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Northern News Services Online

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Arts still alive

Yellowknife's arts community has long sought to get out from under the shadow of more established community arts events in places like Inuvik and Iqaluit but continues to suffer its share of setbacks.

The Yellowknife Arts Festival Society announced this month that it was folding after only one year.

Its former president, Larry Adamson, says a lack of funding and organizers heralded its demise.

Inuvik's Great Northern Arts Festival is now entering its 20th year and big crowds continue to come, bringing stacks of money - $133,000 in sales - for their showcased artists.

Inuvik succeeds because it fits into a specific niche. Its Inuvialuit artists and their culture is internationally renowned; likewise in Nunavut.

Yellowknife's arts community, centered in a city built on mining and government, struggles for its due.

But not is all lost. While Yellowknife may never gain the recognition gained for artists to the east and north of us, it still has a vibrant arts community.

The Old Town Ramble and Ride two weeks ago opened the doors of studios and galleries in a fun-filled weekend that gave local artists the opportunity to show off their works and people the chance to see them.

Part of its success was due to its simplicity.

No organizing board was needed or big funding - just an agreement from Old Town businesses and artists to put it on.

It wasn't splashy, it wasn't huge, but it is something to build on.

Good riddance

There will be no tears shed for the death of the Aboriginal Summit which had its funding pulled from beneath like an expensive Persian rug July 31.

Begun in the mid-1990s, the Summit had a grand mandate to shape itself into a constitutional voice for all aboriginal people in the NWT - Dene, Metis, and Inuvialuit.

Largely run by non-aboriginal consultants and former aboriginal leaders, the Summit never achieved much beyond paying out handsome fees and salaries to an elite group with little or no return.

Several years ago, devolution was raised to a coffee shop profile by enthusiastic territorial politicians and bureaucrats, and high-flying federal liberals. The Summit took on a new life as a guard dog on all the royalties and powers set to rain down on us with a devolution deal.

Despite the unbounded optimism of Premier Joe Handley, we all know how far we have come on that front.

However, while the Summit itself failed, the need to have a unified aboriginal voice at the so-called devolution table remains.

The outgoing executive director was quoted as saying that most Summit members accepted the territorial government as their negotiator on devolution and resource revenue sharing. We doubt that is so, nor would it be wise, considering the antagonistic role the territorial government plays in the land claims/self-government process.

Perhaps Dene Nation President Bill Erasmus will see a new mandate and funding for his organization, which lost much of its influence after the collapse of the Dene/Metis Comprhensive claim in 1992.

The territorial government will never achieve a devolution and resource revenue deal with Ottawa until the aboriginal governments are firmly on side.

Arctic turf war heating up
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News
Wednesday, August 22, 2007

There were a few who took the time to let me know I was dreaming in Technicolour after reading my views in this space almost two years ago on what the future may hold (Little island could mean big bucks).

It was about the time Canada and Denmark were posturing over who held ownership of a tiny piece of real estate sitting squarely in the middle of the Kennedy Channel in the Nares Strait, known as Hans Island.

It was, after all, only Denmark, and a few readers thought my notion of the Northwest Passage becoming a viable international shipping lane was a little far-fetched.

Besides, even if it did happen and he who owns Hans Island controls the passage, everyone knows Canada holds the rights to the Arctic.

Of course, the Americans felt a little differently, and so did the Russians.

I wonder what those readers were thinking as the Russians decided to plant a flag at the base of the North Pole recently?

Many scientists and industrialists view Arctic ice as nothing more than a formidable barrier to the incredible wealth of mineral and energy resources that rest beneath.

The Russians have openly stated they are in the process of trying to expand their 200-nautical-mile limit, which would have their mail going to the same box as Jolly Old St. Nick.

If the Russians show the Lomonosov underwater shelf is an extension of their continental border then, presto, they'd have instant claim for an economic zone that would make them neighbours at the North Pole.

It's time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his band of cohorts to get off their duffs and start staking a stronger claim to Northern turf.

Some predict the passage will be open during the summer months - instantly creating a shipping route between Europe and Asia - in as little as two decades.

The announcement of a deep-sea port at Nanisivik is a start, but, Canada has to move quickly to increase its military presence in the North and be far-more diligent in mapping the Arctic sea-bed and compiling data than it has been in the past.

Make no mistake about it, the days are gone when Canada could lay claim to the entire Arctic sea-bed. The goal now is to ensure we get our share when the bed is divided up like a large pizza, topped with energy and mineral resources instead of cheese and pepperoni.

Add on the commerce that comes with an open Northwest Passage for one-third of the year (explorers haven't been searching for five centuries because of the scenery), and it's obvious just how lucrative the future could be.

In the meantime, the feds should remember how important Inuit are to Canadian sovereignty in the North.

As Canada steps up its efforts to assert its Arctic ownership, Nunavut should be at the front of the line to start reaping the benefits.

As we said in 2005, the Canadian Forces can't assert its presence from southern computer screens.

It's time to man existing bases, get Hercules aircraft stationed in Nunavut year-round, and start pumping money into the Northern economy to protect the North.

