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Assembly briefs:
School of hard knocks

Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 11/05) - Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins is wondering why education authorities are not imposing fines on parents whose children routinely skip school.

Hawkins posed the question to Education, Culture and Employment Minister Charles Dent, Tuesday.

Hawkins said truancy is a problem that appears to be "rising" in the North.

"I have spoken to some educators out there, and they have said when they recognize truancy and they phone these parents, there's no answer," said Hawkins.

"There is nowhere for them to truly go."

Dent challenged Hawkins assertions, saying classroom attendance for high school-age students has actually risen from less than 40 per cent to over 70 per cent in the past ten years.

He said punishing parents with fines - up to $500 under the Education Act - won't work.

"Forcing them to be there when their parents don't support them being there is a waste of time," said Dent.

"We have to work with families to make sure that families are supportive of kids being in school."

Hawkins later said each education district should have a social worker employed to deal with truant students.

New courthouse coming to Yk

The territorial government is planning to build a new $41 million courthouse in Yellowknife.

Construction of the new facility was included in this year's budget.

Not all MLAs are happy with the plan.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche said people have suggested to him that it is an extravagance that could've been better spent elsewhere.

"They want to know why we are building another courthouse when we already have one here," said Menicoche.

Justice Minister Charles Dent said the city needs another courthouse because the existing one is too small and poses too many security risks.

"What's happened is that the growth in the number of cases being heard in Yellowknife has meant that we can't house them all in the space that is available," said Dent.

Out-sourcing board members

Some MLAs are bothered that the territorial government doesn't have any say on who gets selected to federally-appointed environment boards.

Members of the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board and Impact Review Board are appointed by the minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

North Slave MLA Henry Zoe says, considering the enormous impact these boards have on decisions regarding development on NWT lands, Northerners ought to have a say on appointments.

"(Aboriginal people) cannot do this until the power to make decisions over land development rests in their hands," said Zoe.

Answering a similar question from Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen on Wednesday, Premier Joe Handley said his government can use "persuasion" but they don't have a direct say.

Much of the focus has been on the vacancy of the chair's position on the water board. DIAND announced on Wednesday that former review board chair Todd Burlingame has been given the job.

Some question the move because of the controversy created when former review board chair Gordon Wray was removed by former DIAND Minister Robert Nault and replaced by Burlingame in 2003.