Year in review
 NWT News/North
 Nunavut News/North
 NWT Sports
 Nunavut Sports
 Yellowknifer Sports
 Kivalliq News
 Deh Cho Drum
 Inuvik Drum
NNSL Photo/graphic

News/North: 2016 - The Year in Review


First resident commissioner of the NWT Stuart Hodgson dies

Stuart Hodgson, the territory's first resident commissioner, died at the age of 91. Hodgson was the first commissioner to manage the territorial government from Yellowknife instead of from Ottawa. He performed that role from 1967 to 1979.

NNSL photo/graphic

Hodgson was born in Vancouver, B.C. on April 1, 1924. He served in the Royal Canadian Navy in the Second World War and was a union official with the International Woodworkers of America

The Arctic Winter games were founded during his term as commissioner and after he left the North, he became a member of the International Joint Commission between Canada and the U.S.

He was also the chair of B.C. Ferries and later B.C. Transit until he retired in 1992.

Woman snagged by unmarked wolf snare in Fort Smith

A Fort Smith woman raised the alarm about a wolf snare that had been placed across a snowmobile trail outside the community.

Sheri Beamish Vogt was on a snowmobile ride with her family on New Year's Day when she and her husband passed beneath some trees. An unmarked snare caught her around the stomach and pulled her from the machine.

RCMP consulted the Salt River First Nation about the incident before starting an investigation.

Family left homeless after Christmas Eve fire

A fire broke out in Roland and Rita Kuptana's home in Tuktoyaktuk on Christmas Eve and destroyed the house.

Six children were living in the home, but no one was hurt in the fire. It took a team of eight firefighters nearly eight hours to extinguish the blaze, which had been raging in -30 C temperatures.

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation owned the house but said it wouldn't be rebuilt within the year. The family stayed with relatives.

An online crowdfunding campaign for the Kuptana family raised $6,099 as of Jan. 8.

Buffalo back in the skies

Buffalo Airways prepared to start flying again after a six week suspension issued by Transport Canada.

The suspension was due to the airline's "poor safety record," a Transport Canada news release said. It was lifted the week of Jan. 11, though a flight schedule wasn't immediately put in place.

The company was not permitted to run commercial flights during the suspension but continued to hire charters for passenger and cargo flights in order to maintain service.

Company president "Buffalo" Joe McBryan wrote a letter to Transport Canada during the suspension stating that he would remove himself from operations of the airline.

The suspension cost Buffalo Airways an estimated $1.5 million.

Inuvik Drum celebrates 50 years

The Inuvik Drum marked its 50th anniversary the week of Jan. 11. Tom Butters, the newspaper's founder, started publishing the paper after moving to Inuvik in 1961.

The first issue was published on Jan. 6, 1966.

Butters produced much of the newspaper in his home on Reliant Street before printing it in a building on Mackenzie Road.

Woman dies in police custody

A 51-year-old woman died in the Inuvik jail on Jan. 10.

Beverly Elanik's death sparked an external review, which was conducted by the Medicine Hat Police Service.

In a news release, police said a woman had been taken into custody for public intoxication the night before she went into distress. RCMP performed First Aid before taking the woman to the Inuvik Regional Hospital.

Police said the night she was picked up, she was brought to the hospital for a medical assessment where it was determined that she was fit for incarceration.

GNWT refuses to release kindergarten review

The Government of the Northwest Territories refused to release the external review of the territory's junior kindergarten program.

The review was commissioned after public outcry paused the rolling out of the program. It was originally scheduled to be complete and presented to MLAs in July 2015 prior to the territorial election in November.

The GNWT confirmed it received the review in the fall but it hadn't been released. Wendy Bisaro, former Frame Lake MLA, was one of the MLAs who demanded the review be released.

News/North also filed an Access to Information request, but the government refused. The review was eventually made public in late January.

GNWT changes MLA residency requirements

Cabinet ministers were allowed to claim residency outside Yellowknife after changes were made to the Legislative Assembly's residency rules.

Ministers can now receive allowances if their main residence is somewhere other than Yellowknife. MLAs must swear a declaration of residency with the law clerk of the assembly and are evaluated on a scale to determine whether they are spending sufficient time in their constituancies.

MLAs deemed high risk of not spending enough time in their home communities will be assessed every month, medium risk MLAs will be assessed every three months while low risk MLAs will be assessed annually.

Parks Canada pays guides impacted by Nahanni

National Park expansion

The last two of the four guiding operators who guided hunting tours near Nahanni Butte received a settlement from the federal government compensating them for the Nahanni National Park Reserve expansion.

Nahanni Butte Outfitters and Ram Head Outfitters received settlements of $1.15 million and $2 million respectively in 2015. The other two outfitters were not named but the federal government confirmed a total of $3.15 million was paid to all four companies.

The government expanded the Nahanni National Park Reserve in 2009 to create the Naats'ihch'oh National Park Reserve.

NNSL photo/graphic

Inuvialuit Regional Corporation president and CEO Nellie Cournoyea decided not to seek another term of office after serving the last nine terms. - NNSL file photo

The expansion reduced Nahanni Butte Outfitters' operating area by an estimated 80 to 85 per cent.

Nellie Cournoyea steps down after nine terms with IRC

Nellie Cournoyea, the longtime head of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation, announced she would not run in the 2016 IRC election.

Cournoyea served as chair of the corporation for more than 20 years. She was also MLA for Nunakput from 1979 to 1995 and was the territory's premier from 1991 to 1995.

Duane Smith from Inuvik beat fellow candidates Vernon Blaine Amos, Vince Teddy, Jackie Jacobson and Richard McLeod to win the election.

Charlotte Lafferty murder trial begins

Charlotte Lafferty's mother, Louisa Lafferty, was the first witness called during the trial of her daughter's accused murderer.

The body of Charlotte Lafferty, 23, was found near the Fort Good Hope elders' complex on March 22, 2014.

The 17-year-old accused could not be named because he was a minor.

Lafferty had been sexually assaulted before being murdered.

Her mother identified Lafferty using her shoes and a necklace she had been wearing. The trial was expected to take about three weeks.


Economic growth slows down

The Conference Board of Canada predicted the Northwest Territories would have the weakest economic growth of the three territories in 2016.

No growth was expected to take place due to the shutdown of the Snap Lake diamond mine and underactive drilling and exploration activity.

Bob McLeod, NWT premier and the minister of industry, tourism and investment, said he believed De Beer's Gahcho Kue diamond mine could help the territory ride out the storm, as well as funding boosts from the Building Canada fund.

During the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, B.C., McLeod told media it could take about two years for the commodities market to recover.

Report: Erosion caused by fibre optic line

The construction route of the Mackenzie Valley fibre optic cable line caused erosion and risk to wildlife, according to reports.

The $84-million project installed 1,154 km of fibre optic cable from Jean Marie River to Inuvik, promises to provide communities across the Mackenzie Valley and Beaufort Delta access with high-speed Internet service.

Trenches and exposed cable lines were ordered to be buried by September 2015, but an inspection in January 2016 found remediations had not been performed. Northern Lights General Partnership, a consortium of Ledcor Developments Ltd. and Northwestel won the P3 contract to build, finance, operate and maintain the fibre link in November 2014.

GNWT debt predicted to reach $1 billion

The territorial government's debt was predicted to reach about $1 billion by 2019. The territory's financial management board gave a briefing outlining the financial forecast, which included a projected 1.7-per-cent decline in revenues over the next five years while expenditures are expected to grow by 4.05 per cent.

The GNWT had been pushing for the federal government to restore the $34.2 million that was expected to be be removed from the annual federal grant that makes up the majority of the territory's budget. The government's debt in February 2016 was $715 million.

NNSL photo/graphic

Sandy Kalgutkar, deputy secretary of the financial management board, said the territorial government's debt was expected to increase to $1.03 billion in the 2019-20 fiscal year. - NNSL file photo -

MLAs fail to file income reports

Eight MLAs either failed to submit required financial disclosure reports on time or filed incomplete reports to Elections NWT by the Jan. 25 deadline.

Speaker and Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty, cabinet minister and Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann, cabinet minister and Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Alfred Moses, Kam Lake MLA Kieron Testart, Mackenzie Delta MLA Frederick Blake Jr., Sahtu MLA Danny McNeely, Deh Cho MLA Michael Nadli and Nunakput MLA Herb Nakimayak were all cited in the report.

