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100 proof
NWT News/North - Monday, April 30, 2012

If you were to ask Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya, the lifting of booze restrictions in Norman Wells is creating chaos in the region.

He told News/North that in the three months since the restrictions have been lifted, he has heard from the RCMP that there has been an increase in public drunkenness, absenteeism at school and alcohol abuse.

The police, however, did not confirm those claims and said it was too early to comment on whether changes in the amount of alcohol that can legally be purchased has had an impact. Sgt. Wes Heron said, as yet, officers have not seen a spike in liquor-related activity.

Yakeleya was one of many opponents who feared unrestricted sales would increase bootlegging to alcohol-restricted communities around the Sahtu and lead to a rise in crime.

Although his concerns at the time were warranted and it is to his credit that he wants to keep an eye on the situation in order to help promote healthy communities, he must be wary of being alarmist.

It's no secret alcohol is a problem in the NWT. According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, in 2010, 31.6 per cent of the population reported being heavy drinkers. That is a six per cent increase over the previous year and 16 per cent higher than the Canadian rate.

Those numbers are startling and point to a need to focus on the cause and attempt to find solutions. Although Yakeleya's intentions might be good, he should not be warning of dire consequences without concrete evidence.

News/North attempted to determine if liquor sales in Norman Wells have risen substantially since the restrictions were lifted. However, neither the Norman Wells liquor store nor the NWT Liquor Commission would return calls requesting that information.

Whether one agrees with the effectiveness of liquor restrictions, it is easy to argue that increased availability could lead to increased consumption; although personal responsibility must come into play somewhere in the equation.

Yakeleya should pressure all parties to make statistics known publicly - the liquor commission's sales and the RCMP's alcohol-related charges - so thorough tracking and comparisons can be communicated to anyone who's interested.

Alcohol abuse and related crime is not something over which we can afford to cry wolf.

It is an issue that deserves our attention and we must focus on areas that are causing the problem. As far as Norman Wells is concerned, it's prudent to monitor developments carefully but counter-productive to raise the alarm prematurely.


Airports must be secured
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 30, 2012

Canadian North is frustrated with airplane breakins in Pond Inlet, and the community itself is frustrated with the bad rap it feels it has received over the actions of a few citizens.

However, doing something about it lies squarely in the lap of the Government of Nunavut. Of course, an individual who commits a breakin is at fault for breaking the law, but the opportunity to access an aircraft should not have been there.

In a territory with no roads connecting its communities, most inter-community transportation happens via airplane. The GN, as the caretaker of most airstrips in Nunavut, bears the responsibility of making sure these airports are secure, and that aircraft can be parked safely overnight in communities.

If someone can break in and steal some pop from a plane, who's to say someone can't break in and tamper with the aircraft itself, making it unsafe to operate? Or tamper with the airport infrastructure? It's possible any breakin and tampering would be caught by staff before becoming a danger, but the strategy should be more preventative than reactionary.

The cameras to be installed at Pond Inlet's airport may act as a deterrent, but a nighttime security guard - which Canadian North has hired and for which the community, taking a commendable stand against the breakins, is generously fundraising to help cover costs - is the best assurance these breakins won't happen, and would be an ideal fixture at airports across the territory.

Yes, these are small communities without the need for the elaborate security systems of the south - no body scanners necessary - but air travel is by and far the main transportation system for travel here, and, consequently, airplanes and runways must be protected by the GN.


Red tape reduction welcome
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 30, 2012

Applying for government funding almost always comes with a heavy dose of tedium and redundancy, and it's doubtless community health organizations are welcoming a streamlined application process for federal funds.

The funding categories of mental wellness and addictions, healthy living and youth development, and disease prevention had previously all required different applications for funding. Under the new approach, one application can be made to address all three. As well, reporting paperwork has been dramatically decreased.

While the initiative deserves applause, combining the different streams of funding also makes it much easier to for Ottawa to reduce or cancel the funding when deciding what to put on the chopping block.

While that may sound skeptical, in the mercurial world of politics, what the government touts and holds high one day may be cast aside the next. Let's remain on guard for that.


Put the heat on administration
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 27, 2012

After a few years of research, there are still as many questions as answers when it comes to the city's hopes for district heat and tapping geothermal energy from Con Mine.

Council's aspirations to pipe the naturally hot water below the shuttered mine site to heat 39 buildings in a portion of downtown got a lift earlier this month when a European consulting firm confirmed the water is in the range of 30 C and can produce 1.7 megawatts of power.

But here's what we don't know: how much will it cost to make use of that hot water? Is it economical?

How much did city hall pay the European consulting firm to do the research? How much has been spent to date on pursuing a district energy/geothermal heating plan? Is a $14 million contribution from the federal government still a possibility?

