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Leave property taxes out of it
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, March 5, 2010

This city, and that means city hall and the people who live here too, are in a bit of a pickle when it comes to Northland Trailer Park. Home owners there need up to $18 million to fix the park's crumbling water and sewer lines.

This is a problem that should've been fixed long ago, but trailer owners - including many who no longer own property there - opted for ridiculously low condo fees of $65 a month just six years ago when the park's sewer lines were already nine years past their expiration date. Unlike other neighbourhoods, the city doesn't own the water and sewer pipes; Northland's condo corporation does.

Now the chickens have come home to roost. A sewer line burst last month. This situation at Northland is urgent.

While trailer owners are responsible for the upkeep of Northland's infrastructure, leaving them to the mercies of time and want of money is not an option either. The Northland residents represent 258 homes. If they were to all pick up stakes and leave, their departure would burn a serious hole in not just the local economy but in city tax revenues.

This is where the situation gets tricky. City councillor Bob Brooks has put forward a motion - a somewhat loosely worded one - drafted by the condo corporation that asks the city to help it find funding sources to repair its water and sewer lines, plus sidewalks and roads.

Presumably, this would mean the territorial and federal government. We can only hope there is that kind of assistance out there that trailer owners can access, although rest assured there won't be nearly enough funding to pay for all the needed repairs.

The motion also asks the city set up a long-term loan plan with payback schedules that are as affordable as possible for Northland residents. This is the right approach, and something current Northland owners at the end of the day will have to swallow.

It would be an intolerable situation should the city turn this into a capital project funded with property tax dollars, even if just a small amount.

The rest of Yellowknife undoubtedly wants this issue resolved, but not by forking over their hard earned dollars so Northland residents can up their up their property values on the backs of other ratepayers.

Gathering as one
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thomas Simpson School hosted an incredibly powerful and positive event last week.

From Feb. 24 to 26, the school ran the ninth annual Mackenzie Regional Youth Conference. The conference brought together 260 students from 12 communities including Lutsel K'e, Hay River, the Hay River Reserve and Fort Resolution in addition to all of the Deh Cho communities.

The power behind the conference is the gathering of the students from different communities and the sharing that takes place as a result. As principal Robert Byatt pointed out, since its inception in 1996, the conference's primary goal has been to promote healthy social interaction among youths.

A prime example of this took place during the handgames workshop on Feb. 25.

A group of teenagers, a mix of boys and girls from Fort Resolution, sat on one side of the mat. On the other side was a mixed team made up of teenagers from Wrigley, Fort Simpson and Nahanni Butte. One of the more outgoing players from Wrigley dubbed it a Wrigley-Fort Resolution match up.

Fort Resolution made the first call. All of the Deh Cho players opened their appropriate hand but with a mischievous smile on his face the same Wrigley player proclaimed that he hadn't understood the call, it must be a Fort Resolution one, he said. Players on both sides responded in laughter before the game continued.

It was that simple exchange that illustrated what the conference allows to happen. Handgames calls vary from community to community, but players always manage to decipher unfamiliar ones during tournaments.

Likewise, bringing the students from different communities together allows them to share their experiences and find common ground. This is especially important for students from the smaller schools who have small peer groups.

The added benefit to the conference is all of the participants are exposed to a wide variety of ideas and subjects normally not available in the curriculum. Students were able to learn about everything from contemporary dance and hoop dancing to archeology and song-writing.

Organizing a conference of this magnitude -- involving 45 presenters and eight workshop rotations - requires a lot of time and dedication. The teachers and staff of Thomas Simpson School deserve recognition for once again pulling off a fantastic conference while calmly overcoming unforeseen difficulties, including the loss of running water to the school for part of the conference.

By putting in hours or work above and beyond their regular duties, teachers and staff have created an event that was undoubtedly a formative one for many of the participants.

Feeding stereotypes with oranges
Editorial Comment
Katie May
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, March 4, 2010

Thousands across the country have caught a glimpse of Inuvik on their television screens in the past week, watching as smiling residents sip free Tropicana orange juice and stare up at a giant, electric light-emitting helium balloon - the "Arctic sun" production crews brought to town in January to kick off Tropicana Canada's Brighter Mornings, Brighter Days advertising campaign, which was launched last week.