Under the rules, they all had to apply to the NWT Supreme Court before taking their seats in the Legislative Assembly the week of Feb. 15. The law states that if the deadline is missed, members can be prevented from voting in the assembly or from taking their seats in the chamber.

Guilty verdict in Lafferty murder trial

Jurors delivered a guilty verdict to a 19-year-old facing a first-degree murder charge in the sexual assault and killing of Charlotte Lafferty in Fort Good Hope.

Lafferty was 23 when she was found badly beaten on the morning of March 22, 2014. An RCMP officer had testified that he saw the accused running from the crime scene that morning and that he had recognized the teen from previous encounters in the community.

Jurors deliberated for about six hours before delivering the verdict to NWT Supreme Court judge Louise Charbonneau at around 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 11.

NNSL photo/graphic

Aurora Desjarlias, 4, won first place in the traditional dress competition during the handgames tournament in Tulita the weekend of February 5th. - NNSL file photo

Suspected meteor falls near Deline

A bright object suspected to be a meteor fell from the sky near Deline the morning of Feb. 8. Danny Gaudet witnessed the event, as did residents in other communities, including Wrigley. The bright object streaked through the sky before landing on the other side of Great Bear Lake.

Peter Brown, a professor at the University of Western Ontario and a member of the Western Meteor Physics Group, said Gaudet's description meant he likely saw a meteor.

Funding partially restored

The federal government promised to restore $24 million of the $34 million it had planned to cut from the territory's funding.

The cuts were the result of a new funding formula, which included a variety of factors such as population and gross domestic product. On Feb. 15, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced that $24.1 million would be restored for the 2016-17 fiscal year.

Premier Bob McLeod had met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Feb. 11 and explained how vital the funding is to the territorial budget. The premier's brother, Liberal MP Michael McLeod, also lobbied to have the funding partially restored. The NWT's overall budget was $1.5 billion.

Ex-RCMP found not guilty of child sexual assault

A jury found Colin Allooloo, a former RCMP officer, not guilty of charges that he had sexually assaulted a six-year-old girl in Inuvik five years ago.

Jay Bran, Allooloo's defence lawyer, said the testimony of the girl, now 11, was unreliable due to both her age and the amount of time that had passed. The incident allegedly took place at some point between September 2010 and May 2011.

Allooloo was convicted in 2009 of assaulting a Fort Simpson youth with pepper spray. He resigned from the RCMP in 2010.

NNSL photo/graphic

Premier Bob McLeod and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met for the first time February 11th on Parliament Hill. - photo courtest GNWT

Premier meets with Justin Trudeau for first time

Premier Bob McLeod discussed infrastructure in the territory during his first meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While it wasn't clear exactly how much the federal government would allocate toward projects in the NWT, the Liberals had promised to spend $126 billion on infrastructure projects across Canada during their federal campaign. Trudeau also reiterated another campaign promise, which was that the Northern Residency Tax allowance would increase by 33 per cent.

McLeod said Trudeau committed to meeting regularly with Canada's premiers, which is something former prime minister Stephen Harper had failed to do.

Otto Binder dies

Legendary reindeer herder Otto Binder died at the age of 93.

Binder was born near Kugluktuk but grew up in Tuktoyaktuk. He attended school at Shingle Point, which is where he watched reindeer being brought to the area in 1935. He moved to Reindeer Station and began working. Years later, Otto moved his family to Aklavik where he worked as a special constable with the RCMP for 25 years, doing everything from translating Inuvialuktun to feeding sled dogs.

He then spent another 10 years piloting barges on the river.

The Otto family formed a company to take over reindeer herding in the territory.

NNSL photo/graphic

NWT Commissioner George Tuccaro, right, stands in the Great Hall of the legislative assembly in Yellowknife after his final official day of duty. With him is Sergeant-at-Arms Brian Thagard. Tuccaro's last day in the assembly was March 3rd. - NNSL file photo


NWT Commissioner George Tuccaro retires

George Tuccaro, the territory's 16th commissioner, spent his last day in the Legislative Assembly on March 3.

He received a standing ovation as he left the floor. Tuccaro is a member of the Mikisew Cree First Nation in Alberta and previously worked as a journalist for CBC North.

He is the recipient of the Canada 125 Commemorative Medal, the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002, the National Aboriginal Achievement Award in 2006 for Media and Communications and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012.

He was also the first person to receive the Order of the Northwest Territories.

Mental health help in NWT fails family

A Fort Smith family shared their devastating story of trying to get mental health help for a 15-year-old girl.

Names were changed to protect the identities of the family members, who told News/North about the rapidly deteriorating mental health of a teenage girl diagnosed with major depressive disorder. The family wasn't told medications the girl was prescribed can increase suicidal thoughts and she wasn't adequately monitored by health care professionals.

Despite multiple suicide attempts and medevacs, the girl's family said there was no long-term help available in the Northwest Territories.

Trucking accidents

A fuel truck fell through the ice road on its way to Deline and another truck jackknifed off the highway near Tsiigehtchic the week of March 7.

NNSL photo/graphic

A fuel truck crashed through the ice road about three km outside Deline on March 5th. - photo courtesy of Department of Transportation.

The first truck fell through the ice about three kilometres from Deline while on a fuel delivery. The area around the truck was intentionally flooded then pumps and hoses were used to empty the fuel tank. The truck was then pulled to shore. Kevin McLeod, director of territorial highways, said a review would take place to determine what went wrong.

The other fuel truck flipped between Tsiigehtchic and Fort McPherson on March 9.

Superbug worries in Hay River

Methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), also known as the superbug, was a possible factor in the deaths of two Hay River residents who had died within a year of March 21.

The Hay River Health and Social Services Authority launched a public awareness campaign in response to the concern. The number of cases in Hay River was less than the overall NWT average, which is about five case per 1,000 people but the community saw a sharp increase in 2015-16. The cause of the increase was not known.

Judy Steele, the public health supervisor in Hay River, said the bacteria can live on the skin without causing problems but becomes dangerous if it enters the bloodstream.

NNSL photo/graphic

Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice ruled eight-day trip Sibbeston took with his wife could not be justified. - Shane Magee/NNSL photo

NWT Senator ordered to repay more than $20K

NWT Senator Nick Sibbeston was told he would have to repay $26,924 in ineligible expense claims after an arbitration ruling on March 21.

Retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Ian Binnie compiled the arbitration report, which found Sibbeston filed ineligible claims for travel to Victoria, Edmonton and Yellowknife.

In once instance, Sibbeston expensed $4,824 for an eight-day trip to Yellowknife in January 2013. Though he claimed he often ran into people in the street and informally discussed senate matters, the judge ruled the eight-day trip Sibbeston took with his wife could not be justified.

Volcanic ashgrounds flights

Alaska's Mount Pavlof volcano began erupting on March 27, spewing ash into the sky and grounding flights in the Northwest Territories and parts of Nunavut.

Flights in and out of the Ekati mine site were cancelled on March 29 and flights between Yellowknife and Hay River were shut down on March 30. Twenty First Air flights were cancelled and 12 were delayed the same day.

WestJet cancelled some morning flights heading to Edmonton, Calgary and Toronto from Regina on March 29 and dozens of passengers were re-booked the following day. Alaska Airlines cancelled a total of 41 flights on March 28 and more than 3,000 customers were affected.

Canadian North also warned of delays on March 30, but none took place.

Huge natural gas deposit discovered in NWT

One quarter of the country's second-largest known gas resource is located in the Northwest Territories, according to a National Energy Board report released March 16.

The Liard Basin contains 6,201 billion cubic metres of marketable, unconventional natural gas.

Premier Bob McLeod said the territory would support the area's development while working to settle its outstanding land claims.

The report said the Liard Basin contains enough gas to power the entire country for nearly 70 years.

NNSL photo/graphicCrews battled a fire in Inuvik that destroyed a multiplex the last week of March. The fire is one of four that took place in the community in late March and April, and is the only one that was not deemed suspicious. - NNSL photo


Suspicious fires in Inuvik

RCMP deemed three out of four fires that took place in Inuvik the week of April 1 as suspicious.

