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No home sweet home for teachers
NWT News/North - Monday, May 13, 2013

Home sweet home is not a reality for many teachers in the NWT, especially in the smaller communities. In a recent report issued by the NWT Teachers' Association, our territory's educators speak out about issues they face: crowded and expensive accommodations; lack of water, furnace malfunctions, broken windows, and unsanitary conditions, to name a few. The absence of concrete housing information to offer potential recruits severely impairs the territory's ability to recruit and retain teaching staff.

Many job offers - 44 per cent of those who responded to the survey according to the report -- are declined because there is a lack of acceptable housing. Inadequate housing also creates stress, which filters into the classroom, affecting job performance.

RCMP officers stationed in small communities have accommodations provided for them. Locum nurses and doctors are provided staff housing for short periods of time through the GNWT. The territorial government was responsible for staff housing up until the 1990s. When it gave up this duty, that is when the housing crisis began to escalate, the report states.

Returning to a government-involved housing program makes sense. Certain standards must be met and accountable oversight needs to be in place.

The GNWT should create a partnership agreement with private business to ensure housing needs are met.

If the government were to cost share the construction of staff housing with a private developer and recuperate the money over time through a return on investment agreement it would provide a construction incentive and free the GNWT from the long-term costs of maintenance and management. Combined with stronger legislation to ensure proper maintenance and building standards and housing would no longer be a barrier to finding and keeping staff. With 97.5 per cent of teachers living in the community in which they work there is a solid business case for such a project as the private owner would be guaranteed tenants. Such a plan might also help free the GNWT of the costs associated with housing temporary health-care staff who might choose to stay longer if suitable accommodations were available.

Through this report, as well as the Department of Education Culture and Employment's review of the territory's education system, and the brave and necessary narratives from the teachers themselves, the GNWT must understand there is a crisis affecting those whose job it is to instill the territory's youth with knowledge. It is an issue that demands immediate action.

The government must listen to the pleas from our territory's educators. An investment in the well-being of teachers through proper housing will in turn invest in higher retention, student success and economic development in communities.

Northern talent showcased on national stage
NWT News/North - Monday, May 13, 2013

Artists from the NWT have returned home from a tremendous opportunity in the nation's capital to showcase their work. Northern Scene featured music, dance, visual arts, literature, food and fashion from the North from April 25 to May 4. The showcase was part of a series of festivals representing Canada's regions over the past 10 years to highlight artists and work from various regions.

Northern art and culture is something alluring and exotic to southern audiences, and judging by the masses that converged on Ottawa's National Arts Centre it's obviously thirsted for. Two shows put on by drum dancing groups were sold out. There was also an artists' market buzzing with shoppers hoping to get their hands on Northern art.

Media coverage from the event also ensured the stories of talent during the festival spread beyond the art centre's walls. Northern Scene opened Southern eyes to the fascinating ingenuity and craftsmanship of NWT artists. Not only did it show off the traditional pieces of art and performances from this territory, but also placed an important spotlight on the contemporary art that is being created every day.

The success of the festival calls for future events similar in scale for Northern artists to visit outside markets and shine.

Words can end the cycle
Nunavut News/North - Monday, May 13, 2013

We hope last week's article on Emanuel Maktar's efforts to raise awareness and spur discussion about suicide through a Pond Inlet walk will encourage others to follow in his footsteps.

Maktar, who lost his two older brothers to suicide, told Nunavut News/North that talking about the issue is very important, and that people can't just let their feelings turn dark in quietude when someone they love takes their own life ("Action against tragic problem," May 6). He's right.

First, let's look at it by the numbers. As of last summer there had been 379 suicides since 1999 in this territory of approximately 33,588 people. The age range of that group - 313 males, 66 females - went from 62 down to 12 years old. If we extrapolate, Nunavut's average of 29 suicides per year, per 33,588 people, would be 86 suicides per 100,000 people. Canada's national average is 11 suicides per 100,000 people.

Statistically, the problem is staggering. Looking at the human effects paints an even tougher picture.

The pall of grief after a suicide can wreak havoc on a community. Family and friends are distraught, sometimes irreconcilable. Acquaintances or even friends of friends, if not grieving directly for the victim, are grieving for those they love who are in pain. When considering the population numbers, it usually means entire communities suffer from these tragic death. It takes a while for someone to even wrap their mind around what happened, and then there is the battle to try and shake free of the darkness of it.

