Editorial page

Monday, May 15, 2000

Righting wrongs

One of the more admirable qualities in a politician is the ability to admit wrong.

The endemic public cynicism that dogs public figures is rooted as much in a lamentable record of denying that something has gone wrong, or that an error was made, as it is in actual mistakes made.

Politicians, who often seem to believe they have ascended above mere humanity, tend to forget the human qualities of the electorate.

Because the rest of us make mistakes, we are prepared to forgive, once and a while, even politicians.

And so it is encouraging to see Premier Stephen Kakfwi retract the ill-considered remarks he made in a newspaper interview concerning some of his fellow MLAs.

A little humility can go a long way in public office.

Time to send a strong message

Not all dads who are on the hook for child support are deadbeats.

Most, in fact the vast majority, love their children and make sure their needs are met, regardless of the state of the relationship they have with their former spouse.

That includes ensuring support payments are made on time every month.

Some men, however, aren't so concerned about the children they helped bring into the world. They will go to virtually any length to ensure they don't pay.

They are the deadbeats, the "chronic delinquents."

They leave their children in a state of poverty and their former spouses frustrated and angry.

The NWT has a maintenance enforcement program that is, for the most part, successful in getting payments on time and in the full amount.

They, too, are frustrated by those who choose to ignore court ordered payments.

The program and its workers are limited in what they can do, especially when it comes to dealing across borders or with self-employed people whose income cannot be easily determined or with those who hide assets in another person's name.

The government says it plans to update the maintenance enforcement act, but can't say when that will happen.

A government committed to ensuring children are protected has to realize this is an critical problem and at least bring it to near the top of the agenda.

We need to have laws that don't let men and women get away with not paying support.

Even if it means denying a driver's licence, passport, reporting the debt to the credit bureau, ensuring they can not qualify for work visas in another country and, for immigrants, being unable to sponsor family from coming to Canada until a child support debt is paid.

With harsh penalties hanging over their heads, perhaps some of the deadbeats will get the message.

Friendly farewell

The NWT Friend-ship Centres are teetering on the brink of extinction and without a quick fix of cash the centres will close this summer.

The federal government funds these centres for many of the youth-driven initiatives, but without dollars for the administration and direction, all the programs are doomed to fail.

Many of the provinces currently contribute to the good work that goes on in their Friendship Centres, but as yet, the territorial government hasn't committed to any funding.

With the closure of friendship centres, we will start to see all our social costs escalate. But, as with anything else, we won't know what a gift they have in these centres and until they are gone.

Our textbooks

Nunavut Education Minister James Arvaluk liked what he saw last week in Iqaluit.

Arvaluk was on hand at Inuksuk high school for the official unveiling of a resource material book on Nunavut, which was written and edited by teacher Nick Newbery. Arvaluk said materials like this need to be made and collected as the government develops a 'made in Nunavut' curriculum.

Also on hand was Jerry Ell, president of the Qikiqtaaluk Corporation, who stressed that it's important for the people of Nunavut to tell their own story -- something which was lacking when he was a student.

Hopefully Newbery's work, and others like it, will help students better understand their territory and its residents.

More than a kick at the can

If you leave a pop can or discard a bottle on the tundra, it will remain there -- unchanged -- for decades to come.

Climate playing the role it does in the North, the material will not degrade.

That, in itself, should be incentive enough for the residents of Iqaluit to do their part and take their cans and bottles to the community's lone recycling business.

No such luck.

Judging by what Bryan Hellwig has to say, which is that few people drop by the recyclers with refuse, the majority of people in Iqaluit don't have enough environmental concern to be spurred into action.

Instead, residents throw astounding numbers of cans and bottles into the convenient trash can and the recyclables-turned-garbage head off to the open-burn landfill site where they go up in flames.

Thankfully, Hellwig is in charge of the bottle-deposit return program for the Nunavut Liquor Commission and as such, recycles enough bottles and cans (about one million per year) from the community's watering holes that he fills eight south-bound sealift containers annually.

Yes, it is too bad that Hellwig can't offer residents financial incentive to do their environmental part. In an age where greed abounds, surely the offer of a dime or quarter per bottle or can would bring in the containers.

The question is, what will it take to convince people to recycle? The Iqaluit landfill is bursting at the seams. Furthermore, there is plenty of room on the empty south-bound ships for more cans and bottles.

Residents who consume these kinds of beverages are obligated to do their part and recycle.

Whether we ask local vendors to assist and jack up their prices by a few cents as a deposit, or beseech the Iqaluit Beautification Society or the Municipality to tackle the project, something must be done and it must be done now.

Failing grades

While the five-year review of the implementation of the Nunavut Land Claim Agreement was critical, the good news is that there was one.

The process was open and clear.

The project that the federal government and the Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. undertook five years ago was enormous and ambitious. In the agreement, they set very high objectives for themselves.

Avery Cooper, the consulting firm that conducted the review, found the participants had fallen short of many of their goals.

Both the federal government and NTI president Paul Quassa admitted that the problems the report cited were cause for concern.

What remains to be seen is if they take action. That's what will count. Time of need