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News Briefs: Monday, June 4, 2012
Fire threatens Highway 3

Highway 3 remains open despite an ongoing forest fire near Behchoko.

Department of Transportation spokesperson Earl Blacklock told News/North Sunday morning that as long as wind conditions don't change and blow smoke toward the highway, the link to the South should be kept open for the time being.

"It is still open and we are still expecting the wind blowing will keep the smoke away but there is always a potential that the wind could shift direction," he said.

- Simon Whitehouse

Smoldering fire put out

A small smoldering fire along Highway 6 to Fort Resolution was put out on May 31 after concerns were raised by residents of the community. A spokesperson for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) said someone had been burning a pile of brush, but left before the fire was extinguished.

The ENR spokesperson said the smoldering area was only about the size of a bedroom.

- Paul Bickford

Premier at conference

Premier Bob McLeod attended the Western Premiers' Conference in Edmonton on May 29.

Premiers from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the three territories discussed eight topics of national interest at the one-day conference, including support for a national energy strategy, employment insurance, infrastructure development, and streamlined environmental assessment.

McLeod said he also shared a session with Alison Redford, premier of Alberta, on developing an aboriginal government engagement strategy and closing the socio-economic gap between non-aboriginal and aboriginal Canadians.

Premiers from all the Canadian provinces and territories will meet in Halifax from July 25 to 27 at the Council of the Federation.

- Lyndsay Herman

Boating death case going to trial

A judge ruled yesterday that the case against a man who was charged following the 2010 drowning death of Colin Lafferty will go to trial.

Henry Basil is facing a charge of impaired operation of a vessel and a charge of impaired operation of a vessel causing death. On Canada Day Basil and two other men were in a 2010 boat that capsized in Akaitcho Bay.

Both Basil and passenger Chris Burke were rescued by a boater, but Lafferty, also known as Colin King, drowned. Judge Bernadette Schmaltz decided to send the case to trial following a two-day preliminary inquiry.

- Miranda Scotland

Society to view transit of Venus

Thebacha/Fort Smith

The Thebacha and Wood Buffalo Astronomical Society will host a public event on June 5 so people can witness a rare celestial occurrence - the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.

The event will be held at Fort Smith's Conibear Park, beginning at 6 p.m.

A number of telescopes equipped with special solar filters will be set up so people can safely look at the transit, said Tim Gauthier, vice-chair of the society.

No one should look directly at the sun without such special equipment. That can cause serious damage to the eye.

A transit occurs when Venus passes between the sun and the Earth. Venus becomes visible for hours as a small disk against the sun. The phenomenon occurs in pairs eight years apart. This is the second transit of this century's pair, since the first happened in 2004.

The next pair of transits of Venus will not take place until 2117 and 2125.

The astronomical society will be handing out information sheets explaining the phenomenon.

An event will also be held in Yellowknife. Astronomy North will have two solar telescopes and solar viewing glasses at Somba K'e park next to city hall.

Transit of venus will begin at 4:05 p.m. and end at 10:49 p.m.

- Paul Bickford

South Slave Highway traffic blitz


From May 24-27, the RCMP's G Division Traffic Services executed a planned enforcement blitz on NWT highways south of Great Slave Lake.

Over the four-day operation, about 800 vehicles were checked.

The traffic blitz involved a check stop on Highway 1 about 20 km south of Enterprise, along with roving patrols on the highways to Hay River, Fort Resolution and Fort Smith.

According to an RCMP news release, the checks resulted in eight Criminal Code charges, including three for impaired driving, one for breach of probation and another for unauthorized possession of a firearm.

There were also two possession charges under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

In addition, there were 96 charges under the NWT Motor Vehicles Act, 11 charges under the NWT Liquor Act, and three 24-hour driver's licence suspensions under the NWT Motor Vehicle Act.

Several law enforcement units and agencies assisted with the effort, including the RCMP detachment in High Level, Alta.; the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans; and the territorial departments of Transportation and Environment and Natural Resources.

- Paul Bickford

A-plus for teachers


The Aklavik District Education Authority celebrated the hard work of its teachers and staff last week, as May 28 to June 1 was the Aklavik Education Week.

Education Week began on the Monday with the Aklavik District Education Authority annual general meeting and a feast. The educational authority has also hosted radio trivia, raffle draws, school assemblies for students and staff, and an open house. The week finale, Bring your Parent to School Day, took place Friday.

"It's to celebrate staff and teachers for their great effort all year," said Velma Illasiak, principal of Moose Kerr School. "(The Department of Education Culture and Employment) usually does their (Education Week) in February. We do that one as well, but this one is more specific to our school."

