Editorial page

Monday, September 27, 1999

Stable growth equals no growth

Before we start patting ourselves on the back too hard, take another look at the figures.

The government seems quite pleased with a recently released labour force survey for the NWT that shows we have a "stable" economy and employment rate.

It means we're not losing ground. On the other hand, it also suggests we're not gaining any ground either.

For an economy to be truly healthy, it must be growing, it must be producing new jobs and opening new areas of opportunity.

We have to ask ourselves what new opportunities and what new jobs we're creating in the North. Just treading water is not enough.

That means looking at new opportunities for producing and shipping raw materials, which remains our mainstay. Just as important, we must explore ways to create added value, which would diversify our economy and create those new jobs.

Instead of just mining the gold and the diamonds, let's look hard at establishing a jewellery industry to maximize our benefits. Government has begun this process with their battle for the secondary diamond industry.

Instead of just cutting down trees, would a plywood or waferboard plant be feasible?

Another disturbing item, as Employment Minister Michael Miltenberger points out, is that our youth employment rate is a disaster, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25.7 per cent. Ouch.

Our youth are our future and as long as they're not finding futures, gaining experience and given the opportunity to build lives in the North, the best and the brightest will leave the North looking for better breaks down south.

If that goes on too long, even "stable" employment will be impossible. We will lose all that we have gained. It falls to government to create a more stable, inviting environment to encourage new business and new opportunities. Then it will be up to the business sector to make the most of it.

Let the healing begin

The federal government shattered the lives of thousands of Inuit just over 30 years ago.

Government officials burst into Inuit camps and ordered the people to leave behind the lifestyle they had lived for centuries for a newer, more dependent and culturally different way of doing things.

In many cases their possessions were bulldozed, burned and buried.

Many families were able to resist the colonization, but eventually, the government managed to set up communities full of Inuit who quickly became dependent on government agencies for sustenance.

Thirty years later, the land has been reclaimed and Inuit are beginning to return to their camps in an effort to try to begin the process of healing.

It's not an easy task.

Every family has painful stories about how the relocation affected them and the relatives and friends they lost along the way. Because of the very nature of those memories, many people have resisted speaking about them.

Slowly, people are opening up, talking to each other, starting to deal with the trauma and beginning to mend lost friendships.

This past summer, dozens of Inuit relocatees returned to their camps outside of Qikiqtarjuaq. The former residents of Qivittuuq and Pallavvik (Padloping Island) saw their old homes and found their old tools and furniture, some of which had been destroyed.

They visited their old grave sites and said good-bye to generations of Inuit who were never forced to depend on the government. They also bid farewell to a time that, while full of hardships, is still respected and revered.

However painful the experiences, the return to the camps provided a basis on which to build a modern and healthy lifestyle. The journey back may also have started a movement of people who plan to go after the government and ask that amends be made.

Brewing waste

With the money spent in the past year identifying issues facing Nunavut women, you would think Pauktuutit vice-president Monica Ell would have bigger concerns than an inukshuk on a beer bottle label.

The national Inuit women's group should be addressing real problems, rather than writing letters of protest over something which renders absolutely no impact on the North.

In terms of issues that need pursuing in our new territory, an inukshuk on a bottle label is not as critical as housing, education, and health.

These are issues Pauktuutit has a long history in tackling. We just hope that they return to the good fight.

Much improved

The "new and much improved" method of paying MLAs appears to deserve such praise.

Previously, attempting to nail down exactly what MLAs were paid was like trying to get a squirming worm on a fish hook. There was a base salary, various payments for committee work, various per diem and living expenses, all different for each MLA.

The new system sets a base salary of $71,000 with additional payments for ministers, the premier and speaker. Living and expense allowances will all be accounted for and are not to exceed $15,000 a year.

Best of all, if a member misses a legislative session or committee meeting without a proper explanation, they are docked $100. While some MLAs will enjoy an increase with this simpler system, the public will be able to understand it and that makes it "much improved."

To the source

It just makes sense -- if you need information about something, anything, you go to the people who know it the best.

Which is exactly what a recent study on the Bathurst caribou herd has done. Researchers have gone to elders and hunters in the area and asked them about the herd and any changes they have noted.

Since these are people who live on intimate terms with these animals and who rely on the herd for many of their needs, who would be in a better position to know what's going on with the herd movements and overall health?

Call it traditional knowledge, call it experience, call it what you will -- it's a fact and to ignore it as a resource is ridiculous bordering on stupid.