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Sex education saves lives
NWT News/North - Monday, February 28, 2011

Sexually transmitted infections are an issue nationwide, especially among youth.

A recent Statistics Canada report reveals a shocking nationwide increase in diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea over the past decade. The NWT is, unfortunately, keeping pace.

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The Department of Health and Social Services has reported an upward trend of infections between 2000 and 2010 -- the peak came in 2009 when the infection rate hit 300 per 10,000 people - or close to 33 per cent of the population.

Statistics Canada reports that last year approximately 45 per cent of sexually active youth between the ages of 15 and 24 did not use a condom. Mix in multiple partners and these youth are playing a sexual version of Russian roulette.

Jennifer Schmidt, principal at Angik School in Paulatuk, sheds light on why NWT youth are engaging in unsafe sexual practices. She said 2008 was the first time sex education was offered at the school and at the time she was amazed at the myths many of her students believed when it came to sexual relations.

Unfortunately that program is no longer available in Paulatuk because the teacher offering it left and funding ran out.

It's no wonder STIs are rampant when sexual education is obviously not a priority. It's not the fault of schools in the territory; as Schmidt said, she would jump at the chance to offer the program in the school.

Funding for sexual education programs across the NWT should be a priority for the GNWT. We realize that funding programs in the communities can be difficult and finding staff to offer the programs is a challenge, but with one in three people infected with an STI it's a problem that needs to be addressed.

The departments of Health and Social Services and Education should partner to find funding for a territory-wide sex education program that follows the formula of the highly successful Health Education Awareness Response Team. That program involves youth in its delivery, a fact that is credited for its success.

But, education isn't the only tool against sexually transmitted infections. Drugs and alcohol lead youth to make poor decisions and substance abuse problems are rampant in the North.

The government can offer countless programs but individuals must also take responsibility for their own actions and for the health of their communities.

Parents must take it upon themselves to get educated when it comes to sex and share that information with their children. In the age of the Internet the information is readily available. The GNWT has a number of tools on its Health and Social Services website to help people teach and learn sexual education. In the absence of a good official program in our schools, which parents and community education authorities should fight for, then Mom and Dad are well advised to sit down and have "the talk" with their pre-teen sooner than later. It could be the difference between being healthy or a lifetime of medications and topical creams.

Food fight
Nunavut News/North - Monday, February 28, 2011

A month from now, perhaps appropriately on April Fool's Day, the Nutrition North Canada program will come into full effect.

Retailers say the prices of a selection of healthy, perishable foods will drop by about five to seven per cent. The prices of other not-as-healthy perishable foods, which previously had shipping subsidies, have already risen since those subsidies were eliminated in October.

These items include Cheez Whiz, margarine and jugs of cranberry cocktail -- and their current prices in Arctic Bay raised eyebrows this month when MLA Ron Elliott circulated photos taken at the community's Northern store. A large bottle of Cheez Whiz: $29.39. Three pounds of margarine: $27.79. A bottle of cranberry juice: $38.99. Breaded chicken strips: $77.39.

The full impact of the changes may only become apparent this summer, when it's possible some basic non-perishable foods no longer subsidized - such as pasta, canned soup and coffee and tea - may run out before the sealift arrives. One can only imagine how much an unsubsidized can of coffee flown into Arctic Bay will sell for - and if there will be bootlegging to feed caffeine addictions.

There are promises but still no evidence of how retailers will show they are passing on subsidy savings to the consumer.

Arctic Bay's prices sparked a furor of finger pointing and buck passing. The federal government can blame retailers and retailers can blame poor planning, but the people literally paying the price are the ones who appear to have the least say in how the shipping subsidy program is managed.

The establishment of Nutrition North Canada came with the set-up of an external advisory board of selected Northerners, from whom we have heard little so far. When the program takes full effect, Nunavummiut should expect this board to hear their concerns and act on them.

Also, Elliott has asked the legislative assembly to invite federal officials, retailers and transportation companies to appear before the legislature so MLAs can have their questions answered and any misunderstandings about the changes can be cleared up.

The federal government has recently launched a number of initiatives designed to reiterate its idea of how Nutrition North Canada will work. But an open and frank discussion, in the North, with all parties involved, is the only way to clear the air.

Investment dollars mean jobs
Nunavut News/North - Monday, February 28, 2011

Mining exploration and development is on the rebound in Nunavut after a few years of hesitant investment following the global economic meltdown of 2008.

