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College needs can-do attitude
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 4, 2013

It is encouraging that incoming Aurora College president Jane Arychuk recognizes the need for a stand-alone campus in Yellowknife.

It is also somewhat surprising that, in an interview with Yellowknifer last month which centred on her appointment to the leadership position, Arychuk said there have been a number of false starts in attempting to establish an independent campus in Yellowknife and that lease payments for the current location, at Northern United Place (NUP), could have been used to buy a building.

The college has had a long tenure at NUP, but the venue is shared with residences for seniors and students have restricted space for pursuing their studies. With 16 classrooms, four labs and one library, the new president admits there is little room for students to work in groups, move around freely and find a calm environment to concentrate.

It's time for Aurora College to focus in earnest on the task of creating a "stand-alone campus in our capital city that looks like a college-university campus," as Arychuk said.

To accomplish this, might we suggest dedicated college administrators in Yellowknife employ the same techniques they have used to engage industry in the past, such as the development of a program to train underground workers for the diamond mines.

Perhaps success will be found by engaging representatives of government, the city and industry to sit on a committee and develop a vision for a Northern-based science institute and educational/training facility? That project would include seeking endowments, developing work-placement programs and working closely with industry to develop and deliver programs that provide graduates with jobs.

Every effort should be made to keep secondary students in the North to further their education, and we can move in that direction by creating a post-secondary facility that rivals what is offered in other parts of Canada.


Second life for legion
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 4, 2013

After a wobbly couple of years, Yellowknife's Royal Canadian Legion is back in the black and doing what it does best: advocating for veterans and raising money for charity.

There was a time, as was the case in many communities across Canada, when the legion hall was the beating heart of Yellowknife's social life. Back in its heyday, a legion membership was a prized honour when military service was commonly a young man or woman's first step out of high school.

As late as 2005, the Vincent Massey branch here in Yellowknife was cutting $50,000 cheques for Facilities for Kids to help pay for the gymnastics club's Styrofoam landing pit in the Multiplex's gymnasium. All told, the Yellowknife legion donated more than $1 million to community charities between 2003 and 2008.

But city residents then suddenly learned the legion was in financial trouble and its building was up for sale. Yellowknife's legion managed to survive, although it is a tad smaller these days. It no longer owns the building it called home for more than 30 years but at least the bills are paid. And now the institution is back helping the community with donations, including $5,000 raised for the army cadets since October.

This is great news, for the legion still plays an important role in educating Canadians of the importance of military service. The key is youth membership, without which there is no future. Membership rules are more relaxed these days. One doesn't have to be a Canadian Armed Forces veteran or from the merchant navy anymore to become a member.

But the legion still faces a difficult road ahead because most young people's only experience with combat today is in a video game. Getting proactive and staying visible while reminding young Canadians of Canada's crucial role in military and peacekeeping efforts around the world is the only way to maintain the organization's relevancy.


New Year's wishes for the Deh Cho
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, January 3, 2013

At the start of a new year, it's always nice to think about the positive things that may happen in the year ahead.

Everyone knows about New Year's resolutions, but if there were New Year's wishes instead, there are a few things that the region should be hoping for.

Related to an article in this week's edition, one of the wishes near the top of the list should be progress on the Prairie Creek Mine.

Canadian Zinc Corporation expects 2013 to be the year it gets the necessary permits to start production at the mine site.

Resource development projects are few and far between in the Deh Cho as are opportunities that will lead to significant job creation. Not everyone agrees with the Prairie Creek Mine, but it is currently the best hope the region has for economic development.

The Dehcho Process should also be high on the New Year's wish list.

So many outstanding issues, such as which land can be developed and with what kind of development, could be answered if the Dehcho Process, along with a connected Dehcho Land Use Plan, were finished and agreed upon by the Dehcho First Nations, and territorial and federal governments.

As wishes go, however, this one is a real doozy. There are many unsettled topics that would have to be concluded and compromises that would have to be made for even an agreement-in-principle to be reached. Then there would be the struggle of getting all of the members of the Dehcho First Nations to agree to what has been negotiated. It's a long-shot wish.

