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Issue 1 winter 2011/2012 Publisher / Editor
Brent Reaney email@example.com
Jack Danylchuk firstname.lastname@example.org
Loren McGinnis email@example.com
Janet Pacey firstname.lastname@example.org
Pablo Saravanja email@example.com
Jeroen Slagter Jeremy Bird
©Copyright 2011 by:
CONTENTS Front Edge. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Contributors. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Spreadsheet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Found Food. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 YK Past Blast. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 Work in Progress . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Oktoberfest on the Water. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Road to the future?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 Two In . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Pipe Dreams. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17 Airborne Art. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Gettin’ Strange on Range Street . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27 ARCC is Dead – Long Live ARCC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30
All rights reserved.
On Edge: Opinion – Julie Green. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35 On Edge: Opinion – Adrian Bell. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 On Edge: Opinion – Loren McGinnis. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 A Summer Day – Verse by Anthony Foliot. . . . . . . . 38
Edge is available in Yellowknife at: Weaver & Devore Gallery of the Midnight Sun Down to Earth Gallery Cover photo from Pilot’s monument by brent reaney
Black Knight Javaroma Gourmet Cup Yellowknife Direct Charge Co-op Overlander sports Dancing Moose Cafe Surly bob’s sports bar EDGEYK.CA
YK, meet Edge Welcome to Edge, a publication about Yellowknife for Yellowknifers. To us, being a Yellowknifer could mean you were born on the side of the Ingraham Trail back when you had to go to Edmonton to get fast food. But it could also mean you arrived last week and are wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. It may even mean you’ve moved away but have fond memories of the midnight sun. Basically, if you feel a connection to this place, Edge is for you. Like Yellowknife, we want Edge to be equal parts serious and fun while not shying away from issues. Similarly, we don’t want Edge to sit on the right or left of the political spectrum, and certainly not on the fence. Instead, we want to present a variety of entertaining and informative voices which reflect the unique culture of our town. Yellowknife is filled with talented and creative people and we’d like to capture some of this energy. I’m the last person to claim something is perfect, but there’s plenty I love about Yellowknife, including its people and possibilities. As a great example of what makes Yellowknife awesome, thanks to the ideas and enthusiasm of dozens of people, Edge is in print and online less than eight months after being hatched during a winter escape to Mexico. In terms of the name, it could mean Edge of the ‘Knife, Edge of civilization or – depending on the time of year – Edge of sanity. Whatever it means, we’re anxious for feedback and happy to print letters. We’re also looking for writers, photographers and artists interested in the project. Please send story ideas, comments and letters to editor@Edgeyk.ca. On another note, if you’re a businessperson or bureaucrat thinking Edge might be a great way to advertise your message in Yellowknife, get in touch. We can’t publish without your support. I really can’t say enough about the people who contributed time and talent to make Edge a reality. I’m hoping we can pull together a similarly talented crew for our Spring issue. Until then,
Brent Reaney Publisher / Editor
studied film at Sheridan College but dropped out and used the rest of his tuition money to shoot his first two music videos that aired on MuchMusic. He established COLLECTIVE9 in 2007 and has since written, directed, produced, edited and acted in some on the North’s biggest film projects. collective9.com
is an award-winning Old Town versifier. His piece The Underwear of Lucky Jimmy received top prize in the inaugural Up Here magazine Write Like Robert Service Contest. His verse, A Summer Day, shares a new arrival’s fresh perspective on the Old Town Anthony took for granted. He lives happily on a houseboat with his wife of 17 years.
is a radio journalist and documentary producer with a passion for do-it-yourself culture, junk and vintage vehicles. Originally from New Brunswick, she moved to Yellowknife because she thought people could ride their skidoos in the street. Seeing her first skidoo downtown was something special. In this issue, she writes about another passion, home brew. umva.ca. Photo Katherine Barton
is a born-and-raised Yellowknifer, photographer and documentary filmmaker. Some of his current projects include Artless: 365, a series of environmental portraits of northern artists and NorthPaws, a documentary about canine culture in the North. In EDGE, Pablo captures some of the wonderful weirdness at the Artist Run Community Centre’s Halloween bash. artless.org. Photo James McKenzie
has spent most of the last 10 years in the NWT working as a journalist for CBC North. This year he directed his first film, a short documentary about a reindeer herder that premiered at the Yellowknife International Film Festival. He lives in a cozy mobile home with his wife and daughter in Northlands Trailer Park. In his article, he provides an inside perspective on the park’s sewer and water pipe situation.
has been in and out of Yellowknife for the past 20 years and has travelled the North extensively. He recently concluded an eight-year tour at the Diavik Diamond Mine and here he writes about a typical rotation out at camp. Having done a past stint as a local radio personality, Derrick has decided to return to his broadcast journalism roots.
How long does it take? A new look at cost of living
The high cost of living has long been a hot topic in Yellowknife. And it’s true, things cost more here than most other places. But is cost everything? Our EDGE number crunching team has developed a new way to measure the cost of living. This very exciting and equally unscientific method considers not only how much things cost, but how much more money full-time Yellowknife employees earn, on average, than people elsewhere. Basically, using a worker’s income and the cost of a particular good or service in Yellowknife, Calgary and Whitehorse, we calculated how long someone would have to work to afford that item. The results might surprise you.
FOOTNOTES Sources: Statistics Canada Census, Yk Trader, Kijiji, CMHC, Air Canada Vacations, Gas Monkey, gasticker.com, Walmart, McDonald’s. Calculation note: Prices of goods were divided by hourly wage rates estimated from Statistics Canada Census data. Wage rates were estimated using median earnings for population 15 years and over who worked a full-year, full-time, assuming a 40-hour work week.
photo Brent Reaney
While pan-frying a fillet is a simple process, many people find it hard to get just right. There are a number of ways to cook a great fillet, but here’s an easy one.
Ingredients: 4 whitefish fillets Olive oil Small pile of flour for dredging Good-sized hunk of butter Your choice of seasoning
• Heat non-stick skillet to medium-high
• Add a teaspoon or two of oil to help keep the butter from burning
DON’T OVERCOOK YOUR FILLETS! When you overcook fish, it becomes hard and rubbery.
• Add good-sized hunk of butter (if you’re not sure you have enough, add more, it can’t hurt) in a pan
Don’t crowd fillets if cooking more than one at a time.
• Place flour on a plate • Dredge both sides of each fillet in flour • Wait for butter and oil to bubble • Lay fillets “bone side” (the one with the ridge in the middle) down • Sprinkle spices (dill, lemon pepper, your choice) on top of the fish • Cook 3-5 minutes, depending on fillet thickness • Flip to the “skin side”
The pan is hot enough if the dredged fish crusts up (sealing moisture) soon after hitting the pan. Stick to medium-high heat. Lower and the fish won’t seal in the moisture.
Finding fish in YK: Unless you’re catching or netting your own, this might be your biggest challenge. The most likely places to find local whitefish are at the pickup truck with the sandwich board parked outside the downtown Extra Foods or at trucks on or around the government dock in Old Town. Or try the Co-op.
