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Discrimination by another name
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

When it comes to Aurora College's housing policy, only a lawyer employed by the territorial Department of Justice could declare with a straight face there is no blatant discrimination against Yellowknife students.

Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro raised the issue of unfairness in the legislative assembly during the spring session. Constituents were telling her that Yellowknife students were put at the bottom of the list for scarce college housing.

Consider the top item on the list of the grounds for discrimination enshrined in the NWT Human Rights Act: race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, and nationality.

Then consider the specifics of the Student Accommodations Evaluation Procedures that determines which students get subsidized housing.

We will refer to a nursing student because Bisaro did, but the policies apply to Yellowknife students for any program. Bear with us, it's complicated.

There are four categories: Category one puts NWT applicants at the top of the housing list for a priority program, such as nursing, who live in communities outside Yellowknife.

Second on the list are NWT applicants from outside Yellowknife not in a priority program.

Third on the list are applicants from outside Yellowknife who could take a priority program, not including nursing, in their community.

Fourth on the list are applicants outside Yellowknife for a non-priority program that is offered in their home community, or applicants for a non-priority program who are not an NWT resident.

Students from Yellowknife are mentioned in category three and four, labelled as "in-town residents." Before they can get even temporary housing, Yellowknife students must present "extenuating circumstances" which Aurora College president Jane Arychuk made clear doesn't include an inability to afford housing. Worse, and more indefensible, each reference to Yellowknife students is followed by brackets containing the warning their housing needs are only (to be considered on a yearly, case by case basis).

That means the policy-chosen students, even those from outside the NWT, once accepted are guaranteed housing for the life of their program. Yellowknife students, if granted housing, are not. They must reapply each year and could be out on the street in year two, three or four, presuming they get housing for the first year, which they probably won't.

If this is not discrimination based upon place of origin, what is it? Gross unfairness? Bureaucratic blindness? Political bias?

That Arychuk defends such a policy suggests more a desire to toe the government line rather than providing proper access to higher education for all Northerners, regardless of where they live. Her comment that the circumstance of Yellowknife students being unable the afford the city's high rent scale is "the same for every student in the world" is simply short-sighted.

Aside from the fact that $300,000 trailers are unique to the Yellowknife housing market, southern colleges, universities and their government masters generally provide subsidized housing for students. There are more than 1,000 students attending Aurora College, with 64 housing units reserved for out-of-town students, a pitiful amount. Arychuk should be fighting to increase housing options for all students, not defending a deeply flawed policy and accepting a dismal lack of housing.

We hope Bisaro continues the battle on behalf of Yellowknife students and we encourage other Yellowknife MLAs to jump in. Committed politicians can change bad government policy.

Past Yellowknifer editorials have vigorously supported a new, expanded stand-alone campus for Aurora College. How strong will the support of Yellowknifers be in the face of such obvious discrimination?

Standing out from the crowd
Editorial Comment by Miranda Scotland
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, July 17, 2013

In August a luxury cruise ship will be dropping anchor near Arviat and hundreds of tourists will be brought to land to visit.

The first group is set to arrive Aug. 23, followed by a second group on Aug. 27.

On each visit, about 130 guests are expected to take in the sights.

The ship's arrival will bring temporary jobs for some and potential sales for artists.

Residents are certain to bring home a few extra dollars from the experience, but at this point there is no telling exactly how much Arviat will benefit.

If the trips go well for both parties it would be a great validation for the community's ecotourism initiative, which was implemented a few years ago.

However, Pond Inlet's community economic development officer has a cautionary tale about the business.

Colin Saunders told News/North that visitors started spending less in his community following the economic downturn.

There was a time when it wasn't unusual to have tourists drop $40,000 on goods in Pond Inlet in just a few hours.

The visitors they get these days, however, are usually retirees who have saved every nickel and dime to pay for the cruise.

As a result, they are more stingy with their spending money.

Furthermore, other communities have reported fluctuations in the number of visits from cruise ships each year.

For instance, in 2011 Cambridge Bay was expecting fewer ships after companies sent ships to Kugluktuk and Gjoa Haven instead.

For these reasons, Arviat needs to ensure that it puts on the best presentation possible.

Fortunately, Olivia Tagalik, the hamlet's tourism co-ordinator, has already planned a schedule for the participants so everyone should be well prepared.

