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Develop local fish market
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 18, 2014

As Russia fights back on North American sanctions on trade with its own ban on the import of seafood from Canada, the Fresh Water Fish Marketing Co-op will have to help harvesters of whitefish from Great Slave Lake find other markets.

While Russia was a big buyer of Canadian whitefish, the global demand for the product is expected to absorb the loss of that market.

So, although the loss of trade to Russia might not hurt fishers on Great Slave Lake, it does point to the fragility of relying on foreign markets.

As the trend is leaning toward creating more secure and local sources for food production around the world, Great Slave fishers should be considering ways to sell more of its product in the NWT the only market it has control over.

The market in the NWT might not be huge, but there is potential for growth. Indeed, we should have fish caught in the NWT in every grocery store in the territory and on every restaurant menu.

What better way to improve community food security than with a locally-produced product that has very little distance to travel?

It could also have a positive effect on tourism. People visiting from the south or overseas will know we have a reputation for serving some of the best local fish around.

While the loss of the Russian market might not be a serious blow to the fishing industry, it might give us pause to consider how to improve our distribution and sales right here at home.

A side benefit of seeing firsthand the impact the product has on people in the NWT is that might also attract more people to a life on the waters.

On-the-land treatment cannot replace treatment centre
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 18, 2014

While the Department of Health and Social Services moves ahead with on the land treatment options for drug and alcohol addictions, we commend them for implementing recommendations heard during the minister's forum on addictions.

Unfortunately, we believe such programs must be built in conjunction with a treatment centre and not be used as a replacement.

A pilot project focusing on youth intervention in the Deh Cho is an excellent idea and will hopefully create an atmosphere for improved education and lead to fewer people getting hooked on drugs and alcohol.

However, the territory needs a treatment centre where people can get help over the long term.

Thankfully, Health Minister Glen Abernethy said facility-based treatment is still something the territory believes in, but sending patients to the south cannot be a long-term solution.

Solar-powered freezers are worth pursuing
Nunavut Monday, August 18, 2014

Challenging logistics have been frustrating for Kugaaruk, where efforts to power the community's freezer with sunshine have been stymied on several fronts.

The solar panels, large enough to generate the electricity required to power the freezer during warm summer months, are stuck in Calgary waiting until an aircraft with large enough cargo space to ship the equipment becomes available.

The infrastructure in the community has yet to be installed by Qulliq Energy because the company says it has asked for more information after receiving an application to install connections. And the hamlet has yet to apply to the territorial government for a permit to connect the panels to the grid.

Besides the paperwork and shipping issues, a method must be devised for the hamlet to sell power back to the grid to offset diesel generation because there is an expectation that the panels will generate more electricity than the freezer will require.

Formidable challenges, certainly, but not insurmountable and certainly worth pursuing when one considers the long-term benefits.

In some Nunavut communities, it costs more than $10,000 per month to keep the community freezer operating during the summer months. It is during this time, which coincides with open water season, when hunters and fishers are out on the land and the water catching caribou, Arctic char, beluga and even bowhead whales.

The resulting country food can sustain residents during the long, cold, dark winter, when electricity is not needed to power the compressor on the freezer because the temperature is cold enough to keep the freezer's contents frozen, although the batteries which store electricity from the solar panels will have to be maintained.

With more communities hunting bowhead whales, like Clyde River, and others, like Baker Lake, catching belugas for the first time, there is a generous supply of maktak and maktaaq being shared among Inuit. The availability of a reliable community freezer means country food shared between communities can be preserved and used as needed throughout the year.

This a practical, community-based solution to Nunavut's food security problems. It also relieves pressure on Qulliq Energy to provide diesel-generated electricity during the summer months, when the sun shines for 24 hours a day.

Alternative energy systems have evolved considerably over recent years. They have become more reliable, are able to generate more kilowatts of electricity than ever before, and are hooked to battery banks that can store energy for longer periods of time.

Adding to the sizable benefits of alternative energy are incentive programs from government and agencies, who provide funding and expertise to get these projects up and running.

We encourage Kugaaruk to persevere and press forward with efforts to power a new community freezer with solar panels. Other hamlets may well want to keep an eye on what is happening there, learn from Kugaaruk's experience and look to capitalize on its success.

Emergency plan lacks plan
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 15, 2014

There are some obvious considerations when contemplating Yellowknife's vulnerabilities should an emergency arise.

It's one of the most northerly cities in Canada with a single highway that connects it with the rest of the country and it's frozen solid more than half the year.

While some of the most hardy people imaginable reside right within its borders, the city remains vulnerable to the elements, and therefore is in need of an emergency plan that takes its unique nature into consideration.

Through the GNWT's Civil Emergency Measures Act, the City of Yellowknife is responsible for developing and enacting its own emergency plan.

While the city's Emergency Measures Plan takes a step in the right direction of emergency preparedness, it has much more distance to tread before it becomes a document that provides a sense of security.

The 36-page public document essentially lays out roles and responsibilities and describes the committee that would be instituted if a state of emergency were declared.