• Sprinkle spice and cook for another 2-4 minutes Do you have a recipe that uses at least one local ingredient you’d like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know. EDGEYK.CA
YK Past Blast
Franklin Avenue, 1985. 8 EDGEYK.CA
Raised in Yellowknife, filmmaker Kirsten Carthew lives and works in Los Angeles, but remains engaged with the North. She is a founder of the Taiga Adventure Camp for young women and is one of the organizers of a Western Arctic Moving Pictures web documentary project on Yellowknife.
photo Jack Danylchuk
Work in Progress Edge: What is it about Yellowknife that pulls you back? Carthew: I think of Yellowknife as my home. I’m still a resident and have been for almost 20 years. I travel a lot, but Yellowknife is my grounding spot, it’s where I consider myself to come from. It’s where I was a teenager. One thing I appreciate about Yellowknife is that there are a lot of opportunities if you are entrepreneurial. If you take the initiative, there are opportunities to grow in any discipline. I’ve participated in a lot of different things in Yellowknife, through my own initiative or others with ease that would be more challenging elsewhere.
This is a place where people come to a complete stop at stop signs, or not. I think there is a normalcy here that isn’t easily found elsewhere. People are really friendly and very accepting of other people’s imperfections and eccentricities, and it’s very funny.
E: What makes it funny, to you? C: People have a greater sense of self here; they are their own person and do a lot of different, interesting things. There is humour, challenges, sadness, but among my friends the default here is to turn events into funny opportunities… there is a certain northern humour here… it’s usually a little dirty.
e: What’s your first memory of Yellowknife? C: My mother had lived here and my family was living in Toronto. She brought some video that she had taken of this ‘fantastic town.’ What she showed us was Raven Mad Days. It looked bizarre. People were putting shaving cream on everyone, dancing around. It seemed odd, and dirty, and messy. My big experience was driving here from Toronto with our pets. We came around the airport loop and up the hill and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, there are buildings here.’ I never imagined Yellowknife to have buildings. I thought that was a real plus. I had never lived in a small town and I imagined from the video that all the buildings were small. Seeing tall buildings made me think there was an urban energy here that was familiar. And they were different colours. Growing up, there were different bars and clubs. There was nothing exclusive about them. Everyone mixed, and I like that about Yellowknife. It’s social and allows people to be open to different kinds of relationships.
E: Let’s talk about the documentary project. C: The YK Doc Project is a couple of different things and there is a bit of an academic spin to it: looking at the importance of technology and how that can be applied to documentary film. We have an opportunity to use new media at the research and development stage.
Previously it (making a documentary) was always an issue of capacity: One filmmaker, or a group, limited by time and resources, responsible for collecting data and curating it. Technology gives us the opportunity to create documentaries using the web platform to gather and present data. Where there was one documentarian, now you can have an infinite number, whether they live in Yellowknife or not.
E: If everybody is talking, who is listening?
A lot of popular television shows have a vast fan base. I was interested in how fan culture organizes around a media franchise. In this case, we can have fans focused on a community, using the same principles applied to civic engagement projects.
C: The aspect of sharing has become more important. I used to make a lot of things in isolation and think that was enough. Working in entertainment is not a model for hiding your work. Sharing is fulfilling. It doesn’t need to be shared to the whole world, or the entire community. But you need other people to hear you.
In the YK Doc Project, it’s a simple platform where an internet user can take video, upload it to the website as their contribution to telling the story of Yellowknife.
e: It sounds unwieldy, just from the sheer volume of material.
We’re pitching this as the fan community telling the story of Yellowknife through their own words and images. Contributors can also go on the website and see what others have posted, and comment and rate them. All that material will exist as a living, archival document of Yellowknife, as told by the Yellowknife fan community. The idea is that the fan community will then curate a final offline document based on some of the footage that is there. Fans create and filter the material to produce a documentary.
E: Wouldn’t the end result be somewhat disjointed? C: We need to see what happens with the content. Some will be video, some will be text. So the material becomes the starting point for a longer form documentary. Whether you’re Stephen Spielberg or my mother, you can film without worrying whether you’ve produced something amazing. You can post under an alias; we don’t care, we just want the content. We’re hoping to work with schools and community groups to engage people in the idea that they can participate in telling the story of Yellowknife from their angle. We’re giving control of content to the fan community of Yellowknife. People have four minutes to present their stories.
C: We’ll see. It could be, depending on the level of participation. We’ll probably run the project for a year. It is an experiment, so parts of it might be successful, parts of it might be unwieldy. But it’s new to documentary film making. It’s not necessarily the perfect model, but in terms of capturing the stories of a number of people, this is new. We’ll be doing workshops with groups and organizations that might not know how to use cameras or have access to the web. The real opportunity is to encourage consumers to become producers of their own media and contribute to a civic engagement project.
E: What is the financing for the project? C: We got a grant with WAMP (Western Arctic Moving Pictures Society) from the Canada Council for $20,000. The entire project will probably cost more because we want to create an online documentary, but we’re approaching it in stages. The money we have will cover the cost of the website, some camera equipment, and workshops. This is open to anyone and everyone. Visit ykdocproject.com to check out the videos already submitted, upload your own, or pass along an idea.
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Christa Domchek and Dawn Curtis
It could be a model that other communities could take on. We are not only creators of our own media, we are collaborators, and we circulate our media and share it. We didn’t used to have those distribution channels.
(867) 445-3034 l email@example.com l sundogyoga.ca
With plenty of great local ingredients to work with, homebrew culture is on the rise • by Janna Graham
photo Stephan Folkers
Oktoberfest on the water
Local brewer Mike Mitchell sits with his daughter in front of a batch of homemade beer.
By the time I meet my fellow
homebrew: Irish stout, India pale ale and pilsner. Three of us swing into the boat and begin the paddle towards Oktoberfest.
photo Janna Graham
revellers in the Wood Yard, it has been dark for hours and the shacks are puffing smoke. The captain had already sponged out the canoe and is now loading it down with six crates of his
In Germany, revellers guzzle beer brewed within Munich city limits. Similarly, at the Yellowknife version, revellers imbibe ale brewed with Great Slave Lake water and other locally harvested ingredients – crowberries, birch syrup, boysenberries, raspberries, and, when the harvest is plentiful, cranberries. In Germany, I imagine stumbling out into the city streets, sloshing my overflowing stein. In Yellowknife, Oktoberfest is about a 10-minute paddle from the
Government Dock, so I’m patiently waiting to fill my cup. The lake is calm and a full moon guides our way. We paddle without speaking, silently anticipating the exotic-yetfamiliar tastes that lay just ahead. When we pull up to the bank in front of the cabin, it’s already lined with boats and canoes. The din of the party floats down and we quickly unload the crates of beer with assembly-line stealth and proceed up the hill – where we are greeted by a site beyond our wildest dreams. There is a table – or rather a series of tables – strung together in the middle of the yard.
Along more than 40 feet are more than 50 different flavours of homebrew, all in distinctive green Grolsch bottles. There are pilsners and stouts, lagers and ales. They are light and dark, intense and mellow. There is an apple cider making the rounds. An over-carbonated pilsner explodes in my face. And, while I take my time at the table, slowly sampling and savouring the diverse offerings, I keep coming back to one particular beer – a crowberry birch stout brewed by Craig Scott. With a slight sweetness, a tinge of acidity and a fire-in-your-belly warmth, this is the clear winner in my books. In front of every batch of brew is a bucket in which taste testers (while still somewhat sober) toss different coloured poker chips to vote for their first, second and least favourite beers, as contributed by five brewers. One of the beers, brewed by Oktoberfest founder Mike Mitchell, is eventually voted both worst and best. It is an incredibly hoppy ale, comparable to a bitter piece of rope. Hops are an aromatic and tangy tasting flower (that can be grown in Yellowknife, believe it or not) used in beer brewing to balance the sweetness of malt. The longer they’re left in the brew, the more bitterness results. Mitchell and his wife, Andrea Bettgar – whose favourite beer is made with Earl Gray tea – started Oktoberfest when they lived in Hay River. Mitchell had been harvesting berries for beer brewing and wanted to share the wealth with his friends. Inspired by garden harvest parties when they moved to Yellowknife, Mitchell wanted to throw a kind of bottle harvest party and have “one last blast” before freeze up. The Oktoberfest party has become the event of the year for Yellowknife’s small-but-growing crowd of homebrewers. For Mitchell, brewing beer is a marriage between “selfsufficiency and cheapness.” “I’m personally affronted by the price of beer around here, knowing that it’s about 90 per cent water. I like to do things myself,” he says. “And on an ecological front, it seems ridiculous that we’re shipping water around the globe when you can make it yourself and use some of the cleanest water in the world which is just out of the lake here.” On the boat ride back to the city, with the taste of crowberry and birch on my tongue, I think about what it takes to be a beer brewer. No one wants to end up with a batch of beer that polite friends sip and suffer though. Yet, if Oktoberfest is any testament, home brewing is a craft that’s not unlike learning to knit, gardening or making bread. With a bit more experimentation, and a handle on the wilds of the fermentation process, I could show up next year with a few crates of my own.
