Yellowknife Mayor Gord Van Tighem politely listened to two Falun Gong practitioners from Toronto he met at the airport earlier this month, but declined to sign their petition expressing concern about the persecution of their fellow adherents in China.
Barb Wyness was incorrectly identified as Union of Northern Workers president in an Aug. 22 story. She is the UNW's public relations officer. Georgina Rolt-Kaiser is president. Yellowknifer apologizes for the error.
The mayor told Connie Chipkar and Pam McLennan that he was only vaguely familiar with Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa. It's an ancient form of qigong, a spiritual practice based on principles of truthfulness, compassion and tolerance and the refinement of the body and mind through special exercises and meditation. Its modern incarnation dates to May 1992 in China.
The Chinese government considers it a dangerous criminal cult and outlawed the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization in July 1999. It has been cracking down, imprisoning and persecuting practitioners ever since.
If all this seems like a long way from the municipal concerns of a Yellowknife mayor, it isn't. Welcome to the global village where issues don't neatly respect national boundaries or distinctions between levels of government.
More than 95 municipalities across Canada -- including such hotbeds of radicalism as Morinville, Alta., Melville, Sask. and Bishop's Falls, Nfld. -- proclaimed Falun Dafa Day, Week or Month between last December and May. Clearly, municipal concerns in the new millennium will range wider than sewers and sidewalks. Citizens are demanding as much whether their local councillors are eager to embrace a larger worldview or not.
That's not to say infrastructure issues won't still be the bread and butter of municipal politics; they will.
But the menu, for better or worse, has become larger.
We wish Mayor Van Tighem well in his research on the Falun Gong. He's going to need such information now and in the future.
Federal civil servants have a legitimate complaint with their employer, which at the end of the day, is every Canadian taxpayer. The question is not whether they deserve more than the two per cent a year Ottawa is offering, but how much more we can afford.
Comparisons with the raises that politicians and senior executives have enjoyed over the past few years serve little purpose. What we pay politicians is a political question. What senior civil servants make, meanwhile, is often a matter of keeping up the private-sector Joneses.
Equal treatment is not the issue; attracting quality managers is.
Still, a series of conciliation reports suggests that our civil servants deserve a raise of about three per cent a year. It's not the five per cent they're asking for, but it's not an insult, either.
The arrival of the new school year is always an exciting time. Children are anxious to don the new clothes, which have often hung in their closets for weeks, and break in the new pens and paper that fill their pencil boxes and binders.
Next Wednesday, they will get to do just that. Aug. 29 is the first day of school and hundreds of Yellowknife's youngest will head back to the halls of learning.
It's also an important time for drivers. Children will be intent on getting to school, reconnecting with old friends and making new one, and may not remember the rules of the road.
Be ready for the unexpected: children darting out and crossing streets at unexpected places. Take extra care in school zones and let's make the start of school a safe one.
I found it more than a little interesting to listen to the Kataujaq Society's director, Evelyn Thordarson, make reference to the fact the society is here to bring families together, not tear them apart.
Her need to stress that point is no doubt brought on by the fact the society operates the Safe Shelter for Battered Women in Rankin Inlet.
For the past three years I have covered the society's annual picnic, attended its annual fundraising auction and visited its day-care centre numerous times.
Now the society has been instrumental in launching an early childhood program in the hamlet.
With all the good I've seen the Kataujaq Society do, I find it almost mind-boggling that its director would feel obligated to point out its main focus is to bring families together.
So, what is it about being the one entity in the region to operate a safe shelter that prompts such a referral to self-justification?
The hard part to swallow is that it's a stigma. One which suggests that by offering a safe haven for abused women and/or their children, you are somehow contributing to the breakup of a family.
In this day and age, the twisted logic of such thinking is reprehensible and it is sad to realize an organization which does so much to better its community still feels the need to justify itself.
Since opening the doors to its day care more than 20 years ago, the Kataujaq Society has been caring for people of all ages in the Kivalliq region.
To bring hope to those who often feel hopeless and afford them a new opportunity at happiness is to be commended, not subjected to draconian standards from a time when "obey" was still part of a women's wedding vows.