All the while, it's so hard to talk about. Such discussions are fraught with questions of why someone would take their life, and with guilt - almost always misplaced - at not having helped prevent the death.

Feelings of guilt, longing, depression and loneliness that arise from a loved one's death - self-inflicted or otherwise - are too heavy a burden to bear alone. The same can be said of bad feelings born from abuse, relationship troubles, or personal struggles with addiction, among other issues prevalent in the North.

Those struggling with depression or loss should talk to friends or family. If that's not a resource they can tap into, or if they want to talk to a professional, they can call the help-phone lines that are available to Nunavummiut.

Walks such as Maktar's and events organized by the Embrace Life Council are the perfect places to go for support. They're opportunities to be open for the day, to have these discussions and to see that those struggling are not alone. As famed fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was known to say, "There is nothing new under the sun" - other people have climbed out of the dark places one visits when depressed, or when they've lost someone to suicide. If you're there right now, seek these people out and use their road maps to healing. It won't necessarily be easy, but it's worth it. The cycle of suicide, loss, depression and more suicide can and must be broken.

If you need to talk to someone, the number for the Nunavut Kamatsaiqtut Help Line is 1-800-265-3333, and the number for the Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868.

NWT donors can help
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 10, 2013

There are some obvious practical limitations to donating organs in the Northwest Territories.

Our tiny population precludes us from having a donor pool of much significance. The territory's isolation from other population centres in the country is another hindering factor.

Nonetheless, that doesn't mean we must check ourselves out of the equation altogether. Nor should we rely entirely on the generosity of southern donors when we or our loved ones are in desperate need of a replacement organ, such as a new heart, liver, or lungs.

According to the Department of Health and Social Services, it is possible to have deceased persons from the Northwest Territories flown down to Edmonton to have their organs harvested for donations. This has happened before but not for many years, says one official.

Perhaps what's needed is a little more incentive from the territorial government to educate Northerners that while we may be far away from harvesting facilities, as long as we have medevac flights, organ donations are possible.

Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny has been advocating for organ donor stickers on NWT driver's licences. While the decision to donate organs is still ultimately up to the families of the deceased, having a person's declared desire to donate their organs on something as universal as a driver's licence would be a powerful incentive for families and doctors to try and fulfil that wish.

Of course, for such a program to succeed requires a willing public to participate. Likely few people think about the importance of filling out organ donor cards until they themselves or a loved one are in need. The families featured in last Friday's Yellowknifer ("Waiting to live") show there is a need, made no less urgent by our territory's small population.

What happens to us after we die is not something most people wish to contemplate. But with a little more forward thinking and some public education, a day may come when NWT organ donors can make a difference. For a desperate family in need, it only takes one.

Opening doors for seniors
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 10, 2013

Last year, a report released by Avens - a Community for Seniors - called on private investors to develop more seniors housing in the city.

With the news that Granite Ventures is constructing a four-storey, 26-unit condominium complex for seniors in the area of 50 Avenue that already caters to seniors housing, such as Aven Manor and Northern United Place, it appears the call has been answered.

Greg Littlefair, the company's director, says the project will be the first of its kind in the city, being both affordable and green, while catering exclusively to residents 50 years old and older.

Clearly this kind of housing is needed in this city where residents are staying longer and living longer. According to the Avens report, the city's population of residents 60 years and older will grow to 16.2 per cent by 2025 from seven per cent in 2010, which translates into a projected 3,725 seniors living in a city of nearly 23,000.

Already, we're seeing wait times for seniors housing that are far too unacceptable. Earlier this year, Maureen "Squeak" Hall told of waiting nine years before finally being accepted into an apartment at Avens.

Long-time Yellowknife resident Theresa Crane's wish to get into a home with assisted living arrangements went unfulfilled. She died before an opening could be found.

Keeping seniors in Yellowknife adds to a vibrant community. Granite Ventures' new project will help make that possible.

The path to entrepreneurship
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, May 9, 2013

In February, the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy advisory panel came to Fort Simpson.

During two sessions, approximately 36 residents, many part of the business community, discussed what is lacking and what is working for Fort Simpson's economy. One of the topics that was raised is how to develop and promote entrepreneurship in the village and the region. Many participants in the meetings agreed entrepreneurs are needed to create new businesses that would complement and support the region's economy. Most participants were also uncertain about how a sense of entrepreneurship could be developed.

A perfect answer was on display at Thomas Simpson School on May 6. A ceremony was held at the school to officially launch the Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program.