I’ve developed a talent, without any real conscious effort, of showing up once all the work’s done. I’m that person who sidles up alongside a crew and offers an ever helpful, “What can I do?” genuinely surprised when I’m told that everything’s done. My intentions are good but my timing leaves something to be desired. My relationship with home brewing had been kind of like that, always the drinker, never the brewer. But this fall, I tried making my own ale. For years, I’ve loved the idea: fermenting yeast, mixing malt with water and racking the brew into a huge glass carboy. After a month of waiting, what could be better than sharing a bottle of homemade beer with beloved friends? Unfortunately my brew, left to ferment with wild abandon, tasted like a cross between vinegar and gasoline. One friend spit it out as soon as it touched his lips. And so, I went to YK Oktoberfest fest empty handed. Since then, I’ve consulted with local beer brewers. Here’s what I’ve learned: • Pick up your beer kit at your local grocery store (the Co-op carries beer-making supplies) and read the instructions. • Wait for it. It takes about 2 hours to actually “brew” the beer. The beer ferments for about a week, but use a
hydrometer to determine when it has stopped fermenting. It also takes a couple hours to bottle your brew. Finally, it takes another 2-3 weeks for your beer to carbonate. Total labour: 4 hours. Total time to make drinkable beer: 4-6 weeks. • Temperature is important. If the water is too cold, fermentation won’t happen. If it’s too hot, you’ll kill the yeast (and fermentation won’t happen). Get a thermometer and check the instructions on your beer kit. • If it tastes like vinegar: chances are, wild yeast or bacteria have contaminated the beer. It was (as in my case) likely left to sit in the bucket too long. • Exploding or over-carbonated bottles: too much sugar was added before bottling. Watch your eyes! • The basic equipment: a food-grade plastic bucket or glass carboy; a siphon hose to transfer fermented beer to bottles; an air-lock and stopper to prevent outside air from getting into the fermenter and contaminating beer; beer bottles and a capper. • There are lots of resources online and, even better, keen local brewers who will happily regale you with tales of how make that perfect ale.
5103 51ST STREET ROMAN EMPIRE BUILDING | 2ND FLOOR | (867) 445-1694 | firstname.lastname@example.org 12 EDGEYK.CA
Road to the future?
photos EZ Street Canada
From gold paved with streets to streets paved with “cold” asphalt by Brent Reaney Out at the edge of town, by the quarry at the end of Kam Lake, sits a machine that looks like a conveyor belt attached to an orange locomotive and three rail cars. It’s actually a custom-built portable asphalt plant owned by EZ Street Canada and this past summer it produced roughly 1,700 tonnes of material to pave N’Dilo’s main road. The N’dilo paving job was a big deal – much-needed and years in the making – for which the City of Yellowknife and the Yellowknives Dene First Nation picked up the tab. Nearly lost in the good news was the job’s use of innovative “cold” EZ Street asphalt. Traditional asphalt not only has to be installed in certain weather conditions, it also has to be laid a short time after production. EZ Street asphalt is the same as its hot cousin, but contains a special polymer that allows it to be installed in just about any condition – even sub-zero temperatures – and to sit for months before being laid down. If that’s not enough, it’s also stronger and quieter than regular asphalt. Longtime Yellowknifer Chris Hunt and a few business partners snapped up the Canadian licence to the EZ Street
technology from its American inventor a few years back and then partnered with Nuna Innovations, a division of Nuna Logistics. In just over four years, the cold asphalt has been used in everything from a patch-job on the Ingraham Trail to huge jobs for capital cities across the country, as well as local work for the City of Yellowknife and the territorial government. And no job is too small. Hunt says the company will happily pave anything from a driveway to a parking lot, and claims his price is cheaper than a traditional asphalt paving job. Like many Yellowknifers, YKDFN Housing Manager Stephan Folkers had never heard of EZ Street until the company was contracted for the N’dilo job. “The company was good to deal with,” he says. “They were very conscientious and definitely want to make sure their product is going down the way it’s supposed to.” After completing the side streets in N’dilo this coming summer, Folkers says “we’re looking at doing some engineering work on the Dettah roads and maybe in two or three years we’ll pave those, as well.”
As the company expands, there are no plans to move from its Yellowknife base. In fact, Hunt sees the cold, remote location as a benefit. “This is where people should be testing energy technologies, transportation technologies, construction technologies,” he says. “That old saying ‘if it works here, it will work anywhere,’ it’s totally true. That’s exactly the way people see it down south.” In what might eventually be an even bigger story, Hunt and his team recently filed one of the Northwest Territories’ first international patent applications for a UV-reflective asphalt. The product’s reflective quality limits the heat absorbed by roads and in turn, limits the heave caused by melting permafrost. “That’s why roads break down,” Hunt says. “The rock doesn’t break down. The UV and heat breaks down standard asphalt oil.” As a side benefit, the patented asphalt can be produced in any colour. Roads are black, he says, “because they’ve always used black oil, but you don’t have to.” To help roll out the new product in more than 170 municipalities in British Columbia this Spring, the company recently added a large B.C-based construction firm as a managing partner. Across the Northwest Territories, EZ Street’s asphalt might soon be the answer to dust problems in unpaved smaller communities. To start, the company is working on developing a cost-effective replacement for chip seal. “We’re trying to find that sweet spot where you’re getting way more load-bearing strength and way more life out of your roads and way more quality but you’re not breaking the budget,” Hunt says. “And we’re just about there.”
• Acorn slippers for everyone • Smartwool sock trio gift box set • Knit socks, hats, gloves + sweaters from Laundromat • Fleece sweaters from The North Face • Icebreaker luxurious merino wool layers • Skis, snowshoes and snowboards • Hockey sticks and skates by Easton and Bauer • Headlamps from Petzl • Banff Mountain Film Festival tickets
Visual communication through video, photo and multimedia
artless.org 14 EDGEYK.CA
4909 50th Street | www.overlandersports.com
two in A rotational tale told by a former camp worker by Derrick Woodward The dreaded squeal of the alarm clock sounds at precisely seven a.m. I arise with sloth-like intensity, my brain struggling behind a curtain of sleepy eyes to comprehend the situation: it is Tuesday morning, “Fly Day”, time to go to work. I review my mental checklist and slowly pull myself together for the impending commute. The apartment looks fresh and uncluttered; everything appears to be in order. I fix a bowl of cereal and pour a glass of orange juice while keeping a watchful eye on the time. Breakfast consumed, I quickly rinse out the glass and bowl and call for a taxi. Usually it’s about five minutes before it arrives, just enough time to put on a jacket, lace up my sneakers and have a cuddly farewell with my feline roommate. Suitcase and laptop bag in hand, I hurry out the door and into the elevator. An idling City Cab awaits me. I have begun phase one of my commute to work.
plentiful rest while others exhibit indifference – just part of the process of living, working and trying to eek out an existence. Always there are a few that reveal a certain level of anxiety, perhaps even dread as they face being isolated from their lives, their families, the comforts of home and freedom.
