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Security on the line
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The installation of emergency phones for the McMahon Frame Lake Trail remains a high profile project thanks to Ecology North.

The organization should be commended. Troubled by three reported sexual assaults on the trail in the past two years, Ecology North realized something needed to be done to improve public safety. The group then sprang into action.

The project is still in need of RCMP approval and funding, and that should come without further delay.

The popular and sometimes dangerous stretch of walkway along Frame Lake has been in need of extra security for some time.

The phone system would provide security not available through an emergency 911 service. The city supports the project, but isn't prepared to put up the funding. Close to $15,000 is needed for the emergency system, and that should come from the Department of Parks and Recreation, which is funded by the GNWT.

That would make sense since it's the GNWT which is acting as a roadblock to Yellowknife, and many other NWT communities, in need of 911 service.

Putting violent offenders in their place
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 5, 2010

We have all heard of people who lash out at a spouse, either in a public place or inside their homes.

Sometimes jealousy or heated arguments turn violent, and one person may be left with serious injuries, physical and emotional.

Even worse is when the offender repeats this behaviour. It is then that so many of us wonder how that individual could have been in a position to strike again.

In some cases, it's because the victimized spouse is too willing to forgive, counselling never takes place and the cycle of violence, sadly, begins again.

In other instances, it's because the offender isn't kept in jail long enough and, ever persuasive but truly bent on wreaking more havoc, returns home to inflict more harm.

For that reason it is welcome news that the police and Crown prosecutors have adopted a new spousal abuse assessment tool known as the Ontario Domestic Assault Risk Assessment.

It provides a checklist of 13 criteria, like whether there's already a history of previous assaults and whether there's support available to the victim. This will help determine whether someone is likely to re-offend.

As a chief federal prosecutor said, the tool will be helpful in focusing attention on important factors, but common sense and discretion must still prevail. That message must be embraced by all police officers and Crown lawyers.

A-List should start with different letters
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 5, 2010

It's known as the A-List in Hollywood, and one has to be on it to be invited to the most highly regarded social gatherings of the year.

Tinseltown denizens regard the A-List with as much reverence as the number of zeroes on the outlandish paycheques they receive for their acting abilities.

Hollywood's AList has, for years, included such prominent personalities as Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis, Eddie Murphy, Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Nicolas Cage, Julia Roberts, Will Smith and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among many others.

Those who live in the celluloid world know they've finally arrived when their name appears on the guest list with such high profile folks.

But in Hollywood, it's all about prestige, being seen with the right people and basking in the limelight as you network for a megabucks role in a Steven Spielberg or Peter Jackson production.

It rarely, if ever, has anything to do with survival or program delivery for youth.

Hollywood has gala charity functions where the ultrarich can ease their collective conscience by opening their chequebooks.

The AList starting to rear its ugly head in the Kivalliq, however, is a whole different animal.

More and more programs and youthoriented organizations are running into the AList when they apply for funding or sponsorship.

The A-List doesn't exist, quite so much, with airlines, most commercial and retail operations, and the vast majority of territorial and federal agencies with a few bucks to donate to a worthwhile cause.

This A-List is rearing its head among regional organizations that are supposed to be in place to help meet the needs of everyone, not just those with the right last name.

Too often those in charge of the purse strings in these organizations are deciding whether to approve funding or sponsorship requests based on the surnames of some of the youth involved.

In other words, they're often granting financial assistance to those who need it the least and denying it to those who need it the most.

Some organizations - with mega pay scales, generous benefit packages and lucrative travel allowances for their own employees - won't even sponsor an annual award unless the group applying has a sufficient number of youth with the right last name involved in their program.

Now, let's be perfectly clear here. We're not talking about colour.

We're talking about mostly Inuit youth who come from families a little less fortunate than others.

And many of these kids are the ones who should be on a very special list in their own right.

These kids are working their butts off to improve themselves socially, culturally, educationally and, in the long term, professionally.

In short, they're the type of kids we're supposed to be helping to succeed - the ones ready, willing and able to do their best, but can't without a little help along the way.

