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Lafferty’s illumination of the real issues facing Indigenous women is raw, honest and inspiring.
CONTRIBUTORS FRONT EDGE New voices, new books, new perspectives illuminate the enigmatic nature of our city.
10 FOUND FOOD
Wild cranberry panna cotta with pistachio and maple sugar topping. Etienne Croteau and Natasha Bhogal
DEBUT DENE MEMOIR (Excerpt) Northern Wildflower, believed to be the first memoir written by a Dene woman, is Catherine Lafferty’s courageous story about growing up in Yellowknife, struggling with discrimination, poverty, addiction, love and loss. Determined to build a better life for her and her children,
IMBEDDED IN YK (Excerpt) Bestselling Toronto author Dave Bidini uses a stint as a guest columnist with the Yellowknifer newspaper to explore his personal passion for our city and northern landscapes beyond. His 13th book Midnight Light gives voice to a diverse cast of YK locals while at times shines a spotlight on some of the city’s grittier undersides.
The early days, isolated in a little bay near Con Mine. Alison McCreesh
32 DANGEROUS INTERVALS
Tin Can Hill is a rare, raw and right-here place for tight laps on a mountain bike. Colin Morris
38 ARTIST’S CORNER
Freestyle Beader: From blingy baseball caps to traditional moccasins, Dolly Martel’s soughtafter designs are helping her give back to her community Sarah Swan
43 ON EDGE: OPINION
Please allow me to mansplain myself... I’m a man, of Crocs, and blanks. Loren McGinnis
22 KITCHEN DITCHENS
Is it possible to eat foods bought from YK grocers that aren’t packaged in plastic? Jess Dunkin challenges herself to a week-long plastic-free diet. Jess Dunkin
ON EDGE: OPINION Airbnbs and traditional B&Bs need less regulation, not more, for Yellowknife to meet its hype as a tourist and conference destination. Sam Gamble
46 PAST BLAST
Hospital Hot Take. Yellowknife Historical Society
Kevin O’REILLY MLA Frame Lake
Please call or email me to discuss issues of concern to you and to share your ideas Kevin_O’Reilly@gov.nt.ca | 867-767-9143 ext. 12110 | www.mla-framelake.ca September/October 2018
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Congratulations Scholarship Recipients! Congratulations to the following recipients of the 2018 Josie Gould Memorial Scholarship! Laurinda Cheng Kelsey Wick Matthew Hart Shania Clark
Benjamin McGregor Bradley Hazenberg Lorna Brinston Marisa McArthur
To read their winning essays please visit: www.unw.ca/josie-gould-memorial-scholarship
CATHERINE LAFFERTY Author Catherine Lafferty grew up in Yellowknife where she was primarily raised by her grandparents, who instilled in her a sense of pride in who she is and where she comes from. Her new memoir Northern Wildflower is excerpted on p.13. In 2017 her poem Full Circle was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize. Catherine is a council member for the Yellowknives Dene First Nation.
COVER Autumn on Franklin Avenue by Rosianne Berthelot rosianneb.myportfolio.com/work EDITOR Laurie Sarkadi firstname.lastname@example.org PUBLISHER Matthew Mallon email@example.com PHOTOGRAPHER Angela Gzowski firstname.lastname@example.org DESIGNER Pamela Schoeman email@example.com ADVERTISING Samantha Stuart firstname.lastname@example.org FOUNDER Brent Reaney email@example.com Not for resale. ©Copyright 2018 by:
All rights reserved. ISSN 1927-7016 (Print) ISSN 1927-7024 (Online)
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COLIN MORRIS Colin moved here for love three years ago from the B.C. interior, ending an impressive run of hundred-dayplus ski seasons and a deep immersion in the B.C. cycling and ski subcultures. Since arriving, Colin has traded his paramedic job for a seat in the Nursing program at Aurora College, become a dad and cultivated a genuine appreciation for the terrain (notably, the riding at Tin Can Hill, p. 32).
JESS DUNKIN Jess Dunkin is a writer and historian who has called Sǫ̀mba K’è home since 2015. In her spare time, Jess can be found paddling, reading, or hanging with a clucky trio of egg-layers in her backyard. Jess’s passion for food-related challenges (she previously lived off pink-stickered foodstuffs) and her budding curiosity about waste management collide this month in a story about trying to avoid plastic at the grocery store (p. 22). Twitter @jessddunkin
SAM GAMBLE Sam Gamble is a co-founder and managing partner of CloudWorks, a hybrid social enterprise and real estate investment company exclusively operating in Yellowknife. As EDGE YK’s new business columnist, Sam is interested in the second order effects of economic decisions and a truer understanding of the northern economy. This issue he explores the impacts of Airbnb and other shortterm rentals on Yellowknife (p. 41). www.cloudworks.ws
Gary Anderson, Dave Bidini, Natasha Bhogal, Etienne Croteau, Pat Kane, Kevin Klingbeil, Alison McCreesh, Loren McGinnis, Amos Scott, Sarah Swan and Yellowknife Historical Society. Thank you! FOLLOW US ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM AND ISSUU! @edgenorth
Kieron Testart MLA Kam Lake
Have any questions, concerns, or issues you’d like to discuss? Contact me anytime at:
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You can read an excerpt of Bidini’s fair-weather escapades (he admits he only wanted to experience summer) on page 19.
New voices, new books, new perspectives illuminate the enigmatic nature of our city
If you’re making the most of your pre-parka time outside picking trophy-sized cranberries, you will find a way to show them off in our Found Food panna cotta dessert recipe (see p. 10). Maybe you’re reusing a plastic container for picking. Good reuse! Then what are you going to do with it? Jess Dunkin dives deep into the growing environmental concerns about piles of plastic by challenging herself to shop plastics-free in YK for a week (see p. 22).
DO YOU EVER STRUGGLE to explain what it’s like to live in
Yellowknife? We all recognize this city is not like the others; it’s just hard to pinpoint in a few words all the ways it’s different. It would take a book, or several books, to cover its complexities. Which is why I was excited to read two new non-fiction releases about life in the Knife from authors of very different backgrounds. Northern Wildflower by Catherine Lafferty, a member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, exposes some brutal truths about growing up here with a rare honesty, but also reveals the enduring strengths of family and culture. This slim debut gallops through her remarkable life, and we’re pleased to offer an excerpt on page 13. Toronto’s Dave Bidini is releasing his 13th book, Midnight Light, about the months he spent in Yellowknife and points north after an invite to the 2014 NorthWords literary festival left him smitten with this place. The musician and raconteur, enchanted by the fact we still have a independent newspaper, returned for a stint imbedded at the Yellowknifer that happened to coincide with one of the more colourful periods in that publication’s recent history.
