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Politics in the streets
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

People involved with the Idle No More movement, including many youth, have contributed admirably to an important debate about the need for meaningful consultation between the federal government and Canada's indigenous communities.

These individuals include our friends, neighbours, co-workers, family, community leaders, students, professionals, artists and other people we interact with every day.

They have articulated their concerns and criticisms with symbolic acts, including downtown marches on Dec. 10 and Jan. 11 and a drum dance that closed the Deh Cho Bridge for an hour on Jan. 5. Their goals include the enforcement of treaties, resolution of land claims, resource revenue sharing, and a national inquiry into violence against aboriginal women and girls.

The activists are also expressing opposition to federal legislation such as the 457-page omnibus bill Bill C-45, which they argue undermines treaty rights and compromises the relationship between First Nations, Inuit and Metis Canadians and the Crown.

Regardless of one's perspective on the issues, participants in Yellowknife's Idle No More demonstrations have exemplified the kind of dignity that advances constructive political debate. They have embraced lawful protest tactics that maintain respect for passersby and local law enforcement personnel who keep politically-charged events safe and orderly.

As such, the Yellowknife demonstrators are exercising their rights of freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. Peaceful protests, whether they involve chanting, marching, singing, drumming or dancing with passion or anger, must always be protected and respected in our political system. That's part of democracy.

It would further benefit healthy political debate and strengthen relationships in our community for those of us on the sidewalks to listen to the messages aboriginal residents are working hard to share with politicians and neighbours.

Dealing with Uncle Harry
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Downtown is a little like Uncle Harry with a drinking problem.

A TV-style intervention would be great but Uncle Harry and all his friends like their freedom and aren't interested in cleaning up. So they are just going to carry on making the rest of the family feel uncomfortable.

City council's social services committee was intended to be an 'agent of change' for dealing with Uncle Harry and his friends but the people with the most money - GNWT bureaucrats - didn't like the way the rest of the family was looking at them to fix everything, so they backed off. That left the rest of the committee comprised of council and city groups dispirited and the meetings finally stopped late last spring.

Newly elected city councillor and GNWT employee Linda Bussey is the new social services committee chair and has already admitted she can't criticize her boss. Her alternate is Coun. Dan Wong, another GNWT employee.

Obviously, the committee is already crippled by conflicting loyalties.

If council wants to get serious, a new chair and alternate must be selected from the five others on council not in conflict and the GNWT employees originally on the committee replaced by Yellowknife MLAs.

Who better to lobby the GNWT on behalf of those people they directly represent?

The MLA's first task will be to ensure the GNWT comes up with $50,000 to match council's conditional $50,000 contribution to the downtown day shelter. Despite all the misguided criticism, losing the day shelter would put Uncle Harry and all his friends right back where the problem is worst - downtown streets.

Game on, but bad taste lingers
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's finally over. A new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has been signed and the NHL will begin an abbreviated schedule this coming weekend.

The good news? The new CBA is for 10 years, with either side having an opt out after year eight.

The bad news? Well, where to begin?

When you look at the final CBA, it defies all logic to know there was a lockout and protracted negotiations (I use the term lightly) to get here.

I'm one of the world's biggest hockey fans, but, I'm sorry, this could have been a rather painless process, without any of the silly posturing we witnessed during the past few months.

Everyone has known for months they were going to agree to a 5050 split in hockey-related revenue.

And the rest of the CBA barely scratches the ice over the problems plaguing the NHL.

Too many players came across as spoiled brats with their ridiculous Tweets during the lockout, and the owners often looked like they were trying to turn the clock back to the 1950s with their takeitorleaveit ultimatums, none of which turned out to be the hill they died on.

The worst the players looked during the dispute was when Winnipeg Jets forward Evander Kane -- a poster boy for too much too early if ever there was one -- Tweeted a picture of himself in Las Vegas holding wads of cash in both hands like sugarcoated cuds, two of which he used like a cellphone to pretend he was mooing to Floyd Mayweather.

To add further insult to injury, he pulls the stunt a week before Christmas when many laidoff employees at NHL arenas were struggling to make ends meet during the holidays.

Fast forward to the end of the negotiations, and there's a number of players crowing about their pension plan being the crown jewel to the CBA for them.

Pension plan? Really? One must play in 400 games for a NHL pension, which takes about five seasons playing the vast majority of your team's 82 regular games.

With the average NHL salary being about $2.4 million, the average player would have grossed about $12 million during that time.

Can you say savings account, boys and girls?

Other NHLers whispered during the lockout that fan negativity was due to nothing more than jealousy over the money they make.

That may or may not be true in some cases, but the majority of NHL fans cheer for the crest on the jersey, no matter who happens to be wearing it in any given year.

The game survived the retirement of Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux and hundreds of others. Today's third liners couldn't carry their skate laces, yet they make as much or more than these superstars ever did.

That's not jealousy, dear players. That's reality.

I will be among the millions of people cheering for their favourite teams once the NHL resumes play this week.

Like them, the game is in my blood.

But, while the game may be in my blood, this lockout left me wishing for all the silly antics to be put out to pasture before I find myself begging for a transfusion.

