Monday, April 14, 2008
Trailcross needs consistency
The agreement nullifies the collective agreement of the facility's employees and on June 30 all will be laid off.
It is uncertain if any of those employees will be rehired, but comments made by Wood's Home director Peter Wittig do not instill a high level of confidence. He said he hopes there are "some good workers in Fort Smith," which leads us to believe most of the current 18 staff won't be rehired.
The nine-bed facility, dedicated to children between 13 and 16 years of age with social, behavioural and/or emotional difficulties, usually operates close to capacity.
What is most important for children with these types of issues is trust, which can only come from consistency.
Replacing current counselling staff could be detrimental to the treatment of the young people residing at Trailcross. It is our sincere hope any changes made at the facility are done with the interest of the children in mind and not just to save a buck.
The Commission for Public Complaints against RCMP is vital for maintaining public confidence in our national police force.
Employing 50 staff including a contingent of investigators who have either a legal or policing background, the commission is intended to police the police. Unfortunately, the commission's intent is foiled by its design.
Any complaints received are forwarded to the RCMP for investigation. When complainants are not happy with the RCMP's findings, the commission does a review. Then, the review recommendations are forwarded back to the RCMP. There are serious flaws to that system. For one, those recommendations are not binding - a major flaw in the commission's design.
The commission, which has been around since 1988, recognizes its policies need amendment. Commission chair Paul Kennedy has drafted legislation that would take the investigation of complaints away from the RCMP and put them into the hands of either other police services or the commission itself. It would also make the commission's recommendations binding.
Whether that legislation will make it through the maze of federal bureaucracy remains to be seen. An intrepid MP should champion the legislation's cause so it can find its way to the House of Commons.
Despite its deficiencies, the commission should be commended for trying to raise its profile in the North, which has led to an increase of Northerners using the service.
Hopefully, in the near future, Northerners can also be confident complaints they have will be resolved fairly.
At a budget of $5.6 million a year, the nation should be getting what it pays for - a police watchdog with enough power to fix the problems and improve policing in Canada.
There's a time to use a hammer, and a time when a hammer is only going to do harm.
Lynda Gunn should see that her $600,000 lawsuit against Premier Paul Okalik and the Government of Nunavut is only going to hurt the average Nunavummiuq.
Gunn is seeking the compensation because Okalik called her a profane name during a conference in Labrador last June. It was completely out of line.
The premier quickly admitted it. He apologized publicly and directly to Gunn, although she didn't accept his apology and called for him to step down as territorial leader.
"I apologized clearly that I made a mistake and will not do that again," Okalik told Nunavut News/North, having previously explained he was tired and stressed when he made the serious gaffe.
Even so, he was censured by his peers in the legislative assembly in September.
It took them too long to react, but the MLAs weren't out of line in giving Okalik a symbolic slap.
It should have ended there.
Now, several months after the fact, Gunn is citing mental anguish, anxiety and a loss of reputation as her reasons for seeking an excessive $600,000 plus interest and costs.
She needs to understand that it was the premier's reputation that was damaged, not her own. Okalik came out of this affair looking like a hothead who lacks self-control, albeit an apologetic one.
Gunn also claims that her ability to perform her duties as CEO of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities (NAM) has been affected.
Could there possibly be any more tension between the premier and the association than there had been previously? It had been an adversarial relationship for a long time prior to Okalik's obscene comments about Gunn.
Gunn and NAM President Elisapee Sheutiapik had been holding Okalik's feet to the fire for more than a year on providing municipalities a share of anticipated future resource revenues from the federal government.
The premier, clearly with little patience on the topic, was contorting himself to find ways to deny that request, saying he didn't want to deal with hypothetical situations. During Gunn's tenure, which started in 2003, she has proposed funding be used to improve education standards, address unemployment and combat the high rate of suicide.
As well, Nunavut municipalities have crawled out from under large deficits within the past few years. Surely Gunn deserves some credit for the role she has played.
After working so hard for the people of Nunavut, the last thing she should do is be pursuing poorly calculated revenge against the premier. If she's successful in her lawsuit, she'll essentially be snatching away public money from the communities, which can only be perceived as selfish.
Gunn should take the high road and withdraw the legal action now.
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, April 10, 2008
For those of you who I didn't get a chance to meet over this past week, hello.
No, Roxanna Thompson hasn't left for good, just a few days of much-deserved rest and relaxation. I assure you, by the time you read this she'll already be back at the helm here in Fort Simpson having celebrated the marriage of a dear friend in the south.
Other than passing through the Deh Cho a couple of times earlier this year while driving the Mackenzie Valley winter road, this is my first real extended visit to your region. I've got to say, what a wonderful place you've got here.
From the mountains around Fort Liard to the picturesque setting of Jean Marie River, I tried to take in as much as I could in just a week. My only regret is that the winter roads to Trout Lake and Nahanni Butte were already closed to daytime driving when I arrived or I'd have likely popped in there, too.
Beautiful scenery is one thing, but the Deh Cho has an even better draw as far as I'm concerned - you.
Everyone I've met or spoken to on the phone has been so helpful and friendly, it's been unbelievable.
In Liard, 14-year-olds Dean Duntra and Trevor Timbre gave me the lay of the land at Echo Dene school while it was closed during the noon hour. That was only after I spent about an hour visiting with Eva Hope and Lucy Lomen at the Acho Dene Native Craft shop - what skilled artists you have.
In Jean Marie, I met up with Chief Stan Sanguez and elder Willie Sake almost as soon as I arrived.
Now this was actually my second time meeting both of them, so it was a bit of a reunion of sorts. They talked to me about life in the community and after Stan had to run off, I continued to sit and listen to Willie as he talked about several of his encounters with wolves on the land in his younger days.
