Editorial page

Monday, December 21, 1998

Shame on you, Canada

You have to wonder where the heads are in Ottawa after learning about their decision to strangle the polar continental shelf project.

Launched in 1958, the federally-funded program has been vital in offering Canadian scientists a chance to work on extremely important scientific research pertaining to everything from global warming to trans-boundary pollutants now invading the North.

The project will get a mere $1 million in funding in 1999, a major collapse from the $6.8 million it received in 1990 and the $3.4 million it got in 1998.

Aside from being a blow to the organizations and facilities that benefit from the project, this funding crisis leaves individual Canadian researchers facing something far worse -- extinction.

We commend Paul Hebert, chair and professor at the Department of Zoology at the University of Guelph, for his compassionate call to action during the recent Meet the North, Build a Vision conference in Edmonton.

His warning that "Canada's polar science is in a shambles," shouldn't be ignored. For 20 years Hebert's lab has been the only university team working on animal life in the million or so lakes in Arctic Canada. There is now only a single tundra ecologist left at a Canadian university. In essence, Canadian scientists now have no source of funds which specifically target Northern studies.

Meanwhile in the United States, a country which spends 15-times what Canada does on Arctic research, plans are now rolling along to install a $40 million Polar Cap Observatory in our very own Resolute, NWT.

Yet the laboratory in Tuktoyaktuk, which saw up to 60 scientists and students utilizing it in the 80s, remains closed now due to lack of researchers and funds. Igloolik's research station has only had two teams in two years. Why should Canadians and Northerners have to rely on foreign findings to learn about what's happening in our own backyard?

Especially since our backyard is located in probably the most important scientific gathering ground in North America. Shame on you, Canada.

Sowing seeds

The best reason to allow mega-projects, such as diamond mines, in the North is to benefit the communities whose land is being developed. Reports from Rae-Edzo indicate that residents who have found work at BHP are enjoying a higher standard of living and more disposable income.

This initial success demonstrates that hiring stipulations can work for the North.

The next step is to spend the money in the communities. This is the way economies grow.

Now it is important that agencies such as the Business Development Bank and ministries such as RWED get involved to encourage local entrepreneurs to take advantage of economic growth in their communities. This is where jobs and, ultimately, self-reliance starts.

More banks needed

Stopping the bank mergers for the time being is the best thing that could have happened for Northerners.

We, more than most Canadians, know what it is like to have limited competition among banks, if we are lucky enough to be living in one of the nine communities that have banking services at all.

Small businesses have little room to manoeuvre when one bank manager makes all the decisions.

As banks grow larger and more profitable, small depositors become more an expense to be cut than clients to be catered to. Banking hours are getting shorter and an appointment is becoming a requirement before even opening an account.

The bottom line is we need more banks, not less, in order to get good service.

Sewage troubles

A plan to make Iqaluit a little more environmentally friendly got all backed up last month when a transition funding glitch threatened the new sewage treatment plant.

It seems that the GNWT never committed the funds to build the $6.9 million project and the new government can't commit any dollars until the MLAs are sworn in. What it all boils down to is the municipality may not be able to sign the construction contract resulting in the plant being put on hold and even more raw sewage being pumped into Frobisher Bay.

It's beginning to appear that citizens and government departments alike are going to be in limbo for the next 14 weeks until Nunavut becomes a reality. What happened to all the smooth transition promises that were made? They seem to have gone into Frobisher Bay with the rest of the raw sewage.

Remembering basics
Editorial Comment
Glen Korstrum
Inuvik Drum

Some Inuvik residents were surprised but most were happy to see MLA Floyd Roland promoted to cabinet by his peers.

It is easy to underestimate the work done by those in the public service who take their jobs seriously. Roland has made it look easy as an MLA, but now his workload increases with his cabinet responsibilities.

Not every MLA has Roland's rapport with constituents, and his efforts to make a difference at home stand out in the legislative assembly.

Several others maintain comfy digs in the capital and get so caught up with life in Yellowknife that their home community is pushed to the back of their minds -- except at election time.

Roland is solidly an Inuvik-firster.

He understands one thing hard to find in Yellowknife is constituents.

