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Monday, May 9, 2005
Pipeline is a business deal

The proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline is a big deal, as big as the Northwest Territories itself.

As with all business deals, there is a buyer and a seller. The buyer of the gas, who also wants to construct a pipeline, is a group of multinational oil companies. The seller, the owners of the land, is a party of Inuvialuit and Dene land claim peoples.

Two weeks ago, the buying group went public with its complaints about what the seller wants, crying: "They want too much!."

Too much was hundreds of millions of dollars and hospitals and schools.

The hospital and schools line made people across Canada sit up and sympathize with the oil companies.

A demand for hospitals and schools was viewed as being hugely unreasonable.

When News/North asked which Dene group made the hospital demand, oil companies said their remarks had been "misinterpreted".

We do not fault the oil company tactics. That's business. They're trying to get the best deal for their shareholders, best being cheapest.

We do fault politicians like NWT Premier Joe Handley when he makes public statements that support the oil companies' strategic public relations.

Worse, Handley is attempting to paint the K'asho Got'ine $70 million proposal put together by former Premier Stephen Kakfwi as unacceptable to the federal government in the first place and the territorial government in the second.

Handley is afraid the Deh Cho, Sahtu, Gwich'in and Inuvialuit are going to secure fair value for their resources, enough money to give some meaning and independence to their self-government.

All Handley can see is his territorial government fading into the background, left to the mercy of the federal government. It doesn't have to be that way.

Rather than alienate the regions any further, Handley and all the MLAs should publicly support the people they represent.

Rather than flying down to Washington, cabinet should be acting as honest brokers at home, keeping communication lines clear between the buyers and sellers.

There are too many myths floating around, one being spread by industry experts that if the pipeline doesn't go now it never will.

The rapidly dwindling gas reserves in Alberta and America's increasing thirst for energy ensures market demand in the future, whether it's 10 years or 20 years.

The second myth, spread by Premier Handley himself, is that only the Mackenzie Valley Dene communities stand to benefit from Kakfwi's K'asho Got'ine model.

The fact is, every dollar the Southern buyers pay to the Northern sellers will stay in the North and profit the NWT economy as a whole.

It's sad our present Premier lacks the vision to understand that.

On patrol

Three Inuit RCMP officers shared their experience as officers patrolling Nunavut communities in last week's newspaper.

They are proud of the uniform they wear, proud of the job they do.

And proud to be where they are.

RCMP Const. Yvonne Niego of Baker Lake has been posted in her home community several times. She has found a way to balance knowing and being related to people and working as a cop.

She said the fact she knows many people makes her job easier.

Inuit RCMP officers have a chance to make their communities a better place to live. They know the area, know the people and know their culture.

Southern recruits can't bring the same knowledge Inuit cops can. They don't have the experience of growing up in the Arctic.

There are only 17 Inuit cops out of 123 RCMP members across Nunavut. Being an RCMP member in your territory, in your community, can be a gratifying way to make a difference in people's lives.

Niego, Stefan Kilabuk and Mike Salomonie are but a handful who have stepped up to the challenge.

Go forth and prosper

Students across Nunavut are stepping up on stage and celebrating their accomplishments.

College graduates are accepting their diplomas from a variety of programs, armed with the chance for a better future.

They are graduating from programs such as environment technology, hairdressing, jewelry making, carpentry, Inuit studies, interpreter/translator and culinary arts.

Others will leave school later this year as teachers and nurses.

These graduates are in a position to take advantage of a booming economy by taking jobs with mining and exploration companies.

Some will enter the world of government.

Others will go out on their own and apply skills they learned at school and more traditional skills they learned from their family and in their community.

Whatever they chose, these new graduates will help shape the fate of the territory.

Smile along with Ilanaaq

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Full marks must be given to Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik and Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Jose Kusugak for not getting dragged into any of the silliness that surfaced after the unveiling of the "Inukshuk" logo that will fly over the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver.

While Okalik and Kusugak spoke with pride over the choice, mild controversy arose from former Nunavut commissioner Peter Irniq's complaints that an Inukshuk shouldn't have arms, legs and a smiling mouth.

Irniq informed the world there is a huge difference between an Inunguat (imitation of a man or person) and an Inukshuk.

The former commissioner also stated that the Olympic Committee should have consulted Nunavut elders before announcing the design.

Let's make one thing clear here right from the start.

Peter Irniq has long proven himself to be a class act and was a commissioner all of Nunavut should be proud of.

However, while we've long admired Irniq's knowledge of, and dedication to, almost everything traditional, this time around he's way off the mark.

The five-coloured Inukshuk logo has been named Ilanaaq (friendship) and is meant to symbolize friendship, hospitality and teamwork - three of the most positive and prevalent Inuit traits or characteristics.

Inuit should be bursting with pride to have their symbol and cultural characteristics linked to one of the world's most prestigious gatherings.

Unfortunately, Irniq's remarks are not all that far removed from those who claimed to be insulted by Major League Baseball's Atlanta Braves and their infamous chop chant.

In fact, it draws an uneasy parallel to those voices of a decade ago who insinuated everyone involved with the Edmonton Eskimos were racist because of the Canadian football team's moniker or nickname.