As a side note to the Dehcho Process wish, there should be an additional wish that Pehdzeh Ki First Nation rejoin the process. A number of leaders from the region expressed sympathy for the reasons the First Nation from Wrigley gave for leaving, but that doesn't change the fact that there is strength in numbers and a united front when dealing with the federal government.

A final wish, which covers a broader basis, should be made for the individuals, families and communities who are struggling with social problems. Across the region, there are ongoing issues related to drug and alcohol use and other forms of abuse.

If wishes could really fix problems, it would be nice to see healing take place in troubled lives so communities in the Deh Cho can become healthier, happier places to live in the New Year.

Regardless of whether these wishes come true, hopefully the year ahead holds lots of promise for the Deh Cho.


Hourly fees a necessary expense
Editorial Comment by Miranda Scotland
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, January 3, 2013

After months of waiting, user groups are finally going to have access to the facilities at East 3 School. Up until this point, the majority of groups have not been allowed in because the Inuvik District Education Authority (IDEA) has been working on a new user group policy to ensure the million-dollar asset is kept in good shape, according to IDEA chairperson Judy Harder.

The authority has created an interim policy that will be used while the members work on a final draft. The biggest difference between the new document and the old is that user groups, such as the adult volleyball league and the basketball team, who use the facilities in the evening will have to pay $35 an hour for access. The charge will not apply to student activities.

The extra funds, Harder said, will be used to cover the cost of having a security guard. In the past the IDEA has had issues with uninvited guests entering Samuel Hearne Secondary School and Sir Alexander Mackenzie School after hours while user groups were accessing the facilities. Some of the visitors wreaked havoc on the buildings. This should no longer be a problem at East 3 School, with the introduction of a security guard, according to Harder.

It is hard to argue against the merits of having someone keeping an eye on the property given the cost of the building and the expensive materials inside. It would be nice to believe that everyone in the community could be trusted to do no harm but past experience shows that isnt the case. In September, the food bank was broken into, bottles of spaghetti sauce were smashed, boxes of pasta were open with their contents strewn across the room, and lightbulbs from their fixtures and smashed. If there are residents willing to trash a charitable organization then nowhere is safe.

The question is, however, should user groups bear the cost for the guard?

We say yes, because if the teams weren't using the facility the school could lock up for the evening and a security person wouldn't be necessary to monitor who is entering the building.

Also, $35 per hour is a fairly reasonable price. If a team used the facility for two hours once a week from September to June it would cost them about $3,010. For groups of 10, that would equal out to $7 a person per night. It's the cost of lunch, really.

Unfortunately, that price becomes less affordable with smaller groups. For that reason, I hope the IDEA will work with any groups that can't afford the full cost. People shouldn't be discouraged from getting fit.


Of boom and bust
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 2, 2012

In 2012, Yellowknife businesses undoubtedly felt the effects of what the Conference Board of Canada estimated to be a 5.1 per cent drop in the NWT gross domestic product.

But developers and real estate agents may not agree. They're going full steam ahead building homes and condos.

The city had no problem last year converting the blight of unfinished condos at Bayview Estates into a bustling centre of construction activity after subdividing the lot and selling off the smaller portions to a new group of developers.

The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation reports the sale of 250 homes - mainly condos - in the first nine months of 2012, while predicting the resale of 390 homes - a five per cent increase over 2011. The expected trend for this year is modest growth.

It's worth noting a renewed resource boom is possible. A little extra nudge at Avalon's rare earths project at Thor Lake or Seabridge's gold prospects at Courageous Lake could bring the hustle back to Yellowknife in a hurry. A prolonged delay, on the other hand, may see Yellowknife's little housing boom come crashing back down to earth.

Invest in the arts

There are other serious concerns for Yellowknife in 2013.

The Artist Run Community Centre may lose its 50 Street home for lack of rent money. Considering the attention Yellowknife has been receiving worldwide the last few years with a number of television shows, including Ice Road Truckers, Ice Pilots NWT and Arctic Air, investing in the arts makes sense.

