Friday, July 29, 2005
Wake up city council, our dump rocks
World-class news media in New York, Paris and London have gone on at length about what Yellowknife city council considers to be an ongoing problem.
"Our dump is unique," says dump advocate Walt Humphries.
"The dump is probably the only place in town where diamond mine managers and homeless native Canadians rub shoulders," said the venerable New York Times.
Mayor Gord Van Tighem and his councillors should go with the flow. Forget trying to homogenize the dump's operation with what cities down south do; instead, "Vive la difference!"
Humphries would have the dump declared a World Heritage Site by the United Nations. While we smile at that idea, we realize it sometimes takes a complete outsider to make us understand the wealth we truly have.
Free scavenging is a good thing because of its reduce, re-use, recycle ethic.
The smog-bound drowning-in-garbage world seems to appreciate Yellowknife because we appear to be so keen to keep scavenging as part of Yellowknife life.
Bask in the glow, city council! Take pride in Yellowknife's dump.
It looks like land will be made available for someone to build an RV park on Highway 3.
The city passed two readings on Monday to let the territorial government have the lease on the land once known as the Rocking Horse Ranch, about 10 kilometers outside the city. It's anticipated the final reading transferring the land to the territory will take place at the next meeting. While geotechnical work to determine the site's suitability isn't quite complete, the land is likely the best spot for another RV park.
Fred Henne Park, a territorial park, is filling up fast, and sometimes can't accommodate all the RVs with full hook-ups. With the completion of the highway south in September, RV traffic may increase significantly.
The territory doesn't want to run the new park though, it wants a private company to come in and get it going.
That's fine, but while the business plan must ensure a profit for the private operator, the government itself may well not make any money.
The goal is to attract more well-off RV tourists. Government and city businesses will profit from the money the tourists spend while they are here.
Humans are social beings. We need to interact in order to live a full life.
Much of this interaction comes in the form of recreational activities.
If administered properly, these activities and programs can strengthen an entire community.
Inside the Rankin community hall last Tuesday, dozens of kids were cheering each other on as they went in pairs through an obstacle course.
Leaving the hall, I drove over to the baseball diamond to get a picture of one of the kids.
The field was empty.
Driving out, I recognized one of the youth and asked him if they were still playing.
"Every day I come, but there's nobody there," he said desperately.
Now I'm not blaming anybody because the kids were not showing up at the ball field for their 1:30 p.m. game, but it was definitely a sad sight.
And Noah Tiktak has been taking kids out on the land using funding provided by the department of Culture Language Elders and Youth.
He has another camp planned for the fall, but does not know if money will be made available for future excursions.
Land trips, summer camps, and baseball games are all forms of recreation.
I've heard a number of people say our territory's recreational programming seems to include too many southern sports, and not enough Inuit activities.
I support the cultivation of Inuit culture wherever possible.
But arguments over whether money should be spent on kids going out on the land filleting char, or staying in town throwing baseballs will not get us anywhere.
Let's ask, not tell, people what they want to do.
And let's provide better support to our community recreation directors. The high-stress nature of the job makes it easy to understand why there is such a high turnover.
The Nunavut government holds regional training sessions, but it does not seem to be enough to keep people around. If we want to have strong, consistent programming, we need people to grow in their jobs.
Sport Nunavut says the secret to making things run on its frayed, shoestring budget is a strong network of volunteers.
With more money unlikely likely to come around any time soon, we need to keep this in mind and help our rec directors organize activities and events whenever possible.
We also need to remember to keep our elders and middle-aged residents active.
Too often, all of our events are focused on kids.
Children are important, but they still need to be physically and mentally active when they become adults.
At the Kivalliq Traditional Summer Games they have an elders division.
This seems like the kind of tradition that will not only keep our communities going, but growing.
After reading Senator Nick Sibbeston's comments regarding his plan not to support Bill C-38, the proposed same-sex marriage law, I just couldn't help but throw in my two-cents.
According to Sibbeston, his reason for voting against the legislation is that same-sex lifestyles "are not common in the North and our ancestors would frown on such activities and would view it as unnatural."
Yeeghads! Is the same-sex lifestyle uncommon up here because of the region's relatively low population base compared to the rest of the country, which would make other "unnatural" pursuits such as Satan worshipping and nude sled-dog racing equally uncommon?