One company, Newmont, is set to spend more on its Hope Bay gold project in 2011 - $300 million -- than was spent on all Nunavut projects combined in 2010. This puts Nunavut on the path to surpassing the $432 million in exploration spending in the territory in 2008, pre-recession.

Shear Diamonds is in the midst of assessing the viability of reopening the Jericho diamond mine. Agnico-Eagle's Meadowbank gold mine near Baker Lake began producing ore last year, and it continues exploration work on the Meliadine gold project near Rankin Inlet. The Mary River iron project near Pond Inlet has passed to new hands - global mining giant Arcelor-Mittal and its partner Nunavut Iron Ore. And Areva continues its exploration of the Kiggavik uranium deposit near Baker Lake.

Nunavut is rich in resources. To benefit, Nunavummiut need to be prepared for the exploration camp, mining and contracting jobs that keep multiplying.

Collision course
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, February 25, 2011

Many a driver has felt a sense of apprehension when turning from Highway 3 onto Highway 4, or vice-versa, near the Jackfish power plant.

There is a possibility a vehicle will come flying over the hill from the direction of Giant Mine, making for a close call or an accident.

Of course there is also a chance that the person turning or merging onto Highway 4 will not be paying enough attention and will cause a collision.

There have been a number of serious crashes at that intersection over the years. It happens to be the busiest convergence of two roads in the territory, with close to 6,000 vehicles passing through each day, according to the Department of Transportation.

There have already been two accidents at that site this year. That's on par with an average full year.

Michael Conway, an official with the Department of Transportation, frames the issue this way: There are nearly two million vehicles going through that intersection each year. There are an average of two collisions in that area annually. Therefore the chances of a crash are one in a million.

For that reason it's tempting to leave well enough alone and let common sense rule the day.

The problem is that common sense doesn't prevent accidents. If drivers could simply be left to manoeuvre without the aid of stop lights and signs, then we wouldn't have so many crashes on our roads.

Creating a three-way stop at the junctions of highways 3 and 4 - which already has one stop sign for turning vehicles and a yield sign at the merge - would likely prevent the few accidents that occur each year.

It would compel those who drive too fast on Highway 4 to put the brakes on as they crest that hill near the intersection.

It would also mean that if a driver turning left from Highway 3 or merging from Highway 3 is not fully attentive, then the consequences will be much less severe.

One more stop on the way into the city, or the way out, may be an inconvenience to many drivers, but it may save a few others. That would make it worth doing.

More worrisome things than energy drinks
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, February 25, 2011

Here's a statistic: in Canada, between 1990 and 2007, there were 328 cases of children ages 13 and under who were injured by magnets, primarily by ingesting them, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

More alarming than that, between 1993 and 2007, there were 5,403 children reportedly injured by bunk beds.

It's a wonder then, in light of this carnage, our MLAs aren't pounding their fists in the legislative assembly and demanding a ban on bunk beds and magnets.

But raise the subject of so-called energy drinks and suddenly at least one Yellowknife MLA is pleading for prohibition against selling the caffeine-loaded beverages to kids.

Armed with mainly anecdotal information, Frame Lake MLA Wendy Bisaro told the legislative assembly last week that energy drinks are "evil," and a ban on their sale to youth should be considered.

There certainly is reason to believe these beverages - some containing 160 milligrams of caffeine or more per can - should be consumed with caution, but there are bigger fish for MLAs to fry. Particularly when statistics show smoking rates among NWT residents 15 years and older still hover around 40 per cent, and 53 per cent of youth ages 15 to 24 report having five or more drinks of alcohol per sitting.

Why is Bisaro wasting time pursuing a ban on energy drinks when kids are obviously still sidestepping restrictions an alcohol and cigarettes?

We realize the February/March session of the legislative assembly is the longest of the year and it's probably difficult dreaming up new things to talk about as the session grows long.

Bisaro has had some good ideas, including her bill protecting food donors from lawsuits, which has led to a marked increased food donations in Yellowknife, but her latest bout of prohibitionist pandering is hardly a priority.

Solar converts
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's out of sight and possibly out of mind for most Nahanni Butte residents but a solar panel array on the roof of their gymnasium has made the community an alternative energy leader in the Deh Cho.

>With a five kilowatt array, the gym is the largest solar-powered building in the region. The array is expected to fully meet the gym's energy needs in the summer months when the Deh Cho sees more daylight hours, as long as energy conservation measures are in place.

