Go back

Monday, January 31, 2005
Dangers of cloning

The NWT Department of Resources Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED) is about to re-invent itself as two distinct departments.

Such bureaucratic reorganization in the past has come with promises of greater efficiency and lower costs rarely realized in the end.

With the creation of Nunavut in 1999, the NWT public sector was to be divided in half. Instead, the bureaucracy cloned itself and now there are more than double the red tape dispensers in the North and almost double the cost.

In RWED's case the new offshoots - the departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Industry, Tourism and Investment - have the potential to follow that same model.

Already there is talk of hiring more deputy ministers and regional superintendents, designing new logos, securing more office space and forcing other departments to go without.

Ironically, the territories created RWED in 1996 by merging three departments as a cost-cutting measure. Isn't cabinet still singing the same cost-cutting song?

One of the reasons given for the split is the conflict between developing minerals, oil and gas and protecting the environment. Considering the limited authority the territorial government has over any of that, we can only guess the true motive is linked to devolution.

If Ottawa doesn't grant us such powers in the near future, we could end up facing another wildly expensive cost-cutting measure nine years from now - putting RWED back together again.

A landlord that listened

In a territory where the cost of living is high compared to the rest of Canada, it's nice that a landlord actually listened to tenant concerns about rent increases.

Because there is no rent control in the NWT, residential property owners can charge whatever they please for rent. But when a recent decision by Northern Property Real Estate Investment Trust to raise rents in Inuvik - some as high as 40 per cent - roused anger with residents, the company actually responded, promising to review excessive increases.

Those who complained about the rent hikes deserve recognition for speaking out for all of us, but Northern Property also deserves credit for responding. A company that takes action when tenants feel they have been unjustly treated sets an example for others.

Let's just hope they take the commitment seriously and live up to their plans to reduce unreasonable rent increases.

Hunters take control

unger can make people take enormous risks. Inuit understand this better than any people on earth.

Think of an Inuit hunter jumping from ice floe to ice floe, using weapons carved from bone, wearing skillfully sewn polar bear and caribou skin, and then think of the reasons. Food. The thrill of the hunt.

It all boils down to life itself, swimming just below the surface of the ice.

A hunger to feed one's family can outweigh fears that normally hold people back from taking risks.

The new Masiliit Corporation in Qikiqtarjuaq is an example of Inuit hunters taking control of their food source again after years of letting other companies manage it for them.

It can be scary to take on something like a new company on your own, but the hunters saw the need for jobs outweighed any possible risks. When about 90 per cent of your population is unemployed, any risk is worth taking.

As soon as the hunters in Qikiqtarjuaq figured out how they could make a living without big corporations, they did it.

They want their own vessel and eventually their own fishing plant.

The hunters were part of the Baffin Fisheries Coalition (BFC), which mainly sold its fishing quotas to southern vessels.

That's a good way of bringing money to the territory, but Qikiqtarjuaq hunters want more. They want jobs.

And going out on their own was their answer. Good for them. But now comes the hard part: Making it work and keeping their turbot quota.

The people of Qikiqtarjuaq must get involved in the fishery now that their hunters have wrestled control of it away from the BFC.

It cost the hunters thousands of their own dollars to make the fishery a reality. It is in the best interests of all Inuit to watch the hunters closely and learn from their success, and also any mistakes that may be made on the road to a better life.

It is also in the best interest for the Nunavut Wildlife Management board to give the community its turbot quota.

Qikiqtarjuaq has had a 330-tonne allocation of turbot in one division and would like to gain access to the other division. The board must approve on both counts.

This is community economic development working and the board has to recognize that Nunavummiut want jobs, not just money.

Step in the right direction

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

The ink was hardly dry on the paper for the announcement made this past week - which will see 160 new social housing units constructed in Nunavut - when cries of "it's not enough" were already being heard across the territory.

Yes, with no less than 54 per cent of Inuit living in overcrowded conditions, the job is far from complete, but let's give the devil his due here.

Or, in this particular case, let's give Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell a tip of the hat for staying the course with this initiative.

While it's true the $40 million cost of this project is being split 50/50 between the feds and the Nunavut government, Lindell has been trumpeting the urgency of social housing to her party behind closed doors for years.

And we hear from reliable sources that it was her dedication to the cause and respected standing in the prime minister's office that saw the deal navigate some rough waters.

Each of Nunavut's 25 communities will receive at least three social housing units through this new agreement and 95 per cent of the new tenants will be Inuit. Elders, families and single people with low incomes are the first in line to receive keys to these dwellings, 53 of which are expected to be completed within the next 10 weeks.

Lindell is fond of using the word partnerships when she speaks publicly about the relationship between Nunavut and the nation's capital.

She has spent enough time around our country's top political heavyweights to know bringing $5 to the table is the most effective way to leave Ottawa with $10 worth of progress.

Partnerships are, in fact, the key to continued progress in Nunavut.

