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Jr kindergarten launched in a fog
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Junior kindergarten is back, apparently.

It is set to unroll in Yellowknife schools next fall. The free, optional programming is absolutely important and a good government initiative but what should be a positive story risks being marred by controversy once again.

During the first attempt to launch two years ago, MLAs and school board members cried out when they learned the program would be funded by clawing back school board surpluses. Also, those who run Aboriginal Headstart, a successful, federally-funded preschool program, wanted to know why junior kindergarten was being rolled out in communities where free preschool already existed.

So, the territorial government put junior kindergarten in Yellowknife and other larger communities on hold in the fall of 2014 in order to carry out a review. It recommended more consultation, including consultation about funding.

Fast-forward to today. Now, the education department has confirmed junior kindergarten is coming again, yet nobody knows a thing about it. Yellowknife District No. 1 chairperson John Stephenson told Yellowknifer he hadn't heard anything from the government about junior kindergarten since the government promised consultation.

Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green said the consultation that had been promised had not started yet, as far as she knew. Miles Welsh, acting chair of the Yellowknife Catholic School Board, said he was aware of the timeline but still had questions for the government.

Ever since junior kindergarten was first announced, people in the education department have insisted over and over that they have consulted with the people most affected by it, yet those people keep claiming that hasn't happened.

Even after a review of the program stated lack of consultation was an issue, the education department has again decided to push forward without talking to these people.

It's not good enough to sit in an ivory tower and make decisions without talking to people about how these decisions might affect them.

As it is right now, junior kindergarten is back on the docket but there are still people who have questions - like whether the funding model has changed - but nobody seems to have answers yet.

Department officials have an obligation to clear the fog around these questions.

Why fire investigations are valuable
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The fire marshal investigation into a blaze that destroyed an Old Town home earlier this summer has placed blame on the house's bathroom fan.

Apparently, it's important for residents to clean the grimy dust that accumulates on fans like these. Who knew? Well, because the fire marshal publicizes the results of fire investigations, we all know now.

It's hard to imagine how hard it must be to watch your home and belongings get destroyed in a blaze. This is why the fire marshal's investigative duties after house fires provide such an important public service. When the public is educated about fire risks, they can take steps to avoid those risks.

Hopefully people are heeding the fire marshal's recommendations to make sure bathroom fans are cleaned regularly and the electrical equipment they use is up to standard. The fire marshal says to look for a little CSA sticker that says the equipment is certified by the Canadian Standards Association. Knowledge like this is valuable and if Yellowknifers can make good use of these tips, hopefully house fires like these can be avoided.

No success ahead for Nunavut MP
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I followed the Hunter Tootoo situation closely while out on vacation and there's no reason to rehash most of the particulars here.

Personally, knowing the man and his skill levels, I am deeply disappointed.

There are times it seems our male politicians in Nunavut are out to break some sort of twisted record for unacceptable behaviour.

We have had far, far too many of these incidents among the people who are supposed to be our leaders since becoming our own territory.

I applaud the man, Hunter Tootoo, in seeking help to deal with his demons, but not the politician.

Our politicians have to be held to a higher standard, and those not willing, or able, to meet that standard should seek a different career path.

Our territory risks becoming a joke at the national level if this seemingly unending stream of unacceptable behaviour from some of our top politicians does not soon disappear.

And no one takes a joke too seriously!

While there have been many more Nunavummiut expressing their displeasure this time around (a good thing), there are still many who can't seem to get their heads around the severity of this instance.

And that's disturbing.

There are many times I admire, and support, the Inuit way of offering second, and sometimes third, chances to those who make mistakes.

But there are some areas where offering second and third chances is risky business.

The line between boss and employee -- especially in the high-powered world of politics -- is fraught with peril.

Romantic encounters, however consensual, in the workplace are rarely good ideas, and that's especially true when it involves two people at different ends of the power spectrum.

While I have always had a soft spot for the NDP, I have never pledged allegiance to any one political party.

In every election, from municipal to federal, I vote for the person whom I believe is capable of doing the best job.

That being said, there are times the writing is on the wall for how an election is going to go and, with all things equal, it's better to have a representative from the governing party.

While I'm sure some voted for the man in our most recent federal election, many more voted for the party.

And that, in a nutshell, is why Tootoo should resign.

Nunavummiut voted to have a Liberal representative, period.

Does anyone truly believe Tootoo would have been elected had he run as an Independent in the election?

If the man himself believes it, resign and run again as an Independent and prove it to us.

Nunavummiut should not be saddled with an Independent MP for the rest of this term.