Like many other NHL fans, I fear the bad taste in my mouth from this latest display of greed and stupidity is going to linger for a long, long time.

More training needed
NWT News/North -Monday, January 14, 2013

Are the NWT's three diamond mines failing to live up to their obligations when it comes to hiring Northern workers?

On paper, the answer would appear to be yes. According to 2011 statistics from each of the mines and the GNWT figures, target employment rates for Northern residents were between eight and 24 per cent below what was agreed to in the socio-economic agreements.

Since the numbers were revealed, the mines have been criticized for not doing enough to meet those targets. However, the NWT Mine Training Society - tasked with preparing territorial workers for mine jobs - believes the population can't provide the bodies necessary.

In December, the NWT Bureau of Statistics reported there were 24,400 people in the territory's workforce. Although 1,800 were listed as unemployed, Hilary Jones, general manager of the mine training society, says that does not translate into 1,800 potential miners.

These days, 90 per cent of mine workers need trades and technology training or some other type of specialization. Employees also must be available to work away from home for two-weeks at a time, which eliminates the large number of single parents in the NWT - 2,330 in 2006 - who are unable to commit to that kind of time away from home.

Jones adds those issues combined with communities such as Aklavik, which are far from a designated pickup locations - meaning employees would have to pay costly airfares to get to work - and competition from other employers, makes finding the necessary workers in the North difficult.

According to the mine training society's annual report for 2011/2012, 20 training courses, ranging from underground mine training to heavy equipment operator, were offered to more than 100 potential new employees. The vast majority of training participants completed the courses. Many of the courses also had waiting lists because they were over enrolled.

Next year, Jones said the society plans to offer additional programs but she admits more can be done and the society is hoping for additional funding to make that happen.

On the wish list is $100 million over the next five years for a pan-territorial mine training society. Funds would come from the federal government with matching funds from industry, territorial governments and aboriginal governments.

Unemployed or underemployed workers also have a responsibility to seek the available jobs, especially as agreements have been signed to virtually guarantee work, provided the necessary training has been achieved. And once they get those jobs, new employees must be committed to keeping them by adhering to workplace schedules and rules. Increasing the number of Northern pick-up points to smaller communities would help.

Our small population might make meeting the targets difficult but with more investment in training and improved access, we can improve the number of Northerners benefiting from the mines.

A mystique to capitalize on
Nunavut News/North - Monday, January 14, 2013

The death of Kenojuak Ashevak is truly a great loss.

As an artist and as a mentor, she was an inspiration to a generation of Inuit artists.

She created wonderful works that not only drew from her own mind but from her culture as well. Her work brought aspects of Inuit culture to the eyes of an international audience. It is because of artists like Ashevak that Inuit art is as world renown as it is today.

Her popularity, and the popularity of other Inuit artists, such as musician Tanya Tagaq who has performed her unique and otherworldly brand of throatsinging to rapt audiences around the world, have created a market for products of Inuit culture. They've helped build a world in which aspiring Nunavummiut artists can succeed.

Ashevak leaves behind a legacy of beautiful artwork, and also a legacy of trailblazing in the art world for Inuit artists.

She has stoked the fire. In honour of her passing, carry her torch and make your own mark.

A creative housing solution
Nunavut News/North - Monday, January 14, 2013

Lack of housing is one of the biggest issues facing the territory, and the Nunavut Housing Corporation has the mountainous task of doling out what units it has to as many people in need as possible.

With the pressures of an increasing homeless problem on one hand and a lack of housing and requirement to keep its budget balanced on the other, the housing corporation does not get much love.

Last week, Nunavut News/North published a success story of two Pond Inlet men who worked with the system to get off the streets and into a shared home. Having no success applying for single-bedroom dwellings, the men realized more two-bedrooms units were available and decided to bunk up. Though the housing corporation would have undoubtedly made these units with families in mind, they did not shy away from letting individuals apply to share the home.

People in other communities should take note of this solution. The housing corporation's manager of policy and planning, Tim Brown, said homelessness is becoming increasingly visible in Nunavut communities.

This has shown that when applying for housing, the best option might not be to apply for what you immediately need, but work with the housing corporation and others looking for homes to work with what's available.

It also shows that adjusting policies can help an organization achieve its goals, in this instance getting Nunavummiut into suitable housing.

Booze tax has merit
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 11, 2013

Nobody likes having to pay taxes and the prospect of another tax on booze won't be well received by some.

That said, the idea of the city introducing a tax on beer, wine and spirits as a means to boost efforts to lessen the damage done by people with addictions in Yellowknife's downtown has some merit.

Mayor Mark Heyck was warm to exploring the idea after looking at a recent proposal by a municipal councillor in Swan River, Man., who wanted to introduce a bylaw which would impose a three per cent tax on booze to pay for community policing initiatives.

Heyck sees a tax on alcoholic products as a way to diversify the city's revenue stream, which he says is too dependent on property owners.

He isn't saying the city will adopt a tax on booze, but other municipalities across Canada are looking at the idea and he thinks Yellowknife should have the discussion, too.

