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Friday, November 10, 2006
Judicial overkill

Illegal drugs and bootlegged booze can destroy lives, rip families apart and devastate neighbourhoods.

A suspected drug house at Trail's End operated for nearly three years before police swooped in during the early morning hours of May 2. Neighbours called RCMP dozens of times. Police visited the home several times.

But only after the two people who rented the mobile home were arrested did the problem end.

It makes one wonder: if police can't shut down a suspected crack house, what will a bunch of quasi-judicial inspectors be able to do?

During the now ended session of the legislative assembly, MLAs began consideration of a so-called Safe Communities and Neighbourhoods Act.

Championed by Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins and apparently supported by Justice Minister Brendan Bell, similar laws are already in place in Yukon, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. It would enable officials to target and shut down residential and commercial buildings believed to be involved in illegal activities, such as drug dealing, bootlegging or prostitution.

Since the start of 2005 in Saskatchewan, a team of government investigators has completed 758 investigations and served 166 eviction notices.

Of those evictions, four have been challenged in court. Two were overturned.

Inspectors, most of them former police officers, have the power to get search warrants, do investigations and take suspects to court.

In a province with a population nearing one million people, it seems to work.

It's not clear if the Safe Communities Act is practical in a small territory: the Yukon act is just being put into effect.

We don't believe this law is workable in the NWT. It's like using a bazooka to kill a flea. In the NWT in 2005, there were 438 drug offences, ranging from heroin to cocaine and marijuana.

How many crack houses are there in Yellowknife? One or two? Who's going to do the inspections - city bylaw or RCMP?

Is the justice department going to have to hire special investigators who travel the territory to look into every report of a crack house, gambling den or bootlegging operation?

Then there's the issue of civil rights. Justice Minister Bell says he isn't concerned about "infringing on the rights of known drug dealers" but he should be.

Every time you step on someone's rights, the closer you get to a police state where freedom comes in second place.

MLAs' hearts might be in the right place, but their heads aren't.

If they're so concerned about drugs, put more money into policing and enforcing the Criminal Code so officers can respond to each and every complaint of a drug house.

Coach suspension handled poorly

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

We give full marks to Hockey Nunavut president Dale Smith and his new board members for acting quickly at their September annual general meeting in suspending a Gjoa Haven coach for two years.

However, it was ridiculous for Hockey Nunavut to have taken seven months to deal with the situation, and now it's going to drag on even longer with word the coach is appealing the suspension. In his appeal, the coach said he was smoking a cigarette.

Rankin Inlet Minor Hockey Association president Justin Merritt says he notified Sport Nunavut at the same time he notified Hockey Nunavut of the incident - three days after the volunteer coach and chaperon was walked in on while reportedly smoking marijuana in a Rankin Inlet school.

The fact Sport Nunavut was notified does not change the fact Hockey Nunavut was far too slow in addressing the matter.

That being said, we would like to hear why the department overseeing sports in our territory felt no need to question Hockey Nunavut's inaction regarding the matter.

It would almost lead one to assume Sport Nunavut has no problem with a person getting high while being entrusted with the care of a group of young athletes, even though we know that's not the case.

We had another incident arise from Nunavut's hockey championships this past year, when a lack of clear communication led to coaches trying to bend the rules to strengthen their team for the Arctic Winter Games.

This time around, Hockey Nunavut, Sport Nunavut and the coaching staff of Team Nunavut's entry at the Atlantic-Hockey North Junior 'C' championship in Nova Scotia looked the other way while the same coach travelled to the tournament as a player. There's no doubt a legal point can be made that, at the time of the junior tournament, no official suspension had been issued by Hockey Nunavut.

But, while that is a legitimate argument in a court of law, in the world of right and wrong it is a lame excuse.

How many reading this would allow your children to continue travelling to sporting events if you thought, for one second, any of the people entrusted with their care were getting high on drugs?

There is no way this person should have been selected to the junior team with the coaching staff, Hockey Nunavut and Sport Nunavut all aware of what happened.

What message does that send to the other players on the junior team?

Why even bother having rules and codes of conduct to begin with?

Every team wants to be competitive when it travels to big tournaments.

But, putting the team above the rules of the sport and the conduct of those involved with it has got to stop.

Hopefully, the new Hockey Nunavut board will continue to deal with all disciplinary matters in an expedient manner.

And, hopefully, Sport Nunavut will make a point of following up on any case it's aware of that is not being acted upon in a timely fashion.

