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Calling their bluff
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, April 18, 2017

Let's be real - reducing class-time hours will not benefit students, and it's ridiculous the Department of Education, Culture and Employment is pretending it will.

It's time to abandon the notion of justifying what is essentially throwing a bone to teachers in contract negotiations is an improvement to education.

Everybody agrees teachers are overloaded but this collective bargaining agreement will not necessarily relieve any of that pressure. The concession is to decrease class-time by as many as 100 hours, and each school will decide what exactly those hours that will be. So some teachers may see 100 hours chopped off their school year, others may see 10 and some may see no change.

So any relief to workload is not guaranteed, and could be minuscule, depending on the school.

So, as a labour concession, the victory is minimal at best, and as an improvement to education, it's no victory at all. To be clear there will be no positive result to giving students less time in the classroom.

If the department really wants to increase the quality of education, bureaucrats will need to overhaul the entire system, identify areas for improvement and fully fund those improvements. Because the bottom line is, funding for education has not kept up with the times. Today's education includes inclusive schooling, more enlightened disciplinary methods and bureaucratic tasks such as in-depth student evaluations. On top of this, according to the NWT Teachers' Association website, teachers are expected to volunteer their time outside of school hours to coach, supervise extracurricular activities, chaperone trips and dances, attend local meetings and run various community functions. Expecting teachers to take this much on on top of the act of teaching can only hurt the quality of education.

The education department is going through an "education renewal" right now but the way it's heading this renewal is only going to come up with more innovative ways to fail.

Parents, teachers and the public need to start speaking up, and demand better from the government. So far, some seem to be doing this.

The Standing Committee on Social Development is holding public meetings on the proposed legislative changes that will allow for these class-time reductions. Shane Thompson, Nahendeh MLA and committee chair, told Yellowknifer last week that people are "very concerned."

"They're not able to understand the rationale," he said. This, from the MLA who wants more wellness days for all GNWT employees.

These people have a right to be concerned. Because right now the government is attempting a classic bait and switch: it's trying to sell a collective bargaining agreement as a sound public policy change.


Justice needs to be amplified
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, April 18, 2017

It seems simple: people should be able to hear what's going on in public court.

This isn't the case in Courtroom 5 in the Yellowknife Courthouse.

During an April 6 court appearance, both defense lawyer Jay Bran and the court reporter had difficulty hearing the defendant's testimony because of a loud fan noise.

Audio amplification technology has been around for more than a century.

It is mystifying the Canadian court system is so reticent to jump on board and buy a microphone and speaker so everybody in a public courtroom can hear and understand the court case unfolding in front of them.

This isn't a problem unique to Yellowknife those who run the Canadian justice system have long been hesitant to adopt new technology.

Yellowknifer isn't advocating for anything revolutionary. Just a microphone and speaker.

Baby steps. Miniature audio amplification devices can be found in Yellowknife stores for less than $50.

Yellowknifer urges the Justice department to look into it.


Police need to bust behaviour
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, April 18, 2017

I've been quietly proud of our nation's RCMP force for most of my life.

The officers always got their man, were tough as nails, were known around the world for their unique uniforms and had a romantic aura surrounding them that made people think of simpler, bygone times.

Being rural, my hometown of Port Morien, Nova Scotia, in dear old Cape Breton, was always policed by the RCMP, and one officer formed, organized and led a great new youth initiative in my town called the Young Involved Citizens Club.

We met twice a week and, for the three years Const. Gary Smith oversaw the club, we took part in a number of fantastic, fun-filled programs.

We also did a bunch of community initiatives like cleaning up our well-known beach, the awesome Morien Sandbar, and we held bottle blitzes and put the money toward a good cause in the town.

One year Const. Smith had us look at trying to debunk or prove a few Cape Breton legends, and that particular undertaking led to six of us spending the entire night at the well-known "Old Dan's" haunted house in the middle of nowhere on Brickyard Road.

