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Editor’s picks: Things to read over the holidays

Yellowknife's winter garden under the aurora in March 2021
Yellowknife's winter garden under the aurora in March 2021. Photo: Bill Braden

Time for a good read over the holidays? Or need something to keep you occupied while lying low at a festive gathering? You’re in the right place.

Half of the Cabin Radio newsroom’s mission is to provide speedy, accurate coverage of breaking news. The other half is to provide in-depth coverage of the NWT.

I’m Ollie, our newsroom editor, and I’ve compiled a list of some of our longer-form reporting from 2022 that I think makes good use of your reading time over the festive season.

Below, you’ll find links to a selection of our articles with short notes from me explaining why each one made the list and what I hope you’ll get from reading it.



There are many dozens more I could have chosen. If you somehow exhaust this list, check out the Cabin Radio advent calendar for more suggestions from the 2,000 or so articles we published this year.

This January report by Emily Blake – now at The Canadian Press – examined the over-representation of Indigenous people in Northwest Territories jails.

In particular, Emily looked at why the NWT doesn’t use Gladue reports, a type of pre-sentencing report used in some other jurisdictions that provides background information about an Indigenous offender.

How the justice system works in the NWT is a complex subject that touches so many different lives, and aspects of life, in the territory. In the new year we’re adding a justice reporter who will explore the system and all its interconnections in detail. If you have ideas for that reporter, contact our newsroom.



Sarah Sibley unearthed this fascinating weather phenomenon, which I previously hadn’t even heard of: a downburst.

It’s not a tornado – it’s a separate form of powerful and fast-moving wind storm – but the damage can look pretty similar. A downburst in the Dehcho that was barely noticed at the time flattened a huge area of forest.

Learn more about downbursts, what causes them, and why they’re so rare in the North.

How Alberta handles tailings from the oil sands is a sensitive and important topic. In the NWT, many residents feel as though the province and the federal government are taking decisions that could have huge downstream impacts in the North without consulting anyone who might be affected.

McKenna Hadley-Burke, now a CBC associate producer on shows like Tapestry, examined a federal proposal to allow treated water used in the oil sands to be discharged into rivers heading north.

The decision-making process has so far not felt at all transparent, and this issue warrants ongoing coverage. We’ll stay on it.

Colville Lake is one of the territory’s smallest communities, and so it follows that the school would be tiny, too. But now that building is old and falling apart.

Caitrin Pilkington looked into the local Behdzi Ahda First Nation’s work to replace the school with something new. Unusually, the First Nation is the lead on the project with territorial government support, rather than the GNWT making all the decisions.



(We also keep an eye on what happens to students from small NWT communities when they graduate. Our reporter Megan Miskiman accompanied students from Colville Lake and elsewhere on a visit to Calgary universities as they explored post-secondary options.)

Alongside figuring out schools, the NWT government also has to get childcare right: finding a system that will work and be sustainable in more than 30 communities.

That isn’t easy, and we have reported closely this year on the bumps in the road as the territory rolls out a federally funded program designed to reduce fees for parents, lift childcare workers’ wages and increase the number of available spaces.

In this March article, I looked at some of the challenges involved in upgrading childcare – and some of the frustrations childcare providers feel.

All kinds of research happens in the NWT. Normally, you need a research licence from the territory’s Aurora Research Institute before any work can go ahead.

But some Indigenous governments argue the territorial body shouldn’t be the final word in research licensing.

Caitrin examined the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation’s plan to introduce its own licensing, a plan the First Nation says is legally backed by the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

This year, it became apparent that a significant number of NWT government staff working in climate change-related positions weren’t satisfied with their employer.



We spoke with a range of people across the territorial government, including one who said he felt “irrelevant, confused and gaslit” as his department’s climate change strategic lead.

The GNWT is currently struggling to hit its emissions reduction target, but we’re also carefully watching how those efforts develop. For example, the impending closure of one diamond mine might mean the NWT suddenly meets its emissions targets. Does that count as success? These are the conversations the territory must have.

This article is a little different. We ran live text coverage of Charles and Camilla’s May visit to the NWT under the banner of “Chuckwatch,” tracking their movements and providing regular updates.

Emily Blake accompanied the royal party across Dettah and Yellowknife, with me helping from our newsroom.

The resulting coverage received many thousands of views and provided the fullest possible account of exactly what happened on a day when, no matter your feelings on royalty, many people stopped what they were doing to watch the future king.

You’re probably hearing more about PFP these days – Project Finance for Permanence, which partners communities with private investors to help conserve areas of land and water.

In June, Sophie Kuijper-Dickson produced a comprehensive summary of what that really means, including a look at examples of PFP elsewhere in the world.

This is only going to become more important. There is a lot of money at stake, which in turn means not only improved conservation but also a new form of economic stimulus for some areas of the NWT. (For another example of job creation through conservation, look at Nahanni Butte’s fortunes this year.)



