November 2017 – NWT Year in Review

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Allen Services pleads guilty in death of David Vinnicombe

Allen Services & Contracting Ltd. pleaded guilty to not properly supervising a work site, one of nine charges the company and supervisor Brian McCarthy faced under the NWT Safety Act.

Community members took to the road for their inaugural drive of the newly opened Inuvik-
Tuktoyaktuk Highway on Nov. 15. Stewart Burnett/NNSL photo

The plea took place in Yellowknife court the week of Nov. 6 following the death of 19-year-old

David Vinnicombe June 28, 2016. He had been working just off Airport Road when a heavy machinery accident killed him. The sentencing was scheduled for Dec. 5 in Inuvik. It was expected the other charges against McCarthy and Allen Services would be dropped at that time.

Earlier this summer, the Town of Inuvik named Longreach Road after Vinnicombe’s hometown in Australia. It connects to Airport Road and is near to where the fatality occurred.

Vinnicombe’s family would later give a victim impact statement to the court by webcam.

Aklavik stomach bacteria study has global impact

An Helicobacter pylori study in Aklavik changed the way the North American medical community treats a stomach bacteria with the potential to cause cancer. After a study of 376 people in Aklavik, along with participants from Fort McPherson, Tuktoyaktuk and Old Crow, Yukon, researchers changed the types and duration of antibiotics courses they prescribe for H. Pylori. The bacteria can cause pain, upset stomachs, and in rarer cases, stomach ulcers in about 10 per cent of people infected and stomach cancer in about one per cent or less. The bacteria, which lives in the stomach, can last for a long time and is estimated to affect about half of the world’s population. In the North however, rates of H. pylori infection are disproportionately high. Researchers did a breath test on 333 participants in Aklavik and 58 per cent of them tested positive for H. pylori infection.

Artist Archie Beaulieu dies

Archie Beaulieu died of cancer on Nov. 9 at the age of 65. Beaulieu achieved world-wide acclaim for his distinct depictions of Northern life, namely through his portrayals of Dene tradition, culture and folklore. Drawing influences from his roots as a member of the Tlicho First Nation, Beaulieu developed a unique brand of art that played with colour and married the abstract and the familiar. From attending a residential school in Fort Smith to enrolling at the Banff School of Fine Art, Beaulieu turned his early love of art into a passion, aiming his brush at Northern wildlife. Beaulieu brought to life iconic images of animals – crows, bison, swans and moose. Beaulieu’s works have lined storied halls and offices belonging to dignitaries and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth and Pope John Paul II.

Inuvik-Tuk Highway officially opens

The Inuvik-Tuktoyaktuk Highway officially opened on Nov. 15. More than 700 community members, dignitaries and outside media came together, starting with a celebration in Inuvik followed by a ribbon-cutting at the start of the highway near Muskrat Road. Citizens then took to the highway for the inaugural drive, winding their way up the curvy road and viewing Mackenzie Delta and Husky Lakes before arriving in Tuktoyaktuk. The highway spans 138 km from Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk and was expected to increase tourism in the Beaufort Delta, bringing in $2.7 million a year and creating up to 22 full-time jobs for Northerners. Gov. Gen. Julie Payette was in Tuktoyaktuk for the celebration.

GNWT outlines pot plan

The GNWT unveiled its plan for regulating recreational cannabis once the substance is legalized across the country next July. The GNWT expected to introduce the new legislation during the next sitting of the legislative assembly, which runs from February to March 2018. The plan include restricting the purchase, consumption and possession of cannabis to people over the age of 19, a possession limit of 30 grams in public and a grow limit of four plants per household. It would also allow smoking in private residences and some public spaces, such as trails, highways, roads and parks when there are no public events or bylaws preventing cannabis smoking, as well as giving communities the right to hold plebiscites. The NWT Liquor Commission would be responsible for the sale and importation of cannabis, which would initially be sold in liquor stores. The legislation would also not restrict future “cannabis only” stores.

