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Safer in the sky
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, September 30, 2011
Five Yellowknife residents have lost their lives in a little more than a month - all members of the city's small but vibrant airline industry. Several more have been injured.
That sort of pain and loss is difficult to absorb for a city this size.
Many people would have known someone on the First Air flight that crashed in Resolute Aug. 20, killing 12, or the two pilots of the Arctic Sunwest Twin Otter who, despite the best efforts of those on the ground to save them, did not survive last week's crash in Old Town.
That both accidents occurred so close to civilization, within minutes of their intended destinations, heightens our anxieties and intensifies our fears.
Indeed it's a miracle more people weren't hurt in the Arctic Sunwest crash, which, whether by pure chance or some last second heroics from the pilots, smashed into the ground between two buildings on a busy McDonald Drive.
But if anyone is concerned about airline safety in the North, and particularly whether floatplanes should be landing and taking off next to heavily populated areas like Old Town, they haven't brought those concerns to Yellowknifer.
Statistics show that air travel in the North is tremendously safe. According to a Statistics Canada report from 2009, Yellowknife has one of the 50 busiest air centres in Canada with 315,000 people getting on an aircraft or deplaning here every year. In 2010, close to 39,000 flights departed or landed here.
That so few accidents occur over our skies is a testament to the professionalism and dedication toward safety undertaken by our Northern air carriers on a daily basis.
Sadly, accidents do happen and will continue to happen. Air travel is a Northern necessity and always will be. Yet as reliable as Northern air travel is, it will never be 100 per cent safe.
We are left with two certainties after last week: the people on the ground, including Matthew Grogono of and Allan Shortt, who dodged downed power lines to pull people out of the still smoking wreckage, are heroes.
The second is that it will take time for this city's wounds to heal.
While that healing takes place, planes will continue to roar into the horizon, as they have done for decades to help build the city we know today.
A culture classroom
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, September 29, 2011
Students sit at desk or tables and learn the standard curriculum of math, social sciences and language arts. To see youth really draw in knowledge, however, the place to be is at culture camps.
The recent culture camp for Wrigley kids is a case in point. For five days, 11 youths from Wrigley lived and learned at Fish Lake alongside 17 adults.
When it comes to having a conducive atmosphere for learning, you couldn't ask for better than Fish Lake. The lake itself is beautiful and right in front of the campsite there is a pebble beach.
Moving inland, the forest floor is springy underfoot and the McPherson tents the students stayed in were nestled between trees. The location exuded tranquility and calmness.
As for the subject matter, the normal school subjects weren't on the schedule. The youth, however, were learning. Every day they were picking up new knowledge about snaring, fishing, canoeing and living off the land.
Many students, when questioned by parents about what they did that day at school, respond with short answers that more or less say nothing much. At the camp, however, youths were able to list off their favourite activities and what they learned while doing them.
One student talked about learning how to clean fish by watching her grandmother, one of the elders at the camp, while another spoke of picking cranberries and then making jam. These and the other activities students learn about at the camps all have important cultural ties. The camps are classrooms for the transmission and continuation of cultural traditions.
Traditionally, children would have learned such skills and knowledge from family members or relatives. Today, however, many parents are either lacking the skills themselves or don't have the opportunity to take their children onto the land to pass them on.
Culture camps need to be supported because they are filling an important role in keeping this knowledge alive. As Albert Moses pointed out, many of the students respond in such a way to culture camps that you know they'll want to come back onto the land themselves when they are older. The camps allow community members to pass on knowledge such as where the best places to set fish nets in the winter are and the youths will be able to draw on that knowledge in the future.
Those who organize the camps deserve praise. The camps aren't easy to arrange and require meticulous planning if everything is to go off smoothly.
With the right support from communities, schools and parents, however, culture camps will continue to teach the Deh Cho's youth the knowledge that will ground them in the region, their history and their culture.
Ideas, not issues
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, September 29, 2011
Politicians know this and take advantage at times; that's where the oft-neglected election promises come into play. "We know this is a problem. We will solve it this way," the politicians say over and over again.
While the solutions don't always come into play, there is one good thing about these so-called promises. They show creativity and the ability to recognize problems and think about the next step. Sometimes it doesn't matter if the promises aren't made. The fact these politician-hopefuls have taken a stand on a certain issue, put thought into it and suggested a solution is very appealing.
What is not appealing, however, is the repetition of issues without these election promises or potential solutions. Everyone in Inuvik knows homelessness, mental health and addictions, education and the economy are problems here and throughout the territory. But what are these candidates going to do about it?
Where are the solutions? If we, the constituents, are going to elect any of these candidates into the legislative assembly, don't we deserve to know how they will solve these issues?
Some ideas have been bandied about in both interviews with the Inuvik Drum, a question-and-answer session at the Aurora College learning centre and the forum at the college as well.
Paul Voudrach has suggested creating a step between the homeless shelter and the NWT Housing Corporation for people ready to take that leap to independence.
Alfred Moses mentioned placing a mental health and addictions counsellor within the homeless shelter to help those living there.
Grant Gowans has an eye on education and wants to help move forward on the Children's First Society to create that much-needed early childhood education centre.
