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Yellowknifer: 2011 - The Year in Review

Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 30, 2011



Dump salvage site opens

The first cell of a new three-cell salvaging system opened in early January to mixed reviews. The new salvaging area was 15-months behind schedule.

NNSL photo/graphic

To get to the new salvage area, residents would have to drive by two red garbage bins that cannot be salvaged from and the old salvaging site.

Walt Humphries, Yellowknifer column and salvage enthusiast, worried the new system was going to cause more confusion."

The idea behind the three-cell system was to create a more organized salvaging system since the September 2009 dump fire that put an end to one of Canada's only free-salvaging sites for six months.

Bed bugs bite in Yk

Fear of bed bugs swirled around the city early in the year, so much so that the YWCA stopped taking donations of clothing on Tuesday, Jan. 4 until it could figure out a way to curb the infestation.

One of the ways the YWCA thought it could fix the problem was to acquire a sea can where it could store items at temperatures below -15 C for three days to kill the critters before bringing items inside.

One day later, Kelley Weatherby heard about the YWCA's plight on the radio and offered the not-for-profit organization access to an extra-large sea can he happened to have in the yard of his trucking company.

Caribou Carnival cancelled

The board of the Caribou Carnival missed a deadline for city funding, calling into question whether the annual festival would happen in 2011. City council attempted to contact organizers for the event beginning in September 2010 but the calls went unanswered.

The carnival, started in 1955, was originally a gathering for trappers and involved competitions, Dene handgames, a food court and other events. In recent years, the carnival had diminished in size and variety.

"It was the end of winter celebration, Mayor Gord Van Tighem said. "People emerged from their darkened cabins out into the snow of the spring to greet the next season."

Ultimately, Caribou Carnival was not held in 2011.

Bridge flaws cost millions

An audit by a British Columbia-based consulting firm stated repairs to flaws in work done by Atcon Construction Ltd. on the Deh Cho Bridge would cost between $4 million and $7 million.

The Government of New Brunswick was to bear the brunt of the additional costs caused by the faulty work because it served as the guarantor for Atcon on the project. A $2.9 million hold-back from Atcon was to cover the beginning of the repairs, and a $13.3 million from New Brunswick was to pay for the rest.

At the time, officials stated the repairs would not prevent the project from being completed by November 2011. As of the new year the bridge had yet to be complete.

Wildlife Act drives a wedge

Heated discussion erupted at the annual NWT Wildlife Federation's general meeting after a year of no caribou, no new cabins and a 100 per cent increase in the cost of hunting licences.

Officials from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources attended the meeting to present the proposed new Wildlife Act, which was met with vocal opposition.

Hunters said race-based rules within the act were driving a wedge between aboriginal and non-aboriginal hunters.

"Stop managing people, get into the management of wildlife, said Yellowknife hunter Gary Pirker at the meeting.

Betty House gets $50,000 in funding

A $50,000 grant from the Yellowknife Community Foundation allowed the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition to start designing its new transitional home. The Betty House is meant to provide transitional accommodations for women and children. It will be located on 54 Street, in a lot currently being used as parking for Aurora College. The homelessness coalition opened a similar home for men in 2007 called the Bailey House.

The grant was the largest sum of money ever given out by the community foundation, said Daryl Dolynny, foundation president.

Dene protest devolution

Government officials signed a devolution agreement-in-principle despite five of seven aboriginal groups who live in the territory opposing the agreement.

A crowd of aboriginal people left the packed legislative assembly in protest as Premier Floyd Roland, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister John Duncan and Nellie Cournoyea, representing the Inuvialuit people, signed the document.

Melody McLeod stood by the signing as a representative for the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, who planned to sign the document in February. The crowd then waved signs of protest outside the legislature building. Protesters then met at the Explorer Hotel to discuss their options for the future.

Duchess Fergie visits Yk

Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, visited Yellowknife if early January while filming her docu-series titled Finding Sarah.

Ferguson had also visited Yellowknife 25 years ago with her then-husband Prince Andrew, the Duke of York."I love coming here, she said. I love Canadians."


Rick Mercer, Ice Pilot?

Popular Canadian TV personality Rick Mercer visited Yellowknife to hang out with the crew at Buffalo Airways.

While in town, Mercer was put through the wringer by the cast of the History Television series Ice Pilots, NWT. He started his shift at 7 a.m. on a Monday morning in balmy temperatures nearing -45 C with wind chill.

"He said, 'I would last a day,' so we only made it a day," Mikey McBryan, general manager at Buffalo Airways, told Yellowknifer.

Faulty equipment cancels surgeries

Sixty-seven surgeries were canceled at Stanton Territorial Hospital in January and February. Only emergency surgeries could be performed as the hospital waited on repairs to two of the three machines used to sterilize medical equipment, said hospital CEO Kay Lewis.

The cancellations started in mid-January after three post-surgery infections were reported that month.

Yellowknifer reported that elective surgeries were back on at the hospital on Feb. 23.

MLAs support community energy plan

Yellowknife MLAs were 'hot' for the proposed Con Mine community energy system that would use geothermal technology to heat 39 of Yellowknife's largest downtown buildings.

The city assured the public that the project would not burden taxpayers. The project was expected to cost $60 million. A referendum was scheduled for March to ask residents permission to borrow up to $49 million in order to meet a funding deadline for an additional $10 to $20 million from the federal government.

The system was to pump water through the defunct Con Mine to harness the geothermal heat from the underground mine, and then use that water to heat buildings downtown. It would decrease the city's greenhouse gases by about five per cent annually, or the equivalent of taking about half the city's cars off the road, according to city officials.

Violent arrest justified, says judge

A court case that had been going on since the previous September involving the violent arrest of a 33-year-old Yellowknife man by RCMP concluded on Feb. 23.

Judge Christine Gagnon ruled that RCMP officers were justified when they punched and kicked Lyle Omilgoituk in the face and ribs while making the arrest.

Gagnon ruled that the injuries sustained by the offender were "a consequence of (his) own actions" for resisting arrest.