After all, we're not just after riches, we live here.

A new neighbour
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Well the big announcement has been made and people have had almost a week to wrap their minds around what Prime Minister Stephen Harper said when he visited Fort Simpson on Aug. 8.

The long anticipated expansion of the Nahanni National Park Reserve is set to become a reality.

A total of 4,766 square kilometres are already protected in the park that was created in 1976. Through an order in council approved by the Federal Cabinet, Canada has promised to increase the boundary to include more than 23,000 square kilometres set aside in a land withdrawal in 2003 as well as an additional 5,400 square kilometres.

When all of the numbers are added together the grand total comes out to an area around 33,566 square kilometres.

This means that the park, when expanded, will cover an area four times the size of Prince Edward Island.

It will also make the Nahanni National Park Reserve the third largest park in Canada coming in behind the Wood Buffalo National Park at 44,807 square kilometres and Quttinirpaaq National Park on Ellesmere Island at 37,775 square kilometres.

Many people celebrated the announcement of the expansion. Work to expand the park has been ongoing for a number of years.

Parks Canada has been on the record as wanting to expand the area since the first park management plan was prepared in 1987. The Dehcho First Nations has also been a leading force in the drive for expansion.

The real question now is how many people sat down to consider what living beside a park this large will mean. What will it be like to have such a large protected area as a neighbour?

On one side of the argument, having such a vast area under protection is a feather in the Deh Cho's cap.

Some countries are smaller than the area that is about to be set aside and many other countries would give their eye teeth to have such a natural wonder to put on display.

There's a reason that the park reserve was the first site in the world recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

In an age where environmentalism is in vogue, the Deh Cho is leading the way.

Also up for consideration is what the park will do for local residents. It's one thing to have the park if you're an avid canoeist, but it's quite another if you are trying to make a living for yourself and your family.

Will the expanded park come with a significantly expanded budget that will provide jobs for more local people? It would also be good to know if the park will lead to added benefits for local businesses involved in tourism as more people come to visit the park.

A final question, and one that is often raised by Senator Nick Sibbeston, is what are we giving up? Are there vast resources in the park in the form of metals, diamonds, gas or oil that might one day be needed more than the park itself?

As in many things in life the definitive answers to most of these questions are unknown. It won't be until after the park boundaries have been moved and a few years have passed that residents of the Deh Cho will finally have enough information and first hand experience to decide if the decision to expand was the right one.

As the saying goes, with hindsight everyone has 20/20 vision.

What about the Dempster?
Editorial Comment
Dez Loreen
Inuvik News
Thursday, August 16, 2007

It seems like every week I open the pages of News/North only to read a column from one of our staple contributors hoisting a flag for the construction of the fabled Mackenzie Valley Highway.

The magical Mackenzie Valley Highway would connect Tulita to Inuvik, en route to Tuktoyaktuk, opening our region to the rest of the Territories.

That's all fine and dandy, but I feel like the government is abandoning our original link to the south: the mighty Dempster Highway.

Well, maybe it isn't so fine and mighty anymore. Yes, the adventurous journey that we call driving down the Dempster has changed over the years and I'm worried that the those fat cats in Yellowknife couldn't care less about our concerns.

Well, that is why we elected strong iron-spirited speakers like our Twin Lakes MLA Robert McLeod.

I spent some time in his office last week talking about the Dempster highway and his plans for the behemoth of road that stretches across the Yukon and the NWT.

McLeod wants to address the highway's problems in the last session of the 15th Legislative Assembly. Better late than never, I say.

I spent a few hours contemplating a trip down the Dempster with some friends last month, but nobody had a vehicle that was armour-plated and with a high enough lift to take the beating that was waiting for anyone foolhardy enough to risk it.

When McLeod clicks his microphone button and starts his campaign for the Dempster, I hope there will be others in attendance who will vouch for the highway.

As a territory, we need to invest more in the road and into our tourism.

Inuvik is doing a fine job of promoting tourism. The only problem is that some people are shell-shocked from their experience on the highway and need to repair their vehicles before they can take in our sights.

After a bit of reading, I found a few facts about our highway that I found to be quite interesting.

Seems that Big Daddy Diefenbaker wanted to connect the North to the rest of Canada back in his time as prime minister sometime before I was a twinkle in my dad's eye..

The road was delayed a few times before it finally touched down in the Mackenzie Delta.

In 1978, the highway was officially completed. Since then, it has been the shared responsibility of two neighbouring governments to maintain the highway.

In its 2007-2008 budget, the Yukon government pledged $2.7 million for upgrades to the Dempster, Atlin Road and Robert Campbell highway. It shows too, because all my fond memories of the road happen after I cross that border.

We have elections coming up really soon. Why don't the local MLAs and ministers rally behind this? The Dempster is our only way out. Before we push for a fantastical amount of money to connect us to the rest of the NWT, we need to address this matter.

I'm sure long time road veterans like the fruit man Bill Rutherford will tell you, we need to pick up our end of the slack and soon.

So come on GNWT, get on the ball here, I don't want to hear another tourist start their stories with "Oh, we had such a great trip until..."