Friday, April 04, 2008
Yellowknifers need Caribou Carnival
Be it crammed in a gym for an afternoon or reduced to a few tents in a parking lot, the fact that people come anyway is a sign that Yellowknifers aren't willing to declare the carnival dead just yet.
The situation in 2003 was similar to this year: Dwindling volunteer interest, burned out board members, and poor raffle ticket sales.
The 2003 carnival was scaled back to a half-day event in the City Hall parking lot.
Afterwards, several prominent Yellowknifers, seeing their civic pride on the line, jumped into rescue it. Former Great Slave MLA Bill Braden led the charge to create the Yellowknife Events Support Agency, a group co-funded by the city and territorial government with an aim to collaborate with volunteer-run events and help raise their profiles with tourists.
Over the next year, city councillors, MLAs, just about anyone who had something to say about Caribou Carnival, pointed to the half-day, city hall carnival as a wake-up call - one that must not be repeated.
Low and behold, 2004 came and with it, according to many who attended, the best darn carnival in years. More than 10,000 people wandered onto Frame Lake over a three-day period. The 50th anniversary in 2005 was also a smashing success.
Then came talk of hosting the 20th Arctic Winter Games in 2008. The politicians stopped talking about the carnival and focused on the Games instead.
It didn't take long for the Yellowknife Events Support Agency to be forgotten, if it ever really did get off the ground. The effort did produce a report, collecting dust on a shelf somewhere at city hall.
The SnowKing festival, meanwhile, also a late winter event on ice, continues to grow, mostly though the determination of its principle organizer, Anthony Foliot, whose livelihood depends on a successful event. If Caribou Carnival is going to survive, new ideas are needed for a plan that builds on the solid public support demonstrated last weekend.
Maybe the Yellowknives Dene would want to get involved in organizing the carnival? The Dene hand games are one of the carnival's most popular attractions. Perhaps the Yellowknives have other ideas to help keep the carnival going.
Maybe Foliot would want to incorporate the SnowKing festival into the carnival. The present timing of the Canadian Championship Dog Derby and the Rock and Ice Ultra suggests many opportunities are there if co-ordinated.
Considering the failure of Raven Mad Daze last summer, Yellowknifers should not sit back thinking someone else will save the carnival.
The throngs of people in the summer streets of downtown for the solstice is a just a memory now, a real loss.
Yellowknifers should not let another grand event slip away.
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, April 03, 2008
There's a phrase from an unlikely source that describes many people's hopes for the economic future of the Deh Cho.
The Latin phrase "deus ex machina" comes from the study of literature. It literally means God out of a machine and can be used to describe any improbable device is introduced suddenly to untangle a plot.
If a character is fighting off enemies and is down to their last bullet when suddenly a group of marines arrives out of the blue it's a case of deus ex machina. In the Deh Cho the same phrase can be applied to the idea that the construction of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline will, if not solve all the economic woes, at least provide the economy of the region with a shot in the arm.
The pipeline, however, has never looked like a sure bet. Now as more and more time goes by while the project sits with the Joint Review Panel and construction prices continue to rise, the project is looking more like an unlikely hero.
All, however, isn't lost. The real source of future hope for economic develop in the Deh Cho lies with small businesses and entrepreneurs.
In Fort Providence, the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation is poised to enter into the timber industry. Staff and band members have recognized that there's a demand for lumber and plan to meet some of that need by operating a sawmill.
When in production the mill will produce both rough lumber and firewood. The lumber is valued locally as a building material and the firewood is a hot commodity especially in locations such as Yellowknife where it's hard for people to cut their own.
The band also has plans to ensure the new business will benefit the whole community. Felled trees to be processed at the mill will be purchased from local residents.
A very different type of service was offered in Fort Simpson this week.
The owners of Janor's Guest House used their facility to host a spa. Two therapists from Hay River were brought in to offer services normally not available in the village.
If the pilot project runs well it could be offered regularly in the future.
Both the sawmill and the spa are being developed by small businesses that saw an unfulfilled need and are creating a service that will provide local residents with a valuable product.
While the Mackenzie Valley Gas Project may still go ahead it doesn't need to be considered as the saving solution for the region's economy. Economic development is more likely to come from enterprising small business owners than from the arrival of a giant project.
Thursday, April 03, 2008
It's been a few days since the roaring of racing Ski-Doos died down and the jamboree wrapped up on the river ice.
The annual Muskrat Jamboree was a success and it couldn't have been better.
People gathered in town to have a good time during the day and enjoy themselves at night.
