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Tag your dogs
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dog owners should heed the story of Tyson, a shih tzu-terrier whose owners lost him when they were away on vacation for two weeks recently.

Great Slave Animal Hospital was quick to carry out its mandate of caring for the unidentified animal, found without registration tags running around the McDonald's drive-through. The animal hospital then adopted him out after five working days - the time frame within which owners must claim their dogs.

It is to the hospital's credit that they carried out their job swiftly and efficiently - successfully finding the animal a new owner in such a short time frame.

The story has a sad ending for the dog's lifelong owners, however, who had neglected to keep their pet tagged, and returned from their vacation to find they had not left the dog in good care. In the two weeks the owners were away, apparently little effort was made to find the dog.

At the end of the day, common sense and goodwill between the Tyson's original owners and his new owner should decide the dog's fate.

Beyond that, Great Slave Animal Hospital should reconsider its policy of offering unidentified animals for adoption after only five working days.

Pets are likely to be lost while their owners are away from home - while on vacation or working a two-week shift at the mine. In a city with a high number of dog-owners, 10 or more working days would be a more reasonable deadline to recover a pet - with all expenses charged to the owner.

H1N1 clinics ran smoothly in the NWT
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Yellowknifers who received the H1N1 vaccine at the Multiplex were met with a very different situation than many in the south.

A long line of people moved through the building relatively quickly during the first day of the vaccination clinic in Yellowknife. The process generally took between 10 and 20 minutes, minus the 15-minute observation period following the injection.

It has been a much different story in southern Canada, as some people have had to wait in line for many hours. Some of them have been turned away from clinics overwhelmed by the demand for the vaccine.

In Yellowknife, residents have been fortunate as there has been no shortage of vaccine for the territory. As well, Health and Social Services recruited 10 extra nurses in for the vaccination campaign across the NWT.

The territorial government ensur-ed that the clinics ran smoothly and, essentially, everyone wanting the shot was able to get it. A free bus operated throughout the city, starting in Ndilo, to provide residents access to the clinic.

The GNWT deserves to be commended for the smooth and efficient H1N1 vaccination campaign.

While we wish our southern family and friends well in getting their flu shots, we can now settle in for the long, cold winter knowing that everyone in Yellowknife who wanted protection from that potent virus has had a chance to get it.

Keystone Cops and our Environment department
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, November 4, 2009

OK. I'll be the first to admit it's a bummer when you ask a boss for direction, he or she gives bad information, and you take the fall for it.

Fortunately that's a rare occurrence in most lines of work, especially enforcement vocations like policing or wildlife conservation.

One would like to think those walking around in uniform actually know the rules they're enforcing.

It really doesn't seem like that much to ask, right?

But the good folks in Nunavut's Environment department wildlife operations in particular didn't get the memo about reading up on the laws they're supposed to enforce.

So, we're left with a conservation officer in Baker Lake who violates Nunavut's Wildlife Act by shooting two muskoxen in an area closed to hunting.

Did we mention even if it was an open-hunting area, muskoxen were out of season?

Or, how about the mindnumbing fact the officer actually issued himself a licence to kill the muskoxen he and his friend just happened to encounter while on patrol?

This guy should be on one of those psychic TV shows, as he certainly seems to have the gift.

To top it all off - when announcing no charges would be laid because the officer received wrong information from his superiors - those same superiors say the case reveals a systematic lack of training for conservation officers in Nunavut.

D'uh!! Do ya' think?

A spokesperson also said an offence had most likely occurred.

Let's see: conservation officer issues himself a permit to shoot two muskoxen he might encounter while on patrol in a nohunting area while the animals are out of season.

Again, do ya' think?

Other than two muskoxen losing their lives when they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (wink, wink), this episode would be Keystone Cops hilarious, except for the fact, once again, we're seeing how the laws don't apply to everyone equally in Nunavut.

Most Canadians learn early in life that ignorance of the law is no excuse when it comes to beating the rap for any type of violation.

Well, any type of violation except shooting two muskoxen in a nohunting area out of season in Nunavut.

