Where there's smoke ...
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, March 15, 2017
One time is chance. Twice is a coincidence. Three times is a pattern. What do seven confirmed trucking incidents - four of them involving spontaneously burning vehicles since Feb. 20 suggest?
It suggests the Department of Transportation should be taking care to make sure trucking companies and drivers are following safety protocol on the territory's roads and highways.
In the legislative assembly March 6, Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne asked Transportation Minister Wally Schumann to find out why there have been so many mishaps lately.
Schumann told Vanthuyne he has met with officials from the Tibbitt-to-Contwoyto winter road joint venture, whose executives assured the minister they are having ongoing meetings with contractors to determine the problem.
The Department of Transportation has a mandate to make sure the territory's roads are safe. In its 2015 Road Safety Plan, the department states collisions involving commercial trucks are more likely to result in fatalities and serious injuries than those involving smaller vehicles.
The report also states there are publicized carrier safety ratings available to the general public, which is determined by evaluating a company's safety record in terms of collisions, convictions, inspections and facility audits. Yellowknifer is interested to see these ratings in light of recent events but as of press time the Department of Transportation has not said where they can be found. Luckily, nobody has been hurt after these incidents. But there is nothing guaranteeing the next accident or fire won't lead to extensive property damage, a trip to the hospital or death.
Schumann could certainly be more proactive than accepting a reassurance that commercial carriers are looking into these incidents.
In light of the fact there have been seven reported incidents, the Department of Transportation should at the very least do a review of commercial transportation over the past month to identify areas where drivers need to use more caution on the road.
Here's to five years of FOXY
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Three years ago, now former Alberta judge Robin Camp looked down from his bench at a 17-year-old sexual assault complainant and asked why she couldn't just keep her "knees together."
This weird, retrograde attitude toward sexuality is unfortunately pervasive within the country's police and court system, so in light of the fact sometimes the grown ups just don't get it, it's important to teach youth about healthy relationships.
FOXY, or Fostering Open eXpression among Youth, does just this. The organization was borne of a need to teach the territory's young people about positive sexuality and healthy relationships.
Young women who take these workshops learn how to build relationships on a foundation of mutual respect, have a chance to ask anonymous questions in a non-judgmental atmosphere, get information about sexual health, and instill the concept of consent.
Last year, the organization expanded to include boys with SMASH (Strength, Masculinities, and Sexual Health), where young men are taught similar things. These groups have reached more than 1,800 youth across the North.
There is a definite need to teach youth how to approach difficult, embarrassing subjects -- such as sex -- with maturity, so they know their rights, how to articulate their boundaries and reduce risk when getting into relationships.
And hopefully when these FOXY and SMASH alumni go on to become teachers and judges themselves, they will help create a healthy world for tomorrow's youth.
Seeking answers and praying the bet is right
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, March 15, 2017
I'll be the first to admit there are a fair number of occasions throughout the year when I feel like a human out of time.
I'm a dinosaur, if you will, during those occasions, wondering why I'm still intellectually roaming around when most of my breed has long gone extinct.
However, never being one intimidated by self-reflection or examination, I've come to the conclusion that the majority of the traits that qualify me for dinosaur status are actually quite positive.
Where I struggle is with my ability, or lack thereof, to comprehend much of what goes on in today's world.
I have long reached the point where I wish I could simply ignore most happenings or, much like headline scanners and quick-fact readers, only absorb the most basic points of information.
The world, or, at least, their inner sanctum, must be so much quieter and far less cluttered for those who can accept the pop philosophy of haters gonna hate and leave it at that.
No need to ponder the dark complexities of hate for hate's sake, hate for the sake of Christ, love and hate for the sake of Allah, or how anyone, with a single ounce of intelligence, can think hatred brings back anything but hatred.
Theirs is a world governed by the definitions of the Urban Dictionary, where every jock owns a ricer and spends most of their time online.
In today's world the concept of right and wrong has grown increasingly thin in substance, like too little butter spread over too much bread.
So, as well, have the veils of governance and leadership been stretched so thin, and rendered so ineffectual, that the darkness now hides easily within the light.
I still cling to my Christian beliefs, though I have also come to believe we are, indeed, shuffling willingly toward the end of days and, truth be told, I'm no longer as confident I put my money on the right entity, but, alas, no changing horses mid-rapture.
As Canadians, we were forced to lay our airs of moral superiority aside this past week with the news Senator Don Meredith (appointed by Stephen Harper) breached the Red Chambers ethics code by engaging in an inappropriate sexual relationship with a young woman that started when she was but 16 years of age.