Since last June, the city has been negotiating with a private business based in B.C., Corix Utilities. The idea is that Corix would crunch the numbers and determine whether there is a business case to proceed with the district energy plan, which is estimated to cost close to $60 million.

This is the true litmus test. If Corix, which is focused on generating profits, can prove the project is viable - in combination with wood pellets or possibly diesel fuel - the residents of Yellowknife can have a greater degree of confidence.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem had targeted February for developing terms of the agreement. We're now in late April and those terms have yet to surface. City councillor Cory Vanthuyne expressed some frustration last week when he told Yellowknifer, "My thing is that if we don't have the $14 million (in federal funding) available to us, I have to rethink our whole position on this." He also said city council has been left in the dark for most of the year, despite asking for an update from administration.

Van Tighem's best explanation was this: "There are things under discussion. Things get developed and people review and people ask questions. It goes around and around for a while. Eventually something will come out of it."

That's not an answer. That's not enough detail for Yellowknifers to get solidly behind the project.

By limiting the flow of information, what's likely to follow is failure. The city should have learned that lesson during last year's referendum on borrowing up to $49 million to finance the district energy project. The public rejected the proposal by a count of 1,362 to 997.

City hall didn't help its cause by taking a "trust us" approach rather than being upfront on all aspects of the deal. Coun. David Wind, who was a critic of how the project was handled, said the rejection by voters would give the city more time to answer all of the questions, like the ones above.

With an election coming this fall, councillors should start demanding answers before they find themselves in hot water.


Inspiring youth
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Over the past few weeks in Deh Cho Drum there have been a number of articles and photospreads that have been loosely related.

The ones that come to mind include a series of photos about Chief Julian Yendo School's trip to Jasper, photos of Louie Norwegian School's trip to Banff, Alta., an article about a snowboarding trip from Fort Liard to Powder King Mountain Resort, in British Columbia, and another article about Thomas Simpson School's Grade 12 graduation trip to the Dominican Republic.

The common theme between all of these features was students visiting other locations in Canada and in once case internationally.

While some of the stories and photospreads may have been of limited interest to some readers, unless they knew the students who participated in the trip, the journeys themselves were of importance.

In each case the focus wasn't on the fact that youths were able to travel to other locations but rather on what they experienced and learned while they were there.

In the case of the snowboarding trip to Powder King Mountain Resort from Fort Liard, 24 students had the opportunity to strengthen their snowboarding skills or, if they were beginners, start a new sport from scratch.

The students from Jean Marie River also learned how to either downhill ski or snowboard but they also went dogsledding, experienced the Banff hotsprings and learned a bit about the history of Banff and the surrounding area.

The learning experiences were perhaps the greatest for the graduates from Fort Simpson who went to the Dominican Republic.

A tour of the countryside allowed the students to glimpse what life is like for many Dominicans and to reflect on how that compares to their own life in Canada. Students also had the chance to go horseback riding, explore caves and swim with sharks.

These trips and those like them, whether organized by schools or local governments, have great power.

Through them, Deh Cho youths have the opportunity to experience things that they might never have had the chance to do otherwise.

These trips have the potential to inspire students to reach for new goals in life. For some it may involve a new desire to travel and for others it may take the shape of a new focus on education so they can create more new opportunities for themselves.

The people who organize these trips and travel with students during them should be thanked. Deh Cho residents should also continue to support these trips in any way possible because every student who goes on one returns after having their eyes opened to new potentials.


Earth could use more than a day
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegetables don't come from the grocery store, they come from the ground.

That's one of the lessons to be taken away from the Inuvik Community Greenhouse's efforts to give as many residents as possible access to a patch of dirt in which to grow whatever they choose.

This space, and any other patch of fertile soil used to grow food around here, provides users with a connection with what they eat. This experience is likely akin to the satisfaction of killing and harvesting wild meat versus relying on the Styrofoam-packed grocery store variety for sustenance.

However, the benefits of growing one's own food up here does not hinge on this kind of emotional satisfaction, as it often does in the south. While so-called urban farming may be "trendy" in many other places, it's generally more expensive than bargain shopping for produce. Here, that's not the case. Growing your own can actually save you money.

Shona Barbour says she saved $855 by growing food in the greenhouse last year. She came to such an exact number by recording all of the items she harvested, and then converting them to summer grocery store prices in Inuvik.

This gives the high-Arctic gardener the advantage of being both economically and ecologically responsible. Too often, these two factors are played against each other, and the mighty dollar often wins out to the detriment of the planet upon which we all rely.

This connection to the Earth, to the land, seems stronger here than in many other places. However, all of the benefits that come along with living in a globalized world would have us forgetting that from time to time.

As Mayor Denny Rodgers said last week, Inuvik likes to consider itself as geographically gifted. This may be true, but it is also true that this town and the rest of the Beaufort Delta region are downstream from the oilsands and will feel some of the strongest effects of global warming likely while much of the rest of the world continues to debate its existence. Our geographic location is a blessing in many ways, but leaves us vulnerable to the consequences of mankind's wastefulness.

