Friday, October 26, 2007
The police obtained a court injunction last week demanding that McGee stay away from public parks, swimming pools, community centres, playgrounds or any other place where children under 14 may be found.
The Yellowknife lawyer has been free from jail since he was released in April after serving six months of nine-month sentence for indecent assault against an eight-year-old girl in the early 1980s. He was also convicted in 2004 of two counts of indecent assault, again involving young girls.
An agreed statement of facts read in court last week reported that McGee "has current sexual fantasies about prepubescent females," and "has masturbated to child pornography."
Clearly, this is not someone who should be trusted to roam the community at will, despite his prior standing in the community as a respected lawyer. Harsher penalties have been meted for similar crimes.
It leads us to ask why the courts didn't apply the restrictions on their own after he was convicted the first time? It doesn't reflect well on the courts to sit on their hands while police step in and do their job for them. It's the police's responsibility to catch criminals; it's the courts' responsibility to pass judgment and ensure the public is kept safe from offenders.
Yellowknifer's sports pages have often carried stories about NWT athletes heading south for competitions. Sometimes we report how these hard working athletes were clobbered by provincial juggernauts with deeper pockets and talent pools.
In some cases, coaches here have become loath to emphasize competition all together for fear their latest batch of players will wind up as cannon fodder the next time they take a road trip south of the 60th parallel.
Enter Yellowknife's Michael Gilday, who last week claimed a world record in a 1,000-metre short track speed skating event in Calgary.
The rising speed skating star has a great shot at making the national team to compete in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
He ranked sixth in team trials held in September, which puts him on the team as long as he can hang onto a top eight position until next season.
Gilday isn't the only NWT athlete to impress. Fort Simpson's Chris Stipdonk is a world-class runner and biker who captured a bronze at the World Duathlon Championships in Corner Brook, Nfld. last year.
Meanwhile, the NWT Ravens are preparing to defend their title at the men's Western Broomball Championships in Yellowknife next month.
It's understandable why we wouldn't want to put too much emphasis on winning when sending a team of 15-year-olds to a national event where they could get drilled 20 to zip.
That doesn't mean, however, that the territories are without athletes capable of performing on the national or even international stage.
Gilday and Stipdonk have proved that. They are an inspiration to us all, and we should do everything we can to support them.
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, October 25, 2007
A recent series of cultural camps near Fort Providence can't help but provide a little bit of hope for the future.
The week-long camp brought Grade 6 students from around the Deh Cho to T'elemie Cultural Camp for the second year of the Education Through Commitment Project.
They learned how to survive on the land; how to hunt, how to forage, how to cook, how to build shelters, and a slew of other skills, including the importance of teamwork.
Some of the youth Deh Cho Drum talked to seemed to be in awe of the experience, and took something legitimate away. Some planned to keep up with their sewing, others hoped to get out on the land more often. Still others just took the camp as a fun experience that they'll keep with them for some time.
What was particularly striking was the number of students who were not so wide-eyed, who looked at a week out on the land as perfectly normal way to spend their time.
Through these youth, it's obvious that some skills are still being passed down, regardless of the education system's attempts to "bridge the gap."
The only apparent problem with the camp was how it broke down according to gender lines. It's not so much a matter of the division of labour between boys and girls (this is a "traditional" camp, after all), but a simple matter of time.
The boys got a week worth of cultural instruction, while the girls got three days.
In a later interview, Deh Gah school instructor Shanna Hagens said the breakdown of the days was just a matter of logistics - there wasn't enough room at the camp for both the boys and the girls. Still, some sort of arrangement should have been worked out. It doesn't seem fair to have the boys get that much more time at a fun - and important - camp like this.
That said, it's clear that few of the kids were complaining about the experience.
In the end, the camp's aims are noble, and not just for attempting to bridge the gap between youth and their culture.
Not to get too deep into the realm of creepy developmental videos, but Grade 6 is a tough age, assuming all of us can remember back that far.
An event like this can serve as an anchor, a place where young people can find strength and guidance to draw on during harder times.
And for those of us who can remember those days, we know how important what guidance we found was, or how we missed it in its absence.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
With the first snowfall, we hear the all too familiar sound of high-powered snow machines ripping across open land, down our streets and on the lakes.
With the snow on the ground, kids are more likely to be outdoors, playing with others and having a good time.
It's important to remember to practise recreational activities safely, as tempting as it may be to jump on your sled and ride.
We've had a lot of snow but the ice is not ready hold any real weight.
Earlier this week I was near the river with an RCMP constable. You could see fresh snowmobile tracks across open water on the river.
I understand that there are people who want to get back on the land, but be aware of the risks of being on thin ice.
We need to make sure our youth are aware of ice safety.
