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Friday, December 30, 2005
Two deaths, a storm & a dancing dog

It is easy to look at where Yellowknife is on a map - any map will do - and think that "I'll bet nothing much goes on there."

We get inundated by news from around the world. Being Canadians, we have a tendency to think that outside news is always bigger than what goes on here at home.

In a sense that's true. When the tsunami crashed shorelines around the Indian Ocean rim, the event was a world away. But Yellowknife felt the shock. Wallets opened. Cliff Sutherland and Amy Maund packed their bags for Sri Lanka.

But Yellowknife was flooded with a grief of its own when veteran firefighter Cyril Fyfe and rookie Kevin Olson lost their lives in the line of duty at the Home Building Centre fire in March. We know it's a dangerous job, but no one can be prepared when the worst happens.

Of all the events of 2005, Yellowknife's crime scene was always around to remind us that we have big city problems.

The second-degree murder conviction back in June of Gerald Delorme in the vicious killing of Justin Hai Van Vo brought to light the drug-rotted underbelly of life.

Then there was November's downtown drive-by shooting said to be drug turf related, the December back-alley mugging at gun point and the elderly man beaten and robbed on his doorstep. Is Yellowknife becoming a more dangerous place to live?

Not if the Mounties have their way. The city-wide sweep of arrests during Operation Gunship in October went deep enough that the Right Spot bar and Johnson's Building Supplies closed soon after. Raids like this won't stop drug dealing, but it goes some way to balance the idea that the city is becoming more lawless.

Another perennial topic is to ask what's up with our weather.

Last winter we had a solid deep freeze from the beginning of 2005 until Mother Nature decided to switch off the fridge in late spring.

And it leaks. Frame Lake area found that out when a super cloud burst flash flooded the neighbourhood in July.

Then there's this "warmish" fall and early winter that have proved to be the joyful opposite of last year's instant ice cube hell.

Despite all the sad, bad and generally traumatic stories in 2005, we can at least count on the strange and oddball to keep us in a better mood to look forward to 2006.

In July for example, Larry the garden gnome made a successful return to his Yellowknife home after an extended kidnapping.

Then there's Corbin.

Maybe your dog can pull a sled 50 miles, but Corbin can understand Japanese. The armload-sized mutt likes to dance to country music, too.

If Faith Embleton's dog was any smarter, he'd be able to predict the outcome of the federal election and save us all a lot of earache.

Rankin coach lands early Christmas gift

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Wow! Talk about a super Christmas gift to a group of kids in the Kivalliq - this one is pretty high on the list.

Although it won't be announced until Dec. 22, Kivalliq News has learned the Rankin Inlet bantam hockey club has been picked as one of Wayne Gretzky's Future Team Canadas.

The program is a joint effort between the Wayne Gretzky Foundation and the Canadian Hockey Foundation.

Because they were selected as one of the winners, the Rankin bantams will be receiving a very special package sometime during the next three-to-four weeks.

The kids will receive a new supply of sticks, sweaters and gloves, including the two goalies who will each get a new trapper and blocker.

The squad also gets a $1,000 cheque to be used for team-development purposes.

The bantams will send a team photo into the foundation and it will appear in a nationally distributed publication.

So, who do the bantams have to thank for this wonderful Christmas gift?

That would be their coach and long-time volunteer Tommy Adams.

Adams took the time to fill out and submit a lengthy application when he found out about the national program a few months ago.

While Adams is to be highly commended for landing this windfall for the Rankin kids, he is far more than a bantam coach.

Adams has been a certified Level Two hockey official for a number of years and is also a board member of the Rankin Inlet Minor Hockey Association.

The easy going hockey nut is the perfect example of the type of volunteer we need more of in the Kivalliq.

While there is no shortage of folks who are quite willing to point out the weaknesses in our Northern hockey program, there are few willing to step up and put in the amount of time to improve the program as Adams does.

We're fortunate in that Adams is not alone.

You would be hard pressed to find an evening during the week Donald Clark is not at the local arena, while people such as Justin Merritt and Ron Roach have been involved with minor hockey at various levels for years.

The same can be said for Jim MacDonald, who decided to step away from the game for awhile this year after being known as Mr. Hockey in Rankin for more years than he probably cares to remember.

While we have a strong base in Rankin, we still have plenty of room for more people to get involved.

In fact, volunteering time to make your community a better place to live sounds like a pretty good new year's resolution to us.

The people we've listed above could certainly use your help, and hockey is but one program that would welcome you into the fold.

It's nice to end the year on such a positive note by sending our congratulations to Adams for getting his bantams included in the Wayne Gretzky Future Team Canada program.

If more volunteers offer their time in the coming year, we're sure we'd have even more good news to pass your way - something to think about during the holidays.

Merry Christmas

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

National Energy Board hearings getting underway, followed by a federal election are just a few things we can expect early next year.

I am hesitant to say "look forward to" as a room full of lawyers and polling stations don't really breed too much excitement. However, both are important for the region and the country, but not the most festive things to be thinking about when there's turkey to be cooked, gifts to be bought and wrapped and friends and family to visit.

