Editorial page

Monday, December 13, 1999

A new session

It seems like we were waiting a long time for this election. With the division of the territories last spring, and then the constitutional challenge that resulted in Bill 15 and the additional seats in the Legislative Assembly, the NWT was gathering momentum for last week's election.

And now it's history.

Given the issues that need to be resolved, the campaign was generally a quiet one. A few incumbents lost their seats, most notably former Speaker and four-time MLA Sam Gargan.

Veterans Jim Antoine, Stephen Kakfwi, Jane Groenewegen and Vince Steen were among those re-elected. New ridings in Inuvik, Hay River and the capital meant some newcomers won seats.

Only one of those was a woman, meaning that the female caucus doubles to two. That's hardly representation by population.

As jurisdictions within the NWT move towards self-government, the legislative assembly is going to have to find a new role for itself.

With revenue badly needed for health care, education and social services, the new GNWT is going to have to start talking with the federal government about revenue sharing.

The diamond mines and the flurry of interest in the gas reserves in the Deh Cho means that lots of money is going to be flowing into federal coffers, and the NWT must lay claim to its rightful share.

From listening to the campaign talk, the new crop of MLAs know this. Now we will see if the political will is there to do something about it.

We look forward to the opening of the next session of the legislature. We wish our MLAs all the best in working towards answers to the pressing issues that await them as they take their seats for the opening of the 14th session.

Highway to hell

The road connecting Rae-Edzo to Yellowknife is 90 kilometres of potted, rutted dirt surface with 163 curves. Government officials estimate two people die on it every year.

In early 1997, Rae Band Grand Chief Joe Rabesca wrote a letter to Transportation Minister Jim Antoine asking that speed limits for trucks over five tonnes be reduced to 60 kilometres an hour. That hasn't happened. Now over 6,000 additional trips will be made on the Rae/Yellowknife road with the winter resupply of Ekati mine, Lupin mine and the construction of Diavik's new diamond mine.

The problem is the lack of will in the territorial government. Thirteen years is laughable, eight years is unacceptable, two or three years should be the maximum. Every year of delay is a death sentence for motorists.

A friend in need

The NWT Council of Friendship Centres are in a crisis situation, which may result in closing some of the centres down unless they get help from the GNWT.

The council has repeatedly gone with hat in hand to ask the territorial government for funds to keep the centres open.

They've been insulted, demeaned and denied recognition for the community service they provide.

These centres provide an invaluable service to aboriginal people making the sometimes frightening transition from community life to urban centres and without them, these displaced people will be left to their own devices.

If other provinces can find it in their budgets to fund the centres, certainly the GNWT could make the same gesture.

New laws

The legal system under which we work isn't necessarily the most effective way of dealing with all cultures, regardless of territory or province.

One would presume that laws would be more effective if they were tailored to the people and the environment in which they are applied.

That is why the recent appointment of four law review commissioners to Maligarnit Qimirrujiit, Nunavut's Law Review Commission, by Premier Paul Okalik is a step in the right direction.

Now, with input from Nunavummiut, the four members will thoroughly review some 100 inherited statutes from the GNWT. The laws need to be tailored to fit the Inuit people's lifestyles and culture.

Two for the price of one

Whenever the expression "two for the price of one" comes to mind, we start thinking about a good deal.

So, when the phrase popped up in reference to the wonderful results of the radio plays produced by the students at Qarmartalik high school in Resolute Bay, we considered the deal at hand.

On one hand, drama teacher Kelly Giesbrecht wanted to introduce her students to the world of theatre for the first time.

On the other, RCMP officer Lorne Adamitz wanted to boost the self-esteem of youth in Resolute Bay.

The pair decided to unite their efforts and in one stroke the community and the territory ended up with four theatrical works ready to be performed on the radio, and Resolute Bay and Nunavut also got an example of a successful attempt at instilling self-confidence in our younger generation.

Now, that's a good deal.

Other schools in the territory would be wise to follow such a path.

"Now there is an understanding of what they can do," said Adamitz, of the new skills the 20 young men and women acquired during the project.

He was referring not only to the voice tricks and the sound effects they perfected, but to the realization of the possibilities that lie ahead.

A price cannot be placed on the value of gaining an understanding of one's own potential, especially at such a young age.

That lesson becomes even more valuable when it's noted that Giesbrecht and Adamitz plan to take their efforts to the next level in January.

With the ultimate goal of a video production in mind, the pair said their plan was to get the students to begin to write their very own scripts.

The project will no doubt touch on the curriculum of many of their classes and will also allow the students to create works that are relevant to their own culture.

Such an endeavour can only serve to broaden their horizons even farther.


Roch Carrier, the National Librarian of Canada, is the walking embodiment of a book lover.

He writes them, he reads them, and now, on behalf of the people of Canada, he collects them.

His recent trip to Nunavut to discuss the National Library with fellow librarians drew the importance of books to culture into the spotlight.

Books hold a culture safe in the face of outside influences. As the oral tradition fades, books and the language they are written in become the guardians of the history and culture that define a people.

That is why literacy is so important. Without it, we drift, unattached to the past. And it is the past that tells us who we are.

Literacy and fluency in our traditional languages are making progress in Nunavut. It is important that we don't lose sight of how important that is.