2016 Trip Advisor Award of Excellence
We’re thrilled to welcome two new contributors this issue: Sam Gamble of CloudWorks Adventure Capital is our new business columnist. He makes an argument for less regulation as the City grapples with YK’s bed and breakfast scene (see p. 41). I enthusiastically accepted a pitch to write about the gnarly bike trails at Tin Can Hill from new dad, nursing student and B.C.-transplanted-paramedic Colin Morris (see p. 32), who vows he’s got more thrill-seeking stories to come. Loren McGinnis is back with a column that tells us, in excruciating detail, why it’s almost certain he can never have more children. Beader Dolly Martel is featured in our Artist’s Corner. And our busy local comic illustrator Alison McCreesh shares a short story about her early days as a houseboater with her partner Pat (see p. 26). She’s a woman of few words – she doesn’t need many in her line of work – but she certainly paints an engrossing portrait of life in these parts. Hit me up with your story/photo/art ideas 24/7 at: firstname.lastname@example.org -L AURIE SARKADI Editor
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Vision and Leadership for the Challenges Ahead
Yellowknife — a great city full of talented, vibrant citizens — is facing some pretty large challenges over the next decade as our economy undergoes big changes. That’s why I’m running for mayor. Because I believe we can face those challenges, and with the right leadership and vision, not just weather them but rise above them. Serving as a City Councillor these last six years, and as Deputy Mayor for almost three, I’ve worked hard to engage with residents, to bring forwardthinking ideas to Council that address important issues, and to take an active role in setting the direction of City Hall. Coming from an entrepreneurial background, and having owned small businesses in our downtown core for many years has 8 EDGEYK
given me a keen appreciation of the importance of economic development and diversification. That’s why it’s a central plank in my platform — along with Reducing the Cost of Living and Improving Council Effectiveness. But during my time as Councillor, I have also learned that fostering the economic development and diversity this City needs to keep growing requires policies that recognize how interconnected economic success is with social development, support for arts and culture, and more. That’s why some of my policies include: Active support for Arts and Culture: The arts community needs the City as a partner if it is to achieve its maximum potential, and our residents and businesses need the arts to flourish if our tourism sector is to grow. Yellowknife and its neighbours in Ndilǫ, Dettah and Behchokǫ̀ are bursting with talent and culture, and we must work together to provide new venues for artistic and cultural expression. The City can help by re-aligning grant allocations to increase direct support for artistic endeavours and festivals – work I began last year – by supporting the establishment of an Artists in Residence Program and, perhaps most importantly, by bringing local arts organizations together with significant private and federal government sources of funding. A renewed focus on improving downtown: As tourism becomes a larger factor in our city’s economy, City Council must renew its commitment to fixing our troubled downtown. In 2017 I proposed the establishment of a Homelessness Employment Program and in the 2019 budget I’m proposing the introduction of a Downtown Ambassador Program based on similar models in other cities and staffed by people skilled in social work and tourist outreach. I will also support projects aimed at meeting our reconciliation objectives, such as public art installations and plaques. Post-Secondary Education: The GNWT spends in the neighbourhood of $47 million a year to support post-secondary education. That’s more than the City of Yellowknife’s entire operational budget. But the recent Aurora College Foundational Review tells us that the current model isn’t working. Change is needed, and Yellowknife is the key to a post-secondary educational institution capable of meeting the NWT’s labour demands, keeping northern students
in the north, and attracting outside students and academics. Plus, as stated in the Aurora College Foundational Review, intellectual human capital attracts substantive investment. Building a Polytechnic University in Yellowknife is not only an imperative from an educational standpoint for NWT residents, but also a massive economic opportunity for Yellowknife. Reduce the price of public transit: One of the most important objectives of any public transit system is to provide an affordable means for people to get to and from work, and for their children to get to and from school. But our current pricing system keeps fares high while buses run close to empty for much of the day. Adding people to those empty buses would not increase the fixed costs of operating the system, so we must experiment with bringing down fares and increasing ridership. Affordable Housing Solutions for “the Missing Middle:” With its 10-year Plan to End Homelessness, the City has done excellent work in shining a light on the plight of our residents who are experiencing homelessness. We must now remain vigilant, ensuring the GNWT does a better job of supporting shelters, reducing waiting lists for social housing and bringing forward new housing options. The City should now follow the advice of the 2009 report Creating Housing Affordability for the City of Yellowknife and shift focus to an area where we won’t be duplicating GNWT efforts. Many Yellowknifers earn too much household income to qualify for GNWT housing, but not enough to afford market housing. We must work with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and private sector developers to address this “missing middle” by bringing to market new, more affordable multifamily residential units. We must also reserve land for other forms of below-market housing, such as housing cooperatives, as we plan new neighbourhoods in the years to come. You can find more detailed information on my platform — as well as a look at my track record as a City Councillor — on my website: adrianbell.ca
WILD CRANBERRY with Pistachio and Panna Cotta Maple Sugar Topping
PORTION 5 servings
Recipe by ETIENNE CROTEAU AND NATASHA BHOGAL | Photos by NATASHA BHOGAL AH CRANBERRIES! It’s the time of year when people go a little “cranzy,” a
temporary type of madness brought about by those ruby red berries. Berry picking is not just a hobby. It is one of those inscrutable pursuits that help us all feel connected to the land, to nature, to each other and to the North. And this fall there’s a bumper crop, thanks to all that rain. Think of the crumbles, the cakes, the muffins, the jams, the chutneys, the salads... all peppered with these gastronomic gems. Here’s a dessert that combines the sweet and tart taste of cranberry jam with a creamy panna cotta. We’re adding grated tonka bean, a wrinkled South American legume prized for its exotic spicey vanilla aroma and taste (for complicated reasons involving the bean’s naturally occurring coumarin content, tonka beans are illegal in the U.S., but not in Canada and you can buy them and learn more about them at the Flavour Tradeur). Since wild cranberries freeze incredibly well, you can make this dessert in the darkest depths of winter if you need a little Vitamin C boost.
INGREDIENTS • 1 L heavy cream • 1/2 grated tonka bean (can be substituted with a tsp of vanilla extract) • 14 gr of gelatine powder • 3 Tbsp of water • 125 gr sugar
of maple syrup. 2. Bring to boil for 3 minutes. Panna Cotta
• 200 gr wild cranberries • 2 x 100 ml maple syrup (one for the cranberry jam and one to make a topping of maple sugar)
3. A fter the cream boils, remove from heat and add the raised gelatine and whisk.
• 150 gr crushed pistachio
4. D ivide the mixture into 5, 250 mlMason jars.
• 5 wild mint leaves
5. Let sit in the fridge 4 to 5 hours.
2. Crush the pistachio. Final Preparation 1. M ix the pistachio and the maple sugar. 2. O n the firm panna cotta, add 1/5 of the cranberry jam. 3. T op each jar with 2 tsp of the pistachio and maple sugar mix. 4. Garnish with a small wild mint leaf.
1. I n a medium pot, bring to boil cream and sugar with 1/2 grated tonka bean (or one tsp vanilla extract) and a pinch of salt for 2 minutes. 2. D uring this time, in a small bowl, spread the gelatine powder on top of 3 Tbsp water.
• pinch of salt
small pot for 5 minutes maximum. Stay close and when the syrup is pretty thick, remove from heat and begin to whisk with a wooden spoon until the maple crystallizes. Remove all the sugar from the pot with a metal spoon and grind in a food processor to make it crumbly.
Pistachio and Maple Sugar Topping
1. In a small pot, heat together the wild cranberries and 100 ml
1. T o make the maple sugar, boil the last 100 ml of maple syrup in a
Etienne Croteau is the owner of Flavour Trader. – 5003 48 St, Yellowknife – #letusspiceupyourlife email@example.com flavourtrader.com September/October 2018
Thank you to all of our sponsors who helped support the U15 Northwest Territories Female Basketball Team who competed in the Canada Basketball National Championships held in Fredericton, NB this past August. Your generous contributions made this experience possible.
