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News/North: 2014 - The Year in Review


Man found dead in Fort Simpson

The body of 45-year-old Billy Allen Cholo was found in a gazebo near the health centre in Fort Simpson on Jan 9. He had last been seen outside the Northern store on Dec. 18.

NNSL photo/graphic

About 50 community members, including Canadian Rangers, members of the fire department, Village of Fort Simpson and Parks Canada staff, participated in a ground search on Jan. 9. Cholo's body was found in the gazebo within an hour of starting the search.

After a post-mortem examination was completed in Edmonton, police announced they were treating the death as a homicide. To date, no charges have been laid.

H1N1 Flu vaccine rationed

An early start to the flu season had the Department of Health and Social Services rationing vaccines in January.

Flu season began in December instead of in late January and the health department could only provide vaccinations to pregnant mothers and the elderly by the New Year. There were 15,250 flu shots available when vaccinations began in October and only 700 were still available in January.

There were 69 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu in the NWT at the time the vaccines were rationed, the majority of which were in the Beaufort Delta.

Council tries to oust Salt River First Nation chief

Band council members for Salt River First Nation passed a motion of non-confidence against Chief Frieda Martselos at the end of December.

After receiving advice from a lawyer, Martselos rejected the motion as illegal. The legal opinion stated that Martselos and her brother, Coun. Ken Laviolette, had been asked to leave the meeting prior to the motion being passed, but that they should have been present because the issue was considered political and not conflict of interest.

Martselos and Laviolette said they left the meeting because they understood that the issue being discussed involved the employment of a relative.

Man surrenders after Behchoko standoff

A 49-year-old man staged a five-hour standoff in Behchoko on Jan. 17.

Police received a call about a man threatening to harm himself in Edzo at about 10 a.m. Local RCMP and members of the G Division Emergency Response Team surrounded his home and kept him inside while a crisis negotiator spoke to him.

Staff and students at Chief Jimmy Bruneau School were kept indoors until they could be transported to a safer location. The man surrendered at about 3 p.m. and no charges were laid. His name was not released.

Residential schools linked with alcohol addiction

Truth and Reconciliation commissioner Marie Wilson said there is a link between residential school trauma and alcohol and drug addiction in the Northwest Territories. Nearly all of the people who spoke to the TRC since it began hearing stories in 2009 mentioned having problems with alcohol as a result of their residential school experiences.

The territory's first residential school, Sacred Heart Residential School, was opened in Fort Providence in 1867. Grollier Hall, the dormitory residence in Inuvik run by the Catholic Church, was the last residential school in the territory to close in 1996.

Dogs killed for bounty in Colville Lake

Residents of Colville Lake were worried about community safety after the chief and council issued a notice that the band would pay $100 for every dog shot while loose on Jan. 22.

The bounty included adult dogs and puppies.

Resident Linda Manuel said she was concerned about residents shooting dogs in the community, especially with children walking to and from school.

She said the band office should have performed checks to make sure shooters didn't have criminal records and for proper firearms licences before allowing residents to shoot dogs in the community.

Caribou Legs runs to Tuk

Brad Firth, also known as Caribou Legs, ran from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk on the ice road to raise awareness about addictions in the territory.

The 120 km journey took three days. Firth had originally wanted to do the run in a single 48-hour period, but support staff weren't permitted to work around the clock. Instead, Firth ran 50 km the first day and shorter distances on days two and three. Gwich'in representatives in Inuvik sponsored the run.


Deninu Ku'e First Nation signs on to devolution

Deninu Ku'e First Nation council in Fort Resolution voted unanimously in favour of joining the agreement for the devolution of land and resources on Jan. 26.

Devolution came into effect in the NWT on April 1.

Chief Louis Balsillie said the decision would give the DKFN more authority over resource extraction in Akaitcho Territory.

The Inuvialuit Regional Corporation,the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated, the Gwich'in Tribal Council and the Tlicho Government had already signed the devolution agreement by February.

Residents say no to super board

Residents from across the territory met in Yellowknife Jan. 27 to discuss concerns about a decision to eliminate regional land and water boards as part of the devolution agreement between the NWT and the federal government.

Bill C-15 proposed to amend the NWT Act and the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which would transfer power formerly held by regional boards to the territorial government.

First Nations leaders said they were especially worried about how the elimination of the boards would impact land claim agreements.

"Canada has returned to the old colonial ways of thinking they know what's best for us," Tlicho Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus said.

Gwich'in join Peel lawsuit

Members of the Gwich'in Tribal Council (GTC) announced their intention to join a lawsuit against the Yukon government's Peel Watershed Land Use Plan on Feb. 4.

Although GTC vice-president Norman Snowshoe initially told News/North the council was considering filing its own case, the GTC eventually became an intervenor in a case filed by Yukon First Nations and other groups.

The NWT Gwich'in joined the Tr'ondek Hwech'in and Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nations in the Yukon, as well as the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Yukon Conservations Society, who had filed a lawsuit against the government's plans for the watershed on Jan. 17.

Alcohol a factor in death of 14 year old

NWT coroner Cathy Menard released a report that found a 14-year-old girl who had died in Fort Good Hope in 2012 died of hypothermia after drinking alcohol.

The girl had been found near the community's water reservoir in December 2012 with a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit for driving.

In her report, Menard stated the girl had been drinking with a friend on Dec. 29. Her body was found on Dec. 31.

Menard told News/North that all of the 11 cases of hypothermia causing death in the NWT over the last five years were alcohol related.

Whati man charged after radio tower shot

A 41-year-old man was charged with careless use of a firearm and mischief causing damage in excess of $5,000 after the community's radio tower was shot during an incident on New Year's Day.

The occurrence caused thousands of dollars worth of damage and impacted the RCMP's radio coverage in the area.

Officers noticed there was a problem in January after losing radio contact while patrolling the Whati winter road. After inspecting the tower, it was determined that a specialist would have to be flown into the community to do repairs.

Witnesses told police they had seen an intoxicated man shooting at the tower on New Year's Day, which led to the man's arrest.

The tower was repaired by Feb. 13.

GNWT ups Heritage Fund commitment

Following a tour of the NWT to talk about what to do with resource revenues once devolution took effect, Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger did an about face on how much the government would put aside for future generations.

Twenty-five per cent of resource royalties would go into the NWT Heritage Fund beginning in 2015, Miltenberger announced in the Feb. 11. This was a fairly dramatic increase from the five per cent of royalties allocated to the Heritage Fund in the 2014/15 budget, which the minister had tabled Feb. 6.

Miltenberger credited the change to pressure put on the government by regular MLAs.

"In the spirit of consensus government, we will be taking members' wishes on this matter into account," he said.

The GNWT expected its resource revenues to total $60 million in 2015/16, meaning the fund is to receive roughly $15 million per year instead of $3 million.

MACA steps in to support Hamlet of Enterprise

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) entered into a co-management agreement with the Hamlet of Enterprise after a unanimous vote on Feb. 12.

The agreement was intended to assist the community with its operations and help find an interim senior administrative officer until the position could be filled. It would also allow MACA to provide support to review policies and get access to training.

The agreement did not take power away from the council and decisions did not have to be approved by MACA.

Norman Wells forms energy ad-hoc committee

The Town of Norman Wells formed an ad-hoc energy committee to help distribute information to the public and determine the best way to allocate financial assistance to customers to prepare for Imperial Oil's shutdown of natural gas supplies.

Imperial Oil had scheduled to turn off the gas supply by Nov. 1, 2014. All residential and commercial customers had to be off the distribution system by that time.

