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GNWT can't win against French
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 15, 2012
In 2005, parents of students attending Ecole Allain St. Cyr - Yellowknife's only French school - won a lawsuit against the territorial government that gave them access to a gym, science and art labs, vehicle transportation to these facilities, and two portable classrooms.
The student body numbered 90 then; today there are 160 with plans to expand the school to accommodate 250 pupils.
The latest court ruling requires the territorial government to provide Ecole Allain St. Cyr and Hay River's Ecole Boreale with their own gymnasiums and arts and science labs, extra classrooms, specialized facilities for courses such as home economics, expansions to daycare and pre-kindergarten services, among other improvements. The territorial government has until 2015 to complete construction.
NWT Supreme Court Judge Louise Charbonneau also ruled that the French school board, Commission scolaire francophone de territories du Nord-Ouest, should be allowed to decide who is eligible to attend - not the GNWT.
The judge ruled a government directive from 2008 that dictated terms of enrollment at the schools was "unconstitutional" as it denied entry to French-speaking immigrant students, known as "non-rights holders."
One doesn't have wonder why the government would be hostile to the French school board's desire to control student enrollment itself. More students means more money needed to build additional classrooms and facilities, and it's not hard to imagine the GNWT believes it has more important spending priorities than building French schools.
According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, as of 2006 there are 1,030 people living in the territory whose mother tongue is French. Some 3,720 reported being able to converse in French - up nearly 1,000 from 1986.
There is clearly a need, and a constitutional obligation, to provide French-speaking parents with adequate schools for their children.
It would be nice if the GNWT stopped wasting time and spending money on defending itself against lawsuits it can't win.
No day for dead-beat dads
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 15, 2012
It's Father's Day on Sunday and some people will be celebrating. Others, not so much.
To those who have played a meaningful role in their children's lives, who have provided for their families, not only monetarily but also emotionally, they should relish the satisfaction and affection they receive.
To those who fathered children and haven't been there for them, don't expect any presents or thanks based solely on the ability to procreate.
Father's Day, after all, should be a family holiday, a time to celebrate what dad has contributed and will continue to share with his children.
Too often in this part of the world, parental responsibilities fall to one person, the state or the streets. It's tough for kids to grow up without the support of both parents, or worse, to find themselves in a foster home because they have become a ward of the Government of the Northwest Territories. Some teenagers feel forced to leave the family home because of an abusive home environment.
There are those who have risen above their upbringing to become positive, contributing members of society. However, it is much easier for kids to find their way through life when they have good examples to follow - a man who shows respect, makes an effort to understand, offers advice and provides unconditional love. Working well together with Mother no matter what is also a prime responsibility.
Being a father worthy of recognition on Father's Day takes courage, dedication and unselfishness.
We hope that a majority of Yellowknife families will be celebrating Father's Day on Sunday in recognition of the contributions dad has made all year long.
And to those families and children who can't herald the dad in their lives, we hope that he can clean up his act in time for next year's special day.
The lessons a flood brings
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, June 14, 2012
Emergency situations involving natural disasters are stressful and emotional ordeals. They also, however, can bring out the best in people.
The people of Nahanni Butte are in the midst of a natural disaster many communities in the Deh Cho can empathize with. Flooding is an annual risk for some communities in the region, though it normally takes place in conjunction with the break-up of the ice on the rivers.
Rising water levels, a result of substantial rain from British Columbia and southeastern Yukon, on top of annual mountain snow melt, led to a flood in the community of Nahanni Butte, and an evacuation on June 9. The majority of the residents were evacuated to Fort Simpson where many have been living in the recreation centre, which is being used as an emergency shelter.
As the evacuation unfolded, the community of Fort Simpson began to come together to offer assistance. Groups such as the Fort Simpson Volunteer Fire Department gave their time to greet the arriving evacuees and welcome them to the community. Residents have also been coming forward to offer whatever help they can provide including cooking meals if necessary.
It's heartwarming to see people helping others in need. Undoubtedly if the situation had happened elsewhere in the Deh Cho, no matter which community took in the evacuees, there would have been a similar outpouring of support.
In addition to providing a stage for people to show humanity's redeemable qualities, this emergency should also give all communities in the Deh Cho a reason to pause and reconsider their emergency plans. Situations like this don't happen every day, but when they do they often arise unexpectedly without much time for additional planning.
Not only should the emergency plans be up to date, but they should also cover a wide variety of scenarios. Chief Fred Tesou of the Nahanni Butte Dene Band said the community will definitely learn from this event so that it will be better prepared in the future.
In Fort Simpson, the village moving closer to changing parts of its emergency plan, including adding a section on how to receive evacuees from other communities.
Fortunately, the Nahanni Butte evacuation was carried out without any major missteps.
Other Deh Cho communities should take this opportunity to ensure that if something critical was to happen in their jurisdiction the same could be said.
Sometimes you have to work with the system
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 14, 2012
Representatives from the Yellowknife branch of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources held an open meeting to consult with community members regarding the new draft of the Wildlife Act.
This new act has become a contentious bill, to say the least, and has been in the works for more than a decade. However, those who work with the current act every day plead for its replacement, stating they cannot continue to work with the antiquated guidelines.
When the last draft of the Wildlife Act was tabled in the legislative assembly, hunters across the territory cried out that they had not been properly consulted on the proposed changes – that you just can't allow something this important to go through without ensuring that everyone, or most everyone, is on board.
On one hand, the outcry that killed the old version of the new act makes sense. Hunting is not just an issue in the territory, it is a fundamental right of aboriginal groups who live here, and many non-aboriginal hunters who have lived here for years – often their whole lives – felt that their needs were disregarded in the new act. If aboriginal groups and non-aboriginal hunters don't like what is in a bill that will change the way hunting and trapping is regulated in the territory, killing this piece of legislation is the only democratic thing to do.
However, what doesn't make sense to me is that the consultation on this act has been in the works since the year 2000. How is it possible to hold public consultations for this long and still have a public who feel they have not had their proper say? I could see one round of consultations being poorly advertized and going unnoticed, but how many times do open meeting have to be held in a community before the government can claim due diligence?
Eventually, a new Wildlife Act will go through and the way the territorial government regulates hunting and trapping will change. Wouldn't it be better to engage the currently available system to give feedback on what the contents of the act should be before it's too late?
Fence doesn't hold up
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, June 13, 2012
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
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.
NWT News/North - Monday, June 11, 2012
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.