Editorial page

Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Big fish let go again

The conviction and sentencing of the Yellowknives Dene band and Darrel Beaulieu for breaching environmental law hardly sets any kind of precedent worth applauding.

While the courts and Crown may be confident they have shown environmental lawbreakers crime doesn't pay, the public has difficulty reconciling the stern treatment given the Yellowknives Dene beside the lax penalty handed out to the people behind Royal Oak.

Last April Royal Oak Mines was fined $1.4 million in NWT Supreme Court for breaking Water and Fisheries Act regulations at Colomac mine 200 kilometres north of Yellowknife. As the company was bankrupt, no fine was paid, no directors or executives charged.

Royal Oak was found guilty of dumping cyanide and arsenic and refusing to give water board inspectors critical information. So toxic was the brew, one official investigating the site suffered symptoms of poisoning. At the end of the last fiscal year, close to $2 million of taxpayers money was spent on the Colomac clean-up attempt.

A company owned by the Yellowknives Dene, the Deton' Cho Corporation, pushed a pile of gravel into the bay and stored drums of oil on the shoreline. The Yellowknives Dene were fined $60,000 and Deton' Cho Corp president Darrel Beaulieu was personally fined $3,000. Both fines must be paid in full.

The crown made much of the fact he went after one of the "officers and directors" meaning Beaulieu, because Beaulieu "issued directives and was effectively in charge throughout."

Of course the parallels with Royal Oak are inescapable.

Peggy Witte and her management team were in charge when they broke the law yet there is no evidence much thought or effort was put towards the prosecution.

What are we to think? Is there one law for American mining executives and another for Yellowknives Dene?

To be fair to the Crown, they may not have had the resources to go after Peggy Witte in which case we'd like to know just how wealthy one has to be to avoid justice in the courts.

So it seems no precedent has been set here, instead a despicable tradition maintained.

By virtue of its size, matched by the magnitude of its crime, the big fish was let go, while the little fish was reeled in and fileted.

Hardly a good environment for justice to maintain integrity.

Missing the boat

The potential for generating revenue in the North is so vast that sometimes a beleaguered premier doesn't know where to begin.

In a speech given to a tourism convention in Calgary, Premier Kakfwi pumped up the oil, gas and diamond business.

It's understandable. The non-renewable resource industries glitter in the eyes of the investment crowd. Tourism, on the other hand, is a little more pedestrian in its appeal. After all, everybody's doing it.

Everybody's doing it because there is lots of money to be made. But the potential for tourism in the North is enormous. The job-creation possibilities are substantial, and, carefully managed, the resource will last forever.

Let's not be blinded by diamonds; tourism remains our most significant unexploited resource.

Ignoring and preserving the past in Arviat
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

One can hardly blame the Hamlet of Arviat for wanting to follow the old adage: If it isn't broken, don't fix it.

The hamlet is proud of its impressive track record in ensuring a high percentage of Inuit supplies and local hires are used during projects it has overseen in the past three years.

Mayor David Alagalak and SAO Darren Flynn are worried local contractors will be overlooked in the tendering process for the construction of six housing units (three duplexes) in Arviat.

They don't want to see an outside company come in and employ a minimum number of local people. You've got to admit they have a point.

Understaffing is a huge problem in our new territory and the Nunavut Housing Corp. is no exception.

The fact that there was not enough time to train staff members on the intricacies of the government's new NNI policy before its implementation is yet another example of the poor planning and execution surrounding many of our new programs.

In fact, in many quarters, the understaffed song and dance is getting very old, very fast.

Too many programs are being rushed through without proper staff in place to properly administer them.

When government decides to train as it goes, logic often goes out the window with it.

And, judging by its superlative track record, the decision not to grant Arviat full project authority over the unit construction project is more than a little disconcerting.

It will be interesting to see who the contract is awarded to and how this project compares to those in the past when it comes to how much money stays in the community of Arviat.