Editorial page

Monday, April 17, 2000

Northern honour at the wall

The RCMP have played an integral role in the development of the North for over 100 years.

In most communities the men and women of the RCMP serve in a far greater capacity than that of law enforcement officers.

However, they couldn't have done what they did here without the help of the people who knew the land, understood the power of the climate and could survive without sleds loaded with supplies.

Given the harsh climate, the vast distances and the improbable nature of the task at hand, it is a credit to the force and to the men and women who helped them that not more people were lost in the line of duty than the 52 honoured recently.

Outside G Division headquarters in Yellowknife, the RCMP have erected a wall upon which are plaques honouring those who died serving the North.

Behind each one of those names is a story rich in the history of the emerging North.

Among the incidents that have reached the status of legend are the Lost Patrol and the pursuit of the man known as the Mad Trapper of Rat River.

Included with the officers honoured on the wall are indigenous Northerners who served alongside the RCMP and assisted them in the execution of their duty.

People such as Baker Lake's Const. Ooyoumut, who drowned in an incident in 1954, have taken their rightful place on the wall.

The RCMP, and particularly Sgt. Phil Johnson, who masterminded the project, deserve some credit for including those Northerners who worked with the RCMP.

As the North changes, and indigenous people stake their deserved claim in sharing the governance and the wealth of the land, it is only appropriate that the North's history is reworked to include all those who participated in the development of this promising place.

Working together

In challenging times, it pays to be creative. No longer can we work in isolation without looking to other areas for alternatives to the status quo.

That's why the recent agreement between Aurora College and NWT Community Mobilization is noteworthy. In bureaucratic jargon it's an attempt to "maximize the resources on both sides." In language everyone else can understand, it's way to make sure services that are offered don't duplicate what the other is already providing.

There's not enough money in the North to pay for two organizations to offer similar services.

By working together, the two partners can also ensure all their clients know what is available from both agencies, a great situation for everyone involved.

Energy options

While we've noticed a substantial jump in gasoline prices at the pump, home heating fuel prices have doubled and diesel fuel is running close behind.

The price of heating and powering the North has always been a challenge, but technology and innovation are making it easier and more cost-effective for communities to escape the grip of OPEC oil prices.

It may be a decade until a pipeline could pump clean-burning, affordable natural gas up the Mackenzie, but in the meantime we should be working towards self-sufficiency through alternative energy sources.

The abundance of sunlight and wind in the North can be harnessed to supplement wood-heat sources. The new energy entrepreneurs will gradually replace the fossil fuel companies and the dinosaur utility companies.

A community needs a high school

With all the fuss being made in the Nunavut Legislative Assembly over the funding allotted to the building of a new high school in Cambridge Bay, you'd think students in the Kitikmeot community were already sitting in state-of-the-art classrooms.

For over two years students have been shuffled between five different portable classrooms, they've had to find time for gym classes at the elementary school and only in January of this year have they gained access to a very limited supply of library books.

The fact of the matter is that a high-school building does not even exist in Cambridge Bay. A devastating fire took away what once housed the environment necessary to educate and encourage students to work hard and stay in school.

Classes, of course, have continued because of the perseverance and determination of educators, students and parents to make the most of a situation that started as nothing short of a nightmare.

Many students have now been denied options such as home-economics classes, after-school sports in their gym, shop classes and the ever important need for books, to conduct research, write papers and simply for the sake of reading.

How many more classes will have to be denied parts of their education, many of whom only learn certain skills and abilities through school programs and resources, before our government representatives can come to an agreement on what will be done?

Have they stopped to think about how the students of Cambridge Bay feel when they hear the lengthy and dead end debates about the fate of their school? Have they stopped to think that they are helping to knock student morale just a little bit lower?

For every day discussions are extended and for every day discussions are delayed, students become that much more disheartened with their government.

Maybe the students should be asked for their thoughts on a new school and they can explain just how much they need one.

Steady improvement

Residents of Iqaluit have seen a steady improvement in their spring festival over the last few years.

Thanks to the hard work of committee president Shani Watts, and her crackerjack team of organizers, we now have the opportunity to take part in a healthy mix of traditional and contemporary activities.

People can choose to skin a seal, compete in the Corporate Challenge or take part in art shows that predominantly celebrate Inuit arts and crafts.

Watts deserves the community's gratitude for her efforts. Without her determination and commitment to restore some of the original intent and flare of the festival, we may well have seen it disappear.