The Northern Arts and Cultural Centre underwent $1.6 million in renovations this summer but the territorial government should seriously consider building a standalone arts centre like the one in Whitehorse. This would be a major tourism draw in an economy lacking diversity like ours.

MLAs must mind the store

The largest budget in the city's history at $74.2 million was just approved. A big chunk of that can be attributed to a GNWT decree that the city build a water treatment plant, expected to cost as much as $25 million. As the city's director of public works has insisted, Yellowknife already enjoys the best water "in the world."

Not a single Yellowknife MLA objected to this expensive scheme. Meanwhile, the second much-needed institution in this city is facing closure - the downtown day shelter - because the GNWT refuses to commit long-term funding.

Yellowknife MLAs must do a better job both convincing the other MLAs what's good for the territory's capital is good for the territory and guarding against unnecessary spending requirements dreamed up by territorial bureaucrats, such as the water treatment plant.

Revitalization strategy

Much was made during last fall's municipal election about the state of downtown and the city's purchase of three properties on "Range Street." Some have questioned these purchases, including this newspaper, mainly because the city's plans are vague. Municipalities often make these kinds of purchases with the aim of revitalizing decrepit parts of their inner core. Vancouver has been successful buying up derelict buildings and selling them for redevelopment as executive studio apartments with retail spaces on the ground floor.

But as long as the recently acquired properties remain sandwiched between two busy and rowdy bars, revitalization will prove difficult. Owners of the Gold Range and the Raven Pub have signalled they are not ready to sell. Perhaps if the city helps them refurbish into more tourism-friendly locations, revamping the other properties won't be such a problem.

As for bringing retailers back to the downtown core, merchants should focus on what shoppers can't get online - namely service. Several well-established retailers have stood the test of time because people can count on knowledgeable staff to answer their questions. Niche stores with a mix of franchise favourites will help bring customers and stores downtown.

The new year begins with lots to worry and lots to be excited about. The challenge of making 2013 a great year is one all Yellowknifers should welcome.


A new year of opportunity
NWT News/North - Monday, December 31, 2012

Every new year presents the opportunity to celebrate the successes of the past, learn from mistakes and plan for the future.

Here in the NWT, it is vital we focus on making the NWT a desirable place to live. Last year the NWT was one of the only jurisdictions in Canada and the only territory -- to experience a population decrease. More than 400 people left the territory last year taking nearly $11 million in federal funding with them.

Why? We could point to cost of living, yet, Nunavut, which has higher costs than the NWT, grew last year. The logical conclusion is economy.

The mines are on the down swing, potential replacement mines are waiting in the regulatory system or on investors. Our biggest project the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline judging by the supply and cost of natural gas at this time is likely a no go.

Population is driven by economy. Regions surge during a boom and what the NWT needs now is a boom.

Business developments such as the Hay River egg-grading facility's expansion into the local market and wood pellet processing facility in the same region are encouraging. In terms of the wood pellets, there is huge potential for expansion and many potential jobs in forestry, a virtually untapped market in the NWT.

Sahtu oil and gas as well as off shore work in the Beaufort Sea might also have huge gains, not to mention the short term needs to build the road from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk. What the North truly needs is another long-term mine. That would allow us the economic boost we need and the opportunity to continue building our economy to be less reliant on natural resources, which are finite.

A push to revive the multi-milliondollar outfitting industry should happen in the new year, with an aboriginal focus. Aboriginal people are still allowed to hunt most wild game in the territory and the option to sell tags to sport hunters would yield tourism dollars and employment income in smaller communities.

With a little training, First Nations, Inuit and Metis people could develop small-scale operations as outfitters or even go so far as to develop lodge experiences. Most sport hunters pay for the experience and the chance to bring a trophy home, which would mean most of the meat would still be available to the outfitter's family or community.

Quality of life is also essential to population growth. That means healthy communities with access to arts, entertainment and recreation.

The Northern Arts and Cultural Centre's on The Edge Season, the legacy of former executive director Ben Nind, is an excellent program which brings performances to Northern communities and has made NACC a truly Northern theatre. Not only should that program continue, it should be enhanced and grow to include more communities.

