Every summer and winter the number of people who head out in small boats or Bombardiers to net whitefish, pickerel, trout and other freshwater fish grows smaller and smaller. The average age of fishermen grows older and older. There are now about 150 fishermen in the NWT.
Fishermen say there are plenty of fish. But what's the use of doing the job when you only earn 69 cents a pound for a fish that was worth $1 a pound in 1991?
It's not easy work. In the summer, you're on a small boat for hours on end performing physically demanding tasks. Winter's even worse. You go out on the ice in 50-year-old Bombardiers to drill holes through thick ice in bone-chilling temperatures.
This year's winter catch is down by 15 per cent. The Freshwater Fish Marketing Corp. reports the NWT was the only region to experience a decrease in shipments.
An industry that generates more than $1 million annually for the NWT economy and that receives $395,000 a year from the territorial government is reeling.
Freshwater Corp. field operations manager Calvin Peddle has a good suggestion: governments should spend some money to modernize the industry.
Money was spent to upgrade the Hay River plant in the past few years, but that alone is not enough.
Resources Minister Brendan Bell has said publicly that the fishing industry is not on government radar, because most economic development attention is focused on diamond mining and natural gas.
Fishing is a sustainable industry that will provide long-term income to people living around Great Slave Lake, Kakisa Lake and Tathlina Lake.
It's time to help a new generation of fishermen get into the business.
Hay River cab driver could have been killed two weeks ago in an accident that could have easily been prevented.
The cab smashed into a train stopped on the Mackenzie Highway, Feb. 16. The train was black, it was dark, and there was no warning of the danger ahead.
There are no warning lights at that train crossing, nor are there any lights or reflectors on trains to alert motorists of their presence. There's only one rail line and not too many trains that use it. Northern drivers aren't used to seeing them.
Just think about that. These railway crossings are potential death traps, especially if a black train stops in the middle of the road on a cold and icy Northern winter night.
Luckily, the cab driver escaped with a mild concussion. But what about next time?
The smart thing to do is to make train crossing lights or reflectors mandatory. Someone's life may depend on it.
In March 2001, Cape Dorset, winter still held the community in its grasp, any hint of warmth of summer still a long way off.
An ordinary night was about to turn tragic.
Police officer Const. Jurgen Seewald was called in to deal with what turned out to be a domestic dispute between Salomonie Jaw and his common-law spouse.
Domestic violence is common all over Canada. But it is a call police never get used to because of the volatile nature of such situations.
Domestic violence is many things, mainly emotional.
Alcohol and drugs often fuel fires of rage, of confusion -- whatever the people embroiled in the argument are feeling.
Const. Seewald had 26 years of policing experience behind him when he arrived on the scene.
There was a struggle. Jaw had a loaded 12-gauge shotgun. In the end, Seewald would be dead, one shot from the 12 gauge in the stomach.
An entire community was shocked. RCMP officers throughout the North and across Canada were devastated. Seewald's family was beyond words with disbelief, grief.
So many took a hit when that fatal shot was fired.
After a tense trial, Jaw was sentenced to life in prison last week.
Cape Dorset, first the scene of the crime, then the scene of the trial, had to relive the tragedy as Jaw was convicted of first degree murder.
Did people breathe a sigh of relief when the verdict was read? Does life just go back to normal now that Jaw has been led away?
Nothing is going to change what happened, but we can all learn lessons from this tragedy.
The RCMP have been tight lipped so far on what -- if anything -- they are going to do differently when responding to domestic violence calls.
Police only get involved as a last resort. The real solution is for people to understand that violence is not the way to settle disputes.
Education has improved, people are getting wise to the signs, picking up the phone and reporting domestic violence when they see it.
Women and men must be prepared to walk away from abusive relationships.
Counselling has to be there to help the abusers learn to change their ways.
We have a few words of advice for our six Kivalliq MLAs heading to Iqaluit.
First, if you're offered the position of house speaker, avoid the temptation and politely decline.
Second, remember the people whose vote got you to the capital and don't become invisible in your home riding, even if you end up with a minister-of-the-whatever plaque sitting on your desk.
Former Arviat MLA Kevin O'Brien paid a steep price for accepting the speaker's position.
The title comes with inherent risks to anyone hoping to prolong their political career beyond the current term.
The problem is house speaker translates into house silence when it comes to asking questions when the cameras are rolling because the speaker is not allowed to ask any.
The speaker's role is one of a glorified referee, maintaining decorum and points of order in a high-stakes game of political shinny.
The trade-off to becoming house speaker is that you're supposed to gain the premier's ear behind closed doors to address the concerns of your constituents.
Well, you can have the premier's ear, eye, nose, heck, we'll even throw in a couple of kneecaps -- the fact is, it's hard to keep your constituents' trust when they're not seeing you in action.
Grass under your feet
O'Brien further compounded the problem by taking his territorial role so seriously the good folks of Arviat rarely saw him at all, let alone in action.
Former Rankin Inlet North MLA and multi-ministerial-portfolio holder Jack Anawak made the same mistake early in Nunavut's first government.
