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Commuter bike lanes not needed
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The push to make Yellowknife a greener place to live may be straying down the wrong path with plans to expand bike lanes onto downtown streets.

On Jan. 20, city council debated the ongoing project to expand pedestrian and cyclist trails, which include plans to create bike lanes on downtown streets. Those plans include painting stripes on and widening McMahon Frame Lake Trail and painting dedicated lanes on 52 Avenue onto 44 Street, then into Old Town.

City councillor Neils Konge says he is now against bikes lines, citing a recent survey with 153 responses as evidence that bike lanes are "not a pressing matter."

To this, Yellowknifer would have to agree with Dennis Kefalas, the city's senior administrator, that this is not an unsubstantial number in a city of this size. If 153 people can be found to fill out a city survey it's reasonable to assume there are many more who would also have an opinion but just didn't bother.

Where we differ is on the belief that bike lanes for commuters are necessary.

While Ecology North and city councillor Dan Wong have good intentions to get people to lead healthier lifestyles and minimize their impact on the environment by riding bikes to work instead of driving cars, bike lanes downtown are neither practical or needed.

Are people really finding it hazardous riding their bikes without them, and if they are, will they help? It's certainly not an issue during winter when only the most dedicated riders dare take to their bicycles for seven months of the year.

Bikes lanes on 52 Avenue would certainly be less intrusive than putting them on Franklin Avenue but the loss of parking space to create them can't be justified. The authors of the city's Smart Growth Development Plan can argue all they want about "surplus parking" but downtown retailers know better.

Owners of Northern United Place appeared before city council just two months ago seeking permission to demolish the "Little Brown House" next door to alleviate a parking crunch for students attending Aurora College.

Love it or hate it, people are not going to stop driving downtown anytime soon for most of the year although they may ride their bikes more often when the weather is nice. For those who do, anecdotal evidence suggests they are fine without bike lanes. This isn't Toronto after all.

The public would be better served if the city focus its efforts on expanding recreational trails for bike users and educating cyclists of all ages about their responsibilities while riding on the streets.

There is still much to consider before the city sets aside more space on city streets for cyclists.

Driving ahead of the game
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vehicle owners in Yellowknife are no doubt rejoicing at the news that an annual pilgrimage to the motor vehicle licensing office will no longer be required.

No longer must they set aside time to sit for an hours-long wait in the office. Starting next month, people needing to register their

vehicles and trailers can do it

online. The NWT joins Saskatchewan and Quebec as jurisdictions offering vehicle registration services over the Internet.

The Department of Transportation is also making licence plates stickerless, so no more hunching over in the snow to affix a tiny sticker on a muddy licence plate. The convenience doesn't end there. Residents can now book exams, order driver's abstracts, and will receive e-mail reminders when registration and driver's licence renewal is due.

The move online will undoubtedly make the next visit to the licensing office a lot more pleasant when face-to-face interaction with a licensing agent is necessary. It will also mean shorter wait times for people who are not computer-savvy.

People sometimes complain that the digital age has made life more complicated. Here is an example toward the opposite. The transportation department is taking technology and making it work for everyone, and for that, kudos are due.

Taking it regional
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News -Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The points raised during the past few weeks by people disappointed in the fact only Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, yet again, sent teams to the Jon Lindell Memorial (JLM) senior men's hockey tournament in Arviat reach beyond the game of hockey in our region.

At least one thing has changed during the past decade. People are now willing to speak openly to express their disappointment in some of our Kivalliq communities when it comes to not possessing the bare minimum of motivation needed to fundraise enough to support their neighbour's big event.

They still pick their words carefully, and avoid going the whole 10 yards in stating the obvious in that too many folks in our region prefer to wait until someone else does it for them.

When an airline sponsors a community event and offers seats to the destination at up to 80 per cent off its regular fare, one has to recognize the fact the carrier is working with the hamlet to help take its event to the next level.

Throw in the fact everyone has a full year to plan to attend, whether it's sports, arts, or scholastic in nature, and the excuse of not having enough time to co-ordinate the fundraising is downright laughable.

On top of that, all our Kivalliq communities step up and answer the bell when it comes to providing accommodations for event participants. Some provide empty staff housing when it exists, while others arrange for schools to open a few classroom or gymnasium doors and almost all billet until the caribou come home.

At the end of the day, we're not talking a mammoth investment of time and effort here.

But, if more help is needed, there is a solution to help a number of regional events reach their full potential, but two conditions have to be met.

First, the notion adults should always have to pay for everything out of their own pockets has to be put in file 13 once and for all. Most community events help in a number of ways, including economically and spiritually.

