King's escape exposes security flaws at jail
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Denecho King proved to the North Slave Correctional Centre earlier this month that where there is a will, there is a way.
He escaped from the facility on Aug. 10 by making his way to the roof and disappeared for three days before he was eventually flushed from a townhouse on Sissons Court.
In the bureaucratic terms, the Department of Justice explained in a news release that King's escape "revealed a pre-existing gap" in security and he "exploited" that gap.
Through his escape, not only did King expose shortcomings at the jail but also the gap between a particular recommendation from a scathing 2015 Auditor General of Canada report on the NWT corrections system and the department's response to the recommendation.
The auditor general expressed safety concerns over the fact that remanded inmates - those held in custody while awaiting trial - and convicted inmates were not being held separately. This is a concern for obvious reasons as some remanded prisoners - like Denecho King - may be accused of violent offences worthy of serious penitentiary time but won't be sent south until after they are convicted.
To have these prisoners, who are also a greater flight risk because of the lengthy sentences they are facing, milling around with other inmates convicted of far less serious charges puts both the guards and inmates at risk.
The department's response was that mixing inmates was "intentional and integral" because of space constraints. Since the audit, however, the department did update its inmate screening procedures to introduce a process that considered the severity of the crime, possible gang affiliations and flight risks to determine who should be housed with whom. It hasn't been made clear what King's flight risk designation was before he escaped.
This incident marked the first time in the North Slave Correctional Centre's 12-year history that somebody has successfully breached its security. While it's good to hear this has never happened at the facility before, the escape was a legitimately frightening time for many Yellowknifers. King has a lengthy violent criminal record and is facing a murder and attempted murder charge, and nobody knew how this tense situation would unfold.
Thanks to the RCMP, which got the word out by being open and communicative with the media, King was captured without incident. There was little doubt the RCMP would eventually find King, considering how his face was plastered across the front page of the newspaper and on thousands of social media feeds throughout the city.
The Department of Justice's report into King's escape will not be released to MLAs until September. Hopefully, the report is thorough and the department is transparent about the security flaws that led to King's escape.
Even if the findings are embarrassing for particular staff, bureaucrats or leadership, the public deserves to know what happened. It's important to be open and honest about this sort of thing because the public deserves to feel confident in its government.
The public deserves to feel confident that the department understands how these security lapses happened and the public deserves to feel confident that changes are being made so as to make sure an escape like King's never happens again.
Peace comes at a price
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, August 24, 2016
The opinions of a certain type of antagonist, who's never shy about expressing their thoughts in public, has always driven me a little batty.
On one side of the coin, they don't want any increase in the amount of money being spent on our military.
Yet, they express outrage anytime we side with Uncle Sam on an issue and despise seeing American content on our TV and radio airwaves, or just about anywhere else for that matter.
And they've been revelling in their glory during the past few months on how the best the United States can do for a pair of presidential candidates are Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
And, of course, their glee in taking any and every opportunity to jump on Trump, especially, knows no boundaries.
The problem is, however -- and this is why it was hard to get excited over a handful of troops conducting exercises in the Kivalliq this past week -- without Big Brother to the south, we are totally incapable of defending any of our interests.
Our military has sunk to the point where it couldn't protect a new shipment of fresh produce at the Northern store on government payday.
And that has nothing to do with the fine soldiers who would willing give their lives to defend our borders for a modest pay cheque.
Canadian soldiers remain among the very finest in the world.
But, when it comes to the equipment they're forced to use on land, sea or air, they are, literally and figuratively, bringing a knife to a gun fight in almost any conflict.
Despite our government's comical attempts at sternness with our big brother any time he implements a policy that rankles our feathers, the U.S.A. is our supreme protector and we're no more than paper allies when the chips are down.
John Robson hit the nail on the head when he titled a National Post column he wrote this past week as, "Canada seeks peace on the cheap."
Technology continues to move at lightning speed with the hardware of national defence, but that technology always costs a lot more than Canada is willing to pay.
It is downright laughable that this past year, in 2015, more than 32 years after then prime minister Pierre Trudeau first started the process, the first of the 28 replacements for our grossly outdated Sea King anti-submarine helicopters successfully arrived.