Report shows high STI and smoking rates

The 2012/2013 annual health report from the Department of Health and Social Services stated that sexually transmitted infections, including chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, were 10 per cent more common in the NWT than the rest of Canada.

Smoking rates were 16.5 per cent higher than the national average, though the report noted that smoking had decreased since 2001.

Employment Insurance rules changed

The federal government announced that it would use the NWT's actual employment rate to calculate employment insurance benefits.

That meant people applying for EI would need to work more hours to qualify, depending on the region in which they lived.

The old system calculated eligibility based on a fixed unemployment rate of 25 per cent for all three territories.

Unemployment rates in Yellowknife in January were 4.7 per cent, while the rest of the territory had an unemployment rate of 11.8 per cent.

Anti-super board motion defeated

A motion attempting to preserve the NWT's regional land and water boards was defeated in the legislative assembly Feb. 20 by a vote of 11 to seven.

"This motion is a response to the crystal clear and unanimous voices of our aboriginal partners," said Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley, who introduced the motion.

All seven cabinet ministers voted against the motion as a block, as did Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake Jr., Hay River North MLA Robert Bouchard, Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen and Range Lake MLA Daryl Dolynny.

"There is no reason to believe that a single board will not be as efficient," said Premier Bob McLeod during the debate leading up to the vote.

Earlier in the year in Ottawa, NWT MP Dennis Bevington's attempt to split Bill C-15 into to separate bills, one dealing with devolution and another with the federal government's changes to the Mackenzie Valley Resources Management Act, was also defeated. Members of the Parliamentary Special Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development voted down that motion on Jan. 30.

The regulatory overhaul is scheduled to take effect on April 1, 2015.

Prescription drug abuse raises concerns

The Office of the Chief Coroner released a report stating that there were 17 overdose deaths in the territory from 2009 to 2012, including accidents and suicides. The deaths were attributed to prescription medication and/or over-the-counter drugs.

The report, which was authored by chief coroner Cathy Menard, was written after the 2012 accidental death of Arlene Carmichael, a 47-year-old woman from Aklavik. Carmichael died of aspiration pneumonia after taking a combination of prescribed drugs.

Menard noted there were nine different medications in Carmichael's system at the time of her death, including morphine, codeine and acetaminophen. The report made several recommendations to the Department of Health and Social Services, including providing better training to physicians prescribing drugs and providing more services to addicted patients.


Muskox meat wasted in Sachs Harbour

Department of Environment and Natural Resources officers were investigating after a muskox carcass was found in February with only its legs removed.

The animal was found about three kilometres outside of Sachs Harbour.

The penalty for wasting meat in the NWT is a $575 fine, but if the case goes to court the fine increases to $1,000 with a possibility of two years in prison.

MLAs talk term extension

Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen introduced a motion March 10 that would extend the terms for current members of the legislative assembly from four years to five.

Groenewegen said the extension was intended to avoid having territorial, federal and municipal elections taking place during the same month in October 2015. She said three elections taking place within weeks of each other could negatively affect the number of people who vote.

MLAs later decided to change the date of the territorial election to Nov. 23, 2015 if the federal election takes place in October.

Deline ratifies self-government agreement

The Deline self-government agreement was approved during a vote in Deline and Yellowknife on March 11 and 12.

Eighty-five per cent of the 527 voters voted 'yes' to the agreement. It is intended to give Deline residents more power over the community's programs and services, such as municipal services, justice, economic development, land management, marriages and wellness and social programs.

Because it was negotiated for a community and not on a regional basis, it is the only agreement of its kind in Canada.

"We are now one big step closer to finally having one government in our community where we can all work together for the good of our people," stated Deline First Nation Chief Leonard Kenny in a news release at the time.

"This new aboriginal public government will also represent and serve all residents of Deline."

By April 1, 2016, the agreement will combine the Deline First Nation, the Charter Community of Deline and the Deline Land Corporation into one political body the Deline Got'ine Government.

Dettah chief cries foul after signature appears on Bathurst caribou tags

Dettah Chief Ed Sangris said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) did not have his permission to use his signature on hunting tags for the 2014/15 Bathurst caribou harvest.

While Sangris' signature had been used with permission before, he said that was because the Yellowknives Dene and ENR had agreed on a management plan for the herd.

Sangris said this year, the two parties did not agree on a management plan, yet his signature still appeared on tags distributed to hunters.

RCMP were investigating the allegation.

Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation declares tie for chief

After a recount determined that Archie Catholique and Felix Lockhart had tied during the election for chief in Lutsel K'e on March 14, the Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation decided to redo the election.

The original count had declared Catholique the winner, but the band's chief electoral officer, Graeme Drew, found that some of the ballots that had been declared spoiled should have been counted.

In total, only two ballots were spoiled instead of nine as originally reported.

That meant Catholique and Lockhart had each received 63 votes.

The original tally had been 63 for Catholique and 60 for Lockhart.

An investigation later found that conflict of interest and threatening behaviour had taken place during the first election, which contributed to the decision to hold a new election.

The second election was held in May and Lockhart was declared chief.

Hay River gets first midwife

The territorial health department announced the first midwife had been hired for Hay River's new midwifery program.

The program, which was to be housed in the community's health centre until a new hospital is finished in 2016, was planned to include two midwives and other medical staff, such as nurses. Once in the community, midwives were to begin providing prenatal care and working policy guidelines, said Donna Allen, director of territorial health services.

"It will probably be January of 2015 for actual birthing services to begin," said Allen.

Child and Family Services slammed by auditor general

The Auditor General of Canada released its audit of Child and Family Services in the NWT and revealed a variety of major problems with the system.

"The Department of Health and Social Services and the health and social services authorities are not adequately meeting their key responsibilities for the protection and well-being of children, youth and their families," the audit report stated.

The report stated that 69 per cent of foster parents hadn't been properly screened before children had been placed in their homes. It also found that 28 per cent of the 46 child protection concern reports that were examined as part of the audit had never been investigated.

"It's being taken very seriously," said Health and Social Services Minister Glen Abernethy shortly after the audit was released.

There were 266 children in temporary or permanent foster care in 2012-2013 and an additional 1,042 had received services under the territory's Child and Family Services Act.

Ninety five per cent of children who received services were aboriginal.

Devolution day

On April 1, the territorial government took over responsibility for land, water and resources from the federal government.

With devolution, 132 federal employees moved to the GNWT, which created a new department, the Depart of Lands. Significant changes were made to the departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI).

As part of devolution implementation, ITI Minister David Ramsay was put in charge of the territory's new onshore oil and gas regulator. That regulatory role was previously filled by the National Energy Board.


Coroner's report reveals carbon monoxide deaths

A coroner's investigation determined that a Hay River couple died of carbon monoxide poisoning while sleeping in a rented cabin in 2013.

Brenda Laviolette-Rapp, 58, and her common-law husband Robert Bradley, 52, died over the Thanksgiving weekend and were found on Oct. 13. A pair of propane lamps that had been left on a low setting overnight was blamed for releasing a lethal dose of carbon monoxide into the cabin.

NWT chief coroner Cathy Menard recommended that the territory create an education program to highlight the dangers of propane and gas appliances, as well as to remind people about the importance of carbon monoxide detectors.

Fort Good Hope bans alcohol for one month

Fort Good Hope banned alcohol during the month of April after a young woman was murdered in the community.

Charlotte Lafferty was found dead on March 22 near the Fort Good Hope elders' complex. A 17-year-old male was charged with first-degree murder in her death.

Community members held meetings in mid-April to discuss the impact alcohol was having on the community.

