Editorial page

Wednesday, April 19, 2000

Drawing a line in the courts

Dealing with the legacy of the now-defunct Royal Oak Mines continues.

Last week, the bankrupt corporation was fined $1.4 million for not complying with Environmental and Fisheries Act regulations over the last three years.

While neither the Crown prosecutor nor the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs can expect that the company will pay the fine, a meaningful precedent has been set.

Royal Oak had been charged with disposing of toxins into the environment and refusing to divulge to water board inspectors information about the tailings pipes and the cleanup of the mess.

The incident occurred at Colomac mine, about 200 kilometres north of Yellowknife.

It seems that the arrogance of Royal Oak's management knows no bounds. Their despicable treatment of their workers is matched only by their utter disregard for the environment and the laws designed to protect it.

Several years ago, Margaret Kent, or Peggy Witte as she was known then, was named Mining Man of the Year by Northern Mining News. She was also chosen as Chatelaine magazine's Woman of the Year.

As chief executive officer of Royal Oak, she was praised by her colleagues as a tough, no-nonsense business person whose lean and mean drive was admired as the new face of mining.

Here we are, a few years later, the corporation bankrupt, no money for severance or full pensions and an environmental mess at both Giant and Colomac.

If nothing else, Witte/Kent managed to create an atmosphere of mistrust and cynicism towards an industry from which the public is now demanding high standards of environmental responsibility.

The case demonstrates why we have water board hearings and protracted scrutiny of proposals for new mines.

We thank the courts for sending the industry a message that the law won't be trifled with. The industry can thank Witte/Kent for the public's skepticism.

Dangerous stunt

Some people can't resist the lure of adventure.

Cyclists Corey Borolien and Keith Hartery are among those who possess an adventurous spirit and on that level we believe most people would congratulate them for their recent attempt to cycle across Great Slave Lake. Had they managed the feat, we expect they would have been hailed as heroes.

On a more practical level, however, their cycle adventure was a dangerous stunt. Not only did they put themselves at risk, but the did the same of those who were called out to "rescue" them from the ice.

They are lucky their adventure ended well.

They likely know that, but the point must be made emphatically.

Doing time

Long-time Yellowknife social advocate Arlene Hache will be adding a new hat to her collection by taking on the job of president of the John Howard Society.

Hache will start with the society next February.

Her plan to repair the restorative justice program, which fell apart two years ago, is a good idea. So is her plan to allow inmates a voice at their upcoming annual general meeting.

Hache has a long record of commitment to social issues.

Her dedication to running the Yellowknife Women's Centre has given her a well-deserved reputation as an advocate for those who society has overlooked. The John Howard Society has made a good choice.

Congratulations, and good luck.

Recognizing students' efforts
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

The students at Maani Ulujuk middle school in Rankin deserve praise for their superb fund-raising efforts for the World Vision Famine event.

Although the school was involved with the event years ago when it also had high school students, this was the first time MUI participated since it became solely a middle school when Alaittuq high opened.

A tip of the hat is also warranted to all the good folks in Rankin who so willingly signed up to sponsor the participating kids.

Their generosity proves, once again, the Kivalliq region is second to none when it comes to our willingness to help others.

Derby a winner

If an organization must hold a fishing derby to further its cause, the one held recently by Youth Getting Stronger youth co-ordinator Dale Smutylo is a shining example of how it should be done.

No overwhelming prizes were offered to attract hundreds of people looking to simply cash in with a big new TV or machine.

The people who took part in the first annual Elders and Youth Fishing Derby were there for the right reasons.

The actual fishing came a distant second to young and old spending quality time together, enjoying each other's company and taking part in a number of activities.

With the building of iglus by at least two groups of participants, the event was solidified as a true family event. Hopefully, the derby will keep its initial format and grow in popularity for the same positive reasons in the years to come.

Speaking frankly

It remains to be seen if Arviat MLA Kevin O'Brien can effectively carry out his new role as Speaker of the house in the Nunavut legislative assembly and still address the concerns of his constituents.

His election on the first ballot proved O'Brien deserves the position, and there's little doubt as to his sincerity in keeping the interests of Arviat voters at the top of his priority list.

However, a number of Nunavut politicians have found holding multiple portfolios to be increasingly difficult and it's no secret Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove voters are less than impressed with the performance of their MLAs since taking on the added responsibilities of ministerial duties.

Hopefully, if O'Brien sees the people of Arviat suffering because of his new position, he will stay true to his word and resign from the Speaker's role to concentrate on his constituents.

The people of the Kivalliq deserve no less than their elected MLAs' complete attention and dedication to meeting the many challenges facing our region.