Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Back off, I like winning

Every year, the Community Newspaper Associations of Canada and their national arm award their Better Newspaper Awards. I've been doing this for four years now, and every single year I have been nominated and even won once.

I know some people who never give any credit to these awards. I can think of one woman I worked with, and this on-again off-again editor was vehement in her derision of said awards. I would simply point out that she has never won one, and probably won't.

In other awards news, Inflatable Elvis himself is up for a National Award for Best Environmental Writing -- while we worked at the same paper together -- and it is well deserved.

Let's go through history, mostly because I want to pat myself on the back a little.

2nd place - 2004 Atlantic Community Newspaper Association - Best Investigative Story
This one was about a development corporation that didn't follow their own bylaws, and I kept on it week after week. They called it "solid community journalism", which means "Chinese Water Torture Journalism".

1st place - 2005 Ontario Community Newspaper Asociation - Best News Story
I actually owe the Department of Health and Social Services here in Nunavut for this story. They are the ones who didn't arrange for an Inuktitut speaker -- or anyone -- to meet a plane full of kids from the Kitikmeot at the Iqaluit airport. Without their trademark mismanagement, I would not have had anything to report on, week after week.

2nd Place - 2006 Ontario Community Newspaper Association - Best Rural Story
You can find it earlier in this blog, a story about the kids at NS in Ottawa and their clever Save the Baby Veal campaign. I lost to a story about apple juice. Did you know that apple juice made in Canada doesn't always use Canadian apples? That's how I lost, it was a good story.

and all of this as preamble to

I won again this year, even though I didn't know I was nominated.

Turns out, the paper I was working for didn't know either. They just took their "Best Editorial" of the year and nominated it, only to find out after that I was the one who wrote it (thanks to one alert editor with a notion of fairness I imagine). They sent out an immediate retraction, and included this nice write-up in their paper this week, from the judge of the contest.

[The paper which shall not be named] also took first place in the Best Editorial category with Nunavut's Pension Scandal. Written by Kent Driscoll, the editorial condemned the treatment of Special Constable Joanasie Dialla by the RCMP who denied him a proper pension because of incomplete paperwork.

"The writer is unapologetic and courageous in identifying the culprits," judges commented. "The editorial should make readers and authorities alike take notice."

I think someone just called me courageous... not Kennedy Profiles in Courage courageous, or Nelson Mandela courageous, but courageous nonetheless. I've been called unapologetic many times.

So here it is, I like this turn of phrase a lot "Without the safety those Inuit men provided, the RCMP would have been more like Sir John Franklin and less like Farley Mowat. They would have been dead on the land, hauling their possessions with them."

I'm a better writer than they ever deserved.

2007 - Ontario Community Newspaper Association - Best Editorial
Nunavut's pension scandal

Andrew Dialla knows how frustrating it is to be trapped in a government maze. The Pangnirtung resident has been trying to get information about his late father's RCMP pension, and has had no luck getting anywhere with the RCMP.

This is where his MP, his MLA, his land claims organization and his former union should be picking up the torch. They are not.

Joanasie Dialla - like all the special constables - helped form Canada in a very real way. He performed a dangerous job at a time when no one else could or would.

If the RCMP did not have special constables, they wouldn't have been able to ask for directions, let alone travel between communities on dog sled.

That was one of the huge advantages of the work special constables did. Not only were they guides, they were interpreters. They were the sole reason the RCMP could even talk to the people they policed.

Without the safety those Inuit men provided, the RCMP would have been more like Sir John Franklin and less like Farley Mowat. They would have been dead on the land, hauling their possessions with them.

Canada would be a very different place without the special constables. Canada owes them, and so does Nunavut.

Ironically, translation is where the system failed Joanasie Dialla. He received pension forms written in English, and promptly tossed them with the rest of the newsletters he was getting from the RCMP.

RCMP should be obligated to take this seriously. They were the beneficiaries of Dialla's service, but they failed Dialla.

They also benefit from a multi-million dollar contract for policing services with Nunavut. Nunavut pays the RCMP, and the customer deserves some service.

The Nunavut government has failed Dialla. Andrew Dialla hasn't been able to get help from his MLA, even though his MLA rubber-stamps the budget that pays the RCMP.

His MP should be there to help, but there is no call from Ottawa to investigate or aid the Diallas.

NTI should get in the ring, as a defender of beneficiaries. They won't, saying it isn't an issue for the land claims agreement. A family of beneficiaries was forced to go on welfare because of a language issue. If NTI won't help this family, whom do they serve?

Every aspect of the huge government net extending over Nunavut has failed to help the Diallas. They are expected to apply to the RCMP to have the pension reviewed. Following that, their only option is a lawsuit.

One of the above mentioned groups should be helping Dialla with that lawsuit. Lawsuits are expensive, and the Diallas shouldn't be expected to foot the bill alone. NTI is suing the federal government for $1 billion, all Dialla wants is the pension his father earned.

The Nunavut government talks about Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit, putting traditional culture in government. How traditional is it to discard elders because they lack the knowledge to fill out forms?

The federal government built a country on the backs of men like Joanassie Dialla. Surely they owe him more than silent indifference. They owe him about $30,000, with interest from 1973.