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Monday, March 28, 2005
Sticking to our guns

Walk into an Inuit household and chances are you will see guns.

Not just one or two guns, either, but many, mainly hunting rifles.

Life may have changed dramatically in Nunavut, but hunting remains an important part of life for most Inuit.

The problem is, it is becoming increasingly difficult for Inuit to get ammunition and go hunting because of bureaucratic red tape and language barriers surrounding renewing that all-important Firearms Acquisition Certificate (FAC).

Under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Inuit can hunt without a licence, a permit or paying any fees.

However, to buy ammunition at the store you need an FAC.

According the Canadian Firearms Centre the FAC must be renewed every five years, as long as the person owns a firearm.

Getting that piece of paper is difficult for unilingual Inuktitut- or Inuinnaqtun-speaking people.

When they have trouble with their application or their licence expires, many Inuit cannot communicate with federal firearms officials in the south because of the language barrier.

That is why Nunavut must have its own firearms licencing office.

We had an office. It was in Iqaluit. Not much help, especially the Inuinnaqtun-speaking Inuit in the Kitikmeot. It was better than nothing, though.

Since Nunavut does not have its own office right now, it's time everyone - ordinary folk and the territorial government - to press the federal government to re-open that office.

Not only will that office be able to more effectively help Inuit where they live, and ideally in their own language, but the office would be in a prime position to spearhead much-needed gun safety programs.

Safe handling and safe storage of firearms in Nunavut is a serious issue, too.

What are we waiting for?

Herd at risk

Gwich'in voices about the impact of oil and gas development upon the Porcupine caribou calving grounds have been ignored.

The ruffle of greenbacks is too loud and the way is cleared for drilling in the coastal plain of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Oil companies want to profit from shipping the up to 16 billion barrels of oil to the southern 48 states. Alaskans want to continue to earn annual dividends from their growing $23 billion Permanent Fund. State legislators would like nothing better than to continue to pay for 80 per cent of government operations with oil revenue.

Yes, the oil companies have a great environmental track record around Prudhoe Bay. They believe they can drill in ANWR with minimal impact.

We're not so sure. By the time any impact upon the Porcupine herd is noticed it may be too late. The herd is an important food source for the Gwich'in of Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic and Old Crow, Yukon. Herd numbers are already in decline.

The only realistic avenue of protest is now aimed squarely at the oil companies. Every move they make in ANWR must be under intense scrutiny. The full spotlight from the court of public opinion must be shined straight at them.

Gwich'in must also reconcile the apparent contradiction of support for the Mackenzie Gas Project and opposition for drilling in ANWR.

The NWT and Yukon governments must work together to enhance monitoring of the Porcupine herd to watch for changes to caribou health that could spell disaster.

Fair play

It takes two chips of wood, rubbed together, to make a fire. In the case of a botched soccer tryout to create NWT's Canada Games boys team, the woodchips are coming from two pairs of shoulders: Yellowknife and the "rest of the territories."

To recap, a Canada Games evaluation camp was held in Fort Simpson, March 4-6, as part of a tournament. Ten Yellowknife players were cut from the team because they didn't show up.

The Yellowknife side says they weren't told the seriousness of the camp.

The other side says they were and that Yellowknife has a bad "they need us" attitude.

We think the truth lies between.

We can well imagine there's a well-entrenched center-of-the-universe feeling among Yellowknife sports people. That has to change. Players must be prepared to make the same time and monetary sacrifices to go to small communities that the rest of the NWT has to make to go to Yellowknife.

On the other hand, we can bet the notifications of the importance of the soccer meet in Fort Simpson weren't quite as insistent as we are asked to believe. The 10 ejected players have been asked to come back to a new evaluation camp, but that won't stop a similar problem from happening in the future.

The NWT Soccer Association must develop clear rules for team selection so everyone knows what's expected from the outset.

Crouching producers

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Those who understand the wonderful world of broadcasting can't help but feel a bit of sympathy for the dilemma facing the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN).

While in no way are we endorsing the path APTN has chosen with dubbing, we do understand the decision.

At the centre of this storm are concerns by Iglulik filmmaker Zach Kunuk, who opposes APTN's request that his films must be available in more than just Inuktitut, and have versions in English or French and another aboriginal language.

In a perfect world, a network such as the APTN would be able to pay aboriginal filmmakers handsome licensing fees and broadcast their finished works in the same format as they were produced.

Alas, the world is far from perfect and the APTN, like every network outside the realm of public television, needs advertising revenue to survive and prosper.

And therein lies the dilemma.

In order for the APTN to gain more revenues, it must attract more lucrative advertising.

In order to do that, it must escape the niche-market label often attached to it and reach a wider, more mainstream audience.

Welcome to the world of demographics and the target audience.

For advertisers to open their cheque books, they must be confident the target audience they've identified for their product is being reached. It wouldn't make much sense for a beef producer to pitch its product during a show aimed at vegetarians.

And exact demographics walk hand in hand with the number of viewers a network attracts.

The wider the audience you appeal to, the higher your potential for attracting advertisers. It's not exactly rocket science.

However the film gets more than a little grainy when a network is expected to appeal to the wishes of a particular segment of the population, as is the case with the APTN.

We don't believe for a second aboriginal filmmakers and show producers would be content to remain a fringe element as long as they never had to relinquish artistic control of their work.