Since restrictions were lifted at the Norman Wells liquor store in 2012, Fort Good Hope had seen an increase in alcohol consumption, said Chief Greg Laboucan.

"The liquor store allows them to buy as much alcohol as they want and they can bring it in," he said.

"That's created issues in our town but, also, I'm sure in talking with the other communities, it's created problems there."

RCMP had seized large quantities of alcohol destined for Fort Good Hope as residents returned from Norman Wells on the ice road. Fort Good Hope is a restricted community.

It was later revealed that elders witnessed her attack from their apartments and attempted to contact RCMP but were confused when their calls were routed through Yellowknife.

In September, then-RCMP 'G' Division spokesperson Sgt. Barry Ledoux responded to concerns raised about centralized dispatching by saying that it is unrealistic for officers in small communities to take calls for service on their own.

"We can't have officers working 24/7," he said. "They need time to recharge their batteries as well."

Loss of permafrost, sea ice noted in climate change report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report titled Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, which examined the impacts of climate change.

Jim Sparling, manager of climate change programs with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that in the North, two of the biggest concerns were permafrost melt and the loss of sea ice, as well as unpredictable weather patterns. Sparling said melting permafrost is affecting existing infrastructure, such as buildings and roads, as well as new construction projects.

"It definitely makes me more concerned," said Ecology North's Craig Scott of the IPCC report.

"We have a lot more scientists agreeing and doing all this scientific research and saying that these things are happening and are going to happen faster in the future. It's quite concerning. There is consensus across the board."

First Air and Canadian North discuss merger

First Air and Canadian North shareholders talked about merging if a commercial agreement could be reached between the companies that own the airlines.

Makivik Corporation owns First Air and NorTerra Inc. owns Canadian North.

There were concerns about whether a merger would result in job losses for employees working at either company.

The companies later announced in October that they had called off the merger and were no longer discussing it.

Federal court of appeal upholds Metis rights

Metis Canadians have aboriginal rights under the Canadian Constitution after the Federal Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling on April 17.

The ruling on the Harry Daniels case states that Metis should have the same access to services as First Nations and Inuit through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada.

The Court of Appeal decision ruled that Metis should be considered Indians under the Indian Act and the constitution. A section about whether non-status Indians should also be considered was dismissed. Instead, the court ruled that those cases should be examined individually.

Both the federal government and The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the group representing Metis and non-status Indians, appealed the decision.

This past November, the Supreme Court of Canada agreed to hear appeals from both sides.

Both parties filed their notices of appeal with the court in December.

Tuk airport officially opened

Although it had been operating since 2012, the James Gruben Airport Terminal Building was officially opened during a ceremony in Tuktoyaktuk on April 11.

The $2 million building is energy-efficient and was built on jacks, which allow it to be adjusted to accommodate shifting permafrost. The communications and navigation systems were all upgraded and the building was constructed closer to the landing apron, which would give passengers a shorter walk from the plane to the airport.

Twenty-two year old appointed fire chief

Debra Richards, 22, was appointed to the volunteer fire chief position in Enterprise on April 7. Richards joined the department in December 2013 and Enterprise Mayor John Leskiw II said Richards would continue to receive firefighter training while filling an executive role, including doing paperwork and organizing training opportunities for the rest of the department.

About 110 people live in Enterprise and Leskiw II said the community has an agreement with Hay River's fire department to respond to calls if required.

Earthquake strikes near Tuktoyaktuk

A 4.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Tuktoyaktuk on March 23.

John Cassidy, a seismologist with the federal Department of Natural Resources said earthquakes are common in the Beaufort Sea, with more than 75 earthquakes happening in the same area within the past 25 years. The earthquake struck about 240 km northwest of Tuktoyaktuk and Mayor Darrel Nasagaluak said the quake was not felt within the community.

RCMP make multiple busts on winter roads

While patrolling winter roads in the Mackenzie Valley, RCMP confiscated a total of about 249 bottles of alcohol, including vodka, whiskey, coolers, beer and wine during the first two weeks of April.

In a few cases, police also seized marijuana, drug paraphernalia and money. Anonymous tips from residents of Deline and Fort Good Hope helped police perform investigations and arrest would-be bootleggers.


Elders' mock parliament says no to fracking

Eighteen elders from throughout the Northwest Territories gathered in the legislative assembly as part of the biennial Elders' Parliament held May 5 to 8.

Elders held a three days of meetings culminating in a mock session of the assembly where many issues were discussed.

The elders voted unanimously for a moratorium on fracking, as well as for the establishment of a sustainability forum to address the NWT's high cost of living. They also voted to set up traditional knowledge centres in communities.

Auditor General criticizes CanNor

Auditor General Michael Ferguson tabled a report in Parliament on May 6 stating that the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor) was not adequately monitoring the programs it pays for.

Nunavut MP Leona Aglukkaq, minister responsible for CanNor, said the agency has accepted all of the auditor general's recommendations. Details on what actions would be taken remained unclear.

CanNor has invested more than $185 million in 910 projects across the North since 2009. Projects under the Targeted Investment Program, the Community Economic Development Program and the Northern Adult Basic Education Program were investigated during the audit.

Sahtu Health Centre breaks ground

A fire-feeding ceremony was held on May 7 to commemorate the construction of the Health and Social Services Centre and Long Term Care Facility in Norman Wells.

The $35 million facility would replace the community with a new health centre and provide 18 long-term care beds. At least 88 jobs were expected to be required to run the facility, 29 of which would be new jobs.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in 2016.

Health Canada awards NWT nurses

Lianne Mantla of Behchoko and Rachel Munday of Aklavik each received a First Nations and Inuit Health Branch Award of Excellence in Nursing award from Health Canada on May 12.

Mantla is believed to be the only person in the Tlicho region to have completed a degree in nursing, according to Health Canada.

Munday has been the nurse in charge in Aklavik since 2005.

"It's nice to be recognized for an award such as this in a career as wonderful as nursing," said Mantla.

Naats'ihch'oh National Reserve Park gets one step closer

Federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq introduced a bill that would formally establish Naats'ihch'oh National Reserve Park on May 14.

The park would protect 4,895 square kilometres of the northern side of the Nahanni National Park Reserve. Combining the parks would protect 86 per cent of the South Nahanni Watershed.

Negotiating the boundaries for Naats'ihch'oh took nearly 10 years.

Aglukkaq, who also serves as minister responsible for Parks Canada, announced Dec. 18 that the bill had been given royal assent by the Governor General.

Husky Energy pulls fracking application

Husky Energy withdrew its application to hydraulically fracture four horizontal test wells in the Sahtu region on May 22.

The Sahtu Land and Water Board had previously decided to postpone its final decision on the application until the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) could provide more information.

That information included a review of the evaporation system planned by the company and a permafrost analysis.

ITI Minister David Ramsay, who is also the head of the NWT's new oil and gas regulator set up under devolution, said the withdrawal did not mean the company was completely pulling out of the territory.

Ramsay also pointed out that Shell and Imperial Oil still have holdings in the area.

While the move left several people in the region without work, Husky's withdrawal was welcome news to some, including Sheila Karkagie, who has been actively fighting against the use of fracking in the Sahtu.

"It's a happy day but I'm sure it's not the end," she told News/North.

Slave River fish safe

After three years of studying fish in the Slave River, researchers concluded the fish are not being adversely impacted by oil sands development in Alberta.

Another monitoring program, the Slave Watershed Environmental Effects Program (SWEEP), is looking for impacts of climate change, pesticides from farming, hydrological changes and industrial pollution.

