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Lottery proves cabin demand
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The takeaway from the land lease lottery is that demand for cabin lots around Yellowknife is extremely high and the territorial government has a long way to go to satisfy it.

Consider that 913 people were willing to pay $100 each for the chance to win one of just 22 Ingraham Trail cabin leases available at last week's lottery - the first in 30 years.

At this rate, people have a better chance digging a diamond out of their backyard than obtaining a legally available piece of land on which to erect their wilderness getaway.

Of course, there is lots of land out there, and lots of cabins - more and more are sprouting up all the time. Blink, and you might just open your eyes to find your favourite picnicking spot now has a dock at the water's edge and an A-frame standing behind it with a barbecue on the deck.

This is the legacy of unsettled land claims in a vast territory with very little enforcement.

So while government officials wring their hands about the need for consultation and studies before handing out more cabin leases, people are taking the calculated risk that as long as they are not being too obvious they can build an illegal squat by the lake - without paying leases or property taxes or submitting to building code requirements - with little fear.

This situation doesn't serve anybody well: neither the government that can't seem to get a handle on the squatters; the legitimate owners of the land, the Yellowknives Dene, who don't make a dime on the squatters building these illegal cabins; legitimate cabin owners, some of whom are watching helplessly as squatters build across the shore from them; and the hundreds of people who would like to buy a cabin lease while only a handful are made available.

The lack of cabin availability, as Yellowknifer has written before, merely further hamstrings the GNWT's attempts to convince people Yellowknife is an attractive place to live even though the government is desperate to increase the territory's population.

Yellowknives Dene First Nation has bristled at the possibility of more leases in the past, saying it would interfere with their traditional way of life.

But realistically, the Ingraham Trail is already cabin country for those lucky enough to have obtained their leases back in the day.

It should be reasoned that this is where future cabin development should take place, to discourage further incursions into wilderness areas so traditional harvesting activities can continue unheeded, and to provide the Yellowknives with some leasing revenue.

To allow the status quo to remain is to surrender to an increasingly irreversible situation with lawlessness breeding at our city's doorstep.

The indispensable value of elders
Editorial Comment by Michele LeTourneau
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, August 5, 2015

This past week in the Kivalliq region has given me much food for thought. The running theme is the incalculable value of elders.

It began with Louie Angalik of Arviat, to whom I was first introduced when I wrote about the projects going on in that community during the very first week I arrived. Elders are a vibrant well of wisdom with much to offer.

It continued with Madeline Makkigak's 100th birthday a few weeks ago, and featured in last week's paper. I cannot even fathom the wealth of knowledge this woman has from her experiences. One hundred years, plus all the years of learning from her own elders and going on through the past. Her children and grandchildren speak of the stories she tells.

Increasingly, over the last several years, I've spent time with elders and learned so much from them. I'm still thinking of the lessons from the two years I worked with elders in the Northwest Territories from 2011 to 2013.

But something else I witnessed and learned: there are two responses to elders these days ... listening and impatience.

On impatience first. In our speedy, speedy world, it's not surprising that younger generations may have lost the ability to sit still and listen. I'd lost it for sure, if I even ever had it. It's certainly not part of my upbringing, or my experience. I had to learn that. Hot under the collar, quick to freak out ... I had to learn to have patience. To hear a story out. To hear a story told in which I could discover the incredible wisdom spun out in words.

Then there are those who know elders carry within them that wisdom that comes from generations of stories and the knowledge they contain. For those, such as Tongola Sandy, the memory of him features large in this week's edition of Kivalliq News.

If there is something I do know it's that looking back over thousands of years of Western culture, humans repeat the same crazy mistakes over and over and over again.

Our so-called modern ways are not very helpful. We want to get things done. We don't take the time to look back and learn from the past. Speed forward, at whatever cost.

The story of Tongola and his solution to the trans-border issues between Dene and Inuit was: go to the elders. Rather than an all-consuming, never-ending fight in the courts, which is so much the modern way, elders insisted that Dene and Inuit had shared in the past. Were they not capable, then, of sharing in the present and in the future?