In winter months, when energy output from the array is lower, the gym will still need to draw from the community's electricity grid but not as heavily. Commercial electricity rates in the community have dropped to 42 cents per kilowatt hour from 214.65 cents since December, but reduced dependency on diesel-created energy is still good news.

Over its 25-year lifespan, the array is expected to save the community approximately $400,000. That's a lot of money Nahanni Butte will be able to put towards other projects.

The high cost of electricity is a major factor in the cost of living and doing business in the Deh Cho. The region, however, has untapped potential for a variety of alternative energy sources.

One of the sources, hydro-kinetic energy, was explored last year during a pilot an in-stream hydro-kinetic turbine project on the Mackenzie River; the turbine worked as expected but the design has to be modified to deal with the debris carried by the river.

In-stream turbines clearly have a ways to go before they can be used in the Deh Cho's conditions, and there is untested potential for wind and geothermal energy in the region.

Bright sunlight in the Deh Cho is almost constant during the summer months. That light will keep the power in Nahanni Butte flowing.

These panels have advanced in both reliability and effectiveness. While other energy alternative sources are too expensive or untested, solar panels - with the help of government subsidies -- are within the reach of communities and homeowners alike.

Electricity costs have dropped across the territory but by following Nahanni Butte's lead, the Deh Cho can create its own energy.

Small town, big hockey
Editorial Comment
Kira Curtis
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, February 24, 2011

If I worked in radio, people listening to my broadcast from Sunday night's final game of the IRC cup would have thought I was at a heated playoff match between the Vancouver Canucks and the Calgary Flames.

The banter being thrown back and forth between Tuk and Inuvik's Northwind Industries matched the longtime fan rivalry of the NHL teams. At times the decibel levels made me cup my hands over my ears, something I've never had to do at a Canucks game, though I somehow doubt GM Place would allow air horns or pots and spoons.

That a senior men's hockey tournament could stir up as much energy as an NHL game was a shock to me and I spent most of my time bundled up and happy, standing between benches, feet stuck to the weekend's worth of spilled hot chocolate below me.

The feeling of a big city game was great to absorb on a Sunday night, but it was one of the differences I noticed that made the weekend greater. The rivalry was loud, yet light-hearted.

Like a beach ball thrown up into the crowd and thwacked back and forth, the team fans passed their cheers around like they were playing their own game.

"Let's go Northwind. Let's go. (Bang, bang, bang)" was instantly countered with: "Let's go Tu-uk. Let's go. (Bang, bang, bang.)"

And while there were definitely pockets of like fans all glommed together, there seemed to be no animosity in the portions of the stands that were peppered with mixed fans.

At one point some smug-faced teenage boy tried: "Let's go Tu-uk. Northwind su-ucks," but it didn't catch on and he sat there looking embarrassed, like he showed up naked for class.

When the Zamboni began its final run after the second period I dropped into some kids' conversation - face pressed up against the glass as we chatted - and asked them who their favourite hockey players were. You know, Martin Brodeur, Alexandre Burrows or Miikka Kiprusoff? No, it was none of those. It was Mickey Ipana, Corey Wainman or Greg Connell.

It was my first IRC Cup and I had no notion of what it would be like. But even with no expectations, I was surprised. I left the rink with the horde of tired hockey fans that night feeling all warm and lethargic, like the shallow trays of hot, gravy-smothered French fries - a weekend favourite.

Outfitted for diversity
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The way the GNWT dealt with caribou outfitters as it became clear they were about to lose the hunting tags required to stay in business was about as shameful as any episode of bad judgment to occur under the government banner.

When not being threatened with prosecution for having the temerity to advertise their hunts - something the GNWT was doing itself months after the initial hunting ban on the Bathurst herd was first announced - outfitters were having the carpet pulled from under them as the government axed the much-touted Tourism Deposit Assurance Program, which offered visitors hope they wouldn't lose their deposits on expensive trips to the NWT should their tourism operator go bust.

The unveiling of that scheme was a fiasco by itself as the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment couldn't quite admit the program was being terminated despite issuing a letter to outfitters warning them that it was, and even though the program was listed as dead on the department's website.

Alas, recently released documents have shown the department is not entirely heartless when it comes to caribou outfitters who have long depended on the deep pockets of visiting hunters, mainly Americans.

