Editorial page

Friday, October 29, 1999

Keep it simple

It's been a long time coming but after years of discussion, a decisive plebiscite, hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on plans and studies, the concensus appears to be Yellowknife needs a new arena to replace Gerry Murphy.

The next step is for city council to agree, then work it into next year's budget.

Over $5 million has accumulated in a fund for just that purpose but with the Giant bankruptcy, the subsequent tax increase, even the recently discovered territorial government deficit, ratepayers will be expecting some budget cutting at the same time.

The arena proposed now by the committee, expected to cost between $4.8 to $5.8 million, could have been built years ago but the issue dragged on for so long because it was simply too expensive.

The lesson is keep the price down and the plans simple. If that happens, the arena will be built.

Close call on ice shows the need

Last week's feature story on the Yellowknife Fire department's new dive rescue team practising on Prelude Lake was timely.

When Coroner Percy Kinney first suggested Yellowknife needed such rescue capability, city council balked at the $29,000 price tag for the equipment.

We don't fault council for hesitating, indeed in matters of spending city money we wish they would hesitate a whole lot more. In the end they agreed saving lives was worth the cost.

If councillors have any doubts, the recent incident on Frame Lake should remove them. Tuesday afternoon, a man took a bicycle on the new ice and got into trouble.

Firefighters in survival suits walked out to him but he was a bit unco-operative. As a firefighter escorted the man toward shore, they both fell through the ice.

The man could have gone through at any time and the only chance to save him without putting a firefighter at risk, would have rested with the dive team.

This time the team wasn't needed. This time next year the dive team will be ready.

School daze

Full marks to the public school board for determination. They persevered in their effort to get rid of former superintendent Ken Woodley and finally succeeded.

The entire incident leaves a bad taste in the mouth. The board suspended Woodley while he was out of town. The reason offered for the suspension was frail to say the least.

When the courts overturned the suspension, the board went ahead with dismissal proceedings and fired the man.

Under the terms of the contract, the board has the right to review Woodley's status whenever they want. The cost of getting rid of him is tied to the reasons for dismissal. Stay tuned for more court battles.

Taking care
Editorial Comment
Daniel MacIsaac
Inuvik Drum

It's difficult to understand how Ottawa can justify debating ways to spend the federal budget surplus when there's so much obvious need for that money to be used in useful ways around the country -- and in the North.

The health-care system is just one example of an institution that requires investment, and it's an important example. The last few years have seen hospitals closing, emergency room lineups growing, unrest among nurses and increasing talk of private health-care alternatives. When they speak of their country in relation to the United States, Canadians often refer with justifiable pride to our guaranteed system of universal health care. So it's amazing how much of an attack on that system we are willing to tolerate.

The recent cancellation of elective surgery at Inuvik Regional Hospital won't put lives at risk, but it does make one wonder, 'What's next?' Experts say the whole world is experiencing a nursing shortage but that shouldn't excuse administrators and government representatives from trying to find a solution for the North. With a limited budget, one minister can't do this alone, but he can push the government to cut down on less-pressing expenses and to reallocate funds. With an election in the offing, it'll be interesting to see if these issues are addressed.

Speaking out

Generating ideas and making positions known is important for any elected representative and would-be politician. This upcoming territorial election offers the perfect example.

Many candidates speak of limited campaigning, saying the tradition in Inuvik is to remain low-key and to rely on established contacts for support. Indeed, Inuvik is not the biggest community in the world and people who have lived here for years certainly know most of the residents.

That doesn't mean, however, that they shouldn't be reaching out beyond their traditional support groups and trying to represent the whole of their chosen riding. The best way to do this, of course, is by coming up with principles and a platform and a list of goals to work toward. At least that way there'll be an element of accountability on which their subsequent performances can be judged. The job of an MLA is not easy but it is well-paid and holds a great deal of responsibility -- and no one should be elected lightly.

This doesn't mean there must be a system of political parties in the North. That topic is still being debated while the various groups learn to work together. There's nothing wrong, though, with initiating a series of meetings or debates in the meantime in which Inuvik's candidates can let it be known why they deserve our support -- and the power and prestige that goes along with being an MLA.

Lived to tell
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

A roll-over near kilometre 170 on the Liard Trail.

For me, those aren't just words on a page. I can tell you all the details you need to know about that accident -- I was involved in it and so was Valerie, my common-law spouse.

