Editorial page

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Trampling rights in the name of security

The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States were unprecedented. It has caused us all to examine our lives and re-evaluate the freedoms we take for granted.

We don't really mind the extra time spent in airport security lineups. The questions about what's packed in your suitcase are understandable. Need to see photo identification? No problem.

In response to the new terror threat, the federal government has reacted with a sweeping anti-terror bill. It not only defines terrorism, but broadens police powers of surveillance and arrest, and cracks down on those who raise money for groups with links to terrorism.

Unfortunately, we only have the government's word that the legislation won't last forever and won't be used as a template to deal with other crises.

In Alberta, the provincial government has proposed a new high-tech identify card. It would be harder to counterfeit than a driver's licence, and could store sensitive personal data like fingerprints or DNA information.

That kind of card and the information it contains could be used for far more than just identification. It could be used to track a person's movements and the digital information would be vulnerable to theft. Police could use it to investigate crime.

If you're caught without it, would you be subject to arrest?

In this age of terror, the temptation to use the technology and information we have is understandable.

But the wisdom to know when to stop, and personal rights, freedoms and privacy, gets lost along the way.

Wanted: a home for city artists

Does Yellowknife need a public arts centre?

Artists say it does. Many residents would probably agree.

But before there's any talk of the city paying the cost of turning the 63-year-old Hudson's Bay building into an arts facility, it's critical to know exactly what's needed.

Using the Old Town heritage building is a romantic idea. An arts centre there could bring new life to the area and become a focal point for the city arts community, residents and tourists alike.

It could provide space for artists to work, put up displays, hold sales and meetings.

An important issue is who would foot the bill for turning the building into what the artists want.

A feasibility study is the right next step. Figure out the level of interest and the need. Determine the cost of bringing the building up to code for insulation, plumbing, and wiring. Is there enough parking?

Figure out who will pay for the renovations and the bills to operate the facility. It could be better to build such a facility on public land, or in a building the city already owns.

A very important step would be to prepare a business plan for such a centre.

Could it be a break-even operation where user fees, funds generated from night and summer arts classes for youths and adults, and commission from sale of works by member artists help keep the lights burning and the building heated?

Even though a disparate amount is spent on sports over arts, that inequity will only be overcome by hard work by the entire arts community.

So get together, get your plans in place and come forward with a well-researched case that presents realistic, affordable alternatives.

That's the only way to make the arts centre dream a reality.

We remember so we never forget

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We encourage everyone around the Kivalliq Region to attend their community's Remembrance Day service this Sunday, Nov. 11.

The ongoing problems in the Middle East since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States illustrate just how fragile peace in our time can be.

Each and every day of a peaceful existence is a wonderful gift to be deeply treasured. We do not enjoy that gift accidentally, nor does it come without a price. Thousands upon thousands of our fellow Canadians made the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy our relatively peaceful existence.

Looking at the chaos around the world today should give us even more reason to stop and reflect upon just how lucky we really are.

Our veterans from the last great war are aging. It won't be all that much longer before none remain to remind us of the horrors of war. That makes honouring our veterans on Remembrance Day even more important.

Take a moment this week to look at the little poppy on your collar and reflect upon its meaning. Silently give thanks to the men and women who died on the battlefield so that we may live in peace. Quietly pray that none of our children ever have to witness the same horrors to preserve our way of life.

But, most of all, vow never to forget. Never forget how valuable our way of life truly is. Never forget the price paid by so many to keep our nation great and our society free.

Vow to never forget how many people around our planet have never known the true taste of freedom.

Never forget the atrocities that can be committed against our fellow man when freedom fails and oppressors rule.

Hopefully, as a people and a nation, if we never forget our past mistakes we will never have to repeat them. As we gather together this weekend to remember, our greatest allies in avoiding the horror of war in the future is our fear. Our fear that ... Lest we forget.

Use helmets, and their straps

Editorial Comment
Malcolm Gorrill
Inuvik Drum

A snowmobile accident which occurred this past Sunday is a timely reminder of the importance of helmets, and their proper use.

The two young people involved were wearing helmets, but did not have them strapped on properly. As a result, their helmets went flying off, just when they needed them most.

Luckily, both escaped with minor injuries, but this should serve to remind people -- especially youngsters -- that straps aren't on helmets for decoration.

As it happens, for safety reasons Inuvik Town Council recently made it a requirement for those riding bicycles, scooters and in-line skates on sidewalks, roads and town property to wear helmets.

It was pointed out that this bylaw may be hard to enforce, and that the town's bylaw officers have plenty on their plate already. But it was also noted, correctly, that having a bylaw in effect will mean that most people will likely comply most of the time.

This is where leading by example can play a huge role, especially where young people and adults are concerned, as youngsters often take their cue from adults on things like this.

A good compliance rate with this new helmet requirement might also help improve the issue of helmet use by snowmobile users, a requirement that has already been in place.

Town councillors have noted that when bylaw officers try to flag down someone on a snowmobile not using a helmet, they often just speed away. Hopefully those who do this will realize before long that such behaviour is not cool or groovy, it's just flirting with disaster.

And while on the subject of new regulations by town council, drivers should note that in most parts of Inuvik the speed limit is now 35 kilometres per hour.

A milestone is reached

Congratulations are extended to those involved now or in the past with the Ingamo Hall Friendship Centre, which just celebrated its 25th anniversary.

The hall is host to a lot of gatherings and programs, and plays a big role within the community.

Eating right

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

It's safe to say most of us don't want to die prematurely. We are therefore very conscientious when it comes to eating contaminated food. So when we initially find out fish from NWT lakes contain mercury, we get an inclination to scratch it off the menu.

The presentations that the contaminants specialists made in Fort Simpson, Wrigley, Jean Marie River and Fort Providence last week were very informative. They let us know there's no reason to be alarmed over mercury in fish or cadmium in caribou, but we should be cautious just the same.

As Erica Myles, of the health protection unit, said we are exposed to contaminants every day. They are in the air, water and soil. Fortunately, our immune systems filter out the vast majority of what little contamination we encounter.

The most telling comparison during the presentation was one involving smokers. People who smoke half a pack of cigarettes a day will inhale a half litre of tobacco tars into their lungs each year. On the other hand, the average person will only consume a teaspoon of contaminants from traditional foods over an entire lifetime. Remember, many store-bought foods contain preservatives, which are also questionable for our health. So the important thing, obviously, is to keep things in perspective. Variety and moderation in our diets is the key.

Also relating to the presentations, bio-chemist Lyle Lockhart showed the audience a book with pictures of a normal-sized, fleshy-coloured fish liver as opposed to another liver that was red and shrunken in size. He explained that fish tend to draw fat from their livers during spawning, causing the liver the shrink and change colour. Small, red livers in fish could also be a sign that they are starving, he noted.

Quite often people make the assumption that anything seemingly abnormal in wildlife is due to pollution, Lockhart said. For example, some people blame oil development activity at Norman Wells as the reason for odd-looking or deformed fish livers, he said.

He makes a point worth remembering. We live in an age when we are wary of industrial activity's effects on the environment. There have been numerous proven incidents worldwide of unscrupulous companies knowingly polluting waterways and land. However, we need samples to be taken and studies to be conducted before we know with certainty what causes apparent defects in wildlife. Unfounded assumptions are just that, unfounded.

Let it snow

The Deh Cho was clobbered with snow early this year. Friday's blizzard added significantly to the already mounting banks. Motorists were getting stuck everywhere. I was a "pushee" and a "pusher" on Friday as I tried to keep the truck on the few streets that were plowed early. It feels good to get a helping hand when it's needed, and equally good to help someone else along.