Nothing angers me more than to be in a place of business that rakes in thousands during a big community event and listen to someone associated with the enterprise ramble on about how only youth should be supported financially.

Secondly, we're fed an annual diatribe on how the Kivalliq works together as a region for the common good during every mayors' meetings.

If that's true, why not have each community name two or three 'official' community events that are guaranteed a couple of bingo slots (our top fundraiser, let's be honest) each year?

Special community meetings could be held to accept nominations for these recreational events, which would be selected locally and announced during the mayors' meetings with the full weight of the region behind them. A few conference calls between our regional leaders would ensure no one genre dominated the lineup, and the events could be revisited every five years depending on their success.

It might not provide 100 per cent of total costs, but it would be a strong start.

If nothing else, it would give each community a couple of true regional events each year to look forward to and put itself in the spotlight.

That has to count for something.

Dene Nation or Erasmus Nation?
NWT News/North - Monday, January 27, 2014

Dene Grand Chief Bill Erasmus is known for being a thorn in the side of the federal government. We need people like him to ensure the rights of the Dene people are on the minds of our leaders in Ottawa.

That being said, when it comes to devolution, we are confused about who Erasmus is representing in his fight to block the deal and calling it unconstitutional.

The fact of the matter is the majority of aboriginal groups in the NWT have signed on to devolution.

The Deh Cho, who are well known for denying proposals as a negotiating tactic for its still unsettled land claim, and the Akaitcho, who have been leaderless for too long, are the only two groups not to sign on to the deal.

Our devolution deal might not be what many were hoping for and there is still much uncertainty about the benefits and whether it will work the way our territorial cabinet says it will. However, the Sahtu, Tlicho, Gwich'in, Inuvialuit and the Metis leaders have all decided the deal has enough benefits, including the protection of their land claims, to sign on to devolution.

It is obvious Erasmus, and by extension the Dene Nation, has strong opposition to the devolution deal but is the job of the Dene Nation not to support its membership? In this case, the majority has agreed to devolution and its benefits, which includes a slice of the resource revenue dollars.

Although we tend to agree with Erasmus on the point that one short meeting in one community is not sufficient to discuss possible amendments to Ottawa's devolution bill, his view that the GNWT is illegally inheriting stewardship of territorial lands is contradicted by the facts.

Erasmus is ignoring the fact that many of the NWT's aboriginal groups either have or are working toward a final land claim agreement. Those agreements transfer the stewardship of the land back to the aboriginal people to whom Erasmus says it rightly belongs.

The Tlicho and the Sahtu, for example, have regained control over surface and sub surface lands in their territory.

Shouldn't Erasmus be fighting to provide the Deh Cho and Akaitcho people with the same rights, so they too can be in a position to better control the effect devolution will have on lands in their territories?

This is not the first time Erasmus has been on the wrong side of the people he is supposed to represent. In 1990, a push to enshrine aboriginal and treaty rights in the Dene/Metis comprehensive land claim agreement caused the Dene Nation as a joint land claims negotiator to fall apart and the federal government to cease negotiations with the Dene Nation as a single entity.

At the time, Erasmus said the federal government would never negotiate with land claimants on a regional or community level. That statement was proven false time and again with the settlement of regional land claims and the current negotiations of community-based land claims.

Elected to represent the interests of all Dene, Erasmus should respect the decisions those people have made for themselves or he risks being seen as out of touch, which will ultimately weaken the case for the Dene Nation existing as an organization.

Spotlight on suicide
Nunavut News/North - Monday, January 27, 2014

Shining a spotlight on suicide was a smart move by Nunavut chief coroner Padma Suramala earlier this month.

Looking at the number of people in the territory who have taken their own lives in the past 14 years, from 2013 to 1999 when the territory was created, is without question a very large cause for alarm. A total of 434 people committed suicide in 25 Nunavut communities during that time period, leaving countless friends, relatives and others grieving and in shock.

The numbers are astounding. In Pond Inlet, for instance, the impact must be enormous since 33 people have taken their own lives over the past dozen years from a population of only about 1,600 people. In a place where everyone knows everyone else, the reality of suicide must hit a person's emotions hard. The story is repeated in several other communities, where numerous people have committed suicide, including 85 people in Iqaluit over the past 14 years.

Suramala states her decision to order an inquest into the high rate of suicide stemmed from the overall numbers from last year but also because there have been three suicides in only the first few weeks of 2014.

Despite the launch of the Nunavut Suicide Prevention Action Plan in 2011 by the Embrace Life Council, the RCMP, the territorial government and Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., 45 Nunavummiut took their own lives in 2013, the highest number in the territory's history.

