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News/North: 2013 - The Year in Review

January

Big bucks for park

The Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) was one of four organizations to receive a share of the inaugural $1-million Arctic Inspiration Prize at a ceremony in Vancouver just before the new year.

NNSL photo/graphic

Idle bridge

More than 100 people from southern NWT communities combined forces to block the Deh Cho Bridge as part of an Idle No More aboriginal rights demonstration on Jan. 5.

Protesters gathered at the north side of the bridge at around 2 p.m. and for almost an hour they wielded colourful signs with slogans decrying the federal government's omnibus Bill C-45. That piece of legislation dealt with federal budgetary measures but also included changes to the Indian Act and land management that many First Nations people oppose nationwide.

Eggscellent

The first NWT-produced eggs to be sold in NWT stores in more than a decade were available just before the new year.

The eggs from the territory's only egg producer, Hay River Poultry Farms Ltd., are being sold under the Polar Egg brand. The company operates out of a new grading facility in Hay River's industrial area.

The company's sales and marketing consultant, Kevin Wallington, said the eggs have been on NorthMart shelves since Dec. 19, 2012. On Dec. 20, they were busy preparing orders for other local stores, packing cartons of 12 and 18 eggs.

"There will be somewhere in the range of 40,000 eggs on the market this week," he said.

Woman found dead

A woman who was found dead outdoors in Fort Smith on Jan. 2 was identified as Olga Mansbridge. She was a councillor with Salt River First Nation and the community was hit hard by her death.

"She was very effective as a leader," Chief David Poitras said. "She had the best interest of our nation, the people of our nation, at heart."

The chief described Mansbridge as a very outspoken councillor, but one with a good sense of humour.

A community member found the body of the 53-year-old on Wren Crescent at about 1:55 p.m. on Jan. 2. Foul play was not suspected.

Oil sands contamination

A new study released early in the year showed lake contamination from oil sands development is reaching farther than previously thought and has led to outcry from Deninu Ku'e Chief Louis Balsillie, who believes the oil sands development in Alberta is among the reasons for increasing cancer rates in his community.

The Queen's University research found increasing amounts of toxic substances tied to the Athabasca oil sands bitumen in the sediment of five lakes within 50 kilometres of the development, and in one lake 90 kilometres northwest of the major development area.

Early NWT commissioner dies

One of the first commissioners of the Northwest Territories, Gordon Robertson, died Jan. 15.

A long-serving civil servant with the federal government, Robertson rose to the ranks of Clerk of the Privy Council Office and Secretary to the Cabinet, and served as commissioner of the NWT from 1953 to 1963.

Robertson died at the age 95, after a battle with Alzheimer's.

Behchoko fires up district energy system

Behchoko's biomass district energy system was officially launched during a ribbon cutting ceremony on Jan. 17.

Gary Jaeb, alternative energy projects manager for the Tlicho Investment Corporation, said it is the first aboriginal-owned system of its kind in the North.

The system consists of a central boiler housed in a sea container beside the Rae Motel. Pipes connect to seven buildings in the community, including the motel, the Nishi Khon building, the Northern Store, the nursing station and nurse's residence, as well as the Tlicho Government office.

"It's designed to meet about 80 per cent of peak demand," Jaeb said.

Missing plane found in Antarctica

The wreckage of the Twin Otter aircraft missing in Antarctica since Jan. 23 was found on Jan 25. The three Canadians on board are presumed dead. The pilot of the Twin Otter was Inuvik's Bob Heath.

Rescuers spotted the plane on a steep slope but were unable to land due to weather.

Visuals suggest the plane made a direct impact that was likely not survivable, according to a news release from flight operator Kenn Borek Air Ltd.

Winter road gridlock

A three-day closure of the Mackenzie Valley winter road north of Wrigley led to a backlog of transport trucks in Fort Simpson.

The road was closed on the evening of Jan. 15 because of the interaction between higher-than normal levels of traffic on the road and a heavy snowfall, said Earl Blacklock, manager of public affairs and communications for the Department of Transportation.

Blacklock said there had been a noticeable increase in the amount of traffic on the road last winter because of oil and gas exploration in the Sahtu. He was unable to say how much traffic has increased.

By Jan. 17 there were more than 65 transport trucks and trailers parked in various locations around the village.

State of emergency

Norman Wells almost began evacuating residents from the town on Jan. 28 when the flow of natural gas - the source of heat for about half the community at the time - was lost during frigid winter temperatures.

"Probably we were within an hour of making that decision," said Mayor Gregor Harold McGregor of a possible evacuation, which he said would have involved at least children, mothers, and elders.

A state of emergency was declared after the flow of natural gas to the community was interrupted, leaving some homes and buildings without heat. The supply was interrupted at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 28 following a power outage at Imperial Oil's field and plant facilities, which provide both natural gas and electricity to the town.

About 20 people, including seniors, were moved out of their own residences as a precaution.

According to Environment Canada, the temperature in Norman Wells was -42 C at 11 a.m. on Jan. 28, with a wind chill of -50 C.

Two decades of leadership

Nellie Cournoyea was re-elected as the chair and chief executive officer of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation on Jan. 28. She won 33 votes, which were cast by the 42 directors of the community corporations in Aklavik, Inuvik, Paulatuk, Sachs Harbour, Tuktoyaktuk and Ulukhaktok. Cournoyea, who is going into her ninth term was first elected in 1996.

"When I began at the very outset, devolution was not an active file with the government of the Northwest Territories," she said. "They were dealing with the split of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

Devolution, although an aspiration, was not really on the agenda on that time. That's taken years."

Inuvik-to-Tuk highway approved

The Environmental Impact Review Board (EIRB) has approved the Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway project.

As of Jan. 25, the federal government had 30 days to respond to the EIRB's 300-page report on the project.

The 140-kilometre all-weather road would link Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik and the Dempster Highway. Initial costs are expected to be $230 million, the report stated.

However, the Department of Transportation has stated the cost could be as high as $300 million. The federal government had pledged to contribute $150 million.

February

Stay-the-course budget

Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger released his budget on Feb. 7 in the legislative assembly.

The budget aimed to ensure the government continues to live within its means and gives the NWT a chance to recover from the global recession.

The 2013-14 operations expenditures budget forecasted increasing spending by $20,683 million over the revised estimate spending for the current fiscal year.

As the second budget in a four-year cycle, it was part of a larger fiscal strategy set by cabinet at the beginning of the 17th legislative assembly, to rein in spending for two years and then increase funding for the final two years of this government.

This budget estimated total expenditures for the year will be $1 billion while revenues for the year were expected to total $1.6 billion. The predicted $112.5 million operating surplus will allow the GNWT to reduce its debt from an estimated $609 million on March 31, 2013, to an estimated $581 million on March 31, 2014.

Review board slashed

Six employees have been laid off at the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board, cutting the environmental management body's staff in half.

The news came down in February that the board had decided major cuts would be made to address an operational shortfall, partly due to the loss of funding from the federal government.

"In terms of morale, it's been a very difficult two days for staff," said executive director Vern Christensen, confirming the layoffs on Saturday.

Over the course of the last three years, the board's operational funding has dropped to $2.7 million from $3.3 million.

Husky Energy halts

Husky Energy Inc. was forced to halt all operations in the NWT Feb. 12 after the National Energy Board found multiple safety violations at the camps, installations and other facilities at its Husky Little Bear N-09 and H-64 wells at their Slater River location, 40 km southeast of Norman Wells. National Energy Board safety inspectors toured the site Jan. 31.

During that inspection, they found conditions in the kitchen and living areas that could affect the health and safety of workers.

The chief safety officer of the National Energy Board ordered an entire shutdown of the operation until Husky submits a plan to bring everything up to code.

Cabinet votes against environmental motion

The GNWT cabinet defeated a motion in the legislature on Feb. 14 that would have forced the territorial government to inform Ottawa of its concerns over the perceived "diminished federal environmental and resource management regime," caused by Ottawa's two omnibus budget bills - C-38 and C-45.

The motion, titled Federal Changes to Environmental Law, was introduced by Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley and seconded by Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya.