RCMP had been called to a residence in the early hours of Sept. 6 to help a medic crew that was called to assist Omilgoituk with injuries sustained in a fight earlier in the night.

When Omilgoituk resisted arrest, he was pepper sprayed. He then continued to resist and was punched in the face, punched in the ribs and eventually an officer "deployed two to three" kicks to the head.

Snowking festival a go

After much public speculation, the Snowking Winter Festival was announced as a go for 2011. The month-long event was said to be taking a more grass-roots approach than the 15-year anniversary in 2010.

"Last year was the 15th anniversary and the Snowking got really stressed out and he didn't want to repeat that," said Joel Maillet, a.k.a. the Avalanche Kid.

There were no fireworks planned for the opening ceremony, however, several mainstays were slated to continue, such as the Iceolation Art Show, the Frozen Dog Film Festival and Rio Tinto's Children's Theatre.

More devolution controversy

Dene leaders demanded that aboriginal MLAs submit their resignations, saying that the representatives turned their backs on their communities on the devolution issue when they backed the agreement-in-principle on devolution for the NWT.

An emergency leadership meeting held in Dettah was called explicitly to discuss devolution.

"Over half of our legislative assembly members are aboriginals," said Dettah Chief Edward Sangris. "But do they realize what they are doing to their people?"

Tu Nedhe MLA Tom Beaulieu said he was assuming the Dene leaders were referring to cabinet ministers because many of the regular members had spoken out against the agreement-in-principle.


$12,000 to put out fire in Old Town

A Yellowknife family who watched their home on Latham Island burn two days before Christmas last year were shocked when they received a bill from the city to pay $12,354.54 for fighting the fire.

"I suppose I should consider myself lucky it didn't happen on Christmas, it might have cost me $25,000," Dan Westman said, referring to the overtime.

The city's Emergency Response and Protection bylaw that was passed in 1990 states there is a minimum charge of $500 for the first two hours when the fire department responds to an emergency and $200 for every hour afterward.

The Old Town fire took about 12 hours to fight, and the residents were billed $10,654.54 for overtime paid to the firefighters.

After the family made a presentation to council in regards to the cost, council later amended the bylaw capping fire fighting fees to $4,500. The change reduced the Westmans'' bill by more than $7,000.

Trouble in Northland

Northland trailer park residents were without water for nearly a week, after one of the main lines in the park froze. At the scene of the water main break, park manager Mike Roy said he was fed up with the negative media coverage about infrastructure problems in the park.

"This is nothing new," he said. "It happens in the city too."

Ravens kill power three times in a week

After ravens caused the three power outages in Yellowknife in one week, the NWT Power Corporation took action against the tricksters. Air cannons, an ultrasonic bird repeller, and dead bird mannequins made up the arsenal to fight the pesky power problem. Power corporation spokesperson Mike Bradshaw said he hoped these new tactics would keep the ravens away from the Jackfish power station, which was the root cause of all three outages.

Outfitters sue GNWT over lost business

Owners of six outfitting companies in Yellowknife sued the territorial government for more than $10 million in lost business they said was caused by a sport hunting ban in the NWT.

The outfitters claimed that the government had given assurances and made promises to support the industry's growth years before cutting hunting tags.

The lawsuit was sparked by a ban on all hunting tags to non-residential and sport hunters of caribou in June 2009 after a government study said the Bathurst caribou herd had dropped to 32,000 in 2009 from 126,000 in 2006.

Geothermal plan shot down

The city lost the geothermal energy referendum March 14 as residents voted not to give council permission to borrow up to $49 million to move ahead with the Con Mine community energy project. At the end of the nine-hour vote 1,362 residents had voted no, while 997 had voted yes.

Coun. David Wind, who had criticized the city's approach to the project, said the vote reflected the city's need to reexamine the project and determine if it was economically viable.

Had the referendum ended with a yes vote, the city would have received $14.1 million in federal funding for the project.

City considers killing referendums

After the Con Mine geothermal project was defeated in a referendum, the City of Yellowknife briefly considered changing its debt management plan so that future borrowing would not need voter approval.

Four days after a city memo recommended council replace referendums with bylaws, the city backed down on the issue by recognizing such a move would be against the Cities, Towns and Villages Act.

"Into every situation where you have humans, you'll get error," Mayor Gord Van Tighem said, when asked why the recommendation came out in the first place.


Harper lands in Yk

It was clear Canada's federal Conservatives were in full campaign mode when Prime Minister Stephen Harper landed in Yellowknife April 17 and appeared at a Conservative gala hosted by Great Slave Helicopters.

He was in town to talk to community members, including Yellowknife centre MLA Robert Hawkins and business owner Daryl Dolynny, about the Conservative agenda, should they win re-election as well as to affirm his support for Sandy Lee, who was running on the Conservative ticket.

"I think Sandy's a great fit in our party," said Harper. "Everybody's behind Sandy. She's a young, dynamic person with good experience and I think she just makes a great representative for us and for the riding."

The prime minister's appearance was met with protests, which he made a point of avoiding. "That was Harper. He came and left as a ghost," said Shauna Morgan, who was dressed up in a monkey costume with a sign reading, "Enough monkey business in Parliament."

Businesses accused of pocketing bag fees

When Canadian Tire owner Warren Pariseau heard that some Yellowknife businesses were pocketing plastic bag fees in April, the normally reserved business owner decided to take action. He heard about the pocketing during a solid waste management forum.

"When the person from the GNWT presented, it came out that there's a few businesses in town that stocked up on bags - like a year's supply - so they didn't have to pay any money into the program and are now charging customers 25 cents as a profit generator," said Pariseau, who received an environmental award at the forum for making the Canadian Tire store plastic bag-free.

Yellowknifer called the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for clarification and was told the department knew there was a potential risk that some businesses would take advantage of the system.

Building homes abroad

Dane Mason has made a point over the last few years to travel to the Dominican Republic to do humanitarian work.

This time around the crew, made up of Mason and Chafic Khouri of Yellowknife, two volunteers from Inuvik, one from Manitoba and one from Nova Scotia, spent time in the community of Agua Negra from the last week in March until mid-April.