On behalf of Team NT, we thank you!
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Debut Dene Memoir Northern Wildflower, believed to be the first memoir written by a Dene woman, is Catherine Lafferty’s courageous story about growing up in Yellowknife, struggling with discrimination, poverty, addiction, love and loss. Determined to build a better life for her and her children, Lafferty’s illumination of the real issues facing Indigenous women is raw, honest and inspiring CATHERINE LAFFERTY says the most difficult decision she ever had to make was to give up her baby daughter after becoming pregnant at age 15. She personally selected parents for the infant through a private adoption and while she knew it was best for the baby, the loss had a lasting impact. Here’s an excerpt from Northern Wildflower:
Top: Author Catherine Lafferty is a council member of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation and Director of Indigenous Education and Community Development for Dechinta Bush University. Photo by Amos Scott.
After having the baby, I suffered from anxiety. I wasn’t the same anymore. I felt like I didn’t know who I was. I distanced myself from my friends and family and I didn’t want to go out in public if I could help it. I kept away from social situations and large crowds. I felt like something September/October 2018
was wrong with me. I was afraid and standoffish. When things got really bad, I would panic and think that I was dying. I didn’t know what my triggers were; I didn’t even know what a trigger was. Out of the blue, I would start feeling like I couldn’t breathe, or like I was as small as an ant in the corner of the room. It was similar to how I felt when I was in the shelter in the city after running away; that same strong feeling swept over me and I felt like I couldn’t concentrate on anything. I felt the need to flee whenever I was in an uncomfortable situation but, after a while, I felt like I was just running from myself. I knew I was having panic and anxiety attacks, but I didn’t know how to cope with them. All I knew was that the feeling would slowly pass. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned how to manage my anxiety and talk myself out of my fears. I have learned to acknowledge the fear. I have come to accept that I don’t know what is going to happen next. I allow myself to enter my fears and tell myself that what I am feeling is not as bad as I think it is, and my irrational thoughts begin to have less and less power over me. The fast transition from being a teenager to an adult had a tremendous effect on me, and the anxiety I developed
Before that night, I was always getting into fights. I know what it feels like to be boot-kicked in the face and thrown down the stairs by simply underestimating a person’s strength. I had my fair share of scraps in my teen years, but the one I will never forget is when I was sticking up for a friend outside of the Gold Range who was about to get beat up by a big, tough Dene girl known for beating up the boys. She punched my friend in the face for no reason, and I told her to back off and leave him alone. So, she turned her attention to me and started chasing me around vehicles while I tried to kick her and run away at the same time.
I had to put my hand behind my head so she wouldn’t crack my skull open.
was a sign that I wasn’t on the right path. It was a sign that something in my life needed to change. I couldn’t keep going the way I was going. Many people with anxiety try to mask their feelings by drinking, but that only makes it worse. When I was younger, I didn’t know any better and that was exactly what I did. The next few years, I struggled to find myself and slid back into my old habits. I was still an out-of-control teenager growing up in a small, isolated northern town. One weekend, a friend of mine was getting beat up outside of the arcade and I jumped in to try to protect her because she was small and out-numbered. One of the girls in the group jumped on my back, punching me from behind while I wriggled and threw my arms around, attempting to throw her off me. I finally backed her into a wall until she loosened her grip on me, giving me enough time to grab my friend by the hand and run for it. We booted it from the arcade, past the mall, past the Gold Range, all the way to my grandma’s house behind the bowling alley. My friend and I were out of breath by the time we got to my grandma’s house. We ran inside and locked the door behind us. The pack of girls were hot on our trail and banged on the
windows to get us to come out. My grandma — bless her heart — kicked me and my friend out of the house and said, “Go see what they want.” She didn’t want anyone breaking her windows. She was literally throwing me to the wolves. I slowly walked outside of the house to where the girls were there waiting for me in a classic gang formation. I walked into the circle, and the leader of the pack came up close to my face and spared me when she whispered, “You have five seconds to get back inside your house before you die!” I hailed her pity on me and, after they left, my grandma let us back in the house. She had been watching the drama unfold from the window, ready to call the police. She taught me a hard lesson in bravery that day.
She grabbed hold of one of my legs and took me down, sitting on me in the middle of the street, grabbing handfuls of my hair and trying to smash my head into the ground. I had to put my hand behind my head so she wouldn’t crack my skull open. No one was strong enough to pull her off me, until a friend of mine saw what was happening and broke it up before the police came. Where I come from, the girls are tough and know how to scrap. Maybe it’s because we learn, from an early age, that we have to protect ourselves — because if we don’t, who will? Excerpted from Northern Wildflower : A Memoir by Catherine Lafferty. Copyright © 2018 Catherine Lafferty. Published by Roseway Publishing, an imprint of Fernwood Publishing. Reproduced with permission. Northern Wildflower’s official launch will take place Sept. 22, 3-5 p.m. at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.
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Could There Be a University in Yellowknife?
A Yellowknife-Based University Could Have Big Implications for the City’s Future.
What sort of social and economic benefits could a Northern university offer our city? What would it mean for residents? How can we ensure that it benefits everyone — not just Yellowknifers, but all NWT residents? These are the kinds of questions being examined by a City committee — by the University/ Post-Secondary Advisory Committee, formed earlier this year, and a feasibility study commissioned by the City due to be released later this fall. The City wants to find out what the benefits are for Yellowknife, and what it can do to help a successful postsecondary institution — one that works for everyone — become a reality. As the NWT looks to a more economically diverse future, the possibility of a thriving post-secondary educational institution here is one that the City must thoroughly explore. It’s clear that changes are coming, and if there’s a path to success for this project, we want to make sure we’re on it. 16 EDGEYK
Part of an Economically Diverse Future
Many southern universities and institutions are seeking opportunities to invest in the North, and there are many partnership models and potential collaborations to be examined.
Territorial Benefits This is a project that, if successful, will help all of the territory’s communities, by giving a university the conditions it needs to grow into a successful institution providing educational opportunities and economic impetus to everyone.
City’s Role Though the City will do whatever it can to make a Yellowknifebased university a success, this is NOT a City of Yellowknife project, and will not see the City take on any major big-ticket investments.
Starting small in 1968, in a town roughly the same size as Yellowknife, it has since become a globally respected institution and research centre, attracting millions of dollars in research funding.
16,476 Students 3,487 Employees University of Northern BC Prince George’s UNBC opened in 1994 and also has regional campuses in Prince Rupert, Terrace, Quesnel, and Fort St. John. It has estimated regional economic impact of over $700 million annually.
3,592 Students 1,200 Employees Yukon College A 2016 socioeconomic report found that the college had generated a total of $46 million in annual revenues. $43.8 million of this was spent on personnel and the purchase of goods and services, generating a further estimated $18.4 million in indirect and induced economic activity, for a total estimated economic output of $62.2 million.
Opportunity for Investment
Tromsø University of Norway
Photo: UNBC Facebook
Around the North, there are many successful institutions to look at. Photo: UiT flickr
The potential of a university based in Yellowknife has huge implications for the City, and the NWT. Universities and similar post-secondary institutions are — aside from their cultural and social benefits — major economic drivers for local economies. They attract millions of dollars in research funding, provide a wide range of employment opportunities, and attract students who boost the local economy directly. But it’s important to keep some things clear as we investigate this opportunity:
1,190 Students 542 equivalent full time jobs September/October 2018
Universities: Agents of Change, Engines of Success Universities aren’t ivory towers. They’re economic drivers. They can have both immediate and in the long term effects on their host cities and regions. And those effects are usually multiplied in smaller centres like Yellowknife.