The motion's intent was to challenge the federal government for not consulting with nor informing the GNWT on the many changes imposed by the two federal budget bills.

Cabinet normally abstains from voting on motions that make a recommendation to the government, but it is common practice for the seven ministers to vote in solidarity on motions that direct government actions, said house leader Michael Miltenberger.

"It was a sweeping motion with, what we saw as, some confused information in there as to the role of the federal government and the role of the territorial government," said Miltenberger on cabinet's decision.

K'atlodeeche withdraw from Deh Cho Process

K'atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) has officially withdrawn from Dehcho First Nations and the Dehcho Process to preserve its reserve and treaty rights, and to pursue its own land claim with the federal government.

Chief Roy Fabian made that announcement on Feb. 11 at a meeting of Dehcho First Nations' leadership in Fort Providence.

"The number one reason we're leaving the Dehcho Process is because Canada was telling the Dehcho, we want you to have a settlement like the Tlicho,'" Fabian said. "So there'll be a Dehcho government. All the people will become Dehcho First Nations people. So KFN will no longer exist. What we'll become is just a town."

The chief said that is unacceptable to KFN membership.

Funding boost

Four NWT projects benefited from nearly $2 million in funding from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency (CanNor). Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced the funding in Yellowknife during her visit with the Northern Conservative Caucus on Feb. 19.

A half-million dollars was pledged to help with renovations of the Khon Go Cho Complex in Behchoko to kick start efforts to raise the $16.1 million needed for the project.

Also benefiting from the CanNor funding were the Children's First Centre in Inuvik ($500.00), the Tlicho Learning Development Centre ($450,000), and the Conseil de developpement economique des Territoires du Nord-Ouest ($175,000).

March

Bishop rising

Bishop Murray Chatlain will bid an early farewell to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith next month after being selected by Pope Benedict XVI to be the next archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas, Manitoba.

Chatlain will receive the pallium - a vestment of the archbishop made from lamb's wool worn around the neck with six crosses - from Pope Benedict in the Vatican on June 29.

Chatlain's installation to the archdiocesan seat on March 19 comes less than five years after he was ordained bishop of the diocese in Yellowknife on Sept. 14, 2008.

Whooper shootings

In separate court cases, two men in the United States were sentenced for shooting and killing endangered whooping cranes that had migrated south from Wood Buffalo National Park.

In Texas, a 42-year-old man shot a juvenile whooping crane in January after apparently mistaking it for a sandhill crane. On March 6, the man pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and was fined $5,000, ordered to make a $10,000

community service payment and placed on probation for one year.

In South Dakota, a man was sentenced in February for shooting an adult whooping crane in April 2012. The 26-year-old was ordered to pay $85,000 in restitution, placed on probation for two years, had his hunting rifle confiscated, and lost hunting and trapping rights anywhere in the U.S. for two years.

Social programs blasted

A scathing report on how the Department of Education, Culture and Employment delivers four key social programs was presented to the legislative assembly by the office of the auditor general of Canada on March 7.

The scheduled audit looked at four income security programs: the Income Assistance Program, the Student Financial Assistance Program, the Senior Home Heating Subsidy and the Child Care User Subsidy.

Of the 65 files examined, 38 were found to have major discrepancies or flaws.

The Income Assistance program was deemed to have the most flaws, where 18 of the 20 audited files did not comply with government regulations.

Facility named after former NWT premier

A new Arctic research facility named after former NWT premier Nellie Cournoyea is set to open its doors March 18.

The $15-million facility, built at the University of Manitoba for its faculty of Environment, Earth and Resource, features 60,000-square feet of specialized laboratories, state-of-the-art instruments and classrooms.

It will also be home to one of the largest and most well-funded sea ice research teams on the globe. Cournoyea and other dignitaries were invited to help unveil the building.

Fatal plane crash report

Cannabis use by the pilot and marginal weather conditions caused an Air Tindi flight to crash into a hill while on its way to Lutsel K'e from Yellowknife on Oct. 4, 2011, killing two Yellowknifers including the pilot, concluded a Transportation Safety Board investigation.

Pilot Matthew Bromley, 28, and passenger Timothy Harris, 54, were killed when the Cessna Caravan 208B aircraft crashed on the Pethei Peninsula, a towering piece of land that rises 150 metres above Great Slave Lake, shortly after 11:40 a.m. On Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011, about 48 km from Lutsel K'e.

The plane's two other passengers, Bernice Marlowe and Sheldon Catholique, both of Lutsel K'e, sustained serious injuries.

Stabbed in the back for years

A Fort Providence man who was stabbed five times in the back in 2010 had a shocking discovery on March 18. For years, the man had been suffering chronic back pain and the latest x-ray finally determined why, part of the weapon from all those years ago was still lodged in his back. Medical staff at Stanton Territorial Hospital removed the four-inch blade which the victim Bill McNeely kept.

April

Martselos elected in Salt River

Frieda Martselos was elected chief of Salt River First Nation in Fort Smith on April 2.

Martselos, who resigned as chief in September of 2011 following four tumultuous years as leader, won a against three other candidates.

She collected 95 votes, compared to 62 votes for Warren Gagnon, 46 for Brad Laviolette and 43 for Henry Beaver Jr.

The byelection became necessary when previous chief David Poitras, resigned on Jan. 26 in a dispute with council over band finances.

Martselos' September 2011 resignation was over disagreements with council. Since then, she and her husband opened a new hotel in Fort Smith and she unsuccessfully ran for a seat on town council in last year's municipal election.

The byelection also involved a very close three-way race to fill a vacant seat on council.

The new councillor is Don Matthews Jr., who collected 84 votes, compared to 80 votes for Debbie Sikyea and 76 votes for Gabriel Mabry.

Skier rescued

A French skier was rescued unharmed from Tuktut Nogait National Park near Paulatuk during the evening of April 9 after a six-hour search in bad weather.

"We're very grateful he was found safe and sound," Diane Wilson, Parks Canada field unit superintendent of the Western Arctic, said. "We're also very grateful to our partners at the RCMP, CASARA (Civil Air Search and Rescue Association), and the Paulatuk Hunters and Trappers Committee (HTC) who were involved in the rescue."

An experienced adventurist, the man entered the park March 26 on a solo ski tour, following the Hornaday River to La Ronciere Falls, then back down the Brock River to Paulatuk. He was scheduled to finish his route on April 18, according to Parks Canada.

Searchers were unable to pinpoint the man's exact location because his satellite phone failed shortly after he had made the original distress call, but worked with the satellite phone carrier to acquire his last known position.

A two-pronged effort ensued, with two members of the Paulatuk HTC going out on snowmobiles and a fixed-wing air search leaving from Inuvik.

The HTC searchers found the man hunkered-down in his tent, waiting out the blizzard between the western boundary of the park and the Hornaday River around 6:30 p.m. He was given warm food and transported back to Paulatuk by snowmobile.

Alcoholism costly

Northwest Territories residents are hospitalized for alcohol and drug abuse more than any other mental health problem, with associated injuries accounting for more than 40 per cent of health-care costs for adult NWT residents, a new report released in April found.

"When measured by the estimated cost of hospitalization, alcohol and drugs are more often a secondary factor than the primary reason for admission," the report stated.

It further states that alcohol and drug abuse affects "youth to seniors, men more so than women, the aboriginal population more so than the non-aboriginal population, and the population outside of Yellowknife more so than inside Yellowknife.

The report stated that alcohol and drug issues contributed to 68 per cent of mental health related hospitalizations from 2008 to 2011.

That translates into 49 per cent - or half - of all mental health costs for that time period.

In adults 45 to 64 years old, hospitalizations due to drugs and alcohol made up 45 per cent of all mental health costs.

Injuries and poisonings were number two on the list of the top five most common hospitalizations for adults.

However, alcohol was again cited as a contributing factor.

"Injuries and substance abuse are often related issues," the report stated. "Nearly a third of patients hospitalized with an alcohol or drug diagnosis, also had suffered an injury."

Assaults were the primary cause of injury hospitalizations in youth and adults up to 64 years old.

Injuries among adults aged 45 to 64 costs approximately $3.1 million per year to treat in hospital, the report found.

