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Stop the spread of fear
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Women are not feeling safe on the streets and trails of Yellowknife.

In July, three sexual assaults were reported one took place in a home on Sissons Court, one on McMahon Frame Lake Trail and another on Forrest Drive. Last week, another woman, with her 12-year old daughter, reported being accosted near Northern United Place.

These are the reported incidents. Statistics show that a majority of such crimes remain unreported (see letters to the editor on the opposite page).

This is not unique to Yellowknife cities and rural communities all over Canada continue to experience violence against women but this city does have the fourth highest rate for sexual assaults in the country.

When looking to the heart of the matter, we can point to a variety of possible causes, such as a failure to educate, a failure to support and maintain respect for all citizens, the perpetuation of cycles of violence, substance abuse, poverty, homelessness all the stuff of despair, powerlessness and violence.

"The motives underlying sexual assaults have more to do with issues of anger and power than with pleasure and desire," states Best Practices for Investigating and Prosecuting Sexual Assault, a guide book published by the Government of Alberta.

However, the citizens of Yellowknife are presented with a clear, distinct problem women are experiencing an upsurge of fear about their safety. They do not feel safe.

However we engage with the issues in the long term, immediate fixes are imperative.

The costs of aggression and violence are numerous and high.

Regarding the financial toll, the Alberta document states that "studies of the economic costs of sex-related crimes to society and victims to health, criminal justice, social services and lost productivity estimate figures in the billions of dollars (in Canada)."

Economics of violence aside, the cost to women is high. The document states that "any sexual assault can have serious effects on a person's long-term health and well-being. Victims often deal with feelings of anger, shame, and fear for many years after the assault. Victims often also become more cautious and less trusting, affecting their personal relationships."

Perhaps the greatest price we pay is as a community. Women no longer feel safe in a community that they once felt was safe. The community is held hostage by fear. For those who do not fear for their own personal safety, their fellow citizen's fear must be addressed by awareness and action. An individual may not feel threatened, but they must ask themselves how they can help change the circumstances that cause the justified fear of their neighbour.

As Lydia Fuller, executive director of the Yellowknife YWCA, told Yellowknifer in early August, the problem with the recent assaults is it affects everyone in the city until the perpetrator(s) are apprehended.

"Instead of controlling the behaviour of one person, you're really controlling the behaviours of many people at the community level," she said.

In a perfect world, everyone keeps everyone safe. We respect each other, we look out for each other and protect each other. In the absence of those sentiments and actions, we must look to a police presence that is tangible, extensive and effective.

The person in uniform we see most frequently walking our streets is the city's female parking enforcement officer, while the RCMP trucks drive by.

We have to stop this inexorable grip and growth of fear. More lighting, less shrubbery these are all small steps. But more importantly, we need to send the message to those who would do violence that it is unacceptable, and that we are watching. The way to do that is by immediately increasing visible presence of the RCMP.

One night this past August long-weekend, the RCMP hit the streets in force for their Take Back the Night initiative.

"We basically flood the city with police for a night so we can get a good handle of what's going on," Inspector Frank Gallagher said at the time.

"We're sending a message."

One night is not enough.

The officers need to be on the street daily and nightly, on foot, in a sustained manner, sending out a sustained message. Women need to see and feel that we've got their backs, that we do not accept that they live in fear. Time to step up.

History to judge premier's balanced approach
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Those who listen to the whispering winds of politics weren't surprised by Premier Eva Aariak announcing she won't seek another term as premier last week.

Aariak's legacy is not an easy one to define.

She handles herself gracefully, picks her battles carefully and is an outstanding role model for female youth.

In short, Premier Aariak has always shown herself to be a class act.

Yet, alone, a legacy of success that does not make.

Aariak deserves credit for being, for the most part, a forward-looking thinker.

She values her heritage immensely, yet fully realizes Nunavut's success rests in the future, not the past.

Unfortunately, like many at the top of Nunavut's political food chain, both past and present, she's often in a hurry to taste that success.

Chasing an illusionary big picture often catches one in the snare of disconnect between capability and possibility.

Aariak spoke of little else other than devolution during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Nunavut.

She paints a rosy picture of Nunavut having control over its own land and natural resources, with nary a thorn to be seen.

There is no denying the benefits of devolution, but it comes with tremendous responsibility and a tsunami of intellectually-driven decisions that rarely offer a second chance at redemption (can you say Churchill Falls?).

The question must be asked -- are we ready for devolution right now?

The short answer is no.

The GN still operates at only about three-quarter capacity, with 50 per cent beneficiary employment.