Researcher Dr. Paul Jones, a professor from the University of Saskatchewan, examined the fish for lesions, checked their internal organs and measured them to determine health.

Slave River flow rate investigated

Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt, an associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan, began researching whether the Bennett Dam on the Peace River in British Columbia is impacting the Slave River.

The two-year project includes examining ice dynamics on the river, such as how the dam's discharge rate could create air pockets under the ice or cause over-ice flooding. Six time-lapse cameras were installed to keep track of the river near Fort Smith and in the Delta.

The project is also looking at climate change effects.

Aklavik's Mary Kendi dies

Mary Kendi, a 99-year-old Aklavik elder, died on May 26.

Kendi was born in 1915 to Paul Koe and Elizabeth Vittrekwa. Her grandmother delivered her at a camp at the Pokiak Channel, across the Peel Channel from what is now Aklavik.

Kendi received many awards for her work to promote language and culture. In 2012, she was awarded with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and in 1992, Kendi became one of the first in the territory to win a Wise Women award from the NWT Status of Women Council.

Her husband, Alfred Kendi, was a special constable with the RCMP.

Four more aboriginal groups sign devolution

The Salt River First Nation of Fort Smith, Deninu Ku'e First Nation of Fort Resolution, the Acho Dene Koe First Nation and the Fort Liard Metis Local #67 signed the devolution agreement on May 26.

That left the Dehcho First Nations and three members of the Akaitcho First Nations Dettah, Ndilo and Lutsel K'e as the only aboriginal governments to have not signed the agreement.


Inuvialuit celebrate land claim's 30th anniversary

The Inuvialuit Final Agreement was celebrated in communities throughout the Beaufort Delta on June 5.

The agreement between the Inuvialuit and Canada was signed 30 years ago.

Nellie Cournoyea, former NWT premier and the chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, was a signatory on the final agreement. She said Inuvialuit Day was a way to highlight the struggle and hard work that went into establishing the agreement.

"It's a good day to be Inuvialuit," said IRC vice-chair Duane Smith during celebrations in Inuvik.

Robert Alexie Jr. found dead

Gwich'in Tribal Council president Robert Alexie Jr. was found dead on the Dempster Highway near Fort McPherson on June 9.

"He was a fine man, a gentleman, a person with compassion and a person who cared that he treated people well," said Inuvialuit Regional Corporation chair Nellie Cournoyea on June 10.

The 58-year-old was elected president of the council in June 2012. He was born and raised in Fort McPherson and became an observer communicator and flight service specialist before turning to politics.

He was elected chief of the Tetlit Gwich'in Council in Fort McPherson in 1989. He became the executive director of the Gwich'in Land and Water Board 10 years later until being elected president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council.

His death was not considered suspicious.

Tu Nedhe riding amalgamated

The Tu Nedhe riding, which was made of Lutsel K'e and Fort Resolution, was amalgamated with Ndilo and Dettah to form a new riding NWT 3.

Tu Nedhe MLA Tom Beaulieu said his constituents didn't want their riding combined with the Yellowknives communities because they were culturally and linguistically different. Dettah Chief Ed Sangris agreed.

The majority of people in the Tu Nedhe riding speak Chipewyan while the Yellowknives Dene speak Dogrib.

Tu Nedhe was the territory's smallest riding by population, with about 800 constituents. It has been an NWT riding for 35 years.

Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty was also opposed to the amalgamation, saying it would essentially eliminate the Chipewyan language from the legislature.

Other MLAs pointed out that several of the territory's 11 official languages are not spoke in the legislative assembly, and that several MLAs, including Lafferty, represent more than one cultural group.

Beaulieu encouraged the people of the Tu Nedhe riding to challenge the decision in court. The changes are scheduled to take effect for the 2015 territorial election.

Backlash over junior kindergarten grows

The GNWT's $7.4 million plan to roll out junior kindergarten was not made in consultation with those already working in early childhood education in the NWT, said Aboriginal Head Start program manager Reanna Erasmus. The program offers play-based education to three- and four-year-olds in eight communities.

Erasmus' concerns were added to those already being raised by Yellowknife school boards, who took exception to the government's plan to cut their funding in order to raise the necessary capital for junior kindergarten.

Paulatuk robbery faked

Two employees at the Paulatuk Northern Store were charged after faking an armed robbery on June 19.

A 26-year-old man from Nova Scotia was charged with theft over $5,000 and public mischief. Another Nova Scotia man, 24, was expected to be charged with possessing property obtained by crime over $5,000.

Police officers responding to the call were told the robber threatened an employee with a knife before fleeing the scene with cash.

An investigation revealed the employees had staged the robbery and lied to police.

Dene angry over treaty violations

The Dene National Assembly was held in Fort Smith from June 16 to 20 and many delegates spoke about how the territorial and federal governments weren't fulfilling their treaty obligations.

Treaty 8 and Treaty 11 are both being violated with hunting, trapping and fishing regulations being imposed on aboriginal people, members said. Government and industry failing to recognize Dene ownership of land and resources was also discussed.

Next year's assembly will be held in Deline.

Wood Buffalo fire darkens Fort Smith skies

Streetlights came on in the daytime in Fort Smith as smoke from a fire in Wood Buffalo National Park blocked out daylight.

The fire was about 60 km southwest of the community and engulfed about 35,665 hectares as of June 20. Lightning was blamed for starting the blaze on June 14.

While people with respiratory problems were advised to contact the Fort Smith health centre, the fire was not expected to threaten the community.


Kakisa evacuated because of forest fire

A voluntary evacuation took place in Kakisa on June 27 after smoke from a 45,000-hectare wildfire was driven into the community.

The fire was burning about seven kilometres outside of Kakisa at the time.

Meanwhile, another fire was threatening sacred sites near Old Fort Reliance. More than 30 forest fires had burned in the North Slave region by the end of June.

Fire officials said that while the number of fires wasn't unusual, the intensity was. Normally, fires at the beginning of the season are slow-burning, but the dry conditions and strong winds this year created the extra intensity.

Bern Will Brown dies

Bern Will Brown died July 4 at the age of 93. More than 50 years ago, Brown, then an Oblate priest, constructed Colville Lake's first building, the Our Lady of the Snows Church. He also built Colville Lake Lodge and the community's first store, Kapami Co-Op.

Once the church was built, people who had once lived there began to return.

Brown played the role of doctor, dentist and forestry officer, all while keeping the co-op store running. In the 1970s, he bought a plane and delivered mail from Fort Good Hope for 10 years. Brown left the priesthood in the 1970s and married, but continued delivering church services in English and Slavey. He authored five books, including End-Of-Earth People: The Arctic Sahtu Dene.

Fires wreak havoc

David and Kristen Olesen were picking up the pieces of their lives after a forest fire burned down their 27-year-old homestead near the Hoarfrost River on the East Arm of Great Slave Lake on July 4.

The handcrafted log home was fully engulfed in flames after strong easterly winds pushed Fire 7, which was started by lightning near Old Fort Reliance. Along with the home, two of the family's 44 sled dogs perished during the chaos.

Mould shuts town hall

Hay River town hall shut down in July after white mould was found in the ventilation system, forcing employees to relocate.

"Once they discovered it, our first priority, obviously, was the health and safety of our people," said Mayor Andrew Cassidy. "It was found in the morning, and right away, we sent everyone home."

A July 7 news release stated regular services would continue out of the Don Stewart Recreation Centre.

Cassidy explained the mould was found by an employee looking to rule out causes for an illness.