The 2009-10 report on financial assistance offered through the Support for Entrepreneurs and Economic Development program, shows some generous contributions toward outfitters. J Group - owner of Peterson's Point Lake Lodge - received $113,000, True North Safaris and Warburton Outfitters received $56,300 and the $50,000, respectively.

Outfitters accounted for the lion's share of the $435,865 handed out to Yellowknife entrepreneurs. The money went toward diversifying into other tourism activities, such as fly fishing and eco-tourism.

It's unfortunate that tax dollars had to be sunk into these companies but it's better than seeing the one-time bearers of a $5 million industry put out of business.

Hopefully, the outfitters will rise to the challenge and show outdoor enthusiasts that the NWT is still a great place to visit, even without the caribou hunting.

Chamber should be energy project watchdogs
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leaders of Yellowknife's business community are insistent that companies from the North be given contract opportunities should the city's $60 million downtown district energy system go ahead.

That's a reasonable demand from the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce, which is expressing "cautious optimism" over the project.

To address that sense of caution, the Chamber should marshal its brightest minds and form a committee to oversee the energy project. These business savvy individuals - Yellowknife taxpayers with a vested interest in the community, unlike southern consultants - could ensure city residents are not going to be saddled with something they didn't bargain for.

A referendum on the district energy system, which would potentially use a combination of wood pellets and geothermal heat from under Con Mine, is set for March 14.

Yellowknifers will be asked to allow the city to borrow up to $49 million to fund the project, which could provide heat for 39 buildings.

City hall has acknowledged that borrowing the money is a last resort if no private partners sign on, although it says three parties have expressed interest. Senior administrator Bob Long has also revealed the city will be acting as a guarantor for the project. That means taxpayers will be on the hook if a corporation set up to run the project cannot make debt payments.

Ordinary Yellowknife voters may not be versed in economics, but members of the Chamber are.

It's in everyone's best interest that experienced, trained businesspeople keep an eye on the finances and blow the whistle should anything troubling arise.

Price too high for risk
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rankin Inlet rec co-ordinator David Clark was unfairly put into a difficult situation during the Polar Bear Plate juvenile hockey tournament this past weekend.

Clark had the unenviable task of suspending the team from Whale Cove when it became known its players were not registered with Hockey Nunavut and, by extension, Hockey Canada - leaving them without insurance.

The team was also only able to ice six players and a goaltender for its opening game against Baker Lake.

And, it must be noted, the Baker players showed little mercy for the Whale skaters, thumping them at every opportunity on the way to an 8-1 victory.

Some of the legal bodychecks delivered by the Baker players were of the thunderous variety, and that would have got worse as the tourney progressed and Whale went up against opponents from Rankin and Arviat.

As unpopular as it may have been with some people, Clark was absolutely correct in suspending Whale from the tournament.

Whatever the reasons behind it, and regardless of who dropped the puck in getting these players registered, they were participating in a full-contact, high-tempo tournament with no insurance.

It can't be stressed enough how dangerous it was for these players to be on the ice without being registered.

I include myself in the growing number of people who feel hockey has become an over-regulated sport.

However, having young players registered and fully insured against injury is only common sense.

The days of going outside the rules and using the excuse of that's how it is in the North are long gone.

If adults want to play in an outlaw tournament like some Nunavut communities host, and take their chances, that's their decision.

If they want to risk their job and future financial stability to play in a non-sanctioned event where they're at the mercy of lady luck - they're old enough to make that choice, even if they should know better.

But minor hockey players have to be cared for because they don't fully realize the risk they're taking, even if some of them think they do.

They're young. In their minds they're indestructible and they truly believe it can't happen to them.

Add the macho image that accompanies male hockey, and allowing these young players to make that decision is a recipe for disaster.

The organizers of the Polar Bear Plate were assured the Whale Cove players were registered when, in fact, they were not.

If such actions continue, it's not a question of if some mother's son pays a terrible price, but when.

Being properly registered and insured does nothing to prevent injuries.

Numerous serious injuries happen on the ice every year in Canada. Injuries that change young people's lives forever.

While being properly registered and insured does nothing to ease the risk, it does provide the means to help deal with the cost of injuries.

And it also helps those players who do not fully recover to lead better lives in the aftermath of their injury.

Hopefully, the Whale of a bad decision we saw in Rankin this past weekend will not repeat itself.

The price is too high!

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