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Victims over and over again
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Dempster family members, in the world of criminal justice, are secondary victims that continue to be victimized.

A year after 15-year-old Cody Dempster was found dead by a downtown dumpster on May 3, 2011, RCMP announced it suspected foul play. This announcement at least offered hope that the case would soon be solved and the perpetrators brought to justice.

But now, even though the family and Dempster's best friend claim to know what happened to him - that some older teens spiked his drink with a fatal dose of drugs in an apparent prank and then moved his body out of their home to avoid probing questions from police - hope has faded into frustration.

Cody's brother, Ryan, says he sees the people allegedly responsible for his brother's death around town and can't understand how they've escaped justice.

For whatever reason, the police have moved this case down the pile. Until people with knowledge of Dempster's death come forward, justice for him and grieving family members will remain on the back burner.

By speaking with Yellowknifer, the Dempster family is appealing to their last hope - the public.

Information can be shared anonymously - through Crime Stoppers - information that could break the case, serve justice, and help lay to rest the daily living nightmare of this family, and help them restore their own lives.

The family needs such people to come forward so they can walk these streets knowing justice for Cody and themselves has been done, and done properly.

Report lacks credibility
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Northern business has had its share of criticism from customers and tourists alike, but a recent report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has many scratching their heads.

The territorial government scored an F in its recent red tape report card. The analyst, Amber Ruddy, explained the federation wants the GNWT to "get a better sense of what red tape means to small business and measure it" in terms or regulations business owners have to comply with, the time it takes and costs to comply with those rules. The report also cites "silly rules, paperwork and poor customer service" that private companies in the North have to endure.

While the report states a few well-known issues, it is long on criticism and short on details. The definition of "silly rules" is vague at best and does not point out what these rules are and why they are silly. It also offers no examples of the excessive paperwork.

Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger says he is mystified by the low score, going as far as to ask whom the independent business federation was talking to when it was compiling its report.

The good news is Miltenberger seems to be taking cutting red tape seriously. Recent changes at the Department of Transportation by eliminating licence plate tags and going almost completely digital shows the GNWT wants to make it easier for businesses and residents to navigate government channels.

The independent business federation could carry more creditability and be a more accurate barometer for government bureaucracy if it gathered more specifics from its Northern members.

NHLers have had their day at Olympics
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

It's the heart of tournament season for hockey fans in the Kivalliq, and talk around Rankin Inlet is plentiful concerning local on-ice happenings, but it's got some stiff competition among puck heads with Olympic hockey starting today.

The list of star players not competing at Sochi - Henrik Sedin for Sweden, Marian Gaborik for Slovakia and Steven Stamkos for Canada to name a few - continues to grow, and so does the debate on whether the NHL should continue to allow its players to compete at the Olympics.

When it comes to the Olympics, one of my pet peeves has always been those who point to them as a prime example of how good hockey can be without fighting and intense bodychecking.

The reason this argument doesn't hold water is, really, quite simple.

Using pros at any given Olympics, there are six teams with a legitimate chance to medal in hockey, let alone win gold.

When the day comes the NHL and the NHLPA agree to contract the greatest league in the world down to six teams again, that argument will have credibility and not a day before!

But the real gist of the controversy surrounding NHL players at the Olympics is the question of is it really the best thing for the NHL?

Since the initial buzz created when NHL players were first allowed to play in the Olympics in 1998, there is no evidence their participation has helped grow the NHL or increase its exposure.

And, even that first year in 1998 in Nagano, Japan, left the NHL with a black eye when a number of Team U.S.A. players trashed their rooms in the Olympic village.

And let's not even discuss Canadian coach Marc Crawford, who let his ego run wild, leaving the greatest player in the history of the game, Wayne Gretzky, sitting on the bench during Canada's lost semifinal shootout against the Czech Republic.

Flyers owner Ed Snider expressed his disdain for NHLers at the Olympics this past week and who can blame him?

