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Talk is cheap
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's easy to "support" something when you don't have to pay for it.

Yellowknifer spoke to four Yellowknife MLAs last week concerning the city's proposed Con Mine community energy system and all, save Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay, spoke enthusiastically of the $60 million project.

"There's a lot of safeguards built into this, that way we just don't run out and get a $49 million loan and realize it will never work," said Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins of the city's plan to seek voter approval to borrow money that would in all likelihood pay for the lion's share of the project should it proceed.

It's curious how none of those MLAs thought it necessary for the GNWT to step in and offer some money toward what essentially is the city's biggest capital expense undertaking ever.

The federal government is contributing between $10 million and $20 million toward the project. A substantial sum, but the city - and its ratepayers - are potentially on the hook for the remainder of the cost as long as private backers remain lacking.

Last week, Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger announced $2.7 million will be set aside in this year's territorial budget for energy projects that reduce the use of fossil fuels, like hydro, biomass and geothermal.

Why aren't Yellowknife MLAs chasing down some of this money for the city's downtown district energy system?

Questions still remain on whether the Con energy plan is even viable, but it would be reassuring to know that our territorial government was willing to help out with the enormous costs associated with this plan, and not just tepid assurances that territorial government buildings will be signed on as energy plan users.

Yellowknife represents one half the territory; our MLAs sometimes seem unable to remember that.

Full disclosure essential in democracy
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The public discussion of Yellowknives Ndilo Chief Ted Tsetta spending with the band's credit card should be welcomed by Ndilo and Dettah band members.

All politicians must be held accountable for the way they spend public money, from mayors to chiefs to MLAs and premiers.

The main problem with the debate over the chief's spending is that the facts have only been revealed in a secret meeting of the band council.

This is a mistake. Band members are now being asked to evaluate the actions of their leaders with only sketchy information. Dettah Band Chief Ed Sangris accuses Chief Tsetta of misspending. Tsetta denies it, insisting the money was spent properly. Sangris refuses to reveal exactly how much was spent and for what.

So now band members are left in the dark. Who are they to believe?

Maybe both chiefs are half right. Perhaps band members, if they knew how the money was spent, may agree some of Tsetta's expenditures were legitimate and some were not.

The public discussion could lead to new policies based upon direction given by band members.

But that discussion isn't going to take place because of secrecy. Who does that serve? Not the band members, not democracy.

Band members should insist the credit card charges be laid on the table at another special meeting. Let the people decide the right and wrong based on the facts.

Maybe we haven't come so far
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It wasn't all that long ago when a woman, assaulted by her boyfriend or husband, could expect to

be blamed for the beating she took.

After all, she must have said or done something to bring such fury her way, right? When all was said and done, she probably got just what she had coming to her.

But we've come a long way since then, and now we expect people to be accountable for their actions, especially ones of violence.

That is, unless you happen to be a Kivalliq teacher or a young offender.

The teacher in our region who was assaulted in his classroom recently by a male student, has been left alone to deal with the emotional scars the incident left in its wake.

He has the support of family members, of course, and a number of fellow educators phoned with well wishes, but the system he's served so well has abandoned him.

There have been no calls from the Government of Nunavut offering any form of counselling in the wake of the beating the teacher took.

There's been no understanding. No support.

And the teacher, like the women of so long ago, has been asked numerous times what he said or did to tick the student off.

The teacher feels like he's being blamed for being a victim, and is left to deal with the insinuation that it was his fault the student lost control.

Peering through blackened eyes over his swollen face - knowing he's always done his best in his classroom - who could blame him for feeling there's no empathy left in the world and no accountability for a person's actions?

Thankfully, he had a stand-up boss who went to the wall for him when the local district education authority met over the incident, convincing it to expel the student.

And some in the community did approach the teacher to express their heartfelt concern, but one wonders if more would have come forward if the teacher was a homegrown educator.

Hey, we all know the problems when something like this happens in our region.

Some don't show support or speak out because they're scared of retribution, especially when violence is involved.

Others ill-advisedly feel it's better to side with the local person, even if he or she is in the wrong.

And, still others look for excuses to justify the action, as in the person must have done something to provoke it.

All three responses deprive a town or hamlet from ever truly becoming a community.

Communities support each other through difficult times, have the courage to separate right from wrong, and take steps to make things right when a wrong has been committed.

When we ostracize someone for being a victim of violence, we become a community in name only.

We open a dark place where we can go to create a false sense of security by convincing ourselves the person probably had it coming and if we just ignore what happened, it will go away.

Maybe we really haven't come all that far after all!

Squabbling nation
NWT News/North - Monday, February 7, 2011

Devolution has been in the works for decades.

Yet, despite generations of negotiations and planning, the GNWT and aboriginal governments cannot seem to reach consensus on an agreement that will undoubtedly affect everyperson in our great territory.

The crux of the argument: who should be making the deal?

We understand that aboriginal leaders must protect their people's rights under the treaties and the best way to do that is to hold Canada to its obligations whenever possible. Sometimes, refusing to negotiate or going to court is the best strategy. However, this may be an instance where such stubbornness will do more harm than good.

