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Herald fixed link to the south
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, November 14, 2012

There will be no more apprehension about crossing the mighty Mackenzie River come Nov. 30 when leaving Yellowknife to drive south.

It will be a landmark moment when the Deh Cho Bridge is officially opened.

Who will cut the ribbon is being kept under wraps but it's probably safe to assume that Premier Bob McLeod and Transportation Minister Dave Ramsay, once an outspoken critic of the link, will be present, along with representatives of community partners like the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation, the Fort Providence Metis Council and the Hamlet of Fort Providence.

No representative from the Government of Canada, which contributed not one cent to the $202 million project, ought to be on hand for the ceremony.

The bridge has been a long time coming. The idea of a fixed link across the river was first advanced more than 30 years ago. Critics have said there isn't enough traffic volume to justify a bridge, despite the inconvenience of having to wait for the ice to clear on the river, including the huge chunks that flow out of the big lake, so that the Merv Hardie ferry could resume service. A similar delay sometimes occurs in the winter, when vehicles cannot cross until the ice bridge is constructed.

That all changed on Sept. 28, 2007, when an agreement was signed with the Deh Cho Bridge Corporation to design, construct, finance and operate a 1.045-km cable stay bridge on Highway 3.

Despite the fact the original agreement was abandoned, with the territorial Department of Transportation taking over the project, construction that began in 2008 is finally near completion.

Regardless of the history, the end of the month will mark a turning point for Yellowknife, Behchoko and Fort Providence. No longer will people have to worry about whether the ferry is running or if the ice bridge is operational. Permanent access not only eases peoples' minds about travelling, it also will be of benefit to business, tourism and even Internet service delivery with a new fibre-optic cable spanning the river.

The bridge's technical and financial difficulties will forever remain part of its history. Nonetheless, the Deh Cho Bridge is an impressive structure that will bring certainty to travellers from the North Slave region and to the off-season transport of goods coming to our city.

Hollywood North of 60
Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The fact that people are arguing about which Northern celebrity should be the face of NWT tourism can't be a bad thing for the territory. Ten years ago we had few, if any, options.

We should be using all the celebrities available to us to promote the territory, whether they're born and raised in the territory like "Buffalo" Joe McBryan or cast as a Northerner in a popular TV show like Arctic Air star Adam Beach.

Alex Debogorski, Yellowknife resident and boisterous star of the reality television show Ice Road Truckers, caused a stir last week when he complained in his Yellowknifer column that NWT Tourism was slapping Northerners in the face by selecting Beach to be the poster boy of the organization's tourism campaign.

In 2010, McBryan, owner of Buffalo Airways, upon which reality TV show Ice Pilots NWT is based, criticized the territorial government for not taking advantage of promotional opportunities created by his show. NWT Tourism, a not-for-profit group responsible for marketing tourism in the NWT, seems to get it. That's why it's hitched its star to Adam Beach and Arctic Air.

It certainly couldn't hurt trying to enlist McBryan, Debogorski, and other rising stars North of 60, if it can reasonably be done. The more the merrier, and thank heavens we can say that.

They're coming for your burger
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sooner or later some government somewhere will decide that, as well as it's worked with cigarette smokers, the golden goose is almost cooked and it's time to bring in a ton of cash from somewhere else.

It's equally just as certain those foul souls with an affinity for fast and/or sugary foods will be next in the taxman's crosshairs.

Heck, there's no reason to even change the now triedandtrue method of cashing in on a bad habit.

Start slow, with health professionals sounding the alarm, then have one suggest it's time to start taxing those who carry a few or not so few extra pounds around.

Some would even call it poetic justice, given obesity and its related illnesses have always been the true numberone drain on the Canadian healthcare system.

And there's never been a tax to balance the obesity scales, let alone tip revenues massively in favour of money coming in compared to the cost of health care going out like with smokers.

Throw in the fact, according to the government's own rhetoric, the vast majority of smokers die well before their time, and billions of dollars more are saved on health care, Canada Pension and Old Age Security.

Then, when you look at the fact governments have somehow managed to keep themselves exempt from lawsuits launched against big tobacco companies - despite being their full partner in crime and raking-in more blood money from tobacco than the companies themselves - you have to admit it's good work if you can get it.