Tongola is respected and honoured for the esteem that he held for the elders.

Perhaps not every elder will solve a trans-boundary issue, but certainly every elder holds knowledge that can help make the future more sustainable.

It's a construct of the modern Qallunaat world to forget about the aging population, the "seniors," to set them aside as having passed their time to contribute to their communities and society. That is not a practice to embrace.

During my interview with Tagak Curley, he said the first thing he always did when he travelled was to go to the elders.

"I think it was my grandfather who told us to respect our elders. We took him seriously," said Curley.

On that note, the Inuit Heritage Trust has put out a call. If you know of an elder, and surely you know many, that bridges the past and the future, the old ways and the new ways, that shares Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit freely and with care with their community and the younger generation, put their name forward. The deadline is Oct. 1.

Election questions can't go unanswered
Northwest Territories/News North - Monday, August 3, 2015

When it comes to elections, if everything is not above board the only thing to follow is acrimony and conflict. And very little gets done.

We've seen examples of this with the Salt River First Nation and Deninu Ku'e First Nation in Fort Resolution. The controversy that surrounds an election does not disappear after the vote - although, in the re-election of Gwichya Gwich'in Chief Phillip Blake, no votes were ever cast.

Blake was acclaimed to the position under an unratified election code, after filing an appeal toward his only challenger's submission to run. Grace Blake, a former Gwichya chief, threw her name in the hat despite not being on the band's membership list - a point on which Chief Blake took issue.

Whether or not a non-member should be eligible to run for chief is a fair question. Unfortunately, before an objective-seeming answer could be given, the band's chief election officer Graeme Drew resigned, citing a lack of official laws to govern the election process since ratification had not yet happened. Along with Drew went the election committee.

The band was left with a one-person election committee appointed by council, consisting of the community's director of finance. At this point, Grace Blake was deemed ineligible to run and Chief Blake, along with three councillors, was acclaimed.

It is not Chief Blake's suitability for the position that needs to be challenged but the process that has left members crying foul.

Calls from band members for the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, and the federal department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada to intervene in the process went unanswered.

The members are not happy and as a result, this will not be the last we hear of this issue.

Whether or not there were nefarious dealings, the perception of the process carries a heavy weight that will continue to bear down on the band.

Time and money will be wasted to clarify the murky areas of the election process and these are resources that will be taken away from community projects. A chief appointed under steep criticism with band members questioning the outcome heralds a difficult fight ahead.

Based solely on his own merits, it's quite likely that Chief Blake could very well have been re-elected. But with so many twists and turns along his path to acclamation, those merits are no longer the focus.

Crucial need for better connections
Nunavut/News North - Monday, August 3, 2015

Tens of millions of dollars are being spent for marginal increases in Internet speeds for residential and business customers in Nunavut communities at a time when computer connectivity has become vital.

The federal government's Connecting Canadians program has earmarked $305 million to bring high-speed Internet services to households in rural and remote regions of the country. From that fund, Northern telecom service provider SSi Micro will receive $35 million to extend and enhance satellite Internet service for approximately 8,600 homes in Nunavut after being selected through a request-for-proposals contract selection process. The company will need to contribute $15 million of its own money as part of the project. SSi company officials said that money will be applied to new hardware and facilities to upgrade infrastructure in all 25 Nunavut communities.

The problem is that, despite this significant outpouring of money, the actual increase in speed for Internet users to stream video, post on Facebook, check e-mail accounts, monitor online banking and Skype with relatives in other communities, will be nowhere near what customers in southern Canada enjoy. Certainly, southern communities are served with fibre-optic services while remote Nunavut communities rely on fixed satellite services for their connection to the World Wide Web.

SSi Micro purchases satellite connectivity from satellite operator Telesat, which falls woefully short of its target mandated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which in 2011 set a nationwide minimum speed of five megabits per second for downloading and one megabits per second for uploading (Megabits refers to download speed, whereas megabytes and gigabytes refers to the size of files).