We're not talking about an excessive burden on alcohol consumers here. A three per cent tax would add about 45 cents to an average six-pack of beer and about 55 cents to a mickey of hard liquor. It would generate about $1.2 million annually, based on the amount of booze sold in the capital city for the 2011-2012 fiscal year, enough to cover the cost of maybe three more RCMP officers. Increasing the presence of police in the downtown core may help reduce public intoxication, a rampant problem, and associated crime.

Yes, the government already collects substantial taxes from liquor. That revenue goes into general coffers and the GNWT is strained to cover rising expenses related to health, education, transportation and other sectors.

There isn't enough left over for hiring additional police officers, so that's where those who consume alcohol come in, even if problems from over-consumption only exist among a small percentage of drinkers.

The extra money generated wouldn't have to go to strictly to policing, either. City council would do well to look at supporting those agencies dedicated to helping those with addictions as well as those impacted by the issue. Of course, for this to get off the ground, the city would have to work with the territorial government to make changes to the NWT Liquor Act and set a mechanism for collecting the tax and distributing the funds.

The Dene Ko Day Shelter, run by the John Howard Society, could put more funds to good use, as could the Centre for Northern Families and the Salvation Army.

It's a problem with far-reaching consequences, and a three per cent tax on alcohol isn't too much to ask to help combat it.

How will it end?
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Idle No More movement has gathered a following in the Deh Cho.

The first event in the region was a march held in Fort Simpson on Dec. 10. Quickly planned, the event attracted approximately 30 people.

Building strength, a second event in the village on Dec. 21 brought together approximately 55 people to a fire feeding ceremony, which led into a longer march. In both cases, the participants, aboriginal and otherwise, were primarily from the village.

The most recent event in the region, in Fort Providence on the weekend, was even larger and gathered wider interest. Participants say more than 100 people from multiple communities gathered by the Deh Cho Bridge to demonstrate on Jan. 5.

There are a few interesting aspects about the movement. First is the speed at which it has spread across the country and even other parts of the world from its roots in Saskatchewan in November. Second is the way it has drawn together both aboriginal and non-aboriginal people. Third is the way that different people involved in the movement have different understandings of what it is about and emphasize different aspects of it.

The most interesting aspect of the movement, however, is where it is going.

One common theme at many of the Idle No More events that have been held is the call to repeal the contentious omnibus bills including C-45 and C-38 that have affected a wide number of issues including treaty rights and environmental protection. The movement, however, is about more than that.

It's also about honouring and fulfilling indigenous sovereignty and changing the way the Canadian government interacts with aboriginal governments and their treaty rights. The support that Idle No More has found in the Deh Cho may be traced, in part, to the fact that getting the federal government to recognize, respect and act appropriately to treaty rights is something First Nations groups in the Deh Cho have struggled with for a long time, often to great frustration.

With that comes the realization that Idle No More has some very broad goals and, as a result, it may be hard to tell if real progress is being made and to sustain the level of involvement and enthusiasm in the movement.

Do changes in the relationship between Canada and First Nations peoples need to be changed? Absolutely. Will Idle No More successfully lead to those changes or will the movement gradually lose momentum? That is the real question and part of what makes Idle No More so interesting and something we'll undoubtedly hear more about as the new year unfolds.

Rediscover Inuvik
Editorial Comment by Miranda Scotland
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, January 10, 2013

The cold nights and endless days of darkness have been draining.

At times it has felt almost impossible to roll out of bed, get dressed and venture outside the comforting warmth of the house.

But it's a time of renewal. The sun is back, it's 2013 and everyone is feeling fresh from the holidays.

In the spirit of the new year, many of us have likely challenged ourselves to make a change. Perhaps you've convinced yourself this is the time to lose weight, exercise more or get better organized.

Personally, I'm working on breaking myself out of the winter rut. It's easy sometimes to just stay inside and stare at a TV, but I want to brave the cold and get out there because Inuvik has a lot to offer.

This past weekend, for instance, the town lit up with the Sunrise Festival. There was the Taste of Inuvik, a free pancake breakfast, outdoor activities at Jim Koe Park, fireworks and an impressive bonfire for all to enjoy.

The event reminded me how great this town is and how wonderful it is to get out and interact with everyone. It spurred me to want to do more and it was easy to find more ways to get involved.

This weekend alone, Inuvik is hosting well-known Canadian singer Lights, the energy fair, the Beaufort Delta Regional Council meeting and the German Space Agency.

There is much more to do than attend special events, as well.

There is the Inuvik Ski Club with its large network of groomed trails, free skating at the Midnight Sun Complex, and lots of athletic clubs to join.

Then there is the more touristy stuff.

Over the holidays I ventured out to the Arctic Chalet for some dogsledding and it reminded me that there is a reason tourists do tourist things they're fun!

It was such a thrill being pulled by three gorgeous white huskies as they raced along small paths carved throughout the forest.

Meanwhile, the Northern lights will continue to take my breath away until the day I die.

The point is, it's easy to stay cooped up in the house, but if you do you're missing out. There is an endless list of things to do, so let's get off our couches and get out there.

I challenge you to rediscover Inuvik.

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