The program's goals include teaching aboriginal youth about business and entrepreneurship and encouraging them to complete their high school education and go on to post-secondary studies. For the Grade 11 portion of the program, which the school has been offering since January, students are challenged to develop an idea for a business.

With the help of a mentor and the program workbook, the students then work through all the stages of planning necessary for that business until they are ready to write a business plan.

The entrepreneurial business ideas that have emerged from the class are first rate. They include a hair salon, an expediting company to move people and goods and a business that caters to renting boats and ATVs to tourists. Dalton Simba, a student from Kakisa, is writing his business plan about opening a clothing store that would sell brand-name clothes. Simba, however, is also already considering opening a paintball business in his home community after he graduates. Having visited with tourists who stop at the local park, he knows there is a demand.

The Aboriginal Youth Entrepreneurship Program is proving that entrepreneurial values can be instilled in the younger generations in the Deh Cho. If programs like this one continue to receive support in the Deh Cho's schools through mentorship by community members and sponsorship, the economic future of the region will be bright indeed.

In a few years, the students who participate in the program could become the next business leaders in the communities across the region.

Praying for lower heating bills
Editorial Comment by T. Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, May 9, 2013

If you were looking for evidence that Inuvik's energy crisis has gotten out of hand, look no further than the famous Igloo Church.

In an interview last week, parish council spokesperson Doug Robertson spoke at length of how the church is struggling to keep up with heating bills that have jumped to an average of $3,400 a month from $2,000. That's not exactly a tenable financial position for any organization to be in.

Robertson said he's heard rumours the other Inuvik churches are experiencing similar problems. While they hadn't returned calls to the Inuvik Drum by press deadline, there's no reason to think their situation is much different.

It's been a long, cold winter and spring has yet to fully set in. If religious organizations are staggering under the yoke of paying that much to heat their buildings, it's not difficult to imagine how business and residential customers are also suffering.

It's a ridiculous situation for the town to be in. As has been reported repeatedly, Inuvik and the Beaufort Delta region are swimming in natural gas reserves.

What many Inuvik residents find frustrating, and I have to agree with them, is that these reserves aren't being utilized because it's not "financially and economically feasible."

Why can't a bit of humanity play in? In a region that has given years of oil supply, it is easy for residents to become cynical when their quality of life seems to be a non-issue as companies and government jockey for a profitable solution.

Gas companies have the right to make profits and face pressure from shareholders to do so. As well, the regulatory process for resource development in the North is notoriously complex. What we need is decisive action from the territorial government to encourage oil and gas activity in the region, through streamlining the regulatory process. It was the territorial government, after all, which encouraged Inuvik residents to sign on to natural gas in the first place, in the late 1990s.

Some people scoff at the cost of building the permanent road to Tuktoyaktuk, or the proposed construction of a Mackenzie Valley highway, but that's short-sighted thinking. As one of the consultants on the Mackenzie Valley fibre link project put it, sometimes projects make better social and human sense than economic or financial sense.

The same thing applies to the energy woes here in Inuvik and the Mackenzie Delta. The cost of living is getting way too high. Our business and government leaders must step up to the plate to bring the costs of heat in this Arctic community down to an acceptable level or we risk losing residents.

Dog owners create the problems
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It was a horror story for one Yellowknife resident who described to city council an ongoing problem with her neighbour, who kept anywhere from two to seven large dogs unattended in the backyard. The animals would bark for extended periods of time and the stench coming from the yard because of feces and urine was unbearable.

She went to council for a second time last year seeking a solution to the problem, which she said has existed since 2004, and accused the city of encouraging disputes between neighbours because of their lack of action. Her first complaint was made in 2010. One other person made a complaint to the city about a neighbouring property where dogs were left to bark excessively and the yard stank.

Finally, after the Government of the NWT made amendments to its Dog Act, city administration began revising the dog bylaw for council's consideration. The draft bylaw sets out the duties and obligations of persons who own or are in charge of an animal. It would make owners responsible for providing adequate food, water, care, shelter, ventilation and space. The draft bylaw proposes to increase penalties, including allowing a judge to ban an offender from owning or controlling animals. In response to comments from residents, the draft bylaw addresses concerns such as noise caused by excessive barking and the effects of the build up of dog feces.

Some councillors wanted to go further by placing a limit on the number of dogs that can be on one property. As a result, the city posted a survey online which asks residents, "Do you feel that there should be a limit placed on the number of dogs a person may own or possess on their property?" Respondents can answer yes or no, then add a comment if they choose, in advance of a public meeting scheduled for May 16.

