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Words matter, even in logos
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Well, the territorial government has gone too far. In an attempt to placate the French and aboriginal language speakers of the territory, it has stripped the only identifying feature from its logo: the 'Northwest Territories.'

Now, it's just a polar bear encased by a blue semi-orb; no words.

The powers-that-be defend the politically-correct-to-a-fault logo as a success in not alienating French-speaking people while respecting indigenous languages. The former logo, apparently, did not meet legislated language requirements, which would force the addition of 'Territories du Nord-Ouest.' So instead, the problem was "solved" by removing all words. Seemingly, the territorial government has legislated itself into obscurity.

If legislation eclipses recognition, which is the goal of any logo, it's the legislation that is flawed, not the logo. Oddly, in an interview with Yellowknifer, a representative of the GNWT's Department of the Executive said it's important people quickly and easily recognize the logo so they know they're dealing with GNWT material, adding the logo, before, did not promote a single GNWT identity. One could argue the words 'Northwest Territories' were the only feature that identified the logo as belonging to the GNWT. How many people - inside or outside the territory - know about the three-legged bear?

In an image search of other provincial and territorial government entities across Canada, the defining feature that emerges in all the logos is the words - the image is secondary. In some cases, such as for the governments of Yukon and Alberta, the logo is only the words. To think the blue semi-orbed polar bear is going to be immediately recognized as belonging to the GNWT is pure wishful thinking. It just won't be apparent on most, if not all, national and international levels.

If the territory truly wanted to be respectful of all 11 of its languages, it could farm out a variety of logos with the relevant language tagged on each one, depending on the audience.

It might cost a little extra but at least people will know what they're looking at.

Hands off the phone when behind the wheel
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

No phone call is worth risking lives. The territorial government is driving that point home with stiffer fines and clearer definitions of distracted driving.

Recent changes to the NWT Motor Vehicles Act include a hefty $644 fine for persons caught reaching for their phones while driving through a school or construction zone, whether it is on or not.

This is a mandate to combat distracted driving. The definition of "using a phone" has been expanded to mean holding, operating or touching it. The changes are necessary, explained Steve Loutitt, director of road licensing, to clarify rules for both courts and the public.

The huge fine may sound excessive but it has to be looked at from a safety point of view. Fiddling with a phone for even a few seconds takes the driver's concentration off the road ahead. Loutitt cited studies in Ontario showing distracted driving has killed or injured more people than impaired driving. Truth is, distraction is a form if impairment because the driver is unable to focus on operating the vehicle in a safe manner.

If someone really has to make a phone call, a hands-free system or Bluetooth is safer and often costs less than the $644 fine.

That seems a wiser investment than risking a ticket, or worse, hurting someone or themselves because drivers just couldn't wait to take call until they were safely parked.

Remembering a man of contradiction
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I took a break to contemplate the few times I spent around James Arvaluk when I heard of the former Government of Nunavut (GN) minister's passing this past week.

It was a strange feeling to find myself thinking about the man, because I never knew what to make of him.

On one hand, Arvaluk was highly intelligent and deserves full accolades for his work with Inuit Tapirisat of Canada (Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami) and the governments of both the NWT and Nunavut.

When in a natural state of mind, I found Arvaluk to be a relatively soft-spoken man who put on no airs of importance and always seemed to genuinely put the needs of his people ahead of his own. He had a subtle sense of humour and a gift for whispered one-liners, always in good taste (at least to my ears), that could leave you turning red in the face trying to hold back the laughter.

And there were times he could be downright hilarious without even knowing it.

I was travelling to Whale Cove with Arvaluk and Manitok Thompson -- both GN ministers shortly after the formation of Nunavut -- when I noticed Thompson was close to a belly laugh while looking at Arvaluk's arm.

I followed her gaze until I saw Arvaluk's sleeve go up to reveal the four or five Nicorette patches on his arm to hold him over during the 15-minute flight to Whale.

I had met Stanley Adjuk during a hockey tourney in Rankin and immediately took a liking to the man.

We had horsed around a bit and had a few laughs during the tournament, so I was very pleased to see him upon our arrival at Whale's hamlet office.

Plus, I was still very new to the Kivalliq and was glad to see a familiar face.

After I had just finished kidding around with Adjuk for a few minutes, Arvaluk leaned in with a look of great concern on his face and whispered to me, "Probably not a great idea to try and noogie the mayor in public."