During their stay the team constructed a concrete home for a single mother and her family, paid for with a donation of $5,000 from the Yellowknife Rotary Club. And with $6,000 collected in Inuvik, the team raised the foundation of a second home above flood levels, paid a year's worth of school tuition for three children, purchased supplies for an orphanage and bought a back-up power system for the medical clinic the group helped construct during their visit in 2010.

"One of the things we were able to do was we got to see the house we built last year. We went in, visited with the family. It was definitely a nice feeling," said Mason.

Layton's last visit

Jack Layton was in town April 27, days before Canadians went to the polls, for what would turn out to be his last visit to Yellowknife.

The next morning he addressed hundreds of Yellowknifers crammed into NDP incumbent Dennis Bevington's campaign office on 51 Avenue where he announced funding promises for completion of the Dempster Highway, from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk and for the development of a Mackenzie Valley Highway. Bevington went on to win a third term in the May 2 federal election.

Layton died August 22, 2011 after complications with an undisclosed form of cancer.


Tailings pond pollutes Baker Creek

Arsenic levels in Baker Creek rose to 700 times the acceptable level for drinking water and 1,400 times the acceptable level for protection of aquatic life after a tailings pond overflowed into the creek in May, the result of a natural ice dam.

"It is a contaminated site," said Randal Cripps, regional director general for public works, although communications officials with the department insisted levels aren't "acutely toxic" to fish or plankton.

The creek was redirected back into its channel May 17 after crews excavated the ice that was causing the blockage.

Dog killer sentenced

In the wake of one of Yellowknife's worst cases of animal cruelty, Yellowknife resident Lloyd Thrasher was sentenced to eight months in jail May 30 for killing Vanessa Baron's one-and-a half-year-old Chinese pug, Garlic.

Garlic was found dead outside of Twist Resto Lounge on 50 Street on Jan. 27. The fatal injury - a collapsed lung - caused by a blow to the chest, was in addition to stab wounds to the dog's neck, chest and rectum.

Thrasher, 23, is also prohibited from owning or having custody of any animal for 10 years.

"He was my family. I'm not actually the victim here. I didn't go through what he went through," said Baron.

Aurora College celebrates 63 grads

Tears, laughter and cheers filled the Explorer Hotel May 7 as more than 200 people came out to celebrate the graduation of 63 Aurora College students from Yellowknife and around the NWT.

It was an especially satisfying night for valedictorian Pamela Weeks-Beaton, who lost her husband seven years earlier, leaving her to raise four kids on her own.

She graduated with a diploma in social work, and as an older student she was embraced by the younger students in her class.

"Don't cry because it's over, but smile because we did it," Weeks-Beaton told the graduating class at the end of her speech, borrowing a sentiment from Dr. Seusse.

SPCA to acquires land for shelter

Sarah Hunt and Becca Kroeger couldn't contain their joy the evening of May 24 when city council unanimously voted in favour of allowing the NWT SPCA to purchase a lot in the Engle Business District for an animal shelter.

Hunt was surprised since she and Kroeger had only presented their plans to council that afternoon during a Municipal Service Committee meeting when they requested two lots in the Engle Business District be donated to the SPCA free of cost.

The lot was worth more than $200,000.

Construction on the new shelter, estimated to cost approximately $1 million, began on Sept. 7.

Call for action on homelessness

When a report outlining policy recommendations for addressing homelessness in Yellowknife was presented at city hall in May, Yellowknifers asked for action.

There were five recommendations in the report, Homelessness in Yellowknife: An Emerging Social Challenge, which was compiled by Nick Falvo, a researcher and doctoral student at Carleton University, and the Centre for Northern Families published.

The first was that in 2012 the GNWT should create a secretariat focused on the issue. The second recommendation was that the Yellowknife Homelessness Coalition should be involved in all funding activities.

Third was to establish a working group that would develop shelter standards and ensure there is enough funding to implement the standards.

Number four was to start a public health task force to address substance use and abuse. The last recommendation spoke to the need for Yellowknife to have more affordable housing.

"I always say, we judge our communities by how they take care of their poor and we're not doing a good job," said Kate Wilson, director of transitional housing for the YWCA.

Veteran Mountie goes to jail

A 21-year veteran of the RCMP left the Yellowknife courthouse in handcuffs May 4 on his way to serve a six-month jail sentence.

Larry Edward O'Brien entered a guilty plea May 3 for stealing $2,000 from an RCMP exhibit locker Tuesday in territorial court. O'Brien was sentenced the next morning for breach of trust by a police officer and theft under $5,000.

The $2,000 that O'Brien stole came from an evidence locker containing close to $240,000 seized during a drug investigation.

He later returned $2,000 to the locker but the bills had different markings than the originals.


Old-fashioned staking rush

A heated staking rush over prospective rare metal-rich land northwest of Avalon Rare Metals Inc.'s Thor Lake Project resulted in the first disputed land claim in recent history.

When land nearby Avalon's rare earth deposits opened for staking, Edmonton-based Dahrouge Geological Consulting and Zimtu Capital Corp. jumped at the opportunity.

The partners staked three claims northwest of Avalon's Nechalacho rare earth element deposit only to find Avalon had beaten them to the punch with claims overlapping a large part of Dahrouge's.

The Thor Lake deposits were tempting because the area has an estimated 64.2 million tonnes of rare earth elements, especially considering that China accounts for 90 per cent of the world's rare earth elements supply.

Fire training facility opens

Yellowknife firefighters got their first chance to test a new fire training facility in June, which includes a new burn structure, the fuselage of a Boeing 747 and an area to practise extricating people from vehicle collisions.

Deputy fire chief Jason Davidson said the new facility, located at the Yellowknife Airport, will help improve training for firefighters, allowing them to place

simulated victims in the building.

"The new facility will allow us to train in live fire situations, with all the smoke and hazards that come along with it," said Davidson.

New Canadians celebrate citizenship

The Greenstone Building was filled with smiling faces June 17 as Judge Sonia Bitar presented certificates to 100 new Canadians from 36 countries who now call the NWT their home.

