Editorial page

Monday, April 19, 1999

The jewel in the Northern crown

The Thelon Game Sanctuary is one of the North's crown jewels. Uninhabited and untouched, the sanctuary sits like a heart in the centre of the former Northwest Territories.

The Thelon was established as a sanctuary in 1927 to revive the rapidly dwindling muskox herds. It remains today as one of the last great stands of undisturbed wildlife. It is in fact recognized by the United Nations as one of the world's most pristine sites.

Because of this the Thelon Game Sanctuary and the Thelon river that runs through it are of enormous interest to wilderness tourists who canoe down the river or fly in to take photographs of wolves, muskoxen or caribou.

When the territories were divided, the new border jagged right through the sanctuary, leaving the jurisdiction over the refuge divided between Nunavut and the Western Arctic.

Supervision of the land falls, in part, to the wildlife management boards of the land claims groups involved.

The groups involved have developed a management plan that is part of a report currently in front of Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Jane Stewart.

The value of the Thelon lies in the absence of human intrusion. To date, even the tourism business has had virtually no impact on the sanctuary.

Some parties have expressed concern that the report opens the door to hunting.

The future of the Thelon Sanctuary embodies all the challenges the North faces as it prepares to enter the 21st century. Age-old traditions run up against contemporary visions of the way the world should work.

The two things that are important are that the land use satisfy traditional needs and that Thelon remains a sanctuary.

If the proposal for the management of the Thelon can successfully bridge those requirements, then it is in good hands.

Corporate knowledge

In history, the most successful Northern explorers attempting to map the Western Arctic were those who travelled with the Dene. Those ignoring Dene knowledge often failed and some paid with their lives.

The lesson still applies. Last month, executives from Diavik Diamond Mines traded their corporate business environment for four days in the Barren Lands with Dogrib elders and their families.

This has been consistent with Diavik's grassroots approach to community relations and really sets a new standard for other mining companies to follow.

Learning about the people and politics of the land producing wealth is no less critical than understanding the complexities of global markets receiving the wealth.

It just makes good business sense.

Million dollar daze

The million dollars in revenue injected into Iqaluit's economy during the Nunavut celebrations is a perfect example of the positive effect tourism has on the North.

While it's true that this latest bout of cash was fairly short-lived -- albeit far-reaching -- the continual development of Nunavut's tourism industry can only succeed in bringing about a more sustainable and long-term economic resource.

Nunavut's government must be supported in any and all of its efforts to create and develop tourism. After all, growing such an industry can only promote a locally-based and controlled economy, which, in turn, will help residents take another step in the right direction.