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Friday, December 8, 2006
Council can help

Yellowknife's men's shelter should be open by next Christmas and city council can help give it a start in the right direction with a simple vote to reduce the shelter's property taxes.

A motion to do that has the support of council's priorities committee and will likely pass when it goes before council. Taxpayers should applaud council if this happens because the shelter is an important institution that needs a solid foundation.

Bailey House is being built on city land using $2.9 million in federal funding through the homelessness initiative and the Community Capacity Building fund. When constructed, 30 men will get a new start on life, with safe rooms, life skills and job training.

Like so many other worthy projects, millions are put into buildings. Then when time comes to put the building into use, groups scramble to find money to pay for programs and staff.

In this case, homeless men will pay rent, providing about $100,000 for hiring a program director, case workers and security staff. Clearly more money is needed and reduced taxes will help.

Every minute the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition and Salvation Army have to spend fighting for funding is a minute not spent on helping homeless people.

Museum is $20,000 closer

It's no surprise that mining industry folks gathered at the annual Geoscience Forum threw their dollars behind a mining museum.

They understand the importance of celebrating how important mining has been and continues to be for Yellowknife.

But we should all give the industry a hearty round of applause for opening their wallets for an important addition to our city.

Even so, the $20,000 raised in a celebrity auction is only a drop in the bucket for the million dollar plans to turn the old Giant Mine Rec Hall into a museum celebrating our mining history.

Like the miners who came North in the early part of the last century, the mine heritage society members dream big and won't let much get in the way of their plans.

We hope the rec hall museum is open soon.

Matter of time for new jail

Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News

Some MLAs have been singing the blues since Premier Paul Okalik announced Rankin Inlet as the site of Nunavut's $37 million jail.

To their way of thinking, this was a back-room deal they never saw coming.

Far be it from us to unjustly criticize any of our political leaders, but any MLA who never saw this coming just wasn't paying attention.

Okalik had stated many times during the past year that Rankin was on the short list to house the facility.

I know this to be a fact because he expressed that very thought to yours truly while in Rankin to announce the new trades-training facility many months ago.

Any MLA who still harboured hopes of their community being announced as the site for the new jail should have noticed that big red flag waving over Rankin.

And, they should have started lobbying Okalik long and loud on the virtues and/or benefits of housing the facility in their community.

To come forward now crying foul amounts to little more than sour grapes as far as we're concerned.

Ditto the complaint there are more pressing issues in Nunavut than a new jail.

Yes, we desperately need more money for health, housing and education.

But the territory's justice system and ability to harbour our own inmates at the same standards as the rest of the country cannot be ignored.

Okalik is right when he says money given to Ontario and the NWT to house our overflow would be better spent in Nunavut.

But, all that being as it may, this could just as easily be a "careful what you wish for" type of scenario.

While we hope they never manifest themselves in Rankin, there are risks involved with being home to a new jail.

The benefit of job creation may outweigh them, but they do exist.

To begin with, the vast majority of people in jails are there for good reason.

And, for some of them, their criminal behaviour won't change simply because they can no longer go for a walk when they want to.

Even jails in small Northern communities can be breeding grounds for crime.

Ultimately, crime that takes place in a jail counts against the community where it's located.

It might not be long before Rankin moves up the chart as one of Nunavut's crime-leading communities once the jail opens.

Secondly, as Mayor Lorne Kusugak has alluded to, some inmates decide to seek a fresh start in the same community that houses the jail once they're released.

We don't have to point out the problems that could be associated with that, should it ever come to pass.

There is also the risk of politicians being too sensitive to local hires and a jail opening with a very inexperienced guard staff.

Finally, even in facilities that house two-years-less-a-day inmates, there is always the chance of escape.

While we support Rankin's decision to house the jail, only time will tell if that decision is the right one.

If not, some politicians may be trying to flee the same coop as the inmates.

Will it be enough?

