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Friday, July 15, 2005
Demands for compensation must be reasonable

Peter Liske is one angry man, threatening lawsuits and blockades left and right.

One day the City of Yellowknife and the territorial government are on the receiving end of his wrath, the next it's diamond mining giant De Beers.

The Dettah chief of the Yellowknives Dene is reading from a book written by other Northern First Nations in their dealings with business, industry and government.

Liske wants a larger share of the proceeds from the Snap Lake diamond mine, $60 million to $100 million, not the $6 million De Beers has offered. He is threatening legal action to block access to Snap Lake unless the company matches what others have paid for access.

The Dogrib used a timely denial of permits to the ice road to get more from the Diavik mine, which then came to agreement with the Yellowknives, Chipewyans, Metis and Inuit.

Like the Akaitcho First Nation, the umbrella organization that includes the Yellowknives, the Deh Cho is still seeking a land claim settlement.

The Mackenzie Gas Project has marked time since April while Deh Cho and federal negotiators worked out a compromise that gave everybody something they wanted.

Just this week, the Deh Cho accepted $31.5 million from Ottawa and agreed to withdraw their current suits and not throw another legal spanner into the works of the $7 billion pipeline.

If First Nations leaders have learned anything from their dealings with governments and global corporations, it's that speaking out gets results.

The Yellowknives are only now starting to speak out, and their voice is an important one, worth listening to.

At the same time, demands for compensation must be reasonable, or leaders like Liske run the risk of driving off the development that is bringing much-needed revenue to First Nations.

Let's fix food mail

Editorial Comment
Brent Reaney
Kivalliq News

Kivalliq consumers have been spending too much money at their grocery stores for too long.

It is time the region's food mail delivery system changed to fulfil the program's mandate of providing healthy food at reasonable prices.

In principle, the federal initiative is a great idea.

The feds pay most of the cost to ship healthy foods up to Kivalliq communities from Churchill.

But the food has to be shipped from Winnipeg to be eligible for the rebate -- an expensive process which can last more than three days and make for tired-looking produce.

This cost, along with concerns about the quality and freshness of the goods, mean retailers in the Kivalliq's two largest communities of Rankin Inlet and Arviat are choosing to pay full freight to get the food in quicker.

Confused? Well, the end result is higher prices on our shelves.

Unlikely to be news to most of you, a pair of studies done by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development found Kivallimmiut were paying more for their food than other Northerners.

Still living off country food

Some people have said many Kivallimmiut still live largely off country food, which makes the cost of items in our grocery stores unimportant.

But a growing number of people are working during the week. And hunting seems a little like golfing in that you can't expect to make a living off it by only heading out on the weekends.

As more people enter the work force, having access to healthy store-bought food at affordable prices matters that much more.

A review of Churchill as a food mail entry point is underway.

Now is the time to get out to the rest of the meetings scheduled and let the feds know change is expected.

There were fewer than 20 people at the Rankin Inlet meeting. This was not enough to prove we care about food prices.

This system is complicated, but how this review is handled will directly affect everyone.

Residents of Whale Cove, Chesterfield Inlet and Baker Lake still have a chance. They need to speak up at meetings scheduled during the next week in their communities.

With Churchill having had 14 years to make this program work, let's cut the delivery process in half by moving the food mail launching pad south to Thompson.

This move is estimated to cost the program up to $2.5 million more per year.

Assuming 8,000 people live in the seven Kivalliq communities, that $2.5 million works out to a yearly total of $312.50 per person.

In simpler terms, for less than half the price of a Kivalliq cup of coffee a day we could lower the cost of nutritious food.

Then again, it doesn't matter what the government decides as long as it improves our situation.

A simple gesture

Editorial Comment
Jason Unrau
Inuvik Drum

It was like seeing lightening in the Delta.

I was coming down the stairs at Sir Alexander Mackenzie school following the special concert by a trio of Tuvan throat singers who performed for NWT Summer Games participants.

Also coming down the stairs were several youth, other concert goers and an elder, one slow step at a time, both her hands clutching the banister. She looked determined: she made it up the stairs and by golly she was going to get herself down.

As with many other "lost arts," courtesy and manners are on an ever growing list of niceties not seen so often any more. So it was surprising indeed to see a youngster approach the elder and ask if she needed help getting down the stairs.

In fact, after far too often seeing kids squeezing between a door and somebody else exiting or entering a building, witnessing this simple gesture was extraordinary. The only unfortunate thing about it was that other kids weren't around to take note.

Got a smoke for after that fried chicken?

Okay. Perhaps it's not worth dwelling too much on athletes' fast food binge at last weekend's summer games.

At the end of the day, a few visits to the local fried food outlet isn't going to kill you. Besides, the first ever NWT Summer Games were a success if one based it on the number of wide smiles on participants' faces.

And at the end of the day, that's what it's really all about.

However, seeing some participants in their blue jackets smoking cigarettes was anything but positive. Athletes selected to attend were between the ages of 10 to 14 years old, so the oldest any of these smokers-in-training could have been is five years short of actually being able to legally buy the darn things.

As a smoker who has had little success quitting despite numerous attempts, I dislike seeing kids getting hooked on such dreadful things as cigarettes.

It's true that in our younger days many of us tried smoking to feel cool or to fit in, but those nasty nicotine sticks will hook you before you know it.

Perhaps in the future, Sport North could adopt a similar policy to the one Inuvik Minor Hockey League has with regard to sending its players to compete with the territorial team or to attend high performance hockey camps. If you smoke, you won't be considered.

As many in Inuvik know, 16-year-old Mark Orbell was seriously injured in a car accident on the Dempster Highway last week.

The Drum has learned that members of the community have set up an account at the Inuvik branch of the Imperial Bank of Commerce for those who wish to make a donation to help see Mark and his family through this difficult time.

An uneasy truce

Editorial Comment
Derek Neary
Deh Cho Drum

Finally, Dehcho First Nations and the federal government are openly discussing their settlement agreement.

On Monday, each side held its own tele-conference on to comment on the deal.

If they supposedly reached a compromise, then couldn't they at least hold a joint press conference?

The answer to that question became apparent after listening to both parties. It seems the concept of federal consultation with the Dehcho on the pipeline project is a grey area.

Yes, each side had a copy of the agreement with the words clearly laid out before them. But those words are subject to interpretation, and, not surprisingly, each party has a different read on that particular article of the agreement.

The Deh Cho appears to think the consultation will give them at least some sway, a modicum of authority. Conversely, the federal negotiators explicitly inserted the words "if appropriate" in the clause, meaning that DFN can scream all it wants about the pipeline but Ottawa doesn't necessarily have to act. This, undoubtedly, will prove to be a real point of contention in the future.

It's a lawyer's delight this self-government/litigation stuff.

The families of David Horesay and Fred Hardisty would prefer that the RCMP don't investigate themselves in assessing actions or lack thereof taken when the men went missing.

That is a reasonable concern. Police forces that carry out their own probes, in some instances, have been found to protect their officers.

While the family does have some legitimate questions, there have also been an incredible number of grossly distorted stories and hurtful rumours flying around since this most unfortunate ordeal began.

As family member Joseph Horesay stated, the relatives of the two men who perished in the North Nahanni are seeking closure.

The recovery of their bodies is the first step. We can only hope the police and families are able to take the next step together.

If nothing else, an enhanced communications and search protocol between the police and the families must be established.

That protocol then must be revisited annually so that police officers new to the community and newly elected chief and council - or designated community search and rescue members - are familiar with it.

If mock disasters and mock oil spill exercises are held regularly, why can't co-operative search and rescue training take place, too? It can, but only if both sides want it to happen.