Or is it uncommon to Sibbeston because he doesn't really swing with the same-sex crowd?
Unfortunately, what is a fundamental human rights issue has been turned into a religious one because the thought of two men or two women tying the knot hurts the sensibilities of many in the God-fearing Christian crowd.
Just to bring everyone up to speed on Bill C-38 and its implications, there are provisions in the legislation - passed in the House of Commons June 28 by a 25 vote margin - preventing churches from being required to perform same-sex ceremonies.
The legislation also protects officials in the public service who conduct civil marriages from being forced to perform same-sex marriages.
So if nobody is forced to do anything that would go against their own morality, what is the big hang up?
For Sibbeston, one of his hang ups is the fact that, according to him, the ancestors would frown on such activities.
Well, word up to Nick, homosexuality is as old as the day is long and is certainly not exclusive (or rather non-exclusive) to any one ethnic group.
Like other human yardsticks such as intelligence or strength, gender-preference is present in all its varied degrees in people the world over.
When one of my gay friends heard about Sibbeston's stance on the issue, he replied, "Just open the doors of a gay bar in Edmonton and count the aboriginal people."
As well, it is something of a paradox for Sibbeston, who played a role in hard-fought battles for aboriginal rights, to turn around and kick sand in the face of another minority group seeking similar treatment from their government.
And finally, Sibbeston's assertion that the same-sex marriage bill is "typical of legislation emanating from social values prevalent in the south but foreign up here," is yet another misguided platitude that is starting to wear thin.
Sure, things are different in the North, but in terms of "social values," we folk from down south sure hold on to the importance of safe communities, healthy families, revering our elders and respecting others just as strongly as folks in the North.
You know there's room for improvement when people on both sides of a debate have major criticisms of the NWT's regulatory processes.
The chair of Canadian Zinc Corporation says the slow-as-molasses permitting process in the territory is maddening.
The superintendent of Nahanni National Park Reserve thinks the regulatory boards could be doing a more thorough job of assessing the Prairie Creek mine site and its potential impacts.
Does the mine pose a serious threat to the park? A leading Canadian geologist, Derek Ford, has no doubts that it does, at least it will the way current mine operations are being proposed.
Having the park lose its World Heritage Site status would be a big blow. Before the distinction is revoked or any environmental damage occurs, let's get another opinion.
A panel of independent geologists should be assembled to review the situation. If they all agree with Ford (or even the majority), then the Canadian government must step in to ensure every precaution is taken, or buy out the mine and reclaim the site.
Should the panel of experts contradict their colleague, then the mine could proceed with the same level of scrutiny.
Now, if we can just get everyone to somehow agree on who the independent experts should be...
Fort Simpson stepped in to host the NWT Slo-pitch Championships over the weekend, an event that was originally supposed to be held in Inuvik.
Tournament organizers obviously had control over neither the number of teams that would participate nor the weather. Those were the only two aspects of the weekend that proved to be somewhat of a disappointment. The weather couldn't have been better on Friday evening and Saturday, but it turned ugly after that. Sunday was overcast, very cool and breezy. Nevertheless, the bleachers held a decent number of enthusiastic fans, many of whom were wrapped in blankets or sleeping bags. Of course, many others were watching from the warmth of the vehicles parked around the outfield.
The fact that only one womens team and two mens teams travelled to Fort Simpson for the tournament was disheartening. That's not a knock against the calibre of teams involved in the event, but it would have been that much better had a few more communities participated.
On the upside, those who did make the trip seemed very happy that they bothered. I only interviewed a fraction of the players who came into town, but nearly everyone that I talked to was sure to mention that Fort Simpson was a great host.
Not only was praise heaped on local people, the facilities were subject to many a compliment as well. Umpire Charlie Wilson, a guy whose role is to be impartial and call 'em as he sees 'em, made this unsolicited remark in regards to the well-manicured Fort Simpson ball diamond (specifically field number one):
"This ball field is the best in the Northwest Territories, in my opinion... It's a pleasure to come to this field."
Territorial court judge Robert Gorin was not identified by his full name in a story ("Fined for danger") in July 27's Yellowknifer because of an editing error. Yellowknifer apologizes for the mistake.