The Red Chamber's ethics code? How about every moral decency and ethical code that not only once used to exist but actually played a prominent role in our society and helped define who the people of trust were supposed to be?
You can pretty much rule out any fear of fire and brimstone on Meredith's part, considering he first met the teenager during a Black History Month event being held at an Ottawa-area church.
Our religious community should be morally outraged by Meredith's behaviour.
And it probably would be, if not for the inconvenient sexual allegations of priests being involved in sex orgies, pornography videos and prostitution in Italy at roughly the same time as Meredith was telling everyone in the Twitter universe what a lucky guy he was to have such a wonderful wife in his life.
I'd like to think I won't give any of this another minute's thought during the rest of my week, but I'd just be kidding myself.
The first order of business will be to pull my thick dinosaur hide on nice and tight, and try to shield myself, once again, from the doubts trying to push their way through after almost a lifetime of belief.
It's comforting to know the early years of my life – the formative years – were enjoyed in a simpler time and place, where the difference between right and wrong was far more definitive.
Abusers and racists will always affect me the same way too much pain in the world stung John Coffey in the movie The Green Mile; like pieces of glass in his head, all the time, and the absolute lack of a discernible endgame surrounding so much of the useless rhetoric and political correctness in today's world will always threaten to drive me a little bonkers.
Yet, the majority of us carry on and continue to believe, leaving the haters to their hate and the sinners to their sin and hoping, nay praying, we have it right.
Family's fight makes a difference
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, March 13, 2017
When Hugh Papik died, a long-time friend of his said his death is an example of how racism is impacting the territory's health-care system.
Rosemarie Kuptana, former president of Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, now known as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, was in a residential school with Papik and said she was horrified to learn how he died on Aug. 3, 2016.
The 67-year-old Papik suffered a stroke but his symptoms were dismissed as drunkenness by staff at the Aklavik Health Centre.
"I think that those kinds of incidents still happen because it seems to me that there is such a strong element of racism in the health system, and it's more apparent in some regions than in others," she said at the time. "This whole case raises a lot of questions."
It certainly did. After the case made national headlines, NWT Health Minister Glen Abernethy called for an external review of the incident in an announcement on Aug. 16.
That review was recently completed, with Abernethy saying it will help the government address systemic racism in the territories' health-care system ("Health minister vows to fight 'systemic racism," News/North, March 6).
Some of the report's 16 recommendations, which were made public, are aimed at making sure indigenous people are treated the same as non-indigenous people in the territory, with mandatory cultural training for all health-care workers and new medical protocols for strokes.
Alas, Abernethy told the legislative assembly Feb. 23 there is no firm timetable for implementing the recommendations.
While we are pleased to see that Abernethy travelled to Aklavik to share the report with Papik's family prior to its release, it's Papik's family and friends who are the true heroes in this tragic case, as they spoke out when they determined something wasn't right.
And their case didn't fall on deaf ears, as the media exposure of Papik's case no doubt pushed the minister to call for a review.
However, it appears that more media pressure will have to be applied to make sure the recommendations are indeed implemented - despite there being no firm timetable for doing so - so that the efforts of Papik's loved ones aren't in vain.
MLA's longing for 'wellness' puts taxpayers in a bad spot
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, March 13, 2017
A GNWT cost-cutting budget and departmental amalgamations have seen maybe 100 positions eliminated over the past two years.
Though a small number even the remote potential of being tossed out on the tundra has been hard to handle for many of the 5,000-plus territorial workforce, according to one MLA.
And the Dickensian nightmare of working without a signed contract for almost a year has also placed an emotional burden on GNWT employees.
"As a result, our employees are not feeling good about their relationship with their employer," Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson told the legislative assembly March 7.
The solution? Five paid wellness days spread out across the year to allow employees "to spend more time with their families, hobbies, or self," said Thompson. "To recharge their batteries and return to work rested and enthusiastic about the work they do for the GNWT."
We can't imagine why Thompson would utter such nonsense. And on the day before the GNWT was to return to the bargaining table with the Union of Northern Workers.
Government employees in the NWT generally enjoy healthy salaries with generous vacation, sick, and special leave provisions that by in large put the private sector to shame.
Even if Thompson sides with the union and believes in "wellness days," for him to throw out such a meaty bone just before talks resumed shows disrespect for the collective bargaining process.
And disrespect to the other party in the mix - taxpayers.
School fires a costly cry for help
Nunavut/News North - Monday, March 13, 2017
Every kid dreams of what they would do with $1 million. Every adult, too.