That number drops to less than 20 per cent among its senior managers.

The GN, we must remember, wants 85 per cent Inuit employment by 2020 and, I assume, it would like the vast majority to actually be able to do their jobs.

A 35-per-cent jump over a stagnant 50-per-cent level in just seven short years is a tall order.

There's little doubt Aariak and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (also a party to the devolution negotiations) expect devolution to take a number of years before reaching fruition.

And there's the rub.

An efficient government operating at near capacity would use the negotiating period to plan its course of action for once devolution is realized.

Effective planning has long been the Achilles heel of the GN and leadership at its top two levels must take responsibility for that.

To see how much of the planning ship needs to be righted over a decade is well illustrated in the March 2010 report from the auditor general of Canada on the GN's human resource capacity. And it ain't pretty!

Aariak will leave the GN as a premier who balanced the scales, neither gaining nor giving up much ground.

But, unless Harper has a revelation during the next few months, the start of the devolution negotiations will be one political aspiration to have escaped her legacy.

In all likelihood, history will judge Aariak's balanced leadership by the results of the upcoming devolution negotiations.

While she may still be close to the front lines if re-elected as an MLA, ultimately, her final legacy will rest in the hands of another premier.

Mixing politics and business
NWT News/North - Monday, September 9, 2013

Using politics to get a better economic deal is a long-standing practice in the North.

It's happening again as the Tlicho Government, the Lutsel K'e Dene Band and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation try to send what is, hopefully, our next NWT diamond mine project back to the drawing board.

De Beers' Gahcho Kue diamond mine was approved by the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board in July and now it's in the hands of the federal government for approval.

These First Nation groups are asking for further study, arguing the environmental impact review doesn't alleviate concerns surrounding water quality and the management of Kennady Lake, caribou, the impact to subsistence fishery, air quality and cultural impacts.

Experience has shown that emphasis on the environmental and cultural issues diminish as financial benefits increase.

The First Nation groups are trying to get as much as they can out of this development, while ensuring their land and water are kept safe.

There may be serious environmental concerns, but the Tlicho are also in the process of negotiating an impact benefits agreement with De Beers.

Nor can the Tlicho government be labelled anti-business as they recently approved Fortune Minerals' NICO project, which was the first time an aboriginal government could approve a project alongside the feds.

So the attempt to throw a political wrench in De Beers' plans for Gahcho is business as usual in the North.

A good deal for the aboriginal governments is a good deal for all of the NWT.

Former Inuvik teacher case troubling
NWT News/North - Monday, September 9, 2013

It is mind-boggling what transpired in Yellowknife late last month as the Crown prosecutor stayed charges against former Inuvik school teacher Hugues Latour.

Apparently, new information moved prosecutor Marc Lecorre to request the Supreme Court stay all charges related to sexual touching of a minor, invitation to sexual touching of a minor, possession and making of child pornography, and trafficking marijuana.

Lecorre said the revelations were significant enough to remove any reasonable hope for conviction.

This is not the first time the Crown has failed to make a case against the teacher. On Dec. 9, 2010, he was charged with parental abduction - that charge was stayed on Dec. 18, 2012. He was then charged with assault, forcible confinement and failure to comply with court orders on Aug. 1, 2011. Those charges were withdrawn on Jan. 31, 2012, with the assault and forcible confinement charges being dismissed May 10, 2012.

In the absence of any coherent explanation, we are left to conclude one of two things took place - either the teacher was unfairly targeted by the justice system and the Crown failed to put him in jail due to lack of a legitimate case, or the charges, evidence and legal proceedings were grievously mishandled.

There was also the problem of the crown failing to accommodate the need for a French trial and jury as Latour had requested.

Aside from the enormous court costs, everyone involved has been put through the ringer these past three years, while the lawyers walk away unaccountable to the public who pays their salaries.

This person taught students in the Beaufort Delta. Without a clear picture of what transpired behind the scenes of the courtroom, parents are left in the dark, their confidence in the justice system badly shaken, if not their school system.

This may not be a case of justice denied, but case could be made that it was justice badly botched.

Parents as important as prizes
Nunavut News/North - Monday, September 9, 2013

At first consideration, the notion of rewarding students for attending school with prizes seems a bit over the top. After all, students are required to attend school. A person could argue that the establishment of a reward system will condition youngsters into thinking that the provision of material possessions such as bicycles, iPods and iPads will make them shirk from their responsibilities later in life if there is no tangible reward.

