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Water tragedies
NWT News/North - Monday, July 23, 2012

It has been a tragic month in the NWT on the water. One confirmed drowning, another missing and presumed drowned and seven more lucky to be alive. In 2011, the NWT recorded its first year with zero water-related deaths, a statistic that raised hope people's habits on the water have changed for the better.

Although we do not yet know what caused Nicole Horassi to drown in the Mackenzie River, the other two cases do point to unsafe water practices. Both Tony Rabesca and a group of seven from Inuvik left their communities with no means of communication in case of trouble.

More concerning, three of the seven from Inuvik did not inform anyone they were leaving town and none of them told anyone their travel plans, meaning searchers had no idea where to start looking.

Travelling on the water - or the ice in the winter -- in the territory isn't just a recreational activity, it's a necessity.

In a land where travel on rivers and lakes is so vital, water safety should be commonplace. Perhaps it is just that familiarity that breeds unsafe practices.

From 2002 to 2011, according to the NWT chief coroner's annual reports, there were 48 drowning deaths in the NWT, the worst year being 2006 when 11 people drowned.

Wearing a life jacket, avoiding the use of drugs and alcohol while boating or swimming, filing travel plans with friends or the RCMP, and carrying affordable SPOT locator devices, will not only save lives, but money as well. Every time someone goes missing thousands - if not tens of thousands - of dollars are spent on the search effort, especially when rescuers have no idea where to begin looking.

In the case of Horassi, residents from Tulita and beyond pulled together to provide food, money and assistance in the search effort. Although the outcome was a tragic and a terrible loss for the family and community, the level of support offered was nothing short of remarkable and shows how far people of the NWT will go to help their own.

Let's work to avoid further loss of life and repeat years such as 2011. For the most part, deaths on the ice and water can be avoided with a few simple precautions. No matter how experienced you might be, it doesn't hurt to exercise caution, not only for your sake but also for your family and community.

A salute to the Rangers
NWT News/North - Monday, July 23, 2012

The Canadian Rangers are the eyes and ears of our military in the remotest parts of the country.

They guide our troops while training in the harsh Arctic environment and act as role models in their communities.

An extension of that legacy is the Junior Canadian Rangers, an invaluable outlet for youth who might not be into sports or arts.

Aside from being part of a proud tradition that dates back to just after the Second World War, the Junior Rangers teach our youth discipline, and a myriad of on-the-land skills while providing them with a strong sense of community and self that hopefully turns them away from drugs and alcohol.

With decades of history, the Rangers have also become a generational organization binding families to a common purpose. People such as Aklavik's Ella Archie, her husband Peter and their two children have made the Rangers a family affair.

The binding nature of the Rangers not only fosters positive behaviour among individuals but links families in a healthy and nurturing environment.

For these reasons, join us in a salute to the Canadian Rangers.

Poor relationships hurt land use plan
Nunavut News/North - Monday, July 23, 2012

There is no end in sight for the territory's land use plan until the people involved decide to communicate properly and develop stronger working relationships.

For years, the federal government, the Government of Nunavut, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., and the Nunavut Planning Commission have been working toward a regulatory system to determine how land outside communities will be used and what land will be protected.

In 2007, the project shifted from regional planning to a Nunavut-wide plan. There have been at least four versions of the draft plan developed between June 2010 and this past March.

An independent review of the Draft Nunavut Land Use Plan presented earlier this month found that the water is murky when it comes to the roles and responsibilities of each body involved and that their relationship overall is quite fragile. The review authors offered 20 recommendations to fix the problems.

The review also noted "mistrust and a lack of mutual respect" between the parties.

For the sake of Nunavummiut and the protection and development of their land, the governing bodies need to align their expectations, listen to what's being brought to the table and fully engage the public and stakeholders.

The longer the issues stew, the more time the development process will drag on and the more resources will be wasted on reviews. There is a real risk that industry will grow frustrated as well, pack up and go elsewhere.

To prevent that, there must be a clear vision of what the Draft Nunavut Land Use Plan should do and steps taken to ensure it is put in place sooner rather than later.

