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Don't shut out reporters
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, September 8, 2017
Love it or loathe it, the media plays an important role in democracy: it keeps citizens informed, holds organizations accountable and shines a little light in the darkness.

And when it comes to elections, journalists are there with their smartphones and prying questions, trying to keep them "free and fair."

Two weeks ago, about 50 Yellowknives Dene First Nation members attended the candidates forum for Ndilo chief to hear the three candidates -- Alex Beaulieu, Ernest Betsina and Shirley Tsetta - speak ahead of the then-upcoming Sept. 6 election. Following an opening prayer and a members' vote, all of the media - CBC, Moose FM, Yellowknifer and Native Press - were shown the door.

The journalists had no choice but to respect the request to leave, but there is a lot wrong with this picture. First and foremost, as candidate Tsetta said at the time: a lot of eligible voters weren't able to make the forum and now wouldn't be able to read or hear about it later.

For those who think that's not a big deal, the last race for Ndilo chief was decided by a single vote. In 2013, now-incumbent Betsina defeated Tsetta by 122 votes to 121. Then-acting chief Roy Erasmus Sr. wasn't far behind either with 108 votes. So every vote really does count.

It's understandable there is distrust of media within Indigenous communities, especially non-indigenous media. To that end, Yellowknifer offers its commitment to providing news and information to all its readers, including readers who voted in the Ndilo election.

Our main goal for showing up to the candidates forum in Ndilo was to report on what was said so Yellowknives Dene First Nation members could make well-informed decisions about who they want leading them.

In that spirit, Yellowknifer wishes to congratulate Chief re-elect Ernest Betsina and thank all the candidates for answering questions in the Sept. 1 edition of the newspaper.

The Q&A article allowed the candidates to identify the issues they felt were most important to the community and their plans to address them if elected chief.

All voters need that information, because it helps them decide how to cast their vote. And later, to hold their elected leaders accountable.

X can mark the spot
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, September 8, 2017

The federal government caught up with the territorial government this month -- Canadians can now choose to have either male, female or X on both their NWT government ID and their passport.

This is a stride towards a more open and equal Canada. It's also an example of how the NWT can lead the way.

That said, the fight isn't over and the X isn't always a freedom -- it can open people up to all sorts of problems, especially in countries less tolerant than Canada.

For now, the federal government is urging discretion while traveling, at both the destination and any transit country where the X might be a red flag.

The next step is to pressure the International Civil Aviation Organization, that mandates gender on documents, to remover it completely.

That's what Lane MacIntosh, who is in the process of switching to the X, says is needed -- because the political is personal.

"Not having gender on ID doesn't take anything away from you. But having an identifier that is not correct for me, that affects me," MacIntosh told Yellowknifer.

That is a very good point. The world needs to catch up to Canada.

And Canada has the opportunity now to champion the removal of identifiers that do more harm than good.

Geographic challenges shouldn't stifle ambition
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, September 7, 2017

It's likely no surprise to residents of Inuvik that living in the far North can feel isolating at times.

For some NWT communities, the reality is that the only way in and out is by plane.

Luckily for Inuvik, the town is situated on the Dempster Highway, which connects people to Whitehorse and beyond.

In just a few months, Inuvik will also link up with Tuktoyaktuk on the new all-season road.

The world is becoming increasingly connected these days, and that means people are exploring more opportunities beyond their own backyards.

Unfortunately, that doesn't change the fact a plane ticket south can cost an arm and a leg.

And for anyone looking to head to university, get involved in sports tournaments, or compete in activities beyond the community level, that can be a major barrier.

So you could forgive 14-year-old Inuvik teen Savannah Elias-Beaulieu for wondering whether she lived too far North to enter the Miss Teen Canada Globe pageant in Toronto this year.

In the end, it turned out she was able to take part, and from Aug. 16 to 27 she competed against 13- to 17-year-old girls from around the country.

Although it cost Elias-Beaulieu a whopping $17,000 to be in the pageant - money she fundraised - it paid off.

She not only won the pageant's audience choice award, but was dubbed the fourth runner-up, meaning she's now headed on to bigger, better things.

