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Fighting crime in city
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This past week, a release from Statistics Canada revealed some startling information about both Yellowknife and the Northwest Territories - the territory has the highest crime severity rate in the country, and it's going up as most of the country has been going down.

Yellowknife ranked fourth in the country for its crime severity index, a statistic that weighs the severity of reported crimes in such a manner where it eliminates a high reportage of crime, something prone to happen in a city with a relatively high police presence, such as ours.

The report came at the same time as two sexual assaults in the early hours of July 30, with both incidents happening within hours of each other. One incident saw an individual break into someone's home, and the other occurred on the McMahon-Frame Lake Trail.

On our Facebook page, when we asked whether people felt safe on the trail, we received a generally negative response, with one woman saying she keeps her keys handy when she walks on the trail so that she can use them in self-defense. Others suggest better lighting, emergency phones and security cameras.

Such measures are used by many universities and colleges in the south, especially on campuses that have seen a high rate of sexual assaults. Getting rid of dark walking paths and providing a direct line to police is a good way to start.

Last Thursday evening, the RCMP held its semi-regular Take Back the Night event, where officers made their presence felt in the downtown core, especially toward the closing of bars. Knowing that police officers are there and ready to help if need be is a welcome sign.

Lydia Bardak, executive director of the John Howard Society in Yellowknife, said last week that many crimes in town start with alcohol, which takes away the filter of an individual, and often leads them to do things they otherwise wouldn't.

Insp. Frank Gallagher of the RCMP agreed that alcoholism leads to problems in the city.

A reactive policy isn't the way to go, because if the criminal justice system just puts people in jail following a crime and doesn't address the situations that led to it happening in the first place, it is just setting the stage for a vicious cycle of crime.

Various studies, including from the Sentencing Advisory Council in Victoria, Australia, the British Ministry of Justice and Wayne State University in Detroit have shown that those who are imprisoned are more likely to recommit crimes upon their release if proper rehabilitation measures aren't in place.

There needs be a proactive stance on crimes by all levels of government, working to stop them before they happen. Investments in programs to help curb alcoholism and other addictions will ensure individuals receive the help they need before they turn to crime. Make sure parts of town are modified for people to feel safe, perhaps with the addition of lighting or emergency telephones which can deter crimes from happening in the first place, or in the worst scenario, provide an immediate vehicle for a call for help.

Throwing some light on Nutrition North
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's about time! That was the response from a majority of people across the Kivalliq upon learning auditor general Michael Ferguson in Ottawa had agreed to review the federal Nutrition North program this past month.

The Tories have stubbornly dug in their heels in support of the program, which has been under almost constant attack since being implemented in 2011.

And the backlash hasn't just been from the Kivalliq, or from across Nunavut for that matter.

All three territories have voiced their concerns over the program, and all asked for its complete review.

The review won't be quick. Its final conclusions aren't expected to be released until the fall of next year.

I've been against Nutrition North for a number of reasons, all well-documented in this space over the years.

The program allows our major retailers to negotiate downright ridiculous freight rates with our Northern airlines, benefits vegetarians (lots of them in the North) while penalizing meat eaters, and, most importantly, is neither culturally sensitive nor in tune with the financial reality many Nunavummiut face while trying to feed their families.

The feds crow about an "average" eight per cent drop -- based on prices gleaned from registered retailers (giggle) -- for a standard Northern food basket over a staggering 18-month period.

Meanwhile, it's been estimated no less than 75 per cent of Inuit preschoolers live in food-insecure homes, about half our youths aged 11 to 15 sometimes go to bed hungry, and a staggering 66 per cent of Inuit parents sometimes run out of food and can't afford more. Can you say serious disconnect?

We're guessing none of those parents are in the upper echelon of our major retailer's shareholders.

Another issue I have with Nutrition North, and one shared by many, is those who defend it often make it sound like I'm a liar.

Now a single man, and with my children having grown, I have an advantage over those struggling to put food on the table for families.

Yet facts are facts, and I don't like being made to feel I'm full of hooey.

