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A helping hand to home ownership
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 1, 2012

In a more harmonious world, Yellowknifers might not begrudge black bears ambling down the road or a bull moose grazing in the backyard.

Being that this is a city of more than 18,000 people, however, such scenarios are more often met with consternation when they do occur. Realistically, the city makes poor habitat for most wild animals. No less is true for the humble beaver, as adored and noble a creature as this water-dwelling rodent may be.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem warns the beaver and its supposed trampoline-like tail can be dangerous when cornered. Beyond that, what makes beavers bad citizens, at least as far as the Niven Lake subdivision is concerned, is its habit of chewing down trees - especially the trees buffering neighbouring properties from the walking trail that surrounds the lake. Niven Lake beavers were also blamed 10 years ago for the roller-coaster effect on Franklin Avenue as it descends into Old Town.

A beaver dam allowed water to pool under the road, causing frost heaves during the winter.

The city and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have been trying to remove beavers from Niven Lake for more than 15 years with limited success. They've disappeared at times only to return. No doubt, it is otherwise nice to have the beavers around - if all you have to do is look at them while out on an evening stroll.

For their destructive habits though - the cutting of trees and building of dams that can flood land and property - it's becoming increasingly obvious that Niven Lake is a less than ideal place for the beavers to call home, especially, now that it's almost entirely surrounded by residential development. It's not reasonable to simply say, "Well, they were here first," and expect homeowners to put up with the damage year in and year out.

Yellowknifer itself adopted that stance in an editorial 10 years ago, back when Niven Lake was a burgeoning residential area just starting to encroach on the animal's territory. However, a decade ago the beavers were not regularly gnawing down trees that property owners were claiming as their own. The situation is increasingly becoming untenable. Something has to go, and it won't be the humans.

It also doesn't help that there are people interfering with the government-set traps to catch the rodents. Not only is this an unsafe thing to do, it may result in the beavers being trapped later in the season, and thus give them less time to store food for winter.

It would be great if there could be a happy coexistence but people have to accept their beaver-watching may have to take place elsewhere. Fortunately, being that Yellowknife is an island of civilization surrounded by wilderness, they won't have far to go.

Lots of pride in planting
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, May 31, 2012

Signs of summer are now all across the Deh Cho. Lawns are green, the leaves have come out completely on most trees and the insect populations are increasing.

One of the most encouraging summer signs is the preparations that are underway in gardens.

In Fort Simpson, the soil in many backyard gardens has been worked over and, in some cases, seeds and bedding plants are already in place in tidy rows. Similar evidence of gardening is likely underway in other Deh Cho communities.

The importance of gardening shouldn't be underestimated.

For one, as all Deh Cho residents are well aware, fresh vegetables are not the cheapest things to buy in local grocery stores. Not only does buying nutritious vegetables take a chunk out of your pocketbook, you can never be quite sure how long ago the vegetables were harvested and what sorts of fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides they were exposed to.

Gardens mean, for a few months of the year, people in the Deh Cho can have access to inexpensive vegetables whose history isn't a mystery. Short of extensive canning, freezing or pickling, the vegetables won't last you all year, but things like potatoes and carrots can easily be kept for a few months in cool, dry places.

Not only do gardens give some relief to wallets and a boost to healthy diets, they also foster a sense of pride. Sure, if you buy a tomato from the store you know you worked hard for the money you used to buy it, but who really thinks about that while they are eating a slice of tomato?

On the other hand, if you planted a tomato seed in April, fostered the tiny plant indoors for months, carefully transplanted it outside and then kept an eye on it as it grew throughout the summer, you will have a connection to the ripe tomatoes you pick. Not only are they bound to taste better, but you can feel good knowing that this is something you grew.

For these and many other reasons, gardening should be encouraged in the region. This can happen in a few ways.

People who are experienced gardeners should share their knowledge and hard-learned tips with beginning gardeners. Helping new gardeners have a successful first few years will make it more likely they continue gardening.

Community garden initiatives like the one in Fort Simpson should also be promoted. As with many other things when people work together projects, such as gardens they are more likely to succeed.

