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NWT Sunday briefing: Letters, weather and more

Last modified: November 7, 2021 at 7:45am

Welcome to our Sunday briefing, the home of letters you write to Cabin Radio, a weather outlook, and some notes on the week ahead.

Hello. I’m Ollie, the newsroom editor, and I’m writing this. This week’s photo is from our archive and shows a snowplow working at Yellowknife’s airport on November 6, 2018. Yes, that’s practically three years ago on this day. Not sure the plow will have even been brought out of storage yet this fall.

Straight into the letters, this week. See below.

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

Stanton at breaking point

We reported a letter to ministers and MLAs from Stanton Territorial Hospital healthcare workers that described cratering morale and the need for hazard pay.

From a Stanton healthcare worker:

This article uses healthcare worker and nurse interchangeably. But there are so many more healthcare workers other than nurses who are at their breaking point.

There are many healthcare workers at Stanton that aren’t nurses. There are biomedical engineers, physiotherapists, phlebotomists, dieticians, respiratory therapists, and countless others. Then there are the many behind the scenes. The program assistants, the registration clerks, materials management. The list is extensive.

We are all overworked and understaffed. We all are having our vacation denied. We are all struggling with management. We just don’t have a big voice like RNANTNU [the nurses’ association].

Look around. Everyone at Stanton is struggling. The nurses aren’t the only ones at their breaking point. We all are. It’s a crisis.

The author of this letter supplied their name but asked for it to be withheld.

City Hall and vaccination

From Jori Lacey:

I’m incredibly frustrated by the response from many of our city councillors regarding proof of vaccination at city facilities. It seems that the general reasoning behind opposing proof of vaccination is fairness – it won’t be fair to families who have chosen not to be vaccinated to be barred from using facilities that they pay taxes to fund.

Well, we all make choices. I have chosen not to have children, so there are city facilities I don’t or can’t use. My taxes may likely go to helping fund swimming lessons, summer camp, and other programs that can only be accessed if you have children. But that’s what we do as a community – we pay into a pool of money to fund programs that benefit the whole community, regardless of whether or not each program benefits us individually.

Is it fair for the community as a whole to maintain capacity limits on facilities when over 80 percent of residents have made choices that benefit us all? We’ve all been given the same set of choices and some residents have chosen not to get vaccinated. That choice will have consequences no matter what, but we have to decide whether or not we want those consequences to affect the folks who made the choice, or if we want those consequences to affect us all.

I understand that likely their children didn’t get to make a choice, but that’s what being a parent is: making decisions that they believe are best for their kids. If a parent chooses to put their kid in music class, maybe it’s not fair that their child will never be a soccer star, but that’s the choice they made and those are the consequences.

If you choose not to be vaccinated, you can’t go to the pool. That’s really the only fair thing to do for the community, and I’m deeply disappointed that so many of our city councillors are willing to forgo fairness for the many to avoid enforcing consequences for the few.

City Hall and racism

On Facebook, Councillor Steve Payne posted a comment regarding racist abuse alleged to have come from members of Yellowknife’s homeless population that suggested: “Bring a stick. Beat someone’s ass. Ignorant f–ks.” A screengrab with some text redacted was supplied by the author of the letter that follows.

From Shannon Moore:

A brief but regrettable story of a person experiencing racism in Yellowknife has popped up in online conversation recently. It is awful that anyone experiences that kind of venom in their lives.

I am truly sorry the author of this post had to deal with what happened to them. And I wholeheartedly agree with their summation, which is left unredacted in the screengrab – there is a problem here.

It’s troubling how complex this sort of prejudice is. One can imagine that escaping cultural genocide, only to be treated as less-than citizens, may affect your sense of justice and equity and be a catalyst for hatred. There is deeply important nuance involved in racism of this kind, but regardless, it’s still a serious problem that we need to be working on.

I don’t know how experiencing something like this would affect me. A wise woman I’m glad to know said to me recently: “As a white woman, I am one penis away from unlimited privilege.” It is true for me as well. And because of the privilege I do hold, I will never know that kind of hurt that the poster felt, and I can scarcely even imagine it.

I’m sure city councillor and deputy mayor of Yellowknife Steve Payne can’t imagine it either. As you see in the image, this situation made him very angry.

Feeling anger over racist comments and the pain they cause is human. It may be hard not to let it cloud one’s judgement if witness to it in the moment, and potentially say something – or want to do something – inappropriate. Any average person is most definitely expected to refrain from that step too far, of committing or encouraging violent acts against anyone. Payne’s words go too far.

The words pictured in the screengrab are words that should never be publicly shared by a sitting councillor and current second-in-command of Yellowknife’s municipal government. This not a matter of opinion. This is a matter of fact, according to City of Yellowknife Bylaw No. 4976 – Council Code of Ethics. Specifically, Sections 8 and 9.

Quoting only one of six sub-sections that may be directly applicable in this situation:

“9.2. No Member shall use indecent, abusive, or insulting words or expressions toward another Member, any City Staff or any member of the public.”

(If you’d like to look at the rest of the bylaw, and the standards all of our councillors should be held to, check it out here.)

It is a councillor’s duty in their trusted position of public office to not just meet a basic standard of respect for the people in their community, but to exceed it. I’m getting pretty tired of hearing apologies from council members who know better. The code of ethics bylaw is part of the job description.

Apologizing isn’t cutting it for me any more. Saying you’re sorry – even if it’s honest – is not accountability. For the sake of the integrity of city council, it’s time behaviour like this was met with consequence.

☼ Weather outlook

Yellowknife: A chance of flurries on Sunday but otherwise no sign of the snow that is conspicuously missing. A cloudy week with highs of around -5C, which remains a few degrees warmer than is usual for this time of year.

Inuvik: Again, Sunday flurries then a dry week getting gradually colder. Low of -22C overnight on Wednesday into Thursday. Comparatively warm on Monday, up to -10C.

Norman Wells: Flurries on Sunday before a cloudy Monday and sunny Tuesday. Wednesday, with sun and cloud, is a day of extremes – up to -7C in the day but down to -20C that night.

Hay River: A cloudy week with snow on Sunday. Highs generally around -2C though Monday and Thursday will be a little cooler.

Fort Smith: Flurries extending into Monday. Sun and cloud all week with Wednesday a little murkier. Up to -2C on Wednesday then down to -11C at night.

Fort Simpson: Unlike most places, Sunday flurries may be followed by more on Wednesday and Friday. Thursday and Friday noticeably colder with highs of -13C.

✐ Notes

There’s likely to be more discussion of City Hall and councillors’ relationship to racism on Monday (Niels Konge is understood to be planning a further apology for remarks made last week.) The new zoning bylaw will have its first reading, too.

The COP26 climate conference continues for a second and final week (agenda here).

Folk on the Rocks holds its AGM on Saturday at 1pm.

Thursday’s Remembrance Day ceremony in Yellowknife will be live-streamed by us via Facebook.