Editorial page

Wednesday, October 6, 1999

Check the law

While the Franco-Tenoise is preparing to sue the GNWT over alleged omissions in observing its own language laws, the NWT language commissioner is maintaining that the government has been living up to the legislation.

This seems to be an easy conflict to solve -- check the legislation.

If, as the Franco-Tenoise maintains, the GNWT is required to print certain documents in French and English, then it should live up to its promises.

If, as Commissioner Judy Tutcho states, translation into French is a matter of request in most cases, and there have been no requests denied, then let it drop.

Before we go to the trouble, expense and inevitable hard feelings of a court action, let's make sure we're all talking about the same thing and explore options for a solution.

Once bitten, twice shy

In November of 1998, city council decided to give Giant mine a $37,000 exploration grant in a bid to extend the life of the mine. At the time Giant owed $700,000 in back taxes.

Yellowknifer published an editorial referring to a caller who had asked why it was okay for the city to grant Giant some money but turned down a request for $70,000 to go to the 45 families of Inukshuk housing co-op who were $400,000 in arrears in their property taxes. The grant was to pay the penalty on those back taxes.

The editorial, mindful of the fine financial line Royal Oak was walking, did not come out against the grant. But we did point out that all taxpayers were not treated equally, even though in the past Mayor Dave Lovell said taxpayers should expect equal treatment if they fall behind in taxes.

Now Lovell is again opting for hypocrisy by suggesting Miramar should get a tax break on the Giant property it intends to buy. Echoing Lovell, DIAND official Dave Nutter declares "all parties have to make a sacrifice."

Well, Yellowknifers already made a sacrifice by eating $893,000 in Giant's unpaid taxes that city hall had already spent. It was called a tax increase.

In hindsight, the $37,000 the city gave Giant out of fear was a total waste of money and at the cost of setting a bad precedent, which council did anyway, the money would have been better off going to Inukshuk housing co-op out of generosity.

So this time, perhaps mayor and council should show some backbone. Instead of handing out our tax dollars again out of fear, give Giant miners a tax holiday to help them stay in town if they want to.

It makes as much sense and, based upon past experience, promises a similar return.

Life and death

Iqaluit's decision to implement a territory-wide emergency dispatch service is an idea long overdue, but in stalling the hiring of a bilingual dispatcher, council is putting lives at risk.

The town of Iqaluit currently has four dispatchers, but none of the four can speak Inuktitut.

In emergency situations, minutes and even seconds mean the difference between life and death.

Time lost tracking down a translator at any given hour could mean certain death to someone in an emergency situation.

If one life is lost through the language barrier, it will be too late to revisit this issue. Let's hope council acts before it's too late.

Give and take

How would you improve relations between the media and city council?

That was one of the questions the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce asked city council byelection candidates.

From Yellowknifer's point of view, relations with city council are just as they should be. In our news pages, we report on what council does. On our editorial page we express an opinion on what they're doing.

For its part, council corrects us when we get things wrong and even sometimes when we don't. They also express an opinion about our editorials in the letter pages.

We invite the two successful council candidates to correct, criticize and comment on our stories and editorials, just as we shall on their performance. It's a very democratic relationship.

The time for solutions is now

It has always been the stance of this newspaper that openness and accountability must play key roles in the ongoing development of our territory.

This stands just as true for activities undertaken by our Inuit associations as it does for our government.

Unfortunately, it appears NTI is adopting the stance that openness and accountability only apply to identifying problems and concerns -- not to what it actually does, or plans to do, to address those concerns to the benefit of all Inuit.

In fact, NTI is garnering a reputation for pointing out an endless stream of "top priorities" needing action, but providing precious little in the way of information on what exactly it's doing to tackle these concerns.

For the past three weeks, Kivalliq News has been trying to get an answer out of NTI president Jose Kusugak as to the role Inuit associations play in economic development, especially as it pertains to stipulations under various articles of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement (NLCA) and the Nunavut Final Agreement.

There have been recent concerns raised on how NLCA articles have been applied on construction projects in both Baker Lake and Arviat.

Yet, no word from NTI on what role, if any, it plays in ensuring the articles are applied in the spirit of which they were meant.

What does NTI do to ensure the Nunavut government meets its obligation to "provide all reasonable opportunities to Inuit firms to submit bids" on upcoming work projects?

What do NTI and the RIAs do to help ensure a strong local Inuit presence is established on work projects across Nunavut?

And, what exactly is NTI doing for the small Inuit businessman and the rights of the average beneficiary?

NTI recently sited "improving Inuit understanding of their rights and obligations under the agreement," as crucial in ensuring effective Inuit action in supporting NLCA implementation.

It gets increasingly hard to understand just what NTI's version of improving understanding amounts to when it consistently avoids answering questions pertaining to its role.

It also identified "enforcing the NLCA articles dealing with Inuit employment," as a top priority during the next five years.

Granted, that was listed below "improved funding for Inuit organizations" on its list of priorities, still, having identified the issue, NTI should be able to publicly declare how it intends to deal with it.

It will be interesting to see if NTI's recently completed formal review of the NLCA's implementation supplies any answers.

Entitled, Taking Stock, it's no surprise it promises to focus on Inuit implementation concerns.

While we have no doubt NTI will identify many issues of grave importance, will it identify what it intends to do to effectively address any of those issues?

If it doesn't, maybe the next piece of literature to be published concerning NTI would be better entitled, All Talk, No Action.