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Work together
NWT News/North - Monday, April 19, 2010

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq's comment that she does not have a working relationship with Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington is unfortunate.

Although party politics rule the federal political domain, that is not the philosophy in the NWT. Before Aglukkaq became Nunavut's MP, she was an MLA for Nunavut's Nattilik riding and a GN employee. She knows full well that co-operation is the cornerstone of NWT and Nunavut politics.

The NWT and Nunavut face similar problems to varying degrees and it is vital that they are recognized by Ottawa. Funding and programs are desperately needed to combat the effects of long distance government, shortages in skilled labour, a lack of health care workers and other professionals, and a dire need for improved infrastructure.

When Aglukkaq went to Inuvik she announced much needed funding to help residents of the NWT train for jobs. If the program lives up to its potential, approximately 400 jobs could be created, nearly 100 of them in the health care sector.

All good news. It's too bad our Conservative health minister used the moment to try and demean Bevington's influence in Ottawa, an attempt to politically manoeuvre her party into higher standing here.

Aglukkaq's statement may indeed have the opposite effect. As a minister, when she says she does not work with Bevington, she is ultimately telling the people of the NWT she has no interest in working with them either. Whether the Conservatives like it or not, the NDP MP is the Northwest Territories' representative in Ottawa. He was elected by the people and it is his job to bring the voice of the territory to parliament.

Obviously, the Conservative Party - struggling in the polls - is fighting to improve its public image and win as many seats as possible. The Conservatives have not held a seat in the NWT since the 1980s. Throwing money into rural areas is a good way to attract voters but surprisingly Aglukkaq made a tactical error in her assessment of the hearts and minds of Northerners.

Whether Bevington is doing his job adequately is for the voters to decide. If Aglukkaq wants to improve the Conservatives' image in the NWT she should have demonstrated more respect for its political representative. If she indeed does not have a professional working relationship with Bevington, we suggest she forge one.

Even better, fight for the North in Ottawa. That would further the fortunes of her party far greater than political attacks.

All eyes needed
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 19, 2010

A young boy in Iglulik is no longer among us, due to an accident in the community on April 6.

A sewage truck struck and killed the boy, who, according to police, slid into the street after sliding in his family's driveway.

The RCMP say the driver had no time to react.

It's a tragic situation all around, but it's far, far too common.

There have been several similar deaths across Nunavut over the past decade. It got so bad that in 2005 a coroner's inquest was held to find ways to address the problem. The panel came up with a number of recommendations including safety awareness campaigns and training courses on the safe operation of large vehicles, having helpers accompany sewage and water trucks, improving visibility by keeping snow piles back from roads and better inspections of vehicles.

Those recommendations may have saved lives, but we are still losing pedestrians to accidents, especially children.

Schools must reinforce the dangers posed by vehicles. The basics, such as looking both ways while crossing the street, have to be emphasized. Parents must be sure to explain to their sons and daughters that big trucks can be as dangerous as polar bears or open water.

If adults see children playing on or near roads, they must intervene, escorting the young ones away from those areas.

Truck drivers have to be on high alert as much as possible. While they are human and bound to become distracted at times, the consequences can be fatal and devastating.

We all have a role to play in preventing these tragic accidents. We can't afford to look away or be silent.

Legally inspirational
Nunavut News/North - Monday, April 19, 2010

There's much to promote when it comes to the Akitsiraq Law School. It graduated 11 students from its first class in 2005. Every one of those grads is now employed in the field of law.

That's nothing short of remarkable.

But there's a thirst to produce even more made-in-Nunavut lawyers. To that end, the law school held an open house on March 27. With 25 seats available in the upcoming offering of the program, there has already been close to 75 people showing interest in signing up, according to Anne Crawford, the program's northern director.

This is promising, but there's a hitch. The next round of homemade lawyers are all waiting on a core funding commitment from the Government of Nunavut. These are future attorneys who may someday represent Nunavut in disputes with Ottawa over self-government, take on international conservation cases or help keep the overburdened territorial criminal justice system moving beyond a snail's pace.