There are memories and stories to be told about each and every person that is a victim of suicide. Each of them leave behind people who loved and cared for them. Each one is a tragedy.

The challenge to the chief coroner now is to craft a discretionary inquest that will make a difference. Six jurors selected from the general public will be tasked with drafting a list of recommendations to prevent further suicides. The inquest is to build on work already done by the chief coroner and community coroners, highlight risk factors and warning signs, raise public awareness and make recommendations to avoid preventable deaths.

The incidence of individual suicides is largely hidden. The media, including Nunavut News/North, does not report individual suicides, unless the act is carried out in a public place or the victim is a person of prominence. Many people are unaware that a suicide has occurred unless they know the victim personally.

It seems that efforts to prevent suicide aren't working. While the incentive to launch an inquest into the issue is driven by the disturbingly high numbers, we encourage the chief coroner and those involved in the inquest to make an effort to raise awareness about suicide.

Informing people about how widespread the incidence of suicide has become in itself will assist prevention efforts. As a result, individuals can take the initiative to recognize the actions of friends, relatives or acquaintances who are contemplating suicide and take steps to assist them in getting help.

We believe that encouraging people to talk about suicide and get involved is just as important as conducting a discretionary inquest. Everyone can play a role to stop more people from taking their own lives.

Property owners ultimately responsible
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 24, 2014

Quantifying the damage caused by the Dec. 29 power outage is a good idea, but not for the reason Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny espouses.

Dolynny wants to collect dollar numbers related to homes and businesses damaged during the three-hour outage, and take them to the legislative assembly. He hopes to see a contingency fund created to help owners pay for damages they cannot afford.

While financial respite in the wake of catastrophic flood or fire are worthy of large-scale state and citizen support, the Yellowknife scenario does not apply. It's reasonable to assume that in the case of unexpected disastrous weather events, power might be cut off, but most people realize that -40 C is not a weather event in this part of the world. It's the status quo.

Furthermore, Dolynny is conflating his role as a public servant with a Big Daddy/big government approach. We remember his call for anti-bullying legislation and his announcement to the Twitterverse, "Can't legislate an end to bullying? Watch NWT do it!" This is looking more like showboating, and not addressing the real issues.

Although Yellowknifer has put out the call for Yellowknife MLAs to stand up and be heard on behalf of residents, it behooves them to focus on the long view - a reliable power source.

And then there's the matter of personal responsibility - a personal plan. Cold climate and a sketchy power supply means property owners should consider buying a generator and maybe an alternate heat source, such as a wood stove. This is not complicated math - a few hundred dollars - and that's where Yellowknifers could add up the costs of damages - as Dolynny suggests - and weigh the expense of home or business repairs versus the price of purchasing a diesel generator to keep the furnace on during a power outage.

Dolynny's idea of government compensation, however, is complicated math that would bankrupt the GNWT, especially if the problem is never dealt with at source.

If Yellowknifers are really unable to take personal responsibility, as Dolynny would suggest, perhaps the GNWT could provide generators for each household in the territory.

'Regulating' children an adult job
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 24, 2014

Here we go. Another flavour du jour in the world of education philosophy to drag parents and teachers even further away from the fundamentals of raising children who are able and capable of joining the world of adults.

This new area of study, entitled "self-regulation," an academic and, now, popular movement warns "that today's children have become the most stressed-out generation to date."

We ask: As compared to which generation of children?

The guru of the self-regulation movement, a guest of the Department of Education, Culture and Employment, Dr. Stuart Shanker, adds that children are under-slept. This he said to 150 Yellowknife teachers and parents last week.

Here's an idea - bedtime.

And, he says, "Once an adult realizes a child is stressed, the first step is to help the child understand why they are reacting that way."

We would suggest that the 'why' has to do with learned behaviour from watching adults.

These children are in the hands of adults, as minors, for far longer than any generation has ever been. Parents and educators have 18 or 19 years do their basic job: Create rules and boundaries, offer care - food for the body and the mind - and love, be present and be a solid example.

The GNWT's education renewal policy isn't going to change the fact that the adult-child relationship is broken, primarily because the adults are not living up to their responsibilities. This latest fad foisted on parents and teachers is just window dressing in replacement of real ideas on how to fix the territory's inability to get students to meet standards of education that will allow them to graduate school and find success in the real world.

Society and the education system have gone through cycle after cycle of blaming teachers, blaming parents, blaming teachers, blaming parents ... now it is being suggested that the responsibility rests with the child.

No. The responsibility for kicking the child outdoors for play, for example - that the adult's job. The responsibility for creating consistent rules and follow-through - the adult's job. The responsibility for modeling calm behaviour - also the adult's job.

