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Monday, July 26, 2004
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Legislature needs a residency rule

Roger Allen's home in Grimshaw, Alta., looks like a more pleasant place to hang than the Mackenzie Delta shack he claims as his official residence.

That's what the MLA for Inuvik-Twin Lakes was doing when NWT News/North found him last week, on six weeks holiday and headed off to a golf game.

The second-term MLA wouldn't say when he was last in Inuvik or when he might return to serve the people who elected him to the legislature.

Allen said he has an "understanding" with his colleagues, who rejected his claim for housing benefits because they weren't convinced that he lives in the Northwest Territories.

Speaker Paul Delorey said the only "understanding" is that Allen will repay $10,000 in benefits he falsely claimed.

That was a generous gesture from Allen's colleagues. The usual fate of employees who cheat on expense claims is a pink slip.

Will the former justice minister return to his duties and the community he was elected to serve, or will he continue to thumb his nose at the legislature and Inuvik voters?

Voters can deal with Allen at the polls, but they shouldn't have to wait that long. Allen's colleagues must find a way to force the MLA to fish or cut bait.

A law requiring members of the legislature to live in the Northwest Territories would be a good place to start.

Stand up to boot

Bootleggers are lower than the lichen that grows on rocks around Nunavut.

They prey on the weakest folk and cash in on addiction.

And like the southern rum-runners of the prohibition era, these criminals hold great power.

In Clyde River, folk are so afraid of violent drunks and bootlegger retribution that they're afraid to sit on the hamlet's alcohol education committee.

The group hasn't met in six months and need two more members just to hold a meeting.

Unfortunately, while legal liquor applications are stalled, bootleggers fill the void.

Police have stepped in to help the committee, but that isn't the solution.

RCMP's job is to enforce the law.

Clyde River residents know what's best for their community and hold more power than they may think. By standing up to bootleggers, the community will start to understand that alcohol is no escape from everyday problems.

Alcohol abusers will also learn that by going to bootleggers, they are only making matters worse for the entire hamlet.

Housing crisis affects future

The Government of Nunavut needs a renewed effort to deal with the territory-wide housing crisis.

Nearly every community has families wandering the streets, making use of emergency shelters, or living in a house with upwards of 10 people. In Iqaluit, even the homeless shelter almost closed, due to funding problems.

We recognize that issues such as health care and education are front and centre, but the housing crisis is just as important.

Nunavut is strong and so are its people, but it is unreasonable to expect our residents and their children to grow and thrive without the most basic necessities.

New houses must be built and existing units renovated. The money must be found. A proper home for every Nunavummiut is a need, not a want.

Kudos to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for lobbying the federal government on the issue. That's who holds the purse strings.

More than one MLA has expressed frustration over homelessness and Nunavut's housing situation in general. In the legislative assembly on May 25, Cambridge Bay MLA Keith Peterson argued that without a roof over their heads, it is difficult for people to access programs the government has put in place for their benefit.

This argument has merit. It is time for our MLAs to really get down to work on solutions to the problem.


The NWT's quest for a new language commissioner may be moot if there are no languages to protect.

With Fibbie Tatty's term running out, the government had to appoint a non-aboriginal lawyer as interim commissioner. Makes us wonder if First Nations around the territories are that keen on keeping their languages alive.

Since 1984, when the Official Languages Act was introduced, a commissioner has been hired to field complaints and "ensure the recognition of the rights, statutes and privileges of each official language" -- all 11 of them.

In the last two years, the commissioner fielded five complaints and 371 calls seeking information.

There are possible reasons why the commissioner isn't receiving complaints. Maybe it's because languages are becoming extinct, some faster than others.

One need only look at what languages people are using at home.

According to government statistics, Gwich'in is not even spoken in Inuvik homes anymore, although 45 people said it was their mother tongue.

Aklavik's 25 people who answered Gwich'in as mother tongue don't speak it at home.

Other languages, like Inuvialuktun and Dogrib, are still being spoken, but are being quickly overtaken by English as the language used at home.

Perhaps the government could use funding for the commissioner's office to boost aboriginal language education. Language complaints could be better dealt with by the new Human Rights Board, or responsibility for the work turned over to the Dene Nation.

Speaking up still a risky business

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Nunavut's unionized employees, especially those whose paycheques come from the territorial government or who are considering raising concerns to their employer, may want to pay attention to an "expedited" arbitration hearing taking place today, July 21, via conference call.

The call will have a representative from the GN, a union rep from the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) representing the grievance filer against the GN, Norman Prince, and an arbitrator.

Prince was a social worker in Coral Harbour from 1997-99, before moving on to become the supervisor of social programs in Gjoa Haven.

This sad saga began when Prince voiced concerns to his superiors that Inuit were being deprived of services entitled to them by law, namely the right to visit family members living in nursing homes, sheltered settings or other health-care facilities in the south twice a year.

Shortly after Prince's complaints, the executive director of health and social services and the acting manager of social programs arrived in Gjoa Haven to inform Prince a complaint had been lodged against him and he was being suspended, without pay, for 14 days.

The complaint, apparently, revolved around misuse of his computer.

The GN's investigation proved no wrongdoing and Prince was told to return to work.

The source or nature of the complaint was never revealed to Prince, who resigned his position in Gjoa Haven on Aug. 30, 2002, more than six months after filing a grievance of personal harassment through the Nunavut Employees Union.

No excuse for delay

The fact Prince's grievance has still not been addressed two-and-a-half-years later should be cause for shame and embarrassment on the union side of the ledger.

However, the way in which Prince was handled by the government is symptomatic of a much bigger problem in Canada.

