Turning falling oil prices into lemonade
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, June 5, 2017
It's been tough going for Inuvik after falling oil prices forced the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline onto the backburner.
The pipeline is supposed to be the town's black golden goose but with oil and gas exploration dwindling to nearly nothing and the pipeline pushed back to a future when higher oil prices would hopefully make a $16-billion dollar-plus pipeline feasible, the town of 3,400 is treading water for now.
One of the casualties was the Inuvik Petroleum Show, an annual gathering of oil and gas industry leaders as well as government and supporting businesses. The town pulled the plug after 2014 as the oil and gas industry in the region faltered.
Inuvik could have turtled right then and there, slashed all of its engagement activities and hoped to at least save a church and a gas station or two, while not turning completely into a ghost town. Creative minds, however, have resisted the urge to cry defeat.
Entering its second year as Arctic Energy and Emerging Technologies Conference and Tradeshow, the town has re-branded the event with a broader focus on energy issues in general and the solutions industry and government are coming up with to address them.
More than 200 people registered for the inaugural event last year and organizers are confident this year's energy show June 13 to 14 will be even more successful. They are banking on the lower Canadian dollar and completion of the Inuvik-to-Tuktoyaktuk highway to draw more interest, not only in the energy show but in bringing more conferences to the town.
The energy show is also presciently timed as plans to introduce a price on carbon by the Liberal government in Ottawa begin rolling out next year. Adjusting to this new reality in the North makes the show all the more relevant.
In these efforts, we salute Inuvik for thinking outside the box and a future entirely dependent on a rise in oil and gas prices.
Red tape gripes don't fly very high
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, June 5, 2017
We appreciate the Canadian Federation of Independent Business coming up every year to spank our government for choking small business with too much red tape.
Business tourism is good for our economy and having CFIB staff fly up, stay in our hotels and eat in our restaurants contributes to that. That's about all they contribute, however.
Again, the CFIB gave the NWT a failing grade for managing red tape. Let's look at the high priority issues their survey of Northern business uncovered; red tape associated with: Canadian Pension Plan, employment insurance, property tax, health inspections, business registration, permits and licences, etc.
As cumbersome as these requirements are, we challenge the CFIB to point out any Canadian jurisdictions that don't have exactly this kind of red tape businesses must contend with.
What would be more helpful would be for CFIB to provide examples as to how other jurisdictions do it better because there is no doubt some do.
Can you renew your business licence online in the south? We should be able to do that in the North, multi-year. That would save both the government and businesses time and money.
Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann disputes CFIB's failing grade. Schumann is in a good position to know. He built a successful business in Hay River - Poison Graphics - and has walked the walk in dealing with this same red tape.
If he truly believes CFIB's survey results are not "a fair assessment of what we (GNWT) actually do to help small business," he's in a perfect position to paint a different picture.
Beyond looking for efficiencies when dealing with the necessary paperwork of government, and we know they are there, he can take greater pains to inform businesses of what's available for making their lives easier, especially those businesses in the smaller communities and regional centers.
Perhaps next year, Schumann and his government will be able to brag about climbing up the ranks of CFIB survey results of managing red tape.
Kill the bill, save the culture
Nunavut/News North - Monday, June 5, 2017
Education Minister Paul Quassa - a well-respected leader and negotiator of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement - appears intent on throwing his reputation out the window for all the wrong reasons.
His fight to push through Bill 37, which will cancel any targets to have Nunavut's high school students speaking Inuktitut upon graduation, is opposed in the legislative assembly and in many other quarters.
As of press time, it appeared to be dead legislation walking, as bills need two sittings of the legislature and three readings to pass. The funeral can't come soon enough.
It's hard to understand how the Department of Education let it come this far.
It's even harder to understand why Quassa is staking his career on this bill. As the clock runs down on this legislative assembly, Quassa must be considering his future after the October election.