The new Canadians stood together as they took their oaths of citizenship before Bitar, family and friends, and prominent members of the community.

Celebrity auction canceled

The NWT Disabilities Council was forced to cancel its planned 2011 Celebrity Auction after poor ticket sales. The auction changed format from previous years, with $100 tickets being sold for the event, which was to include a gala dinner, drinks and entertainment at the Ed Jeske Arena on June 3.

May 31, a day after the cancellation, the NWT Disabilities Council executive director Michelle Gillis stepped down from her position, with former director Denise McKee taking her place.

Then acting executive director Adam Spears said Gillis' resignation had nothing to do with the cancellation.

In previous years the auction was free to the public.

Molester deemed dangerous offender

Justice John Vertes declared convicted sex offender Bobby Kudlak a dangerous offender May 30 in Supreme Court in Yellowknife as he sentenced Kudlak to an indeterminate period of imprisonment.

Kudlak, 37, originally from Cambridge Bay, appeared emotionless and disinterested as he listened to the decision from the prisoner's detention box.

In July 2010, Kudlak entered a guilty plea for fondling an 11-year-old girl in July 2009 while she was playing hide-and-go-seek at the Yellowknife Public Library in addition to pleading guilty to fondling a 10-year-old girl in her residence while Kudlak was staying with the girl's parents in 2005.

NWT top judge calls it a career

After 34 years in the legal profession and the last 20 as a Supreme Court judge, John Vertes called it a career on June 30 - 14 years before the mandatory retirement age of 75.

"I was fortunate to have been appointed at a relatively young age, and I think after 20 years it's time for some fresh blood on the court, fresh outlook and fresh leadership," said Vertes.

Vertes was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1950. He graduated from York University's Osgoode Hall Law School in 1975 and was called to the NWT bar in 1977. After 14 years in private practice, he was appointed to the Supreme Court bench in 1991.

YK's biggest landlord asks for 'trust'

Tensions were high during June 17 public meeting at Northern United Place when the city's biggest landlord asked for the trust of approximately 35 angry homeowners regarding the development of apartments and townhomes near Con Road and 54 Street.

Many concerns stemmed from the current state of Shaganappy and Ptarmigan apartments, which were purchased by NPR last April. At the meeting, held at Northern United Place, they complained of garbage, the constant flow of emergency vehicles to the complex, noise and unsavoury tenants.

"I ask you to trust me that, give us some time, and this will be a different site," said Bo Rasmussen, construction manager for NPR Limited Partnership in a June interview. "I do ask you to trust me that we will make the neighbourhood a much better place."

Residents were also worried about the increase of traffic in the area, overcrowding and sun shadowing from new buildings.-


Yellowknife welcomes royalty

Thousands of Yellowknifers came out to welcome the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in June. The visit was part of a nine-day, seven-stop national tour. Newly-weds Prince William and Kate Middleton spent one whirlwind day in NWT meeting a number of dignitaries and members of the public. Mayor Gord Van Tighem was on hand to share the history of the city and the people, while then premier Floyd Roland delivered a speech which focused on the historic and cultural connections between NWT and the royal family. Will and Kate's visit included watching a demonstration of the Alaskan high-kick, a visit to the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre, and a tour of city hall.

Mrdjenovich clashes with city over Niven Lake project

Developer Mike Mrdjenovich said he would fight the city over an expropriation of a piece of land on the former Bayview Estates project in Niven Lake.

Mrdjenovich, owner of Edmonton-based Nova Builders Inc., said he would fight the city to stop its effort to expropriate 900 square metre corridor on his property.

"I'm going to fight them every minute," Mrdjenovich said back in July. "I paid money for (the land) and if they want it, they can buy it back off of me."

The move by the city was in an effort to gain access to the water and sewer pipeline underneath the nearby Niven Lake Phase VII residential development.

Mrdjenovich filed an objection to the expropriation order in August.

Summit plane makes emergency landing

The pilot of a Summit Air Dornier 228 twin-engine commuter plane was forced to make an emergency landing at the Yellowknife Airport July 6, when the crew experienced a minor vibration in the aircraft's elevator system.

Three people were on board the plane which was carrying two secured 25-gallon barrels of methyl hydrate, typically used to de-ice planes and keep aviation fuel from freezing. The plane was en route to Baker Lake when the emergency landing occurred.

Wiley Road property owners oppose city harbour plan

Private landowners on Wiley Road opposed planned boardwalks on the Back Bay shoreline after the city published Phase II of its Harbour Plan.

Property owners in the area, including Donnie Robinson, were outraged that the city would try to make certain areas accessible to the public after land and waterfront had already been privately purchased.

"I'm totally against it," Robinson said. "We bought the property and it extends into the water - we have it that way so that it's private, and we want to keep it that way."

Robinson said he was against the city's move because of past efforts of public beautification in the downtown core and along Old Airport Road.

Ndilo paving project begins after a 40-year wait

Crews began paving in Ndilo on Aug. 2, after being delayed three-weeks due to negotiations between Ndilo Chief Ted Tsetta and the City of Yellowknife to finalize the terms on the $1.4 million project.

Workers with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation who were affiliated with Det'on Cho Development Corporation, were involved with the project. Tsetta said the project would include paving of the original loop road through Ndilo as well as paving the end road in the community.

City of Yellowknife manager of public works Chris Greencorn was satisfied that Ndilo would finally get proper asphalt after a long wait.

Sinkhole found during Giant Mine cleanup

The Giant Mine remediation team reported that it was continuing to monitor a giant sinkhole in order to prevent nearby Baker Creek from flowing through it.

Acting project manager of the mine's remediation team, Adrian Paradis, feared that it was possible the creek could flow into the sinkhole to such an extent that it could not be pumped back out.

"It is a concern, but we've got it under control," Paradis said. Paradis also pointed out that there was a fair amount of flat land and a large slope the creek would have to flow over before it would reach the sinkhole.

It was feared that the water could then continue into pit B1 - a large open pit and one of eight at the mine - and into arsenic chambers which could contaminate groundwater.