Whether it's seats in medical schools to help boost our number of health-care professionals, in colleges and universities to improve educational programs, or matching dollar for dollar to build infrastructure, effective partnering with our southern neighbours will not only provide short-term gains, it will also help pave the way towards future growth for our territory and its people.

But it won't happen overnight.

Agreements such as the one announced in Iqaluit on Jan. 20 take us one step closer to becoming a stronger, more vibrant and self-sustaining territory.

While there is still a long road ahead, there is nothing wrong with taking a moment to acknowledge the efforts of those who made it happen.

This announcement will eventually see the quality of life improved for 160 households in Nunavut.

And, while that may not be enough, it's definitely a step in the right direction.

Bureaucrats ignoring Third World conditions

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

Second chances. Sometimes you get them and sometimes you don't. In the case of the woman living with her nine kids in a bachelor apartment, the housing authority is not in the mood to give her another chance to live in one of their public housing units.

However, considering her predicament and the authority's mandate to locate suitable accommodations for people in need, the Inuvik Housing Authority should reevaluate its position in this matter.

In fact, it should be obligated to do this, because after all it's a public institution, presumably designed to help people.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that a 10-person family living in a bachelor apartment needs some kind of assistance.

We Canadians are a lucky bunch. Sure, we pay relatively high taxes, but look at all the marvellous public services we get for our toil.

Those who are fortunate enough to never depend on this country's vast array of safety nets can rest easy at night knowing somebody is looking out for the little guy.

Whether or not the little guy is getting any satisfaction is another story altogether.

Which brings to mind my travels in the Far East, where scores of little guys vastly outnumber those fortunate few who look down on the squalor from their shaded villas.

In Third World countries there are no housing authorities, social services or unemployment insurance.

Flip the channel back to the developed world and while there is an under-privileged element - and there always will be no matter how benevolent one's government is - the chances to get ahead are much greater here than for folk in similar situations elsewhere.

And many immigrants to Canada will tell you that's precisely the reason they left their countries to begin a new life here.

In other words, Canada provided them a second chance.

But as it stands for the 10 people - most of them children - crammed into a bachelor apartment in Inuvik, the housing authority is fresh out of second chances.

Our territorial government talks a great game about taking care of the people and fostering future generations, which makes it all the more stunning to discover that nothing can be done to help a family in desperate need of more suitable housing.

How many more families falling into this type of situation is it going to take before something is done?

Though the following sentiment is starting to sound like a broken record, it has to be played again. Communities around the territory are concerned about the socio-economic impacts of the potential pipeline project.

Is all of this concern taking attention away from the current socio-economic ills in the North? Or is everybody just waiting with fingers crossed for the pipeline to solve all the problems?

If the latter is the case, a rude awakening could be in store for the territory, with the little guy once again bearing the brunt.

Shades of a government

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh cho Drum

Something once so nebulous or intangible as a Deh Cho government is drawing closer to becoming a reality every day.

Make no mistake, there is still a long, long way to go and many decisions to be made. It's a lengthy process and one that will fundamentally affect the lives of everyone in the region.

Granted, it's not like a steaming locomotive barrelling down the tracks. Dehcho First Nations' staff have been gathering input and feedback on elements of a draft constitution. It's gradually taking shape.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche said one of his main concerns is that not enough people are making their views known. Grand Chief Herb Norwegian countered that in addition to community meetings, an information team has been going door to door, "knocking on windows and rattling stove pipes" to get comments.

More public meetings are on the way.

The comments that have already been compiled in the latest draft of the constitution make for some interesting reading. Most of the sources' names have been deleted from the document, allowing for some degree of anonymity.

One person suggests that a trial or probationary period and recall legislation should be in place for all elected or appointed officials.

Another individual recommends stress management and professional development for leaders as today's politicians face a substantial burden.

Because the role of elders has historically been so crucial to the Dene, it is proposed that aged and respected citizens maintain a central presence in a future Deh Cho government. That has caused consternation for some individuals. There is a major question of how an "elder" will be defined.

Select elders are likely going be in a position to nominate or appoint leaders. One person commented that elders may choose their own family members, which isn't fair to others. Another person stated that there are so few elders left in the region that it would be best to hold elections. A few others pointed out that elders generally pass on knowledge accumulated over a long life; they tell of the past rather than prescribe the future, so they shouldn't be involved in politics.

This should provoke lively debates, which is absolutely essential to forming a sound government.

A Deh Cho administration also presents opportunities to override shortcomings of existing federal and territorial legislation. For example, some youth delegates have urged that higher environmental standards should be enacted and companies should post 100 per cent security towards environmental clean-up and reclamation costs.

There are numerous other intriguing sections in the proposed constitution - it's literally history in the making. Although there will be some limitations imposed on non-Deh Cho Dene and Metis to help ensure the preservation of the culture, those who have lived here for a significant period of time will have a chance to have their say.