Even if his constituents support him, it's doubtful that his current stance on Bill 37 will lead him to the premiership - he was up against Premier Peter Taptuna for the job in 2013 - or even to a ministerial appointment under any premier other than perhaps Taptuna, should his premiership survive the election.
We say that because Taptuna is complicit in this debacle, and the worldview of both leaders - who are showing their disdain for language and culture preservation in their support of this bill - may come back to haunt them when voters cast their ballots in October.
Quassa is pushing the passage of the Bill 37, he says, to protect the government from a lawsuit by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. He says his history shows he is committed to the preservation of Inuktitut but if that's the case, why is he pushing this solely to avoid a lawsuit?
It's a pretty stinky argument. Surely he meant to say, "It's the right plan for our children."
As it is, Bill 37 is just as likely to trigger a lawsuit from NTI, as breaking Inuktitut language commitments to Nunavut's children is already cause for inflamed spirits. This government has had four years to present a serious plan to make Inuktitut the first language of Nunavut's schoolchildren but waited until practically the last minute to present a very flawed bill to the legislative assembly.
Minister Quassa, there's only one path you can take to save yourself.
Withdraw the bill and disavow the idea.
Step back into your negotiator shoes. Bring NTI, MLAs, and educators to the table. Discuss a path forward together. Do it in the open. Invite Nunavummiut and journalists to monitor the proceedings. Broadcast it live across Nunavut.
If there is a viable plan, it will come out.
If not, at least the territory can say its leaders tried to work out a solution together, in the open, instead of besieged behind closed doors.
Visitors centre needs proper funding to succeed
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, June 2, 2017
A lot more work needs to be done to help people who have experienced sexual assault, especially in the hours and days immediately following an incident.
Sexual assault is traumatic. Seeking help can be difficult. Besides shock, it's normal to feel confused, embarrassed, numb, fearful, anxious and guilty.
So why does the RCMP corral victims to Stanton Territorial Hospital's emergency department to sit among coughing, staring strangers?
Native Women's Association of the NWT victim service worker Marie Speakman says there is no dignity in this process - and she's right. She said she has heard of people leaving the hospital before getting treatment and some who stayed feeling re-victimized.
Other advocates say many people just never report sexual assaults because they are scared off by a lack of dedicated support and co-ordination of services in Yellowknife.
These observations - and their significance - are backed up by disturbing statistics. For example, there were 197 police reported incidents of sexual assault across the NWT in 2015, according to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics.
This number is likely much higher given sexual assault is grossly under-reported. In fact, the Canadian Women's Foundation estimates less than 10 per cent of sexual assaults are reported to police. Holly Johnson, a University of Ottawa criminology professor, says that figure could actually be as low as 3.3 per cent.
Last week, Speakman came forward to say she was having positive talks with the RCMP and others about practical ways they could provide better support to those who have been sexually assaulted, including one suggestion for a dedicated, private space away from the hospital.
Other support workers have spoken of similar ideas and concerns over the years - concerns they have voiced repeatedly: people seeking treatment and completion of a sexual assault kit lack adequate privacy.
Having a dedicated, private space away from the emergency room would help. If space can't be found at the new hospital, there is an existing facility right next door that will be looking for new tenants once the new Stanton hospital is complete.
Having sexual assault information on the Stanton Territorial Hospital website explaining who they provide care to, what happens to people when they arrive and the services that are available - even if one chooses not to come to the hospital - would also help. Currently, there's nothing.
Stanton should take a note from the BC Women's Hospital and Health Centre website, where people learn they can: bring a friend or family support person with them, get referrals to health, legal and community-based support services, access pregnancy prevention and expect a victims service group to arrive within 45 minutes.
"There is no right or wrong way to feel or respond," the site says. "You will decide what you would like us to do, and we will respect your decisions."
In trying to make things better, health department officials should be asking the same thing of support workers, advocates and sexual assault survivors: You decide what you would like us to do, and we will respect your decisions.
If victims are telling people that having to go through Stanton emergency is degrading, then the government needs to fix that.
