Editorial page

Wednesday, August 21, 2002
Building starts to match the need

The light is starting to break on what was a bleak housing market this time last year.

Rental vacancies were few and far between and the number of homes available for sale dropped. As a result, home prices are up, and some prospective home buyers were pushed out of the market. One can only wonder where the people who wanted to rent have gone...in someone's travel trailer, in a tent or back south.

Now, thanks to city council and developers, the housing crunch should soon start to ease.

It's especially promising on the rental side. Last November, only one developer was building apartments. Now, at least 300 more apartments are in various stages of construction.

More rental units will open up thanks to the NWT Housing Corp.'s recent Downpayment Assistance Program. About 190 families in the city will receive grants to buy their own homes.

They will be able to move up the housing chain, out of rentals into manufactured homes, like the 73 going in off Range Lake Road, or rowhouses and townhouses that will be built in upcoming phases of the Niven Lake subdivision.

Even though some may bristle at Mayor Van Tighem's insistence the city will hold off opening up new lots until Niven Lake takes off, providing room for higher-end homes will entice people to trade up.

The ripple will affect every area of the housing market.

It's especially critical that this happen now because if the housing crunch doesn't ease up the economic boom could very well pass Yellowknife by.

Already workers are living in temporary housing and going south again.

We need more affordable homes that will let renters become homebuyers and free up rental units for those coming to help build the North.

Ekati mine alone employs an average of 650 people and an additional 700 people work for various contractors at the site. Diavik diamond mine is scheduled to start up next spring, and will boast similar employment numbers.

The city has been looking to draw more mine employees to live in Yellowknife but we didn't have much of a drawing card on the housing front -- until now.

Time to take responsibility

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

To pose the question, How low can you possibly go? to a group of young criminals may come across as somewhat rhetorical in nature to a good many people.

However, when one is talking about the repeated break and enters into the Deacon's Cupboard food bank in Rankin Inlet, the question, if nothing else, casts a harsh light on the path being chosen by too many of today's youth.

Crime, by its very nature, leaves a sour taste in the mouth of a community -- not to mention the increased cost in prices the rest of us pay to make up for the losses companies endure. That being said, stealing from those most in need has to rank among the most despicable acts of thievery in any community, no matter what the culprit's age.

On a similar note, more and more people in Rankin are growing increasingly frustrated by the number of ATV thefts in the community.

As in the case reported in this issue, many of these thefts are courtesy of youthful lawbreakers.

Many people have had grave concerns over the effectiveness of police in dealing with young offenders for quite some time now. That leaves but one area of recourse -- the parents.

If more parents are not going to willingly step up and take responsibility for the actions of their children, it could be time for the Nunavut government to look at ways of making that decision for them.

Mandatory parenting workshops, or local counselling sessions with both the adults and child present, could be two ways to start opening channels of effective communication between parents and siblings who find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

Regular workshops could be set up in communities for parents of these kids to attend. The assigning to, and regulating of, such workshops could be handled by the local justice committees, which, after all, were put in place to come up with alternative ways of dealing with first time and young offenders.

The bottom line is, a system needs to be put in place to encourage more parents to be concerned with the behaviour of their children. If that includes mandatory attendance for those parents who will not, or cannot, discipline or influence their children's behaviour, so be it.

It's time for some parents to realize there's more to being a family than simply living under the same roof.

As parents, we must accept the fact we have an obligation to our children to do the best we can in raising them to make the right choices in life and become productive members of our society. That means being there during the bad times as well as the good -- as painful as that can sometimes be.

From borough to beachhead

Editorial Comment
Terry Halifax
Inuvik Drum

It was quite an eye-opener speaking with Jacob Adams and Russell Newmark about how the North Slope Inupiat struggled for home-rule and now, 30 years later, have become one of the richest areas per capita on the planet.

Prosperity didn't happen overnight and it didn't come through pipeline ownership, or even sub-surface resource rights. It came from the age-old tax laws that every government relies on.

The tax dollars allowed the Inupiat to build a strong infrastructure that has since flourished into a billion-dollar baby called the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation.

