You know, sometimes it really pays to get away from where you live, just to be able to see the forest for the trees. I remember I first heard that saying – which essentially means to get too caught up with individual issues – when I was being interviewed for my first full-time media job way back in 1983.

The managing editor of the Brandon Sun routinely travelled to Toronto to recruit new staff. We were sitting in the cafeteria of the Toronto Sun (no biz connection to that independent Brandon paper of the same name), where I was working as a part-time darkroom technician while studying film at what is now Ryerson University.

Sitting in a full Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg last weekend, columnist James O’Connor pondered his life in remote and renowned Yellowknife. As the old saying goes, he was able to see the forest for the trees. Photo courtesy of James O’Connor.

He told me he enjoyed being away from Brandon for even a short while, just to be able to place things back home into perspective.That’s what I was thinking of last weekend as I sat in the full Bell MTS Place, watching my Winnipeg Jets throw some goat horns on the New Jersey Devils. The arena – of which I have a particular fondness, as I freelanced as the corporate project photographer from when the first shovel went in the ground years ago – holds 16,345 people. Yellowknife’s population is pegged at 19,500.
It helped place things into perspective for me.

Having travelled across the NWT this year in a personal quest to get to know my newly adopted home a bit better – and changing roles at Northern News Services from helming the regional weekly News/North paper to being the editor of the capital’s venerable twice-weekly Yellowknifer – I have learned one thing. OK maybe a few things, but one thing for sure.

We punch above our weight, with our style, culture, industriousness and now, with our headline making “not-going-to-take-it-anymore” Premier Bob McLeod. Give ’em heck, Bob. And don’t back down.
But I digress.

Given our sparse population, spread out over millions of square kilometres, we have a very unique position in Canada. And Yellowknife, with its even split of Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents, is a model of harmonic cultural diversity that many other jurisdictions could learn from – such as Winnipeg, often considered one of the most racist cities in Canada.

I spent about 15 years of my life in Murderpeg, Winterperg, Loserpeg, or whatever sad moniker that was hung on it at any given time. One characteristic Manitoba shares with the NWT is it’s essentially a collection of small rural communities surrounding a large capital centre. And while Manitoba has Brandon as a larger second community, we have Hay River. The town of Hay River is a far more attractive and welcoming place than the city of Brandon. Trust me on that.

So as I dove back into the daily grind of trying to make Yellowknifer the go-to information source for the community – for not just news, but arts, sports and the city’s social scene – I have the advantage of seeing the forest for the trees for a short while.

And this forest is quite enchanted, indeed. Keep it up, ‘Knifers.

One more thing
I’d like to thank everyone who felt compelled to respond to my column here last week.
I enjoyed both the negative and positive comments I received on my tongue-in-cheek take on being an “oppressed” middle-aged white male.

I’ve been writing columns on politics or current events for many years and realize it’s critical to be interesting and OK to be controversial. If not, then why do it at all?

Keep reading each week. You’ll see I’m not a monster.

I love this paper and I love this place.

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