A fire broke out in a mobile home just after noon on April 1 but was minor. At 6:50 a.m. on April 2, there was another fire at a building on Mackenzie Road.

Two weeks prior, a suspicious fire destroyed former offices of Millennium Construction Ltd.

A fourth fire that engulfed a multiplex and left several Inuvik families homeless was not considered suspicious.

Meat wastage on Dempster Highway

Four Porcupine caribou were found shot but not harvested along the Dempster Highway.

The two female caribou, including a calf, were found on April 2. Two bulls were found on March 29.

Yukon conservation officers said the deaths might have been accidental.

High powered rifles sometimes shoot more than just the intended animal. The officer recommended having a plan and waiting until caribou are separated from the others to reduce the risk of unintentionally shooting another animal.

There were 197,000 Porcupine caribou as of the last population survey in 2013.

Yukon conservation officers confirmed 13 cases of caribou that had been shot but not harvested since the hunt began in October, 2015.

Government makes historic decision for Metis

Canada's top court announced that the federal government is responsible for Metis and non-status Indians on April 14.

The court maintained that all indigenous people in Canada, including Metis and non-status Indians, are considered "Indians" under the Constitution Act of 1867. That means the federal government is as constitutionally responsible for them as it is for Inuit and First Nations.

The decision ended a 17-year court battle.

Though it wasn't immediately clear what the decision would mean, Bill Enge, president of the North Slave Metis Alliance, said the decision could make Metis and non-status Indians eligible for the same health-care benefits currently available to First Nations and Inuit.

Inuvik-Tuk Highway connected

On April 7, two dump trucks dumped their loads back to back and officially connected the south and north ends of the Inuvik-Tuk highway.

The highway is 120 kilometres long and will connect Tuktoyaktuk to a road system for the first time.

The project is expected to boost the region's economic growth and reduce the cost of getting to offshore oil and gas deposits in the North. The road is scheduled to be complete by the fall of 2017.

Catholic church walks away from residential school compensation

A miscommunication between lawyers allowed the Catholic Church to walk away from a multi-million dollar fundraising campaign for residential school survivors.

As part of the 2007 Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement, the Catholic entities were required to pay out $79 million - $29 million to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, provide $25 million in "in-kind" services and fundraise another $25 million through the campaign.

A lawyer for the Catholic entities wrote to a federal government lawyer asking that his client be released from all further obligations in exchange for $1.2 million. But the federal government's lawyer later said the scope of the release was too broad and it wasn't formally agreed to.

National media reported that appeal of the case was abandoned by the Trudeau government six days after it took office.

NTPC applies to raise rates

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation requested the Public Utilities Board approve a rate hike that would start in June.

The first hike would increase rates by 4.8 per cent. It planned to then submit a general rate application to the Public Utilities Board which would see the cost of power increase by a total of 12.8 per cent over three years, inclusive of the original interim increase of 4.8 per cent. That would translate into an additional $10 per month for residential customers in the winter and $6 in the summer.

Employment numbers skewed

A labour force survey released April 8 stated the NWT had the highest rate of employment in Canada at 69.3 per cent but the NWT Chamber of Commerce questioned that number.

Executive director Mike Bradshaw said the numbers didn't take into account the Snap Lake losses, percentage of fly-in, fly-out workers or large temporary projects.

In March, 2016, there were 22,400 people working in the NWT - an increase of 700 people from the previous year. There were 19,500 full-time employees, relatively unchanged from 2015, while the number of part-time employees rose from 2,400 to 2,900. Employment peaked in the NWT in 2007 and again in 2013 at around 23,300 workers prior to each of the decade's commodity market crashes.

Whati celebrates 30 years

The Hamlet of Lac La Martre, now known as Whati, was established on April 1, 1986 and it received charter community status in 1996, combining the hamlet council and band council.

Its name was officially changed to Whati in 2005.

The community's anniversary was celebrated in conjunction with the annual spring carnival, which included games, a community feast and a drum dance.

Chief Alfonz Nitsiza said establishing a school was one of the first items on the community's agenda.

The first classes were held in a wall tent in the early 1950s before a log schoolhouse was built in the 1960s.

The current school, Mezi Community School was built in 1983.


Substitute teacher sentenced for sexual relationship with teenage girl

A substitute teacher in Sachs Harbour convicted of molesting a 15-year-old girl was sentenced on May 2.

Allyson Acheson pleaded guilty in Inuvik territorial court to sexual interference stemming from incidents occurring between March and May of 2015 in Sachs Harbour.

The relationship did not begin at school and Acheson was not the victim's teacher.

She was sentenced to 16 months in jail, a year of probation and her name was added to the national sexual offenders registry.

A charge of sexual exploitation was dropped.

Senator Nick Sibbeston quits Liberals, sits as independent

NWT Senator Nick Sibbeston abandoned the senate Liberal caucus to sit as an independent on May 8.

Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien appointed him to the senate in 1999.

Sibbeston said because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was moving toward creating more non-partisan Senate, he decided to sit as an independent with no Liberal affiliations.

Sibbeston must retire when he reaches age 75 and told News/North he had a few years left in his term.

NNSL photo/graphic

This was the scene as Shauna and JJ Canadien escaped a wildfire that surged into Fort McMurray, May 4th. - photo courtesy of Shauna and JJ Canadien

Former Fort Providence family escapes Fort McMurray wildfire

Former Fort Providence residents Shauna and JJ Canadien and their children, Gabriella, 7, and Alessandra, 8, escaped a wildfire that engulfed much of Fort McMurray, Alta. on May 4.

Their home was in Fort McMurray's Beacon Hill neighbourhood, which was almost completely destroyed.

In Hay River, Donna Lee Jungkind, the community's deputy mayor, said her husband Ron Jungkind was forced to escape the couple's Fort McMurray condo on May 3.

Ron was an employee of oil and gas company Canadian Natural Resources Limited and managed to secure accommodations at the Horizon Oil Sands camp facility.

Fundraisers across the territory raised money to help victims of the fire.

Wrigley chief and council ousted

Members of Pehdzeh Ki First Nation voted to remove their chief after a vote of non-confidence during a public meeting held May 7.

Nineteen members voted in favour of dissolving the present chief and council, effective May 7, with one member abstaining and none voting against the motion.

Darcy E. Moses was chief. He was also chief in 2009 when 23 band members voted to remove chief and council as well as the band's senior administrative officer.

Inuvik hospital privacy breach

Sixty-seven Inuvik hospital patients were notified that their information in a data-management system had been inappropriately accessed after a complaint triggered an investigation in October 2015. Staff at the hospital had been deliberately and repeatedly accessing patient files.

The discovery sparked reviews of the hospital's data system, called MediPatient. The hospital changed controls to access the system and also implemented a new standard operating procedure.

Mackenzie wood bison population threatened

An independent committee urged the NWT to classify the Mackenzie wood bison as threatened under the NWT Species at Risk Act.

The review was scheduled for discussion by the Conference of Management Authority at a meeting in May.

From there, Wally Schumann, minister of environment and natural resources, could approve the listing of wood bison as threatened. The listing would mean coming up with a recovery strategy.

The herd was re-introduced to the territory in 1963 and grew to 2,400 animals by 1989. An anthrax outbreak in 2012 killed at least 450 bison and the herd was reduced to 850 by 2016.

NNSL photo/graphic

Albert Bohnet spent most of his life in Fort Smith where he was a heavy equipment opertor.

Fort Smith man turns 100

Fort Smith's Albert Bohnet celebrated his 100th birthday on May 20.

Born in Medicine Hat, Alta., Bohnet moved to Fort Smith and married his wife, Febula, in 1946.

He spent most of his life in Fort Smith where he was a heavy equipment operator and eventually an instructor for the territorial government. He was also Fort Smith's foreman and was voted the community's citizen of the year.

Three birthday parties were planned for Bohnet, two at the Avens Centre in Yellowknife where Bohnet lived and another at his son Darryl Bohnet's home in the city.

Former ITI minister gets exemption to work

for mining company

David Ramsay, the former territorial minister of industry, tourism and investment, was criticized for accepting a job with Fortune Minerals less than six months after stepping down from cabinet.

Ramsay was appointed to the Fortune Minerals board of directors on April 18.

