Readers Comment

A way to solve city litter problems

In response to the bit about litter problems, (“Council gets into the weeds on litter,” May 26 Yellowknifer), why not avoid buying an expensive machine and instead create jobs for low-income community members to pick up trash in whichever areas need it.

This is a model I have seen in other cities as part of giving people work experience as they try to get back on their feet.

All you need is those litter grabbing sticks and garbage bags.

Deyan Vulkov
Monday, June 12, 2017

How to become trauma informed

While trauma is a topic most people in the NWT could list a few examples of, understanding the science behind it – and how that science can make a positive difference in the lives of people who have experienced a traumatic event – is where things can get a little complicated.

To begin, let’s talk about what trauma is – a normal reaction to an abnormal event. Many things contribute to how a person will experience and respond to trauma, including their age, past experiences, support systems and so forth.

When a person’s sense of safety and control is removed, either through one major event or through a series of smaller events over time, trauma can occur.

Often, experiencing trauma leads to repeated, visualized memories, difficulty functioning, a negative worldview, specific fears, and repetitive behaviours. These reactions are just the body and mind’s way of responding and attempting to protect a person from the trauma.

Traumatic experiences are particularly prevalent in Northern Canada, where statistics tell us that people are three times more likely to be the victim of a sexual assault, robbery, or physical assault than their provincial counterparts. In the Northwest Territories, 40 per cent of people 15-years and older report were victimized at least once in the past 12 months.

Due to a variety of physiological responses trauma leaves individuals in a state of hyper- or hypo-arousal making it very difficult to get along with others, or to focus on their learning or work. Of course, students come to school to learn and adults head to their jobs to work, and when trauma interferes with their abilities to do these things the repercussions can be phenomenal.

The good news? It is possible to train the body to learn healthy ways to cope with and heal from traumatic experiences.

Looking at trauma from a strength-based approach, science is being used to look at how people’s brains and bodies work rather than on focusing on the cause of the trauma. Essentially, it teaches that because everyone is human, bodies can heal, using evidence-based best practices.

And each of us can help. Whether in a school, a workplace, or out in the community, we recommend treating everyone with kindness and sensitivity. Sometimes you may never know who is experiencing a trauma, making compassion such a necessary part of every interaction.

One of the best things that can be done to foster healthy relationships and healing is building social competency, which leads to empowerment.

People can learn how to foster positive friendships, be empathetic, and manage conflict, and these things can be taught through modelling and through strategies such as mindfulness, relaxation, and visualization (if you cannot visualize a calm, happy place, try visualizing a time when you were bored).

Remain calm and alert

These strategies are very effective if practised consistently in reversing the negative effects of trauma, because they teach people how to become in tune with their feelings, manage their emotions, and remain calm and alert. Essentially, by learning how to self-regulate, internal safety is built up.

External safety should also be taken into account when interacting with someone who has experience trauma – would they feel more secure with the door locked, the lights left on, or a seat closer to the exit?

Another way to build empowerment is through choice, which helps people to take back control of their world. For children, this can be something as simple as letting them decide if they want to get dressed or brush their teeth first before school.

This flows into the importance of having a routine, so that children know what to expect and when it will happen (visual schedules are a great tool).

Experiencing a traumatic event

In classrooms, students are also encouraged to express themselves through art, music, drama, and play – activities that do not necessarily require language, which may become compromised when someone is experiencing a traumatic event. Allowing expression without pressure helps people to relax and be themselves.

Other exercises include: Deep breathing, wherein you breathe deeply, drawing breaths into your diaphragm rather than your chest to relax; playing with a fidget tool, twisting a pillow, or running on the spot to release energy created when the freeze, fight, or flight responses are activated; or chewing gum or drinking water as the body may stop producing saliva following a traumatic event.

While at times supporting trauma-sensitive individuals can seem overwhelming, there is hope. We know that the supports and strategies, such as those listed above, are making a positive difference. We know that by helping to raise awareness we can contribute to change and improvement.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please encourage them to reach out to the supports in the community.

(Based on the pilot project Trauma Sensitive Communities developed by Hiedi Yardley, R. Psych, funded by the NWT Community Wellness Branch and South Slave Divisional Education Council.)

Sarah Pruys
Monday, June 12, 2017

Sarah Pruys is public affairs co-ordinator with South Slave Divisional Education Council

Nothing to see here, move along please

It’s a beautiful time of year in the Northwest Territories. Spring is here, the snow is pretty much gone and the ice is melting as fast as a cube in a California cocktail.

