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Industry must cover all bases
NWT News/North - Monday, December 12, 2011
We understand Balsillie's desire to maximize the project's benefits for members of Fort Resolution's Deninu Ku'e First Nation, but the best way to achieve that goal might be to work with the other groups instead of against them.
There have been cases in the NWT when regulatory and approval processes have been bogged down as various groups stake a claim on the land being developed and cry foul over poor consultation.
Last year, North Arrow Minerals Inc. had its development permit for a lithium project near Alymer Lake revoked by a judge after the Lutsel K'e Dene Band and the Yellowknives Dene won a court challenge. The groups claimed they were not consulted on the project and the judge agreed. Not only was the ruling a major setback for the project, but the Akaitcho communities were also awarded $80,000 to cover legal fees.
With examples such as those fresh in the minds of companies wishing to explore for and develop resources here, it makes good business sense to consult with any group that might later claim rights to the land.
Balsillie might be right about his people having sole rights to the area, but his assertions will not spare Tamerlane Ventures the court costs and a possible lengthy delay if the company is legally challenged.
Whether negotiating alongside the other aboriginal groups will reduce the value of the Deninu Ku'e's impact benefit agreement is not clear. What is clear, however, is the most effective way to ensure the approval process moves quickly is to sit at the table.
Fort Resolution's claim to the land the Pine Point Project is on should ensure the Deninu Ku'e receives its fair share of jobs, contracts and compensation. It is highly unlikely, though, that Fort Resolution alone will have the ability to supply all the human resources and services to accommodate Tamerlane during Pine Point's construction phase or its production phase. With that in mind, Balsillie's hope should be that additional resources are drawn from the NWT first, before Tamerlane looks south and that is where negotiating with other groups would be beneficial.
For all parties involved, ensuring the consultations process is airtight will bring the project to fruition sooner rather than later and bring a much-needed economic boost to Fort Resolution and the broader NWT.
Hearing and listening not the same thing
Nunavut News/North - Monday, December 12, 2011
When the Beverly caribou herd was found calving at the Queen Maud Gulf in November, in line with a theory elders and hunters had been maintaining, it proved yet again the necessity for environmental officials to heed traditional knowledge.
Biologists in the NWT and Nunavut were at a loss when field surveys in 2009 suggested the Beverly herd, which normally roams near the border of the two territories, had rapidly declined in population. The Government of the Northwest Territories and the Beverly-Qamanirjuaq Caribou Management Board speculated loss of habitat, mining and industrial development, climate change, overhunting and disease may be behind it. A mixing between Beverly and Ahiak caribou was also a possible explanation.
Baker Lake's Thomas Elytook, also a member of the caribou management board, suggested the herd just moved to let the vegetation in their Kivalliq/NWT area regrow. Elders in the NWT said the same thing. This ended up being the case.
A sky-is-falling approach can sometimes be the initial reaction of governments to any change in wildlife populations or in our environment. But with tight territorial budgets that also have to support the heavy demands of health and education, government money isn't always there for intensive and ongoing monitoring of wildlife. Development and climate change are often the first suspects when something seems off, and while these factors certainly should be watched closely, jumping to conclusions isn't a replacement for good science or traditional knowledge.
Luckily, traditional knowledge gained from generations of hunting and travelling still exists in the minds of Nunavut's elders and those lucky enough to have had the knowledge passed down to them.
The Piqqusilirivvik school in Clyde River, which teaches culture and traditional knowledge, is just getting off the ground, but any such initiative to preserve and enhance traditional knowledge ought to be embraced. When it comes to wildlife management, traditional knowledge can fill the gaps scientific monitoring doesn't have the money or historical data to fill.
Another example came in 2008 when the Department of Fisheries and Oceans had to drastically revise its bowhead whale population estimate. Despite Inuit hunters' insistence that the number of whales had risen steadily, the federal government still insisted Inuit could only hunt one bowhead every two years. Then a population study moved the number from 345 whales - the last documented number in 1996 - to an estimated 14,000. The Inuit were right.
