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Halls of medicine and security
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 20, 2011
His heart is wounded, blood is cut off to his brain. He survives but now lives in a hospital bed with limited physical and mental function. His prognosis is uncertain.
That man is Allisdair Leishman, a helicopter engineer and son of Margaret Leishman, a mother who would not rest until she had answers as to how her son was able to harm himself in a place where he was supposed to receive help.
The hospital conducted an internal investigation. The findings were not made public, and that included Margaret. She did not accept that outcome, so she turned to territorial politicians to support her cause. Several regular MLAs voted in favour of an external review.
That external review was carried out and it resulted in two recommendations: that the hospital hire special constables - security guards with specialized training to respond to challenging patients - and encouraging family members, especially of those with mental illness, to accompany them to the hospital. These seem like good, common-sense recommendations, as was to begin locking the kitchen door, a step that reportedly came from the internal review.
What happened on Nov. 4, 2009 was tragic, but there is no reversing it. The best we can do it figure out how to prevent something similar from happening again. The process has nearly run its course due to a courageous mother who insisted on the truth and MLAs who took their jobs seriously and went to bat for her. To complete the lessons to be learnt from this horrific incident, the health department must now adopt the recommendations.
Improvements to psychiatric care - long an Achilles heel of the NWT health-care system - are also needed.
The Leishman case is an example, albeit a painful one, of how we make our medical services - generally among the best in the country - even better.
Clean-up contract is good business for Dene
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Close to 7.6 million ounces of gold were carted away from Giant Mine and millions of dollars in profits flowed to various corporations from 1948 until 2004.
While providing sustained growth of the City of Yellowknife, very little of the riches benefited the Yellowknives Dene, the original owners of the land.
That began to change in 2005 when Det'on Cho NUNA, a joint-venture between the Yellowknives and the Inuit, was formed.
As of July 6, that company was the winning bidder for the care and maintenance contract for the third straight time - the terms: $14.9 million over 21 months. That follows a three-year, $40-million contract. The Yellowknives and Inuit workers are responsible for security, water sampling and sewage treatment, public safety and monitoring buildings on the site.
The past two contracts that Det'on Cho NUNA held for the site over six years ended with not a single safety incident, Det'on Cho president and CEO Roy Erasmus Jr. said. Its a sterling record.
As Erasmus suggested, the mine, with its 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide being frozen underground, is one of the worst environmental liabilities in Canadian history.
Yet now the Yellowknives are helping to oversee the cleanup of the site and building wealth at the same time.
Their initiative is to be commended as is the direction provided by the federal government, which has been supportive of Det'on Cho NUNA efforts.
So long as the mine is cleaned up, the benefits extend to us all.
Leaving them in the dark
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, July 20, 2011
With all the negativity surrounding the Qulliq Energy Corp. (QEC) lately, it's time to give it a little credit for ramping-up efforts to collect the millions owed in unpaid power bills.
The QEC had $23.4 million in unpaid bills owing at the end of the 2010 fiscal year.
And, believe it or not, that represents a gain of more than $11 million from 2009, when the amount owing stood at an incredible $34.5 million.
Obviously, the collections specialist at the QEC is producing results.
Nunavummiut should not be put off by tales of woe, such as the one on Northern airwaves earlier this month about a man in Arctic Bay having his power cut for the money he owed the QEC.
Yes, it can be sad when people fall on tough times through illness or injury.
But that's why most of us spend a small fortune throughout the course of our lives on something we hope we never have to use - insurance.
Those who decide to traverse life devoid of proper coverage to protect themselves, family members and their belongings know the risk.
Too many people read or hear about those in trouble with service or utility providers due to not paying their bills, and look upon it as an isolated or solitary situation.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just as those who steal from our retailers drive up the prices the rest of us pay to cover the store's losses, so too do those who ring up high utility bills and walk away without paying them.
Our power rates are going nowhere but up in the near future to begin with, and tens of millions of dollars in unpaid bills will do nothing but add fuel to that costly fire.
Even if we ignore the fact we all have the responsibility of paying our bills - it's simply the way things are supposed to work - surely most people realize the enormous cost of providing power the QEC deals with.