And apparently I live in the most crime-free jurisdiction I ever have in my entire adult life!

Why could I possibly have the perception the place is crime free? Well, because I never hear from the police of many crimes, really, other than the occasional homicide. And maybe, I’ll see a nicely arranged still-life photo of booze or drugs that were confiscated from a bootlegger of drug dealer, respectively.

And that’s just odd. I mean given that the NWT has the highest rates of police-reported family violence in Canada, is in the Top 3 for Homicide rates, and last year received a not so reassuring C+ in a nationwide justice report card.

An article in Macleans Magazine a few years ago branded the North as the most dangerous part of Canada, with high rates of homicides, sexual assaults, aggravated assaults, robberies, burglaries and vehicle thefts across the three territories.

But you wouldn’t know it by the number of media releases issued by G Division.

Nope, nothing to see here. Move along please.

There was a fine editorial just printed in Yellowknifer, News/North’s urban sister paper, that was right on point (“RCMP: use the media to warn, gather information,” May 17).

It took three days and some gentle prodding by Yellowknifer for the RCMP to put out a news release seeking information from the public on a report that two strangers attacked a 15-year-old girl on her way to school. The police justified the delay by insisting the attack was an “isolated incident” and that public safety was not at risk. Horsefeathers. A violent crime had been committed and suspects were (are?) still at large. The public had the right to know.

The primary duty of any government is the security and safety of its people. The police are agents of the government and I say are in dereliction of their duty if their lack of information released to the public causes a false sense of security. Allowing people such as myself to think it’s safe to walk down the streets at night, to leave my car parked and not have its windows smashed, to return to my home and have all my stuff exactly where I left it. Or just to run wild and free through the fresh spring shrubbery.

When I was a police reporter years ago in Winnipeg, my editors would tell me some of the best crime stories would never even have an official quote from police. Reporters would have to get used to wearing down their shoe leather while knocking on doors. If the cops weren’t talking, we had to conduct our own investigations.

But given the extreme distances journalists have to deal with in the NWT, we need help from the cops to get information out to our readers. We don’t have staff on the ground in every community to knock on those doors. And it’s just too easy for a media-shy witness to not answer a phone.

That’s a reason you see many crime stories played as small briefs. Just what the cops want.

Nothing to see hear folks, we’re keeping the lid on crime for sure.

But just look at the swollen court dockets. And the yearly crime stats. Why is the RCMP holding back all that information?

Do we want to write about every crime? No. Would we like to more accurately represent for our readers what’s going down in all the communities in the NWT? Yes.

It boils down to providing people with enough information so that they don’t have any false perceptions of how safe they are. This might actually help to keep the incidents of crime going down.

A well-informed society can make the best decisions.

James O’Connor
Editor of News/North
Monday, June 12, 2017

Con Road contamination needs common sense solution

So now it appears the contaminated soil found at the Con Road construction project may have been sitting, undisturbed, not bothering anyone, for up to 58 years.

It didn’t get into any drinking water wells, didn’t create any five-legged cows in a pasture, no one even knew it was there.

Seems the common sense, cost-effective approach may be to simply put the pavement back on top and let it continue to not bother anyone until it breaks down naturally. In a few years, no one will know it’s there once again.

It’s hydrocarbons, not depleted uranium, as the environmentalists would have one believe.

Joe Lapka
Monday, June 12, 2017

Build a better bike path

I read the news item in a recent Yellowknifer (“Proposed path grinds gears,” April 21) about the bike path that is being proposed for Franklin Avenue and want to say I am against this plan.

Just exactly where is this extra space for the path come from. Narrowing of the road?

If you check the property on the corner of 57 Street and Franklin Avenue, the current sidewalk is quite narrow and very close to the residence on that corner. Will they expropriate some of that property or will it come to an abrupt end like the bike path at intersections on 52 Avenue? Or will Franklin Avenue be moved over toward Avens Senior Complex?

I think a better idea would be to spend the money on the bike path towards the Pat McMahon Frame Lake trail, widening and paving from the hospital to the downtown.

This makes much more sense and would give the bikers a much safer, healthier and relaxing ride to the downtown. I bet you dollars to doughnuts there are many more people in this city who would prefer this alternative.

