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Fence doesn't hold up
NWT News/North - Wednesday, June 13, 2012
One-hundred-and-forty-eight days. That's how many days have passed since NWT rental officer Hal Logsdon made his first ruling, ordering the Union of Northern Workers to provide street-side access for tenants living in apartment units in the union headquarters building on 52 Street.

The tenants were still waiting when we checked yesterday. NWT Supreme Court Judge Shannon Smallwood has given the union until Friday to install a gate through a fence guarding the union's parking lot for staff vehicles - that's 22 days after Logsdon's last deadline expired.

The union leadership doesn't seem to care much about public perception - growing worse by the day - or the fight it has engaged in with female tenants living in this downtown building. These women either have to trespass through a neighbouring property or walk down a dimly-lit alley which they say is frequented by drug dealers and drunks to get to their apartments. Police said there was a sexual assault on their street just two blocks away two weeks ago.

Union leadership doesn't seem to care either about the untold amount of union members' dues being spent on the high-priced lawyer filing appeal after appeal just to prevent a gate from being built at the fenced-in parking lot.

Ditto the NWT Supreme Court, which has now allowed three orders from Logsdon to go unheeded on appeal.

Now that the issue has found traction in the legislative assembly we can only hope the bouncing ball this case has become will finally be caught, and the clearly inadequate legislation the rental officer works under can be changed to give him the power he needs to enforce the rulings he makes.

Landlords should not be allowed to endlessly appeal rental officer rulings just because they can hire better lawyers than their tenants.

Justice Minister Glen Abernethy says he will look into the problem. He said a report on the rental officer's recommendations - released last December - will be ready this fall. Something must be done.

No doubt, the union's tenants are waiting with bated breath for action.


Words of praise for NorthWords
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Staff and volunteers with the NorthWords Festival Society deserve the community's thanks and congratulations after successfully producing the organization's seventh annual NorthWords Writers Festival.

This summer's festival offered an engaging, entertaining and exciting series of events at a variety of venues from May 31 to June 3.

As in past years, the festival introduced large local audiences to notable names on Canada's literary stage, such as journalist and author Linden MacIntyre and Haida artist and activist Michael Yahgulanaas, while presenting a who's-who of talented Northern writers, poets and storytellers on the same stage.

Writers from near and far were paid for their participation in the program.

This year the society, in partnership with longtime sponsor De Beers Canada, will give a fresh boost to Northern writers by publishing Coming Home: Stories from the Northwest Territories. It's an anthology featuring 17 NWT authors, including eight Northerners whose work has never before appeared publicly in print.

By respecting and nurturing new Northern talent in innovative ways and by continuing to stoke their imaginations and aspirations with assistance from established professional writers, the NorthWords Festival Society is encouraging a culture of literary creativity that will ensure Northern stories will continue to be shared by a multitude of voices.


Great concept, but keep it real
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kudos to teachers Katharine O'Connell of Rankin Inlet and Glen Brocklebank of Chesterfield Inlet for their take on the possible creation of a new award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

Both these teachers have excellent and irrefutable track records of recognizing the importance of Inuit culture in their classrooms.

And they both fully endorse the concept of a new national science fair award based on traditional knowledge.

Brocklebank and O'Connell's endorsement is to be expected, given the commitment we've seen from them both over the years to incorporating traditional knowledge into the classroom.

What was refreshing, however, was that neither of them would have any interest in supporting the award if it were made available to aboriginal students only.

Both educators made it perfectly clear their support was dependant upon the fact the award had be available to any student who competes at the Canada-Wide Science Fair.

Our two science teachers are illuminating a point that all too often gets overlooked in the North.

There's next to nothing in this world that means a lot to a person when it's just flat out given to them.

But it's a whole different story when a person truly earns it.

The second problem with an aboriginal-only award is perception.

The traditional knowledge award, should it come to be, would immediately be regulated to secondary status were it available to aboriginal kids only.

It may be said out loud by only a few - due to the constant fear of being labelled politically incorrect these days - but, rest assured, many in the science community would look upon it as a token award and nothing more.

The truth is, best intentions aside, making a traditional knowledge award available to aboriginal kids only would be doing them a huge disservice.

An open award would put our youth on an equal and level playing field with any student from across the country who qualified to compete for it.

In fact, it would prove quite interesting to see a project employing Inuit Quajimajuqangit competing against a better way to process maple syrup, traditional fishing practices of the East Coast, traditional farming techniques of the West, or the traditional knowledge of literally hundreds of cultures that make up this great nation of ours, regardless of the country of origin.

And, there can be no disputing the fact any Kivalliq student bringing home such an award, knowing they bested all comers at the fair, would be walking on air with a fierce fire of cultural pride burning in their heart.

The concept of a traditional knowledge award at the Canada-Wide Science Fair is long overdue and one that, hopefully, will be supported by those making the decision.

But, just as important, are the concepts of inclusion, fairness and equality, which must also be supported for the award to be accepted as a genuine achievement.

Our science students can compete with the best this country has to offer on almost any topic, let alone one that still plays such an important role in their lives, so bring on the competition.

