Editorial page

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Regulating escort services in Yellowknife

When it comes to dealing with escort services, Mayor Gord Van Tighem is on the wrong track -- one that could rightly see the city wind up on the losing end of a court challenge some day.

In a story on Page 18 in today's Yellowknifer, Van Tighem is quoted as saying, his "inclination is not to allow it (escort services).

"If it's strongly the will of the community that a certain industry not be here, and if legislating is the way to do it, then let's do it and get it over with," Van Tighem says.

Bad idea. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled quite clearly in 1985 that only the federal government has the right to legislate in the area of public morals. Municipalities may not use zoning or other bylaws to do that, the court said in quashing such a bylaw.

Perhaps the mayor should be willing to put his own money where his mouth is and pony up for legal costs if the city passes such a bylaw that is challenged.

The issue arose most recently here last fall when Angie Fehr, of Thunder Bay, Ont., tried to open an escort service on 51st Street. Originally granted a permit for a home-based business, the permit was quashed on a technicality. You can't run a home-based business in Yellowknife if you don't live in the home.

This wasn't the first time the issue had arisen here and it won't be the last. Ten years earlier, Yellowknife Escort Services operated legally, albeit briefly, in a residential area of Old Town.

Coun. Blake Lyons is closer to the mark when he says, "Personally, I'm opposed to escort services...[but] the law is the law and I can't override laws with my personal views."

What Yellowknife can do is take a look at how municipal bylaws in Winnipeg and Edmonton deal with escort services. Limiting such businesses to the downtown core; mandating public health unit inspections; and charging licensing fees in the $3,000 to $4,000 range are all legitimate land-use zoning tools. That's where council might productively focus its energy.

Think big and beautiful

Talk of a convention centre for Yellowknife is indeed timely.

The city is enjoying the benefits of a robust mining and exploration industry.

While the Americans may foolishly try to torpedo plans for a Mackenzie Valley pipeline, the oil and gas business is only going to get better. So the future is looking good and what's lacking is a grand gathering place that adequately reflects the magnificence of the North.

As with all convention centres, only big governments - federal and provincial - can afford to build them. That means our MP, Ethel-Blondin Andrew, will have to be sold on the idea which, based on her funding track record, should not be hard.

Territorial MLAs will want to know, quite rightly, what's in it for their communities. The answer is tourism. Yellowknife is a small sample of what the rest of the NWT has to offer hundreds of thousands of tourists worldwide. A convention centre could be the front door for fishing in Wha Ti, whitewater kayaking in Fort Smith, travelling down the mighty Mackenzie River to the sprawling Beaufort Delta, battling monster trout on Great Bear Lake.

We must start beating the bushes for financing, starting with federal infrastructure funding grants.

As for the centre location, only two suggested offer a view worthy of such a centre - Twin Pine Hill and the Bartum/School Draw site. We must capitalize on being beside one of the largest, deepest and most beautiful freshwater lakes in the world. Choosing a site that didn't involve the Big Lake would gut any marketing effort.

If people are going to come to Yellowknife in search of a unique convention experience, a corrugated steel box downtown is going to fall far short, for both the potential tourists and the rest of the NWT.

Information key to marine safety

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We can only hope the Char River Bridge is but one small topic of discussion come May 8. On that day, representatives from the Arctic office of the Canadian Coast Guard's Central and Arctic Region will be in Rankin Inlet. The group will meet with hamlet council and the SAO throughout the day, before holding a public meeting that evening.

There are a number of topics on the agenda to be discussed. The Coast Guard representatives will introduce a number of issues pertaining to environmental response, including a number of training opportunities.

However, the flap over the Char River Bridge is symptomatic of one issue that will be discussed, and that's the outlining of the Canadian Coast Guard's roles and responsibilities in the North.

The fact the hamlet of Rankin Inlet still has not received any information outlining the proper way for them to proceed at Char River should come as no great surprise to anyone.

One of the main beefs of Kivalliq residents, when it comes to water and boating regulations, has long been the lack of information in the region. For the most part, the Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans Canada have been more willing to enforce various acts than they have been to provide information on them.

The May 8 meeting will be a perfect time for local boaters and fishers to get answers to their many questions. It will also be a perfect opportunity to stress the need for better information in our region concerning marine acts and regulations.

In September of 2000, Victor Santos-Pedro, the marine regional director for the Prairie and Northern regions of Transport Canada, went on record in Kivalliq News, saying his department was looking at ways to convey better information to Northern boaters on proper certification for hauling cargo.

At the time, Pedro was addressing concerns surrounding the Avataq tragedy. And, while shortly thereafter boats were turned away from Churchill for not having proper certification, precious little in the way of information has ever perforated the region.

The Canadian Coast Guard has undertaken a number of positive steps in the Kivalliq during the past few years.

The next one would be to use its influence to ensure Kivalliq boaters and fishers receive the proper information regarding marine operations.

And, more importantly, that they are shown how to implement the requirements to ensure safety on the water for everyone.

Caribou soup for the Delta's soul

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

The Happy Valley Campground-elder's facility looks like a done deal.