Anawak took on so much responsibility at the territorial level, his grassroots support slipped out from under his feet.
Thanks to that old Liberal card tucked safely away in his wallet, we'll never know how he would have fared had he sought re-election.
The popular consensus is he would have lost, however, despite gaining back a good measure of his credibility with his masterful politicking during the Petroleum Products Division fiasco in Rankin.
Out of sight, out of mind
The impact of not maintaining a high rate of visibility in your home riding is further illustrated by just how far O'Brien fell in the election.
In actuality, O'Brien trailed only Baker Lake's Glenn McLean in terms of accomplishments in his community.
McLean, however, proved himself a master at keeping the political and media spotlights shining on the needs of his riding.
Arviat's political wand has now been passed to former mayor David Alagalak.
Hopefully, he will keep it as far away from the throne as possible.
Take the Beaufort Delta Education Council plans to slash 20 full-time positions next year with the dismal student attendance at Samuel Hearne secondary school, and you might think, why stop at 20? Many classes are half-full (I'm trying to look at this optimistically), anyways.
If one was looking at an SHSS daily attendance record -- and the principal didn't let you in on the secret that many kids prefer catching up on their beauty sleep as opposed to making it to school in the morning -- one might think a flu epidemic had hit.
In some grades, particularly 10, 11 and 12, nearly 45 per cent of students aren't showing up for the first two periods.
And so the day lingers on, and students slowly rise from their peaceful slumbers and trickle into school, as if attending class were optional.
I wonder what would happen to the Town of Inuvik if, say, attending work became optional?
There would be a lot of grumpy people in town for the first few days and then we'd all be screaming bloody murder a week into the experiment.
It makes you sympathize with the teachers at SHSS, who must grit their teeth whenever they have to go over the same material, twice and three times (and maybe more) because some students insist on missing class.
Not only is it frustrating for the teachers, but also for the students who take the initiative and actually show up.
When I was a kid -- one who generally disliked school as much as the next -- my parents used to tell me that my school days were the best days of my life, and that I should enjoy them while I could.
I never believed them then, but I sure do today. What I would give to have the luxury of being a student again. No responsibilities, not a care in the world except for showing up to class and handing in the odd assignment.
Come to think of it, what were my options back then? Cutting class to hang out at the arcade or smoking cigarettes behind the school only had so much appeal and eventually became as boring as attending my least-favourite class.
In fact, the entertainment value of actually going to school was often all the more reason not to miss it.
What would Mr. So-and-so do or say today and which students would misbehave to the chagrin of Mr. So-and-so and to delight of their classmates.
But, I suppose times have changed and plugging into a video game or walking the streets of Inuvik for hours on end hold more excitement for many who choose to miss class.
However, those kids who do perpetually miss class better get used to those activities as that's what awaits them in the future, without a high school education behind them.
Because one thing that hasn't changed is the necessity of having an education.
Deh Cho Drum
Is there any replacement for the experience one gains from travelling?
Whether it's Jacques Harvey and Laverna Martel sweating it out in Haiti (literally), or the Jumbo clan hiking through Nepal, it's difficult to truly understand life elsewhere without having witnessed it first hand.
Sometimes there is an element of danger.
A country can be seemingly stable one day and erupt into anarchy the next.
Quite often the message that it reinforces is that as Canadians, we generally have a great standard of living: Clean drinking water, adequate health care and good education standards.
But North Americans are sometimes ashamed of our largely consumer-driven society.
While products and gadgets shouldn't be one's primary source of happiness -- hopefully that's derived from family and friends or possibly religion -- what's wrong with relishing modern conveniences?
Who doesn't love electricity? Lights, heat and appliances are a must. Television can be a marvellous diversion. Telephones are very handy, as are computers, the Internet and e-mail.
It would be hard and time consuming to get anywhere without a vehicle.
The list -- which for some includes video games, DVD and MP3 players, Palm Pilots, digital cameras, microwaves and snowmobiles -- goes on and on.
There are just a few principles of compassion and humanity that we shouldn't forget along the way.
Charity is bliss. Waste not, want not.
We don't want to deplete the world's resources in pursuit of all things material. There are alternate forms of fuel and energy that we can lobby for or incorporate today.
We also must be wary of becoming too lazy.
One down-side to our increasingly sedentary way of life is the rise in obesity.
But if our lifestyle is so greed-oriented, why would so many immigrants clamour to reach our shores?
It's true, some are fleeing persecution, but many are also seeking the so-called "American dream."
Even within our society, there is always the option to drop out of the rat race, to forsake conveniences.
A minority choose to do that, and it's usually for the weekend while at a cottage or in the bush.
Even there a generator or a radio is likely to be found.
Fewer still are the Amish, who reject most modern technology and its benefits.
To each his own.
For the most part, we really do have it good. We don't need to apologize, but we should be grateful.
A story in the Feb. 23, 2004, News/North incorrectly indicated an accident between a taxi and train in Hay River may have involved a brake failure by the car. The "zero brakes" mentioned in the story meant no brakes were applied prior to the accident, not that they had failed. News/North regrets the error and apologizes for any inconvenience it may have caused.