As for the A-List of people with influence who are granted help because of who they are, we have two letters in mind that should precede the list - B.S.

Northern bashing
NWT News/North - Monday, May 3, 2010

An effective campaign discouraging the mining, oil and gas industry from exploring in the NWT is being waged by the NWT/Nunavut Chamber of Mines, citing the Northern regulatory system as a deal breaker.

Chamber executive director Mike Vaydik blames the dramatic drop in exploration dollars in 2009 on the regulatory system, conveniently forgetting the world suffered a financial meltdown that scared investors to the dickens.

This is fine. The chamber largely represents outside interests who have no stake in the NWT economy, environment or people. They would prefer no environmental reviews, no hiring quotas, no benefit agreements, just give us the rocks.

Confusing the issue, in reaction to frustration and complaints over the agonizing pipeline review, the Conservative government called in Neil McCrank, former chairman of the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board. McCrank has shown little understanding of either NWT political history or the legal basis for land claims. His suggested remedy of consolidating regional boards into one clearinghouse is a fantasy that ignores years of negotiations and ironclad legal agreements putting these regulatory boards in place.

The one unbiased view to come is the recent report by auditor general Sheila Fraser. She found the feds were doing a proper job of training boards and much progress was being made. In areas with settled land claims, there were no rejected applications by industry. Only in the unsettled areas did things get messy.

Aboriginal leaders, in some instances, appeared to use the screening process to delay development and gain leverage at the negotiating table. Much the same as the Chamber of Mines did when they didn't like the duties being imposed on mine traffic to pay for the Deh Cho bridge. To protest, the chamber asked for an environmental screening which suggests it is no different in thinking than aboriginal politicians.

But let us speak of solutions.

Who controls the pace of unsettled land claims with dysfunctional funding and ever changing rules and staff? Who set up the pipeline review panel that went way over budget, bulldozing deadline after deadline, answering only to God? The federal government.

This is all missing in the chamber of mines' message to the global mining community.

Also missing is any response from the Government of the NWT, in particular the minister of development Bob McLeod. It's as if the GNWT agrees with the assessment of the unsuitability of exploration in the North.

Perhaps worse, the GNWT doesn't properly value the enormous benefits in jobs and dollars that the mineral, oil and gas exploration business brings to the North at the community level.

Despite the bad public relations and GNWT inaction, the exploration business will return to the NWT because we have the precious resources.

In the meantime, the Chamber of Mines should be shedding its old-world blinkers and helping aboriginal leaders get their deals done with the federal government. The Inuvialuit, Gwich'in, Sahtu and Tlicho leaders and entrepreneurs -- all with settled land claims -- are aching to do business and have proven themselves solid business partners.

The Inuvialuit Development Corporation has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of airline, construction and oil and gas development companies.

There are 46 registered Gwich'in-owned businesses and 28 registered Sahtu-owned companies. The Tlicho Investment Corporation has 16 divisions involved in ventures ranging from hydro power to trucking to explosives and much more.

Settled land claims creates a business environment from which everyone profits. That's the message the GNWT should be trumpeting.

Where else in the world would you find such excellent aboriginal economic models and rich resources?

Nunavut News/North - Monday, May 3, 2010

Nunavut deserves more from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The three-member panel will visit Nunavut to hear stories from survivors of Nunavut's residential schools - the institutions and the system that tore them away from their parents, their language and their culture. The assurance of a visit came from commissioner Marie Wilson in April.

However, that is the bare minimum the commission can do, and it seems that's all it is prepared to do.

The commission will hold seven "national events" in Canada, which are more elaborate gatherings designed to promote broader awareness and public education about residential schools and the hurt they caused many students.

The North's "national event" will be held in Inuvik. As deserving a location as that may be, not holding a national event in Nunavut is a clear misjudgement. Many Nunavummiut have been vocal about the distinct Inuit experience from that era and many badly wanted to see an Inuk chosen as a commissioner. Ottawa had two chances to accommodate that request as the initial commission dissolved due to infighting among the panel members, who all resigned.