He took great delight, and rightly so, in watching me squirm under the realization my new friend was also the mayor of Whale Cove.

Arvaluk also had his demons and alcohol topped the list.

I knew about his troubles in the NWT and subsequent incarceration shortly before he became Nunavut's first education minister.

After meeting the man two or three times, I had a hard time getting my head around this was the same guy who spent about 30 months in jail on a charge of sexual assault. That feeling intensified about a year later when he was charged with assaulting his girlfriend.

This just wasn't the man I had read so much about, and with whom I'd had the chance to have a few "deep" and very insightful conversations with.

I would never, in a million years, condone the actions Mr. Arvaluk was convicted of, despite knowing the evil power booze has over people who can't handle it.

That being said, I'm grateful for the peek behind the curtain I was fortunate enough to have had with Mr. Arvaluk in getting to know the sober man a tiny bit and appreciating his intellect, determination and loyalty to his people.

While the rest of the pieces can't be ignored or thrown away, I am thankful I got to meet that James.

Catholic church still owes for past sins
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, May 2, 2016

The road to reconciliation for residential school abuse has not been easy but for the most part, those who have done wrong have made impressive efforts to make amends.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly apologized on behalf of the Canadian government, accompanying a payout of $2 billion to residential school survivors who were harmed. The government formed a $60 million Truth and Reconciliation Commission which toured the country, providing venue for survivors to share their stories and heal. The commission made dozens of recommendations, many of which are now being implemented.

The Catholic Church is by far the denomination with the biggest hand in running these schools, and in consequence is responsible for $79 million to aid in reconciliation. This amount was divided into three pots: $29 million in cash, $25 million in in-kind donations and another $25 million to be provided through fundraising.

Recently, the Globe and Mail uncovered documents that show the church was freed from some of these obligations, specifically the responsibility to provide $25 million through fundraising efforts, due to a miscommunication between lawyers. This development has incensed many who were affected by residential schools, leading them to believe the church has weaseled its way out of not just a legal but a moral obligation.

The church denied this in an April 27 Catholic Register blog post ("Church did not 'weasel' out of residential school settlement"). The writer argues the church paid almost the full amount of the $29 million it owed in cash, exceeded its in-kind contribution responsibilities of $25 million by $5 million and, regarding the money it was supposed to raise but didn't: "The original 2006 agreement did not commit Catholic entities to anything more than 'best efforts.'"

In other words, the Catholic Church did its best but no dice so let's move on. No doubt Catholic groups across Canada are hurting for money and donations might be hard to come by.

The church's reputation is no doubt struggling under the priest abuse scandal (thousands of allegations worldwide over 15 years) and its role in Canadian residential school abuses.

So why doesn't the Roman Catholic Church leadership provide financial help to these Canadian Catholic groups struggling to raise money for reconciliation?

The answer to this question lies in a 2014 Globe and Mail story: "When the settlement was being negotiated in the early part of the previous decade, the Roman Catholic Church - considered one of the richest organizations in the world - successfully argued that it was not 'one entity' capable of being sued."

Another legal loophole, this one allowing the Roman Catholic Church to pass the buck down to its various, less rich offshoots.

In contrast, the Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches' (admittedly much smaller) financial obligations to the residential school settlement have all been met. But because an agreement in the settlement ties all participating churches' contributions to what the Catholic Church owes, the Anglican, Presbyterian and United churches will now get some of their money back. In other words, even less money will make it to the hands of residential school survivors and their representative organizations.

The Anglican Church will keep $2.7 million and the United Church $450,000. That's more than $3 million more that will not make it to aboriginal healing programming.

While the legal mechanisms by which the Catholic Church has relieved itself from $25 million dollars worth of responsibilities might be legitimate, this whole affair tarnishes the process of moving forward.

True reconciliation and healing takes an enormous amount of effort from everybody involved.

If the Catholic church was only obligated to "best efforts" to raise $25 million and failed, it needs to re-examine what those best efforts were and try harder.

All of Canada deserves part of digital economy
Nunavut/News North - Monday, May 2, 2016

The provision of reasonable bandwidth with affordable Internet service is a question of essential infrastructure for Nunavut, just as other infrastructure matters have been historically provided to other jurisdictions in Canada.