The sinkhole was reported as being six square metres in size.


Sandy Lee takes political job

Sandy Lee may have lost the federal Western Arctic riding for the Conservative Party in the 2011 election, but she was able to land a political job with the Conservative government.

Lee was appointed the director of regional affairs in the Northwest Territories for Leona Aglukkaq, health minister and minister responsible for CanNor, the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. Lee is a former Range Lake MLA and territorial health minister.

Her duties under Aglukkaq included being the minister's point person in the region as she will represent the minister in meetings and act as a liaison between the minister and stakeholders and the territorial government.

Yellowknifers evacuated from park

Two Yellowknife residents, Darha Phillpot and Michelle Swallow, were lifted by helicopter from Auyuittuq National Park after water levels rose in area rivers.

The two had been hiking in the park on the east coast of Baffin Island. Key river crossings became impassable due to heavy rainfall, according to Parks Canada.

City supports eco-housing project

City council adopted a report by Stantec Consulting to explore options for developing energy efficient and affordable housing downtown. The idea came out of the Smart Growth Committee and came at a cost of $145,000.

The project, called Eco-Housing, was estimated at $6 million. A number of properties were being considered for the development, including a lot beside Kingpin Bowling Centre where it was being proposed that a 24-unit low-cost apartment building could be constructed.

No date was given at the time of council's approval for the project to go ahead.

Council votes to buy downtown lots

Mayor Gord Van Tighem called it "the most important thing we've done" as city council supported a bylaw to buy three lots on the east end of 50 Street between Franklin and 51 Avenue, Aug 22.

The lots included the locations of Instaloan and Corner Mart. Council also exchanged city property for the vacant lot at Franklin Avenue and 50 Street.

Opponents showed up to the council meeting concerned the Gold Range bar and Raven Pub would be torn down as a result of the purchase.

Council insisted that this wasn't in the plan.

Dene support hiring policy challenge

Bill Turner, a policy adviser with the NWT Business Development and Investment Corporation, challenged the territorial government's affirmative action hiring policy and found Bill Erasmus of the Dene Nation was in full support.

Turner had challenged the policy with the territorial Supreme Court on the grounds the policy was unconstitutional.

He was unhappy with the policy's preference of hiring local-non-aboriginal residents over southern aboriginal people.

Erasmus said he was in support of the challenge because the hiring policy violated aboriginal rights to move freely about the country for living and working.

Miltenberger retreats on Wildlife Act

Although Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger had planned to force a vote on the NWT Wildlife Act, widespread opposition forced him to shelve the proposed bill.

Members of the legislative assembly's economic development and infrastructure committee had been highly critical of Miltenberger's plans.

Kam Lake MLA Dave Ramsay and Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley both criticized Miltenberger for not taking the committee's concerns and recommendations into account.

The committee felt the bill should have been passed over to the next legislative assembly.

Despite Miltenberger's insistence that the act be voted on before October's election, opposition MLAs won out.

GNWT votes on cellphone ban

Territorial legislators banned cellphone use while driving as they amended the NWT Motor Vehicles Act. The cellphone ban, which applied to both talking and texting on mobile devices, made the GNWT one of the last jurisdictions in Canada to impose a ban.

Legislators agreed to a $100 fine with a 15 per cent victim of crime surcharge and three demerit points. The act, which received unanimous approval was to take effect New Year's Day.

Bob Rae visits North

Liberal Party of Canada leader Bob Rae stopped into Yellowknife as part of a nationwide tour. He spoke to a number of local delegates including Mayor Gord Van Tighem, Ndilo Chief Ted Tsetta, and Yellowknife South MLA Bob McLeod. During his visit Rae denounced devolution and expressed his wish of finding a way to make the Mackenzie Valley pipeline a reality.

He also used the occasion to rally supporters to the Liberal Party in an effort to rebuild the national brand.

Airport building opens

The territorial government officially opened a $20.7 million combined services building at the airport for housing the fire department and garage space. The 3,200-square-foot building replaced a 50-year-old facility and housed the airport fire department on one side and a storage space for airport vehicles and mechanical maintenance on the other.

The facility also included equipment maintenance facilities, administrative space for training, trades and fire hall staff, and also featured a sand storage facility nearby.

Fire equipment included hoist vehicles, an industrial crane and a proper exhaust system. The building featured heated flooring and the addition of extra windows.

Harper gives health money

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper dropped into Yellowknife to announce health funding for the three territories. The federal government provided $60 million to be split between Nunavut, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories over the next two years.

Harper used Stanton Territorial Hospital as a backdrop to show a hospital in need of repair. Premier Floyd Roland said the hospital needed top-to-bottom renovations and federal funding was key to this initiative.

Old Airport Road businesses shut down rezoning plan

A number of business people showed up to a public meeting on the rezoning of Old Airport Road and complained that they had not been consulted on council's plans, Aug. 24. As a result of the outcry, council decided to postpone the decision for a month.

The city had planned to remove industrial uses from the commercial service zone in favour of medium and high density housing. Business owners in the area were upset there was no communication and little understanding as to how the zoning change would effect their practices.

First Air plane crashes at Resolute Bay

Twelve passengers of a First Air charter flight died in a crash near Resolute Bay on Aug. 20.

Three people from Yellowknife died in the accident, including flight attendants Ann Marie Chassie and Ute Merritt and first officer David Hare. Miraculously, three people survived the crash - Robin Wyllie, 48, Gabrielle Pelky, 7, and Nicole Williamson, 23.

The plane had departed from Yellowknife on the final leg of a trip that took passengers to a number of communities across the Arctic.

According to witnesses, the Boeing 737 disappeared in heavy fog as it approached the airport from the south.


New Tim Hortons confirmed

Tim Horton coffee lovers celebrated in September with the announcement coming from head office that the national chain would open a second store in downtown Yellowknife in the spring of 2012.

The announcement didn't identify the location of the new store, however, rumours were swirling around the city speculating that it could be located in the Scotia Centre on Franklin Avenue.

