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A troubled territory
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, December 5, 2016

You don't have to be poor or desperate or of any particular ethnicity to risk and ruin your life by ingesting illicit drugs or drinking to a blackout each day.

Rates of drug and alcohol abuse in the NWT are consistently higher than the national average.

Sure, marijuana is set to be legalized next spring by the Trudeau government but it's still illegal until the framework for legal sales of a potency-regulated plant is set.

And while alcohol is legal in most communities in the NWT, we see the desperate measures people take to bring booze into places where it's banned or controlled. The same goes for importing illegal drugs.

As reported in News/North last week ("Big cocaine, weed bust," Nov. 28), the RCMP nabbed approximately 165 grams of suspected cocaine and 6.3 kilograms of what appeared to be marijuana. No charges had been laid as of press time.

Norman Wells is one of those restricted communities, where you can only purchase certain amounts of booze and the liquor store is open fewer hours than other communities.

As part of its addictions awareness week events, Inuvik held a sharing circle that attracted 50 people.

"I was on the doorstep of suicide two times because of alcohol," Winston Moses said in front of a circle of close to 50 people at Ingamo Hall on Nov. 20.

"I thought no one cared. I thought nobody liked or loved me. I lost two jobs and I almost lost my family."

Indeed, it's often families who must cope with the fallout from their loved ones' addictions.

In Yellowknife, RCMP made an unusual plea to Northerners to be on high alert after eight fentanyl overdoses occurred in Yellowknife over a couple days starting on Nov. 24.

"If you have a loved one who you believe may be using drugs, please check on them regularly." Sgt. Dean Riou stated in a news release.

Officials were concerned the type of fentanyl causing the overdoses in the capital could make its way into other NWT communities.

Police enforcement of the law is just one way to curb the problem. Another is helping people who want to stop ruining their lives and damaging those of their friends and family.

Listen to what Inuvik's Tyson Joe had to say at that sharing circle on Nov. 20. He's been in recovery more than two years.

"It feels so good to ... be around people who are smiling, and there's no alcohol involved, drugs or nothing, just people," he said.

"I'm never going back that way," said Joe. "I already know who that guy is. I already know what he does, I know what he says.

"I never want to explain myself for that guy again."

Inuit in the driver's seat
Nunavut/News North - Monday, December 5, 2016

The Nunavut Land Claims Agreement is no more.

Instead of land claims and beneficiaries there will simply be the Nunavut Agreement, and Inuit.

The change in terminology is an important step in decolonization. Nunavut Tunngavik's (NTI) move puts the focus on the people who were here first, putting Inuit in the driver's seat, where the Canadian government previously sat.

It's also an important change in affirming identity for Nunavummiut. This is your territory. You have value and a say in how this territory moves forward.

There is still work to be done to strengthen the territory's identity. NTI has chosen to start with language.

The Inuit language is under threat but not only from the lack of capacity in the territory's schools or workplaces. Nunavut's public communications are too often English-first or English only.

The Nunavut government would do well to follow NTI's lead as the territory moves toward devolution.

If the territory is trying to send a message that the Inuit language matters, let us make all government publications and websites Inuktut first, not English first. Visit or and one will see both Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Government of Nunavut load the English websites first. Is this true for your local Inuit organization, for your hamlet?

Where are they spending their money to get their message out?

Nunavut News/North was invited last month to address the House of Commons standing committee on Canadian Heritage, and we told them we are not immune to the power of Internet giants Facebook and Google in drawing advertising dollars away from newspapers.

Central to this is the fact that both the federal and territorial governments are spending their advertising money with southern companies. Our ability to provide local content suffers as a result.

Our priority has always been to give you news and advertising in Inuktut and English, much the way you can get content in your language on your local radio station. Whereas southern newspapers consider the CBC a threat, we know that the public broadcaster is an important way Nunavummiut bring more Inuktut into their daily lives.

Inuit content is Canadian content. Look around and ask how much is truly available to support your culture, your language, your way of life. Faced with the dominance of the English language, the only way to keep Inuit culture alive is to produce more of it.

The feds told us they want to support Nunavut's cultural industries but taking the lead from NTI, that support needs to start at home.

Do you value local culture? Want to see a performing arts centre? More Inuktut in your schools, hospitals and courts? More media in your language?