Keep the adventures coming
Nunavut News/North - Monday, July 23, 2012

This year marks the first that the organization Outward Bound has been a presence in the territory since its dog-sledding adventures in the 1990s.

Last week, a plane dropped a group of youth from Kimmirut and Iqaluit off at Mount Joy where they were to paddle the Soper River. Let's hope there are future treks to follow in its path.

A journey like this is a remarkable opportunity. The youth have a chance to challenge themselves physically, culturally and emotionally in a new and exciting environment with their peers. They learn new skills, make new relationships and come out of the program stronger than before.

The interest seems strong from the participants, the organizers and the sponsors.

Hopefully, resources and enthusiasm continue so a fresh group of Nunavut youth can dive into an educational experience like this one, allowing them to gain knowledge of the land, work with a team and push their limits.

Fred Henne needs lifeguards
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 20, 2012

Some 500 people die by drowning each year in Canada, according to a 2011 report by the Lifesaving Society of Canada.

And it's the unsupervised swimming locations where people most often drown. It's the second leading cause of preventable death for children under 10, and 65 per cent of children under the age of five were alone when they drowned. Of all drowning deaths, 59 per cent of the victims were engaged in recreational activities.

With more than 20 lifeguards employed at Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, safety at the pool doesn't seem to be much of an issue. It's a different story all together at the beach in Fred Henne Territorial Park at Long Lake, however, where the inevitable happened last week.

At least no one died. A good Samaritan pulled a young, unconscious girl of between five and seven years of age from the waters of Long Lake, after which an off-duty nurse and another volunteer went to work performing CPR. Despite one witness's claim that it took 20 minutes for emergency responders to arrive, the girl regained consciousness and was taken to hospital.

It's a good news story because the girl survived but this scary incident also provides us with a belated warning. When the territorial government gave up on staffing the busy beach with lifeguards once and for all in 2004 it was widely presumed that it was only a matter of time before tragedy would strike.

It's surprising there hasn't been a death. In 2003, the first year Fred Henne beach went unsupervised, it was left up to a pair of 11-year-old girls to rescue three younger children who had ventured into deeper water and were beginning to drown. The city, which had been contracted by the GNWT to provide lifeguards at the beach for 12 years, claimed it could not provide any qualified lifeguards because none had applied.

The GNWT bemoaned the situation but insisted it was the city's job to provide lifeguards because it didn't have the expertise. The following year, the government stopped pleading for lifeguards, and began arguing it couldn't allow them to work at Fred Henne because it didn't have the same liability protection the city had. This coincided with Mayor Gord Van Tighem's pronouncement that the city was back to a full complement of lifeguards again, and would be happy to staff Fred Henne if the GNWT allowed it.

With both sides trading blanks, we've come to accept over time that no level of government was going to step up to the plate and ensure the beach is properly supervised.

But we shouldn't accept this, even though time may have dulled our memory of when we actually did have lifeguards at Fred Henne.

By our count, there are at least 21 part-time and full-time lifeguards at Ruth Inch. Surely some of them, after the necessary training, would enjoy spending the summer working at the beach.

And liabilities? There are supervised beaches everywhere throughout the modern world. What makes Fred Henne any different?

As the primary summer fun spot in a capital city, with visitors coming from far and wide, it's not acceptable to tell beach goers to "swim at your own risk." Bring back the lifeguards.

If the city doesn't act, councillors should. If councillors choose to continue to risk the lives of the city's children, parents should act to make it an issue. There's no better time than an election year.

Small steps towards success
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, July 19, 2012

There's a great project underway in Kakisa that other Deh Cho communities should take note of.

The project is the construction of a small fish processing plant. The plant is an example of how communities can create their own economic opportunities by drawing from their expertise and natural resources.

As Chief Lloyd Chicot of Ka'a'gee Tu First Nation said, the people of Kakisa have a long history of fishing. Fishing, of course, historically would have been an important way to obtain food. More recently, some community members have taken to fishing on a larger scale using commercial fishing as a source of income since the 1970s.

