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Nunatsiaq News: August 16, 1996

The news in Nunavut this week:

Special feature:

How the RCMP spied on Yellowknife's Con mine: a feature story by Lee Selleck

Columns


Letters to the Editor:


Editorial


CF-18 fighter jet crashes in Iqaluit

Pilot ejects in nick of time as CF-18 crashes while attempting to take off.

JASON van RASSEL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-A Canadian Forces fighter jet crashed while trying to take off at the Iqaluit airport Wednesday morning.

The accident occurred shortly after 9:20 a.m. The jet was one of a pair of CF-18 fighters taking off at the time. Eyewitnesses said the first plane took off successfully, but the second plane appeared to lose power as it went down the runway.

"The first jet took off all right, then the second one seemed to slow down and went right off the runway," Pitseolak Nagliniq said.

"It never lifted off. It looked like it was just landing."

The jet went off the south end of the runway, crashed through a fence and skidded down an embankment before coming to rest on top of a fuel pipeline.

The pilot, Capt. Ken Welch, 28, of Calgary, ejected safely just as the plane left the runway.

"The pilot went straight up, really high, and then his parachute opened. He came down right beside the fire," said David Panneok.

Witnesses saw Welch walking away from the scene. He was taken to Baffin Regional Hospital and released a short time later.

"He's fine. He's out of the hospital, and he's waiting to come back home," said Capt. Genevieve Proulx, a spoksewoman at Canadian Forces Base Bagotville.

Proulx said Welch's only injury was a twisted ankle.

The jet burst into flames when it hit the pipeline. A huge column of thick black smoke rose hundreds of metres into the air as fuel from the ruptured pipeline began to burn as well. The pipeline carries fuel from the town's tank farm to users in the community.

An emergency fire team from the airport was on the scene almost immediately, spraying foam on the burning jet. Shortly after, municipal firefighters, ambulances, and local emergency response workers arrived at the crash site.

The thick smoke quickly attracted dozens of onlookers. Emergency workers had to struggle to keep some people from getting too close to the burning jet.

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police van drove around the crash site, telling people to leave the scene immediately. There was a risk the ruptured pipeline could explode, and police were also concerned the burning fuel would give off toxic fumes. People living in nearby apartments were also asked to leave.

The fuel lines were shut down within minutes and the fire was brought under control by 10:15 a.m. A GNWT news release said the damage to the fuel lines had disrupted the airport's supply of aviation fuel, but that the town's power supply was unaffected.

Proulx said that a team would arive in Iqaluit "as soon as possible" to investigate the cause of the crash.

It will take about two weeks for investigators to file a preliminary report and it will likely take even longer to determine the cause of the crash, she added.

The jet was part of a squadron of CF-18s from Canadian Forces Base Bagotville that was in Iqaluit this week for annual military exercises.

The Canadian Forces conduct annual exercises in Iqaluit, and have a hangar, command centre and barracks for the CF-18 squadron at an installation adjacent to the Iqaluit airport.

(With files from Jim Bell.)

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Group will fight child sexual abuse in the NWT

Carol Kalluk did not die in vain. After a coroner's inquest into the Resolute Bay woman's death in a Yellowknife jail cell, a coalition of women's organizations has formed to fight child sexual abuse in the NWT.

JIM BELL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-A coalition of six organizations are saying enough is enough to child sexual abuse in the Northwest Territories.

Their action has been sparked by the results of a recent coroner's inquest into the death of Carol Kalluk, a Resolute Bay woman who committed suicide in a Yellowknife jail cell on April 29, 1995.

Evidence heard at the coroner's inquest revealed that Kalluk had been a survivor of child sexual abuse-by a teacher, and by an uncle.

"There are too many victims out there," said Martha Flaherty, the president of Pauktuutiit, the Inuit women's association. "I'm not going to be quiet. Somebody has to speak out and I'm elected to do this."

Mother supports effort

Flaherty told Nunatsiaq News that she spoke to Carol Kalluk's mother, Sipporah Kalluk, in Resolute Bay this Monday, and that Sipporah told her she supports what the six organizations are doing.

"I talked to Carol's mother yesterday, and she said, 'don't stop,' Flaherty said. "She was happy that we're doing something about it, because nobody else is."

"She told me when Carol was leaving for Yellowknife, that she told her Mom, 'Alright! I'm leaving, I'm finally getting some help for alcohol and drug abuse. I'm going for treatment and I'm going to start helping other people.' And then she died."

The other five organizations are: the Status of Women Council of the NWT, the NWT caucus of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Yellowknife Women's Centre and NWT Family Services.


"There are too many victims out there. I'm not going to be quiet." - Martha Flaherty, president of Pauktuutiit

Recommendations ignored?

After hearing numerous witnesses describe the circumstances surrounding Kalluk's death, a six-person coroner's jury made numerous recomendations aimed at the the GNWT's Department of Health and Social Services, the RCMP northern communities.

Some of those recommendations are:

No money from government?

In a press release issued this week, the six organizations all say they want those recommendations implemented-even though the GNWT is now facing a financial crisis.

