Monday, November 27, 2006
Sadly, addiction is one of the North's biggest challenges. Name your poison: alcohol, drugs and gambling lure in many Northerners.
As a result, one's physical and mental health diminishes and lives are destroyed as a result.
By the time an addiction settles into one's daily routine, it becomes a challenge too great to overcome for many. But by raising awareness of the problem through initiatives such as Addictions Awareness Week, those who want to take on the challenge of defeating an addiction can have the confidence they are not alone.
Despite the difficulties for people to get treatment, success stories of those in the North who overcame addictions abound and it is important to listen to them.
These are the winners in life and deserve recognition for conquering the difficult challenges they have faced.
These recollections also may provide inspiration to family members or friends of those with addictions to reach out and give that person a gentle helping push in the right direction.
That helping hand may mean the difference between a life lost or found.
"Many things have changed in just one man's lifetime. That man is me," writes George Blondin in his new book "Trail of the Spirit: the Mysteries of Medicine Power Revealed."
Blondin has certainly seen change. Growing up in the bush north of Great Bear Lake, Blondin and his family lived off the land. They had no communication with the outside world except through occasional visits to the local Hudson's Bay post.
Now in 2006, at the age of 83, Blondin is the author of three books and has written columns for News/North since 1994. He communicates, through his stories, with people around the globe.
His journey, like those of others of his generation, has not been easy. But Blondin's desire to preserve his culture and communicate it to future generations has guided him through.
By persevering, Blondin has given the youth of today and tomorrow a powerful gift - a glimpse of their past and of what makes the Dene unique.
The Dene are marvellous storytellers, and Blondin has made a point of encouraging others to write down their own stories and share them with the world.
This month Blondin retired from writing his weekly column for News/North, but he will continue to work on his other writing projects.
Mahsi Cho, George, and we look forward to reading your future books.
The Cambridge Bay Housing Association has announced that it's taking action against drug dealers and bootleggers in its public housing units.
With the passing of a recent motion, tenants who sell booze and drugs are now considered to be in violation of the tenancy agreement.
The housing association's manager said tenants will get four warnings before they face eviction.
Four warnings! One warning would suffice.
Bootlegging and drug dealing are, above all, violations of the Criminal Code. Such desperate and callous individuals should be facing stiff fines or time in jail, not a few slaps on the wrist from the housing association before being threatened with eviction.
The organization should work closely with police to ensure underhanded tenants are brought to justice.
As housing manager Vicki Aitaok noted, residents are tired of some of their neighbours engaging in illicit activity. These tenants, too, bear a responsibility to inform the RCMP of criminal activity.
It was tips from community members that helped police nab a man with a 2.6 pound stash of marijuana and another man with 75 bottles of alcohol in separate incidents at the Iqaluit airport in October.
Where the housing association must be judicious is in making sure that elders are not unfairly tossed into the street.
Elder abuse is prevalent in the North. Some seniors who have children living with them may be too intimidated to speak up as their deviant offspring make illegal deals in their home.
There is a difference between being complicit and being bullied.
For those of you who don't follow such things, Rankin Inlet came within a bad call of becoming Canada's hockey town this past year.
Although it didn't win, for the hamlet to go as far as it did in a national competition was impressive.
In fact, the blades didn't fall off until the contest reached the point where the shear number of people living in southern communities was enough to bury the upstart Kivalliq hamlet.
But, that's a topic for another day.
This year, Rankin residents seem more determined than ever to show their love for the sport, and what's been happening at the local arena for the past month has been nothing short of incredible.
About 200 people have been showing up four nights a week for Rankin Inlet Adult Recreational Hockey League games.
Trust me when I say - and not just because I'm a hockey guy - if you live in Rankin and haven't been taking in any of the games, you're missing out on a lot of fun.
A number of reasons are behind the success of the league this year.
First and foremost, behind Rankin's love of the sport, is the fact the four-team league is quite competitive.
There have been few blowouts and a number of games have been decided in overtime.
Secondly, Josie Kusugak has found a hobby during his retirement years. Kusugak has been behind the microphone and playing the tunes for a number of years during the Avataq Memorial hockey tournament.
And, these days, he can be found spinning tunes and announcing goals and penalties during rec action.
It may not sound like much to those uninitiated to hockey culture, but the atmosphere found at the arena most nights this year rivals that of many southern locales.
The wave of bouncing bodies and bobbing heads in the stands illustrates how much his contribution adds to the hockey experience.
Next up is the league executive, which has done a fine job in strengthening and promoting the circuit.