We sympathize with the plight of the two people who live next to problem neighbours, especially in light of the long delay for action to be taken. But, in our view, the issue centers around just that, the neighbours. It is not the dogs' fault that no one has cleaned up after them, or that an irresponsible owner leaves them alone and unattended in the yard for hours on end.

There are numerous dogs and dog owners in the city and there have been two complaints.

City councillors should keep this issue in perspective. The draft dog bylaw has enough teeth for action to be taken against the few irresponsible dog owners.

Many responsible dog owners, on the other hand, cherish their pets, consider them a member of the family and don't want to be restricted on the number of dogs they choose to own.

Taking civic pride into the streets
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Imagine 24 big bags of garbage strewn throughout downtown, including cigarette butts, soggy cardboard, fast food containers and a winter's worth of other disgusting detritus.

That gross mess would still be snaking through the streets today were it not for 55 residents who collected about two dozen large bags of trash in the centre of town on Earth Day, April 22.

The receding snow and ice revealed the blanket of litter last month, and a record number of volunteers signed up to help clear it away alongside organizer Paul Falvo and Ecology North's Earth Week co-ordinator Cat McGurk.

Staff at Javaroma, one of the businesses that regularly supports the summer community cleanup events, treated the volunteers to free coffee and tea when the job was done. It was a team effort!

Unfortunately, curbside garbage is like the many-headed hydra of Greek and Roman myth - pick up one piece of trash and two more will soon appear to take its place. In the absence of a hero such as Hercules to slay the problem for us single-handedly, keeping our downtown clean will require more collective efforts similar to that seen on Earth Day.

Tidy streets elevate our civic self-esteem and help polish the impression tourists take home after visiting our exciting subarctic city.

Hopefully the 55 volunteers who showed up last month will return for the next cleanup along with a few family members, friends and neighbours to help.

The next community litter pickup event is planned for May 22.

Standing up for the herd
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Kudos to the Government of Nunavut (GN) for upping the $100,000 to have a third consecutive population survey done this month on the Southampton caribou herd.

The herd has been fighting for its very survival the past few years, and has found a pair of worthy allies in GN regional biologist Mitch Campbell and the Coral Harbour Hunters and Trappers Organization (HTO) led by chairperson Noah Kadluk.

The drop in the Southampton population during the past few years has been nothing short of staggering, as the herd has fought against two of its oldest foes; the brucellosis disease and the hunter.

Less than two decades ago, the Southampton herd numbered more than 30,000.

The 2011 survey placed that number at about 7,500 animals. The news from the following survey in 2012 was even worse, with the population dropping to less than 6,000.

It was only then, when the numbers dropped so low, the Coral HTO was finally able to convince most local hunters on the need to place a 1,000animal limit on the harvest.

Kadluk and the rest of the Coral HTO members deserve a lot of credit for their bravery in pushing through the limit.

It is not easy to make such a decision in a small community, especially one that relies on tuktu as much as Coral Harbour.

Add to that a number of hunters lining their pockets with good money by taking advantage of the low shipping rates on country food to sell caribou meat across Nunavut, and there can be little doubt a tense situation had developed in the community.

It's not easy to have your voice heard on what's right at the best of times, but throw a healthy dose of greed into the mix and things can get downright scary.

But, if the annihilation of the herd isn't stopped and the caribou given the chance to recover, where does that leave the many Coral Harbour families who depend on tuktu to make up a substantial part of their household food?

Campbell has been an absolute bulldog in drawing attention to the plight of the herd during the past few years.

He has not been shy about calling out the wildlife management partners on their lack of action in addressing the emergency, nor showing up in person to back the Coral HTO during public meetings.

The Coral HTO needed the backing of Nunavut Environment Minister James Arreak to get the existing 1,000 limit in place, and it may require the GN's muscle again in setting a quota by July 1, should the current survey come back with less-than-encouraging numbers.

Hopefully, the survey will show the Southampton herd has, at least, stabilized. But, even so, the road to a full recovery is a long and rocky one at best.

If a repeat of the 1950s extinction of the herd through over-harvesting is to be avoided, the Southampton caribou will need people like Campbell and Kadluk to keep fighting on their behalf.

Hopefully, enough people have finally got the memo on how perilous the situation is, and more voices will be added to protect such a valuable resource to the people of Coral Harbour.

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