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An important message
NWT News/North - Monday, February 3, 2014

Many media outlets across Canada have blasted Neil Young for his recent treaties tour. Most, if not all, of the attacks are baseless and have only one goal -- to detract from the celebrity's real message.

Young is using his influence to help strengthen the voice of aboriginal people whose treaties - which have been recognized and upheld by federal courts -- have been ignored by industry and government.

There is no denying industry and government support of industry have been trampling the rights of aboriginal people across the nation.

The purpose of the tour was not anti-development or climate change awareness. He is supporting aboriginal people's rightful claim to land that is being taken from them for uses to which they are opposed.

While the Northern territories are working to ensure those rights are protected through benefit agreements, land claims and consultation between industry and communities, we still have a long way to go.

The recent decision by the Yukon government to ignore recommendations from the Peel Watershed Working Group - comprised of both NWT and Yukon aboriginal groups - and open most of the environmentally and traditionally sensitive area to development is evidence of that.

The federal government's devolution bill, which includes changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resources Management Act to create a single review board, is also a direct attack on treaty land rights. Until all the territory's land claims are settled and each of those settlements includes surface and subsurface rights, it is vital the territory retain a strong voice in every region when dealing with proposed developments.

NWT aboriginal groups have emphatically stated that the review process is not broken and are mostly supportive of the current process - more than enough reason to leave it be.

Norman Snowshoe, vice-president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, in response to the Yukon's modified Peel Watershed plan, hit the nail on the head. Continuing to disregard the land claims process and the land rights of aboriginal people will not create the developer confidence territorial, provincial and federal governments are seeking.

In the end, these tactics will foster a confrontational relationship whereby, Snowshoe suggests, aboriginal groups will be forced to take legal action to ensure their interests are heard. There is nothing like a lengthy court battle to create a quagmire of potential development. Simply the suggestion of such opposition might be enough to scare off potential developers and stagnate an economy - the exact opposite of what our misguided governments are trying to accomplish.

For the most part, aboriginal groups are not anti-development. They are, however, more mindful of environmental impacts and have a much better sense of balance and sustainability when considering the types and placement of development on their land compared to their political counterparts at virtually every other level of government.

Failures to protect the environment by industry and government, proven by Alberta's Obed Coal mine spill, which sent a plume of contaminated water all the way to the NWT and the concern of a similar spill from oil sands projects, which would destroy the watershed stretching for hundreds of miles, demonstrate the need for a more sustainable and co-operative approach to land use.

While touring with Young, Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus reiterated that courts have upheld the fact that aboriginal land rights were never given away with the treaty agreements nor legislated away through the Indian Act.

Those court rulings give aboriginal groups solid legal ground to stand on if they choose to fight development they believe will not be in their best interest, whether that be financially, environmentally or culturally.

Ottawa seems intent on pushing blindly forward with development aimed at exploitation of resources. In the process the federal government is exploiting the people who should have the final say.

If it chooses to continue on this path of non-co-operation and disrespect, the environment it will create might become unpalatable for any developer to consider working with.

More muscle, less fat
Nunavut News/North - Monday, February 3, 2014

A recent cash injection for long-term sports development has considerable potential for adding muscle to Nunavut's sports programs, but will it?

Fourteen years after the Canadian Sport Policy was unveiled in Iqaluit, the federal and territorial government announced more than $1 million in new money on Jan. 21 to give the program a fresh mandate for the next two years.

What it should mean is that more Nunavummiut will have access to more sports opportunities.

Achieving fitness through frequent exercise is not as easy as it sounds. Many communities lack the necessary facilities or proper equipment. It is so easy for young people in isolated Northern communities to get bored and turn to unhealthy activities as a result.

Getting them involved in sport combats boredom in a healthy, productive way.

Bal Gosal, the federal minister of State for Sport, told Nunavut News/North that parents and children need to know what physical activity really means, emphasizing the need for physical literacy.

"How to do it right and how to gain valuable lessons from it, that is what's important," Gosal said. "It's good for people to get involved in sport and physical activity because that's the core part of it. But the literacy of it, understanding it, is what's so important."

The funding agreement, split 50/50 between the governments of Canada and Nunavut, means the money will be made available to support a wide range of "physical literacy" programs to be delivered by existing territorial sport organizations and municipal recreation departments.

There are two problems with the funding as we see it. The first is the concept of "physical literacy."

Such a term may fly in meeting rooms at conventions in the south which bring academics and recreation directors together, but what does it mean to the kids in Resolute Bay or Kugluktuk?

