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Monday, December 5, 2005
Stop the games

Nunavut politicians should stop playing childish political games. It started with the speaker apologizing for something he won't explain.

It's continuing with a sitting of the legislative assembly being cancelled because the regular MLAs showed up late. And no one is explaining what is going on.

The speaker won't answer questions from the media on why he is apologizing, and the regular MLAs are secretive as to why they showed up late. Something to do with a meeting and not knowing the rules of legislature.

Those who are being hurt by these shenanigans are the voters. Two have already spoken out about their displeasure at what is going on at the legislature.

Questions are going unanswered. MLAs are shying away from their responsibilities to their constituents.

They are hurting the territory by these games.

MLAs need to start dealing with what is important to the voters, because they'll find out what accountability means come the next election.

Time for the truth

Most Canadians do not understand the pain and suffering wrought by forcing First Nations and Inuit children to attend residential schools.

Some will call compensation payments announced last week misplaced charity.

But however well-intentioned the government of the day may have been, the residential school concept was wrong. Children were ripped from their homes and forced to live in sometimes appalling conditions. Some children were subjected to physical and sexual abuse. They were forbidden to speak their native language in an attempt to assimilate them into "Canadian society."

The damage done persists to this day. The memories continue to bring tears to the eyes of the people who attended.

Cash compensation will not ease that pain. Only understanding and acknowledgment that it was wrong will do that.

The federal government's $1.9 billion settlement pledge acknowledges the sins of the past. Now non-aboriginal Canadians must be helped to understand or else the compensation plan will be bitter for both peoples. That's why $70 million set aside for public education, events and memorials to commemorate what happened in these schools is so important.

More importantly, a truth and reconciliation forum with the profile of a Gomery inquiry needs to happen.

Only then will the victims be able to give a full airing to the injustice and the lasting harm suffered. Only then will the issue be laid to rest in Canada.

Warning for racy e-mail 'jokes' sufficient - for now

The person who sent racy, sometimes racist e-mails from his education council computer failed to show appropriate common sense.

While those kinds of "jokes" might be fine to send to close friends from your home computer, there's no place for that kind of smut in the workplace.

Common sense also suggests that someone in authority at the South Slave Divisional Education Council office should have ordered the practise to stop long ago.

Now that News/North has publicized this issue, council superintendent Curtis Brown has ordered the individual to stop sending the offensive e-mails. The person was also told to apologize to people who received them.

The person has been told that sending these so-called jokes is not acceptable. Common sense suggests that's the appropriate step. If it happens again, that's the time to examine a harsher penalty.

Literacy numbers speak a language all their own

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We agree with Education Minister Ed Picco that we have to celebrate the success of students who have come through Nunavut's education system.

In fact, we here at Kivalliq News go to great lengths to report on the success stories and special projects being undertaken in the Kivalliq's 11 schools.

That being said, we also realize there are major problems in our education system that have to be recognized and, more importantly, addressed.

And, while we fully support the government's attempts to increase the use of Inuktitut in our classrooms, it has to be done in such a way that our students' ability to develop their English and/or French literacy skills are not compromised.

Nunavut does not have the economy to support unilingual (Inuktitut) youth growing up to be financially and socially successful, as can be the case in Quebec with unilingual French-speaking youth - and that's keeping in mind French is one of two official languages in Canada.

That's why the Statistics Canada report released earlier this month is particularly disturbing.

The report shows Nunavut residents have the lowest English literacy rates in the country.

Conducted among people aged 16 to 65, the survey shows that almost 90 per cent of Inuit have a literacy rate lower than the minimum level required to function in society - and function is a long, long way from succeed. The report also shows Nunavut to have the lowest French literacy rate in Canada.

Picco is correct in his statement that Nunavummiut would score much higher if they were tested in Inuktitut.

However, Inuktitut was the primary language spoken by only a little more than half of those tested.

In response to a barrage of questions from Iqaluit Central MLA Hunter Tootoo, Picco pointed to the facts we had our highest number of graduates this past year (173, of whom 156 were Inuit), and more than 300 students are involved with post-secondary studies here at home and in the South.

That, unfortunately, is to be expected with the swell of students in our system.

In fact, three Nunavut schools have already passed the 100 per cent capacity mark, with two at 115 per cent and Gjoa Haven leading the way at an astounding 132 per cent of student capacity.

Picco also did not offer any numbers on how many of those 300 post-secondary students are passing their curriculums.

We side with Tootoo that Nunavummiut are growing weary of the GN discrediting these reports rather than addressing our shortcomings.

Even the Standing Committee on Education listed unacceptably low literacy rates as one of the biggest problems observed while conducting its community consultations.

Picco can point to all the flaws in Statistics Canada's methods he wants, but that doesn't change the fact we need more comprehensive literacy programs in our education system.

Nine out of 10 Inuit having a literacy rate lower than what they need to function in society is unacceptable - in any language!