Universities boost regional economies in multiple ways.
Job Creation Most obviously, they create jobs — and not just academic jobs. Universities are staffed by a wide range of workers, with a wide range of skills. And that’s just the direct employment — the presence of a sizable student population also creates indirect employment among the businesses that spring up to service them.
Funding They attract funding: with more and more southern institutions interested in Northern research topics
(867) 920-5600 email@example.com
grow and build, and that can have a huge positive effect on the wider communities.
— from marine biology to climate studies to indigenous cultures — there’s a lot of money looking for a home.
They drive innovation and entrepreneurship, and provide students with the skills needed to compete in national and global markets.
They attract major investment in civic infrastructure: successful universities constantly
Quality of Life They improve lives: Aside from the many tangible and measurable impacts a post-secondary institution can have, a successful university in Yellowknife would have benefits for everyone in the NWT, increasing social mobility and economic opportunities for all.
If you’d like to know more, visit the city page on this topic at www.yellowknife.ca/university
IMBEDDED IN YK
Bestselling Toronto author Dave Bidini uses a stint as a guest columnist with the Yellowknifer newspaper to explore his personal passion for our city and northern landscapes beyond. His 13th book Midnight Light gives voice to a diverse cast of YK locals while at times shines a spotlight on some of the city’s grittier undersides ONE OF THE CENTRAL threads of Midnight Light is the ongoing trials of former Yellowknifer crime reporter John McFadden. As a colleague and a friend, Bidini chronicles McFadden’s tumultuous relationship with the RCMP – including obstruction of justice charges police laid against him – through all its lurid twists and turns. Here’s an excerpt from chapter 10:
To say that John McFadden didn’t dominate the newsroom would be to suggest that Keith Moon wasn’t a very busy drummer. This was partly because, having worked as an announcer, he projected at great volume, and partly because John’s idea of “personal space” and the sanctity of thoughtful quietude were antithetical to his nature. The writers had come to accept this, even though they had little choice in the matter, but because he wasn’t boastful his stories often ended in situations of personal compromise: John picking up two young hitchhikers in N’dilo and bringing them back to his apartment to get warm, only to have his cellphone stolen; John getting locked out of his shack (again); and John breaking his collarbone after cycling head first into the sign in front
Musician, author and filmmaker Dave Bidini in Old Town. He is the only Canadian to have been nominated for a Genie, Gemini, Juno, as well as CBC's Canada Reads. Photo by Pat Kane. September/October 2018
Stay off the booze and out of the news.
of the Arnica Inn on his way home from spending Good Friday at Harley’s – people tolerated the peccadilloes. John had once written a story in which the accused – a young woman – was reprimanded at a trial for wearing a Playboy T-shirt on the stand. The woman’s boyfriend confronted her after reading the story – she’d been trying to keep her conviction a secret – and she turned up outside the Yellowknifer offices with a half-dozen of her largest friends leaning against the fender of her truck, arms crossed, baseball caps tipped low over their eyes. “If one of the guys had got me, it would have been game over,” said John, “but I managed to get back inside. I was as white as a ghost, these guys here will tell you,” he said, waving an arm about the room. “Before I left her, though, I told her: ‘Stay off the booze and out of the news.’ It’s the kind of thing we say around here now. We use the term,” he told me, having crafted a Yellowknifer slogan used by no one but himself. Because John was a crime reporter – and because he did drugs and had his own pot dealer, a Newfoundlander who wheeled weed to pay for testicular cancer treatment – he knew what was happening in Yellowknife from the ground up, perhaps even below that. He’d spent enough time in the Raven pub – the bar closest to the paper – that the owners surprised him on his fifty-first birthday by decorating the bar with balloons and streamers. He wrote starkly about Yellowknife’s underworld, yet he found humour wherever he could, writing, for instance, about the guy who tried breaking into the local prison to sell dime bags of weed, or the inmate who had a handful of pot delivered to him at the airport just as he was about to leave with an RCMP attendant on a three-day pass. But this was the soft end of the crime beat. More often, it was dark and harrowing. John let me follow him to the courts. He appreciated the company, he said. We left the office one morning and hopped on our bikes, heading across town to the courthouse – this took five minutes – which was directly across from the Black Knight, where lawyers and their clients softened the day with a pint. “At the Black Knight, you can find a guy who’s just out of jail sitting next to an MLA sitting next to a guy who’s going to jail sitting next to the mayor,” Bruce told me as a way of illuminating Yellowknife’s social latitudes.
The courthouse – some people called it “the sardine can” for its silver ribbed façade – had a look of pure utility, the kind of place where you’d go to either pay a parking ticket or change your name from “Dave Bidini” to “Dan Bodono” (or “Ben Dandini” or “Bob Bobono,” both of which have nice rings to them). Until my visits with John, the only court I’d ever been to was traffic court, and we all know how that goes: you forget about your appointment until a few days before; grab whatever suit jacket and tie is lying crushed under a pile of even less-worn clothes; and hurry down to the most official-looking building in town hoping the jerk cop who wrote your eating-while-driving ticket won’t attend. But he always does and so you say nice things to the judge that you don’t mean before you drag your ass to the teller where you pay someone $140. You forget the episode until you’re caught speeding again, which inevitably happens. The courtrooms had small galleries with benches at the back; a resolute sheriff checking bags; showroom clocks and desks and Stepford lawyers that seemed, at first, interchangeable; a terrarium where the accused sat during their bail hearing or sentencing; and a rising wooden construction at the front of the room – the bench – where the magistrate pored over court literature and listened to barristers argue for clients. John knew everyone and they knew him. He knew the lawyers and he knew the judges and he knew some of the accused. He also knew the cops, sometimes for the wrong reasons, and sometimes not. I appreciated the courts for their subdued and chaperoned atmosphere: no blinking cellphones, no cameras, no tape recorders. Provided you weren’t working or on trial, they were meditative places where only the thrumming of the barrister’s voice and the occasional gallery murmur busied the ear. The magistrates meted out their words carefully, with long drifting pauses in between to ebb the pace of whatever dramatic and life affecting circumstances might emerge. After we arrived at the courthouse, the door closed and hit John in the shoulder. “Fuckin’ place,” he said, rubbing his arm. For him, coming here was to return to the scene of yet another episode that had stalked him during his time in Yellowknife, having been rousted and thrown to the ground by police after being refused a seat in the courtroom. Excerpted from Midnight Light: A Personal Journey to the North by Dave Bidini. Copyright © 2018 Dave Bidini. Published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Penguin Random House Canada Limited, a Penguin Random House Company. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved. The official launch of Midnight Light will take place Oct. 21 at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre from 2-4 pm.
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Jess Dunkin stands on a mound of plastics at the dump.
