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Reveal those bonuses
Yellowknifer -Friday, July 10, 2009

Despite public ridicule and contempt, the NWT Power Corporation continues to refuse to explain maddening bonuses paid out to middle and senior managers each year.

The corporation is currently involved in a court battle with the Union of Northern Workers, which is trying to obtain figures on how much managers are getting paid in performance bonuses.

The power corp. argues that revealing this information, even if it's just dollar amounts and not the names, would breach the privacy rights of these employees under the Canadian Charter of Rights. The corporation's lawyer argues that the public could connect the dots, figure out who these people are and how much each received.

It's a convenient ploy. By hiding behind its cry for confidentiality, the power corp. can avoid all that embarrassing business of having to justify some of these exceptional bonuses, which amounted to more than $600,000 in 2007, according to MLAs.

The rich payments are tied to profits and can be higher or lower depending on how much money the power corp. pulls in from its customers. One senior manager made $155,000 in 2004, $34,700 of which came in bonuses.

That might stick in the craw of powers users, who in Yellowknife, witnessed at 10 per cent increase on their electricity bills last winter – never mind the continuous and annoying power outages we experience several times each month.

It's no wonder MLAs and the NWT Association of Communities are calling on auditor general Sheila Fraser to audit the power corp.

It's time for this GNWT-owned company to quit this shell game and explain and justify these bonuses to its customers, if it at all can.

No excuse for not buckling up
Yellowknifer - Friday, July 10, 2009

Seatbelts are an essential part of driving.

When all else fails – whether it be road conditions, vehicle defects, traffic mayhem, or the driver’s better judgment – seatbelts are the last resort in saving lives.

Even so, when Yellowknife RCMP and municipal enforcement stepped up traffic patrols during Canada Road Safety Week in May, lack of seat belt use turned out to be the number one violation by far. The RCMP rightfully concluded that more must be done to promote seatbelt use and safe driving.

Instances of drunken and reckless driving are not uncommon in Yellowknife, so even motorists who are supremely confident in their own abilities are at risk of accidents due to those who are out of control.

Even though we live in a small city where driving distances are short, there can be no excuse for overlooking seatbelts.

Thankfully our law enforcement officers are ready to remind drivers of that. Increased check stops and fines issued accordingly should help drive that point home.

The right priorities
Editorial Comment
Roxanna Thompson
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, July 9, 2009

From initial observations it looks like there's a storm brewing in southwestern Deh Cho.

Both Trout Lake and Nahanni Butte are eyeing Fort Liard warily. The cause of the unrest is traditional land, or more specifically who will get control over the land that two or more of the communities share.

A year ago Acho Dene Koe First Nation (ADK) in Fort Liard signed a framework agreement with the governments of Canada and the territory allowing it to negotiate its own lands claims agreement. Part of the land that ADK is claiming in the territory is also considered the traditional land base of either Nahanni Butte or Trout Lake.

As ADK's negotiations progress it has to reach an agreement with the other two communities about how to address the overlap issue. Both Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake have already taken offence over the fact that ADK didn't come to them first before signing the agreement.

Although the bands seem to agree that the land doesn't really belong to any of them, one of the parties is going to end up with jurisdiction. There are a lot of questions about what this jurisdiction will mean and how it will effect the traditional uses of the land by the other parties.

The negotiations could easily deteriorate into the worst kind of fight, the type that occurs between people who are close to each other. Due to their proximity the three communities are both figuratively and sometimes literally family.

So what's to be done?

The best possible scenario is for the three communities to set a shining example of how situations like this can be addressed. No one wants to see news reports of the in fighting that could easily take place. It would provide the same cringing responses that the protracted leadership disputes in bands elsewhere in the territory have elicited.

The source of the conflict, however, can also be the answer.

As long as the three parties keep what's best for the land as their primary concern, they'll stand a better chance of reaching an agreement. Again and again First Nation residents of the Deh Cho talk about their connection to the land and how important it is to protect the land for future generations. The integrity of the land is often more important than the profit that could be gained by using its natural resources.

