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Real ways to save Earth
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Enthusiastic 'Eco Wolves' happily lugging buckets of compost to the bins outside Weledeh Catholic School.

That is one of the amazing activities carried out by young students profiled in Yellowknifer's Earth Day special report last week. Our reporters explored several ecological approaches taught in city schools that students appear to be embracing with great gusto.

The lesson from youngsters illustrates what all of us can apply to our daily lives that can actually make a difference for the environment.

Gardening with compost is not as simple as it sounds. Aside from months of gathering leftover fruit and vegetables, people have to purchase seeds, start them indoors, plant the seedlings in the rich cultivated soil, water them, keep the weeds at bay for weeks on end, then finally harvest the edible bounty.

How much easier is it to go to the produce department of your local grocer to buy mass-produced lettuce from Arizona or Mexico?

Yet that is the big picture behind the heated debate about the environment. What, we ask, is the point of philosophical arguments about what is happening to the planet?

Some people are aghast that anyone would deny humans are the driving force behind climate change. Others insist humans aren't responsible, climate change is a result of solar flares and natural planetary shift.

Yet, the signs of climate change are unmistakably visible.

Some roads in the North are crumbling because the permafrost which has supported the pavement for years is now melting. Endless debate about the cause of this is less important than taking meaningful action to lessen the human impact on Earth and adapt to change.

A rebate for purchasing an energy-efficient appliance is a real incentive. Choosing to plant seeds, set up a solar panel, recycle paper and plastic, start a compost pile and use it as fertilizer - these are real and simple methods that make a difference.

We're encouraged by the interest school children have shown for the green initiatives they are being taught. They are not afraid to get their hands dirty and will carry the knowledge and appreciation for what the world provides into their adult lives.

The rest of us can embrace the concept of making meaningful changes in our lives, put aside the temptation to endlessly debate the issue and join in on the growing fun.


Ed Jeske's legacy carved in ice
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The vibrant legacy of the late Yellowknife hockey pioneer Ed Jeske was showcased on Sunday as the Arctic Showdown hockey tournament championship filled the Multiplex.

Teams from Yellowknife, Alberta and Nunavut tangled with enthusiasm and sportsmanship on the Olympic rink that has officially been known as the Ed Jeske Arena since September 2009.

Jeske, whose memorial was held at Northern United Place on Saturday, nurtured countless young players along their journeys through childhood, into adolescence, and beyond. He not only guided generations of local youth into maturity since moving to Yellowknife in 1958, he also helped establish the foundation for the quality, well-structured hockey programs families now enjoy in our city.

Jeske's hard work, commitment and passion for hockey have ensured that many future generations of young people will benefit from the character-building camaraderie and community values.

While it should always be remembered that this exemplary gentleman, who served as a Sir John Franklin High School teacher for more than three decades, contributed his energy to a wide array of community interests, such as Little League, the Yellowknife Softball League, Meals on Wheels, Facilities for Kids, Scouts and Girl Guides, the Yellowknife Elks Club and Lions Club, and various seniors' associations, it is fitting that his memory be honoured through his first love, hockey.

As Yellowknife residents reflect on Jeske's life, we should all remind ourselves of the joy and pride all children experience through participation in community sports.


Federal Elvis has left the region
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I'm not really the I-told-you-so type, but, when it comes to how Prime Minister Stephen Harper really views Nunavut, don't say I didn't warn you.

I was slammed pretty good by a number of Nunavut Conservatives when I penned an article pointing out Mr. Harper's roots in the Reform Party, and portraying him as a southern good old boy as only we here North of everything can.

Harper holds precious little sentiment for a territory that owes as much of its existence to Jean Chretien and the Liberal Party as it does to its own Inuit visionaries.

The writing was on the wall should the Tories ever gain a majority government and, now that their day has come, the word of choice for the foreseeable future as far as the North is concerned is cut, cut and cut again.