However, the community needs to also consider ways to distinguish Arviat from the other Northern stops.

The first visitors to the community will have already been to more than a dozen spots.

They will have seen and bought lots of carvings, jewelry, clothing and paintings. This means they're less likely to be in the souvenir-buying mode. If they are going to purchase something it may be because it's unique.

At this point, they will also have taken in a variety of cultures and sights.

The best way to make them remember Arviat is to make them feel a part of the community.

Connect to them through a personal story or by sharing the significance of an area.

People want to be able to hold up a picture and say something more than just, "this is one of the residents" or, "this an inukshuk."

They want something meaningful to share.

  • Miranda Scotland is interim editor of Kivalliq News while editor Darrell Greer is on vacation

Allocate harvest for a fair hunt
NWT News/North - Monday, July 15, 2013

There is a beacon of hope in the distance for resident hunters of the NWT.

Earlier this month, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced it is considering a limited harvest of the Bluenose-East, Beverly and Ahiak caribou herds for resident, non-aboriginal hunters for the 2013-14 hunting season.

The proposal should be given the green light. The herds are healthy enough to sustain it, as ENR's research has shown, or this proposal wouldn't have materialized.

While the herds are open to aboriginal harvests, resident hunters have been left on the sidelines since 2009 for the Beverly and Ahiak caribou herds, and since 2006 for the Bluenose-East herd, when emergency conservation measures were put in place to allow the animals to increase their numbers.

Hunting is a territorial and traditional activity, a cross-cultural bridge, and those who enjoy it and do it for either enjoyment or sustenance may not stick around where they can't hunt. Those who know the rules, and responsibly carry them out while respecting the land and the animals, should be able to hunt. Drawing a line between those who can and cannot hunt creates a real divide.

The government has done its part by offering up a proposal to get resident hunters out hunting caribou. There is enough data to support proposing the hunt be open to more. It is now up to the renewable resources boards to review the idea, and make a decision that's best for the caribou and best for all people of the NWT.

Opening up the hunt to one bull per resident hunter on one of the herds is a reasonable compromise that shouldn't be lost in the politics.

Community pride biggest prize in Kraft competition
NWT News/North - Monday, July 15, 2013

There is no doubt Fort Smith was chomping at the bit to get its hands on the $25,000 prize money and a live broadcast of TSN's SportsCentre through the Kraft Celebration Tour. And it succeeded with flying colours.

It's quite the story of David and Goliath. The community of 2,500 raked in more than 250,000 online votes. Whitehorse, a city of 25,000 and Fort Smith's competition, only acquired about 35,000 votes.

The prize money of $25,000 will only be a drop in the bucket as the town focuses on picking up the pieces after a May 13 fire closed Centennial Arena, causing about $1.6 million in damages. But every little bit helps.

The real win here is the unity that is instilled when a community pulls together to get noticed, to work toward a common goal.

Whitehorse didn't see that community involvement. Why?

Perhaps its size worked against it. Perhaps its usage of the money was to be spread out too much, with the Yukon Curling Association hoping to put the prize toward a half-dozen clubs throughout northern British Columbia and the Yukon.

There are countless competitions asking communities to rally together to promote a project, and while the prize might not be big enough to make huge changes, the sense of community spirit generated is priceless.

Outrageous cost for taxpayers to assume
Nunavut News/North - Monday, July 15, 2013

It looks like taxpayers are on the hook for at least part of the cost of environmental cleanup at the Jericho diamond mine about 350 kilometres southwest of Cambridge Bay.

Things were looking good for its owner, Shear Diamond Corp., last spring when it began processing high-grade concentrate, recovering about 3,500 carats of rough diamonds from more than 350 metric tonnes of stockpiles in only 10 days. Then the price of diamonds sent to the company's Belgian marketing company decreased. In the ensuing months, Shear started to spiral downward.

By October, Shear announced it had temporarily suspended operations at Jericho. Then things went from bad to worse. The marketing company gave notice of the company's loan defaults and said it intended to enforce security to get repayment. The Alberta Securities Commission issued a cease trade order on Nov. 1.

The company did not respond to questions from the Nunavut Impact Review Board and this past spring the federal government took action, ordering the company to return employees to clean up tailings, fuel, hazardous waste and a big hole in the ground left at the mine site.