We don't have subways in the North, so we have little use for tokens - of any kind.


Seize opportunity
NWT News/North - Monday, June 11, 2012

Students in Tuktoyaktuk put their creative juices to work last month to develop business ideas for their community. The ideas were for services many communities in the NWT's major centres take for granted: a hair salon, a restaurant and a fitness centre.

Although the business plans were for a national competition and not for practical application, they highlight the need for services in our small communities and perhaps pose solutions for employment across the territory.

C.J. Walker, an American businesswoman from the early 1900s, once said, "I had to make my own living and my own opportunity! ... Don't sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them!"

It's a statement that those living in the NWT can relate to. With unemployment reaching into the double digits and options for jobs often limited in smaller centres, it is up to many to create their own success.

Some have done so using their skills on the land, marketing aboriginal and eco-tourism, but not everyone fits that niche, nor is it a broad enough industry to sustain too many businesses.

However, everyone has skills that can be put to use and the students in Tuktoyaktuk demonstrated good ideas that, if put into practice, would not only provide a service for their community but manufacture income and boost the economy on a small scale.

It can be difficult for a business to stay afloat in hamlets of 300-1,000 people. For that reason, some may be home-based, seasonal or part-time.

The GNWT offers funding programs to help businesses get off the ground but it takes more than capital to run a successful business, it takes education.

Our government is making efforts to improve educational opportunities outside the major hubs and to improve graduation rates across the territory, and that is a good first step.

The next step is to encourage those students to go on to higher learning and keep them up North. To accomplish that goal, we must look at expanding programs at Aurora College. During the Yellowknife campus' grad there were hints of the possibility of expanding the present business diploma program to a degree program.

Such a move would be ideal for producing homegrown entrepreneurs with the ability to bring business and employment opportunities into our Northern communities.

Improving the economy and wealth of a population also improves quality of life. We hope the students of Tuktoyaktuk serve as role models to other students and that a few of them actually pursue their ideas as ways to enhance life in their communities.

Building small businesses in small and isolated communities is easier said than done, but to paraphrase Theodore Roosevelt, nothing worth doing is ever easy.


Money for nothing
Nunavut News/North - Monday, June 11, 2012

Stripped of his portfolios yet still sitting on cabinet, how can South Baffin MLA Fred Schell, or any of his fellow executive, justify his collecting a cabinet paycheque?

Allegations are just that until a finding of guilt is reached, but Schell has already been stripped of his portfolios and a new cabinet member, Monica Ell, has been elected.

There will be an election this fall, and a new cabinet selected afterward. So when is Schell going to have the opportunity to justify the extra money that he's currently not earning?

Elected to cabinet last fall by his peers, the South Baffin MLA had been already bringing in a total of $120,919 as a regular MLA as of March 2011. Ministers make close to $70,000 on top of an MLA's pay - although Schell told Nunavut News/North he doesn't know his salary because he doesn't keep track of such things.

Regardless, it's a lot of money, especially when you consider the median salary for Nunavut was $58,088 as of the 2006 census.

When you enter the public life, you go in knowing your job depends on public perception. The electorate expects a certain decorum from their elected representatives, and they expect results in return for the tax dollars paying these salaries. The latter is simply not happening in Schell's case.

Our government is cash-strapped as it is.

We don't need to be paying a cabinet minister's salary to someone who is not carrying out the associated duties.


New ITK president a strong choice
Nunavut News/North - Monday, June 11, 2012

Terry Audla's win in last week's Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami election is a testament to his achievements in the Inuit public sphere.

His work over nearly two decades in the Qikiqtani Inuit Association and then as chief executive officer of Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. have put him in a spokesman position for Inuit, and he's fit that role well. He's championed language and culture, and took on the RCMP over its denial of an Eastern Arctic dog slaughter between 1950 and 1970. He's also stood up to the likes of TV personality and animal rights activist Paul Watson, of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Now, however, Audla's role may pit him more often than not against the Government of Canada, which still hasn't done enough to address the longstanding problems facing remote Inuit communities in Nunavut and elsewhere in Canada - the housing deficit, addictions and mental health, food insecurity and poverty.

He obviously feels ready to take on the job and he won last week's vote by a landslide. Inuit Tapiirit Kanatami has shown its membership has faith in him to lead. Now is his time to fight for all of Canada's Inuit on the national stage.


Doggone bad
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 8, 2012

For many, there is no greater animal companion than the humble dog. For an equivalent number there is no task more loathsome than cleaning up after them.

This is the ying and yang of dog ownership. For every cuddly furball at our feet is a mountain of feces that only grows as the popularity of dog ownership increases the world over.

Not only is doggy doo left on lawns and trails unsightly, it is potentially dangerous to humans and pets. Dog waste has been known to carry parasites such as hook and roundworms, cryptosporidium, and the bacteria salmonella and E. coli.

It's not clear how many dogs there are in Yellowknife but our city has long been considered a dog haven - possibly more so per capita than Vancouver, where a consultant's report from 2004 determined that some 60,000 dogs produce more than 26,000 pounds of waste each day.