Kitchen Ditchens Is it possible to eat foods bought from YK grocers that arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t packaged in plastic? Jess Dunkin challenges herself to a week-long plastic-free diet Story by JESS DUNKIN Photo by ANGELA GZOWSKI
arlier this year I read a CBC article about the changing contents of Canadian blue bins and the consequences for municipal recycling programs. “Your lifestyle,” the headline asserted, “is making blue box recycling unsustainable.” While the article discusses the implications of new types of packaging and out-dated recycling systems, it emphasizes consumer choices. I’m the type of person that washes and re-uses Ziploc bags many times over. Nevertheless, my immediate response to the article was guilt. Despite general efforts to reduce plastic waste – I also avoid disposable drink containers, use my backpack and reusable bags for shopping, and buy things like vegetable oil, oats, and nuts in bulk – plastic routinely outspaces the other components of my blue bin and garbage. I’m not the only one with a plastics problem. Scientists estimate that since the 1950s, we’ve produced 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic, of which roughly three-quarters has become waste. The more I thought about the CBC article and reflected on the contents of my kitchen, the more I wondered if I was entirely to blame. Am I making poor choices? Or am I limited by the options available to me? Two years ago, I challenged myself to only buy pinkstickered groceries “reduced for quick sale” with an eye to better understanding food waste, an experience I wrote about for EDGE YK in “Two Weeks of Pink” (March/April 2017). In an effort to be more conscious of my shopping choices, I envisioned a similar challenge in which I avoided foods packaged in plastic. For one week in July, I tried to shop plastic free. I visited both the uptown Trevor’s and downtown Glen’s Independent Grocers, Co-op, Luluz, and Northern Fancy Meats. I made some allowances during the pink sticker challenge. This time around, if the item had any plastic packaging – even something as small as a cellophane collar around the lid – I took a pass. I knew the challenge would be difficult, but I don’t think I truly appreciated the ubiquity of plastic until my first shopping trip. One particularly illuminating moment came in the pasta aisle. I was drawn there because pasta is often packaged in boxboard. With one exception (Barilla Tagliatelle), however, all of the boxes, and there were dozens of options, had small plastic windows. I quickly learned that whole sections of the grocery store are off limits if you’re avoiding plastic, like the freezer section, where virtually everything is packaged in polymer (Luluz carries a brand of frozen fruits and vegetables, Stahlbush Island Farms, that uses paper packaging). During the pink sticker challenge, I looked forward to trips to the Independent, wondering what treasures I might find. This time around, I dreaded going for groceries. FRUITS AND VEGGIES
I bought a lot of fresh fruits and veggies during the week; the produce section was the only department with minimal packaging. I had to pass on some of my favourite items, like arugula and grapes, because in Yellowknife they are only available in plastic tubs or bags. Most produce, however,
is available loose, including radishes and carrots. With few exceptions (mushrooms being one), I paid a premium. At $3.50/kg, loose potatoes are more than twice the price of a ten-pound bag ($1.50/kg). Similarly, apples, are $5.49/kg loose versus $3.67/kg for a six-pound bag. DAIRY
In the dairy aisle, I exchanged my 4L plastic jug of milk ($5.49) for two 2L cartons ($3.69 x 2 = $7.38). Over the course of the week, I only found two cheeses that weren’t packaged in plastic: a German soft cheese available at the big Independent and Boursin. Yogurt, which is a staple in my house, also posed a problem, though I found a solution, I started making my own. This is one area where I may have actually saved money during the week. BREAD
There are very few bread options if you’re avoiding plastic. Only Luluz stocks bread with 100 percent paper bags; the paper bread bags at Co-op and the Independents all have plastic windows. You can buy loose bread products at the bigger chains. I snuck paper bags from the mushroom section to package buns and croissants; a reusable bag would have been a better choice. Here again, there is a price difference. You’ll save about a dollar if you purchase a plastic bag of six buns or bagels. The upside of not being able to buy bread was that we started making our own again. MEAT AND FISH
In search of plastic-free meat? Northern Fancy Meats is the only retailer in town with a wide range of meats not packaged in plastic. To my surprise, their centre cut pork chops, which they wrap in butcher paper, were $3/kg less than the PC Free From, though they are still more than bulk packaged meat at one of the chains. Trevor’s Independent has some loose fish, seafood, and meat options at the butcher counter. The staff member wouldn’t accept my reusable container. However, of his own volition, he found a small bag for the fish instead of using the standard Styrofoam plate with plastic wrap. At Luluz, sausages are the only meat in the display case not in plastic. The butcher wrapped them in paper for me. He also offered to leave meat aside in future. Deli counter staff at Trevor’s and Co-op willingly accepted my reusable container to package sandwich meat and samosas, respectively. Because of the cost and scarcity of meat, I found myself eating more (canned) beans and lentils. NON-PERISHABLES
What of the rest of the grocery store? Some dry goods, like flour and white sugar, are packaged in paper, though you’d be hard pressed to bake anything if you are avoiding plastic because ingredients like baking powder, vanilla, and molasses all come in containers that are made of plastic or have plastic components. If you look carefully, you can usually find items like mustard or salad dressing in a glass jar. You’ll likely have to forego cereal and crackers. I slipped up a few times, though not intentionally. In some September/October 2018
cases, products like the lowly but weirdly compelling No Name ice cream bars have exchanged paper packaging for plastic. In other cases, I was uncertain about the contents of the packaging. I hope I can be forgiven for thinking Miss Vicky’s chip bags are made of aluminum foil (I was desperate for salty snacks). I later learned the crinkly pouch is made of at least three layers of plastic with a foil liner. As penance, I didn’t eat the chips until the week was over. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE?
That first visit to the grocery store was all I needed to answer the questions I posed at the outset of the article, though I finished out the week anyway. Yes, I can make some different choices, like choosing a head of leaf lettuce over boxed greens. On the whole, however, plastics are very difficult to avoid when grocery shopping in Yellowknife. The zero waste grocery stores popping up in places like Vancouver and Ottawa are unlikely here in the near future given the size of the community, though we may one day see plastic-free aisles like the one introduced by Dutch supermarket chain Ekoplaza in February. Avoiding plastic is especially difficult for people on a budget. Buying meat at the butcher, bread at Luluz, and loose produce at your grocery store of choice comes at a cost. And for many in Yellowknife and the North, it’s one they cannot afford. Mid-week through the week of my plasticfree diet, I met up with Chris Vaughn, the Sustainability Projects Coordinator for the City of Yellowknife. Like me, Chris is uncomfortable with the current conversation around plastics, not least of which is the focus on the decisions of individual consumers, what Chris calls “green individualism.” “Green individualism,” Chris argues, “suggests the power is yours and only yours to do the right thing.” What’s more, it “allows consumers with a higher level of privilege and access to feel smug about opting for alternative choices. Meanwhile, large corporate polluters are not held accountable for their actions and the complex environmental realities of marginalized folk (non-white, lower-
income, disabled) are dismissed and discounted.” This is not to say we shouldn’t take steps to reduce household waste or that individual actions are inconsequential. The success of Yellowknife’s composting program is evidence of the cumulative impact of individual actions. In 2017, 511 tonnes of organics, much of it from single-family homes, was diverted from the landfill. However, a more effective and equitable approach to waste management broadly and the problem of plastic specifically requires structural change, which can only come about through collective organizing rooted in systems thinking. Chris returned our conversation again and again to the complexities of “sustainable” decision-making – when we consider the lifecycle of different products, it’s not as simple as choosing paper over plastic, for instance – and the costs associated with every decision we make, including “good” decisions like recycling. This is especially true for plastics. Consider the post-use life of a recyclable product in Yellowknife: There is the labour, energy expense, and cost of collecting and baling that product, transporting it to a facility in Edmonton, and having it accepted at that facility. If all goes according to plan, there is also the labour, energy expense, and cost of shipping it across the ocean. For this and many other reasons, as a community and as individuals, we should be prioritizing waste reduction over diversion. There are a few easy, low-cost ways you can reduce your plastic use (see the sidebar). The next step is to raise the issue with local grocers. At the municipal level, make waste management an election issue and get assurances that the City’s recently completed Strategic Waste Management Plan is implemented. Reducing waste requires a collective, systems-oriented approach. No one person can tackle this problem alone. I sure couldn’t.