And, for every kilowatt hour someone doesn't pay for, the rest of us will, eventually, be made to pick up the slack.
The non-payment-of-bills policy the QEC is starting to enforce with the promise of cutting power to those who do not pay is a universal approach.
Try living anywhere in this great nation of ours and not paying your power, water, fuel, telephone or cable bill for an extended period of time and you know what the end result will be.
The QEC claims it is working with customers in arrears to provide them with reasonable options to get caught up with their bills.
And, while no one wants to see anybody without power during a Nunavut winter, the fact of the matter is the QEC cannot afford to keep giving power away, no matter what the circumstances.
We here in Nunavut often express our desire to become more modern in many areas where it benefits us, and lament over the services we feel simply do not measure up. But like most things in life, that's a two-way street and accepting responsibility to pay for what you use comes with the territory.
If not, a simple flick of the switch can come as a chilly reminder after all other options have been exhausted. And, the cold hard fact of the matter is, those who find themselves in that situation can no longer claim to be left in the dark as to the reason why.
Korean business welcome
NWT News/North - Monday, July 18, 2011
Although the brief tour was played down as a fact-finding mission and an opportunity to introduce Korean Gas Corporation officials to community leaders, the fact the company has boots on the ground in the Beaufort Delta and has invested $30 million in natural gas assets in the region points to genuine interest.
A lot has to happen in the NWT before the Koreans decide to allot even more money in NWT oil and gas development. Streamlining the territory's laborious and frustrating permitting process would be a good start. Transportation infrastructure that would come via completion of the Mackenzie Gas Project would also be a valuable incentive to entice greater Korean investment, as well as attention from other nations.
We are impressed with the Koreans' knowledge of how to conduct business in Northern communities. Meeting with community leaders before moving forward with any development plans -- no matter how preliminary -- demonstrates the company has done its homework and that will go a long way toward earning trust in the region.
Aside from shipping liquefied natural gas to Korea from the Beaufort Delta there is potential for real benefit to residents of the region if the Koreans do decide to do more business here. There is the prospect for more jobs and better infrastructure, but possibly most promising are conversations Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Merven Gruben has had with the company about helping to convert his community to natural gas. Such a move would reduce Tuktoyaktuk's need for diesel fuel and potentially cut heating costs.
We welcome the interest the Korean Gas Corporation is showing in the territory; if it continues to respect Northerners and develops a plan that will be mutually beneficial, the door to future business dealings should be kept open
Tlicho in the black
NWT News/North - Monday, July 18, 2011
After seven years of diligently paying off a $28 million land claim negotiations loan owed to the federal government, the Tlicho Government will now reap the benefits of millions in transfer payments it is scheduled to collect for the next eight years.
During the Tlicho Assembly held July 5 to 7, government leaders took a wise step and passed a law to manage and invest the remaining transfer payments. Through the land claims agreement, the Tlicho government will receive $90 million, which started in 2005 and winds up in 2020.
Part of the law directs the Tlicho Government to determine investment options so the region's capital transfer dollars will maintain their constant value after inflation. Once established, and if properly managed, that fund would then provide the Tlicho Government a stable source of funding for capital projects.
The next step of the process will be public consultations to determine what Tlicho citizens want the money spent on and how funds will eventually be doled out.
With proper management, this money will last the Tlicho Government well into the future and is an opportunity to secure the prosperity of Tlicho communities.
Ride the tide of tourism
Nunavut News/North - Monday, July 18, 2011
Who wouldn't welcome scores of visitors wandering into the community with money or credit cards in their pocket, looking to purchase carvings, prints or jewelry?
That's what happens when cruise ships drop anchor in the harbour of Nunavut's coastal centres.
In Cambridge Bay, where three ships are expected to pay a call this summer, an estimated 240 tourists are expected to spend $20,000 while spending only several hours on site. That's not too shabby.
Nunavut is expecting 27 cruise ship stops in 12 communities by the end of September.