Consider the wave of infrastructure spending across Canada following the invention of the telephone in 1876. It started slowly but was quick to expand from house to house. Sure, some residents had to deal with the inconvenience of having a party line, where a telephone number was shared with more than one household, and having to place calls through an operator, in the early days.

The same holds true for the building of infrastructure for a national railway. It took years, a great deal of money and effort for a railway to be constructed until the Last Spike was driven into the ground, linking eastern and central Canada with the west.

The difference with the provision of Internet to remote communities is that it is far past the early days, when dial-up Internet and painfully slow speeds were the norm. In southern Canada, for instance, the norm for most households is an Internet speed exceeding 30 megabits per second (Mbps). In Nunavut, most households are lucky to get 1.5 Mbps, meaning it takes much more time for pages to load, for e-mails to be sent and for people to exchange information.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) held hearings last month in Ottawa to gather information surrounding the question of whether all Canadians, regardless of where they live, deserve equal access to broadband Internet service.

We agree with the Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation, which made a submission to the CRTC, that telecommunications infrastructure is absolutely critical for the future of Nunavut.

Unlike the NWT, where Internet service is provided by one company, Nunavut has a couple of private Internet service providers who are intent on improving service using a combination of their own money and funds provided by the federal government. One company, SSi Micro, which offers it services through Qiniq, made a submission to the CRTC hearings calling for quality broadband to be a key component of basic service.

We draw a parallel between broadband Internet services and the early days of the development of telephone service and the railway line simply because those historic infrastructure projects had such a profound impact on the lives of ordinary Canadians, allowed for expansion of economic opportunities and set the stage for considerable growth.

We urge the CRTC to rule that Nunavut and the rest of Northern Canada deserves the same type of broadband Internet service as the rest of Canada. Once in place, better Internet is bound to spawn many benefits -- businesses can prosper, education efforts can expand, health-care delivery can be improved and access to government services will be easier, to name a few.

It is time all of Canada reaps the benefits and participates fully in the digital economy.

Gender-neutral facilities a reality
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 29, 2016

News of the territorial government's plan to install gender-neutral restrooms at Stanton Territorial Hospital is laudable, at least in terms of recognizing the rights of LGBTQ citizens.

These days, it is not unusual to find a third restroom option in large, public facilities. For example, over-sized, private restrooms are routinely available marked for handicap use or for use by someone with a toddler in need of a diaper changing station.

These private facilities are not gender specific, and nobody balks at the extra cost that comes with installing these essentially gender-neutral facilities. They are, simply put, a good idea.

But the new restrooms at Stanton will not be accidentally gender neutral as handicapped facilities are.

They will be designated gender neutral to satisfy the concerns of those who do not feel comfortable in either a male or female facility.

This raises a number of practical considerations, not only for Stanton but for all facilities the public uses.

Adding gender-neutral facilities - if the status quo remains on installing men's and women's washrooms - obviously means more space will be needed for washrooms, which means less room for something else.

Clearly at some point the logistics and cost of multiplying restrooms becomes an issue, as does the public's comprehension of what, exactly, is happening.

Who can use gender-neutral restrooms?

In other words, will using a gender-neutral washroom become the tacit acknowledgment of one's self-exclusion from the male/female dichotomy, or will it simply mean the one facility happened to be more convenient than the other?

As Nicole Garbutt, co-chair of It Gets Better Yellowknife, pointed out, simply adding a gender-neutral option may create a new set of problems. A potential user may feel singled out by choosing the third option, thereby further compounding the isolation that person may already feel.

Maybe a more radical solution is necessary.

Make gender-designated facilities the exception and have the majority of restrooms be unisex with a minority of facilities available for those who feel strongly about preserving the gender specificity of their restrooms.

Another option may be to install several, single-user, non-gender designated facilities in place of male and female restrooms altogether.

Whatever the solution may be, the greater diversity of minds involved in developing it, the more likely a sound solution will be found.

The health authority should be lauded for its attempts to be inclusive but a broad-based public discussion may be necessary on the future of spaces once divided by sex in order to prevent compounding one problem with another while leaving the original problem inadequately addressed.

Canadian Forces need Northern experience
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 29, 2016

Large-scale on-the-land training missions such as Operation Nunalivut give the people tasked with protecting the North vital experience and more missions should be encouraged.

The mission took Canadian Armed Forces members from Yellowknife on a tour through Nunavut's High Arctic and gave them a first-hand lesson in the harsh climate of the region.

