Monday, April 21, 2008
Protection must go all the way
Beginning at the headwaters of the Nahanni River, the two parks combined would protect a water source that feeds the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers.
Frank Andrew, Sahtu Dene Council grand chief, said environmental protection is important to the people living adjacent to the park.
The announcement of the new park reserve also demonstrates the federal government's commitment to protecting the Greater Nahanni Ecosystem. When the Nahanni National Park Reserve was set aside, a major concern was pollution from development to the north, where most of the water flowing through the park originates.
Still, there is talk of creating boundaries around mining leases and claims which exist within the proposed parks. You cannot protect land if measures are only going halfway. Allowing development within the watershed would negate the whole purpose of creating the park to begin with.
Parks Canada does not expropriate land, which means the only way to include those leases and claims within the boundary is for the owners to willingly sell them to the government. Hopefully, that is the route Parks Canada takes. If the owners do not wish to sell, then the regulatory process should ensure any future development in the area is impossible.
Although there needs to be a balance between environmental protection and economic development, the Nahanni ecosystem is too important to put at risk.
Jean-Marc Miltenberger was elected mayor two weeks ago in a byelection. He is the second mayor of Hay River since John Pollard resigned at the peak of the turmoil and council was replaced following a court ruling deemed the October 2006 election invalid.
Adding to the controversy, Coun. Beatrice Lepine, elected in the by-election, resigned out of frustration with administration and tension between fellow councillors.
Miltenberger's first task as mayor will be to redefine the relationship between council and administration. Following the council byelection, many new councillors were upset by the lack of information they were receiving from administration.
Administration must be reminded they work for council and not the other way around. However, with so much inconsistency since the first election, it is easy to see how the lines may have been blurred with council seats empty for nearly two months.
Miltenberger's second goal must be to unite council under the common flag of resolving outstanding issues, such as the Stewart Drive drainage and rehabilitation program.
Miltenberger will have to remember to be patient. Stepping in more than halfway through the term, he has a lot to do to prove himself as a leader.
It is good to know he is already considering a second term, which demonstrates his commitment to the position. The issues cannot be expected to be resolved before the end of this shortened term.
There's no shortage of conflict and hardship in the news from Nunavut each week: violent crime, alcohol issues, overcrowded housing, political battles.
These are legitimate and often troubling issues.
At the same time, there are many instances of Nunavummiut reaching deep into their pockets to help out their relatives, neighbours and even complete strangers.
Just within the past few weeks, every student in Grades 3 to 6 in Rankin Inlet received a new pair of running shoes. That's 180 pairs of sneakers.
The footwear didn't materialize out of thin air, of course. Several dedicated individuals organized a charitable run, and numerous other individuals and organizations donated money to make the venture a resounding success.
Over in Iqaluit, a March 29 musical fundraiser generated $4,415 for infant Jacob Boudreau, who suffers from a glycogen storage disease.
It means he has to maintain a diet of specialized formula and requires a feeding tube while he sleeps. Jacob's parents, Chris and Chrysta-Lee, were forced to sell their home, leave their jobs and move back to Newfoundland so their baby boy could receive the constant medical care he needs.
It seems no matter the cause, there are examples of compassion and financial assistance in Nunavut.
School trips to southern destinations require a huge infusion of cash. Students training to become teachers in Kugaaruk raised a remarkable $50,000 to attend an aboriginal education conference in Winnipeg last November.
Iqaluit resident Claire Kennedy pulled in tens of thousands of dollars to help impoverished residents of Malawi in Africa last year, a real humanitarian gesture.
Literacy? The 2007 Peter Gzowski Invitational golf tournament in Rankin Inlet garnered $6,000 via a silent auction last year.
Disease fighters? Cambridge Bay's Angela Philips and Jan Peters turned in more than $13,000 to combat breast cancer last September. Religion? Hundreds of thousand of dollars have been raised for the construction of a new St. Jude's church in Iqaluit. Granted donations have poured in from the south, but a good portion of that money has come from generous Northerners.
Fire victims? When two Arctic Bay families were burnt out of their homes last year, the community of 700 people rallied to donate $1,175.15 through a 1970s-themed fundraising dance.
There are countless other examples.
Statistics Canada determined last year that Nunavummiut who filed taxes in 2006 made a median charitable donation of $450 compared to $250 nationally. Even more impressive, Nunavut has led every province and territory in that category every year since 2000.
Make no mistake, there is an immense level of need across this territory so we can't afford to stop giving.
However, for all our troubles, it's reassuring to know that there are many people with good hearts willing to help in our moments of need.
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Hold onto your boots, it's springtime in the Deh Cho.
With temperatures hovering around the magical number zero, and snow is melting fast. Around the region people are rediscovering the planks of their decks, bits of their lawn and all those items that have been hidden under piles of snow for so long.
There's also a whole other aspect of spring waiting for some enterprising person to take advantage of.
Springtime in the Deh Cho could be marketed as an extreme challenge. Judging by the shows on television these sorts of things are popular and the region has no shortage of challenges to take advantage of and make into spectator sports.
Off-road racing or mud bogging challenges could be held on the streets of communities across the Deh Cho where spring is heralded by the deterioration of the road systems.
In Fort Simpson, there are some puddles so large that there's no way to avoid them.
When faced with the giant lake of a puddle across from the Thomas Simpson school soccer field some drivers take the cautious approach, slowing right down before creeping through the puddle, being carefully to splash as little of the dark brown water on their vehicle as possible.
Other drivers, primarily those with large trucks, take the opposite approach, plowing through the puddle sending up plumes of water on either side of their truck, leaving it to slosh back into the depression in their wake.