Ann Wind
Monday, May 1, 2017

‘Many positive aspects to the residential school’

Senator Lynn Beyak, a member of the Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples for the Conservative Party, commented there were many positive aspects to the residential school system that had been overshadowed by the negative reports of the treatment of residential school students.

After the initial reaction to her comments, she defended herself to say that she did not need education on the subject and that she had many Indigenous friends that supported her comments. Then she decried the negative reactions she faced, indicating her right to free speech was threatened.

Interim leader of the Conservative Party, Rona Ambrose, removed Senator Beyak from this committee saying the controversy she started had no place on the committee.

Briefly – the residential school system is a dark chapter in Canadian history. Residential schools were established to purge Indigenous children of all things Indigenous to them – their language, culture, physical appearance and their spirits – without boundaries or ethics that would prevail in non-indigenous communities. Physical and sexual abuse, humiliation, degradation in horrible and unhealthy infrastructure were day to day experiences for thousands. As many as many as 6,000 children would never return home. Often their parents were never informed what happened to their child.

These types of wrongs would not be tolerated in a non-indigenous community and the non-indigenous community would have the means to fight back. That is the origin of the school boards. Indigenous communities had no such rights. The only reserve school to have a school board was the Gordon Reserve of Saskatchewan and the only school counter-sued by the Canadian government for harm to its students.

As a person appointed to the Senate and particularly as a member of the Indigenous Peoples Committee, Ms. Beyak is responsible to the people she serves. She has a responsibility to serve the constituents, in this case, the students of the residential school system. In this respect, she does not have the same right to freedom of speech an ordinary citizen might have to say what she wants.

Reconciliation only comes after recognition of wrongs, of harms done, stabilizing and changes in legal and policy structures that created the inequity and injustice, time to heal and new opportunities provided to descendants free of racial preconceptions and appreciation of historical rights won in the courts.

To ask former students of the residential school system to forget their pain, the horrors of the abuse, the loneliness, the despair, the rage and the humiliation for being Indigenous and find those “fleeting” moments of goodness is tone deaf and heartless – to insist such is irresponsible to the mandate of the Committee of Aboriginal Peoples’ mandate. Senator Beyak is reversing the onus on the students to reconcile with the Canadian community as if they were responsible for their pain.

Were the victims of Mount Cashel, the people of the apartheid system of South Africa, the slaves of America asked to recall the good times?

It was right for interim party Leader Rona Ambrose to withdraw the party’s support of her appointment.

If there are people who wish to write on the positive and good times they had at the residential schools, they will do so on their own terms, in their own time by their own voice.

Gail Cyr
Monday, May 1, 2017

Shameful to dump trash on trail

Boxes, boards, beer cans, batteries and other unwanted garbage are just thrown beside dumpsters along the Ingraham Trail, the trail itself and the territorial parks.

It’s terrible when people decide on desecrating this beautiful landscape rather than leaving their garbage in their trucks, which they so painstakingly have already done. What is it with people who would rather choose not want to take their garbage home or to the city landfill? Is it easier to pollute? For those of who put effort and pride in keeping our outdoors free of this trash, consider the frustration when days after effort has been put into cleaning up, it is back to the same old stuff again.

This is a much wider issue that affects the community as a whole, and as such deserves leadership and direction from community and territorial bodies. It is shameful some people feel it is their right to dump wherever they feel.

Jerry Vanhantsaeme
Monday, May 1, 2017

Why 88 isn’t just a random number

Today, April 19, marked 88 days out from the start of the 2017 North American Indigenous Games in Toronto.

This year, 88 days out will held a special meaning. It wasvthe beginning of a legacy to celebrate and share national, provincial/territorial and local stories of our indigenous athletes. The Aboriginal Sport Circle of the NWT and Team NWT will be joining the initiative and are celebrating #Team88 through a series of profiles.

#Team88 emerged from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action; recommendation 88 calls on all levels of government to take action to ensure long-term indigenous athlete development and growth through continued support of the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG).

Developing legacy initiatives, NAIG is and continues to be the catalyst of supporting the importance of long-term athlete development, sport and physical activity. The initiatives of #Team88 have been fully embraced here in the NWT and Team NWT is proud to be a part of the support network for our indigenous people. Shawna McLeod, Team NWT’s chef de mission, believes that #Team88 is an opportunity for us all to share our Indigenous stories and be proud of them. NAIG is a catalyst “to showcase our athletes and to prevail as indigenous people”.

