On September 21st, 2020, the Nunavut Legislative Assembly met for the first time since March 12th. Originally scheduled to sit on May 26th, 2020, the Assembly decided to cancel that sitting as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic. In September, the Nunavut Assembly welcomed two new members elected in by-elections over the summer (Calvin Pedersen for Kugluktuk and Craig Simailak for Baker Lake). The focus of the September sitting was largely on Covid-19 issues and budgetary bills, however, in addition to passing three supplementary appropriations bills and two write off bills, all financial in nature, the Assembly considered and passed the following bills:
- Bill 49 – An Act to Amend the Labour Standards Act – to allow for employees to take unpaid leave due to public emergencies, such as Covid-19, and to allow for employees to take leave due to family abuse.
- Bill 50 – An Act to Amend the Liquor Act – so as to allow a brewery permit holder to also apply for a cocktail lounge licence so as to allow them to sell other forms of alcohol (such as wine or spirits) for those folks who might not be beer lovers. Currently, the one brew pub in Iqaluit could only sell their own beer, and no other product. The bill also makes a minor amendment so as to allow a brewery to sell directly to Nunavut liquor licencees.
In addition to the above legislation, the Assembly’s Standing Committee on Legislation is still considering:
- Bill 25 – An Act to Amend the Education Act and the Inuit Language Protection Act – responding to the Assembly’s Special Committee on the Education Act as well as clarifying the obligations relating to instruction in the Inuit language and to delay their application.
- Bill 35 – Medical Profession Act – proposed new legislation to regulate medical professionals in Nunavut.
- Bill 36 – Mental Health Act – providing a completely new statutory framework for addressing mental health services including reporting, notification, admissions, and including rights of individuals as well as establishing an independent Mental Health Review Board and providing for the appointment and functions of rights advocates.
- Bill 37 – Legislation Act – designed to modernize the procedures for interpreting, making, consolidating, revising and publishing legislation.
All four bills have been before the Standing Committee of Legislation since June 2019 (Bill 25) and October 2019 (Bills 35 to 37) and would normally have been reported back to the Assembly by this time, however, the Covid-19 pandemic made it difficult for the Committee to conclude their consideration of these substantive bills, therefore, the Committee received a further 120 days to consider these bills. While the Assembly is next scheduled to meet October 21, 2020, given the 120 day extension for these four bills, it is unlikely that these substantive bills will be considered and debated before the winter session of the Assembly.
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