Seemingly simple actions like digging in the dirt and watching things grow can have an impact, both on our individual psyches, on our personal health, and on the health of our Earth.

Giving the Earth its own day of celebration is great, but it's the day-to-day actions of everyday people that will determine where we go from here.


Rental officer has no teeth
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One of the shortcomings exposed in the dispute between the Union of Northern Workers and the female tenants residing in apartment units inside the union's 52 Street building is that NWT rental officer Hal Logsdon has very little power to enforce his orders.

Reading through the Residential Tenancy Act of the Northwest Territories, one might assume the opposite were true. The act states that decisions made by the rental officer are "binding on the parties." Individuals who defy his orders are subject to fines of up to $2,000, while corporations can be fined up to $25,000.

A $25,000 fine would get the attention of even the largest of landlords but four months after Logsdon ordered the UNW to remove a portion of the fence in question to give its tenants street access to their apartments, residents are still waiting for the union to comply.

A fuel spill at a neighbouring building has forced tenants to access their building from the dimly lit back alley since last year, creating safety concerns. All the while, they've had to spend the better part of a dark winter and early spring passing through an area they say is icy and where drug deals sometimes take place.

Logsdon says the enforcement role belongs to the courts, which is where his Jan. 17 order to remove the fence is languishing right now. The union appealed and now its tenants must endure the glacial pace of justice in NWT Supreme Court.

That a Supreme Court judge needs to be asked to ponder the validity of a rental officer's order to create a three-foot opening in a chain-link fence seems like a terrible waste of time and money. We can understand why there is an appeal process but as it stands now, the advantage is with large landlords with deep pockets to hire lawyers so they can fight complaints.

One of the tenants, Michele LeTourneau, took matters into her own lands last week by cutting a hole through the fence. However, the chain-link was replaced the next day as if nothing happened. Yet LeTourneau says the judge insisted in court last month that the order was still enforceable while under appeal.

If so, then a mechanism should be there for the order to be enforced. If that means the territorial government hands the rental officer the power to summon a sheriff after a month of non-compliance passes by, then so be it.

A little more introspection on the UNW's part might have informed the union leadership of its terrible behaviour in this matter. Too bad the rental office doesn't have the power to correct it.


Time to work on ethics
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, April 25, 2012

One reason I've grown to be a big supporter of youth projects in Kivalliq schools during the past few years is the subtle differences I've seen with the generation of students in Grades 7 to 12.

Sure there's attitude, but anyone who can't remember attitude from their own generation in high school either has selective memory or led a very sheltered life.

There's a small, but growing, percentage of today's students who aren't interested in taking shortcuts.

And that determination often seeps through the inner sanctum of their school to take up residence in their daily lives.

These teenagers want things and, more importantly, sitting around waiting for someone to give it to them is not what they're all about.

Who cares if the motivation behind their progress and development is materialistically driven?

The bottom line is they want more as adults than they've had as kids and they're preparing themselves to earn it.

And, hey, once they get there, they may even start thinking about wanting to give their kids a better life and more opportunities than they had.

As they set about improving themselves academically, giving some of their spare time to positive extracurricular activities, and getting used to setting and achieving their goals, a transformation is taking place they may not even be aware of.

They're developing a solid work ethic.

And Nunavut is in bad need of a transfusion of new blood from a generation with a solid work ethic.

I've spent a good deal of my life trying hard to understand, be aware and sensitive of, and accept cultural differences.

And, even in the greatest nation on Earth, it's not always easy.

When it comes to the different cultural traits and characteristics of what makes each of us, well, us, sometimes I get it, sometimes I prefer another's point of view, sometimes I accept without truly understanding, and sometimes things simply go over my head.

It doesn't matter to me what culture someone's talking about - when it comes to equating a poor work ethic (or the unwillingness to work) to cultural characteristics or markers, my reaction can be summed up in two words - oh please.

A poor work ethic is one of those topics we're not supposed to talk about too much in the North.

That's another of those things that goes totally over my head.

But when you hear of a company like AgnicoEagle hiring wranglers (the proper term is babysitters) to get workers to work on time (there's an oxymoron for you), you know you're in need of fresh attitudes.

It isn't minimum wage this company is paying, and to hear an average of 22 people a day aren't bothering to show up is astounding.

It kind of gives you a strange feeling inside when you listen to one of our leaders talk about the need for way more jobs in Nunavut, doesn't it?

Hopefully, this is one performance model the next generation will take great delight in tossing to the tundra.

There's a growing number of them who seem to understand you can't have a great qamutiik if you can't be bothered to cut a board.

And we need their generation to be the best board cutters we've ever produced!

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