The orange juice company did indeed shed some light on Inuvik, but under its glow some aspects of town life appear distorted, as if we Inuvik residents needed a corporate hero to rescue us from darkness, to brighten our otherwise dim lives with their generous citrus gifts.

Of course, we know that is not the case. We know Tropicana hired southern production crews to come here with the ultimate goal of selling more orange juice.

We know they filmed for a few days, compensating those involved, before packing up their sun and heading home. We know the town of Inuvik received about $200,000 in revenue from their time here, including hotel stays and charitable donations to the food bank and daycares, among others.

And for that price we're left with a 60-second montage of schoolchildren, snowmobilers and elders seemingly in awe of this grand "sun" as well as a final aerial shot that encompasses the town, declaring that on Jan. 8, Tropicana, "brought the sun to Inuvik because we believe brighter mornings make for brighter days." The commercial, in erroneously claiming Jan. 8 was "Day 31 without sunlight in Canada's Arctic," disregards the fact that Inuvik's first sunrise after a month of darkness occurred shortly before 2 p.m. on Jan. 6, days before the film started rolling.

Nevertheless, what's the real message here? At least one resident has described the commercial as "embarrassing," a portrayal of residents as "isolated and detached from normal society." Others, including mayor Denny Rodgers, have heaped high praise upon the ad, welcoming any opportunity to showcase the town and its residents - some of whom are now enjoying their 15 minutes of fame on national television and the Internet.

But, considering the majority of the company's target audience in southern Canada has never visited Inuvik and is largely ignorant of Arctic life, this commercial may be some people's only view of our town. A town that, as represented in the ad, would have been in the dark - physically and metaphorically - without the good people of Tropicana.

Is this a stereotype those of us who live here would stand by and proudly show off? Of course not. It's tremendously insulting and completely untrue.

We can hope, however, the ad's potential to feed damaging stereotypes is lessened by its potential to pique interest in our community and spark tourism from open-minded adventurers.

Then Inuvik residents will have a chance to demonstrate first-hand - with no scripts or TV cameras - that we're much more than just the heart-warming smiles and good-natured attitudes for which we've become famous.

Fake sun not included.

Psychiatric care needed, not prison
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Once again Tommy Kapatoan is in jail awaiting an assessment of his mental health. Kapatoan has had three psychiatric assessments in three years. The 21-year-old man who last resided in Dettah is in jail again awaiting another assessment.

Although he is a man with a long criminal history, Kapatoan is not a typical criminal. He has been noted in court to have Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, of borderline intelligence, and has trouble caring for himself.

It is clear Kapatoan is a danger to the public, but it is also clear he suffers from a mental illness and is in dire need of specialized help.

How is it possible the justice system, along with the Department of Health and Social Services, have allowed this man to be sent to Edmonton repeatedly, only to end up back where he started - without help or assistance of any kind?

It is no surprise this has led him into a vicious circle of committing crimes, going to jail, waiting for an assessment and eventually being released again to commit more crimes.

How long is the system going to allow this to continue?

Kapatoan's situation should be a wake-up call to the territorial government. The GNWT clearly needs to fix the system so that those with mental illness don't fall through the cracks, to be continually chewed up and spit out by the courts.

Kapatoan needs to be in a secure facility with health care providers, not in jail. There are several in western Canada.

Although his convictions are for serious crimes, sexual assault among them, in a situation like this, one can only place so much blame on the individual - the blame also belongs to the broken system and a government that has refused to fix it.

Fish plant points the way to success
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Brian Abbott and Henry Jewer have bought up a local business and are taking it to a higher level, making the most of opportunities in Yellowknife for the benefit of Northerners.

The entrepreneurs now own the fish processing plant on a barge by Jolliffe Island, and are building on its foundations to create Great Slave Fish Products Ltd., an environmentally-friendly producer of fish and - as is planned - fish products from Great Slave Lake. The new business continues to sell fillets of whitefish, trout and burbot out of the barge, with an added commitment not to produce sewage nor dump any waste back into the lake. Moreover, the entrepreneurs plan to sell fish year-round, opening a chance for Yellowknifers to buy truly local food.

