Editorial page

Monday, April 01, 2002

Talk is cheap

The story in last week's News/North told how Aimee Clark, a single mother in Fort Smith, quit a job as director of finance at the health and social services board to stay at home with her children.

With only $577 from the territorial government's income assistance program to feed her and her four children each month, she found living conditions punishing.

So she wrote a 22-page report pointing out the program's flaws. Two examples were the clawbacks if she received income from other sources and no money for clothes, books, or sports equipment. "I wish society would value stay-at-home moms," she said.

And that's the point. Income assistance is not designed to raise healthy children. Indian and Northern Affairs calculated a "healthy" food basket for a family of four costs $900. Obviously, territorial bureaucrats know the numbers and are taking direction from the MLAs.

When Yellowknife South MLA Brendan Bell saw Clark's report, his heart was touched. Emotion is one thing, the bottom line is another. He said there wasn't enough money to fix the problems her report highlighted.

We must note, however, when it came to debate over MLA pensions several weeks ago, the main consideration was how much MLAs sacrificed for public life. The bottom line came second because the goals were different.

So what is the goal of income assistance?

An estimated 7.2 per cent of Northerners (2,700) are collecting it, down from 10.6 in 1996. This year's budget comes in at just over $18.6 million. This doesn't include the money that goes into giving these same people housing.

But what kind of investment is it if families are not healthy? Do we want single mothers to focus on their children less, and getting a job more? Do we want to, or can we, discourage one-parent families, which have risen from a little over 13 per cent of families in 1981 to 16 per cent in 1996?

If other MLAs agree with Bell that the problems Clark pointed out are real but the government doesn't have the cash to fix them, then the first thing to consider is ending clawbacks and allowing people to find extra income.

If nothing else, the goal should be healthy families.

Proper protection for teens

The next time the Northwest Territories hosts the Arctic Winter Games, they should follow the lead of Pauktuutit: help kids practise safer sex.

While hundreds of teenagers flowed through Iqaluit for the 2002 Arctic Winter Games, the Canadian Inuit HIV/AIDS Network handed out almost 20,000 condoms with the outer wrappers representing five different country food flavours.

The project sure caught the attention of teens. The campaign was a bit goofy -- something teenagers appreciate -- and broke down barriers that often prevent young people from using birth control.

And Northern youth need more information about protection. According to a 1996 GNWT study, kids as young as Grade 7 were having sex. By Grade 9 or 10, about 60 per cent of aboriginal and 35 per cent of non-aboriginal students were sexually active.

In 1999, the NWT had a rate of 870.1 sexually transmitted diseases per 100,000 people, compared to the national rate of 123.8.

Education is the only way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and spread of STDs. The Pauktuutit campaign was able to educate way more youth than your ordinary classroom lesson.

Way to go, Iqaluit

Iqaluit sure pulled it off. Thanks to the host society and many hardworking volunteers, the 2002 Arctic Winter Games was a smashing success.

Despite questions about whether Iqaluit's infrastructure could handle so many guests, no major problems arose during the games week.

We wish we could give an ulu to the 800 volunteers who sacrificed so much time both before and during the games. We hope they reward themselves with a pat on the back and some much-needed sleep.

Actions speak louder than words

It is frequently tempting to use this page to condemn the lack of respect and attention paid by our elected representatives in Ottawa to the northernmost reaches of the country.

Each year, they throw a few hundred million dollars at Nunavut and the other territories, but when it comes to understanding what it is we really need, we see little sign of improvement from one year to the next.

We recognize, of course, that such complaints rarely accomplish little. Sharp words from editorialists, or MLAs for that matter, invariably fall on deaf ears in the South. What Nunavummiut must do to attract the federal government's attention is act. The Canadian Firearms Centre's failure to keep its Nunavut office open is a perfect opportunity to test this theory.

It is, after all, not the first time we have been so slighted. A few months ago, the Iqaluit post office was closed during regular hours because not enough employees could be found to keep the wickets open during meal breaks.

Make no mistake about it: the closure of a firearms office or a main post office is something that would not be allowed to happen closer to the centre of power in this country. If the federal government was interested in living up to its obligations, it would have no trouble staffing what are, at least in this part of the world, essential services.

How, then, to respond? When it comes to gun registration and firearms licences, patience may not be enough. Perhaps, if the people of our territory as a whole, with the support of hunters and trappers organizations and the legislative assembly, refused to recognize and abide by the Firearms Registration Act, we could wake up the powers that be.

Just a suggestion.

Wrestler is a great role model

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

A hearty congratulations to all our Kivalliq athletes who performed so well at the 2002 Arctic Winter Games in Iqaluit and Nuuk, Greenland.

Special congratulations, in particular, to Joseph Nakoolak, who captured a golden ulu with his wrestling talents at the Games.

Nakoolak's star continues to shine brightly on behalf of Nunavut. He is going to the Canadian amateur wrestling national championships this coming week and is looking to improve on his fifth-place standing of a year ago.

It will be an interesting time for Nakoolak, who lost twice to the reigning Canadian champion during a tournament in Saskatchewan this past month. He is aiming his sights at a third-place finish in this year's championships.

However, this corner says that with a few breaks here and there, Nakoolak is capable of following up his performance at the AWG with a golden encore on the national stage.