Easy, low-cost ways to cut back on plastic 1. REUSABLE BAGS AND CONTAINERS
If you’re able, shopping with reusable grocery bags is an easy first step. You may also consider reusable bags for fruits and vegetables. You can buy premade bags in different materials suited to different types of produce. Alternatively, you can make your own; old t-shirts work well. According to Business Development Manager Jeff Kincaid, customers at Co-op are welcome to bring reusable bags and containers for use at the deli and in the bread and bulk sections. 2. BUYING IN BULK
Buying in bulk, especially when paired with reusable containers or bags, is another option. Choosing a 28-ounce bag of chips over the equivalent weight in single-serve bags, for instance, can reduce waste by roughly 90 percent. While we don’t have a dedicated bulk food store in Yellowknife, Co-op and Trevor’s Independent both have bulk sections. Co-op recently expanded their bulk offerings as a waste reduction initiative. They also added a selfserve scale with a tare button, so customers can use reusable containers or bags without additional cost. Another option is to join or create an informal bulk-buying co-op. This past year, I was part of two bulk orders: one for nuts and dried fruit, the other for elk meat (most of which arrived wrapped in butcher paper). 3. RECYCLABLE PLASTICS
If you do buy plastic, choose products that use a single type of recyclable plastic (items made of mixed plastics are next to impossible to recycle) and make sure the containers are clean when they go in the blue bin. Yellowknife currently recycles numbers 1 through 5 and 7, though that may change in response to shifting global markets.
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Danger interv Tin Can Hill is a rare, raw and right-here place for tight laps on a mountain bike Story by COLIN MORRIS Photos by KEVIN KLINGBEIL
Previous page: Colin Morris and his Weimaraner dog Auggie start their descent on Tin Can Hill. Right: Riders get a wide angle view of downtown. Below: Thomas DeBastiani balances on a turn. Page 36: Colin Morris and Thomas DeBastiani navigate a line.
THE ROCKY HIGH-GROUND above
Rat Lake stretching from the tower at Tin Can Hill to the Con Mine road dries out pretty quick. Slab climbs, choppy drops, seams, ledges, spines and swales abound – a grand scale skate park, wadded up and then thrown all wrinkly ruined against the escarpment. Cast a rider’s eye over the terrain and let the possibilities feed themselves to your wheels. K and I transplanted to Yellowknife from the B.C. interior four years ago and found an apartment off School Draw Ave. near Tin Can Hill. K was pursuing her career (and I was pursuing her) while I was transitioning from paramedic work to nursing student. The move suspended a life of near total immersion in the B.C. cycling scene. I had worked in shops as a young rider, raced as much as I could on the road and off and had (literally, over the space of a decade) hundreds of days riding downhill bikes in the major gravity parks of the interior working as a rescue technician and paramedic (and skiing in winter on professional ski patrols). That first year in Yellowknife I didn’t ride mountain bikes much. We were busy and nothing seemed epic. I would do road miles a couple times a week,
(slapping away horseflies the size of house cats, the wind blowing ridiculous) and run with the dog at Tin Can Hill. I finally threw a leg over the mountain bike the following season after re-mushing one of my messed up knees. The dog still needed a run every day… The small scale and scope of the riding is the challenge and charm of the area. It’s a short road warm-up from anywhere in town. The climbs are steep and often and the descents and fast-pedaling sections are super physical, an hour of quick riding is essentially a dangerous interval session. The different aspects of the more open knobs and knolls hold up to much interpretation/ re-interpretation. Conversely, at times the rider is sniping narrow paths, hemmed in by fissures, rubble and deep, square, bike eating/limb threatening holes. continued on p. 36
" There are no fall zones. Nothing is contrived."
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Terms I Used or Made Up for This Piece SLAB CLIMB: Broad, unbroken, gratifyingly idiot proof to pedal up fast, piece of slanted rock. CHOPPY DROP: Series of small, square losses of elevation spaced with inconstance. Impossible to look good in these sections.
The dry and high(ish) area is framed on three sides and bisected by the better draining segments of the old roads. Follow one of the (four or so) paths to the high point just above and behind the tower (at least one will be obvious to you when you stop in front and look right or left). From here a sporting rider can move toward town and drop the full available elevation in a steep otter slide set up through a sidehilly sawtooth segment. If instead the rider veers toward the lake from this same vantage they will ride off the two small rolling drops that begin a trail that traverses the entire length of the high-ground, milking the vertical drop for every last Newton of momentum and molecule of endorphin. Rolling between these two options, over the weird blue rocks, the rider can end up connecting with the aforementioned traversing trail via a different, harder, collection of moves that includes riding a slotted fracture with vertical exposure on riders’ right seemingly all the way down to the edge of Rat Lake. From the traversing trail along the ridge there are more than a dozen rideable lines marked out roughly with small cairns. The tracks have been improved in places; I cleared some accesses and rollouts of obstacles and placed helper rocks to fill voids and step the squarer parts. Mostly though the lines are raw. This is no bermed and bridged, riskmanaged, please don’t pick the wildflowers riding area. There are no fall zones. Nothing is contrived. There is glass, garbage, abandoned camps, huge hidden holes filled with mosquito water, lines that transition from vanilla to killa quite unexpectedly and cracks in the ground that will crumple you up at speed… All right in the middle of town. Wanna do a dangerous interval session? My throwaway email is: email@example.com
SEAMS: Long, smooth, low gradient, natural paths where sloped aspects meet cordially. Impossible to not look good in these sections. LEDGES: Shelf for bike riding on. It is exposed on one side. Usually the side you prefer to put your foot down on when you get scared. SPINE: A two-sided ledge! SWALE: Look it up and use it in a sentence today. SIDEHILL: A ledge-like riding experience but without a shelf for your tire to sit on so lower grip, as only half of your rubber is pressed against the rock. Use of the brakes typically overcomes friction between tire and rock and is replaced by friction between riders’ upslope elbow and rock. SAWTOOTH: Sets of deep, linear furrows in the rock, broken and splintered. Visually intimidating. Also impossible to look good here. A fall may affect your off-bike look for some time.
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Woodblock prints and drawings by Chris Robson
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Beader From blingy baseball caps to traditional moccasins, Dolly Martel’s sought-after designs are helping her give back to her community
by SARAH SWAN WHEN DOLLY MARTEL opened the door she had tears in
her eyes. “I’m so sorry,” she laughed. “I just got home from a psychic reading and I’m very emotional.” Dolly’s niece is Brittany Martel, the Hay River woman who was reported missing in June. Her body was found in late July near Merritt, B.C. Dolly was very involved in planning the funeral, raising funds to cover the costs and acting as the media spokesperson for the grieving family. She visited the psychic in search of rest and closure. “Yes” she said, laughing and crying at the same time. “I have my answers. It’s a good day.” Martel grew up on the K’atl’Odeeche First Nation Reserve, as part of a strong, close family. She is the daughter of Ruby Martel, and her father Pat Martel was the reserve’s eighth chief. She now lives in Yellowknife with her partner Michael Fatt, also an artist, and their little dog Smudge.
