An interdepartmental Literacy Committee within the GNWT advises the department of Education, Culture and Employment on how the NWT Literacy Strategy, including plain language, can be implemented throughout the government. The Education, Culture and Employment division responsible for the Literacy Strategy limited its comments about plain language progress in its 2002-2003 review to a statement that plain language training continued throughout the year for government departments.

Within the GNWT, one department, Public Works and Services, has made the greatest progress toward putting plain language into practice. In its procedures and guidelines, the department identifies plain language as the writing standard for all documents.

The department’s action plan, under the NWT Literacy Strategy, was developed in 2001. Its plan includes a literacy committee for the department and these actions:

  • Promote the use of plain language within all department divisions and regions. Promotion has included a contest, a Plain Words Work Best poster, and holiday greetings in non-plain language. A bulletin with “unplain” writing examples has been produced.
  • Make sure all department manuals, publications and web pages are easy to read. Rewrite the ones that aren’t easy to read. Assessments of documents were completed in 2002. A list of 10 priority documents for rewriting was developed with a schedule. Two documents are completed as of February, 2004.
  • A guide to employees on how to write in plain language was completed April, 2002.
  • Identify and train employees with writing levels lower than their job or advancement needs. No employees have been identified.
  • Promote the use of staff writing and computer skills, which includes computer access for all employees. Six of nine regional staff people have computer access.

The Department of Justice has supported training of employees who try to incorporate plain language into materials such as news releases, fact sheets and on the department website. Discussions have taken place, but a formal plan has yet to be developed around the Social Agenda commitment to explore providing plain language summaries of policies and legislation.

The Department of Health and Social Services has contracted out plain language work on a number of projects including a summary of its integrated services delivery model and a survey for community health clinics.

The Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) produced a number of plain language public documents several years ago, including forms, and explanations of coverage for harvesters, artists and carvers, the appeals system, and claims management for employers. The Board, which serves both the NWT and Nunavut, also developed plain language posters, a version of its letter of decisions, and a terminology list for translation services.

The Board does not fall under GNWT policies. Despite its work in this area, there is no WCB policy dictating that it use plain language to communicate with the public. Its policy about creating and maintaining policy documents includes a statement that plain language will be used during consultation and the development of policies.

The WCB plain language initiatives have tapered off in recent years as staff has changed, though some employees have participated in plain language training.