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Cleaning downtown's wounds
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, September 9, 2011

It was a particularly brazen scene, even for downtown Yellowknife.

A man punches another in broad daylight, takes his money and runs while passersby stare in disbelief. A gory photo of the victim and the story of emergency personnel tending to him in his injured state can be found on page 11 of the Aug. 31 Yellowknifer.

Such images reinforce downtown Yellowknife's rough and tumble reputation. The ceaseless crime and rampant addiction has caused Centre Square Mall to board up one of its entrances, and has city council looking at spending millions to purchase properties on "Range Street" in hopes of somehow regaining some measure of control over the mayhem.

But another story in the Aug. 31 Yellowknifer - this one on the opposite page - paints a different story of downtown.

Earlier this summer BHP Billiton partnered with the SideDoor Youth Centre in a litter clean-up plan focused primarily on Range Street. Youth from the centre, armed with brooms and dust pans and wearing reflector vests, have been combing the streets for trash to pick up twice a month.

The group was out cleaning up the street the same day as the assault near the post office.

It's a noble effort in an age when youth are too often portrayed as inconsiderate and disinterested in their community.

Yellowknife's downtown streets may be mean in some ways but BHP and the SideDoor prove once again that not all is vile and ugly in the city's core.

Making your mark
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, September 8, 2011

The territorial election period has officially started.

During the week of Sept. 5 to 9, people can submit forms to the offices of the returning officers to be declared a candidate. In the two ridings in the Deh Cho region, some people have already stated their intentions to run.

There will be no acclamation for incumbent Michael McLeod this time around. Michael Nadli has stepped forward as a candidate for the position of MLA of the Deh Cho.

In the Nahendeh, only incumbent Kevin Menicoche had thrown his hat into the ring as of Sept. 6, but more people may come forward before the end of the week.

In both ridings, as in the rest of the territory, the key to having a successful election will be voter participation. Candidates can campaign as hard as they want, visit every house in their constituency and plaster posters and campaign material across every yard, but none of it will matter if voters aren't engaged.

Voter participation is always a concern during every election, territorial or otherwise. Our electoral system is all about allowing the people to choose their leaders. Low voter turnout, however, means that a minority of the people usually choose the government that everyone will have to live under.

People often complain they don't like or agree with the way the territorial government is being run. That criticism is only valid if the person in question went out and voted and tried to have a say in what that government would look like.

So what will it take to get the majority of eligible voters out to the polls on Oct. 3?

Part of the responsibility does lie with the candidates. By engaging with voters and encouraging them to get to the polls, the candidates can increase voter numbers.

Most of the initiative, however, falls on the territory's residents themselves. People have to make a conscious decision to exercise their right to vote.

Residents have to decide which issues matter to them and make a point of finding out which candidate most closely matches their values or concerns. Attending candidate forums is a great way to evaluate all of the candidates in a riding. Reading the campaign materials that each candidate produces is also a good place to start.

Residents also have to believe that their vote can make a difference. It's easy to think one vote won't change who will be elected, but there have been some close results in the past.

With less than a month to go until election day, it is more important now than ever that residents get engaged in the election and decide how they will make their ballot count.

Vote for women
Editorial Comment
Samantha Stokell
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, September 8, 2011

The final day for submitting candidacy papers for the territorial election is tomorrow, Sept. 9. That means you likely have less than 24 hours to get in your nomination papers. If you're a woman debating about whether or not to throw your cap in the ring, here's some food for thought.

As of July 2010, women made up 48 per cent of the population of the NWT, but held only 16 per cent of the seats in the legislative assembly.

In the 2007 election, 40 candidates ran for office and eight of them were women. There are a number of reasons why anyone decides to run or not run in an election, but if the Northwest Territories wants to have a true democracy, more women should run in the election.

How can the government properly represent the people, if everyone is not represented? Women have different issues and concerns than men and while men surely can listen and understand them, they likely have other priorities.

Right now two women sit in the assembly: Wendy Bisaro of Yellowknife and Jane Groenewegen of Hay River. Sandy Lee, also of Yellowknife, did have a seat but resigned to run in the federal election.

Having an equal number of men and women in government will lead to better policies, better laws and better governance, simply because of more diverse perspectives. The United Nations recognizes this and recommends at least 30 per cent of legislators should be women to properly represent women's concerns. In the NWT, that would mean six women need to be elected in the Oct. 3 territorial election.

Ladies, you have 24 hours. Get your nomination papers in.

Prepare for winter now

No matter how many Labour Days have passed since the last time you went to school, there is still a sense of expectation when September rolls around.

Things pause for a second as everyone gathers energy and dreams about what the next eight months will hold.

Anticipation is in the air. What will we learn? Who will we meet? Where will we go?

For those newcomers to Inuvik, there may be a bit of fear mingled with the hope of what's to come. The days are visibly shorter now and we know the darkness is coming.

Seriously, how does one prepare to say goodbye to the sun for such a long period of time and still manage to function every day?

