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Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Empty assurances

Yellowknife schools are safe for our kids. That doesn't mean there isn't bullying going on or fights don't take place, but we don't need metal detectors at entrances or drug sniffing dogs to do regular patrols.

t's important, though, that educators and parents have a firm grasp on teens' attitudes toward violence and bullying.

St. Patrick high school has begun a survey of every student. Obtained from the B.C. Ministry of Education, the survey puts pointed questions to students that spells out the fact bullying can range from hitting to name calling and gossip.

This effort will help paint a more accurate picture of what's happening at St. Pat's. The same survey should be done at Sir John Franklin high school so all Yellowknife teachers, parents and students understand the reality of the problem.

That's important, because when it comes to bullying, education and understanding is the best weapon to stop it.

Council dropped the ball

Mayor Gord Van Tighem called it a "good question" when asked why the city didn't simply raise commercial garbage rates instead of leaving local businesses to fend for themselves.

It's a question, frankly, that city councillors should have asked themselves last month. Instead, they blindly accepted administration's recommendations to privatize the commercial portion of the garbage contract without pausing to consider the outcome.

The new rates - with one large property owner reporting a 77 per cent increase - may very well be fair. Administration previously reported that the commercial sector was grossly undercharged under the old contract while homeowners paid way too much, but councillors failed to make sure the rates were eased in instead of implementing one big shock a month later.

They let this one slide and now businesses and Kavanaugh are scrambling to adjust to the new system, which comes into effect Jan. 1.

It's not enough to simply attend meetings and vote. It's a councillor's job to make sure the public, including the commercial sector, receives fair warning when a big increase is coming down the pipe.

It's important that people remember this was a decision that was voted upon unanimously by the councillors. Not one councillor objected or considered the consequences enough to suggest delaying the change. City Hall may take the flack, but city councillors are the ones responsible. They failed to properly represent the people who elected them.

Our 2005 Christmas wish list

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

It's time for the annual Kivalliq News Christmas gift list.

We were so impressed by how many of the gifts we sent out in 2004 were put to good use, we decided one gift simply isn't enough for everyone on our list this year.

So, while we're in such a giving mood, let's start at the top with Premier Paul Okalik.

After seeing the shape Okalik was in when he came to Rankin to open the new regional health facility, we immediately ordered a jar of Tiger Balm to help him bounce back from those hockey-related injuries.

We also sent the premier a life-sized cutout of himself in goalie gear to put on the ice when duty keeps him for making the game.

We're told by a few of his teammates in Iqaluit that his opponents probably won't notice the switch.

And, finally, we send along a case of Noxema to help with that nasty sunburn on the back of the premier's neck.

We knew the Lone Ranger mask we sent house Speaker Jobie Nutarak this past year would come in handy, so we decided to send a few more items he may find handy.

First, a personal diary with lots of space for keeping notes, just so the Speaker can remember where he was and what he did on any given day.

We also send a toy translator from the original Star Trek series to help him live long and prosper as Speaker.

To Arviat MLA David Alagalak, we send the world's largest Brita water filter and water pistol.

The Brita is for his constituents. The water pistol is for the next sitting of the legislative assembly.

What to give the man who has everything? That was the task ahead of us when Education Minister Ed Picco was next on our list.

We thought it a bit strange for a native Newfoundlander to be appointed head of education to begin with, seeing as how they don't really speak English or Inuktitut.

But after listening to Picco for the past year, he seems to have lost the ability to speak true Newfoundland-ese, so we decided to help him get in touch with his roots.

We've sent the good minister an ample supply of the letters D and H.

Now, when Picco talks about dis or dat to dos byes over dere, he'll be able to complain about the price of hoil in Nunavut without missing a beat.

We also sent some strong rope so he can stop that cat's annoying habit of getting out of the bag so much.

We've put the rope under the Christmas tree at the FOL site in Rankin Inlet.

To Rankin North MLA Tagak Curley, we send a brand-new watch with a really, really big face and hands.

Hopefully, the watch will remind him that taxpayers' time is not to be wasted protesting against ministers.

The watch is engraved with the slogan: Members rule the House!!

To Iqaluit Central MLA Hunter Tootoo, we send a giant map of Nunavut with easy to follow directions.

The tiny part circled in yellow is you (Iqaluit), the rest of that really big area circled in red is us.

Get used to it!!

And, finally, our Secret Santa gift goes out to two ministers who shall rename nameless, at least for now.

Under your trees, you will find a genuine note excusing you from the house during the ministerial review process.

The notes won't change the results, but they will keep you blissfully in denial for a few more days.

May these gifts be received in the spirit for which they were intended.

Happy holidays to everyone and our hopes for peace in the new year.