Mental health costs for the same age group were about $2.3 million per year, with 45 per cent of those costs dedicated to hospitalizations resulting from alcohol or drugs.

MLA resigns committee position

Nahendeh MLA Kevin Menicoch resigned as chair of the legislative assembly's Standing Committee on Priorities and Planning for missing a day and a half of committee meetings in Inuvik April 12 and 13 because of excessive drinking.

The MLA said he missed chairing two days of meetings "because of excessive drinking."

An MLA who was in Inuvik, who would only speak off the record, told News/North that Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake Jr. was also involved and missed Friday's meetings because of drinking.

Blake apologized to the committee for his actions during a closed-door meeting in Yellowknife April 18 that was called to discuss potential disciplinary actions, said deputy chair Daryl Dolynny.

Tlicho finalize land use plan

The Tlicho Government has finalized its land use plan, Grand Chief Eddie Erasmus announced at the 20th session of the second Tlicho Assembly in Gameti on April 24.

The plan will guide the Tlicho in making decisions on the use of the 39,000 square kilometres of land for which it has surface and sub-surface rights, Erasmus told News/North.

On June 1, the Tlicho Government will lift a long-standing moratorium against development on its lands, said Erasmus. All applications will then go through the Lands Protection Department.

The department makes decisions on whether development projects will be approved, as well as monitoring projects.

Sahtu liquor problems

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya expressed concerns in April that liquor problems were on the rise in the region, a problem he attributed to alcohol restrictions being lifted in Norman Wells back in 2011.

On April 3 and again on April 19, RCMP busted Tulita residents returning to the community with sleds full of alcohol in volumes far exceeding the community's liquor restrictions.

Sgt. Barry Ledoux said all of the alcohol came from Norman Wells.

On April 3, two 19-year-old males were caught driving sleds carrying 97 375-ml bottles of vodka from Norman Wells.

On April 19, two men, aged 25 and 45, were caught with 83 bottles in a similar incident. RCMP intercepted the shipment as they were driving on the Mackenzie River, just north of Tulita, at about 1:15 a.m.

Aside from the bootlegging, Yakeleya said the easier access to alcohol was also leading to increased violence.

May

Three council members expelled from Salt River First Nation

The chief of Salt River First Nation in Hay River called a special membership meeting on April 29 where three councillors were voted out of office.

Joline Beaver, Connie Benwell and Judith Gale were expelled, but the three women said the meeting was held illegally and contravened the band's rules. They said 14 days' notice should have been given to both the public and to council members. The women also said the vote was held with only two members of council present. They wrote to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development about the matter.

Dangerous offender hearings begin

The hearing for a Fort Providence man who faced being declared a dangerous offender began at the end of April in the Supreme Court of the NWT. Robert Walter Bonnetrouge was convicted of the sexual assaults and forcible confinement of two teenage girls in September 2011.

The psychiatrist for the crown told the court Bonnetrouge was a high risk to re-offend and that a sex-offender program wouldn't be effective. The psychologist for the defense said he believed Bonnetrouge's behaviour could be controlled to prevent him from re-offending, such as via chemical castration.

Bonnetrouge had seven sexual offense convictions.

Housing crisis means teachers leaving NWT

Teachers in the NWT surveyed about their living situation said they were paying thousands for housing that was inadequate. The NWT Teachers' Association surveyed 200 teachers and issued a report that found teachers were leaving the territory because of their living situations. Exorbitant rental costs and overcrowded conditions were listed as two of the teachers' main concerns.

Teachers said they wanted the same level of staff housing received by other workers delivering the NWT's essential services.

The report stated that the areas with the most teacher turnover were also the areas of the territory with the lowest student success rates.

Caribou wasted near Gameti

Edible parts of caribou were found left behind at a popular hunting spot near Hottah Lake, about 90 km northwest of Gameti.

Over the spring, the remains of at least 50 animals were found scattered at about 12 different sites near the community.

The caribou were believed to be members of the Bluenose East herd. Residents were concerned about the amount of meat that had been wasted.

The Wildlife Act states that only the head, entrails, the legs below the knee joint and meat damaged by the bullet that killed the animal can be left behind.

Astronaut speaks from space

Astronaut Chris Hadfield took a few minutes out of his day orbiting the Earth to speak to students at Diamond Jenness Secondary School. Hadfield, aboard the International Space Station, spoke to the students for 10 minutes about everything from why he decided to become an astronaut to how astronauts go to the bathroom.

The volunteer-run Amateur Radio on the International Space Station (ARISS) program, worked for more than a year to make the phone call a reality. An ARISS member used his cell phone to stream the event live so anyone in the world could watch it.

Bell told to pay back 9-1-1 fees

The Supreme Court ruled Bell Canada was responsible for paying back thousands of Northerners who were charged 75 cents per month for 9-1-1 services not available in the Northwest Territories or Nunavut and parts of the Yukon.

James and Samuel Anderson, both of Yellowknife, fought Bell Canada for six years, arguing that they shouldn't have to pay fees for an unavailable service. During the trial, Bell Canada said James signed his cell phone contract knowing there was no 9-1-1 service in Yellowknife. James testified he was told opting out of 9-1-1 service was not an option. Bell stated it would appeal the decision.

Fort Resolution woman's death suspicious

RCMP deemed the death of 23-year-old Melissa Payne suspicious after her body was found outside Fort Resolution.

Payne had been missing for three days before a search party found her body on a road leading to the community's airstrip on May 22.

RCMP said anyone whose death can't be immediately explained is deemed suspicious and that an investigation would take place.

Payne was originally from Trout Lake, but had lived in Fort Resolution with her common law partner for about four years.

People were asked to wear blue, Payne's favourite colour, to a memorial service held on May 24.

Payne's death was later ruled non-suspicious.

Boat crash kills Trout Lake woman

A 77-year-old Trout Lake woman was killed after two boats collided on Island River on May 22.

The boats crashed while travelling toward each other at about 4:30 p.m. The woman was taken to the health centre in Trout Lake where she died.

The boat's other passengers, its 73-year-old driver and an eight-year-old girl, were uninjured. The 46-year-old driver of the other boat was medevaced to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife with non-life threatening injuries.

RCMP said they would investigate the crash to determine its cause, and whether drugs, alcohol or speed were involved. The medevac took over six hours to reach Trout Lake.

Elders need translator in Ulukhaktok

Elders and community members in Ulukhaktok said the community needs an Inuinnaqtun translator at its health centre.

The centre's former translator retired after 30 years on the job. Residents said people hired to replace her did not speak Inuinnaqtun fluently enough to provide adequate information to elders about their appointments and medications.

The Beaufort Delta Health and Social Services Authority responded to a letter from the community stating that elders can bring their own interpreters to the centre. Residents responded that many working families are unable to take time off work to accompany older relatives to appointments.

June

Violent grad weekend

Four assaults took place in Behchoko over a 25-hour period after the community's high school graduation.

Some of the violence was captured by amateur video, which was later posted online. The videos show people being kicked and elbowed and one video shows someone being hit over the head with a restaurant chair.

Some of the youth in the footage were filmed holding beer and wearing suit jackets and dresses, which suggested they had attended the graduation.

RCMP didn't link the incidents to the graduation, but said a combination of factors contributed, such as an influx of people to the community.

Norman Wells rations gas

The Town of Norman Wells was watching its fuel consumption carefully at the beginning of the month. SRP Petroleum, which supplies the town's gas, saw higher than usual customer volumes thanks to the region's development industry. As a result, the company feared it might run out of gas before the fuel resupply barge arrived later in June.

Residents and businesses were asked to reduce their use of gasoline as much as possible.

Gas was sold to customers based on their previous consumption histories and SRP Petroleum was prepared to set a 25-litre cap at the community's Esso station.

Mike Duffy's trip to Norman Wells questioned

The Western Arctic Liberal Association said Sen. Mike Duffy made an inappropriate expense claim for a trip to Norman Wells in April 2011.

The association said Duffy claimed a per diem for "senate business" when he was in Norman Wells, but said the actual purpose of his trip was to campaign for the Conservative party. A tweet posted by Western Arctic Conservative candidate Sandy Lee stated Duffy was with her on a campaign trip.