The news of a second location hit the rumour mill after an online job posting was seen on Jobs North, which asked for 12 full-time counter staff for day, evening, and afternoon shifts in a downtown location.

Frustrated Northlanders raise awareness

A group of citizens in Northland Trailer Park formed a group to raise awareness about the crumbling infrastructure issues plaguing the trailer park.

The group, officially known as the Citizens for Northlands, was formed to address the growing concerns faced by 258 households. A potluck and barbecue was held Sept. 5 to meet and greet neighbours, which resulted in a steady 60 people at any given point throughout the day.

"Lots of people in Northland are frustrated and angry," said Lorraine Hewlett, one of the founding members of the group. "We have 258 households that are trapped in their homes and they can't sell. If that doesn't constitute being backed into a corner, I don't know what does."

The trailer park's waterline and sewer infrastructure - originally installed in 1975, are estimated to need $18 million in upgrades, and the group is looking to the City of Yellowknife and both the territorial and federal governments for funding.

Ice Pilots NWT wins Geminis

The Yellowknife-based television show Ice Pilots NWT won two Gemini Awards in Vancouver Aug. 30. The show took home the hardware in both the Best Photography and Best Original Music categories, as well as earning recognition by nomination in three other categories. The show, which began its third season on the History Channel Television, features Buffalo Air general manager Mikey McBryan who said the crew was well deserving of the wins because of their hard work in northern conditions.

Council divided on renovations

Renovations for a revamped city hall hit a road block when city councillors could not agree to increasing the budget by $150,000. The contract to produce plans to outline structural and environmental issues and energy efficiency strategies had been awarded to PSAV Architects for $50,000 earlier in the year.

Administration recommended to PSAV to continue with the project and to create a design for city hall, including a $355,000 roof replacement. The vote was deferred to a later date.

More residents, fewer cars

The City of Yellowknife's released its draft general plan and outlined a strategy calling for more people and fewer cars in the downtown. The document proposed having fewer parking lots and stalls even as the population grows by 3,000 people over the next 10 years. To address housing needs, the city planned for 1,385 more homes; 346 of which could be located downtown. City senior administrator Bob Long said the city wanted to support people working downtown by placing houses close to the place of employment - helping to eliminate the need for parking stalls and encouraging people to walk to work.

Candidate upset over leaked document

Yellowknife Centre candidate Arlene Hache said a leaked MLA briefing note highlighting irregularities at the Centre for Northern Families felt like a sniper attack.

Hache, who was vying for the seat in the territorial government against Robert Hawkins, had been a longtime executive director with the centre. The confidential briefing note showed various fiscal challenges which put her work for the centre in a negative light. Incumbent Robert Hawkins said he was not responsible, even though an MLA had obtained the document.

Plane crashes in Old Town

An Arctic Sunwest twin otter plane crashed into Old Town, Sept. 22, killing two pilots, Trevor Jonasson and Nicole Stacey, and sending seven passengers to Stanton Territorial Hospital.

The aircraft landed between a condo complex and the Aurora Geosciences office on McDonald Drive. A tribute for the two pilots was held at St. Patrick High School and involved about 300 people in a packed gymnasium.

Public transit ridership poor

The city reported only one per cent of residents are using public transit. The information came from a city transportation improvement study as part of the Smart Growth Initiative. The study was done throughout 2010 and included in the 2011 city draft general plan and collected data from a 2006 census report which tracked Yellowknifers' transit activity.

City officials indicated they wanted to increase ridership as a result of the findings.


Air Tindi crash

Air Tindi pilot Matthew Bromley, 28, and Timothy Harris, 56, an employee with the NWT Power Corporation, were killed when the Cessna 208B Caravan Bromley was piloting crashed about 40 km west of Lutsel K'e on Oct. 4. The two survivors, Bernice Marlowe and Sheldon Catholique, were both from Lutsel K'e. The aircraft had left Yellowknife for Lutsel K'e at 11:03 a.m. and was reported overdue at 2 p.m. The flight was scheduled to land at 11:45 a.m. Transportation Safety Board investigators said the plane hit the west face of a cliff on the Pethei Peninsula, making contact with its landing gear at high speed. A low cloud ceiling and light rain at the time of the accident led to speculation that weather may have played a role.

Incumbents rule amid abysmal voter turnout

A mere 34.16 per cent of registered Yellowknife voters went to the polls Oct. 3 to choose their representatives in the 17th legislative assembly, compared with 57.5 per cent in 2007. Bob McLeod was acclaimed in his riding of Yellowknife South and, of the six remaining seats, incumbents took all but one. Daryl Dolynny was the lone new face from Yellowknife. Dolynny ran in the Range Lake riding, for which there was no incumbent. Wendy Bisaro won for Frame Lake; Glen Abernethy won for Great Slave; David Ramsay won for Kam Lake; Bob Bromley won for Weledeh and Robert Hawkins won for Yellowknife Centre. Despite the hot button issue of the crumbling state of Northland Trailer Park, Frame Lake had the lowest voter turnout at just 29.96 per cent.

Dettah chief charged with sexual assault

Dettah Chief Ed Sangris was charged with two counts of sexual assault for incidents allegedly taking place between 1988 and 1996. Both charges stem from one complainant. Sangris' first appearance in court was scheduled for Nov. 22. Sangris' executive assistant Shannon Gault spoke on his behalf, saying, "Officially, we have no comment beyond that the chief regrets the circumstance. He will co-operate in the utmost and until the process continues with the lead-up and follow through with the court date, we cannot comment on the allegations," she said. Band councillor Mary Rose Sundberg stepped in as acting chief.

Women speak out about miscarriages

Two Yellowknife women came forward with their stories of miscarriage in hopes of reaching out to other women who need help coping. Friends Jaime Mackay and Jennifer Young have both experienced an ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage.

Though miscarriage is quite common it is not freely spoken about and Mackay and Young wanted to help break the wall of silence around the topic as well as raise awareness about Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness month.

"One thing that I find is that the earlier the loss the less people understand. They think, well - it was just a fetus," said Mackay.