"There is money in existing programs and it's a matter of rearranging them, repriorizing how you use money, for things like getting adequate training for people at the community level or getting resources to bring in outsiders," said Sharon Bunness-Hall, the executive director of the NWT Status of Women Council

Bunness-Hall said one of the biggest priorities for her organization is the creation of a trauma recovery program, as well as more training for counsellors and social workers, and the formation of a task force to study child sexual abuse in the Northwest Terriories.

"People have had this concern for a long time, but there has never been a really concerted approach to say, now we have to do something about this, and that this has got to be a priority," Bunness-Hall said.


"People have had this concern for a long time, but there has never been a really concerted approach to say, now we have to do something about this, and that this has got to be a priority," - Sharon Bunness-Hall, executive director of the NWT Status of Women Council


Many forms of child sexual abuse

And she also said front-line workers need to understand the many ways in which child sexual abuse can happen.

"Child sexual abuse happens in a whole bunch of different ways. there's the residential schools issue, there's the southern professionals coming north issue, and there's also multi-generational things, where we don't know where it came from and who started it."

And she suggested that the system be simplified.

"There should be more of a one-stop shoppng kind of idea so that when you deal with an alcohol worker they also understand the implications of family violence and child sexual abuse," Bunness-Hall said.

Flaherty also said she's getting frustrated at how child sexual abuse is ignored in northern Canada.

"This has been going on for too long. Nobody is doing anything about it. I tried. I was on the panel on violence against women, and the recommendations that they made have never been implemented," Flaherty said.

"And here we are trying to plan for a Nunavut government. How can we plan when so many people are in pain?"

As for the GNWT's financial crisis, Flaherty said that in addition to saving money, they must also work on "saving lives."

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Labrador Inuit pleased by Inuit studies meeting

As Nunatsiaq News went to press this week, this year's Inuit studies conference got underway in St. John's, Newfoundland, close to the homeland of Labrador's Inuit.

JANE GEORGE
Special to Nunatsiaq News

ST. JOHN'S-While researchers from around the world are sharing knowledge at the Inuit Studies Conference in St. John's, Newfoundland, Labradormiut are hoping to promote their own agenda.

Inuit in Labrador are the only Inuit in Canada without a settled claim, but negotiations are finally scheduled to resume in early September.

"Land-claim negotiations are on a fast-track," says Gary Baikie, a member of the five-person negotiating team recently chosen to represent Labrador Inuit.

Baikie will be moving to St. John's for a six-month period to negotiate a land claim deal on traditional Inuit homelands that straddle the rich Voisey Bay nickel deposits.

Conference location "a good idea"

Holding the Inuit Studies Conference at Memorial University in St. John's is a good idea, says Baikie.

"The timing is right, the location is right," he says. "We don't yet have the facilities for this kind of major conference."

Past Inuit studies conferences have been held in Quebec City, Copenhagen, Fairbanks, and Iqaluit.

The theme of this year's conference is "Traditional knowledge and the contemporary world," but the focus of this year's event is on the future of Inuit in Labrador.

"We can't lose this window of opportunity," says Joe Dicker, the vice-president of the Labrador Inuit Association, and a speaker at the conference's opening.

Dicker wants to increase awareness of Inuit among the public and researchers.

"We do look at it as an opportunity to educate people," says Dicker, "We're going to let them know where we stand."

The official opening of a major exhibit on Labrador history also coincides with the conference.

The Newfoundland Museum has over 50,000 artifacts from Labrador. But museum archeologist Kevin McAlesse says this vast collection has been poorly displayed in the past.

"It wasn't doing justice to our knowledge," says McAlesse.

The new 500 square-foot exhibit is now designed to show as much as possible, from ivory carvings to a full-scale kayak and a reconstructed Thule sod house.

Occupation of Labrador by Inuit goes back 9,000 years.

Dr. Beatrice Watts, a speaker at the opening session of the Inuit Studies Conference, says Labradormiut have to build on their past.

"We have to change. I think that we have to prepare ourselves to meet the world," she says. "It's not an Inuit way to be vocal and speak out. But no culture stays static. We've been too accommodating, to the detriment of our culture."

Cultural survival an issue

Few Inuit in Labrador under 30 years old can still speak Inuktitut fluently, says Dr. Watts.

That means cultural survival has been an issue for Inuit in Labrador in a way that it hasn't elsewhere in the Arctic.

"I think Inuit in Labrador feel just as strongly about being Inuit but they haven't had as much support from government," says Dr. Watts.

But the new commitment from the federal and provincial governments to negotiate a land claim should change that.

Judge James Igloliorte, an Inuk provincial judge who is originally from Hopedale, says Labrador is moving towards "the next stage of history" with its long-awaited land-claim deal.

Labrador has suffered from being caught between the provincial and federal governments, he says, so it's easy to feel jealous about Nunavut's more exclusive relationship with the federal government.

Interest in Nunavut is reflected in the special sessions on the implementation of Nunavut. These discussions will look at the social and economic programmes of Nunavut Tunngavik and the work of the Nunavut Implementation Commission.

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Ottawa approves Canada's first diamond mine

Indian Affairs Minister has set some strict guidelines for the construction of the BHP diamond mine near Yellowknife-and the World Wildlife Fund has dropped a court action against a recent environmental panel report.

LEE SELLECK
Special to Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-BHP Diamonds has received the go-ahead, in principle, to build Canada's first diamond mine.