Although Kakisa Lake and nearby Tathlina Lake are rich in fish, there were still some barriers to having the community support a successful fishery. Those barriers included a year-round option for selling the catches.

And even when fish were sold to a third party for marketing and distribution, there was the issue of the commercial fishers losing control of their catch.

To address these issues, the fishers and the band developed a plan to open a fish processing plant. No one should expect a large plant producing High Liner fish sticks or anything of that sort, but it could be just what the community needs.

The commercial fishers in the community, of which there are three or four, will be jointly in charge of the plant. They will be able to use the facility to look after their own catches, processing and filleting them and vacuum packing the fish. The same fishers will also be responsible for marketing and selling their fish.

The creation of the plant won't result in immediate prosperity and a steady year-round income for fishers, but it will give them one of the tools to help make that happen. Soon fresh fish from Kakisa Lake may be readily available across the Deh Cho.

So often in the region there's the complaint that there is little economic development happening and even fewer job opportunities. Some people have to leave their communities in order to find work.

Kakisa is setting an example that may help spawn similar endeavours in the Deh Cho. The community is also demonstrating that business ideas don't have to be large or very expensive to benefit a community.

Instead, communities need to look at the local expertise that exists, the available natural resources and the market demand. By creating the necessary tools, such as processing plants, economic growth and success can be achieved.

Unexpected display of Northern culture
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, July 19, 2012

Inuvik is a busy place this week.

By itself, the 10-day Canadian North Great Northern Arts Festival brings in hundreds of visitors and artists every year. This year, that number grew larger with the addition of Canadian Armed Forces personnel, who recently began setting up camp near Old Navy Road, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, who came to town to host an air show on Tuesday.

The number of visitors attracted by these events should be noteworthy. However, a particularly unlucky Friday the 13th saw the Peel River ferry get pulled out of the water while a boil water advisory was issued on the same day. The ferry trouble was bad timing for the arts festival because many tourists who come for the event drive to the community from the Yukon, not to mention the havoc it must have caused on the shipment of wares.

Military supplies were also blocked by the ferry being taken out of service due to high water and debris. The military had yet to get running water set up on Tuesday. Many of their supplies were stuck on the wrong side of the river, leaving military personnel to scramble for supplies along with everyone else.

The closure of access to the Dempster Highway itself would have been notable, but it was not the only event which was unplanned. The boil water advisory issued last Friday dragged on into this week, leaving store shelves empty of bottled water because most retailers could not re-stock due to the ferry closure.

While these issues put wrinkles in the plans of more than one visitor, it also gave them an inadvertent look into life in Inuvik. People who live here year-round are, for the most part, accustomed to being cut off from the rest of the world from time to time. It's a price to be paid for living North of the Arctic Circle.

As a newcomer, I was blown away the first time the power and communications systems went down earlier this year, but life in the community carried on with business as usual.

The lure of adventure is what brings most visitors to the community, but I suspect that the anticipated adventures have more to do with wildlife sightings and less to do with drinking water that is of a similar colour to human urine.

At the end of the day, though, every out-of-towner I have seen this week has a smile on their face and a positive thing to say about the town.

Not only do we have friendly people, amazingly talented artists and 24 hours of sunlight, we have a community that just keeps on keepin' on. It's that resiliency that is the true Northern spirit and our visitors got a little taste of that in the last week even if it was by accident.

Public criticism is not an 'internal matter'
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 18, 2012
In any relationship, the silent treatment is seldom a constructive communications strategy.

This holds true when it comes to the relationship between politicians and their constituents.

Dettah Chief Edward Sangris and Yellowknives Dene First Nation councillors Roy Erasmus Sr., Phillip Liske, Cecile Beaulieu and Jonas Sangris finally met with media in Dettah on July 10 to respond to allegations outlined in a petition that had been circulating in the community since June 21. The petition, which calls for the removal of the chief and band council, alleges public drunkenness, unreported conflicts of interest, and lack of consultation with band members when passing budgets.

Chief Ted Tsetta of Ndilo threw his support behind the petition but then was quickly removed from office without explanation.