Shear management did nothing and now the federal government's Contaminated Sites Program has become involved. With Shear still owing $2.3 million in security to the federal government, we are wondering if about $8 million that was paid in security will be enough to fix the environmental damage.

What is frustrating is that recent changes to federal environmental legislation won't affect Shear Diamonds. Bill C-47 will require companies to clean up a site regardless of the costs but the new rules only apply to mining activity that begins after the bill is made into law at a yet to be determined future date.

One has only to look at the remediation of the Giant Mine site in the NWT to realize how much costs can add up. The latest estimate is $903 million to address the contamination from 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide used, discarded and stockpiled in the gold mining process.

Clearly, the mining industry is risky business, not only for shareholders but taxpayers. Canada made only $454 million from Giant - in 2002 dollars - in its 56 years of gold production, not counting the costs of forever maintaining the site.

For those reasons, we welcome the changes coming with Bill C-47. Placing responsibility solely on mine owners should have been done years ago.

There is an outside chance the company will face fines for violations of the Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act but it seems likely that the federal government will be faced with millions of dollars in costs to address the mess Shear Diamond Corp. left behind. And that is outrageous.

Damaging damage control
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 12, 2013

By failing to evacuate neighbours during a deadly armed standoff with a suicidal woman March 14, 2012, Yellowknife RCMP put the public at risk.

The RCMP has finally admitted it.

Last week, G Division Supt. Wade Blake confirmed Glick Court residents were "in jeopardy" during the four-hour standoff. He was answering reporters' questions at an RCMP press conference called to respond to recommendations in a coroner's report into the Karen Lander shooting.

Three officers fired 12 bullets at Lander as she ran toward them with an unloaded rifle. Four bullets struck and killed Lander. Eight bullets missed, including five rounds that hit a neighbouring home while the occupants, oblivious to the danger outside, watched television in their living room.

One bullet shattered a large bay window and pierced a coffee table. Another landed in a bedroom, a third penetrated the kitchen, lodging in a bookcase. Two more bullets hit exterior walls of the home.

Even though the ordeal lasted several hours, RCMP merely phoned nearby residents, neglecting to send an officer door-to-door to warn of the danger in the street.

Although the coroner's report did not address the failure to evacuate residents, an investigation by the Medicine Hat Police Services did note the error. While finding the officers' actions lawful, the investigators highlighted the lack of due diligence.

"Resources are always an issue but when it comes to evacuating, those people's lives are potentially in jeopardy and that's kind of the foremost one of our considerations. So we would do that as soon as reasonable, as soon as we're able to," Staff Sgt. Brent Secondiak of the Medicine Hat Police told Yellowknifer earlier this year, adding in a similar situation in his community residents would be taken to a bus, an arena, a school or perhaps a church.

There was no mention of the potentially fatal blunder in the RCMP's official statement last week. Blake offered no apologies and fell short of admitting the force made a mistake by not evacuating neighbours.

The omission is perplexing because Blake welcomed for the third-party investigation immediately after Lander's shooting to bolster public confidence in his officers, which is essential to the RCMP's ability to protect and serve the public. When the Medicine Hat investigators concluded their work, he said the circumstances of the shooting had been examined fairly and thoroughly, yet there was no mention of corrective actions on a key finding.

By ignoring the obvious mistake made, Blake undermines his own efforts to regain public confidence, letting down both those officers he leads and the public they serve.

Break the law, pay the fine
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 12, 2013

When you're learning to drive, or even well before then, you learn that many parking lots have spots designated for those with disabilities. It's only fair, after all, that someone who may not have the same mobility be able to park closer to the places they are trying to access.

You also learn that to park there, you need a tag in your front window. No tag, no parking spot. The rule applies to Yellowknifers, just as it does to any other Canadian.

So why is it that we have a resident splitting hairs over the wordings of a bylaw?

Last fall, Donald Weston successfully fought off a $250 parking ticket because he noted the city's bylaw dictated residents are to obtain parking stickers for spaces reserved for people with disabilities from the Yellowknife office of the Northwest Territories Council for Disabled Persons, an office that has since changed its name.

Name change or not, Weston should have known better than to park in a spot designated for people with mobility issues if he didn't possess a parking tag.

Whether the office distributing disabled parking tags has changed its name is irrelevant, you don't park in a parking space reserved for people with mobility issues unless you are a person with a disability. To do so deprives people in need from an essential service to accommodate laziness.