Teachers and parents don't need a fancy and expensive philosopher of education to say: Adults, you need to grow up. Do your job.

Youth the hope of the Deh Cho economy
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, January 23, 2013

How many Deh Cho communities wish they had more economic growth and job opportunities for residents? It's fair to say that most do.

What are the chances of a large, established company setting up a branch in a Deh Cho community and offering long-term employment? Unfortunately not very good.

The same chances apply to large scale resource development in the near term in the Deh Cho, unless you are feeling confident about the Canadian Zinc Corporation and the Prairie Creek Mine.

So what is the Deh Cho to do? Wallow along and hope for more government jobs? No, and part of the answer was on display at Thomas Simpson School Jan. 18.

Five students in the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program pitched their business plans, which they spent a semester developing, to a panel of judges. It was just like the television show Dragons' Den, but without the promise of money and with sounder ideas than those that often appear on the show.

The judges agreed that all of the ideas put forward by the four Grade 10 and one Grade 12 students had merit and could work in the region. Take for instance, Serendra, a restaurant developed by student Melissa Pascua-Matte, that would serve cuisine from around the world. One of the larger Deh Cho communities would likely be delighted to have a new restaurant that offered something different.

The Brew Crew Cafe, pitched by Sara Amundson, could also be a hit in many communities. Who wouldn't like to relax while drinking a cappuccino, snacking on a sandwich and surfing the internet?

The Deh Cho may not lend itself to large scale businesses, but there are a multitude of smaller business opportunities that an entrepreneur could tap into. The program, which has now been offered at the school twice, is helping to develop a new generation of entrepreneurs who can change the economic landscape and outlook in the region.

That's not to say that starting a small business is easy. As many of the students learned, it is an involved process and a business plan may ultimately show that an idea isn't sustainable or will take years to make a profit.

The students who have completed the program, however, now know the challenges they will face if they become business owners and have years ahead of them, as they finish high school and get further training, to perfect their ideas and develop new ones. In time, Deh Cho residents will hopefully benefit from the business acumen of these students.

Explanation from expert
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, January 23, 2013

My column about vaccinations last week seems to have attracted a bit of attention.

I was contacted by Damien Healy, the manager of planning and communications for the Department of Health and Social Services, within a day of the column's publication.

That's always a good affirmation someone is actually paying attention and reading those editorials.

He mentioned that Dr. Andre Corriveau, the GNWT's medical officer of health, wanted to discuss some of the points with me. I found that intriguing and readily agreed.

It turned out to be one of those conversations that baffled me more at the end than at the start.

Corriveau is certainly an engaging conversationalist on the topic of vaccinations, but we didn't cover much in the way of new ground during the discussion.

He noted that of the 75 people in the NWT with confirmed cases of the H1N1 flu to that point, only four had received a flu shot. That indicated there was a good match between the shot and the strain of flu circulating this year.

Flu shots, he added, provide a 95-per-cent immunity rate to the prevalent viruses in any given year, meaning they're effective but not infallible.

While I don't know for certain that I've been battling the H1N1 flu, although it seems likely, I told him I could put a double-dent into those statistics. Less than two days after I came down with some severe symptoms, my wife did as well. Like me, she had been inoculated by the Beaufort Delta Health and Social Services Authority in the fall.

Corriveau was rather surprised by that news. One person, after all, could be explained as a statistical anomaly. Two people who had been inoculated is a little more difficult to explain.

There are various reasons that might have happened, Corriveau said. Stress and other factors play a part in how effective the vaccine might be on any given person, he explained. Other circumstances too, such as proximity and exposure, also are huge factors.

He agreed with my assessment that my wife and I likely picked up a virus during our flights over the holidays, particularly the five-hour flight from Toronto to Vancouver. If anyone or multiple people were carrying the virus, the crowded conditions would have easily contributed to its spread.

Under those conditions, the effectiveness of a vaccine could drop significantly, Corriveau said. He mentioned that approximately 10 years ago, he suffered through a bout of the flu following his regular vaccination that left him bedridden for a couple of days.

"So it does happen," he said.

That simply reinforces the point I made in the original column -- that a flu shot and other vaccinations aren't a magic bullet that project some kind of shield around you that nothing can get through.

The treatment simply improves your odds of missing out on any of these unpleasant viruses that proliferate at this time of year.

So while the decision is still up to you, if you want the "odds to be ever in your favour," go get a vaccination. That's about as much as you can ask for.

In the meantime, I'm still struggling with the last of the symptoms of this virus, including a nasty cough and some chest inflammation. I'm just hoping it isn't something that will hang around all winter.

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