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Can't blame John Howard Society
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The John Howard Society board's decision to fire Lydia Bardak last month unsurprisingly left many in the community a bit confused.

The former executive director is a familiar face at the Yellowknife courthouse and on downtown streets, making and maintaining relationships with some of the city's most vulnerable people. When it comes to the boots-on-the-ground work, she is clearly dedicated.

This is an important part of John Howard Society's mandate -- to work with people who come into conflict with the law and advocate for a fair criminal-justice system.

But beyond this work, nobody but the board and Bardak know much about her effectiveness as an executive director. After her firing, Bardak herself admitted she was lacking in her administrative duties to the point where the society lost its charitable status.

It's really a shame Bardak couldn't keep up with the administrative part of the job because this loss will certainly have a negative affect on the John Howard Society and the community as a whole.

That said, the loss of charitable status is no small thing. According to Revenue Canada, charitable status exempts an organization from paying taxes. With tax season coming up in the new year, this could end up being a huge financial issue for the

John Howard Society. Charitable status comes with other advantages, such as the ability to issue donation receipts - creating an incentive for people to give to the organization. It also exempts an organization from having to charge the goods and services tax and harmonized sales tax.

Bardak's dedication and ability to be out in the community and work with vulnerable people is clearly incredible work but it's all for naught if the work to maintain the organization itself is neglected.

Her work was a blessing to the community and hopefully her energies will be harnessed elsewhere soon.

As for the John Howard Society, it's a shame the organization had to cut off an important limb in order to survive but there is no reason not to believe the board did what it needed to do.

Commerce, tradition boost tourism options
Yellowknifer -Wednesday, December 7, 2016

To keep a culture alive it has to be shared with others so they can understand it. So it's a good move by Aurora Village to add a gift shop aptly named The Trading Post.

Manager Jesse Larocque said it allows her to share her Metis culture with visitors that come from all over the world to see the aurora and keep her family ties to trapping alive.

This is also another fine example of the private sector taking initiative in attracting tourists and preserving indigenous culture.

The Trading Post will give traditional artisans another outlet to make a living, which in turn will allow them in the long run to pass on skills, increase demand and spread Northern crafts, such as jewelry, mittens and mukluks around the world.

Demand for full Northern experiences like what Aurora Village is already providing is proving to be on the rise among tourists. The growth of tourist attractions corresponds to an increase in tourists - up 46 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to the GNWT.

It's well known they are not just here to look at the Northern lights, they want to do other things for fun and to make the most of their time.

Activities such as ice fishing, dogsledding and day trips on Great Slave Lake are also part of the attraction.

There is plenty of tourism business to go around. It's good to see the private sector again rising to meet the demand - especially if indigenous culture is front and centre.

To stack or not to stack
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, December 7, 2016

It was with a pretty big grin on my face I wrote the Coffee Break feature in this edition on the upcoming JLM Calm Air Cup senior men's hockey championship in Arviat this coming month, Jan. 19 to 22.

I could easily have been wearing the silly grin over the fact the tourney is shaping up to be a barn burner, and this event has provided me with many an awesome hockey memory during years past.

Taking for granted the Karetakers ice relatively the same lineup they captured the 2016 crown with, Rankin Inlet sends two teams, and the two Arviat squads, Kings and Stars, are as closely matched in talent as organizer Gleason Uppahuak seems to think they are, then the tourney is going to be one hotlycontested affair.

Throw in Coral Harbour attending with the same lineup that took this year's Avataq, and a young and fast Whale Cove team arriving with their minds set on playing hockey, and the possibilities for playoff Sunday are endless.

If, in fact, these teams are in Arviat and raring to go, almost every game in the round robin of the tournament will be super important.

Add to that scenario big crowds taking advantage of free admission, especially if they're as loud as they were this past January, and this could be a weekend of hockey one won't soon forget.

Yes, there was plenty to smile about concerning the level of hockey that could be awaiting Arviat, but my silly grin came about as the result of a team stacking its roster.

Whether you're pro or con on the subject, precious little can stoke the fires of emotion with hockey players than team stacking, especially when it's being done with outoftown players.

The island I come from (Cape Breton) is as hockey crazy as the Kivalliq, with the exception of how Rankin supports so many levels of hockey with big crowds during tournament season.

In my hometown area, the only way you get to play with another community in the same tournament is if your presence isn't required on the home side.

To be brutally honest, it's the bottom 10 to 20 per cent (skill-wise) who seek a game elsewhere, never the top tier of players.

Should you be a top player in my hometown who decides to play for another community, winning the game would be secondary for many guys on our team.

I'm not saying it's right. I'm just saying it is.

However, unwritten rules that have governed the game for decades upon decades are changing, slowly but surely, and that includes the Kivalliq.

Having been involved with Kivalliq hockey since my arrival here in 1998, I could not imagine players from some communities being on the same team until it happened.

But there were Naujaat players on Arviat and Rankin teams and, for a few years, Rankin goaltender Josh Tartak seemed like he was trying to make a career out of winning events while playing on teams from other hamlets.

And Rankin's Joe Jr. Kaludjak's performance in goal leading Naujaat past his former team, the Hukka Inuks, and then the Rankin Miners in a 43 overtime final to claim the Avataq in 2015 is the type of feelgood story one has to love.

Then there was the first time I saw an Iqaluit player on a Rankin Inlet team. Well, enough about that.

As a hockey fan, I don't like it unless the community of the player(s) involved have no intention of being in the tournament.

And I despise any time one team is so stacked nobody else has a chance.

But I'm old school, and the times are changing.

As an official, as long as there's no backroom skulduggery going on, I'm all for it when it makes an event more competitive and/or increases the level of play.

It will be more than a little interesting to see how it all plays out in Arviat next month, and who the fans cheer for should the Kings, with their Naujaat players, meet the Stars.

However it plays out, you can bet it will be emotional because, at the end of the day, that's what the game is all about.

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.

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