What is the GN waiting for? There's a need for not only more lawyers, but accountants, doctors and engineers. Let's make those sorts of programs happen closer to home as well.

Nunavut's future hinges on it.

No room for healthy debate
Weekend Yellowknifer - Friday, April 16, 2010

What's most irritating about Health Minister Sandy Lee's insistence that our extended health care benefits system needs an overhaul is how it came from out of nowhere.

Sure, MLAs may have been talking about it since 2007 when former premier Joe Handley's government first approved of the idea for a user-pay system, as Lee claimed last week, but it certainly wasn't on voters' minds when they headed to the polls later that year.

Whether the territorial government opts for a co-payment plan or a program funded by across-the-board taxes, we can be rest assured this wasn't one of Lee's campaign planks in 2007 - a year many had expected would see her finally get into cabinet, and naturally enough, take over the health portfolio which had occupied so much of her attention during two previous terms.

The first anyone outside of government had heard of the need for changes came in December 2008, 14 months after the territorial election.

But elections in this territory are not about issues - they never are. It's after the vote that we find out about these things: the call for board mergers, and the deal that has now saddled the territorial government with $165 million in Deh Cho Bridge debt among them.

Election issues aside, it's mystifying that after so many years studying the extended health care issue, the Department of Health and Social Services still can't tell us how much the new program will cost, or even give us a range. The current program is budgeted at $8.4 million a year.

The department's goal of providing coverage to all NWT residents for non-health care covered costs, such as those for prescription drugs or eyeglasses, may be noble but it's difficult to support it if the GNWT can't tell us how much extending coverage to people above certain income thresholds will cost.

Right now, non-aboriginal seniors and people with certain disabilities don't pay for extended health benefits. Lee wants to change that so that all non-aboriginal residents are covered, and all those who can afford to pay for a portion will. The government claims more than 3,000 people in the NWT currently have no third-party insurance that would cover prescription costs and other expenses outside of health care.

Seniors argue doing so, however, will punish those who are no longer working but use the health system most, while giving people who already have third-party insurance at work an unneeded break through additional coverage.

This is an important debate with good arguments on both sides, but as usual, the government's poor communication leading up to it has torpedoed its chance of winning the public relations war.

Whether or not Lee moves forward and attempts to ram these changes through, her opponents will have won that fight as they did last year when Lee was forced to concede "we screwed up."

And once again, Lee and her government will have no one but themselves to blame.

A leader, on and off the ice
Editorial Comment
Guy Quenneville
Deh Cho Drum - Thursday, April 15, 2010

5:30 p.m. Thursday.

The village is being pounded by large snowflakes, and huddled inside the front foyer of the community's recreation centre is a group of about 30 people - adults and kids alike - all there for a common purpose: to salute a man they all know as the guy to go to if you want to play or talk Canada's national sport, hockey.

I'm talking about Owen Rowe, of course.

On that Thursday afternoon, the group assembled outside the rec centre to unveil a new message on the building's movable front sign: "Fort Simpson nominates Owen Rowe for RBC Hockey Leader 2010."

Moments after the unveiling, a passing car honked in agreement. The secret was out.

And it was looking a little dicey there for a bit. The two individuals principally responsible for nominating Rowe - Chris Hewitt and Brenda Moreau, both active in Fort Simpson's hockey community - went to great pains to keep the nomination a secret as late as possible.

Moments before the group went to uncover the sign outside, Rowe himself showed up on site, inquiring about all the hullabaloo.

Thanks to some quick thinking, the poker-faced Hewitt convinced Rowe the assembly was being held in Hewitt's honour, and Rowe left, none the wiser. Or perhaps he knew and didn't tell. That would be like Owen, to judge by what Moreau said of him.

"Twenty-five years of work and not even a thank you. He walks away with a smile on his face. It's the same smile that he walks in with," she said.

In small communities like Fort Simpson volunteerism isn't merely a want, it's a need - a huge need that keeps so many social programs, after school activities and evening sports events alive.

Volunteers are, to use a cliche, the lifeblood of any community. The men and women who give of their own time several days a week for soccer, hockey and pretty much every other organized sport under the sun do so without getting paid and, as Moreau suggested about Rowe, without any formal recognition.

