Editorial page

Friday, February 22, 2002

Private mall, public square

The run-in Kendra Codner had earlier this month with Centurion Security at Centre Square Mall puts the rights of the public up against the rights of private ownership.

The 18-year-old Codner was forced to leave the mall when guards judged her to be loitering.

Centre Square Mall is a private partnership, with the upper mall owned by the Yellowknife Inn, while Consolidated Properties Ltd. of Calgary owns the lower mall.

In 1976, in the case of Harrison v. Carswell, the Supreme Court of Canada decided mall owners can legally order people off their private property. Those who refuse to leave can be charged with trespassing.

That's the law but let's look at another law, that of business.

The more people you have going by your door, the greater chance they will walk through it. The more people that come through it, the greater chance they will become a customer. The more customers the better. That's what malls are for.

As we said, customers are people and research shows they want more than a bunch of stores under a roof. According to Rutgers University political scientist Kevin Mattson, they want a place to socialize.

That's a message that Centre Square Mall isn't buying. In a climate where temperatures can dip below -40 C this time of year, the mall has taken an increasingly hard line on loiterers.

In 1996, the fountain was removed. Two years later, most of the pay telephones were removed. Now, uniformed Centurion Security guards patrol the mall, zeroing in on loitering teenagers.

We understand the mall's problem but their solution may make the mall uncomfortable for many more than loiterers.

How about security staff in suits rather than uniforms? Why not more events that attract families looking to socialize?

Then the real question: Is loitering a bigger problem when the mall is full or empty? We suspect when it's empty.

Price of competition

The phone rings late Saturday evening, it's a friend inviting you to a barbecue.

You accept, hang up the phone, and decide a quick nap is in order. But summer's heat leaves snoozing for much longer than planned, and the only liquor store in town closed 20 minutes ago.

But privatization of liquor sales in Yellowknife means the chances of that scenario happening are ever declining.

We pay more for competition but the price doesn't compare to what we now get in convenience and service with an additional outlet. And that may only be the beginning. Picking up a cold six-pack at the 24-hour convenience store may be a possibility in the future. And more competition means lower prices.

So if you whine about paying a little more now for your wine, consider the plight of those in the neighbouring capital of Nunavut. Liquor costs for the barbecue means no triple-grade steaks will touch your grill; it's hotdogs all the way. Iqaluit residents have to apply for a liquor permit, fax it to Yellowknife, and then pay for freight costs to ship it.

You do the math, and think about the cost of that the next time you crack open a cold one.

Language act must be planned carefully

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We agree completely with Mike Shouldice's contention that language and culture are inseparable.

The campus director for Nunavut Arctic College in Rankin Inlet raised some valid points about what Nunavut's new Language Act should look like when eventually passed into legislation (please see our story on page 3).

However, the Nunavut government would be well advised to tread carefully with our new Language Act and avoid drawing comparisons to Quebec's Bill 101.

The Language Act should focus on implementing standards to help preserve Inuktitut as part of Inuit culture. Its primary purpose should be to help protect Inuktitut to ensure its survival, and be an invaluable resource in helping Inuit with their education and job opportunities.

It should not, however, be so stringent as to retard the development of tourism or dissuade companies from wanting to do business in Nunavut.

The comparison to Bill 101 is ill-conceived. First and foremost because French is one of Canada's two official languages. Second, the province of Quebec pours more money into the federal coffers in a year than Nunavut will be capable of doing for decades.

Even with those two points, Quebec often faces business hurdles due to the language barrier Bill 101 has the ability to create.

Make no mistake about it: how we're perceived by the rest of Canada will go a long way in aiding or inhibiting our future development as a territory -- whether we like it or not.

One national daily has already written a scathing editorial on the move towards a Nunavut Language Act, which drew a negative reaction from a good number of Canadians towards the initiative.

It's daunting enough that we are constantly looked upon in some areas as the nation's poor cousin, always with our hands out for more funding from Ottawa.

Should we add arrogance to that viewpoint, we accomplish nothing but to put another arrow in the quiver of those who see Nunavut as nothing more than the creation of the biggest welfare state in the free world.

