Editorial page

Monday, June 14, 1999

The price of success

The expression is politics makes strange bedfellows. Apparently, so does economics. So in this era of globalization, we find the NWT signing a memorandum of agreement that provides a protocol for future economic co-operation with the Chinese province of Hainan.

What that means is that one of the most sparsely populated, resource-rich jurisdiction in the world will be striking some deals with the most populous nation in history.

China is a nation that has pulled itself from an isolated, almost feudal, economy to the position of one of the most influential nations in the world in the space of two generations.

The energy and commitment that the Chinese applied to making the country an economic powerhouse could well serve as an example for the North.

However, there was a price to pay. In China, political freedom is in short supply, as is freedom of speech. Various Chinese administrations have, at times, been brutally repressive.

Here in the North, we bicker about how best to exercise our acknowledged democratic rights. In China people are still fighting the government to try and establish those democratic rights.

China is also not known as being particularly sensitive to the environment. They have flooded some of their most historical sites to build hydro-electric projects.

These aren't necessarily reasons not to business with China, they are just cautionary notes.

In an address to the Chinese delegation, Premier Jim Antoine said, "We are only beginning to tap the great economic potential of the Northwest Territories."

That's true. But we are trying to tap them within the limits we are establishing for environmental impact. We acknowledge the sensitivities of the Northern people who will be affected by the development.

It is our hope that the memorandum of understanding the GNWT has signed with the emissaries from Hainan includes these considerations.

No business in business

The saws have been silent at the Fort Resolution sawmill since RWED cut funding to the troubled mill and the community is seeking alternatives to getting the mill back to sawing logs.

The management and mismanagement of this mill has proven once again that government has no business in business.

The best hope for the sawmill and the folks of Fort Resolution is for a private buyer to buy the mill and run it as a business rather than a banded employment solution.

Of course the 25 jobs lost are important to the community, but we cannot allow a viable enterprise to fail because of an addiction to government money.

Taking responsibility

It is amazing that Canada, which touts itself on matters like tolerance and civil rights, has so many dark corners in its recent history.

Take the RCMP's recent comment on how pleased it is that the Qikiqtani Inuit Association is gathering evidence on the slaughtering of sled dogs by the force in the 1950s and '60s.

The dogs were shot to force Inuit visiting settlements to remain and become part of government communities and be 'civilized'.

The RCMP have said they wished they had to the manpower and resources to do a similar investigation and hopes the QIA will share its findings.

The federal government which gave this order and the RCMP which carried it out owe the Inuit an apology at the very least and it shouldn't matter how many people were involved.

Educating the North

Education is the most basic building block of all cultures and a cornerstone of all civilizations.

With that thought in mind, congratulations are in order to Aurora College on its 30th birthday.

For three decades and from fairly modest beginnings, Aurora has come to offer so much in the way of increased educational opportunities to people of the North. Along with those increased educational options comes increased career options and opportunities.

If the North is ever to become a strong, self-sufficient entity, it must have a trained, educated population to make it run. In its role as an educational leader in North, Aurora deserves both our congratulations and our continued support.

Appreciating the help

It was good to hear about the efforts of an Ottawa group to collect used hockey equipment for Nunavut youth.

Recreational activities, especially those which promote good sportsmanship and team play, are extremely important to Northern youth. Finding constructive ways to keep our youth both occupied and challenged is an ongoing struggle in the North, especially in areas which also allow them to grow as individuals.

The efforts of Pat Tobin and former NHLer Brad Marsh also strike a sentimental chord. Their efforts show that the people in the rest of this great nation do, indeed, care about the well-being of their Northern friends.

Tobin, Marsh and the rest of their group are to be commended for their efforts.

The claim at work

It's quite telling that the some of the first evidence Nunavummiut have of their land claim's effect is in the area of wildlife.

Just weeks ago, in a significant and monumental decision, we saw four different communities begin to plan how they could manage their own beluga harvest without the so-called assistance of the federally imposed quota system.

Those four communities -- Repulse Bay, Arctic Bay, Pond Inlet and Qikiqtarjuaq -- struggled along with the procedures and are all now beginning the process of once again governing their hunters and in turn, their wildlife.

At long last.

For a culture that was and continues to be focused on their use of and relationship to wildlife, it was imperative that the first steps in implementing the land claim were taken in an area so fundamental to their existence.

Once again, Inuit residents are about to see another article of the claim implemented. In Iqaluit, the Amarok Hunters and Trappers Association has formed a committee to consider and develop the procedures for assigning harvesting rights.

Conceived as a way to ensure that elders or those Inuit not able to hunt for themselves could assign other Inuit or non-Inuit spouses their hunting rights to ensure a food source, assignment, some feel, has taken on a less need-based flavour and may be in danger of becoming an open ticket for sport hunting large game.

In the second telling step towards implementation, Nunavut's HTAs have been mandated the task of drawing up regulations to make sure the assignment system is not abused.