Later in June, Sophie wrote this thorough and illuminating account of why running Inuvik’s two shelters has proved so difficult lately.

People and governments often arrive with the best of intentions, but disagreements can ruin plans to offer a service that makes a meaningful difference to vulnerable residents.

Sophie spoke with a wide range of people to better understand what has been happening. If we can clearly set out why things haven’t worked in the past, there’s hope the same issues can be successfully addressed in the future.

Not everything we do involves the written word. In July, our summer interns joined reporters Megan Miskiman and Sarah Pruys to produce this stunning visual record of Folk on the Rocks 2022.

We shot thousands of photos across the weekend. These are just the highlights.

Folk on the Rocks is the biggest project Cabin Radio undertakes each year: around 30 hours of live audio broadcasting plus photos, video, a stage of our own and more. Thanks to the 20 or more people who help each year’s production.

Coming back from a trip and saying “hey, we should write something about that place” is probably an editorial abuse of power but – too late.

I had the fortune to spend a few days in the Cirque of the Unclimbables this summer. While there, I met some climbers who filled me in on why people travel thousands of kilometres to reach this remote corner of the Nahanni National Park Reserve.



I knew Laurissa Cebryk would do a great job of digging into the story. This is the end product: learn why the Cirque, and one peak in particular, is such a big deal for climbing enthusiasts.

Healthcare in the NWT is a tough subject. The healthcare workers I know are pouring their hearts into a job with long hours and often little thanks, in a system that now seems to endlessly lack resources.

That means frustration for residents who, no matter how hard healthcare workers try, can feel as though they are locked in a system where they cannot access the help they need.

Reporting on this fairly and robustly requires great care and sensitivity. Caitrin Pilkington investigated the case of Christie Horesay to illuminate the difficulty of even receiving a diagnosis if you live in one of the territory’s smaller communities.

We have spent years following the fate of Wood Buffalo National Park and whether its status as a World Heritage Site is in danger.

A team of UN inspectors came to the park earlier this year to answer that question. We’re still awaiting their report.

Ahead of their visit, we sent Megan Miskiman to Fort Smith and the park to learn more about what’s threatening the park and how Indigenous communities living nearby would like things to change.

The NWT doesn’t have a huge number of farms. On the farms it does possess, life is not easy, especially in a year beset by flooding.



Caitrin learned more by examining the case of Greg Haist, a Hay River farmer who’s been doing this since 1980.

Haist and others have some suggestions for ways to give the territory’s farming community a lift. We explored their ideas and put them to the NWT government.

Despite their occasional appearances in downtown Yellowknife, we really don’t know much about what makes wolverines tick.

But a wolverine caught more than 30 years ago is now central to a breakthrough: scientists have used frozen kidney tissue from that animal to sequence the whole genome of a wolverine for the first time.

What does that mean, and why is it helpful? I asked Dr Matthew Scrafford, a Wildlife Conservation Society Canada scientist who contributed to the work.

Chloe Williams, our climate science reporter, joined us in September in a partnership with Wilfrid Laurier University that I think represents an exciting and innovative way to fund important journalism.

Chloe (no relation to me, it’s worth noting, given our shared last name) is helping us to unlock the practical implications behind a lot of the Arctic research now being published, and track the impact of a shifting climate on our people, communities and environment.

In this article – one of my favourites this year – Chloe learned more about how and why scientists are studying the hearing range of caribou. The audio clips in this article are fantastic. (You don’t want to miss the sound of a gently snoring caribou.)



If you’re anything like me, you know permafrost is a big deal in the North and central to problems connected with climate change – but you might not know much more than that. How does it behave, what does it even look like, and where are the concerns?

In November, Chloe answered a lot of my questions in a report about ongoing efforts to create a more detailed map of permafrost in the Northwest Territories.

“You can think of permafrost as having personalities,” permafrost expert Steve Kokelj told her, an explanation that has stuck with me.

We first published this data-driven article in January and then updated it when new figures were released in October. To me, this is important: the data makes plain how people in the NWT are ageing.

Having a population with an increasing average age is an issue in many parts of the world. It has an impact on the workforce, on healthcare, and on all manner of other facets of life.

But we need to properly understand that shift to account for it and devise solutions, and getting a handle on the data is part of that. The charts in this article try to visualize the change in our population in a way that helps.

There are few more delicate subjects than a family’s loved ones and their final resting place. Climate change is hastening the speed at which some NWT cemeteries are degrading, and that means a really hard conversation is needed about whether those cemeteries must be moved.

Chloe spoke with members of four NWT communities about how they are approaching the topic and the kinds of damage they are already seeing.

Like virtually everything we reported, this is part of a continuum of coverage. Rarely, if ever, do we write one report and then leave a topic forever. We’ll be back to follow the problem of preserving our cemeteries in more detail in 2023, and we’ll try to bring you comprehensive coverage of much more along the way. Thanks for reading our work this year.

As ever, if you have a story you think we should look into, contact us.