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Guidance done right
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The K'alemi Dene School is supporting its graduates in a way that should serve as a shining example to others.

When high school graduates walk off the stage after receiving a diploma, they enter a new world very unlike what they had experienced during their academic careers.

Students spend 12 years following the same routine of going to school each morning, coming home and then maybe doing some homework. Then they graduate and enter a world of choices previously inaccessible to them. Rather than simply choosing what classes to take, they find themselves choosing what schools to attend or whether to attend at all.

Every choice has its cost, whether it be tuition or time. Even applying to college or university requires a fee. Students may be interested in a career and the schooling required to get them there but have no practical means of experiencing it without investing great deal in time and money.

Some may be disappointed after years of hard work and training, leaving them with two choices: start over or grin and bear it until retirement.

What K'alemi Dene School offers is a taste of what students' careers will be like before making a burdensome investment. The school has been in touch with Northern employers and have connected them with students who have shown a particular interest in a field with an aim to get them a co-op position.

That's a win for employers and Northerners. Employers win because they have the chance to develop employees who have proven themselves capable. They don't have to pay the associated fees to fly up and train a new hire. The NWT wins because have trained and educated Northerners helps build society and government investment.

And students themselves can decide whether their career choices are right before possibly going down the wrong track.

Beyond that, the schools follow grads after they enter the workforce and post-secondary education. There's even help for applications and their associated fees, fees which have the potential to stunt the future of even the most accomplished student.

That's a good thing for students, because the supports high school students get shouldn't be over when they walk off the graduation stage.

Growing local simply makes sense
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An effort to grow fresh, locally-produced food is benefiting not just gardeners but the city as a whole.

The Yellowknife Community Garden Collective has a mandate to share their bounty with people in need. Every person who registers must agree to donate a quarter of their harvest to various community organizations, such as the Salvation Army, Centre for Northern Families and Avens seniors home.

Yellowknifer has reported on some of these groups receiving donations and all say they are grateful because it allows them to prepare nutritious meals for their clients, teach them about locally-grown food and healthy diets while helping to lower their food bills.

Gardeners also learn from season to season what kinds of plants flourish in a Northern environment. One gardener, Lone Sorensen, said she discovered Swiss chard and edible chrysanthemums and prepared a diet with vegetables and fish sourced entirely from the North.

Sorensen said growing one's own food amounts to a freer lifestyle, and this is true.

The North is not known as an agricultural hot spot but Yellowknife's garden collective is demonstrating successes can be had despite the harsh climate.

On the heels of the latest consumer price index from Statistics Canada showing a 6.9 per cent rise in food prices over last year, it's becoming apparent that growing one's own food is becoming more than a mere summer diversion for some people but a cost-crunching necessity.

Continued success key to hockey development
Editorial Comment by Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, August 26, 2015

A huge tip of the helmet to Arviat minor hockey coach Ryan O'Connor and his experience at the national level with the under-17 camp.

I've officiated a number of tournaments in which a team coached by O'Connor competed and, the odd difference of opinion aside, it was easy to see he brought a lot to the table as a coach.

The vast majority of his players were well-disciplined, hard working, fully prepared and respectful of the officiating crew and the game.

The best thing about O'Connor's success is that it's further evidence living in a remote Kivalliq community does not preclude having one's efforts recognized by the right people, nor is it detrimental to continued development.

O'Connor is bang on in the way he describes Hockey Canada's approach to teaching the art of coaching or, for that matter, officiating.

The learning curve is, in reality, a series of building blocks, with each one leading to the next until a coach or official's talent, determination and dedication takes them to the highest level they are capable of obtaining.

Getting our Hockey Nunavut coaches and officials out to high level development camps is imperative to growing the game properly in the Kivalliq and across Nunavut.

The recipients of such training bring what they learn back to our communities, and pass it on to other coaches and officials in our programs.

It's an essential cog in ensuring our players learn to play the game properly, and that they're provided with a safe and balanced environment to display their skills.

Some of O'Connor's observations on the politeness and respect exhibited by these top-tier players should be quite illuminating to those involved with the game in our region, as well as the parents of the kids who love the sport so much.

For the vast majority of the top minor and junior players in this country, respect for the game is not expected of them, it is demanded.

The players seen causing all sorts of chaos on the ice on YouTube are rarely, if ever, representative of the best this nation has to offer.