Cuts to the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami budget, cutting away the community Internet access program, cutbacks to developing the promised naval base at Nanisivik amid claims it's still an Arctic refuelling base (wink, wink), and doing the old political soft-shoe over improved search-and-rescue resources are just the beginning.

And don't get me started on Nutrition North.

Although, on the latter, I must admit I do kind of admire how effectively the Tories slid into just-ignore-them-and-they'll-go-away mode after the program was slammed in almost every community its travelling road show visited.

Snake oil and slight-of-hand gags just don't sell the way they used to.

But, talk about the ultimate cone of silence being employed to encourage quiet resignation by the masses, and this one ranks pretty high on the list.

It's a begrudging admiration, however, since my wife and I have seen our own grocery and necessities bill nearly double since this nifty little program came into existence.

And I'd still like five minutes alone to talk to whomever bragged to Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq about having tires shipped to Nunavut, subsidized under the old food mail program.

There was plenty of mileage wrung out of that rubber on her speaking circuit.

It's almost enough to make one long for the days of minority government.

Those were times when every seat was uber-important, and everyone from federal ministers to prime ministers visited our little communities and talked openly about topics of importance such as their favourite pizzas.

And oh how they fed our egos with talks of sovereignty and our importance to the rest of the country.

Heady days, indeed, that now seem so long ago.

With household debt reaching record levels, interest rates staying staggeringly low, and housing prices creating the world's biggest bubble - all to be expected from this government in the near future is the threat of an even bigger ulu, hard at work trimming the excessive fat we in Nunavut enjoy (southern double-dippers working here excluded, of course).

Now our hopes for economic prosperity and vastly improved infrastructure rest in the hands of the mining companies, and we can only hope they deliver a whole lot more than the political talkers in their fancy blue suede shoes.

They came when they needed us, promised Elvis, and dropped Slash at our door the first chance they got!


100 proof
NWT News/North - Monday, April 30, 2012

If you were to ask Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya, the lifting of booze restrictions in Norman Wells is creating chaos in the region.

He told News/North that in the three months since the restrictions have been lifted, he has heard from the RCMP that there has been an increase in public drunkenness, absenteeism at school and alcohol abuse.

The police, however, did not confirm those claims and said it was too early to comment on whether changes in the amount of alcohol that can legally be purchased has had an impact. Sgt. Wes Heron said, as yet, officers have not seen a spike in liquor-related activity.

Yakeleya was one of many opponents who feared unrestricted sales would increase bootlegging to alcohol-restricted communities around the Sahtu and lead to a rise in crime.

Although his concerns at the time were warranted and it is to his credit that he wants to keep an eye on the situation in order to help promote healthy communities, he must be wary of being alarmist.

It's no secret alcohol is a problem in the NWT. According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, in 2010, 31.6 per cent of the population reported being heavy drinkers. That is a six per cent increase over the previous year and 16 per cent higher than the Canadian rate.

Those numbers are startling and point to a need to focus on the cause and attempt to find solutions. Although Yakeleya's intentions might be good, he should not be warning of dire consequences without concrete evidence.

News/North attempted to determine if liquor sales in Norman Wells have risen substantially since the restrictions were lifted. However, neither the Norman Wells liquor store nor the NWT Liquor Commission would return calls requesting that information.

Whether one agrees with the effectiveness of liquor restrictions, it is easy to argue that increased availability could lead to increased consumption; although personal responsibility must come into play somewhere in the equation.

Yakeleya should pressure all parties to make statistics known publicly - the liquor commission's sales and the RCMP's alcohol-related charges - so thorough tracking and comparisons can be communicated to anyone who's interested.

Alcohol abuse and related crime is not something over which we can afford to cry wolf.

It is an issue that deserves our attention and we must focus on areas that are causing the problem. As far as Norman Wells is concerned, it's prudent to monitor developments carefully but counter-productive to raise the alarm prematurely.


Airports must be secured
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 30, 2012

Canadian North is frustrated with airplane breakins in Pond Inlet, and the community itself is frustrated with the bad rap it feels it has received over the actions of a few citizens.