"We look forward to the time when the first Canadian diamonds appear on the international market," Indian Affairs Minister Ron Irwin said in Ottawa August 8.

Irwin said that final federal approval will be subject to strict conditions. "The federal government will negotiate a binding agreement with the company," covering conditions not normally included in water and land use permits, Irwin said.

Irwin said Ottawa accepts the 29 recommendations made by a federal environmental assessment panel and would insure they are implemented.

Independent monitoring agency

But Irwin went beyond the panel's advice by supporting a monitoring agency that is independent of BHP and government. Such an agency was advocated by First Nations and environmental groups.

"This is very important, that there be a free-standing, separate institution," Irwin said. While BHP should pay for most of the agency's operation, "the entity should be independent of the development."

Agreements with aboriginal groups

Another key measure for continued federal support is "substantial progress" by BHP and aboriginal groups toward impacts and benefits agreements, Irwin said. "These are critical to make sure aboriginal communities benefit from projects in their back yards."

Irwin has given the parties 60 days to achieve results in negotiations, and said he would not sign a water use licence unless he was satisfied with the progress.

"It puts pressure on all parties," BHP external affairs manager Karen Azinger told CBC radio. "We want to reach agreements. We have tabled a draft impacts and benefits agreement with all the groups, and we would like to see those agreements signed."

To date, the Dogrib Treaty 11 Council, representing communities nearest the mine, are the closest to concluding an agreement with BHP.

In addition, "the Inuit and the Metis are working toward protocols with the company," Irwin said. Meanwhile, Treaty 8 communities and the Yellowknives Dene "will have to become more focused on the direction they want to go," Irwin added.

"Recent discussions between BHP and the Yellowknives Dene indicate that reaching such agreements will be very difficult," Dene National chief Bill Erasmus said the next day. "There appears to be very little common ground."

Irwin said he is impressed with BHP's commitment to employing aboriginal people.

Morin wants YK as point of hire

NWT Premier Don Morin noted that BHP has also pledged to make Yellowknife the point of hire for an estimated workforce of 830 people over the next 25 years.

"If any species were threatened, the government of the Northwest Territories would not be supporting this development," Morin added.

"When you're talking about threatened species, you've [also] got to look at people and their ways of life."

He said that mining, trapping and hunting all represent "opportunity [for] young people to contribute to their communities."

Morin made only a passing reference to a legal challenge of the environmental panel's work by the World Wildlife Fund.

But Morin said that a strategy for protected areas will be in place by 1998, and that both governments are committed to that.

"No one can issue a writ to stop the government from operating," Irwin added. "The BHP project was subject to a thorough examination" by the panel, he said. "I don't look at the WWF as an adversary, I look at them as an ally."

Environment minister wants protected areas

Irwin said Environment Minister Sergio Marchi is "pushing" for protected areas, the WWF's main demand.

"As a gesture of good faith," the WWF put its court action on hold, said WWF Canada president Monte Hummel, in an interview. "I was most encouraged by Mr. Irwin's approach," and his insistence in a binding environmental agreement.

"We have 60 days to talk," he noted, to get "clarification from cabinet" on its commitment to protecting 11 areas in the Central Arctic from industrial development.

Action is overdue and Morin's promise of a strategy for protected areas by 1998 is not good enough, Hummel said. The WWF wants to work cooperatively with the territorial government and First Nations, as in the past, he added.

When concrete commitments are made for protected areas, the WWF will drop its court action, Hummel promised. "We're interested in getting what we want, and if we don't, we'll press on," he said.

The Canadian Arctic Resources Committee's reaction to the announcement was cautiously positive. "Cabinet's recommendations are perhaps a bit stronger than we initially expected," said chairwoman Marina Devine.

"I think the minister was looking at the northern consensus for an independent monitoring agency," she said, and legally binding agreements "make us feel hopeful. We will take a much closer look at the actual recommendations."

Devine said that CARC "recognizes the very real need for economic development in the NWT."

Lots of money, lots of jobs

The BHP Diamonds project is expected to contribute $6.2 billion to Canada's gross domestic product over 25 years, $2.5 billion of it in the NWT economy.

Wages for northerners during mine construction are estimated at almost $32 million, which will create approximately 1,000 temporary jobs until the mine opens in 1998.

While Morin was pleased about the BHP approval, he stressed that "the time has come for northerners to take control of northern resources, and we will be making these announcements in the North in the near future."

The mine is about 300 kilometres north and slightly east of Yellowknife, near Lac de Gras. Several small lakes will be filled, but environmental impacts are "largely predictable and mitigable," the assessment panel reported in June.

The land is claimed by the Dogrib, who are negotiating a comprehensive claim with the federal government, as well as Treaty 8 Dene who live in Yellowknife and Lutsel K'e. "We are disappointed that DIAND did not make the expedient negotiation of land ownership issues and royalty revenue sharing conditions of final approval of the mine," Erasmus said.

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Iqaluit's Upper Base about to become a memory

JASON van RASSEL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-By the end of August, Iqaluit residents will be free to enjoy the land where a longtime eyesore and environmental hazard once stood.

That's when workers should be finished removing the last traces of Upper Base.

For more than a year, local officials have been asking residents to stay away from the site until workers finish removing contaminated soil and demolishing buildings at the abandoned military installation.