Chris Larocque wants to keep the economy moving with projects such as the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline and the fibre-optic link.
Next week, Inuvik Boot Lake will have a new MLA – one of these four men.
No quit in Yk
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Some of the fans heading for the exits after the show paused to cheer him on. It was his moment to shine.
While he's no longer active as a pugilist, Bryan, a longtime boxing coach, can now call himself a successful promoter. He and colleagues Darrel Ouellette and Norm Dempster have pulled off something that had eluded Yk for several years: hosting a mixed martial arts card.
Sixteen men competed that night in what some still think of as a barbaric blood sport. While blood did flow in a few matches, there were no serious injuries. There are plenty of rules for the combatants to follow: no eye gouging, no low blows or biting, no kicking or kneeing an opponent's head while they are on the canvas.
What was commonplace on Sept. 17, as it is at nearly all mixed martial arts cards, was two guys slugging it out or one strategically wrestling another into submission, and afterwards shaking hands or embracing in a show of good sportsmanship.
The event attracted an estimated 900 fans to the arena, spectators who were relatively well behaved, not brawling in the aisles or scuffling in the parking lot.
But the night wasn't without its unsettling suspense. Bryan said he was nervous prior to the action because few tickets were sold in advance. Fortunately for him, Ouellette and Dempster, plenty of people showed up at the door.
Despite three past failed attempts by another promoter to bring a similar event to Yk, including one cancelled due to poor ticket sales, many fans in this city won't commit until the last minute.
Planning is already in the works for another bunch of fights in the spring. Let's make it less tense for all involved next time and step up for tickets a little sooner.
Less parking downtown not feasible for families
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The city is attempting to revive downtown and people are listening -- and they are also ready to make themselves heard.
It is commendable for the city to aim to lessen residents' reliance on vehicles and reduce related greenhouse gas emissions. Those decisions have to be practical, though.
At a public meeting to discuss the city's draft general plan on Sept. 19, with close to 25 residents in attendance, the city revealed its plan to develop 346 residences downtown of the additional 1,346 homes needed for the anticipated influx of 3,000 residents over the next 10 years. Part of this development means a potential move to reduce the amount of parking in the downtown area.
Some individuals living downtown may not have qualms about not owning a vehicle and walking to work, but others, like a few in attendance at Monday's meeting, won't be so willing. In particular, families with children need to be able to drive to stores and daycare, especially in this climate.
"Densifying" the downtown, as one city administrator put it, might encourage residents to walk and may entice some businesses to set up shop, but big box stores won't move where there is no parking. The plan to reduce parking downtown must be practical and take the needs of all residents into account or it won't work.
Grassroots efforts deserve our support, gratitude
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The sudden death in the Kivalliq earlier this week will, once again, cast a harsh light on suicide in Nunavut, and many will claim little is being done to combat the problem.
Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
In fact, it's been very encouraging to see the positive steps being taken at the community level recently.
Whether it's students on stage in Arviat, hip hop artists brought in to work with our youth, talent shows, community walks, or people looking to earn tickets in Rankin by proclaiming they're not afraid to talk about suicide: the tide is rising against a dark enemy that has taken too many loved ones from us long before their time.
Yes, we still have a long way to go to defeat this demon.
Yes, we're still waiting for a bona fide suicide prevention strategy that truly holds promise, as the action plan kicks into gear this month to cement the initiatives during the next 30 months.
And, yes, we're still constantly reminded of how daunting the challenge is by the ongoing regurgitation of national average statistics and similar numbers of that ilk by the southern media.
But make no mistake about it. Strategy or no strategy, people here are pouring their hearts and souls into this battle to create everything from awareness to a more nurturing environment for the youngest among us.
So many in the Kivalliq have been touched by suicide through the loss of a loved one.
And, the people initiating these baby steps towards defeating this monster are taking a sensitive, and culturally appropriate path in their efforts to unite our region against suicide.
These folks are not high-priced professionals meeting in boardrooms.
They're teachers, guidance counsellors, mental health workers, artists, hamlet workers and many others who live among us every day and want to make a difference.
Many are born and raised here and they all share one thing in common -- they care!
Their path is a rocky one, on which every setback represents the loss of another life in our communities.
And because they work so hard to bring an end to the senseless loss of life, only family and close friends feel the pain of that loss more deeply.
Yet they continue on with their efforts and, for that, they deserve our support, encouragement and respect.
It will be a great day in Nunavut when action plans and strategies are in place and start producing positive results.
And it will be a joyous day when this evil is defeated once and for and all.
Sadly, that day is not today.
But, in the meantime, these people will continue to lead the fight at the community level by organizing events, distributing information, heightening awareness and offering hope for a brighter tomorrow.
You cannot find statistics to show how many are still with us today because the efforts of these people somehow reached them in time, but, believe it, they're out there!
And, for that, we should all be eternally grateful.
NWT News/North - Monday, September 26, 2011
The reduction comes primarily from a decrease in construction projects and the NWT's failure to capitalize on what has been described as a hot commodity market.
