Wednesday, January 24, 2001
The people of the Northwest Territories chose consensus as their form of governance for its open, even-handed style.
What we have is a watered-down version of parliament without an official opposition to challenge the government on its habit of denying access to information that should be public.
Consider the Management Services Board.
Its business includes the cost of running the legislature, pay and services for MLAs, including such piddling details as their business cards. The public is welcome to sit in on the board's deliberations, but is denied access to any of the relevant background documents.
Tony Whitford, current chair of the board, said that as much as he might disagree with the practice, his hands are tied. MLAs face penalties should they let the public in on the board's secrets.
We don't mean to single out Mr. Whitford, but that was an especially lame answer. Taxpayers have a right to all the information about how their money is spent.
Perhaps some MLA will find the courage to propose a change in the rules and open the workings of the GNWT to the people who pay the bills.
One Yellowknife company doing contract work at Ekati mine says BHP has told them that Joe Bourque, a Northern welder, is not allowed on the mine site.
BHP's Graham Nicholls says Bourque's name has never been submitted for security clearance, but they are willing to consider him. But Bourque says he's worked at Ekati during the construction phase and doesn't understand why security is now a problem.
BHP does not have to disclose its reason to the public for not hiring someone, but Mr. Bourque is confused, and frankly so are we. And we do not want other qualified Northerners to feel they will be hired without reason.
The only thing that has come out of this situation is bad publicity for BHP.
The company needs to tell Mr. Bourque how he can gain access to the site or state categorically that he's not allowed on it. It's that simple.
Back in December, the Education Minister Jake Ootes released a $110,000 "special needs assessment" that documents an important problem facing NWT schools: lack of support for students who desperately need it.
According to the study, one-third of the students who need some kind of educational support were not getting it.
That's over and above the 8.3 per cent of students who have been identified by the system as "special needs" and require "individual learning plans" and, often, help in the classroom.
The ministry called the report a step in "developing a plan of action for improving the school process and outcomes for students."
Also in December, frustrated parents of six Grade 2 students pulled their children from their class at J.H. Sissons school over concerns their children were not receiving the education they deserved. They cited a lack of classroom support for children with special needs.
They blamed the "education system" for not recognizing the problems in the classroom.
There obviously was a problem because a part-time teacher's aide was hired before Christmas.
Unfortunately, the Sissons scenario is a prime example of what happens when adequate supports are not provided.
Special needs kids don't get the help they need and other students suffer because the classroom atmosphere is not conducive to learning. If there was any question that providing help for students with special needs should not be a priority, just look to what happened J.H. Sissons -- it's probably happening at other schools, too.
Whether you're a sports fan or not, you can't help but feel the buzz in Rankin Inlet and the rest of the region these days.
This past Wednesday and Thursday, many folks in Rankin noticed the Hockey Night in Canada film crew busy at work.
The crew, especially announcer Chris Cuthbert and associate producer Paul Barsanti, were very approachable and took the time to talk a little hockey with many in the hamlet.
Local hockey fans are already gearing up for next month's Polar Bear Plate junior C tourney, which promises to be a real barn burner.
But, the biggest buzz of all centres around the visit of hockey's Holy Grail, the Stanley Cup.
Many folks in the six Kivalliq hamlets outside of Rankin are making plans to come to town for the hockey tournament, so they can see the Cup up close and personal.
A group of about 24 from Baker Lake plan to snowmobile to Rankin for the occasion.
Reports from the communities of the six confirmed tourney participants (Rankin, Iqaluit, Baker Lake, Coral Harbour, Repulse Bay and Hall Beach) indicate the Stanley Cup is pretty much the centre of conversation these days.
Such is the power of sports to bring people together, increase community spirit and, perhaps most importantly, open the doors of opportunity for our youth.
This is a message the Nunavut Government should be hearing loud and clear.
While there can be no denying there are many pressing issues of importance in Nunavut right now, improving sporting venues in our fledgling territory and creating more opportunities for our youth has to start moving up the NG's priority list.
And we're not talking simply riding the glory train of elitist events such as next year's Arctic Winter Games and helping to put a second sheet of artificial ice in the capital to accommodate the games.
The NG should be doing as much as it possibly can to promote the growth of sports in all our communities.
As we've heard from police officers, educators at every level, hamlet leaders and youth leaders both locally and on the national scene -- sports helps to develop our youth's character and leadership skills, produces role models, provides secondary education opportunities and gives them something to look forward to as they struggle with today's pressures of adolescence.
If any of our Nunavut politicians still need convincing as to the positive attributes sports can bestow upon a community and its youth, maybe they should contemplate a trip to Rankin Inlet next month for the Polar Bear Plate tourney and the Stanley Cup's visit.
If seeing truly is believing, we guarantee them an eyeful of happiness and excitement.