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So who's next?
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, October 2, 2017

Sen. Nick Sibbeston appears to have reached his tolerance limit with the so-called chamber of sober second thought.

After almost two decades is the upper chamber, the outspoken and controversial senator for the NWT - and former territorial premier - abruptly announced Sept. 21 he had tendered his resignation to Gov. Gen. David Johnston. His last day will be Nov. 21 - one year short of the mandatory retirement age of 75.

"I thought, it's as good a day as any to pull the plug. To tell the governor general that I would be resigning on my 74th birthday," he told News/North ("Nick Sibbeston resigns from Senate," Sept. 25).

Always an outspoken public figure with a passion for his causes - which focused largely on the environment and Indigenous rights - Sibbeston more than once landed in hot water for such things as expenses or missing votes.

Sibbeston told News/North he wasn't leaving the Senate early because of the changes in the way it operates but he did concede it became drastically different under former Conservative prime minister Stephen Harper than the Senate he first joined.

"It became so partisan," said the man who was appointed to the Senate by former Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien in 1999. "It was unhealthy. It was terrible being there. Anything good you wanted to do was being denied."

Sibbeston did note the Senate atmosphere has recently improved to become more democratic. Prior to the Trudeau government being elected, taking a seat in the Senate was often seen as akin to bellying up to the patronage trough.

While senators are still ultimately named by the PM, he selects the winner from a list supplied by a selection committee.

Which now opens the door for speculation on who the next senator will be. Will the next NWT senator be a long-time Liberal Party member ready for a cushy ride into retirement?

There have been calls in recent times for the Senate to be reformed or done away with altogether. News/North has stopped short of stating the Senate should be abolished, however, it needs to be far more effective - perhaps elected - and relevant than it presently is.

That's why the person selected to replace Sibbeston could send a signal as to the future direction of the place. Some suggestions are already being made, such as from the Status of Women Council, which, understandably will "champion a woman leader for the role as our next senator," with a "great understanding of the diverse culture, socio-economic challenges and experiences of its people."

So who could be up for the job? After looking a the parameters - which include being between 30 and 75 years of age, preferably a woman, Indigenous or a visible minority, and having a recognized record of community service - News/North came up with a short list of who could be looked at for the seat:

  • Ethel Blondin-Andrew, former Liberal MP and current Sahtu Secretariat Inc. chair;
  • Stephen Kakfwi, former NWT premier and Dene Nation president;
  • Dennis Bevington, former NDP MP;
  • Former broadcaster Paul Andrew

Or Kakfwi's spouse and Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Marie Wilson.

If she was a few years younger, News/North columnist and honorary chief for life of the Inuvik Dene band Cece Hodgson McCauley would be a slam-dunk choice for senator.

Now in her 90s, her decades-long legacy of unvarnished advocacy for the territory, for its isolated communities, and for Indigenous people would raise the roof of the red chamber.

Add exiles' site dump to shame list
Nunavut/News North - Monday, October 2, 2017

It would be hard to find a Nunavummiuq who does not know the history of the High Arctic Exiles, the Inuit the federal government took from their homes in Nunavik and dropped off at Resolute and Grise Fiord in the 1950s.

The exiles created the communities we have there now but their history bears the scars of the forced relocation, an abandonment that saw 87 Inuit unaccustomed to the High Arctic conditions, left unprepared for the winter, and with limited knowledge of local hunting opportunities.

Our reporter travelled to Grise Fiord in 2014 for the opening of the hamlet's new municipal office and recreation centre. While there, Laisa Audlaluk-Watsko, the daughter of relocatee Larry Audlaluk, made a point of taking us to the monument to the exiles, commissioned by Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and erected in 2010. A similar monument was erected in Resolute Bay. Shortly before the unveiling of the monuments, the federal government apologized for its actions. We'd like to see a memorial in Ottawa to remind the rest of Canada of this shameful decision by federal officials.

Seeing these monuments in person is a powerful reminder of how alone these people must have felt. As the families were divided to populate three locations, the Resolute monument depicts a solitary man looking toward Grise Fiord, to family members from whom he was separated.

Cognizant of this painful history, it's a surprise that at some point a decision was made that the landfill in Resolute Bay should be placed on the site where the exiles first took shelter. The location of the dump shows disrespect for the people who suffered all those years ago, forced to build a new life for themselves in the name of Arctic sovereignty.

A new dump will be built but will the exiles' site dump be cleared?

This is just the latest on a long list of landfill-related problems facing Nunavut's communities. Most are old and lack safeguards to prevent toxic waste from leeching into the waters so valued by Nunavummiut. Too many require fires to reduce their size, an act that sends toxins into the air Nunavummiut breathe. All are underfunded and lack any sort of waste reduction incentives.

Even the best intentions have fallen flat due to lack of long-term funding. Witness Tundra Take-back, the excellent car recycling pilot project that no longer operates in Nunavut. Witness Iqaluit's dump fire and the city's subsequent difficulties reducing the risk of another such debacle through cardboard shredding and incineration.

