Friday, April 28, 2000
The new partnership between the territorial government and two of Yellowknife's leading community groups may help reform the income support system.
It doesn't take a genius to see there is a huge problem. There is a minimum three-week waiting period to see an income support worker. Latest estimates show there is only one case worker for every 2,000 people in the NWT.
In 1999, $5,281,000 went out in social assistance to people in the Yellowknife region alone. According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, that figure covers a monthly average of 636 cases affecting 1,249 recipients and dependants.
The heavy workload means clients get little help from the system with filling out the paperwork. Due to language and cultural barriers, some people can get lost in the shuffle. Now, we've got two organizations -- the Yk Women's Centre and the Salvation Army -- agreeing to pilot a project to take over processing the paperwork that needs to be done before people can get any assistance.
Why not? These groups are already going beyond the call of duty to help these recipients.
The other plus to this, and an issue we shouldn't ignore, is that both of these organizations also have a pretty good idea who is abusing the system. They know which families squander their income support cheques on bingo and booze, just as they know those who are simply in over their heads and need temporary help to get them through.
More importantly, besides applying for a monthly cheque and a food voucher, people will get access to counselling, training and a larger support system.
It's because of these frontline groups that many people are already making headway. Giving them this new mandate will help them take these efforts one step further.
To demystify the process communities are undergoing towards self-government, the Department of Indian and Northern Development (DIAND) has initiated an information program called Plain Talk.
The program will detail updated information via their Web site and a series of 19 fact sheets which address frequently asked questions.
Aboriginal groups in the NWT have the unique opportunity to pursue a form of government tailored to the needs of each individual group. But along with that, will come a great deal of confusion for the general public.
Hopefully, through DIAND's public information campaign, people will become better educated and therefore better prepared to understand the issues as the Dene travel the winding historic road to self-determination.
The return of a summer theatre school for kids is good news.
There was a just such a school for the performing arts in the 1980s organized by Yellowknifer Tannis Tate, who later moved to Whitehorse. The school provided a range of dance and theatre skills to children and young teens from around the North.
Now Heather Ross, president of the NWT Summer School for the Performing Arts, is reviving the summer program with the added intent of establishing scholarships for music, theatre and dance.
Ross is one of the pillars of Yellowknife's theatre community and knows well how little attention and less money is paid to properly developing the arts.
The school's success this summer could shape the future of the arts in the North. We wish her luck.
The Inuvik Justice Committee has received a fair share of praise, and rightly so.
Though still wrestling with some pretty fundamental problems and still evolving, it has also begun to have a positive effect in the community and is already being held up as an example for others to follow.
The variety of agencies and individuals represented at last Wednesday's meeting was in fact similar to the shape the proposed self-government in Inuvik may one day take: a combination of territorial, municipal and Gwich'in and Inuvialuit leadership.
For that reason, though, there could be a greater level of aboriginal representation on the board and greater participation by the Gwich'in and Inuvialuit organizations. While not as yet perfect and still searching for solutions, the Justice Committee represents a worthy effort to combine modern, western-based approaches to rehabilitation with the aboriginal sense of spiritual healing, involving both culprit and victim alike.
That fact was stressed at last week's meeting. The discussion halted at one point while Frank Steffanson commented on proceedings by relating his own innocent brush with youth crime, in an anecdotal and insightful way. Participants and agency representatives got the chance to think about the subject in a completely different way. That kind of co-operation is producing good results for the committee so far, and will hopefully help it move on to greater success in future.
Monday's news report of a shooting involving school children at the zoo in Washington D.C. really puts the whole question of Inuvik youth crime in perspective.
It also makes one glad to be living so far away from a country that is continually shocked by an increasing number of youth-related shootings but seems to do little to solve the problem.
Youth crime is of concern in Inuvik, as it is in every community. Break-ins and joy-riding are the crimes of choice here, and while they're serious enough -- particularly in the case of repeat offenders -- thankfully they pale in comparison with murderous rampages.
Still, many would argue, a criminal is a criminal -- and most end up in the same place. Even Inuvik's young thieves apparently need reminding of that when they begin committing break-ins for reasons of boredom, peer pressure or for reasons they themselves cannot name. So, it is our job -- the RCMP through its school programs, educators and community leaders and most importantly, families -- to remind them.
Of course, youth can also be educated through example. In this case, we have to listen to Cpl. Brian Pinder when he calls for even greater support for the Youth Centre and other related, alternative projects like recreation.