Illasiak said the focus of the was to shift to preparations for the Grade 12 graduation ceremony and reception. Moose Kerr School will graduate six students this year on June 8.

- Lyndsay Herman

Inuvialuit Day celebrations


The Ulukhaktok Community Corporation is preparing to celebrate Inuvialuit Day on June 5 with a community barbecue and celebrations.

The barbecue will include traditional Inuvialuit food as well as burgers and hot dogs. Victoria Akhiatak, corporate manager for the Ulukhaktok Community Corporation, said entertainment on the important day will involve many Inuvialuit traditions.

"We're hoping to have some drum dancing and Inuvialuit games," she said. "June 5 was the day that the Inuvialuit signed a final agreement so June 5 was declared Inuvialuit Day."

Inuvialuit Day has been celebrated each year around the NWT to commemorate the signing of the Inuvialuit land claim agreement on June 5, 1984.

- Lyndsay Herman

Enterprise workshop may be rescheduled


A workshop planned by the Enterprise Senior Society was cancelled on May 28 due to a low turnout.

The workshop was for seniors to discuss ideas and develop a plan of action for a June 18 public meeting on establishing a museum in the community.

Shari Dives, president of the Enterprise Senior Society, said it is hoped the workshop will be rescheduled before the public meeting. The date has not changed for the public meeting.

- Paul Bickford

Qikiqtarjuaq/Broughton Island

Canadian North cancelled a flight out of Qikiqtarjuaq on May 31 due to a report of "unusual circumstances" with one of the pilots, stated a company spokeswoman

Canadian North grounded the aircraft and relieved the crew of their duties when the report was made, said Lisa Hicks.

"We take any reports which may impact the safety of our passengers and crew very seriously," said Hicks.

Canadian North has contacted and is co-operating with the RCMP while it is conducting its own internal investigation, she added.

- Jeanne Gagnon

NWT might stop taking Nunavut inmates


The Government of the NWT may no longer accept Nunavut prisoners in its jails.

In the NWT legislature on May 31, NWT Justice Minister Glen Abernethy said one measure to ease the strain on the already under-serviced infrastructure would be to stop taking on the extra inmates.

According to data tabled in Nunavut's legislature last week, there are currently 20 inmates from the territory who are incarcerated in the NWT.

Abernethy said under the federal Bill C-10, Safe Streets and Community Act, the NWT will see an average increase of 11 inmates a year housed in its jails.

The strain on the Justice Department is finding additional room for the inmates. New mandatory minimum sentences will increase the amount of prisoners in the system.

- Danielle Sachs

Wildlife board chair, CEO resigns

Mikidjuk Akavak has resigned from top positions he held at the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board. The board's executive director, Jim Noble, said Akavak resigned on April 30 from his roles as chief executive officer and board chair.

Akavak had pleaded guilty on March 20 to assaulting two police officers while intoxicated. He was sentenced to three days in jail and 18 months probation.

He will have to seek treatment for alcohol and anger management as well as trauma counselling. Akavak was also fined and ordered to submit a DNA sample for use in the police registry because these are his third and fourth convictions for violent crimes.

Noble said the board met on May 3 and appointed Peter Kusugak as the acting chair until a replacement is found.

He added the board also decided to abolish the chief executive officer position, with the responsibilities transferred to Noble. When the board meets again from June 9 to 15 they will canvass current members to see if any are interested in being chair. If not, the job will be publicly posted.

- Jeanne Gagnon

Seal derby in Gjoa Haven

Uqsuqtuuq/Gjoa Haven

Seals were to be harvested in Gjoa Haven this past weekend as residents participated in a seal derby.

About 200 people were expected to participate in the annual event, this year from June 1 to 3, said Enuk Pauloosie, the hamlet's senior administrative officer. He added the hunt is traditional; only harpoons are allowed. Pauloosie said the event is very popular.

"A lot of people go out seal hunting. The seal meat is not wasted. It's all distributed out to the community," he said. "They'll have a feast and keep the hide for their own use for either kamiks or whatever they want to use the hide for."

He added seal meat is good and has lot of protein.

- Jeanne Gagnon

Hall Beach mayor leading Nunavut communities

Sanirajak/Hall Beach

Hall Beach Mayor Paul Haulli was elected the president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities late last month.

Haulli got more votes than Resolute Mayor Tabitha Mullin and Whale Cove Mayor Percy Kabloona. Delegates chose a new president for the next two years during their annual general meeting in Iqaluit from May 22 to 24. Haulli said he ran for the presidency because he has lived in communities of different sizes, as a former mayor of Iglulik, Hall Beach and Pond Inlet.