However, doing something about it lies squarely in the lap of the Government of Nunavut. Of course, an individual who commits a breakin is at fault for breaking the law, but the opportunity to access an aircraft should not have been there.

In a territory with no roads connecting its communities, most inter-community transportation happens via airplane. The GN, as the caretaker of most airstrips in Nunavut, bears the responsibility of making sure these airports are secure, and that aircraft can be parked safely overnight in communities.

If someone can break in and steal some pop from a plane, who's to say someone can't break in and tamper with the aircraft itself, making it unsafe to operate? Or tamper with the airport infrastructure? It's possible any breakin and tampering would be caught by staff before becoming a danger, but the strategy should be more preventative than reactionary.

The cameras to be installed at Pond Inlet's airport may act as a deterrent, but a nighttime security guard - which Canadian North has hired and for which the community, taking a commendable stand against the breakins, is generously fundraising to help cover costs - is the best assurance these breakins won't happen, and would be an ideal fixture at airports across the territory.

Yes, these are small communities without the need for the elaborate security systems of the south - no body scanners necessary - but air travel is by and far the main transportation system for travel here, and, consequently, airplanes and runways must be protected by the GN.


Red tape reduction welcome
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 30, 2012

Applying for government funding almost always comes with a heavy dose of tedium and redundancy, and it's doubtless community health organizations are welcoming a streamlined application process for federal funds.

The funding categories of mental wellness and addictions, healthy living and youth development, and disease prevention had previously all required different applications for funding. Under the new approach, one application can be made to address all three. As well, reporting paperwork has been dramatically decreased.

While the initiative deserves applause, combining the different streams of funding also makes it much easier to for Ottawa to reduce or cancel the funding when deciding what to put on the chopping block.

While that may sound skeptical, in the mercurial world of politics, what the government touts and holds high one day may be cast aside the next. Let's remain on guard for that.


Put the heat on administration
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 27, 2012

After a few years of research, there are still as many questions as answers when it comes to the city's hopes for district heat and tapping geothermal energy from Con Mine.

Council's aspirations to pipe the naturally hot water below the shuttered mine site to heat 39 buildings in a portion of downtown got a lift earlier this month when a European consulting firm confirmed the water is in the range of 30 C and can produce 1.7 megawatts of power.

But here's what we don't know: how much will it cost to make use of that hot water? Is it economical?

How much did city hall pay the European consulting firm to do the research? How much has been spent to date on pursuing a district energy/geothermal heating plan? Is a $14 million contribution from the federal government still a possibility?

Since last June, the city has been negotiating with a private business based in B.C., Corix Utilities. The idea is that Corix would crunch the numbers and determine whether there is a business case to proceed with the district energy plan, which is estimated to cost close to $60 million.

This is the true litmus test. If Corix, which is focused on generating profits, can prove the project is viable - in combination with wood pellets or possibly diesel fuel - the residents of Yellowknife can have a greater degree of confidence.

Mayor Gord Van Tighem had targeted February for developing terms of the agreement. We're now in late April and those terms have yet to surface. City councillor Cory Vanthuyne expressed some frustration last week when he told Yellowknifer, "My thing is that if we don't have the $14 million (in federal funding) available to us, I have to rethink our whole position on this." He also said city council has been left in the dark for most of the year, despite asking for an update from administration.

Van Tighem's best explanation was this: "There are things under discussion. Things get developed and people review and people ask questions. It goes around and around for a while. Eventually something will come out of it."

That's not an answer. That's not enough detail for Yellowknifers to get solidly behind the project.

By limiting the flow of information, what's likely to follow is failure. The city should have learned that lesson during last year's referendum on borrowing up to $49 million to finance the district energy project. The public rejected the proposal by a count of 1,362 to 997.

City hall didn't help its cause by taking a "trust us" approach rather than being upfront on all aspects of the deal. Coun. David Wind, who was a critic of how the project was handled, said the rejection by voters would give the city more time to answer all of the questions, like the ones above.