After that I got to take in the Mud Ball Carnival there, too.
Thanks to a recent cold snap, there was nary a mud ball to be found, but that didn't stop folks from enjoying all of the great fun and games Eric Son and his army of volunteers put on.
Back here in Simpson, Dan Deschamps and Myles Lafferty told me about the state of recreation in the village.
I had a couple of great chats with Chris Cli down by the Northern and I also got to try out the spa services being offered through Janor's Guest House.
Thanks again to Diane Bellefeuille for the awesome pedicure.
So while my trip is winding down and I'll be returning to my home in Yellowknife, I wanted to take one more opportunity to say thanks to everyone for making this week one I won't soon forget.
Thank you as well for your help in making Roxanna's mini-vacation a smooth one here on the home front. Hope to see you all again.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
There is nothing quite like being on the land, whether it be for work, school or pure pleasure.
Earlier this week I found myself at Rachel Reindeer Camp, which has been used by the school for years as a place to teach traditional knowledge.
The location, which used to be a group of tent frames, has been transformed into a place of higher learning of sorts. The drive out to the camp is a nice cruise away from the hustle and bustle of Inuvik.
A few winding turns and twists and pretty soon it's hard to tell that you're only a few kilometres from NorthMart.
The lay of the land in that part of the delta is amazing, with tall trees leaning over onto the river ice, almost peering over drivers as they manoeuvre on the ice roads.
In the summer months, the only way to reach this place is by boat.
As explained by Frank Edwards, who brought me out to the camp, the ice road is being extended a bit past the camp, to make the area more accessible to those who have cabins out there.
After driving out past a few small cabins and camps, I started to ponder the idea of making my own area in the wilderness. A place to get away, even if just for a day or two.
Edwards said it isn't too difficult to have your own camp, you just need to follow the guidelines set by the governing aboriginal groups.
The Rachel Reindeer Camp building is a spectacle in itself.
I was looking the other way when the truck climbed the bank to reach the wellness centre and didn't see the building until we were right in front of it.
Tall trees and picnic tables make a front gathering place and the boomerang-shaped building seems to wrap around the area.
After seeing the inside of the place, I must recommend that everyone take the drive down on Wednesday for the opening ceremonies.
The state-of-the-art structure demands usage, and it has been busy in the last month.
Students from the elementary school have been in and out of the camp since the start of March and every class is expected to visit the location at least once before the ice roads are closed for the season.
Being out there and smelling the fresh air and the trees really put it all in perspective.
Seeing those kids run around and then spend time listening to the traditional instructors was great.
The program has found a place to take youth away from their distractions and teach them of a life they don't get to see enough of.
Being on the land is a big part of growing up in the region.
For those of us who were raised here, it's a really big part of experiencing the North.
For parents who brought their families up from the southern provinces, the experience would not be complete without proper on-the-land education.
That sort of information isn't found in many books and can really only be passed on by spoken word and demonstrations.
Combined with the SAMS Nunami camp that is also used by the school, this is a great step in providing a full education system for the children of Inuvik.
Combine the rich background of the Mackenzie Delta, along with the countless years of knowledge that is brought by local elders and you have a unique learning environment that is truly worth a look.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Still a year removed from its first decade as a territory, Nunavut is quickly catching up to the rest of North America when it comes to using the courts to settle disagreements and seek personal financial gain.
The latest to decide a lawsuit is the best way to get on with her life is Lynda Gunn, the chief executive officer of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities.
Gunn is suing Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik and, by extension, the Government of Nunavut (GN) for $600,000 plus interest and costs for Okalik's profane comments about her at a trade conference this past June.
Gunn claims Okalik's comments affected her ability to do her job, caused her mental anguish and a loss of reputation.
Make no mistake about it, Okalik was way, way out of line in his reference to Gunn at the event and should have known better.
And Gunn was totally within her rights to refuse Okalik's apology, in which he referred to his remarks as unacceptable and indefensible.
The latter may come back to haunt him, but let's get down to brass tacks here.
Yes, we live in an era where political correctness has gone off the scale of reason.
And, yes, insults should never be directed at another person unless you're fully prepared to suffer the consequences of what those words may bring your way.
But, if being referred to as a female dog is worth about $1 million (with interest and costs), the courts should prepare for a litany of lawsuits about to come their way.
Let's be honest. How many times have you heard someone wrongly use the B word (female dog) in describing another person, male or female, in the past year?
And, in how many cases did the referred to person launch a $600,000 lawsuit?
Okalik was dead wrong in what he said and was censored in the legislative assembly for it.
In short, it will be a permanent black mark on his political record for all time.
But a $600,000 lawsuit?
If upheld – with the GN being vicariously liable – about $1 million, minus legal fees, will come out of Nunavut municipalities and into the personal bank account of Gunn.
How ironic is that?
While its judges and not blue-collar workers who decide such things, what this lawsuit represents to the working class is nothing more than a rich person's game.
Could you imagine the Canadian judicial system if every worker who was ever sworn at or personally insulted by their boss marched into court to file a $600,000 lawsuit (plus interest and costs)?
Such behaviour, is, of course, totally unacceptable, but is there no longer any other way to settle these matters without reverting to lawsuits?
Have apologies and forgiveness also gone the way of the Dodo bird?
And to top it all off, this comes from a person who has earned a good living in a territory where forgiveness and the granting of a second chance is so deeply ingrained in its culture that...
We won't go there as it appears Nunavut's ministers and MLAs have enough to concern themselves with.
As, too, will the territory's coffers, should Gunn be successful in her suit.