The mayor noted no staff members previously complained of respiratory ailments as a result of the air quality and the sick employee's examination of the ventilation system was not because he believed it was causing his illness.

Priest called back to India

The departure of a priest from the Roman Catholic parish in Fort Smith had nothing to do with tension over his incorporation of aboriginal elements into church services, despite reports to the contrary.

"Absolutely not," said Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Mackenzie-Fort Smith Diocese. "The reason for his departure from the parish was he was called back by his bishop in his diocese in India."

Father Paul Payyapilly first served in Fort Smith for five months in 2007, and returned in 2010. His last service in the community was on July 7.

Making his first catch

For Sachs Harbour's Dustyn Gully, catching his first beluga whale was an extra special early birthday present. Gully made his catch on July 17, just two days before his 16th birthday.

"It was pretty cool," he said.

The whale was about eight feet long. Gully, along with his father and an uncle, travelled by boat a short distance from the community. The group spotted whales and Gully selected one. And then he took his shot.

"I shot it in the head and it was dazed and then I harpooned it," he said. His uncle then helped him finish the job.

Driver saved by seat belt

The driver of a car that rolled over just south of Enterprise on July 22 escaped with non-life-threatening injuries. Police said it was most likely because the 47-year-old man was wearing a seat belt.

It was a very serious accident, said Const. Yannick Gagnon of the Hay River RCMP. "And due to the fact the driver was wearing his seat belt properly, his life was saved."

The single-vehicle accident occurred at about 5:15 p.m. on July 22 near Escarpment Creek, about six kilometres south of Enterprise on Highway 1.

Body recovered

The body of Richard St. Germain was recovered from the Mackenzie River. St. Germain and a woman had gone canoeing in the river at Norman Wells on July 15.

The pair fell into the water at about 9 p.m. Local boaters rescued the woman, but were unable to locate St. Germain. Searchers continued to look for him for more than a week. On July 23, his body was found at Oscar Creek, near Fort Good Hope.

Body from river identified

A body recovered in the Mackenzie River near Fort Providence was identified as that of a woman who went missing in Hay River earlier in the summer. The NWT Coroner's Office confirmed that the body of Rachel Littlejohn, 37, of Lakefield, Ont., was found near the confluence of the Horn and Mackenzie Rivers on July 23, about 30 km downstream from Fort Providence.

Two men from the community who were doing water surveying and fish monitoring found the body, said Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge of Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation. Littlejohn was last seen in Hay River on May 31. The RCMP said the incident was not considered suspicious.

Hamlet government fired

The hamlet government of Fort McPherson ceased to exist in July after Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) officials exercised the department's authority to dissolve the community government.

The reason was the hamlet was about $2 million in debt, and MACA decided a deficit reduction plan was unlikely to be approved and implemented with the mayor and council.

Bill Prodromidis, who served as mayor of the hamlet until being relieved of his duties, said he was blindsided by the move.

Trio survives helicopter crash

A helicopter pilot and two passengers swam to safety after their aircraft crashed on an unnamed lake about 160 km north of Yellowknife. The Bell 206-L helicopter operated by Great Slave Helicopters went down at 4:10 p.m. on July 27.

The pilot and two members of a geological survey team escaped with minor injuries and contacted the company on a satellite phone after reaching shore, according to John Cottreau, a spokesperson with the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

The downed helicopter "inverted and sank" following the crash, he said. The pilot and passengers were rescued by a helicopter the company dispatched from Ekati Diamond Mine, about a 25-minute flight away, according to Adam Bembridge, president of Great Slave Helicopters.


Castaway cousins

Two Behchoko men were found on an island near Old Fort Rae after a Sea-Doo breakdown prompted a search. Cousins Glen Blondin, 28, and Kenneth Richardson, 23, left Behchoko mid-afternoon on Aug. 2, and weren't rescued until the next day. Despite a dense blanket of forest fire smoke, many boats searched through the night.

Blondin and Richardson were roughly 15 km south of Behchoko when the Sea-Doo would not restart. Blondin used a cellphone to call his parents to let them know he was stranded, although he wasn't sure where.

Rescuers in boats passed by but couldn't hear the cousins yelling, plus smoke made it difficult to see. The next morning, searchers in one boat shut off the engine and heard the men yelling.

Blazes prompt training

Firefighters in the NWT battling the worst blazes in decades got some help. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources held four training sessions to prepare more Type 3 wildfire crews, who are also known as extra firefighters, or EFFs. They were not for initial attack.

Instead, the newly-trained firefighters were to help with such things as fire mop-up, driving, and some general duties, such as equipment maintenance and camp operation. That allowed more highly-trained and experienced firefighters to engage in initial attack. Three of the four-day training courses were held in Fort Smith and the other in Yellowknife, all between Aug. 5 and 16.

The training course covered many topics, including safety, fire behaviour, fire suppression, equipment operation, communications, survival skills and more.

Russian sanctions hit NWT

Freshwater fishers in the NWT lost one of their markets after Russia initiated a sanction blocking sales of Canadian seafood. The year-long import ban on meat, fish, milk and dairy, and fruits and vegetables from Canada, Norway, Australia, the United States and the European Union came as retaliation from Russian president Vladimir Putin against Western economic sanctions put on Russian officials and business people because of the crisis in Ukraine.

Shawn Buckley, a commercial fisherman and guide operator based in Hay River, said the import ban comes at an unfortunate time.

"It's too bad because we're selling the inconnu to Russia," Buckley said. According to the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation based in Winnipeg, the immediate impact to fishers would be minimal.

Don't shoot at police

An incident in Behchoko in August could have ended in tragedy had RCMP officers not noticed that a youth shooting a firearm at their vehicle was in fact carrying a pellet gun.

"There could have been deadly consequences," said RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Barry Ledoux.

On Aug. 12, Behchoko RCMP received a call reporting multiple youth were shooting at a bylaw vehicle. That vehicle sustained damage, including broken windows. When police arrived, one male youth turned his weapon on the RCMP vehicle.

"Our members were very observant to determine that it actually wasn't a real firearm," said Ledoux. "Had it been a real firearm, or had the members not been close enough or in the right lighting or angle, it could have ended in tragedy."

Teenager dies in fire

A 16-year-old girl was killed in a house fire in Fort Resolution on Aug. 15. The victim was identified as Rhoni Beaulieu. The teenager, who resided in the home with her parents, succumbed to smoke inhalation.

She was home alone at the time of the fire, which occurred in the early afternoon. Chucker Dewar, the NWT's fire marshal, said a propane barbecue on the home's porch was the primary suspect as the cause of the fire.

Cruise cancels stop in Ulukhaktok

The National Geographic Explorer cruise ship did not stop in Ulukhaktok on Aug. 18 as was originally planned. The ship was unable to make it through heavy ice in the central Northwest Passage.

It was not expected that the passengers would make it to the Victoria Island community at all during the summer, confirmed Patty Disken-Cahill, a public relations official with National Geographic Expeditions.

Fort Good Hope lifts booze ban

The people of Fort Good Hope voted 97 to 57 in favour of lifting a ban on ordering alcohol into the community via plane during a secret ballot on Aug. 28.

Residents had been prohibited from ordering alcohol since a 17-year-old male was charged with the first-degree murder of Charlotte Lafferty in March. Alcohol was reportedly a factor in the incident.

The tragedy led Chief Greg Laboucan to hold a public vote to see if residents wanted to stop alcohol from being delivered via "re-packs," which are delivered by plane from the nearest liquor store in Norman Wells.

A close public vote saw the ban imposed in April.

However, some residents put together a petition in July calling for the ban to be lifted.