With an election coming this fall, councillors should start demanding answers before they find themselves in hot water.


Inspiring youth
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Over the past few weeks in Deh Cho Drum there have been a number of articles and photospreads that have been loosely related.

The ones that come to mind include a series of photos about Chief Julian Yendo School's trip to Jasper, photos of Louie Norwegian School's trip to Banff, Alta., an article about a snowboarding trip from Fort Liard to Powder King Mountain Resort, in British Columbia, and another article about Thomas Simpson School's Grade 12 graduation trip to the Dominican Republic.

The common theme between all of these features was students visiting other locations in Canada and in once case internationally.

While some of the stories and photospreads may have been of limited interest to some readers, unless they knew the students who participated in the trip, the journeys themselves were of importance.

In each case the focus wasn't on the fact that youths were able to travel to other locations but rather on what they experienced and learned while they were there.

In the case of the snowboarding trip to Powder King Mountain Resort from Fort Liard, 24 students had the opportunity to strengthen their snowboarding skills or, if they were beginners, start a new sport from scratch.

The students from Jean Marie River also learned how to either downhill ski or snowboard but they also went dogsledding, experienced the Banff hotsprings and learned a bit about the history of Banff and the surrounding area.

The learning experiences were perhaps the greatest for the graduates from Fort Simpson who went to the Dominican Republic.

A tour of the countryside allowed the students to glimpse what life is like for many Dominicans and to reflect on how that compares to their own life in Canada. Students also had the chance to go horseback riding, explore caves and swim with sharks.

These trips and those like them, whether organized by schools or local governments, have great power.

Through them, Deh Cho youths have the opportunity to experience things that they might never have had the chance to do otherwise.

These trips have the potential to inspire students to reach for new goals in life. For some it may involve a new desire to travel and for others it may take the shape of a new focus on education so they can create more new opportunities for themselves.

The people who organize these trips and travel with students during them should be thanked. Deh Cho residents should also continue to support these trips in any way possible because every student who goes on one returns after having their eyes opened to new potentials.


Earth could use more than a day
Editorial Comment
Laura Busch
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, April 26, 2012

Vegetables don't come from the grocery store, they come from the ground.

That's one of the lessons to be taken away from the Inuvik Community Greenhouse's efforts to give as many residents as possible access to a patch of dirt in which to grow whatever they choose.

This space, and any other patch of fertile soil used to grow food around here, provides users with a connection with what they eat. This experience is likely akin to the satisfaction of killing and harvesting wild meat versus relying on the Styrofoam-packed grocery store variety for sustenance.

However, the benefits of growing one's own food up here does not hinge on this kind of emotional satisfaction, as it often does in the south. While so-called urban farming may be "trendy" in many other places, it's generally more expensive than bargain shopping for produce. Here, that's not the case. Growing your own can actually save you money.

Shona Barbour says she saved $855 by growing food in the greenhouse last year. She came to such an exact number by recording all of the items she harvested, and then converting them to summer grocery store prices in Inuvik.

This gives the high-Arctic gardener the advantage of being both economically and ecologically responsible. Too often, these two factors are played against each other, and the mighty dollar often wins out to the detriment of the planet upon which we all rely.

This connection to the Earth, to the land, seems stronger here than in many other places. However, all of the benefits that come along with living in a globalized world would have us forgetting that from time to time.

As Mayor Denny Rodgers said last week, Inuvik likes to consider itself as geographically gifted. This may be true, but it is also true that this town and the rest of the Beaufort Delta region are downstream from the oilsands and will feel some of the strongest effects of global warming likely while much of the rest of the world continues to debate its existence. Our geographic location is a blessing in many ways, but leaves us vulnerable to the consequences of mankind's wastefulness.

Seemingly simple actions like digging in the dirt and watching things grow can have an impact, both on our individual psyches, on our personal health, and on the health of our Earth.

Giving the Earth its own day of celebration is great, but it's the day-to-day actions of everyday people that will determine where we go from here.

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