We were driving south to Fort Liard on Wednesday evening. I was behind the wheel. Some stretches of road were treacherous, covered in ice and snow, other sections were clear. Somewhere around kilometre 170, about 80 kilometres from Check Point, we hit a patch of ice that sent the rear end of the truck swinging wildly. Without a load in the back, there's not much weight to our Ford Ranger pick-up truck.

The last time I looked at the speedometer, we were doing between 70 and 80 km/h. I took my foot off the accelerator, as I normally do, hoping that it would correct itself. This time we were heading for the ditch so, making a decision in a tenth of a second, I hit the brakes.

In hindsight, that was probably a mistake. We turned sideways, caught hold on solid ground and began to roll. I could not believe it. This had never happened before. We were hurled side-over-side three times, coming to a stop resting on the driver's side in the middle of the road.

The actual rolling of the vehicle must have taken about five seconds. It seemed much longer. During that time, I remember trying to look over at Val to see if she was OK, and calling out "Are you all right?" By the time the momentum stopped carrying us, she reassured me that she was fine, only concerned for my well-being. Miraculously, I felt fine as well.

There we sat, Val dangling in the passenger's seat, me with the unforgiving dirt road inches away outside the shattered driver's side window. Glass was everywhere. Small shards all over us and minute particles of it in our hair and ears, mixed with green paint chips. It was the seat-belts that saved our lives, or, at the very least, prevented serious injury.

We could smell gas. I turned off the ignition (believe it or not the truck was still running). Val unlatched her seat-belt and quickly pulled herself up through the blown-out passenger's side window, urging me to do the same. I climbed out and we stood on the roadside holding each other, bruised and scraped, but knowing how frightfully close we came to being severely injured... or worse. It was so surreal.

Fortunately, Stella and Cindy Gargan, coming from Fort Liard, appeared over the horizon no more than three minutes later. Cindy and I stayed with the truck, trying to flag down oncoming motorists to make them aware of the obstacle that now laid in the dark ahead of them.

Stella and Val drove back towards Liard where a grader operator was working on the road. He radioed the RCMP and then he arrived on the scene in his own vehicle shortly thereafter.

He volunteered to stay on site until the truck could be pushed into the ditch, so we were able to return to Fort Simpson without further delay. I believe his name was John.

Val and I wish to thank him for his assistance as we do Stella and Cindy, who were a godsend. Mike, the nurse at the Fort Simpson Health Centre, did a superb job of checking us over and helping us feel a whole lot better. Also, thanks to everyone who has called and stopped to ask how we are doing.

Northern News Services, who owned the vehicle, have been very understanding. Their philosophy is that the truck can be replaced but our lives could not. For that, I am grateful.

Seeing is believing
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

This newspaper has already made its stance crystal clear on the Nunavut Youth Abroad Program (NYAP) through feature stories and editorial content.

We believe the program is a wonderful addition to the number of positive programs available to our eager young students.

That feeling of support was further strengthened this past Thursday evening as a result of a presentation by three students we witnessed at Rankin Inlet's Alaittuq high school.

Jeff Tulugak and Gloria Kowtak have completed the Canadian phase of the program, while Adriana Clark has completed both the national and international phases.

To hear these students talk about their experiences in the program enabled one to witness first hand the lasting impression it made upon them.

Undaunted by a sparse turnout to their presentation, the trio were the personification of pride and passion as they each took their turn showing slides and speaking about their experiences.

Listening to these students, one could not help but be impacted by their words.

It quickly became evident how positively the program had affected them on various levels of their developmental process.

Yes, the learning of other cultures and traditions and the brief integration into a different way of life these students experienced was impressive -- especially to hear Clark speak so articulately and passionately about Swaziland, Africa.

Yet, perhaps even more impressive were the numerous tangible skills they learned to apply right here in Nunavut.

From filling out an application and report writing, to effective communication and interview skills, these students gained tools for self-improvement which will prove themselves invaluable in the coming years of their lives.

And, if indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words, the numerous photographs laid out on display and the projector-cast images upon the wall spoke volumes.

Each and every picture spoke of learning, of pride and acceptance, of values and tradition and, perhaps most importantly, of having fun through the understanding of others.

Perhaps Tulugak best summed up the program's positive influence on its participants when he stated that if it weren't for his involvement in the program, he wouldn't be able to stand up in front of a group of people and deliver a presentation.

Such is the self-confidence the NYAP helps to instill in its participants and such is the self-confidence which allows young adults to make positive choices during one of the most critical times in their lives.