The cab drops me at the G&G terminal. Gathered there are wives, husbands, children, and friends all participating in the biweekly ritual of bidding farewell, enjoying those final precious moments of togetherness before the workers are summoned to board the Boeing 737 parked on the tarmac.
A bus takes us from the landing strip to the main accommodations complex through security. Carry-on luggage and coats are X-rayed as the line moves efficiently through the screening process. I am handed a cardkey to my dorm, the same one I’ve occupied for a little more than five years. It has become a second home, a place to relax and unwind in privacy and comfort. It has a queen-size bed, full bathroom, desk and locker. There is a phone line, internet connection and 36 channels of TV. Not bad for the middle of nowhere. The third floor window offers a fine view of the rugged Subarctic terrain and Lac de
I find a seat in the crowded boarding lounge and engage in early morning small talk. Sipping from my coffee I casually scan the crowd of a hundred or so. Each face tells a different story. Some display great enthusiasm – an eagerness to return to work after
It is time to board. A line forms and shuffles toward the gate. A ground handler checks off each name from a flight manifest as we make our way onto the tarmac and up the air stair. Throughout the cabin there is mostly silence as the Boeing taxis toward the runway threshold. It takes 32 minutes to cover the 310 kilometres between Yellowknife and Diavik. “How was your time out mate?” my seatmate asks in a weighty Australian accent, possibly the most commonly asked question after a twoweek absence from work.
Gras with its crystalline blue waters shimmering under the summer sun. Soon the cafeteria/dining room bustles with workers coming and going as the newly-arrived mingle with the “soon-to-be-departed”, trading stories, exchanging information and small talk. It is an eclectic mix, gritty underground miners, engineers, housekeepers, chefs, all bound by a single common thread. I help myself to some fresh fruit and a couple of freshly baked cookies and make my way toward the 400-metre-long “Arctic Corridor”, a pedway and utilidor that connects the main buildings – quite useful in deep winter when temperatures plunge below -40 Celsius. It takes under five minutes to reach my cozy, windowless, office. It is just as I left it 14 days earlier. The first day is typically quiet. There are cross-shift notes to read, emails to get caught up on, some filing to do. For the next two weeks, each day will be a carbon copy of the last, a set routine where I’ll know exactly what needs to get done and at what time. In the late afternoon, I go with my Mervin, my co-worker, to the open pit for a short reconnaissance mission. The open pit is intimidating. The second of two gigantic cavities carved from the bed of Lac de Gras, the A418 pit is 700 metres across and 170 metres deep. A non-stop cavalcade of 220-ton trucks run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hauling out kimberlite and waste rock. Giant shovels almost four-storeys
photo Jack Danylchuk
Behind a fence, workers walk the tarmac to G&G Expediting after a shift out at the Diavik Diamond Mine.
tall fill the trucks while massive drills pound away at the bedrock. We keep a safe distance behind a truck the size of a two-storey house and radio the supervisor when we are clear of the pit.
conversation. Dinner time is always the main social event at Diavik. Stories are told, jokes exchanged, advice is given and plenty of laughs are shared. It’s a chance to relax, feel at home and get acquainted with co-workers.
My favourite time of day is dinner time because dinner at Diavik is always a gastronomic adventure. Several main courses are offered and standard fare such as pizza, pasta, fries and burgers are available each night. I arrive at the dining room at precisely six thirty. A short lineup is forming at the main counter where tonight’s specialty is flank steak, a profoundly delicious and extremely popular dish served only on rare occasions. I am served a generous portion and proceed to the salad bar where I serve myself some chef’s salad and a fresh dinner roll. Next it’s off to the condiment refrigerator where I prepare my personal favourite Diavik dinner drink: cranberry juice, ginger ale and a slice of lemon, accompanied by a glass of ice water. With my dinner tray lavishly adorned, I join a table of eight other friends and acquaintances and jump into the ongoing
After a solid nine-hour sleep I’m well rested and arise quickly to start my routine: go to the office, check email, head out into the field, return, more office work, prepare for lunch. The uniformity is welcomed as it rarely offers any unusual circumstances to deal with – something I’m completely comfortable with. Today is no different. Freshly showered and shaven I arrive at the breakfast counter and order a deluxe omelette with bacon and hash browns. I prepare my orange juice and coffee and seat myself in the nearly empty dining room. No large gathering this morning as I sit alone and watch the morning news.
By the second weekend at camp, spirits are up as the countdown to “Fly Day” begins. By the final Monday, the excitement has turned into euphoria. All around camp the mood is cheery.
My tasks are numerous: ensure my paper work is up to date and properly filed. All equipment and vehicles must be checked, cleaned and fuelled. The office must be left tidy and cross-shift notes completed. Back at my room, my personal effects are packed and ready for check-in early the next morning. It is a process, but knowing those two weeks of downtime are coming makes it a pleasurable one. The alarm sounds at five forty-five. It is time to go home. By nine-thirty a.m. my rotation has officially ended. The weather is perfect – clear blue sky and a bright sun, a terrific way to end a two-week rotation. We are greeted with smiles by the same flight crew that brought us to Diavik. Chatter and laughter fills the cabin as the 737 taxis into position. My preflight anxieties evaporate as I ease back into my seat with a big smile – because the first Tuesday is always better than the final Monday. In memory of First Air Flight 6560 C-GNWN.
Pipe dreams An inside-the-park perspective on Northlands trailer park’s potentially catastrophic water-and-sewer pipe problem by Marc Winkler
Entering Northlands Trailer Park sometimes feels like crossing the border into a different, much poorer, country. Potholes immediately slam your car. There’s a good chance litter is blowing down the street from an overflowing garbage bin. And it’s not unusual to see a tarpaulin tacked onto a roof, scraps of lumber and metal used to construct a fence, or parts of an exterior wall missing, leaving insulation exposed to the elements. It took me awhile to adjust to my surroundings after moving here in 2009, but now I enjoy the neighbourhood and all its clutter. Walking down the sidewalk-less streets is fun. The homes are packed so close that in some cases it’s almost possible to touch your neighbour’s trailer, and some people have only a few feet separating their front window from the road. I often end up making eye contact with drivers turning the corner near my house while in my living room drinking my morning coffee. I also now like seeing how someone has mended a broken window with duct tape, how another person has stacked five car tires on their front lawn, and how someone else has placed a deep freeze at the end of their driveway and painted their house number on it.
Northlands is like this for a number of reasons. For one, the condominium corporation’s board is having trouble enacting a by-law that would permit fines for untidy yards. Another reason could be socio-economic. According to the NWT Bureau of Statistics, the average income in Northlands is 23 per cent lower than the city-wide average. Perhaps most importantly, there isn’t a lot of money in the condominium corporation’s budget for road and general park maintenance since most of the money is spent on repairing the sewage and water lines. These pipes have needed to be replaced for 15 years. The trailer park manager, Mike Roy, says the pipes he’s seen are often full of holes big enough to let gravel fall in and block the passage of sewage and that if you stand on one, they are often so weak they collapse. With an estimated $18 million price tag, the condominium board has never had close to the amount of money the job requires
and governments have always contended that since the park is on private land, it’s not a public responsibility. But people in the trailer park say this view simplifies a long and complicated history.
