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Sour lemons
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 29, 2012

Lemonade stands are a staple of juvenile entrepreneurship in the summer months, instilling a sense of hard work, organization and business sense.

But for youth living at the Inukshuk Housing Co-operative, lemonade stands are no longer allowed.

Earlier this month, eight-year-old Taylor Sorenson received unwelcome news through a co-op newsletter to all residents expressing that "there is to be no lemonade stands."

Sorenson was selling the thirst-quenching drink to passersby in the neighbourhood, raking in at least $60 a day while saving for a toy she desired.

The reasons behind the sweeping decree that shut her down include a mess of Styrofoam cups allegedly left behind and a perception of a possible safety hazard when children are left unattended. The cluster of residences in question is situated at the corner of Range Lake Road and Williams Avenue, with clearly-marked, one-way traffic signs directing traffic through the small neighbourhood at 15 km/h.

There are also multiple signs indicating children are playing in the area, as one would expect children to do.

Therefore drivers must proceed with extreme caution.

Although it's important to keep a child's well-being as the primary concern, going so far as to call social services or the RCMP if a child is left unsupervised while playing - the co-op's newsletter encourages alerting the authorities - is overbearing and an unnecessary drain on resources.

Banning lemonade stands is not a way to ensure the safety of the children, but an overblown reaction to some litter.

Instead of putting the lid on lemonade through a letter, the co-op should have gone straight to the source, the parent of the child and communicated its concerns over the stand. The co-op could have taken it one step further and given a "three strikes, you're out" warning notice to those selling lemonade, stating acceptable terms and conditions.

Instead, youth are getting a glimpse of how grown-up politics can be unfair with blanket policies that stifle young entrepreneurship.

Dog owners must lead charge on off-leash park
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 29, 2012

If dog owners want an attractive off-leash dog park free of SUVs and other hazards they're going to have to make it happen themselves.

That's the reality facing dog owners right now. Yellowknife does have one off-leash dog park maintained by the city but it's far from satisfactory. Tucked behind the Yellowknife Curling Club it is out of view and has a tired, dingy feel even though it opened only eight years ago.

More important than the woeful look, the town's vet has warned people their pets are at higher risk from contracting communicable illnesses at the park, at least seasonally. City staff periodically drop by to remove dog feces but not much other effort is put into the small area's upkeep.

The other off-leash areas in the city meanwhile, Tin Can Hill, Fiddler's Lagoon Road and the Sand Pits, support recreational uses such as dirt-biking and snowmobiling, which can conflict with loose dogs.

Dog owners in this city - there are 1,355 who are licenced - present a significant body of strength in political power and basis of support for fundraising efforts. In many communities across Canada interested dog owners have formed community groups with a goal of providing facilities and parks to walk their pets.

NWT SPCA president Nicole Spencer proposes an off-leash area near where the SPCA is building an animal shelter on Deh Cho Boulevard.

With a little bit of fundraising and volunteer efforts - maybe even some hired help from time to time- the park can be beautified, maintained and kept free of litter.

Maintaining the status quo promises only continued conflicts between dog owners and other residents out to have fun of their own.

Looking past the festivities
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, June 28, 2012

Aboriginal Day has come and gone from the Deh Cho for another year.

In communities across the region, the holiday was recognized in a variety of ways that celebrated what it means to be aboriginal, while drawing on traditional practices. In Fort Simpson, the more traditional events included a fire feeding ceremony, a canoe race, a moosehair tufting workshop and a drum dance.

In Fort Providence, traditional events were scheduled to include competitions such as dry fish making, handgames, demonstrations of traditional arts and a drum dance. Similar events took place in other Deh Cho communities as well.

For those who participated in the activities, Aboriginal Day clearly becomes a way to celebrate their cultural heritage, have fun and enjoy spending time with friends, family and community members. For non-aboriginal Deh Cho residents, June 21 is a way to show appreciation for the culture they are surrounded by and to learn more about it.

Aboriginal Day for most people is a feel good sort of holiday on one of the longest days of the year. There is nothing wrong with this use of Aboriginal Day, but it could also be used to keep the flip side of the coin in mind.

While celebrating the traditional past and present achievements, June 21 should also be used to strengthen people for what is still to come. Having a national level holiday dedicated to them, of course, does not mean the struggles of aboriginal people are over.

Many of the topics that are bound to be raised at this week's Dehcho First Nations' annual assembly highlight that point.

Through the Dehcho Process and the Dehcho Land Use Plan the Dehcho First Nations and, therefore, the people of the Deh Cho are still struggling to show Canada that they have never relinquished control of the land and should be allowed to manage it and the people who live here.