Christmas campaign

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

So we get to vote for a new government on Jan. 23 next year.

Driving home the news was Jack Layton, leader of the NDP, the talking head on my boob tube who greeted me Tuesday morning to go on and on about how in spite of the parliamentary bickering during question period, his party made government work. (Ever noticed he kind of looks like that guy who gives away free computer tutorial CD-ROMs on television?)

Anyway, Layton would like to have all Canadians believe that if they voted for his party, our wildest dreams would come true. Well, maybe not quite that far.

Conservative blue if you want to endure "gay marriage debate, volume two." Like the movie Sister Act starring Whoopi Goldberg - the one about the street savvy police witness (Goldberg) who hides out with a bunch of nuns - I was pretty much satisfied there without having to endure Sister Act 2.

Conservative leader Steven Harper has already blasted out of the campaign gates promising to give us volume two if he wins. And after he bans gay marriage, forms a holy alliance with George W., our troops can go help the U.S. lose the war in Iraq. Remember how disappointed Harper was when Canada decided to sit this one out?

Which leaves us with Paul Martin and the Liberals. At least with them, you know what you're getting.

Mystery slush funds and patronage appointments to people who head up Crown Corporations, and loot the public purse in the name of expense accounts.

A Martin government will also guarantee that U2 lead singer Bono will drop by to make us all feel guilty for not giving more of our money away to Africa.

For the Northwest Territories, there's a convincing argument to be made that it would be best to have the Liberals back in power, if for no other reason than the fact that the federal government's pledge of $500 million in socio-economic pipeline impact cash for the NWT is not a done deal and is dependent on federal legislation.

Having the Liberals back in power would also ensure that ongoing devolution and resource revenue sharing negotiations - crucial to the Territories' future - could pretty much pick up where they left off.

"Hopefully we see the same government back in business so there won't be too much of a delay," Premier Joe Handley said to the Beaufort Delta Regional Council meeting in Inuvik Tuesday afternoon.

So it's a pretty safe to bet who Handley's voting for Jan. 23.

New blood

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

It was the American folk-rock band The Byrds who sang, "To everything there is a season, turn, turn, turn."

It's a song about the natural progression of life: there comes a time for change.

That is what is happening at the elders' table in the Deh Cho.

Whether that's good or bad depends on how you look at it, but the transition is necessary. The senior elders won't be around forever, that's a fact. Some are battling health problems, making it difficult to travel to meetings and concentrate all morning and afternoon for days on end.

That makes it imperative to groom a new generation of elders, junior elders, so to speak.

None of the senior elders should be cast aside if they still want to participate, if they still desire to share their knowledge. They are, after all, the strongest connection to a past way of life that grows more distant every day. They have carried forth the Dene values and principles that have stood strong for centuries. They also have an undeniable appreciation of the land.

Yet the new crop of elders brings something else to the table. They are more familiar with "both worlds:" the traditional Dene ways and modern technology.

As well, the up-and-coming elders are usually more direct in their approach. If they have a point to make, they make it.

The senior elders often convey a message through long, meandering stories of their past. While these narratives can be fascinating, they seem to be open to interpretation at the political table. It's not unusual to have two people come to two different conclusions about what an elder just said. Is that because the elder wasn't clear? Or is it because some individuals distort the elders' words to suit their own ambitions?

Let's be frank, there has always been plenty of behind-the-scenes talk about how some of the well-intentioned elders are vulnerable to political manipulation. That's sad. There are also occasional accusations that some elders show up for meetings to get honoraria cheques but they have no input. Also sad.

It doesn't mean Dene politics is rife with corruption and self-interest, but it would be naive to suggest that those things don't exist.

These are sensitive issues, but they are definitely out there.

The new breed of elders is more savvy about today's political tactics. They will take their seats with their eyes wide open to being used for political gain.

That said, the junior elders may come to the table with their own agendas. Some may argue that's no improvement.

Of course not all elders are involved in the political process. Some remain quietly at home, on the land or at a long-term care facility. Visiting them over a cup of tea can be richly rewarding and often makes politics seem like a silly preoccupation.


In the Nov. 21 edition Nunavut News/North, Ian McIver was wrongly identified. He is the general manager of the Hall Beach Co-op. News/North apologizes for the mistake.

In the Nov. 21 issue of Nunavut News/North, it was incorrectly stated that Sanitherm Engineering owns the Pangnirtung sewage treatment plant. In fact, a Sanitherm operator has been contracted by the Pangnirtung hamlet to assist in training employees and operating the plant. We apologize for the error.

Dene National Chief Noeline Villebrun did not say she supported the proposed residential school settlement as reported in News/North, Nov. 28. She encouraged people to review the package and make up their own minds and said it fell short of compensation offered to Japanese Canadians who were interned during the Second World War. We apologize for any embarrassment.