While a winter power outage does get a bit more playtime in the plan's document, many important details are lacking. It lays out the considerations that need to be taken in such an emergency, but it lacks specific actions to take.

Dennis Marchiori told Yellowknifer last week the reason the plan doesn't have more detailed overviews of potential emergency situations is because there are so many possible scenarios.

While this is true to an extent, on the scale of likelihoods, some get much higher rankings than others.

As the emergency document seems to at least acknowledge, losing power during freezing cold temperatures is one of the more likely scenarios.

Another is a forest fire.

Another is a long-term highway closure.

These possible disaster scenarios need specific, action-oriented responses.

The plan, as is, has the committee that would be formed as a result of an emergency doing a lot of thinking on their feet, most of them city hall staff, all of them government officials plus RCMP. Should each of these more probable scenarios have attached plans, the creative brainstorming could be kept to a minimal tweaking.

If there were well laid-out plans, less resources would be wasted figuring out what to do, and more could be dedicated to just doing it.

The emergency committee should be made up of the movers and shakers who are lifelines to necessities during a disaster situation.

Although the current plan does outline reaching beyond the city to the Department of Health and Social Services, RCMP and the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority in forming the committee, it doesn't go far enough.

There should be representatives within the communications sector and a specific plan to disseminate information without depending on smartphones or battery-operated radios.

There should be representatives in sectors that would ensure backup generation, which could fall to retail stores, and the airline industry in case the need for evacuation arises.

Maybe Yellowknife needs a siren system - a possibility that could be explored when an in-depth plan is created.

The city doesn't want to discover we're lacking something key while we're already at an elevated level of stress.

Stronger on the land
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, August 14, 2014
It was touching to watch the ceremony that was held in Fort Simpson on Aug. 11 to honour the eight youth who completed the Connect to the Spirit program.

Although they showed a bit of hesitancy about being at the centre of attention, it was clear they knew they had accomplished something to be proud of. The lead facilitators for the program talked about all of the healing, learning and growth the youth went through while spending two weeks at Six Mile Camp.

The program is the product of a pilot project on addictions intervention for youth through on-the-land programming. The ceremony and the comments made by the facilitators, the youth participants and local leaders reinforced just how important ensuring youth have strong ties to their culture and the land is.

When addressing the crowd in the arbour, Dehcho First Nations Grand Chief Herb Norwegian said young people have a craving to know what the land is about. Processes like residential schools removed Dene people from the land, but the land remained inside of them, he said.

Programs like this one give youth the chance to connect with the land and gain tools they can use later in life, said Norwegian. With those comments Norwegian got to the heart of why on-the-land programs should be supported and held whenever possible.

Connecting to and strengthening their cultural beliefs and practices, which can be best done on the land, is good for all youth, regardless of their circumstances. Knowing who they are, where they come from and what they are capable of will put Deh Cho youth on good footing for their entire lives.

This knowledge and strength can be drawn on in a variety of circumstances. Youth in the region do face pressures to use drugs and alcohol. They see people in their community doing it and sometimes even friends and family members.

Youth also have to deal with the after-effects of historical events they weren't part of, like residential school, which are still affecting older generations. Youth also need strength when they decide to leave their close-knit communities and seek further education or careers.

The Connect to the Spirit program had a specific focus on addictions intervention, but any on-the-land program for youth, whether it is offered through a local school or First Nation, should be supported. And more programs that take youth on the land should be developed.

Youth can undergo amazing transformations while on the land and those experiences can help them be stronger when they face life's inevitable challenges.

Outdoors is amazing all-year round
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, August 14, 2014
A round of applause from the public needs to be directed at NWT Parks staff in the Inuvik area.

For the past six weeks, the staff seem to have been everywhere in town and around the outlying region conducting an intriguing series of workshops and events to draw more recognition to the parks and the outdoor activities that they can host.

From carving to geocaching, and from tanning hides to picking berries, the duo of Wendy Brake and Maribeth Pokiak have been striking all the right notes in engaging the public's interest. That includes Inuvikmiut and tourist alike, and shows sometimes it is possible to appeal to both.

It's been at least a few years since similar programming has been made available here in the Inuvik region, and it appears as if it's been missed.

The success of this summer's activities will no doubt roll over into next year. Both Pokiak and Brake have been hired on seasonal contracts and are likely to return next year.

However, that still leaves a big gap in parks programming for the remainder of the year.

Yes, the main focus of tourism here in Inuvik always has been the summer, and will likely remain that way. However, it's also obvious to anyone watching locally that tourists come year-round to Inuvik. More importantly, for the permanent residents here, interest in outdoor activities doesn't shut off when Labour Day and Thanksgiving pass and the parks close for the season.

As most people know, if you visit some of the parks, and Jak Park is a good example, people visit there year around, often on foot and by snowshoe.

That means there's potential for offering a similar program to this summer's activities all year long in a way appropriate to the changing seasons. That's something NWT Parks and, by extension, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment should take a serious look at.