Housing and education are also popular topics at the assembly. There is still a ways to come to ensure that aboriginal people have access to the same quality of housing and have the same degree of success in education as other citizens of Canada.

Aboriginal Day is a great way to celebrate what it was and is to be aboriginal, but the festivities shouldn't mask the realities and struggles that still exist.

All of the positive energy that is fostered during June 21 should also be channelled towards making sure there is even more reason to celebrate a year from now.

The end of an era
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 28, 2012

Inuvik students have been set free.

This year, the end of class heralds more than school letting out for summer; it means that neither Sir Alexander Mackenzie School nor Samuel Hearne Secondary School will ever again host students.

Both buildings are scheduled to be torn down this summer to make way for the new super school, which has been named East Three.

Current students seem to have embraced the change, quickly adopting the new "gang sign" for East Three (three fingers on the right hand held forward to form an E and three fingers held straight up with the left hand). They look forward to the colourful lockers, larger gym and other shiny, new things offered by the old school and for the most part don't mourn the loss of their old schools.

Among the older generations, feelings seem more mixed.

Some see the loss of these buildings as a shame, especially when it comes to the elementary school. SAMS is one of the most aesthetically beautiful buildings left in Inuvik. Yes, it is aging and has somewhat fallen into disrepair, but does it really need to be torn down?

There are also many in the Arctic for whom the building signifies residential school and all of the painful memories associated with that program. The school's closing celebrations in Inuvik June 15 and 16 were primarily a celebration of the good times had in the schools, but also had a note of the other memories formed within those walls.

"I think this is where we came to do our final healing," said a woman who travelled from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, just to attend the closing ceremonies.

SAMS was once split down the middle and along with it most of the community between the Anglican side and the Catholic side. Nuns patrolled the halls to ensure no students dare enter the wrong wings, and students of different religions stayed in separate residences. Grollier Hall served as the Roman Catholic student hostel, while Stringer Hall housed Anglican students.

As a residential school student, there were no options beyond being Anglican or Catholic this was long before the days of acceptance of and respect for traditional beliefs in such Northern institutions.

There is no more need for the building as a schoolhouse. However, the loss of yet another heritage building in the community should be carefully considered or at least openly discussed before the final bell rings.

Putting the X in democracy
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, June 27, 2012
It's David Brock's job to do battle against voter apathy.

Brock is the NWT's chief electoral officer and the odds are stacked against him considering the lowly 48 per cent turnout recorded in the 2011 territorial election. Yellowknife was particularly complacent in 2011, registering an abysmal 34.2 per cent of voters who exercised their democratic right.

In 2007, 67 per cent of NWT voters marked a ballot. Yellowknifer voters came in at 57 percent, nine percent higher than last election. That's a substantial difference.

Casting back to the 1999 territorial election, Yk voter turnout was 64 per cent and the territorial percentage was 70.

Something has gone astray.

Brock released 25 recommendations in his elections report for the legislative assembly earlier this month.

One of his suggestions was to move voting to Saturday. Would people be more motivated to stop by the polls during a day off? We doubt it. Voting during the week is not a problem for most people. Employers are obligated to give workers three hours to cast their ballot. Advanced polls are always an option as well.

The rest of Brock's suggestions were heavily weighted toward tweaking the efficiency and accountability of the process, none of which holds much promise of boosting voter turnout however important the changes might be.

In the election game, voter turnout in the 65 percent range is respectable, the higher the better. One hundred percent is not within the realm of reasonable expectation. But as critical as elections are to democracy and our way of life, they are like any other event that involves getting people out of their chairs and breaking daily routines. In the weeks before the election, sufficient money and effort has to be spent on advertising - newspaper, radio, television if possible. Twitter and Facebook should by now be essential tools. Poster campaigns and mail-outs work as well.

News organizations thrive on elections and should be fed a continuous flow of information about the importance of voting, who can vote, where to vote, when to vote, etc. Information and promotion are the same thing in an election campaign and there is no such thing as too much. It's all about creating maximum awareness and excitement.

Come 2015, Brock should pretend he is in the public relations business and make full use of all forms of media to raise the voter turnout rates.

Northern charity a source of pride
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

In a 2012 report based on a 2010 survey, Statistics Canada defined NWT residents as among the least charitable donors in the country, falling behind all provinces and territories except Nunavut.

While this comparison of national numbers sketches one picture of generosity in the NWT, Yellowknifers have numerous charitable initiatives to be proud of, especially if the giving isn't documented on donors' tax returns.

