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NWT News/North - Monday, May 20, 2013

A massive wastage of meat was discovered by patrolling Department of Environment and Natural Resources officers outside of Gameti late last month. The parts from at least 50 caribou at 12 different sites near the south shore of Hottah Lake were abandoned by hunters.

The animals are believed to be part of the Bluenose-East herd, a species being monitored to help recover the declining population. A moratorium on resident, outfitted and commercial hunting of barren-ground caribou was initiated by the GNWT in January 2010 and the herds' sizes have been growing steadily ever since. For the Bluenose-East herd, a limited aboriginal harvest started up again in December 2010 but the wildlife zone where this recent incident took place is open to an unlimited aboriginal harvest.

But after observing such a blatant disregard for the animal, the herd and the environment, it is necessary that no caribou, of any herd, be hunted without tags. While the aboriginal subsistence harvest is important and ingrained in tradition, this situation needs to be brought under control.

This slaughter undermines aboriginal hunters' claim of being stewards of the land, and the lessons that have been taught through the generations to use the whole animal and not leave anything behind. This issue also reinforces a feeling of discrimination on the resident hunters who have been forced to put down their rifles when it comes to caribou for years now.

It is a horrible sight to see, an appalling waste of meat, and a show of cruel disrespect for the animal.

The hunters that did this don't seem concerned they will be caught, or concerned for the wildlife. This type of unsustainable harvesting cannot be allowed to continue.

Enforcing the use of tags for all caribou so each animal is accounted for and nothing is wasted will hopefully ensure something like this doesn't happen again.

Hunting is a privilege that comes with responsibility, and if this responsibility is disrespected, serious consequences must ensue.

Northern oil spill response team needed
NWT News/North - Monday, May 20, 2013

A report issued by an oil response working group, including departments from the territorial, federal governments as well as the Inuvialuit Game Council, expresses the need for an oil-spill-response team for potential drilling project in the Beaufort Sea.

While industry needs plans in place for issues that might arise in accordance with the National Energy Board, a supplementary team made up of members of Beaufort Delta communities to help respond to disaster would benefit the area through training and jobs, as well as offer support to drilling companies. While there are currently no active offshore drilling projects, the proactive development of such a team would instill a sense of inclusion from residents in the event of any future activity in the area.

Tuktoyaktuk Mayor Merven Gruben is asking for a team similar to the Beaufort Sea Oil Spill Cooperative, which was in place in the 1970s to the 1990s when hydrocarbon exploration was booming. It is significant for Gruben to say this should be in place, and encourage the training of residents as well as situating specialized equipment - such as booms and skimmers -- in the Beaufort Delta. It shows an active interest from the area in regards to possible development in the region. People in the region want and deserve to benefit from future employment, training, and the knowledge they are participating in the protection of their environment.

Getting residents involved in industry projects down the road and giving them the ability to mitigate environmental threats will cultivate confidence in exploration, and create a community-based foundation for development in the region.

Food solutions gain momentum
Nunavut News/North - Monday, May 20, 2013

The ideas coming out of Nunavut's Food Security Symposium are providing momentum for change.

There is hunger down south, but in the North's geography and climate aggravate the issues. There are no economies of scale. Communities were established not due to regional industries and economic opportunities, but to organize nomadic peoples into more easily-governable communities that at the same time would establish Canada's claim to the Arctic. Compared to the prosperity of the provinces, Nunavut is a misfit jurisdiction - the basic human needs of food and shelter enjoyed by the rest of Canadians are fulfilled inadequately at best for much of the population.

Government and resource extraction jobs pay very well but they aren't available to everyone. A large chunk of the population is struggling. According to the Nunavut Anti-Poverty Secretariat's report Understanding Poverty in Nunavut, half of Nunavut's population of 34,028 people accesses income support for at least a portion of every year, and nearly 70 per cent of Nunavummiut children live in households deemed food insecure. While the report does not define the age range of "children," according to Statistics Canada, 10,430 of the territory's residents are under 14 years old.

The difficulties in putting food on the table in Nunavut are legion. With no roads linking Nunavut communities to each other or the south, as well as an ocean and climate that provide a very small shipping season, food is mostly flown in. Although shipping of certain foods is subsidized by the federal government through Nutrition North, it's still consistently more expensive to buy food in the North than in the south.

Since Nunavut is part of Canada, the food brought up is part of the sophisticated Western supply chain. Grocery stores have aisles dedicated to mass-produced, cheap junk food such as chips and candy, which are relatively inexpensive. These foods, though carefully crafted to satisfy taste buds on the cheap, are detrimental to the health of those who eat them regularly. As of 2006, a little less than a quarter of Inuit adults were obese, according to Statistics Canada, and more than a quarter of children ages six to 14 were obese. Being "well-fed" does not mean being nourished - chips and pop offer nothing but salt and sugar, which will pack on pounds while providing little to no nourishment.