Win or lose, Nakoolak continues to be a solid role model for the youth of Nunavut and deserves all the support our territory can give him.

Tip of the hat Two thumbs up going out this week to Tess Rodnunsky and Susie Kritterdlik of Whale Cove. The pair volunteer their time to continue cooking for the breakfast program at Inuglak school in their community (please see story page 13).

All too often, people who volunteer their time in order to keep such worthwhile programs alive aren't recognized for their efforts.

Although the two receive a modest stipend for their services when funding is in place for the program, it was a wonderful gesture on their behalf to continue their efforts after funding ran out.

The improvements in both the learning abilities and attentiveness of students who have access to a breakfast program have been well documented by teachers across the region.

Rodnunsky and Kritterdlik are doing their part to give the students at Inuglak school the opportunity to start their learning day off right and, for that, they are to be commended.

Realizing rewards

Another thumbs up goes out this week to the group of staff and former students on their way to Greenland (please see story page 19).

Their determination to realize their dream is a shining example to people across the region on the rewards one can reap through hard work and dedication.

The 13-member group set a goal and continued for the better part of three years until accomplishing it. Hopefully, more people, especially youth, in our region will use this success story as motivation in accomplishing their own goals.

Welcome back winners!

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

It was impressive to see how well our Delta athletes did at the games.

Team Delta brought back almost as many medals as we had athletes. From Dene Games to speed skating, our best from here showed they are among the best "up here."

Medals aside, the huge participation from the region made a big impact. In talking to the athletes and organizers, they seemed more impressed with the experience than the competition.

More than showing off your athletic prowess, you were all great ambassadors for the NWT and to the region.

Thanks for showing off the Delta pride!

Pipe talk

New debate has sparked over the issue of pipeline ownership.

While debate is healthy and needed in any project that will secure the legacy of generations to come, we have to make sure this debate doesn't deter southern interests from doing business here.

The money generated from the construction and tolls taken from pipeline ownership are minuscule compared to the dollars that flow inside the pipe. This area is loaded with natural resources. Exploration and drilling will bring the Gwich'in the same wealth that came to the Inuvialuit and that's going to take some time. But by the time this pipeline gets built, wells could easily be producing on Gwich'in territory.

There aren't any dairy farms in the Delta, but ask any milk man and he'll tell you that you don't need to own the truck to get your milk to market.

Pipeline ownership is a small part of the equation. Oil and gas leases wisely negotiated will provide enormous wealth for the life of that pipeline and build a legacy of wealth that pays dividends forever.

Spring has sprung

It was great fun to get out in the fresh air with the people of Tsiigehtchic last weekend, to welcome spring back to the North.

Southerners recognize spring with crocuses and lilies popping out of the ground, but up here, we're happy just to have the sun return. We're all going to be busy over the next few weeks taking in the other salutes to spring. Aklavik this weekend, Inuvik next and Tuk after that.

By the time the spring carnivals are over here, it's almost summer! With the mild weather we've been experiencing lately, it's been a warm reminder that we'll be seeing that river ice flow down North real soon.

So get out and celebrate spring with your neighbours. You'll feel better for the fresh air and your smiler could likely use a workout.

DEA has the authority

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum, Fort Simpson

Sam Gargan and several councillors have been elected to represent the Deh Gah Got'ie Koe First Nation.

Albertine Nadli and several others have been elected to the Fort Providence District Education Authority.

Each body has its own roles and responsibilities. When the chief and council try to use their sphere of power and influence to make a decision that rightfully should be made by the DEA, then they have overstepped their bounds.

If the lines get blurred on one occasion then where would things stop? What if the DEA had to make a major decision regarding funding or a disciplinary policy? Would the band insist on making those decisions too?

If Gargan or any of the band councillors had serious concerns about the DEA's school review then they should have voiced those concerns as parents or community members.

Are we to believe the DEA has been holding meetings in secrecy? To what benefit?

If any teacher has threatened to quit as a pressure tactic to influence the DEA's vote on renewal of the principal's contract, that is not appropriate. Nevertheless the DEA members are capable representatives who can look beyond threats, direct or implied. These individuals have earned the public's faith to do their job properly, the vote tally in the DEA election indicated just that.

If the community feels the DEA is not doing its job properly, then the people should attend DEA meetings and be heard. In the meantime, the DEA members should carry on with their mandate of ensuring students receive the best education possible.

We all lose

The wanton property crimes in Fort Simpson are not only costing the property owners money, but hurting the rest of the community as well. How so? For one example, PR Contracting, owned by Pat Rowe, donates a considerable sum of money to local organizations and causes each year.

However, when faced with unexpected $3,000 to $5,000 in repair bills as a result of senseless vandalism, Rowe is going to have to take that money from some portion of his budget. It's quite possible that he'll have less money to contribute the next time around because he has spent the cash fixing up the damage to his shop.

The question at hand is what to do about the problem. How do we make the offender understand the extent of his actions? If the guilty party has a long history of related offences, how many chances does he get before he faces a severe sentence?

Fortunately, these are not crimes that inflict harm on other individuals. There is no violence involved. Regardless, the torment of repeatedly finding one's property violated must be taken seriously.