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Northern News Services Online

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Delayed justice unjustified

What is a higher priority for police investigators if not a sexual assault?

If crimes were put on a scale of severity then murder would likely top the list. None were reported, however, in the Yellowknife area in the months after August 2001, when a 17-year-old girl complained to the RCMP about a sexual assault following a drinking party with several young men.

The case drifted into limbo for four years while DNA evidence gathered in a sexual assault kit moldered in a police locker and potential suspects roamed the streets.

The RCMP say the case may have been set aside because it demanded a "very involved" investigation as opposed to one that had to be dealt with "right then and there."

This seems to imply that an easy-to-solve case takes priority because it can be dealt with quickly and efficiently - a smoking gun, if you will, that brings immediate results.

If that was the case, it's hard to comprehend the RCMP's tardiness in pursuing this sexual assault case.

Overworked or not, the RCMP had its smoking gun. It was the DNA evidence in the sexual assault kit, the same evidence used to charge John Koyczan with the crime almost five years after the girl's complaint was made.

But because the DNA evidence stayed under wraps, the public was subjected to the presence of a suspected sexual offender within the community for over four years.

There is also a good cause for concern that, because the sexual assault kit remained neglected for so long, other possible suspects will remain free from prosecution due to improper storage methods at RCMP headquarters.

The NWT has a horrible record for sexual assaults. At 372 per 100,000 people, it's the second highest rate in the country after Nunavut. This sobering figure proves more than anything that the RCMP cannot afford to take sexual assault cases lightly.

They must be investigated and prosecuted thoroughly wherever and whenever possible.

Hiding Stephen Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is living up to his reputation as being aloof and inaccessible with his latest visit to Yellowknife.

Harper spent the better part of two days in the capital last week although few saw him save the party faithful at a Conservative rally held at the Baker Centre.

His appearance was for the invited only, just as it was when he visited the legislative assembly last year.

With his government's latest emphasis on Arctic sovereignty, it would seem advisable that the prime minister have a frank and open dialogue with the people who live closest to it and would see first-hand the impacts created by his government.

Instead, the prime minister prefers meeting with a roomful of the converted, free from heckling doubters. How he intends to win over everybody else remains to be seen. The next federal election will be the proof in the pudding.

Go west on the jet
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News
Wednesday, August 15, 2007

It's never too early to start planning for your next trip, especially if you happen to be a dog lover.

This past month, the new Air Canada policy came into being that makes dog lovers ship their pets via cargo.

There will be no more pets on Air Canada passenger planes.

I guess it's really true when you have someone to bail you out financially, like Big Brother has done in the past for Air Canada, you really don't have to worry too much about customer service -- especially if you still have a monopoly on many destinations within Canada and abroad.

Air Canada first took small pets out of the passenger-seating area due to the fact they were a health concern to the one per cent or so of flyers who are allergic to them.

Fair enough. Few of us like to see anyone suffer, no matter how few they may be in the big picture of things.

But now the animals must fly cargo to, apparently, create more luggage room for paying customers.

Although I'm not really sure why being a dog lover who refuses to leave his little buddy behind every year knocks me from the ranks of paying customer, let's put that aside for the moment.

Having your furry family member relegated to the cargo hold could still be viewed as an annoyance if you were only paying an additional $75 on top of your ticket.

However, Air Canada expects you to pay full cargo rates (but of course) for your pet, which, depending on size and weight, could have you shelling out close to the cost of a ticket for another person.

Hmmm. Sub-species to get off of the plane, but equal being when it comes to paying for the ride.

And if you think because you now have to pay an outrageous amount to have your beloved pet come on vacation with you, that will ensure its safe delivery and good treatment along the way -- think again!

This past year, our pet of about 15 years was eight pounds too heavy in her kennel to be included on our ticket.

So, the good folks at Air Canada told us she had to fly at cargo rates.

We still have our receipt for anyone who doubts we paid almost as much to fly our old girl down east with us as we did for our own tickets.

As we headed back home to Rankin, content in the knowledge Princess would be well-cared for at that rate, we arrived in Winnipeg to find she had been bumped in Montreal like a $10 sack of potatoes.

She showed up hours later, suffering from mild heat stroke, upset and obviously not even afforded the courtesy of a bathroom break during her lengthy voyage.

We know this because she left presents for the cargo folks the second she was let out of her kennel.

The good people at Air Canada were very apologetic and let us know, quite earnestly, if they could do anything to make it up to us -- except refund any of our money -- we had but to ask.

To our family, Air Canada's pet policy has made it an airline to be used when there's absolutely no other choice (including walking) or it's a free flight.

When purchasing airline tickets from this time forward, my motto will always be, go west young man, go west (jet)!

Showing our true face
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, August 09, 2007
Rumours flying around the village of Fort Simpson were confirmed on Aug. 3 when news of the Prime Minister's visit became official.