Food insecurity gave rise to protests across the territory, placing much blame on Nutrition North, but there are many factors at play in this issue. Leaders have begun to take action. The Nunavut Food Security Symposium brought together Nunavummiut business leaders, political leaders and others to discuss possible solutions in January. People discussed how to commercialize country food - a key component in local food production - and considered a territorial sales tax designed to help hunters.

A sales tax of, say, two per cent on goods - other than food - could help the territory to develop community infrastructure so hunters can store, prepare, share and sell their harvests. Another big step has been Quttiqtuq MLA Ron Elliott's Donation of Food Act, which was passed by the legislative assembly earlier this year. Food donors no longer have to worry about liability when donating food to organizations such as food banks. This is vital to ensuring these community-run organizations, which provide a much-needed safety net, can have the resources they need.

These are small steps and are welcome, but bigger steps are needed soon. Without first tackling people's basic needs of food and shelter, efforts to grow Nunavut into a prosperous territory - complete with devolution and a bigger tax base - will remain hamstrung. More than that, the territory's regular people will not have the quality of life they deserve.

Real need for expansion of university education
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 17, 2013

You could hear it in their voices. Graduates from Yellowknife's North Slave Campus of Aurora College really want to further their education by completing a degree program in the NWT.

Unfortunately, for some, their only option right now is to pursue their further learning with online studies, or by relocating to the south to attend a post-secondary institution in another city.

Valedictorian Anne Mackenzie is originally from Behchoko but now lives in Yellowknife. She just completed the social work diploma program but wants to obtain a bachelor degree in social work. That is something she can't do in the NWT capital. In the process of preparing her address to graduates, she heard many heartwarming stories from Aurora College students.

At the convocation on May 4 were graduates with either a master of nursing, a bachelor of science, a social work diploma, a personal support work certificate, a business administration certificate or diploma, or an early childhood development certificate.

The personal support work certificate, a 10-month program, was custom tailored by the college after the Tlicho Community Services Agency and Tlicho Government asked it to create a program to train staff for an elders home that is being expanded in Behchoko.

We applaud the college for rising to the occasion and creating the program, which resulted in the highest number of graduates from the North Slave Campus, with 84 students accomplishing their goals.

However, more needs to be done to expand the range of post-secondary offerings by Aurora College.

It is interesting to note that one of the requirements of the NWT Chamber of Commerce scholarship program is that recipients of the two $2,500 awards must plan to return to the NWT after their studies are completed. That is one way to get post-secondary graduates to work in the North.

We suggest it makes more sense to offer those people who want to further their studies beyond high school the ability to take a wider range of university and college courses in the NWT because those students who don't get a chamber scholarship and go south to study may never come back.

Of course, the responsibility for expansion of post-secondary education lies with the territorial government and Aurora College administrators. It is a big-money issue, particularly when one considers a standalone campus in Yellowknife is most desirable.

Territorial politicians have paid the issue some lip service in the past. The fourth session of the legislative assembly is set to reconvene on May 29. Appropriately, the 17th assembly's caucus priorities are stated as, "Believing in people and building on the strengths of Northerners."

We challenge MLAs and cabinet ministers to make expansion of post-secondary offerings in Yellowknife a priority.

Public relations disaster at Giant Mine
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, May 17, 2013

The federal government is wildly inconsistent when it comes to public communications on Giant Mine.

Yellowknifer criticized the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development last month after it spent two weeks dithering over its response to accusations from Alternatives North that it deliberately withheld the full cost of cleaning up Giant Mine - $903 million to date - during public hearings into remediation plans last fall.

After first refusing to comment, the department issued a guest column to Yellowknifer from Zoe Raemer, its associate regional director, that ignored the $903-million figure and instead embarked on a confusing discussion on the cost of "implementing" its remediation plan, about $449 million. The department didn't acknowledge until much later that there was a difference between the cost of implementing its remediation plan and the total cost.

On the other hand, last week it couldn't get the news release out fast enough that there had been a minor spill of mine muck into Baker Creek.

Such inconsistencies leads one to wonder how many people have a hand in deciding what is being said publicly, and how many of them are in Yellowknife or in far away Ottawa.

The issue was highlighted again on May 8 during a consultation meeting in Ndilo when an audience member asked what sort of disaster plan the department has should arsenic trioxide escape into the water supply. A good question, and one that deserves a detailed response.

Unfortunately, the Giant Mine remediation team member answering questions at the meeting couldn't provide one. Nor could she point to a publicly available source for residents to examine for themselves. This is truly bad form, and exemplifies how every time the feds try to move an inch forward in its communications efforts on Giant Mine, it's driven a foot back by its lack of preparedness.