The death of the long ballyhooed whistleblower bill before the federal election leaves those who would speak up against injustice, bad decision making or wrongdoing by their employers in a vulnerable position.

This is especially true when unions lack the resolve or wherewithal to have grievances addressed in a timely, fair and thorough manner.

Actions need substantiation

Only Sharon Ehaloak, David Allen, Keith Best and, perhaps, former Health Minister Ed Picco know if Prince's suspension was in retaliation to his complaints of Inuit travel requests being denied.

However, as long as those who sign the paycheques in this country are allowed to initiate actions without explanation or substantiation -- be that government or private enterprise -- those who would stand up for what's right will continue to do so at their own peril.

If we may borrow a line: You have the right to free speech, unless you're dumb enough to actually try it.

Are you being served?

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

The recent news of our Twin Lakes MLA's questionable statutory declaration of residence to the Legislative Assembly, as well as his noticeable absence from Inuvik, is all the more reason for the territorial government and voters to demand a higher standard from their elected officials.

While voters can scream and shout from the rooftops for accountability, it is the elected MLAs who should be demanding a higher standard from their colleagues. It is their duty to legislate compliance, if necessary.

When a person is caught cheating on his or her taxes, there are consequences, and so should there be for MLAs who make bogus claims to the GNWT in order to pad their wallets.

Sadly, the instances of politicians gorging themselves at the trough has become such an everyday occurrence that when it does happen, people generally shrug their shoulders while the government makes a press release.

After it was reported that Twin Lakes MLA Roger Allen keeps a home in Grimshaw, Alta., it was a surprise to many to learn that MLAs are not even required to live in the Northwest Territories when serving out their terms.

As Allen is entitled to own property anywhere he pleases, it is difficult to understand how he can stay in touch with the issues affecting his Inuvik riding from Alberta.

Allen's behaviour sets a dangerous precedent and NWT residents should be demanding the GNWT to introduce legislation that would require its MLAs to reside in the NWT. Premier Ralph Klein doesn't govern Alberta from Moose Jaw, Sask.

One would think that with all of the issues affecting Inuvik and the region on the cusp of absorbing large-scale development, Allen would be a more visible figure in town.

Instead, his constituents are resorting to approaching town hall and the Boot Lake MLA's office with their concerns. Twin Lakes constituents deserve better.

And now for something different...

After the big-business Petroleum Show blowout and the recent Premiers Conference, it was a nice change of pace to see the recreation complex filled with artworks and artists immersed in their respective crafts.

While it's true that politics and business help to make the world go round -- and the region wealthier when those elements converge on Inuvik -- art is something all people can appreciate and take part in.

The array of artists assembled for the festival and the great line-up of events have made for an impressive festival.

When asked, most of the artists will say that it is seeing old friends, making new ones and sharing their talent with visitors and other artists alike that makes events such as the GNAF a pleasure to be involved with. And it's always easier to let one's hair down in a roomful of artists than in a roomful of politicians!

Seeking good PR

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Can Canadian Zinc Corporation get in the Dehcho First Nations' good graces?

For a company that is into exploring declines, Canadian Zinc is facing an uphill battle in this region. The mining proponents have taken a new tack, however, by opening an office in Fort Simpson and granting three scholarships to students in Fort Simpson, Fort Liard and Nahanni Butte.

Although the company is still headquartered in Vancouver, it has a local presence at long last. So what took them so long? John Kearney, Canadian Zinc's chairperson, said if his company had received its underground exploration permit soon after applying two-and-a-half years ago, it would have opened the Fort Simpson office sooner.

The scholarships, he conceded, should have been offered long ago. It's a goodwill gesture from a company that hopes to win local hearts and minds.

Kearney, it should be noted, only took over as chair of the board in June, 2003. He was, however, a director with Canadian Zinc for two years prior to that.

The upside to Prairie Creek is long-term employment and contract opportunities for Deh Cho businesses ready and willing to supply the site and provide transportation to and from the mine.

The disadvantage is potential environmental liabilities, as exist with any mine. Chemical and petroleum spills are the biggest fear -- one that may be limited by more stringent regulatory measures, but can never be completely eradicated.

Visiting Prairie Creek can make a difference, as Chief Keyna Norwegian affirmed. There are indeed many horror stories about the mine site. As with any rumours, some are legitimate, others don't hold water.

Ensuring Prairie Creek will ultimately be cleaned up by Canadian Zinc when the resource is exhausted should be another priority. Forcing the company to post a large bond seems reasonable in light of the circumstances at CanTung, Giant and Colomac mines.

But that may be an academic argument. Will the mine ever reach the start-up stage? Outside of Fort Liard, industry has made little headway in the Deh Cho. Over the past few years, seismic companies Arcis and Western-Geco were essentially sent packing by Dehcho First Nations, an aspiring Dene public government that covets control of land and resource development and, ostensibly, already wields great influence. Mineral exploration attempts by individuals have been met with equal wrath.

On the other hand, the Prairie Creek mine is more established and won't be so easily pushed out the door.

Canadian Zinc Corporation has taken a few positive steps, but how long until its corporate legs are severed? If there is an air of pessimism about its prospects, it's primarily because precedents in the Deh Cho don't make things look very promising for the company.


Joanne Kokak and Lenny Hikomak of Kugluktuk have a daughter named Cassie, not Cathy, as was reported in the July 12 edition of Nunavut News/North. We apologize for the error.

In the July 19 edition of Nunavut News/North, it was incorrectly reported in the story 'Clyde residents fear bootlegger backlash' that the monthly alcohol allotment in Clyde River is two six-ounce containers a person per month. In fact, the allotment is one 26-ounce bottle a person per month. We apologize for any confusion this error may have caused.