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Doggone bad
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 8, 2012

For many, there is no greater animal companion than the humble dog. For an equivalent number there is no task more loathsome than cleaning up after them.

This is the ying and yang of dog ownership. For every cuddly furball at our feet is a mountain of feces that only grows as the popularity of dog ownership increases the world over.

Not only is doggy doo left on lawns and trails unsightly, it is potentially dangerous to humans and pets. Dog waste has been known to carry parasites such as hook and roundworms, cryptosporidium, and the bacteria salmonella and E. coli.

It's not clear how many dogs there are in Yellowknife but our city has long been considered a dog haven - possibly more so per capita than Vancouver, where a consultant's report from 2004 determined that some 60,000 dogs produce more than 26,000 pounds of waste each day.

News that Yk Education District No. 1 has erected signs forbidding dog walkers from entering its schoolyards is acknowledgment of a battle lost in the war against litter in our city, which is what abandoned dog poop is, really. Yellowknife Catholic schools banned dogs from its school properties several years ago and is now reporting fewer feces incidents, though the district has little power to enforce the ban.

Coffee cups, potato chip bags, and plastic wrappers are one thing but doggie doo represents the very pinnacle of unpleasantness. It's hard to imagine city politicians and business leaders having much success organizing poop scoop parties so it leaves us to consider really what can be done to keep the city free of dog poop.

Some dog owners are up in arms about Yk1's decision to ban dogs. It's reasonable to assume that the city would face a hue and cry if it attempted the same on its parks and trails. It's been suggested that municipal enforcement officers need to be more vigilant in punishing those who fail to pick up after their pets. Pet owners of licensed dogs can be ticketed $40 up to a maximum of $2,000 upon summary conviction for failing to remove dog feces, which seems suitable enough.

The question remains, as Mayor Gord Van Tighem noted last spring, should bylaw officers be patrolling school zones for speeders or staking out parks for doggie doo scofflaws? Considering this issue is hardly new, and that the number of trails, parks and schoolyards around the city is vast, adequately policing both without a significant hike in personnel and tax revenue would seem an extremely daunting task.

Though more doggie doo bags in and around city parks and trails would be welcome, the responsibility for keeping them clear of feces rests with the owners. They and they alone are to blame for the dwindling real estate afforded them to take their pets.

Choose your leaders wisely
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, June 7, 2012

In First Nation elections in the Deh Cho, certain themes continue to crop up.

When candidates are asked what issue they feel is the most important for their members, there is little variation between the communities; there are a number of issues that are consistently voiced. Among them are education, employment, housing, protection of the land and water, and the related themes of retaining control of the land and benefiting from any resource development.

These issues are clearly important, and, from the way they keep reoccurring, are specific not just to one or two communities but to the whole region.

The important thing for voters to realize, and the aspect that does differentiate the communities, is how each leader or prospective leader is planning to tackle the issues.

A quick glance at the list is enough to show that each of these issues is large and multi-faceted.

These aren't the kind of things you can discuss at one council meeting, pass a resolution on and call it a day.

Land and water, combined, are a perfect example. There is a question of how to best protect the environment.

Some communities are pushing for the completion of the Dehcho Land Use Plan while other are creating protected areas, still other communities are doing a combination of the two. None of those solutions can be done quickly.

Added on top of protection is maintaining control or stewardship of the land that First Nations simply refer to as theirs. This concern leads any leader directly into the path of the Dehcho Process.

As part of the process, members of the Dehcho First Nations are going to have to decide if they will accept the federal government's offer of a land quantum. If they do, all of the land will no longer be theirs, although a number of measures will help them have some say in how it is used.

Leaders have to look at how to best inform their members about the Deh Cho Process and how to then represent their wishes.

This is all very complicated stuff. No one ever said leadership was easy but voters expect to see results, something that is difficult to show on such large issues.

As elections loom, voters need to take a close look at the specific plans potential leaders have for the issues and their viability. It's of vital importance that these issues are tackled but the real test is how much progress can be made in a two-to-four-year term.