Triple E sold off most of its remaining property in the trailer park 10 years ago, and made a substantial profit in doing so. But even when park residents assumed majority control of the condominium board, fees remained recklessly low. The current President of the condominium board told me how frustrating it was that most board members were unwilling to increase condominium fees until a long time after Triple E’s departure.
The trailer park was built in 1971 by Northland Developments, a company headed by then City Councilor Al Marceau. According to research posted on the condominium corporation’s website outlining the park’s history, Northlands was sold for $4.8 million in 1988 to a company from Alberta, Triple E Developments. Early the following year Triple E mailed out letters to tenants asking for their consent to turn the park into a condominium corporation. Despite a City by-law requiring the company to identify any “known structural or infrastructural deficiencies,” nothing in the letter mentioned the water and sewer lines had only six years before they were due to be replaced, or the fact that the new condominium corporation would become responsible for this cost. Under City policy of the day, anyone who didn’t respond to the letter was assumed in favour of the change. About a year after the first letter went out, Yellowknife Condominium Corporation #8 was born.
This changed only in about 2005, when fees went from $65 to $100 per month. In January 2012 fees will be $220 per month, but it’s too little too late and the board has no hope of ever raising enough money to replace the pipes. To make things worse, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation recently stopped insuring mortgages in Northlands, making it significantly more difficult for residents to sell their homes. As someone who lives in Northlands, the glaring question for me is why, in the 1980s and 1990s, nobody asked, “how are we going to replace the sewer and water lines?” The developer didn’t ask, the City didn’t ask when it allowed the condominium corporation to form and the tenants didn’t ask. Whatever the reason, thankfully this sort of thing couldn’t happen today because territorial legislation
From then on Triple E began selling lots in the park and used an assortment of carrots and sticks to make that happen. It raised rents 60 per cent over four years, according to copies of rent cheques provided by a tenant. It sent out letters offering tenants assistance from The Bank of Montreal to get mortgages to buy their homes. It also reminded tenants that condominium fees had been “set” at $50 per month, but did not mention this would leave the new condominium board without funds to replace the pipes.
Mike Roy Trailer Park Manager The first person you call if your toilet backs up, or a pool of water or sewage mysteriously appears in your backyard or under your house is Mike Roy. He’s the trailer park manager and can often be seen driving around Northlands in his black truck, talking on his cell phone and cringing. He says over the past few years he has dug up nearly half a kilometre of the property’s 23 kilometres of sewer and water lines.
photo Marc Winkler
continued on page 20
He doesn’t know how much – if any – sewage is currently leaking out of the pipes. But he wonders what might happen if a sewer line failed in a whole section of the park and all the residents were without water and sewer for a week or two. “How are we going to house 50 families, or more?” he asks. It’s only a matter of time, he says, until sewage starts leaching through the soil towards neighbouring Frame Lake.
Cheryl Fountain mom and student
photo Marc Winkler
Cheryl Fountain slides a stack of textbooks to one side of the kitchen table to make room for two cups of herbal tea. “My question is, who is responsible for this mess? I don’t think we are responsible for it entirely ourselves.” I met Fountain – an energetic mother in her thirties – for the first time this fall at a community barbecue she helped organize. She was collecting guesses about how many jellybeans were in a glass jar. Beside the candies was a sign-up sheet for Citizens for
Northlands, a community group she formed with the mission of, among other things, finding a solution to the park’s infrastructure problems. This fall Citizen for Northlands went door-to-door and raised $3,000 to hire a lawyer to investigate who should pay for the sewer replacement. Fountain says as a student and parent she doesn’t have extra money and she’d like to see the prior owner, Triple E Developments, take some responsibility, along with the City.
Did you know that the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment supports members of the NWT Film industry through funding and promotional initiatives? Funding is available to complete a first film, market or promote a production and support commercial productions. The NWT Film Suppliers Guide contains listings of individuals and businesses who provide products and services to assist film productions on location in the NWT.
continued from page 18
Tonight it’s about an hour after dark. I’m out for a walk and see a few guys standing in a front yard, sipping beer around a bonfire of wooden pallets. In another yard a dog is spinning around on a chain and barking. It’s easy to forget that pipes are falling apart beneath our feet and at any moment we could be left without plumbing. I understand the condominium corporation may be legally liable to fix the infrastructure, but after learning about what led to its woeful financial situation, I find it hard to believe the board is entirely at fault. However, it no longer matters who’s to blame. What matters is that governments realize this could become a major environmental problem and help the condominium board replace the pipes so the 1,100 people who live here don’t get left out in the cold.
Linda St. Amand pensioner Linda St. Amand and her husband moved into their trailer on Catalina Drive in 1983, just after her husband got a job at Giant Mine. “Oh, it was a nice trailer court back then. Everything was clean,” she says. St. Amand has just come back from Extra Foods with a few sale-priced chickens. She wraps each one in wide strips of brown wax paper, dates them, and places them in the freezer. “I’m not struggling, but I’m watching my budget,” she says. Ever since her husband died a few years ago, St. Amand has lived alone on a pension of about $1,100 per month. Last winter the 70-year-old started to smell something bad in her house. “So I got on my knees and crawled underneath the trailer,” she says. “And sure enough the sewer pipe had broken. What a mess!” Mike Roy, the trailer park manager, ran an “umbilical cord” of sewage to the neighbour’s trailer so St. Amand could continue to live in her home while a crew replaced the pipes underground. St. Amand wasn’t bothered by the episode, though. “Hell, I got water right here,” she says, gesturing to her water cooler. “You just have a sponge bath with all the curtains closed! This is my home and it will be until the end of my days.”
christmas. birthdays. valentines day or just because…
We have what she wants!
photo Marc Winkler
requires condominium corporations to determine how much it will cost to maintain their infrastructure for 25 years and fees are set to cover those costs.
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Northlands Solutions OPTION
Loan from the bank, secured through the City
The condominium board says an $18-million loan with five per cent interest would see each homeowner pay an extra $408 per month for 25 years. This would cripple some poorer residents of the trailer park, but would result in water and sewer lines that ran underneath the roads, as per City standards. This would enable
the City to take over the ownership and maintenance of the pipes. However, before the condominium corporation can accept any loan, it needs the agreement of at least 60 per cent of the owners.
Trash the Trailers
City Councilor Shelagh Montgomery floated this idea at a council meeting in the fall. After redoing the water and sewer lines, why replace trailers that in some cases are worth next to nothing themselves, Montgomery asked. She thinks the City should look at slowly replacing trailers with better-quality, high-density housing. Building big homes for wealthier families isn’t the goal, she points out. Instead, she’d like to see the
same people living there, but with better homes that will provide good housing to Yellowknifers for decades. She says it’s too early to say how exactly this could be financed, but says it has been done in government-funded urban revitalization schemes in southern Canada.
No interest loan from the GNWT
Under this plan, each homeowner would pay about $232 a month for the next 25 years. The GNWT would end up paying the the interest, which on a five per cent loan, would be
$13.6 million. The City of Yellowknife – working with the condominium corporation – asked the territorial government for this type of loan and is still waiting for a formal response. Also, the City applied to the Federal government for funding 15 months ago and is still waiting for a response. This wouldn’t be the first time the territorial government has paid for sewer upgrades in Yellowknife. In 1985, the City’s original sewer and water lines from the 1940s were “showing signs of structural deterioration resulting in blockages and collapses,” according to a report published by City’s director of Public Works at the time. The same report shows the GNWT paid for 80 per cent of the project costs. continued on page 22
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Northlands Solutions continued OPTION
If not already doing so, the pipes will begin leaking raw sewage into the ground, which will pollute Frame Lake and the trailer park soil. The site could be evacuated because the water and sewer lines become unfixable, or because the Environmental Health Officer says it poses a risk to public health. “If we don’t do anything, we’ll be on the hook for cleaning up a big mess and helping all these people who live in Northlands,” says Councilor David Wind.
