Editorial page

Monday, May 08, 2000

Funding the fight

A most important element to fighting crime is to build strong communities where people of all ages are valued and respected.

That's what we see coming out of the $566,030 recently committed by the federal government to fund community crime prevention efforts.

Whether it's Fort Smith's Roots and Wings program where a youth center will provide a "positive social atmosphere" or the Holman Elders Committee's plans to take youth out on the land where they will learn traditional skills, the programs envisioned by Northern groups are about building community.

With a solid foundation and understanding of their heritage, today's youth won't become tomorrow's young offender.

With money in hand, the groups can now begin their important work.

Settle the boundaries first

The recent border dispute between the Akaitcho chiefs and Dogribs was one that was easily predicted.

Dene and Metis leaders met in 1989 to map out traditional land-use areas for selection during the comprehensive land claim.

Leaders selected and approved lands and a map was made. When the claim fell apart, the map was forgotten.

Now, with the discovery of diamonds, and subsequent contracts and royalties, leaders with unsettled claims are drawing lines around Lac de Gras. And who can blame them? The job of good negotiators and good politicians is to get all they can for their people.

The fault here lies with the territorial and federal governments for not having crisp, clear lines on a map before the very first agreement was signed.

Everyone -- including government -- knew this was coming, and now good faith negotiations will turn bad.

As it sits, the Deh Cho and Akaitcho chiefs have the Dogribs over a barrel; without the boundary issue settled, the Dogribs can't sign their final agreement.

Rather than delay the already dreadfully long process, negotiators are coerced into signing away land in favour of a final agreement.

This won't be the last we hear about this dispute. Without a defined map, we're certain to have more border battles as First Nations move closer towards settled claims.

The bands can learn from this, by having boundaries and overlap areas defined between neighbours before they get so far into the process, they may need to settle for less than they'd bargained for.

No one in government could say why there wasn't a map before negotiations began.

Given the obvious nature of the problem, you can't help but wonder if the governments involved don't feel it's in their interest to have First Nations squabbling among themselves rather than with government.

Old wounds beginning to heal

It was the divorce to end all divorces.

After decades of marriage, Nunavut decided to leave the NWT and branch out on its own or, to revert to the lingo of yesterday, to find itself.

Hearts were broken and tears fell, but Nunavut -- being the half of the relationship doing the leaving -- was eager and excited to move on.

The NWT floundered a little, went through the expected identity crisis and considered changing its name to Bob.

New friendships were made, old ones forgotten and life it seemed, was good.

Both parties experienced financial difficulties, but money struggles were to be expected when the income is divided in two.

While the split-up seemed to be fairly amicable at first, the customary custody battles soon reared their ugly heads.

The issue of who would get to keep the children, or the fruits of their collective labour, was brought to the table.

Both spouses wanted to keep the polar bear license plate, the government logo was caught in the middle and the art adorning the NWT Legislature -- the family home -- was discussed.

The battle got petty and the NWT announced to residents (the former couple's friends) in a press release that they were keeping the kids. Miffed at being left out of the decision-making process (as usual, they felt) Nunavut balked and said they wanted custody.

Compromises were made, alimony was paid (division of assets and liabilities) and old wounds began to heal.

A year later, the divorce is final, both sides have picked up the pieces and moved on and made healthy strides in developing their new, separate identities. And while each is happy with its existence and new-found freedom, fond memories of the years they shared prevail.

Learning close-up

Sometimes studying from afar just doesn't cut it.

That's the attitude adopted by a group of former students at the Community Learning Centre in Rankin Inlet.

While taking the upgrading program from 1998-99, the students studied Greenland to see how it compares to Nunavut. The students, as well as plus some teachers there, decided Greenland and its people warranted a closer look.

The group has been raising money for the trip. While there they plan to learn more about the government, but also hope to learn more about the people and engage in a little bit of cultural exchange.

This group should be commended for being willing to continue their studies outside the classroom and into the real world.

Gimme Shelter

The shelter for the homeless in Iqaluit is full, leaving a handful of people without a place to spend the night.

In Rankin Inlet, the manager of the housing association expresses his concern for the future of public housing under the current system of utility billing.

Housing Minister Manitok Thompson, while announcing that progress is being made on the construction of 100 new housing units, admits that 540 more are needed.

Nunavut has a housing crisis.

The report of the Nunavut Housing Task Force, containing 15 recommendations deserves the full attention of both legislators and voters.

We look forward to serious debate of this report, and prompt action to resolve this looming disaster. There is no more time to waste.