Editorial page

Wednesday, May 09, 2001

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No safe haven

We can appreciate the dilemma facing the RCMP over the goings-on at Herb's Christian Hangout.

Herb Zimmermen has opened his Franklin Avenue storefront to wayward youth, who he admits sometime drink and smoke dope on the premises.

RCMP, concerned with the fact that youth are getting intoxicated, have the building under surveillance.

This monitoring is a good idea and we're encouraged to see that the RCMP is teaming up with Health and Social Services to keep an eye on the place. But is this enough?

Judging by the number of teenagers who frequent the hangout, Zimmermen's place is in demand, but their needs would be better met with a meeting place that is drug-free.

Regardless of how well-meaning this Yellowknifer is, providing them with a venue to break the law is not the answer.

If they refuse to choose a drug-free option like the Side Door, than their only option is to take their chances with the law.

Tools to save the heart of the city

At first glance, Canadian Tire's decision to move from its downtown location to roomier and more modern accommodations in Frame Lake South might seem cause for concern. Yet another major player in the downtown core is heading for the suburbs, leaving the city's core a little bit emptier and quieter.

Urban planners and community activists across North America have dozens of horror stories to tell of eviscerated downtown cores, abandoned by retailers and customers alike in favour of lower taxes and bigger parking lots at the edge of town. In many cases, the exodus erodes civic spirit, for without a common gathering place, a city's very soul can wither and die.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Downtown is still where most Yellowknifers come to work, eat, watch films, and, for the time being, shop. The task at hand is to make sure we don't waste this opportunity to put what will soon be the empty shell on Franklin Avenue to good use.

It's not city hall's place to dictate how the business community exploits the building and the lot, but there are tools at its disposal to nudge the marketplace in the right direction. In Edmonton, for example, developers receive a cash bonus for every residential unit they build -- and Yellowknife certainly could use some more apartments.

A less costly alternative involves deferring taxes on preferred uses of the site, such as mixed residential and retail space.

In the next few weeks, city council will begin reviewing a new downtown planning scheme. And none to soon.

Let's start thinking about how to make the best of what could be a golden opportunity to keep Yellowknife's core healthy.

A super week

Each spring, hundreds of young people from all corners of the North converge on Yellowknife for a celebration of sport.

It's Super Soccer, a four-day indoor extravaganza that features teams from the NWT and Nunavut. This year, 143 teams will hit the hardwood, filling gymnasiums around the city.

While a competitive tournament, this event does more than pit teams against each other. It gives youth from around the North a forging friendships that span the two territories. Training with their teammates and playing in games gives the athletes a greater understanding of teamwork and the discipline and dedication that sport takes.

Like it or not, these are important lessons that will serve the athletes well in later life.

And they'll have a lot of fun learning it.

So welcome to all the out-of-town teams and good luck to all the competitors.

Program worthy of region's praise

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

You have to give credit where credit is due and the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA) deserves praise for the evolution of its Reclaiming our Sinew concept.

Spearheaded by Bernadette Dean and Lucy Makkigak, the project enjoyed great success when first launched a little more than a year ago in Rankin Inlet. In fact, the response was so overwhelming, the KIA had to find funding to offer an evening sewing class for those in the community with jobs or family obligations preventing them from attending during the day.

When the project started, both Dean and KIA president Paul Kaludjak told Kivalliq News their vision included seeing the program, or a similar variation, branch out to other Kivalliq communities.

Since that time, KIA staff have worked diligently, seeking funding to make that expansion a reality, and Arviat represents the latest chapter in this successful saga.

The program is a winner on a number of different fronts, not the least of which is its ability to help preserve Inuit custom and tradition. But it is its practical side which really pushes the program into the winner's circle.

Being able to produce wearable, comfortable and weather-beating clothing from start to finish in the Arctic is no small feat.

The sheer numbers of people submitting their names to these programs speaks volumes as to their popularity. And, judging by the results we've seen, the instructors hired by the KIA to deliver the programs have done a marvellous job.

It has come as somewhat of a surprise for many of these instructors to find out just how many of our longtime Kivalliq residents knew absolutely nothing about processing seal or caribou skins.

Should Dean, Makkigak and the rest of the KIA staff manage to obtain funding to continue offering and expanding the program, that will soon change.

The Reclaiming our Sinew project is a wonderful concept, one that took a great deal of time and effort to turn into a reality. Those at the KIA responsible for the hundreds of smiling faces of course participants and their family members should have the acknowledgement from our region on a job well done.