With all due respect to Jack Anawak, Tootoo can no longer be effective for our territory and have his voice heard.

He is now, for all intents and purposes, a political pariah, and is seen by many in Nunavut to be putting himself ahead of the people he represents.

As long as he remains in his position, there is nothing for Nunavummiut to do but sit back and wait for the punch line!

Expropriation no, competition yes
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 15, 2016

A power struggle was sparked after a closed-door meeting in Hay River on Feb. 9, when three businesses seeking to distribute electricity in Hay River met with town council to go through details of their proposals.

In the weeks following the meeting with Northland Utilities, the Northwest Territories Power Corporation and Flash Point Facilitators, rumblings that began in 2014 when council began mulling over a provider change, came to reality.

With residents and businesses screaming about the high cost of power, Hay River council decided to take the steps needed for NWT Power Corporation to acquire the electrical distribution system and franchise agreement in the community - one currently held by Northland.

The town and the power corp. maintain once the change comes into effect, customers can expect an overall decrease of about 20 per cent on the cost of electricity.

For readers not up to speed on this issue, Northland has distributed power in the town since 1951. The electricity is generated by the power corp., a GNWT Crown corporation. Northland's contract with Hay River expires Nov. 30.

On the surface, it seems like a smart business decision by council. But Northland wasn't about to go down without a fight.

Doug Tenney, vice-president for Northern development with ATCO Electric, the parent company of Northland, has since argued his case loudly to anyone who wants to listen - including to a committee of the legislative assembly. He characterizes Hay River's move as "expropriation" and has also warned Yellowknife city council that the power corp. has its sights set on taking over Northland's Yellowknife's power distribution system contract when its contract expires with the city in 2020.

This newspaper has previously praised Hay River council for securing what appears to be a better deal for power distribution in the community. We hope that will actually occur. But questions remain as to how a government-run corporation would be able to provide power at cheaper rate than a private-sector counterpart.

And News/North still wonders how much it will cost the taxpayers for the power corp. to provide juice at lower rates in Hay River - especially after having to acquire Northland's multi-million dollar power infrastructure in Hay River.

So News/North leaves readers this week with one thought to ponder - is the power corp.'s move in Hay River part of a secret long-term plan to make power generation and supply in the North an entirely governmental undertaking?

Ask your MLA what has government ever done cheaper than the private sector? Ask him or her to again re-visit studies to connect North and South Slave power grids for better power security. Clearly that will eventually become a reality, but when?

Ask your elected representative not just why there are so many power blackouts this summer in the North Slave but why it takes power corp. so long to switch over to diesel backups? Is this an example of the type of poor service consumers can expect if indeed there is a power corp. power play in the works?

And the final question our government needs to be asked - and Northland for that matter - is when alternative energy sources will be given a serious look? Such as nuclear, wind, geothermal and expanding the North's nearly unlimited hydro potential?

Help needed for northern dogs
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 15, 2016

After the seizure of dozens of sick and scared dogs from an Inuvik residence, the town and shelters there and in Yellowknife are in urgent need of donations.

As you read last week in News/North ("SPCA seeks help for rescued dogs," Aug. 8) while the first hurdle of rescuing nearly 30 dogs in Inuvik has been cleared there is still much work to be done.

"It's a huge deal, but that's what we're here for," said Nicole Spencer, president of the NWT SPCA. "It's a huge strain on resources.

"We need help, we need resources, and we need volunteers to donate their time more than ever."

Nine of the dogs have been sent south to the NWT SPCA in Yellowknife and to the SPCA in Red Deer for further treatment and hopefully their forever homes.

The cost of transporting them south is at least mostly taken care of through a partnership between the municipality and Canadian North airlines. We applaud the airline for being a good corporate citizen.

Still, the costs for the care and treatment of nearly 30 dogs is mounting. The town and shelters are looking for help from the public. They are accepting donations at town hall until Aug. 19.

While donations would help with the immediate crisis, it would also help counter the image that the NWT "is a good place for animal abusers," as an animal rights group recently declared.

Early challenge to naming of Nunavummiut commissioner
Nunavut/News North - Monday, August 15, 2016

Initial analysis of the appointment of commissioners to undertake the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls resulted in criticism that a non-Inuit person from Nunavut was named.

It appeared to be like other appointments by Ottawa that seemed to be more a result of political connections than actual first-hand knowledge or experience.