But how did binge drinking improve the weekend? I understand this is one of the busiest times of the year for parties, with the IRC Cup weekend still at number one. I was out driving with some friends on Saturday night when we passed some youth being pulled over on main street.
There were three police vehicles there, with officers surrounding a group of youth who were apparently drinking and driving, judging by the Texas mickey of vodka on the hood of the truck.
A Texas mickey? That is the largest container of vodka that you can purchase! I don't know what business those teens thought they had with so much booze, but the whole scene was ridiculous. Only a few days after the death of a young girl, we see reckless behaviour from people her age.
Young people need to realize that there is no desperate need to be drinking on par with the worst alcoholics in town.
I had to drive the ice road the next morning for a dog sled race.
Before reaching the racing site at the end of Carn Road, I drove past a box of empty beer bottles, a half dozen beer cans and an empty vodka bottle. In the last six years, I have gone from an unemployed party-goer, to TV producer, to my current role as a married man, expecting my first child this November.
I have been to the top of the mountain and drank with kings and queens.
I can say now, with all honesty, that I don't think I can totally beat alcohol.
The grip of the bottle is too much to deal with alone and anyone trying to beat it should seek help from their family and friends. In December, I tried to stop drinking cold turkey, but that only lasted about a month before I found myself back in line at the liquor store.
Still, things have changed. I might have a few beers with dinner, or pick up a 26 for the weekend, but I am nowhere near the excessive amounts of alcohol consumption that once made me infamous among my friends.
Too many of our young people are held down by booze and I don't know when we will see the end of it.
Turning 19 is still a rite of passage here in town and it's guaranteed people will drink their faces off every week, no matter how many people are hurt in the process.
Not all young people are mindless drunks, and not all adults are alcoholics, but there are very bad apples in our community tree.
I went to the bank on Sunday night to take out some cash. While I was there, I smelled the strong stench of body odour and what could have been mouthwash.
Huddled in the corner were two old men, obviously homeless, who were sleeping. Those men and women who spend their nights on the street and walk during the day looking like zombies need help, whether they think they need it or not.
I just hope the youth smarten up and stop following the lead of drunken misfits, but judging by what I've seen in town, I think they might share the same fate.
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
The Government of Nunavut (GN) should be more than a little concerned about the number of Inuit who are growing uneasy about eating certain varieties of country food, especially in the Kivalliq.
With so many people dependent on country food to help offset the high cost of groceries at their local stores - not to mention the nutritional value - this issue has to be addressed quickly.
The problem stems from sightings of wildlife drinking waste water from sewage lagoons in a number of communities.
The issue was raised in the legislative assembly this past month by Baker Lake MLA David Simailak, who actually tabled photos showing caribou chowing down on facal matter in the Baker lagoon and quenching their thirst with waste water.
Similar concerns were raised by Arviat MLA David Alagalak, who noted that while fences may keep caribou away from the lagoons, they do nothing to stop birds from accessing their contents.
Simailak has called upon the GN to build a fence around the Baker lagoon to keep the caribou away, while Alagalak wants both the territorial and federal governments to conduct a study on what type of impact the territory's sewage lagoons may be having on wildlife.
On the surface, there appears to be a touch of humour associated with the request, but there's absolutely nothing funny about a significant portion of the population losing their appetite for birds and, especially, tuktu. They're simply too important to our normal way of life in Nunavut.
The Arviat MLA also suggested the GN look into an electronic means to scare birds and wildlife away from the lagoons and it's not a request Community and Government Services Minister Levinia Brown should take lightly.
Brown acknowledged the situation could grow significantly worse because a number of sewage lagoons in the territory are overflowing as the population continues to increase in many communities.
Could you imagine the outcry in the south if someone produced photographs of chickens and beef cows chowing down on facal matter before ending up in the local grocery store?
There would a news camera at every poultry and beef farm across Canada.
We're not scientists, so we don't know what the long-term effects of caribou and birds using sewage lagoons as a wildlife version of a fast-food outlet might prove to be.
But, it's an issue Brown should instruct her department to collaborate on with Health and Environment as soon as possible.
If the study shows the impact is negligible, fine. But, if not, let's find out what kind of health risk is associated with the animal's behaviour and move to address it quickly.
As it stands, it's become prevalent enough that people are growing increasingly afraid of eating the meat from these birds and animals.
And, that's not going to change if the government doesn't move quickly to commission a study that will give Nunavummiut the inside poop on whether there's a health risk at issue here.
If not, at least the slate will be wiped clean and people can go back to their normal dietary routines.