This is where long-term residents can help out. Be our teachers. Use this winter to show us how to survive and enjoy the winter months.

What's the key? Vitamin D? Buying a UV lamp? Socializing?

Should we stay in and hold potlucks, join clubs, get a hobby, learn a skill? There's enough going on in this town to keep anyone occupied.

Or should we get outside and snowmobile, cross-country ski, snowshoe, ice skate, walk the dog, watch the aurora borealis or have a campfire?

Either way, it's best to get organized now so that by Halloween, you're prepared. By the end of November, there will be only 12 minutes of sunlight a day and you better have your routine down by then because the sun won't be back until January.

But it will be beautiful. Streetlights, stars, the moon, all reflect on the snow. There will a be a glow and a warm one if you've got your parka ready. So prepare and enjoy.

Listen to your teachers. They've been through this before and can help. And teachers, remember patience. We know we're not the first southerners to go through an Arctic winter, but it'll feel like that to us.

It's the message, not the medium
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Late last month, a consulting agency hired by the City of Yellowknife told council that the city needs to get on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to reach out to citizens and encourage back-and-forth communications.

While it would be wise for the city to expand its communications strategy as the use of social media grows among Yellowknifers, the lesson the city must learn from its past is no matter how much it tries to engage citizens, it won't win them over without fully disclosing its plans, and the risks it's taking with taxpayers' dollars.

The city made a concerted effort to beef up communications while promoting the Con Mine district energy system earlier this year and last. It held many public meetings and forums leading up to the referendum and met with this newspaper to make a presentation. Despite that, residents voted against the city borrowing $49 million to move ahead with the district energy project.

Although it attempted to engage citizens, the city sabotaged its efforts by withholding key information - the potential project partners were kept under wraps and what role the city was going to play in the project wasn't fully explained. The city brushed these questions aside, with bureaucrats and politicians promising to continue their "due diligence" after the vote was out of the way.

Obviously, Yellowknifers didn't trust this approach, nor should they have.

Since the vote, city bureaucrats have been forbidden to talk to media, with Mayor Gord Van Tighem fielding all questions instead of the experts the city hired due to their expertise and knowledge on the city's issues and projects, which has hindered the flow of information.

The communications specialist who spoke to city council last month said Yellowknifers will demand information that is "relevant, consistent and honest," and he is absolutely right.

The city can flood the Internet with bulletins and schedules, but unless it's willing to answer critical questions from residents, it won't earn their trust.

Garbage and bullets kill bears
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bears are usually only killed when public safety is at risk and there are no alternatives. Yet when conservation officers pull the trigger on animals that are feasting on readily available garbage, the blame falls on people.

On Aug. 24, a mother black bear and her three cubs were killed at Prelude Lake because they were attracted to the improperly sealed waste of residents in the area. The mother was teaching her cubs to eat garbage, proven by the garbage bags found in the stomachs of the cubs.

The problem stems from people who don't take enough precautions with their garbage and inadvertently lure animals, creating unsafe conditions.

There are animal-resistant garbage bins available for households and communal areas that may be a possible solution to the problem, and the GNWT should provide financial assistance in purchasing them for tax-paying citizens living in closer contact to wildlife. Ian Ellsworth, a wildlife officer with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said there should be discussion among Prelude Lake residents as well as department meetings with residents to enforce garbage-control regulations.

Take a few extra steps to ensure garbage, barbecues and other food-related items are securely closed. It's a quick solution that will help end unnecessary animal deaths and prevent more incidents that anger residents and deter tourists.

Nunavut's future lies with the youth
Nicole Veerman
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

My time's up. Darrell Greer is back in Rankin and ready to rock for another year.

So, I bid the Kivalliq adieu. But first, I must say thank you.

As an outsider coming in, I have had the pleasure of experiencing a lot during my stay. I have spoken with many people from across the region and have had the opportunity to share your stories for the past six weeks.

It has truly been an honour to be a part of your communities and your lives.

I have to say the most encouraging thing I have seen, heard and learned this summer is that Nunavut's youth are incredibly resilient.

They play outside even when the wind is blowing more than 40 km/h (meanwhile, I'm being blown off my feet attempting to take photos). They're out on the playground, on the soccer field or baseball diamond having a good time, learning and sharing in the experience with their friends.

They embrace every opportunity to grow, as I saw during the soccer camp, music camp, suicide awareness camp, health camp, science camp, and every other organized event held during my six weeks in the region. The youth showed up every day in increasing numbers to take part in the exciting things the community has to offer. But not only did they show up, they listened, they tried and they succeeded.

It was incredible to see the pride on their faces when they performed in front of their families and friends after the music camp. Or when they finally executed the soccer routine they learned at soccer camp. These kids love to learn.

And they also see the importance of organizing these events, taking it upon themselves to make things happen, rather than waiting for someone else to do it.