This is why people are very nervous as the clean-up team gets set this summer to dismantle old mine workings that are stuffed full of arsenic.

Taking responsibility for devolution
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, May 16, 2013

Devolution. It's something that's been in the news a lot lately and a word that seems to be on the lips of all politicians and leaders.

The question, however, is how much does the regular citizen of the NWT know about devolution and the changes it will bring to the territory. According to Alternatives North, a social justice coalition, most people probably don't know as much as they should.

The organization held a public meeting in Fort Simpson on May 8 as part of an effort to promote thoughtful discussion about devolution and to help people come up with questions they should be asking their MLAs. Alternatives North doesn't think MLAs will debate devolution unless they think their constituents care, which is really the next question.

Do NWT residents care about devolution?

It's impossible to say how much the average person living in Nahanni Butte or Fort Simpson cares about devolution, but even if they don't necessarily care, people do have a responsibility to be informed.

Through devolution, the territorial government will take over responsibility for managing public land, water and resources in the NWT that the federal government currently holds. Devolution, according to the GNWT, will give residents a greater say in how those public lands, water and resources are managed, in how the environment is protected and in how the economy is developed. Devolution will change the territory and the people living in it need to know what those changes will bring.

Some people, however, are taking the stance that devolution is inevitable and will happen whether or not residents like it. The danger with that complacency is that it gives people the false sense that they have no responsibility with regards to devolution.

If people don't take reasonable steps to inform themselves, ask questions and raise concerns, then they are as good as agreeing with devolution. If in a few years down the road, there are aspects of devolution that are not working well for the territory, it will only be those residents who raised concerns and tried to make changes that will have the right to really complain. Conversely, if things go well, those same people can say they actively supported devolution.

Devolution is about to bring a lot of changes to the territory. Residents don't have to care about every little detail, but as responsible citizens they should have an overall understanding of what is coming and how it will affect them, their community and their family. That knowledge can be gained by attending community meetings about devolution, visiting the GNWT's devolution website or by questioning MLAs.

Congratulations to graduates
Editorial Comment by T. Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, May 16, 2013

It was very interesting to attend my first Aurora Campus convocation last week for a few reasons.

First, I didn't expect the graduation ceremony to be such a significant event. In my experience graduation ceremonies are not the social and cultural occasion they are here. So it was a novelty to see the numbers that turned out to view the ceremony.

It was even more remarkable to see the number of senior GNWT bureaucrats attending the ceremony with the blessings of their political masters. All kidding aside about who was minding the shop and doing the work on Friday afternoon, it was another mark of how significant a social milestone it was to have a convocation ceremony here.

I was mulling that over during and after the event, trying to sort out why such a fuss was being made.

Sixteen people graduated during the convocation, which college student wellness counsellor David Bob said is about average, not an unusual or remarkable number for a graduating class.

Instead, it's a reflection of how important education is in this area. To some extent, it's a reflection that access to higher education is still a bit of a novelty here.

I've become a little more familiar with the education system here in the NWT since my arrival and how it differs from my experiences growing up. Even in rural areas of southern Ontario, where graduation rates in high school and beyond have been a cause of concern periodically through the years, it's taken for granted that the vast majority of people will graduate in a timely fashion. A large percentage of them will move on to higher education, either in community college or university. So most people have become blase about the process. Familiarity, after all, breeds indifference.

Not so here. In the North, there's a much better recognition of how much work it takes to earn a diploma or a degree, and how much sacrifice is involved at times. It's also a recognition of a calculated gamble that higher education will pay off with a better life, which is something that people to the south are now beginning to question. A glut of graduates with degrees and diplomas will do that.

Most of the people graduating May 10 were mature students, who have other careers and families. Yet they still made the time to chase a dream to better themselves. As keynote speaker Robert Alexie told them "success begins with education and a plan."

As someone who can honestly be called an "overeducated bum" (two degrees and a college diploma qualify me for that description), I wish them all the best and I too salute their efforts. I also hope to see many more such convocations in years to come.

Bad behaviour, bad bylaw
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

When the city of Calgary passed its public behaviour bylaw in November 2006 - one of the few Canadian cities to have such a bylaw - its stated target were late night revellers getting into fights and trashing the streets after bars closed and after Calgary Flames hockey games.

Opponents of the bylaw argued it would inevitably make homelessness illegal, and result in thousands of tickets being handed out to people who couldn't afford to pay them. Fineable offences include spitting, public urination and defecation, fighting, and inappropriately placing one's feet on public property. Fines range from $50 to $300.

The Calgary Police Service couldn't say who the main recipients of the tickets were during an interview with Calgary newspaper Fast Forward Weekly in 2011. But it did disclose that some 4,869 tickets were handed out in 2010.

Since Yellowknife doesn't have a Red Mile or an NHL sports team it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out who the intended target is now that the city is proposing a behaviour bylaw of its own. The item was presented during a city council strategic planning session two weeks ago.