Whether it's in backyard plots or communal areas, gardens will hopefully be growing in number this summer in the Deh Cho.

The times, they are a-changin'
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, May 31, 2012

With its release of the 2012-2013 budget, the territorial government revealed its intentions to pursue devolution in earnest during the 17th Legislative Assembly of the NWT.

With $9.3 million in government funding going toward the "negotiation and implementation of the final devolution agreement," as Minister of Finance Michael Miltenberger said in his budget address, the territorial politicians are letting the rest of NWT residents know they mean business.

And for their part, Inuvik representatives in the legislative assembly, along with Inuvik's mayor, are toeing the line.

"I think it's great for the territory," Denny Rodgers told Inuvik Drum this week." I hope that through a meaningful negotiation all the aboriginal groups will sign on and will get that done."

The Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated was the first Dene government to sign the agreement-in-principal last Tuesday, May 22. Also, Premier Bob McLeod has hinted that the Dehcho and Ndilo governments could soon be on board. This could mean the tides of favour among aboriginal communities are also shifting in favour of a devolution deal.

Closer to home, the Gwich'in Tribal Council stands firmly opposed to the deal, at least in the form that it currently takes.

"Today, we affirm our commitment to oppose that unilateral effort, and to seek recognition of the legitimacy of our constitutional position in the courts," stated GTC president Richard Nerysoo last Sunday in a press release that re-affirmed the council's resolve to continue its Supreme Court lawsuit against the territorial and federal governments. This lawsuit alleges the GTC was not consulted properly during the drafting of the agreement-in-principle, and this failure to consult goes against the Constitution Act of 1982.

So, what does this all mean?

The GTC is treading a fine line here. On one hand, it is making a valiant effort to hold the territorial and federal governments accountable for their actions or, inactions in this case. However, it is beginning to look like sticking to their guns on this issue may put the GTC on the wrong side of a landslide victory for devolution in the NWT. One of the surest ways not to benefit fully from the devolution agreement is to stand against it when there is no hope of stopping it.

This is not meant to pass judgment on the issue of devolution itself, or on the legitimacy of the GTC's court case. However, in light of all these recent developments on the devolution issue, the landscape has changed, and a re-evaluation of tactics may be beneficial.

One can only hope that $9.3 million can buy sufficient negotiations among all parties involved this time around, and that in true Northern fashion a consensus can be reached in which all sides can walk away with their heads high.

Ridiculous rhetoric detracts from democratic debate
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Speaker Jackie Jacobson was wrong when he told Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins and Minister of Transportation David Ramsay that the legislative assembly "is not a theatre."

Jacobson made the comment last week while he gave the two politicians a tongue lashing for exchanging petty potshots during their debate about a $16 million negotiated contract being awarded to the Det'on Cho Corporation for the Ingraham Trail Realignment project.

Contrary to the Speaker's opinion, the legislature is indeed a theatrical stage through which politicians present a show to persuade the public and each another. The most powerful performances usually advance the political plot.

That said, what appears to be a long-standing feud between Hawkins and Ramsay, who began sparring publicly many years ago as city councillors, could cause legislative debate to deviate from the democratic script.

Hawkins opened his member's statement last Wednesday by coining a new alliterative nickname for the transportation minister, calling him "Reverse" Ramsay. Later in the day his questions to the minister maintained a similar tone of irritating immaturity.

Ramsay followed suit, parrying with juvenile jibes, to which Hawkins responded with more name-calling. That's when Jacobson intervened like a kindergarten teacher policing the playground.

Hawkins' questions are important, because they demand the transportation minister justify his position as he finalizes the deal with the Yellowknives Dene. For it or against it, the project is a massive contract for which Ramsay must account.

Unfortunately, Hawkins has chosen to indulge a personal conflict rather than embrace his role as a public advocate, and Ramsay seems more than willing to tussle with him in the school yard.

Both politicians are free to debate with passion and intensity, but should stop short of acting like children.

City obligated to solve problem
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pity the politician or the municipal administrator tasked with finding a meaningful solution to problem dogs in the city.