Another of O'Connor's observations that should stand out for folks in this hockey-crazed region of ours, is how the coaches at our highest levels still strive to keep their instruction as simple as possible.

For all the talk of fancy statistics and team systems we hear being used in today's game, the best players are almost always the most dedicated, who never take a shift off and excel at the basics of shooting, passing, skating, checking and stickhandling.

With O'Connor also being a coach's instructor within the Hockey North Branch, his experience from the national camp should benefit a number of coaches in our program.

It should also serve as motivation for many to strive to reach the highest levels of coaching they can, knowing the opportunities do, in fact, exist to reward them for their efforts.

O'Connor's selection as an assistant coach at the under-17 national development camp is proof positive that it can be accomplished.

We have levels of hockey talent in the Kivalliq that far surpasses what our population numbers would suggest.

And, with more success stories such as O'Connor's, we will be well on our way to developing and highlighting that talent.

Voters deserve details
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 24, 2015

During the 1993 federal election campaign, former prime minister Kim Campbell was famously quoted, or perhaps misquoted, as saying: "an election is no time to discuss serious issues."

The statement haunted her unsuccessful campaign for election and lingers as part of her prime ministerial legacy, such was the public condemnation of the notion that voters ought to be fed bread and circuses instead of being informed about candidates' specific perspectives on government policy, misquoted or not.

At 78-days-long, the present race to fill the 338 seats in the House of Commons is a marathon.

The 11-week campaign is the longest since 1872 and nearly double the 10-year average.

NWT voters have a list of serious issues that demand attention from their next parliamentary representative, and with 56 days left in this campaign there is ample time for candidates to articulate their political programs through media, from community hall podiums and on the doorstep.

The candidates include incumbent NDP MP Dennis Bevington of Fort Smith; Conservative former premier Floyd Roland of Inuvik; the current premier's brother, Liberal Michael McLeod of Fort Providence; and Libertarian Yellowknife business owner Bob Stewart. The Green Party had not nominated a candidate as of yesterday afternoon.

Much of the first two weeks of the campaign has been quiet, with most candidates speaking up during Prime Minister Stephen Harper's visit to Hay River on Aug. 14.

Roland stood with Harper as the Conservative prime minister pledged $14 million to chipseal the remaining 68-kilometre stretch of Highway 5 through Wood Buffalo National Park to Fort Smith, a project that has been pitched and pined for by Parks Canada and area residents throughout the past decade.

Liberal candidate McLeod entered the campaign conversation by lauding the plan to chipseal Highway 5 and topping it with Liberal pledges to dredge the Hay River harbour and refurbish the port, construct an all-weather road to Whati and complete the more than $1 billion Mackenzie Valley Highway to boost industry and tourism and improve services and lower the cost of living for community residents.

Bevington advocated for the same $14 million upgrade to Highway 5 promised by Harper and approved by McLeod and stuck to a 2011 NDP commitment to establish an ongoing federal Northern infrastructure program to cover major long-term projects such as the completion of the Mackenzie Valley Highway.

Like McLeod, Bevington steered the discussion toward the high cost of living North of 60, proposing to consult with Northerners to overhaul the Conservative Nutrition North program to include an additional 50 communities while instituting a permanent home-retrofit program to help homeowners make their dwellings more energy-efficient and reduce heating costs.

Now that the three national parties so far represented in the NWT have broken the ice, it is time for the communication with voters to continue so residents may cast their ballots with all their policy questions answered and with their concerns confirmed or allayed.

New writing standard for widespread communication
Nunavut/News North - Monday, August 24, 2015

The continued evolution of the family of Inuit languages, known as Inuktut, is at a major turning point worthy of notice by the Inuit of Nunavut.

Autausiq Inuktut Titirausiq, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami's language task group, conducted consultations with Inuit across Inuit Nunangat - Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut and the Inuvialuit Settlement Region of the Northwest Territories - on the future of the written language, which is currently done in two different ways.

The system of syllabics was developed in the 1870s by Anglican missionaries and was first used to translate books of the Bible for the Inuit. Since then it has changed considerably, especially with the advent of typewriters, when the Makivik Corporation expanded the script so it could be typed and printed using keys on a typewriter.

Syllabics is commonly used in Nunavut for numerous types of written communication of Inuktitut, including road signs, territorial and federal government communication and news stories in this newspaper.