By doing so, we can guarantee our youth will never truly compete to match the levels of crime found elsewhere.
Deh Cho Drum
The Liidlii Kue First Nation seemingly has a moral victory -- if not an official judicial ruling in their favour at this time -- in their battle over land-use permits issued on their traditional lands.
For well over a year the band has contested the issuance of a land-use permit near the Liard River ferry landing. They cried foul that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development had not properly consulted LKFN leadership over the staking of their traditional territory so some diamond foraging could take place. The land, they contended, is right on the doorstep of the Mouse family who live along a nearby trail.
DIAND officials in Yellowknife claimed they were doing things by the book. One spokesperson even noted the band was given an extension on the consultation process.
The problem is the process itself, the band has claimed. A letter or notice sent to the LKFN with an outline of a development proposal isn't proper consultation, LKFN leaders have argued. They are then given 42 days in which to respond.
In the past, the band's assertion that hunting and trapping would be affected by development process was declared too vague by DIAND. LKFN leaders have stated that it should be DIAND's responsibility to subsequently hire a biologist to verify and document how wildlife would be affected by proposed development every time an envisioned venture is set to begin.
The band had been seeking the withdrawal of the land-use permit since December, shortly after DIAND went ahead and authorized it. If in fact there was an application by DIAND to have the permit annulled shortly before the court date, their practices must be examined closely.
Yet we shouldn't hold those who enforce the land-use permit policies at fault. It's those who created, or refuse to change those policies, who should shoulder the blame.
Hopefully, the land-use permitting process will be reviewed by Madame Justice Reed with a fine-tooth comb. Economic development is needed in the Deh Cho, but it must be done fairly and respectfully.
Can't beat spring
It's a great time of year, isn't it? The temperature is finally climbing into the 15 C range and the sun is making an early appearance and a late exit daily.
How can one not feel content at the end of the day with the fading rays of sunshine still peaking out over the horizon?
Many people spent the Easter long weekend doing their spring cleaning and beginning to prepare their lawns and gardens for summer. We might as well make the most of each of these last days of April. It won't be long before the mosquitoes, black flies, bulldogs and hair-eaters beseige us. The adult mosquitoes (quite large indeed) have already begun to emerge after wintering.
In a few months mercury will climb to 30 C and higher and we will retire at night with our windows open in hopes of a relieving breeze. Smoke from forest fires will periodically mar our view of the North's magnificent skyline. Resembling foggy conditions, the stifling heat will serve as a stark reminder that it surely isn't fog.
Summer will bring some glorious days, but they won't compare to those we have today.
There couldn't be a more perfect example than Terence Tootoo when it comes to the opportunities sports can provide Kivalliq youth.
Tootoo has already verbally agreed to accept a full athletic scholarship to Fairbanks College in Fairbanks, Alaska, next year.
Not only will Tootoo receive an excellent college education during the next four years, the full scholarship means he won't be looking at owing tens of thousands of dollars in student loans upon graduating.
And, to make the deal even sweeter, more and more professional scouts now make arenas where U.S. collegiate hockey is played regular stops on their hectic schedules.
Tootoo's case vividly illustrates the advantages of combining hockey with education.
He still has ample time and opportunity to carve a career for himself in professional hockey if that's what he chooses to do.
Should anything prevent him from obtaining that goal, he will still have a solid post-secondary education to fall back on.
We have no doubt there are plenty of young hockey players in Nunavut who are every bit as capable of achieving what Tootoo has.
In order for our Kivalliq youth to make the best of these opportunities, we need longer hockey seasons, more training and certification for our coaches, referees and volunteers.
If we put these cornerstones in place, Tootoo could very well be the first of many eager Kivalliq students to walk the campus of American or Canadian university in the not-too-distant future.
Rankin Inlet's Peter Tatty, new chair of the Sakku Investments Corp. board, is off to a promising start.
The decision by the Sakku board to go outside its membership and hire a full-time president is, indeed, a good one.
Tatty brings a successful 25-year Kivalliq business career to his new position and a firm grasp of how a corporation should function.
He talks as though openness and accountability are more than mere words, which is a refreshing change of pace.
Once a solid president is in place with a proven track record in business investment and development, Sakku Investments Corp. just might be able to improve its somewhat less than impressive performance of the past few years.
It will interesting to see how Sakku progresses during next month's open meeting in Rankin Inlet and to hear more on how Tatty intends to ensure the often troubled investment firm stays on course to solid investments for the Kivalliq Inuit Association and the region's beneficiaries.