The second problem is that the money is going to be filtered through the government of Nunavut's own sport and recreation division. Mindful of the layers of bureaucracy involved, not to mention paperwork, we wonder how this money will ever reach into the homes of those children who need it most?

Our hope is that money will be funneled in a large part to the grassroots organizations in the communities, where young people thirst for a chance to practice their abilities, experience competition, learn sportsmanship, develop a good attitude towards others and generally feel good as a result of pushing the body to its limits.

Any child who embraces the opportunity to become involved in sport may well inoculate themselves against suicidal tendencies and the temptation to make unhealthy choices.

And as the child ages, a routine involving physical activity is natural and sustained, a healthy return on a long-term investment.

The challenge now will be to avoid adding this money to that fat of government and instead put more muscle into community sports.

Are the bureaucrats up to that challenge?

Lessons learned
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, January 31, 2014

An armed standoff is an extended moment of desperation, often lasting hours, with fierce negotiations geared to ensuring everyone comes out safely.

The call transcript and coverage in Yellowknifer from the Karen Lander standoff in March 2012 reveals at least that much. The outcome: officers shooting Lander, who was brandishing an unloaded weapon, while bullets pierced through the walls of an occupied neighbouring home, exposed a lack of preparedness on the RCMP's part.

Fortunately, the force's emergency response unit appears to be shoring up following the tragic incident with Lander, where the Medicine Hat Police Services investigated and made six recommendations to ensure a better response to future standoffs.

While people on the sidelines can hope, and must hope, for the best of all possible outcomes, those in the line of fire, those called to the scene to diffuse the desperate scenario, must strive for it. Anything less increases the chances that tragedy will win the day.

These officers deserve the best training and the best-developed protocols to work with.

RCMP pledged, at the time, to train and equip emergency response teams in the areas identified by the investigators.

During the inquest into Lander's death, a five-person coroner's jury also made recommendations, which we hope were considered seriously by all who received them: the RCMP, Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority, the GNWT, Stanton Territorial Health Authority, and physicians.

Two recent armed standoffs, one in Behchoko on Jan. 17 and one in Dettah Jan. 1, resulted in different aftermaths than the Lander tragedy. Insp. Frank Gallagher reported "we did move the neighbours in the immediate area."

Houses and schools were evacuated to ensure no one was caught in the path of stray bullets.

In fact, Gallagher said "there were no shots fired."

Also, to help with negotiations at the latest incident, a mental health specialist and Behchoko Chief Clifford Daniels were called to the scene to help.

As Staff Sgt. Brent Secondiak of the Medicine Hat police noted during the inquest, there are lessons to be taken from the incident and he hoped Yellowknife RCMP would learn from that day. "There is always things you can learn," he said.

There is no way to ensure a horrifying standoff will not ever end as Lander's did. However, the fact that the officers, and everyone involved, are using every tool available, including new ones based in each new experience, reduces the risk of a bloody, nightmarish aftermath.

Parental involvement key to strong schools
Weekend Yellowknifer -Friday, January 31, 2014

The call went out earlier this week to get more parents involved in the parent advisory council (PAC) at Mildred Hall School.

Blake Lyons, who sits on the board of trustees with Yellowknife Education District No. 1 and is the trustee representative for the PAC, said he would like to see the size of the group double. While the three parents in the PAC work tirelessly, more are needed - and the group is struggling to fill its ranks.

The same problem is being faced by PACs at William McDonald and Sir John Franklin.

Parents need to care about their children's education and that means getting involved in their schooling. PACs with Yk1 have accomplished great things that have benefited students tremendously, including raising money for school trips and new playground equipment, organizing school dances and designing new playgrounds. Parental involvement is positive for not only the parents' individual children, but for the school as a whole.

It would be a safe assumption to say that most parents care greatly about their children's schooling.

If parents don't get involved, this leaves the education of the city's youth solely in the hands of the schools.

And if the parents are unhappy with the results of their children's education, they only have themselves to blame for not getting involved in the first place.

The wisdom of elders
Editorial Comment by Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, January 30, 2013

It's encouraging to see some elders want to take a more active role in the Deh Cho.

During an elders meeting held recently at the Dehcho First Nations' (DFN) office in Fort Simpson, elders representing all the member First Nations and Metis councils expressed their interest in reviving an elders council. DFN used to have one, but it hasn't been active in a number of years.

Elders have a lot to offer the communities and leadership in the region. The older elders, particularly, are an important link to the history of the Dene and Metis people in the Deh Cho.