Case in point is the troubling story of a Ballantyne Court resident whose neighbour has two to seven dogs in their yard. She says her neighbour's pets are left outside unattended to bark at all hours and their feces is left to pile up. The mess was cleaned up last summer after complaints to the city, but the problem has recently resurfaced, she says.

She has asked city council to update the dog bylaw, particularly to limit the number of dogs on a residential property. Coun. David Wind questioned whether there is a problem with the bylaw, which hasn't been revised since 2002, or whether the city was doing a poor job of enforcement.

It is not unusual for Yellowknife residents to have more than two dogs. Many pet owners are responsible - they care for their animals, clean up after them and don't leave them to bark incessantly.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem says the city's bylaw has to be in sync with the territorial government's Dog Act and the NWT SPCA president Nicole Spencer is against setting restrictions on the number of dogs a person can own.

Yet, there is always one bad apple who can ruin it for everyone and we're of the view that there should be a method for authorities to act against dog owners who cause a nuisance by not looking after their animals.

It's not unreasonable for residents to be able to turn to the city for a solution. No one said it was going to be easy, but the municipality does have an obligation to revisit its dog bylaw to force a few scofflaws to clean up their act.

Forcing Pinocchio into the light
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 30, 2012

It will be interesting to see what effect the fed's move to start paying closer attention to the activities of registered charities will have in the real world.

But, if early indications count for anything, the overdue commitment to transparency may slam the door on some clandestine efforts to influence public opinion.

Registered charities have no business trumpeting anyone's agenda or being politically active on any front.

None other than the David Suzuki Foundation helped prompt (some would say force) the government to take action against any registered charity that puts politics high on its todo list.

It's OK to want to be political or influential in the court of public opinion.

Just do it on your own dime and with a platform that spells out loud and clear what you're all about.

It's OK to draw attention to the fact you believe a heavy beef diet might not be a very healthy decision.

But not by using cash 'donated' to you by the intergalactic chicken eating association that gives you the same tax break as the Salvation Army.

Hypothetically speaking, it would be no different than if someone had a problem with the policies of the Kivalliq Inuit Association or the Government of Nunavut in regards to uranium mining in the territory.

If a group is being provided help to attack (or support) a government or regional Inuit association policy, it should never come from an entity using money gained through charitable status.

Charity is all about helping those in need, not fighting political battles.

Even if the activity isn't political in its purest sense, no group should be able to use money given to it by the feather pillow manufacturers to produce an 'independent study' condemning foam pillows.

It just isn't cricket unless everyone knows who provided funding for the study.

Suzuki's resignation as a board member of his own foundation in response to the fed's unwanted attention doesn't change the fact the Suzuki Foundation has been politically active for years.

And Mr. Suzuki and his legion of followers have shown themselves not to be shy about using hard-ball tactics to make their point.

As national spokesperson Jordan Graham recently pointed out in a piece by National Post columnist Kelly McParland: the essence of the David Suzuki Foundation "appears to be one big testament to the personality, vision, goals and cult of David Suzuki."

It is an opinion I totally agree with.

Differing opinions, and the ability to express those opinions in public, are a democratic right.

However, public opinions, hidden agendas and playing outside the rules are very different things.

The playing field must be balanced and transparency paramount for informed choices to be made.

There are far too many puppet masters in today's world, and any initiative that forces them into the open to play by the same rules as everyone else is a good step.

If we can't totally cut Pinocchio's strings, we can at least make sure he's not dancing to a tune meant to be enjoyed by those helping the less fortunate among us.

It's the charitable thing to do!

Food is better close to home
NWT News/North - Monday, May 28, 2012

Eating locally may be the mantra of conscientious environmentalists in southern Canada, but for Northerners it could be a solution to a variety of problems ranging from food security to employment.

According to a report by the Department of Industry Tourism and Investment from 2005, there are more than two million hectares of arable land in the NWT. Encompassing portions of the Hay River, Liard River Valley, Slave River Lowland and Upper Mackenzie regions, that land creates enormous potential for agricultural development.