Protection of the land and the water, animals and plants on it needs to be the focus during the negotiations between ADK, Nahanni Butte and Trout Lake. If the three parties can all agree to this they'll start on the right path.

This isn't the first and it won't be the last case of tension caused by overlapping traditional lands in the Deh Cho. These three communities have an opportunity to set an example and prove that the land truly is sacred in our region.

A tragic weekend
Editorial Comment
Andrew Rankin
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, July 9, 2009

There are few things more sad than the death of a young person.

Burton Keevik, 14, drowned in the Mackenzie River over the weekend.

I walked into the Youth Centre Monday afternoon, the same day Burton's body was pulled out of the Mackenzie River. He was especially active and well-liked at the centre and I noticed a beautifully illustrated display on the wall which read RIP Burton Keevik. It was made and signed by the staff and kids there.

Then I talked to a kid who normally is always so busy he never has time to talk, but on this day he wanted to tell me a few words about Burton, just to say that the teenager always made an effort to be nice with the smaller kids, and with him he was always up for a game of pool.

It reminds us that every person's life touches many others, and he will be missed.

Last weekend was a tough one for Inuvik.

Before the search for Keevik began in the wee hours of Sunday morning, many of the volunteers involved had already responded to four fires the day before, including the house fire on Bonnetplume Road that took a team of 20 firefighters about four hours to extinguish.

Then they joined in an around-the-clock search for Keevik. In an interview with Fire Chief Al German on Monday, he talked about how firefighters were worked to the bone all weekend and he was hoping that effort would not go unnoticed or unappreciated by community residents.

Volunteers are often taken for granted.

German said whenever the volunteer firefighters are called upon as emergency responders they're always ready and willing. An example of that came last month when a house on Bompas Street came off its pilings. A crew of volunteer firefighters responded right away.

But until I saw the group of 20 firefighters tackle the house fire on Saturday, it never really occurred to me just how important their help is, not to mention the skill and danger involved in what they do.

What would have happened if there were no firefighters in Inuvik on Saturday? Where would the help come from?

What's worse is the one big party they have each year, the Fireman's Ball, they lose money on.

I doubt any volunteers want to be worshipped for what they do. They volunteer not for the recognition but because someone has to help, and they want to contribute.

Taking the time to recognize the services they provide and say thanks would be more than enough for most of them.

Help for the homeless
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Homelessness is not equivalent to hopelessness, and Yellowknife is showing there's growing hope for those with nowhere to go.

Thankfully, the city is home to persistent activists such as city councillor Lydia Bardak and YWCA executive director Lyda Fuller, among others, whose tireless efforts cannot be ignored.

Their collective efforts are bearing fruit.

Tenants seeking to turn their lives around began moving into the Bailey House transitional home for men in February. A separate pilot project day shelter for the homeless is expected to be in place by fall bringing with it, finally, public washrooms and counselling services.

But that's not all. There's a movement afoot to find a space for a women's transitional home. There is also talk of creating a facility for homeless youth as federal funds are available. The SideDoor Youth Centre, realistically, can only do so much.

Groups from the city's homelessness coalition to the City of Yellowknife to the GNWT have pledged support to these various initiatives.

It's bound to make our streets more appealing to tourists and residents alike, although those who refuse to seek help, or even shelter, will always remain.

While helping people move from destructive lifestyles to healthier ones, it may also help reduce the amount of illnesses - such as tuberculosis and syphilis - among the homeless population.

Step by step, the city is becoming a safer place for people who, for whatever reason, have found themselves on the streets.

Too many cabs the problem, not racism
Wednesday, July 8, 2009

City Cabs driver Mohammad Basha recently commented that city officials are treating cabbies "like second-class citizens because we're immigrants."

That remark is misguided, and was likely made in frustration.

Those remarks come after city council continues to refuse to limit the number of taxi licences, which have ballooned to 140 in this city.

That cabbies are frustrated with this unsupportable number is understandable, but to imply that the city's reluctance to impose a cap on taxi licences is due to racism is ridiculous.