This is the first year as chef de mission for McLeod, but certainly she is not new to competition. In her younger days, McLeod participated in a variety of sports offered in her home community of Fort Providence, with the Dene games a long-time favourite. She has seen sport as a positive outlet and it played a tremendous role in her upbringing. Being a part of NAIG, she has seen the opportunities provided to youth throughout the NWT.

“NAIG is an opportunity to unite all indigenous people from across North America,” she said. “It’s a great way to learn about other sports, cultures and way of life.”

Follow Team NWT and #Team88, as they will be showcasing athletes and mission staff from across the many sports participating in the 2017 Games. NAIG will be profiling 88 athletes from across Canada, while Team NWT will profile two athletes each week. Help share and celebrate our Indigenous youth’s path to NAIG.

Learn about their stories, sport and culture. Be a part of the pathway to reconciliation.

Shawna McLeod
Monday, May 1, 2017

Editor’s note: Melanie Thompson is the media co-ordinator for Team NWT’s 2017 North American Indigenous Games squad.

Dying languages can’t be ignored

Let’s go back to 1980, when Inuktitut was strong in the central Arctic, on Baffin Island and in Arctic Quebec.

I was working on Inuktitut programs in Yellowknife. My boss asked me if I would consider moving to Iqaluit to take over the new Eastern Arctic Teacher Education Program (EATEP). I asked him what he wanted me to do. He produced quite an extensive list: more Inuktitut programming, a closer connection with the Kativik Teacher Education Program in Nunavik, a possible connection through my friend Jack Cram with McGill University.I accepted, and I arrived in Iqaluit in September 1980. And then blind chance happened.

David Wilman was a friend and former colleague. We had been out of contact with each other. He had accepted a position in Iqaluit as a trainer of Inuit classroom assistants. He also arrived in September.

David and I have complementary skills. He has a superb organizational skills. I don’t.

We were amazingly successful. Everything clicked into place, including not only a McGill B.Ed. program, but also a hefty grant from the Donner Foundation.

Life went on. I retired in 1986. David moved up. Other people took over EATEP.

But that wasn’t the only change.There has been another more disastrous development in the intervening 37 years.

From Siberia to Alaska and Canada to the east coast of this continent, the Eskimo/Aleut languages and dialects are in danger of extinction. The last two speakers of the Siqinirmiut language in Siberia died in the 1990s. An American colleague of mine wrote an excellent text on the Aleut dialect in the Pribilof islands. Her informants are dead.

So, how is the present management of EATEP dealing with the crisis?They are not part of the solution. They are part of the problem.

Pause a moment before we go on.

In colonial Hong Kong, anglophone civil servants were obliged to study Chinese.

In the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, over 30 years, I have had hundreds ��yes, hundreds ��of government students who chose to take Inuktitut courses from me.How many of the EATEP staff have taken an ISL course? I know one person who already had acquired an acceptable knowledge of Inuktitut.As far as I know, nobody on the present staff has ever taken an ISL course.

With that understood, it is no wonder that EATEP’s response to the present crisis is simply contribution to the incipient disaster.

They no longer insist that potential students are fluent in Inuktitut. Remember, the founding principle was to produce fluent teachers of Inuktitut.That is an impossible task for the present EATEP.

Do non-Inuktitut-speaking residents of Nunavut, whether Inuit or qablunaat, not have the right to become teachers?Of course they do. And I assume the present institution, which I shall rename “The Eastern Arctic English Teacher Education Program” could handle that. But one essential feature would be ISL courses for students and staff.

And then we resurrect the institution Wilman and I created in 1980, with the new title ‘The Eastern Arctic Inuktitut Teacher Education Program’. And I know who to put in charge of it.

Where will the money come from?

Sandra Inutiq, the former Languages Commissioner who has raised the whole issue of the survival of Inuktitut, has given me this information.

The Canadian government supports Francophone education in Iqaluit to the tune of $400 per student a year. The equivalent for Inuktitut? Forty dollars a year.

I am delighted to see Canada’s second ancestral language supported so well. But this is ridiculous.

Mick Mallon
Monday, May 1, 2017

Reading with children builds connections

When I was young, my mom read to my sister and me every evening.

And every evening, my sister wanted a dramatic version of The Frog Prince reread, wherein the princess throws the frog against a wall to transform him into her Prince Charming instead of kissing him.

