Editorial page

Monday, August 07, 2000

Action needed

For many months, health officials have bemoaned the Northern nursing shortage.

It has culminated in three medical clinics in the Delta being closed for lengthy periods this summer because there aren't enough nurses to go around. The subject was the matter of talks when health board representatives met recently in Yellowknife.

The outcome? More talks.

In British Columbia, doctors are walking off the job for basically the same reasons as what is facing the North with medical professionals -- they're not being paid enough. B.C.'s solution? Putting more money into the system.

Seems like a simple solution. Pay nurses and doctors more as incentive to serve in remote communities and they will come.

Nation must be restored

Bill Erasmus' recent victory, winning his fifth term as National Chief of the Dene Nation came as little surprise.

His years of experience running the national office, combined with his political connections, both nationally and in the North, are priceless when it comes to qualities needed to lead the way.

But not are all happy with the leadership coming from the Dene Nation and we agree there is room for considerable improvement.

Take the constitution.

Because there has been no changes to the Dene Nation's constitution since the Gwich'in, Dogrib Treaty 11, and Sahtu broke away from the nation in 1992, chiefs questioned whether they even had a legal quorum at last month's assembly. This is a good question.

But a more important question communities should be asking, before they insist on a new constitution, is the mandate and funding situation facing the Dene Nation.

After the comprehensive claim fell apart and the three groups pulled out, Ottawa reacted by pulling a considerable amount of their core funding.

It's clear the Dene Nation has suffered greatly because of these cuts and in many ways has been rendered impotent as a territorial-wide power.

If they're going to be a territorial force, they need a territorial-sized budget.

Look at Nunavut Tungavik Inc (NTI). In the east they've become a force to be reckoned with, in many ways an equal partner in the development of the government in Nunavut.

Isn't that what the Dene Nation should be doing here?

We suggest Erasmus, instead of bickering over rewriting a constitution to omit three nations, focus his efforts on repairing the damage of 1992.

By strengthening ties with the Gwich'in, Dogrib and Sahtu nations, they just may have a chance to get Dene Nation restored to be the territorial force it once was.

Not all roads lead to riches

As mega-projects go, it's a beauty, an engineer's dream. Dredging a deep-sea port in Bathurst Inlet, and then building a 100-kilometre road across the tundra to the richest base-metal ore claim on the continent.

Costs are estimated at $120 million by the time both the port and the road are done.

That would be a huge infusion of money and jobs into the Kitikmeot.

The mine proposed by Toronto-based Inmet would have a production expectancy of 13 years.

Like it or not, the project will have to be subjected to the same intense scrutiny that the diamond mines in the NWT were put through.

Questions about the effects on the environment will have to be answered and an impact-benefits package will have to be negotiated. Engineering plans will be scrutinized for feasibility.

Excuse the skepticism, but it will be a long road to building a road, should it be built.

With the federal government contributing $150,000 towards pre-feasibility studies, the project has taken on a certain air of legitimacy. DIAND officials are showing some restrained enthusiasm for the project; the Nunavut government is moving a little more cautiously.

It is interesting that one of the most hesitant voices is that of the mayor of Kugluktuk, Joanne Taptuna, who has taken a long-range view of the Kitikmeot's future.

What happens after the money's spent and the mine's wealth exhausted, she asks. And we do to.

The Kitikmeot needs jobs. The Kitikmeot needs to know that there is a constructive future ahead. At first glance, a mega-project would seem to promise all the answers to the Kitikmeot's needs.

But the face of the planet is littered with huge man-made engineering dreams that have failed to deliver the promises.

The people of the Kitikmeot are going to have to think long and hard about what they want from the future. They are also going to have to decide how much they are willing to pay for it. And they must insist on a complete and thorough review of the plans and their impact before reaching any conclusions.

Patience please

The centre for Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students (FANS) deserves the patience of the territory's residents.

Complaints from parents and students have surfaced of late. Their beef is that the centre has left students attending university in the dark too close to the first day of classes. Some students claim they still have not received any notification on grants and loans and haven't been told how much money they've been allotted.

FANS says that all applications have been processed; staff at the FANS Arviat centre worked overtime to accomplish this.

The delay problems stem from a new high-tech system that has run into a plethora of unforseen, but normal, problems.

Once the new system is in place, it should surpass the southern student loan systems in efficiency.

Northern enterprise

Simeonie Akpalialuk, Pangnirtung's economic development officer, has a great idea. He's been working on implementing a bartering system within the community.

This sort of forward thinking is a much-needed necessity in Nunavut.

Too many times small economies are trapped by monetary systems, which are not always a comfortable fit in cultures that haven't traditionally relied on currency.

Within the free market, skills and products are assigned values based on arbitrary criteria imposed by those at the top of the economic food chain.

By creating a whole new economy based on the bartering system, no matter how small a scale, Pangnirtung is taking matters into its own hands and allowing the community to come up with their own values for skills and products they deem important.

Akpalialuk deserves to be lauded for his visionary thinking.

Inuvik's crown

In 1989 it was a simple plan: about 12 artists from the Inuvik region get together for a small-scale arts festival.

The Great Northern Arts Festival has burgeoned to become the biggest cultural event in the NWT, and now features over 100 visual and performance artists.

The intended purpose of the July festival is to give artists an opportunity to exchange ideas and display their works. But the underlying strength of the event, and many like it, are volunteers, sales, private and corporate sponsors.

There was a record number of volunteers in 1999, according to a festival co-ordinator. And opening day sales alone paint a pretty picture. In 1997, the number totalled $24,800. In 1999, it was $40,252. In 2000, sales topped $50,000.

A great Northern effort is the reason the entire world is hearing about the Great Northern Arts Festival.