Because he claimed it was senate business, Duffy would have received compensation from the senate in addition to the per diem he received as part of his campaign trip.

The Elections Canada website shows Lee paid Duffy $209.01 in May 2011.

The association said Duffy should not have received both the payment and the per diem.

Inuvik's East Three sees first graduates

The first graduating class of the newly opened East Three Secondary School in Inuvik was celebrated with a ceremony on June 1.

Thirty-four students graduated from the school, which opened in 2012. The building project was the second largest in the NWT and the school serves more than 350 students in grades 7 to 12. The school also offers university-level courses, such as biology, chemistry and physics.

The academic opportunities drew students from outside of Inuvik, including Sachs Harbour.

Graduates said they wanted to enter a variety of fields, including graphic design, science and engineering.

Devolution agreement passed

The NWT legislature passed a motion supporting the final devolution agreement by a 17 to one vote. Only Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli voted against the motion.

The vote was a step toward making devolution a reality, which would give authority over lands and resources from Canada to the territorial government.

Some MLAs questioned how the agreement would affect the NWT's unsettled land claims and whether the deal was good for aboriginal governments. MLAs also raised concerns about lack of public consultation about the deal.

Devolution is anticipated to come into effect in April 2014.

Finance minister cleared after human rights case

After territorial Finance Minister Michael Miltenberger asked a transgender woman to leave during a visit by Governor General David Johnston in 2011, Gabrielle Landrie filed a human rights complaint.

Landrie had been in an Aurora College hallway when the minister asked her to leave, allegedly stating that Landrie "spooked" Johnston's security personnel.

She filed a discrimination complaint against Miltenberger with the NWT Human Rights Commission. Landrie was also seeking an apology from the minister.

Landrie represented herself during the hearing and lost, but said she believed the experience helped others to stand up for their rights.

Health minister links cancer and industry

During a meeting in Fort Resolution, territorial health minister Tom Beaulieu said rates of cancer in Fort Resolution and Fort Smith could be the result of pollutants upstream from the two communities.

Beaulieu said smoking, drinking and lifestyle could be contributing to cancer rates.

But he believed industrial development pollution also play a role.

The meeting also highlighted residents' other concerns, including bootlegging and the lack of an elders' care facility.

Residents said more needed to be done to tackle bootlegging problems. RCMP said prosecuting bootleggers required witnesses and sometimes residents don't want to come forward due to family relationships and the community's small size.

Inuvik councillor convicted of stealing

Grace Elizabeth Loreen, a former councillor in Inuvik, was convicted of stealing more than $500,000 from three businesses in the Sahtu region.

Loreen worked for E. Gruben's Transport Ltd. and was also doing work for Deline Construction Ltd., Storm Communications Ltd. and MVIOS, which was partly owned by Deline Construction Ltd.

During a four-year period, she shuffled money between company accounts and into her own personal account and used a MVIOS credit card for her own personal expenses.

The court heard that Loreen gambled and lost $467,863.

The theft nearly bankrupted Deline Construction Ltd.

Election results challenged in hamlets

Three candidates in different Tlicho elections challenged the election results. Albert Nitsiza in Whati said he was worried ineligible voters were allowed to vote, which is why he lost to incumbent chief Alfonz Nitsiza.

Edward Chocolate in Gameti lost the election by one vote to David Wedawin. In Ndilo, Ernest Betsina won by only one vote as well, against Shirley Tsetta.

David Kravitz, the territory's chief municipal elections officer, said recounts are held if a candidate loses by four votes or less. Returning officers can hold a recount if they believe it is necessary.

Not all elections results were challenged. In Behchoko, Clifford Daniels won over George Mackenzie, while Johnny Arrowmaker defeated Charlie Football in Wekweeti.

Plane nosedives on way to Fort Good Hope

Passengers on a North Wright Airways flight to Fort Good Hope from Inuvik were terrified when their plane experienced heavy turbulence that caused it to nosedive.

Passengers also said they feared the aircraft's pilot-side door was going to open mid-flight.

Roger Anderson said he and another passenger noticed the pilot door's window was open after the plane took off and Anderson reached over and closed it. But, he said the action seemed to cause the plane to dip downward, terrifying everyone on board. Anderson said he then spent the rest of the flight gripping the door, fearing it was going to pop open.

Dan Summers leaves Fort Resolution

Literacy coach Kate Powell replaced Dan Summers as principal of Deninu School in Fort Resolution.

Summers had been principal for four years and was named one of the top principals in Canada.

Powell had been the school's literacy coach for four years and said the experience would help guide her in her new role.

Summers and his wife, Lucinda, said they originally planned to live in Fort Resolution for about three to five years and said they would likely pursue teaching careers elsewhere after taking a break. The pair had taught in Middle Eastern countries for about 12 years prior to their arrival in Fort Resolution.

Dettah chief not guilty of sexual assault

Edward Sangris, chief of Dettah, was found not guilty of sexual assault charges. A 10-member jury reached the verdict. Sangris was charged after a former band office employee accused him of touching her in a sexual manner during incidents in 1986 to 1990 and from 1994 to 1996, when Sangris was a band councillor.

During the trial, three jurors were dismissed after telling the judge they felt threatened by Sangris' brother, who testified at the trial.

Sangris' defense asked for a mistrial, but it was not granted. The judge said the trial could continue with 10 jurors. There had originally been 12, with an extra juror making up 13.

Northerners want Nutrition North audit

Northern leaders, including Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington and Romeo Saganash, MP for Abitibi-Baie-James-Nunavik-Eeyou, wrote a letter to Canada's Auditor General demanding an audit into the Nutrition North program.

Northerners across Canada have maintained the program was not making grocery items cheaper and one woman in Lutsel K'e called the program a "disaster."

Territorial governments in Yukon, NWT and Nunavut all called for an audit.

Bevington said while the cost of living increased in the North, wages and subsidy programs were not keeping up. Bevington said improving the Nutrition North program and ensuring food costs were reduced would help alleviate some of the financial burdens faced by Northerners.

Devolution deal finalized

The Northwest Territories Lands and Resources Devolution Agreement was signed in Inuvik on June 25. The signing marked the finalization of the agreement, which was scheduled to come into effect in April, 2014.

NWT Premier Bob McLeod and federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Bernard Valcourt both travelled to Inuvik to sign the deal, along with Nellie Cournoyea, chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), Robert Alexie, president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, Garry Bailey, president of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, Charles McNeely, Vice-President of the Sahtu Secretariat Incorporated and Chief Clifford Daniels of the Tlicho Government.

The document was signed on top of a polar bear skin, which was also the site of the signing of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement in 1984.

July

More than 150 fires raze territory

Warm, dry weather created the perfect conditions for wildfires in the Northwest Territories. More than 150 individual fires burned through swaths of forest throughout the territory in June and July.

The Deh Cho region was one of the hardest hit, with more than 56 fires as of July. Jean-Marie River was on high alert for a possible evacuation, but the fire alert was lifted on July 4. The North and South Slave regions were suffering drought-like conditions.

Chief public health officer, Dr. Andre Corriveau, said the smoke from the fires was dangerous to health. He said wind conditions carried the smoke from fires into communities.

Hay River treatment centre shuts down

The Government of the Northwest Territories decided not to renew its contract with the Nats'ejee K'eh Treatment Centre on the Hay River Reserve. It was the only addictions treatment facility in the territory.

Instead, the health department said it would focus on mobile addictions treatment and on-the-land programming. People requiring more help would be sent to facilities in the south.

Problems acquiring and keeping trained staff was cited as one of the reasons for the closure, as well as the fact that the centre was only operating at half its capacity as of November 2012.

Nats'ejee K'eh had been offering residential treatment services to NWT residents for more almost 20 years.

Man charged with murder

David Harrison, 28, was charged with the first-degree murder of Yvonne Desjarlais, 63, on July 11. Desjarlais, a mother and a grandmother, was originally from Lutsel K'e, but lived in both the community and in Yellowknife.

She often stayed in shelters or on the street when she visited the city. Her body was found during the morning hours on Dec. 30 in an alley near 53 Street and Franklin Avenue.