Robson was also absolutely correct with his assertion that we, as a nation, can no longer patrol our coasts, defend out skies, project force, or work effectively with our allies.
Militarily speaking, we are dead in the water.
Canada is still spending less than two per cent of its gross national product on its military, which has resulted in it being a two-bit player on the international stage, let alone be able to defend itself should the need ever arise.
You can poke fun at Trump all you want, and sneer at what you see as distasteful American policies, but, at the end of the day, without its military support, we're nothing more than a toothless beaver waiting to be skinned by much larger animals lurking in the international bushes and waters.
More than a half-century of peace has made us complacent, and, in today's world, that's a very, very dangerous way to be.
Health-care 'superboard' tonic for sick system?
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 22, 2016
To merge, or not to merge. That is the chronic question facing governments when it comes to entities such as school boards and health authorities.
There are arguments on both sides of the issue. Allowing individual communities and districts to reflect their communities and also have the autonomy to react to local issues with greater speed and efficiency sounds good in theory.
However, amalgamating those independent bodies into a "superboard" can also eliminate the silo syndrome and services - such as buying supplies - can go through one office, meaning simplified spending, less paperwork and ideally, more accountability and better co-ordination.
The territorial government has chosen to implement the latter model for the delivery of health-care services in the territory. The new authority came into existence Aug. 1. It amalgamates six regional health authorities - Beaufort Delta, Sahtu, Dehcho, Fort Smith, Yellowknife, and Stanton Territorial Hospital - into one "superboard."
Hay River - the second largest community in the NWT - isn't covered by the superboard, as employees of the Hay River Health and Social Services Authority aren't employees of the GNWT. The workers have their own collective agreement, different terms of employment and a different pension plan.
Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy has said he hopes Hay River will eventually be brought into the new system.
Abernethy said improving health care is the ultimate goal of the transformation. The minister also took great pains to underscore the fact the new health authority isn't "about centralization," or "removing positions out of communities on the frontline."
He did admit to the media that there could be some job losses.
We certainly hope this new superboard will actually do what the minister has promised - improve the health-care system. The organizational chart of the board looks very complicated and we hope it doesn't get bogged down with regional infighting and a bloated bureaucracy.
The citizens of NWT deserve the best health care possible, as there are clearly some troubling problems with the current system.
In the days following Abernethy's superboard media briefing Aug. 11, news emerged of a 68-year-old Inuvialuit man from Aklavik who had died after suffering a massive stroke Aug. 3.
Hugh Papik's niece insists there was systemic racism - Aklavik Health Centre staff allegedly insisted he was drunk - and it took hours to get the still conscious man medevaced to a hospital in Inuvik, and then transferred to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife. By then it was too late. He was brain dead. The family later made the agonizing decision to remove him from life support.
What has to be questioned in this case is not just the allegations of racism but the initial response from the government.
"The CEO of the NWT Health and Social Services Authority has reviewed the matter and she is confident that appropriate clinical practices were followed," Damien Healy, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Services, stated to local media.
"There is no further follow-up review being considered."
Then on Aug. 16, as you'll read in this edition of News/North, the government did a flip-flop when Abernethy announced there will be an outside investigation after all.
While we appreciate the minister stepping and taking action on this file, it is clear he and his government have a lot of work ahead of them to instill a sense of confidence in the people of the NWT about their health-care system.
Establish permanent place for military in Nunavut
Nunavut/News North - Monday, August 22, 2016
Nunavut was given a voice when the largest defence policy review in 20 years was gathering input from ordinary Canadians last week.
Nunavut Sen. Dennis Patterson hosted a round table discussion, with comments received to be added to a formal submission.
We're hoping the perspective from the top of Canada doesn't get lost among the more than 20,200 submissions to the online consultation portal and more than 4,700 contributions to the virtual discussion forum.
It is vital that the Department of National Defence understands that there is a serious shortfall in Canada's military presence in the Arctic. Sure, more Arctic patrol ships and icebreakers are on the way. They are currently under construction in shipyards.
However, other than annual military exercises, such as Operation Nunalivut, Canada isn't flexing its sovereignty muscles like other circumpolar nations.
Oh say, can you see, the other sea, the third sea. The Arctic Ocean is increasingly showing up on the radar of many countries around the world, including China, Japan and Korea.