Sell the land to local developer
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Although it would make a great location for a strip mall and some deluxe homes overlooking Frame Lake, local developers aren’t likely to want to purchase the land because it would be too expensive. Even if each lot were sold for $100,000, far below their market value, the trailer park would cost more than $25 million. On top of that, the developer would have to fix the infrastructure.
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Airborne Art Northern land through a new lens Text and photos by Brent Reaney Flightography by Jeroen Slagter My friend Jeroen Slagter is the kind of guy who points out details I’ve never noticed in art that’s been on my wall for years. He has an eye for the uniquely beautiful and is also a pilot with years of northern flying experience. This made him perfect to help execute a project I’d been thinking of. The idea was to capture some of the beautiful shapes and textures I’d seen out the windows of planes during travels around the North. With Jeroen’s pilot’s licence and my ability to press the button on a camera, all we needed was money and a plane. The NWT Arts Council gave us the money and a generous friend rented us his Cessna 175 for a very reasonable fee. Before our first flight I wasn’t sure what we’d end up with. But after reviewing the first batch, we knew we were onto something. The more we flew, the more I was amazed by the varied landscapes we came across, particularly since we went no further than 100 kilometres from Yellowknife. Jeroen did exactly what I’d hoped he would. He carefully planned our routes and used his experience to choose flight dates during the most dramatic seasonal changes. He also vigorously helped edit and select the photos for a show this past June in N’dilo. Far more than “just” the pilot, he was the Director of Flightography.
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on Range Street A filmmaker reflects on documenting YK’s rowdiest block | by Jay Bulckaert
video still Jay Bulckaert
Back in early August, the Yellowknifer ran an article about the City’s plans to revamp Range Street, that glorious institution of drunken mayhem and public buffoonery. It seemed they – and the public at large – had a hard-on for taking out the trash, so to speak, and I was on board. My response to a facebook thread at the time read, “It’s a tragic wasteland filled with zombies. Raze it to the ground and rebuild.” After posting I promptly went to the bar to meet my buddy Pat Kane, one of the North’s most sought-after photographers, and we proceeded to do exactly what makes Range Street something to talk about; we got drunk and loud. But what transpired during that weeknight summer
givin’r-session was totally inspiring. Pat had long talked about doing some kind of photo shoot or documentary on Range Street, and while it was always genius, that night in August, as we sweated through a pintsession in the corner of a muggy bar, it became crystal clear that this wasn’t just another boozefuelled idea to be forgotten the next morning. This was the real deal, Pat had hit the nail on the
head and I wanted in. It was the right time, the right place and who can deny the sexiness of the subject matter: alcohol-fuelled stupidity, fights, drugs, maybe a little sex, and obviously rock ‘n’ roll. After three months of shooting, we are barely scratching the surface of the Range Street story. Our number one commandment from the very beginning has been to be truthful, for better
or worse, whatever that means. To us it means not shying away from the relentless tragedy and heartbreak we all know to be present every day and night on that street. We all see the downtrodden, the addicted, the people spitting and fighting, and the tirades of swearing and yelling from across the street. And this fall I saw a kicked-out customer attempt to fly kick a Diner server out on the street.
Whatever you do, tip the people working on Range Street well. But what we’ve seen and learned in equal measure in our short time shooting is that it’s our job to tell the other side of the story; that there is hope and, indeed, goodness on that street. It is its own little community of people who look out for each other, or at the very least, look for each other. People from out of town go there to meet their loved ones,
The images for this story are video stills captured from footage shot by Jay Bulckaert for the Range Street Project.
socialize and even make money on the side to live their lives. They rally, often brutally, but they are indeed together. The street is also undeniably filled to the brim with colourful personalities. There are also business owners who have had success for years and don’t intend to leave. There’s a motel at which you have to pay a $100 non-refundable deposit just to get a room. It’s also home to arguably the most entertaining
house band I’ve ever seen, which performs at the bar that “everyone needs to go to once while you’re in Yellowknife.” Even so, it is forever home to lonely women crying in alleyways and drunken men stumbling around with black eyes; all of which builds on a past that harkens back to the Wild West strong and free.
Our hope is to embed ourselves in the community of the street, win people’s trust, wrap ourselves in their stories and shine a light where most see no value. We hope to do right for the street by being honest: simply and humbly honest. We have no idea what the end result will be and I think that’s good. And for those who think this project is a waste of time, let it be said, ain’t no one making a movie
about your street ‘cuz if there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Range Street is never, ever boring. Jay Bulckaert is a professional filmmaker whose projects include Triumph of the Chill and Knife Knews. He is currently working on CBC’s Arctic Air drama. You can learn more about the Range Street documentary or help fund the project at rangestreet.com.
ARCC IS DEAD
Artist-run galleries and performance centres that sprouted across Canada from the Eastern Edge in St. John’s to Open Space in Victoria, and just about everywhere in between – except Yellowknife – are closing in on their 40th anniversaries. Most were products of the Sixties thinking and a brief lull in the real estate feeding frenzy that opened derelict buildings to the only people desperate enough to move in – artists looking for an alternative to commercial and institutional galleries and concert halls. A few are showing their age, a bit thick around the middle and stuffy in their thinking, but most are vibrant institutions with broad community support.
Jamie Walowski and Joel Maillet arrived in Yellowknife with memories of artist-run galleries and performance spaces in Halifax and saw the need for a space where artists and performers could meet and share their ideas. Last Spring, glass recycler Matthew Grogono persuaded real-estate developer Les Rocher to make the former Pentecostal Church on 49th Street across from the Yellowknife Inn available. Except for one small detail, it was almost perfect: performance and exhibition space, a kitchen, and meeting rooms, working washrooms. But the church was a trade token Rocher swapped with the territorial government for raw land at the edge of Kam Lake. From the day it opened, ARCC organizers struggled with their uncertain tenure, not knowing from one week to the next whether they would be asked to vacate. “That made it difficult to plan more than two weeks ahead,” says Maillet, but even with
the wrecker’s ball swinging over their heads, the centre hosted workshops, exhibitions, music events and what may have been Yellowknife’s best-ever Halloween Party. In its brief life, ARCC demonstrated the need for a venue that could serve as a laboratory open to experimental practices in all contemporary arts disciplines, a venue where art, artists and audiences could engage each other. After moving out of the Pentecostal church in early November, organizers are now looking for a new venue. The revolving club site on Franklin last occupied by Prestige and the old Hudson Bay building in Old Town are among the possibilities, but what ARCC
LONG LIVE ARCC Text by
Now homeless, members of Yellowknife’s Artist Run Community Centre look back on their success and plan for the future
Jack Danylchuk photos by Pablo Saravanja |
really needs are firm financial commitments. Across Canada, artist-run performance centres and galleries survive and thrive on contributions from the Canada Council, municipal and provincial governments, charitable foundations, and their own resources. YK’s ARCC generated income from its share of ticket sales, renting space for workshops,
meetings, exhibitions and performances; the organizers publicly thanked Rocher, Radio Taiga, Pido Productions, and the territorial government for their generosity. What surprised Maillet and Walowski was the lack of financial help from City Hall.
operation in the city.