Daryl Dolynny denies wrongdoing

Range Lake MLA-elect defended his offer to provide the government with damaging information on a Business Development Investment Corporation (BDIC) employee in exchange for settling a GNWT lawsuit against him.

Dolynny was one of four partners named in a Dec. 16, 2008, statement of claim by the BDIC in which it was seeking $100,000 for an unpaid loan guarantee for tourism company Aurora World Corporation (AWC), which folded in 2007. On Oct. 4, the day after Dolynny was elected MLA, he was involved in an e-mail exchange with BDIC CEO Pawan Chugh and lawyer Douglas McNiven. Dolynny appeared to be offering to provide the government with damaging information on BDIC employee Bill Turner, who is suing the GNWT over its affirmative action hiring policy, which he claims is discriminatory.

"I believe my involvement, testimony and proof, could rid yourself of this very expensive problem at the same time, rid ourselves of the AWC issue," stated Dolynny in his e-mail.

City faced with growing infrastructure gap

The city is faced with a $74 million infrastructure gap, up from $67.8 million in 2006, according to Carl Bird, the city's director of corporate services. Bird said the city will need to spend $42.4 million over the next five years in order to keep up. He provided city council with an asset review presentation at a Municipal Services committee meeting, with much of the presentation aimed at preparing council for upcoming budget discussions. Among the city's infrastructure costs: $3.5 million in city hall renovations, $3 million for the expansion of the library, a $21-million water treatment plant and $1 million for the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool. Discussion among council and staff dealt with the need to find new revenue sources to help address the gap.

New premier Bob McLeod

Yellowknife South MLA Bob McLeod became the 12th premier of the Northwest Territories. Fellow MLAs voted him in during the territorial leadership committee meeting held Oct. 26. McLeod, who was up against Michael Miltenberger (Thebacha) and Kevin Menicoche (Nahendeh) emerged victorious after one round of voting. Each of the 19 MLAs cast a vote by secret ballot. MLAs Wendy Bisaro, David Ramsay and Glen Abernethy refused to disclose their choices to Yellowknifer, despite making earlier commitments to do so. McLeod was acclaimed in his riding, as were the two premiers before him. Not a single vote has been cast from the public for a premier since 1999 when Stephen Kakfwi was elected by voters to represent Sahtu before being chosen as premier.


YK1 scolded over tax pressure

Attempts by Yk1 staff to persuade a local businessman to allocate part of his property taxes to the public school board were 'inappropriate' concluded privacy commissioner Elaine Keenan Bengts. The ruling came after a business owner filed a complaint in February 2010 alleging that Yk1 superintendent Metro Huculak had contacted him in January of that year to ask "that he allocate some of his school taxes to Yk1 in return for their continued business," Keenan Bengts stated. The business owner regularly provided services to Yk1 though he had allocated 100 per cent of his school tax levy to the Catholic school district. About two weeks after the phone call from Huculak, the complainant received another phone call from a Yk1 employee asking whether he had changed his tax designation. She indicated that she had been instructed to take the public school district's business elsewhere if he refused to do so. Huculak said "the right steps were taken" to remedy the incident and the school board continues to do business with the complainant.

Mother of bullied gay teen fears schools aren't doing enough

The mother of a gay teen who was beaten, bullied and ostracized by many of his high school peers worried that it might take a tragedy such as suicide to affect real change in the NWT. The mother, referred to as Barbara, decided to speak out about her son's experiences after hearing about the suicide of Ottawa teen Jamie Hubley, who was also bullied for being gay. "I was so close to losing my son," she said, after detailing her son's battle with depression. When Barbara approached a school official at Sir John Franklin about her son's troubles, she was told the best solution would be to switch her son "Jacob" to another school. Though things improved for Jacob at St. Patrick High School, Barbara still believes schools need to be more proactive in ensuring children do not faces the abuse endured by her son.

City raises taxes by 2.8 per cent

With the unveiling of the 2012 draft budget, Yellowknifers learned they would be facing the eighth consecutive year of property tax hikes. The city approved the budget increasing the property tax by 2.87 per cent, - a little lower than the 2011 increase of 3.99 per cent. Councillor Mark Heyck called the increase "pretty bare bones." The budget also included a $2.50 increase to the solid waste levy included on water bills, or a $30 per year increase.

Paul Laserich dies

Seasoned pilot and general manager of Adlair Aviation Ltd., Paul Laserich, 52, died of natural causes on Nov. 19.

Longtime friend and Air Tindi pilot Mike Murphy described his friend as a tenacious man and a "generous spirit" who made great contributions to the local aviation community.

Laserich had been under stress over the last year. In summer 2010, the Government of Nunavut awarded the medevac contract for the Kitikmeot region to Air Tindi and its partner Aqsaqniq Air. The contract had previously been held by Adlair Aviation for 20 years and was worth millions of dollars annually. Laserich appealed the decision but the Nunavummi Nangminiqaqtunik Ikajuuti appeals board denied his appeal in October. He died just 11 days before the last Adlair medevac flight for the GN.

Laserich took over the helm at Adlair Aviation Ltd. after his father, Willy Laserich, died in 2007.

Councillor sounds alarm on impending two-bag limit

City Councillor David Wind issued a warning that Yellowknifers will begin illegally dumping their trash once the city's three-bag limit on garbage decreases to two bags on Jan. 1. Wind said the change would put excessive strain on larger families and could lead to dumped garbage in undeveloped areas or along roadsides. He cautioned that this could create further expenses for the city, which would have to dispatch staff to go pick the trash up. Coun. Paul Falvo, however, argued, "It is a question of being responsible and charging according to what people consume and what people use." Coun. Mark Heyck said the public works department would allow "a three-month grace period" up to April 1, meaning residents won't have to buy garbage tags for putting out three bags until this later date.