Chief Sangris later characterized the allegations as "false," adding that he initially didn't respond to the petition's claims because he considered the conflict an internal issue stemming from personal disagreements among band members.

In May, prior to the petition, former councillor Barbara Powless-Labelle sent a letter to the prime minister outlining similar concerns about Yellowknives Dene leadership. The band council responded with a written statement denying those allegations.

The ongoing conflict between the existing band council and some former councillors and their supporters has not been resolved. If the situation continues to fester, the best option for the chief and councillors is to continue to speak openly about the issues at public meetings so their constituents can make up their minds about who has more credibility.

Transparency part of the election game
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Needless to say, having a variety of candidates to chose from is key to a successful election.

With that in mind, we thank Bryan Sutherland for helping to ensure that happens when election time rolls around. To date, Sutherland has put his name in the ring for two territorial elections - including last year's - and in the race for mayor in 2009 when he finished a distant second to Gord Van Tighem but still managed to attract 592 votes.

Sutherland fared far worse in last year's territorial campaign, claiming only 28 votes in the race for the Kam Lake seat. Perhaps his poor showing is why he didn't bother to file a financial report to NWT chief electoral officer David Brock or pay the $250 fine he received after failing to meet the Dec. 2 deadline.

In court last week, Sutherland dismissed Elections NWT as a "gong show" for spending public money to take him to court for the unpaid fine - nine months after the election. In response to this, we would like to remind Sutherland it's not enough just to have candidates step forward at election time.

They are obligated to follow the rules and, above all, be open and accountable.

He might want to keep that in mind since he's now musing about making a run for a seat on city council this fall.

Numbers tell the story
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Well, valued readers, as you're reading this I'm off on a working vacation to begin phase three of fixing up my tiny bungalow for my golden years.

I leave you in the more-than-capable hands of Tim Edwards from our head office in Yellowknife.

I look forward to seeing you all again during the latter part of next month when I begin my 15th year at the helm of Kivalliq News.

In the meantime, while Kivalliq residents await the government's blackout on the actual number of caribou remaining in the Southampton Island herd to be lifted, it doesn't take Sherlock Holmes's power of deduction to realize the amount of damage done to this herd by overharvesting.

During the period when some hunters were killing a large number of caribou to ship the meat off Southampton Island for profit, reports out of Coral Harbour indicated people buying the exported meat were paying a premium for fat caribou.

Now, one doesn't have to be a biologist to realize the vast majority of fat caribou during the winter months are pregnant females.

And, one doesn't have to be a big gambler to know that puts the odds quite high on a tremendous amount of damage having been done to the productive core of the Southampton Island population.

It truly was a case of double jeopardy for this herd, because not only did the hunters who got carried away remove too many caribou from the population, they also removed what are referred to as the prime breeders.

When we look at the numbers we do know, we were talking about a population that once numbered 30,000 having fallen to 7,800 according to the survey done in 2011.

Although some would argue it's closer to 60 per cent, let's give everything the benefit of the doubt and estimate 3,900, or 50 per cent, of those were females.

Statistics tell us about 2,200 of those would be considered prime breeders and, with brucellosis long being confirmed on Southampton Island, we can estimate the disease to be impacting around 20 per cent of the females.

Subtract that number from the equation, and we're down to about 1,760 prime breeding females.

Now, if we were to hypothetically assume the reports out of Coral at the time were totally correct, and a premium was being placed on fat caribou, that would mean the potential for the number of breeding females among the animals exported off the Island (estimated to be somewhere around 1,600) would be about 1,000.

That's a staggering number, which absolutely decimates the breeding core of the Southampton population.

You really don't have to be a biologist, or a rocket scientist for that matter, to figure out any population's chance of survival, with about 60 per cent of its ability to reproduce wiped out almost overnight, has become precarious at best.

So it's not too hard to see why the Southampton herd is in its current state, and all for the almighty dollar.

The Nunavut government, the Coral Hunters and Trappers Organization and the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board have their work cut out for them to save this herd.

And, sadly, for both the herd and those who depend on it the most, it may already be too late.

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