In November, she'll represent Canada in a pageant in Honduras - the first time a girl from the NWT has taken part in the international event.

What's important about Elias-Beaulieu's story is she didn't let significant barriers stand in the way of giving her goals a shot - an attitude everyone in Inuvik should be inspired to live by.

As Elias-Beaulieu told the Inuvik Drum, she's wanted to be in pageants since she was a little girl.

Getting out in the world not only gives young residents like her an opportunity to grow and expand their horizons, but it helps put

Inuvik, and the North, on the map.

As Elias-Beaulieu mentioned, she had a chance to showcase her culture during the pageant by wearing her atikluk, polar bear mukluks, a matching headband and ulu earrings during one portion of the event.

She's not the only Inuvik resident putting themselves out there either.

The Inuvik Robotics and Engineering Club has its sights set on starting a territorial competition this year.

The idea is that the winner would move on to compete against teams from other provinces and territories in the future - another opportunity for residents to test themselves, but also show what the territory is made of.

Raising the money to take part in these activities in a small town is no easy feat. There's only so much money to go around and everyone wants a slice of the pie.

But as Elias-Beaulieu's story shows, a little faith and a lot of hard work can make the risk worth the reward.

City getting taken for ride
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The city's safe-ride program has a big fan - the RCMP.

At the Aug. 28 municipal services committee meeting, RCMP staff Sgt. Alexandre Laporte said his organization is seeing a significant decline in calls for service downtown, meaning, he said, police are now able to put their resources in "the right areas."

That is, fighting crime.

While a legitimate congratulations to the Yellowknife Women's Society is in order for delivering a program that has done a staggering amount of good for the city in a short period of time, Yellowknifer can't help but notice a bureaucratic disconnect.

The city is paying for safe ride because it was unable to secure funding from the federal government's Homelessness Partnering Strategy. Apparently the program, which transports vulnerable people off the street to the sobering centre, shelter or hospital, doesn't fall within the federal government's funding criteria.

Meanwhile, one of the main beneficiaries of the safe-ride program has turned out to be - other than the people it picks up - a federal agency, the RCMP.

This is not fair. The city doesn't have an official mandate to fund housing and homelessness issues, yet has gone above and beyond by contributing $178,000 to the program - including an injection of $78,000 on Aug. 28 -- to get it to the end of the year from when it began in June.

Coun. Niels Konge had a salient point during council on Aug. 28 when he expressed hesitation to continue funding the program. As long as the city is doing it, why would the federal, or even territorial, governments step in?

Now, it's a reality that federal government departments can get a bit silo'ed, so Yellowknifer hopes the people who administer funding through the Homelessness Partnering Strategy realize how much of a benefit it has proven to be to the Mounties. The city shouldn't be expected to spend an estimated $360,000 per year on this, and quite possibly could end up deciding it can't.

The next step is to figure out how much money is being saved in not having to use police or ambulances to pick up intoxicated people and take them to safety.

If there are significant savings, the safe-ride program must be completely supported and utilized in other jurisdictions. Money talks. Or should.

If the safe-ride program doesn't fit the federal government's Homelessness Partnering Strategy funding criteria, the problem doesn't lie with the program. The problem lies with its funding criteria, and this needs to be rectified immediately.

Indigenous voters key in fight for NWT
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Good on Conservative leader Andrew Scheer for admitting an ignorance of Northern issues and coming to Yellowknife in an effort to change that.

As he learns more about the history of his party and the North, he is surely going to find he has quite an uphill battle if he wants to gain the trust of its Indigenous voting majority. That is because Scheer's predecessor, former prime minister Stephen Harper, didn't leave the greatest track record.

Yes, he is responsible for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which opened a chapter of repentance over the government's dismal treatment of Indigenous people in residential schools. But Harper also famously refused to open an inquiry into why such a vastly disproportionate number of missing and murdered women in the country are Indigenous. His government also wasted millions of tax dollars fighting Indigenous people in court over treaty rights.

On the other hand, the Harper government did make northern development a priority, establishing the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency while focusing on Arctic sovereignty and signing off on a devolution deal with the NWT - a project the previous Liberal government was unable to deliver.