When they're done, all that will remain are a few concrete foundations where buildings once stood and a plaque informing passers-by of the site's history.

By the end of last summer, all but four buildings and the site's two massive radio dishes had been demolished. Workers also managed to pick up most of the scattered garbage from around the site, which ranged from pieces of buildings and equipment to rusting beer cans.

The dishes and the last few buildings came down earlier this summer. Workers also filled smoothed out gaping holes where buildings once stood.

A dramatic change

People who remember the sprawling complex of ramshackle buildings will be pleasantly surprised when they see what the site looks like now, said Sara Brown, an engineer with the Town of Iqaluit.

"I've taken a couple of people up there already and their jaws have just dropped," she said Monday.

While the clean-up may make the site look more appealing, its purpose was much more extensive: to remove the environmental risk posed by some of the materials used during the former base's operation.

Part of this year's clean-up involves removing the concrete foundation of one building and chipping away part of the foundation of another. Some buildings and the soil around them were contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

Once commonly used as a lubricant for electrical equipment, scientists have since discovered that PCBs cause cancer in laboratory animals and have been linked to health problems like birth defects and deformities in wildlife.

Coming into casual contact with PCBs doesn't put humans at risk, but they are a hazard if left in the environment, because they don't break down naturally.

Instead, they can build up in the fatty tissue of animals feeding on contaminated vegetation and be passed up the food chain to humans.

PCB contamination

Last year, workers removed 465 drums of PCB-contaminated soil from around the site. Soil that exceeded Canadian environmental protection standards was flown to a facility in Swan Hills, Alberta, where the PCBs could be safely incinerated.

About 400 boxes of less-contaminated soil were stored at the site over the winter and will be shipped south sometime this year. Although the soil meets environmental protection standards, clean-up officials decided it would be safer to remove it altogether.

"We just felt that [the] soils needed to be taken out of the Arctic environment because of the ability of PCBs to get into the food chain," said Scott Mitchell, regional manager of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs' Arctic Environmental Strategy.

Soil with the lowest level of contamination was buried in an on-site landfill built last year.

Workers also spent last summer removing asbestos from buildings and debris scattered around the site. Asbestos was commonly used to insulate buildings and pipes, but has since been discovered to cause respiratory damage if its particles are inhaled. The asbestos was sealed in bags and buried in the on-site landfill.

Although it's become an ugly environmental hazard over the years, Upper Base played a vital role in defending North America from a nuclear attack during the Cold War. The base was part of a network of military installations intended to provide warning of a Soviet air strike coming from over the North Pole.

But new technology introduced during the arms race, like military satellites and intercontinental ballistic missiles, rendered the radar bases obsolete and Upper Base was abandoned by the U.S. Air Force in the 1974.

The Arctic Environmental Strategy was started in 1991 by the federal government. The strategy's "Action on Waste" component was established in part to pay for the clean-up of polluted sites and other waste problems across the Canadian Arctic.

Action on Waste has provided close to $6 million for the clean-up in Iqaluit, Mitchell said. In addition to funding the job at Upper Base, the program also provided money to shred more than 100,000 steel drums that have piled up at the municipality's North 40 dump site over the years.

North 40 clean-up

Workers shredded about a third of that amount last year, the contractor in charge of the job this year hopes to shred the remaining 70,000.

Twenty-two local employees are working 10-hour shifts to finish the job, said Gary Vaillancourt, whose Yellowknife-based company has been contracted by the town to do the job.

The workers are using a $600,000 shredder to reduce the barrels to about 10 per cent of their original volume.

Nicknamed "Mikey," the shredder is on loan from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. A second shredder will arrive by sealift later this month.

The town will instead use the shredded barrels as fill in a parking lot that's being constructed at the municipal public works garage.

"We've been having more and more difficulty finding gravel, so there's a definite advantage to using this material instead," Brown said.

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Iqaluit town council awards prized lot

JASON van RASSEL
Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT-After a month-long controversy, Iqaluit town council this week approved a local company's bid to develop a prime lot in Iqaluit's downtown area.

But in approving the proposal made by Tumiit Development Corporation, council first rejected a recommendation by the town's development committee that the lot be awarded to Sivulliik Development Corporation of Iqaluit.

Both bids involved members of Iqaluit town council.

Coun. Natsiq Kango is the chairwoman of the winning company, Tumiit Development Corporation. Kango declared herself in a conflict of interest earlier in the meeting and was not in the council chamber for the discussions or the votes.

Coun. Kenn Harper is one of nine owners of Grinnell Properties Ltd. In turn, Grinnell Properties owns 49 per cent of the Sivuliik Development Corporation. The remaining 51 per cent of Sivuliik's ownership is split among 16 Inuit shareholders.

Harper was in Toronto on business and was not at Tuesday night's meeting.

The two companies, along with the Toonoonik Co-op of Pond Inlet submitted proposals for developing the town's Kativik lot, located between Aakaluk Daycare and the Kamotiq Inn.

At its meeting on August 7, the town's development committee debated the Tumiit and the Sivuliik bids (the town's administration disqualified the Toonoonik Co-op's proposal last month) and recommended that council approve Sivuliik's proposal.

But when Coun. Bryan Hellwig, who is a member of the development committee, tabled the recommendation at Tuesday night's meeting, he added that he would be voting against it.