Nunavut customers now buy a maximum speed of 1.5 megabits per second, which is set to increase to three megabits per second with the new funding. That's well below the CRTC target and woefully short of the 29.7 megabits per second download available to people in the rest of the country, according to the Ookla Net Index.

The Nunavut Broadband Development Corporation was quick to criticize the anticipated result of the new funding, with its executive director saying the small increase will make little difference for Nunavut Internet users while the gap between the North and the rest of Canada gets bigger and bigger.

Another part of the problem is the fee Telesat charges SSi, which is significantly higher for Northern customers than southern customers, according to an October 2014 Satellite Inquiry Report by the CRTC.

A good Internet connection has become vital for education, health-care delivery, jobs training, employment applications and everyday life.

The CRTC is undertaking a review of the fees Telesat charges for satellite access. It is crucial that the need for higher Internet speed also be addressed so Nunavummiut are not left behind.

Don't play games with the Games
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, July 31, 2015

The amount of unknowns shrouding the City of Yellowknife's Canada Winter Games bid is unnerving.

Capital expenditures by the territory and the federal government - as outlined in the Games funding formula - reach a ceiling at $3 million each but for the city, one can look up and see the infinite universe. All extraneous capital costs fall onto the city and, as it stands, $9 million is not going to cut it.

Aside from work that has to be undertaken to upgrade existing miscellaneous facilities, there are major capital upgrades required to host the Games, which come with a seemingly unrealistic early-estimation price tag of $35 million. It's hard to imagine how an estimated $30 million for an upgraded pool and an estimated $23 million for an athletes village factors within the confines of this figure.

The pool is already slated for replacement in the year of the Games but in order for it to become a suitable facility, completion would have to be bumped up a few years. Mayor Mark Heyck told Yellowknifer in January getting the pool up to snuff for the Games won't cost the city any more than the original plan.

The athlete's village remains the wild card.

There have been murmurings of the GNWT's intention to foot the bill to simultaneously meet the needs of seniors' housing in the city - a need that grows more dire by the day. The plan would be to build housing, use it for the athletes, then after the Games, pass it along to seniors.

In November, Jeff Renaud, chief executive officer for Avens Community for Seniors, told Yellowknifer, "We're in a crisis pretty much as far as housing options for seniors."

Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley told Yellowknifer in April the seniors population is growing by six or seven per cent per year. Renaud said, also in May, the waiting list for a permanent bed for seniors ranges from 20 to 40 people.

All the while, an Avens project aimed at alleviating the "crisis" through added beds has been stalled after the blasting stage because a private partner pulled out and the GNWT has been hesitant on committing the funds.

Is the GNWT going to commit $23 million - or more - to athletes' housing that could become seniors' housing in more than eight years but fail to back the proponent of an already planned development? Could these two needs be combined?

Will new seniors' housing stay in a holding pattern for at least eight years while waiting for the Canada Winter Games?

Unfortunately, the answers to these questions don't exist yet because whatever the GNWT intends to do, it will not commit to doing until the city commits to making the bid.

One need only recall the new water treatment plant, which put the city on the hook for $31 million after the territorial government transformed federal guidelines into regulation the city must adhere to.

These two levels of government should not rush to link arms and twirl.

The city should demand a commitment from the GNWT or not commit to the Games. The GNWT should offer a solution, if possible, but not to the detriment of the seniors population. Major scrutiny is required here.

Should preliminary investigation into the feasibility of the Games reveal they are not, in fact, feasible, both levels of government should be ready to halt the parade and go home.

Failing that, this is an election year for both levels of government.

Variety is the spice of democracy
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, July 30, 2015
It's that wonderful time of year again, when election signs are on the verge of popping up around communities and prospective politicians anticipate the start of their campaigns.

The writ will be issued on Oct. 26 and nominations will close on Oct. 30. That is when we will know exactly who is in the running to represent us.