More than petroleum pipe dreams
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 7, 2012

Organizers of the 2012 Inuvik Petroleum Show made an excellent call when they decided this was the year to expand beyond pipeline promotion and include other Northern development projects.

It made sense 12 years ago to host a trade show promoting the Mackenzie gas pipeline project, but more than a decade down the road, the conversation is in danger of becoming stale.

This is not to say the pipeline is dead. Politicians in the area, such as Inuvik Mayor Denny Rodgers and his Tuk counterpart ,Merven Gruben, are adamant the pipeline will still be a reality someday.

Also, David Ramsay, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment still believes in the project. So much so he travelled to Ottawa and the United States to lobby on its behalf last month.

"Nobody is willing to throw in the towel on the Mackenzie Gas Project," he told Inuvik Drum on May 3.

However, at the end of the day there are only so many times you can bring industry leaders North of the Arctic Circle to discuss the same project before interest wanes.

This year has been especially tough on the Mackenzie Gas Project, and there are many other pressing issues involving energy in Inuvik such as, say, our natural gas wells running dry.

So, kudos to the minds at the town office who decided it was about time to bring the Inuvik Petroleum show up to date and expand the agenda to include multiple Northern infrastructure projects.

Sure, some topics slated for discussion this year are natural progressions from the original trade show's mandate, such as offshore drilling, but others are a refreshing change of pace, such as the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway and the proposed fibre-optic link down the Mackenzie Valley.

It would be nice to see the trade show step even farther out of its comfort zone to include a variety of energy topics, not just oil and gas especially this year with so much scrutiny raised over what to do about the impending energy shortage.

In the end, this year's change highlights the fact there are many different opportunities for the oil and gas industry as well as other large companies to do business in the area, with or without the Mackenzie Gas Project.

A campus worthy of a capital
NWT News/North - Wednesday, June 6, 2012
As hundreds of Grade 12 graduates cross the floor during convocation ceremonies this month, one has to wonder where many of them will go to further their education.

Many have their eyes set on universities in the south and are facing the prospect of leaving friends, family and the NWT to pursue their studies in another part of Canada. Options for post-secondary degrees at home, unfortunately, are limited.

Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro recognizes the need for better higher education options in Yellowknife. She raised the issue in the legislative assembly Friday, saying there is an "urgent" need for a new stand-alone Aurora College campus in the capital city. Currently, the college rents space in Northern United Place, where student housing is next to suites for senior citizens.

While we recognize there are already many capital projects on the territorial government's plate, Bisaro is correct in urging her colleagues to put this issue on the radar, sooner rather than later.

Considering partnerships with southern universities have resulted in more course options for Yellowknife students, it seems logical that there be a better campus in Yellowknife for students who wish to pursue professional careers.

Education Minister Jackson Lafferty, in response to Bisaro's questions, said discussions about a new building are ongoing and "very preliminary." The GNWT plans to continue its lease of Northern United Place for the more than 200 full-time college students, at least for another four-year term, and intends to undertake planning for a new stand-alone campus in the meantime. That approach makes it easy for the government to do nothing.

There are options worth exploring in the meantime to allow Aurora College to further expand its course offerings. A substantial amount of office space is vacant in Yk, including property formerly occupied by federal government departments that recently relocated to the Gallery Building.

Legions of high school students deserve the opportunity to remain in the North and pursue their chosen goals and aspirations through post-secondary education. And the GNWT has an obligation to help Aurora College develop into a capital institution that is a more attractive place for higher learning.

Hanging up on the telecom monopoly
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ever since Alexander Graham Bell raced against other inventors to patent an early form of the telephone in 1876, the telecommunications industry has been motivated by competition.

Yellowknife residents are sure to benefit from the recent partnership between Inuvik-based Ice Wireless, a telephone and Internet company, and its major shareholder, Toronto-based Iristel Inc.

With NorthwesTel's decades-long monopoly of the local market broken, due to a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruling in December, subscribers will be able to shop around for services from more than one carrier.

Competition will surely lead to lower prices and better customer service. Just earlier this week, NorthwesTel introduced a cheaper deal to customers who purchase its "bundle" of cable, Internet and phone services, only days after Ice Wireless' announcement. If Yellowknife-based Internet service provider SSI Micro enters the telephone market as well, customers should be able to look forward to a beneficial telecommunications tug-of-war.

