Friday, February 29, 2008

Deja Vu

After reading this letter from Jack Hicks to Nunatsiaq News, I got a really bad case of deja vu... or, like Yogi Berra said, it is like Deja Vu all over again.

The Internet resembled a high-tech sewer last week, as a number of Iqaluit
residents anonymously posted ugly anti-French comments on Nunanet's
Political Discussion Forum (PDF).

Why? The news that 12 years of hard work by the Association Francophone du
Nunavut has resulted in a commitment by the federal government to provide
$3.75 million towards the construction of a French first-language school
in Iqaluit.

It's too easy to dismiss the knee-jerk bigotry on the Nunanet forum as the
intemperate ravings of an unrepresentative minority: the sad fact is that
less extreme versions of the same mindset are in common currency around
town. Some people argue that better support for FAS kids is "more
important" than French-language education -- as if the two needs are
somehow in competition. Others argue that despite what the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms says about minority language rights, it's just "too
much money" for a small minority -- the same argument the Reform Party
uses to attack the creation of Nunavut.

A few points worth noting:

1) Iqaluit's francophone are a vibrant part of our community. Five hundred
or so people (kids included) operate a trilingual daycare, a trilingual
radio station and an active community center at which all are welcome. The
French-speaking population will continue to grow as Iqaluit becomes a

2) Last year's study by the Cornerstone Planning Group recommended that a
French first-language school be built in Iqaluit by 2001. That
recommendation was accepted by the Iqaluit District Education Authority.
Their chairperson, John Thomas, reiterated at Monday night's meeting that
it "definitely wants to see one built."

3) The AFN has never wanted a stand-alone French first-language school. In
fact, Heritage Canada's practice has been to provide funding only for
stand-alone French schools -- but the AFN talked them into making an
exception in this case. The AFN's preference is for a shared facility,
offering both French first-language and Inuktitut first-language programs
as well as strong second- and third-language instruction for all students.

Now it's up to the Iqaluit education authority to decide how, where and
when a French first-language school will be built. The Cornerstone
Planning Group also recommended that an elementary school be built in
Tundra Valley, and the AFN has proposed a shared facility there as an
inclusive, cost-effective option. A shared French-Inuktitut facility would
be a step forward for quality education for all kids in Iqaluit, no matter
which language or languages they speak.

If the IDEA rejects the francophone association's proposal, and insists
instead on a stand-alone French school, then French-speaking children
would be more -- not less -- isolated from the rest of the community. And
wouldn't the bigots on the PDF love that?

Iqaluit's francophones deserve recognition and appreciation -- not
condemnation or segregation -- for what they've accomplished.

Jack Hicks

When I was working in Western PEI, the French school there received major renovations. People complained. "Why the bloody hell do those French get that school, when friggin' Billy has to go to the same friggin' school I friggin' did. Gary, takes me to the Legion, I needs a Schooner to gets over this."

Well, Gary's friend, the reason is that the French "school" in Western PEI was three portable classrooms joined together, without a gym or library. They got a school because they needed one. They also got more money by adding a community outreach centre. Now go have another drink and wait for lobster season to start so you can get off the pogey. Give me the keys. I mean it, give me those truck keys.

EDITOR'S ASIDE: Yes, I do know that I am an Uncle Tom Islander when I make fun of the intemperate people from the rural ends of the Island... but I've been doing it my whole life. The character of Gary's friend has been around for 15 years, and I'm not giving him up. He has never had a name, he just always asks Gary to take him to the friggin' Legion.

Same problem, different town. People shouldn't be mad when French students get their schools. They should use it as an example of what wonderful things can be accomplished with proper funding.

If people attack every project on the basis that it doesn't help them directly, then we all lose.

Or, like Bender from Futurama says, "That is the worst kind of discrimination, the kind against me."

Same fight, different towns.... somebody takes me to the friggin' Legion.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Having long hair and a beard, I've been called Jesusie -- Inuktitut for Jesus -- more than a few times....

This cartoon made me laugh.

Permafrost Destabilization

It isn't the fact that the permafrost is melting in Arctic Bay, resulting in the foundation of the school being in a mess...

Nope, melting would indicate some sort of infrastructure problem based around global warming that would just be too big and scary for everyone to deal with.

So the school isn't sinking, according to the Minister of Education, it is suffering from "permafrost destabilization".