Legislation prescribes a cooling-off period prohibiting former ministers from joining corporations they've had "significant official dealings" with for a year after leaving office.

NWT conflict of interest commissioner David Phillip Jones allowed Ramsay to take the job prior to fulfilling the 12-month period but gave conditions.

Ramsay was not permitted to lobby current cabinet ministers or GNWT officials on behalf of Fortune for a year.

Ramsay maintained that he had no "significant" dealings with Fortune Minerals while he was minister.

The company's proposed NICO mine near Whati would extract gold, cobalt, bismuth and copper.


North Slave Metis demand Nunavut ban Bathurst caribou hunt

The North Slave Metis Alliance called on the Nunavut government to enforce a full-scale hunting ban on the Bathurst caribou herd.

Bill Enge, president of North Slave Metis Alliance, called the Nunavut hunt "absurd" in light of strict conservation efforts in the Northwest Territories.

The herd is shared by both territories but the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board wanted to hunt up to 30 bull caribou.

The NWT's Wek'eezhii Renewable Resources Board (WRRB) recommended a total harvesting ban on the herd until 2019.

Aboriginal groups in the territory had already implemented their own voluntary bans.

$53 million in budget cuts

Despite plans to cut $53 million from programs and services in the 2016-17 fiscal year The Government of the Northwest Territories would still run a deficit in the tens of millions of dollars.

The budget called for $1.66 billion to be spent over the next fiscal year on government operations while running a $54-million deficit.

MLAs in the 17th Legislative Assembly passed a $320 million-capital budget in the fall of 2015, which resulted in spending commitments exceeding the $1.8 billion in revenue the government takes in and forcing an increase in borrowing.

Earlier in 2016, the government set a target of $150 million in savings or new revenues to establish a short-term cash surplus by the end of the 18th Legislative Assembly.

NWT implements temporary assisted death rules

The GNWT established temporary rules for patients seeking a doctor assisted death.

The practice became legal in June but without a federal law in place, it would be regulated by each province or territory.

NWT guidelines set out that patients must be 18, capable of making decisions about their health and have a "terminal" medical condition.

Safeguards included having the patients assessed by two independent practitioners, a mandatory reflection period of 10 days pass before assisted death is provided, that the patient have the chance to withdraw consent, with a final consent given.

The patient must also be advised of alternatives such as palliative care.

Vital Statistics Act examined

Glen Abernethy, territorial minister of Health and Social Services, said he would push for changes to the Department of Health and Social Services' Vital Statistics Act that would allow Dene, Inuvialuit and Cree characters to be used on birth certificates and other documents provided through the Vital Statistics office.

The announcement came after Shene Catholique-Valpy tried to register her daughter's name, Sahai?a, a Chipewyan word describing the sun breaking through, using its traditional Chipewyan spelling.

When her request was denied, Catholique-Valpy filed a complaint with the NWT Languages Commissioner.

Funnel cloud develops over Norman Wells

Norman Wells residents were shocked to see a rare funnel cloud suddenly appear over Norman Wells on June 13.

Gilly McNaughton was in a meeting when she noticed the cloud outside an office window.

Dan Kulak, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the incident was unusual.

Observations about the cloud were recorded at the Norman Wells airport at about 3:55 p.m. The cloud lasted for about four minutes.

Residents said while the day was cloudy, no storms were taking place.

Kulak said funnel clouds can form even without storm activity.

Killer's sentence sparks outrage in Gwich'in community

The teen who admitted to killing Brandy Vittrekwa from Fort McPherson was sentenced on June 16 to two years in jail and another year under supervision. Vittrekwa had been residing in Whitehorse when she was found beaten to death on a walking trail in the McIntyre subdivision Dec. 8, 2014.

Leadership in the Gwich'in Tribal Council (GTC) spoke out against the sentence, which was handed down by a Yukon judge.

The GTC condemned the judge's decision to take the killer's troubled past into account when handing down the sentence.

Crown prosecutors had originally argued that he should be sentenced as an adult, which would have opened the door to a jail term of four to six years.

Power corp abandons rate hike

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) didn't raise rates as it had planned on June 1.

Earlier in 2016, NTPC sought permission from the Public Utilities Board to increase power rates at the start of June by 4.8 per cent, citing a need to cover a revenue shortfall.

The board decided May 30 to deny the request.

NTPC had also applied to lower rates slightly because it spent less on fuel than expected.

That request was granted, meaning rates went down June 1 by 0.36 cents per kilowatt hour.

In April, NTPC sent notice to the board that it was seeking the interim rate hike for all communities.

It stated the increase would be followed by a general rate application to increase power rates by 4.8 per cent this year - making the interim rate permanent - followed by four per cent increases the following two years.

NWT MP chosen for new indigenous caucus

MP Michael McLeod was selected as a member of the first ever Indigenous Liberal Caucus.

The caucus, which is made up of nine MPs, including Carolyn Bennett, minister of indigenous and northern affairs, was announced on June 21.

McLeod said youth suicide, chronic housing problems and land claims resolution are on his list of issues he wants to bring forward as a caucus member.

The caucus holds no official powers but is intended to serve as both a communications channel and an advisory board on aboriginal issues.

The board, which is made up entirely of Liberal MPs, will also serve as a watchdog for Liberal campaign promises when it comes to aboriginal issues.

Funding announced for road projects

The Government of the Northwest Territories and the federal government announced $81 million in funding for 13 road projects. The money was slated for improvements to nine bridges and culverts, as well as upgrades on roads, winter roads and the construction of a road maintenance garage on the Dempster Highway.

The federal government would provide almost $61 million of the tab with the GNWT providing just over $20 million.

Work on all 13 projects was expected to be completed within two years.


Family stranded on island for nearly a week

A family boating from Yellowknife to Lutsel K'e were stranded on an island in the East arm of Great Slave Lake for five days.

Deserae Joanasson, her parents, partner and two-year-old son were 12 hours into the trip, which usually takes about four to seven hours by boat, when the white 18-foot aluminum boat ran out of fuel.

They were in the East Arm near the seven kilometre-wide Etthen Island which separates the Hearne Channel from Christie Bay.

A Hercules spotted them around 8:30 p.m. five days later and a radio was dropped to establish communication. A Twin Otter circled overhead until an RCMP boat and another boat reached the family about 40 kilometres west of Lutsel K'e just before midnight.

No one was hurt during the incident.

Out-of-control fire burns near dam

A forest fire burning near the Snare hydro dam, located about 65 kilometres north of Behchoko grew to five square kilometres and was described as out of control.

Another three fires were burning not far from NTPC's Bluefish dam, about 40 kilometres north east of Yellowknife. One of those fires reached within 0.8 square kilometres.

Another smaller fire near Bluefish was under control with crews mopping up and dealing with hot spots. The third fire was also smaller and deemed under control.

As of July 11, 91 fires burned during the forest fire season and consumed about 300 square kilometres.

Richard Olsen, fire operation manager for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, pleaded with the public not to light camp fires unless absolutely necessary.

Income assistance cut off for many Tuk clients

Elders and other Tuktoyaktuk residents complained of having their income assistance payments arbitrarily cut off.

Clara Bates became the unofficial spokesperson for a group of residents who had recurring problems with the income assistance program in Tuk. She wrote a letter to the Hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk outlining residents' concerns.

In the letter, Bates wrote that there was often poor communication between clients and the client services officer. Payment cheques were often delayed and household bills were not able to be paid.

She also said a similar incident took place last summer where paperwork issues resulted in residents being cut off.

Bates said she recognized why the rules were in place but pointed out they had a devastating effect on members of the community.

The payments were re-instated later in July.

Arctic ocean beach warmest in Canada

East Whitefish beach at Kugmallit Bay might have been the warmest ocean beach in Canada on July 15.

Water temperatures in the bay, which is located on the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk, reached 22.2 C.

Natural Resources Canada scientists compared East Whitefish beach temperature with other beaches in Canada. Cavendish Beach in Prince Edward Island National Park is known as one of the warmest beaches in the country but water temperatures at East Whitefish beach were higher than Cavendish on July 15.

Water temperatures there were about 19 C.

Temperatures in British Columbia were about 14 C and in Nova Scotia they were about 17 C that day.

Warm water from the Mackenzie River emptying into Kugmallit Bay could have been a contributing factor.