That's something to call home about, a call that will be much cheaper than it was years ago.

The yolk's gonna be on someone
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, June 6, 2012

It seemed an easy enough question when asked by Rankin Inlet North MLA Tagak Curley in the legislative assembly this past week.

Curley, quite innocently, simply inquired as to what minister without portfolio Fred Schell does to fill his time these days.

But one doesn't hold their breath waiting for answers in the wild, wonderful and often wacky world of non-party politics, even on a query as simple as what's he been doing to earn those big bucks lately?

We're pretty sure Curley has a handle on what a minister without portfolio does with his spare time, having spent a good portion of his life in the political arena.

If not, he could give his old buddy Jack Anawak a call to get all the details.

Of course, Anawak found himself without portfolio a number of years back for standing up for what he believed in and refusing to back down from opposing the government's decentralization of jobs to Baker Lake from Rankin Inlet.

He may have been guilty of stubbornness at the time, but that's a whole different ball game than the one Schell faces.

It's been almost three months (March 11) since Premier Eva Aariak stripped Schell of his ministerial portfolios, following a Department of Justice report alleging Schell acted in conflict of interest and abused his authority as a minister.

The matter was then referred to Nunavut Integrity Commissioner Norman Pickell.

The issue being in Pickell's hands is more than enough reason for Curley not to be told if Schell is even picking up the morning coffee these days to earn his considerable loaf of bread.

Curley's question on the matter was enough to elicit a few belly laughs from those who follow life in the capital.

But he'll have to step it up to outdo the assembly on the humour front.

Schell already has a history with the integrity commissioner, with Pickell having found the Baffin South MLA in a conflict of interest in 2009 for sending nasty little e-mails to a few government employees to play nice when making decisions concerning his personal business.

So, OK, everyone makes mistakes, but, in hindsight, maybe voting Schell into cabinet in light of those e-mails wasn't such a hot move.

And, if you're into ironic humour, handing him Human Resources as one of his portfolios was the icing on the cake.

Charges and accusations don't always equate to guilt, which was made painfully obvious to our government with the ordeal Panniqtuuq MLA Adamee Komoartuk went through concerning an assault charge that was eventually stayed.

Still, whether by design, chance or error, the shadow of conflict of interest seems to hover near Schell, no matter what Pickell ultimately recommends in regards to the current allegations.

And, going by what we've seen from this government to date, who knows what it will decide to do with those recommendations.

In the meantime, hopefully Curley will have his breakfast order with him if he still can't get an answer to his query.

If nothing else, there will be a bit of bacon around to go with the egg destined to be on someone's face in our legislative assembly - again.

Masters of destiny
NWT News/North - Monday, June 4, 2012

"It's always better to negotiate your own fate."

Those are the words of Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya and they represent a shift in thinking.

Two years ago, when talking about devolution, Yakeleya's words were polar opposite. It was then he said the Devolution Agreement-in-Principle was "a watered-down agreement" that degrades aboriginal organizations.

He also said aboriginal people did not want to be in the backseat during negotiations while the GNWT sat in the driver's seat. To keep with the analogy, leaders in the Sahtu have now decided to hop in the car.

Last month, the Sahtu Dene became the first Dene group to sign its name to the agreement-in-principle; that signature joins those of the Inuvialuit and Metis. For Premier Bob McLeod, himself a Metis, the signing represents what he hopes will be a series of endorsements from the Dene.

The four other NWT Dene groups - the Tlicho, Deh Cho, Gwich'in and Akaitcho, still stand opposed to the agreement-in-principle. The Gwich'in are planning to take the GNWT to court over the matter. The Gwich'in Tribal Council reaffirmed that position last week at its board of directors' meeting. The council's stance not only combats the recent Sahtu signing, it is an attempt to gain support from its members as the council heads into a June 22 election. Richard Nerysoo, council president, told News/North he fears a candidate who does not support the lawsuit could, if elected, undo the council's work.