They deserve it.

Qujannamiik KIA. Pijariitsiaqpusi.

Waiting game

Editorial Comment
Maria Canton
Inuvik Drum

The Inuvik Alcohol Committee's decision to solicit oil and gas companies for support in re-starting the 30-day alcohol treatment program is a smart move. Now it's just a matter of the waiting for the petroleum giants to decide whether or not they will come on board.

The issue is a sensitive one that must be handled with finesse. No one wants the oil and gas companies to feel as though they are being targeted as the sole cause of substance abuse and alcoholism.

However, long-time residents haven't forgotten what happened last time Inuvik and surrounding communities celebrated the discovery of oil and gas in the region. The good times rolled with fat paycheques and jobs for everyone.

And then the good times dried up and the money stopped flowing, but the alcohol didn't.

We all know alcohol abuse exists on its own, without mass exploration for resources, but we certainly can't turn a blind eye to the fact that the problems here are fueled by booms in the oil and gas sector. The alcohol committee is only asking for "collaboration and partnering" from the companies in their endeavour to put programs in place before the good times hit again in earnest.

And even if the companies firmly believe they have nothing to do with the problems, it wouldn't hurt for them to kick a few dollars into community programs, after all, they do reside up here for half of the year.

Clear ideas

Congratulations to the Inuvik Recycling Society for putting together a master plan and successfully securing funding to begin a recycling program in Inuvik.

Door-to-door pick up of recyclables goes hand-in-hand with the local beautification projects.

The society couldn't have made recycling any easier, even for those who have never considered it before. The clear bags will be sent in the mail with an information brochure, people will simply have to throw recyclables into the bag and put it out with the trash. Voila, a piece a cake.

Now let's have everyone give it fair shake and fill their clear bags instead of their trash cans.

The power to make decisions

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

The Deh Cho region is, essentially, withstanding an economic drought.

First Nations hold the authority to permit economic development projects, but do they hold that authority individually as communities?

The Nahanni Butte seismic project has thrown the spotlight on that very issue.

Nahanni Butte Chief Leon Konisenta and his council have endorsed the project. Yet Deh Cho First Nations grand chief Michael Nadli has spoken in negative terms about the circumstances of the deal.

Nadli's comments are based on the political mandate he has been given at previous leadership assemblies. His role, he said, is to look out for the best interests of the entire Deh Cho region, even if that means he must, at times, oppose a decision made by a particular chief and council.

In reference to the Nahanni Butte seismic project, he asked, "At what point do you weigh 10 jobs (against) opening up 20,000 hectares of land?"

Granted, Nahanni Butte's deal includes other benefits such as a cash contribution to a community development trust fund and a percentage of profit from seismic data sales. Yet Nadli maintained that only resource development agreements with the federal government will truly guarantee meaningful benefits for the region's First Nations.

Nadli said he feels the Deh Cho does not presently possess the capacity or expertise to properly take on oil and gas projects. However, he said DCFN leadership has made economic development a priority. Therefore a regional economic development committee has been formed. The prospect of a Deh Cho development corporation and the bidding process for oil and gas will be among the items for discussion at June's Deh Cho Assembly in Kakisa. The committee will be looking beyond just oil and gas initiatives to such things as tourism, agriculture and hydro-electricity, according to Nadli. A diversified economy, with an eye on the environment, is imperative, he said.

This is all being done in conjunction with the region's political goal of attaining self-government. It's all dependent on the rate at which the federal government moves.

Nadli contends that all of this is consistent with the course set by the region's First Nations as a collective, a course renewed or altered accordingly during every leadership assembly. Unless leaders and elders decide otherwise, it must be concluded that Michael Nadli is indeed reflecting the wishes of the majority.

In 1993, a strong-willed Harry Deneron sought support from a different DCFN regime for oil and gas exploration and development in Fort Liard. At that time, the fledgling DCFN organization was still fighting for recognition from the federal government. The political scene has changed dramatically since then.

Nevertheless, the DCFN's implied threat of impeding a Mackenzie Valley pipeline as leverage in self-government negotiations is a bold move. If the pipeline is delayed, it is likely to draw intense pressure from other groups itching to prosper from the project. That will test the solidarity of the First Nations in the Deh Cho, who want to benefit from the pipeline - but on their own terms.