Let's be honest. Does anyone reading this, who isn't a conservation officer, believe if they were caught tomorrow with two dead muskoxen in a nohunting area, out of season, they wouldn't be charged if they could show their boss told them it was all right?

Hey, folks at the Department of Environment even have a fancy term for the transgression.

It's called "advice induced error" and, when it happens, the chance of success for prosecution is extremely low to nil. That is, if you happen to be a conservation officer appearing in a Nunavut court.

We truly can't decide which is worse: the fact the conservation officer didn't know the rules he's enforcing or the superiors he talked to (bringing down a hefty paycheque, no doubt) didn't know their own regulations.

Is it any wonder Inuit hunters and government regulators tend to butt heads every now and then?

Road to an economy
NWT News/North - Monday, November 2, 2009

Roads are a contentious issue in the North. Each community has its own ideas of where the NWT's transportation network should take them.

A majority of hamlets in the territory do not have a year-round road link to neighbouring communities or the south.

Cece Hodgson McCauley, one of our most vocal supporters of a proposed Mackenzie Valley Highway, is adamant that a road link will lower the cost of groceries, solve social issues caused by isolation, and provide a needed connection to hamlets in the Sahtu.

She is right, but starting with the Mackenzie Valley Highway is economically the wrong choice for the territory. Department of Transportation estimates peg the cost of the road at nearly $1.82 billion - not including annual maintenance costs.

Sure-fire ways to generate more resource dollars, prolong employment opportunities and create incentives for population increases are essential.

Roads to major mining regions of the territory are vital to creating an economic atmosphere that will achieve those goals. For the $190 million Diavik estimates it would cost to build an all-season road, the NWT can connect to the heartland of territorial mining potential and enhance options to replace existing mines once they are exhausted.

That would come with the added benefit of cost sharing agreements, which should be integral to the plan, among industry, the GNWT and the federal government.

Aside from government, mining is the only other major contributor to the territory's economy. With the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline's future in doubt we need investments that will begin to show immediate return.

The road, which would take a little more than two years to complete, would yield such results - the jobs needed for its construction aside.

For example, Ekati Diamond mine has been working to extend its life to 2040. To do so it must reduce its operating costs to $50 per tonne. Presently, the mine operates at a cost of $70 per tonne. An all-weather road would decrease transportation costs. That would guarantee employment for more than 800 Northerners and sustain a $1 billion contributor to the NWT's GDP for the next three decades. Add the same potential for the other mines in the region and deposits waiting to be developed and the economic spinoffs would be enormous.

Potentially, a link to road and rail routes could mean a new resource rush in the North, which would have sweeping economic benefits.

People move to where the jobs are; more people means more money from Ottawa. Those funds can be used to pay for additional services, schools, hospitals, and, possibly, a road to the Sahtu. A growing population will also attract more business, creating competition to drive down prices. Teachers, nurses, doctors and other professionals will be more inclined to move to communities with road access.

If we control the impacts of such mass development and ensure many of the jobs go to Northerners, we can't lose.

Second on the list of roads that should be built, is the Inuvik to Tuk extension of the Dempster Highway. Such a link is essential for our national sovereignty and would create the first sea-to-sea-to-sea transportation network in Canada. It would also be a boon to the Beaufort Delta communities which are in need of ways to generate business, reduce the costs of goods and services, and attract professionals.

Both of those roads could also significantly reduce construction costs of the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline, which could make the Mackenzie Valley Highway extension feasible.

Health coverage should be equal
Nunavut News/North - Monday, November 2, 2009

There is a hole in Nunavut's health care benefits, and longtime Iqaluit resident Michael Gardener is only the most recent person to fall through it.

When the retired Anglican priest was recently billed nearly $17,000 for his stay at the Larga Baffin medical boarding home in Ottawa while accompanying his wife, Nunavummiut expressed outrage and many began planning fundraisers to help pay the bill.

Minister of Health Tagak Curley quickly withdrew the bill, paying the bulk of the charges through the extended health benefits for seniors and writing off the rest.

The reason Gardener was billed is because Nunavut land claim beneficiaries have access to health benefits through the federal government that are more comprehensive than what provinces and territories usually cover.