The cherry on this garbage sundae is that so many dumps are the first sight upon arrival to our fair communities. It's true in Grise Fiord, and it will be true in Iqaluit for cruise passengers when the port opens (as a consolation, air passengers get a wonderful view of Iqaluit's famous jail).

But nothing should sour our view more than seeing a dump on an historic site. No wonder it's a regular source of contention in Resolute. Let's show some respect and clean it up.

NWT liquor rules don't make sense
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, September 29, 2017
The NWT Liquor Licensing Board is moving toward more transparency in the wake of complaints from Yellowknife businesses about its decision-making process and that deserves applause, but there is still a long way to go to create liquor rules that make sense.

Last week, Finance Minister Robert C. McLeod, whose department oversees liquor legislation in the territory, gave Yellowknife North MLA Cory Vanthuyne vague answers on the future of the board in the legislative assembly, suggesting its decisions might be made more public in the future.

But, the board had already beat him to the punch, telling Yellowknifer days earlier that the board has "recently" initiated actions to publish all orders, licenses, permits and reasons for decisions.

The board appears to be responding to public criticism of a decision to not allow the NWT Brewing Company to sell its beer directly to local establishments - a decision that was not made public.

Hopefully the minister will catch up to what the board is doing, because right now, in the transparency race, it is leaving him in the dust.

Despite his vague answers last week, McLeod did commit to reviewing the liquor board's guidelines and the legislation the board functions under -- the NWT Liquor Act. This is goods news. Hopefully, as his department opens the fridge door and starts poking around among the forgotten Tupperware and fossilized fruit, it will have the chance to look at some of the other problems with the way alcohol is managed in the NWT.

For instance, the board sometimes travels for meetings. Travelling to Yellowknife for a liquor compliance hearing in 2015 - one board member came from Inuvik, another from Fort Smith, and a staff member came from Hay River - the board spent $7,500 just to levy a single $100 fine. This is an outrageous expense in the era of Skype. Conducting all hearings by video-conference would cut down on the board's operating costs and perhaps free up some government funds for other needed projects.

Another archaic holdover is the board's insistence on limiting sponsorship from local companies selling alcohol to a cap of $1,500, while major corporations down south, such as Big Rock Brewing, can sponsor the Folk on the Rocks festival because they're based in Alberta and not under the thumb of NWT liquor regulations.

And at the risk of indulging our self-interest, while the wide open, yawning maw of the Internet and cable television belches endless beer commercials into the territory, local print and radio is banned from doing any advertising at all.

Transparency is a good first step, and the liquor board and minister should be applauded for taking one toward more sensible liquor licensing rules.

But, there is much more work to do in order to fix a system that needlessly wastes money while applying unfair rules to NWT businesses.

Legalization is not an endorsement
Editorial Comment by Stewart Burnett
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, September 28, 2017

Legalizing marijuana is a great move for freedom in this country, but that doesn't make it an endorsement of using the substance.

Cannabis has received a lot of positive promotion in recent years. In an effort to counter the negative stigma and create a path to legalization, this is a good thing. But talk of the drug's benefits has gone a little overboard.

Sure, it can be used to help some cancer patients or assist people with stomach problems, but it can also be a major contributor to depression and anxiety.

Just about everyone smokes weed during their youth in this day and age.

For most, it is an exciting new world, a relatively innocent change of perspective and a bonding opportunity among friends. However, time proves for many that regular use of the substance can be a limiting factor in personal progress. It can go from a fun way to spend the night once in a while to the only way to have fun every day.

The less time one spends sober, the more that person's problems can compound and seem insurmountable. It's not a coincidence that marijuana use and depression often go hand in hand.

The public perception pendulum has swung a touch too far in promotion of marijuana. It's often recommended for depression, anxiety or other problems, and this seems like poor advice.

It is a recreational drug, just like alcohol. It's not especially healthy just because it's a plant. That's a crazy baseline to judge health by in the first place.

But allowing people to smoke weed, which can be only a personal crime and does not impact anyone else, is the right move for liberty.

People will find their highs no matter what. Banning substances only opens black markets, increases allure for what is off limits, and punishes people for crimes that hurt no one but themselves. We see how effective "dry" communities in the North already are.

There are all sorts of deadly legal addictions. Policing people's bodies is a fruitless and damaging pursuit.

Moral laws, not legal ones, are what need to be promoted.

Books of rules, no matter how violently enforced, will never resonate as deeply as the innate sense of right and wrong that is fostered through generations of positive upbringing.

Legality doesn't carry with it moral authority to use.

The federal government's legalization of cannabis is a good change, but the focus needs to be less on the celebration of a drug and more on the gift of freedom and the responsibility that comes with it.

Cashing in on a new cash crop
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

As the prospect of legal marijuana looms ever nearer, the territorial government is weighing options on how to regulate a brand new market - and the public has a lot to say about it.