While the end result of the assignment issue will surely offend some and leave others feeling their inherent rights have been violated, a common underlying theme might be that we are indeed seeing the claim at work and, whether everyone agrees with it or not, the decisions are Inuit-driven and a big step towards independence.

Making a difference
Editorial Comment
Paula White
Inuvik Drum

The fire department, department of highways, bylaw department and the police really outdid themselves last weekend with the bike rodeo.

I couldn't believe my eyes at how many kids and parents showed up for the event. More than 150 were there with their bicycles, rollerblades and skateboards. It was an amazing sight.

But the rodeo was impressive for many reasons. First of all, it was extremely well-organized. There may have been a long wait in the lineup to get in, but I think most people would agree it was worth it. The kids received free helmets, had their bikes inspected to make sure they were safe to ride and then they were tested on balance and other skills.

It was also impressive because of the number of volunteers. According to Julie Miller, one of the organizers, 20 people from the fire department, RCMP and department of highways volunteered to man the stations, cook hotdogs and take registrations. As if that wasn't enough, many also volunteered their Saturday afternoon to build the skateboard ramp that was set up in the arena.

I should mention the prizes too. If there was one kid who went home without one, I'd be very surprised. I couldn't believe how many there were! Bikes (which don't come cheap these days), rollerblades, helmets...you name it.

All of this was for the purpose of increasing awareness about bicycle and road safety among the kids. I most definitely think that was accomplished, just judging by the number of helmets I've seen in the few days since the rodeo.

A few weeks back, I remember making an observation to someone about how there seemed to be very few bicycle helmets used around town. In many places now, helmets are law. Any and all cyclists, young or old, have to wear one. I guess I was just used to seeing people wear them.

It's quite a relief to see more helmets being used. With so many bikes and cars sharing the roads, it only makes sense.

There. I've nagged enough about that. I guess I'll save the sermon about the dangers of shopping carts for another time.

Crime time

This is just an observation, but I see that criminals have been busy, breaking and entering, stealing motorcycles and front-end loaders and whatnot.

I am a bit surprised at this. Not at the fact that somebody would steal a front- end loader, although that is a bit strange. But I would have thought that crime would go down around this time of year, with it being daylight 24 hours and all (it's no secret that most criminals prefer to work under the cover of darkness). From what I've seen, there are still so many people up and about in the midnight hours that it's hard to believe more criminals aren't caught in the act.

Somebody told me that more crimes are committed in summer than in the winter months. I guess the cold puts the criminals off. I was surprised by this at first, but then I haven't spent a winter in Inuvik yet. If it's anything like Yellowknife, I can see why the cold would be more of a deterrent that 24-hour daylight.

The grads of tomorrow
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Thomas Simpson school valedictorian Jonathan Tsetso concluded his address with these three words: "It feels good."

Undoubtedly, it was an incredible sensation the 10 high school grads felt on Saturday (and well into the wee hours of Sunday morning). Technically, it was pointed out, none of the grads were yet officially grads, they had to pass their departmental exams first. It didn't appear that anyone was sweating it out over the weekend. There's a time and place for the nervous energy that's associated with cramming for exams and it had no place in the building on Saturday.

Valedictorian Tsetso's address was indicative of the intimate atmosphere found in a small community high school. He opened by describing each of the other graduates in his own words, something graduates from urban schools couldn't possibly do. Obviously he is well acquainted with his nine peers. The knowing glances each of them exchanged reinforced that. They will undoubtedly share many wonderful memories of their school days and their extracurricular activities in Fort Simpson.

The ceremony was aptly titled Exploring New Horizons. That's exactly what the 10 teenagers from the Deh Cho will be doing next: testing their wings in post-secondary education, travelling or taking on jobs.

There was mention of the numerous opportunities that exist for the graduating class of 1999. No mention was made, however, of the lingering doubt that exists -- at least in the minds of some -- over the quality of education in the North. Whether it's the inclusionary schooling policy or the lack of "cutting edge" academic facilities found in the south, there are those who question the overall preparedness of the graduates from this part of the country.

Those concerns can only be magnified in light of the reduced Department of Education budget. Melaw Daycare is apparently struggling to get by after absorbing a 50 per cent cut in their government funding. Regardless of whether the slashing of funds comes as a result of an oversight or not, the move is contradictory to a recommendation from the Minister's Forum on Education to put greater emphasis on early childhood education. A daycare is not a place where children should be "babysat" while their parents are at work. If the funding isn't adequate, that's a risk we are assuming. As Melaw Childcare Centre Manager Sharon Brown put it, a daycare is supposed to be a place where children are taught life skills and educated for kindergarten. Without money for program supplies and enough to keep qualified and enthusiastic staff, what is the organization to do? Even before the cuts in April, how many employees had come and gone through the revolving door that is the daycare? It's a very demanding job with no benefits.

Those who have children beyond age five who may no longer be in need of its services, they have to wonder what lies ahead in the next school year. The shrinking education budget is bound to have an effect on each level of learning sooner or later.