The Government of Nunavut was careful in its statement, issued jointly by Monica Ell-Kanayuk, the minister responsible for the Status of Women, and Justice Minister Keith Peterson. It stated that "the appointment of a Northerner to the commission is encouraging. However, this is a deeply sensitive issue, and Inuk representation on the commission would have provided balance to directly reflect the culture and experiences of our communities."

The ministers did say they "are pleased that the national inquiry has been formally announced, and look forward to working with the commission to move toward understanding this tragic Canadian issue and create systemic changes.

"We know that preventing family violence is critical to ensuring the safety of Nunavummiut at home. We will continue to work together to create safe communities that promote respect and healthy relationships. Open dialogue and community-based solutions are key to reducing family violence in our territory."

Meanwhile, the national representative organization of Inuit women in Canada, Pauktuutit, was also critical of the appointment. The Ottawa-based organization's president, Rebecca Kudloo, issued a news release which stated, "In 2016 it is not acceptable that the Inuit women of Canada do not have an Inuk as a commissioner."

Certainly a woman of Inuit descent raised in an environment where that person gained an intimate understanding of the challenges and struggles faced by Inuit women, especially knowledge of the level of violence faced by Inuit women historically and today, may have been preferable. There are some who can list names of people who fit that description.

While the criticism by territorial ministers and Pauktuutit is valid, we find no fault in the appointment of Qajaq Robinson to the role. Raised in Iglulik, fluent in Inuktitut, schooled in law, and with extensive experience as a Northern advocate and counsel to the Specific Claims Tribunal, Robinson is being praised by many prominent people as a worthy appointment to this difficult, challenging and emotional position.

There are only five commissioners, including the chief commissioner, tasked with hearing from the families of missing and murdered indigenous women and children, supporting them throughout the process and providing a mechanism for families to pursue their cases through the justice system.

They must delve into the historic and systemic issues that has resulted in the high number of missing and murdered women and children, consolidate 11 years of research and make recommendations by the end of 2018.

We can only wish Robinson well in what appears to be a daunting task ahead.

Water recreation is key to Northern lifestyle
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 12, 2016

Nobody ever complains about Yellowknife summers being too long.

Our short but enviable summers in the Land of the Midnight Sun, surrounded by lakes and rivers and islands far and near, leave Yellowknifers clamouring to make the most of it.

And the territorial government, of course, encourages that response hoping as it does that the North's summer offerings could draw residents north and keep current residents here.

But no amount of spending on travel brochures or promotional videos, and no number of new cabin leases along the Ingraham Trail will aid the congestion building at area boat launches.

There is a major bottleneck developing that will likely only get worse in coming years.

Popular access points to lakes around Yellowknife are becoming overwhelmed by demand for boat launch facilities as well as for tow-vehicle and trailer parking.

The problem is particularly acute at Giant Mine and Prosperous Lake, with boat trailers lining the roads but is also growing at the Yellowknife River boat launch and even further afield at Reid Lake.

This congestion is not only unsafe, but means long, discouraging lineups to put a boat in or take one out.

New cabin leases in the area mean the congestion is likely to continue.

A Yellowknife resident and Prosperous Lake cabin owner recently suggested the GNWT install a floating dock system like the one found at Prelude Lake ("Cabin owner calls for marina," Yellowknifer Aug. 3).

As was pointed out, he would gladly pay a fee to cover maintenance costs if it meant he could regain precious summer hours on the water doing what he loves rather than waiting in queue to put in his boat or take it out.

It is up to the city at Giant Mine and GNWT at other boat launches to relieve these bottlenecks.

If the way forward is to market Yellowknife as a lifestyle destination and make more cabin leases available, the powers that be need to ensure residents and visitors are able to enjoy the North's bounty without the frustrations normally associated with over-crowed southern destinations.

The GNWT has already made incredible progress in improving recreational access along the Ingraham Trail with road surface work plus increased parking at Prelude Lake.

Naturally, Yellowknifers and visitors have been taking advantage of it.

Let's keep building on that momentum and improve boat launch facilities at popular locations.

Homegrown athlete should inspire pride
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 12, 2016

Tomorrow morning, Yellowknife will be represented on the biggest athletic stage in the world, the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janerio.

That's when Akeem Haynes takes his position in the starting block for the 100-metre sprint.

His mother, Carlene Smith, told Yellowknifer she will be glued to her television to cheer her son on and is proud of his accomplishments, no matter whether he wins or loses.

Every Yellowknifer should be proud. Not just for having an athlete in the Olympics who spent his formative years in Yellowknife but for the hard work he put in to make it to the event for a second time.