While the city doesn't often contend with throngs of late-night partiers, it does have a homeless problem. Constant loitering, aggressive panhandling, and filthy downtown streets from spitting and public urination are reasons why Centre Square Mall closed off its south entrance in 2010.

But how futile would it be to give bylaw officers the power to give these people tickets for public behaviour offences? It's probably a safe assumption that they would be about as successful as the courts and the RCMP have been at mitigating the problem under the Criminal Code. If people thought parking ticket clerks have it rough, wait until the city unleashes its behaviour patrol out into the streets.

City council has made downtown revitalization a priority. Coping with Yellowknife's homeless population poses a very difficult challenge. But it's wasting its time trying to police it.

Emphasizing street and facade revitalization, along with continued advocacy for the expansion of social programs, such as an in-patient rehab clinic, are more productive paths to follow.

A behaviour bylaw can only lead to a ballooning municipal enforcement department no better suited to handling bad behaviour on downtown streets than they are today.

Speaking out about pain
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Patience and pain are perfect strangers, which is why injured worker Bruce McMahon does not wish to wait until next spring for the Workers' Safety and Compensation Commission (WSCC) to review its pain policy.

After breaking six ribs in a fall at work in 2007, the construction worker has suffered from back pain due to a pinched nerve. When the WSCC rejected his application for compensation to cover the cost of expensive pain medication, McMahon appealed to the NWT Human Rights Commission, where a settlement was eventually reached with the WSCC.

McMahon's case points to a crack in the system that needs to be repaired, sooner than later.

The WSCC's Permanent Impairment Rating Guide is presently being reviewed and until that task is complete, the subsequent pain policy review, scheduled for next March, will have to wait, according to commission president Dave Grundy.

While it seems the WSCC is decreasing the number of public complaints from applicants, suggesting the commission achieves far more successes than failures, the lack of consideration given to injured workers suffering from pain disorders requires swift resolution.

McMahon is calling on other injured workers to speak out by contacting their MLAs. Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley is asking for a review of the Workers' Compensation Act.

The WSCC should approach this growing outcry as an opportunity to improve, similar to the way the Department of Education, Culture and Employment vowed to immediately address recommendations by the auditor general of Canada on how to fix problems with the territory's social assistance programs.

Anything less than immediate action would be mean prolonged pain for people such as McMahon.

Spirit and pride par for the course
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A heaping helping of Kivalliq kudos are warranted for everyone involved with the Peter Gzowski Invitational Golf Tournament in Rankin Inlet this past week.

Organizer Adriana Kusugak is bang on when she says the community always steps up to the plate when it comes to supporting a cause.

It really has been a constant source of pride and amazement to me ever since I began calling Rankin home back in 1998.

For the business community, contrary to what some people might think, it's not always easy to simply write a cheque or pull a nice item off a store shelf and donate it to a fundraiser.

Yes, there are more than a few businesses in the Kivalliq that, shall we say, aren't exactly lacking in profits, but even they can experience slow times.

And, just as importantly, they can only say yes so many times.

Smaller and/or newer businesses have a much narrower profit margin to draw from.

Yet, time and time again, they find ways to support the fundraising efforts of worthy causes in our community.

And, I would be remiss if I did not mention our airlines.

As much as we all like to grumble about the cost of our tickets or freight, they also step up to the plate time and time again to provide free passes to be used as raffle or prize items, as well as for celebrity personalities or out-of-town guests and organizers to travel to our community.

They also help out a number of initiatives by shipping donated items to our communities free of charge.

But, beyond the obvious financial contributions from our business and corporate communities, there's also a true sense of community pride in Rankin when it comes to charity work and fundraising efforts.

No matter what one may think of our fine community, to suggest otherwise would be nothing less than sheer folly.

From the annual RCMP Christmas Hamper Drive, to the Terry Fox Run and numerous other cancer fighting activities, our own Deacon's Cupboard operation, literacy events, families in need, sports teams needing to travel and countless other initiatives throughout the year - Rankin Inlet is second to none when it comes to its generosity and community spirit.

Folks who come to help with fundraising events are treated with courtesy and respect, and our volunteers go out of their way to make sure, as best they can, our guests truly enjoy the Rankin experience.

The sense of pride even manifests itself during preparations, when our hamlet workers go the extra mile to add a touch of pizazz to the mix, as we saw this past week with the creation of the snowy golf course on Williamson Lake.

Fundraising and charity work can never solve all our ills, but they can certainly help make life a little better for a lot of folks.

To see a community take such pride in its efforts is truly inspiring.

The entire Kivalliq region is well-known for its generosity and fundraising efforts, but that little extra touch of personality can often go a long way.

And, in Rankin Inlet, that's par for the course.

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