Today's Liberal government may be vulnerable in the NWT on its demand for a carbon tax if it fails to mitigate rising - and unavoidable - costs on home heating fuel, diesel power generation and travel.

The Conservatives will always have votes in Yellowknife and other regional centres such as Hay River and Inuvik. They came close in 2008 but their failure to pick up votes in Indigenous communities continues to deny them a seat in the NWT.

Scheer would be wise to address that problem because the Conservatives will continue to lose in the NWT if they don't.

It's gotta be the shoes
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, September 6, 2017

There are three things I will not miss should I ever decide to leave Rankin Inlet and Kivalliq News.

Those are: the cost of living in Rankin, the ridiculous amounts of money we're forced to spend on things such as cell and Internet service, which don't deliver a service anywhere near the cost, and the lack of professionalism when trying to deal with the Government of Nunavut (GN) in any meaningful way.

The truth of the matter is, I'm lucky to have had as many years writing in newspapers when journalists had trust and respect.

Don't get me wrong, today's media has brought the distrust upon itself. What passes for news online today gives me some very bad feelings.

Journalists used to be the minders, but, today, I can't help but wonder who's minding the minders.

And, to make matters worse, the majority of today's journalists remind me of the humour that once surrounded party supporters. You can put a Tory and a Liberal in a room together and let them argue away the hours, but when you open the door at the end of the day, you're still going to have a Tory and a Liberal come out.

Too many of today's journalists have their minds already made up on a host of topics. The best argument in the world could be presented to them on a given topic and they'd spend all their time arguing against the argument, rather than processing the information.

On the other side of the fence, press secretaries, spin doctors and gag orders, keep the modern media in its place most of the time.

And, for honest scribes, it's frustrating as hell.

Operation Nanook recently took place in Rankin Inlet and I spent an afternoon "attempting" to interview the good folks on the ground.

Some stuttered, some turned pale, some were very impressive with their ability to repeat the party line right down to pausing where the commas were when they read it. Some simply walked away, but none would consent to an interview.

When Coral Harbour recently hosted the territorial trials in Arctic sports for the upcoming Arctic Winter Games (AWG), bad weather prevented the entire group from Chesterfield Inlet, including star athlete Andrew Bell, from competing at the event.

I try not get caught up in the win-at-all-costs hype, and I also firmly believe there are far more benefits to attending the AWG than counting the number of ulus you win.

And given my history as a hockey official, you better believe I subscribe to the theory of rules being put in place for a reason, which is not so that they can be broken.

That said, what are the rules when the Kivalliq equal of the Great One in Arctic sports cannot attend the AWG because of bad weather? Is there any sort of appeal process?

These are policy questions that should get answered in the blink of an eye, but, my hopes for an interview got ignored for three days by all but one man. Try as he may, he did not have the authority to grant a policy interview.

I miss the days of co-operation, when there were rules to the game.

Oh well, there are other pressing issues in the world to be sure. I wonder what type of shoes Ivanka Trump is wearing today?

Fortress Fed vs. Senator Nick
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, Monday, September 4, 2017

When Sen. Nick Sibbeston approached the Service Canada building in Yellowknife late last month, he expected to receive some service - even if he didn't have an appointment.

After all, he is the sitting senator for the entire territory - and served as premier in the mid-1980s - and even had his government ID card to prove his day job is in the Red Chamber in Ottawa.

But either the security staff at the door weren't impressed with the senator's pedigree, or were simply following building access rules to the letter.

Here's some background from a story that really had people talking after it was published in News/North Aug. 28.

Sibbeston said he was left "shocked, dismayed and saddened" after being blocked from entering the Parks Canada office at the Yellowknife Service Canada Centre Aug. 22.

A guard told him it did not matter if he was a senator, he simply could not meet with Parks Canada manager Lee Montgomery without making an appointment first. A request to phone up to Montgomery was refused.

When the frustrated senator made his way to the second floor on his own, he was followed by a security guard, who Sibbeston said threatened to call the RCMP on him. The senator then left the building.

The next day, Aug. 23, the senator came to the News/North office in Yellowknife to explain what had happened to him.

