Editorial page

Friday, October 8, 1999

Dead drunk

In this city where the gold is paved with streets and the streets are littered with drunks, we can appreciate the strong words of chief coroner Percy Kinney.

The coronor's annual report detailed how alcohol has played a part in more than one-third of accidental deaths here.

Every winter, people die of exposure after drinking too much and passing out in the snow. It's become so common-place we're no longer shocked by these deaths.

It's time our liquor inspectors and law enforcement got tough and cracked down on bars over-serving.

Bartenders and owners have been sued for letting drunk drivers leave their premises with keys in hand. Are they not equally responsible for their pedestrian patrons?

Hunting for dollars

It's a $3.3 million industry and growing, but it's one of the best kept secrets in town.

Last year 600 trophy hunters came North, spending an average of $55,000 for each hunt. A lot of those were handled by outfitting companies and Hunters and Trappers Associations in the Yellowknife/North Great Slave area.

Jim Peterson, president of the Barren Ground Caribou Outfitters Association, estimates $3.3 million is pumped into Yellowknife's economy over a six-week period. "Not government money," he says with justified pride.

These entrepreneurs and their industry must be figured into any municipal and regional economic development plans. The numbers show their success benefits everyone by bringing in new money, not recycled government dollars. That's a key ingredient for growth.

Instant replay

We must admit, Roland Gagnon's idea of doing a sports history of Yellowknife seemed a little out in left field. In a town this size?

But anyone who knows the early history of Yellowknife knows that hockey was a huge draw. The mines had a fierce rivalry going and often hired people more for their hockey talent than mine experience.

Sports are also a large part of growing up, and games won and lost are a topic of conversation well into adulthood. Why not get it all down in a book?

Gagnon is going to have a meeting at the library Friday night. As he said: "If you don't take care of your history, who will?"

Future focus

Last week, in the Oct. 1 edition of Yellowknifer, columnist Walt Humphries put forward some ideas on the direction the Giant Mine clean-up might take.

His vision is well worth serious discussion. Before the clean-up of the site goes any further, maybe we should be entertaining ideas as to what the cleaned-up version should look like.

As the city faces an uncertain future, visionary ideas must be welcomed by the people and city council.

Turning Yellowknife's heritage into a marketable commodity is about as positive a thought as we've heard in the last few weeks.

Maybe it's not enough to restore the Giant mine site to its original state, perhaps we need something better, such as preserving some of the history the town stands on.

Proof is in the pudding
Editorial Comment
Daniel MacIsaac
Inuvik Drum

No one had a bad word to say about the new Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development minister, when he dropped into Inuvik last weekend.

Even territorial representatives gave Robert Nault the thumb's up -- though they've occasionally jousted with his predecessors over the years and still haven't solved the issue of keeping more Northern resources and resource royalties in the North.

Nault has been described as open and straight-forward and says he's won't shy away from the tough issues. When he took to the Midnight Sun stage and persuaded the premier and Ethel Blondin-Andrew to join him in dancing with Inuvialuit musicians, he seemed to be saying, "I want to get out there and meet you, celebrate with you and get things done."

We can only hope he proves as active in office as he was on stage. Nault enters the scene at a turbulent time, when First Nations harvesting rights are being debated on both the east and west coasts and when it's easy for him to be distracted from dealing with what are proving to be relatively peaceful Northern concerns.

Doubtless the renewed interest in mineral and natural gas development in the Beaufort Delta will help keep Nault's attention focused on the North -- and may foster the enhanced level of co-operation between Ottawa, Yellowknife and the aboriginal administrations that his Political Accord sets out to accomplish. There are other issues at stake, however, and Nault was harder to pin down on the thorny questions of the Dempster extension and on moving departmental functions and personnel North. He also deflected the matter of keeping a greater share of resource royalties in the territory, a decades-old wrestling match between the governments.

If the proposed resource development turns out to be as big a boom as rumours anticipate, Nault will likely come out smelling of roses no matter what else he does. The new minister also has the responsibility of promoting secondary industries in the North, an issue that last flared up over diamonds during the term of his predecessor, Jane Stewart.

Nault's gotten off on the right foot, but now it's time to watch his lead.

Commending volunteers
Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Sometimes it's easy to overlook the work of volunteers in our communities.

So many people find the time on a regular basis to give of themselves for the sake of others. Unfortunately, the sacrifice made by volunteers is often taken for granted. We sometimes come to expect that a person who takes up a cause will be obligated to keep up the "good fight." Undoubtedly, some feel the pressure to do so while others understandably bow out before they get "burnt out."

There was talk of this issue at the Deh Cho Friendship Centre's annual general meeting on Sept. 26. It can be a challenge to find volunteers in small communities, and when anybody is looking for some they usually turn to the same people.

Recognition was mentioned as an important factor in keeping people interested in devoting their time. A plaque, a ribbon or a pat on the back will surely be welcomed by most volunteers. For others, the knowledge that they won't repeatedly be called upon to give endlessly of themselves would be a relief.

Everyone has the right to choose to help out or not, but the more of us who ease the burden on others, the better off we'll all be.

On a related note, congratulations to all those who participated in the Run for the Cure Sunday and the Terry Fox Run a few weeks ago. Thanks to those who made donations too.

Another noteworthy cause, the "Take Back the Night" march was held a few weeks ago too. Violence against women is abhorrent and deserves attention in hopes of creating an understanding of the devastation it so often leaves behind.

Mail scam

Ken Brown, a resident of Fort Simpson, has brought to my attention an e-mail he received from a "legal practitioners/solicitors" office based in Lagos, Nigeria. The message is defined by the author as a "mutual business proposal." It seems the former chief security advisor to a past head of state is being detained by the present civilian government. His wife is seeking a foreign account where she can transfer her husband's assets, some $17.5 million. All Ken has to do is send his bank account number, the name and address of his bank and a phone/fax number, and 20 per cent of that money will be given to him.

The message concludes, "Finally it will be important to note the high level of confidentiality which this business demands and hope you will not betray the trust and confidence which I repose in you."

Hmmm, perhaps a donation to the Canadian Cancer Society won't get you 20 per cent of $17.5 million, but it would be a much safer transaction.

The time for solutions is now
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

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.