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No magic bullet
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, December 18, 2009
They're overseas amidst a sea of disillusioned leaders from coastal nations desperate for a significant commitment to reduce greenhouse gases as sea levels are predicted to rise. There are the high rollers from industrial nations who aren't willing to give an inch, and there's the furious protesters whose hopes for meaningful action to counter pollution are being dashed.
NWT Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger has been critical of Ottawa's relatively lethargic pledge to cut emissions by 20 per cent below 2006 levels by 2020. The NWT can do much better, he boasted to Yellowknifer earlier this week, promising a 50 per cent cut in greenhouse gases. When and how that goal would be achieved is unclear.
While Miltenberger is talking about serious but nebulous targets, his colleague Industry Minister Bob McLeod is in Calgary trying to shore up dwindling support for a Mackenzie Valley pipeline. Natural gas does burn much cleaner than fossil fuels like oil and coal, but the pipeline project would throttle up our carbon emissions substantially during its construction, and its production, particularly if a highway extension accompanies it.
Close to half the NWT's gross domestic product, we must remember, is generated through three existing diamond mines. We have a fourth diamond mine in line to begin production in the coming years as well as potential gold, zinc, rare earth metals and other mines that could come on stream over the coming decade. We court such development because it would make us more prosperous, but it would also make us much bigger polluters.
Miltenberger touts the extension of hydro power to the diamond mines as a solution, but that idea has been kicked around for several years without any agreement on who will pony up the piles of money needed to do it.
The GNWT's Greenhouse Gas Strategy, first introduced in 2001 and revised in 2007 only sets a modest target, aiming to reduce the territorial government's carbon emissions to 10 per cent below 2001 levels.
We know the GNWT endorses compact fluorescent light bulbs, vilifies plastic bags, promotes recycling and encourages energy efficient buildings. But are we ready to follow Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley's support of purchasing carbon offsets for airplane travel and using organic pellets as a primary fuel source?
We, like many people around the world, are conflicted. We want the best of both worlds and we get the distinct impression that our government does as well.
In reality, until our leaders are brave enough to go beyond preaching and begin leading by example nothing will change.
Parks highlight Deh Cho's beauty
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, December 17, 2009
Blackstone Territorial Park on Highway 7 has a great view of the Liard River and the Nahanni Mountain Range, and a delightful visitor's centre. Lady Evelyn Falls Park near Kakisa, just as its name suggests, has an impressive waterfall.
Fort Simpson Territorial Park puts visitors a short walk from a great view of the confluence of the Mackenzie and Liard Rivers. A different view of the Mackenzie River can be captured from near the Fort Providence Territorial Park.
One of the best known parks for people who regularly make the drive along Highway 1 is the Sambaa Deh Falls Territorial Park. It's impossible to miss one of the park's main highlights and its namesake, the Sambaa Deh Falls. If not for the sake of the posted speed limit, most motorists at least slow down to glance at the falls while driving over the bridge.
The park is also home to a second set of falls, Coral Falls and to a slightly more hidden treasure, the Trout River gorge.
After thundering over both of the falls, the river winds its way through a path it has cut into the rock. Visitors get a sense of the gorge when they go below Sambaa Deh falls to fish, but the best view is currently only accessible by scrambling through the tree line to the west of the park, and peering over the gorge's edge.
The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment's proposed project to make the view of the gorge more accessible by adding a viewing platform, hiking trails and a new parking lot should be welcomed. Any project that will enhance the experiences that the parks in the Deh Cho have to offer is a positive development.
Sambaa Deh is a popular spot on long weekends in the summer, or as a rest stop during driving tours of the Deh Cho.
The importance of the parks is often undervalued.
The parks encapsulate some of the best the Deh Cho has to offer, including landscapes and our local people. The parks' staffs keep the facilities immaculate and provide information about the area to visitors.
By turning the pages and reading the entries in the guest books that are kept at the parks in the summer you can get a sense of just how many people from across Canada and the world enjoy them. The department's proposed project to add new features to Sambaa Deh park increase incentives for tourists and locals alike to stop and spend some time utilizing the park.
Residents and the leadership of the communities that will be involved in the consultation for the project need to ensure they send a strong message to the Mackenzie Land and Water Board that the Sambaa Deh project should be granted a land use permit so it can move forward.
A Christmas moment
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, December 17, 2009
I'm not out to generalize about kids or categorize them in this editorial. They're just people.
But I was quite intrigued by a Christmas project put on recently by Grade 7, 8 and 9 students at Samuel Hearne Secondary school. The story will run in next week's Drum, so I won't tell you too much about it.
Each of the youths had a responsibility to purchase a gift or a food item that would be donated to the Santa's Elves program, the anonymous community group that distributes presents and food to families in need around town. The teacher responsible for introducing the idea to the students, Ms. Bentley, expected the students would perhaps fill one hamper of items. Turns out, in less than a week, enough stuff came in to fill at least four big hampers.