"These rules are ridiculous," Sibbeston told the newspaper.

"If I as a senator have a hard time getting into a federal building, how much more difficult must it be for an ordinary person?"

A reporter accompanied Sibbeston back to the Service Canada building and the senator eventually met with an apologetic security guard who had not been involved in the earlier incident.

The outspoken senator has made headlines in recent years on a variety of matters, including claiming $50,000 in improper expenses, quitting the Senate Liberal caucus to sit as an independent, admitting in a tell-all memoir he battled alcoholism for years, and accusing the RCMP of failing to follow up on a lead he gave them in a homicide investigation.

Oh, and in 2005, he also called gay and lesbian lifestyles "unnatural" and voted against a same-sex marriage bill in the Senate.

It was never made clear exactly what pressing business Sibbeston had with the Parks Canada official. We trust it was an important matter of benefit to his constituents.

We can sympathize with the senator for wanting to conduct government business in an expedient fashion without fussing over making an appointment, or dealing with building security and all of their strict procedures that were put in place by that very same federal government.

But we also don't think the average member of the public would expect to show up unannounced and be granted access to a bureaucrat.

Especially in this dangerous day and age when security levels at any government building have been increased. The days of the "pop-in" to see public officials are long over.

However, the incident surely did make for another interesting chapter in Sibbeston's career.

Not guilty does not mean innocent
Nunavut/News North - Monday, September 4, 2017

After more than a year of study, the federal Competition Bureau says First Air and Canadian North did not break the law in its efforts to stop startup airline GoSarvaq from entering the Ottawa-Iqaluit market.

The process has taken some time but not long enough to erase the memories of those paying sky-high prices to go south.

Iqaluit to Ottawa is a three-hour flight by jet, with a retail cost of $2,500 round-trip. Compare that to Ottawa to Yellowknife, a five-hour flight that costs around $800 on Air North. You could even go from Ottawa to Hong Kong, a 16-hour trip, for $1,000 on Air Canada.

It will take some time for Nunavummiut to forget how First Air and Canadian North - working on a codeshare agreement at the time - dropped the price of one-way tickets to as low as $266. That drop came after GoSarvaq said it would fly twice a week for $499 each way. Hard to get off the ground and compete when your competitors drop the cost of a ticket by almost half the price.

But more than the price war itself, the bigger lesson comes from the argument the Competition Bureau used to absolve the airlines' knockout punch pricing. The airlines said they were still making a profit at $266 each way.

We've noted this before but take another moment to breathe that in.

Under the codeshare, First Air and Canadian North had a monopolistic partnership backed by guarantees of government duty travel and medical travel contracts, which fill planes with travellers who need the ability to change their flights on short notice, not those seeking sale prices. The government rate of $1,500 or so is no problem when someone else is footing the bill.

Still, there is a market for those who want to pay a discount price, or perhaps we should call it a fair price. That market wasn't fed for many months ahead of GoSarvaq's launch attempt.

Unfortunately, these same customers were the ones who ended GoSarvaq's startup hopes as much as the larger airlines. It was these customers who jumped back to the legacy airlines when Canadian North and First Air dropped their prices even lower than GoSarvaq could offer. To paraphrase the old saying, with customers like that, who needs enemies?

In the wake of this episode, and after First Air cancelled its codeshare agreement with Canadian North, we've seen some sales bringing prices to a more reasonable level.

But Nunavummiut deserve better. They deserve transparency and actual competition.

That's why we're hopeful GoSarvaq can revive itself, this time aware of the benchmark set by the big players. Pick a different route, perhaps closer to Toronto or the East Coast.

Thinking more creatively, an airline would be wise to consider the success of Iceland's airlines, which have taken a once challenging nation to visit into a free stopover along the way from North America to Europe. Considering the investment made into a $300 million airport in Iqaluit, it's a good time to consider ways to bring more traffic into our territory, and an airline that makes a stop along the way from southern Canada to Europe would be a good way to do so.

But consumers need to take a hard look in the mirror, and consider who has our best interests in mind. If they don't support these businesses, they won't get what they pay for, they will pay for what they get.

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