Right now, narwhal and polar bears are under the microscope of scientists trying to decide how healthy the populations are. These scientists must take Northern traditional knowledge into account, and take seriously the opinions of Nunavummiut hunters and elders. They and their ancestors have monitored wildlife for generation upon generation, and passed on that information - it was for a long time necessary for their survival.
From one ramp to another
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, December 9, 2011
It's been a long-running debacle that upper-level mall management must surely be glad is coming to an end.
The ramp became necessary after a glass partition door was erected between the mall and the Yellowknife Inn in early 2009, which seriously hampered the ability of wheelchair users and mothers with strollers to access the mall via the ramp at its 49 Street entrance.
NWT fire marshal Stephen Moss ordered the owners of the upper-level mall to build another ramp on Franklin Avenue by June 30, 2010, but that deadline was met with excuses and delays, followed more excuses and delays.
One obstacle was the city, which rejected the mall management's original design last year. Derek Carmody, manager of the Yellowknife Inn and the mall's upper level - both of which are owned by Royal Host Hotels and Resorts; Huntingdon Real Estate Investment Trust owns the lower portion of the mall at the bottom of the stairs -- expressed frustration with the permitting process, saying, "there was a lot of back and forth trying to get drawings and things like that done to find a design that everybody liked and was happy with."
His complaint is similar to one made by the CIBC bank next door when it installed a wheelchair ramp last August. "Getting clear guidelines" from the city was a problem, a bank manager said.
At the end of the day, it was Royal Host's responsibility to build the ramp on time and within code, but the city should be careful it doesn't contribute to the problem of limited accessibility in its efforts to "beautify" downtown.
Even though there is now a ramp at Franklin Avenue, another access issue remains at the staircase dividing the upper and lower malls. This wouldn't be acceptable under the current building code, as it's surely not OK among a number of people in the city with mobility issues.
Having a fully accessible mall certainly wouldn't hurt as owners try to figure out how to bring back the customers and businesses it has lost in recent years.
Make GNWT salary disclosure a priority
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, December 9, 2011
Continued foot-dragging on recommendations by the NWT's privacy commissioner to disclose salary ranges and bonuses among senior GNWT employees is undermining the territorial government's credibility to present itself as a mature and transparent body of government.
Elaine Keenan-Bengts made the recommendations two years ago yet the Department of Justice weakly suggests it's up to the recently elected government to make that a priority. Since Glen Abernethy, minister of justice and the Department of Human Resources, didn't return our phone calls on this matter we'll tell him here: make it a priority or be marked as yet another ambitious MLA dropping the battle gear worn on the opposition benches in favour of the cozy cloak of cabinet solidarity.
We don't expect the GNWT to go as far as the government in Ontario does, annually posting the names and salaries of public sector employees earning $100,000 or more. The NWT is just a bit too small to carry out that practice comfortably, but taxpayers ought to know how much our government pays its senior bureaucrats.
Not only would be that accountable, it would let the private sector know how much it has to pay to keep the staff the GNWT keeps poaching.
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, December 8, 2011
As far as I can tell, both from personal experience and observations, if there's anything teenagers like more than new technological gadgets and sleeping in, it's talking. When they aren't sleeping, teenagers seem to be in constant contact with other people whether through face-to-face conversations, telephones, texting, or social media sites like Facebook.
It's this seemingly imperative need of teenagers to be connected that has made the actions of approximately 26 Fort Providence high school students all the more impressive. Encouraged by one of their peers, this group of students chose to be silent for all of, or a portion of, Nov. 30.
The students were participating in the Vow of Silence, a fundraising and awareness-raising campaign by Free the Children designed to engage people to stand up for children whose human rights aren't being met. The students made vows to either refrain from talking, using e-mail or Facebook for as long as they wanted on Nov. 30.
Some chose one or two of the options while others took on all three. The duration of their vows varied but some tried to make it a full 24 hours.
This is some amazing stuff.
These teenagers took on this cause of their own volition. The event wasn't pressed on them by a teacher, although one did let Erin Nadli, the event's organizer, know about the Vow of Silence.
