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NWT Sunday briefing: Letters, weather and more

Welcome to the first of Cabin Radio’s Sunday briefings, highlighting letters we received this week alongside a look at the coming week’s weather and more.

Hello. I’m Ollie, our newsroom editor, and I’m writing this briefing. I hope you’re having a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend, not least because you probably aren’t planning the largest Thanksgiving gathering you’ve ever had. (I’m going to be cooking a duck for the first time. Duck sandwiches for weeks.)

You may have noticed our Facebook page has been tranquil of late. We have switched off Facebook comments beneath posts involving news articles – you can read some background about that decision here and here. It’s what the majority of people who got in touch told us they wanted.

The replacement? Well, we did set up a new Facebook group that would allow discussion of news items, but we also introduced a distinctly old-school concept: letters to the editor (me). And this page is where those letters go. Below, we have reproduced a selection of correspondence received this week.

To respond to a letter below or write to us about any NWT news issue, email comment@cabinradio.ca. We consider any email received at that address to be intended for publication – please add your name and community and, if relevant to your letter, your profession. Please also mention the article to which you’re responding, if applicable.

If you’re trying to contact us but don’t want it to be published, there are lots of ways to do that.

We sometimes select only excerpts of letters to highlight the most important points, and we may very lightly edit the text to make someone’s point clearer. (That’s standard practice for any newspaper or website.) We’ll never edit a letter in a way that changes its meaning or the sentiment being expressed.

Until now, Cabin Radio has not published any opinion-related content. We won’t be opening the door further than this. There is enough opinion on the internet without us adding more but, in the absence of comments, we recognize having a clearly marked outlet for discussion on our website each week is a necessary and probably quite valuable substitute.

Lastly, the Sunday briefing may vary in size from week to week (it depends how many letters we get, after all). So we’ve taken the liberty of including a weather summary for the coming week and some other notes for you to read.

As ever, thanks for reading our work. If you value it enough to contribute a small sum each month, we gratefully appreciate all donations made through Patreon. — Ollie

✉︎ Letters

Views on vaccines

From Ken Cooper in Hay River:

I am writing this in response to your article on diamond workers’ unpaid leave if they are not vaccinated. I couldn’t agree more strongly with this stance by the employer. It is way overdue. To have so little respect for your fellow workers that you would risk getting them sick because you choose not to get vaccinated is just beyond the pale. People are dying from this disease, and it looks like it will only get worse, much worse, before it gets better.

From Lisa Seagrave:

I’m relieved to see restrictions on unvaccinated travellers within the NWT finally. Had we done that July 1, we likely wouldn’t be in this mess. I’ll keep it brief, in fact I only have two rarely heard words in NWT, directed to Dr Kandola: vaccine passport.

Yellowknife’s temporary day shelter debate

From Dan Wong:

I signed the petition in support of the shelter, as a business with property downtown (only staff housing and four blocks away). At the same time, I understand concerns of more directly adjacent businesses owners asked to bear the brunt of the costs. Maybe we can move the needle on this problem by throwing money at it?

A “shelter impact compensation fund” could be established to pay very nearby businesses a monthly stipend, on criteria such as proximity to shelter, size of business, etc. Depending on the amount of the fund and design, this might turn some nearby opposition into shelter support. It would be a symbolic but also real way to help address concerns about revenue loss.

Business owners also care about client and staff safety, and the fund would not take away from other safety measures.

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but the pandemic has shown we have the resources we need to fix important and intractable issues and can create funding programs in a hurry. For example, the GNWT last week announced a new $750k fund under the Seed program for businesses running in the red that have been impacted by the recent indoor gathering restrictions.

Otherwise, I don’t think emotional or ethical arguments will cut it. I don’t think folks should threaten to stop shopping at a business because they don’t support the shelter (nor do I think businesses really care about these threats – they know their clients).

Money talks, especially to small business owners in a pandemic. Discussion of a fund might help move this from an “us vs them” to a negotiation of how many additional public dollars we are willing to spend to get this shelter done.

The ongoing outbreak

From Jessica Jumbo in Sambaa K’e

This is getting super scary for smaller communities and I’m speaking as a parent, community member of Sambaa K’e, and a Sambaa K’e First Nation councillor. I’m having to deal with mental health concerns and very concerning questions from Elders as to why the government hasn’t stopped travel and started locking down areas solely to the communities.

It was suggested by an Elder, who is terrified, that medical travel for patients be the only travel. This is getting ridiculous, where it takes six hours to be medevaced to Yellowknife.

Please stop this before it gets to the smaller ones. We are the only totally isolated community in the Dehcho and it’s the mentality that is worsening here. People are losing faith in the ability of our government and health system to keep us safe. Lock it down.