With Ontario being one of the top paternal provinces in Canada, it came as no surprise when the Ontario Medical Association was the first out of the gate with the recommendation to its government to start taxing the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of fatty and sugary foods.

And since, according to yet more government rhetoric, putting gross pictures on cigarette packages led to so many smokers quitting, the good doctors want to follow suit and have photos of diseased, bleeding feet shown on a bag of french fries.

That will have every golden arch gone in no time.

Canada's last truly charismatic leader, Pierre Trudeau, once said, "There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation."

But, today, the bedroom might be the best place for the government.

Maybe it would hit the hay and take a break.

These days, Canada has a toxic mixture of paternal-taxation-politically correct-restriction fever gone mad.

If you're crazy enough to wish someone a Merry Christmas while holding a hamburger and wearing a Montreal Canadiens jacket written only in English, you could be in serious trouble.

Fast food lovers have one advantage, they already know silence is only golden to the government when it fires the first tax salvo at people it plans to ostracize into submission.

They have the chance to protest long and loud after the first shot crosses their bow.

Of course, should they try that particular tactic, they may also want to remember another quote from the duo of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones.

"You have the right to free speech - as long as you're not dumb enough to actually try it!"

Language starts in the home
NWT News/North - Monday, November 12, 2012

One of the hardest things to do is learn or retain a language you do not use on a daily basis.

Although some Northern communities, such as those in the Tlicho region, have done better keeping their traditional language in daily life - through school programs, within self-government and at home, others have not been as fortunate.

Our territory recognizes 11 official languages - English, French, Dogrib (Tlicho), Chipewyan, Gwich'in, Inuktitut, Innuinaqtun, North and South Slavey, Inuvialuktun, and Cree.

The strength of each language varies but their importance to culture and identity are the same. Unfortunately, when it comes to support, not all languages are created equal in the eyes of the government, reflected in the level of services offered and the most recent language report issued by the GNWT.

At present, if aboriginal language speakers in the NWT wish to access government material online, in a vast majority of cases they would be unable to do so. Health and Social Services is the only department with online services available in all 11 official languages. The remaining department sites are either accessible only in English or also available in French.

Although French is Canada's second official language, it ranks fourth in the NWT behind English, Tlicho and South Slavey in terms of the number of speakers.

French speakers have challenged the GNWT in court on more than one occasion to increase services available in French, such as the official transcripts of the legislative assembly.

The GNWT has also recently agreed to a new plan to help enhance bilingual French services in the NWT.

If the GNWT plans to continue listing 11 official languages, it should commit to providing equal support to each of them. In its last budget, the GNWT spent $150,000 to improve services in French, yet not a dime in similar spending to improve support to the other nine non-English official languages.

A formula should be worked out by the department to fund languages on a per-capita basis, and more web services - specifically the departments of Justice, Education, Culture and Employment, Transportation, Municipal and Community Affairs and the legislative assembly, should be available in all 11 languages.

That seed money would help create programs to ensure language is passed down to the younger generation.

The Tlicho government has taken preservation of its language into its own hands, offering language immersion programs in its schools and making government information available in the Tlicho language. It's a strategy that has helped maintain its strength with approximately 90 per cent of the population 15 years or older able to converse in Tlicho.

More importantly, it has guaranteed younger Tlicho citizens are learning the language, which is essential to keeping it alive.

That is the most dangerous separation between the state of the Tlicho language and other aboriginal languages across the territory.

Those under the age of 25 who report the ability to speak Tlicho account for 31 per cent of that language's speakers. The next closest is Inuktitut with 23 per cent. Cree comes last with seven per cent.

That means older speakers make up the bulk of most traditional language speakers, which puts languages in danger of dying with its eldest speakers.

While government support is important, communities must also demonstrate a willingness and desire to keep their traditional languages strong. This starts in the home.

People can help by taking the time to pass on traditional language skills to children and speak it at home.

Not only will that exercise build language skills, it will also help foster cultural pride and rebuild aboriginal identity.

Dividing up the Games
Nunavut News/North - Monday, November 12, 2012

The scaling back of the Arctic Winter Games has left people looking for another way, and an option put on the table by the MLA for Rankin Inlet South might be the best route the Games could take.