These students chose to stand in solidarity with children they've never met and likely never will. They wanted to make a difference for children who live in poverty, aren't receiving an education and are forced to work as child labourers.
The action of the students in Fort Providence show what youths are capable of and what they are willing to put aside when they feel drawn to a cause. This side of teenagers is not generally seen in their normal day-to-day lives.
Residents of Fort Providence should feel proud of the stand the students took and encourage them to pursue, in more in depth ways, issues that matter to them. If students who normally can't go even a few hours without checking Facebook can put it aside for 24 hours imagine what they could do if really motivated and given the tools to help tackle an issue.
Through their silence, students at Deh Gah School helped draw attention to the lack of human rights that some children face, and by using their voices and talents these same students may be able to inspire changes for those same children if they choose. Teenagers contain a lot of latent potential and, if motivated, can accomplish amazing things.
Help the children by casting a vote
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, December 8, 2011
The Town of Inuvik will give a rather sizeable investment – $2.3 million – to the early childhood development centre and there are a number of questions that go along with that money. In terms of accountability, one wants to make sure this is a sound financial investment and not just riding the wave of public support for the building.
However, as some meeting attendees mentioned, it's hard to question and criticize anything that benefits children. No one is questioning the building or the project; it's fairly obvious this building needs to be built to provide a permanent location for early childhood education. One of the best things about the Children's First Centre is that it will provide preschool and daycare for nearly all groups in the community – Aboriginal Headstart, the Inuvik Child Development Centre, Totspot Daycare and the Inuvik Preschool will all have a permanent home.
The problem that has caused the town to contribute such a large sum is there is no infrastructure funding available for pre-school organizations. Sure, funding is there for programs, but nothing is there for buildings and that's where the problems lay. The GNWT is spending over $90 million on the new superschool, but they can't find $5 million to build a facility for early childhood education? This isn't specific to Inuvik. Communities all over the North are struggling to find daycares for their children.
Without daycare for children not yet in school, how can parents support themselves? They can't work or go to school or help their children get a step up in education if there isn't a building or programs available.
Apparently when this centre was first talked about – 10 years ago – all governments in town, aboriginal and municipal, agreed they would contribute in some way to this building. The Town of Inuvik has now stepped forward and one hopes the other governments in town will also help them meet their goal.
In the meantime, Children's First is still $1.7 million short for the facility and there is a major campaign going on right now to get people to vote for a project online. It's the Aviva Community Fund, which features projects from across Canada competing for cash to fund community-minded projects. People vote and the top 10 projects in each budget category move on to the next round.
The Children's First Centre is competing with projects from much larger communities, which have larger population bases to draw from. Inuvik has less than 3,500 people to help win some free money. All it takes is a vote each day, on any e-mail address you have – and there's the kicker. One person can vote two or three times each day if they vote with each e-mail address. Visit the Children's First Centre webpage to vote.
The project needs all the help it can get, whether it's votes or donations. Help provide a better future for the children of Inuvik.
Diamond mine review a wake-up call
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Yet, the world's leading diversified resource company is reviewing its diamond business at Ekati, about 310 km northeast of Yellowknife, and at Chidliak, its joint-venture diamond exploration project with Peregrine Diamonds located about 140 km from Iqaluit, where seven of 59 known kimberlites have shown economic potential.
The Melbourne, Australia-based company expects to complete its review of Canadian diamond assets by the end of January.
Reaction to last week's announcement has been mixed, with the Union of Northern Workers understandably worried about the future for its 350 members among the 1,400 employees at Ekati. The Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce and the NWT and Nunavut Chamber of Mines, meanwhile, see the review as a normal business practice by a responsible owner.
There is also speculation that if BHP were to pull out of Ekati, another company would be quick to capitalize on the wealth contained in the more than 150 kimberlite pipes on the property, many which contain diamonds. As it stands, closure of the mine, which opened in 1998, is projected for 2018.
