Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The highway was originally closed between May 22 to 26 when heavy rains made two sections impassable. Since that initial closure the highway has been opened and closed another two times almost like a jack-in-the-box.
A four-day closure lasted from May 21 to June 4 and the latest closure that started on June 7 originally had an estimate for lasting up to a week. It's reached a point where all you have to do to estimate when the road will be closed next is watch the weather forecast for the next anticipated period of rainfall.
People in Fort Liard and those who travel the road frequently can tell you, however, that the trouble started even before the first closure.
Wayne Newbury, the mayor of the hamlet of Fort Liard, pointed out that even when it was opened the road was in pretty dismal shape. In a telling statement, Newbury said that many people feel the road is at its best in the winter. The surface might be slippery but at least it's a smooth ride, he said.
Problems with the Liard Trail are nothing new.
No one is enjoying the ongoing road closures. Residents and businesses in communities around the region have experienced disruptions in their mail and access to services.
Hardest hit are employees of the Department of Transportation.
Under its mandate to provide safe and reliable infrastructure for transportation the department certainly didn't want a situation like this to arise.
Being responsible for a road they continually have to close only puts mud on their reputation.
Highway 7 has proven more capital funding needs to be put into the Dehcho road system. Making do with just a maintenance budget and minor repairs isn't enough.
Everyone who's used Highway 7 knew it needed some work even before the most recent problems.
The territorial government should have invested more money into the road before things got so bad.
Highways are a crucial part of life in the Northwest Territories and the Liard Trail is providing a graphic demonstration of what can happen when their importance isn't matched by the size of the budget to maintain them.
Hopefully another demonstration won't be needed for the lesson to be learned and acted upon.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Const. Tim Fifield was dressed in red serge and addressed the large group of graduands on stage.
Those two words meant a lot more than being polite. It seemed as if the RCMP officer was asking the youth not to overdo their annual shenanigans and destroy any property during their party.
The words also served as a lesson for life, something to bring with them on their journey into the world of responsibilities.
That nice policeman wasn't at the ceremony to destroy anyone's fun. He wasn't there to come down on the newly-anointed graduates either.
This was his time to say something memorable and it made it through the ears of those students and into the newspaper.
I think his message got across.
It's no secret that graduation is a reason to get drunk in this town. I shudder at the amount of money that was spent at the liquor store this past weekend.
At least there are groups in town that aren't in denial of the issues.
The Gwich'in Tribal Council seemed to know the score. They gave out bursaries of $100 to each grad, but only upon receipt of their certificate after the weekend.
It meant that nobody could foolishly blow their earned monies on bottles of party-juice.
The responsible adults in town know what goes on, despite the best plans and secrets held by the youth in town.
Your parents were smoking behind Northmart when it was still The Bay. They knew about the Boot Lake trails before they were boardwalked and dollars to doughnuts says they know all about what you do on the weekend.
That is why they worked so hard to keep everyone safe this past weekend.
One pair of parents even went as far as to give out coupons for a free cab ride to every grad that day.
I have nothing but respect for anyone who puts up with enough school to graduate, but getting blacked out and having a headache the next day is hardly the way to commemorate that life achievement.
The main venue for partying on Saturday night and Sunday morning seemed to be Boot Lake.
Driving past a few times, it was easy to spot the slouching people gathered around a bottle.
After taking part in so many ritualistic parties at Boot Lake and seeing it first hand, I didn't think I was missing out on anything too groundbreaking.
The grad committee made a plea for help the next day, to clean the mess left by the partying masses.
In the end, it looked like the adults cleaned up after their kids once again.
The grads will have to pick up after themselves soon.
The real world will not be so forgiving.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The RCMP reacted by alerting the public to the incident within several hours. That quick response is to be commended.
We have, unfortunately, seen what can happen when this sort of information is suppressed.
In October 2002, a young girl was sexually assaulted on the trail. Around the same time, several people began telling Yellowknifer of another sexual assault on a woman occurring some days earlier in the same area.
When Yellowknifer tried to confirm the story with the RCMP, the police initially denied it. It was a particularly cynical response because, as it turned out, there was indeed another sexual assault - but not on the Frame Lake Trail and not involving a adult female. Rather the victim was another young girl walking home behind Sir John Franklin high school. A young offender was eventually convicted for both crimes.
Police decided not to confirm the first sexual assault because the reporter was asking about a woman on the Frame Lake Trail, based on the rumours heard by Yellowknifer.
Had police been prompt in reporting the first assault, it's possible the second could have been avoided because parents would've been informed and extremely vigilant about letting their children out alone whether it be on the Frame Lake Trail or anywhere else.
Fortunately, Yellowknife RCMP have learned from their mistake.
It's understandable that police often need to keep details under wraps to ensure their investigations aren't jeopardized. However, public safety is paramount and knowledge is the key. We're glad the police saw that in this case.
There are further steps to be taken to ensure residents are as informed as they can be. One initiative would be to place signs along the trail indicating that it's not patrolled and urging people to walk or cycle in pairs. There's safety in numbers - whether it's in warding off a wayward bear or a sexual predator, the odds of arriving safely improve when there are two or more people travelling together.
Other ideas could flow from a public meeting, as Sharon Thomas, president of the NWT Status of Women Council, has advocated.
Such a forum would allow residents to share concerns and reinforce that a rogue criminal won't keep the Yellowknifers from enjoying their city at any hour of their choosing.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Premier Paul Okalik took it upon himself this past week to try and brighten up the Government of Nunavut's (GN) fading image among the territory's female population.
Okalik moved Aluki Rojas over to become the deputy minister of Environment, while Koovian Flanagan was promoted to deputy minister of Human Resources.
Simon Awa also become deputy minister of Intergovernmental Affairs.
Flanagan and Rojas's new departments were definitely in need of a strong female presence and the two new deputy ministers more than fit the bill.
If the premier's moves were designed to address weaknesses in the involved departments while, at the same time, increasing the number of women holding top positions within the GN's food chain, he is to be commended.
It should be noted, however, Rojas was a deputy minister in her previous department before the shuffle, so the increase in women at the deputy-minister level only increased by one.
Knowing the backgrounds of the two women involved, any insinuation the moves were window dressing to appease the territory's political watchdogs and women's rights groups would be easily dismissed.
In fact, had the premier possessed the power to do so, it would have been even more impressive -- and beneficial -- to have seen Rojas given the top position in Human Resources.
The move would have, at least, curtailed some of the misleading statements and resulting apologies in the legislative assembly for awhile.
Okalik had another move in store for the territory this past week, when he asked deputy premier Levinia Brown to accept the position of Minister Responsible for the Status of Women.
That move can definitely be filed in the column of high risk, high reward.
There are few women more respected among Nunavut's female population than Brown.
And, many Nunavummiut were less than impressed with Leona Aglukkaq's responses (or lack thereof) to a number of issues being raised by the Qulliit Status of Women Council.
However, for all her class, talent and respect, it remains to be seen if Brown would be willing to roll up her sleeves and get dirty if the need arose to confront a male-dominant caucus over a predominately female issue. Combative is not a word that quickly comes to mind when Brown's name is brought up.
The only negative to Okalik's announcement this past week was his need to, once again, feel it necessary to point out the majority of his deputy ministers are Land Claim Agreement beneficiaries.
It's time for this government to give Nunavummiut credit for realizing they need the best people available for the top jobs in government, regardless of their race, creed or colour.
When the day comes, and it will, when the GN's hierarchy comprises almost 100 per cent talented, deserving and capable Inuit -- fantastic.
Until then, it would be nice to see the GN more focused on the job being done and not so preoccupied with the colour of the face getting it done.