However, it seems that in formulating Nunavut's medical travel coverage, policymakers forgot that not everybody in Nunavut is Inuit.

Yukon and the NWT both subsidize medical travel expenses for such residents, as well as authorized escorts not covered under non-insured health benefits (NIHB) or private insurance.

Nunavut does so only for residents over the age of 65. Everybody else has to pay out of pocket with no reimbursement.

The principles of Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit emphasize the importance of the group versus the individual, of thinking and acting collaboratively and of recognizing that every person has something of value to contribute to the community. Allowing people to fall through the cracks in medical travel coverage, even a relatively small number, and expecting them to shoulder huge bills for medical services like outpatient surgery or to give birth in a hospital, goes against such principles.

Nunavut needs a medical travel subsidization program of last resort, similar to the NWT and Yukon, to make sure all its residents are treated fairly and equitably.

Of course, medical travel is already a huge expense for Nunavut's health care system, and covering the expenses of more people will put more strain on already parched resources.

Provinces and territories fund health programs through money transferred from the federal government, and we need to put pressure on the federal government to either keep paying the ever increasing costs of medical travel or bring those costs down by bettering the territory's own medical resources and lowering the cost of air travel in the North.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq should be well aware of these challenges. She should be our strongest advocate for more health funding.

Roland's contract to Bell stinks
Yellowknifer - Friday, October 30, 2009

Bob Bromley made an excellent point while grilling Premier Floyd Roland over his decision to award $278,000 worth of sole-source contracts to former cabinet ministers to help his government "build a message."

"When we quickly hire back departing ministers to guide our political directions and policy development, we are usurping the decisions of our voting public," the Weledeh MLA said in the legislative assembly last week.

After all, isn't that why we have elections, to choose quality people to run our government?

Why is Roland rolling back the clock and using former cabinet ministers Brendan Bell and John Todd to create policies and coach his government? Surely he has capable enough people serving with him right now.

For Roland, a four-term MLA with ample cabinet experience before becoming premier, to put these two men on his payroll makes him look weak.

But it's even more troubling for an entirely different reason, at least in respect to Bell – the federal Conservative Party's candidate of record for the Western Arctic since Nov. 8, 2007 and a man who was only 59 days removed as territorial minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment when Roland hired him.

Bell was awarded his first $50,000 contract on Dec. 21, 2007; the second contract – for $130,000 – was awarded Aug. 18, 2008 while the country was gearing up for an election call by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

In the election on Oct. 14, Bell lost his Western Arctic bid to incumbent NDP MP Dennis Bevington by just 523 votes.

What would Roland have done had Bell won? Would he have ripped up the contract? He couldn't have let a sitting member of Parliament remain on the payroll, could he?

We have to question Roland's judgment in offering a sole-source contract of this magnitude to a candidate seeking a House of Commons seat in the first place.

Ethics rules may not have been broken, but it's very dicey deal nonetheless.

It certainly creates a perception that Roland was using the contract to curry favour with the ruling Conservatives. Is that what Roland meant when, referring to Bell and Todd, he said, "they can help us open doors?"

This is very unseemly for a premier who professes his disdain for party politics and is "consensus to the core."

Likewise, the contract casts a shadow over Bell, who intends to make another try for Bevington's job. Did he use his big, fat GNWT pay cheque to finance his election campaign?

There are many questions that need answering. Bob Bromley and other MLAs have five more days during this current legislative assembly session to press for more answers. Not only do they need an explanation, they need to change the rules. Former MLAs and cabinet ministers should be outlawed from rolling in government money until at least a year passes, not a mere couple of months.

Crossing the line
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, October 29, 2009

While looking at the destruction of a grave monument, even if it doesn't belong to a relative or a friend, most people would have the same response that Yannick Lapierre recently had.


Standing in the Fort Simpson cemetery on Oct. 22 looking at what had been done to his cousin's grave Yannick wanted to ask those responsible for the damage why they had done it.

Hopefully after reading the article about what happened to the fire truck memorial on Marc Andre Lapierre's grave most residents in Fort Simpson will be asking the same question.

