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Eric Heitmann bites his tongue and squints as he perfects his international snow carving competition on Yellowknife Bay on Feb. 20. NNSL photo

Six teams from several countries carved up creative icy sculptures in front of the Snow Castle for Snowking’s sixth annual international snow carving competition. There was a giant cat sculpture, a moon lander, an enormous waffle and even a depiction of astronaut Chris Hadfield playing the guitar. Members of the public were invited to vote for the People’s Choice favourite in person at the snow castle or participating in online polling on the festival’s ‘snow-cial media.’

Evidence of arsenic exposure in small animals near Giant Mine

Small animals near Giant Mine carry the effects of long-term arsenic exposure in their brains and eyes, suggests recent studies in science journals Chemosphere and The Science of the Total Environment.

“What I do know for sure based on the preliminary study we just conducted, the animals around Yellowknife are definitely going through some level of environmental stress,” University of Saskatchewan professor Solomon Amuno said about the study, which also featured researchers from his school and McGill University.

A similar study also showed poor health among hares in the vicinity of Giant Mine in 2017.

NWT Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola stated the study has no direct implications on public health. “It would be difficult to translate the impact of arsenic or cadmium exposure and the observed adverse health effects on small animals to humans,” she said.

Questions swirl as Aurora prez axed

Education, Culture and Employment Minister RJ Simpson wasn’t originally aware that former Aurora College president Tom Weegar was fired.

“I wasn’t sitting in those conversations so I didn’t know if it was an outright firing. I didn’t know if maybe both parties said to each other, ‘you know what, I think it is time to go our separate ways,'” he said.

Simpson said it was a human resources (HR) matter and the position serves at the pleasure of the premier.

Weegar has called the government’s original account incorrect and raised further concern that his firing – the third at Aurora College in recent years – could jeopardize the academic freedom of NWT’s chief post-secondary institution.

His replacement is Andy Bevan, who had served as the department’s assistant deputy minister, labour and income security.

‘Grandfather’ of Houseboat Bay, Gary Vaillancourt remembered

When a houseboat burst into flames on an early summer morning in 2015, Gary Vaillancourt was the first at the scene. As emergency crews scrambled to get their equipment working, he grabbed a water pump, dousing an ablaze canoe that was drifting dangerously in the direction of another houseboat.

The longtime houseboater, one of the first to build a floating home on the open waters of what is now known to many as Houseboat Bay back in the early 1980s, died after suffering a stroke Jan. 31 in Yellowknife. Vaillancourt was 71.

He’s being remembered by friends and fellow houseboaters as kind-hearted, generous, creative and community-minded – a “cowboy” of the North (as one online commentator put it) with unmatched nautical know-how and a willingness to teach newcomers to the bay.

Vaillancourt, born in Sudbury, Ont., was a helicopter pilot when he came to Yellowknife in 1977 for work. Back then, the first houseboats were strung together using rafts and 45 gallon drums.

Student beats out 5,158 to win $100,000 award

Adithi Balaji has been selected as a Loran Scholar and awarded $100,000 toward her undergraduate studies.

“(I’m in) disbelief! I’m so shocked I got it,” the Ecole St. Patrick High School student told Yellowknifer, who plans to study oceanography.

The Grade 12 student is among 36 recipients across Canada to win the award, said Danielle Sanders, Loran Scholars Foundation spokesperson. A total of 5,194 students applied for the Loran Award this year.

CPHO advises Yellowknifers to prepare for possible coronavirus outbreak

The territory’s chief public health officer (CPHO) supported a call by the federal health minister for Canadians to stockpile food and medicine in case the coronavirus spreads further.

“The advice by the federal government is prudent because we don’t know how fast the virus will take off,” said Kami Kandola. “Be prepared with food and medications and other supplies. Have enough for 14 days. You don’t want to run out and be unable to find what you’re looking for in case people make a mad dash and all the shelves are empty,” Kandola said.

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Blair McBride

Blair McBride covers the Legislative Assembly, business and education. Before coming to Yellowknife he worked as a journalist in British Columbia, Thailand and Ontario. He studied journalism at Western...

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