Many communities in this country don't have a cap on cabs, including the neighbouring capital of Whitehorse, Yukon, where there are only 50 taxis. That's because civic leaders there and elsewhere have rightly concluded that such decisions are best left to the marketplace to decide.

The only thing this city council should be concerned about is that cab companies provide a safe and quality service.

If Basha is wondering why colleagues who continue to insist on remaining in this industry are having such a hard time making ends meet, he should look no further than the other comments he offered in last Friday's Yellowknifer: "Business used to be very good. Many of us who are immigrants would call our brothers and tell them to come here. Now business is going down, and we're trying to hold on."

When it comes to cabs, there's obviously too much rubber on the road.

Graduates set a good example
Editorial Comment
Kassina Ryder
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, July 8, 2009

I would like to take this opportunity to say that the women who received their masters of education leadership degrees in Iqaluit last week should be very proud of themselves, as I'm sure they are.

It warrants mentioning that not only did they do something that will benefit themselves, but their hard work will also benefit everyone they teach in the future.

More than 11,000 Nunavummiut older than 15 did not have a high school diploma in 2006, according to Statistics Canada, and more than 13,190 people older than 15 had no form of post-secondary education. Those eye-opening numbers were based on a population of 19,340.

With talk of a university in the North and the new Nunavut Education Act at the forefront of many discussions in our territory, it will be interesting to see what the new graduates will bring to the table when it comes to implementing these ideas.

One of the provisions of the Education Act requires education in Nunavut to more fully incorporate Inuit values and language into the curriculum.

"The curriculum will promote fluency in the Inuit language and an understanding of Nunavut, including knowledge of Inuit culture and of the society, economy and environmental characteristics of Nunavut," the act states.

Implementing the Education Act will have a whole new meaning now that there will be more Inuit influencing and practising in the education system.

Educating Nunavummiut about Inuit culture and language will create a ripple effect for years to come. It's not just about educating children today, it's also about the adults they will become. According to the Department of Human Resources, the number of Inuit employed in Nunavut was 52 per cent as of March of this year. By the year 2020, the objective is to have a workforce that is representative of the population it serves as per article 23 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement. If Nunavummiut are being educated about Inuit language and culture throughout their education, it will obviously help to reach this goal.

The past few years have held some milestones for education in Nunavut. The Akitsiraq Law Program successfully created Inuit lawyers for the territory and is continuing to do so, and now Inuit educators will be spearheading the new Education Act.

It's hard to forecast what Nunavut will look like in 2020, but a territory with an education system and a workforce that truly reflects the history, language and culture of its people is a goal that can and should be met.

The graduates of the degree program will show young people in Nunavut the value of an education and will hopefully inspire them to create educational targets of their own.

Police under fire
NWT News/North - Monday, July 6, 2009

The RCMP is charged with the protection of the public, but to effectively do that they must be able to protect themselves.

At times, the police come under harsh criticism for their actions from those of us looking in from the outside, who may not understand the full details of the situation.

Recently in Fort Resolution, an 11-year-old girl was handcuffed and carted away by RCMP officers after police responded to a call by social workers who were concerned youth were present at a party involving alcohol.

When they arrived at the residence, the officers observed two men enter the home, one who is known to have a history of violence.

Entering the house with guns drawn and prepared to encounter a threat, the officers exercised proper caution in case they were required to defend themselves.

Was handcuffing an 11-year-old girl the officers discovered in one of the bedrooms excessive? Without being in the house it is hard to gauge the level of threat the RCMP perceived. But it does seem reasonable that handcuffing the girl as well as the 18-year-old woman who also occupied the room was a diligent course of action designed not only to protect the police but also the girls. Unrestrained and unsecured, the two girls would have been unknowns in a potentially dangerous situation. Until RCMP can sort out who is a threat and who isn't a threat they, for their own protection, must treat everyone the same.

