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Local heroes
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 18, 2013

Pilot error. Those two words carry so much weight for so many people when used to make a judgment on an aviation accident.

Airplane manufacturers breathe a sigh of relief that their airplane wasn't blamed, considering all the legal implications and potential damage to their business reputation. The owner of a downed aircraft can get some comfort their practices and maintenance were not called into question.

It's left to the pilot or pilots to bear the full weight of those words. If they were lucky enough to live through the ordeal, they may do so with the death or injuries of their passengers on their conscience and a gigantic black mark on their record for the rest of their career, if they still have a career.

If they weren't lucky enough to survive, their families have the judgment of others added to their loss and grief.

Considering the heavy implications of the term "pilot error," it's important its meaning be put into proper perspective.

It was not business as usual in the instance of the Arctic Sunwest Twin Otter charter that came down on an Old Town street on Sept. 22, 2011. There were 30-knot winds sweeping across the southern shore of Great Slave Lake, coming straight up the barrel of Yellowknife Bay, whipping the water up into a chaotic chop.

The Twin Otter's floats bounced off waves twice. Chief pilot Capt. Trevor Jonasson took over from first officer Nicole Stacey, aborting the landing to attempt another. In 10 seconds of roaring engines, high winds, powerlines, rock faces, two and three-storey homes and businesses and stressful flying, it was all over.

No one knows what the pilots were facing in the cockpit in those 10 seconds, not even the experts who had a year to dissect the moments in time and determine what should have happened in a perfect world.

Whatever happened, the pilots paid the ultimate price. That says a lot about the risks pilots accept when they climb into the cockpit day after day while flying thousands of feet in the air and when bringing the aircraft back to Earth.

Last year, there were 42,445 take-offs and landings at the Yellowknife airport. That there were no deaths or injuries in 42,444 is a glowing testament not only to the pilots but the aviation mechanics, administrators, and safety inspectors.

Jonasson's father Ray says his family wants to remember his son as a hero. If the definition of a hero is one who accepts the risk of death or injury to serve others and losing his life doing so, then his son and Stacey are indeed heroes.

Other heroes stood up to be counted that day.

We don't know all their names, but there were Yellowknifers at the scene of the crash who ignored clear threats to their personal safety and charged in to the gas-soaked wreckage to help whoever they could get to safety.

They fit a different definition of hero and we hope they are acknowledged publicly, in some fashion, for their acts of courage.

Without such heroes in the skies and on the ground, our world simply wouldn't function as well as it does.

Even more than before, the high rocks at Pilot's Monument, towering over the very spot the Twin Otter came down so fatally hard, should serve as a fitting reminder of that enduring truth.

Striking while the iron is hot
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Idle No More movement is still gaining momentum in Fort Simpson.

With students taking to the streets and people sharing information, it doesn't look like the movement will be slowing down anytime soon.

This is going to sound selfish and rather against the movement's principles, but it's time for the Deh Cho to see what it can get out of the movement. Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Herb Norwegian, it seems, has already thought about this a bit.

The First Nations' goals for this year include making substantial progress on both the Dehcho Process and the Dehcho Land Use Plan. Both items have a long history and are currently making little to no headway.

When asked if Idle No More will make the federal government more willing to work with Dehcho First Nations (DFN) to make progress on and conclude these processes, Norwegian said there was a chance it would. If the federal government wants a positive story for the media to show it is willing to make changes to the way it deals with First Nations, the Dehcho Process could be it.

This is an angle that, quite frankly, DFN should be promoting for all it is worth. Let's face it, the process has been going on for a long time and given its current status it could go on for a lot longer.

Meanwhile, people are getting tired. There is almost a sense in the Deh Cho that residents, and perhaps even some leaders, had lost sight of what the Dehcho Process was fighting for in the first place.

This atmosphere created by Idle No More may be the best chance DFN has to see a real willingness from the federal government to get the Dehcho Process done.

The Deh Cho is going to have to pull together and get behind the process. First Nation and Metis leaders are going to have to find their second wind. They are going to have to forget how long and how complicated the path the Dehcho Process has followed has been and focus solely on the goal of completing the process.

If, in the end, it turns out the agreement isn't what the Deh Cho wants, that will be the time to turn it down. Every effort should be made to reach that endpoint, however, so Deh Cho residents have the option.

Idle No More is seeking Canada-wide change, but the Deh Cho shouldn't miss out on the opportunity to bring about change in the region.

Applause for some real superstars
Editorial Comment by Miranda Scotland
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, January 17, 2013

The town was abuzz this weekend as residents welcomed electro-rock singer Lights to Inuvik.

The artist did two shows while she was in town one at East 3 High School and another at the Igloo church and after each performance dozens of audience members lined up to get her autograph, snap a picture with her or even land a kiss on her cheek.

It was an exciting time.

But amid all the hype, a question came to mind. Why don't people get this excited about the superstars who already live in town?

Inuvik is home to a number of residents who go above and beyond to make this community a better place to live in. And it's their autographs people should be lining up for.

The stars are people such as teachers Lexi Winchester and Kelly Flexman.

Last year, Winchester and another teacher gave high school students a fun, safe place to go on Saturday nights when they started Lights On. The program continues to run today. On top of that, Winchester is also in charge of the art travel club, which is currently fundraising to go to London, England, over March break.

Meanwhile, Flexman coaches the girl's basketball team and volunteers for what seems like every organization in town. She's always ready to help.

Then there are our town councillors. They don't get paid much but they still put a lot of time, effort and care into making Inuvik a pleasant place to live. They'll spend 10, 15, 20 minutes focusing on one little detail, such as how the snow should be plowed so that when residents back out of their driveways they don't have a large bump or drop to go over.

It's people like our recent Diamond Jubilee medal winners -- Fred Church, Sam Lennie, Gerry Kisoun, Lance Raddi Gray, Don Craik, Mary Ann Ross, Margaret Miller, Sandra Ipana, Mary Ellen Binder, Delores Harley and Pippa Seccombe-Hett -- who make this a special place.

And this is just a snapshot of the wonderful residents who live here.

So the next time you see one of the many people in Inuvik who go above and beyond, give them a superstar welcome or at least a thank you, because this town wouldn't be what it is without them.

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.

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