And, if every production was as well made as Atanarjuat, the bickering over dubbing and subtitling would all be a moot point.

But this is the real world and, as in all differences of opinion, common ground must be reached for the APTN and the aboriginal artistic community to move forward harmoniously.

Interest in aboriginal lifestyles, heritage and culture - as well as accurate depictions of history - has never been higher amongst the non-aboriginal population.

The APTN and its show producers have to take advantage of that interest if they are to take their craft to the next level.

Although there are varying opinions on how that can best be achieved, dubbing may just be the most viable method of attracting a larger viewing audience at this particular point in time.

And, if the only thing standing between higher licensing fees and bigger production budgets is the odd bad kung fu movie, everyone can take solace in the fact some of the best entertainment writing is done with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Can man survive on gas bars alone?

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

When people ponder the achievements of modern society circa 2005 -- likely in a time when fossil fuels will be scorned as much as cigarette smokers are today -- what will stand out as the hallmarks of urban planning?

For the Romans, their aqueducts kept cities in the empire from going thirsty. For us, perhaps it will be the ubiquitous gas bar -- relieving the insatiable thirst of our motorized chariots.

In some cities and towns across North America, it is nearly impossible to drive more than a few blocks without passing the florescent glow of yet another multi-pump, full-serve gas station, complete with three kinds of gasoline and 30 kinds of chocolate bars at the till. Though not recommended, it is quite possible for man to survive most anywhere on the continent with nothing more than a vehicle and a gas card.

Tired of pizza pops? Then gas up and go for a microwaveable cheeseburger.

While their plans aren't on the scale of some fuel-cathedrals found down south, The North West Company is intent on building a gas bar in the parking lot across from the north entrance of Northmart.

In an area already considered 'high traffic,' this project is certain to create even more activity on a route kids use to get to and from school.

The $500,000 project, according to a company executive, is good for consumers as it will create more competition.

Arguments against rezoning the land to accommodate construction plans include the safety factor and the point that another gas station will do nothing in the way of consumer relief for high prices at the pumps. Certainly, there may be some savings for motorists but they would most likely be negligible.

The price of french fries in Inuvik never seems to waver, despite the fact every restaurant in town serves them.

As far as this reporter could tell from the special public hearing regarding the issue, held at council chambers Monday evening, the middle ground would be for the company to provide a sidewalk for pedestrians in the event the gas bar gets the go-ahead.

One refreshing thing about living in the North is that people here seem to take special pride in the fact life in these parts is not like life in the south. However, as time goes on, this notion seems to be the ideal rather than reality, at least as far as urban sprawl is concerned.

And soon, we could have another gas station smack in the middle of town to prove the point.

Ah, but what a glorious thing it would be to have fuel pumps right next to the grocery store -- a nearly-one-stop-shopping coup.

Perhaps when the Education, Culture and Employment consultant returns to Inuvik for more focus groups about the new elementary school, a true one-stop facility could be suggested. Combine the new school with a gas bar and while we're at it, why not add a drive-through daycare? Then the town could really claim some uniqueness.

Imagine the promotional ads... "Drive through chapels? Those are so yesterday. In Inuvik, we've got drive-through day care and you can get gas, too."

Modern living. Don't you just love it?

Communication is the key

Editorial Comment
Andrew Raven
Deh cho Drum

Residents of Fort Simpson were greeted Monday morning by notices posted at various locations around the community announcing the health centre would be closed -save for emergencies and pre-booked appointments - for the next 10 days.

The restricted services began Monday morning, meaning most residents had no advanced warning of the plan.

This despite the fact a spokesperson in the Department of Health and Social Services conceded officials knew at least a week in advance they would be short staffed for Spring Break, with one nurse on vacation and another manager in Yellowknife.

"Bloody bad management" is the way councillor Bob Hanna described the situation and the Deh Cho Drum agrees.

While staff shortages will always be a problem in smaller communities - especially during peak vacation times - the Department of Health and Social Services needs to do a better job of keeping the public informed.

To simply tape notices to bulletin boards, arena entrances and the door at the post office is not nearly enough.

Health care is an essential service - not a 1992 Chevy Cavalier for sale.

The department could begin by telling village officials of any impending service restrictions.

One councillor was rightfully upset when he found out about the partial closure while getting his mail.

The Department could also print off pamphlets and hand them out door to door - a procedure that in a town of 1200 would take about an afternoon.

It could have taken out and advertisement in the newspaper or placed a notice on its homepage.

After all this in the information age - not the middles ages. There are other ways to spread the news besides nailing it to the church door.

Hockey Stars

Kudos to the National Hockey League Players Association for bringing their Goals and Dreams program to Fort Simpson this year.

With the season cancelled and no prospect of NHL hockey on the horizon, Nashville Predators forward Scott Walker, Chicago Blackhawk great Steve Larmer and NHLPA official Devon Smith could have easily skipped the trip.

Instead they gave a group of 30 young hockey players the experience of a lifetime - even if the youngsters were pre-occupied with asking Walker about his Nashville teammate Jordan Tootoo.

But perhaps the ones who enjoyed the Saturday afternoon clinic the most were the village old-timers, who suited up against Larmer, a five time 40 goal scorer and one of the top players in the league during the 1980s and early 1990s.