These missions prepare Canadian Forces members to respond when called into action in the vast landscape of the North, from the High Arctic to the tundra.

While Canadian Forces - of which the Canadian Rangers are a part - may engage in search-and-rescue missions throughout the territory, it is easy to forget they are also the first line of defence for both Canada and the U.S., as both are neighbours with an interest in monitoring what is taking place in the Arctic waters we share.

With the Northwest Passage opening up to more and more traffic, the likelihood of Canadian Forces members from Yellowknife being called to respond to situations in the Arctic becomes greater.

While Canadian Forces have engaged in peacekeeping missions in the Sudan, Haiti and Afghanistan to name a few, protecting Canada's borders has to be the primary objective.

Turn off the lights
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, April 28, 2016

Anyone who has lived in the North for a winter or two knows how eye-poppingly large utility bills can rack up without caution.

We don't need to be so frugal as to turn off every appliance and light whenever possible - but it helps.

It goes without saying: services that cost a lot further south will cost even more up here.

While it is more important for Northern residents to be aware of their energy usage than their southern counterparts, it helps when the community comes together to celebrate something like Earth Day.

Far from being a silly environmentalist cause, Earth Day is a fun reminder and an opportunity to challenge oneself to find energy-saving tips.

Whether it's swapping out those lights for LEDs or getting outside to enjoy the last weeks of winter, there are always ways to cut back - and even small changes can cut a lot off your power bill at the end of the day.

Even for residents who don't consider themselves to be environmentalists, being energy-aware can have the very practical result of cutting down the amount of money shelled out for bills.

Nahendeh MLA Shane Thompson told Deh Cho Drum he's shaved $100 to $150 off his monthly bills by switching to LEDs.

That kind of initiative pays for itself pretty quickly.

For those of us who are not normally energy-conscious, Earth Day also serves as a reminder to turn down the thermostat now that warmer weather has arrived.

It helps that Earth Day usually falls on the cusp of the day-night cycle changing. After months of long darkness, spring is the time of year when the days get longer and the nights, thankfully, get shorter.

In Liidlii Kue, residents now have about 16 hours of natural light to enjoy. Those of us who are early risers now enjoy a 6 a.m. sunrise.

Being energy-aware does not need to be a burden - and observing Earth Day can be done in more ways than one. Aside from energy consumption, something as simple as recycling materials can help.

That was evidenced by the Open Sky Creative Society's Earth Day celebration, which included crafts for adults and children using cardboard and some old Parks Canada fleeces.

Sometimes it is worthwhile to take a step back and enjoy the slower pace of life offered by the North - and Earth Day serves as a perfect reminder to do just that.

Good reasons to attend the play
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, April 21, 2016

A few months ago, we featured a photo from one of the earliest editions of the Drum in our Looking Back feature. It was of a scene from the play H.M.S. Pinafore and, so far, the one that has drawn the most attention.

People told us all about how Knute Hansen starred in the show, how it was so popular that the cast and crew travelled with it to communities that had gyms to put on productions there, too. Fifty years after, that one blurry photo brought back all kinds of memories for our readers.

This is not meant to put pressure on East Three Secondary School's production of The Wizard of Oz this weekend, although I'm sure it would be equal to it. It's just clear that theatre and other artistic pursuits stick with people long after the last curtain comes down.

If attendance at other school functions, like the Christmas concert, is any indicator, there won't be many empty seats.

Still, the ranks of the audience at those kind of things are swollen because nearly every single child is involved and spends some time on stage. The same obviously cannot be said for the upcoming production but not having a child in the play isn't a reason to not go.

We hear a lot about the dearth of arts programming and funding in Northern communities, about how so much more goes to sports, and about how that fails to include many students who are less athletically inclined.

While it may not be Broadway, the high school play is the most ambitious theatrical performance by people in the region and should be treated as such. It is, after all, where many great actors, directors and crew members get their start in the business.

Last year's production of Alice in Wonderland was, by all accounts, a magical experience. Having seen first hand the hard work students and staff have been putting in to this year's effort, I have no doubt the trip to Oz will be equally astounding.

If we want to encourage children, and people in general, to appreciate art, it has to start here.

For those who complain that there isn't enough support for the arts, please put your time and money where your mouth is and get a ticket for this play.

A packed audience can show people with the ability to provide funding for the arts that there is indeed an appetite in the community for theatre, but more importantly, it will show the students on stage that their community supports them.

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