Sivuliik's proposal, which included 14 apartment units, was poorly suited for an area of town that already has too many apartment buildings, Hellwig said.

Instead, council should be trying to attract small businesses to the central part of town, he said, adding that Tumiit's proposal better meets that aim.

"How can we get small businesses into our downtown core. . . when it's being eaten up by apartment building developments?" he said.

More isn't better: Hellwig

Sivuliik proposed constructing a three-storey building with apartment units occupying the top two floors and commercial space occupying the bottom floor. Sivuliik said it planned to demolish the old Kativik building that presently sits on the lot, and offered to first buy the building from the town for $42,888.

Tumiit's successful bid includes demolishing the old Kativik building and building a two-storey building in its place. The upper floor of the building is earmarked for offices, while the ground floor has been set aside for a retail units.

Tumiit didn't offer to buy the building, offering instead to move it to the North 40 area and have it converted into an industrial shop.

But Sivuliik's offer of $42,888 for the building didn't necessarily mean the company had a superior bid, Hellwig argued.

"We are not always in the business of making money," he said. "We as a council should be in more in the business of providing fulfillment, pride and betterment to our community."

Quick approval for Tumiit

Coun. Geosah Uniuqsaraq agreed, saying in Inuktitut that council should promote development and growth that will benefit the community as a whole and that the Tumiit proposal is "more in line with what the council was feeling."

When it came time to vote, the recommendation to accept the Sivuliik proposal was unanimously rejected by councillors Tom Demcheson, Abe Okpik, Hellwig and Uniuqsaraq.

After rejecting Sivuliik's proposal, council had to decide what to do with it-either send it back to the development committee for further discussion or draft a new motion.

After a short break, Hellwig returned to the table with a motion to accept the Tumiit proposal.

This time, there was no discussion: the motion passed unanimously, 4-0.

Co-op bidder angry

Tuesday's meeting marked the second month in a row that recommendations for developing the Kativik lot have gone before town council.

At the July 9 council meeting, Hellwig said town council needed more time to examine the three proposals. He succeeded in delaying a vote on the proposals until the development committee examined the Sivuliik and Tumiit bids at its August 7 meeting.

The tender call had closed on Friday, July 5-only two days prior to the council meeting.

Instead of sending the bids to the development committee for approval the following month, the town's administration reviewed the proposals in time for the Tuesday night council meeting and recommended that council approve the Sivulliik bid.

Prior to the council meeting, the administration had put aside the Pond Inlet co-ops' proposal to build a single storey, 16,000-square foot building. The building would have housed a grocery store, office space, an insurance broker's office and a day care centre with an outdoor playground.

In a memo prepared for town councillors, municipal engineer Sara Brown and development officer Jim Grittner wrote that the co-ops' proposal couldn't be assessed because it included acquiring lots that are now owned by the GNWT.

The decision angered Bill Umphrey, the general manager of Pond Inlet's Toonoonik Sahoonik Co-op.

Umphrey said the co-op bid lost because it didn't offer the town any money for the Kativik building-but added that the town's tender ads never specified that the town wanted money for a building that was going to be torn down anyway.

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RCMP spied on Con mine's union for two years

Everyone's heard about the disastrous strike at Yellowknife's Giant mine, and the traumatic murder of nine miners in 1993. But at the same time, the RCMP was spying on Yellowknife's other gold mine-Nerco's Con mine.

LEE SELLECK
Special to Nunatsiaq News

YELLOWKNIFE-The RCMP used "well-placed" informants and at least one paid civilian agent to spy on the United Steelworkers of America local at Yellowknife's Con gold mine from 1992-94.

Documents obtained through requests under the federal Access to Information Act reveal that the RCMP gathered sensitive information about bargaining from both company and union sources.

Reports also show that some RCMP intelligence was given to officials from the City of Yellowknife.

"I have no idea why we have that information," says Ross Grimmer, the chief superintendent of the RCMP's "G" division in the Northwest Territories.

As the officer then in charge of criminal operations, "I didn't specifically ask for it," Grimmer said.

Grimmer says that he isn't aware that agents were given assignments relating to Con mine, "but there was people from the [union] executive [and] from the membership that were providing information. But I'm not aware that any were tasked to zero in on specific people."


"Our concern was basically that nobody gets hurt." -- RCMP superintendent Ross Grimmer


RCMP anticipated a strike at Con

By June, 1992 Brian Watt, then the superintendent of the RCMP in the NWT, was already interested in the situation at Con mine. He anticipated a strike, although the Steelworkers' contract would not expire until May, 1993.

Labor relations were especially fragile because Con's owner, Nerco Minerals, put the mine up for sale in May, 1992, just before the now notorious strike-lockout across town at Giant mine.

Giant's owner, Royal Oak Mines, flew in hundreds of replacement workers and security guards in 1992 and 1993. Most Steelworkers supported out-of-work union members at Giant, and protested the use of "scabs," a helicopter, and Pinkerton's guards.

Peggy Witte wanted Con mine

The RCMP also became privy to a closely guarded secret-that Royal Oak's controversial CEO, Peggy Witte, was interested in acquiring the Con mine when it went up for sale.

Police used TIPS/SIRS, a major crime management system, to organize data collected about both Con and Giant.