The proverbial canary in the coal mine launches this month when the Crystal Serenity, a 820-foot, 68,000-tonne, 13-deck luxury cruise ship with approximately 1,625 souls aboard, departs from Alaska for a planned transit of the Northwest Passage. It will be accompanied by an icebreaker, the British Royal Research Ship Sir Ernest Shackleton, in water that is not clearly sovereign to Canada.
In fact, Parliament in 2009 renamed the waters "Canadian Northwest Passage" in reaction to claims from the international community that the Northwest Passage is actually international waters.
Canada has to use it or lose it. Other than Canadian Coast Guard ships and Nunavut fishing boats, numerous vessels are sailing the Northwest Passage since a record 30 completed the transit in 2012.
But it is not just the water and coastal areas of Nunavut where Canada much show its sovereignty. The Canadian Rangers, primarily made up of Inuit, prove themselves invaluable during military exercises. While there is a training station for them in Resolute, their presence is largely symbolic until they are pressed into service. These are not full-time positions.
One has only to consider the impact of a science project, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station, currently is under construction in Cambridge Bay, to realize the hugely significant economic benefit a permanent military installation would have on the North.
The review is focusing on security, the role of the Armed Forces in addressing threats, and the resources required to respond.
A modern, permanent facility in Nunavut would provide a home for the Armed Forces in the Arctic, give the Canadian Rangers a place to call their own, and enhance the country's search-and-rescue capabilities.
Discussions, plans and allocation of funding takes years. Because the wheels of bureaucracy turn slow, it is vital that a permanent military presence in the Arctic be a top considerations within the defence-policy review.
This vast land deserves to be protected.
GNWT not to blame for headframe's demise
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 19, 2016
The on-again-off-again demolition of the Robertson headframe at the former Con mine is back on track.
The iconic marker that has defined the Yellowknife skyline since 1977 will come down. Or at least that's where things stand as of last week when a Miramar Mining Corporation official said that despite the company's best efforts to develop a working agreement with the GNWT that would save the headframe, those talks have failed.
Representatives of the Winnipeg contractor hired to bring down the headframe were reportedly in town last week for preliminary site work.
If this is truly the beginning of the real end of the headframe (it was to have come down this past spring) some may be looking for a scapegoat.
The natural response is to look to the territorial government. After all, it has the legislative authority to sign on the dotted line and take over responsibility from Miramar for any and all future liabilities associated with the headframe.
But it didn't sign on the dotted line despite the protestations by many that a viable economic solution for preserving the headframe could be found -- would be found -- if only the government would commit itself to taking over what is essentially a large-scale decommissioned industrial site complete with related detritus and the burden of surface and sub-surface environmental remediation.
But fools rush in and the GNWT was wise to refuse that burden in the absence of a solid financial plan that demonstrated how saving the headframe could be fiscally responsible and not just nostalgic pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking.
A business plan is what has been missing all along, despite a local entrepreneur who claimed to have developed a plan which he said the GNWT stupidly ignored.
It's not the GNWT's mandate to develop solid business plans to save historic Yellowknife structures. The onus for a solid business plan is on save-the-headframe proponents, not the government. In the absence of a sound business plan, vetted by more than its own author, the GNWT was correct to walk away from negotiations. The last thing the North needs is a poorly executed plan to save the remnants of an old mine long past its expiration date.
Escape highlights dangers of sharing too much information
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 19, 2016
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have changed the way people communicate and just like any changes there are pros and cons.
Last week, as police were scouring the city for escaped inmate Denecho King, who is facing charges of murder and attempted murder and has a history of violence, people took to their accounts on Thursday evening to spread word he had been captured near McDonald's, with images circulating of a man being put in an SUV in handcuffs.
Turns out the information was wrong.
The man being arrested was a suspect in a shoplifting incident at the uptown liquor store.
While social media allows people to instantly share information, it can become dangerous when that information is wrong, misleading or can give away the whereabouts of police as they were searching the city.
One doesn't need to sit at a computer anymore to connect to social media, thanks to smartphones.
King, or anyone who may have been helping him, could have been reading these updates and known where police were, making it easier for him to avoid capture.