Nowhere in this struggle has Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) made a strenuous argument on behalf of the Inuit people the organization represents across Canada. It turns out ITK actually supported Inuvik as the site of the commission's national event.

"How else can they ignore us? Is our pain less than theirs," asked Joe Krimmerdjuar, a residential school survivor from Nunavut.

He and every other Nunavummiuq is right to feel insulted. But, after decades of enduring deep wounds in a territory sorely lacking social resources, sadly, they must once again find a way to overcome the pain with the barest of support.

Closing doors on 'open' government
Nunavut News/North - Monday, May 3, 2010

How much did it cost to create and install new signs along the Northwest Passage trail in Gjoa Haven?

Nunavut News/North would like to inform you of that, but we can't - at least not yet.

A bureaucrat in the Department of Environment vehemently refused to reveal the figure recently. He did admit that the number is public information. He also acknowledged that withholding the information isn't departmental policy, but his own choice.

He said releasing the figure would invite criticism. Imagine that? Perhaps there's an opening in the North Korean government. Criticizing the state is certainly frowned upon there. Here, it's part of an open and democratic society, one where information is power.

The bureaucrat chastised Nunavut News/North for taking the "easy" route by calling him and asking for the figure. He said an access to information request could be filed if this newspaper really wanted to obtain that detail. So, even though it will take months to complete, we will indeed take the long and indirect route.

When Eva Aariak was elected premier in November 2008, she said one of her top priorities was to remove the "culture of fear" that exists within the territorial government, one which made civil servants feel muzzled.

There may be a hint of progress on that front, but there's a long, long way to go.

In this particularly case, either the senior bureaucrat in question didn't get the memo or he thinks he's above being accountable.

Either way, he needs some training in media relations, and a reminder that providing a figure may have added one line to a newspaper story, but refusing to budge provoked a half-page editorial.

What's plan B, power corp?
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 30, 2010

If the NWT Power Corporation is wondering why it isn't the most esteemed jewel in the GNWT crown - at least from the public's point of view - it may want to look at the debacle it has created over the Bluefish Dam for some context.

Last year, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board couldn't move fast enough for the power corp.'s liking. The sky may not have been falling but the 60-year-old dam the GNWT-owned company purchased in 2003 was reportedly on the verge. In the corporation's own words it was in "imminent" danger of collapse.

The power corp. threatened to sue the regulatory board if it didn't immediately rubber stamp the dam's $17 million replacement, warning in a letter that it could not "accept any delays or disruptions which may arise due to any matters."

Under immense pressure, the water board buckled. It was surely trying to avoid the blame should the dam fail and power bills consequently rose, since the power corp. would be forced to switch to more expensive diesel power to meet energy demands.

Of course, the power corp. never counted on nature disrupting its plans. That was the case this winter when unusually warm temperatures prevented much needed ice from thickening. The power corp. said it needed more than 38 inches to transport its heavy equipment to the Bluefish site 20 km north of Yellowknife but there was only 34 inches as of mid-February.

Our troubling question that must be answered is what's the power corp. going to do if another mid-winter heat wave comes next year? The corporation hasn't yet replied to Yellowknifer on that point.

As was mentioned in the news last week, the NWT's three diamond mines managed to get all of their supplies up the winter road this year, divine disruptions be damned. Perhaps the requirements for hauling freight to Bluefish and trucking supplies to the diamond mines much farther north are not quite the same, but let's be sure of one thing: if the diamond mines were facing an "imminent" disaster that would cost them millions if they didn't fix the problem immediately, they wouldn't be sitting around until next year to do something about it.

But then again the power corp. already knows the beauty of being a government-owned entity is that the price of disaster can always be off-loaded to consumers no matter how high the cost. Consumers simply don't have a choice.

The current situation at Bluefish is kind of like having a plumber tell you the pipes about to burst in your basement will surely put you in the poorhouse unless they're taken care of right away, only to then inform you he can't fix them until next month.

Well, no matter, we're sure the power corp.'s executives will still figure out some way to earn their fat bonuses this year.