The task group has a mandate of recommending a way forward regarding a unified writing system that could be used in all the regions the family of Inuit languages are used. Several regions use the same Latin alphabet in which English is written. Often referred to as Roman orthography, this method of writing Inuktut, particularly the different dialects of Inuktitut used in Nunavut, allows for more complete transcription. Not all the vowels used in English are used in syllabics and there are no syllabic symbols for some letters used in Roman orthography. In short, the syllabic system of writing is flawed, yet widely used.

The Inuk language used by the Inuvialiut in the Western Arctic, Inuvialuktun, and the Inuinnaqtun used by many Inuit of the Kitikmeot region, are most often written using Roman orthography.

The goal of the task group is to support the sharing of teaching materials and international communication between Inuit people in all regions.

Made up of eight members - two each from Nunavut, Nunavik, the Nunatsiavut region and the Inuvialuit region - the task group made a great effort to consult people from all regions, posting public announcements, placing notices and making special invitations to elders, youth, teachers and community leaders.

We applaud the task group's efforts to reach out and hear from all parties who could be impacted by a change. Some people have been adamantly opposed to change, as often happens.

However, change must happen to keep the language alive and actively in use. It is being taught in schools across Nunavut and must be able to evolve as time goes on.

Ultimately, and fortunately, unlike what occurred with the system forced upon the Inuit by Anglican missionaries, it is up to the Inuk-speaking Inuit to decide what the future of the written word will be.

Not a bathroom free-for-all
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 14, 2015

Gender can seem pretty straightforward: pink for girls, blue for boys. Trucks for boys, Barbies for girls. Janet for girls, Joseph for boys.

But more often, people are learning that gender can be seen as more of a spectrum and as this seeps further into mainstream society, the black-and-white norms that define gender so rigidly are being pushed aside.

Perhaps the most vivid illustration of a place for boys and a place for girls are public bathrooms. Not much is left to interpretation in front of doors with only two very specific options.

For some, which door to walk through is not obvious and standing in this very spot sets the stage for isolation and confusion. Although many places do have a single-use wheelchair-accessible washroom, this is not always the case, nor is that washroom meant for those struggling with their gender identity.

As Yellowknifer reported last week, Yellowknife Education District No. 1 is responding to a push from students to consider a third, gender-neutral washroom in school to support students who are transgender, meaning they do not define their gender as stated on their birth certificates.

This is not a bathroom free-for-all. The school district is not intending to rip off the male and female signs and let all people walk through any door as if Yk's public schools have taken a hint from gay nightclubs in downtown Vancouver.

This is a third door.

This is the grey area between the black and white of gender norms. This is looking at a very specific and possibly a very small sector of students and saying, "You're normal. Here's a place where you belong. It's OK to be who you are."

This is of the utmost importance, especially because students who identify as LGBTQ - 'T' being transgender - face the highest suicide rates in the country.

Seventy-seven per cent of trans-people surveyed in a study posted by the Canadian Mental Health Association had seriously considered suicide and 45 per cent had attempted it. Twenty per cent of trans-people had experienced physical or sexual assault because of their identity; 34 per cent were subjected to verbal threats or harassment.

The very existence of a third, gender-neutral bathroom can go a long way in obliterating the ignorance that is often the root of such violence against trans-people.

And there are plenty examples to take a cue from.

Just this May, City of Edmonton councillors unanimously decided to add gender-inclusive bathrooms into all present and future public buildings.

School districts hold a lot of power in creating a fertile ground for the development of strong, healthy individuals and this move goes a long way in tending to that soil.

Can there be only one Northern 'Net provider?
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, August 14, 2015

We've watched as SSi Micro's position in the North has slowly eroded. Earlier this year, the Internet provider was an alternate choice to Northwestel in 10 NWT communities, as well as Yellowknife.

As of July, SSi has been reduced to serving only Yellowknife and Fort Providence in the Northwest Territories.

Northwestel reduced its retail rates for Internet service earlier this year, while not passing on any reduction in rates to wholesale client SSi Micro. This, according to SSi, left the company at a competitive disadvantage.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) recently rejected SSi's claim that Northwestel's pricing strategy unfairly took advantage of its position as owner, wholesaler and re-seller of the North's sole data backbone, the fibre optic cable running up from the south.