Tlicho communities added to Nutrition North list

On July 18, Gameti, Wekweeti, Whati and Lutsel K'e were added to the list of communities eligible to receive Nutrition North subsidies.

The four communities became part of 37 isolated communities across the North where the feds are expanding the program.

Nutrition North is intended to reduce the cost of food so that people living in isolated Northern communities can access nutritional and affordable food.

The program began on Oct. 1 for the NWT communities that were added to the list.

The announcement was made at the Inuvik Community Greenhouse before a roundtable discussion with Inuit and First Nations leaders on food security in the North.

Faulty information

weakened firefighter response to Olesen fire

A report into the fire that destroyed the homestead of Kristen and Dave Olesen in July, 2014 found that firefighters weren't able to respond to emergency phone calls about the fire, which was quickly spreading to the isolated homestead because staff believed the fire was farther away than it was.

The Olesen family lost their three-storey log home, a guest cabin in the area as well as two large sheds in the devastating forest fire.

According to the report, Kristen Olsen was concerned about strong easterly winds and heavy smoke, and called ENR at about 11:30 a.m. that morning.

But based on the latest satellite imagery, the fire appeared to be about 11 kilometres east of the homestead.

She called again at 2 p.m., but the imagery still showed the fire in the same location and no one responded.

She also e-mailed a photo of the fire to the territorial duty officer (TDO), but it wasn't immediately received.

By 3 p.m., Kristen evacuated and the fire burned the homestead to the ground.

Hay River fish plant fuel spill cleaned

A fuel spill at the Hay River fish plant was being cleaned up after a tank leaked for an unknown amount of time. The project was estimated to cost between $800,000 and $1.1 million.

The contaminated soil was being treated on site after it was dug up and placed in different piles to be aerated to remove the diesel fuel.

Future plans for the fish plant were still being discussed, including whether to renovate or build a new one. The decision would involve the Freshwater Fish Marketing Corporation, the territorial government and the NWT Fishermen's Federation, which was renting the site.


RCMP officer charged with sexual assault in Nova Scotia

An RCMP officer in Inuvik was suspended from duty and charged with sexual assault, an allegation tied to his time as an officer in Nova Scotia in 1995.

Const. Charles Quartey was first placed on administrative duty Nov. 3, 2015 when officers in the Northwest Territories became aware of an investigation by Mounties in Nova Scotia.

Quartey was suspended from duty June 17 as the investigation by the Southwest Nova major crime unit unfolded.

A news release stated that while members of the RCMP were dealing with an unrelated matter in July 2015, information came forward that alleged Quartey had sexually assaulted a woman in Auburn, N.S. while posted to the Bridgetown detachment in 1995.

Power corp tries to raise rates again

On July 26, the Public Utilities Board approved a Northwest Territories Power Corporation request to increase energy sales charges 4.8 per cent for all customer classes effective Aug. 1.

That was expected to mean an additional $10 per month on the bill of a residential customer using about 1,000 kilowatt hours per month during the winter.

The interim increase was scheduled to last until March 31, 2017 but power corp. also filed a general rate application that seeks to make the 4.8-per-cent increase permanent followed by a four-per-cent increase each of the following two years.

The Northwest Territories Association of Communities, a lobby group representing all 33 community governments in the territory, opposed the interim rate hike.

Ulukhaktok prepared for cruise ship

The first large luxury cruise ship to sail the Northwest Passage began its journey on Aug. 16.

The Crystal Serenity cruise ship had 1,000 passengers and 600 crew on board when it left Alaska. It spent a month making its way through the passage and on to New York.

Critics warned about the potential for disaster in such a remote area, as well as the threat of opening the Northwest Passage to cruise ship traffic.

While the Crystal Serenity cruise had a hefty price tag, cheaper companies wouldn't be able to offer the same level of safety.

Ulukhaktok residents saw the cruise as an economic opportunity and residents aimed to give passengers an unforgettable northern experience.

Events included art demonstrations and tours of the community.

First Nations worry Tlicho all-season road will threaten caribou

The president of the North Slave Metis Alliance said a proposed roadway that would connect Whati and Highway 3 would also connect more and more hunters to the Bluenose East caribou herd.

Bill Enge spoke out about the road's impact, saying it would lead hunters and animals to the herd. Due to its decline, commercial harvesting was banned but aboriginal people were still permitted to hunt.

There were between 35,000 and 40,000 Bluenose East caribou in 2015, according to population estimates from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The herd had 68,000 animals in 2013.

The Metis requested the Mackenzie Valley Environmental Impact Review Board perform an environmental assessment on the project.

Whati Chief Alfonz Nitsiza said the road would benefit the community.

Lack of NWT representation on missing women inquiry

The Native Women's Association of the NWT voiced its disappointed over the lack of territorial representation on the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls that was launched on Aug. 3.

None of the inquiry's five commissioners were from the NWT.

Families in NWT were also discouraged by a lack of communication between those heading the inquiry and the associations that have been working directly with families.

Caroline Cochrane, MLA for Range Lake and minister responsible for the status of women, said regional advisory committees would be established throughout the territory to help facilitate the inquiry.

As of December 2015, five aboriginal women in the NWT were the victims of unsolved homicides, according to RCMP. There were also eight unsolved missing persons cases involving aboriginal women, three of whom were believed to be the victims of foul play.

Elder stroke misdiagnosed as drunkenness

Aklavik elder Hugh Papik died after suffering a severe stroke on Aug. 3 that went untreated because health care staff believed he was drunk.

His niece, Maggie Papik, told the Canadian Press she received a call from the elders' home where Papik lived telling her he was drunk.

When Maggie arrived, she discovered him on the floor and immediately knew he'd had a stroke.

Papik repeatedly told Maggie he wasn't drunk. Maggie took Papik to the Aklavik Health Centre where he was again dismissed as being intoxicated.

He was eventually medevaced to Inuvik and then to Yellowknife, where he was declared brain dead.

Papik was taken back to Inuvik and was taken off life support. He died on Aug. 15.

Rosemarie Kuptana, former president of Inuit Tapirisat of Canada, now known as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, attended residential school with Papik and said his death should be investigated as a homicide.

Territorial Health Minister Glen Abernethy called for a Critical Incident Investigation.

Papik's funeral was scheduled to take place at the Anglican Church in Aklavik on Aug. 20.

RCMP won't comment on Billy Cholo murder case

The Northwest Territories RCMP refused to formally confirm whether officers followed up on a tip in their investigation into the homicide of Fort Simpson's Billy Cholo.

The refusal came despite an Aug. 10 media report which quoted RCMP Insp. Peter Pilgrim as saying police had followed up on the tip well before Sen. Nick Sibbeston raised concerns about a lack of follow-through at the Dene National Assembly in Fort Simpson last month.

Sibbeston raised his concerns for the second time in as many years during the assembly.

Sibbeston told News/North he and a friend of Cholo's knew the name of a man who had threatened to kill Cholo shortly before his death. Cholo's body was discovered by RCMP in Fort Simpson in January 2014.

Police catch escaped prisoner Denecho King

Accused murderer Denecho King escaped the North Slave Correctional Centre on Aug. 10 and spent three days loose in Yellowknife before being caught.

Sources told News/North the escape took place while King was with other inmates in a fenced area adjacent to the jail where there is a barbecue, picnic tables and several hand railings.

He was seen on the roof before vanishing.

King was being held in jail awaiting trial on charges of second degree murder and attempted murder.

A source said at least two corrections officers were supposed to be with King at the time of escape but that only one was in the area.

Officials refused to confirm or deny the account. King is believed to have hid in several locations throughout the city prior to being found in a home in Yellowknife's Sissons Court.

Between 25 to 30 RCMP officers were involved at the height of the search. King was charged with being unlawfully at large.

Gwich'in Tribal Council salaries made public

The Gwich'in Tribal Council released compensation figures provided to executive members on Aug. 12.

It showed that past president James Wilson was compensated with $163,445 in salary and contracted services, plus $47,118 in "other remuneration" and $38,062 in expenses for a total of $248,625 for the 12 months ending March 31, 2016.

In contrast, past vice-president Norman Snowshoe was compensated with $221,283 in salary, $31,954 in other remuneration and $75,376 in expenses for a total of $328,613 for the 12 months in the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

Ten council members were compensated with honoraria and also were paid for expenses. The tribal council did not break down the numbers by individual council members but stated the total honoraria for council members combined was $95,600. Their total expenses was $118,859 for a combined total of just under $215,000.