Over the last 10 years, Mayor Gordon Van Tighem has seen a number of iterations of the ARCC concept rise and fall. As someone who helped start the Aurora Arts Society, Van Tighem says he has always been in favour of an artist-run
There’s nothing in the City’s current budget earmarked for the centre, but Van Tighem says a plan to convert the Hudson Bay building into a potentially suitable
“It’s a good idea. Every time that it comes together, it comes together, but then everyone gets focused on doing what they do in ‘it’ rather than focusing on how you have an ‘it’ that lasts in perpetuity,” he says.
continued on page 34
The photos for this story were gathered during the preparation and execution of the ARCC’s Halloween bash. EDGEYK.CA
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facility has been completed as part of other planning initiatives. The group’s President hopes the momentum gained by the ARCC project will not be lost. “I think once we get settled again, we have to do a long-term plan of what we want to do. What are our short-term goals? Long-term goals?” says Rosalind Mercredi. “We have lots of ideas so we need to filter those ideas and set some priorities.” A City application to the territorial government to produce a strategic plan for the group was denied. However, with a mention of the ARCC by Bob Bromley in the legislative assembly and planned meetings with all levels of government in the near future, Mercredi is thinking positively. “I think right now Government’s on our side, at least verbally,” she says. The group has set up a relocation committee with hopes of maintaining some kind of pareddown presence on the art scene. Two options include a coffee shop or art gallery with limited hours. But whether the ARCC is born again depends largely on the energy of the arts community and its ability to solicit financial support from business and all levels of government.
On Edge: Opinion
Fixing problems with public and transitional housing Families on income support living in transitional housing often survive on just a few hundred dollars a month once their rent is paid. A critical task for the 17th Legislative Assembly is to make shelter subsidies fair so that families in transitional housing pay an equivalent amount of rent as those in public housing. For that to happen, rent in public housing has to go up and rent in transitional housing has to go down. What needy families in the NWT need is rent geared to income. Take the case of “Mary” who is living in the transitional housing program for families at YWCA Yellowknife’s Rockhill apartments. Transitional housing bridges the gap between emergency shelters and permanent housing. Mary rents a one-bedroom unit at Rockhill for up to a year, and uses the YWCA staff support to help her with budgeting, paying rental arrears, cooking, parenting, and addressing any other issues that have destabilized her housing in the past. Unable to find appropriate and affordable child care for her three-year old son, Mary lives on income support of about $1,500 per month. Once ECE pays her rent, Mary has about $300 left for everything else: groceries, clothes, toiletries, phone, transportation, an afternoon at the swimming pool. If Mary receives financial support from the other parent, income support claws it back. If she receives the federal GST rebate, it gets clawed back. If she gets the universal child care benefit, it gets clawed back. So her $300 per month becomes $200 per month if she receives an extra $100. If she receives $300 worth of extra income,
her after-rent income is down to zero and the family is hungry. There’s no way for Mary to get ahead. She lives hand to mouth, stressed about how she’s going to meet her and her son’s most basic needs. The same situation applies to a client on income support living in private housing. Contrast that with the situation for “Marie” and her six-yearold daughter renting a unit from the Yellowknife Housing Authority. Public housing is permanent housing offered by the government at an affordable rate for low-income families. Two-thirds of clients, including Marie, pay just $32 per month in rent. Marie is also a client of income support. Her income is the same as Mary’s, in theory, but there’s a crucial difference. The housing authority doesn’t count federal benefits and child maintenance as income, and her rent remains at $32 per month. So if Marie gets child support, she can keep it. When she gets the child tax benefit or a GST refund, she can keep it. Marie has more money to pay her basic expenses. In fact, Marie may not need income support because she has other sources of income that come with fewer rules. This situation isn’t fair and it’s time to change it. Clients living on income support in transitional housing, whether at the YWCA, men at the Salvation Army or women at the Centre for Northern Families, need to be treated the same regardless of their type of housing. The answer is rent geared to income; the question is whether the 17th Assembly has the vision and backbone to implement it.
Julie Green is the Director of Community Relations with the YWCA and a former longtime CBC journalist. She’s also an avid gardener and proud mom with no shortage of opinions.
On Edge: Opinion
Want to improve downtown? Rally businesses Human nature is peculiar. Take our tendency to align ourselves with groups and teams. I’m a Philadelphia Eagles fan who drives a Toyota and lives in Yellowknife. I can’t really say there are iron-clad reasons for my choices, besides circumstance and Reggie White. Nonetheless, whenever I run into one of my “opponents” – such as a Chevy-driving, Cowboys-loving Whitehorse resident – I immediately get my back up and prepare to engage in a war of words. As a result of this tendency, and perhaps a condition similar to institutionalization, I take offense when people, including other Yellowknifers, disparage our downtown core. This seems to be happening a lot these days, but I think if critics were to step back and truly consider the evolution of the downtown over the last 25 years, they would realize it has never looked better and is steadily improving. There remain, however, some glaring problems. There is no denying downtown Yellowknife feels less safe than it did in the 1980s and social problems like alcoholism and homelessness are on daily display. But identifying problems and doing something about them are different matters. So what’s to be done? Can major retailers and shoppers be drawn back downtown? Absolutely not. That’s not how downtown renewal projects work anywhere in North America. How they work, typically, is by surrendering the department store clientele to the burbs and reinventing downtowns as boutique and specialty destinations. We can do this too, and a recent proposal by a City of Yellowknife committee to form a downtown Business Improvement District, or BID, is a critical first step. BIDs began emerging all over North America more than 30 years ago, as suburban malls and big box stores began drawing shoppers away from downtowns. They
are neighbourhood business associations that allow retailers to pool their money for projects such as collective advertising, security, and landscaping. They also lobby government for stricter bylaws and enforcement. However, BIDs are not solely funded by business owners. Once formed, they are effective at leveraging funds from big business, the public and all levels of government. Basically, BIDs are like Chambers of Commerce without the conflicts that arise from representing all businesses in a large geographic area. Although effective, BIDs are unfortunately very difficult to form. In most cases, all business owners in the target area must willingly agree to pay into the BID. Securing this unanimous support takes a significant lobbying effort, which comes at a cost. Fortunately, the City has a ready source of funds available. Since about 2004, a percentage of all downtown parking revenues have been diverted to a fund for downtown revitalization projects. During an October meeting, members of the Smart Growth Implementation committee – the group responsible for the funds collected – declared the establishment of a downtown BID in cooperation with the Yellowknife Chamber of Commerce as its top priority. With a municipal election less than a year away, Council’s approach to establishing a downtown BID will be very interesting to watch. If our Councilors put their weight behind this initiative and set aside the downtown revitalization parking revenues for eventual use by the BID, it will show they are serious about placing control of downtown improvement in the hands of those most affected by the area’s problems, business owners. The BID, in turn, may be able to tackle some of the persistent downtown problems Council has been unable to address.
Adrian Bell is a long-time Yellowknifer and former downtown business owner. He’s also President of the Long John Jamboree, a new winter festival happening in Old Town March 23-25, 2012.
On Edge: Opinion
Update from the Toronto Chapter of the Yellowknife Alumni Association If Yellowknife had school colours like a university, I’d say “I still bleed” whatever those colours are. The time since I left Yellowknife has just gotten long enough that I now measure it in months instead of weeks.
being stuck between the two worlds – not man enough for the North, but perhaps still a little too raw for the city. It all, of course, plays on the shallow stereotypes of each place. And it generally works.