Centre Square Mall finally gets a wheelchair ramp

Nearly two years after NWT fire marshal Stephen Moss ordered upper level management at Centre Square Mall to build a wheelchair accessible ramp at the Franklin Avenue entrance. Moss made the order in February 2010 and the Yellowknife Inn began the work in November. Due to the lack of accessibility, wheelchair user Cornelius Van Dyke had not visited the upper level of the mall in years. "I would like to say 'thank you' to the management company for finally getting around to doing it. Even though we have had problems, thank you very much for finally putting it in," said Van Dyke. On Aug. 8, the mall and the city signed an encroachment agreement, the last piece of paperwork needed before work could go ahead on the ramp. Derek Carmody, manager of the Yellowknife Inn and upper level mall, said finding a design to fit with the city's beautification program contributed to the delay. "As with anything, there's politics, or whatever you want to call it," Carmody said.

BHP Billiton considers selling Ekati Mine

BHP Billiton shocked Yellowknife's mining community and 1,400 Ekati workers when they announced in November that it would be reviewing its worldwide diamond operations.

"We are doing a strategic review of whether a continued presence in the diamond industry is consistent with our overall group strategy," BHP Billiton spokesperson Bronwyn Wilkinson said, declining to disclose details of the review or whether any requests for proposals have been made. "One of the possible outcomes that we would evaluate is a potential sale of all or part of our business, but it is early in the process and we can't speculate about what the outcome of that process will be at this stage."

Ekati, located 310 km northeast of Yellowknife, officially began production in October, 1998 and is Canada's first diamond mine.


Wildcat Cafe budget confusion

Restoration of the Wildcat Cafe is costing the city more than expected but there was some confusion as to how much more. The 2012 draft budget initially showed a projected cost of $570,000 - some $73,800 over the $496,200 originally budgeted. After Yellowknifer ran an article about the blown budget, deputy mayor Mark Heyck contacted the newspaper to say that the draft budget figure was incorrect and the projected cost had been revised to $525,000. Heyck said city staff had met with contractor Rick Muyres and, upon reviewing the project budget worksheet, discovered that the cost of additional foundation work had been accounted for twice. The original project budget did not include the unforeseen cost of re-engineering a new foundation, a need that arose once the cafe had been disassembled and it was discovered that a slurry of silt lay beneath the building.

House arrest for woman who abused justice system

A woman who lied to a justice of the peace to obtain an emergency protection order against a man who had never harmed her was sentenced to three months of house arrest. Schmaltz said she accepted that Roberta Simmonds was mentally ill but, "I do not accept that all people with mental illness cannot be deterred through the sentencing process," she said. Apart from her house arrest, Simmonds was ordered to repay the $5,000 in expenses Andreas Tesfaye incurred in trying to clear his name as well as to have no contact with Tesfaye or his immediate family. Simmonds must also complete 75 hours of community service. "I hope you realize that it was your decision to lie to a justice of the peace. You have harmed an important system put in place to protect those who are subject to family violence," Schmaltz told Simmonds.

Legislative assembly heats up over 'crime against humanity'

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley caused a stir in the legislative assembly with his likening of the GNWT's greenhouse gas policy to a crime against humanity. "The GNWT is prepared to allow our emissions to surge by almost 100 per cent above 1990 levels by 2020. Given what we know, such policy followed through by any jurisdiction would constitute a crime against humanity," he said on Dec. 7. Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger took exception to the remark and raised a point of order the next day. Premier Bob McLeod also spoke out against Bromley's language, saying, "I was offended, I guess, when Mr. Bromley lumped us all together as being somebody like Hitler or Pol Pot or General Radek because he doesn't like our greenhouse gas policy." Bromley defended himself, saying he had said no such thing and speculating that to impart such meaning was just an attempt to stifle debate. Bromley countered with a point of order of his own. Speaker Jackie Jacobson later dismissed both points of order and encouraged the members to remember why they were elected and work for the people, "not throw insults back and forth."

More funding needed for bridge

Transportation Minister David Ramsay announced the need for more funding for the Deh Cho Bridge, to the tune of five per cent of the total cost, or about $10 million. This brings the cost of the bridge from $182 million to $192 million. Ramsay said the costs were associated with improvements to the design of the bridge and additional project management and engineering costs resulting from prolonging construction to fall 2012. He said the improved design will "enhance the quality of work and the long-term performance of the bridge."

NorthwesTel loses phone service monopoly

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission ruled to open the telecommunications market to competition following a review of the Whitehorse-based regional service provider's regulatory framework. The ruling has cleared the way for Yellowknife-based Internet service provider SSI Micro to begin operating its own telephone service as early as spring. The company was previously barred from competing against NorthwesTel. The CRTC also denied NorthwesTel's request to raise land line rates across the North by $2. Despite the healthy earnings, NorthwesTel has failed to make necessary investments in its network, the commission said, raising concern that the company's "aging infrastructure" is affecting the quality and reliability of its service.

Day shelter funding up in the air

The executive director of the John Howard Society said she will be "scrambling" to find funding for the Yellowknife day shelter before the pilot project's end date of March 31. Though the City of Yellowknife has committed to renew its funding, BHP Billiton, which contributed a more sizable amount, has announced it will not. Health and Social Services Minister Tom Beaulieu said it was his department's "intention" to continue funding but Bardak said she couldn't rely on the GNWT without a solid commitment. "I need a little bit more than intention, although intentions are good," she said. The GNWT provided the majority of the funding for the pilot project. With the bulk of its funding in the air, the future of the day shelter - and the various people who access it between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. daily - is uncertain." "This is like a safe haven for a lot of people that are on the street," said a man from Inuvik who would not give his name. There have been 254 registered shelter users since the facility opened in November 2009.

First liquor violation for the Black Knight

The Black Knight Pub received its first Liquor Act infraction after 15 years in business Tuesday, Dec. 6. The NWT Liquor Licensing Board fined the establishment $750 for allowing an intoxicated person to enter and remain in a licensed premises. According to Sarah Kay, counsel for the GNWT, the incident occurred on Oct. 15, the same day the Top Knight held a memorial for Air Tindi passenger Timothy Harris, 54, who died in an Oct. 4 plane crash. Later in the night, a tall man at the pub appeared intoxicated and acknowledged he had been drinking since 2 p.m.

The man left and returned on two different occasions. Staff refused to serve him any more drinks but did not ask him to leave.


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