On second thought, an observer could conclude that a prize awarded by the school to students who have the best attendance is a tangible reward for hard work and provides an incentive for other students. Seeing a youth with a new bicycle, iPod or iPad probably results in other students wishing they had one, too. That, in turn, might cause them to think about boosting their attendance record in an effort to receive a similar reward.

Others may suggest that the practice of attending school on a regular basis brings its own reward. The results to the individual are the value of having an education, increased knowledge, the ability to read, write, solve mathematical problems and understand complex information.

Despite significant attention to the matter, low attendance rates at the 43 schools in Nunavut is an ongoing issue. Fortunately, there has been progress in some communities such as Rankin Inlet where schools achieved an 82 per cent attendance rate in the 2010-2011 school year. Not so much in Hall Beach at 54.8 per cent, Qikiqtarjuaq at 60 per cent, Sanikiluaq at 60.7 per cent and Clyde River at 62.6 per cent.

A new electronic monitoring system, called Maplewood, will help officials track daily attendance, truancy, late arrivals and other absences in all Nunavut schools.

In contrast with the latest in technology is the overwhelming feelings of distrust and despair in some households as a result of a sad time in Canada's not-so-distant history. The negative memories of the residential school experience linger in many Nunavut households. It was a time when Nunavut youth were ripped out of their comfort zone and transported to a strange place where they were unhappy, uneducated and left fearful of outside influences.

That is why it is so important in the multifaceted effort to encourage youth to attend school not to forget one of the most important areas of focus -- the home.

Parents, grandparents and elders have to be encouraged to understand, and shown, that schools today offer a positive learning environment for their children. They need to get involved in their child's education, by becoming involved in the homework and lessons that are taught in classrooms and brought home in book bags.

Parents and relatives of pupils need to attend events they are invited to at the schools, meet the teachers, walk the hallways and see the work that students have completed. They also have to be there in the morning to get children off to school, to prepare meals, look after clothing needs and prepare the children for a day of learning.

All together, prizes, positive reinforcement and parental involvement can go a long way to not only boost attendance rates but also produce confident and capable graduates who are prepared to contribute to the future success of Nunavut and its people.

Clean water made murky
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, September 6, 2013

In the spring of 2008, before dynamite blasted the stillness of Tin Can Hill to carve a path to the new water treatment plant, workers were laying the foundation for an expansion of the city's water reservoir at Pumphouse No.1 on 48 Street.

The city's growing drinking water needs justified the $3.4-million price tag. A water treatment plant was described as a "potential" need.

Somewhere between then and now, costs have grown from a modest puddle to an ocean of expenses and add-on projects.

Both city hall and the territorial government insist the drinking water we get from the Yellowknife River is safe. Yet, water filtration became a requirement in 2009 with the adoption of the GNWT's Public Health Act, which took federal "guidelines" and turned them into regulated standards to be met when a community's water facilities were upgraded.

Present city administrator Dennis Kefalas, the public works director in 2010, at the time called the Yellowknife River, "one of the best in the world ... it's perfectly safe, perfectly clean."

Even Dr. Andrew Corriveau, the NWT chief public health officer, while insisting water filtration is necessary in his guest column on the page opposite to this editorial, admits "residents currently enjoy high-quality, safe water." He had to go all the way back to June 2004 to point to the last brief, boiled water advisory alert.

No one argues against clean water, but considering the cost of a new water treatment plant has ballooned from $18 million to $22 million to $30 million today, the disinterest over the years shown by city politicians - both on council and in the legislative assembly - is puzzling.

How much safer can water be than perfectly safe? Corriveau writes pregnant women are at risk of water-borne diseases if the city continues to chlorinate water and not filter it but this doesn't trouble fellow physician Dr. Andrew Kotaska, clinical director of obstetrics at Stanton Territorial Hospital. Last Wednesday in a guest column, Kotaska argued that the money spent on filtration might be better spent on other needs, such as medical travel.

We have to agree, for as Kotaska points out, Yellowknife doesn't face the same risks as southern communities. Industrial impact is low, and there is no agricultural run-off from farms - only hundreds of kilometres of pristine Arctic wilderness through which our water source flows.

The good news is the city has set aside $11.3 million to replace the eight-kilometre underwater line connecting Pumphouse No. 1 to the Yellowknife River. It would seem likely that Yellowknifers will continue to enjoy this water supply for many years to come.

The question remains: How can the GNWT take guidelines and turn them into law without a whimper from the city? Indeed, city administration seemed to view it as an opportunity to spend even more money.

Last year, city council was convinced to forgo a referendum on borrowing $23 million after declaring the water treatment plant a "public safety issue." The $17 million the city had already saved for the water treatment plant was then spent on other capital projects. The loan request was subsequently rubber-stamped by Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Robert C. McLeod.