The Barenaked Ladies channeled those dreams in If I Had $1,000,000, sharing visions of new houses, Kraft Dinner, and expensive ketchup.
For most Nunavummiut, $1 million is an abstract concept left only for songs and dreams.
But a few young Nunavummiut have literally had millions of dollars in their hands and set it on fire. This month in Kugaaruk, and in 2015 in Cape Dorset, teens are accused of burning down their schools, places where dreams are supposed to be built, not dashed.
Each school will cost more than $30 million to replace. In the case of Cape Dorset, the government had almost no insurance; in Kugaaruk, the government will contribute $10 million to cover its insurance deductible.
Let's dream about what $10 million could buy in Nunavut. At a cost of $500,000 each, new fire trucks for almost every hamlet. Or perhaps night security guards for every school. Surely sprinkler and security systems for every school, and fencing, too.
We dream but Finance Minister Keith Peterson must be losing sleep thinking about how to prevent another insurance claim. Surely next time, the territory's insurer will be asking for an increase in its deductible while charging a higher premium.
But lost in this conversation are the children themselves, the ones who put their communities and territory in a tough spot. What drives a child to set fire to a school?
We can think of many reasons a child may lash out at the physical structure of a school, targeting it for vandalism or destruction. Maybe they're bullied, have difficulty learning, have problems at home, or feel lost due to the effects of colonization. One teen accused in the Cape Dorset fire told a judge the fire was an accident, that the kids were allegedly sniffing gas when the tank ignited but being in that situation - sniffing gas and playing with fire -was no accident.
When it comes to the future of our children, we can't remain focused on the dollars and cents of the situation. We build schools to build futures, and we must rebuild more than just the buildings.
We must rebuild the hope these buildings are designed to represent. We work together as communities to help our young people find light when there is darkness. As we work to secure our physical structures, we must work to protect the spirits of our children.
And, as much as we yearn to buoy the dreams of the young people who hope to graduate in Kugaaruk and Cape Dorset this year, we must remember the hopes and dreams of the young people accused of starting the fires.
What does the future hold for these children whom will carry their transgressions to their graves? Let us focus on helping them heal, for their pain must be greater than we feel at the loss of these schools. If there is anything these children need now, it's love.
We will never forget but we must forgive. It will take work and time but it's in the best interest of all of our young people to do so.
In the meantime, the costly lesson today is that the government must do everything it can to protect the schools.
Energy infrastructure should be a top priority
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, March 10, 2017
Few things are more important to living in the North than the cost and reliability of power, especially in remote diesel-dependent communities.
The territorial government and NWT Power Corporation are making gains by way of alternate energy installations, such as in Colville Lake where the community is now powered by a hybrid solar and diesel power system.
Further advances in Northern energy infrastructure are crucial in years to come, and should certainly be included in the federal government's stated nation-building mandate.
The prospect of joining the Taltson River hydro-electric power grid to the south has come up again in the context of improving power infrastructure in the North ("Electricity association head calls for fed help with energy infrastructure," Yellowknifer, March 1).
This is a long-standing project that would benefit the North and hopefully, northern power consumers who pay some of the highest power bills in North America.
That is why it is troubling to hear comments from both Liberal MP Michael McLeod and the territorial government that suggest our federal representative in Ottawa and our representatives in the legislative assembly are reading from different playbooks.
In an interview with McLeod about the project, he told Yellowknifer he was unaware whether or not the GNWT has made a formal application to the federal government to fund the Taltson River project.
Yet the Taltson expansion is included in the Pan-Canadian Framework on Climate Change, a document which both the territorial and federal governments have signed. A cabinet spokesperson told Yellowknifer this document, from the GNWT's perspective, represents a formal request for funding.
This confusion suggests the GNWT and federal counterparts need to work together more closely to present a common front when it comes to improving energy infrastructure in the North.
As a point of clarification it is important to note that Taltson already generates excess power. It's not like communities connected to the Taltson grid need more power than the dam already generates.
The real benefit would be the prospect of selling excess power to the south. This would not in itself lower the cost of power generation in the North. The return on power sold, however, should be used to subsidize power bills in the NWT.
Taltson represents a clear starting point for making the territory more energy independent - a project that could eventually connect to the North Slave where most of the territory's population lives.
This is something both levels of government should be striving to complete.
A real made-in-the-North success story
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, March 10, 2017
Keeping warm isn't just a matter of comfort in the North, it's a matter of survival.
