Editorial page

Monday, January 25, 1999

Ruling casts a bright light

Earlier this month NWT Supreme Court Justice John Vertes handed down his ruling on Conflict of Interest Commissioner Anne Crawford's handling of the inquiry into former premier Don Morin. Morin requested the judicial review.

The judge's assessment is refreshingly clear and forthright. Reading it recalls the experience of turning a rock over and watching dark little creatures scamper for cover as the light hits them.

The report rejects the Morin's lawyers' absurdly comic contention that the NWT's legislature did not have constitutional status similar to a province. If that is what Morin believed, why then did he spend the money to go to provincial leaders' meetings or host the western premiers' conference?

His lawyers' position is shameless.

Equally shameless is the MLAs' lack of confidence in their own authority. Assessing the elected members' fence-sitting, Vertes said, "Either the privilege exists or it does not."

In other words you can't have it both ways, lots of authority but no responsibility.

The NWT electorate should be grateful that at least one MLA was prepared to put everything on the line for what she believed to be right.

The voters should also be grateful that Commissioner Crawford had the courage of her convictions and would not be cowed by the then-premier's tactics.

The good news is that the NWT emerges from Vertes' ruling as a jurisdiction with authority that is, in fact, very similar to that of a province.

As Nunavut heads towards an independent legislature, people there would be well advised to have a look at the judge's ruling.

It provides a clear definition of the boundaries of authority and the executive powers in a territorial government.

It also brings into a clear light the trouble that legislators can get themselves into. A vigilant electorate is the best remedy.

End the debate

With all that there is to think about concerning division, there is one issue that just won't go away.

It's the great plate debate.

There are a number of other, more important issues that still have to be worked out before the two territories go their separate ways in April. The power company and worker's compensation board still have to figure out how they're going to manage this separation, to name a few.

So why all the fuss over who gets the polar bear design? It's like a child locked in a custody battle. Maybe people just want to make sure it gets a good home.

Who knows. But one thing's for sure. The issue has to be settled so the two governments can go on to more pressing concerns.

Listen up

In last week's edition of News/North, veteran politicians Tagak Curley and Dennis Patterson talked about some of the techniques that helped them win elections over the years.

Obviously they were doing something right because both men were elected and then re-elected for at least one additional term.

Candidates running in the race for one of the 19 seats in Nunavut's first Legislature could make their lives a little easier by heeding the advice of those who've already travelled down those same roads.

After all, There's no need to re-invent the wheel or to re-learn past lessons.

Gold star for government

The first big story of 1999 came in the Jan. 6 issue of News/North. Headlined "Money moves," the page 3 feature, by business editor Doug Ashbury, was a figure-filled snapshot of the western territory money pie.

Last week, the government said there were 250 copies of the Geographic Tracking of Expenditures Report printed and it will be on the Internet soon.

News/North will follow up and report the Internet site address when it is available.

There is no doubt the report of government spending in every community should be made public and accessible, but the government gets an A+ for creating the document and a gold star for getting it to the people.

Step-by-step progress
Editorial Comment
Glen Korstrum
Inuvik Drum

When the minister's forum on education started its territory-wide travels in Inuvik to hear area concerns, dozens of people turned out.

Many prefaced remarks by explaining how they had attended similar meetings for about 15 years.

The panel members diligently put pen to paper and noted concerns they will surely forward to Minister Charles Dent, but few in attendance really believed it will make one iota of difference.

Perhaps sensing cynicism and a feeling that voicing concerns at public meetings is more a favourite area sport than true political action, panelist and Inuvik resident Ethel Blake said, "Things happen but they happen in small steps."

To focus on one problem, such as attendance, Blake is right.

There is no magic pill or a cure-all remedy.

If parents are blase from the start, never waking sleepy kids or not being there to wake them, how can kids be blamed for a "whatever" attitude?

Some parents discussed the torturous frustration some students must feel trying to find study space in chaotic homes.

Others noted how a generation of children grew up without parents when they attended residential schools. Now, parenting skills are a foreign concept.

Parents are models to their children, and though Inuvik is still small enough for part of that responsibility to be shared so children benefit from various diverse influences -- it takes a whole community to raise a child -- parents hold the supreme influence.

With that custody comes obligation, and on that front, it was reassuring to see so many parents who cared enough to come out and let their views be known even if it meant more of a bonding session between them than a meeting of any practical consequence.

There were probably six or seven times the number of parents there Jan. 18 than what attended the District Education Authority meeting at SAM school in December.

This bodes well for everyone's future.

Closure and comfort

When Grollier Hall is demolished later this year, many former students who endured painful memories will likely have the chance to join in and do some of the ceremonial demolition work to signal the finality of a part of their lives.

Logistics are still being worked out, though what's promising is how closely Aurora College and Public Works and Services are working with the Grollier Hall Healing Circle.

A video showing the proposed Aurora Campus on the Grollier Site projects a starkly different image from the currently boarded-up monolith.

The future building's airy look and open feel will certainly make a more pleasant learning environment likely.

When students are comfortable and feel good about where they are, learning can only be enhanced.

Who are we to judge?
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

This week's story about residential school abuse is very disturbing.

It's not a new issue, but one that seems to be a long way from being put to rest. After all, when you have a tormented soul, how can you be expected to simply expel the pain?

To think those sorts of thing could have happened in Canada as recently as 40 or 50 years ago is quite shocking. The stripping away of one's identity through conformist measures is the stuff of Nazi Germany. As a matter of fact, when he read Victor Frank's book on concentration camps, residential school healing group member Nick Sibbeston said he could relate to some of the horrifying conditions that the prisoners went through.

Not to overstate the case, the aboriginal children in the residential schools were obviously not gassed and buried in mass graves. However, they were apparently living in an environment where they received no love or support and, in some cases, were allegedly subjected to physical and sexual molestation.

I think there are few people out there who question whether the circumstances surrounding the residential schools were far less than acceptable. However, if the issue of financial compensation is even hinted at, it seems there are a greater number of people who are ready to jump up and protest.

When it comes to lifestyle, Sibbeston is the envy of many. He has a successful bed and breakfast business and, by his own account, a supportive family. On the exterior, that's what we see -- a thriving businessman who has a good home. Personally, he said he feels fulfilled, yet still very unhappy.

"A lot of people think it's just Indians complaining, trying to get a buck," he acknowledged of residential school societies. "It's not that. It's life and death. It's just rage ...so much anger."

Some days are just a struggle to cope. He said he's sure his childhood is the source of his depression because every time he gets together to discuss the abuse with others he leaves feeling a sense of relief.

There are those who would argue that money isn't going to heal their pain. How do you put a value on somebody's misery? Well, Allyn Rohetyn, a drug and alcohol counsellor hired by the Deh Gah Got'ie Band, noted that society's values are based on the dollar these days. When you consider all that these former students have lost, they deserve some sort of retribution, he said.

Joachim Bonnetrouge, another member of the residential school healing group, said he may seek financial compensation for the sake of his family. That way, he could partly make up for being an "absentee father, a drunken parent and a jobless husband," he said. He attributes those problems to the agonizing conditions of his childhood -- they were the after-effects. Consequently, he wasn't able to establish a trust fund for his children to get them through university. Now, he'd very much like to make that a reality.

The healing process is lengthy and costly, Sibbeston noted. Workshops aren't free and good counsellors come at a high price. Yet the social costs without healing are astronomical. Look at the damage done by those with substance abuse problems, fetal alcohol effects and those from broken homes.

To all those who are currently involved with the group and to those who find the desire to come forward, I wish you happiness, by whatever means you may find it.