Editorial page

Wednesday, August 14, 2002
Drifts of blood, fields of gold

Ten years later and the wounds caused by the Giant Mine bombing have not healed. Flowing from a drift of blood 750 feet beneath the Earth's surface, our wounds are seemingly staunched only to bleed freely again.

Now, the eyes of Canada, through the prism of our national media, are again focused on Yellowknife as the anniversary of the Giant Mine bombing approaches and the Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted (AIDWYC) ponders taking convicted bomber Roger Warren's case as he serves his life sentence for murder at Stony Mountain Penitentiary in Manitoba.

The national media interest is understandable. As uncomfortable as it may be, the community and the justice system must be open to public scrutiny.

At the same time, the reality is closure remains elusive, individually and collectively, for Yellowknifers frozen in time in a single moment -- 8:45 a.m. Sept. 18, 1992.

At that moment, Vern Fullowka, Norm Hourie, Chris Neill, Joe Pandev, Shane Riggs, Robert Rowsell, Arnold Russell, Malcolm Sawler and Dave Vodnoski were killed instantly in the 750-foot drift in an explosion that continues to reverberate among Yellowknifers.

Like a Greek tragedy playing out to its inevitable conclusion, the stage was set four months earlier on May 22 when Peggy Witte and her Royal Oak Mines Inc. locked out the members of Local 4 of the Canadian Association of Smelter and Allied Workers (CASAW). A titanic clash between a corporation and a union, it represented the first time in 45 years that a Canadian mining company had tried to break a strike with workers who will forever be branded scabs or replacements, depending on one's sympathies.

Those of us who weren't in Yellowknife 10 years ago can never fully and truly appreciate the depth of feeling that has divided our community since the pivotal event of the Giant Mine strike.

Communities and people do heal, but not on any neat chronological anniversary timetable. Yellowknife's time is still to come.

Shutting rumour mill

Rumours are more powerful than fact. Start a good story and it will generate a life of its own.

That's basically the story behind women's fears about attacks on Frame Lake Trail. The stories sounded reputable; the women who came to Yellowknifer were justifiably frightened. That's why we printed the story.

And that's why the initial RCMP response to our calls was so frustrating. They were overworked. Too many files. Too few officers. They couldn't provide the information for our original story.

Well, the cops eventually did the right thing and searched their case files after all. It turns out the women's fears were unfounded.

We just wanted to tell the RCMP thanks. It's just too bad it took so long.

Getting things done

Quick ... if you received an award that had a $1,000 cash prize, what would you do with the money?

A night on the town? Downpayment on a trip to Vegas? A bigger television?

Not so for Yellowknife lawyer Elaine Keenan-Bengts. She gave the cash prize she won as recipient of a bar association community service award to the Yellowknife Gymnastics Club building fund.

It's a cause she has championed for years.

As Keenan-Bengts said: "We don't do it for recognition ..."

No, it's from dedication to her family and passion for getting things done.

Those of us who complain about busy lives and so little time to do anything can learn a lesson from people like Elaine.

Take a look at the big picture

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

An acquaintance of mine, fairly renowned in the world of balancing budgets, once remarked to me, "The one thing you can count on when you manage a budget is that one year you're riding high on the hog's back and the next you're coming out its rear end."

A bit crude in its delivery, but an effective truism nonetheless. It is also a message the hamlet of Rankin Inlet may want to pay attention to at this particular time.

We support the hamlet's decision to use $32,000 of its $285,000 operational surplus to purchase a good vessel for the local search and rescue committee.

However, we can also well imagine the list of organizations lined up for a piece of the surplus pie is a lengthy one. Hopefully, before shelling out the remaining surplus on other funding proposals, council will pause long enough to look at the big picture.

The tough funding times of the past few years are far from over. The hamlet would be well advised to discuss earmarking a portion of its surplus to be invested toward the proverbial rainy day.

Even with the volatility of the money markets during the past 18 months, a number of conservative, and solid, investment opportunities still exist. Professionally managed, a modest investment now could provide the hamlet with a financial security blanket to be carefully put aside for tougher days ahead.

And should hamlet council continue to manage its resources wisely, additional investments could lead to enough revenue to tackle some of the badly needed infrastructure projects in the community on its own.

Siding with experience

While many were disappointed by the announcement of the artificial ice being delayed for yet another year in Rankin, the hamlet made the right decision in delaying its arrival until it can get the arena up to acceptable standards.

That being said, the hamlet should also have taken the time to research the project more efficiently once it had the first $150,000 from the Nunavut government in its bank account.