The seasonal program begun this summer is only one step in the right direction, and a small one at that.

As Newton Grey, the former president of the Inuvik Chamber of Commerce, liked to say, we have nine months of winter that could be used to better advantage. It's time to start thinking more about four-season usage of the amazing outdoors we have at our door step.

Absent leadership
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Road closures, constant smoke, dark skies and stores running out of supplies have many asking who is in charge as the territory deals with the worst forest fire season in 40 years.

Hundreds of firefighters have battled to contain more than 300 fires and protect NWT communities from burning. As well, the Department of Transportation has kept the public informed about road closures and changing conditions.

All of them need to be commended for protecting Yellowknife and travellers from danger and keeping the public informed. People and property owners have shown their gratitude to the firefighters publicly by hanging a banner on Old Airport Road and many have praised the transportation department for posting daily, often hourly, reports on its website.

But there has been one person who has been curiously absent for most of the crisis: Premier Bob McLeod.

Early last week, while Yellowknife remained cut off by a 6,450-square kilometre forest fire on Highway 3 - one of the largest ever reported in North America - and residents began to question, if just a little, whether the city could endure, McLeod was in Toronto attending an infrastructure conference and unavailable for comment.

McLeod broke his silence Friday, lamely explaining that he kept quiet because he didn't "want to excite people when there is no imminent threat to their safety."

While it's true much of the news - particularly from the national media - has been blown out of proportion down south, McLeod should remember that Northerners, and their family and friends elsewhere in Canada, are consumers of this news too.

In times of crisis, even if the experts insist the danger isn't "imminent," people want assurances from their leaders not bureaucrats.

Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger has attempted to take on that responsibility but the shear scale of this summer's forest fire season, the fact that it has affected several government departments and regions across the territory, demands the premier take charge.

Mayor Mark Heyck has been somewhat deferential to city administration and GNWT underlings but at least he attends the press conferences.

The criticism of consensus government is that the premier is beholden to MLAs rather than the voters.

McLeod's absence this summer does little to dispel that perception. One would think, being a politician, that McLeod would want to be where the action is, attending photo-ops at firebreaks and rallying the troops. It seems instead that he feels he has better things to do and more important places to be.

Yellowknifer has lauded McLeod before for his ability to get things done behind the scenes, such as securing a devolution deal when all other premiers before him have failed. But this isn't one of those situations that require artful negotiations in some backroom at the legislative assembly. It demands publicly demonstrated leadership.

On this count, McLeod has failed miserably.

Enough of senseless waste
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First of all, let me say it's great to be back home in Rankin Inlet and getting ready to start my 17th year at the helm of Kivalliq News.

I'd like to thank my friend and fellow ink hack, Candace Thomson, for doing a fine job in my absence, and for being able to come back and find everything just where I left it, both at home and in the office.

Thanks, Candace!

Now, back to work.

For a part of the country that prides itself so much on how it manages wildlife and respects Mother Earth, the rising number of stories on sea life and animals being killed and left to rot in Northern Canada, including right here in Nunavut, is growing increasingly alarming and disgusting.

Some among us protest all types of mining and development activities they fear will damage the land or negatively affect wildlife.

Yet, others among us leave fish and other species to rot in unchecked personal fishing nets, drop commercial nets in restricted waters where commercial fishing is not allowed and leave thousands of pounds of fish to rot, and shoot more animals than they need and leave their carcasses lying on the land to rot.

I shook my head this past week when a man in Iqaluit -- who, in fairness, did have the courage to publish photos of dead sea life in unchecked nets on Frobisher Bay -- didn't want to say where he took the photos for fear of singling anyone out.

People with nets in areas where these true affronts to nature and life are taking place should be singled out until the responsible culprits are identified.

And then the authorities should throw the whole bloody book at them.

Not only are these callous people unfeeling about the natural resources they are wasting, or the animal-and-marine life they are taking, they couldn't care less about the damage their actions inflict on the reputation of Northern Canada and those of us who call it home.

It's pretty hard for a southerner to empathize with a Northern cause while viewing such abominable photographs on a computer or cellphone.

And, in today's gadgets-gone-crazy world, the damage is intense, far-reaching and almost immediate.

Too often our governments are expected to solve each-and-every problem we have in this modern age.

But this is an area where they have to earn their pay and bring an end to this wanton taking of life.

We should be demanding it!

I saw a photo of a neglected pet on social media this past week, and many of the comments posted toward its owner were almost blood-curdling.

Where is the outrage over the brutal destruction of the wildlife that provides so much to our Northern culture?

The nets in the Baffin were reportedly removed in short order when a few people posted angry messages after seeing the photos.

None of us like to be upset, but anger is what it takes to get through to these people. They do not respond to reason.

Hopefully, more people will voice their anger (loudly) going forward to help stop these heinous actions.

The perpetrators cannot survive in the spotlight, nor can politicians and others in positions of power who sit idly by, claiming, ironically enough, they have bigger fish to fry!

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