Now in Toronto, I meet potential employers and friends and submit that my eight or so semesters in Yellowknife prepared me to work at their shop or integrate into their social gatherings. I am the self-appointed President of the Toronto Chapter of the Yellowknife Alumni Association, and I’m here to represent.
The Tlicho have set an ideal for their young people to be “strong like two people,” to excel in both the traditional and modern worlds. The joke that helps people understand how I am not equipped to function in either world, how I’m not even “strong like one person,” is the one about my Toyota Yaris.
Thinking of Yellowknife as something like a degreegranting institution that soaks up boys and girls, turns them into thinking young men and women and sends them back out into the world to be the change they want to see denies the more permanent fixtures that make the community what it is.
In Yellowknife driving a Yaris made me the object of mockery for being a wimp. A female colleague flicked her sleeve as if to knock a bug off, as a way to express her feelings about the compact hatchback. Here in Toronto, however, any car ownership is seen as an enviro-sex assault. I drove the Yaris from Yellowknife to Toronto, and over the course of that journey, the car and I went from being an ambiguously gay duo to a couple of redneck planet wreckers.
These include the multi-generational families of Latham Island and N’dilo, the people who went north for a summer 25 years ago and never left and couples who make babies there. They are the ones who give Yellowknife its soul. But those of us who didn’t last, and in many cases didn’t intend to last, define the town, too. It is we who give it its collegiate purpose and then disperse across the country and beyond to spread the gospel. Me, I spread the gospel mostly through doing stand-up comedy. I first started doing stand-up in Yellowknife joking around about my inability to live up to the ideal of the hearty northern manly man. Now in Toronto, I joke about
Enough about me. The Toronto Chapter of the Yellowknife Alumni Association recently convened in the backyard of fellow alumni Harmen Meinders (‘09) and Jasmine Budak (‘08). A number of guest speakers and current Yellowknife professors were in attendance. There were wedding, birth and sadly some death announcements to catch up on. Following dinner we wandered from the backyard out into the city, each in denim and flannel, long the Yellowknife uniform, and currently en vogue in hipster Toronto. No minutes were recorded.
Loren McGinnis spent almost five years in Yellowknife as a journalist, writer and producer and is the associate editor of EDGE. He now lives in Toronto but maintains an NWT residence in the form of a 1973 VW van parked at Prelude Lake.
A Summer Day Verse by Anthony Foliot
This morning when I woke up it was almost half past five. I saw the whiskers poking from my chin. I fired up my razor it was good to be alive. I buzzed my cheeks and did those whiskers in. I walked my faithful doggie to her spot down by the tree. Then cycled up the hill for my breakfast. And sitting at the table was three other guys and me, and we compared this summer from the last. And when that was all finished it was only eight oh two. Too early for the post-office you know. So I made my way back home and I jumped in my canoe, I whistled for my doggie “time to go.” So we pushed off from the dock and we headed up the bay. And drove along the “Submarine Alley.” We turned left by the float planes on that perfect summer day. Cruised underneath the bridge and who’d we see? The guy who runs the float base so I idled down to stop. It was Joel a good buddy that I knew. Then I coasted to the wharf and I tied a bowline knot. Then my dog and I stepped from the canoe. We sauntered to the office and he put the coffee on. I counted the beer cases on his floor. With over fifty boxes and the first batch was all gone. The fishermen he worked for wanted more. We went out to his table where we drank our coffee up. And he said that his girl arrived by plane. As we watched a boat go by, and I was draining off my cup. How curious that Summer was her name. He said that he was hungry for some eggs and for some toast. And then went in to fry some chow. He chopped up some zucchini but he chopped the onions most. He buttered up the skillet, he knew how. And while he was a cooking well I heard a little sound. I wondered if he had a mice issue. I got a little nervous and I took a look around. When it comes to mice I know what to do. My buddy stirred the onions and I poured another cup. And once again we heard a little noise. And then he called out “Summer” he said “are you getting up?” Well that was when I heard a woman’s voice. “Yes” she said “I’m getting up” and I wandered out the door. Some girls don’t like surprises in the morn. Sat on the picnic table And I drank my coffee more. And marvelled at the sunshine nice and warm. So I thought about those eggs and the meal she’s going to get. And I peered into my cup was there some more? And then I heard her giggle while I smoked my cigarette. And that was when Summer came out the door. Yes there she stood before me and she had a lovely smile. Extended out her hand and said hello. So I introduced myself and I thought I’d stay awhile, ‘cause I like pretty women don’t you know. vThen Joel brought out their breakfast and Summer sat beside me. I asked if Joel had shown her ‘round the bay. I told her he’d be busy and, if she’d like to see, we can ditch him ‘cause me I had all day. 38 EDGEYK.CA
Joel smiled and he looked at me, he knew my words were true. I’m usually busy only wintertime. And Summer sat and smiled and the skies were cloudless blue. A turn around the bay would be just fine. So we started off our tour past the plastic mega-yachts. We went to see the Norseman down the bay. We drove underneath the wing and sailed by Peace River Flats. This Summer’s quite a beauty I should say. Summer sat in the canoe and she scratched my old dog’s ear. She waved at Joel as we came back on by. We went underneath the bridge where it echoes under there. I took her to a place where Otters fly. We drove past the twins and turbo with its engine taken out. And Summer’s eyes were shining out at me. I turned right at the float planes pointed sunken vessels out. That’s why I call it “Submarine Alley.” We passed by the old fish plant and a dredge barge near the dock. I’m sure that I was blabbing all the way. ‘Cause I’m having so much fun and it’s only two o’clock and it’s proving out a great summer day. I showed her the old tug boat where I draw a summer pay. My dog woke up her face was in the breeze. I throttled down my kicker to where all the houseboats lay. And a Merlin was screeching in the trees. We head out past Dog Island where the seagull has its nest. And Summer says she likes the house that’s blue. I know that she is happy ‘cause this day’s not like the rest. And everything I show her is brand new. So I’m feeling pretty good I’ve got Summer in my boat. The seagulls never dived us driving by. We pass the houseboat “I-lean” that’s the one that doesn’t float. Then a Northwest cruise to the other side. That’s over where my house is and I flout the western shore. The sunshine really shows the painted trim. It’s the one all by itself and it has a yellow door. We pull up to my dock and go on in. Now Summer’s in my household only this time shining out. I think the windows need a little clean. She’s checking all my pictures and the charms I hang about. I wonder if she wonders what they mean. Back out on the water and still heading North and west. Where they’re welding up new tanks for the pier. I’m thinking about Summer and this day has been the best. The lake waves to the fish boats over here. We pass by Joliffe Island and turn left towards the gap. We watch a Turbo Beaver taking flight. And Summer! And a boat ride like a feather in your cap. A summer day and everything’s all right. ‘Cause Summer she’s a beauty, yes I told you that before. We pass the dock with “ramp-rats” working. I wonder if she hears it, my heart is pounding more. Underneath the bridge the echo’s lurking. Now we glide up to the dock and we tie the old canoe. My summer day is coming to an end. Now the sun is in the west still the skies are cloudless blue. I can’t wait for a summer day again.
photo Katherine Barton
Then she kissed me on the cheek and she shook me by the hand. She appreciated Old Town Service. I won’t wash it in a week yes her gesture was so grand. But that’s when I started to get nervous. Because I just remembered I had something still to do. I was supposed to go and check the post. And I haven’t got a watch and you know what’s nothing new? Forgot the things I needed to do most! So tomorrow I’ll get mail and I’ll do my banking yet. But could you stay focused when Summer’s there? My summer day with Summer is one that I won’t forget. Distraction strikes from almost anywhere.
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