I have some other suggested terms:

Not "poverty" rather "statistically verified financial deficits"
Not "violent crime" rather "trend demonstrated social activity"
Not "homeless" rather "temporary traditional lifestyle"
Not "election" rather "mandated performance review"

Not "ducking the question" rather "considering all the options before we table a detailed report addressing your queries, after consulting with all the stakeholders involved, to produce an inclusive document which will provide a full understanding of all the pertinant issues, while maintaining the high standards you have come to enjoy, and eventually blame the feds."

I wonder how that sounds in Inuktitut... look for it at a legislative assembly near you soon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Sam M-fing Mitchell

Why I love Raptors head Coach Sam Mitchell:

"Injuries are part of sports, it happens," Mitchell said. "There's nothing you can do about it, so there's no point in wasting energy worrying about it. What am I going to do, beat the trainer up?"

Sam is the perfect coach for a young club trying to meet their potential, and hopefully is the guy to take them to the Finals, where they will lose to someone from the West.

My step-son calls him "the guy who never smiles" until he sees the Ford commercial, when he goes, "Look, he's smiling!" He also says "That's Chris Bosh" every time Bosh throws one down.

One of the best dressed coaches in the league, a smooth operator with the press, and an all around good guy. Perfect for hockey mad Toronto, Sam is a rock, and will not give the Toronto Sun any ammo to attack the Raps.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Planespotting Iqaluit

I have started a second blog, with a very specific purpose.

Planespotting Iqaluit

I have a curious mind and a window on the runway, I'm watching planes like people watch birds. It won't be half as entertaining as this, unless you are some kid of aviation buff, or are waiting to track the secret CIA planes we all know land here.

Keep an eye out on it, it may be good by the time I get some more photos.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I should really read more office memos

Thanks to this guy, I have the day off on Monday... there was a memo back in December, I should read more of those:

Monday is Louis Riel day in Manitoba. Seeing as I work for an aboriginal network based in Winnipeg, it is a stat holiday for me. I'm still undecided about how to celebrate.

I celebrated MLK day by listening to Public Enemy, but there aren't many revolutionary Metis rap groups out there.

For the non-Canadian (see the sidebar) or the people who would fail Grade 10 history, here is the Wikipedia description of Riel:

Louis Riel (22 October 1844 - 16 November 1885) was a Canadian politician, a founder of the province of Manitoba, and leader of the Métis people of the Canadian prairies.[1] He led two resistance movements against the Canadian government and its first post-Confederation Prime Minister, Sir John A. Macdonald. Riel sought to preserve Métis rights and culture as their homelands in the Northwest came progressively under the Canadian sphere of influence. He is largely regarded as a Canadian folk hero today.

Sir John A MacDonald had him executed, and he was convicted by these guys, a jury of six English Protestants:

MacDonald, a notorious raging alcoholic, had this to say about the Metis leader Riel:

He shall hang though every dog in Quebec bark in his favour

Metis is basically part French, part aboriginal, a dangerous combination in MacDonald's white English Canada.

Louis Riel was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885.

HE may have thought he was the Metis Messiah, but I won't hold that against a guy, especially when he had all the right enemies and died for his beliefs. Thanks Louis, I'll be thinking about you on Monday.

Happy VD

Happy Valentines Day all. For our big Valentines Day night, we are going to continue to fill boxes becasue we move tomorrow.

I was asked by Inflatable Elvis is "filling boxes" was some sort of clever dirty word play.... alas, no... just filling boxes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Who needs journalists

As usual, Bruce MacKinnon at the Chronicle-Herald nailed it.

The Daily News in Halifax has been shut down. Having been through -- a luckily very short -- an unplanned employment gap in the journalism field, I have a lot of empathy for those staffers fired.

So, MacKinnon did a classy cartoon to wave goodbye to his competition. Love the pig nose.

There go the lazy Sundays at my folks place, getting both Halifax papers and the Globe.... a death knell to the three paper Sunday.

And there go a good handful of the media jobs in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Maestro

Who is the man coming down your block
It's me you see with the funk in my walk

Ever get a day, when you are walking with the headphones on, and it seems like the music coming out of the speakers could be your own personal soundtrack? Well, today, I am The Masetro by The Beastie Boys.

'Cause I'm doin' just what I like to
Today is my day and I'm a get nice too

With the booming underneath (do do, da do do do do), bit of a strut on, my extra dark 70's era shades on.

You gotta keep movin' and you can't say nothing
I'm a keep bouncin' and bumpin' and struttin'
One thing you ought to know. . .
I am the maestro


The speech Mike D gives is perfect.

[Editor's Note: On the video, Ad-rock gives the HEY MOTHERFUCKER speech, but it sure sounds like Mike D on the album. Also, it is a Beastie song without MCA... what's up with that?]