Harrison had a history of violence and was sentenced to 600 days in jail after he stomped on the head of his semi-conscious cellmate in a Yellowknife drunk tank in 2010.

The incident was caught on a surveillance camera.

Attendance given failing grade

Only 63 per cent of students in the NWT were performing at their grade level in mathematics during the 2011-2012 school year. Low attendance rates were at least partly to blame, said the territory's Department of Education, Culture and Employment.

The average NWT student went to school about 84.4 per cent of the time during the entire school year, according to a report. An 80 per cent attendance rate means students missed one day of school every week, which added up to about two years worth of missed classes by the time they reached Grade 10, the report stated.

Attendance rates were lower in outlying communities than they were in larger centres, such as Yellowknife.

Forts elect new chiefs

Fort Good Hope and Fort Providence each elected a new chief. Greg Laboucan replaced Wilfred McNeely Jr. in Fort Good Hope and Joachim Bonnetrouge was elected chief over acting chief Berna Landry in Fort Providence.

Laboucan, Fort Good Hope's former senior administrative officer from 2006 until 2012, said he planned on supporting Mackenzie River water monitoring projects and strengthening ties between youth and elders in the community.

There was a 72 per cent voter turnout rate in Fort Good Hope and of the 825 eligible voters in Fort Providence, 333 went to the polls.

Paulatuk shooter sentenced

A Paulatuk man was sentenced to 20 months in jail after a shooting in Paulatuk in June 2012.

Joe Ruben, 42, pleaded guilty to charges of uttering a threat, assault with a weapon and use of a weapon in an offense. Ruben had been drinking with a friend when the two had an altercation, which woke up a neighbour. The neighbour helped break up the fight and later went to Ruben's house to check on him. After he approached Ruben's porch, he jumped out of the way as Ruben fired a shotgun four times in his direction.

Ruben was given 19 months and one week's credit for time already served at the North Slave Correctional Centre.

Man jailed after machete assault

After a night of video games and smoking crack cocaine in April 2013, a 20-year-old Yellowknife man slashed a friend's forearm and shin with a machete.

The man escaped and was medevaced to Edmonton, but lost mobility in his right hand. He required reconstructive surgery on his hand and physiotherapy.

Denecho King was sentenced to 26 months in prison. He received 108 days credit for time already served in custody, which brought his sentence down to 22 months and 14 days. During his time at the North Slave Correctional Centre he took a welding course and attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

August

Nutrition North to get audited

Canada's auditor general's office decided to audit the Nutrition North program. Nutrition North provides subsidies directly to retailers for certain foods, but critics said that subsidy was not being adequately passed down to the consumer. Territorial MLAs said they were receiving letters and phone calls complaining about the program and many said they were pleased Nutrition North was going to be examined.

All three territorial governments had sent requests to the Auditor General asking that an audit be performed. The results are expected to be released in the fall of 2014.

Tlicho gathering in Behchoko

The Tlicho Annual Gathering was held in Behchoko where residents and elected officials talked about ways to improve their communities. During a forum, one resident suggested better benefits for Tlicho residents starting their own businesses.

The forum was broadcast on speakers to a tented area near the Behchoko Cultural Centre for those who couldn't attend the meeting at Elizabeth Mackenzie Elementary School.

The centre held a fire-feeding ceremony and a variety of activities, including a slideshow of historical photos and a craft sale.

The gathering was a dry event and security teams made sure no alcohol was brought into the community. Next year's gathering will take place in Whati.

Kraft Celebration Tour in Fort Smith

The Kraft Celebration Tour stopped in Fort Smith in August and the visit was live-broadcast on TSN.

Fort Smith won $25,000 from Kraft to build a portable dressing room for skaters and hockey players after a fire shut down the Fort Smith Centennial Arena in May. During the competition, Fort Smith received 253,000 votes to beat Whitehorse, which received 35,000 votes. Organizers said a social media blitz during the 24-hour voting period was the key to getting that many votes.

Hosts Jennifer Hedger and Darren Dutchysen did a live broadcast of SportsCentre as part of the event.

Tsiigehtchic former financial manager jailed

The financial manager in Tsiigehtchic was jailed after stealing more than $40,000 from the community. Cecil Matthews began working for the Gwichya Gwich'in Band and the Hamlet of Tsiigehtchic in July 2007. He was fired in 2010.

Matthews pleaded guilty to taking the money between August 2008 and January 2010. He spent it on alcohol, dental visits, food and vacations.

He was sentenced to two consecutive 12-month sentences and was ordered to pay the money back. He had a prior criminal record stemming back to 2002 when he was convicted of 11 counts of fraud and was ordered to pay back the $25,000 he had taken.

Case of Inuvik teacher charged with sexual offenses declared mistrial

A mistrial was declared during the case of Hugues Latour, a former schoolteacher in Inuvik, who had been charged with sexual touching and encouraging sexual touching of a person under the age of 16, due to a lack of bilingual jurors.

Latour, who is from Quebec, was also facing a charge of trafficking marijuana. Latour requested a French trial, which is his right as a citizen of Canada, but only two eligible bilingual jurors were elected by the court.

Justice Louise Charbonneau declared a mistrial saying it wasn't realistic to find 10 more bilingual jurors.

Inuvik's drunk tank deemed inhumane

A man charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer had his sentence reduced after the judge declared conditions at the Inuvik drunk tank "inhumane."

Vernon Firth was arrested for public intoxication and resisted being put in a cell. After allegedly assaulting another prisoner, he was moved to another cell and spit in an RCMP member's face. Judge Bernadette Schmaltz said under normal circumstances, she would impose a five- to seven-month sentence, but gave Firth a 75-day sentence after watching a video of Firth inside the cell. Schmaltz said the conditions were cold in the cell, which was not equipped with a mattress or blankets. Both are considered mandatory.

Healing Drum Society loses funding

An important residential school healing program was put on hold after the Healing Drum Society had its funding cut by $1 million. Six jobs were also eliminated at the facility. About 1,000 clients participated in the Embracing our Healing-Nest program since it began in 2002. Hundreds more were on a waiting list. While the society was still able to offer some one-on-one counselling, many participants said the group therapy sessions were vital to healing. The program was designed to build self-responsibility and empowerment. It was offered in Yellowknife and throughout the territory at the request of communities.

Deh Cho health board dissolved

Deh Cho Health and Social Services Authority Board was dissolved, making it the fourth board to be disbanded and replaced with a public administrator. Jim Antoine was named public administrator for the Deh Cho region.

The health department said the board was disbanded because of a lack of ability to meet quorum, only two of the 10 board positions were filled when the board was dissolved.

The department also said an incident highlighted the need for better communication between health centres after a Trout Lake woman died waiting for a medevac in Trout Lake in the summer. A lack of communication between health staff in Fort Simpson and Trout Lake was cited as one of the reasons for the delay.

Guilty plea for Tulita double stabbing

A man pleaded guilty in August to stabbing a male and a female after breaking into their a home in Tulita in April.

Kevin Kenny pleaded guilty to assault causing bodily harm and endangering life. The man and woman made their way to the Tulita health centre before being medevaced to Yellowknife, where they were treated until they were in stable condition. RCMP arrested Kenny in a cabin across the Mackenzie River from the community a day later.

Prime minister visits

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stopped in Hay River as part of his Northern tour. He also visited Gjoa Haven and Rankin Inlet. While in Hay River, Harper made a re-announcement of the $5.8 million set aside for the Mine Training Society's Mining the Future Program. Federal funding for the program is provided through Human Resources and Social Development Canada.A bigger announcement was made in Rankin when Harper said the federal government was going to provide $100 million toward Arctic geoscience research. Harper said he encouraged Northerners to take advantage of training programs that will give them the skills needed to work in the mining industry.

September

Wellness centre opens

The K'atlodeeche First Nation Anne Buggins Wellness Centre was opened on Sept. 5 after more than a decade of discussions, planning and construction.

"It's been a long time coming," said Chief Roy Fabian.

Construction began in 2007 under a previous chief and council, but multiple setbacks - including design issues, changing requirements and contracts with the GNWT, land claim issues and a lack of funding - delayed the $1.2-million centre's opening.

