Monday, May 19, 1997

One of the most dangerous games

Few people will argue the importance of education to the future of young Northerners. In fact, the education of the North's young people can be regarded as an essential service.

The challenges of teaching in the North are unique. The communities are small and far apart. There are cultural differences to be taken into consideration. In some communities, teachers have to establish the convention of formal schooling. In many places outside resources are non-existent.

No doubt it takes a special kind of person to move from the South to teach in the North. No amount of college can adequately prepare a southerner for the Northern experience. Yet, until we can train enough Northerners to fill teaching posts here, we must rely on Southerners to prepare our children for the future.

One of the great attractions for teachers coming North is the salary package. Housing allowances, incentives for relocation and a base salary that is higher than the national average attract teachers from across the country. The shortage of jobs in the south is another reason that teachers come North.

Recent cuts in government spending have reduced the size of the of the total package that teachers get in the North. These cuts are part of the wave of government restraint that has rolled across the country.

Certainly teachers have not been singled out by the territorial government for pay cuts. Government cutbacks have affected thousands in the North. Those fortunate enough to keep their jobs are expected to take their share of funding reductions.

Teachers' salaries are well above the average wage in the territories. Teachers' salaries in the North are well above those of their provincial counterparts. Granted, the cost of living is higher in the North. But the cost of living is no higher for teachers than it is for the rest of us.

Understanding that, in relative terms, teachers have taken a substantial reduction in their compensation packages, it still looks pretty generous to those of us paying for our own travel and housing.

In the public relations war over teachers' pay, let's not play a dangerous endgame with our children's future.

Fire with fire

Aboriginal hunters and Inuit in particular have been on the receiving end of a good deal of negative publicity over the last 20 years, much of it generated by misinformed European animal rights activists and environmentalists.

A propaganda war can be dirty and unpleasant, but sometimes you have to fight fire with fire, so it's good to know a group of Nunavut youth are embracing the lobbying business by taking the defence of their hunting lifestyle to Europe.

Sealing, as practised by Northern aboriginals, is neither environmentally questionable nor cruel. Any way we can get that message across is worth the effort.

Debt unpaid

What the government and society owes Wilfred Beaulieu can never be reimbursed -- nearly five years of freedom.

The Fort Resolution man, convicted and imprisoned for crimes he didn't commit, became a victim of the justice system when he was placed behind locked doors, and that's bad enough. He was victimized again when Alberta's justice system refused his appeal and when federal Justice Minister Allan Rock took 18 months to review a federal investigation that eventually led to Beaulieu's freedom.

Why the wait? Rock won't comment. We can only guess that a Northern man left to rot in a southern institution for no reason matters little to Rock. He should be ashamed.