As of Sept. 13, 1,111 people took a GNWT survey on marijuana that gauges how the public feels the drug should be legalized. This is according to Mark Aitken, assistant deputy minister for the Department of Justice, who was speaking to a room of more than 100 people who came out to voice their opinions in person at the Explorer Hotel, Sept. 14.

The options being considered could make up any combination of three models - a liquor-store model that would create specific outlets where marijuana is sold; a tobacco model - where businesses could apply for licences to sell the product; and a mail-order/Internet sales model, where people would buy their weed online.

Overwhelmingly, at the meeting at least, people who showed up supported some sort of private-sector involvement. This doesn't surprise Yellowknifer.

The private sector will be able to handle sales more efficiently than the public sector. Private retailers will respond to market demands and will be better equipped to keep prices lower than the black market.

There are safety concerns to take into account. Keeping marijuana - especially the edible kind that can be packaged to look like candy - out of the hands of children is one of those concerns.

Yellowknifer is confident the GNWT will be able to draft regulations that protect children while allowing the private sector to cash in.

And cash in it certainly will. There is a gigantic financial opportunity here. If the government creates so many regulations that the private sector can't or doesn't want to get involved - by going with the mail-order only option, for example - the government runs the risk of snuffing out a fledgling market before it has the chance to grow and allowing an illegal black market to continue when people can't wait to get their marijuana in the mail.

In the legislative assembly last week, Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart echoed these concerns during question period with the Justice Minister Louis Sebert. While the minister wasn't able to say exactly what demand might be in the territory, he did say it "might be considerable."

In response, Testart urged the minister to "let Northern entrepreneurs take the lead on this file."

Yellowknifer agrees with Testart - marijuana legalization is going to come with a lot of hard work and planning on the government's side but it's also a huge opportunity for Northern businesses to cash in on a whole new market while putting unregulated pot dealers out of business.

The GNWT needs to keep this in mind when drafting regulations.

The path to economic prosperity
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

The economic health of the Northwest Territories is intrinsically linked to the amount of precious stones mines pull out of the ground.

Mining and oil and gas extraction counted for roughly one-quarter of the territory's GDP in 2016, and considering there was no oil and gas extraction in the territory that year - and the only operating mines in the NWT are producing diamonds - it's fair to say an entire quarter of the GDP is diamond driven.

So if the federal government were to invest in any transportation project, the Slave Geological Province Access Corridor would make the most sense. Putting in an all-weather road to the diamond mines will make it that much cheaper to truck supplies in and out, year-round. That should make it more financially viable for existing mines to either expand or push back closing dates, and encourage more exploration in the area, including other minerals.

The revenue generated from these mines can be spread across the territory. If the feds want to invest in a project that will give back to the territory, the road to the mines is the way to go.

A wondrous time
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Graduation 'season' across the Kivalliq in August and September is one of the few remaining times of the year when it's actually possible to put aside all thoughts of what ails Nunavut - a job in itself at the best of times - and allow yourself to grow a tad optimistic about the future.

From our smallest schools to our largest, emotions run high as pride, accomplishment, and optimism surround those who receive their Grade 12 diplomas.

Yes, it is often easy to use numbers and averages as a means of throwing a damper on the occasion - as is the case in some corners - but Nunavut already suffers too much from those who only see the glass as being half empty.

Heck, with a little effort, one can easily wait until at least late September before reminding oneself that all the hoopla and grandeur took place while more than 60 teaching positions across Nunavut sat vacant.

And among the communities now growing desperate to fill those vacancies sits Arviat, where, you know, just a year ago it was determined by the Government of Nunavut the community had too many teachers for the number of students who attended school regularly.

This year is even shrouded in a bit of mystery, as the voices complaining this past school year that we have too many southern teachers in the Kivalliq - who are taking jobs away from local, trained educators - seem to have disappeared along with a number of those they were talking about, at least for the time being.

When principals take it upon themselves to passionately put out the word on vacancies that exist in their school - with a complete rundown of all the benefits that go along with said position - one has to wonder if the reputation and allure of some of our Kivalliq schools and/or communities has been diminished when there are still no takers.

But grad season has a way of pushing such concerns to the back burner, especially as we learn the post-secondary plans of a number of the region's newest graduates, ranging from trade school to Arctic College, various other community college programming, Nunavut Sivuniksavut college programming, and a number of university campuses across the country.

The promise of the young minds who make up the region's collective Class of 2017 further brightens the shine on the Kivalliq's future, as they join the grads before them in working toward trade tickets and all forms of degrees in business, health, education and law, among many others.

It's a time when their promise draws one away from such distractions as Bill 37 being dismissed without debate, due to the belief it held the promise to hasten the demise of the Inuktitut language by delaying the full implementation of Inuktitut language instruction in Nunavut schools until 2029 (and lowering it to Grade 9 from Grade 12), despite the realization the government has absolutely no chance of implementing the current 2008 Education Act requirement by 2019.

Normally one would have to wonder why the Inuit way of public debate would have done anything but expose the bill for its alleged numerous weaknesses, but one mustn't dim the promise of grad season with such trivial concerns.

It is, after all, the most wondrous time of the year.

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