You take a small group of young male teenagers who were acting a whole lot braver than they really were, and who had vivid, overactive imaginations, knew the spooky legend of Old Dan's all too well, and couldn't see each other's faces after midnight because it was too dark, and you can pretty much figure out the kind of night we had.

Suffice to say, I was never so glad in all my life to see my mom and dad's car the next morning.

We were left with many lifetime memories when Const. Smith was transferred and the club faded away. They're the kind of memories that leave a soft spot inside you for the entity or person responsible for them.

My fondness for the force never wavered. That is, until recently.

Many years ago I overheard a retired RCMP sergeant, who was a friend of my father's, say he was a little concerned about the direction the force was going.

In the few years previous to his retirement, he said, more and more of the new officers had aggressive personalities and methods of policing, and a number of them spoke openly about hoping one of their suspects gave a reason to get physical or fire their weapon.

I must admit, even in Rankin Inlet, a lot more of the RCMP officers I've met during the past 18.5 years have been of the TV undercover maverick cop Baretta-wannabe type than I ever knew even existed.

As the headlines of RCMP officers being charged and convicted of crimes continued to mount during the past few years, and the allegations of sexual harassment within the force itself took centre stage, my resolve for always being pro-RCMP began to dissolve.

Finally, the details of a former RCMP counter-terrorism officer found guilty of committing vile and unthinkable acts of abuse on his own 11-year-old son shattered my romantic notions of the force.

The time has come for extreme scrutiny when deciding which people can be put in positions of authority and set loose in public carrying a loaded gun and other assorted weapons.

One can only wonder what the fallout would be if one of the unthinkable acts being committed in other parts of Canada were to happen in Nunavut.

Let's hope that day never comes.

But, the only way, sooner of later, it's not going to come, is if less men and women hiding violent tendencies or antisocial behavioral traits are given guns and badges!


Tories wrong to bench Beyak
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, April 10, 2017

While the territory's lone MP says he would have no problem if Lynn Beyak resigned from Canada's Senate, award-winning aboriginal columnist Cece Hodgson McCauley is standing fast in her defence.

As reported last week in News/North ("McLeod criticizes senator; columnist defends her again," April 17), Beyak was recently kicked off the senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples by the Conservatives after she said there were good deeds and some other positive aspects to Canada's residential school system that have been overshadowed by the negative reports.

In the expected blowback that comment made, it was unclear if people were offended because Beyak was non-aboriginal, or was going against popular opinion.

Liberal MP Michael McLeod, a residential school survivor himself, attended Akaitcho Hall in Yellowknife in the 1970s.

"I was surprised to hear her say that after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission studied the whole issue of residential school for many years," McLeod said.

McLeod said he understands how some residential schools survivors say the experience was not all negative for them and he defends their right to say that.

However, he said Beyak, as a non-indigenous person, should have been more measured in her comments.

"This is not about us as aboriginal people. We know what happened. We don't have to rejudge it," McLeod said. "You should be asking her to explain her actions and comments.

"To stand on the sidelines and whitewash the history of aboriginal people is totally wrong with the limited understanding and involvement she apparently has."

It's pretty clear the great majority of residential school attendees are quite entitled to refer to themselves as being survivors, as the entire system was genocidal.

However, there are few absolutes in life and it's obvious there are some residential school students who don't share the view of the majority. Such as award-winning News/North columnist Cece Hodgson McCauley.

She said Beyak has the right to speak her mind and the only reason aboriginal people have expressed outrage with her comments is because some of them are still seeking financial compensation from the federal government for their residential school experience.

"I had 10 years in residential schools and it was the best 10 years of my life," Hodgson McCauley said. "Why shouldn't (Beyak) speak out about it? She said she spent a lot of time with aboriginals.

"It makes more sense if white people, all people, know our stories. Why can't she say something. It's freedom of speech."