It's up to you to tell your MLA, your MP, your Inuit organization, and your favourite local businesses. After all, you're in the driver's seat.

Blame for Bullmoose outcry falls on feds
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, December 2, 2016

It is troubling to see the discord surrounding the proposed Bullmoose winter road project and cleanup of seven abandoned mine sites 60 to 90 kilometres east of Yellowknife.

While the remediation of abandoned mines sites is an important part of erasing the negative aspects of the North's mining legacy, clean-up projects should not repeat past mistakes by operating in the shadows.

While Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada is technically meeting its obligations to consult as per the rules of the land and water-permit issuing regulator, the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board, its outreach can hardly be called a fountain of information.

According to the feds' Bullmoose-Ruth engagement log, there have been only two public meetings regarding the project since 2011 - one in Ndilo on March 9, 2015 and another in Behchoko on March 16 of this year. Neither meeting was widely publicized, if at all. No record of attendance numbers for either meeting is provided in the document.

In a letter to the land and water board, two Yellowknives Dene band members who say they have lived, trapped, hunted and fished in the area are for 27 years note they only learned of the project second-hand from a contractor preparing a bid for project-related work.

Similarly, Yellowknifer only learned of the project through word-of-mouth on the street.

If a mining exploration company had engaged the public in this manner it would be hounded out of the territory.

By contrast, TerraX Minerals, which is exploring for gold north of Yellowknife, has had several public meetings in Yellowknife and Ndilo to explain its project to the public, while consistently advertising those meetings and inviting media to cover the events as a matter of the public record.

Despite its public engagement efforts it was slapped with a 48-hour stop work order earlier this year after failing to notify the GNWT that, along with its drilling program, it was also grooming an ice road.

Aggravating the Bullmoose issue is the feds' decision to award the contract to Hay River-based Rowe's-Outcome Joint Venture. There is no clear statement of how the Yellowknives Dene, through whose land the road will pass, will benefit from this joint venture.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs could have save itself a lot of trouble had it been open and upfront about the project from the get-go. In most respects, it seems like a reasonable project - one that would rid the land of residual hazardous materials, potentially producing local jobs while being closely monitored to ensure environmental damage is minimal. Now the feds must hope the land and water board will give it the green light in time for the winter construction season despite facing stiff opposition from the Yellowknives Dene and cabin owners.

One would hope the government would learn from past mining operations that the bare minimum doesn't cut it anymore.

Water is life for everything
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, December 1, 2016

As news broke last week of a shutdown to the Norman Wells pipeline, Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Jerry Antoine told the Deh Cho Drum protecting the water is the band's top priority.

With the pipeline upriver from Fort Simpson, any potential damage could have serious effects on residents of the village.

The band is pushing for year-round water quality monitoring by Enbridge, on top of any measures that may come out of the shutdown.

The band's concern is for both the water and the land. The Mackenzie River is the longest river system in Canada. It flows through vast wilderness and gives life to all manner of creatures.

Framed by continuing protests at Standing Rock in the U.S., Antoine's words ring very true.

Enbridge announced the Norman Wells pipeline is being shut down, thanks to "ground instability."

After a brief re-activation of the pipeline to remove the oil already inside, the shutdown will proceed.

No one is quite sure yet how long that shutdown will be in place or when oil will start flowing again. That forces Imperial Oil to cut production to minimal levels, and it also requires the Northwest Territories Power Corporation to be on guard with a back-up energy source ready in Norman Wells, since the town's power is generated by oil production.

What all this means for oil and energy production in Norman Wells is unclear.

What it means for the Deh Cho is that erosion along the banks of the Mackenzie River is having serious economic impacts.

But just as water is the lifeblood of this region, so is erosion a fact of life for communities built next to rivers.

It is common knowledge, for instance, that erosion around the island in Fort Simpson is a cause of some concern.

Water erodes earth and the impact of human development often speeds that process along.

Pipelines, as evidenced by the current situation, are not immune to the effects of that either.

Luckily, the region has numerous water stewards who are dedicated to protecting the resource and mitigating any impacts to it.

This past summer, as land users got out on the river, Liidlii Kue First Nation was getting reports of erosion close to the area that has shut down the pipeline.

That led to a meeting between the band and Enbridge to discuss erosion concerns.