This spring, 273 students at N.J. Macpherson School raised $17,000 for the Stanton Territorial Hospital Foundation by going door to door. The money is part of the more than $100,000 the foundation has raised to go toward a new $700,000 chemotherapy/IV suite at the hospital.

At Weledeh Catholic School, 40 senior students raised $4,000 through activities such as bake sales and coin drives to go toward new playground equipment.

Meanwhile, teams participating in the Yellowknife Relay for Life earlier this month raised close to $200,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society, and on Saturday Const. Kathy Law and fellow cyclists helped raise close to $28,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation by participating in the Ride to Conquer Cancer bike race in Calgary.

While the lowly position NWT holds on a national survey of charitable donations may inspire Yellowknifers, who earn the highest average income in the country, to dig a little deeper this year, residents should feel proud of their gifts and organizing efforts so far in 2012.

'Illegitimate' complaints over high prices
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The hoopla was on in Iqaluit this past week for Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq and the Tory government.

The new Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency headquarters was unveiled in a shiny new $9-million building, and $25 million over 10 years was announced for researching Inuit health problems such as suicide, tuberculosis, oral health and obesity.

With a number of the territory's 'players' out for the photo op, it held the promise of being a glitzy day for the Conservatives in Nunavut.

But stuck in the middle of the proceedings was the giant white elephant known as Nutrition North.

While Aglukkaq was busy with hoopla, Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan was busy on Parliament Hill accusing Nunavummiut who are fed up with the high cost of food and necessities as being full of hooey!

The Tories - despite the uncharacteristic (for Nunavut) public protests in many communities - continue to defend the flawed program, with Duncan claiming the complaints of people who live in Nunavut are "illegitimate."

Illegitimate to whom? Illegitimate to the people paying half a week's salary on two bags of items? Illegitimate to retailers like the Stanton Group that continue to give the program an enthusiastic thumbs-up while laughing all the way to the bank?

As a man in Nunavut was lamenting the fact his babies were going around without diapers because they're simply too expensive for his family to buy, Duncan was crowing over the fact the evidence was in - according to Northern retailers - and the purchase of nutritious foods was up in the territory.

What Duncan would realize, if he actually knew anything about the economic climate of Nunavut, is that the ever-so-slight increase in nutritious foods being purchased is courtesy of the territory's affluent, who can afford fresh vegetables and diapers for their children. And therein rests the flaw with this program.

The feds want the focus to remain solely on the price of a select few food items, but it's about far more than that. Nutrition North was devised with logic that can only come from the privileged: those far removed from having to provide for a family on a blue-collar wage or less.

Their cupboards are full and their freezers stocked, so they can afford to focus on what they deem to be proper foods while ignoring the fact families need more than fresh lettuce and tomatoes to survive.

In the south, they run TV commercials on poor souls who have to choose between food and power.

But in Nunavut, having to choose between feeding your kids, or buying diapers for your children, feminine supplies for your daughters, proper toiletries for your washroom or basic supplies to keep your home in a clean-and-healthy state is an illegitimate concern.

Nutrition North would be a wonderful program for an isolated territory full of rich people who only have to worry about preparing fresh, uber-nutritious meals.

But in Nunavut, where families need the same basics as the rest of the country, it is far too restrictive and narrow of focus to make a difference in our quality of life.

And that's no bag of illegitimate hooey.

Disturbing allegations
NWT News/North - Monday, June 25, 2012

A former NWT nurse has a disturbing story about his experience with how our government deals with sexual abuse in the territory.

Bryan Schultz, a registered nurse who worked in Paulatuk for more than a year before he was fired, told News/North he was unable to do any preventative work or take disclosures about incidents of sexual assault against minors because the Health Department was not equipped to deal with the problem.

Sexual assault in the NWT is a serious problem. The number of cases - both new and historic - before the courts due to sexual assault against both children and adults is alarming and policies must be in place to ensure our communities are kept safe.

Schultz said children as young as nine were telling him they had suffered sexual abuse.

One complaint he received and reported in 2010 resulted in a conviction, so there is credible evidence that he wasn't crying wolf.

Schultz said he felt the department was ill-equipped to deal the issue. He said he was told there was a lack of government resources to deal with the reports properly.

It is difficult to imagine a health issue with more negative effects, both physical and mental, than sexual abuse.

Dana Heide, associate deputy minister with the department of health, told News/North the GNWT takes allegations of sexual assault seriously. Legislation dictates that even suspicion of child abuse of any nature must be reported to social services or the RCMP. Nursing guidelines outline the same practises.