But the Liberals, indigenous activists and Conservative critics seized upon the chance to make political hay from Beyak's comments.

Freedom of speech is important in any democracy. People shouldn't be afraid they will be punished or shamed if they speak their minds - of course, that doesn't hold for threats or hate crimes.

Beyak is a victim of the sense of overheated political correctness in society.

The Conservatives were wrong to demote Beyak from the Committee on Aboriginal Peoples as all viewpoints should be represented - such as those of Hodgson McCauley.


Mines only work when Nunavummiut work
Nunavut/News North - Monday, April 10, 2017

Nunavut's mining community gathered this month in Iqaluit, and mining companies from each region - Kivalliq's Agnico Eagle (Meadowbank and Meliadine), Qikiqtaaluk's Baffinland (Mary River), and Kitikmeot's TMAC (Hope Bay) - were honoured with the corporate award.

It's hard to ignore the success one of those three - Agnico Eagle in the Kivalliq - is having in making Inuit the heart of their operation.

Baffinland Iron Mines admitted its own envy, as its Inuit employment levels - 16.7 per cent - are half as high as the gold mining company's, which sits at 35 per cent on its way to 50 per cent.

There are reasons Agnico Eagle is ahead of its contemporaries. One is the fact that Meadowbank has been producing gold since 2010. Mary River started in 2014. Hope Bay just poured its first gold bar in February and has yet to start commercial production. Agnico Eagle's second mine, Meliadine, near Rankin Inlet was approved for development in February.

It's easier to access Baker Lake's mines, too, with lower relative costs. Meadowbank has a road from Baker Lake, while Mary River requires workers to be flown in, many from a great distance.

The price of gold and iron have had different paths over the lives of the mines, too. Gold surged soon after Meadowbank opened, gaining 44 per cent and staying hot before stabilizing near its June 2010 level. Iron, meanwhile, was already in freefall when Mary River opened, and continued to lose more than half its value before finally recovering in February to its September 2014 price.

The effect of commodity prices are evident far beyond the mines. The prices affect the flow of money in the neighbouring communities and the regional economies.

We wrote last week about the difference Meadowbank has made in Baker Lake. The need for income assistance has fallen there. It's apparent that when one person works, many benefit. That's especially true for many of the Inuit miners who are supporting families while keeping the money in the region. We need to see more of this, especially in North Baffin, rife with overcrowded housing units and food insecurity. As of 2013, more than half of the people in each of Clyde River, Arctic Bay, Iglulik, and Pond Inlet were on income assistance, with Clyde River sitting at 65 per cent. Only 25 per cent of Baker Lake's population was on assistance that year.

Government and the Inuit associations need to do whatever it possible to create incentives to get these mines above 50 per cent Inuit employment.

Get Inuit trained at all costs: Heavy equipment operators, mechanics, supervisors, workers with safety training. All of these people can find work after the mines at hamlets and other businesses in their home communities.

In other words, any dollar spent will stay in Nunavut. When you factor in the number of people one mine job can sustain, that's a better investment than even the gold being pulled out of the ground.


No need to name students
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 14, 2017
What is the point of the GNWT making public the names of, and the amount by which, anyone who has benefited from the territory's student loan forgiveness program ("MLA questions possible student privacy breach" Yellowknifer, April 7) in any given year?

Government department heads, lawyers and privacy experts may hum and haw over whether or not this represents a bona fide legal breach of a student's right to privacy, but Frame Lake MLA Kevin O'Reilly cut to the chase when he requested the GNWT simply stop doing this.

There is likely no legal reason forcing the government to publish an itemized list naming every student and the amount of his or her debt forgiveness.

If there were some kind of legal requirement behind naming each Jane and Charlie who shared in a student loan forgiveness program that cost less than $1 million last year, then surely there would be a legal requirement to let the light shine in on public servant remuneration which amounts to more than $700 million annually.

But as no so-called sunshine list exists for bureaucrats in the NWT, one has to assume there is no legal requirement to publish the specifics in the case of these students.