Many of these elders remember what it was like to grow up on the land and be self-sufficient and to only speak the Dene language at home. They not only remember their own experiences, but also those of their parents and older relatives who followed even more traditional lifestyles.

Elders are important keepers of knowledge about what it means to be Deh Cho Dene and where the people have come from. Many also have a long-range view about the future of the region.

When they speak at DFN's assemblies and leadership meetings elders not only bring a historical context, but also speak about the importance of preserving things like the land and the water for future generations. They don't just mean their children, but also their grandchildren and generations yet to come.

Having lived through changes and seen what has already been lost they are better able to talk about what it is important to save.

Elders at the recent meeting also expressed an interest in connecting more with the youth in the region. They had ideas about being part of a youth conference and holding an elders and youth gathering before DFN's annual assembly this


It seems many elders aren't content with just keeping their knowledge to themselves, rather they want to share it with younger generations before it is lost. With each elder that dies a lot of knowledge and experience is lost. Much has been recorded, but it is not the same as being able to sit down and speak with the person who lived it.

Hopefully, Deh Cho elders will be successful in establishing a new elders group or council and will be able to use that organization to further their goals. The Deh Cho has a lot to learn from its elders and should gratefully accept whatever knowledge and assistance they are willing to offer.

A class act recognized
Editorial Comment by Shawn Giilck
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, January 30, 2013

Like most people, I'm anticipating the Winter Olympics with more than a bit of enthusiasm.

I was very interested to see who would be named as the flag bearer, and I think the selection committee got it right with their choice of Hayley Wickenheiser, although in some ways I think it was for the wrong reasons.

Wickenheiser has been a class act throughout her long and storied career. From being a trailblazer for a woman playing in a man's league to being designated the "Wayne Gretzky of women's hockey," she's been nothing but good for the sport.

While many people know Wickenheiser primarily for her athletic prowess, her contributions to charity can't be overlooked either. In most ways, her public persona and reputation are everything you'd want in such a Canadian celebrity.

She's still a formidable force in what some are calling the twilight of her career as she gears up for another chance at a gold medal.

My only question is why it took so long to give her the recognition she deserves as one of the greatest ambassadors of Canadian sport the country has ever seen.

This is likely to be her last Olympic Games. Her selection now smacks a little of the sporting equivalent of giving her a gold watch as she sails into retirement.

That's my grumble about Wickenheiser being chosen as flag bearer. It's almost as if the Olympics bosses cast their eyes around and said "who have we forgotten about that we should select as flag bearer to make the public feel warm and fuzzy ... and that they can't really argue about."

Wickenheiser fits that bill to perfection.

I don't question her selection, I simply wonder at the timing and what it says to our athletes heading over to Russia to compete. Do we want to tell them we'll honour our athletes in the prime of their careers by being chosen flag bearer, or do we want to play the safe and politically-correct card?

By my reckoning, Wickenheiser should have been chosen as the flag bearer long ago for her impeccable credentials and other success.

There was a move and petition afoot to have alpine skier Larisa Yurkiw selected as flag bearer. There's a good argument behind that move. Following an injury that tore her knee apart in 2009, Yurkiw was unceremoniously dumped by the national ski team as training for the Olympics began in 2013.

She raised $150,000 to pay for her training and travel, and still qualified for the Olympics with an amazingly successful year.

There's an argument to be made that she's the kind of inspiring athlete we should recognize when it comes to selecting a flag bearer, and I would find it hard to disagree.

There's nothing wrong with the choice of Wickenheiser to lead our athletes into Olympic glory. It simply is a choice that should have come sooner, and takes the safe and conservative path, the very kind that I think we don't want our athletes to follow.

Commuter bike lanes not needed
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The push to make Yellowknife a greener place to live may be straying down the wrong path with plans to expand bike lanes onto downtown streets.

On Jan. 20, city council debated the ongoing project to expand pedestrian and cyclist trails, which include plans to create bike lanes on downtown streets. Those plans include painting stripes on and widening McMahon Frame Lake Trail and painting dedicated lanes on 52 Avenue onto 44 Street, then into Old Town.

City councillor Neils Konge says he is now against bikes lines, citing a recent survey with 153 responses as evidence that bike lanes are "not a pressing matter."

To this, Yellowknifer would have to agree with Dennis Kefalas, the city's senior administrator, that this is not an unsubstantial number in a city of this size. If 153 people can be found to fill out a city survey it's reasonable to assume there are many more who would also have an opinion but just didn't bother.

Where we differ is on the belief that bike lanes for commuters are necessary.