There are far more pressing issues for our territory to be concerned with than the Inukshuk caricature that has become the Olympic logo.

If anything, we should be milking the choice, in a positive light, for all it's worth.

Even with their cartoonish little changes, the Olympic Committee selecting an Inukshuk for the 2010 logo is a momentous occasion for Inuit.

The spirit of the message it conveys and the cultural recognition it will spread across the globe are not to be taken lightly, let alone frowned upon.

In these tumultuous times of political unrest, armed aggression and rights suppression around the world, the Olympic Committee is holding up a symbol - forever associated with Inuit - as a shining beacon of everything good the Games are supposed to represent, and that society all too often forgets.

And, as far as we're concerned, Inuit around the world should be smiling just as proudly as Ilanaaq!

Can we come together?

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

The big oil companies should know better than to wag their finger at aboriginal leadership for their perceived impediment to further progress in the seemingly never-ending pipeline process.

This, coming so soon after the premier's comments that the federal government will have the ultimate say in whether or not the project goes through the territory, will not help move the negotiations along.

A call for mediation from the Aboriginal Pipeline Group chair is the most sensible suggestion heard so far.

One has to wonder how things deteriorated to this point.

The Memorandum of Understanding between proponents and aboriginal leadership was signed three years ago but negotiations between the two began only a few months ago.

An even more important question is, how long will the oil companies continue to pour time and resources into a project that, with each passing day, seems to be moving further and further away from becoming reality.

Though the government is an easy target when it comes to the blame game, in this case, the ultimate responsibility for the situation with the pipeline must fall squarely on Ottawa. The federal government has a less-than-stellar track record of dealing with aboriginal land claims only as the need to develop "untouched" tracts of land have presented themselves.

Now, with the Deh Cho sitting as the only aboriginal entity on the pipeline's right of way without a settled land claim, it's the federal government's responsibility to make a deal.

Social responsibility should be on the government's plate, as well. It goes without saying that increased economic activity will have an adverse effect on communities.

Dealing with those effects is what tax dollars - personal and corporate - are for.

Corporations should not be on the hook to pay those costs.

However, with our man Mr. Dithers still in the Prime Minister's office, nobody should hold their breath for any groundbreaking measures or contingencies from Ottawa.

The way Paul Martin has handled every other challenge since clawing his way into a minority government last summer leaves us little hope that he will do what needs to be done - not only for the Deh Cho but for everyone in the territory.

If the country does go to the polls this summer and the Conservatives are elected, devolution, an improved resource revenue-sharing agreement and a deal for the Deh Cho will no doubt land squarely on the backburner.

The big question mark is Conservative leader Stephen Harper's opinions about Northern development and land claims.

Rise and fall

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

If village council were the reality-television show Survivor, then Dennis Nelner was booted off the island on Monday night.

OK, technically Nelner wasn't eliminated from the tribe. Council voted in favour of stripping him of his title as deputy mayor, not to snuff out his torch.

Nelner literally didn't take it sitting down. Following the vote, he immediately got out of his chair and casually exited the room, not to return again that night.

Mayor Ray Michaud named the outspoken Nelner deputy mayor at the November 3, 2003 village council meeting, the first meeting of the current council's term. A secret ballot vote was held among the councillors to decide who should hold the distinction. It resulted in a 3-3 tie between Nelner and former mayor Norm Prevost. Michaud voted in Nelner's favour because Nelner was the councillor with the most votes in the municipal election.

That he had the most ballots cast in his name at the polls and among his peers at village council proves that he started out with plenty of support.

Things gradually began to shift over the past year and a half. Nelner became a pariah on council. In drawing upon the Survivor analogy once again, he failed to build any alliances.

He has spoken with fervour about the need for a general plan, to ensure that development occurs in an orderly fashion. He has been an advocate of engaging the private sector, attracting business to Fort Simpson. That way the village wouldn't be so reliant on funding from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs - as has been the case for years.

Nelner has pushed for a technical and trades centre to be built in Fort Simpson. He has spoken of his vision of a Liard River bridge and airport expansion.

These all sound like constructive positions. So what caused all the friction?

It was Nelner's approach. He took a stance on the Northern store gas bar issue that raised the spectre of conflict of interest. He was deputy mayor, but he also was manager of TJ's grocery, a competing gasoline distributor.

He didn't let that stop him from creating a petition. He didn't let that stop him from accosting the bylaw officer in public.

On another matter, Nelner went to bat for the village's garbage contractor, Xah Ndah Resources. He felt the company was denied tipping fees by the mayor and senior administrative officer. Nelner put the emphasis on the fact that Xah Ndah Resources is an aboriginal business. That is what led to questions of prejudice and racism.

On these and other issues, he adamantly refused to take no for an answer.

At Monday's council meeting, he was surrounded by councillors who were opposed to him. There were people in the audience who were on the opposite side of issues he has raised. There was correspondence indicating concerns about his conduct.

If he had any supporters left - 100 signatures on a petition notwithstanding - they were not heard and nowhere to be seen.