Wednesday, May 17, 2006
The territorial government has decided it is time for delinquent drivers to dig deep and pay up long-ignored traffic tickets and fines.
As of June 1, anyone renewing either a driver's licence or vehicle registration will be required to pay outstanding fines.
At last count, 1,000 NWT residents owed almost $175,000 in unpaid tickets. Will this lead to people driving without proper documentation?
For some people perhaps, but the penalty for that crime is far higher than a parking ticket.
The next step for the government is to link up with Yellowknife's bylaw department. Until a Supreme Court decision last year, bylaw officers could still drag people off to jail for unpaid fines. It makes sense that any municipal fines owing be dealt with in a more civil manner which is the beauty of the territorial process.
Paying traffic tickets is right up there with death and taxes. We have to pay anyway.
Having the choice of paying right away or when renewing a licence or registration is a much more efficient method of collection.
Yellowknife is connected to the south once again now that the ferry is running at Fort Providence.
But did anybody feel a crunch during the 24 days the ice road was down and the ferry wasn't running?
Costs of food didn't increase, there were no major shortages of groceries, price of fuel didn't dramatically rise and save for a few people wanting to drive south, break up went rather smoothly. Northerners have accepted that living here comes with some hardships, one of which happens to be no road south during break-up in the spring and freeze-up in the fall.
Will the cost of living go down if a bridge on the Mackenzie River is built? Not likely.
That leads us to wonder if it's really worth spending more than a reported $140 million on a bridge that is in danger of becoming the NWT's white elephant.
Eight weeks ago, when the price was somewhere over $60 million, we said build the bridge before it becomes too expensive. With the cost doubling in such a short time, that time may have already come.
A huge thumbs up to both Nunavut Justice Minister Paul Okalik and Qulliit Status of Women Council executive director Joyce Aylward for voicing their support of the Conservative government's plan to eliminate conditional sentences for crimes carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years or more incarceration.
Basically, should the proposal become law, those convicted of crimes such as sexual and aggravated assault would not be able to do time in their home community.
We would see vicious offenders in Nunavut serve hard time for their crimes.
More importantly, their victims will be able to try and put their shattered lives back together.
They will no longer have to hide away or constantly be looking over their shoulder in fear of retaliation for having the courage to speak out against their aggressor.
Should the proposal become law, we may see more people willing to speak out against those who commit violent acts, knowing that person will no longer be free to roam their community.
Hopefully, Nunavut MP Nancy Karetak-Lindell will lay party politics aside and support the proposal.
Her support would counter Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington's stance that it's not the way to go in the North.
According to the liberal thinkers in the North, being jailed away from home hurts the chances for these criminals to be rehabilitated.
According to them, having a sexual or violent offender sent off to jail also hurts their community.
Okalik was right in pointing out should this proposal become law, it would only affect those among us who commit serious offenses.
These are people who cause severe pain, rob others of their dignity and destroy lives.
While we are hesitant to worry about the rights of those who commit such crimes, we can't help but wonder what kinds of support those who oppose this law think are in place in Nunavut, especially in our smaller hamlets.
Do they believe time at a land camp is going to change a person capable of sexually assaulting or beating senseless someone's daughter?
We're not talking about first-time offenders here who made a stupid mistake by trying to sneak a T-shirt out of a local store, or kicked someone in the rear-end for denting their machine.
We're talking about serious offenders who cause serious pain.
Hopefully, the day will come when Nunavut has the facilities to house - and proper support networks to attempt to rehabilitate - these offenders closer to home.
Until then, those who commit such crimes should pay the price for their actions.
And if that price includes time in a southern facility, so be it.
We can't speak for violent offenders, but, for their victims, the time the offenders spend in jail is time well spent.
Last week, our boys in blue, the RCMP, seized two pounds of dope and a lot of cash. The RCMP say the bust was a result of an ongoing investigation that ended in charges being laid against two men.
Looking at the facts, I agree with the RCMP that it was a pretty large bust. It has become apparent that pot has a grip on the community.
I talked to a member of the RCMP about it, who noted people are going to keep dealing pot until the community intervenes.
I don't see that happening anytime soon, simply because of the volume of people suffering from addictions in town.
It's all about supply and demand. By looking at the magnitude of the stash seized, it would seem that the demand is quite high in our Northern community.