Lorne Kusugak wants to split the games that can be played in the summer from those that are played in winter, and to have both summer and winter games in staggered years. This would require organizational changes, possibly another committee, and more money in total, but its benefits are clear.

With two events, each would cost less and would have more room to grow. The summer games would require less infrastructure because most, if not all, of the sports it could host - basketball, volleyball, some Dene games - could be played either outside or in school gymnasiums, and the athletes' village could be comprised of tents outside.

Splitting the event in two would make each event easier to organize and easier for Northern communities to host.

Each would need its own fundraising campaign, and more corporate sponsors might be necessary to make the higher total cost feasible, but many Northern companies are good corporate citizens and willing to sign on board with strong events such as the Games. Finding the money might not be hard. Even if it is, it would be worth the effort to avoid the alternative - less athletic opportunities for Northern youth.

Trimming sports from the Games does a disservice to youth. Athletics are fundamentally important, especially in Nunavut. Sports keep youth healthy, inspire confidence, foster friendships, create opportunities for youth to see other parts of the world, the benefits are innumerable.

Kusugak deserves a thumbs up for his creative alternative to downsizing the games, and here's hoping the Arctic Winter Games International Committee and Northern governments take notice.

Time to take control over booze
Nunavut News/North - Monday, November 12, 2012

As Nunavut grows, demand for liquor will grow, and despite the multitude of problems it causes the territory, we're never going to be rid of it. The best thing to do is regulate it as much as possible.

The Government of Nunavut is looking at a report recommending they create a Crown corporation to buy, sell and distribute alcohol through GN-owned retail beer and wine stores throughout the territory. Import permits would be gone, communities would have the final say in whether they get a store, and the profits would go into harm-reduction initiatives. As well, how much a person buys at the liquor store would be regulated.

This would surely take the steam out of bootlegging, as illegal profiteers who have been capitalizing on the slow liquor-ordering system would now have to contend with retail outlets selling at reasonable prices.

Let the talks begin
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, November 9, 2012

That violent crime in Yellowknife has declined dramatically over last year is bound to surprise some residents in the city.

Images of "Gaza Strip" and "Range Street" flood the collective consciousness of the citizenry. They have come to avoid treading on certain downtown streets while bearing witness to the great flood of businesses fleeing the city's centre.

The issue dominated this fall's municipal election, with one council candidate going so far as to propose that inmates released from North Slave Correctional Centre be deported back to their home communities. And, just four days after being elected mayor, Mark Heyck pitched the idea of the city hiring its own RCMP force to patrol downtown.

Last month's police report to the outgoing city council by Yellowknife detachment commander Colin White has put a spanner in the spokes, so to speak, toward the view held - at least by some - of a criminal city.

We don't have complete statistics for Yellowknife from the police. The RCMP stopped providing regular bimonthly police reports to Yellowknifer going on more than a year now, but White did put some meat on the table last month.

According to his report, there were 1,441 assaults in Yellowknife last year - about 120 per month - while only 801 assaults - 89 per month - have occurred this year so far.

White cautioned that the RCMP do not view the statistics as proof the city is getting safer, but reminded council that it only takes a couple of high profile cases, such as the reported sexual assault on a 15-year-old girl last September, to feed the perception that Yellowknife is a dangerous place.

In reality, it's not violent crime that concerns the average Yellowknifer, so much as nuisance crime - public intoxication, aggressive panhandling, and littering. It is incidences of these that have made parts of downtown Yellowknife so intolerable.

Heyck is right in his basic premise. According to the RCMP, communities down south, such as Red Deer, Alta., fund some extra groups of police officers separately from the number allotted them by the province.

Few people would argue current RCMP patrols downtown are adequate. That's why our recently elected city council needs to continue the discussion held during the election. That discussion also needs to include the territorial government and the RCMP.

It would be an enormous expense for Yellowknife taxpayers if the city hired its own police force. The existing RCMP detachment with 42 officers responsible for policing Yellowknife are funded by the territorial government.

If this isn't enough officers, then the city and the territorial government need to look at that.