The fact of the matter is my ex-wife and I, under the old food mail program, ate healthier for almost the same price it costs me to shop locally in Rankin Inlet today.

There's something basically wrong with that, no matter what Mr. Harper's we-know-what's-best-for-you spin doctors would have you believe.

The truth of the matter is you're getting more lip action from their rhetoric than you'll ever get from the food savings Nutrition North brings your way.

The feds have no real idea of how the subsidies are being passed on to consumers, especially when teamed with the far lower cargo rates the retailers enjoy now compared to when Nutrition North was first launched.

Heck, I'd even bet $10 (about half a pork chop) they have no way of even knowing how much of all the subsidized plants and roughage shipped to our communities even escapes the dump to make it to a family dinner table.

If knowledge truly is power, when it comes to Nutrition North, the feds don't have enough to light a soon-to-be mandatory energy-efficient bulb.

Industry's light at the end of the tunnel
NWT News/North - Monday, August 5, 2013

When it rains, it pours. Three proposed mines have received the go-ahead from their respective stopping points along the long and arduous road of regulatory reviews. Responsible consultation, collaboration and a dose of patience have paid off for these resource development projects.

De Beers' Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine was approved by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board last month and the project is now in the hands of the federal government for approval.

Then there's Avalon Rare Metals' Nechalacho Project that received its own approval from the board.

Fortune Minerals' NICO project - a gold-cobalt-bismuth-copper mine - recently got the approval it needed from the feds and the Tlicho Government. The last pieces of the puzzle are to garner the permits and financing it needs. This was the first time the Tlicho Government had a voice on a project's approval equal to the federal government. Information gathered from elders, community members and those who hold traditional knowledge of the area was priceless and allowed for a growing relationship between industry and the people of the land.

There's activity stirring outside of Enterprise as well. A proposed $12-million pellet plant is waiting on forest resource agreements with Fort Providence and Fort Resolution.

Such proposed activity in the territory has far-reaching benefits. NICO is expected to employ about 400 people during its peak construction time.

These developments are huge news for the territory. The NWT has been known as an obstacle course of hoop-jumping and red tape when it comes to industry laying out the groundwork on new ventures.

Collaboration is key. Keeping the lines of communication open and establishing understanding of the impacts of these projects to the land and the people creates for a smoother ride through the terrain of permits, exploration, feasibility planning and regulatory reviews.

With proper collaboration, community consultations, the implementation of safety measures and environmental stewardship, and a strong and viable project plan, patience and due diligence does pay off.

Heritage showcased at tourism centre
NWT News/North - Monday, August 5, 2013

Cultural tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors, and Fort McPherson isn't missing the opportunity to harness its historic architecture and heritage for both community members of the Beaufort Delta and visitors to the area to enjoy.

The Chii Tsal Dik Gwizheh Tourism and Heritage Centre opened its doors late last month, complete with displays of community arts and crafts and a map featuring traditional place names.

Cultural activities are also planned through the centre this summer such as walking tours of the trails nearby, cultural demonstration and live music.

It was a community effort because the hamlet raised funds to transport the structure along the ice road to Fort McPherson, from where it had been used as a lodge for on-the-land programs.

The wealth of uses for the tourism and heritage centre are becoming clear: a space for weddings, meetings, festivals, youth programs, and people to immerse themselves in the history and culture of the area. It will also create an avenue for economic development in the region as tourists will spend more time in and around the community.

Fort McPherson has recycled the old and created something fresh that can be enjoyed by many. Fort McPherson acknowledges its cultural assets, and is showcasing its heritage while engaging guests in authentic experiences.

Ottawa failing on plans to have Arctic presence
Nunavut News/North - Monday, August 5, 2013

The Armed Forces is sending soldiers to three locations in Nunavut this month for exercises during the 2013 version of Operation Nanook.

Many of the activities being carried out on Cornwallis Island, King William Island and Resolution Island will involve about half of the 1,000 personnel learning how to live on the land and move around in a secure manner. More than 30 Canadian Rangers are assisting the soldiers by serving as guides and sharing their traditional knowledge.