Aboriginal leaders were right to protest the lack of consultation involved in the formation of the agreement-in-principle, but McLeod has made it clear the process of negotiating devolution is moving forward. He has also invited all aboriginal groups to come to the table to help shape the agreement.

Though the process got off on the wrong foot, the premier has extended the olive branch and First Nations leaders might as well accept. It appears Ottawa is inclined to negotiate terms on devolution, so aboriginal leaders might as well be part of it, even if their land claims take precedence in their respective regions. These leaders may be able to point out flaws in a proposed AIP that others may not see.

Despite McLeod's efforts, it's easy to understand why aboriginal governments and leaders are mistrustful of the government. However, in this case, they have some very influential figures already at the table, leaders who have always been stalwart defenders of aboriginal rights, people such as Nellie Cournoyea, Ethel Blondin-Andrew, Frank Andrew and Betty Villebrun. One would think their support of the devolution process should bear enough clout to attract the holdout First Nations to the table.

What will be interesting to watch is whether Michael Nadli, MLA for Deh Cho, maintains his seat in the legislative assembly. In his May 23 member's statement, Nadli made reference to historical assimilation and extinguishment of aboriginal rights before going on to warn that the GNWT "wants to take control of lands and resources" through devolution.

With the premier having invited aboriginal groups as partners at the devolution table, and with Nadli collecting an MLA's paycheque, at what point will the Deh Cho representative refuse to continue working for an employer he cautions is attempting to wrest control from the rightful owners of the land?

Watch what you eat
Nunavut News/North - Monday, June 4, 2012

Country food is often thought of as the most nutritious food one can get in the territory.

A traditional diet - foods such as seal, walrus, Arctic char and caribou - is full of vitamins, minerals, protein and fats required for good health; but students in Pond Inlet are worried there might be growing dangers from eating marine animals.

Greenland's Dr. Henning Pedersen has seen mercury levels on the rise in people who stick to a traditional diet in his country, very similar to what's eaten by many of Nunavut's Inuit.

Mercury is a heavy metal which, when consumed by people, can cause serious damage to kidneys, the brain and liver.

The results of a study titled Human accumulation of mercury in Greenland, which Pedersen helped research, show mercury intake significantly exceeding European Food Safety Authority guidelines, noting that the levels are high enough to possibly affect brain function, and subtle behaviour deficits linked with brain function have been observed in Greenlandic children in the country's Thule district.

Greenland is right across the bay from Baffin Island, and its people pull their food from the same body of water as Nunavummiut.

The Pond Inlet students, who are enrolled in Nunavut Arctic College's environmental technology program, heard Pedersen speak at the International Polar Year conference last month in Montreal. He even went as far as saying it is "unethical" for the GN to be encouraging pregnant women to eat seal. The students in Pond Inlet have begun to look at contaminants in marine organisms near their community, working with Environment Canada.

Saying the GN is acting unethically is going a bit far; with high food prices and low average wages, country food is vital in keeping communities fed. It's also an important part of the battle against diabetes, which affects nearly 30 per cent of Inuit in Nunavut, according to Statistics Canada, and is largely the result of modern treats and high-sugar foods entering Nunavummiut diets. However, while the government can, to some degree, guarantee the nutritional content of country foods, it can't guarantee what else might be lurking in the meat.

The government should recognize that even normal fluctuations in climate can change the environment and can affect the integrity of Arctic food chains. Causes for rising levels of mercury in sea life could be anything from erosion, thawing permafrost, melting sea ice and climate change, to human and industrial activity.

The current Nunavut Food Guide states, bluntly, "All country foods are healthy." Well, the GN needs to be able to back up that claim, and should probably hold off on such guarantees unless it's closely monitoring the integrity of country foods. Greenland and Nunavut are close neighbours, both geographically and culturally. This could also be an opportunity for both jurisdictions to work together to monitor the food in the ocean we share.

The work of these students should be applauded and supported by both the GN and the federal government, and built upon. A lack of access to quality food is, by far, one of the biggest issues Nunavummiut face but the integrity of the food people can harvest in the North can't be overlooked, or else there could be widespread health issues in years to come.

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