Con workers suspects in Giant explosion

RCMP espionage at Con intensified after an underground bomb killed nine mine workers at Giant in September, 1992.

Roger Warren, a striking Giant miner and a member of the CASAW union, was eventually convicted of murder in relation to those nine deaths.

But RCMP intelligence work went well beyond the murder investigation and several Con workers were also suspected of involvement in the crime.

The RCMP was seriously preparing for a strike by the 262 Steelworkers at Con by November, 1992.

Tactical team and emergency response team (ERT) commanders were among a group of senior officers who toured the mine. A security audit was done on December 2.

"We don't strike-break or anything like that. They were getting ready to negotiate right in the middle of the murder investigation," Grimmer explains.

"We wanted to know exactly what we could anticipate at that mine," particularly on the heels of the catastrophe at Giant. "Yellowknife hadn't even gone into a healing mode yet," he adds. "Our concern was basically that nobody gets hurt."

"I wonder what they did with the information."

Grimmer's explanation doesn't wash with Leo Gerard, now international secretary-treasurer of the Steelworkers, then national director in Canada.

"That was a very difficult period for the labor movement. I respect [the RCMP's] right to investigate criminal activity. They have no business trying to infiltrate us to get information on bargaining strategy. I wonder what they did with the information."

Negotiations began in February, 1993. Nerco's demands for concessions worth $1.5 million per year were not well received by the workforce.

Hank van Vulpen, president of the Steelworkers' local at Con, says that negotiations took place in a fishbowl as a result of events at Giant.

"Everybody felt paranoia at the time. I think that's true of the whole town... During our negotiating process, the police actually approached us about acting almost as mediators between us and the company, in the event of a strike."

RCMP paid for rounds of drinks

A member of the Steelworkers who worked for the RCMP as a paid civilian agent says that police told him to provide information on the upcoming Nerco strike.

"They wanted to know who all the radicals were," he says. The information he obtained was alarming, the agent says.

"These guys were talking about bringing their guns. Blowing up the headframe. Whether it was just talk or not, I felt an obligation to convey that to the RCMP... I was telling them, 'You think Giant's bad, wait'll the Nerco guys go out.' Behind the scenes [at Giant], Nerco guys were the real instigators causing a lot of trouble" in bars and on the picket line, the agent says.

The agent says that the RCMP also paid for rounds of drinks in Yellowknife bars.

Evoy "biggest agitator"

Jim Evoy, the president of the NWT Federation of Labor, was identified in RCMP documents late in contract talks in 1994 as "the biggest agitator" for a strike at Con.

But Evoy says that it's police spies and "deep-throats" who cause mistrust and provoke trouble in such situations.

The Steelworkers looked after their own negotiations, Evoy says. "It's insulting. This is a case of the RCMP getting supplied information that [they] want to hear. It's easier to deal with us when you think we're professional shit-disturbers."

Many names were expunged under provisions of the Access to Information Act, but RCMP documents cited "well-placed" sources, "our fellow at Con," "a number of persons employed at Con," and labelled various union members, including executives, as "anti-police, a weak leader," "easily intimidated," and so on.

Long history of spying

"Who are they to make those kind of assessments?" Gerard demands. "I'm offended but not surprised. There's a long history in this country of police spying on the labor movement."

Says Grimmer: "We were very interested in what the mood was at Con mine, no doubt about that. We established fairly quickly that the strike probably wasn't going to happen."

Information was abundant because "those guys on that [Giant mine murder] task force knew two-thirds of the miners in this community."

The RCMP also had sensitive information about the company's bargaining position, including details pertaining to single clauses in the contract.

On May 10, 1993, police were told that "if all else fails, the company will concede to the wishes of the union and give them the same contract they have in place." Nerco did not plan not use replacement workers and did not want to sell the mine to Royal Oak.

A federal conciliator had been appointed to help Nerco and the union reach a settlement.


"There's a long history in this country of police spying on the labor movement." -- Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers of America


Witte's acquisition of Con almost complete?

Meanwhile, the RCMP were told by Royal Oak management that the acquisition of Con would be complete by June 10. Police believed that Con's local managers were "being kept in the dark."

If a strike started, the mine would be closed and employees laid off, police learned. This would have been disastrous for Yellowknife's economy, already pounded by the dispute at Giant.

Royal Oak fails in bid for Con

Royal Oak publicly acknowledged its pursuit of Con mine on June 16. Two days later, Nerco announced Con's sale to the parent company of Miramar Mining, the current owner.

Miramar's management wanted to avoid a work stoppage at their biggest and best mine, but bargaining dragged on well into 1994. The dispute at Giant ended in November, 1993, three weeks after murder charges were laid against Warren.

The RCMP nevertheless continued to gather intelligence about Con, including some that Royal Oak's Peggy Witte "would do well in taking over the Con mine."

Prepared plan of action

Inspector Al Macintyre prepared a plan should a strike take place. Arrangements were made with southern divisions of the RCMP to provide a riot squad and ERT, if needed, as well as the department of National defence to provide local transportation.

A dog handler with an "explosive profile" was to be brought to Yellowknife in the event of a strike, and dog teams were identified. Aerial photographs were taken of the mine.

Communications equipment and locations for its installation were identified. A "Special I" team in Edmonton was notified about the need for scanning of VHF/UHF frequencies, videotaping, and the potential need for covert interception of private communications.