Give smokers a break

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

I thought I heard it all on the crusade against cigarette smokers until my alarm clock radio startled me out of my slumber with the news announcer talking about the government's plans to ban smoking in all remaining public places.

I bolted out of bed, put the coffee machine on and lit a cigarette to calm my nerves.

Sure, it starts innocently enough with bus shelters but where will it end? Public places could also include sidewalks, roads, parks, campgrounds and beaches. Who will stop the insanity?

And who or what agency will enforce this ridiculous legislation? Town of Inuvik bylaw officers have enough to do chasing loose dogs, illegal snowmobilers, handicapped parking violators and now, perhaps, the guy wandering down Mackenzie Rd. having a butt. Has the government lost its mind?

Imagine there's a guy selling crack just down the road, and you get busted for having a smoke while walking your dog in the opposite direction. Is this the best the braintrust at the legislative assembly can come up with for saving the souls of law-abiding citizens?

I'm completely dumbfounded.

How about legislating people, you know, with serious life-altering addictions like alcohol abuse or those sucking back the really toxic smoke of hard drugs like crack cocaine and crystal meth to get cleaned up? Or what about legislation to enforce punctuality and attendance at school? No, you see these would be violations of one's human right to be intoxicated at all hours or to be a dropout and we wouldn't want to tread on those precious freedoms.

So let's just go after the nicotine maniacs littering the Territories. Yeah, once we teach those guys a lesson this place will see some real results!

(Some real results might be seen if the GNWT built an addictions treatment centre here in Inuvik, but I digress.)

Add this ludicrous public smoking ban to the GNWT plan to ban the display of tobacco products in retail stores while hardcore porn magazines are in full view to anyone over five feet in height and what you're left with is nothing short of a gong-show.

I guess us smokers will be forced to feel like real health-pervs now, asking the clerk to see that luscious carton of duMauriers hiding behind the counter. Oh, Players, they're just too sexy to be in plain sight!

And be sure the advocates will try and push the argument that fewer smokers means less strain on the already cash-strapped health care system in the years to come.

Real believers in this outlandish legislation will even try to tell you that hiding cigarettes from consumers and banning smoking in public places may even curb smoking among youth.

Pure nonsense when you consider the strain drug addiction, including all its cumulative effects, and a large population of school dropouts already put on the public purse.

Much ado about elders

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

There is no handbook on how to deal with elders.

Things were undoubtedly more clear cut centuries ago when Dene tradition was strong. Today, however, with the blending of lifestyles and political practices, it's a fluid situation.

This week's Drum profiles emerging elder Jonas Antoine. He, like Rita Cli, was designated a Liidlii Kue First Nation elder by current chief Keyna Norwegian.

Leo Norwegian, one of the members of the old guard, acknowledges the need for a new crop of elders. Yet he would much prefer that the senior elders be the ones to select their successors. That's how he ascended to the role, he said.

So we have a bit of a conundrum: who should rightfully be selecting an elder?

Then there's the question of how much sway the elders should truly have. A future Deh Cho public government - proposed through a draft constitution and based on Dene values - will ostensibly give an elders' council a central role in many weighty decisions.

But, when it's all said and done, will the elders essentially be a bunch of rubber-stamping figureheads, much like Canadian senators or even more ineffectual, similar to the Queen of England? Or will their recommendations carry real influence? Finally, the scenario unfolding with Leo Norwegian brings to light another wrinkle: what happens when an elder falls out of favour with the political leadership? Could there really be such a thing as a rogue or maverick elder? Should there be a power of recall?

These are some of the complex questions that arise when we don't limit the discussion on elders to the usual platitudes, which remind us that the elders are wise and are to be respected. While that may generally be true, there is so much more at play these days. It just has to be brought to the surface and discussed.

There is no shortage of opinions on the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline but it's interesting to get some youth perspective on the topic in this week's Coffee Break.

Although today's teens and children need adults to make prudent decisions on their behalf, the youth should be as informed as possible on the anticipated consequences, both good and bad.

Roxanna Thompson is in the process of taking over as editor of the Deh Cho Drum.

She arrived in Fort Simpson on Sunday and, in the coming weeks and months, will become a familiar face to the people of this region.

I'll be hanging around for another week or two before departing for Halifax. I trust that you will make Roxanna feel as welcomed as you did me.


An error appeared in last Wednesday's Yellowknifer ("77 per cent garbage hike stuns business," Dec. 7). Two quotes were wrongly attributed to John Oldfield, owner of Kavanaugh Brothers. Statements about stores being busy during the Christmas shopping season, and city council not giving "businesses enough lead time" should have been attributed to Kelly Hayden, vice-president of northern operations for WAM Development Group. Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion caused by the error.