Newly elected president Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan said her campaign included a promise to review compensation.

Inquest into death of Fort Smith man in custody

A coroner's inquest was called to examine the death of a man who fell ill while inside an RCMP cell in Fort Smith in fall 2015.

Wilfred Emile was in a holding cell in the South Slave town Oct. 16 when he became "medically distressed," NWT chief coroner Cathy Menard said.

The 66-year-old man was taken to the Fort Smith Health Centre and then medevaced to Edmonton. Emile was taken back to Fort Smith where he died Oct. 26, Menard said.

It's unclear what the man's medical condition was when he was returned to Fort Smith. Before the man died, RCMP had called in Medicine Hat, Alta. police to review the matter.

Legislation in place at the time of his death means a coroner's inquest is mandatory under the circumstances.

The NWT Coroners Act was later amended to give discretion to the coroner if the death resulted from natural causes.

Fort McPherson returns to financial stability

The Hamlet of Fort McPherson regained financial stability and was on its way to taking over its finances once again.

The hamlet's former director of finance was sentenced to two years less a day in jail and given a restitution order to pay back $399,287 after she was convicted of fraud over $5,000.

Ina Koe, 45, received her punishment on Aug. 18 in territorial court in Fort McPherson. She had pleaded guilty to misappropriating the funds between 2010 and 2013.

But Tom Williams, deputy minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, said the community's financial issues didn't begin and end with Koe.

MACA relieved the hamlet's mayor and council of their duties in July 2014 after reaching the conclusion that the elected officials would be unlikely to approve and implement a debt reduction plan.

That followed the implementation by MACA of cost saving measures designed to rid the community of its $2.1-million deficit.

At that time, MACA officials appointed a municipal administrator to take over the day-to-day operations in the hamlet and brought in a number of cost-saving measures.

New president for Gwich'in Tribal Council

Bobbie Jo Greenland-Morgan was officially sworn in as the president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council on Aug. 24.

Greenland-Morgan and vice-president Jordan Peterson took office Aug. 23 on the first day of the council's annual general assembly.

The transition period was also somewhat of a first, with the organization taking the time to craft reports and briefing notes on all kinds of files, which were largely presented to the incoming executive earlier in August.

Greenland-Morgan was the first woman elected to the role. She said she hoped to usher in change but also a return to traditional Gwich'in values.

Peterson, at age 29, also had a claim to fame as the youngest person elected to executive office at the Gwich'in Tribal Council.


Deline self government launched Sept. 1

Deline officially became Canada's first community-based indigenous public government on Sept. 1.

The Deline Got'ine Government (DGG) officially assumed power at midnight on Aug. 31 with the first meeting at which new laws and the first budget were passed.

The new government replaced the local band council, the land-claims body and the municipal government.

As an aboriginal government, its decisions will affect both aboriginal and non-aboriginal residents of the community, and all Deline First Nation citizens no matter where they live.

However, territorial and federal laws will still have authority in the community.

The Deline government will only be able to supersede territorial or federal law in specific areas outlined in the self-government agreement.

The government's power will range from decisions over land use to municipal services, education and health.

Federal government promises $35 million for water projects

The federal government promised to invest about $35 million on 26 water and wastewater projects across the NWT.

The funding announcement was made by Federal Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi and Robert C. McLeod, the NWT minister responsible for infrastructure, Sept. 6 in Edmonton.

McLeod, the former municipal and community affairs minister, said the territorial government is providing about 25 per cent of the costs of the projects in addition to the federal funding.

According to a news release, the projects will help create good jobs and grow the middle class while building a strong foundation for a sustainable economic future.

McLeod said the $60,000, that is being spent not on specific communities but on research, is essential to determining whether trucked or piped water works best for any given community.

McLeod said it is incumbent of the territorial government to pursue federal money when it is made available.

NWT woman protests Dakota Access Pipeline

Snookie Catholique travelled to North Dakota U.S. to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline alongside the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe.

Catholique, the territory's former languages commissioner and a former CBC reporter, arrived at the protest encampment on Sept. 2. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe was protesting the project, which would construct an oil pipeline from the Bakken region in North Dakota to Illinois.

Enbridge Energy is also a partner on the project. The pipeline would transport about 470,000 barrels of oil a day but could increase to 570,000.

The project is taking place on land that contains burial sites and other sites important to the Standing Rock Sioux.

Catholique said she attended the protest in an effort toward ensuring industrial progress doesn't destroy the environment her grandchildren will inherit.

Internal review launched in police brutality allegations

Wrigley man Daryl Sibbeston, suffered a black eye, abrasions to his nose and a cut that required stitches during his arrest in Fort Simpson on Sept. 9.

People watched as Const. Akira Currier stopped Sibbeston on the street between the Northern store and the recreation centre.

Witnesses agreed Sibbeston was intoxicated at the time of arrest but said he hadn't been bothering anyone and was walking alone when he was stopped.

Sibbeston's sister, Darlene Sibbeston, mayor of Fort Simpson and a probation officer with the territorial Department of Justice, said she was driving her nephew to school when she saw Currier stop Daryl.

When she returned from dropping her nephew off, Sibbeston was already on the ground with a pool of blood under his head.

An internal review was launched on Sept. 13.

Imperial Oil owes millions in environmental security

Imperial Oil Ltd. still owed $178 million of its $180 million environmental reclamation security deposit to the federal government for its share of the company's operations in Norman Wells.

On March 5, 2015, the Sahtu Land and Water Board ordered the security deposit as part of Imperial Oil's water licence for 2015-2025, INAC communications advisor Valerie Hache stated in an e-mail to News/North.

The company had provided a $2 million irrevocable letter of credit for reclamation security. The remaining $178 million was being discussed in September.

Imperial Oil, meanwhile, announced its intentions Sept. 9 to sell off its Norman Wells assets.

The fields were producing about 11 million barrels per day as of 2015.

The town of Norman Wells had started planning years ago for the day Imperial Oil would shut down and reclamation of the site was expected to create jobs.

Territory and K'atlodeeche First Nation sign MOU

On Sept. 1, Premier Bob McLeod and K'atlodeeche First Nation Chief Roy Fabian signed an intergovernmental memorandum of understanding (MOU) in a ceremony on the Hay River Reserve.

The agreement, which will be in place for four years, commits the KFN chief and council and the premier to meet on an annual basis to discuss and address issues of mutual interest.

Fabien said the agreement was important because the K'atlodeeche First Nation in the Hay River Reserve is administered by the federal Indian Act but the territorial government provides services such as health, education, housing and more.

Territorial government abandons elders council

Francois Paulette, who served as chair of the Stanton Territorial Health Authority Elders' Advisory Council for nine years, said he received a letter notifying him that the council was being dissolved.

The council had been pushing for an aboriginal wellness centre as part of renovations taking place at Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.

The centre would be modelled on other indigenous wellness centres, such as the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Ontario and the First Nations Health Program connected to the Whitehorse General Hospital in Yukon.

The centre would link modern medicine with tradition, giving patients access to traditional medicines and food, as well as providing space for traditional ceremonies.

On February 2015, the Department of Health and Social Services told News/North plans for the centre were being considered for incorporation into the Stanton Territorial Hospital redevelopment project.

Later that year, the project expanded to building an entirely new hospital and there were discussions about putting the wellness centre beside the new building. But Debbie DeLancey, deputy minister of health and social services, said no funding had been set aside for the centre.


Mould in Lutsel K'e school draws ire from parents

A meeting to discuss mould issues at the school in Lutsel K'e was rescheduled for Oct. 7 after bad weather postponed the trip.

About 40 elementary school students had to vacate the school on Sept. 8 after mould was found in a part of the school that was under construction.

Classes were moved to the community arena and the Aurora College building.

The Department of Education Culture and Employment said students would be able to safely return to the school on Oct. 11.

It appeared the mould is less an issue among some community members than their frustration over not being told about the problem earlier. The mould was reportedly discovered on Aug. 15 but that information was not widely shared with the community until Sept. 7.