Forest fire fight successful

The GNWT successfully combated the worst and most expensive forest fire season in NWT history, proclaimed Michael Miltenberger, minister of Environment and Natural Resources, on Sept. 4.

The minister noted hundreds of properties and values at risk had been protected, although he conceded there was some loss of property.

"Unlike the early 1970s, when we had a season where we had like six fatalities, we had no significant injuries or fatalities," he said.

Miltenberger added the agreement the NWT has with other provinces and territories that allows them to send firefighters here worked well. The final dollar total for the fire battle was expected to be about $55 million. It was estimated the NWT lost about 3.3 million hectares (33,000 square kilometres) of forest to the fires.

Bears shot in Norman Wells

The Norman Wells dump finally got an electric fence after eight bears foraging for food there were killed over two days in August. Mayor Gregor Harold McGregor said the bears became a threat to residents after they started moving into town. GNWT wildlife officers were forced to shoot them.

"It wasn't a pleasant thing, but we didn't have a choice," said McGregor.

According to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, it is not uncommon for eight to 10 bears to be destroyed over the course of a season. The town's dump had been without a fence for several years, after the old fence fell into such disrepair that it stopped being functional. Husky Energy Inc. donated a fence to put up around the dump.

First time discoveries

Archaeologists studying an ancient site outside Sachs Harbour made more than one significant discovery over the summer. Lisa Hodgetts, one of the project's lead researchers, and her team were doing field work for the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project for the past two years.

This year, Hodgetts said the team found amber beads believed to be the first time amber beads were found on Banks Island. The eight beads were found in a line, suggesting they had been strung on a necklace or as a clothing decoration. They were found in a midden (garbage deposit) at the Agvik site, about 25 kilometres east of Sachs Harbour. Hodgetts said the project is hoping to learn about how people were living around 1500 to 1600 AD.

Northern barges cancelled

Mackenzie River water levels were so low that barge service to Fort Good Hope, Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik was cancelled for the rest of the year, according to Northern Transportation Company Ltd. (NTCL).

Bill Smith, NTCL's vice-president of logistics and business development, said barge service past the Ramparts near Fort Good Hope had stopped completely.

"It's totally unsafe. Our equipment would strike bottom," he said. "That's how shallow it is."

Smith said people were speculating it might have been the lowest water levels ever. Cargo destined for Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk was to be trucked to Inuvik, and a barge was then to deliver Tuktoyaktuk's cargo. Fort Good Hope's cargo was to be trucked to Norman Wells and transported to Fort Good Hope by winter road.

Girl reads 108 books

Nine-year-old Rosaleah Drybones is proof that some youngsters would still rather have their eyes glued to the page than the screen.

She was crowned the champion of the Tlicho government's Passport Book Reading Challenge after she finished a total of 108 books in the span of a year.

"It's more fun to read," Drybones said.

The reading challenge took place at all five schools in the Tlicho region last year as a way to foster a culture of reading in students. Drybones, who is originally from Behchoko, accomplished the feat while attending Alexis Arrowmaker School in Wekweeti. She moved back to Behchoko in 2014 and attended Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School.

Grizzly kills hunter

A 53-year-old hunter from the United States died Sept. 17 after being attacked by a grizzly bear on a guided hunting trip. The attack took place 237 km southwest of Norman Wells, near the Yukon border, according to the RCMP.

The victim was identified as Kenton Edward Novotny of Germanton, Tennessee.

Cathy Menard, the NWT's chief coroner, said the man's body was recovered. The hunting party consisted of the hunter and a guide, who was not injured. A Wildlife Incident Response Team from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) destroyed the bear on Sept. 20. DNA testing was conducted to ensure the destroyed bear was the same animal that killed Novotny.

ENR policy is to destroy any bear that causes a fatality.

Aviation pioneer dies

Bob Engle, a Canadian aviation pioneer and founder of NWT Air, died on Sept. 19. Engle was inducted into Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame earlier in 2014.

In 1967, he flew the NWT's first ski-equipped aircraft into the territory.

Among many other achievements and ventures, he was the founding president and chairman of the Northern Air Transport Association and was a founding director of the Yellowknife Rotary Club.

Engle also served as director for the NWT for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. He received the prestigious Order of Canada in 1990 and the Pioneer in Aviation Award from the Western Canadian Aviation Museum in 2000. At the time of his passing, Engle was a resident of B.C.

Martselos wins again

Frieda Martselos was re-elected chief of Salt River First Nation in Fort Smith.

Martselos collected 135 votes to edge April McAllister, who earned 126 votes in the Sept. 29 election. The third candidate in the race was Melvin Wandering Spirit, who received 29 votes.

McAllister unsuccessfully appealed the election. Martselos was first elected chief in 2007, although she was ousted by council less than a week later.

She was returned to office in January of 2008 by a court ruling. She resigned as chief in September of 2011, but returned to the leadership position in April of 2013.


Man dies in highway accident

A tragic chain of events resulted in the death of a Yellowknife man in a highway accident near Kakisa on Oct. 1. The man was driving southbound on Highway 1 in a one-ton pickup truck when he was involved in a single-vehicle rollover, according to NWT chief coroner Cathy Menard.

The driver survived the rollover, as did his dog that was also in the vehicle, but emerged onto the highway and was struck and killed by an approaching semi tractor-trailer.

Menard said the fatal accident occurred at about 5 a.m. in full darkness. The victim was identified by friends as 39-year-old Rob Tait, who was the owner of Empire North, an office furniture company based in Yellowknife. The dog survived the incident.

NWT population decreases

The Northwest Territories' population fell by about 218 people over the past year, according to information released by the NWT Bureau of Statistics in early October.

Statistics Canada estimated that 43,623 people lived in the territory as of July 2014, a decrease of about 0.5 per cent from the year before. There were 698 births and 197 deaths in the past year. 1,974 people moved to the NWT from other parts of Canada during the same period, while 2,755 people moved away.

Canada's overall population increased by 1.1 per cent over the 12 month period as did the populations of all other provinces and territories except New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

New diabetes screening

On Oct. 7, it was announced that the NWT became the first jurisdiction in Canada to test new Type 2 diabetes screening guidelines that will see high-risk patients tested more often and at a younger age.

In the NWT, the prevalence of diabetes starts to increase between ages 30 and 35, so that age group is targeted for screening.

National guidelines recommend screening begin at 40. Those deemed to be at low risk for diabetes will be screened every three years starting at age 40. Those at moderate risk will be screened every two years beginning at age 30, and those at high risk every year also starting at age 30. There are about 200 new cases of diabetes each year in the NWT.

Fire destroys Edzo pool

A suspicious fire claimed a building commonly referred to as the swimming pool hall in Edzo on Oct. 12. According to the RCMP, police and firefighters responded to a fire at the Edzo aquatic complex in Behchoko at 3:06 a.m.

The Behchoko Fire Department was able to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading to other buildings, and no one was injured as a result of the blaze. However, the outdoor pool facility was burned entirely to the ground, leaving behind nothing but a smouldering pile of debris. The RCMP called the fire suspicious.

Fisheries agreement signed

An agreement between the federal government and the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation was signed to ensure fishers in the Beaufort Delta will be protected from future commercial fishing in the Beaufort Sea.

In an Oct. 17 news release, federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced the signing of the Beaufort Sea Integrated Fisheries Management Framework between Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, the Inuvialuit Game Council and the Fisheries Joint Management Committee.