The incident has left some people who are already aware of the damage shaking their heads and questioning how the village has become a place where this sort of thing can happen. The nature of the incident is enough to raise some questions.

Vandalism in Fort Simpson, as in all communities in the North, is nothing new. The most common and noticeable form are the crudely spray-painted messages that appear on the sides of buildings. Schools and businesses are the most common targets.

The appearance of new messages seems to come and go in spurts as people, presumably pre-teens and teenagers, become bored and get their hands on spray paint. For a while last year the word G-Unit, the name of a hip-hop group, was appearing everywhere in Fort Simpson from sidewalks to the sign for Hole 2 on the Seven Spruce Golf Course.

Vandalism can also escalate to breaking windows and damaging empty housing units and other buildings.

What was done to Marc Andre's grave, however, takes vandalism to a different level and crosses into the realm of desecration. The people who destroyed his funeral monument should be ashamed.

For the vandals, it may have been a spur of the moment action caused by boredom and possibly alcohol, but for Marc Andre's family it means the destruction of something that helped keep his memory alive and represented one of his favourite things - fire trucks.

Vandalism in general, no matter what form it takes and what it is aimed at, all comes down to one thing, respect. If vandals respected other people's property, feelings, hard work and their community at large, they would find it a lot harder to inflict damage. Spray-painted messages and damaged graves do nothing but hurt a community's image. Spray paint in particular creates an image of neglect.

While completely stopping cases of vandalism would be impossible, community residents can speak out and let others know that vandalism isn't acceptable.

Hopefully if community pride is built and vandalism is labelled an unacceptable act, no other family will be faced with the task of repairing a loved one's grave.

A fresh slate
Editorial Comment
Andrew Rankin
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, October 29, 2009

To me, the agreement that council struck with Nick Saturnino on Oct. 14 meant that the town would be on the hook for the Inuvik Curling Club's utilities during the current year of operation, which we can assume is based on last year's total will be around $55,000. That's how much the town's reprieve to the club was.

Yes, I know the motion councillors agreed to included the word reprieve, which could be defined as a loan, meaning the club would have to pay it back eventually.

Nick Saturnino, the club's president didn't think he had to pay it back. If council deems it to be a loan, there should have been some talk at the meeting about how and when the money would be paid back. Council decided on Monday that it wants Saturnino to come back to Wednesday's meeting to formally clarify what he interprets the deal to be. He doesn't plan to attend.

Residents for the most part seem OK about giving the club $55,000 this time around. If they weren't, I expect they would have come to the council meetings to voice their opposition, as this discussion between the town and the club started more than a month ago.

There's a lot to this story. But basically until now the club hasn't been in the position where it has had to come up with about $80,000 on its own to sustain itself. They were able to get most of their revenue from a bingo series. It appears they want to hold on to what they've got and see if they can keep going. That's fair enough.

Mayor Derek Lindsay said his understanding of the agreement was that the reprieve would be paid after a year. It's uncertain how the club can solidify itself financially in that timeframe, given that it's already heavily in debt.

Curling has a history in Inuvik. It's brought people from various parts of the country here to participate in various bonspiels throughout the winter. They in turn spend a lot of money in town. Membership is also fairly strong. They should be given that chance to get back on the rails and maintain the facilities they own.

Maybe the town ought to look closer at how it subsidizes other recreational facilities, and apply that model to the curling rink. I know the issue is more complicated than that, but it's a start.

The club might not be able to survive on its own, but it should be given a chance. If residents aren't happy about giving a hand to the club, they should speak out.

I've heard the concern that letting the curling club off the hook for $55,000 will set a bad precedent - that all recreation groups thereafter would be entitled to a hand-out. The only precedent I see here is the opportunity for a rec group to come to council, where members use their good judgment to make a decision that could ultimately strengthen the community as a whole.


Incorrect information appeared in the article "Premier awarded Bell $230,000 contract," in the Oct. 23 edition of Yellowknifer. Bell was awarded a contract of $180,000. Also, the amount awarded to former cabinet ministers in Friday's editorial, "Roland's contract to Bell stinks," should have read $228,000.

Yellowknifer apologizes for any confusion or embarrassment the errors may have caused.

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