Personally, I'm looking forward to a few days off to tune out the world and relax around the tree.

The last thing I want to be doing is watching federal party leaders Paul Martin, Steven Harper and Jack Layton battle it out in soundbites on the TV. One can only hope these guys either turn it down a notch - at least until the hangover of New Year's has worn off - or actually start talking about the issues instead of trying to win the public over with cash handouts, tax cuts and new gun laws.

It's times like these that living in Inuvik is calming. At least we don't have the federal MP hopefuls lurking about ready to ambush us while we wait in the Northmart checkout line. Western Arctic candidates have vote-rich Yellowknife to battle for. That said, it would be nice if Inuvik could get a commitment from all four - Dennis Bevington (NDP), Richard Edjericon (Conservative), Ethel Blondin-Andrew (Liberal) and Alexandre Beaudin (Green) - to attend Inuvik's all-candidates debate Jan. 16., you know, a gesture of good faith and all to show the people they really care about this region.

Beaudin is a Yellowknife photographer and glass worker, and joined the campaign earlier this week.

The Delta is only standing on the edge of a $7 billion pipeline project so you think we'd warrant a co-ordinated visit by the candidates, to show that we actually matter, not just the gas underneath us.

Bevington has already thrown his hat in the ring but it won't be much of a debate if nobody else shows. Don't you just love our democracy in action?

Apart from peace on Earth, goodwill to everyone and a Sizzler Steakhouse gift certificate, my Christmas wish for the Delta is that serious planning begin on an all-weather road from Wrigley to Tuk. Then when it gets built, say sometime in the next five years if we're lucky, a gallon of milk won't cost more than a six-pack of beer during freeze up and break up periods.

(Funny how the price of booze never goes up during these periods.)

Next on the list would be an addictions treatment centre here in town, followed by an arts and cultural centre and, what the heck, a crack-free Inuvik in 2006! Sad to think that the odds on favourite is the gift certificate from Sizzler - about the only item that fat guy in the red suit could deliver. I mean who's really going to pin their hopes on the government delivering anything apart from the usual.

This year I resolve not to vote for anybody who won't bother attending the all-candidates debate in Inuvik.

I could have said I'll quit smoking or staying up late watching pay-TV but I'm not sure I can take the guilt of eventually breaking those. So I figure my vote resolution is an easy one to keep and one others should consider.

Farewell Deh Cho

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

There are times when it feels like saying thank you just isn't enough.

This is one of those times.

As many of you know, my wife Val and I are leaving for Halifax (actually she's already been there for the past three months and, believe me, I miss her).

Our reason for leaving is a personal one: it's family.

The Deh Cho has given us so much over the past seven and a half years. We've been made to feel warmly welcomed. But our parents are on the East Coast, and the time has come to be close to them again.

Leaving isn't easy, though.

We have grown fond of the beautiful land, the wonderful people and the casual lifestyle here. It's been a richly rewarding time in our lives.

My days in the Deh Cho have taught me more than I could have ever imagined.

I owe so much to all those who took time out of their day - as some of you did on a weekly basis - to help form each edition of this newspaper.

I'm also indebted to everyone who sent in photos, especially the regular contributors.

When I'm down south and people ask me what life is like in this part of the North, I'll tell them about the Dene and Metis and how they are striving to protect the land and their language; how they are trying to retain their storied culture, a culture they generously shared with me and others.

At the same time, I'll say, these admirable aboriginal people are aiming to assert themselves and take control of governance and industrial development in an ever-changing world.

I'll also be sure to mention the incredibly dedicated professionals and volunteers I met in the Deh Cho: education and health staff, justice workers, recreation directors, firefighters, and, yes, local politicians.

This diverse group of people didn't always see eye-to-eye, but these individuals were, without a doubt, doing their utmost to better their communities.

"Wow, that sounds like a perfect place to live," some people might say.

I will reply, "No, of course it's not perfect.

"Like every other place it has its problems.

"But, all in all, I sure do hope to go back again someday."

Until then, thank you so much for allowing me to tell your stories.

I wish you the merriest of Christmases and all the best in the new year. Mahsi cho.

P.S. If you want to stay in touch you can reach me at dehchoderek@yahoo.com


Last week the Inuvik Drum referred to an upcoming Residential School Reunion as "Rez School Gathering." Ellen Smith, alcohol and drug specialist with the Inuvik Regional Health and Social Services Authority and an organizer of the event, telephoned the Drum office to correct the paper on its use of "Rez" to imply residential school. The term "rez" is popular slang for reservation.

A photo caption in Wednesday's Yellowknifer ("2006 budget passes") contains erroneous information. Coun. Doug Witty voted against the 2006 city budget not Coun. Alan Woytuik. Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion caused by the error.

In the Dec. 16 Yellowknifer ("Community, fireweed and second chances"), Richard Nye should have been named as one of the two people who contributed $1,000 to Erica Tesar's purchase of an armoire at the Festival of Trees auction. We apologize for any embarrassment or confusion this error may have caused.