It is great to see such open lines of communication between Liidlii Kue First Nation and Enbridge.

From a water management standpoint, that communication means the band is able to provide an extra level of monitoring and information Enbridge may not otherwise receive.

Additionally, the band is approaching this from the standpoint of wanting to ensure the Deh Cho's most precious resource is not contaminated or damaged in any way.

No one knows these lands and waters like the Dene. Liidlii Kue First Nation has requested direct involvement in whatever steps Enbridge takes to re-open its pipeline, and Enbridge needs to listen.

Careless vandals disrupt cultural experience
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, December 1, 2016

Visiting the students on their Boot Lake cultural trip was a great experience.

I love fishing, I was served some excellent moose stew and the pristine white scenery was stellar.

Unfortunately, the Grade 6 class I accompanied did not get to reel in a net of fish like earlier classes had. This wasn't because the spot had dried up.

Instead, organizers of the trip informed me that vandals had tampered with the fish net set under the ice, rendering it useless and a long hassle to free.

Particularly headshake-inducing was that the vandals didn't even appear to be stealing the fish, but simply messing with the equipment.

Their joy must have come in knowing some elementary school children would not get to experience a cultural tradition and a great fish haul that day.

To some extent, I understand the allure in "trolling," and not the fishing variety, but in screwing with someone else and laughing at their compromised situation.

In one way or another I think we all engage in a form of it at some point throughout our lives, though it can range from harmless jokes

to unfunny, rotten behaviour as in this instance.

I can only hope the vandals of Boot Lake were very young people themselves, as any adult tampering with fishing lines for fun is a bit of a loser.

My worst transgression as a youth in Vancouver was when I and my group of friends got the bright idea walking home from school one day to fill doggie bags with dirt and toss them at a house beneath the trail. We did that once and there was a school assembly about it the next day. 

Someone could have been injured and there could have been significant property damage.

My friends and I were all raised in great homes with a great upbringing that preached a good set of morals, but kids make those kind of mistakes.

I'm not excusing my young self, in fact I am ashamed of this story, but I can understand children making these bad, unthinking decisions, not adults.

If you're an adult doing this kind of thing, something has gone very wrong.

It's likely futile for me to try to get into the head of someone who enjoys this kind of activity. Lack of positive stimulation? Contempt for others? Jealousy? Boredom? I don't know.

Inuvik fosters an incredible community of friendly, positive people. I'm not a parenting expert and there's certainly no way to eliminate bad actions from the world.

But I hope somehow, someway, these vandals and others like them have their come-to-God moment, that look in the mirror that sees right through any self-confident mask, and question the type of person they want to be and what impact they want to have on the world and in their community.

It's never too late to change.

Half measures do nothing
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Thanks to a new webpage launched by the territorial government this month, it's possible to look up specific government job titles and see the pay range for that position.

Human Resources Minister Robert C. McLeod lauds the idea as a "good first step" to increasing government transparency.

Hopefully that's exactly what this is - a first step - because this information alone accomplishes nothing. Take for example, the listed salary range for the position of president of Aurora College, between $155,552 and $222,222 annually. The gap between these two numbers is $66,670 - a number large enough to be considered quite a generous salary in of itself.

The benefits to working for the government are unarguably generous. So generous, in fact, that top-level bureaucrats who could be making more than a quarter-million dollars per year need to be willing to accept a modicum of lost privacy in exchange.

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elaine Keenan-Bengts has recommended disclosing full remuneration, including salary, bonuses and discretionary benefits, as well as the dollar amounts of severance packages, as part of updating access to information legislation.

This is the direction the territorial government should go, at least for top-level bureaucrats, if leaders are interested in accountability. Anything less is merely paying lip service to this ideal.

The main objection to this sort of list tends to be a squeamishness at the thought of naming names in a jurisdiction as small as the NWT. The entire territory's population is only 44,000, with about half of these people centred in Yellowknife. But this argument hasn't flown in other small jurisdictions across Canada. Municipal public officials in communities across Ontario, from Perth to Pickle Lake, who make more than $100,000 annually, take these positions knowing their names will be on that province's public salary-disclosure list. If they can do it, there is no reason bureaucrats in the NWT can't.

Rather than scrambling to protect a small portion of privacy for the very individuals who benefit the most from NWT bureaucracy, our leaders should be scrambling to demonstrate the integrity of government salaries for any member of the public who is interested to know.