Any speech that Mike D gives that starts with "HEY, YOU MOTHERFUCKERS" is bound to go right.

I feel like Rufus Thomas the crown prince of dance
I'm Mike D. and I'm known for romance
I'm the crazy baldhead with the part on the side
And I'm riding down the block like I'm on a water slide

Walking down the street, crossing the road, listening to The Maestro. Things are going good, I got a bounce in my step.

'Cause it's the type of day I feel like pressing my luck
'Cause I got nothing to lose 'cause I don't give a fuck
See I'm a player I play don't play to win I play to show
I am the maestro!
(Routine, then speech)
Who is the man

Today is a good day. I'm set for most of the week workwise, we move into our new apartment on Friday, and I brought home surprise roses last night. I feel like the Maestro. Just turn the song on, walk like you are in the big reveal of the team scene in Team America World Police, and feel good yourself.

Check Your Head, severly underrated album.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Grassroots Journalism

When I worked in Western PEI, I used to have a column in our paper. While most previous reporters used the space called "Our Space" to comment on the hillarious nature of everyday life, I used it to throw firebombs at the government.

When my network asked for people to write a column for Grassroots News -- a weekly aboriginal journal out of Manitoba -- I jumped at the chance. Writing is like a muscle, and mine was getting flabby.

So, here it is. My column in Grassroots News. It was a pleasure to write, and the editor at Grassroots was a pleasure to deal with.

GRN: "Can you do one on global warming?"

KOTN: "It is really cold here today, maybe next time. I got this thing about housing I really want to use. I mention Mike Holmes..."

GRN: "Great, housing is a mess everywhere. Do it."

and I did:

Nunavut: housing nightmare
By Kent Driscoll
Grassroots News

If television handyman Mike Holmes could see what lies under the siding of Iqaluit’s infamous White Row housing project, he would have an aneurism. Like any aboriginal community in Canada, housing is at the top of the wants and needs list for local governments. In Nunavut, the problem is compounded. Living on the street is not a viable option when you live in the Arctic.

Over the summer, the White Row housing project in the middle of Iqaluit received a facelift. The long rows of townhouses—some of the oldest buildings still standing in Iqaluit—received a nice pastel covering. Locals still call it White Row, one of those unique Nunavut identifiers that make outsiders scratch their heads, like how no one uses the street names, our rigidly enforced lunch hour, or how people share cabs.

If Holmes—the handyman with the heart of gold—could see what is just below the surface, the response would be sudden and dramatic. I can just picture him looking at the rotting boards that form White Row, and making his usual suggestions about the morality of the contractors.

When the changes happened this summer, I asked some of the contractors working on White Row about the buildings. It was obvious even to an untrained eye; the boards underneath the siding were rotten.

They weren’t willing to go on the record with a journalist, but over a coffee they did say they wouldn’t move their own families into these buildings.

They likely wouldn’t have to. If these expatriate Newfoundlanders were to actually move to Iqaluit—instead of show up in the summer to work—they would be able to afford one of the new apartments near the airport.

Most of those units are rented out by private companies, in order to attract staff. If the wind is blowing right, you can hear the mournful lament of homesick Atlantic Canadians wafting through the air from Inuksagait Plaza. “Oh, the year was 1778…”

White Row is just the tip of the spear; Nunavut’s housing problems go much deeper and impact on every segment of northern society. Arctic Bay couldn’t get a much needed teacher earlier this year, because there was no housing unit for them to live in.

A report on homelessness—released earlier this year—paints a bleak picture; describing how women will sleep with a man to find a bed for the night. Others would turn to drugs and prostitution. The only homeless shelter for women in Iqaluit is for battered women, causing one woman to remark in the report that she was considering paying someone to beat her up, just to get a bed.

Just take a walk by Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit. Those little shacks that look like they are used for snowmobile storage are someone’s home.

Supplies for Nunavut homes were accidentally left on the dock in Montreal this year, meaning that the government had to fly those supplies into communities—at great expense—to get the nominal construction they had planned finished.

Those supplies were purchased with the $200 million offered by the federal government as a replacement for the Kelowna Accord. Kelowna was worth $5.1 billion, and wasn’t even close to a start for Nunavut’s housing problem. The current funding works out to one new building per community.

The Nunavut Housing Corporation says that $2 billion is needed in Nunavut alone just to get caught up to the demand for housing, over 3000 housing units are needed. Add in the youngest and fastest growing population in Canada, and housing is going to get worse before it gets better.