Access to affordable and quality food in the North is an issue in the territory and despite the flaws in a recent visit to Canada by Olivier De Schutter, the United Nation's special rapporteur on the right to food, he did get people talking.

The GNWT also needs to start talking about food security, and expanding agricultural opportunities in the NWT would be a solution worth pursuing.

Back in the late 1940s, the Government of Canada set up a test farm in Fort Simpson that was eventually abandoned due to what was termed as low agricultural potential. However, changing climate combined with improved technologies might make farming operations more viable today.

A few weeks ago a story in Inuvik Drum highlighted how growing food locally can reduce a family's expenses. A gardener in the community tracked the savings from growing her own produce and was able to calculate it at more than $800 a year.

The development of an NWT-based food production sector could help territorial residents achieve similar savings and keep money in the North instead of funnelling it to southern producers and trucking companies.

What is needed is some comprehensive research into what types of operations would be best suited to the NWT. We also need strong leaders to overcome the political climate in the NWT which might serve to be a greater barrier to food production than weather.

Conflicts involving Crown, territorial and aboriginal lands and a lack of established infrastructure are not insurmountable barriers, especially considering the potential benefits to so many residents.

Hundreds of pounds of potatoes grown in Norman Wells, Hay River's egg farm, wild game and fishing, the potential for wild berry farming, and a Fort Smith alpaca farm selling fleece are all examples of successes in Northern agriculture.

They are also evidence that commercial agriculture can work in the NWT. With the proper support, agriculture could help reduce the cost of food, spur employment and diversify our economy.

Presently, government funding for agriculture projects focuses on traditional harvests and small-scale growing or producing operations. Expanding that support to larger-scale operations is the next logical step.

Bree Denning, board co-ordinator with the Centre for Northern Families, is encouraging Northerners to submit their concerns about the accessibility and affordability of nutritious food to the UN's special rapporteur, who addressed the needs of the North but failed to visit our territory.

We'd also encourage people to contact the GNWT to express their desire to see more home-grown solutions to food security.

Communication beyond words
Nunavut News/North - Monday, May 28, 2012

The poor showing at a public meeting on language services at Qikiqtani General Hospital earlier this month is a missed opportunity and a major hurdle in having Inuktitut become the territory's language of business.

Language commissioner Alexina Kublu expressed well-founded disappointment regarding the turnout. There are definitely issues with the existing lack of access to medical escorts or caregivers who speak an Inuit language, or provide medical information in Inuktitut or Inuinnaqtun.

So why didn't people with these complaints show up for the meeting?

Maybe the issue of communication only seems important in a moment of crisis, and when a medical emergency is over, the problem fades into the background, or maybe people were just busy. Hopefully, though, the low turnout is not viewed as a sign the language barrier is unimportant.

Inuktitut, for the time being, is healthy in Nunavut; according to Statistics Canada, it was the mother tongue of about two-thirds of the territory's population in 2006 (20,480 of 29,325 people).

The 2006 Aboriginal Children's Survey stated about 92 per cent of Inuit children between the ages of two and five in Nunavut could understand an Inuit language, and 82 per cent could communicate their needs in one.

However, English remains the language of business throughout the territory. English is free - the most popular TV shows, books and movies are in English, as are video games. The presence of Inuktitut on the Internet is very limited.

Language goes beyond words; it is the vehicle of culture. English carries with it a Western way of doing things; its vernacular is suited to the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five-day work-week, and to the priorities of Western culture.

Inuktitut is suited to the traditions of Inuit, and to Inuit culture and priorities.

When people communicate in a language, they communicate in the cultural context of that language - this is why it's crucial for standardized Inuktitut to be the default language of communication in business and bureaucracy throughout the territory.

It will be a battle to get it there, especially in light of how many business and government jobs are filled by southerners who don't know an Inuit language.

Regardless, it must be the goal and the GN must be unwavering in its pursuit. Every effort should be put into making Inuit language education available not only for Inuit but for anyone who moves into the territory.

All who wish to learn it should have that opportunity - the more people who know it, the more will use it, particularly if it's free of cost to the public, like English.

That would require government subsidization for translation services, but it would make the language thrive.

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