Public needs details before any pool plebiscite
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The city needs a new pool, there's little doubt about that. The question is how will the city pay for it.

Ruth Inch Memorial Pool has served the city well as a place for recreation and professional sports development but has become inadequate in meeting the city's needs and lacks facilities such as family change areas.

The good news is the federal government has stepped up to lend a helping hand to replace it. Ottawa is offering up to $12.9 million from its Building Canada Fund to build a new aquatic centre. City council has agreed to accept the funding but there is a catch - the city must contribute a minimum of $4.3 million to get it, and that by itself is nowhere near enough to cover the remaining cost. The agreement also bars the city from diverting money from the tax base or formula funding to pay for it.

Estimates for the total cost of a new pool put the final price at anywhere between $30 million and $55.9 million - a Grand Canyon sized gap that leaves the city with few other options other than to borrow.

And that requires a plebiscite.

The city argues, much like the federal Liberals did in their successful election campaign last year, that now is the time to borrow with interest rates being so low.

The city needs to explain to residents what exactly the city needs to do to get the ball rolling on a new pool - both benefits and risks.

Old dogs, new musical tricks and lots of attitude to go around
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, November 30, 2016

While it's true that, for the most part, every generation has its own style of music, it's quite amazing to be watching the "classic" hard-rock bands still out on the road doing their thing and introducing ever-growing numbers of youth to their music.

And when said bands have decided to go into the studio and record new material, the results have been a long, long way from same old, same old.

Black Sabbath released their first self-titled album in 1970. They released their supposedly final studio album in 2013.

The album, titled, appropriately enough, 13, topped the charts in eight major markets, including the U.K. and the U.S.A. The album was certified platinum in Canada, Poland and Brazil, and certified gold in Germany and Australia.

And, if that weren't enough, two singles from the album, God Is Dead (7) and End of the Beginning (38) cracked the American Top 10 and Top 40, respectively.

Not to be outdone, metal masters Judas Priest released Redeemer of Souls in 2014 and a live effort, Battle Cry, in 2016.

The two combined to crack the Top 20 on the charts in a staggering 15 countries, and the Top 10 in a mind-blowing 10 markets, including Canada and the U.S.A., and hitting number one in Finland.

I purchased the Beatles stereo box set for my grandson, Colby, a few years back, and watched from a rather great distance as they began to take more and more of his headphone time, and gangster rap and hip hop less and less.

He is now eagerly awaiting a rather large box from his grandpa, stuffed with CDs of classic albums from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s that I've transferred to my music server and backed up twice (just to be sure).

Most summers I get to spend a week, or so, with him, and I still get excited when time after time he reaches into the case to see what CD I have on after hearing the first two or three tracks.

The generation gap was further shrunken between the two of us during the summer of 2014, when those old fogies, AC/DC, went 11 times platinum across the globe with the release of Rock or Bust, with the two-fisted attack of the singles Play Ball and the title track each cracking the American Top 10.

There is no feeling in the world like driving down the highway and singing at the top of your lungs with your grandson. Well, OK, the air guitar feud we had at home later was pretty cool too.

The musical tastes across the Kivalliq are wide and varied, but there still seem to be as many classic rock fans in the region as anything else.

Being a popular music fanatic for anything except country, I've been intrigued by numerous Northern artists during my 18 years in Rankin, whether it be a band, solo artist or a more collaborative approach.

I've been particularly intrigued by a handful of newer artists who combine traditional approaches with modern arrangements, and serve it up with excellent showmanship and more than a little attitude.

After all, I've been a lover of rock and roll for many a rollicking year and what is rock and roll if not attitude? Although, I must admit, as much as I love the attitudes put on display by some of these young artists, it bothers me a bit when most of their best work seems to be always based in anger.

My grandson should receive his CD bonanza before Christmas, and I'll be more than a little interested to see what his preferred listening is among them come the summer.

I'm quietly hoping he moves toward the artists from the 1970s, as that will mean plenty of days belting out songs together this summer.

But any way it plays out, we are never more like friends than when we're enjoying music together.

Real rock and roll attitude, bridging a generation gap four-decades wide.

Now that's the kind of attitude coming from a young person I can really get into!

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