When she outgrew her tattered favourite, my mom framed it and hung it up in her room.

We worked our way through children’s stories, series of novels, and even Chicken Soup books. This routine was not only beneficial to our bedtime schedule, but in leading to a love of literacy that has lasted into our adulthoods.

Reading with your children is a great way to improve their language and literacy skills, and at the same time build strong connections that will help them feel loved and secure.

While reading a bedtime story can sometimes feel like one more task on a long list of things to fit into the few short hours after school and before bedtime, it is a very valuable activity.

If a child is read to for just five minutes a day outside of the classroom, that adds up to around 21,000 words in a year. More voracious readers who hit an hour a day will read 4,358,000 words in a year. The lesson here is that every little bit counts.

Most educators recommend a middle ground of 15 minutes (National Association of Elementary School Principals) at a minimum. But as they say, like exercise, the more you get in the more beneficial it will be.

There are a few tips we have to make reading a routine that children will excitedly expect every day.

The first is to choose the right books together with your child.

Non-fiction books help to build vocabulary and world knowledge. Books that feature rhymes and poems encourage play with language, and are a great way to incorporate songs into the bedtime routine.

Books with predictable patterns encourage young children’s confidence to begin to read independently, as the familiarity increases their confidence.

Finally, it’s important to choose stories just above your child’s reading level to help develop their abilities and vocabulary.

Secondly, when you are reading, incorporate questions about the text that go beyond repeating the storyline. Talk about why characters might have taken a certain action, what may have happened if they had done or said something else, how characters may be feeling, or what the story teaches us.

These types of questions help to enhance children’s understanding of what they are reading, draw relevant connections, encourage their imagination, and help them practice their critical thinking skills.

Storytime is not just about reading the words on the page – it’s also about the conversations we have about the text.

The most important thing is to read – on school nights, on weekends, and on spring break.

Literacy is a cornerstone of success, and just a few minutes a day can have an immensely positive effect on the rest of your child’s life.

Sarah Pruys
Monday, May 1, 2017
Sarah Pruys is public affairs co-ordinator with South Slave Divisional Education Council

We’re listening to young people, says representative

Thank you for your timely and thoughtful editorial, “Youth voices must be heard” (Feb. 20). Our team at the Representative for Children and Youth’s office read it with great interest � both for its recognition of positive youth initiatives across the territory and its assertion that Nunavut can do more to engage young people in meaningful ways.

As Nunavut’s child advocacy office, our staff have a duty to ensure the Government of Nunavut supports and protects the rights and interests of young Nunavummiut. One key right young people have is the right to say what they think and feel about decisions that affect them. This is a key right found under Article 12 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, which Canada signed in 1991.

This right motivated our participation in last November’s Youth Parliament � an event organized every two years by the legislative assembly of Nunavut. We believe Youth Parliament gives young people a unique and valuable opportunity to have their voices heard across the territory and we thank the legislative assembly for inviting our office to participate. However, Article 12 of the Convention is not simply about allowing young people to share their opinions � it also states governments and adults must consider these opinions when making decisions. Thus, we also recognize that this event has untapped potential to turn the insights of young people into real action and change.

In a small effort to support this potential, our office analyzed and recorded the key issues youth parliamentarians raised: the need for more recreational facilities and activities, the need for increased cultural education and instruction in Inuktut, the need to address substance abuse issues and the need for increased mental health education and supports. We then shared this in a letter to all MLAs, ministers and deputy ministers. This letter reminded our leaders of their responsibility under Article 12 of the Convention and called on them to give these issues proper consideration.

We are also acting on this responsibility. What we heard at Youth Parliament, in addition to what we hear through our regular outreach to youth across Nunavut, will directly inform our office’s work. Specifically, it will help guide our future reviews into broad issues impacting young people across the territory. We cannot stress enough that children and youth are not only our leaders of tomorrow, they have insights and opinions that are of value now, today. Youth Parliament demonstrated that young Nunavummiut are mighty � in awareness, opinions and voice.

But, in our territory, they are also mighty in number. As your editorial states, more than half of Nunavummiut are under 25. As Nunavut’s upcoming election draws near, we remind and challenge our future territorial candidates that they must not only listen to young people but consider what they hear. Our territory will be stronger for it.

Sherry McNeil-Mulak
Representative for Children and Youth
Monday, May 1, 2017