Likewise, if you're helping your wife with luggage at the airport, you don't leave your truck unattended in the passenger drop off area. Plus, parking at the airport is free for the first hour, so why not just park and walk the extra 15 metres and save $29?

If you break a bylaw, just pay the fine, because nitpicking over wording doesn't help anybody.

Taking action
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, July 11, 2013

No one likes to be told their community has a problem.

Whether it is a prevalence of alcoholism, youth getting into mischief or loose dogs running in packs, communities often want to keep their issues to themselves. Sometimes, communities don't even want to deal with glaring issues and are willing to sweep them under the rug or look the other way or just use outright denial.

Unfortunately, it often takes a tragic event to shake residents from their complacency. Usually this event involves the death or serious injury of a community member.

All too often, when the event finally occurs, people comment that the incident didn't surprise them, that they'd been expecting something like this to happen for a while. Comments such as these are disheartening in a way, because they suggest the problem that caused the incident had been identified, but that no one was able to or willing to try and make changes before the inevitable tragedy struck.

Fort Liard might be on the cusp of just such an incident.

In this community's case, it is arson that seems to be the problem. Robert Firth, the chief of fire and emergency services for the hamlet, said since he's joined the volunteer fire department in 2009, he's seen a variety of intentionally-set fires that are apparently increasing in severity from grass fires to vehicle fires to house fires.

Firth is concerned that someone, likely a firefighter, will end up getting hurt by one of these fires. There is also a chance that if abandoned houses that are known locations for parties are burned, such as the one destroyed on June 6, someone will eventually be trapped and killed by a fire. Arsonists, said Firth, are unlikely to check carefully to make sure intoxicated people are out of a structure before they flick a lighter.

Even the hamlet's mayor, Morris McLeod, said there are a few other party houses in the community that may be burned if they aren't demolished first.

It seems that Fort Liard has been given a chance to dodge a tragedy, to avoid being a community where people can say they saw it coming after someone dies or is seriously hurt as the result of an intentionally-set fire.

It won't be easy. The hamlet will have to face what is happening, realize there is an issue, and deal with it as a community.

With effort, the hamlet can continue to be a safe place for all of its

Summer is swatting season
Editorial Comment by T. Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, July 11, 2013

It may be wrong, but I've never had much interest in becoming a blood donor.

Our local insects, though, are intent on having me change my ways.

I've always been an ambulatory bug smorgasbord, but outside a foray into Labrador 10 years ago, I haven't seen anything like the Inuvik black flies, gnats and mosquitoes. On that visit, I grew claustrophobic from not being able to see past the black flies covering my bug jacket, but at least I didn't get eaten alive.

It's not the numbers here that's the problem. Nor is it their size, which is also admirable. I laughed out loud recently reading a Facebook post that said Manitoba has two sizes of mosquitoes. The first was small enough to squeeze through a screen, and the second didn't bother because it could open your door. The wit that came up with that line could have been here.

I don't think I'm getting bitten any more than normal, either. I remember going on a hike with my family when I was maybe 11-years old and being feasted on by a regiment of mosquitoes while the rest of my family sauntered nonchalantly along enjoying the tranquillity.

My parents upbraided me regularly for my complaints about the bugs until my father turned to me and saw how the back of my yellow T-shirt had turned black from the bugs.

The only person I've ever known to be consistently more attractive to bugs is my wife. I love hiking with her, since it gives me the chance to amble along in relative comfort through the woods.

What's really different here in Inuvik, though, is the allergic reaction I'm having to these critters.

Over the long weekend ,I spent a fair bit of time at the softball tournament. I even managed to watch some games in between drenching myself with Deep Woods Off and swatting the little so-and-so's. More than a week later, I'm still nursing a variety of welts that make me look as if I have some unpleasant skin disease.

That's a first for me. Normally, the bites disappear within hours to a day at the most, but these have some true long-term staying power. My skin is still crawling from them.

That's why Sunday, after being turned into hamburger again at the ball diamond, I outfitted myself with head-to-toe bug gear. It might look ridiculous, but I'm past the point of caring.

And I took great comfort in watching the people who smirked at me begin swatting as my personal swarm of little demons started looking for a new home. Turnabout is fair play indeed.

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