The new building, located next to the Chief Lamalice Complex, will house a wellness worker, a community health representative and a homecare worker.

Teenage boy drowns

A teenage boy died after a late-night canoeing tragedy on Jackfish Lake near Norman Wells on Sept. 6. Two boys were in the canoe when it tipped over. One was able to swim to shore, while the other boy drowned.

The victim was identified as 15-year-old Andy Carpenter. A search began at about 11:30 p.m. on Sept. 6 and the victim's body was discovered near the middle of the lake at about 1 p.m. the next day. The teenager had resided in Sachs Harbour before relocating to Inuvik, and had moved to Norman Wells less than a month before his death.

Three die in helicopter crash

Three men died as the result of a crash of a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter north of Banks Island on Sept. 9.

The helicopter, which was from the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Amundsen, went down into McLure Strait.

The victims were Marc Thibault, commanding officer of the Amundsen, Daniel Dube, the helicopter's pilot, and Klaus Hochheim, an Arctic scientist with the University of Manitoba.

Cathy Menard, the NWT's chief coroner, said a preliminary examination indicated all died of cold-water immersion.

The helicopter was located about 137 metres below the surface and brought on board the Amundsen on Sept. 25.

New barge operation in Hay River

A new company launched into the Mackenzie River marine shipping business. Island Tug and Barge Ltd. of British Columbia held its official opening in Hay River on Sept. 10.

The barging company has been operating on the West Coast out of Vancouver for years, and broke into the Arctic market in 2005.

Hay River issues ultimatum

The Town of Hay River sent a letter to the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) on Sept. 6 giving the GNWT a deadline of 180 days to make progress on the funding formula for the municipality. If that doesn't happen, the town said it would pull services from surrounding communities, including water and sewage treatment, fire rescue, and ambulance service.

"It's time we play hardball," said Mayor Andrew Cassidy, who noted Hay River is the only community to not see its funding levels from MACA return to pre-2010 levels.

The GNWT pulled $300,000 from the town's block funding in 2011 without notice. Hay River is a regional centre for communities such as the Hay River Reserve, Kakisa and Enterprise.

Body of man recovered

Almost two weeks after being reported missing, the body of Frank Black, a 57-year-old man from Behchoko, was recovered from Russell Lake on Sept. 10. Black had been missing since leaving a cabin on Russell Lake on Aug. 29, according to the RCMP. Behchoko residents began an initial search and reported him missing to the police on Aug. 31. The RCMP and volunteers with the Civil Air Search and Rescue Association conducted aerial searches. Black grew up on the land and was an experienced hunter.

Grand chief re-elected

Eddie Erasmus was re-elected grand chief of the Tlicho Government. Erasmus received 577 votes on Sept. 16, compared to 460 for James Wah-Shee and 443 for George Mackenzie. The grand chief's priorities include facilitating the implementation of the Tlicho Land Use Plan and reinforcing relationships between the Tlicho and the territorial and Canadian governments. Erasmus will serve as grand chief for the next four years. He was first elected grand chief in 2011 and had previously served as chief of Behchoko.

New chief for Colville Lake

Colville Lake's newly-elected chief said if the community isn't pleased with his work a year into his three-year term, he will resign. Alvin Orlias said he plans to ask community members if they want him to stay after a year. Orlias won the election on Sept. 18 with 37 votes.

Former chief Richard Kochon received 29 votes, and Sharon Tutcho garnered 24 votes. The new chief has been involved in politics for about 18 years, starting as a band councillor in the mid-1990s. Orlias, who works for the NWT Power Corporation, took a leave of absence to fulfill his duties as chief.

Impaired driving warning

Motorists in the NWT and throughout Western Canada were warned of the dangers of impaired driving through the image of a Fort Simpson teenager killed in Fort Smith in 2008. Forty tanker-trailers of the Edmonton-based trucking company RTL-Westcan - which operates extensively in the NWT - will feature a large decal with a photo of Keisha Trudel, who died when she was just 16 years old. Along with the photo is a reminder to motorists to call police to report any driver they suspect is impaired.

Trudel is the second victim of impaired driving to be featured on RTL-Westcan's vehicles. The initiative is a joint effort of RTL-Westcan and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) Canada.

Trip of a lifetime

Three students at Chief T'Selihye School in Fort Good Hope got the surprise of a lifetime on Sept. 20 when they were selected for a trip to Disneyland. Hailey Manuel and Theodore Jackson, both in Grade 6, and Grade 5 student Arianna Laboucan were chosen for Dreams Take Flight, a charitable organization for children. They left Fort Good Hope on Sept. 23 and returned on Sept. 26. Dreams Take Flight has been taking students from Yellowknife on trips for the past decade, but it was the first time it had expanded to another NWT school. It chooses to help children aged six to 11 years old with physical or mental disabilities or illness, or from financially-challenged families.

Territory's population decreases

There were fewer people in the NWT than there were a year ago, according to a Sept. 26 news release from Statistics Canada. The estimated population of the territory on July 1, 2013, was 43,537, down 0.2 per cent from the same date the year before. The NWT had the second largest decrease in Canada, behind Nova Scotia. Overall, the estimated population of Canada was just short of 35.16 million, an increase of 1.2 per cent from the same date the year before.

Final day for Nats'ejee K'eh

The last residential addictions treatment facility in the NWT closed on Sept. 30. The Department of Health and Social Services had pulled funding from the Nats'ejee K'eh Treatment Centre, after close to 20 years of operation on the Hay River Reserve. The government was moving toward on-the-land and mobile addictions treatment. The centre ran eight or nine treatment programs annually, serving between 120 and 130 people per year, at a cost of $2.2 million. Around 12 health care workers lost their jobs as a result of the closure. Anyone in the NWT requiring residential treatment will be sent to B.C. or Alberta.

October

Health card backlog cleared

A backlog of health care card applications that was causing problems in the spring was largely cleared up. When the NWT decided in 2010 that health-care cards would expire, the decision was made to have all the new cards issued that year expire in 2013. That totalled approximately 38,000 cards. The Department of Health and Social Services expected a surge in renewal applications and hired two additional staff, bringing the number of employees at the Inuvik office responsible for processing the applications to seven. Even so, with thousands of renewal forms pouring in, the office fell behind. As of October, the Inuvik office had received approximately 26,300 renewal forms and had processed 25,500.

MACA seeks to help hamlet

The GNWT stepped in to calm the rough waters on Enterprise hamlet council. Eleanor Young, an assistant deputy minister with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA), was at council's Oct. 7 meeting to describe an initiative to help it function better and overcome disagreements among members. Council factiousness often featured verbal combat, personal accusations and general bickering. Young suggested a MACA delegation would attend four or five meetings, and could continue longer if council considered it valuable. After each meeting, MACA planned to provide council with feedback and support in trying to find solutions, such as possibly new or changed policies and procedures, or more training.

New bishop for NWT Catholics

Visiting Roman Catholic schools in the hot, humid weather of Sri Lanka, Rev. Msgr. Mark Hagemoen dreamed of cooler climates. He got his wish while visiting the South Asian country when Pope Francis appointed him bishop of the Mackenzie-Fort Smith Diocese on Oct. 15. The diocese covers the NWT, part of northern Saskatchewan and part of the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut. The leadership of the diocese became vacant in December 2012 when Bishop Murray Chatlain was named Archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas. Hagemoen, who was born and raised in Vancouver, will oversee 37 parishes and missions, and a Roman Catholic population of 20,110.

Muskox harvest cancelled

For the first time in three years, the commercial muskox harvest was cancelled in Sachs Harbour. The last commercial harvesting company went bankrupt four years ago, but was taken over by the NWT under its Business Development Investment Corporation (BDIC), said Vernon Amos, president of the Sachs Harbour Hunters and Trappers Committee. According to Amos, the BDIC made an agreement to keep the company running for five years. However, after just three years, the government determined the business was not profitable enough and cancelled the agreement.

Amos said the community will look at other avenues to have a limited commercial muskox hunt in the future.