Being North comes with benefit
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, June 1, 2017
It's a busy month for an economically quiet town.
Everyone sees the satellites around Inuvik but not everyone knows what they're doing.
Next week, the Landsat Technical Working Group will meet for the 26th time, bringing scientists and ground station specialists from more than 30 countries together to discuss satellite imagery data collection.
The program spawned out of the NASA space mission.
With the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link expected to be up and running by this paper's printing date, that information will make it to the Internet much faster.
Inuvik is situated perfectly for this imagery, and the business of studying changes on the Earth's surface isn't likely to boom and bust like some others.
Globally, the satellite industry is larger than $208 billion, according to 2015 revenues.
The town should be doing just about everything it can to encourage more investment here, though no doubt they're big and expensive projects.
This weekend, the Arctic Image Festival is celebrating Northern photographers.
The group also hopes to revitalize the downtown core in the long run and provide a service for local shutterbugs through professional-quality printing.
Some of the photographers in this town are incredible, and their work deserves to be on display.
Not a lot of media make it out to the North. Southerners may be surprised to learn there's life here.
Archiving the people and places of the Arctic has long-term historic value, in addition to promoting the area as a media destination.
Multicultural event shows pride in diversity
Inuvik just held its third annual multicultural night, complete with dozens of cultures on display and people of all backgrounds mingling and celebrating what makes theirs unique.
Fundamental to the greatness of Canada is the ability to have so many cultures intermix while maintaining a core set of values.
It's a point of national pride that we can eat shawarma for dinner, listen to hip-hop on the way home and go to bed with a dreamcatcher in the window, all without a thought of that being anything but being part of the Canadian identity.
The subject can get a bit touchy these days but no one should stop celebrating and sharing culture.
The Beaufort-Delta is a place that is a generational home to some, and a temporary home to many. It attracts people from around the world.
For a town most people outside the North wouldn't be able to place on a map, it's been touched by an incredible number of people. The sharing of culture only enriches the town and its population.
We can be Gwich'in, Inuvialuit, African, American or whatever else, and we're all still Inuvikian and Canadian.
Giant Mine problems not all underground
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 31, 2017
More than a decade after Giant Mine shuttered for good, there has never been a complete assessment of how its legacy has affected surrounding people, air, earth and water.
So no surprise more than 50 people descended upon the Giant Mine Oversight Board's first public meeting earlier this month to ask how the 237,000 tonnes of arsenic trioxide left underground and other chemicals produced over Giant Mine's lifetime could affect their daily lives. How has Yellowknife's water been affected by the mine? How are traditional Dene food sources, such as fish, caribou and plants, affected? How has the mine - and its remediation - affected the health of people who live in the area? Giant Mine left behind an environmental disaster on a massive scale, so these are all important questions.
Unfortunately, Giant Mine Oversight Board chair Kathleen Racher wasn't in a position to answer these questions at the public meeting because they lie outside the board's mandate. The oversight board exists to provide oversight on the work of the Giant Mine remediation project, engage with the public and conduct research into a permanent solution to the storage of the arsenic currently housed in underground chambers below the mine site.
Good on Racher for agreeing to record these concerns and fold them into the board's work. The board itself notes in one of its recommendations to the remediation team that "no government department has accepted responsibility for assessing and remediating off-site contamination caused by historic operations at Giant Mine."
It's probably safe to assume that the more people look into off-site contamination, the more they will find. This is an unfortunate consequence of the federal government allowing Giant Mine to operate as it did for more than 50 years. On top of the immediate issue of arsenic trioxide storage, the federal government cannot ignore hidden consequences of the mine in its remediation plan just because those consequences are harder to see.
The public should keep coming out to public meetings and keep pressuring the government to study and clean up every mess left behind by Giant Mine. It's a hefty task for sure but it's also foolish to think remediation ends at the property line.
HPV vaccine (finally) offered to boys
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 31, 2017
In 2009, young girls in the NWT were offered a vaccine to protect them against the HPV virus.