While Ecology North and city councillor Dan Wong have good intentions to get people to lead healthier lifestyles and minimize their impact on the environment by riding bikes to work instead of driving cars, bike lanes downtown are neither practical or needed.

Are people really finding it hazardous riding their bikes without them, and if they are, will they help? It's certainly not an issue during winter when only the most dedicated riders dare take to their bicycles for seven months of the year.

Bikes lanes on 52 Avenue would certainly be less intrusive than putting them on Franklin Avenue but the loss of parking space to create them can't be justified. The authors of the city's Smart Growth Development Plan can argue all they want about "surplus parking" but downtown retailers know better.

Owners of Northern United Place appeared before city council just two months ago seeking permission to demolish the "Little Brown House" next door to alleviate a parking crunch for students attending Aurora College.

Love it or hate it, people are not going to stop driving downtown anytime soon for most of the year although they may ride their bikes more often when the weather is nice. For those who do, anecdotal evidence suggests they are fine without bike lanes. This isn't Toronto after all.

The public would be better served if the city focus its efforts on expanding recreational trails for bike users and educating cyclists of all ages about their responsibilities while riding on the streets.

There is still much to consider before the city sets aside more space on city streets for cyclists.

Driving ahead of the game
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vehicle owners in Yellowknife are no doubt rejoicing at the news that an annual pilgrimage to the motor vehicle licensing office will no longer be required.

No longer must they set aside time to sit for an hours-long wait in the office. Starting next month, people needing to register their

vehicles and trailers can do it

online. The NWT joins Saskatchewan and Quebec as jurisdictions offering vehicle registration services over the Internet.

The Department of Transportation is also making licence plates stickerless, so no more hunching over in the snow to affix a tiny sticker on a muddy licence plate. The convenience doesn't end there. Residents can now book exams, order driver's abstracts, and will receive e-mail reminders when registration and driver's licence renewal is due.

The move online will undoubtedly make the next visit to the licensing office a lot more pleasant when face-to-face interaction with a licensing agent is necessary. It will also mean shorter wait times for people who are not computer-savvy.

People sometimes complain that the digital age has made life more complicated. Here is an example toward the opposite. The transportation department is taking technology and making it work for everyone, and for that, kudos are due.

Taking it regional
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News -Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The points raised during the past few weeks by people disappointed in the fact only Rankin Inlet and Whale Cove, yet again, sent teams to the Jon Lindell Memorial (JLM) senior men's hockey tournament in Arviat reach beyond the game of hockey in our region.

At least one thing has changed during the past decade. People are now willing to speak openly to express their disappointment in some of our Kivalliq communities when it comes to not possessing the bare minimum of motivation needed to fundraise enough to support their neighbour's big event.

They still pick their words carefully, and avoid going the whole 10 yards in stating the obvious in that too many folks in our region prefer to wait until someone else does it for them.

When an airline sponsors a community event and offers seats to the destination at up to 80 per cent off its regular fare, one has to recognize the fact the carrier is working with the hamlet to help take its event to the next level.

Throw in the fact everyone has a full year to plan to attend, whether it's sports, arts, or scholastic in nature, and the excuse of not having enough time to co-ordinate the fundraising is downright laughable.

On top of that, all our Kivalliq communities step up and answer the bell when it comes to providing accommodations for event participants. Some provide empty staff housing when it exists, while others arrange for schools to open a few classroom or gymnasium doors and almost all billet until the caribou come home.

At the end of the day, we're not talking a mammoth investment of time and effort here.

But, if more help is needed, there is a solution to help a number of regional events reach their full potential, but two conditions have to be met.

First, the notion adults should always have to pay for everything out of their own pockets has to be put in file 13 once and for all. Most community events help in a number of ways, including economically and spiritually.

Nothing angers me more than to be in a place of business that rakes in thousands during a big community event and listen to someone associated with the enterprise ramble on about how only youth should be supported financially.

Secondly, we're fed an annual diatribe on how the Kivalliq works together as a region for the common good during every mayors' meetings.

If that's true, why not have each community name two or three 'official' community events that are guaranteed a couple of bingo slots (our top fundraiser, let's be honest) each year?

Special community meetings could be held to accept nominations for these recreational events, which would be selected locally and announced during the mayors' meetings with the full weight of the region behind them. A few conference calls between our regional leaders would ensure no one genre dominated the lineup, and the events could be revisited every five years depending on their success.

It might not provide 100 per cent of total costs, but it would be a strong start.

If nothing else, it would give each community a couple of true regional events each year to look forward to and put itself in the spotlight.

That has to count for something.

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