While synthetic materials, such as Gore-Tex, and natural products like wool are common items in winter clothing, there is still plenty of room for fur as more people recognize wild animal skins can be both sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
Brenda Dragon has been taking advantage of the resurgence in real fur and Northern products with a bit of lateral thinking in producing Aurora Heat natural fur hand and foot warmers. She launched the products a year ago with her mother at the Northern Frontier Visitors Centre and now the products are taking off with 38 stores in the NWT, Nunavut and Yukon offering them for sale. They are also available online.
The concept for her warmers are rooted in childhood, she said. Her parents were trappers and there were always scraps of fur, which her mother sewed to make mittens and mukluks for the family.
The fur is great insulator when placed next to the skin, trapping warm air against the body to protect against the cold. Add in that warmers are made with Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur Products, this is a completely made-in-the-North business success story, incorporating tradition, practicality and locally-sourced materials to inspire future entrepreneurs.
Cold exposes true Northern resilience
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, March 9, 2016
March 5 was, by any measure, a frigid start to Beavertail Jamboree celebrations in Fort Simpson.
The wind howled and bit. It was one of those cold, blustery winds that numbed any flesh exposed to the elements for more than a few seconds.
And in the midst of it all, Fort Simpson frolicked.
The last two months have been sad ones for many communities in the region, marked by unexpected deaths and subsequent mourning. Adding to that bleakness is the North's long, dark winter nights.
But the days are getting longer now and the region is preparing for spring. That may not heal the hurt many people are feeling right now but it at least gives them something to look forward to.
March 5 was a prime example of the resilience of Northern people.
Youth in Fort Simpson spent the afternoon at a sliding hill and skating rink, sharing hot chocolate over a fire, heedless of the cold and simply enjoying the afternoon.
Later that night, with the wind still roaring and flurries of snow still coming down, a stoic group of volunteers belonging to Fort Simpson's fire department bundled up and headed to the arbour to set off fireworks.
If a subsequent outpouring of gratitude toward those volunteers on social media is any indication, their willingness to push through the cold temperatures in
order to put on a light show warmed the hearts of children and adults alike.
That was the signal, the kick-off point for a week of annual celebrations in Fort Simpson.
People have been playing sports, facing off over crib boards at the recreation centre and getting ready to feast in true Deh Cho fashion.
Elsewhere in the region, other communities are looking forward to their own celebrations. Nahanni Butte, Sambaa K'e and Fort Liard will all be celebrating the coming spring in a week's time while Fort Providence is gearing up for its Bison Jamboree the following week.
This editorial would be remiss if it did not mention the exceptional efforts of the people who organize these events.
In Fort Simpson, the Beavertail committee put a tremendous amount of time this year into festival deliberations.
Years-old traditions - such as that of holding King, Queen, Prince and Princess contests together - have been altered in favour of a strategy that seems designed to encourage people to participate in the week's many events.
The committee also switched up the jamboree's usual event list, inviting comedy-hypnotist Scott Ward for a March 9 appearance and scheduling new events such as a men's beauty contest to lighten the mood.
Thanks to the people who have given their time toward organizing these festivals - not just in Fort Simpson but across the Deh Cho - people are getting ready to give spring a royal welcome.
Hats off to the Northern spirit.
Living the dream
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, March 9, 2016
Ryan McLeod went from high school dropout to living his dream and working on the land for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
In light of the recent discussion on poor secondary school attendance and performance levels, it's hard to find a more relevant example of someone finding success despite early difficulties.
Teenage years are a weird time. People develop at different rates. Not everyone knows what they want to do or can see the value in the mainstream orthodoxy at that stage in their lives.
Many people don't hit their professional peaks until their 40s, 50s and 60s. J.K. Rowling is often cited as not having published her first novel until she was 32.
Although we harp on the bad numbers coming out of the school system here, none of the students should be written off.
I firmly believe everyone can find a place in the world, provided circumstances and their own will allow them to.
We all want to live meaningful lives. Of course, life isn't as easy as wanting things. What's important is that at some point in their lives, people get an opportunity to pursue their interests.
That's how McLeod got his foot in the door with studying char at Rat River.
I was fortunate to get my start in journalism from someone who knew me in little league and offered me a summer internship.
Adults who are already established have tremendous power to mentor and assist youth.
It can't just be left up to the school system to do everything.
The performance numbers are one issue but not the whole story of child development in this region.
Everyone can and should play a role in nurturing the abilities the next generation has and giving them every opportunity to flourish.
One failure doesn't end the book. If it did, none of us would still be here.