The opportunity seems obvious enough - why should city residents be reliant on fish and other food shipped in from the south, from places hundreds and thousands of kilometres away? Abbott and Jewer promise to make thorough use of fish culled from the lake, with plans to produce fertilizer, fish patties and pet food out of unused fish parts, to be sold in southern markets.

The new business makes the most of local resources. In so doing it limits our reliance on shipping, and further limits harm to the environment. If successful, Great Slave Fish Products' formula promises to set a standard of success for businesses in the North, and perhaps the country at large.

So many inconvenient facts
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, March 3, 2010

I listened in awe this past week as some gentlemen, whose name I didn't catch, rambled on the radio about record high temperatures across Nunavut this winter, and how climate change is very much alive, despite the recent attacks on the science involved.

Apparently, temperature tracking done by Americans and Canadians is far more reliable than the rubble those English blokes have been tossing at us for a while now.

So, OK, we're willing to forget about the threats of destroying data, exaggerated and since retracted claims and flawed science.

And, hey, we're sure the fact carbon trading was an astonishing $128-billion industry across the planet in 2008 was nothing more than the sheerest of coincidences.

But we are eagerly looking forward to Al Gore's sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, tentatively titled The Inconvenience Of Explaining My Bank Book.

Of course, old Al hasn't been front and centre on many TV screens lately.

My mystery voice on the radio may have missed a series of stories done recently on the National Climatic Data Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the good old U.S.A., as well as NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies.

So let's take a peek at just how dependable their work on global warming has been, shall we?

What we find is the percentage of Canadian weather stations in lower elevations used for their database during the past two decades tripled, while those at higher elevations (yup, where it's colder) were cut in half.

And, if that weren't bad enough, much of the readings came from sites near southern airports and cities, where logic dictates winter temperatures would be warmer.

But, OK, mistakes and errors in judgement happen. We all appreciate that.

What we residents of the Canadian Arctic really want to know is what their figures showed on our temps?

I mean, after all, they've been telling us for years we're at the front of climate change up here, and we'll be the first to feel the radical changes that will threaten to end life on Earth as we know it.

Now, that's pretty heavy stuff, so, surely, readings from our neck of the tundra were playing a leading role in these databases being compiled, right?

Uh, no. Not quite.

The National Post (God, how I loathe giving credit to anything associated with Lord Black) also did a little digging into that point.

What the Post found, using the NOAA's own data, was that as recently as 1991, almost one-full-quarter of NOAA's Canadian temperature data came from High Arctic stations. Today, the High Arctic contributes a mere three per cent of the Canadian data used.

Now, call me a pessimist if you must, but, you know...

On the bright side, all these revelations should go an awful long way in ensuring peer-reviewed science becomes the order of the day before Chicken Little makes yet another appearance.

Of course, Chicky's still resting up from its work on the H1N1 virus, but that's a story for another day.

Fishing for dollars
NWT News/North - Monday, March 1, 2010

NWT fishers on the Great Slave and Kakisa Lake have finally pulled the plug on the much criticized Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, which leads to the obvious question, what to do now?

Their decision to leave Freshwater Fish is risky business. Quitting means they will be cut off from the Crown corporation's extensive marketing connections throughout Canada, the United States and Europe. But it's clear for far too long the corporation has treated the NWT as a forgettable backwater, barely worth the trouble.

While Nunavut fishers were boasting of a $42 million catch of turbot in 2008, the Great Slave market limped along with a paltry harvest of $412,783 - mostly for whitefish, a species that just about every other fisher under the Freshwater Fish umbrella is also targeting, undoubtedly for less cost and higher profits too.

It's no wonder the Great Slave fishery has been sinking like a stone for decades in an industry increasingly led by old men, as younger generations look for work elsewhere.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans even took to advertising commercial licences outside the territory in 2008 to make sure there were enough fish to deliver to Great Slave's sole-remaining processing plant in Hay River.

It's a shame because there are opportunities everywhere.

The world's ocean fisheries are increasingly under pressure as overfishing on species such as tuna, cod, and sea bass, drives prices on remaining stocks beyond the reach of average consumers. Fish farming operations, meanwhile, for species such as Atlantic salmon, are falling into disrepute as questions arise over their impact on the environment. Concerns are also abound over pollution effecting commercial freshwater fisheries down south.