Finally, while it's tough to feel sorry for anyone who is believed to have made such a dopey decision, taking six months to hand out a suspension is also unfair to the coach involved.

All in all, the situation was handled poorly and we can only hope the parties involved get it right the next time around.

The cost of living comfortably

Editorial Comment
Dez Loreen
Inuvik Drum

I want to start this week off by congratulating the newly elected town council and our new Mayor Derek Lindsay on starting their term this week.

They certainly had their hands full on Monday night with a large group of presenters and interested public attending their regular council meeting.

After hearing presentations about new libraries, the dangers of the sex industry and some pressure about the community capacity building fund, I was happy to see the group of councillors take it all in stride.

The new council and mayor have been put in charge of one of the more desirable communities in the North.

A full recreation complex complete with skating rink, curling ice, pool, squash courts, fitness centre, a brand new college, two new schools on the way, a planned concrete skatepark, fully gravelled walking trails and numerous playgrounds are only some of the benefits of living in Inuvik.

Wow, Inuvik has it really good. After nearly a decade of planning and building towards our dreams, we have done pretty well for ourselves. Now all we need is a pipeline to run through the land, so we can start paying for all these frills and goodies.

Mayor Lindsay has been given the engineer's hat and is now in front of a train that is moving at the speed of sound.

I'm not sure what our debts are, or who we really owe at this point. All I know is that I can live comfortably.

Maybe we should be concerned with more than just improving the quality of life. I'm happy that we have a mayor that wants to keep improving the basics, like our roads.

I am confident that our new town council will bring our fine community out of debt. Or at least, cut it down a bit.

All I hear about these days is how we should prepare for an influx of people and a larger population in town.

One presenter on Monday night said we could expect almost 1,500 new people coming into Inuvik in the next five years.

Maybe there will be a day when I wake up and see a booming town, where the streets are flooded with strangers and industry workers filling our bars.

I don't think we will see any real development in the pipeline for a while yet, so I will stay confident that my parking space on main street is safe for now.

Travelling in the North

Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum

It probably happens everywhere, but living in the North seems to make people more aware of just how vulnerable they are to the whims of nature.

The quick closure of the ferries for Fort Simpson and Wrigley is a perfect example. I was one of those people who was caught a bit off guard when the final day came on Thursday.

Judging by past precedent and by the amount of ice flowing past Fort Simpson, I knew the ferries couldn't have long to go, so on Wednesday, Nov. 1, I drove aboard the MV Lafferty and headed off to visit Fort Liard. My reasoning for the trip was that I needed to get to at least one community before being stuck for close to a month in Fort Simpson.

I hadn't planned on staying overnight but it became a necessity so it was Thursday morning before I hit the road again for the journey home.

Getting closer to Fort Simpson, I did what most people do, which is judge which ferry I was likely to make -- given my current position, relative speed, road conditions and determination. It's the popular game of deciding exactly how fast you have to go to be able to drive onto the ferry instead of arriving to find it half way across the river.

I aimed for the 1:30 p.m. ferry. I never imagined that I might miss not only the 1:30 ferry but all ferries until the service started to run again in the spring.

Arriving at precisely 1:32 p.m., according to my truck's clock, I expected to the find the ferry waiting and drive on. Instead I found one other vehicle waiting at the stop sign and the ferry at the other side. No problem I thought and settled down to wait. I was still waiting at 3:45 p.m. when the ferry finally started to move again after having the rock removed from its rudder system.

I, and probably everyone else in the other vehicles who arrived behind me, spent a lot of time watching the river fill up with ice before my eyes and wondered if I would have to find a different means of crossing. The people in the line up of 43 vehicles on the other side probably had similar thoughts about what they would do if their vehicles didn't make it across.

The lesson to be learned by all involved is that you never can tell what will happen when the weather and Mother Nature are involved. There is always something unexpected that will keep you on your toes and it is better to err on the side of caution.

Air travel is a way of life for many residents of small communities in the North. For those communities such as Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake that don't have year-round road access, the ability to take planes is doubly important. Residents of the North should be able to feel safe in the knowledge that when they are boarding planes, they are in the hands of pilots who know how to deal with northern conditions.Gravel airstrips are found in many communities and snow and ice are simply winter realities.

Southern-based airlines who want to fly to the North need to take an example from the recent plane crash in Trout Lake to ensure that something similar or worse doesn't happen in the future.