Had council done that, the necessary work could have been completed in time for the upcoming season.

An argument could also be made that this is a prime example of the Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti procurement policy not always making sense.

We fully support each and every project being granted to local companies with the expertise to complete the job. But when it comes to a project like the installation of artificial ice, it would have made more sense -- and been more cost efficient in the long run -- to have had a Southern company with decades of experience handle the procedure from A to Z.

Stick to your plan

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

Monday's meeting with the residents of Husky Trailer Park is bound to spur-on another debate at the next council meeting.

This park has been a thorn in the side of council since the town took it over and, by the looks of things, they are far from finished with their obligations to the people who live there.

It's a tough call, but unless some deal can be made to eventually bring the park up to code, I think council had better stick to their original decision.

For starters, there are 12 trailers parked where there should only be 11. That would require forcing one home owner out and moving all the others a foot or two to comply with code.

One owner had quote on such a move and they were told, "Whether it's three feet or 30 feet, the price is $3,000."

Second, is the cost of replacing the utilidor. Depending on who you listen to, the system is either a "disaster" or "needs some work", but replacement of 70 metres of utilidor will run the town about $175,000.

While these numbers would still fall drastically short of the town manager's estimate of $500,000, it still is an expensive undertaking.

Given the town's profit margin on the pad rentals of $5,000 per year, that investment would take the town 40 years to pay off -- not an investment you'd expect a private developer to make.

If this were a private development, there would be no golden parachute offered. A landlord need only give proper notice and the tenant must vacate.

The situation is an awkward one, to say the least.

The town picked up this property when the previous owner couldn't pay back taxes.

The place was not up to code then and the town couldn't sell the property without first complying with code.

Should the town leave the situation as is, they are liable for any insurance claim against that property and since the development is not up to code they could also be found negligent should a fire rip through there.

So, for the third time since they've owned it, the town is trying to crawl out from under this dilemma.

You have to feel for these residents and that's why I think the town should make some room to allow for the residents to form a co-op.

The residents could assume liability and gradually, through attrition move out one home and bring the place up to code.

Since MACA is helping the town out with other utilidor upgrades, certainly a few dollars could be shared with these people.

Looking around at the rental situation here in town, the last thing we need is to get rid of affordable housing.

Between a rock and a hard place

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

The Fort Liard RCMP's plea to the community for co-operation in catching bootleggers brings to light an unfortunate but bona fide problem in communities that restrict or prohibit alcohol. Not only do bootleggers and drug dealers prey on the addicted, they hook the young, trying to set up clientele for the future.

It's the RCMP's job to catch these criminals. Yet they cannot nab all bootleggers and drug traffickers without assistance from local residents. Anonymous tips are often useful. However, occasions also arise when it may be necessary to testify against a bootlegger or drug dealer in court. Let's face it, it's not an envious position.

The potential for backlash from bootleggers and drug dealers may be a deterrent to those who wish to speak up, but the alternative is not appealing. While there is a possibility that bootleggers or drug dealers may take retaliatory action, there is also a possibility that an intoxicated individual may arbitrarily wreak havoc through vandalism or violence.

There comes a time when individuals have to make a decision. Is it worth taking a stand to make delinquents pay a price, or is it best to say nothing and allow poison to flow relatively unimpeded into the community?

Happy Daze

Congratulations to Mackenzie Daze organizers on a successful four-day celebration. There was some tinkering with the format this year, putting more emphasis on a music-fest. Unfortunately there weren't many people inside the arena listening to the music on Saturday while a few outdoor events coincided. Outside of that conflict, it was a well-arranged event.

It was good to see a new event like the strong-man competition take hold. Initially it didn't look like there would be many participants or spectators, but the numbers gradually built. By the end of the afternoon there were nearly 20 competitors and scores of onlookers.

Hand games is an event that has been revived. It is extremely popular in Fort Providence, and that's also good to see. With a lot of nostalgia about the war canoe races, which have fizzled out over the past few years, maybe it's time to make an effort to breathe new life into that event as well. Teams from other Northern communities used to come to Fort Providence to paddle for pride and major prize money. The two-person canoe races, although amusing, simply don't elicit the same excitement.


In last Wednesday's city council briefs, Yellowknifer, July 24, it was reported that Coun. Kevin O'Reilly made the lone vote against adopting the priorities, policies, and budget committee's recommended plans for Twin Pine Hill. This information is incorrect. Coun. Dave Ramsay also voted against the plan.