The village's nomination of Owen Rowe stands as a reminder that, though these people don't do it for the limelight - because, let's face it, most of the time, there is no limelight to speak of - their efforts must occasionally be cited, if only to encourage other people to pick up a clipboard, permanent marker or hockey stick and volunteer in their community.

Guy Quenneville is the interim editor of Deh Cho Drum. Roxanna Thompson returns later this month.

Lest we forget
Editorial Comment
Andrew Rankin
Inuvik Drum - Thursday, April 15, 2010

Before I got the phone call from Derek Lindsay on Friday, I had completely forgotten that it was the 93rd anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. I was pretty embarrassed about that.

Lindsay informed me that a small group was gathering at the Legion's cenotaph to hold a wreath ceremony in honour of the occasion.

When I arrived there was no crowd, and of course no military band. In fact the mournful trumpet notes heard throughout the service came from a CD played in Lindsay's truck.

So I stuck around for the entire ceremony and afterwards felt a little proud. No there weren't many there, but people came dressed in uniforms and passages of remembrance were spoken.

I was glad the Legion went to the trouble of holding the event - it would have been a shame if the day ended without formal recognition of that extraordinary anniversary.

More than 600,000 Canadians died during the First World War, which is generally acknowledged as the bloodiest and most brutal of wars. During the three day Vimy Ridge battle, 3,598 Canadian soldiers were killed in 1917 and many more were wounded.

The unknown soldier, buried in Ottawa in a special tomb in front of the National War Museum, was chosen from a cemetery near Vimy Ridge.

Fascinating was the decision to bring Canadian forces together for the first time. They plowed through and succeeded where British and French forces failed before them.

Losing Vimy Ridge meant the Germans had to rethink their defensive strategy, which meant they retreated. It was the beginning of the end.

The accomplishment proved Canada could stand alone as a nation.

Our country's only living link to the First World War was broken in February when veteran John Babcock died. He fought in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. After the wreath laying ceremony I interviewed the event's organizer Al Rice. He explained the significance of Babcock's death better than I ever could, and in just a few sentences.

"It was a generation passed," Rice said of Babcock's death. "It's important for us to make note of that, to say we're going to carry on with this tradition of remembrance."

That got me thinking about how I often take our country's veterans for granted. I don't reflect nearly enough on the selflessness and courage they showed which led to our freedom, our own sovereign country.

I'm not suggesting that I should hug and kiss every veteran I see. I just think it's worth reflecting on how lucky we are to live in a democratic country and benefit from all the fruit it bears.

So, with the passing of our last First World War veteran, let's hope we will see more people getting out to Remembrance Day ceremonies, showing some significant gesture of appreciation and remembrance.

Families need a voice
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Child and Family Services Act had people seething and crying during a forum at Northern United Place last week.

Many recounted experiences where their children were removed and placed in foster care.

Some said they had little chance to defend themselves from accusations of abuse or neglect. They said they didn't know how to become better parents so they could get their kids back. Others complained that, once apprehended, children spend far too long being passed between foster homes instead of permanent ones.

Panellist Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, said there are three times as many aboriginal children in child welfare custody in Canada as non-aboriginal children. She also said more children are being removed from their families due to neglect than abuse.

Critics argue the current act gives too much power to social workers, and children are removed from their parents too often. Although the preamble to the act says families should be informed of their rights and be part of the decision-making process, in practice the system seems heavily weighted on the side of courts and social workers.

Children are the most vulnerable members of our society and they need protection. Therefore social workers must be able to intervene when children are being neglected or abused or are at risk of being neglected or abused, which, sadly, happens all too often. The right of the child to be safe and healthy always takes precedence.

But we also need to provide parents and legal guardians the resources and tools they need to develop parenting skills. Parents shouldn't be penalized for being poor or undereducated. They need an advocate who is independent from the social worker and can advise them, in plain language, what they need to do to reclaim their children.