Small-scale Inuvialuit-based fishing operations will be given priority over larger-scale commercial fisheries when considering the expansion of fishing in the Beaufort Sea. Commercial fishing ventures will only be considered after scientific studies prove there is a surplus of the species to be fished.

Renovated health centre unveiled

Fort Smith celebrated the grand re-opening of its health centre after roughly $30-million and four years worth of renovations were unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 24. The facility was originally built in 1979 and the much-needed upgrades began in the fall of 2010 and proceeded in three phases to allow it to stay open while the work was being done.

Almost every room in the health centre, except for the X-ray room, was upgraded as a result of the renovations. It now has a new laboratory, a new midwifery division, a new gynecology room and an additional trauma bed.

MLAs drop year-long extension

MLAs abandoned a plan to extend their terms by one year if the federal election overlaps with the territorial election in 2015. MLAs tabled a bill that will send voters to the polls a month later on Nov. 23, 2015, unless Prime Minister Stephen Harper calls an early federal election by April 1, 2015.

The original motion earlier in the year by Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen proposed deferring the election by a full year. It was argued that overlapping elections would cause confusion and stretch the resources of electoral officers. After hearing negative feedback, MLAs amended the motion. Any change to the territorial election date depends on Parliament passing amendments to the Northwest Territories Act. The territorial election is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 5, 2015.

Northern airlines call off merger

A proposed merger between Canadian North and First Air was taken off the table. According to an Oct. 23 news release, First Air owner Makivik Corporation and Canadian North owner NorTerra Inc. have "terminated discussions aimed at merging their airline operations, and no such further discussions are envisaged."

Both companies indicated in the news release that they would not be making any further comment on the matter.

The proposed merger was announced on April 11, although virtually no details surfaced as to how a merger of the two airlines would affect their combined staff of about 1,500 people, or how it would affect service and prices throughout the North.

Historic forestry deal signed

The signing of an agreement laid the ground work for a forest industry in Fort Providence. On Oct. 24, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger signed a forest management agreement on behalf of the GNWT with Digaa Enterprises Ltd.'s president Michael Vandell and director James Christie.

The 25-year agreement gives Digaa Enterprises, a development corporation formed by the Deh Gah Got'ie First Nation and the Fort Providence Metis Council, non-exclusive access rights to harvest timber from Crown lands in a prescribed area.

Digaa Enterprises is working on a number of ways to capitalize on the opportunity, including negotiating a wood fibre supply agreement and a benefits agreement with Aurora Wood Pellets, the company looking to construct a pellet mill outside Enterprise.

Whati youth wins award

Janelle Nitsiza of Whati won the Minister's Culture and Heritage Circle Award. Accepting her award in Yellowknife on Oct. 28 from Education, Culture and Employment Minister Jackson Lafferty, Nitsiza thanked her grandparents and spoke about how she learned how to sew at seven years of age, to dry fish and meat at eight and to work with hides at 11.

The now 21-year-old works with the youth of Whati to uphold Tlicho traditions passed on to her by elders. She practises traditional skills and is involved in cultural projects.

For the past four years, Nitsiza has worked with the Tlicho Imbee program in the summers. The program teaches Tlicho youth skills such as First Aid, firearm safety and GPS mapping, as well as traditional courses in paddle-making and sewing.

GNWT halts junior kindergarten

The territorial government will wait for findings from an eight-month review before it decides how to proceed with junior kindergarten in regional centres, Premier Bob McLeod announced Oct. 30.

When the GNWT announced junior kindergarten earlier in the year, the plan was to fund it with $7.4 million reallocated from school board budgets over three years. The controversial funding model will not change, according to McLeod.

In his announcement, the premier said any of the 23 communities currently offering junior kindergarten has the option to abandon the program and that no other communities will be expected to start implementation until the review is complete.


Change of the guard

Nicole Latour, the NWT Legislative Assembly's first-ever female aboriginal Sergeant-at-Arms, began her four-year term on Nov. 1. Born in Yellowknife before being adopted by a family from Tuktoyaktuk, Latour considers herself a true Northerner.

Throughout her life, she has spent time in almost every region in the NWT as well as several communities in Nunavut. In the following years, she wore many hats, from serving as mayor of Fort Liard in the mid-1990s to working as a coroner.

Hurtful messages blamed

A grieving mother called for an end to bullying in Behchoko after her 14-year-old son took his life in Edmonton on Nov. 1. Jennifer Migwi said her son, Christian Migwi, committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied on Facebook by former classmates from Chief Jimmy Bruneau School in Behchoko.

"In Rae, this is common. The kids are always teasing and bullying," she said. "The bullying has to stop."

The Migwis moved to Edmonton three years ago so Jennifer could study business management. It wasn't until six months ago that she noticed people were posting hurtful messages on Christian's Facebook profile. The GNWT passed anti-bullying legislation in November of 2013. The law gives schools the power to suspend bullies for a maximum period of 20 days.

Liidlii Kue chief dies

Minnie Letcher, chief of the Liidlii Kue First Nation since 2013, died Nov. 6 in an Edmonton hospital after contracting bacterial meningitis. She was 64.

"It's just a shock," said her son Loyal Letcher. "She had so many years ahead of her."

She was known in the Deh Cho region after years working with the health authority. Born in the bush of the Deh Cho, Letcher's family moved to Fort Simpson in the 1950s. In the 1970s, she earned her master's degree in social work from Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. In Fort Simpson, she spent about 30 years in government service. She had retired as the director of community programs and services for Dehcho Health and Social Services.

Low water levels in river

Water levels in the Mackenzie River dropped to the lowest levels in more than 30 years, and hydrologists blamed lack of precipitation not just in the NWT, but along the entire system that feeds the river.

"The whole Mackenzie system is affected by a very large area in the southern Yukon, northern B.C. and also northern Alberta," said Roger Pilling, hydrometric supervisor with the Water Survey of Canada, based in Fort Simpson.

"All those areas have been fairly dry. So that's the biggest factor."

The water level at Fort Simpson is typically about five metres, but had fallen to 4.4 metres by the beginning of October, Pilling said. The record low was observed in 1981 when water levels fell to 4.2 metres.

Trout Lake runway opens

After five years of construction, a new runway in Trout Lake opened on Nov. 13.

"It's a huge win for Trout Lake," said Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoche.

The new 3,500-foot runway replaces a 2,632-foot runway built in 1987. The increased length allows for larger, and pressurized, aircraft to land and is aligned to take advantage of prevailing southwest winds.

The old runway wasn't able to handle King Air medevac planes, an issue that raised alarms in 2013 when there was a fatal boating accident on the lake. Work on the airport began in September 2009.

Voters approve borrowing

Residents of Fort Smith voted to approve a $4-million debenture to help pay for renovations to the community's arena.

In a plebiscite on Nov. 17, residents voted 89 per cent in favour of borrowing the money for work already started at Fort Smith Centennial Arena, which was damaged by fire in May of 2013.

An existing 10-year-old, $4-million loan for the community swimming pool is to be paid off in February of 2015.

It will be renewed for the arena. The total cost of the arena renovation is expected to be $8.3 million. The renovations are expected to extend the lifespan of the 46-year-old arena by at least 35 years.

Wilson elected Gwich'in president

The Gwich'in Tribal Council has a new president after James Wilson defeated former president Richard Nerysoo in a Nov. 17 byelection.

Wilson will take the place of Robert Alexie Jr., who died suddenly in June with more than half his term left to serve. Norman Snowshoe served as acting president since Alexie's death and was to resume the vice-president's role.