Devolution is a complex issue and who makes the deal isn't as important as the deal itself. It's not in the interest of aboriginal governments to accept an agreement that leaves anyone worse off. But refusing to sit at the table or threatening court action will not stop a deal from being signed.

Unfortunately, the territorial government has not been very approachable. Instead of telling aboriginal governments they can't access their share of the money until they sign, Premier Floyd Roland should have agreed to hold their share in a trust account until they decided to come on board.

Such an action would have at least demonstrated a willingness to work with the aboriginal governments. It would have also shown an understanding of the aboriginal government's treaty position.

How do we explain the divide that exists between aboriginal governments and the members of the legislative assembly? Many MLAs are also land claims beneficiaries. Settling a land claim does not erase the NWT citizenship. Nor are aboriginal governments completely independent of territorial government support. For now, and likely well into the future, the fates of both the NWT and aboriginal governments will be intertwined.

This is not the time to butt heads. The future of the territory is at stake and going to the negotiating table united will ensure a stronger package.

Ultimately, regions with a settled land claim will see the most benefits of a devolution deal. Not only will their people share in money paid to their aboriginal governments directly from resource development, they will also enjoy the benefits of resource dollars spent on territorial government programming.

Fort Smith councillor should apologize
NWT News/North - Monday, February 7, 2011

People make mistakes and it's what we do afterwards that defines our character. Fort Smith Councillor Sheila Sauteur-Chadwick is facing one such defining moment.

Late last month she was convicted of alcohol related offences, made worse by the fact there were children involved in the incident.

According to legislation, her actions are not considered unbecoming a town councillor, so her seat at the table is not in jeopardy. However, Sauteur-Chadwick's actions were definitely unbefitting a public figure.

Aside from community governance, elected officials also carry the burden of upholding the image of their hamlet or town, and serve as role models. It's a tall order served with plenty of pressure, and it takes strong character not to bend under the stress.

Only Sauteur-Chadwick can decide if she is up to the task, especially now that she will be under heavy public scrutiny and will need to earn back the public trust.

Regardless of whether she chooses to remain on council, she owes her community an apology.

Why aren't students in class?
Nunavut News/North - Monday, February 7, 2011

Lack of attendance at school can be the biggest obstacle to learning, passing and eventually graduating. Not graduating can be the biggest obstacle to employment, income and housing.

Ask any teacher or principal in Nunavut and they'll acknowledge getting students to class is a challenge.

Attendance rates at Nunavut schools range from 49 to 93.1 per cent, reflecting the spectrum of approaches individual schools use to attract students to attend on a regular basis, with varying levels of success.

Kugluktuk High School, for example, requires students to achieve certain attendance rates to participate in the Grizzlies sports teams. Aqsarniit Middle School in Iqaluit recently set up a video games room. Many schools have breakfast programs to feed students before classes start for the day, and some schedule fun activities for Fridays, such as Grise Fiord's Ummimak School's recent pyjama party. Some schools hand out prizes for steady attendance in the form of gift certificates, bikes or iPods.

Ask any teacher or principal in Nunavut why they have to go to such lengths to get students to attend school and you'll get as many answers as there are educators, such as there are no immediate penalties for not attending school; many children sleep in the morning and arrive late, missing half of each school day; parents distrust schools as agents of assimilation, residential schools being a prime example of an educational system targeted for this purpose; and attendance drops as students get older because teens find entertainment elsewhere more alluring than algebra.

That's just for starters.

However, Nunavut has made great strides in adapting its curriculum to teach traditional skills and instil cultural pride. Certification of elders as Innait Inuksiutilirijiit - a recognition of their role in the education of Nunavummiut youth - and on-the-land programs are ways Inuit knowledge is present in the classroom.

Just having secondary school classes available in the communities, instead of sending children to regional centres for high school has made a Grade 12 diploma more accessible. But, again, students have to attend to graduate.

The scope of the problem is difficult to ascertain as the regions collect their attendance statistics in different ways, making comparison difficult. How can we know if one Kitikmeot school's approach is working better than that at a Qikiqtani school if they count absences differently?

The move to establish a standardized attendance tracking system across the territory will provide valuable data on the scope of the problem and the efficacy of possible solutions. It will cost $210,000 to establish and $40,000 a year to maintain, but if it can help us educate our kids more effectively it will be money well spent.

Downtown downturn
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, February 4, 2011

The casualties are steadily mounting. Reitmans. Rebecca's Flowers. CD Plus. Bank of Montreal. Headgear. Jan's Cards and Gifts. Barren Land Jewelry.

Centre Square Mall has watched a steady stream of merchants leave or give notice that they are vacating the premises.

A walk through the deserted shopping centre is a grim reminder that something is awry, but answers are not coming from management. Huntingdon Real Estate Investment Trust, based in Richmond, B.C., hasn't returned Yellowknifer's calls about the particularly bleak situation in the lower portion of the mall.

The hollowing of downtown commerce has grabbed the attention of city council. Councillor Cory Vanthuyne recalled how, when he was a youth, the Centre Square Mall along with other downtown retail centres - the 50/50 Mini Mall, Yk Centre and Panda II Mall - were all flush with tenants and bustling.