"Covert physical surveillance" by local officers was also planned.

Munroe helped reach a deal

Under pressure from territorial and city officials, the federal government appointed Don Munroe in July to assist the parties in reaching a deal.

Munroe, a respected labor arbitrator from B.C., had helped resolve the Giant dispute. Miramar and the Steelworkers announced a tentative agreement on August 12.

RCMP still feared a strike, and worried that their manpower would be strained if it began after the Queen arrived in Canada on Aug. 20. But the Steelworkers ratified the contract by a large margin on Aug. 19.

Spying on unions widespread?

Police cite special circumstances to explain their actions at Con, but trade unions believe that espionage of major unions is common.

"We have been infiltrated or spied upon by CSIS," says Darrell Tingley, president of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.

Evert Hoogers, a national representative at CUPW, is trying to determine the extent of covert intelligence gathering by the RCMP and CSIS.

Through requests under the Access to Information Act for RCMP files back to 1965, "out of 5,100 pages, we were able to get about 600 pages, the majority of which were newspaper clippings," he says.

Hoogers says that CUPW hopes the labor movement will lobby for a better access to information law.

Lee Selleck is a journalist based in Yellowknife, NWT. He and co-author Francis Thompson have spent the last four years researching and writingDying For Gold: The Inside Story of Yellowknife's Giant Mine Strike.A publication date will be announced this fall.

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Ipellie's SHADOW

About loneliness

by Alootook Ipellie

"Why is it that loneliness/is so prevalent/and so hard to live with /when there are so many people/ living in this world..."
- excerpt from my poem, "Reality and Illusion," 1995

I was sitting by myself, as I often do these days, in my studio-office at home, thinking about being lonely. Then I thought about other people in other houses, perhaps next to mine, and those in the next town, and then others from all over the world who get into the same thoughts of being a lonely soul as I sometimes do, whether for a few moments or for long periods of time.

The thought of being lonely, as innocuous as it sounds, can also be quite deadly, as it has been for millions of people on this lonely planet who have passed away in loneliness, either by natural causes or by self-infliction of some awful sort.

As painful as it is for many of us whose friends, relatives and-or loved ones that have committed suicide in the past, we have to face the fact that loneliness no doubt played a part in their decision to abruptly end their precious lives.

These words did not come to me frivolously, since I have thought about them for a long, long time. In fact, they have been with me ever since my early twenties.

One of my best boyhood friends had decided to act out the awful truth of snuffing out his precious, young life. As is often the case with an incident like this, he had not given us any sign or warning that he was seriously depressed or unhappy with his life.

This is the kind of "surprise" I always dreaded might happen in the course of my lifetime. When it happened the first time, it was totally devastating to my sense of self-worth.

And with the passage of time, I looked at it later as an affront to my sense of solidarity with him as a life-long friend. It was then I prayed and hoped it would never happen again to any of my other boyhood friends, relatives or loved ones. However, it would happen again to others close to me, leaving me with a kind of helpless feeling that can only numb a person.

Numb, in a sense of feeling great loneliness in its aftermath. And numb, in a sense of feeling guilty that I had somehow failed as a friend, as a sibling, or as a loved one.

We can all take the easy way out by dismissing suicide as a social disease that is part of human nature. We can call it an individual's psychological illness.

Or we can say it is the end result or what can sometimes feel like an insurmountable, personal loneliness, brought on by feelings of rejection from friends, family or loved ones.

Speaking of myself, I have also had bouts of loneliness in my time. Fortunately, I have never been suicidal about them. Perhaps it is courage on my part. Also, it helps that I am not on to let anger get the better of me. And certainly it is partly due to my ability to wait out these bouts of loneliness.

As the saying goes, patience is a virtue. Patience has saved me may a time, knowing that this particular phase of my loneliness will eventually come to pass, allowing me to look forward to the future with renewed hope and optimism.

I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, when it comes to loneliness, love is great equalizer. At least that has been the case for me, and no doubt to most, if not all, of humanity.

To quote Thomas Wolfe, the American novelist:

"The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."
Contribution, "The Anatomy of Loneliness," American Mercury, 1941.

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Letters to the Editor

Yes tosmoking ban

I was impressed this week to learn of the progressivemeasures taken by the Baffin region medical officer of healthto protect the health of the population from second-hand smoke.

Last year Pauktuutit launched its Anirsaattiarniq (Breathing Easy) initiative, the overall goal of which is "progress towards a tobacco free culture, as we once were."

Many regional and national organizations gave formal expression of support (including the Baffin Region Inuit Association, the Baffin Divisional Board of Education, the Baffin Regional Health Board, Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, and the Inuit Tapirisat of Canada).

What is needed now is leadership in concretely implementing this work for a smoke free culture. The measures announced by the Baffin medical officer of health amount to just that. They address one of the specific objectives of Anirsaattiarniq, i.e. "to work to increase the number of smoke-free homes, work and public-places."

As recently as 15 years ago, scientifically speaking, the jury was still out on the possible health effects of second-hand smoke. That is no longer the case.

Research shows clearly that regular exposure to second-hand smoke at least doubles the risk of ear infections and other respiratory infections in children, and more than doubles the risk of death from sudden infant death syndrome, pneumonia or bronchiolitis in the first year of life.