From there, it will only be a few short weeks until election day on Nov. 23.

The Deh Cho is not yet quite in the dog days of summer. October still feels a long way off and no one wants to think about colder weather yet. However, with July at an end, there is truly no better time to start thinking about running a campaign.

Politics is often dismissed as a dirty business. Politicians have a bad reputation - sometimes rightfully so - for not following through on their promises or trying to put a spin on any given situation.

Elections showcase the very best and absolute worst democracy has to offer.

However, while many of us complain that our representatives are not doing enough or are not properly representing our interests, few desire to take on the burden of running for public office themselves.

In the 2011 territorial election, incumbent Deh Cho MLA Michael McLeod was beaten by current MLA Michael Nadli - the only other contender for that riding. Meanwhile, in the Nahendeh riding, MLA Kevin Menicoche was challenged by Bertha Norwegian and won. Norwegian was the only candidate to run against him.

Neither the Deh Cho nor the Nahendeh are small ridings. The Deh Cho riding includes Fort Providence, Kakisa, Hay River Dene Reserve and Enterprise. The Nahendeh riding, meanwhile, includes Wrigley, Trout Lake, Fort Liard, Jean Marie River, Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson.

This is an area of the Northwest Territories that is, as far as the North is concerned, very well populated.

To have only one or two challengers - or, as has been the case in some elections, none - for a seat in the legislature is unfortunate.

The only thing worse than sparse competition is acclamation. While some may view an acclamation as a sign an incumbent has been doing their job well, it still removes the choice of who to vote for from constituents. As well, having only one or two candidates for a riding can discourage voting.

Everyone knows it is their civic right, and arguably their duty, to vote. But to take that a step further, members of the public also have a duty to run for office. It is their ideas and fresh perspectives that lead to change, and without them the political system stagnates.

Often when elections roll around, we hear how candidates are "more of the same" or how we will be voting for "the least worst option." But if all current options are bad, then the only democratic thing to do is throw your name in the hat and provide a better alternative.

Previous elections have seen far more challengers than 2011 did. It would be nice to see a return to those times.

Children are the future
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, July 30, 2015

When former first lady Hillary Clinton published the book It Takes a Village back in 1996, it sparked a debate over who, in fact, raises a child. The book's title was attributed to a supposed African saying, "It takes a village to raise a child."

After the release of Clinton's book, the Republican Party presidential candidate Bob Dole said: "... it does not take a village to raise a child. It takes a family to raise a child."

Although the exact definition of what a 'family' is can be parsed, the notion that a child is best raised solely within the nuclear family is new.

We entrust our schools to educate, protect and socialize children. But are they really properly suited to create a full human being? It can be argued that the one thing that cannot be taught in school - the one thing that until recently, was not seriously considered an important tool for humans to have - is empathy.

Unlike sympathy, which requires a person to have experienced the feeling another person is going through before it can be triggered, empathy is a whole other level of consciousness. Empathy requires a person to be able to, in effect, have an out-of-body type of association with another person. Having empathy requires being able to put oneself into another person's shoes and understand what they are feeling without having first-hand knowledge of the experience.

Anthropologist Gwen Dewar argues that a child's ability to perceive empathy is blunted by seeing expressions of violence, a kind of desensitization.

The question becomes not if children can be raised within the modern concept of family, but if they can be raised in a standardized, theorized, and in some cases sanitized, system.

Dewar argues that the top requirements for a child to learn empathy are - among other things - ensuring the child's emotional needs are met, that they see themselves as individuals with unique emotions, and that they can see what they have in common with others.

Schools and teachers, no matter how caring and supportive they are with their wards, are not specifically mandated to meet these requirements. In fact, it can be argued that through intense competition, a child's sense of empathy is dulled.

There are many influences in society. Children are bombarded with information, images, opinions in social and mainstream media. Children get the truest understanding of what is expected of them as human beings through example.

They are getting the government's version of what is expected of them. They are getting the media's version of what is expected of them. Who is giving them the village's version of what is expected of them?

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