Our health care system has always been lauded for its quality people and services despite the challenges, but work needs to be done to improve our staff retention and addiction treatment.

While hiring and retention bonuses were eliminated for nursing staff in the NWT a decade ago, Nunavut still offers bonuses to its nurses, which places the NWT at a disadvantage. Although the government of the day said the bonuses didn't work and were inequitable, it chose to continue offering doctors bonuses.

Finally, our approach to addictions treatment must change. The model of having one treatment centre in the NWT, located in Hay River, is not working. That facility consistently operates at 50 per cent capacity, despite the high level of addictions issues in the North. Sporting opportunities are also in abundance in the NWT thanks to organizations such as Sport North and The Aboriginal Sports Circle of the Western Arctic. Athletes in the NWT have the opportunity to compete away from home and internationally.

The NWT has produced both Olympic and professional athletes. A lot of that success can be attributed to the Arctic Winter Games, one of the driving forces for sport development in the NWT.

The decision by the Arctic Winter Games International Committee to award Greenland the Games for 2014 means six sports, including speedskating, will be eliminated that year. This will have a huge impact on athletic development here. Sport North and the other sports organizations must continue to fight the decision and hope to reinstate those sports for 2014.

Barring that, it is vital alternative high-level competition be found for the young athletes who will miss out and likely be too old when the games head to Fairbanks, AL, in 2016.

Our territory is full of potential and we must work to develop it for coming years to help attract more people and to convince our youth to stay and raise the next generation North of 60.


The good and the bad of 2012
Nunavut News/North - Monday, December 31, 2012

Headlines from the past year reveal a political scandal that ushered Minister Fred Schell from cabinet, a fire devastating Iqaluit, police repeatedly being targeted by gun crime, sea ice reaching historic lows and Baffinland's iron-ore project moving out of the realm of dreams and into reality.

Gun violence remains an alarming issue in our territory. Any instance of shooting at a human being is deeply disturbing, but police found themselves in the line of fire several times this year. A man blasted off several shots into the homes of two Kimmirut police officers earlier this year; an armed standoff with police ended peacefully at Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit; a man was arrested in Iglulik for pointing a rifle at police; and a potentially fatal incident in Kimmirut was averted when about 10 community members subdued a man who had fired 21 rounds into the community's RCMP detachment.

The root cause of this, of course, is not the guns but the people wielding them with reckless abandon. Mental health and alcohol are largely to blame for the high number of firearms incidents, as is true with domestic violence. Many troubled people feel they have no one to turn to, nowhere to go and no way out of the situation they're in. There are people available for help, if not immediately within the community, then through the territory's helplines. That said, there needs to be additional professional mental health services throughout Nunavut. Beefing up psychological care will be costly and attracting professionals will remain a challenge, but it should be a constant goal backed by the resources necessary to accomplish it.

In other news, Arctic sea ice hit a historic low this year. If the trend continues, some scientists are warning that the Arctic may soon become a very different place for those who live here and for those who are working to develop industry.

In February, we saw devastation but also compassion. Two died and more than 80 were left homeless due to a massive fire at Iqaluit's Creekside Village. The whole territory's heart was worn on its sleeve - donations of cash, clothes and food piled in, and even those without direct links to the affected were rallying in support.

Over the course of the year, South Baffin MLA Fred Schell showed us all what not to do in political office - namely, don't use ministerial authority to exact personal grudges on employees, and definitely don't lie about it under oath afterward. It was by no means the first instance of shady politics in the North and will surely not be the last, but it's up to regular Nunavummiut to demand better of their politicians and in the upcoming 2013 election, they'll get the chance to do just that.

Behind all these headlines and others were the people whose lives were affected or irrevocably altered. In the news industry, it is often harder to get the human side of a story than it is to get the facts. The North's isolation can make people feel reserved, but without telling the stories of those affected, the news loses its link with day-to-day life.

Nunavut News/North looks forward to hearing from you as 2013 starts to unfold before us.

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