The overall picture is not doom and gloom, by any stretch of the imagination. Yet it is apparent that Ekati is really just a drop in the bucket for BHP, which posted before-tax profits of almost $32 billion US for the year-end 2010.
So what about the future for the NWT? Clearly, economic prospects for Yellowknife and the territory cannot depend entirely on existing diamond mining activity, no matter how large the players.
Last month's government announcement of $5.2 million for geoscience research and mapping will help.
However, planning for long-term sustainability is what is sorely needed. That responsibility ultimately falls to the GNWT, and specifically to Dave Ramsay, the Kam Lake MLA who was appointed minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment in October.
Surely he has some ideas for diversification and economic development that will pave the way to future prosperity. The time to plan for the future is now.
Emphasis should be on recycling, composting
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Yellowknife residents will soon be asked to drop their output of garbage or pay more for excess.
Weekly curbside garbage collection will be limited to two 77-litre bags or bins in the new year, down from the present three-bag limit.
A three-month grace period will give households time to adjust, after which $1 tags must be purchased for the third bag.
That leaves three months for affected residents to change their habits and lifestyles.
If council is ecologically earnest, we should see a renewed vigorous effort to educate residents about how to reduce household waste, where and how to recycle efficiently, and how to start and maintain a backyard compost box between January and April of the new year. The city can start by installing signage on the blue recycle bins at the dump, which presently offer no instruction to users. The public seems open to reducing, re-using, and recycling, which is why a majority of councillors felt comfortable moving this bylaw forward.
Now let's hope council does not pass up this opportunity to further promote waste reduction through education and promotion by simply relying on the negative reinforcement of $1 tags.
Dumping registry does have its risks
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of the horrific slayings at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique, destined always to be remembered as the Montreal Massacre.
Dec. 6, 1989 was one of the darkest days in Canadian history when Gamil Rodrigue Liass Gharbi, who had changed his name to Marc Lepine, entered the Polytechnique with a Ruger semiautomatic rifle and began a violent rampage which ended in 14 women being shot dead, and another 10 women and four men being injured, before the assailant turned the gun on himself.
It was a hate crime of the highest order, with Lepine blaming feminists for ruining his life in the suicide note found in his jacket.
The note also expressed admiration for Denis Lortie, who killed three Quebec government employees when he attacked the Quebec National Assembly in 1984 for, supposedly, political reasons.
Although the majority of Nunavummiut have never supported the long-gun registry, the Montreal Massacre's anniversary comes along at a time when many Canadians are divided over the passing of Bill C-19, legislation to abolish the registry and destroy the records of millions of registered hunting rifles and shotguns.
In the North, we see these guns as tools. They're a way to provide families with food and clothing. And, they're a means of protection against animals with the killing power to suddenly move above us on the food chain when we venture out onto the land.
Indeed, an argument can also be made for protection purposes in these days of climate warming that a person doesn't, necessarily, have to venture out on the land anymore to encounter nanuq or other types of predators.
Many in the country's western provinces share the North's dislike of the long-gun registry for many of the same reasons.
But, the number of gun deaths, especially against women, has lowered significantly since gun registration came into being in 1995, ironically enough, also in the month of December.
As with almost every major issue facing Canadians as a whole these days, it's far from being black and white and there are no easy answers.
And, also as with most issues of today, the vast majority of people only concern themselves with how something will affect them.
We all know the criminal element of our society will always be able to obtain firearms, gun registries or no gun registries.
That, in itself, is a hollow argument for abolishing the registry, and just as silly as those who subscribe to the notion that guns don't kill people, people kill people.
Those who don't want the registry abolished would argue a tool against gun violence has been removed from police, more guns will go into circulation that will be a lot harder to trace, and many who sell firearms will become a lot less reliable in ensuring a buyer has a proper licence before selling them a weapon.
Make no mistake about it, no matter what names or designations we give them, they are weapons -- deadly weapons that can snuff out a life in a mere second.
Is the cost and inconvenience of complying with a registry really worth the risk of putting more guns on our streets?
If long guns truly aren't a crime problem, it's hard to fathom why anyone dies from them, even here in the North.