Globally, the Human Papillomavirus causes the most common sexually transmitted infections.
While it usually isn't dangerous, it is a cancer-causing virus. This means certain strains can heighten the risk of different cancers in girls and boys. Despite this, boys haven't been offered the vaccine for free until this year. If this doesn't make any sense, don't worry.
It never made sense to Yellowknifer, either. So it's a good thing the NWT is finally following a 2012 National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommendation that boys and young men have access to the vaccine alongside girls.
The territory's expansion follows announcements by B.C., New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon earlier this year to expand immunization to boys.
According to NWT chief public health officer Andre Corriveau, the slow expansion can be blamed on resources.
"Like any new program it costs money, and it also involves more staff time and there's logistical issues," he said.
It's certainly been a long time coming but thanks to the Department of Health and Social Services for affording equal protection against HPV - thus protection from certain forms of cancer - to young boys and girls.
Time to invest and lead
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Kudos to Eric Anoee and the rest of the Arviat Film Society members for trying to increase awareness of the society and attract new members.
It's one society with a handful of members, but they've got the right idea in taking the initiative to try and attract local talent.
In short, they're trying to revitalize their membership, increase talent levels and take local ownership of their society.
There are still people who mumble that kids involved in sports get far too much in this region, and there has to be more for kids to do who aren't into sports.
Some people don't like to deal with it, but the real problem is the majority of those saying that kids not into sports need more opportunities don't finish the thought be adding, that is, as long as it's not me who has to volunteer my time to make it happen.
And, of course, there are fantastic programs available to kids across the region outside of sports.
Glen Brocklebank has been running an exceptional kayak program in Chesterfield Inlet for years, and he's also led the way in making science cool for students at Victor Sammurtok School.
Dorothy Tootoo has been running a great cadet program in Rankin for years, sometimes almost single-handedly, and I'd be willing to bet she'd have no problem with anyone concerned about the lack of programming stepping up to help carry the program forward.
Lloyd Francis is doing the same thing in Naujaat, and a number of his cadets have set Nunavut firsts during the past few years.
Gord Billard is known far outside the boundaries of Nunavut for the work he's done with the Arviat Drama Club, and a number of Arviat students have excelled at the Nunavut Skills competition during the past few years.
That success started and will continue with the adults who give their time to lead the baking, sewing, photography, TV/video production, etc., clubs and meetings after school to help the students hone their skills.
In short, they were, and continue to be, invested in their community.
And here's the rub: that investment has to come from those who call Nunavut home and are proud to be Inuit and/or Nunavummiut.
That takes commitment, dedication and, horror of horrors, effort without the thought of remuneration.
You want to work with the kids to give them confidence-building programs and challenges, opportunities for success, and positive experiences that help them make healthy choices while navigating through their formative years and adolescence.
And you don't need anyone to pay you to "volunteer" a few hours, two or three times a week, to help make that happen.
It still hasn't been that many years ago since a pair of teachers went into Naujaat and created the award-winning Whalers program.
And while it was, at its base, a hockey program, then Tusarvik School principal Leonie Aissaoui was blown away by the increase in both attendance and academic performance by those youths who joined the program.
The teachers won the prestigious RBC Local Hockey Leaders award and had their photos hang in the Hockey Hall of Fame for a year, but, unfortunately, life in the Arctic Circle did not turn out to be a long-term investment for them.
However, when they left, the hard work had been done, the program was strong and successful, and just needed someone to pick up the baton and carry it forward.
Within a year after they left, the Whalers program was dead and buried.
Would the same happen today if the aforementioned folks were to up and leave at the end of this school year?
It's the people of the Kivalliq who have to step up and provide opportunities for the youth.
As a region, we need to continue to invest in the youth of the Kivalliq, for investment brings stability and vision, which, in turn, breeds hope and belief.
And, really, isn't that supposed to be what all it's all about?