Sequel gold
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, April 29, 2010

When it comes to sequels the Deh Cho has got a Hollywood beat.

Almost since the inception of movies there have been sequels. Familiar characters are brought back and put through slightly different scenarios often ending in almost identical results.

In the Deh Cho there is one sequel that never gets old, always draws crowds and doesn't require a big production budget.

The annual break-up cycle is the best sequel, or really an entire franchise, that there's ever been.

Long-term residents will tell you that break-up happens every year and try to down play the event but in truth just about everyone gets a little excited as the time draws near. The draw of break-up can be gauged by the number of vehicles that circle past key viewing spots as people check to see if anything has happened yet.

One of the key factors in the allure of break-up is that no one knows exactly when it will happen. Not only is the day a surprise but so is the release time.

You can be at a spot on the Liard or Mackenzie River at 4 p.m. in the afternoon and see nothing but a flat, slightly melted sheet of ice. Come back an hour later and you could find a jumble of giant ice chunks and freely flowing water.

Break-up also knows how to vary a plot line.

The characters are always the same, namely ice, a lot of flowing water and riverbanks to keep it all together, but somehow the story always ends up a little different.

Take Fort Liard for instance. Apparently even some elders are saying that they've never quite seen a break-up like the one that's currently underway in the hamlet.

Few people if any could have anticipated that the ice was going to jam right across the river in a line beside the community while the downstream ice cleared away. Some flooding is to be expected but the ice dam is something different. Residents have been kept in suspense wondering what held the ice up and what will make it finally go.

In Fort Providence things were also shaken up when one section of the ice broke away while the ice sheet between the community riverbank and the nearby island remained in place. Will that ice jumble up or move out smoothly? Residents are staying tuned to find out.

Regardless of whether a break-up is filled with tension or anticlimactic it always comes to an end just like a movie. People file out of the theatre and also away from the riverbanks.

The difference is that while not all moviegoers will return to see the next sequel installment almost everyone will be back ready to watch break-up when it returns next year. Admission price: free to all.

A nod to Dustin
Editorial Comment
Andrew Rankin
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, April 29, 2010

I remember having a conversation with a doctor on a plane ride home for Christmas holidays.

This doctor worked with palliative care patients and I was fascinated to know how he was able to cope working in such a seemingly difficult environment where people are gravely ill and death is sometimes just around the corner.

In his answer he talked about the power of will. That is, often some of his patients come to him refusing to die even though that's what's supposed to happen. He took a lot of satisfaction in working with these people; their attitudes made his job more fulfilling.

In some cases, he said, many of them would live years past the time medical experts thought they would. Some, presumably, are still keeping up the fight.

To make a long story short, that conversation was brought to mind a few days ago after talking to Dustin Rogers, a 15-year-old who overcame a year-long battle with cancer.

I went into my interview with Dustin on Friday expecting some tears of joy and at least some talk about how after his experience he has a whole new outlook on life. But I didn't get that much at all. Instead, sitting in front of me was a polite, but tired kid who just seemed exhausted.

But I also sensed a great inner strength about him, far beyond his years. He seemed happy but in his own quiet way.

I suddenly truly realized what that doctor meant when he spoke about will power. I'm sure there were many terrible moments but I like to think Dustin took it all in stride, even while he was impossibly sick from chemotherapy treatment. His will to live prevailed.

But I can't deny being a little moved by our discussion.

Midway through the interview I suddenly thought about how lonely he must have felt, sick and cooped up in a hospital for days on end, far away from his friends. Luckily his mom was always there to comfort him and keep him company. She also had the support of countless friends and family along the way, including her husband Richard.

It was great to see the welcome back Dustin received at Samuel Hearne Secondary School on Friday afternoon when students and teachers, dressed in bright yellow T-shirts reading Welcome Home Dustin, gave seemingly heartfelt tributes about his enduring spirit and courage.

One of the great things about being a reporter is that you get to meet all kinds of interesting and extraordinary people like Dustin. No doubt he'll handle the challenge of getting back into school, not to mention getting into hockey shape, with the same fortitude he's demonstrated over the last year.

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