This project has been ongoing since 2005 when the city put $85,000 toward reservoir expansion. As of 2011, some $6.8 million has been spent. City council, at the very least, should have demanded the project be grandfathered. Instead, taxpayers are on the hook for escalating costs on filtration that will make perfectly safe water more perfectly safe.

Yellowknife MLAs too failed to understand the GNWT's legislative changes meant only tax-based communities have to pay for costly upgrades while other NWT communities would have their water treatment plants paid for out of territorial coffers.

Unfortunately, the $30-million plant is a done deal, having been awarded to an Ontario-based firm last summer.

City councillors and MLAs need to be more vigilant when bureaucrats start playing fast and loose with regulations that hit the public purse. That is their job. If they're not asking questions, who will?

Being there for the youth
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, September 5, 2013
Facilities for youth play an important role in the Deh Cho.

They are places where young people can hang out after school or during the summer and to participate in a variety of activities. The facilities provide opportunities for youth to socialize, stay engaged, as well as give them a place to hang out where they can feel safe and secure.

The Deh Cho Friendship Centre is an example of one of these facilities. Although the centre is available for all community members to use, its primary focus is on aboriginal youth.

On any week night during the school year, there are often a handful of youth at the centre participating in activities, using the gym facilities or computers or playing video games.

The centre also provides summer employment for six students every year. These students spend most of their time planning and implementing summer activities for youth.

The centre was recognized this summer for its work in Fort Simpson when the National Association of Friendship Centres presented it with an outstanding friendship centre award. The centre, which was incorporated as a society in 1979, has provided 34 years of service to the community and will hopefully provide another 34 and more.

Community pools are another important youth facility in three Deh Cho communities. This summer, the new pool in Fort Simpson was filled with young swimmers almost every day.

Swimming lessons and public swim sessions provided activities that kept youth busy and distracted them from finding less productive ways to spend their time. The pool was a great place for youth to visit with their friends and, at the same time, stay physically active.

The importance of community swimming pools both for youth and other community members has been recognized by the Hamlet of Fort Providence. The hamlet council made every effort to have its pool renovated and reopened before the end of the summer.

Delays prevented the pool from opening, but undoubtedly it will be filled with children as soon as weather permits next summer.

Facilities such as the Deh Cho Friendship Centre and community pools often don't receive much attention. They do, however, play important roles in fostering the growth and development of the region's youth.

Clarity welcome on derelict buildings
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, September 5, 2013

I know we've heard it before here in Inuvik, but it's good to see some concrete action being taken with the derelict buildings on Kugmallit Road.

Like everyone else, I'm a little skeptical this latest initiative will be able to resolve the long-running soap opera of the eyesore properties that are officially registered to a numbered corporation.

However, full praise goes to Rick Lindsay of the Fire Marshal's office and to Inuvik Fire Chief Jim Sawkins for closing down the townhouses.

Even more credit goes to Lindsay, who, when asked what he could say on the record about the eviction and closure notices, threw caution and government muzzling to the wind to state bluntly it was time for concrete action on the properties.

Sawkins, no shrinking flower of his own, echoed those sentiments, but deferred to Lindsay for the most part.

Last May, Lindsay was the sole member of the Fire Marshal's office to publicly admit there had been an order issued on the buildings. After that, the office used a lot of bureaucratic bafflegab about privacy policies and confidentiality about the situation while basically telling Lindsay to shut up.

As he and Sawkins put up the public notices and inspected the property almost two weeks ago, it was clear Lindsay saw the absurdity of not commenting on what has now become a very public matter. The details on the eviction and closure notices were quite plain, and he recognized the futility of hiding behind a Yellowknife-directed communications campaign of evasion and silence.

Undoubtedly that candour hasn't endeared him to his bosses in the territorial capital, but Lindsay had the courage to defy what is clearly a nonsensical policy after being asked bluntly what he could say on the record. Hopefully his punishment will be restricted to a slap on the wrist. Anything else will be a monumental bungle and over-reaction.

That's what makes me want to believe him when he said the situation can't be allowed to stand as it is.

I just hope his superiors have the same courage of their convictions and the fortitude to fight for what's right instead of taking the easy way out.

The territorial government (and the town of Inuvik for that matter) is too eager to work in secrecy when openness is called for. It hides behind policies when that much-talked-about government transparency is mentioned. In this situation with the derelict buildings, it has run for cover when action is needed.

Maybe that will change this time. I know I'll be watching closely to see if it does.

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