We understand the need for a public accounting of what government programs cost the GNWT and taxpayers. That the GNWT forgave close to $1 million in student loans is good to know.

Expenditures on student loan forgiveness are a good thing. Each loan forgiven represents NWT students getting higher education and returning home or not leaving, a requirement for loan forgiveness. Sounds like damned good value for the money. Hopefully next year the GNWT will need to forgive double that amount.

The exact amount of what each student is forgiven is irrelevant. This isn't bad debt being wiped clean in a gesture of territorial benevolence where the taxpayer has the right to know exactly what's up, who's involved and how much it cost.

This is a program funded to encourage Northerners to return north after completing education or other training in the south, or to stay in the north after completing their education here.

Publishing the name of every student and the amount he or she was forgiven serves no purpose. The practise should be abolished.


Arts success puts Yellowknife on the map
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 14, 2017

Congratulations to the three Yellowknifers who took home Juno awards earlier this month.

When people such as Quantum Tangle's Greyson Gritt and Tiffany Ayalik, and Isis Essery, who worked on Gord Downie's Secret Path project, excel on the national stage, it creates many positive benefits: it encourages other young, would-be artists to try their luck, puts the city on the map when it comes to arts and cultivates an interest in the North.

All of these things show those who divvy out arts grants that investing in the territory's arts community can pay back dividends. The territory already boasts Juno-winner Leela Gilday, and Digawolf, who has been a nominee. It is quite an accomplishment to see more artists added to this venerable list.

Yellowknifer is excited to see what's next for the Junos' newest inductees, and who else might grace that stage in the future.


Passion and work ethic all that's needed in new economy
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, April 13, 2016

She's just 14 but Savannah Elias-Beaulieu is showing impressive ambition pursuing an opportunity to compete in the Miss Teen Canada Globe contest this August.

The teen is working at Northmart and fundraising through other means to cover the costs.

Her passion is makeup and she wants to turn it into a job one day.

Not everyone in her life is completely sure makeup is a viable career path.

But look at Christen Dominique, NikkieTutorials, jeffreestar and many others on YouTube. They are running makeup and cosmetics channels and all have millions of subscribers each. Estimating ad revenue, those channels are likely generating a six-figure income at least, if not more.

The potential to turn a passion into a career without even leaving the house today is incredible.

Considering that young people make up a substantial amount of any of the top channels' viewership, makeup tutorials from a Miss Canada Teen Globe contestant, especially from an Arctic Canadian showing off some Northern culture, could be a hit.

Of course, it's not as easy as simply making a video and getting paid. Like any lucrative pursuit, making a channel on YouTube takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time for search algorithms to catch up, and a true passion for the subject is necessary to keep up the video stream and audience interest.

The economic prospects on social media get brought up regularly on this editorial page. But that's because the opportunities are marvelous.

The Town of Inuvik is big on tourism these days and tries to influence shows and their video crews to visit and document the area. But why fly in a whole production crew? A local with a video camera can do the same and reach millions of people around the world. That's the whole beauty of the Internet age.

Now, it's worth a disclaimer that the social media industry could be experiencing something of a bubble - seeing as almost none of these companies paying creators make money themselves - but even if the market corrects itself and pulls back some, it's not a market that's going anywhere or getting smaller in the long term.

Regular TV is dying, for good reason. The cast of characters on social media, from YouTube to streaming channels like Twitch or even short-lived booms such as Vine, is so much more diverse than in traditional media. Every niche one can think of is covered.

CNN just had one of its best quarters in years, and even at its viewership height in March, YouTube vlogger Casey Neistat, now affiliated with CNN, crushes the numbers Wolf Blitzer or anyone on that newscast gets. And he doesn't have a crew, just him and a camera.

Elias-Beaulieu already shows the type of work ethic and ambition that will open up doors for her that peers less focused on the future won't see.

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