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Don't let communities die
NWT News/North - Monday, June 18, 2012

The territorial government should be basing more jobs, services and programs in the communities outside Yellowknife as well as holding more meetings in the towns and hamlets.

That was a statement from Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen during the early days of the latest sitting of the NWT's legislative assembly, which wrapped up last week.

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche made a like-minded remark when he said he cannot support the concept of a territorial ombudsman if the $1-million office is going to be located in the NWT's capital city. It would be just another example of more riches for Yellowknife.

Premier Bob McLeod reminded the MLAs that decentralization was made a priority by the members of the current assembly. That's good because the stronger the communities, the stronger the territory.

There were an estimated 19,888 people living in Yellowknife in 2011, according to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, and the GNWT has 2,295 employees located in the capital, almost half of the government jobs in the territory. The next largest government centres are Fort Smith at 486 jobs and Inuvik at 471. After that it drops to 272 positions in Hay River.

We want to avoid going the way of the Yukon where Whitehorse has more than 24,000 people while the next most populous community, the renowned gold rush town Dawson City, has fewer than 1,900. Only one other Yukon community has more than 1,000 people, Watson Lake at around 1,550. The locales outside the capital generally aren't faring well and have very few government jobs to fall back on.

In the NWT, statistics show most of our smaller communities are continuing to decline in population, with residents moving to Yellowknife or, more often, going south.

In Nunavut the intent of decentralization has largely been embraced by many in the communities.

"Ever since decentralization of the GN, it has brought a lot of jobs to the community," said Colin Saunders, an economic development officer in Pond Inlet.

"I've been up here since the creation of the territory and the differences in the community before and after are still visible and evident. Having decentralized government here in Pond Inlet has done nothing but bring positive economic benefits to the community."

We need to do the same here in the NWT.

We must stem the tide of shrinking communities before we drain our regions of their human resources, and government jobs are a primary means of countering that.

Time to put the pedal to the metal
NWT News/North - Monday, June 18, 2012

Transportation Minister Dave Ramsay has been jostled in the legislative assembly on plenty of occasions over the past several months.

On June 1, he was bounced around in a different place - in a vehicle on the highway to Fort Liard, better known as the Liard Trail.

Trail is an apt name for the gravel road, riddled with potholes and series of bumps better known as "washboard."

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche invited Ramsay on the road trip.

In Fort Liard, Chief Harry Deneron expressed frustration over the state of the highway, emphasizing the danger it poses to motorists, but also shared his skepticism that the GNWT is going to do anything about it.

"I know he's broke. I know I'm talking to an empty box," Deneron said of Ramsay.

It's true that money is tight for the debt-laden territorial government and it would take more than $200 million to fix the road, according to Ramsay.

However, what is truly aggravating is that even the small pot of money earmarked for highway maintenance isn't being spent in full.

This year's budget for the Liard Trail is a mere $1.7 million, but that money is carried over from last year. Similarly, this year's pot for Highway 1 through the Deh Cho is $4.7 million, which includes $2.7 million from last year.

Every available dollar to keep the road in the best shape possible should be used, not left to collect dust.

We hope Ramsay doesn't forget that as he returns to the capital, where he drives on smooth roads to and from the legislative assembly.

Opportunities Nunavut
Nunavut News/North - Monday, June 18, 2012

Nunavut is leading the country in economic growth while its residents protest the high cost of food and suffer the many ills created by housing that is not only incredibly expensive but just not available, period.

Economic growth can bring jobs, providing Nunavummiut with more money to spend on food and family. It can bring money into the territory, fueling infrastructure development which should include new housing.

But drugs and alcohol can follow the money, and a territory of isolated communities and bored youth is fertile ground, as we've already seen, for substance abuse, which aggravates mental illness and leads to family and street violence.

Despite the downside, without responsible development - mainly mining - we will be operating forever at the whims of Ottawa, through the allowance it gives the GN to run social and education programs. We need our own money to have full control over our decision-making. Social problems thrive regardless of any mining boom but having the financial resources for education and treatment can make all the difference.

Devolution will be key to this, if it happens in a timely matter and the territory gets a good deal, but devolution will only be of real benefit if industry flourishes. Opportunities North, News/North's 72-page special business report tucked into last week's paper, paints a picture of an economy gaining momentum.

As well, in last week's paper, new census data released by Statistics Canada shows that a third of the territory's population (33,322) is under 14. This is the time to start, in high school, instilling in the minds of students the opportunities to come.

Nursing and teaching programs are increasingly popular at Nunavut Arctic College, which will benefit the territory socially, but there is so much potential for resource development employment, Nunavummiut should have every opportunity to get involved, so they can one day take the lead on mining projects in Nunavut.

GNWT can't win against French
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 15, 2012

Victorious in its demands for more school facilities and greater control over enrollment, a third certainty in life beyond taxes and death has emerged concerning the NWT's French community - that the territorial government will lose when being sued by them.

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
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
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
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 14, 2012

Last Tuesday, an important meeting took place in the boardroom of the Alfred Moses-Greenland Building that seemed to go undetected to all but the dozen or so people who attended.

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
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.

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