The meeting was expected to include Education Minister Alfred Moses, Public Works Minister Wally Schumann, Tom Beaulieu, MLA for Tu Nedhe-Wiilideh, which includes Lutsel K'e, Dr. Andre Corriveau, the NWT chief public health officer, Sylvia Haener, deputy minister of education, several other top bureaucrats as well as media members.

NWT justice system gets failing grade

The NWT Justice Department was ranked 11 of out 13 criminal justice systems in all Canadian territories and provinces.

A report was produced by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, which bills itself as Canada's only truly national public policy think tank based in Ottawa.

The report used Statistics Canada data to grade the jurisdictions on five performance measures: public safety, support for victims, costs and resources, fairness and access to justice and efficiency. The NWT received a "C" grade overall, ahead of only Manitoba and Yukon.

The territory's best grade was an "A" for efficiency. The worst grades were "F" for support for victims and costs and resources.

The report also pointed out that NWT Mounties have their hands full - the NWT has the highest number of criminal code incidents per police officer than any other jurisdiction in Canada.

Lutsel K'e parents vow to keep kids out of school

Lutsel K'e parents said they would refuse to send their children back to school when the building reopened the week of Oct. 10 after being remediated for mould.

Tensions between the community and government officials were high on Oct. 7 when ministers and other officials visited the community for a town hall meeting meant to alleviate concerns about the safety of Lutsel K'e Dene School.

Parents said they wanted portable classrooms or a completely new school as they believe the rest of the building could be contaminated.

Community members were upset that the GNWT did not inform them of the situation until Sept. 7 and kept children in school until the building was shut down on Sept. 8 for air sampling.

Junior kindergarten criticized

An early childhood development expert spoke out about the way junior kindergarten was being implemented in Fort McPherson.

Jennifer Chalmers, a doctoral psychologist and the acting executive director of the Tl'oondih Healing Society, which sponsors the Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) program in Fort McPherson, said the community was given less than 48 hours notice that junior kindergarten was going to be implemented in September.

Chalmers and others said the community wasn't properly consulted, that there were concerns about young children in multi-grade classrooms and that the AHS program was already providing quality early childhood programming in Fort McPherson.

Parents and educators in every community identified those same fears, stating that teachers in a multi-grade classroom wouldn't be able to provide junior kindergarten students the attention they need, according to a review of the program made public in January, 2016.

Grounded fuel barge prompts warning from Tuktoyaktuk mayor

A fuel barge that ran aground north of Tuktoyaktuk prompted a warning from the community's mayor.

On Sept. 2, a barge owned by Fathom Marine hit a sandbar outside Tuktoyaktuk. It was carrying about 50,000 litres of fuel at the time.

A tug boat broke free of the barge during the incident and the barge floated until it hit the beach at Toker Point, about 25 kilometres north of Tuktoyaktuk.

A recovery effort about a week later failed and the tug was damaged in the process. It returned to Tuktoyaktuk where it was being repaired.

Mayor Darrel Nasogaluak said the incident is an example of the potential for a marine disaster in the Arctic.

While the company planned to remove the barge's fuel, it admitted the barge could be left where it landed for the winter.

Nasogaluak said Toker Point was a vital spring geese hunting area and the community did not support leaving the barge there.

Canol Trail gets cleaner

By the week of Oct. 24, nearly 250 kilometres of the Canol Trail was cleared of dangerous telephone wire that has killed moose, caribou and presented a safety hazard to hikers.

The trail runs from Norman Wells to the Mackenzie Mountains and measures 355 kilometres in length before ending at the border of the Yukon.

It was created during the Second World War as a pipeline route to secure access to oil from Norman Wells to allied troops.

After the trail was abandoned, asbestos, empty oil drums, crumbling buildings and contaminated soil remained. There were still 104 kilometres of the trail to clean up.

Protocol needed for dangerously drunk people in RCMP custody

RCMP and the territorial government were looking into a possible territory-wide policy on how to deal with people dangerously drunk people in custody.

A coroner's jury examining the death of Wilfred Emile, 66, recommended RCMP in Fort Smith develop a policy on how to deal with people arrested and showing signs of a "dangerous" level of impairment.

Emile became ill while in RCMP custody in Fort Smith in October, 2015 and later died. The jury determined he died of natural causes linked to a pre-existing medical condition. The jury recommended police, the health department and community establish a protocol for dealing with dangerously intoxicated people and make it known to staff. The protocol was to be implemented within a year.

Ministers to keep confidence vote secret

MLAs decided that confidence votes on cabinet ministers, scheduled to take place during a midterm review in fall 2017, would be held secretly.

The premier and his ministers would make speeches in the house defending their records and what they have done to pursue the initiatives laid out in the government's mandate. Then all MLAs, regular members and cabinet, would vote on whether they have confidence in a given minister.

The vote is non-binding, meaning that even if a minister did not survive a confidence vote - he or she would not automatically be booted from cabinet.

The actual vote totals would not be made public but after the vote, the chair of the review committee would state whether the minister had the confidence of the members or not.

Only four of 33 Nahanni bison born in 2015 survive

Only 13 per cent of Mackenzie bison herd calves born in 2015 survived to be yearlings in 2016.

Out of 33 calves in 2015, only four of the Nahanni population survived the winter.

The winter mortality rate could be due to a warm spell that struck the area toward the end of March. Four days of warm weather were followed by 10 days of freezing weather, causing the snow pack to melt, sink and then freeze.

For at least a week during that time, bison would have found it difficult to forage for food as a layer of ice had formed over vegetation. The hard snowpack would have also made it easier for predators to catch bison.

Young bulls were also impacted. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources usually counts around 20 to 25 young bulls for every 18 to 20 yearlings - animals in their first or second year of life - but only two or three were counted in 2016.

Auditor General slams MACA

The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs was blasted in an auditor's report for failing to do enough for communities.

The Auditor General of Canada report looked at delivery of four essential services: drinking water; waste management; fire protection; and emergency preparedness. Drinking water quality was deemed adequate in the report while the other three areas were inadequate.

The report concluded that MACA was not helping community governments ensure that those essential services were provided in accordance with requirements.

It also found risks remain in delivering those services and MACA had not sufficiently acted to mitigate those risks.

Among its observations the report points out that there has been improper handling and storage of hazardous waste by untrained operators.

The report also showed MACA could not tell the auditors which communities had operating fire departments.

It also stated that only 16 of the 33 communities in the NWT had a certified water treatment plant operator.


Mackenzie Fibre optic line behind schedule

In a meeting on Nov. 1, MLAs were told that the troubled Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link, already behind schedule, must cross under three "challenging" rivers and meet an August deadline or the GNWT might need to step in.

The link is a fibre optic line running 1,154 kilometres from south of Fort Simpson up the Mackenzie Valley to Inuvik. The $80 million public-private partnership project was set to be completed by Aug. 31.

There are still 120 kilometres of fibre to install North of Fort Good Hope that includes "fairly challenging" areas.

Northern Lights General Partnership, a consortium of Ledcor Developments Ltd., Ledcor Technical Services, and Northwestel Inc. was awarded the contract to build and then maintain the fibre line for 20 years. A subcontractor on the project - Rohl Enterprises - was fired by Ledcor. It prompted a lawsuit and counter-suit between the companies with the fibre line already months past when it was supposed to be in service.

In summer 2017, the contractor must meet two key deadlines. The first comes in May when the contract requires the project to be complete. If it doesn't meet the date, the consortium will be in default to both its financial lenders and the GNWT.

Trump presidency could impact territory's oil and gas sector

Oil and gas experts weighed in on Donald Trump's potential impact on the territory's resource sector.

Doug Matthews, former director of the GNWT's minerals, oil and gas division, said Republican Trump's plans to open federal lands in the U.S. to development could make Northern natural gas and oil exploration less appealing. But Trump approving Keystone XL could make northern oil and gas more tempting to developers. If Trump ended up supporting Arctic drilling in the U.S., it could also pave the way for drilling in the Canadian Beaufort Sea. However, Matthews warned of Trump's impact on the environment, especially in light of his desire to pull out of the Paris Agreement, which aims to gradually decrease the use of fossil fuels and end greenhouse gas emissions this century.

Sahtu Renewable Resources Board rejects plan for Bluenose East

The Sahtu Renewable Resources Board said it was rejecting the territorial government's proposal to impose a total allowable harvest on the Bluenose East caribou herd for the time being.