Yes, barring a change of plans, Stephen Harper was scheduled to visit the community on Aug. 8.

With the visit, Harper was set to become the latest in a growing line of officials and dignitaries that have stopped by the village. The most recent guests have included Canada's Gov. Gen. Michaelle Jean during Aboriginal Day last year and Margaret Trudeau, the wife of former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, during the Keepers of the Water Gathering last September.

Although the reason behind the Prime Minister's visit and what he will say or announce will undoubtedly be commented on by a variety of people, these visits by officials with impressive titles are almost all the same.

The official flies into the airport, gets whisked away to some location in the village, meets with a few people such as the mayor and chiefs, makes a few public comments and mingles with some of us commoners before being whisked back to the airport and on to their next destination.

It's not that these visits aren't exciting because they certainly are. The visits provide lots of fodder for conversation. It's also a feather in Fort Simpson's cap to have so many people visiting and bringing the village to the attention of the larger, national audience.

It's just that what the visitors do, in this case the Prime Minister, is almost less important than what they don't do.

It all comes down to this: visiting dignitaries are presented with the polished version of Fort Simpson. They are taken to see all of the bright spots including the Papal grounds and the Visitors' Information Centre. They are also often presented with a shining example of the local youth in the form of the Kole Crook Fiddlers.

The same thing probably happens at every other small community the officials visit. It's only natural for people to want to show off the best parts of their hometown.

The only problem with these milk and honey tours is that they have people leaving with the impression that things couldn't be better in the village. It would be nice if this were true but it isn't.

Maybe the standard for these visits, especially ones by someone with real power such as the Prime Minister, should be based on what the average resident would like the leader of the country to know about.

What is it that the average resident of any Deh Cho community would like to say to the Prime Minister?

If Harper were sitting at your breakfast table or perched on your couch would you want to discuss the most scenic areas your community has to offer, or bring up the things your community really needs?

Probable topics could include creating more job opportunities in Northern communities so adults can work and young people have a reason to stay. There's also the question of housing and whether what we have is healthy to live in and if we need more to meet demand.

Other conversations could cover the cost of services such as hydro and heat or even how climate change is affecting practical things such as ice bridge seasons.

The next time someone with a big title and some power to make changes comes to visit, the focus of the trip should be less on what we can do for them and more on what they can do for us.

Bad apples
Editorial Comment
Dez Loreen
Inuvik News
Thursday, August 09, 2007

Let's cut everything else and get straight into this: I have mucho beef with some people in this town.

When someone uses the term bad apples, they're usually referring to young people. Sure we have some troubled youth who need more constructive things to do with their time, but there are also older people out there causing mischief.

It seems like a daily occurrence for me to get accosted by some street person who smells too nice for their own good.

You all know the scent I'm referring to, the crisp, cutting smell of mouthwash. Man, I don't get the appeal, but it seems to do the job. I've never seen anyone stagger like that woman at a local business.

I just don't get how some people came upon such hard times, such a ditch in their progression that they couldn't get back out.

I think it was some time last week when the line was drawn for me.

See, I don't have the kind of sympathy for their sort that other people in town seem to carry. I can't see past their state and give them money.

I can't harbour them and listen to their drunken ramblings, as entertaining as they are on occasion.

A handful of people spend all their time on the streets of Inuvik, or under NorthMart, behind the bank, nestled under utilidors. I'm sure most of you know these people - probably went to school with them and saw their decline in life.

One day, you're dropping out from Samuel Hearne, the next, you find yourself sipping cheap sherry from a cut off two-litre bottle.

I don't know what they did to get where they are, but we need to make sure that we don't send any more of our people to the same fate.

We have youth in our community that find joy in destroying property. We have people in town that need to write their name on anything. We have hordes of kids roaming the streets at night.

The youth are winning the war and all we can do is keep catering to them. Make a bigger skate park, fix those basketball nets. It all gets done, yet we get no reciprocation from the young generation in town.

Why don't we see youth painting fences, like Tom Sawyer? I am getting tired of taking photos of broken playground equipment and vandalized property.

There has to be a barrier between the older street people and our other generations.

I know that there are countless people working hard to help those streeter dwellers, but it seems like their work goes in vain.

Even just today, I was confronted by a drunken woman at NorthMart. I see her as a missed opportunity. I want that image in my head for the rest of my life, so I can keep applying pressure to the community, to help those who need it.

Somewhere during that woman's life, she ran into obstacles. A hurdle that she couldn't overcome on her own. Now she sleeps where society will let her.

As a young person, I see the youth as the future. With the provisions like the skate park, the pool, numerous playgrounds and day camp programs, I think the older people have done enough for now.

If the young people aren't ready to make a contribution to the community, then all this work was wasted.

Keep the young generations on a short leash and on the straight and narrow. It will work out in the end and we can all be happy.