Haynes' story is a humble one. Coming to Canada with his mother from Jamaica in 1998, she was unemployed and endured days where they couldn't afford food. However, his mother told him the world is a tough place and took that to heart. They moved to Yellowknife to be with family where he went to Weledeh Catholic School.

Haynes was inspired by other Olympic greats such as Donovan Bailey, who won gold in running the 100-metre sprint in the 1996 Atlanta games. Haynes met his hero and the two became friends. Haynes even wrote a book about his life in 2012. His motivation, according his mother, is that he runs for his family, so they don't have to go through the same hardships he did, and for himself, to keep perfecting his skills.

For all the negative press the Olympics has received, his story is inspirational as it shows that hard work and perseverance is the most certain path to achieving one's goals.

Response to crime should tackle cause
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, August 11, 2016

Three youth are charged with breaking into the Unity convenience store as well as the Seven Spruce Golf Club and stole cash, cigarettes, liquor, food and golf cart keys on Aug. 1 in Fort Simpson.

Video captured suspects donned in masks and gloves but it only took one day - thanks to video surveillance of the robberies that circulated on social media - for RCMP to make arrests.

In the aftermath, this community, like any other, is left wondering about the future of our young people. What do we do when the individuals we hail as our future turn to crime?

This is not a new problem. When businesses are broken into and cash, food and liquor are stolen, it can be galling.

But the break-ins are the sign of an untreated wound in our community. Knee-jerk reactions can help community members and leaders to process that pain but they won't go very far toward addressing the root cause of the issue.

Around the council table, some leaders suggested re-instating a curfew. The bylaw is already on the books - it just needs to be enforced.

But that would treat a symptom and not the root cause. After all, the reason some of our youth turn to crime is not because they are out late at night.

So what is the true cause of this behaviour? Perhaps the chronic lack of youth activities and support in Fort Simpson means they are trying to entertain themselves in other, less-legal ways.

Perhaps, as community member Dennis Nelner suggests, some have realized the education system may have failed them and crime is their own reaction to the knowledge that they may have to do upgrading before being accepted into a post-secondary institution.

Even issues as simple as education can weigh heavily on the teenage mind.

In the end, we need healthy solutions. If youth use crime to escape reality for an evening or to inject some excitement into their lives, the solution is already in the community's hands in order to find a more constructive outlet for these feelings.

And while a curfew to "crack down" on youth may seem appealing, it may not have the positive effects one would hope.

After all, no bylaw will stop youth from sneaking out in the middle of the night to go hang out with each other.

So let us endeavour to move forward as a community. Let us devote our resources to bolstering youth programs, teaching our youth and mentoring them.

Let us start including them in our community because the so-called "problem youth" are not all bad. Often they just need a healthy way of expressing themselves.

Playing in the big leagues
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, August 11, 2016

The 2016 Canadian Slo-Pitch Championships are underway in Whitehorse, with the top teams from across the country vying for the title.

Along with them, two Inuvik teams have made the trip to the tournament to help represent the territory. While players and coaches admit they don't have much chance of winning the trophy, the experience remains an invaluable one, and the opportunity to go something unique to the North.

Donald Hendrick of the Native Yankees said that teams from the provinces have to beat hundreds of other teams to make it to nationals. They play game after game, tournament after tournament, at regional and provincial levels until they come out on top.

The situation is somewhat different for Northern players, particularly those from the Delta.

The territorial championships in Inuvik are a success when a dozen teams participate, even less for the women's side of things, meaning the selection process is far less arduous.

This is not to say our teams aren't qualified to be at nationals -- far from it -- they should be there and have followed the process to do so.

It just puts Inuvik teams in a particular situation, compared to other teams, which can perhaps best be described as punching above their weight.

This is hardly a new thing for this community. Compared to other small towns across the country, Inuvik is awash in opportunities.

Beyond the sports side of things, there are festivals upon festivals, feasts upon feasts, celebrating all kinds of cultures who have made the Delta their home, both historically and more recently.

A federal minister visited this summer, talking all the while about how happy she was to be back after nearly 20 years since her last trip to the community. The current prime minister flipped pancakes at the Sunrise Festival just last year.

Inuvik is home to two territorial ministers and many aboriginal leaders who oversee millions of dollars and the interests of tens of thousands of people. While some communities in southern Canada may boast one or two such leaders in their history, it's a regular thing here.

By many accounts, Inuvik may be on the ropes, but it's not down yet. Anyone arriving in town for the first time will be taken aback by the strength and vibrancy of the community.

Anyone who has been here for any length of time already knows.

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