There will be cultural presentations, throatsinging, traditional Inuit games and walking tours in some of the communities to greet the visitors, some of whom will have paid as much as $16,000 for their cruise adventure.
Many of the cruise ships include tours of Greenland or Newfoundland and Labrador during their 10-17 day journeys. So there is an element of competition as tourists may spend more in Nuuk, Greenland, or Hopedale, Labrador, depending on what is on offer. Those who are made to feel welcome, are exposed to a wide breadth of cultural experiences and well informed about the history of their surroundings are more likely to reach deep in their pockets out of appreciation and for want of lasting memories.
That's why Nunavut Tourism, the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association and representatives of Nunavut's communities have to keep working hard to enhance tourist visits - without breaking the bank - and promote Nunavut as a worthwhile cruise ship destination.
With the opening of the Northwest Passage due to climate change, more ships, including cruise liners, will be able to navigate our territory's coastal waters.
There are few drawbacks to the influx of tourists, other than a possible accident due to running aground. That's exactly what happened on Aug. 27 last year when the MV Clipper Adventurer, with 128 passengers and 69 crew aboard, ground to a halt after striking a rock close to 60 nautical miles from Kugluktuk. It took a day and a half for a coast guard ship to reach the stricken vessel but fortunately there were no injuries and no oil or other pollutants spilled from the ship.
That accident has led to the cruise ship company filing a $15 million lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that the waters were shallower than navigational markers indicated. Whether Ottawa is to blame for failing to provide a proper warning, or the ship's captain made a mistake, in February the Government of Canada did commit $8.3 million over five years to improve navigational and safety information and marine communications.
The government obviously sees the need to make it safer for vessels to negotiate Arctic waters.
It's crucial that Ottawa makes good on that pledge because we don't want our promising tourism industry sunk by federal neglect.
City councillor dreaming
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 15, 2011
Coun. Cory Vanthuyne, who sits on the city's Smart Growth Implementation Committee, told council last week that he would like to see big box stores in the area be "a little more user-friendly and a little bit more user-accessible" for pedestrians and transit users. To that end, he wants to restrict parking spaces out front and bring the stores closer to the sidewalks.
His comments come after council was presented with a memo by administration that singles out the Canadian Tire parking lot -- 61 metres from street to store -- as "not in compliance with the proposed setback requirements."
Too bad those weren't the rules when city development officers approved Canadian Tire's development permit 10 years ago. Or when it became apparent Wal-Mart's parking lot was going to book-end a gas station with an insanely busy Tim Hortons on the other side. Some awful planning that was.
The truth of the matter is Old Airport Road, particularly between the Co-op and the junction at Highway 3, is a bit of mess in the same sort of helter skelter manner in which development has sprung up elsewhere in the city like Old Town and Kam Lake.
On Old Airport Road we have the box stores like Wal-Mart and Canadian Tire but also a hodgepodge of dishevelled-looking operations littered with broken down trucks and piles of junk out front. There are three vehicle dealerships, a boat and snowmobile shop, two transportation yards, and a bulk propane fuel supplier, among others.
The city's Smart Growth Development Plan, developed at a cost of $170,000, identifies several reasonable remedies that would provide better uses for Old Airport Road - at least for some properties. That includes allowing medium and high density development in the area and encouraging industrial operations to move out to the nearly empty Engle Business District. Most people who have lived in cities elsewhere will recognize arterial streets that feed suburbs the way Old Airport Road ought to be: with lots of stores, restaurants and apartment blocks lining them.
Having high density housing in these areas keeps the "not-in-my-backyard" types with their half-million dollar homes happy by keeping large-scale development out of their neighbourhoods, and makes apartment dwellers happy - especially those who don't own vehicles - by keeping them close to entertainment and shopping centres.
But much like achieving results from development rule changes proposed for downtown, which council has put on the back burner after testing the waters of public perception and finding them lukewarm, the Old Airport Road recommendations will take time to achieve the desired results -- a lot of time.
And as far as the Canadian Tire parking lot goes, the city better get used to the idea that not everything will change.