Despite complaints these days about the plague of drunken people on downtown streets at all hours, that same problem existed 20 to 30 years ago, when Vanthuyne was a teen and downtown was booming.

If anything, the social support is better now due to the city's efforts to open the day shelter and the Bailey House transitional home.

In addition, the our municipal politicians have improved the looks of one end of 50th Street, adding flowers and improving the road surface through a beautification project. City hall has also spruced up Somba Ke Park at the periphery of the downtown, next to city hall.

Some of the ideas to inject new life into Franklin Avenue and its adjoining streets have been recycled a few times over: a summer market, more downtown residential area, bus shelters at key locations, promoting the use of bright colours and murals and historic walking tours.

Yet another perennial idea: restoring once vibrant community celebrations like Raven Mad Daze and Caribou Carnival that attract people to the downtown area.

These are worthy pursuits, some of them more daunting than others.

But at some point, commercial real estate landlords in the downtown core are just going to have to sharpen their pencils. It's time for city's economic development experts to meet with those who rent floor space to merchants and find out why the system is breaking down.

Perhaps rental rates are set too high for businesses to bear.

Perhaps it's time to start promoting the city's downtown to other landlords that want to help rejuvenate Yellowknife's downtown. After all, a dynamic downtown would go a long way towards boosting the landlords' profit margin.

Not one to be trifled with
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, February 3, 2011

It will be a small wonder if Dehcho First Nations manages to avoid developing a persecution complex this year.

At every turn Dehcho First Nations (DFN) has been met by actions from both the territorial and federal governments that seem almost purposefully designed to goad and alienate them. These have been long-standing and triggers.

The Dehcho Process is one of the long-standing issues. Years of negotiations leading to little progress and delays at many turns have left leaders in the region feeling frustrated.

The situation escalated last year when the federal government decided not to renew the sub-surface protection for Edehzhie, an area of land that was slated to become a national wildlife area. DFN had been working since 1999 to receive permanent protection for Edehzhie and the area had both surface and sub-surface protection since 2002.

There were no warning signs the protection wouldn't be renewed until the day it was gone. It was a heavy and unexpected blow for DFN.

And now there's the devolution agreement-in-principle the territorial government signed on Jan. 26.

Leaders from the Deh Cho as well as many other regions in the territory vehemently voiced their objections before the signing took place. The objections were based on a variety of issues including a lack of proper consultation and a number of provisions in the document they wanted to see set aside or amended before the signing.

Despite protests the signing went forward and DFN representatives were left outside the legislative assembly waving placards. This latest blow cements the perception that neither the federal or territorial governments want to recognize DFN as a government and treat it appropriately as such.

DFN has been battered, bruised and ignored in recent years but it is still standing and pushing for its rights.

The organization is known for carefully weighing its options and then proceeding with whatever course of action will achieve the desired results. The same procedure is undoubtedly already underway with regards to the devolution agreement-in-principle.

It will be interesting to see what action is decided on. DFN could go the way of a legal challenge, as it did for Edehzhie or use the promise of applying a signature to the agreement to leverage progress on the Dehcho Process. Either way DFN will undoubtedly make the best of a situation that seems to be stacked against it.

Treasure hunting
Editorial Comment
Kira Curtis
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, February 3, 2011

Waking up Saturday morning was exciting. Having spent my first Christmas away from home this year, I think the Inuvik Garage Sale became my presents under the tree. I came into work early and typed away, anxiously waiting for the treasure hunt to begin, like waiting for the rest of the family to wake before tearing the wrapping from the gifts.

But walking into the Conference Centre of the Midnight Sun Complex was kind of underwhelming. Not for lack of quality, though. There were gems strewn across the tables, but there was a lack of quantity.

More than half of the tables sat there barren in the room like clear-cut lots in what you once imagined was a forest of finds.

Now, the plots that had sprung up that morning were eclectic and interesting - a barely used snowboard and bindings, a few good conditioned Guitar Hero guitars and cupcakes as to not let you perish.

But I know I wasn't the only one with this idealism of furnishing my living space with wood cabinets, ancient dishware, and if I was really lucky, an armoire that looked like it came off the HMS Erebus. OK, that last one may have been leaning slightly more to the daydreaming side, but you can see where my mind was wandering to.

I had sat down for dinner with friends the night before and we had all discussed the items around our homes that would make our lives just splendid. A Bodum for coffee, some big bowls for soup and a painting for the wall were all items thrown around the dinner table as we planned our attack on the sale.

I bumped into those same friends the next day at this flea market, and we all had the same faded look on our faces. Humpf. One found a great button-up shirt, but nothing from the original list.

I guess in a town so far removed from consumerism, I imagined so many gently used items to be sold and recycled through the community.

But I think I was wrong, I think that because Inuvik is so remote, these items I was dreaming of finding to fill my sparsely furnished apartment are saved. They are passed around through families and friends. This is not a place full of extra items looking for a home, everything has its place, everything is used.

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