Catholic church demolished

A distinctive building on Fort Simpson's main street was turned into a pile of debris on Oct. 16. About 30 community members watched as Arctic Environmental Services Ltd. used an excavator to demolish the 90-year-old Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Sacred Heart was built in 1923. In October 2009, the building was closed due to concerns about its foundation. Since then, the congregation has held mass in the gymnasium of Bompas Elementary School. A new building, which will be constructed in the same area where Sacred Heart once stood, is expected to include the church, a common area and a small residence for a priest.

GNWT has powerful dreams

The territorial government was getting "very bullish" on the idea of creating a long-delayed power transmission grid between the North and South Slave, Premier Bob McLeod said in the legislature on Oct. 17.

"We see this hydro development and the transmission line as probably the biggest project that we can start in the next two years, or in the remaining life of this 17th assembly," McLeod said.

The possible project would focus on connecting communities between the Taltson and the Snare hydro systems into a single grid. It would tie Kakisa and Fort Providence into the grid, and eventually run a line to Trout Lake, Fort Simpson, Jean Marie River and Fort Liard.

Case settled out of court

A long-running civil suit by an ousted chief against Fort Resolution's Deninu K'ue First Nation (DKFN) was settled out of court. Bill Norn sued DKFN in late 2007 for wrongful dismissal. A civil trial had been set for Oct. 28 in NWT Supreme Court in Yellowknife, but the two sides came to a confidential agreement. Norn was elected in February of 2007 to a four-year term, but was suspended and then dismissed by band council later that year.

Board approves fracking

On Oct. 29, the National Energy Board approved ConocoPhillips Canada Resources Corporation's application to conduct exploratory horizontal hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, on its properties in the Sahtu region over the next five years. However, the board will need to approve the specifics of each of the two proposed wells ConocoPhillips plans to drill before they break ground.

"If there is no hydraulic fracturing, there is no work for the Sahtu. If there is hydraulic fracturing, over $75 million will be spent this winter in the Sahtu," said Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya. "It's good news for the Sahtu region, certainly. There's also a strong message to prepare yourself and take control because hydraulic fracking has arrived in the North."

Premier shuffles cabinet

Premier Bob McLeod shuffled his cabinet on Oct. 31. Yellowknife MLA Glen Abernethy took over from Tom Beaulieu as minister of Health and Social Services. Meanwhile, Beaulieu took over the Department of Transportation from David Ramsay, who retained Industry, Tourism and Investment and picked up the Department of Justice and Public Utilities Board portfolios. Robert C. McLeod received a new portfolio - the Department of Lands - in addition to the four he already managed. That appointment will be delayed until April 1, 2014, when devolution will create the new department. Jackson Lafferty and Michael Miltenberger, as well as Premier McLeod, did not change portfolio assignments in the shuffle.

New Wildlife Act passes

The new NWT Wildlife Act was passed by MLAs on Oct. 31 and will be fully implemented by November 2014. Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger called it one of the most progressive wildlife management bills in the country. It was not Miltenberger's first attempt at pushing the legislation through the assembly, having tried in 2011 before pulling the act off the table in the final day of the 16th Assembly when it became clear it would not pass. This time, MLAs voted 14 to three in support of the legislation. The previous Wildlife Act was created in 1978 and last updated in 1988.

MP shaves moustache

Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington launched the NDP's Movember campaign on Oct. 31 in Ottawa by getting his moustache shaved for the first time in 40 years.

"I shaved my moustache as a tribute to my late friend Jack Layton and also to raise public awareness about screening for prostate cancer," said Bevington on Facebook, referring to the NDP leader who died in 2011.

Movember is an international effort in which men raise awareness about prostate cancer by growing moustaches each November.

Alberta spill worries NWT

A spill at an old coal mine near Hinton, Alta., caused concern in the NWT.

On Oct. 31, 670 million litres of contaminated water leaked into the Athabasca River from a containment pond at the closed Obed Mountain Mine. Testing by the Alberta government showed the water contained mercury, aluminum, arsenic, manganese, lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, as well as other contaminants.

It was expected that the plume could reach the NWT by mid-December through the Slave River. A testing site was set up at Fort Smith. Dr. Andre Corriveau, the NWT's chief public health officer, said he did not believe the territory was at risk.

November

Former MP Rheaume dies

A Member of Parliament for the Northwest Territories a half-century ago passed away. Gene Rheaume died in British Columbia on Nov. 1 at the age of 80, following complications from cancer surgery. Rheaume was the Progressive Conservative MP for the Northwest Territories riding, which then included what is now the NWT and Nunavut, from 1963 to 1965. Rheaume, who was residing in Okanagan Falls, B.C., at the time of his death, was born in High Prairie, Alta. In the late 1950s, he came north when he was hired by the Department of Northern Affairs and later became a regional superintendent.

Re-drawing electoral boundaries

On Nov. 5, MLAs decided between three recommendations from the NWT Electoral Boundaries Commission. They opted to maintain 19 ridings by a vote of 10 to seven, but rework some boundaries to balance population distribution. The most drastic change involved moving Ndilo and Dettah from Weledeh riding to a new riding with the Tu Nedhe communities of Lutsel K'e and Fort Resolution. Tu Nedhe MLA Tom Beaulieu opposed that option, arguing it would "essentially eliminate one seat from the small communities." Beaulieu noted there are precedents at the federal level for small jurisdictions, such as Labrador and all three territories, to have their own representatives in the senate and the House of Commons.

New language commissioner

Yellowknife's Snookie Henrietta Catholique was named the new language commissioner of the Northwest Territories on Nov. 7. Catholique speaks Denesuline and helped create the Chipewyan dictionaries now used in schools.

On Dec. 1, she replaced outgoing commissioner Sarah Jerome, who had served since 2009. Catholique will stay in the position for the next four years. Language commissioners are recommended by members of the legislative assembly and are appointed by the Commissioner of the NWT.

Highway of Heroes designated

On Nov. 8, an 83-kilometre stretch of Highway 1 from the NWT/Alberta border to Enterprise was designated the NWT Highway of Heroes. The aim is to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty in the military, the RCMP and emergency agencies - fire departments, ambulance services and rescue units - and honour those now serving. The idea originated with Fort Smith's Paul Currie, a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces. Canada's original Highway of Heroes is a route a procession follows when the body of a soldier killed in Afghanistan is carried from Canadian Forces Base Trenton to the coroner in Toronto. A tradition developed of people lining Highway 401 to honour fallen soldiers, which led to its designation as Highway of Heroes.

Small team, big money

How can nine people in a town of only 800 people raise more than $44,000? If you ask Norman Wells' Dee Opperman, a member of the North West Company's Team Diabetes, she'll respond: "We have a very giving community." Opperman, along with team members Amanda Feltham, Sheena Bailey, Jody Radmanovich, Joan Hickling, Sherry Hodgson, Georgie McKay, Nicole Richards and Marti Lys, were responsible for 18 per cent of the $223,000 raised by the company's 67 team members across northern Canada and Alaska. As a whole, the NWT raised $56,000 with the added contributions of two team members in Yellowknife and another in Tulita. Team members have to raise $3,000 each with the North West Company matching that minimum.

Milestone draft agreement

Negotiators initialed a draft agreement on most issues related to establishing a Thaidene Nene national park reserve around the East Arm of Great Slave Lake. The significant milestone between Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation (LKDFN) and Parks Canada took place in Lutsel K'e on Nov. 13.

Steven Nitah, the negotiator for LKDFN, said the draft agreement covers most issues, such as the type of governance body to be created, who is responsible for what, training programs, hiring policies, and infrastructure. The two outstanding issues to be finalized are finances and the boundary of a new national park reserve.

Arena reopens after fire

Fort Smith Centennial Arena reopened to the public on Nov. 15 for the first time since a fire in May. Temporary arrangements made the ice surface usable. The May 13 fire damaged or destroyed the arena's public washrooms, a change room, a first Aid room, a boiler room, and a section of the stands. While repairs are underway, the ice surface will be accessed by an entrance in the side of the building.

The damaged area of the interior has been walled off. A washroom trailer and a change room trailer have been set up outside the arena. The repairs will cost between $800,000 and $1.2 million, and will be covered by insurance. The arena should be back to its pre-fire state by October 2014.