Council should remind the GNWT that many of the people committing crimes in the city have migrated here from one of the territory's outlying communities, and thus bear the lion's share of responsibility in ensuring there is an adequate number of properly funded police in the city.

Council could sweeten the pot by offering up the recently purchased properties on 50 Street as a future site for an addictions treatment centre.

As for the RCMP, it would be nice if it resumed its crime reports to Yellowknifer to better inform readers of the policing situation in this city.

Serving their community
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012

The nine members of the new Fort Simpson village council were sworn in with pomp and ceremony on Nov. 5.

Approximately 50 people attended the ceremony that even included refreshments afterward. The event will likely mark the most recognition and thanks the mayor and members of the council will get during their three-year term.

Serving on a village or hamlet council is usually a thankless job. How often do people think about thanking the members of their local council when things are going well around their community? Probably far less than the times residents track down the nearest council member they can find when things are going wrong.

Being on council also isn't a very glamorous job. Councillors have to deal with the smaller details that keep a community functioning. As some like to say, there's a lot of talk about dogs, ditches and dumps.

Village and hamlet councils, however, are far more important than most people realize. Along with band councils, they are one of the closest forms of elected government to the people. The councils have a direct say in the running of the services that affect the daily lives of residents. They have a hand in everything from ensuring a supply of clean water to having snow cleared from municipal streets.

Councillors also have to have a wide range of knowledge. They deal with everything from personnel issues to local bylaws to budgets. It's not an easy task.

That's why it's essential that a strong team of individuals is elected to the councils and that they be supported throughout their term by local residents.

On election day voters choose the candidates they think will do the best job on the council. It's not enough, however, to make a mark on a ballot paper and then hope for the best for the next two or three years.

To get the most out of their elected councils, residents have to keep tabs on what they are doing, offer words of praise when things are going well and, more importantly, offer suggestions about issues that need to be addressed and how things could be done better.

Fort Simpson now has its council in place for the next three years but both Fort Liard and Fort Providence will be heading to the polls in December. The residents of each community should keep in mind the importance their councils have.

Reality sets in
Editorial Comment
Danielle Sachs
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, Nov. 8, 2012

Reality shows on TV reach a wide audience. They may not always portray the reality of life, regardless of their titles, but they can promote an interest in a certain region, like the NWT or the Beaufort Delta.

Jesse James is not well-liked around here because of his misrepresentation of the region and behaviour during his December 2008 visit during the filming of Jesse James is a Dead Man.

The episode, called the Arctic Bike Journey, was aired in 2009 and in it James rode the unfinished ice road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk to deliver medicine.

Inuvik Drum reported at the time that some residents were angered by the portrayal, specifically the episode voice-over which stated there was no airport in Tuktoyaktuk and that residents struggle to survive every winter.

However, love them or hate them, reality TV shows can at least boost the visibility of a region.

Mikey McBryan, from Buffalo Airways, was in Inuvik last week with Erin Cebula, a hostess on Entertainment Tonight Canada.

Although only in Inuvik for 24 hours, they were able to witness a sample of what the region has to offer, even when the snow is falling.

While the two Entertainment Tonight segments focused on the new season of Ice Pilots NWT, the second day, which aired Wednesday, showcased some of the outdoor activities in Inuvik.

From snowmobiling and dog sledding to indoor demonstrations of Northern games, there was no rest for the two TV personalities.

It's not the first time Inuvik has been featured on TV this year. CBC's Cross Country Fun Hunt featured Inuvik, with teen celebrity Jordan Francis visiting the greenhouse, youth centre, visitor centre and Midnight Sun Complex.

The documentary Our Longest Drive followed three men and the cremains of a fourth who travelled over 8,500 km to play golf above the Arctic Circle. The series is currently airing on the Golf Channel.

Accurate depictions or not, showcasing Inuvik and the surrounding areas can do wonders for tourism, especially when people find out there are actually airports and places to stay.

The ET Canada segment is different from the fun hunt and the golf series because it showcases the town in winter. When everything is covered in snow there's still a lot to do and tourists shouldn't be scared off by low temperatures.

For people trying to decided where to spend some of their vacation money, a few brief minutes on TV can make all the difference.

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