Executive members are hinting that even more fan-friendly surprises are on the way in the near future.
Finally, while there are some players and/or fans who may never admit it, the new standards being enforced by the officials are making the game more fun to watch.
That's especially true in recreational leagues that boast a high-calibre of talent, of which Rankin is one.
The game is faster, and more talented players now have the opportunity to show their skills without a stick blade pulling at their side or an arm wrapped around their waist.
Add up the number of championship banners in the community during the past few years, and you quickly realize Rankin has a number of players who can dangle with the best of them at this level.
The spirit and enthusiasm at the games this year are good for a healthy community.
In short, they're fun to be at.
And, with free admission, it's not like it will cost you anything more than your time to drop by and check it out.
There are many vices to succumb to in Inuvik. On any given night, you can find yourself among drug dealers, poker players, or bootleggers.
Maybe you think I'm digging too deep into the dark underbelly of our society.
The truth is that there are people in our neighbourhoods who engage in addictive activities every day.
Sure, some of the habits I spoke of are illegal, like drug use and bootlegging.
Others are just frowned upon, like obsessively playing bingo, poker or peel-back Nevada tickets.
From whichever angle you want to look at it, we are all guilty of addiction.
While some of you may argue that you aren't affecting anyone with your habits, think about these points.
Gambling is serious in town and has been for many years. Many people I have talked to confess to playing long nights of poker simply because there is nothing better to do.
Respectable adults spend their cash on peel-back Nevada tickets. They line up en masse to buy bingo cards.
While the proceeds from those games go towards community programs, I wonder if anyone ever loses sleep knowing that they have profited from another person's weakness.
Talk to someone you know who gambles their hard-earned money.
I'll bet, (no pun intended) that they are still "in the hole."
Oh mighty alcohol, you have seized more than your share of the population. Hell, even our youth seek your company.
It's true, alcohol affects everyone in town. Even if you're one of those "friendly" drunks who would never raise a fist, you may still be causing damage to the people around you.
Maybe you aren't hurting anyone on purpose, but I know people who offend anyone in earshot when they have had a few drinks.
Verbal abuse is the younger sibling of physical abuse.
They both can hurt and have long-lasting effects on a person.
I can't go forgetting about the "controlled" substances in town: the weed, the crack and other drugs that slip past the watchful eyes of the RCMP.
Drugs can be deadly. Some drugs can lead to an overdose, while others may lead to detachment from family and friends.
If I owned a hat, I would tip it to Howie Young, Ellen Smith and all the others who put together activities for the community for Addictions Awareness Week.
Only with education can we ever hope to rid our town of addictions.
On Dec. 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
From that point forward, the declaration has been used around the world as the basis for the rights that every human being should have.
Article 25 of the declaration states that "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care..."
When you think of human rights or the lack thereof, you normally imagine Third World countries, mainly in places like Africa.
But here in the North, there are people living without some of rights listed in the declaration -- namely housing.
The situation in the Deh Cho clearly isn't as desperate as parts of Africa where many people have no means of shelter at all or have only shelters made of flimsy material, but we certainly aren't living up to the line, "standard of living adequate to the health and well-being of himself and his family..."
Anyone who's been here for awhile knows that there isn't enough housing. In fact, even people who may have never been to the Deh Cho are aware of the housing situation because they've tried to find accommodations.
When Premier Joe Handley, the minister responsible for the Housing Corporation, attended a public meeting in Fort Simpson last week, he was bombarded by comments and problems related to the housing situation.
Nolan Swartzentruber, the superintendent of the Dehcho Divisional Education Council, pointed out that nurses come to him in their search for accommodations. The council, however, has enough trouble finding housing for their own staff.
Swartzentruber made a good point during his presentation. Even when housing is found, if a person isn't happy with their accommodations and, therefore, life outside of work, they certainly aren't going to be happy at work.
While teachers often only have to deal with the housing situation for one year, because they leave the next maybe due to their living arrangements, it's that much worse for local residents who consider the Deh Cho home.
In Fort Liard, housing has been an ongoing problem. Many residents can tell tales that sound like every homeowner's worst nightmare.
Others don't even have homes. Some people have been waiting more than two years while their houses have sat unfinished.
It's hard to point out exactly who's to blame. Partial responsibility can probably be shared by the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation and the contractors they employ. The answer, however, is clear.
The government needs to be held accountable for the housing conditions that Northerners are faced with.
People shouldn't be forced to deal with sub-standard housing.
Hopefully the new local board in Fort Liard will be able to sort through some of the problems in that community. If it works, similar boards should be used in other communities in need.