Dolly picked up sewing skills from watching her grandmother and aunties when she was young. She was greatly inspired by the beadwork of her older sister Ruth, especially the way she blended colours. While most beaders plan their designs and make drawings first, Dolly prefers to work instinctually. “Beading is very natural to me,” she said. “If a design is not going well, I just give myself some space, take some time to breathe, and then things work out.” Dolly has a wide-ranging portfolio and occasionally takes commissions. She’s made traditional moccasins, fashion-forward chokers and necklaces, dream catchers, purses, even blingy beaded baseball caps. She has many clients, of all ages, from such far-flung places as Holland and Texas. Recently she was awarded her first grant to purchase moosehide. Success though, has not gone to her head. Rather, she uses her creative gifts as a way help
communities in need, donating both work and profits. “I’ve had my share of addictions and I’ve hurt a lot of people. But I’ve made amends. Many people helped me out along the way, so I feel like I want to give back.” Dolly is shy, but is very open about her life story and her time in treatment. When she speaks, her courage and sense of self are palpable. She’s been sober for four years. “I’m here for a reason. God is with me 24-7. If he put me on this earth to sew, that’s what I’m going to do!”
Centre: Dolly Martel beads instinctually, without drawing first. Photos by Pat Kane. Top and centre left photos courtesy Dolly Martel.
You can view Dolly’s work by joining her facebook page, Dolly’s Dene Designs. See it in person at YK ARCC’s exhibition Social Fabric at Centre Square Mall Sept. 21–Oct. 1. Her work will be available for purchase at a Chateau Nova sale on Sept. 27, 6-9pm. September/October 2018
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ON EDGE: OPINION
Airbnbs and traditional B&Bs need less regulation, not more, for Yellowknife to meet its hype as a tourist and conference destination by SAM GAMBLE IF THE CITY OF YELLOWKNIFE had
the option to close or open the Explorer Hotel during a tourism and construction boom, which action would be more consistent with its stated goals of accommodating more visitors? This is the scale of what’s at stake as the City drafts regulations for shortterm rentals, including sites like Airbnb and Booking.com. As we formalize the role of this market in the North, there are some priorities and realities to consider. The short-term rental market is an important component of both the hospitality industry and of temporary housing in Yellowknife. There are more than 7,000 individual housing units in Yellowknife, but only 930 hotel rooms. As of this writing, there are 148 total offerings listed for short-term rental on Airbnb. That’s a sizable increase in our hotel capacity – comparable to the capacity of the Explorer Hotel. Given that it is such a small proportion of the overall rental market it is unlikely to affect rental rates. Yellowknife now receives more than 75,000 guests per year for a total of about 533,000 guest nights, and we only cover two-thirds of that need with our campgrounds, bed-and-breakfasts and hotels. Friends and family take up the
slack. MidWest Properties just bought the Coast Hotel and is converting it to an apartment building, taking 58 hotel units off the market. Meanwhile, each visitor who does manage to find a place to stay is spending an average of $281.45 per day in the North. Work crews who come up to build our city’s hospitals and schools are banned from setting up temporary work camps within city limits, but they need somewhere to stay – preferably a furnished place where they can cook their own meals and easily communicate with their team. My company rents five furnished apartments for as brief a stay as one week, and well over half of our guests are contractors. They’ve come to Yellowknife to work in valued areas such as hospital construction, Giant Mine remediation, staffing airlines, federal government departments and a university offering science and technology camps for kids. Even construction crews working on building new hotel rooms are booking short-term rentals. The Residential Tenancy Act, which takes precedence over by-laws, makes one thing clear: week-to-week leases are allowed for any property, under the same conditions as month-to-month leases. As it happens, the average stay of a visitor to Yellowknife is one week, so any new City rules may apply to a minority of bookings. Still, if you want someone to stay for six days instead of seven, it looks like you may soon need to purchase a business license and submit to who knows what other conditions. Twenty-first century consumers have come to expect on-demand goods and services. As part of this development, there is a greying of definitions between hotels and apartment units. Condominium boards are free to decide against short-term rentals – Northern Heights has done exactly that – but if we continue aggressively marketing our city as a tourist and conference destination, we owe it to
the people who believe us to show them hospitality and make some room for them. Legislation has to come from a perceived need. Other than one or two vocal opponents with clear personal motives, I see the vast majority of need coming from the other side – a need for more supply, greater flexibility of tenancy, and a feeling that Yellowknifers should be free to share their homes with newcomers in the ways we’ve always done. There is a long northern tradition of housesitting, for example, which only differs from short-term rental in its payment via pet- andplant-sitting services. If anything, Bed and Breakfast regulations should be loosened to match the new reality of consumer driven demand – it’s hard to argue that sleeping in beds is not a permitted residential use. To get a sense of how much risk is attached to a short-term rental unit, look to the insurance companies. They make a note of which properties are used for Airbnb, but their insurance premiums don’t differ. So the market has priced the risk at zero. The quality of offerings is regulated by the website’s star system – a great reference check for both tenants and landlords, offering years of consistent behavior as proof of reputation. With the boom in tourism and all the construction projects requiring southern workers, any kind of restrictions on that and associated reduction in supply can be expected to have adverse economic effects. New supply takes about two years to construct, in the meantime, it makes sense to have other sectors taking up the slack. Sam Gamble is a managing director of CloudWorks Adventure Capital, a Yellowknife-based real estate investment company. His column aims to explore the second and third order economic effects of decisions facing the North. September/October 2018
Who e v o l t ' n s e do r o trick ? g n i t a tre Sugary candy can lead to tooth decay, but follow these steps to enjoy it without harming your teeth:
Limit extra sticky candies, such as candy corn, caramels and taffy as they make it difficult for your saliva to wash away the sugar.
After eating candy, have a drink of water and swish it around your mouth to wash away excess sugar.
3 4 5
Chew sugar-free gum to help prevent tooth decay.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss daily.
Lastly, visit the dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
Box 1118, 5209 Franklin Avenue Yellowknife, NT X1A 2N8 873-2775 24-hr Emergency: 873-1250
ON EDGE: OPINION
Please allow me to mansplain myself... I’m a man, of Crocs, and blanks by LOREN MCGINNIS “IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL. IT’S NOTHING.”