Editorial Comment
Dez Loreen
Inuvik Drum

The youth of this town need to learn respect. The most recent sign of this is the temporary closing of the Inuvik Youth Centre.

Since the beginning of the Inuvik Youth Centre society back in 1996, I have never seen such a dramatic message to the young people who use the facility.

Sorry, the doors are closed. If you call the centre, you'll hear a message stating that the centre is closed due to lack of respect to staff and property at the centre.

When the doors open once again near the end of December, hopefully the eyes of the youth will have been opened and maybe we can be done with this foolishness.

Respecting other people's property is a simple rule that was handed down to me by my grandfather. I have remembered it my whole life. I live by that rule, because frankly I don't want my stuff broken.

While I see the merit in the decision made by the youth centre board, I think they should have taken a page from the Town of Inuvik's zero tolerance policy.

If you go to the pool, read the list of names posted on the counter. Those youth are not allowed in any town facility for a determined amount of time.

Some parents may think this is cruel and unnecessary. I disagree. If I saw one of those blacklisted kids on the street, I'd point it out to them, maybe make a remark or two about how they should straighten up.

I'm sure that other youth have also been reminding those youth about what they did to get on that list. I fully agree with and support the public display of the list of bad kids.

It may embarrass them, but we have to scream the message that their behaviour will not be tolerated.

To the youth who are on those blacklists: your mom reads that list every time she goes into a town facility.

Just because some kids choose to be bad, doesn't mean that every kid should be excluded.

I have spent some time at the youth centre and have seen the faces of many youth who are happy because they have a haven in which to play, a sanctuary from the cold, a place to be bully-free.

Those nice kids shouldn't have to lose out because of their disrespectful peers.

I want to think that maybe the temporary closure of the youth centre will change things, but even that seems farfetched right now.

A blessing or a curse

Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum

If there's one thing that's easy to spot in the small communities in the Deh Cho it's a newcomer.

In the larger communities such as Fort Simpson, Fort Providence or Fort Liard, a new person might go unnoticed for a small amount of time but probably not for long, even if they were trying not to draw attention to themselves.

In the smaller communities, newcomers stick out like sore thumbs. It's not so much that they look unusual or dress differently, they simply have a face that hasn't been seen before.

It's questionable whether those in the territorial government who are promoting the proposed Safer Communities and Neighbourhood legislation have clearly thought this part of the program out.

In fact it's just one of the many questions that can be asked about the proposed legislation.

With SCAN, government investigators would be able to monitor homes, interview neighbours and evict people who are involved in illegal activities such as bootlegging, prostitution, drug-dealing and gambling.

One of the aspects of the program that is being promoted is the confidentiality promised to community members who file a complaint.

This is well and good but when the investigators, who everyone will be able to pick out quickly, show up in a small community it won't take long for people to figure out who called.

Traces of possible illegal activity will disappear quickly and pressure may be put upon those suspected of filing the complaint.

The after-effects will stay in the community long after the investigators are gone.

There are other major concerns with the program.

When Fort Simpson Mayor Duncan Canvin likened SCAN to the Salem witch trials he might not have been far off.

The program might work well in the right hands, but it would only take a few vengeful or angry people to put investigators on the wrong trail.

Damage could be done to innocent people who don't deserve to be investigated.

There is also the question of how two to four investigators would be able to look after the whole territory. Backlog would be almost instantaneous the minute the program started.

Residents who took part in the public information session about SCAN that was held in Fort Simpson last week asked their own questions, but in the end noted that they were in favour of giving it a try.

This vote of support could be interpreted as less of a vote for SCAN and more a vote for anything new that shows any sign of promise.

There are communities in the Deh Cho that have ongoing problems with illegal activities.

In those communities the residents know what is going on and who is doing it.

They are looking for something to help deal with the problem, but SCAN might not be it.

In the end it will be up to the communities to decide if SCAN is something they want to live with, but they should carefully weigh the program's attractions and defects.