Ice skipping is always popular, and is a real danger to anyone involved.
With freezing water like we have, it doesn't take long to succumb to hypothermia.
Before you bring your revved up machine near any body of water, be sure the ice is safe. Wait a bit longer to enjoy the cool refreshing breeze through your helmet visor.
Statistics show that drowning rates in the North are higher than in the rest of country. It's pretty easy to see why, since so many people use our waterways for travelling.
A local lifeguard I was talking to about ice safety suggested that people wear life jackets and personal flotation devices.
It's a smart idea; in case you fall through the ice, wear something that can keep you afloat. It might save your life. Probably be pretty warm, too.
The cold weather and snow marks another fun time of the year: Halloween!
There are plenty of events in the community for people of all ages to partake in. Multiple costume contests and parties will be sure to highlight this coming weekend.
Remember to be safe at all times. Always tell others where you're going and when you plan on being home again.
Trick or treating is a tradition that goes back for many generations. While it can be rewarding, parents should be aware of what their kids are doing and what route they plan on taking.
Even better, parents should go with their kids. It shows the people handing out candy that you care and are aware of your situation.
The bars will also be packed to the brim over the weekend with costumed patrons. It's always a good time.
Last year, we saw Mr. Peanut walk away with a lot of bragging rights. I hope that we see a good variety of freaky beings this weekend.
Our cold weather adds a challenge for kids who want to dress up. I'm sure we'll see a lot of baggy costumes that fit over a snow suit.
I hope all the youth are also prepared to wear some reflective strips, or shiny costumes that can be easily seen at night.
And what sort of Halloween editorial would this be without a warning about sugary sweet candy?
I have a small stockpile already from August, when NorthMart put its wares on the shelf. You can always trust that our local stores will be ready for consumers to shop.
There are a lot of healthier alternatives to candy out there, such as granola bars and dried fruit.
The safest way to treat yourself this next week might be to rent a scary movie, gather some friends, make some hot popcorn and relax indoors.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
It seems like every year I dedicate at least one column in this space to the same topic - the need for more volunteers.
Nunavut can be one of the most-perplexing places on the planet when it comes to the running of programs that benefit our youth and communities.
Now, let's be 100 per cent, make-no-excuses honest for just one moment.
How many times a year do you hear a top official with the Nunavut government or Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., talking about the need for more activities for our youth to help create healthier communities?
And, how many times do you hear community leaders talking about the negative effect idle hands have on our youth when they have nothing to do but hang around?
The answer to both questions is plenty.
So then, we're left with one choice: either all of these people have no idea what they're talking about, or we need more continuing programs that offer our youth a positive way to spend their leisure time.
As more people who were spearheading many of our programs leave the North or step away for a variety of reasons, the more pressure builds on those still in the system to pick up the slack.
It doesn't matter if you're talking about the Girl Guides program, minor hockey, cadets, a host of indoor sporting programs, Junior Rangers, traditional-learning programs, drop-in centre activities or music and the arts - we still have far too few people giving far too much of their time to keep our programs operational.
That's especially true at the administrational level.
You know, the tedious paper work and organizational effort that nobody wants to do, yet remains absolutely essential to a program's continuance.
In fact, if one lets the cynical side of their psyche takeover for a moment, it's almost humorous to hear talk about other programs needing to be launched to ensure our youth don't lose their language, traditional hunting and sewing skills or cultural roots.
Who is this all aimed at? Our teachers? Are they the ones who will be expected to shoulder the extra burden on top of their daily teaching assignments?
If so, let's not forget the fact many of our teachers are also the same people who fill their spare time by being involved with numerous extracurricular programs in their communities.
In short, they're already among the small number of volunteers giving too much of their time to help make our communities a healthier place to live.
The bottom line is that more people have to start taking a vested interest in their community and giving more freely of their time to help improve the standard of life for everyone, but especially our youth.
And, when we say giving more freely of your time, we mean helping out without expecting to be paid for everything you do!
There's been plenty of talk about adding a lot of things in Nunavut, but unless more people are willing to step up and do their share, it will remain nothing but talk and talk is cheap.
We have enough people talking the talk. What we need is a whole lot more willing to walk the walk.
Due to an editing error, Art Young, general manager of Polar Tech was misidentified in a photo caption in Wednesday's Yellowknifer ("Snowmobile dealers ready for winter," Oct. 24).
Also, there was a wrong date in "Spooky show at NJ Macpherson." The Halloween matinee is taking place Saturday Oct. 27 from 2 to 4 p.m.
Additionally, Lena Pedersen's name was misspelled in the Business column, "Support women leadership in NWT."
She also started serving in the legislative assembly in 1969. Yellowknifer apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion caused by the error.