Tuk man alleges RCMP tasered son

A Tuktoyaktuk man claimed RCMP used a Taser on his 15-year-old son and said he had the photo to prove it.

News/North chose not to use the man’s name because it could help identify his son, who his father said was facing a criminal charge. The father said his son was snowmobiling with a group of friends on the edge of the community on Nov. 4 when they were approached by at least two police officers for no

apparent reason. He said the youths were sitting on their snowmobiles enjoying the day when the Mounties activated the emergency lights on their vehicle and then harassed them. The man claimed the officer put his hand on his son’s snowmobile, and when his son told the officer not to touch his machine, things got physical. The man sent a photo to News/North that appeared to show two marks on a jacket that could have been made by the prongs from a Taser. RCMP denied the allegations.

Cold weather predicted for winter of 2017/2018

Weather agencies predicted the 2017/2018 winter would be the coldest since 2014. By the last week of November, Yellowknife, for instance, had already seen 10 days below -20 C. On Nov. 29, several locations across the territory – Fort Good Hope, Fort Simpson, Lac la Martre, Lindberg Landing, Norman Wells, Rabbit Kettle and Yohin Lake – all plummeted below -30 C. There had been more snow as well, with record setting snowfalls of 24 cm in Yellowknife from Nov. 14 to 15.

Environment Canada, the Weather Network and the National Weather Service in the U.S. were all in agreement that a La Nina weather event in the Pacific Ocean was the culprit. La Nina is essentially the opposite of El Nino, which warms Pacific waters, and will likely lead to a colder winter across the western and northwestern parts of the continent.

Housing Corp. cancels modular home contract

The Northwest Territories Housing Corporation cancelled contracts with a Hay River company to build modular homes for communities around the territory.

The move came after Concept Energy Services Ltd. fell behind on the work. Eighteen duplexes and one

single-family dwelling were supposed to have been delivered to the corporation by June 2017. Concept Energy officials said in a statement that the delay was partially the result of the economic downturn in the oil and gas sector, as well as the territorial government’s manufactured goods payment policy.

The policy requires that payment on manufactured goods, like modular buildings, will only be paid when 100 per cent complete, delivered and set up on site.

The corporation received about $1.3 million worth of work in the eight partially completed units, and the purchased materials on site at Concept Energy Services.

The overall value of the work – done and undone – was $9.3 million.

Gwich’in council criticize premier on ‘red alert’

The Gwich’in Tribal Council called out the Northwest Territories premier for issuing a “red alert” to Ottawa without first talking to Indigenous groups.

The council was “surprised” Bob McLeod didn’t reach out before denouncing federal restrictions on oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort Sea, especially given the premier’s frustration with Ottawa for imposing those restrictions without first consulting with the territorial government.

A discussion ahead of McLeod’s Nov. 1 statement would have been appropriate, the council said on Nov. 3, considering McLeod’s reference to a “re-emergence of colonialism.”

In Ottawa in November, the premier laid into the Liberal government over the five-year moratorium on new oil and gas exploration licenses in Arctic waters, which he said came down without consultation.

Hay River remembers Jill Taylor

Hundreds of people turned out in Hay River Nov. 4 for a memorial celebrating Jill Taylor, founder of the Lights On program.

Many of those people filled the concourse and second-floor balcony at Diamond Jenness Secondary School. The news hit the community the morning of Oct. 31 that Taylor had died at the age of 52. As an educator and community leader she came into contact with a multitude of people every day, never mind the many whom she counted among her family and friends. Among the number of projects and initiatives of which Jill was the centre, the Lights On program is perhaps the most well-known and clearest example of her drive and philosophy.

She knew Hay River youth face big challenges and pressures when it comes to drugs and alcohol, but instead of creating a working group and engaging with stakeholders and issuing a report, she asked her son what would help. He said to turn the lights on in the gym on Saturday nights.