This comes through in the house when he has repeatedly stressed in speeches, "Remember Inuvik."

Within days of joining the executive council, Roland visited SAM school to award prizes for the 74 students who designed national child's day posters.

Cassandra Kirk won the contest with a poster graphically depicting Inuvik complete with the Igloo Church, boating, tobogganing and the sunrise festival.

For her effort, Roland gave her a large NWT flag, as well as lots of other goodies including a legislature baseball cap and a national child's day pencil.

Something went to everyone, be it a mouse pad, a thank-you poster or a desk flag.

He had also mentioned the contest in the assembly.

With time complacency and preoccupation might set in for the minister of Transportation. Big issues such as the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway could occupy his time in Yellowknife along with the other roads he says he must now consider equally given his responsibility to the entire NWT.

If Roland ever does seem to be away for too long a stretch, all his constituents need do is echo his own words back to him, "Remember Inuvik."

Freedom and dependency

I'm uncomfortable with paternalism.

This is when the state jumps in and tells individuals what they can or can't do because it knows what is best for them.

The problem with Holman's recent plebiscite to limit alcohol is that in an attempt to help the community limit crime and problem drinkers individual rights are sacrificed.

Alcohol-related crime towers over sober crime in Inuvik as much as it does in Holman.

And many advocate a community's collective right to be free from crime directly connected with what it considers a controllable substance.

But is alcohol really controllable?

Drug addicts and alcoholics really need to come to the realization of what is best and the decision to gather the strength to resist on their own.

The community can help by finding alternatives to drinking that make a sober life exciting and desirable.

Economic doldrums, dependency on government funding and resulting negative vibes all contribute to problem addictions.

Understanding this and seeking out opportunity may be more effective than limiting alcohol supply.

Hand to mouth
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

The Christmas holidays aren't yet upon us but they sure are close and it's not hard to tell. Decorations adorn many houses and Christmas lights are strung across trees everywhere. Santa has been spotted several times and television commercials constantly flaunt a variety of products.

The other dead give-away is the food. There are fabulous spreads of food everywhere you turn, particularly last week with all the open houses in town.

There's a joke about being on a see-food diet. Naturally when you say it, others mistakenly believe that you're subsisting on fish only, but the punch-line is, "No, whenever I see food, I eat it."

Lately, that's how I've been feeling. It's starting way too soon. A Christmas dinner is always a time when one eats like there's no tomorrow, but keeping a handle on things until the big day takes real self-restraint.

Why is it that we over-eat, feel uncomfortable and promise ourselves never to do it again, only to be back in the same boat a few days later? Why does our memory fail in the presence of cold cuts, sliced fruit, vegetables and dip, devilled eggs, chips and too many desserts to mention?

The Christmas holidays are also the time when those little mandarin oranges begin popping up in the stores. These sweet and juicy fruit are a real treat. Other temptations aren't nearly as nutritious.

Last week at the Thomas Simpson School concert, each of the tables was stocked with a tray of cookies. They were impossible to resist. I noticed a little girl pulling some apart, scraping the icing from the inside with her teeth and discarding the rest. I had to laugh, remembering that my sister and I did the same thing when we were kids.

A number of years later, I still have a weakness for chocolate-covered mints. Unfortunately, too many members of my family know this and have exploited it. So far I've received six boxes of them in the mail. My initial reaction was that of disbelief. Why would they send them, I wondered. Now I had to contend with row upon row of mints. I needed help.

Needless to say they're gone. I ate most of them -- the rest we gave away. Of course, the holidays are a long way from being over. Many more battles have yet to be fought. The turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, carrots, peas, corn, buns, etc. all lie in wait.

The most important thing to remember is for those of us who are fortunate enough that the holidays are a time of plenty, we should be very grateful. There are those within our own community and many more around the world who, for one reason or another, cannot enjoy the holidays. Nobody is obligated to help out, but there are plenty of people who have proven to be completely selfless time and again.

The Deh Cho Friendship Society has a Christmas hamper for food donations and the Northern Store has its angel-tree standing again this year. It's just a way that those who can afford to share extend goodwill towards those are less fortunate. After all, that's what the holidays are really about.