His team was on a roll after a horrid start to the season and will now have that momentum stalled for the two-week break to accommodate the Sochi Games.

And, as an aside on the women's side of the ledger, exactly how many times do we have to watch the Americans and the Canadians annihilate their competition while we wait for the growth of the game on the international level?

As much as hockey is almost a religion among millions of Canadians, let's be totally honest for a minute.

What memory almost always springs to mind when it comes to the greatest moment in Olympic hockey history?

Feb. 22, 1980, when Team U.S.A. upset the Russians 4-3 in medal play.

In the 16 years since NHLers have been allowed to participate in the Olympics, they haven't produced a moment that comes close to rivalling the American's Miracle on Ice.

In recalling what it was like to play on that team, Neil Broten said he wishes the Olympics would go back to the way it was back then.

He said, "We were just a bunch of kids who loved to play hockey."

Maybe it's time to create another miracle, of sorts, and take Olympic hockey away from the multi-millionaires and give it back to those who play just for the love of the game.

Devolution dishonored
NWT News/North - Monday, February 10, 2014

Has Premier Bob McLeod and cabinet traded the recently hard-won trust of Tlicho, Sahtu and Gwich'in people for devolution?

At a meeting last week in Yellowknife to address the devolution and regulatory system omnibus bill with the federal Special Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, McLeod said, "Whatever their views on this specific legislation, I hope everyone in the Northwest Territories supports the basic premise that decisions about the North should be made as close to home as possible."

Ironically, input over those decisions - despite the government's continued assertions to the contrary -- will be seriously diluted by the other half of the devolution bill which will dissolve regional land and water boards for the creation of a single super board.

It's not the first time cabinet crumbled when given a choice between standing up to Ottawa and the security of its devolution negotiations.

In February 2013, cabinet teamed up to help defeat a motion made by MLA Bob Bromley to

criticize the conservative government for its lack of consultation regarding changes to national environmental legislation.

The debate at that time demonstrated that criticizing Ottawa was off bounds.

Whether Ottawa has the right to create a super board in the NWT is irrelevant. What matters is three groups of people fought hard for the right to self-government and negotiated in good faith for the right to help shape decisions at the regional level. They have been abandoned by their government.

Accepting the linkage of the two distinctly different legislative bills affecting the NWT betrays the Sahtu, Tlicho and Gwich'in governments who all worked with the GNWT until they had built the trust to sign onto the devolution. The Gwich'in went so far as to drop a lawsuit that might have held up the deal. Premier McLeod's leadership was applauded.

Then, on a political whim, Bill C-15 turned devolution into Ottawa's proverbial carrot on the stick. The GNWT leadership chose to sacrifice its relations with aboriginal governments, a stark contrast to the goal the assembly began with, which was to strengthen those bonds.

While devolution is undeniably good for the NWT, what the GNWT is losing in return - regional input, trust and co-operation, not to mention political integrity - tarnishes the accomplishment.

Worse, this so-called super board is nothing more than a public relations move to placate the global, cash-starved mining industry at the expense of Northerners.

The regional boards, by all accounts, worked with industry and bolstered public confidence that development was being done to the benefit of the people affected.

It was the federally anointed, unmoving Mackenzie pipeline review board, the patronage-riddled Mackenzie Valley Environmental Review Board and successive name-changing, game-changing federal cabinet ministers which were all directly responsible, yet unaccountable, for stalling any projects.

Yet neither McLeod nor cabinet uttered one public word of defence. To lose after a good fight brings honor. Offering no resistance brings the opposite.

Need to reach out for opportunities
Nunavut News/North - Monday, February 10, 2014

It's all about building momentum, raising awareness, getting people talking about Nunavut and doing business in the territory.

The Northern Lights 2014 Business and Cultural Showcase Jan. 29 to Feb. 1 in Ottawa achieved all that and more. About 200 exhibitors, dozens of artists, scores of business people, government officials and politicians played host to thousands of guests.