By all accounts, this elder's facility looks like the first phase of a multi-phased dwelling that will eventually take over a unique part of Inuvik.

It's been a campground since the first settlers arrived in East 3 and those first visitors were thankful for the quiet comfort and beautiful view afforded at Happy Valley.

As the baby boomers come of age the campground will become an old folk's home and our visitors and future settlers will have to find a new place to settle, but that's not the worst of it.

My biggest worry is that the housing corporation is going to erect one of their patented cracker box structures in the valley, that will have the aesthetic value of another row house or that big green box Nova's just erected on Ptarmigan Hill.

There is enough of that camp-style mentality in the NWT and if tourism is a real goal here, we should be looking at what the Yukon has done in their downtowns.

People come to the North expecting to see their Hollywood vision of log cabins and igloos. We couldn't and shouldn't give them the same thing here, but we should be forward-thinking enough to plan some eye-candy for the industry.

No, we can't give the tourists the gold rush kisses and sour dough dreams of our Yukon neighbours, but we can sure build on the rich history of the Delta's original people, the fur trade, the whale hunt, and, more recently, the oil and gas industry.

I'm not naive enough to think that tourism is a force that will drive a town's economy. My hometown put all their eggs in that basket and now Kimberley, B.C. is a great place to ski or to get a minimum wage job, but you can't even buy a pair of socks there.

Like Nellie said last week about the muskox deal -- good economics is all about diversity. A strong economy has many components and when the oil and gas are sucked from the ground, Inuvik will need all of them.

A new friend here told me she feels Inuvik lacks the soul of a real Northern town like Aklavik.

Sure, it's new. It's artificial and government-created, but it's here to stay. Let's be forward-thinking enough give it some soul. It's up to the town's planners and those of us who call this place home to instil that soul.

The elder's facility will house the Delta's living history. It seems to me that would be a perfect place to also house some non-living history.

A tastefully-built museum to go along with the facility would be a perfect place for tourists to go and relive the rich history of the Delta. A fire pit area where elders could share tea, bannock and stories of the way things were would also fit in nicely.

The memories visitors take home with them will be what leaves them to decide whether or not they'll revisit the area. If they remember row houses and cracker boxes or lodges and teepees will make a great impact on a great renewable resource.

We need not look any further than Yellowknife to see how not to build a downtown. The Atco trailer makes a practical work camp, but do we really need to see highrises erected in their honour?

Some risks pay off

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

A heap of good advice was dispensed at last week's Youth Business Development conference.

Successful entrepreneurs from Fort Simpson, elsewhere in the NWT and across Canada shared pearls of wisdom based on their own invaluable experience. A few of the recurring messages were that hard work, persistence and education are all needed on the road to prosperity.

There was little variance in terms of the hard work. Each guest speaker told of frequently working into the wee hours of the morning and on weekends, particularly in the early stages of a new venture. One of the struggles that many of them alluded to was trying to strike a balance between constantly working and spending time with their families. Quite often, their families wound up on the back burner.

However, many of the speakers pointed out that their goal is to achieve a level of financial independence that will allow them to be with their families the majority of the time.

Even though most of the entrepreneurs stressed the importance of education, not all of them had it. That fact could send a message in itself: if you are dedicated and determined, you can succeed without a formal education. While that may be true in some cases, Brendan Bell, co-owner of two Yellowknife coffee shops and now a Yellowknife MLA, made an excellent point on the topic of eduction.

While sitting across from a banker in hopes of obtaining a loan, he suggested, an entrepreneur with a good business plan who has persevered through four years of university is more likely to be granted a loan than one who has not.

On another topic, one youth delegate asked bed-and-breakfast owner Carolla Cunningham a thought-provoking question about friends and relatives expecting free lodging or use of her teepees at no charge. Cunningham, who had just touched on traditional values (sharing being a primary one) in her presentation, acknowledged that there's a fine line between retaining ties to culture and allowing others to take advantage of you. She said she uses a barter system as a compromise.

For example, if her relatives are coming from the North and expect to stay at the B&B, she asks them to bring caribou meat or moose hide in exchange. That's not only good business sense, but it won't shouldn't leave either party feeling shortchanged.

The Youth Business Development Conference embodied plenty of inspirational accounts. Yet it wasn't all one success story after another. There were admissions of failed business ventures. It comes with the territory.

Even though many entrepreneurs may have nerves of steel, they still get that queasy feeling at the prospect of financial doom. Yet most soldier on. They're a hardy bunch and our communities wouldn't be as well served without them.


A story in April 5th's Yellowknifer, DIAND cuts GNWT loose, misquoted Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Robert Nault.

What the minister actually said was: "There's one issue that needs to be turned around and that is the politics of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development as relate to economic development. It's structured to be mainly for aboriginal groups."

Yellowknifer regrets the error.

In the article, "Full Days Ahead" (Yellowknifer, April 12) incorrect information appeared. Information packages for parents interested in enroling their children in full-day kindergarten class will be available at Ecole St. Joseph and Weledeh Catholic school April 16-19 and April 22-23. A registration and parent orientation meeting will take place at Weledeh Catholic school gymnasium, April 23, at 7 p.m.