News that Yk Education District No. 1 has erected signs forbidding dog walkers from entering its schoolyards is acknowledgment of a battle lost in the war against litter in our city, which is what abandoned dog poop is, really. Yellowknife Catholic schools banned dogs from its school properties several years ago and is now reporting fewer feces incidents, though the district has little power to enforce the ban.

Coffee cups, potato chip bags, and plastic wrappers are one thing but doggie doo represents the very pinnacle of unpleasantness. It's hard to imagine city politicians and business leaders having much success organizing poop scoop parties so it leaves us to consider really what can be done to keep the city free of dog poop.

Some dog owners are up in arms about Yk1's decision to ban dogs. It's reasonable to assume that the city would face a hue and cry if it attempted the same on its parks and trails. It's been suggested that municipal enforcement officers need to be more vigilant in punishing those who fail to pick up after their pets. Pet owners of licensed dogs can be ticketed $40 up to a maximum of $2,000 upon summary conviction for failing to remove dog feces, which seems suitable enough.

The question remains, as Mayor Gord Van Tighem noted last spring, should bylaw officers be patrolling school zones for speeders or staking out parks for doggie doo scofflaws? Considering this issue is hardly new, and that the number of trails, parks and schoolyards around the city is vast, adequately policing both without a significant hike in personnel and tax revenue would seem an extremely daunting task.

Though more doggie doo bags in and around city parks and trails would be welcome, the responsibility for keeping them clear of feces rests with the owners. They and they alone are to blame for the dwindling real estate afforded them to take their pets.


Choose your leaders wisely
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, June 7, 2012

In First Nation elections in the Deh Cho, certain themes continue to crop up.

When candidates are asked what issue they feel is the most important for their members, there is little variation between the communities; there are a number of issues that are consistently voiced. Among them are education, employment, housing, protection of the land and water, and the related themes of retaining control of the land and benefiting from any resource development.

These issues are clearly important, and, from the way they keep reoccurring, are specific not just to one or two communities but to the whole region.

The important thing for voters to realize, and the aspect that does differentiate the communities, is how each leader or prospective leader is planning to tackle the issues.

A quick glance at the list is enough to show that each of these issues is large and multi-faceted.

These aren't the kind of things you can discuss at one council meeting, pass a resolution on and call it a day.

Land and water, combined, are a perfect example. There is a question of how to best protect the environment.

Some communities are pushing for the completion of the Dehcho Land Use Plan while other are creating protected areas, still other communities are doing a combination of the two. None of those solutions can be done quickly.

Added on top of protection is maintaining control or stewardship of the land that First Nations simply refer to as theirs. This concern leads any leader directly into the path of the Dehcho Process.

As part of the process, members of the Dehcho First Nations are going to have to decide if they will accept the federal government's offer of a land quantum. If they do, all of the land will no longer be theirs, although a number of measures will help them have some say in how it is used.

Leaders have to look at how to best inform their members about the Deh Cho Process and how to then represent their wishes.

This is all very complicated stuff. No one ever said leadership was easy but voters expect to see results, something that is difficult to show on such large issues.

As elections loom, voters need to take a close look at the specific plans potential leaders have for the issues and their viability. It's of vital importance that these issues are tackled but the real test is how much progress can be made in a two-to-four-year term.


More than petroleum pipe dreams
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 7, 2012

Organizers of the 2012 Inuvik Petroleum Show made an excellent call when they decided this was the year to expand beyond pipeline promotion and include other Northern development projects.

It made sense 12 years ago to host a trade show promoting the Mackenzie gas pipeline project, but more than a decade down the road, the conversation is in danger of becoming stale.

This is not to say the pipeline is dead. Politicians in the area, such as Inuvik Mayor Denny Rodgers and his Tuk counterpart ,Merven Gruben, are adamant the pipeline will still be a reality someday.

Also, David Ramsay, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment still believes in the project. So much so he travelled to Ottawa and the United States to lobby on its behalf last month.

"Nobody is willing to throw in the towel on the Mackenzie Gas Project," he told Inuvik Drum on May 3.

However, at the end of the day there are only so many times you can bring industry leaders North of the Arctic Circle to discuss the same project before interest wanes.

This year has been especially tough on the Mackenzie Gas Project, and there are many other pressing issues involving energy in Inuvik such as, say, our natural gas wells running dry.

So, kudos to the minds at the town office who decided it was about time to bring the Inuvik Petroleum show up to date and expand the agenda to include multiple Northern infrastructure projects.

Sure, some topics slated for discussion this year are natural progressions from the original trade show's mandate, such as offshore drilling, but others are a refreshing change of pace, such as the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway and the proposed fibre-optic link down the Mackenzie Valley.

It would be nice to see the trade show step even farther out of its comfort zone to include a variety of energy topics, not just oil and gas especially this year with so much scrutiny raised over what to do about the impending energy shortage.

In the end, this year's change highlights the fact there are many different opportunities for the oil and gas industry as well as other large companies to do business in the area, with or without the Mackenzie Gas Project.

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