A great example of this was the Kivalliq Suicide Prevention Walk and Camp. The youth who organized it were summer students working for Kivalliq Counselling and Support Services. They could have spent their budget on any number of events, but they chose to turn their work into something more than just a one-day party.

They organized a whole weekend of healing and awareness that touched the entire region.

With such a large population of youth in the territory - about a third of the population - it's great to see that many of them take their role in Nunavut's future seriously.

Because, of course, it's the young that will carry the torch forward and make this territory great.

They will become the workforce that keeps the mining industry growing. They will become the electricians who keep homes lit and warm. They will become the nurses and doctors who keep the territory's elders healthy as they age.

But to get them to a point where they help the territory succeed, first, the community-at-large needs to invest their time in the youth. Families, teachers and community members need to encourage youth to be creative, enthusiastic and studious. It's so easy to lose all of those traits with age. But if they are fostered and rewarded, rather than stifled and ignored, the territory's youth will blossom into successful leaders.

So the onus is on everyone, the community and the youth, to make Nunavut the territory it's meant to be.

Wildlife Act hunt continues
NWT News/North - Monday, September 5, 2011

Back in 2000, the GNWT began the consultation process on the NWT's new Wildlife Act, that's 11 years of public input, research, drafting and reworking.

Wildlife and land protection is one of the most sensitive and pressing issues in the North. As the territory seeks to streamli ne its development guidelines, protect threatened species and boost tourism, the Wildlife Act is an over-arching document outlining our approach to those pressing areas of concern.

Due to the significance of this act, it is understandable that the GNWT would take its time to ensure the legislation is effective and will stand the test of time. However, after more than a decade, the level of opposition to the draft document is damning.

Criticism for the GNWT's consultation processes is rampant. Whether it's devolution, revamping board structures for health care, education and housing, changes to extended medical benefits, the government has faced vehement opposition from the public, the business community, other levels of government and aboriginal groups.

During his time on cabinet, Michael Miltenberger has been at the centre of the controversy, accused on several occasions of overstepping his authority by foregoing or ignoring public consultation to push through decisions that will affect the territory. He was forced to backstep on an idea to amalgamate education, health care and housing boards and faced backlash for adopting a caribou hunting ban that was unveiled to the public while he jetted off to Copenhagen to attend an international climate change conference. That ban underwent extensive revision weeks after.

In the latest show of lacking the support he needs, Miltenberger had to pull the long-awaited Wildlife Act off the table after he failed to garner enough votes to pass the legislation - he said he was one vote short.

Normally it would be commendable to withdraw a bill for further consultation when it faces heavy opposition, but this is a case of a minister trying to save face after failing to draft an acceptable act with more than a decade of time behind it. Had cabinet not been short one member following the departure of Sandy Lee earlier this year, we expect Miltenberger - a politician that some are speculating is a favourite to be our next premier -- would have pushed the act through with the backing of cabinet.

Considering the pressure placed on NWT lands and wildlife related to development, climate change and harvesting, a decade is far too long to wait for updated legislation to protect our sensitive habitat.

The Wildlife Act has been part of Miltenberger's portfolio since part of 2005. His inability to piece together a document that can gain enough support to pass into law represents a failure on his part as environment minister.

Economic development requires job training
Nunavut News/North - Monday, September 5, 2011

When it was announced Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be popping into Meadowbank for a photo opportunity during his brief visit North this summer, that got hopes up he would announce a commitment to fund the Kivalliq Mine Training Society for a few more years.

"Canada's North is full of economic potential and innovators continue to unlock development possibilities that bring with them real economic benefits and long-term jobs for local residents," he said, according to his own press release.

However the prime minister came and went from the region without renewing funding for the mine training society, which has helped 350 Inuit gain employment, and now has more than 600 people on its waiting list for training. Now there's no money to train them.

Touting the benefits of developing Nunavut's mineral resources without committing to developing the territory's human resources is a real and telling oversight. These "real economic benefits" and "long-term jobs for residents" of which he speaks are only possible when people in the region have the skills mines and their contractors are looking for. Otherwise the money flows south, into the pockets of workers who fly in for their two weeks then fly out.

Training programs are essential if Nunavut is to take advantage of the opportunities mines and resource exploration present. We hope the federal government realizes this sooner rather than later.

Head of her class
Nunavut News/North - Monday, September 5, 2011

Juggling going to school and raising small children is a common dilemma for young people in Nunavut. Many view such circumstances as obstacles or even barriers to living their dreams.

For Kelsey Apsaktaun, although motherhood initially derailed her education, it was her wish to be a good role model for her son and provide for him the best she could that drove her to not only finish high school but graduate at the top of her class.

During his visit to Kugaaruk last month, the Governor General of Canada presented her with an academic medal for being the graduating student with the highest average at her school.

Obstacles need not keep you from the life you want to live. Obstacles can be overcome.

We hope she serves as an example to every student in Nunavut, especially now, at the opening of a new school year, that nothing is impossible and there are no limits to what you can achieve, except those you place on yourself.

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