NWT wants input on senate

The Northwest Territories told the Supreme Court of Canada in mid-November that it must be consulted before decisions are made about the senate. A lawyer for the GNWT's attorney general told the court that changes to the senate might mean the NWT may lose its lone senator without ever having any input. Lawyers representing the provinces and territories presented submissions to the court regarding the decision-making processes behind amending or abolishing the senate. The federal government had asked the Supreme Court to examine the Constitution of Canada to determine the legality behind possible options.

Funding cuts at institute

Cuts in education funding in Alberta hit the Canadian Circumpolar Institute. That's the centre at the University of Alberta in Edmonton that has supported northern and polar research for decades. Dr. Anita Dey Nuttall, the institute's associate director, confirmed the organization was severely impacted by cutbacks. The cuts resulted in the layoff on Nov. 19 of two staff members, while two remained. Dey Nuttall noted the university was embarking on a "revisioning" process to ensure the viability of the institute. It began about 50 years ago as the Boreal Institute for Northern Studies.

Award for language instructor

An aboriginal language instructor at Deninu School in Fort Resolution received a national award. Angie Fabien was among the winners of the 2013 Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence, which were presented on Nov. 20 in Ottawa. "I am so honoured," Fabien said from Ottawa the day after receiving the award from Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Fabien, who is in her fifth year as the Chipewyan language instructor at Deninu School, was one of 16 winners of the Award for Teaching Excellence from across Canada.

Man declared dangerous offender

A Fort Providence man with a lengthy record of sexual offences against minors was declared a dangerous offender and sentenced to prison for an indeterminate period of time. Justice Louise Charbonneau said Robert Bonnetrouge, 35, had a pattern of persistently aggressive behaviour and a failure to control his sexual impulses. Bonnetrouge was examined by a psychiatrist and a psychologist during the Crown's application to have him named a dangerous offender. Both agreed he was a high risk to re-offend. The Crown made application for Bonnetrouge to be declared a dangerous offender after he was convicted in September 2011 for raping two 16-year-old girls in 2009. Those given indeterminate sentences remain in prison for at least seven years before they're eligible for parole.

Roland may run federally

Floyd Roland was contemplating seeking the Conservative nomination in the riding of Western Arctic for the next federal election, about two years away. The former NWT premier and current mayor of Inuvik noted his name was brought up in different circles for discussion about a possible candidacy, and he was giving it serious consideration. Roland, the president of the Western Arctic Conservative Association, noted the organization will hold its annual general meeting in February, and the process and timing of selecting a candidate will be discussed at that time. Roland served as premier from 2007-2011 and was the territorial minister of Finance prior to that.

December

Anti-poverty charter signed

The GNWT signed an anti-poverty charter on Dec. 5, which obligates the territory, aboriginal and community governments, and non-governmental organizations to work on a territorial action plan to address poverty. A report, titled Building on the Strengths of Northerners: A Strategic Framework Toward the Elimination of Poverty in the NWT, was published in June. It measured the rate of poverty in the territory and is the plan's guiding document. The report states the income gap between the territory's richest and poorest residents is enormous. The territory's richest residents have an annual income of more than $200,000 a year, while its poorest live on less than $18,000 per year. According to the report, 16 per cent of all families have income of less than $30,000 a year.

Chimney fire forces out family

An early-morning chimney fire on Dec. 6 forced a family of five out of their home in Fort Smith. Fire Chief Wes Steed of the Fort Smith Volunteer Fire Department said there was "significant damage" to the bungalow on Ptarmigan Street, leaving it in an unlivable state. No one was injured in the incident. Steed praised the 11 firefighters who fought the blaze in temperatures dipping below -30 C. The house was occupied by a couple and their three children. Steed said the family found a rental unit in which to live. The fire chief had no estimate of the cost of the damage.

Hunger rate called emergency

A new report published by Food Banks Canada called the rate of hunger in the North an emergency. Hunger Count 2013 is an annual report examining food security throughout Canada. It found many Northerners are not getting enough to eat.

"Food insecurity in the North, and particularly in the Arctic, is a dire public health emergency," the report stated. Statistics in the report, which list the NWT, Yukon and Nunavut in one category, show that food banks in the territories assisted 3,522 people in March 2013. Thirty-eight per cent of them were children. In March 2012, food banks in the territories had been used by 2,316 people.

Most devolution jobs accepted

As the GNWT prepared to take control of lands and resources management on April 1, 2014, the Department of Human Resources recruited people to make devolution a reality.

Of 123 job offers sent out on Oct. 1 by the GNWT to employees of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC), 120 were accepted. Under the devolution agreement, the GNWT was obligated to make reasonable job offers to all AANDC employees in the NWT whose jobs would be affected by the transfer of power.

It was understood that employees from Ottawa would not be coming north, meaning more than 100 positions remained to be filled. Most are specialized and technical in nature, so the GNWT anticipated most recruits would come from the south.

New mayors elected

In Dec. 9 elections in 10 hamlets, three of four incumbent mayors were defeated. Only Mayor Garry Bailey was re-elected in Fort Resolution. Bailey, who is president of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, faced Chief Louis Balsillie of Deninu Ku'e First Nation. In Enterprise, Coun. John Leskiw II won the race for mayor over incumbent Michael St. Amour.

In Aklavik, Charlie Furlong defeated incumbent mayor Arnulf Steinwand. And, Darrel Nasogaluak defeated Merven Gruben, the long-time incumbent mayor of Tuktoyaktuk.

In Fort McPherson, Vasilos Bill Prodromidis was elected mayor over two other candidates in a race that featured no incumbent, since Hazel Nerysoo did not seek re-election. In Fort Liard, Mayor Morris McLeod was acclaimed to a second term.

Paulatuk man wins award

A Paulatuk resident received the Restorative Justice Recognition Award in appreciation of his contributions to both community justice and his community.

Fred Bennett, a retired community justice co-ordinator, is the first recipient of the newly-created award from the territorial Department of Justice. Bennett, 68, was recognized for serving almost a decade as Paulatuk's community justice co-ordinator before retiring in 2011 after having a stroke.

He was instrumental in developing programming for on-the-land activities and youth hunting as ways to work towards crime prevention. The award was presented to Bennett at a community feast in Paulatuk on Dec. 10. Community justice committees help develop alternative ways of dealing with criminal justice issues, which is known as restorative justice.

Species listed at risk

Boreal caribou, Peary caribou and the plant species hairy braya will soon be listed as 'threatened' species on the NWT List of Species at Risk, and polar bears will be listed as a species of 'special concern.' The listings, which are the first to be made since the NWT Species at Risk Act came into effect in 2010, were decided by consensus agreement during a meeting of the NWT Conference of Management Authorities in Inuvik on Oct. 8 and 9.

The agreement was presented to Environment and Natural Resources Minister Michael Miltenberger on Dec. 12 for his approval.

Push to get off diesel

The GNWT pledged to reduce the territory's reliance on diesel fuel for power generation by investing in alternative energy and expanding the power grids in the North and South Slave regions. In its NWT Energy Action Plan and Power System Plan released on Dec. 17, the government outlined both a $31.5-million investment in renewable technologies over the next three years, and proposed a $500-$700-million transmission line to link the Taltson hydro system in the South Slave to the Snare system in the North Slave.

The transmission line could be operational within five years, but the project relies on the federal government raising the GNWT's $800-million borrowing limit, and mines and other industrial projects in the North Slave buying power from the system.

School swap considered

The GNWT proposed a building swap for the English-language Harry Camsell School and the French-language Ecole Boreale in Hay River. Terrance Courtoreille, chair of the Hay River District Education Authority, said the Department of Education, Culture, and Employment proposed the swap as a possible solution to part of a 2012 court ruling that mandated French schools in both Yellowknife and Hay River - Ecole Allain St-Cyr and Ecole Boreale, respectively - have access to greater facilities, most importantly a gym.

Allain St-Cyr and Ecole Boreale do not have their own gyms and both share gyms in nearby English-language schools to comply with the ruling. The GNWT was appealing the court ruling.



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