Visitors viewed unique art, explored business opportunities, heard impassioned speeches and rubbed shoulders with Inuit leaders. The event attracted people from across Canada, the United States and Europe.

There is something to be said about the huge advantage which results from meeting movers and shakers face to face. Being able to get to know people in person increases the chances of building a relationship that will pay off in the long run.

Representatives of a video game company in Pangnirtung and a marketer of art products from Gjoa Haven both considered the time spent at Northern Lights beneficial for future business opportunities, including forging partnerships with people outside the territory. Interest in the Arctic is growing by leaps and bounds, and the biannual showcase in Ottawa is growing, too.

The Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce, which co-organized the four-day biannual event, did an admirable job of creating a venue where visitors were able to gather and really absorb what Nunavut has to offer.

Trade show organizers can talk about some highlights of the event, along with the number of exhibitors and attendees the show brought out. Something that isn't immediately tangible is the benefit of putting concerted energy into setting up exhibits and answering questions.

Premier Peter Taptuna spoke about the importance of education, business opportunities and growth in the communities. He observed the amount of networking at the showcase and was optimistic that results will be seen in the coming years as business people and government develop the connections they have made into economic activity.

Nunavummiut are making efforts to expand their business opportunities within the North, too. The Kitikmeot Trade Show, which begins today in Cambridge Bay, highlights the wealth of opportunities in the Kitikmeot region and across the territory. It features exhibitor booths for businesses and government, an art market, a presentation by a youth delegation, entertainment by Nunavut musicians, a presentation on the Canadian High Arctic Research Station and numerous networking possibilities.

Last year's event drew almost 50 exhibitors and almost 200 delegates representing a cross-section of sectors, including mining and exploration, hospitality, construction, fashion, arts and crafts, aviation, government and aboriginal organizations

We are confident that spreading the word about the vast opportunities waiting in Nunavut is bound to pay dividends, now and in the future.

Control for control's sake
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, February 7, 2014

Plans for one couple to open a brew pub in Yellowknife and recent discussion over the liquor laws governing bars and pubs has brought attention back to the bizarre restrictions on sales, advertising and hours of operation imposed upon alcohol-related businesses.

The Northwest Territories has some of the strictest liquor sale and advertising laws in the country, including bars and pubs being forced to close on Sundays.

Over the past 10 years, retailers have been allowed to open if they choose but bars and pubs whose primary sales are in liquor and beer have been forced to keep their doors shut.

Bar and pub owners have rightfully complained about the lopsided rules over advertising. Liquor stores can advertise special product prices, but bars cannot make any mention of either product or prices.

For example, the Yellowknife Racquet Club and Kingpin Bowling Centre can open on Sunday and sell liquor but Sam's Monkey Tree Pub cannot, all because the latter is a different classification than the former two.

Equally strange is the open for 10 Sundays a year provision. Why only 10? Why not 20, 30, or all 52?

Could not bars and pubs to earn more revenue and hire more staff to work the extra hours?

As more people move to the territory and Yellowknife for jobs, they should be given a variety of options to go somewhere to enjoy a drink and social time with friends and family besides a handful of restaurants or their own homes.

Now, Miranda Stevens and Fletcher Stevens have applied to open a brew pub in Old Town. So far, they say the biggest concern their potential neighbours have voiced has been parking. But the idea of a brew pub, which will be the only one in the city, has been welcomed.

The popularity of microbreweries has taken off across North America as entrepreneurs produce their own brands and give people a local option for their beer and spirits choices.

While admittedly not as healthy as Northern-grown vegetables, it's far better to have a locally produced option for a major consumer item such as beer

We will be following the Stevens as they pursue their venture and monitor the hurdles they face to open a brew pub. Yellowknife MLAs should do the same. They are the best ones to ensure sanity prevails with modern legislation governing liquor laws.

One of the primary goals of the GNWT and Yellowknife government should be to encourage economic growth.

Hanging on to draconian liquor laws will only serve to inhibit local consumer spending, fail to enhance tourism and discourage potential entrepreneurs.