A new pool for Yellowknife?

City council will hear the latest on a proposed new aquatic centre on Tuesday. A referendum among residents is coming up.

From Ian Henderson:

Was Yellowknife’s Ruth Inch Memorial Pool designed to have only a 34-year useful life? Surely this is shortterm thinking. What is the useful life of other facilities? Have Yellowknife property owners even finished paying for Ruth Inch? Long-term Yellowknifers continue to pay a high cost of living for decisions made by a great majority of residents who live here only for a few years and move on.

In 1985 the city ignored lobbies for a proper Olympic-sized pool, handicapping two generations of Yellowknife youths at competitions, and missing the advertising of the benefits of living in Yellowknife and revenue opportunities for Yellowknife businesses stemming from the ability to hold national swim meets here.

These considerations are being again ignored. The repeat approach includes another mediocre slide that will have no more use than the previous one. Instead of contributing to the local economy, this design will simply add more stress to Yellowknife taxpayers in capital debt servicing as well as increased operations and maintenance costs for the 10 additional staff required.

Comments on comments

From Olivia:

Gosh darn you for taking away the comment section on Facebook posts. This was a great source of entertainment. Now where am I going to post ‘MJ eating popcorn’ memes? Might as well get my news from CBC now.

From Brandon:

The power of media has a profound impact on people, specifically northern communities who rely on social media for news. Limiting the population who can communicate with each other via northern topics online not only disconnects a community at large but it does not fit with online-based journalism. While it would make sense to limit comments on sensitive topics such as Indigenous issues like the residential schools, for example, it should not apply to all topics and posts that are generated online.

The recent decision to limit comments on social media is a backwards-style approach to journalism, specifically considering that Cabin Radio is an online-based news agency. While it would make sense for the Yellowknifer and News/North, this should not apply to Cabin Radio. The NWT is already a much smaller community and online this community is connected through social media such as Cabin Radio’s Facebook page. By previously allowing comments on Facebook posts, it allowed a community at large to discuss topics in discussions that are important and relevant to northerners. In this constantly changing world, I personally do not think that submitting replies to previous articles for publication is a modern approach to journalism.

From David Stewart:

Letter to the editor? But I’m angry now!

☼ Weather outlook

Yellowknife: Snow or rain on Sunday followed by a drier Monday. Temperatures not much different this week to last, aside from a potentially quite warm Wednesday with a high of 6C.

Inuvik: A cloudy week in prospect, getting a little colder as the week goes on with regular flurries. Thanksgiving: Cloudy and 2C.

Norman Wells: Flurries on Sunday and a cloudy Monday but forecast to become a sunny week after that.

Hay River: Rain on Sunday could turn to snow that night but Monday should bring some sun, even if it is the coldest day of the week ahead at 2C. Back up to 9C by Wednesday.

Fort Smith: An enjoyably warm and sunny Sunday (high 9C) but Monday will be cloudier and colder. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday should all be relatively warm for the time of year.

Fort Simpson: Flurries on Sunday followed by a sunny Monday, high 3C. A mostly sunny week ahead.

✐ Notes

If you’re in an NWT community with gathering restrictions, what are you doing for Thanksgiving? Anything odd, unusual, or creative to make the day special? Tell us in an email and maybe send a photo on the day.

Speaking of photos, if you take a spectacular image in the NWT this week then send it to comment@cabinradio.ca. We’ll try to use a different NWT photo at the top of each Sunday briefing (so by sending in a photo, you grant us the right to reproduce it). Don’t forget to tell us who took it and where.

Coming up this week: the city’s big aquatic centre presentation is at 12pm on Tuesday, which Cabin Radio will endeavour to stream via Facebook. For a distinctly wet facility it may sound like quite a dry thing to watch, but it’s important and Yellowknife residents will be asked to vote on the project next month. It’s worth your time if you’re free.

The NWT legislature was due to resume on Thursday but that’s now been pushed back by a week due to the outbreak in Yellowknife. The fall sitting will be held virtually, as will the Union of Northern Workers’ convention, which is set to begin on Friday. A new president will be named for the first time in two decades. Also on Friday, Steve Norn’s MLA code of conduct inquiry continues.

It’s our reporter Meaghan Brackenbury’s last day with us on Friday. If you’ve particularly enjoyed and valued a piece of her reporting, do take the time to let me know and I’ll pass on your comments. My personal picks: this report from Yellowknife’s urban healing camp, her reporting from Wekweètì as residents got some of the first Covid-19 shots in the NWT, and this careful and considered piece examining how the NWT’s curriculum asks students to consider the “positive aspects” of residential schools.

Stay tuned for a very special video this week in which Meaghan has a starring role. It involves a truck, an ice road, and most of our staff.