Instead, the board endorsed Deline's management plan, titled the Caribou for All Time plan.

It allowed Deline hunters to harvest 150 caribou in a season, 20 per cent of which could be females.

The territorial government wanted the board to adjust its numbers to 129 for all Sahtu communities, five of which could be females.

Bluenose East caribou numbers fell to about 38,600 from 68,000 animals from 2013 to 2015.

The board said it could support a total allowable harvest for the herd if numbers continued to plummet.

Health-care failure killed partner - Hay River man

A Hay River man said the GNWT health system failed to help his partner of 22 years and was instead waiting for her to die.

Harvey Werner told his story to News/North. He said his common-law wife Sylvia Arnold suffered an acute pancreatitis on Feb. 5. The next seven months were a blur of hospital visits in Hay River, Yellowknife and Edmonton - and five flights by medevac or commercial airline - all of which lead up to Arnold's death in Edmonton at the age of 69.

Werner called for an inquiry into the system from top to bottom.

Ineligible claims found in Nutrition North audit

An audit looking at data from 2012 to 2014 found Ramparts Rentals in Norman Wells had been submitting thousands in ineligible Nutrition North claims.

Deloitte, the firm hired by what was then Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada - now Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada - discovered the store had been selling items to two mining camps and claiming a subsidy. Doing so is forbidden by Nutrition North rules.

The new owners of the store said safeguarding measures had since been implemented to prevent future incidents.

Potential record-breaking fish caught in Aklavik

James Blake caught a 12.9 kilograms (27.91 pound) loche during the Hannah Stewart Memorial Loche Derby in Aklavik on Nov. 14.

Jack Vitek, outreach education manager with the International Game Fish Association and the organization's world records co-ordinator, said the fish - also called burbot - could be a world-record breaker. The previous record was set in 2010 when Sean Conrad caught an 11.4-kilogram (25.2 pounds) loche in Lake Diefenbaker, Sask. Blake said he and two friends had just decided to start their truck and head home when the monstrous fish grabbed Blake's hook.

They immediately brought the fish to the derby's weighing station where it was weighed and measured.

In order to qualify for the record, Blake would have had to submit an application to the organization's headquarters in Florida, including the tackle, the line and the leader used to catch the fish, as well as photos.

If all was approved, Blake would receive a certificate from the IGFA commemorating his record.

Enbridge pipeline temporarily shut down

The Norman Wells pipeline has been temporarily shut down because of riverbank slope stability concerns near the oil pipeline's right-of-way.

By Nov. 23, Enbridge Pipelines Inc. shut down the pipeline near Fort Simpson.

Enbridge employees were doing daily visual inspections of the area in question and were collecting data in order to monitor any further slope movement. Liidlii Kue First Nation Chief Jerry Antoine says the most important step is to ensure the safety of the water in the Mackenzie River.

The Norman Wells pipeline, also known as Line 21, is 869 kilometres long and runs from Norman Wells to Zama, Alta. It has a capacity of 50,000 barrels of oil per day.

In May 2011, the pipeline spilled roughly 55 kilometres south of Wrigley after a small hole released between 700 and 1,500 barrels of crude oil.

Polar bears begin entering Tuktoyaktuk

A rare occurrence became commonplace this fall when two bears walked into Tuktoyaktuk in as many months in October and November.

Hunter Joe Nasogaluak said it had been about five years since bears had been seen anywhere near the community.

While October's bear seemed healthy, the bear that entered Tuk in November was very thin.

Nasogaluak said an earlier harvesting season would allow hunters to act as wildlife monitors, knowing where the bears are long before they reach the community.

Warmer than usual weather and poor ice conditions were blamed for the bear occurrences. The mean temperature in Tuktoyaktuk was -6.5 C in October. But climate normals data from 1981 to 2010 show a mean temperature of -7.4 C for the same month.

Western Arctic sea ice saw some of its lowest levels this spring, data from the Canadian Ice Service stated.

Warm temperatures combined with strong winds in the southern Beaufort Sea meant summertime conditions normally seen in August were happening in May.

The early breakup could have left polar bears marooned on shore, using up vital fat reserves.


Charges stayed against man witnesses say suffered police brutality

A charge against Wrigley's Daryl Sibbeston of resisting arrest was stayed in court.

Sibbeston was charged following a Sept. 9 arrest in Fort Simpson. Witnesses said Sibbeston was intoxicated at the time of arrest and sustained injuries to his face when he was taken to the ground. RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon said the charge against Sibbeston was stayed and no further charges were laid. The arrest prompted an outcry in Fort Simpson from Sibbeston's friends and family, including a public call from his sister, Fort Simpson Mayor Darlene Sibbeston, for the charges to be dropped.

At the time of Sibbeston's arrest, witnesses alleged arresting Const. Akira Currier had tripped Sibbeston, causing him to fall and hit his head on the pavement. Sibbeston sustained a black eye and required stitches above his eye. York-Condon stated the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP was investigating public complaints related to the arrest.

Tulita housing board quits

All members of the Tulita Housing Association's board of directors resigned in protest over the association's poor administration of the community's housing program.

One of the board's biggest complaints was a lack of response to calls for maintenance on housing units. The corporation directed the association to provide a plan outlining how it was going to fix issues, which was being reviewed. The corporation said it could take over operations if actions in the plan weren't considered sufficient. The goal was to have a new board in place by summer 2017.

Man lives with undiagnosed cancer

Wilfred Lennie Jr., 33, suffered for 18 months before he was finally diagnosed with stomach cancer. His first visit was to the Marie Adele Bishop Health Centre in Behchoko where he said he was sent home with pills.

He was later medevaced to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife where he told health care staff about his chronic stomach problems but was again sent home.

After being medevaced to Yellowknife again, Lennie Jr. was given an endoscopy, a procedure where a long, thin tube attached to a video camera is inserted into the stomach. He was then told he had stomach cancer.

A Gofundme campaign was set up to try to raise $5,000, which was intended to help with travel and living expenses while Lennie Jr. was away from home in Yellowknife and Edmonton.

Ko Gocho Centre opens in Behchoko

The Ko Gocho Centre opened in Behchoko and includes an artificial ice surface, gymnasium and youth centre.

The gymnasium was expanded to include a fitness centre, a two-storey office building which serves as its seat of community government, a dining room and a state-of-the art kitchen.

The youth centre portion included foosball, table hockey and air hockey tables.

Junior kindergarten battle wages on

The education department's plan to fund junior kindergarten by forcing school districts to potentially cut programs and staff was called unacceptable by Yellowknife Centre MLA Julie Green.

On Dec. 5, the department told reporters it would contribute $2 million for junior kindergarten expansion to all communities in the territory from the current 19 that have it now. It's an increase from the original plan to claw the full cost from existing school budgets.

The new plan would still see school boards across the territory forced to provide $3.01 million from their budgets.

Additionally, an early childhood expert and clinical psychologist said the data forming the base of the territory's junior kindergarten program was being misused.

Dr. Jennifer Chalmers, a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of early childhood work across the Northwest Territories, was hired by the Western Arctic Aboriginal Head Start Council to review the Early Development Instrument (EDI) and the Sense of Identity questionnaire.

The territorial government is using data from both tools to guide decisions about early childhood investment. But Chalmers said in her opinion, the method used to gather the data, as well as the data itself, is flawed.

'Bubble' child dies

Hay River's Deagan Clavette, born with severe allergies, died at the age of two.

The little boy had been battling rare, life threatening allergies for most of his young life. The exact cause of death was not immediately revealed.

Deagan's mother, Jennifer Tregidgo-Clavette, has previously described her son as living a "bubble life." The toddler's life-threatening reactions to more than 25 known foods and products left him living in Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton since October 2014.

A fundraiser for the family, called Deagan Day, was held in Hay River in April. It was an all-day event starting with a pancake breakfast and craft sale, and ending with a dinner and auction. Tregidgo-Clavette could not be in Hay River for Deagan Day as she was in Edmonton with her son.

The fundraiser surpassed its goal of $50,000. The funds were put toward the supplies needed to maintain a sterile environment for Deagan, as well as living expenses for the family.

Clavette would have turned three in March, 2017.

Copyright © by Northern News Services Ltd. All rights reserved