Is a pre-teen a threat? Unfortunately, in a time of kids shooting classmates and a recent incident in Pennsylvania where an 11-year-old was charged with shooting his father's pregnant girlfriend in the back of the head, age does not make you incapable of extreme violence.

RCMP officers put their lives in danger virtually every day. Situations that may seem innocuous can flare into deadly confrontations without warning.

In 2007, Const. Douglas Allen Scott was shot and killed in Kimmirut, Nunavut, while responding to what was described as a routine drinking and driving call.

Earlier that same year, Const. Christopher Worden of Hay River was gunned down while responding to a call of a possible suicidal man.

In the past month in Kimmirut the RCMP residence was shot at by a 13-year-old boy while two officers slept inside; and officers in Iqaluit responded in June to a call of a man shooting near Inuksuk High School, where RCMP stood toe-to-toe with the armed perpetrator. Video from that shocking incident was posted on the Nunavut News/North portal on www.nnsl.com.

However, with ongoing Taser investigations in Inuvik and Vancouver and more and more complaints of excessive force by the RCMP our national police force is under intense scrutiny and the officers must share the blame for the bad press.

In most situations the RCMP continues to refuse to share information with the public that may help people understand why certain actions were taken. Its bureaucratic secrecy creates an air of suspicion and invites criticism. As well, the fact the RCMP continues to insist on investigating complaints against its own organization feeds the fire of mistrust.

Fort Resolution RCMP officers could have done themselves a favour by apologizing to the girl. The officers must recognize that just because they followed procedure doesn't mean they should be insensitive to the feelings of an 11 year old.

The sex offender next door
Nunavut News/North - Monday, July 6, 2009

For the next 18 months, convicted sex offender Lanny Kippomee will be under a number of court conditions governing his everyday life in Pond Inlet.

He may not drink alcohol or be around people who are drinking alcohol. He must take whatever counselling is available. He must keep the peace. And there are people in the community he is not allowed to contact.

He had served his full prison sentence for assault, sexual assault and forcible confinement, and was released in late May free of probation restrictions. But a court order applied for under section 810.2 of the Criminal Code is a tool police can use to keep a released offender on a short leash. It permits them to place conditions on offenders likely to reoffend. It gives them the ability to take an offender back into custody at the first sign of misbehaviour - such as violating curfew, drinking alcohol or contacting victims, instead of waiting to apprehend an offender until after he commits another crime.

According to police, Kippomee, who opposed restrictions on his freedoms, is likely to reoffend. Treatment was ineffective.

Reports from his parole officer stated that Kippomee only talked in counselling meetings when directly questioned, and still held to some "cognitive distortions" such as saying that rape relieves a man's tension.

It remains questionable if there is treatment available in Pond Inlet targeted to rehabilitate sex offenders.

Nunavut has more than its share of sex offenders living in its small, remote communities.

As of July 2007, 221 of the sex offenders on the national registry resided in Nunavut. NWT and Yukon, territories with similar populations, had 89 and 32, respectively.

Section 810.2 court orders provide safeguards for only 12 or 18 month periods. For the long term, what the territory needs is an effective culturally-relevant treatment program for the hundreds of sex offenders living in our communities.

Inquest a necessary step
Nunavut News/North - Monday, June 15, 2009

The family and friends of Julian Tologanak deserve answers to the questions surrounding his death.

Tologanak died after jumping out of a plane en route to Cambridge Bay from Yellowknife in April.

By finally calling an inquest, the Nunavut coroner's office may help the public find out what happened in the hours leading up to his boarding the plane, what happened on board the plane, how he managed to open the exit door, and what could have been done differently anywhere along the line to prevent that from happening.

We've all been left to wonder why a young man with family, friends and a future would behave the way Tologanak is reported to have.

If there's anything among the inquest's findings that may help prevent this strange set of circumstances from happening again, it will be worth the time and effort.

An error appeared in the July 8 edition of Yellowknifer in the article entitled "Homecoming brings home the bacon." Matthew Grogono is general manager of YK Glass Recyclers Co-operative Limited. Yellowknifer apologizes for the error.