The kids involved in the program were called to one classroom for a photo. They rushed in, but they listened closely to my instructions to get into a nice tight group. I appreciated that and I also appreciated the fact that none of the students wanted to tell me about how generous they are or preach about the need to be generous at Christmas. Still, I convinced a couple of girls to tell me about the project.
The truth is their teacher wanted to give them some deserved attention. No one seemed to need a pat on the back. It appeared to be something they quietly believed in, and followed through with because it's the right thing to do.
I'm sure people might think recounting this little story is a waste of time. That's fine. I just thought I'd share one of my Christmas moments, a tale that illustrates quiet generosity.
It's funny how Christmas generally brings out the best in most. Maybe some of the kids involved in this little project are in trouble with the law, maybe not. But it's example of the good that can come from investing in youth and empowering them to bring about positive change.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
While Yellowknife's connection to that particular incident may seem remote, our city and territory still have a long way to go in fighting violence against women.
According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, there were 173 sexual assaults reported in the territory 2008 and 2,559 incidents of assault, many of those domestic assault. Undoubtedly, numerous other similar acts of violence went unreported.
Last week a Yellowknife woman testified in territorial court against her husband for beating her to the point of unconsciousness, while their two small children were in the next room.
The week before that, deputy judge Michel Bourassa warned a man who threatened his wife with a kitchen knife that, "men going ballistic murdering their wife, children ... this kind of thing is not uncommon. It's the women that are ending up on the floor with bloodstains."
These cases are a horrifying reminder that violent domestic disputes are still all too real.
Despite the claims of NWT Senator Nick Sibbeston that more money should be going to business over social work, awareness and education are key.
If the NWT is going to see any kind of decrease in domestic violence – often fuelled by alcohol – even more social workers are needed.
Building better bylaws
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Builders have made it clear that city construction bylaws are complicating their work, but some contractors are faulting city administration for it. While city administration is in no position to make exceptions, it can refer cases, such as the $7,500 landscaping requirements demanded of the Food Rescue Program to city council.
Dealing with such matter is the job of our elected officials – the mayor and city councillors. They are the ones who set policy and see to it that the city's best interests are served.
Unfortunately, as the NWT Construction Association reminded us last week, existing bylaws contain stipulations so restrictive that they discourage builders. Specifications on materials, size, location and appearance of residential buildings, and fine details for "business industrial" areas – right down to the type of fencing and screening allowed around a business – add to construction costs that are already exceptionally high. In some cases, they defy common sense.
To top it off, our landscape makes this city a unique case. Yellowknife can't follow models set by typical towns and cities. Council, while rightfully guarding against reckless development, must acknowledge this, and our builders keep reminding them of it, and have them respond.
At the very least, developers must have a means to relay their complaints to council. A good way to do this might be to re-establish a zoning bylaw review committee where the city can hear out developers, and establish more realistic guidelines for building.
This must be done to keep the city open to new construction.
Our Christmas gift list
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It's time for our annual Christmas gift list.
And we've spared no expense to put together an impressive array of gifts we hope will be put to good use in the upcoming year.
To Premier Eva Aariak we send a personalized ignore button.
It can be pushed any time her predecessor blames her for a problem in Nunavut that he didn't get around to addressing from 1999 to 2008.
It also features a pre-taped apology in a familiar voice, which Aariak can play to save both time and bother the next time around. Only his reason needs to be voiced-over.
To Health Minister Tagak Curley we send our growing respect. Three of the past four times we were present when Curley spoke in public, he used the term "all Nunavummiut." May that joyous spirit continue in 2010!
To Community and Government Services Minister Lorne Kusugak we send a scale model of the new arena and community-centre complex in Rankin Inlet, and our hopes it will come to fruition.
The bronze statue of Kusugak holding up the Avataq Cup in front of the arena in a Leafs jersey was our idea.
To Baker Lake MLA Moses Aupaluktaq we send a toy sledgehammer emblazoned with a law enforcement logo, and a get-out-of-jail-free card. We sincerely hope Aupaluktaq gets plenty of use from the mosquito basher and never needs the card.
To Akulliq MLA John Ningark we send a map of Repulse Bay and an open invitation to drop by any time.
Shopping for Nunavut chief medical officer Dr. Isaac Sobol was a daunting task. After listening to him talk to Nunavummiut numerous times on H1N1, we came to understand why he needed a change of career from advertising copywriter and rock band manager to medicine.
So we decided to send Sobol his very own copy of How To Make Friends And Influence People.
We also decided to let the doctor in on a little Kivalliq secret, and send him a new sense of humour. The good people of Coral Harbour didn't really believe the feds were putting microchips in the H1N1 vaccine to track them around their island, Doc. It was a joke! Geez.
To Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk, we send a stack of carbon credits he can trade for little seal souvenirs before leaving the climate change conference in Copenhagen this week.
We also send him a stack of maps of Canada to give every European politician at the conference. The maps are specially designed to show the differences between Newfoundland and Nunavut!
To Nunavut Airports director Shawn Maley, we send the Styx song, Too Much Time On My Hands, as well as a giant stick-whittling kit that comes complete with the plans for the new Rankin arena.
And last, but by no means least, we send director of community development Darren Flynn the complete Swiffer mop commercial collection, featuring the songs, Baby Come Back and Love Stinks.
We used a little tech magic to superimpose the face of the airports director on the mops.
May these gifts be received in the spirit for which they were intended!
GNWT and French association must work together
NWT News/North - Monday, December 14, 2009
Richard Letourneau said his organization will not give up the fight for more French services in the territory even if it means dragging the government back to court.
A decade-long court battle between the GNWT and the French federation wrapped up in March after the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear appeals from both sides.
Each year the GNWT spends approximately $1.6 million to deliver French services in the territory.
The court ruling ordered the hiring of more French-speaking civil servants, more documents be made available in French and an committee to oversee the measures be formed. The court battle cost the GNWT $2.7 million.
Since the case wrapped up, the formation of the committee has been in dispute because the GNWT says it won't pay for members of the committee who are not from the NWT. The federation wants southern experts to make up part of the review body.
French and English are both enshrined in the constitution of the NWT. However, language services in the NWT are far more complicated than constitutional rights.
The GNWT recognizes 11 official languages. Some, such as Gwich'in, - only 190 speakers of the language remain -- are in danger of extinction.
Our government has the obligation to support all spoken languages in the territory but limited resources mean written and spoken government services won't be available in all 11 languages in every community.
There are an estimated 935 francophones in the NWT, according to the 2006 census. That makes it the fourth-most-common language spoken in the territory - behind English, South Slavey and Dogrib.
Unlike French, the aboriginal languages don't have the support of the constitution when fighting for more services and help preserving them.
Funding becomes even tighter when millions of dollars in legal costs are incurred, especially when it is unnecessary. Both the Federation Franco-tenoise and the GNWT need to work together and compromises must be made.
French speakers, just like those who speak the many aboriginal languages in the NWT, have the right to receive services in their mother tongue.
Spending money in court is just going to reduce what could be devoted to improving language services in our communities.
To mine or not to mine
Nunavut News/North - Monday, December 14, 2009
The founding of Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit - a grassroots group whose purpose, its members say, is to provide information about uranium mining - is another step towards Nunavummiut becoming the masters of their own fate.
Uranium is a naturally occurring element that is radioactive. It is used in bombs, nuclear power plants, and in producing medical isotopes. Of course, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated (NTI) has stated clearly in its uranium policy that Nunavut's Inuit will only support the mining of uranium that is not used for military purposes, that is extracted from the land for purposes that are socially and environmentally responsible.
NTI balances its concerns for the environment with the need for economic development and job creation in Nunavut. An example would be in Baker Lake, where the Meadowbank Gold Mine is only months away from beginning production and hundreds of residents are consequently prospering due to the related opportunities.
But when it comes to uranium, Nunavummiut are faced with hard choices.
The mining industry has made great progress in addressing environmental and safety issues in the 21st century but the fact remains that whether or not companies live up to Inuit hiring promises, uranium mines are especially difficult to clean up due to the extremely long time it takes for the radioactive element to decay. Uranium 235's half-life is 704 million years, uranium 238, 4.47 billion.
Disposal and monitoring is, therefore, a multi-generational undertaking.
In addition, uranium deposits being explored in our territory, including the Kiggavik-Sissons site about 80 km west of Baker Lake, where Areva proposes to mine, are within the range of the of the Beverly caribou herd and are located close to or within their calving grounds.
Canada already produces about 25 per cent of the world's uranium, and a recent rise in price is making it a hot commodity - no pun intended. Should Nunavut benefit from that, or play it safe and reject uranium mining?
We encourage Nunavummiut Makitagunarningit in their efforts to independently gather and distribute information and their request for a public inquiry on uranium mining so Nunavummiut can make their own educated decisions on the issue. Such an inquiry should include consultation with the Denesuline First Nations in northern Saskatchewan - who have been living and working with uranium mines for decades, many of which are owned by the same companies which wish to work in Nunavut - on the pros and cons of allowing the development of the industry.
Non-partisan information distribution and consultation will help Nunavummiut make the right choices for themselves and their children and grandchildren. After all, they are the ones who will be most affected by the choices made today.
An error appeared in the Dec. 16 edition of Yellowknifer (Akaitcho grants $1.4 million in loans.") Doug Doan's title is assistant deputy minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. Yellowknifer apologizes for the error.