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Monday, June 21, 2004
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Rocher River a long-standing struggle

The story of Rocher River people is not a new one. Every few years, people approach News/North wanting to publicize the plight of a people who feel ignored by even their own.

The Rocher River people, though their numbers are not large, want to be recognized for who they are and who their ancestors were.

As former Rocher River resident Barbara Beck says as she clutches a copy of Treaty 8, originally signed by Chief Snuff, history is on her side.

People lived at Rocher River until the school burned down over 40 years ago. Things get murky after that, largely due to DIAND's paperwork. For bureaucracy, if something isn't on paper it doesn't exist, even if the proof of existence is in the living flesh of Rocher River people.

The good news is Fort Resolution Chief Robert Sayine is open to discussion. We hope Beck and her supporters take the invitation as the first step to getting recognized.

The goal should be to ensure the status of other existing bands is not jeopardized by recognition of the Rocher River band.

For the future

When voices are raised and drums sound around the Northwest Territories today, they will celebrate a proud past and present.

But this National Aboriginal Day, let's celebrate more than just cultural traditions.

Let's welcome a promising future where First Nations have reclaimed their rights to the land and are full partners in reaping the benefits of a wealthy territory.

This is an exciting time in Canadian history. Nowhere else in this country do First Nations have the same opportunities as in the NWT.

In the provinces, aboriginal title to land and resources has to be won back through costly and divisive court fights. Even when the federal government does recognize title, as it did in B.C. with the salmon fishery, First Nations are called racist.

Here in the NWT, land claims still stir muted resentment. But most non-aboriginal people respect the fact First Nations' ownership of the land has never been extinguished.

So, on this day, beat the drums loud and sing proud and let young and old alike know that First Nations link to the land is as strong as ever, and getting stronger.

Power failure

Think of the brilliant light flickering in a qulliq and the faces gathered around it for warmth and comfort.

Then cast your thoughts, if you dare, toward the goings on at the Nunavut Power Corporation (NPC) since 2001.

On one hand you have a marvel of efficiency and brilliance that many people can share in -- the qulliq. The power corporation now shares that name, but that's as far as the similarities go. Qulliq Energy Corp. is more like a smouldering wreckage, making everyone's eyes watery and creating great plumes of black clouds everywhere.

Maybe you would rather not delve into the confusing financial screw ups at NPC since 2001. Fine. Sheila Fraser, the Auditor General of Canada did it for us.

The auditor general's report on the power corporation is scathing. It is also easy to read and understand and available on the Internet and in hard copy (those copies, according to the legislative assembly of Nunavut, have been going like hot cakes since news reports of its contents).

Fraser came to Nunavut on June 18 to discuss her audit. Not all of her report was directed at NPC, but they are among the most serious because power is so expensive to generate and so important to life in the North.

From the people who weren't able to properly read the power meters to accounting staff who filed incorrect financial reports to senior managers, problems were widespread.

To add insult to injury, despite financial troubles dogging them from the beginning, senior managers at NPC felt it appropriate to give themselves bonuses totalling $670,000 in the corporation's first two years of operation.

Energy minister David Simailak called the bonuses "excessive." We can add unjustified and laughable.

A "bonus" generally means one thing: a year-end reward for a job well done.

But the NPC didn't think it mattered how well the corporation was doing. They rewarded the people directly responsible for the NPC's troubles. This is wrong.

The practise of handing out those bonuses at NPC may have been discontinued, but the troubles remain. The people of Nunavut should demand $670,000 be paid back to the NPC as soon as possible.

These same managers and directors predicted profits during those same two years -- only to see the corporation go $13 million into the hole.

The only person who really deserves a bonus is Sheila Fraser. She's done her job. Now it's time for the Legislative Assembly, Qulliq's board of directors, managers and employees to get the corporation back onto its feet.

To let the financial problems continue or get worse will leave all Nunavummiut on the hook for even higher power rates.

KIA can't shake old shadows

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

The credibility and relevance of the Kivalliq Inuit Association (KIA) took another hit earlier this month with the resignation of vice-president Donat Milortok.

The former mayor of Repulse Bay shouldn't feel too badly about being left out of the loop and not understanding what the KIA is actually doing on a number of fronts.

The former vice-president is now firmly in the majority of all Kivalliq beneficiaries in that regard.

There are a couple of points concerning Milortok's resignation that speak quite loudly as to how the KIA is perceived these days.

Firstly, Milortok's resignation caused hardly a ripple of interest.

A tell-tale sign that most news coming out of the KIA's head office in Rankin Inlet is greeted with a collective shrug of indifference by most beneficiaries.

What's more alarming, however, is how a vice-president can be kept so in the dark concerning an association's activities.

Milortok said he couldn't properly represent people when he didn't know what was really happening within the organization.

He also felt board members didn't have much of a say in the organization's endeavours, and was a little fuzzy about the details of KIA spending with Manitoba lawyers and consultants on the proposed Kivalliq to Manitoba road project.

It leaves one to wonder who's calling the shots when even the vice-president says he doesn't know what's going on.

Former pres watching

Being a former KIA president himself, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) president Paul Kaludjak must be a little distressed over the ongoing state of affairs at the KIA.

Kaludjak repeatedly pointed to his track record as KIA head during his time on the NTI campaign trail, often claiming the KIA was on solid financial footing when he left.