Although a reduction in construction spending was not completely unexpected as major government capital projects spurred by millions in stimulus funding wrap up, as a jurisdiction we are falling shamefully behind the Yukon and Nunavut in exploration spending.
Demand globally for rare earth metals, various minerals and the high cost of gold and oil should have companies flocking to our resource-rich territory.
Nunavut's economic growth is being driven by exploration and mining and the simple difference between us and our neighbours to the east is our regulatory system.
To state it simply, the NWT's regulatory system is broken.
Of the 13 regulatory boards in the NWT only two have enough members to form a quorum; the rest await a review to conclude on how their members are appointed so they can begin filling vacancies that have existed for nearly two years.
Back in July, in the Fraser Institute's fifth annual Global Petroleum Survey of industry executives and managers regarding barriers to investment in upstream oil and gas exploration and production, the NWT was ranked 103 out of 136 jurisdictions around the world. That ranking put the territory last in Canada. The federal government promised a regulatory review in July of 2010, when Chuck Strahl was the minister of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, formerly Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
More than a year later and with a new minister at the helm of the department, there has been no movement on regulatory reform in the NWT; Ottawa has failed to approve the members the boards need to operate.
In the meantime, our economy flounders, our reputation among investors and development companies degrades and Northerners are losing out on opportunities for gainful employment.
The GNWT needs to step up and force the federal government into action or it will find itself choked off from development beyond the diamond mines.
While the Yukon and Nunavut have the advantage of settled land claims, we whither.
Until medevac do we part
NWT News/North - Monday, September 26, 2011
When Annie and Donald Inuktalik married, they vowed to support each other no matter what. It's too bad that a GNWT policy overruled that vow and ripped them away from each other in one of Donald's greatest times of need.
Facing a medical emergency, Donald was medevaced from Sachs Harbour to Inuvik and then onto Yellowknife for emergency surgery. Donald was understandably afraid and, unfortunately, the territory's less-than-clear medevac policy provided him with little comfort. His wife, who Donald was relying upon for support and comfort, was denied travel on the medevac, leaving her husband to face his ordeal alone.
When doctors finally decided she should be at his side, extenuating circumstances kept them apart for days and he underwent emergency surgery scared and alone. The situation was detrimental to both Annie's and Donald's emotional health, and put undo stress on the patient.
Medevacs are a fact of life in the NWT, where smaller communities lack the resources of the bigger centres. Anytime a person is taken by ambulance, whether by ground or air, it can be a scary ordeal, regardless of how serious a doctor, nurse or bureaucrat on the other end of a phone hundreds of kilometres away might think.
The health department is reviewing the policy and we hope any new recommendations will ensure medevac patients don't end up away from home and community without family support.
Don't lose any momentum
Nunavut News/North - Monday, September 26, 2011
The release of the territorial suicide prevention action plan on Sept. 12 should be a call to action for all involved, and there should be an overwhelming sense of urgency for everyone working to make it a reality.
The plan is full of worthwhile measures to support and reach out to communities, and initiatives to train people to recognize suicidal behaviour and reach out to those at risk. Among other aspects of the plan, actions such as creating more mental health facilities and hiring more psychiatric staff are invaluable, as are providing suicide prevention training courses at least once a year in the territory, which need to be accessible to every community.
In a territory where there is a youth suicide rate 11 times the national average, this strategy could save lives. To do so, however, no one can relax in the satisfaction that the strategy has made it this far, even if reaching this milestone has been long and arduous.
We must remember that the announcement of a suicide prevention strategy in itself is not going to help someone feeling alone and needing help, but the actions promised in the strategy definitely can.
More than 20 people have committed suicide so far this year in Nunavut. Without action at the community level - not behind-the-scenes, bureaucratic changes, but actions visible and accessible to Nunavummiut - it's going to be difficult to prevent more senseless and needless deaths.
The GN, RCMP, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. and the Embrace Life Council deserve praise for bringing the strategy this far. The release of the action plan was a step forward, but we cannot afford to lose any of that momentum.
On seals, Europeans just don't get it
Nunavut News/North - Monday, September 26, 2011
Another blow has been struck to the Inuit challenge to reverse a seal ban adopted by Europe more than two years ago.
Earlier this month, the European General Court tossed out an attempt by Canadian and Greenlandic Inuit to reverse the ban. The dismissal was on technical grounds.
Another similar legal challenge is still before the court, but efforts ought to be ramped up by Inuit leaders to build upon deals in alternative countries, particularly in Asia.
The Europeans, it seems, won't be convinced that seals are hunted humanely in Canada, and a murky exemption for certain seal products from Inuit is not viewed as effective when the seal market in the continent is essentially shut down to the rest of our country.
People in Spain continue to enjoy their bullfights and their counterparts in France savour fois gras - the livers of ducks and geese fattened through force feeding of the birds - while continuing to hold a harsh view of Canadian seal hunts.
In addition to repeatedly trying to overcome the entrenched European hypocrisy and ignorance on the subject of sealing, ambassadors from Nunavut and Canada should be actively engaging markets in China and Japan. An announcement came from Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated in January that a deal was signed to ship edible sealing products from Canada to China. That was only a start. Let's pursue more initiatives like that one.