He also said nurses and teachers across the NWT understand, by virtue of their training, that it is best to get social services or the RCMP involved in such cases sooner rather than later.

Although he said what Schultz describes is not impossible, it would be rare or unlikely and it would be a case of employee negligence. He described it as being "generally a drop everything and do your job" situation.

At the very least Schultz's allegations require investigation and if negligence is proven officials need to be held accountable.

Considering the responsibilities and job descriptions of healthcare professionals in the health department, as described by the deputy minister, a lack of resources cannot be an excuse for inaction. Nor can it be allowed to lead to the muzzling, harassment, or termination of employees who don't accept leaving children and young women in dangerous circumstances without trying to help, or at least to raise the alarm.

The message must come from the top: Zero tolerance on sexual abuse. Budgetary and staffing concerns come second.

Lawsuits a waste of GNWT money
NWT News/North - Monday, June 25, 2012

The GNWT is reaping the costly rewards of past mistakes. Perhaps the two lawsuits the government is facing - one settled and one ongoing - as a result of its failures to recognize individual rights and consult with those affected by its decisions will teach our MLAs an important lesson: Listen, it's why you were elected.

As the government prepares to fork out more than a million dollars in the legal costs and more to expand French schools, it is also incurring additional legal fees as it fights the Metis' claim to Bathurst caribou. As the two-year hunting ban on the animals is set to expire, the Metis are contesting their exclusion from a quota hunt of 300 caribou.

Under the quota, the caribou will be shared equally between Yellowknives Dene and Tlicho. The GNWT stated if the Metis want to participate in the harvest, they can ask the other First Nations for a share of the pie. It is ridiculous to suggest the Metis go hat in hand to the Tlicho or Yellowknives Dene to ask for rights our government should be trying to protect.

To the Metis' credit, they aren't being greedy about it, their request isn't even for a third of the quota but between 50 and 75 animals. It's a problem that could be fixed by simply considering the rights of all involved and acting fairly.

When will the GNWT learn that it is unacceptable to throw away our tax dollars on lawsuits it won't win because it is clearly on the wrong side of the law and fairness?

Green Party's seal policy defies logic
Nunavut News/North - Monday, June 25, 2012

It's hard not to get frustrated in the face of unwavering support for incomprehensible, unjustifiable arguments.

When Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said she's never been confronted by anyone with "such vehement anger" as she was when Iqaluit Mayor Madeleine Redfern and city councillors met her and her fellow party members, then it's no wonder why her party's nonsensical opposition to the seal hunt remains policy.

The party is opposed to the Newfoundland commercial seal hunt, mainly, and its press releases usually carry about one sentence saying the party is not opposed to indigenous harvests, but the wording of their statements belie that sentiment.

On its website, the party states "The seal hunt is viewed by many people in Canada, and abroad, as an inhumane activity that is ecologically unsound and unsustainable ... Its enormity threatens Canada's overseas reputation for little local value." The keywords here are "viewed" and "reputation," and the key words missing are "facts" and "statistics."

In Nunavut, about 30,000 ringed seals are harvested each year out of a population numbering upwards of 1.5 million. In Newfoundland, the annual total harvest limit for harp seals - which comprise almost all of the annual commercial harvest - was 400,000 last year, out of a population of nearly eight million according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The animals are not in danger of disappearing.

Calling the hunt "inhumane" is ridiculous. These animals are killed while living in their natural habitat, as cleanly as possible. In Nunavut, most of the animal is used - pelts for sale and use, organs and meat for food. In Newfoundland the pelts are kept and the meat is popularly eaten as well.

Compare this to the cattle industry. In 2010, 3.7 million cattle who'd been raised in fenced enclosures were slaughtered, just for food, in Canada, according to Statistics Canada.

What seems more humane?

Now the cattle statistics will pull the heart-strings of vegans, but we don't see the European Union or Russia banning the import of hamburger - cows just aren't cute enough - nor is the Green Party standing up against this industry, which feeds much of North America's population. Sure, the population is controlled, but the population of seals isn't in any danger either.

The fact is humans - and some animals - eat meat, and hunting not only a way for us to obtain nutrition, but it's a form of population control that's been around nearly as long as life itself.

To strip people of a way of life, and to completely ruin the market for warm, beautiful fur, and tell Inuit families their tradition - which keeps their kids warm and food on the table - is inhumane and barbaric, is appalling and any anger it incites is justified.

If the Green Party membership is largely against the seal hunt, as May says, then they are ill-informed and it is her duty as leader to inform them. It's a policy that doesn't make sense, and this way of thought just continues to put barriers between Inuit and southerners.

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