In the meantime, our municipal politicians and administration need to work closely with businesses on Old Airport to make sure they're on board when it needs them to be. Yellowknifer spoke to some business owners and managers prior to the writing of this editorial and while it was obvious they were aware the city was planning something for their street, all complained that no one from the city had talked to them.
That's why it's unhelpful when city officials openly muse about stores needing to be closer to the street, and parking should be at the side or in the back. Such things are not possible at this time so why talk like it is and make some business owners feel targeted?
Just the tip of the iceberg
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, July 14, 2011
Located in the far southwestern corner of the region, Fort Liard seems closer to B.C. than it does to its nearest Deh Cho neighbour.
In fact, Acho Dene Koe First Nation claims traditional lands in both the Yukon and B.C., in addition to the Deh Cho.
The state of Highway 7 also adds to this disconnect. It's far easier for residents of the hamlet to make the trip to Fort Nelson for supplies than Fort Simpson or beyond.
Fort Liard is also distanced on a political level.
The split was formally made in October 2008 when a resolution to remove Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADK) from the definition of Dehcho First Nations and the entire Dehcho Process was unanimously passed at a Dehcho First Nations' fall leadership meeting.
Three months earlier, ADK had signed an agreement with the territorial and federal governments to negotiate its own land claims agreement.
One of the reasons ADK gave for going its own way was that it wanted to assert its claim on traditional land in the Yukon and B.C., something that couldn't be done under the Dehcho Process.
Going it alone wasn't an easy path to choose.
ADK is now negotiating on its own with the territorial and federal governments. It can no longer count on the shared clout of the much larger Dehcho First Nations.
In addition to dealing with the two levels of government, ADK has also been faced with challenges from the Nahanni Butte and Sambaa K'e Dene bands with regards to overlapping traditional lands, an issue that has yet to be resolved.
ADK's recent election has put Harry Deneron back in the position of chief. It's a familiar role for Deneron, who first took on the title and the responsibilities that come with it in 1975.
Deneron and the new band councillors will have their work cut out for them over their three-year term as they continue negotiations and try to increase community involvement and understanding in the process.
ADK may no longer be part of Dehcho First Nations and the Dehcho Process but it is still part of the Deh Cho region.
The First Nation chose a path that was controversial three years ago when it broke away, and it still is today.
ADK, however, should be wished every success in its continuing negotiations.
The community's success and strength will only serve to contribute to the region's overall developing prosperity.
Continue caring for survivors
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, July 14, 2011
Inuvialuit youth are currently out whaling by Kendel Island, surely a unique experience that puts them in touch with their traditional roots. Later on in the summer, they'll have the chance to go fishing and berry picking.
Gwich'in youth will take 20 days to canoe from Ogilvie River to Fort McPherson. Again, what an amazing opportunity for them to paddle the river like their ancestors. Unfortunately, it will also include a three-day portage, also like their ancestors, but you know they will enjoy it after the fact; bragging rights and all that.
The curious thing is that while many youth were interested in the beginning, a few have dropped out because they got summer jobs. Understandable. Cash is a much-needed commodity at any age. For youth, the excitement of making your own can't be beat.
The thing that's kind of ironic is that adults, too, have trouble getting time out on the land. The nine to five, Monday to Friday grind doesn't leave a lot of time for packing the boat and heading out for weeks at a time to explore the land or go fishing and hunting. In the winter, costs are even higher.
It's the balance between traditional and modern that people are struggling to find. How do you continue to live in the way your grandparents did, while still enjoying the perks of modern life? Maybe its by taking advantage of these trips, volunteering to help out on them or even just going on them.
While residential schools tried to get rid of these traditions, schools now are working traditional knowledge into the curriculum, which will hopefully give students an idea on how to grow up with this balance of tradition and making a living.
Chief Jimmy Bruneau had a philosophy, that to succeed in the new world, his people must be strong like two people. The Dene have taken this to mean that to succeed in the current world, indigenous people must live with one foot firmly grounded in each world, western culture and their ancestors' culture.
If a person succeeds in straddling these two worlds, they can be the strongest person around. Hopefully these summer camps and school programs can give youth the strength to believe and succeed in both.