Frank talk about the health system
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, February 6, 2013

It's refreshing and almost surprising to hear politicians be blunt when something they are responsible for overseeing isn't functioning the way it should.

Glen Abernethy, the minister of health and social services, was very upfront with Fort Simpson residents who attended a community meeting on Jan. 30. Abernethy, who's only been in the position for three months, spoke frankly about the issues the health and social services system in the territory, which is based on regional authorities, has. He agreed with residents at the meeting that there are barriers in the system that are stopping people from getting the seamless, timely and efficient care they need.

When speaking about the medical travel system, Abernethy went as far as to use the word crazy multiple times to describe its current state. He was also upfront about what that means for the territory.

"It's costing a fortune," he said.

In admitting the current system's faults, Abernethy wasn't just pandering to the crowd and placating them by agreeing with most of the comments and questions that they made. He was able to back up his comments with information about the work that the department is currently doing to make changes to the system that will hopefully remove the barriers to care and create efficiencies that will make the system sustainable, which more or less means affordable.

People in the Deh Cho, as well as the rest of the territory, should follow the progress of these proposed changes closely. The territory's health system is, after all, something that every resident has to use sooner or later.

Many people seem to have stories about how the system has let them down, but also how things have, on occasion, gone right. It's important that those stories are shared with the proper people with the regional authorities so mistakes can be learned from and policies to prevent them from happening again can be included in the changes that are underway.

Ideally, Abernethy's openness will extend throughout the process of changing the system.

He did talk about some of the consultation that will be taking place in relation to the upcoming changes.

Residents have to ensure that their voices are heard during that process. It is in everyone's interest to create the best system possible.

Hopefully one that no longer has parts that can be described as crazy.

Get out of the way of progress
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, February 6, 2013

I was very interested last week to peruse the Canadian Federation of Independent Business's 2014 report on red tape in Canada.

Interestingly, the NWT was given a failing grade on the issue amongst the participating jurisdictions, including the federal government. Only Nunavut wasn't ranked in the report.

The NWT had the only failing grade in the report, and its position declined from a D- in 2013.

I'm not at all surprised at that. The NWT, in my opinion, has a real problem with not only red tape, but a serious lack of transparency and openness that goes beyond the GNWT.

I'm not so certain, though, that it's the result of anything particularly deliberate in nature. I think, instead, it's the result of inefficiencies and a territory-wide political culture of indifference to how things are done. Just trying to get those things done trumps any concept that we should be doing them better.

That's understandable, to a certain extent. The NWT has neither the breadth of political experience of the provinces, or likely even the Yukon, to fall back on. Instead, it's still suffering from some rather severe growing pains on this front.

However, this is an issue that all of our political representatives and political classes need to start grappling with. As business people might say, it's time the government got out of the way of progress.

That's a little harsh, but there is no sustainable excuse for our political representatives to continue to be a roadblock to simple, efficient government.

It's time to develop an acceptable professional standard for government business and activities that better balances the protection of the public interest against competing interests, such as resource extraction and economic development.

That doesn't mean bending over backwards to accommodate such interests. It does mean providing a fair process with a minimum of bureaucratic bafflegab and complications.

I sent the report to several local politicians and government representatives, including Mayor Floyd Roland, senior administrative officer Grant Hood, MLA Alfred Moses and Peter Clarkson, the top-ranking government bureaucrat in the area.

Only Clarkson responded in a timely fashion. Not surprisingly, he didn't want to comment on the report. As an unelected government representative, that's likely appropriate.

His response, though undoubtedly meant to be tongue-in-cheek, inadvertently put his finger on the problem of NWT government efficiency and lack of transparency.

"Nope ... my lips are sealed," he stated in an e-mail. "Looks like a political area of response."

Thanks, Mr. Clarkson for defining the problem so concisely. Too many lips are sealed and there is too much "passing of the buck."

Maybe the NWT can try for a passing grade in 2015. As they say, hope springs eternal.

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