Nerysoo, who was Alexie's immediate predecessor as president, went down to defeat in a one-sided 721-399 vote. Wilson had served a term as vice-president on the council more than a decade ago, but is a lesser-known name who claimed not to be a career politician.

Fire department closed

The Fort Resolution Fire Department was ordered to be temporarily shut down, which was believed to be a first in the NWT. A stop-work order was issued by the Workers' Safety & Compensation Commission (WSCC) on Nov. 19.

Louis Balsillie, deputy fire chief with the department, expected volunteers would still respond to fire calls, despite the WSCC order.

"To watch a house burn in your community, I don't think you can stand by," he said. The concern is with the breathing apparatus and fire gear such as coats from the early 1990s, he said. "It's never been replaced."

Patrick Simon, the deputy mayor of the Hamlet of Fort Resolution, blamed the problems on a communication breakdown.

Plane crash lands on ice

An Air Tindi single-engine Cessna Caravan en route to Fort Simpson from Yellowknife with a pilot and five passengers on board set down on the ice of Great Slave Lake on Nov. 20, about 30 km west of Yellowknife Airport. The flight took off at 6:44 a.m., according to Transport Canada.

About 20 minutes into the flight, when the aircraft was still climbing, the pilot requested clearance to return to Yellowknife due to icing conditions. The pilot then declared a mayday before landing on the lake. No one was seriously injured in the incident. Rescuers reached the site at about 11:30 a.m. by using snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, and the passengers and pilot were taken to Yellowknife by helicopter.

Report on Nutrition North

Federal Auditor General Michael Ferguson issued a report that was highly critical of the $60-million Nutrition North program, which is designed to make healthy food accessible and affordable to residents of northern communities.

The report noted that most of the program's budget goes to northern retailers to subsidize certain food items and those savings are supposed to be passed onto customers, but Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada doesn't know if that is happening. The report made five recommendations on ways to improve the program.


Gwich'in celebrate Peel decision

Members of the Gwich'in Tribal Council celebrated the much-anticipated results of the Peel River Watershed court case. In a written decision released on Dec. 2, Justice Ron Veale of the Yukon Supreme Court quashed the Yukon government's land-use plan for the Peel River Watershed, which would have left 71 per cent of the region open to development.

Veale ordered the government to return to the final consultation stage. The topic of discussion will be the final recommended plan drafted by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission following seven years of work. The document calls for the protection of 80 per cent of the region, with 25 per cent reviewed every five years.

Back in the fashion game

D'Arcy J. Moses, a well-known fashion designer from Wrigley, is looking to get back into the big time. His first stop in that journey is Enterprise, where he set up a design studio in early December. There, he will primarily work on a new collection of high-end garments to eventually take to Montreal and Toronto, while also creating items to sell in the NWT.

Moses previously made a name for himself in the fashion world, but took a 10-year sabbatical in Wrigley, including time as band manager with Pehdzeh Ki First Nation. Moses plans to live and work in Enterprise for about a year and maybe more.

Body of woman found

The body of a young woman was found on Dec. 5 at the bottom of a steep embankment of the Mackenzie River in Wrigley. The deceased was identified at 20-year-old Destiny Nahanni-Hope, who was originally from Fort Simpson.

The RCMP was treating the tragedy as a sudden death, and reported there was no evidence to suspect foul play. An autopsy was completed in Edmonton to determine the cause of death, but the results were not expected for four to six weeks.

Three new mayors

The NWT will be getting three new mayors as a result of hamlet elections on Dec. 8.

In Ulukhaktok, Laverna Klengenberg defeated acting mayor Mardon Martin. In Tulita, Gordon Yakeleya won over two other candidates Lorraine Doctor and Wilfred Lennie Sr. to become the new mayor. Lloyd Acheson will be the new mayor of the Hamlet of Sachs Harbour after narrowly defeating incumbent Mayor Betty Haogak. Incumbent Ray Ruben was acclaimed mayor of Paulatuk, as he was in the election of 2012.

Aside from the four races for mayor, councillors were also elected some by acclamation in Aklavik, Enterprise, Fort Resolution, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tulita, Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok.

Police investigate teen's death

A 17-year-old Gwich'in girl a former resident of Fort McPherson was found dead on a walking trail in Whitehorse, Yukon, on Dec. 8. The RCMP was treating the death of Brandy Vittrekwa as a homicide. Police had a suspect, but no charges had been laid as of Dec. 22. The suspect was in custody on unrelated charges.

Vittrekwa was living with her parents in Whitehorse, but many of her relatives reside in her hometown of Fort McPherson.

Dorris Bill, chief of Kwanlin Dun First Nations, an aboriginal group in the Whitehorse area, expressed her condolences to the community of Fort McPherson.

FOXY wins $1 million

The Northwest Territories-based FOXY, which stands for "Fostering Open eXpression among Youth," was presented with the $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize by ArcticNet during a ceremony in Ottawa on Dec. 10. The sexual health and leadership program, which has already reached hundreds of young women in the NWT, was to expand to teenage boys.

FOXY began in January of 2012 as a project of the Institute for Circumpolar Health Research and later incorporated as a non-profit organization. Since its launch, FOXY has reached more than 350 young women in more than 20 NWT communities through 30 workshops and two peer leadership retreats.

Metis leader elected in Res

Arthur Beck was acclaimed the new president of the Fort Resolution Metis Council at a special assembly on Dec. 15. The new president is not a stranger to a prominent leadership role in several Metis organizations, but never before in the top spot.

"I've always been vice-president," said Beck. "This is the first time as president."

His service as a vice-president includes six years with the Hay River Metis Council, another six years with the Fort Resolution Metis Council and two years with the Northwest Territory Metis Nation. The new president described himself as a trapper, fisherman, land user and traditional knowledge holder.

Beck was elected to a two-year term as president. Former president Kara King was elected vice-president and Cara Bailey was chosen secretary-treasurer.

Dictionary launched

A Lutsel K'e Chipewyan Dictionary' was officially launched on Dec. 16.

The new resource contains thousands of words, phrases, sentences and full conversations written in the unique Chipewyan dialect of the Lutsel K'e Dene. The dozens of colourful pictures included in the 485-page dictionary highlight the beautiful scenery, people and traditional lifestyle of Lutsel K'e. The dictionary is a project of the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) and the elders of Lutsel K'e.

The task of documenting the language of the elders started three years ago with a group of community members requesting the services of the SSDEC to initiate the project. It is hoped it will support the language revitalization efforts of the Lutsel K'e Dene School and Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation.

Sentenced for death

Steven Sayine of Fort Resolution was sentenced to five-and-a-half years' imprisonment for manslaughter Dec. 18 in the 2012 death of his common-law wife, 48-year-old Mary Laboucan.

After receiving three years and nine months credit for two-and-half years in pre-trial custody, Sayine, 40, had a year and nine months left to serve.

The sentence was imposed by NWT Supreme Court Justice Louise Charbonneau.

On June 16, 2012, in Fort Resolution, Sayine kicked Laboucan in the head after she threw an ashtray at him, while both were intoxicated. Laboucan died three days later from bleeding inside the skull that caused brain damage.

The sentence outraged John Luke, the victim's brother, who thought Sayine deserved at least eight years.

Bathurst caribou ban

The Bathurst caribou herd was to be off limits to hunters until further notice after five months of negotiations between the GNWT and aboriginal governments failed to yield a management plan in time for the Christmas break.

On Dec. 19, Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger said he was not releasing any of the 300 tags that had been available for the Tlicho and the Yellowknives to hunt the Bathurst herd.

Until some kind of plan can be agreed upon, Miltenberger said there will be no more tags handed out.

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