Wednesday, February 18, 1998
Saving what's left of the Woodyard

There isn't much of the Woodyard left to save, but it's heartening to know the city appears to be on the right track.

Just a few months ago, city staff was asked to come up with some ideas as to what to do with the aging -- in some cases, decaying -- shacks that have been around since the city's founding days six decades ago. The product of their research was a little short on the imagination end. Basically, they suggested levelling the place. The only variation in the three options was the nature of what would replace the Woodyard.

The task force put together in response to those unpalatable options a better idea. It's called "living heritage" and it makes sense in more ways than one.

First, demolition is out. Just what will be done with the mostly privately owned buildings on public land is still a major hurdle, but the city could easily declare the area an official heritage site and possibly forbid the owners from tearing down anything.

Second, it's good to learn that someone is paying attention to the fact that the Woodyard is built on the shores of one of the few natural wetlands within city limits. The Willow Flats and marsh that surround it comprise an important ecosystem that we can't afford to destroy with yet another marina. Most of the rest of the shoreline is either inaccessible due to geography or private property lines or built up beyond recognition.

It is the combination of the natural and artificial environments that make the Woodyard a special corner of the city, a corner that once destroyed, can never be revived.

There still is plenty of room for debate over whether we should try to attract tourists to the site, what to offer them if we do, and how much of the original structures should remain.

But at least the debate will serve a purpose -- as long as city council agrees to the idea.

Northern welcome

We just want to welcome De Beers director George Burne to the North, where politics and business mix like flour and water and the unwary walk away from a big sticky mess wondering where things went haywire.

Burne was taken to task for comments attributed to him about the unsuitability of Northerners for the diamond processing business and the surprise of seeing "modern" buildings in Yellowknife.

That experience is mild compared to some who come North to seek out "Eskimos" or mistake Yellowknife for Whitehorse, or worse, spell Iqaluit with a "k".

But Burne doesn't have to worry. Surviving local politics is just a part of doing business and requiring one important quality Northerners are famous for -- a sense of humor.

Going to pot

It is somewhat ironic in this era of clean sports that a gold medal makes you a winner, but an overturned drug suspension makes you a star.

Rob Rebagliati has done more to glorify marijuana use than Bill "Spaceman" Lee.

The International Olympic Committee has no business testing for marijuana. It is not a performance-enhancing drug, at least not until macrame and pointless conversations become medal sports. And the IOC has no business in the smoking lounges of the nation.

The kid can snowboard like a champ. How he spends his spare time is nobody's business. We hope he enjoys his welcome-home party.

Editorial comment
Money that could be better spent
Jennifer Pritchett
Kivalliq News

The hamlet of Coral Harbour is doing what many would call the unthinkable -- to say no to a program that hands out free equipment to hunters. But what this move really signifies is a genuine concern for the people in the community and a desire to bring attention to a program that isn't really doing any long-term good.

Hamlet councillors declared their dissatisfaction with the Nunavut Hunter's Support Program after they were asked to sit on a committee with the Hunters and Trappers Organization, which decides who in the community will receive equipment that might include a new snowmachine or ATV. "It perpetuates dependency of government," said Mayor Johnny Ningeongan.

"It's like the old welfare system that doesn't give any incentives to work. Programs of this type really send the wrong message." He sees it as little more than a handout and that's exactly what it is. The program, part of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement and administered by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., was set up to provide hunters with the equipment necessary for subsistence.

The mayor went as far as to say that the program should be discontinued and replaced by another project that would benefit more people. The logic of Ningeongan and his councillors makes sense and should be listened to by the people that make the decision to keep the program going.

With only six or seven people benefiting from the annual $70,000 allotted for Coral Harbour, the effectiveness of the program has to be questioned. The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement was not set up to do this -- it was established for the people of Nunavut -- to build on the strength and independence as a people. Is giving a hunter a new machine really accomplishing anything for him?

When a snowmachine cost upwards of $10,000 or 11,000, it's no wonder only a handful of people can gain anything from the program. Furthermore, what is the criteria to qualify for new equipment?

The hamlet of Coral Harbour is calling this program what it is. Yes, they are right -- the money can be better spent. Few people would argue with that.

Both Ningeongan and the Hunters and Trappers Organization president James Arvaluk agree that there are business ventures that could utilize the money in a way that more could benefit more people. The idea of a small meat plant where caribou meat, as well as fish, could be processed for sale. While it would likely take more than one year to get enough capital for a project like this, $70,000 is a good start.

The local government is standing up for what they believe is for the good of their community.

NTI should review this program and the criticisms of the Coral Harbour hamlet are well-timed for any revised program that might exist once Nunavut becomes its own territory next year.