There is no doubt that exercises by the Armed Forces in Canada's Arctic are important and necessary in preparation for the event they are called into service for search-and-rescue missions, natural disasters or critical emergencies.

Operation Nanook also contributes somewhat to Canada's desire to establish its sovereignty over the land and water of Nunavut.

However, in comparison to past statements from the Prime Minister's Office and others in Ottawa, Operation Nanook is a drop in the bucket toward the government's goal of establishing a military presence in the North.

In fact, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, in July 2007, said "Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic -- we either use it or lose it,"

With that in mind, Ottawa announced plans to spend about $100 million on upgrading the existing deep-water port at Nanisivik and create a naval facility at the former mine site. That plan has changed drastically to plans that now call for the establishment of a refuelling station that would only be open in the summer after its planned completion in 2016.

The Royal Canadian Air Force had also looked to expand to Resolute Bay in Nunavut, potentially transforming it into a key base for Arctic operations. That would have involved the construction of a 3,000-metre paved runway, hangars, fuel installations and other infrastructure. But the Air Force confirmed last year that proposal would not proceed after realizing the extreme costs associated with building and maintaining facilities in the North, which is influenced by a short building season and a shortage of workers.

It seems that Harper's vision is not becoming reality. Although having the Armed Forces conduct exercises in Nunavut is a good thing, not only for the soldiers but also for the communities in which they visit, Operation Nanook represents significantly less of a presence in the Arctic than what is desired.

We would like to see a plan for an Arctic presence in Nunavut involving permanent structures and personnel from Ottawa. It is essential that Canada be seen as a complete country, from coast to coast to coast.

Northern money for Northern business
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 2, 2013

Yellowknife's business community is calling for changes to the city's policies when awarding contracts. Late last month, a southern construction firm won a $30-million contract to build the new water treatment facility.

Two Northern construction companies - Det'on Cho and Clark Builders - also made bids and both came in under 10 per cent more than the winning bid made by NAC Construction, an Ottawa-based company. In fact, the Det'on Cho bid was only three per cent more expensive than the winning bid.

As it stands, an inter-provincial trade agreement makes it impossible for the city to choose anything other than the lowest bid. But it's a poor excuse considering council had the ability to request amendments to either the Inter-provincial Agreement on Internal Trade or the GNWT's Business Incentive Policy (BIP). The latter would be the easiest. An amendment to the BIP allowing municipalities to give preference to Northern businesses during the tendering process would be all that is required.

We are flabbergasted by the fact council has been dragging its feet on this. Coun. Bob Brooks made a motion in 2011 to investigate policies to favour Northern companies. The motion was approved unanimously and then seemingly ignored.

Bob Doherty, president of the NWT and Nunavut Construction Association, said the previous administrator and mayor's lack of commitment to the issue was frustrating. We agree.

Mayor Mark Heyck said more recent discussions on the issue, which arose in relation to the water treatment plant, failed to generate a consensus.

Really? How hard is it to agree that Northern money should stay in the North?

The fact that a southern company bid lower than Northern companies can also be considered a major cause for concern. City- and Northern-based businesses are best suited to understand the costs of working here. We also hope their connection to the community leads them to bid fairly. With that in mind, can we trust that the bid by NAC Construction will work out?

Carl Bird, director of corporate services, said the agreement is a fixed-term contract and the chances of costs going up are unlikely. However, when asked by council, he admitted a cost increase could be possible. However unlikely, in the event additional funds are needed, what choice would the city have but to approve the additional expenditure?

Leslie Campbell, executive director of the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, could not have stated it better when she said, "The bottom line is that Northern companies should get Northern contracts."

This project is costing the city nearly $10 million more than it was originally estimated and associated costs to upgrade peripheral infrastructure is going to heap more cash onto the pile.

Yes, the city is being forced to build the new facility. While there is no getting around that fact, it's unfortunate that at the end of the day everyone is losing, including taxpayers, Northern business and Northern workers.