That was the chorus of paper-thin support I got from all of my male friends who have had a vasectomy. In the weeks leading up to my 40th birthday, I got a pair of Crocs and I got a vasectomy – sure signs of entering the next chapter. And surer signs still of leaving the chapter before where my virility was important to me and I wore shoes that were supposed to make a similar point. The Crocs I got from the dump. So my commitment to them feels manageably low. They’re mine because they were in the right place (YKEA) at the right time (Saturday morning). They’re less a signpost on the highway into middle-age. But the vasectomy I got from a doctor. It’s permanent, sort of. And rather than head to the dump for my vasectomy, I followed the directions I was given to the clinic: “Beside the Brick, right by Pizza Hut. It’s not a big deal. It’s nothing.” Do you know how they give a vasectomy? They make a small incision in your scrotum, pull out your vas deferens (picture an ichiban noodle), slice it, burn both the severed ends (when the smoke gets in your eyes!), and then crimp each burned end with a small titanium clamp. Not a big deal? Nothing? The doctor tried to put me at ease. She pointed to the modest tools required: needles for freezing, a scalpel, some alcohol wipes, an elastic band to hold the frank away from the beans, a couple titanium clamps, and a bic lighter. Kidding. It was a small torch. She plugged her phone in and spun her vasectomy playlist: all Dallas Green. Flacid rock, melancholy, Canadian Content. Not my thing, but a fitting soundtrack to the scene in the movie when I retire my ability to reproduce.
Or was this the end of baby making? There are incredible stories and stats that a responsible physician must share with you. Sometimes the vasectomy doesn’t take. And even when it does work at first, there’s the Hail Mary: something like one in 10,000 people whose vas deferens is sliced, charred, then clamped can somehow, someway, still manage to produce a baby. I picture that super-sperm. It swims to a dead end. Doesn’t give up! Starts to push and shift the obstacles. Squeeeeezes through the clamp. Then, like an underground miner looking for daylight and fresh air after a collapse, it somehow climbs through the burned end and swims out into a wild soupy world without a map. It then finds the other end of another blocked tunnel. The next unthinkable push ensues. Through the charred end, wriggling past the clamp, into the next tunnel and out into the final stretch of the miraculous journey to inseminate an egg. Nine months later, Usain Bolt is born. At least, that’s my hunch, coupled with what I recall from 9th Grade biology. My surgery was not not a big deal. And was not nothing. There was one howler of a moment at the beginning when the doctor identified that I needed more freezing. And more significantly I had a pretty good ball-ache for a week or two. Walking gingerly through a pharmacy to re-up on the painkillers, I bumped into a guy I used to play hockey with. Not a close friend, but showering together gave us a comfort I can’t easily explain. He asked how I was doing and I told him I’d just had a vasectomy. “Aaaah, it’s not a big deal. It’s nothing,” he said in a thick French accent. “But just to warn you,” he added “there may be a bit less semen, like maybe half.” If you can believe it, I’ve written this not as a caution, but as a celebration of the vasectomy. This step is the first significant one I’ve taken, compared to my partner’s years of taking almost all the responsibility for birth control. And as more people heard I’d had a vasectomy, a number of women wrote and said some version of, “this is a good thing to do.” I feel that. And their acknowledgment certainly felt like the closest thing to saying, though it may not be a huge deal, it’s something! Finally, this is the last time I’ll talk about the incision, the burning, the crimping, the ache. From now on, when one of my male friends says they’re pondering it, I’ll repeat the blank-shooter’s mantra: It’s no big deal. It’s nothing. Loren McGinnis is a father of two. That's likely it. He also hosts the Trailbreaker on CBC North Radio One. September/October 2018
Top: Photo by W. Lines Center: Photo by B.Nind Bottom right: Photo by L.Pokiak
ur storefront office on Franklin Avenue welcomes residents and visitors alike to come in learn more about the Giant Mine Oversight Board and the Giant Mine Remediation Project. Along with our role as an autonomous oversight agency — offering advice and feedback to the agencies involved in the project — we are a point of public access, a place to ask questions, have conversations and received information or suggestions on where to find answers. At our office and on our website, you will find a wide range of resources, including innovative public displays, annual reports, drone footage, official correspondence, financial reports and much more.
An Independent Monitor, Acting in the Public’s Interest
We consider ourselves an emerging organization, so it’s no surprise that there are questions about who we are and what we do. Here’s some information about what GMOB can and cannot do:
GMOB can not resolve issues regarding the historic impact of Giant Mine on its surrounding communities, or the effects of offsite contamination. However, we can listen and take in your legacy concerns, and pass them on to the appropriate agencies and monitor their response with you.
GMOB is not the Giant Mine Remediation Project Team. GMOB is an independent nonprofit organization created to monitor, promote, advise and broadly advocate to responsible management of the remediation of the Giant Mine site. The Giant Mine Remediation Project is co-managed by the governments of Canada and
GMOB funds all research programs at the Giant Mine site. GMOB is developing a formal research program focussed only on the arsenic trioxide that is stored underground at the Giant Mine site. All other research proposals are referred for consideration to the Giant Mine Remediation Project Team.
the Northwest Territories. If you are seeking information from the Giant Mine Project: GMOB does not issue health advisories. The public’s best source for information about contamination levels of local bodies of water and other public safety issues is the GNWT’s Department of Health and Social Services: www.hss.gov.nt.ca and check under Newsroom and Public Health Advisories.
GMOB has no regulatory powers. GMOB can issue recommendations to the agencies involved with the Giant Mine remediation, but we do not have any regulatory authority.
If you have any further questions, please visit us online at gmob.ca or drop by our office in downtown Yellowknife at 5014-50th Avenue. September/October 2018
Hospital Hot Take Brought to you by Yellowknife Historical Society www.yellowknifehistory.com
infrastructure has come a long way since the Con gold mine hired doctor Oliver Stanton to run its small, six-person ward and operating room in 1937. Stanton was the only medical officer within 26,000 square kilometers, ready to respond to crisis by boat, airplane, and dog team. As the city grew in the 1940s, Con’s facilities became woefully inadequate and there was only so much money available in government coffers to replace it. The Red Cross Society came to the rescue, offering to provide one-third of the total through a national outpost hospital budget, with the remaining two-thirds supplied by government grants and local fundraising. Residents opened their cheque books. The local chapter of the Red Cross, inactive since the war, was rejuvenated with purpose. Grand opening of the 40-bed hospital located at the current site of RCMP headquarters was held February 23, 1948. It served Yellowknife and the immediate area, a well as coastal communities in the High Arctic. Flights to Inuit camps were common and the eight nurses drew straws for the prestigious opportunity to join medical officers on trips to Cambridge Bay, Ulukhaktok, or Kugluktuk.
The hospital overlooked scenic Frame Lake, which serendipitously acted as an emergency landing strip with patients admitted directly off the back patio. It was known as the Red Cross Hospital until 1960 when it was renamed Stanton Yellowknife Hospital in honour of Dr. Stanton's retirement. As Yellowknife neared its prestigious status as territorial capital, the hospital was ready for replacement. Construction was proceeding on a new hospital site on Franklin Avenue and 57th Street, when on May 22, 1966, a fire in the upstairs nurse’s residence got out of control and a spectacular blaze leveled the old building within short order. Nobody was hurt. Records and valuable medical equipment were saved by a brigade of citizens, but for six months until the new Stanton hospital was ready, the Elk’s community hall acted as an emergency ward. Pool tables became birthing stations, the dance stage an administration kiosk and pharmaceuticals were dispensed from the bar. The city growth continued. In 1988, the Stanton Territorial Hospital on Old Airport Road was built. It too is being replaced in spring 2019 when the grandest of medical facilities, a $350 million new hospital, will open beside it, overlooking Frame Lake once again. May 22, 1966, Yellowknife's hospital in the downtown – where the current RCMP headquarters are situated overlooking Frame Lake – burned to the ground. Photos courtesy Gary Anderson.
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