The RCMP warned against sharing locations of police searches on social media to avoid this possibility, plus minimize the spread of false information.
It may sound paranoid but sharing too much information online does put the public at risk.
It can cause a panic, a false sense of security or possibly alert suspects where police are located.
In times of crisis it's better to share tips directly with authorities, rather than hitting send.
Don't trash youth on the wrong path
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, August 18, 2016
I want to take a moment to talk about bad apples.
As the level of discourse around Fort Simpson's recent spate of crime continues, we have begun to hear that term being used around the council table.
In the words of former councillor Bob Hanna, there are always a couple bad apples in the bunch.
In the words of Coun. Mike Rowe, if you throw out those bad apples, you've generally got a pretty good batch.
Now, first of all it is important to state that there is probably not one simple solution Fort Simpson can implement to cease criminal behaviour.
But it is equally important to stop dehumanizing the individuals involved.
Everyone has seen a bad apple or two in their lifetime. These are the apples that are too bruised to eat, too rotten to bite into, worm-ridden and, frankly, gross.
Maybe they were left on the tree too long. Maybe they picked up a parasite en route to the grocery store.
To compare a child - or any person, for that matter - to that kind of inanimate object should be shocking and unacceptable.
The crux of the matter is this: human beings are not disposable.
You cannot simply throw out a person.
You can't put them in the garbage can, or the compost bin, and go on about your day.
It does not work like that.
Human beings need love, and they also need discipline.
Instead of abandoning these people altogether, we should be aiming to help them - even if that means turning them in to the police. Recently, Sober Sally/Sober Steve - a group in town dedicated to providing healthy programs for older youth - decided to form a committee. Prior to this, the group - consisting mainly of one person, Jackie Whelly - has operated for the better part of a year with limited support from the general public.
Now, Whelly is aiming to expand the group and develop a real plan for Fort Simpson's youth.
These are the sort of pro-active measures we need to see.
Likewise, one community member took matters into her own hands when she realized her son was involved in a recent break-in.
By reporting to the RCMP, this person set an example for parents everywhere.
Instead of just throwing away the key, there are community members who are willing to tackle the issue of crime head-on. These people have shown they are coming from a place of compassion and love instead of anger.
Community members must never lose sight of the fact they are dealing with human beings. In fact, that is the most important piece of the puzzle.
Positive change takes real effort
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, August 18, 2016
Many observers will agree that people who confine their activism only to social media are not particularly effective.
And yet, it seems to be such a popular activity.
Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with people bringing issues to Facebook, airing their views, and calling for action. This is the beauty of the connectivity most Internet users can now enjoy, and it goes a long way towards building a community. The trouble is when that dissent, that unhappiness, isn't taken any further.
Last week saw a kerfuffle on Facebook surrounding a leaked document with the salaries of Gwich'in Tribal Council's elected leaders and some of the executive staff. The GTC then released its own document, with less information than the leaked one, but essentially containing the same numbers. There was nothing new about those numbers -- they were very similar to those posted this time last year, when they prompted a kerfuffle on Facebook.
The lesson here -- obviously -- is that making something a big deal on social media is not an effective method for change.
Instead, as incoming president Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan strongly suggested, get out from behind the computer screen and get involved in real life.
On Aug. 15, the Gwich'in Tribal Council said that exactly zero people contacted the organization through Facebook, through its website or by Twitter this past week to complain about executive compensation.
The organization cannot speak for each member of the board of directors and all their interactions, and we should all be wary of feedback being restricted to "official channels." But it is a telling claim that no one has complained.
The Gwich'in Tribal Council insists it is a corporation and, while it certainly is, it also functions as a local government in many ways.
The thing about participatory democracy is that it's not confined to once every few years in an election (in which only one-third of eligible voters participated in anyway, this time around), or at annual general meetings. People looking to make change need to be involved all year round, and at the local level.
The whole point of electing people is that they are then required to listen to the electorate. Sure, some politicians are better at listening than others, but those who aren't listening don't last very long when people care enough to show up and complain about it.
Social media is a good place to disseminate information and for voices to come together and get a feel for how others are reacting. It is overall a good thing. Social media is not a place where real, meaningful change can happen. It is not real life, and politics -- at all levels -- is nothing if not a real life activity.