Awash in opportunities
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ah, to be a teenager in the Deh Cho.

Not only are teenagers in the area growing up in an amazing region of Canada, they also have an astounding number of opportunities offered to them.

A case in point is the trip the Canadian Canoe Foundation is offering for 10 teens in grades 9 to 11. The trip is completely free, apart from the fact that participants who are accepted need to find their own way to Fort Simpson to start the trip and a way home from Wrigley at the end of the paddle.

While on the Mackenzie River, the teens will learn about canoeing, water ecology, and the issues facing Canadian rivers. In more populated areas of the country, teens would be clamoring for this opportunity.

Also related to sciences and the environment, 15 youths from the ages of 12 to 18 just finished spending eight days at Cli Lake where this year's Dehcho Youth Ecology Camp was held. The camp, which is open to youth from the Deh Cho, exposes participants to environmental sciences and traditional knowledge.

For youth who want to go a bit farther afield, there are other options.

Northern Youth Abroad offers young people aged 15 to 22 hands-on work experience and high school credits through cross-cultural work and learning experiences both in Canada and abroad. Five teens from the Deh Cho are currently participating in the Canadian phase of the program.

Youth who want to see the west coast and get a glimpse of what life in the Canadian Forces is like can apply to participate in the Raven Aboriginal Youth Initiative. That program is designed to build relationships with aboriginal communities and make youth aware of potential civilian or military careers with the Department of National Defence.

For athletically-talented Deh Cho youth, there is the annual Mackenzie Youth Summer Games, which was just held in Fort Liard, and for a select few basketball players, the chance to go to the Native American Basketball Invitational in Phoenix, Ariz.

Teenagers in the Deh Cho have an astounding number of opportunities presented to them that are often free or heavily subsidized through fundraising. The ones mentioned here are just a small selection of the opportunities available.

Youth need to be encouraged to seize as many of these opportunities as possible. Every space in each of the programs should be filled.

By attending the programs, teenagers expand their horizons, learn more about themselves and about how they can create a successful future for themselves and the region.

Seize the chance to create archives
Editorial Comment by T. Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, August 1, 2013

The exhibition of the contents of a time capsule by the Inuvik Girl Guides at the Inuvik Centennial Library this week brings up an interesting and timely question about the town's history.

Inuvik, Candace Seddon pointed out, has nothing like a proper archive. That's why the contents of the time capsule from the 1980s is now heading for Alberta where it can be preserved for posterity and put on display for the public.

Seddon said that she's bothered by the need to send the items there instead of preserving them here at home where they belong. She'd much prefer for them to stay here.

She's exactly right.

Inuvik, because it's a "designed" or "artificial" community a little more than 50 years old, has a unique chance to record its history.

Much of the history right from the establishment of the community should be available to be documented and archived. But it seems, in the rush to construct the town and get it running, that chance is falling by the wayside.

Not many communities of any size have had such an opportunity to preserve its full history. More typically, municipalities spring up because they're close to good fishing or hunting land. Or perhaps it's because they were in an advantageous position to tap into some economic opportunities.

None of that really applies to Inuvik, which was created specifically to be a government centre. That being the case, it's perplexing how government types, with their mania for bureaucracy and paperwork and systems and organization, could have let this chance slip through their fingers.

Perhaps it's because of a lack of an identity for the community in some socio-psychological manner. You can make the argument, after all, that not very many people are truly from Inuvik in the typical sense. After 50-some years, there's been a chance for approximately two generations of people to have been born here. It's unclear how many of them have stayed on, while a large percentage of the population continues to be transient.

So perhaps the organic identity of the town is still coalescing into something more solid, and that's been an influence on the lack of archives.

Whatever it may be, it's time for the town to devote some attention to a local archive. A government one, if it exists, is better than nothing, but there is a need to document and preserve the specific local history of Inuvik right here at home.

Let's see if the town is prepared to listen to Seddon's observations and to act on it.

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