Friday, March 31, 2006
As city council ponders their plea on the WCB charges, they must keep in mind the names of two city employees - Cyril Fyfe and Kevin Olson.
These men died on behalf of all Yellowknifers and we owe them an enormous debt which has yet gone unpaid. In the words of Mayor Gord Van Tighem, the key is to find out what went wrong the day the two men died in a small shed fire. And make any needed changes. We agree.
Unfortunately, the mayor is a year late talking about doing the right thing. Its painfully clear he is making such comments now because the city is facing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines if found guilty of operating a substandard fire department.
As has been stated here before, the measure of mayor and council is not what went on prior to the fatal fire but what happened afterward: Two city employees had died. The families, the public, in that order, needed to know what went wrong. Why did the men die?
We know the city hired a consultant to examine the Home Building Centre fire.
Unfortunately, the report went unread by mayor and council. Worse, lessons that could be learned were not shared with firefighters.
So in the year between the fire and charges, the priority was to assess how exposed city administration was to legal threats. Safety threats at the fire department were not a priority.
Both mayor and council have been blindsided by the WCB charges. Their first impulse is to defend city administration, right or wrong.
Thats why we have the spectacle of Mayor Van Tighem holding up a skinny $20,000 report done by very high-priced consultants in 2002. There was little mention of safety and few references to training.
In todays Yellowknifer, the firefighters give their assessment of how seriously the report was taken by city administration. They say it was shelved. The best the mayor could say is that some of the things were done in three years. But not enough to prevent two city employees dying in a small shed fire.
So council finds itself in a difficult position. Is it more important to defend the honour of city administration or, in the words of their mayor, is it more important to find out what went wrong and fix it?
We say, find out what went wrong and fix it. Had this strategy been embraced a year ago, council could face any charges with a clear conscience. Safety should be the first priority, fines and legal bills a distant second.
Council must make an honest effort to ensure no city employee again loses their life due to an avoidable accident. Yellowknifers owe that much to Fyfe and Olson.
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI) president Paul Kaludjak would be better served trying to address the problems highlighted by the dismal voter turnout for NTIs election earlier this month, rather than throwing out the same old tired excuses.
Nice weather may have kept some beneficiaries away, but are we really expected to believe it was the reason only six per cent of those eligible bothered to vote in Baker Lake?
Was warm weather to blame for less than 30 per cent of all beneficiaries casting their ballot for a new first vice-president and vice-president of finance?
Hardly. In fact, we give James Eetoolook full marks for his candid remarks on the turnout being a signal that the majority of beneficiaries are unhappy with the way things are going.
A large part of the maturation process for any culture is when people start to find their voice and, slowly but surely, were seeing that in Nunavut.
A growing number of beneficiaries are wondering when theyre going to see all those benefits they heard so much about before division.
While its true expectations were too high to begin with, and many goals did not have a realistic time frame attached to them, the fact of the matter is too few Inuit are benefitting from Nunavut.
Its long been fair game for some leaders to blame the influx of southern workers as the main culprit in holding back Inuit, especially in high-paying jobs.
But more and more Inuit now realize that excuse rings hollow.
As our population becomes more aware, we realize senior management and highly-skilled jobs take years of training and our youth are moving in the right direction.
Were seeing more graduates every year continuing on to post-secondary education.
Its a slow process, but we are on the right path.
In the meantime, beneficiaries are getting a pretty good handle on southern terms such as the old boys club and the inner circle and what they truly mean.
In short, relatively small power bases in terms of the number of people involved wield an amount of power and influence that belies their numbers.
Its a case of give the electrician a hard time and the plumber, who happens to be the electricians cousin, wont come when your toilet is..., well, you get the picture.
Another word often associated with inner circles is nepotism, which beneficiaries also now understand.
A growing number of people are getting tired of seeing too many jobs that are within reach of the average beneficiary being tossed up into the same family trees.
The low voter turnout shows most beneficiaries are not happy, but they still have one more step to take.
Its obvious too many have reached the point where they believe it doesnt matter who they vote for because nothing will change.
But apathy is not the answer. Keep voting for change and change will come.
The next step is to show NTI president Kaludjak he may have been right about the weather - there is a storm cloud of discontent brewing and it may be heading his way.
It has been an interesting two-and-a-half years being the editor of your community paper.
In that time, I have come to know Inuvik in ways that have delighted me, and unfortunately, in ways that have been not so delightful.
Because for every story that celebrated somebody's achievement, there were those that focused on things not so flattering in the community.
