Editorial page

Monday, October 11, 1999

Money, politics and blood

Of all the ethnic groups in the NWT, the Metis people are the most difficult to define.

In the early eighties, there was even a suggestion from a high-level territorial government cultural advisor that there is no such race as Metis, arguing anyone of mixed blood automatically assumed the ethnicity of their aboriginal parent.

Of course some Metis know exactly who they are and can trace their ancestry to a well-defined Metis land base dating back to the early 1800s.

Other Metis appear indistinguishable from the Dene people they live among, even to the point of being considered full-blooded aboriginal by the federal government, eligible for rights and privileges tied to treaties.

There are Metis families who moved North in the first half of this century and settled in for good, some together in Metis communities, some mixing into the aboriginal communities.

There are Metis arriving every day and born every day.

So while Metis share mixed aboriginal and non-aboriginal blood, their histories are diverse, as is their status with the federal government and their claim to a land base.

It was the federal government status that split the Metis Nation at their annual general meeting last month in Fort Simpson. Those Metis with treaty rights were stripped of their voting privileges. That left those pulling the levers of power in the Metis Nation free to concentrate on the battle to get the same rights for non-treaty Metis.

Some of the Metis losing their vote objected very loudly as they had helped make the Nation the force it is today. Other Metis took it personally, as if they were being stripped of their sash and the cultural right to be Metis.

In effect, by restricting the vote to a certain group of Metis for very good reasons, the Metis Nation changed their mandate. In fairness, perhaps they should change their name.

Allowing federal money and federal laws to determine who is a full member of the Metis Nation, regardless of blood and the common culture, does real damage to the Metis people, pitting Metis against Metis.

Healthcare needs

While the federal Liberals bask in the glory of a balanced budget, Northern health care goes wanting.

The three Northern territorial health ministers recently asked the federal government to restore health funding to 1994-95 levels without much luck.

Changes in the transfer payment system have resulted in a reduction of funding at a time when the North is struggling to maintain healthcare staffing levels.

Per capita funding, which is when the federal government allots transfer payments based on the number of people, doesn't take into account the huge distances and remote locations of the North.

Adequate funding for health care can only be based on need rather than numbers. Health care delivery per capita is a lot less expensive in densely populated southern cities.

Across the North, people should be pressuring their MPs to get what we need. That's what they are there for.

Legacy lives on

Nunavummiut should be proud of themselves.

Over the past month, hundreds of residents in most of the territory's 28 communities did their part to keep the dream of finding a cure for cancer alive.

From Gjoa Haven to Clyde River, under sunny skies and in harsh snow and winds, people laced up their runners and followed in Terry Fox's footsteps.

And their efforts made a difference.

The thousands of dollars they raised this year joined the more than $220 million that has been pledged to cancer research since the run began in Newfoundland 19 years ago.

Nunavummiut joined the million or so other concerned people around the world -- some from as far away as Brazil and the Czech Republic -- participating in the event that started in 1980, when Fox first made his way across Canada in support of cancer research.

In many communities, the walk/run has become one of the most significant activities of the year.

In Qikiqtarjuaq for example, the hamlet went as far as shutting down operations to raise money and in Nanisivik, where Fox's mother Betty once visited, the grand tally totalled out at close to $5,000 this year alone. Rankin Inlet has one of the best attended runs in Nunavut and Repulse Bay organizers reward their participants with hotdogs and drinks.

In a year that has given everyone reason to have pride in their accomplishments and in their new territory, Nunavut's support of the Terry Fox run for research is another reason to stand a little taller.

It's such strong dedication to events like Fox's dream and their willingness to go that extra mile that makes Northerners so special.

So, to all those people whose participation means that one less person might die from cancer, give yourself a big hand of applause. You made a difference.

Value for values

The recent infusion of cash ($635,000) to the Gwich'in Tribal Council towards a culture-based crime prevention program is a great thing towards the evolution of justice in the North.

We hope the program will be monitored to evaluate the good achieved by it. With the program focused on children aged 6 to 12 years, certainly this is where the money is best spent. Much better here than on jails.

As the pilot project is expected to be implemented in other communities, the success of the Gwich'in model will shape the future of justice throughout the North.

We look forward to reporting on dramatic reductions in community crime.

Hello world

We want to welcome the people of Hall Beach to the world of the Internet with the launch of a new community service provider.

Sanirayak Internet Services has installed 10 lines and at last reports had signed up 25 users after their official opening last June.

Hall Beach surfers join the approximately 900 users with Nunanet in Iqaluit, 500 with Sakku Arctic in Kivalliq and 300 with Polarnet in Kitikmeot.

Airplanes may have opened up the North for economic development but E-mail and web browsers promise connect the North to the rest of the world in an affordable, miraculously efficient way. The next generation will surely wonder what we elders ever did before the Internet.