It will be interesting to see how Kaludjak handles the KIA during the next year.

Kaludjak rattled his sabre quite loudly when he was NTI's vice-president of finance over the KIA's ongoing inability to table financial documents in a timely manner.

But he ultimately backed down when it came time to reach for a pen at budget time.

Same old song

For its part, the KIA still points a finger at the financial problems brought to the organization by its investment arm, the Sakku Investments Corp., as the main reason for its ongoing problems and frustration.

That's a point former Sakku financial guru Paul Landry still vehemently contests, although it should be noted Landry was at the helm when Sakku's involvement with the Kivalliq Regional Health Facility was terminated by the Nunavut government.

Either way, the Sakku spin is getting old and appears now to be more of a crutch than a viable explanation.

One thing for sure, there will be plenty more to come as the year unfolds.

No patchwork for a patchwork town

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

When a resident dog-musher approached town council to ask for her property to be rezoned from "light industrial" to "country residential" in order to secure mortgage insurance, thus safeguarding her investment, it was a shame to see the town turn down her request.

The refusal to budge on the issue not only put a damper on the musher's plans to make a home for her and her animals -- far away from the suburban comforts of Inuvik proper where wailing dogs do not always make the perfect neighbour -- but also affected Inuvik companies' potential revenue.

The woman now says that if she does decide to go ahead and build -- without mortgage insurance -- the home would be much smaller than originally intended, requiring much less materials to construct.

In so far as the town leaning on the "patchwork" excuse for not granting her request, I find it hard to think of a more "patchworked" town than Inuvik that I've visited in recent memory.

Inuvik's "industrial zones" are spread about town; coming into town, going down to the boat launch and up and down Navy Road. If the town was really serious about limiting the patchworking, it would have to step on a lot bigger toes than those of a musher and her 30 dogs to get the job properly done.

It's amazing what great lengths the town appears to go in its attempts to satisfy the needs of those wishing to build, say, an animal shelter or homeless shelter, but will not budge on an issue affecting a person who brings a lot to the community through her passion for dog mushing.

The land in question is at the very end of Arctic No Name Road. Out of the musher's own pocket came the funds to build a road to the three parcels she wanted to purchase so as to seal the deal.

Beyond the end of her road is land that cannot be sold or developed until hopeful buyers pay their share of a connecting road that is currently estimated at $100,000 to construct.

With oodles of town land stretching towards the airport that could be parcelled and sold off as "light industrial," a rezoning of the musher's property could encourage other like-minded people to buy in that area for the similar purposes.

However, with the town firm in its resolve, it doesn't look as though this will happen and Inuvik could lose a lot more than a few acres of "light industrial."

Violent disruption of grad party despicable

If there is enough information to charge and enough evidence to convict those responsible for crashing Samuel Hearne secondary school's grad party at the Airport Lake gravel pit last Friday and instigating a violent brawl, the court should throw the book at these low-lifes.

Described as fuelled with "liquid courage" and the requisite safety in numbers technique employed by bullies, three truckloads of adults (let's stress the word adults here) crashed the grad party to settle a score with some who were not grads, but merely attending the party and celebrating with friends.

Not only did this selfish and thuggish act put a damper on an otherwise wonderful day that began with SHSS convocation ceremonies earlier in the afternoon, but it provides a strong argument that authorities must get tougher on crime.

Who's going to win?

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Three federal election candidates in two days.

That was Fort Simpson's lot earlier this week as hopefuls for the Western Arctic riding knocked on doors, shook hands, smiled and talked turkey (just an expression).

What's most striking is the candidates' perception of who's in the lead -- their opinions stand in stark contrast. Dennis Bevington and Sean Mandeville say they are completely convinced that NWT residents are ready for a change.

Incumbent Ethel Blondin-Andrew doesn't see it that way at all. She sounds equally convinced that her supporters aren't about to stray.

So, who has the best grip on reality? We'll find out on June 28 when the votes are counted.

A forthright message

There have been a handful of graduation ceremonies in the Deh Cho lately. It must be a challenge for guest speakers to come up with something original to say.

That's not to suggest that the public addresses are all bland, but when there are several guest speakers -- some of whom are handed the microphone every year -- it must be hard not to be repetitive. Some messages, mind you, are worth repeating.

When Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche made mention of some of the Fort Simpson Aurora College graduates having to overcome alcohol, drug and physical abuse, it wasn't the run of the mill congratulatory speech. That wasn't the focus of his address, but he clearly paid notice to the demons that some hard working folks have been able to conquer.

Guest speakers usually refer to the more general "obstacles" that graduates have overcome. That's fair enough, obstacles also include balancing family life with school work and finding financial assistance for school.

Yet there were no audible gasps in the audience when Menicoche made reference to the plague of alcohol, drugs and family abuse -- nor should there have been. It's not uncommon during National Addictions Awareness Week to hear people say that there's not enough focus on addictions at other times of the year.

Menicoche proved it can be done, and he did it respectfully with a passing reference.

The addictions issue does exist year round, it's just that sometimes it rightfully takes a back-seat to accomplishment.

Don't steal our sunshine

In just a few days we will have reached summer solstice. Don't despair, with any luck, we still have a glorious couple of summer months ahead of us.

It's just a shame to think that as of June 22 we will see just a little less daylight until the trend reverses itself again in late December.

Savour the sunshine while you can.