These two strategies could be marketed into two racing divisions. On one side would be the challenge where a participant is given a white vehicle and awarded points for keeping it as clean as possible. The opposite challenge would be to accumulate as much grime as possible.
To take advantage of all those environmentally-friendly tourists, a whole series of on foot challenges could also be set up.
A natural course could be made during the few weeks when the water melting from the snow keeps refreezing nightly and turning sidewalks into treacherous skating rinks. Challengers would win if they managed to travel along a sidewalk without falling flat on their backs or at least having to flail their arms to stay upright.
For communities without sidewalks where things get muddier, visitors could be issued rubber boots and given points based on how far they can walk without having their boots either fill with water or get sucked off their feet.
Not to be left out, the residents of the Deh Cho, for whom the spring transition is less of a novelty, should get their own category. For them just keeping their wheels on the road and feet planted firmly under their bodies is enough to be declared champions.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
As I walked out of the youth town hall meeting earlier this week, the last thing on my mind was the law.
Once I got out of the school, I made my way across the parking lot to my truck, where the solace of loud music would soon ease my need for relaxation.
I noticed the RCMP cruiser pulling up, but I didn't make the connection until the officers called me over to them.
"Hey, why weren't you in court today?" asked the constable.
I had no idea that they were being serious, but I should have taken notice when they didn't smile at my initial attempt at making a joke.
Apparently, they were out looking for me, because I failed to make an appearance in court that day.
"We have an official warrant for your arrest," said the officer, as I started to make sense of the situation.
To explain the whole mess, we should go back a few weeks, to a cold February morning. I had just gotten back from a quick morning drive on the ice road and was on my way to the office.
When I got off the ice road at the boat launch, I came to a fork in the road. One way meant I'd drive through the downtown core, via the clinic and past the library.
The other, shorter route would take me past the Legion and through the stop lights.
Looking back, I should have chosen the first, but I went with the latter. Once I got to the traffic light (yes, the only one in town) I thought it was green.
As soon as I made the turn, I saw an RCMP truck coming from the direction of the Mackenzie Hotel.
Just as I made the decision to pass through the intersection, I saw the cherries on the top of the RCMP truck light up.
After a few choice expletive words to myself, I rolled down the window and waited for the verdict.
I was informed that I was getting a ticket.
A ticket!? My first in a flawless decade of being behind the wheel.
After what seemed like an eternity, he issued me the ticket and proceeded on his way.
So I had a fine of $86 to pay. The due date on the ticket was April 14. That seemed like years away, so I put the fine in the back of my mind and kept fighting the good fight.
What a mistake on my part.
I should have got it settled with right away before it ended in me being nearly arrested.
"We can take you in and keep you in holding cells until your court appearance," said the officer earlier this week.
Wow. I was nearly arrested for missing a court date. It made me think of all the people who are required to show up for court, who don't.
I remember being in courtrooms where someone was tardy and it didn't look good on them at all.
Needless to say, the officers did not take me into custody and I was able to listen to some quasi-loud music on the way home from the meeting.
The next morning, I made my way to the court registry and paid the $86 in full.
I have my receipt and my pride, having fortunately missed out on spending a night in the slammer.
So, take it from someone who almost became a statistic: pay your fines.
Don't make the RCMP or the courts waste their resources trying to settle outstanding fines.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
We commend the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council's efforts to have anyone with a criminal record banned from seeking elected public office without first obtaining a federal pardon.
The council is up in arms over ongoing issues surrounding a number of Nunavut's political figures.
The council publicly condemned the election of Joe Otokiak as president of the Kitikmeot Inuit Association earlier this month, after blasting the Nunavut government in March for appointing Levi Barnabas to a ministerial position.
Barnabas was convicted of sexual assault while serving as an MLA in 2000, while Otokiak is halfway through serving a 12-month suspended sentence for assault.
And, we would be remiss if we did not point out that Barnabas is far from being the only member of Nunavut's legislative assembly with a serious criminal record.
The council's move to have those convicted of criminal acts barred from seeking elected office makes sense on numerous fronts.
It's bizarre to see politicians with criminal records move into powerful positions that pay them well in excess of $100,000 a year, while those applying for a janitorial position mopping the floors in a government building have to pass a records check.
And, apart from that double standard, we also agree with the council's stance that allowing people with criminal records to take elected office without being pardoned by the federal government sends a strong message to the people of Nunavut, especially its youth, that violent acts are acceptable.
It's all well and good for Otokiak to describe his offence as very minor and not terribly serious in defending his election, but the fact he was elected brings to light another seemingly double standard.
While a number of politicians carry on and even advance with criminal records, Premier Paul Okalik is facing a $600,000 civil suit and being investigated by the Law Society of Nunavut for inflammatory remarks he made about Nunavut Association of Municipalities head Lynda Gunn this past June.
The lawsuit was filed by Gunn, while an, as yet, unknown party filed a complaint against Okalik with the Nunavut Law Society.
It's obvious the rules governing criminal conduct and the seeking of elected public office in Nunavut have to be revamped, and soon.
The existing guidelines have created a quagmire of double standards, bad examples and negative media coverage.
We need more done than seeking support to have one road in each Nunavut community symbolically named Angel Street to raise awareness on violence against women.
We need serious action taken to return the aura of morality and dignity to our legislative assembly.
Instead of hope, confidence and pride, too many Nunavummiut now feel distrust, anger and shame when the names of a number of our top territorial politicians are mentioned.
In short, we need to see the Qulliit Nunavut Status of Women Council's recommendation become law.
And we don't need any more ministers who couldn't be hired to mop the floors in the same building they work.