It seems as though people dont care that pot is illegal.
It's a controlled substance that is addictive and it does ruin lives.
Some minor possession charges may not result in hefty jail sentences, but trafficking is serious.
Pot dealers create an underground economy which is fuelled by addiction.
What might start off as a $20 front for some joints, could turn into the loss of a television set. It all depends on how bad you want it.
The network of dealers in town will continue to work together to stay in business.
I have a feeling that if the stoners of Inuvik lived in a place where dope was permitted, maybe this issue would be harder to keep under control.
Its up to all the citizens of Inuvik to ensure the fight against drugs continues for the benefit of everyone.
The high school students who went out to shovel the Legion's parking lot did the right thing.
After years and years of supporting the sports programs in Inuvik, the Legion should not have to worry about clearing snow from its lot.
The cadets usually do the job, but because of a low turnout this year in the cadet troops, the job was given to the athletes.
If you ask me, this cycle of helping works out great for everyone involved.
The school got money for travel, the Legion got their parking lot cleared of snow.
While the athletes were shoveling, they also got exercise which is good for them, too.
This all just proves the old adage; "Do onto others as you would have done to you."
Hopefully other organizations in town will take a page from the Legion's book, and give support for our youth.
Youth in the community often get a bad rap, but if you treat them with respect, like the Legion did, the rewards will be there.
The stuff history is made of arrived in the Deh Cho on Monday.
The community hall in the Fort Simpson Recreation Centre was transformed with tables, chairs, posters and a lot of electronic equipment to become the site of the Joint Review Panel hearings.
Those in attendance, even if they were just there to observe, were part of more than just a community hearing. It's often hard to look beyond the present, the here and now, but the hearings have to be viewed with a wide angle lens.
History is taking place right now.
Someday, no matter what the outcome is, these hearings will be written about in history books and be the subject of countless documentaries and papers. If it hasn't already happened, there are probably a multitude of university students sitting about sharpening their pencils and warming up their keyboards, planning to write their theses on the hearings.
It's almost hard to think about something happening locally in that manner, but just look at the example set by the Berger pipeline inquiry and the subsequent Berger report.
Did all of the people taking part and watching those hearings think that it would have the effect that it did, or still be talked about so many years later? Maybe some people did, but surely not everyone had that kind of foresight.
Just think, the comments made by anyone who decides to talk while the hearings are in the Deh Cho, and not just important people with big job titles, could be recorded and preserved for future generations to look at.
It's also humbling to think that people have the chance to participate in something that could change the face of the Deh Cho as it is currently known. Many people keep reiterating all the possible effects the pipeline could have environmentally, economically, socially, and culturally.
But there could also be a lot of what ifs. If the pipeline isn't built, think of all the future questions about what could have been.
Would a future with the pipeline turn out to be better than a future without it? Short of inventing a time machine, we will never know that answer.
What is clear is that today's younger generations may one day start stories with the line "When I was young, before the time of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline..."
Also humbling is the prospect of what the members of the Joint Review Panel have in front of them. Their task is not an enviable one.
Some people have trouble in the morning deciding what outfit to wear. The members of the Joint Review panel need to listen and mull over all the presentations given at all the hearings in order to come up with their decision.
Even watching one three-hour session gives a person a taste of the amount of information that is being imparted to the panel members.
As the panel moves around the communities, take a moment to pop in and watch. Even if you don't say anything, or don't stay for long, someday you will be able to say that you saw the Joint Review Panel in action.
Several errors appeared in Friday's Yellowknifer. It was incorrectly reported that drivers will be unable to renew their licenses if they have unpaid parking tickets ("Traffic ticket crack down, May 12).
Only drivers with dues under the territorial Motor Vehicles Act - which includes speeding tickets - will be unable to renew their licenses. Parking is a municipal responsibility. Also, RCMP Sgt. Darcy Fleury's name was incorrectly spelled in the news brief, "Handgun incident in Old Town."
Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion caused by these errors.
In addition, officials at McDonald's Restaurant here in Yellowknife say a man convicted of passing fake cheques no longer works at the eatery, "Drug addict admits to fraud binge." The man's lawyer said he was working at McDonalds' during a hearing in which he sought to avoid jail time on several fraud convictions.