Alas, the vastly underutilized freshwater fishery of the NWT remains unplucked like an overripe grape. No wonder NWT fishers took exception to Freshwater Fish's defeatist attitude, forever shipping undervalued whitefish to highly competitive markets down south without exploring the full range of possibilities to help fishers make better money.

It's particularly irksome to walk into, say the Northern Store in Fort Simpson, and find a $12 package of whitefish that was probably caught in Lake Winnipeg. A report conducted on the Great Slave fishery in 1994 concluded that 150 tonnes a year of locally caught fish can be absorbed by the Yellowknife market alone.

And what of species like goldeye teeming in the rivers and streams flowing into the south shore of Great Slave Lake? They've been marketed as the famous "Winnipeg smoked goldeye" in that city's finest hotels and restaurants for more than a century. Most these days are harvested from Lake Claire 140 km south of the NWT, but fishers here toss them back because Freshwater Fish never bothered to figure out a way to sell them.

There are many possibilities for the NWT's freshwater fishery if marketed properly. NWT fishers will need some help on that front.

After their vote to leave Freshwater Fish, an official with the Department of Industry, Tourism, and Investment said, the "GNWT has no capacity to market fish."

That's an unacceptable statement considering the lineups going around the block at Northern House last week in Vancouver, where the GNWT is promoting the territory to the world during the Winter Olympics. Our fishery is a valuable resource - think oil, gas, diamonds, gold - in a field where other markets around the world are depleted and in decline. Unlike the above commodities, the Great Slave fishery is renewable. We must learn how to make it work for Northerners.

Saving the caribou
Nunavut News/North - Monday, March 1, 2010

Caribou are an important part of Inuit culture, especially in the Kitikmeot region. Meat, organs, hide, antler, sinew... all parts of the animal have a use and the skills in hunting and preparation have been passed down from generation to generation.

Life without a caribou hunt is unimaginable to most Nunavummiut. But that's what's facing hunters in the Wek'eezhii region of the Northwest Territories. The government of the NWT has banned all hunting of the Bathurst herd as an emergency measure because the most recent population count has shown a sharp drop in numbers.

A joint plan by the GNWT and the Tlicho government proposes helping people in the no-hunting zone travel to other areas of the territory to hunt caribou from other herds. This concerns hunters in the Kitikmeot, because all of the caribou herds migrate back and forth across the NWT/Nunavut border, and all of them have declined in numbers in recent years.

The reasons for the decline are unclear, and could include the impacts of climate change and unusual weather patterns on their ability to find food, calving ground disturbances from resource development, overhunting, or a combination of factors.

Caribou have sustained Inuit for centuries; Inuit have a strong interest in sustaining caribou for centuries to come.

To be truly effective, the drive for conservation has to come from the people on the land, not the people in the offices. Without the consultation and consent of affected hunters, any conservation effort is doomed to fail.

Some hunters in the affected region in NWT have harvested caribou from the diminishing herd out of spite for the blanket government restrictions that infringe on their treaty rights. Wildlife officers then seized the carcasses, and the meat and hide went unclaimed for weeks while the government tried to find someone to take the meat.

What a waste of a precious resource!

Any effective conservation plan will stem from consultation with elders, hunters and trappers organizations on both sides of the border, and be agreed upon by the same people. We encourage Nunavummiut hunters to make their voices heard at the many caribou forums happening in the NWT. Our representatives in the government of Nunavut must also relay our concerns over caribou conservation to their counterparts in the NWT. This issue is too important to ignore and it requires a united effort.

Passing on traditional skills to the next generation can only continue if there are caribou left for our children and grandchildren.


Wrong information appeared in Wednesday's Yellowknifer ("Ragged Ass Barbers opens its doors," March 3). Steve Payne is one of three owners of the newly opened barbershop. Also, there was an error in the article "Couple lauded for green home." Dwayne Wohlgemuth and Mary Kelly have only spent about $150 on electricity, or used 600 kilowatt hours, in the past six months. Yellowknifer apologizes for any confusion or embarrassment these errors may have caused.

We welcome your opinions on these editorials. Click to e-mail a letter to the editor.