A couple of weeks back a young boy asked me what people had to do to get in the paper. I replied that you either had to do something wonderful or something not-so-wonderful.
"Like what?" he asked in reference to the not-so-wonderful.
"Like commit a crime," I said, adding that I would much prefer he did something great, and not just because he thought it would get him in the Drum.
"Geeze, I know that," he said with a laugh before walking away.
Now there's one kid who won't be jetting through the streets in the wee hours on a stolen snowmobile. Thank goodness for small mercies.
But in all honesty, while writing about people misbehaving can be juicier, positive feel-good stories are much better for all involved and Inuvik can always use more "something greats."
Being the 'Drum guy'
I remember sitting around with friends back when I was younger and talking about how great being famous would be and how each of us were going to try and achieve this. Granted it wasn't much of an original ambition, or much of an ambition at all.
Turn on your television any given evening and you'll find loads of people attempting to do just that - either for their singing ability or for some other, how shall I put it, not so savory behaviour they want to share with the world. It's kind of like that question the boy asked me about getting in the paper, but I'm straying off topic here.
Anyways, the point is that after living in the public eye and being known as, "the Drum guy," "the photo man," and "that writer guy" (among other things), I long to return to a somewhat more anonymous lifestyle.
That said, there were a lot of perks to being the town reporter and foremost was meeting and getting to know many interesting people. And what I will take away from Inuvik are a lot of fond memories and friendships I've made while living here. For that, I extend a heartfelt thank you.
So as I prepare to break trail and head south, I will always appreciate my time spent here at the End of the Road. Whether it was jamming with the band on Saturdays at the Mad Trapper, or hanging out with the kids at SAMS school, one thing is for certain: there were a lot of laughs.
New editor ready to work
Next week, I'll be passing the torch to Dez Loreen, an enthusiastic and capable fellow, born and raised in Inuvik. Just back from Yellowknife, where he was honing his reporting craft at Northern News Services headquarters, Dez says he's ready for the challenge of taking on the role as Drum editor and I'm I'm confident in his ability to do a great job.
One item should be added to the list of the only things certain in this world.
The revised list would read, "death, taxes and loose dogs."
Once again dogs have made it back into the headlines with the Village of Fort Simpson enacting an emergency dog control program to combat free roaming canines.
Everyone can have their own viewpoint on whether or not the emergency program is the best way to go, but one thing is certain - something had to be done.
On almost any trip up or down main street you are bound to run into at least one loose dog.
Dogs of all shapes and sizes wander along the sidewalks and sometimes onto the road, where they often take their time moving out of the paths of vehicles.
Some of the dogs are regulars who can be recognized from previous sightings. In their desire to run free, some dogs have become regular escape artists. In January, a dog dragged its whole house down the street before being foiled by its chain and a stop sign. Another dog has been recently sighted pulling a length of chain along behind itself.
In those cases, the dogs must belong to someone because they had the trappings of civility. But there are clearly some canines that have no set home. Putting a dog down is hardly ever an easy decision. There is a strong argument that says by putting an animal down, you are simply punishing them for something a human has done by not taking proper care of the creature. This, however, still leaves the problem of what to do with the already loose, ownerless dogs.
It can be hoped that during the run of this emergency program some consideration will be given to dogs that might actually be good family pets that have simply had a momentary lapse in behaviour.
But where will the problem of loose dogs end? Is there a permanent solution?
At village council some interesting suggestions were thrown onto the table. Often it was hard to decide which ones were said in earnest and which in jest. One councillor suggested that no pet - dog, cat or otherwise - should be allowed within the village limits. Only living things with two legs should be allowed. Another idea involved having every dog spayed or neutered.
One idea that wasn't mentioned is that maybe dog licences should really become human licenses.
If you need a licence to drive a vehicle, perhaps a licence is also necessary to own a dog. After all, poorly trained dogs can be just as dangerous as a poorly driven vehicle.
To start the program, all dogs would have to be confiscated and hopeful owners would have to take a series of tests to prove their suitability for the position.
By making ownership of a dog an honour, perhaps the animals would be treated with more care and not be allowed to roam. Of course, this may not be the easiest plan to implement, but in the end something has to be done. The answer has to start at the grassroots level with people who care about the animals.
On page 20 of the March 24 edition of Yellowknifer, Kirsten Watt and Renee Pitre were incorrectly identified in the photo cutline for the story Kiss with an edge. We apologize for any embarrassment or confusion this may have caused.