After reviewing Northwestel's wholesale and retail pricing structure, the CRTC determined Northwestel was not "subjecting SSi to an undue or unreasonable disadvantage" in the marketplace.

As unlikely as that sounds, that was the CRTC's considered decision.

SSI has indicated it will appeal the ruling but is anyone listening as the bell tolls for the little guy?

It appears Northwestel is in a position to use its not "unreasonable" advantages as owner, wholesaler and retailer of the North's only fibre optic line to push out all competitors. It's already done so in all smaller NWT communities save Fort Providence.

If SSi cannot continue to provide an alternative to Northwestel in Yellowknife, be prepared for the escalation in home Internet costs once Northwestel has no competitors to consider when developing its pricing strategy.

This, after all, would be the company's reasonable advantage as a virtual monopoly on retail Internet service in the North.

Be careful what you wish for
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, August 20, 2015
In the late afternoon on Aug. 17, the Department of Transportation announced it was going to be changing the hours of the MV Lafferty ferry.

The announcement lasted just over 24 hours before the department decided to scrap the plan, since the two-hour block drew community ire from the Chamber of Commerce, village council and other public representatives.

The changes would have seen the usual 8 a.m. start pushed back to 6 a.m., closing hours wrapped up at midnight instead of 11:45 p.m. and a two-hour block from 2 to 4 p.m. with no service.

Originally, the chamber had petitioned Transportation Minister Tom Beaulieu to extend the ferry's hours from 6 a.m. to midnight.

The Chamber started that petition with a single purpose in mind: finding a solution to the traffic backlog that bottlenecks at the ferry, especially in the early hours on weekends and holidays. Past president Angela Fiebelkorn said during the organization's annual general meeting in June it was not uncommon to wait at the ferry for hours before being able to cross.

The petition was dropped off at the village office and at the Nahanni Inn as early as June 25.

A little more than one month later, on July 27, Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche hand-delivered the petition, with 333 accompanying signatures and supporting letters from himself, Liidlii Kue First Nation and the Village of Fort Simpson, to Beaulieu.

From there, all the chamber had to do was wait for the Transportation minister's response.

Admittedly, that response took a somewhat different shape than expected.

As the only transportation method for vehicles leaving or entering Fort Simpson, the ferry is an essential service for businesses as well as residents.

If residents had known an early start would mean two hours of service outage in the afternoon, perhaps they would have thought twice before signing.

However, it still remains that more than a quarter of the village's population signed their names in the hope that they would see earlier service.

Transportation officials responded in the only way they could: by trying to accommodate that request.

An extra two hours of running time means hiring additional crews or overworking current crews.

So for now, changes have been booted to the curb. While that undoubtedly makes some residents happy, it puts those 333 who signed the petition right back where they began.

A compromise will likely need to be made by all if extending ferry hours poses a difficulty, but perhaps all parties can reach a happy medium with a little more consultation.

More social housing welcomed
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, August 20, 2015

Last week, town council discussed approving a request from the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation to turn the derelict Smith Apartments on Bompas Road into low-cost housing.

There was overwhelming support for the motion, which in itself was a mere procedural requirement to move forward with the plan.

All this was in response to changes to leasing practices put in place by Northern Properties REIT whereby people on income assistance need to be able to guarantee they will pay the company one year's rent in order to be able to sign a lease.

As a councillor pointed out, leases are agreements between owners and renters stating the amount to be paid. If the renter can't pay up, they are evicted.

To ask that people have a guaranteed income for one year is within the rights of the company and may be good business as heartless as it may sound.

Good business is often heartless.

There are not many people just coming off income assistance who would meet the credit requirement of a large rental company like Northern Properties.

The reality is that homelessness can be largely a hidden problem and comes with baggage beyond the stereotypical person on the street. Homelessness can be caused by losing a job and a bad credit rating.

Many, particularly families with young children, rotate between government housing and sharing accommodations with other family members.

While these people certainly have homes, those homes are far from certain and they do not have a well-documented financial record and good credit rating.

We understand that businesses have to make a profit, and sadly, there is nowhere else for people to turn with so few rental options in Inuvik.

The fact that the territorial government is stepping up to create a real solution -- if a partial one -- to this problem is a very positive thing.

The 10 units set to be created will hopefully help 10 deserving families get their feet under them and be more secure.

Of course, government housing is rarely perfect and hassle-free for the people in it, but this is a step in the right direction.

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