The Kataujaq Society convinced this reporter years ago that it's main focus is to bring families together.
And, by offering an alternative to violence, that is exactly what it does -- for violence, in any form, does not merit standing within the family structure.
Caring for and educating children, counselling those who may require a helping hand along the way and offering an alternative to abuse -- it certainly sounds to us like the Kataujaq Society is focused on the family unit!
Inuvik residents will soon have the chance to see just how fit they are (or aren't).
A series of fitness appraisals are being organized by community health representative Alfred Moses, in conjunction with the physiotherapy department. Those hardy enough to take an appraisal will undergo a series of quick tests and will have the results explained to them.
Some people might discover they're not as strong, or have as much endurance, as they thought -- and have to endure ribbing from friends as a result -- but Moses pointed out the appraisals are part of efforts to encourage residents to become more active and live healthier lifestyles.
Plans are in the works to set up fitness groups in the community, with the idea being that people conduct an activity together, like walking or running. It's a good idea. Meeting at a set time week after week could encourage people who might not otherwise exercise regularly, and also combines exercise with a social event. Or as the old adage states, misery loves company.
Meetings serve useful purpose
Two community consultation meetings have been held in Inuvik in recent weeks pertaining to plans for the coming winter in terms of seismic and drilling programs.
Such meetings are useful. Not only do they give oil and gas industry firms the chance to explain their plans, those in attendance have the chance to voice any concerns or questions they might have.
In these recent meetings, as well as those held last fall, some good discussions have broke out over many topics, ranging from caring for the environment, to drug and alcohol policies.
It all serves to give people a better understanding of what's taking place, and can give industry representatives some food for thought as well.
New training program welcome
This September will hold special meaning for some young people across the Delta.
Starting this fall the Beaufort Delta Education Council is launching the Youth Entry Level Skills program. This will give high school students, and other young people up to the age of 29, the chance to gets skills based training in various fields.
The program is a good reminder that in today's world, education and training doesn't stop once high school is completed. It also serves as another example of the positive partnership that is possible between educators and industry.
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson
I don't like math. I failed algebra in high school. That being said, the following exercise in arithmetic is still worth reviewing before heading out to public meetings in the Deh Cho on Sept. 13 and 14 regarding the GNWT's proposed highway toll.
According to deputy finance minister Margaret Melhorn, the GNWT has calculated the following figures on the impact of the highway toll: a typical household of three people who consumes 2,000 litres of gasoline per year, 21,000 kilograms of groceries annually and 3,200 litres of heating fuel per year will pay an additional $38 yearly for gasoline, $50 for groceries and $60 for heating fuel. That amounts to $148 in extra expenses due to the proposed highway toll.
The government's attempt to offset higher prices is through an increase in the cost-of-living tax credit.
A wage earner with an income of $48,000 will gain an additional $132 each year. Those fortunate enough to be pulling in a salary of $66,000 will see their cost-of-living tax credit rise by $177, the maximum amount. Dual income households may actually realize a substantial windfall.
On the other hand, there are low-income families that will undoubtedly consume more than accounted for in the aforementioned example, and will receive a cost-of-living tax credit well below the maximum.
The extra expenses attributed to the highway toll don't take into account a variety of other goods and services that will become more costly due to the highway toll. Everything that is transported by truck to Fort Simpson from south of the NWT border is expected to increase by 2.6 cents per kilogram. If you're expecting to make some big-ticket purchases in the future, you're going to have to dig deeper in your pocket.
Maybe the math has your head spinning; welcome to the club. Hopefully we'll see you at the public meetings next month.
Remember, if the public and business community express enough opposition, there's a chance the government will back away from the proposed toll. The hotel tax never became a reality. This latest scheme could wind up in the same file.
Driving in the North comes with a risk attached, especially for those from down south. You'll notice in the top brief on page 3 that two men from Saskatchewan barely escaped with their lives after smacking right into four bison.
Sure, there are warning signs posted but many people disregard traffic signs, particularly at night, to their own peril. Bison don't reflect very well in headlights when you're approaching them at approximately 100 km/h in the dark. Try to keep the mighty beasts in mind.