Among non-smokers, second-hand smoke is by far the most important preventable cause of lung cancer. Those most heavily exposed to second-hand smoke are those living with other smokers. Also heavily exposed are those in work-places where there is a lot of smoking, especially bars and restaurants.

We do not tolerate people being involuntarily exposed to other cancer-causing toxins. There is no good reason for making an exception for second-hand smoke. Of course, individuals have a right to smoke. But in enclosed public places, everyone sharing that air is exposed to many chemical compounds proven to be dangerous.

As well as protecting the health of non-smokers, eliminating smoking in public places marks a big step forward in making our living environments more supportive for children and young people trying to resist starting to smoke and to smokers who want to quit.

In Nunavik, we are living in a different political jurisdiction, the province of Quebec. Here, at the provincial level there is legislation being prepared which will significantly restrict smoking in public places.

The Nunavik Regional Health Board is also looking at specific measures adapted to our context and will be adopting a new regional smoking strategy in the coming months which will address many of the same issues that the Baffin region is dealing with.

In the meantime, I am following developments in the Baffin with much interest and I salute you for the progressive leadership you are showing. Such changes are not easy, but you are playing a leadership role among Inuit regions in the progress towards a "tobacco-free culture".

Stephen Hodgins MD
Regional Director of Public Health
Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services

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Letters to the Editor

Reader opposessmoking ban

I would like to comment on thesmoking ban in public placeseffective January 1, 1997.

First of all who is Richard Bargen? I don't remember ever voting for him in any election. What gives him the right to put in the ban on smoking in our region?

If he thinks the smoking ban in Ontario is great, why doesn't he move there? If I recall correctly, in a democracy, the majority rules. If approximately 60-70 per cent of people smoke in the Baffin, I would say that is the majority.

I'm not saying smoking is good for you, but I feel angered when some person puts into legislation without getting public opinion first.

If Mr. Bargen feels that strongly about a smoking ban why doesn't he put into law that all smoking products are illegal effective on the same date. Doesn't he know how much money is being taxed from tobacco products?

Harry J. Dialla
Pangnirtung

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Editorial

Groups deserve praise

The six organizations who announced this week that they're banding together to fight child sexual abuse in the Northwest Territories deserve all the praise and support that NWT residents are capable of giving them.

We've lost many people who would be alive today had governments and others years ago paid attention to them. And there are many other lives that might still be saved if governments and others now act on what these six organizations are lobbying for.

A study done in the Sahtu and Delta regions of the NWT in 1989 found that as many as 75 per cent of young girls in those regions were being sexually abused. Other research work sponsored by the Status of Women Council has revealed that in 1988 and 1989, the majority of sexual assault victims in the NWT were girls between the ages of seven and 18.

And almost everyone who works in the drug and alcohol treatment field will tell you that the overwhelming majority of their patients are people who were sexually abused at some time in their lives.

All of those cold facts are inextricably linked to the NWT's grim realities-that we have more alcoholism, more suicides, and more violent crime of all kinds, per capita, than in any other region of Canada.

Yet, except for some token recognition from governments, and the work of many unsung heroes who work quietly in the communities, these realities are mostly ignored.

What's worse is the emergence of another grim reality that, until recently, did not exist-the GNWT's financial crisis. Because of that crisis, the need to cut the deficit is now driving everything that the GNWT does, from its community empowerment policy to its departmental re-organization efforts.

The departments of Health and Social Services and Justice are affected by this as much any others within the GNWT. And there's a great danger that the "community wellness" policy, which looks very attractive in theory, may well turn out to be sneaky way of reducing services at a time when they have never before been needed so badly.

The minister responsible for those departments, Kelvin Ng, has so far demonstrated little interest in health, social, or justice issues. In fact, the only issue on which he has demonstrated any leadership at all is deficit-cutting.

Keeping the GNWT's deficit under control is a crucial for all of us. But it's sad situation when only non-government lobby groups are able to recognize what the government itself should have recognized long ago.

As Arlene Hache, the executive director of the Yellownife Women's Centre, said this week, Carol Kalluk's story is not that different from that of many others who flock to Yellowknife and other larger centres.

But her sad death in a Yellowknife jail cell, and the highly publicized inquest that looked at the circumstances surrounding it, occurred right under the noses of the GNWT bureaucracy, in the NWT's capitla city.

Her death, unlike many others that occur with chilling regularity in places like Iqaluit, Pond Inlet, Clyde River, Gjoa Haven and many others, was impossible to ignore-and has therefore inspired a new lobbying effort by a wide coalition of organizations.

We should never, never forget, however, that there have been many other deaths like hers in many other communities, most of them unreported and mostly forgotten-except for the pain that still throbs in the hearts of those who were close to them.

The six groups say they plan to meet soon with government officials to press their case for the creation of a trauma recovery program, more training for front-line workers, and a task force on child sexual abuse in the NWT. Let them be heard. JB

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These materials are Copyright (C) 1996 Nortext Publishing Corporation (Iqaluit), and may be freely distributed throughout the Internet, or other electronic computer networks or bulletin boards, as long as this notice remains intact and the articles are reproduced in their entirety. These materials may not be reprinted for commercial publication in print or other media without the permission of the publisher.


Last updated August 19, 1996
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