Now, the Inupiat have the best of the best teaching in their schools, and working in their state-of-the-art health centres.

Every community boasts an indoor pool and every student has a computer on their desk. They have Inupiat graduates returning home from Harvard, MIT and Cal Tech.

The wealth of the North Slope was born from a lucrative tax base, but the prosperity and pride of the people came from self-determination, an entrepreneurial spirit and good leadership, beginning with the borough's first mayor, Eben Hopson.

Hopson fought the oil companies through court to gain his people's home-rule and solid tax base and his submissions to the Berger Inquiry changed the course of history in the NWT.

Speaking to the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Calgary in 1978, Hopson hoped the efforts of the Inupiat would serve as the benchmark for all other Inuit communities.

"We regard the North Slope Borough to be the beachhead for strong regional local government all along North America's Arctic Coast. We look to Canada and Greenland to improve upon our model."

Our leaders here owe a great debt of thanks to Mr. Hopson for laying the groundwork he and his team set forth with self-determination and building a reluctant, but solid relationship with producers.

The parallels between here and there are astounding and it is with the type of forward-thinking people like Hopson that have built a legacy that will secure the future for the Inupiat into the next 30 years and many more after that.

The leaders here can repay that debt to Hopson and the Inupiat by building on his dream and bolstering the beachhead for the next regional government.

Housing compromise

It appears the housing corporation has softened their stance on where the new elder's six-plex will be built and by the time this paper hits the street, council will have already decided.

The compromise seems like a good one, as it barely touches the campground and it would be a good place to build if Inuvik only needed six senior's homes.

The plan all along has been to expand on this development and what's propose offers zero room for expansion and would be ludicrous for the town to approve it.

As it sits now we have seniors housing scattered willy-nilly all throughout town and this new plan offers very little foresight.

No place like home

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Fascinating. That's about the only way to describe Nancy Jarrell-Hilderman's account of the landslide near her cabin at Cli Lake.

Living in mountainous regions does come with a risk attached. Jarrell-Hilderman acknowledged that. She said her husband Garth scouted the location for the cabin carefully, with the possibility of a landslide in mind.

Most places in the world have inherent hazards. Everyone who chooses to live in the Caribbean or the eastern seaboard of the United States is subject to hurricanes. Move inland to the American mid-west and the threat is primarily from tornados.

Floods strike many locales around the globe on a regular basis. Over the past week, scores of people have been killed in flooding in Europe. Even Winnipeg was threatened by the Red River flood, which wiped out several smaller communities in Manitoba and North Dakota in 1997. We've all seen how devastating forest fires can be in Alberta, Saskatchewan and the northwestern U.S. over the past few summers.

Settle into the Philippines or Central America and keep active volcanoes in mind.

Major fault lines run all the way from Mexico through North America's west coast right into Alaska. There have been predictions of a catastrophic earthquake striking Los Angeles, Vancouver or Anchorage, Alaska, for many years. Some have even warned that Vancouver could become separated from the mainland and cast into the ocean.

San Francisco felt the brunt of nature's fury in 1989. That earthquake was a magnitude 6.7 on the Richter scale (they can be much more serious), and yet it caused 63 deaths and an estimated $5.9 billion in property damage. By comparison, 3,000 people perished in the larger 1906 San Francisco earthquake (magnitude 8.25) and the resulting fire.

So, in the bigger picture, natural disasters are hard to avoid.

If one factors human-caused mishaps and malevolence into the equation, things really get messy. From Chernobyl to the Sydney tar ponds, crime-ridden areas, wars and terrorist bombings, the list goes on and on. Just making the news this week: an enormous cloud of smog, known as the Asian brown cloud, is wafting over much of the Middle East and parts of Asia. The

three-kilometre thick band of ash, acids and aerosols is expected to cause millions of deaths due to respiratory complications.

Welcome to the neighbourhood.

While the NWT isn't impervious to disasters, natural or human-caused, we should be grateful that we generally are not in the direct line of fire of nature's wrath. A cold winter's day of -40 C doesn't seem so bad after all.