We, of course, know we will prove our worth to the rest of the nation as time goes by. Nunavut will eventually come to symbolize the success of aboriginal self-government. We will see the day when we are more to Canada than simply a show of sovereignty in the North and another colour in our nation's rainbow of cultural diversity.

But we must reach our objectives as harmoniously as we can with the rest of our country. Preserving Inuktitut and defining culture should be a top priority with the Nunavut government -- as should projecting our image as proud Canadians.

Big step, but a long way to go yet

Editorial Comment
Malcolm Gorrill
Inuvik Drum

A single step does not a journey make.

This week's plebiscite results are good news for proponents of the proposed family centre in Inuvik. Ratepayers have given the go ahead to a proposal in which the town would borrow up to $5 million to help finance its construction.

Before long residents may be able to go swimming in January, and take advantage of the other amenities planned for the facility.

However, this is just one step in what would be a very long process, should the family centre idea come to fruition.

In fact, arguably for organizers the hard part is just beginning. Now it's time for specifics. More detailed plans and drawings have to be done, along with more consultations with the public.

Over the coming weeks and months people will try to arrive at more exact figures for constructing and operating the facility. Ideally organizers will receive many suggestions on how to keep costs down, as well as other ideas on how to make the family centre truly a place for all residents.

Fundraising the target of $1 million will also be a challenge. It will require a lot of dedicated people giving up potentially hours and hours of their free time to plan and host events and other ways to raise money.

What remains to be seen is whether the estimated costs remain accurate as more details are worked out, and that residents can afford such a centre.

That being said, such a centre could be a real boost for the entire community, providing benefits for residents and making the town more attractive to others.

The idea of a year-round pool in Inuvik has floated around for years. The current family centre committee owes its origins directly from a public meeting held last April to measure the level of interest in such a facility.

Buildings like the family centre do not spring into being overnight, nor without a lot of effort.

Special week being marked

Local youth are helping to mark Scout/Guide Week.

Both are very worthwhile organizations, and there are clubs spread out all over the world.

From the time I have spent around the local groups, the youngsters seem to learn a lot of useful information while having a lot of fun along the way.

Sooner or later

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

Certainty. That's the word industry uses before they agree to set up shop. Certainty means the welcome mat has to be rolled out -- political approval is at the heart of it.

Like pregnancy, certainty is an absolute. You can't be somewhat certain, either you are or you are not. Simply put, the Deh Cho lacks certainty, at least in the industrial sense.

As industry-types explain, investors don't want to spend their money in a place where they're chances of return are hindered by resistance.

Even though lands outside of Fort Liard are not open for oil and gas exploration (or mining), last week's Deh Cho resource development conference once again proved that this region has a wealth of attractive resource prospects. Had the conference preceded a call for bids on parcels of land, there would undoubtedly have been a plethora of oil and gas executives mingling among the crowd.

That was not the case, however. Last week's conference was an information exchange, primarily between First Nations, business and government. There were some industry representatives who made an effort to get a foot in the door, but not too many. They know the time still isn't right.

The Deh Cho First Nations are pursuing an ambitious objective in self-government. But it's a goal that is currently not compatible with development. On the contrary, the DCFN is using the promise of development as leverage to gain an advantage in negotiations with the federal government. How much longer until that issue is resolved, at least through an interim agreement?

Fort Liard leaders and business managers are warning that the DCFN will cause the rest of the Deh Cho communities to lose out on opportunities associated with a Mackenzie Valley pipeline and other projects.

By hosting a conference like the one last week, the Liidlii Kue First Nation is, at least, demonstrating that it is willing to listen.

Putting the wheels in motion for training programs and helping to get local businesses established are essential. Communities must be in a position to strike when the iron finally gets hot.

LKFN Chief Rita Cli made a strong statement when she said the people will decide what actions should be taken.

She also said communities will decide on their own development projects.

Without forsaking the aims of the Deh Cho Process, there is room for First Nations to build a workforce, business partnerships and the infrastructure needed to be prepared for future development.