Nunavut’s Housing Minister was shuffled out of his position, just days before it became public knowledge that he was in court over defaulting on his mortgage. If a cabinet minister making over $100,000 a year can’t afford a home, what chance does the average Nunavummiut have?

I have heard local bureaucrats say that the top three issues in the territory are housing, housing and housing. Wonder why tuberculosis still has a grip on Nunavut residents? Overcrowded housing. Wonder why we have such an elevated rate of domestic assault? Overcrowded housing. Sexual abuse of children? Overcrowded housing provides the opportunity. Elder abuse? Overcrowded housing. Wonder why little Joanasie can’t pay attention in class? He lives with 10 other people in a small home and can’t sleep at night.

Kelowna wouldn’t have been the complete answer, but it would have been a start. If Mike Holmes ever makes his way to Nunavut, he will have to travel to Ottawa to confront the architects of this housing disaster.

Kent Driscoll is a reporter for APTN National News, and is based in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

Randy runs Yahoo

This from a CBC article about the Microsoft takeover of Yahoo:

Yang, who helped create Yahoo in 1994, didn't set a timetable for the Sunnyvale-based company's response, writing that the board "is going to take the time it needs to do it right."

Welcome to the Sunnyvale Trailer Park... home of Yahoo Inc.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

My father and I watched them shoot our dogs

I was in Cape Dorset last week for the QIA Truth Commission, and the first part of a three part series airs tonight (APTN NATIONAL NEWS 6:30 Eastern).

Some of the testimony is just heartwrenching. Imagine watching your protector/guide/family helper/transportation being shot in front of you, because you tied them up in the wrong place.

Some people loose their minds over a parking ticket... this is much worse.

I don't want to get into it too much here, because I do like to keep this blog light and trivial. I will describe my method though.

You won't hear me speak in this series. Not once. The people of Cape Dorset do a fine job of explaining themselves without me getting in the way... so I didn't. It is in Inuktitut with English subtitles for the Inuktitut impaired.

Monday, February 4, 2008

It's not right/what they'll take from an honest man

Here it comes

Brand new Grand Theft Bus, from their newest effort, "Made Upwards", the follow-up to their sophmore release "Flies in the no Fly":

I also hope OMA made it to the album. Comes out on April 1 on I-Tunes, I'll be buying it.

For those of you who don't know, GTB are from New Brunswick. They wear a wide variety of disguises and are known for their firm stance on the fur trade, and for their seemless choreography.

Here they are at The Shoreline FEstival, playing the errie Leader... enjoy the dress on Dennis:

Friday, February 1, 2008

I just flew back from Cape Dorset

and, boy, are my arms tired... Ahhhhh the classics.
Instead of telling you about all the important things I heard at the QIA Truth Commission, I will save those for APTN National News next week. This thing is for trivial matters.

So, with no further delay, a photo essay of me trapped in a hotel room in Cape Dorset, waiting for a plane to land, set to the tune of Climbing the Walls by They Might Be Giants. God Bless Kenn Borek air for not being jerks and showing up. The airline we were booked on decided to cancel the flight instead of delay for weather... cause, you know, why pay for gas twice if you have half a reason to cancel, you can save money.
I can't talk, I got to go
Don't call me back, I won't get the door
Got to focus on the job
'Cause I got a new job climbing the walls

I was grinding my teeth,
I was wasting my youth
And using up my teeth

Now I'm done chewing my nails
Hanging my head, chasing my tail
It got so bad I quit my job
Then I got a new job climbing the walls

Too much junk, too much junk
Can we please clear out this house?
In the trunk, in the trunk
And then we'll take it all to the dump

Then we won't need the car
'Cause we'll stay where we are
And I'll have all this room

I got tired of pacing the floor
Sick of it all,
I'm done with the floor
Walked away ever since I
got a new job climbing the walls

I was grinding my teeth,
I was wasting my youth
And using up my teeth
Now I'm done chewing my nails
Hanging my head, chasing my tail
It got so bad I quit my job
Then I got a new job climbing the walls
The deep end, the deep end
People talk a lot, but they don't know
They pretend, they pretend
They don't really know how deep it goes
Now I misunderstood,
Thought the wall was just good
For staring blankly at
I got tired of pacing the floor
Sick of it all, I'm done with the floor
Walked away ever since I
got a new job climbing the walls
Now I'm done chewing my nails
Hanging my head, chasing my tail
It got so bad I quit my job
Then I got a new job climbing the walls
Got a new job climbing the walls
Got a new job climbing the walls