"I want to see this organization become strong so we can raise issues and the concerns we got from the communities and pass it on to the Government of Nunavut and also to the federal government," he said.

- Jeanne Gagnon

Elder wins fishing derby

Kangiqtugaapik/Clyde River

The Victoria Day long weekend was a good one for Clyde River elder Angie Talluq. The community's director of recreation and community services, Nina Qillaq, said the elder won the fishing derby after she reeled in a 75.4-cm long char while fishing at a lake about two hours from the community.

First prize consisted of $1,000, a bicycle, cargo space on First Air and 10 gallons of gas.

Qillaq said Talluq's fish was so big, it snapped the line just as she managed to get it out of the water.

"The line was broken when she got it, right on time," Qillaq said.

One hundred and forty residents participated in the derby.

"The weather was very nice and lots of people caught fish," Qillaq said.

- Kassina Ryder

Tobacco-free day in Qikiqtarjuaq

Qikiqtarjuaq/Broughton Island

The community of Qikiqtarjuaq celebrated World No Tobacco Day with a free all-day breakfast at the community hall on May 31, said recreation co-ordinator Eena Kooneeliusie. The breakfast began at 9 a.m. and included yogurt and fresh fruit. It finished around 5 p.m.

Kooneeliusie said the goal was for smokers to reduce or eliminate their smoking habits that day.

"Try to avoid a cigarette," she said.

The World Health Organization established world No Tobacco Day in 1987. This year's theme is "Tobacco Industry Interference," which highlights the tobacco industry's role on tobacco control policies.

- Kassina Ryder

Pangnirtung readies for Canada Day


It's early June and Pangnirtung is already gearing up for its Canada Day celebrations, said recreation co-ordinator Peter Evic.

He said the recreation committee would be meeting soon to discuss plans. Evic said there would likely be both indoor and outdoor games, with an opening ceremony taking place near the RCMP station at the beginning of the day.

He said there would be further details once the committee meets.

"We should be meeting sometime very soon," he said.

- Kassina Ryder

Whale of a grad

Whale Cove

Friends and family members gathered in Whale Cove late last month to celebrate Inuglak school's Class of 2012.

Receiving their Grade 12 diplomas were Joachim Angoo, Mitchell Angootealuk, Irma Joy Voisey, Joey Arualak, Joshua Ussak and Nathan Sammurtok.

- Darrell Greer

Race cancelled


For the first time in its 12year history, the Arviat Racing Club had to cancel the annual Sam Napayok Memorial snowmobile race when Mother Nature wouldn't cooperate.

The race had been scheduled for May 1821.

Race organizer Ryan St. John said the club had no choice but to cancel when warming conditions removed most of the snow down to the ice on the track surface.

"We had a big melt about two weeks before the race, and conditions just wouldn't permit us to go ahead with it," said St. John.

"When you get down to the ice it crystallizes, and, if you fall down, it can cut you up pretty bad.

"This was the first time we tried to hold the race so late in the year.

"We'll be back with it again next year, but we'll schedule it earlier, probably late April or early May."

- Darrell Greer

Heritage Centre donation


Kugluktuk's proposed heritage centre got a funding boost when BHP Billiton donated a "significant" amount to the project.

BHP Billiton Ekati Diamond Mine would not disclose the amount donated to the project but the money is to be used towards construction and associate costs, said Alexander Legaree, team leader of communications at BHP.

"After some conversation, we also decided it was something we were very keen on supporting," he said. "We've contributed significantly towards the construction of the heritage centre over two years."

The company is also donating a piece of 53-million-year-old wood from the kimberlite pipes at Ekati Diamond Mine, stated a press release.

"The wood is identified as a species similar to the redwood Metasequoia, a tree that was common in the swamps during that time period and mined deep within Ekati's kimberlite pipes," stated BHP.

The proposed community visitors cultural centre will have two sections - one will be a single storey while the other will have two floors, explained Don Leblanc, the hamlet's senior administrative officer. A museum will occupy one floor while offices and a boardroom will be in another section, he added.

Leblanc said BHP provided the biggest amount of money towards the construction, mostly funded by private enterprise.

"This is what guaranteed us this could work. Because of their funding, we were able to proceed knowing we had this money in the bank," said Leblanc. "As always, we are very appreciative of the support BHP has given us. They've always been there for us in the last couple of years. It's been a great working relationship."

He added proposals for design-build went out mid-May because they hope to start construction this sealift season and continue next summer.

Neither the hamlet or BHP would divulge the cost of the project, or the exact amount of money BHP donated.

- Jeanne Gagnon