker, exchanging information and finding new, innovative ways to address the social and economic factors that negatively influence our residents’ well-being will help us achieve our goal of having sustainable, vibrant, safe communities.

This Gathering also moves towards achieving our commitments in the GNWT Anti-Poverty Action Plan, Early Childhood Development Action Plan and Pathways to Wellness: An Updated Action Plan for Addictions and Mental Health.

By strengthening our partnerships and weaving together our collective wisdom, we will realize our vision of Best Health, Best Care, for a Better Future. I look forward to sharing the findings from the Gathering with my colleagues in this Assembly.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.