Good riddance to park curfew
Yellowknifer - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

City council made the right decision Monday night to repeal the bylaw that closes city parks from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Its removal is more fallout from the general uproar that occurred over the proposed amendments to the parks bylaw that were introduced last September, which included numerous overbearing clauses such as no tobogganing, no swinging a golf club or doing "anything that is likely to attract a crowd."

The evening parks curfew has actually been on the books since 1997, but wasn't noticed until council began giving the bylaw a good look-over.

Good thing they did because city administration doesn't seem to understand the curfew is bad for residents and tourists alike.

Two attractions Yellowknife is known for include the Northern lights as well as the midnight sun. The enjoyment of both is a uniquely Northern experience that requires a different approach from prohibitions applied down south.

As Coun. Lydia Bardak pointed out during a council meeting last month, anyone in a park after 11 p.m. quietly enjoying the Northern Lights would be violating the bylaw, which is ludicrous.

Coun. Amanda Mallon said the hours should only be applied when the city "has a valid reason" to do so.

The argument that noise levels in parks near residences is a good reason for the curfew makes no sense. As Bardak pointed out, there is already a noise bylaw in place to deal with such problems.

So hear, hear, and goodbye to this unneeded portion of the parks bylaw.

We're glad council got the message. We hope administration did as well.

Bring problems into the light
Editorial Comment
Darrell Greer
Kivalliq News - Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We saw two very different approaches taken to problems that continue to plague Nunavut this past week.

Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk is to be commended for keeping the pressure on a situation in Baker Lake where a former conservation officer killed two muskoxen under highly suspect circumstances.

The official party line on the matter is that the former officer resigned, and so be it, even if the person in question decided to use the way out before it was shown to them.

Despite the resignation, however, there is still a loud voice of complaint being heard from common, everyday folks across Nunavut.

These people argue had they killed an animal in a no-hunting area out of season, they would have been charged for their ill-advised conduct.

And, they're right. They would have.

That's why we hope Shewchuk keeps up the pressure and there is further action concerning the situation.

Not just because this was a conservation officer who should have known better, but because the law is supposed to be applied to everyone equally and further action in this case is warranted.

We also wouldn't mind seeing Shewchuk hand out some Nunavut justice in another direction, if, in fact, a superior did give their blessing to the officer in question to act in the manner they did.

You would expect those who administer our acts and laws to know and abide by them, or face the consequences.

Shewchuk and his staff have done an admirable job in handling this matter to date, albeit a little on the slow side.

Here's hoping they don't stop with the job only halfway done.

On the other side of the coin, we saw an example of how not to handle a problem in Baker Lake this past week.

We have firmly supported mining and mineral exploration in the past and nothing has happened to change that stance.

However, when serious problems begin to present themselves, they have to be dealt with swiftly, openly and honestly.

We've come a long way in the Kivalliq, but it's time we stop trying to hide problems behind closed doors and hope they'll go away.

It's a bad habit that accomplishes nothing positive.

There are problems in Baker associated with the big money some people are making at the new mine, and with learning to trust one's spouse when they're away working for two weeks at a time.

A number of people refused to talk about the situation this past week for fear of reprisal, while others would only speak if they didn't have to give their names.

That's a perfect approach for any community wanting a problem to fester until it becomes unmanageable.

Anyone who thought there wouldn't be a transitional period, and a few bumps in the road when a large influx of cash comes to a community, was dreaming.

They had their eyes clamped shut and were living in the dark.

And, if these problems continue to be pushed out of sight behind closed doors, in the dark is exactly where they'll stay.

If we're to continue to prosper and grow as a region and defeat these problems, it's time to open the door and bring them into the light!


In the April 12 issue of News/North, the story 'National park a step closer' the signing of a framework agreement between the federal government and Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation for creating a national park in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake, was on April 7.

In the Feb. 15 News/North story "Zamboni driver clears the way in Fort Good Hope," the machine should have been referred to as an ice re-surfacer as it was not a brand name Zamboni.

The story "NWT wants southern workers to combat labour shortage" (News/North April 12) should have made clear that funding for the government's new advertising campaign is coming from the investment and economic analysis division of Industry, Tourism and Investment.

News/North apologizes for any embarrassment or confusion the errors might have caused.

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